More from my Equestria dreamscape. While Petina was trying to change the course of fashion history there [link]
other darker forces were also in motion to. This event in particular would have profound long term effect not just Applebloom but the whole Apple family. In fact results of this event would form the basis for my third dream arc in this dreamscape.
While it was agreed that myself, Petina, Twilight and Spike would stay in Canterlot to help Celestia with figuring out what to do about the Lord of Shadows Twilight wanted to make a quick trip back to Ponyville to retrieve some books and notes she had at the library. Celestia agreed but insisted that we return quickly, and with no new wardrobe additions this time please.
So along with Rarity we made it back down to Ponyville. Celestia was generous enough to let us use one of the sky chariots again to make the trip shorter. It was early afternoon and we had just landed in front of the library. Twilight was walking toward the library when we heard the sound of Applejack screaming Twilight's name as she came galloping up. Much to our surprise she grab Twilight and threw her away from the front door of the library. She was screaming hysterically about staying away from the shadows! "they took Applebloom!
Finally we were able to get her calmed down enough to figure out what had happened. Applejack had been out working in the orchards getting them ready for applebucking season. This involved picking up a lot debris from around trees so it would not getting in the way of the buckers. Also it meant removing any dead branches from the trees they wouldn't fall on them during harvesting. For this the Apple family usually hires some of the local folk to go in and help clean up the orchards.
Applejack had been down the orchards organizing the hired work ponies, and Applebloom had tagged along since she was on summer vacation still and her chores were done for the day. Applejack had been talking to one of the hired ponies when suddenly the ground seemed to open up and this black ooze yanked the poor mare down in an instant. Stunned by this she turned just in time to see Applebloom vanish in a similar fashion! One second she was there, the next she'd vanished into the ground!
The first thing that had flashed through Applejack's mind had been sinkholes, but as she ran over it became clear that it was like the ground had just swallowed Applebloom up. Applejack started to dig desperately to reach her younger sister screaming out her name when a movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. Jumping back just in time she watched as a long black serpentine tendril came out of the shadows around trees and tried to touch her. Then another from a different tree.
It was at this moment that she realized that from all the trees around her the shadows had turned into these black shadowy tendrils. Also she became aware of the sound of shouting, screaming and confusion from the hired ponies in the orchards. Then silence. In an instant Applejack intuitively grasped the situation she was in. If those tendrils touched her shadow they'd pull her down to just like Applebloom. She wanted to save her sister but she was powerless against this strange power. The first pony she thought of was Twilight, but first she had to escape from the orchards!
Instinctively Applejack knew she wanted to be some place where she could avoiding stepping into any other shadows. We could not get a clear answer out her between her sobbing and crying but some how she was able dodge, jump, dash, and run out of the orchards and into one of the neighboring pastures. From there she galloped to Ponyville taking a much longer route but one that avoided all the trees that lined the road. There were shadows there! This is why she'd pulled Twilight away when she showed up. She didn't want her stepping into the shadow of the tree.
Of course for Twilight, Petina, Spike and I this sounded exactly like what Paynes Gray had described when the Lord of Shadows had taken Paynes wife Sunrise [link]
. Applejack's emotional collapse in front of the library was starting to cause a crowd to form. Which we would have really liked have to avoided, but as her story went on we started to see the look of horror growing on faces in the crowd. Soon ponies were backing away from each other to keep there shadows form crossing another pony's. It was at that moment that I really began to understand the insidious, sinister, nature of the world Paynes had created in his novel "The Kingdom of Shadows". A world where ponies were afraid of their shadow. When day was over more than 15 ponies were missing from around Sweet Apple Acres.
Twilight wanted to return to Canterlot immediately but thought if we were seen suddenly getting back into the sky chariot and leaving that the other ponies would think we were abandoning the town to its fate. With a great deal of effort we got Applejack inside the library. As Petina and I tried to help the poor distraught earth pony Twilight had Spike write two letters. One to Celestia and Luna tell them what had just happened, and another that Spike delivered personally to the Mayor asking for an immediate meeting before sundown. The Lord of Shadows was making his move.