Chapter 18: Who Are You? (VERY rough first draft. Will be re-written in the future)
Flora continued to fly high above Ponyville, using the white pillowy clouds as cover from the curious eyes below. For two hours she had searched high and low for the foals, in and outside of the small town, but still she found no sign of them. Desperation began to settle upon her like a cold frost when she realized that her only sister could be lost, or worse, hurt from the storm and the fear of that possibility forced her to move quicker and look harder.
“Come on, Peach,” she whispered as she landed on the soft ground. “Where are you?”
Flora’s turquoise eyes continued to scour her surroundings for the tenth time, but the location of the kids eluded her. Her subconscious and heart rattled with anxiety. Her legs shook in panic until her body finally collapsed onto the cloud she stood on, shuddering lightly as she lay. Buried beneath her forearms, Flora’s head remained sunk downwards and did not look up. Within her shield, a presence fell upon her and spoke to her. It had been hidden away for so long, but now, it had a voice that was determined to let her know of its existence. A cold chill ran down her spine.
‘Face it,’ the voice said maliciously, ‘they’re lost. You’ve searched everywhere they could possibly hide! It’s been hours! There’s no way they’re still here.’
Flora shook her head.
“Nooo,” she cried quietly, “you don’t know that! They wouldn’t just leave. They have to be here! They have to!”
‘Peach Cobbler probably ran away a long time ago to look for you. You should have been there for her! She could be lost right now! Why weren’t you there for her?’
Flora lifted her head. There were no tears, but she felt like she would sob at any moment.
“There was no way I would have been able to. I didn’t even know…”
‘Please,’ the voice interrupted, ‘you could have gone to find her the moment Zecora gave you the poison joke antidote, but you didn’t. You had other matters to attend to, didn’t you?’
Flora shook her head again.
“No,” she whispered.
‘You’re just as weak as mom is. Maybe you’re even worse. Why do you think your friends wanted you to find the kids by yourself? They know they can push you around to do all the work while they all have a party at Zecora’s.’
“That’s not true and you know it!” Flora growled.
‘Really? Not true? Then how come Tempest hasn’t come to help yet? He could be here in seconds, but he isn’t here now, is he? You’ve searched every nook and cranny in Ponyville and they haven’t even considered the fact that you need help? They won’t even help you find your sister.’
“They’re my friends!” Flora answered angrily. “They’re helping me.”
‘You’re such a sucker.’
“I’m not talking to you anymore. Just shut up!”
‘You can’t make your own mind stop thinking, stupid,’ her inner voice laughed. ‘I’m just telling you the truth and you know it. You’re just too helpless to listen.’
‘No, wake up! Either you’re going to have to learn to get a backbone or I’m just going to…”
“Stop talking to me! Leave me alone!”
“Wake up!” the voice repeated, its inflection different than before. “Come on! Wake up!”
The once chilling hatred of the voice began to grow softer and worried. Flora tossed and turned, but could not pull her head from under her arms. She was stuck in its shadowy shield, unable to escape.
“I can’t!” she shouted in shock. “I won’t get up!”
Silence filled the dark world around her until the blinding flash of lightning illuminated the shadows for a quick instant and was followed by the loud roar of rushing water. The icy cold splash of heavy rain shocked her body, waking her up in a jolting panic. Flora gasped from the sudden inhalation of air and water into her lungs and coughed violently. Pushing her soaked bangs out of her face, she looked up to see a single raincloud above her. A blue blur stood above her and slowly came into focus.
“Are you okay?” the voice of Rainbow Dash asked. “I heard you screaming and found you here. You wouldn’t wake up, so I had to use a storm cloud.”
While Flora’s vision took time to clear, so did her brain, leaving her unable to think for another moment. Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow as she waited for a response.
“Sooo,” she began, wondering who this stranger was, “do you need help?”
Flora’s eyes grew wide in sudden realization of what was happening and looked up towards the pegasus mare in terror. Words escaped her as she tried to speak.
“I, uh,” she timidly replied, shocked to have been caught off-guard like this, “I’m okay. I’m fine. It was just a nightmare, that’s all.”
RD was not convinced.
“I’ve never seen you before. You can’t be from Cloudsdale and you’re definitely not from Ponyville. What brings you here?”
Flora didn’t know what to say and her mind raced to come up with something. As she pushed the bangs from her eyes again to buy herself a moment to think, the voice began to speak up again, taunting her.
‘You going to be super polite and accidently tell her the truth, or are you going to stand up for yourself? Your choice.’
“My business is my own,” she said plainly to a shocked Rainbow Dash. “Thanks for waking me up, but I have to go now.”
Without another word, she jumped off of the cloud and soared into Ponyville. As she flew, she fought the temptation to turn her head to make sure she wasn’t followed and continued her search. High above, RD looked down at her with a huff.
“Jeez,” she said, taking off in the opposite direction, “what’s her problem?”
Looking around a building corner, Flora took a deep breath of relief when she saw Rainbow disappear over the horizon. Everything in her hated blowing Dashie off like that, but this wasn’t the time to be kind and accommodating. She needed to find the children and getting caught in conversation would just complicate her search. Most of all, she had avoided to give any information away that might endanger time. Looking up at the sky, Flora could see that the sun would be setting in a few hours, so she was burning daylight, and as she returned her attention to her task, she resolved to find them no matter what.
‘If Berry and Cherry are right,’ she thought as she saw familiar faces in the middle of the town, ‘then they were in contact with the first Cutie Mark Crusaders. Maybe if I find them, I can find the children.’
Altering her search for her sister and friends, she began to scan the town for the original filly trio. A few minutes of searching passed by until she saw a quick glimpse of three young fillies walking together. One of them had a red cape tied around her neck. Flora’s heart jumped for joy.
“Finally I’m getting somewhere!” she exclaimed, flying quickly to catch up to them.
As she landed onto a nearby roof, she listened in on the Cutie Mark Crusaders.
“Can we please take a break?” Sweetie Belle complained as she sat on the ground and rubbed her legs. “My hooves feel like they’re going to fall off.”
“Ah’m with Sweetie Belle on the whole break idea,” Apple Bloom piped in. “When we decided to be Cutie Mark Detectives, ah didn’t think it would be this much work.”
Flora smiled at the thought of seeing such young versions of her older friends. In fact, Apple Bloom was practically an aunt to her because of her close friendship with Bismarck. Looking at Scootaloo, who had a look of sheer determination on her face, she could see she still had the same fire as ever. Scootaloo turned to her friends and tried to get them up.
“Come on you guys,” she said impatiently, “don’t tell me you’re giving up already.”
“We’ve been searchin’ fer hours!” Apple Bloom whined. “Ah’m tired and this isn’t fun anymore.”
“So what, you’re not curious to know why that Peach filly had a Cutie Mark Crusader cape on? One with the exact same rip as mine?”
“Maybe it is just a coincidence,” Sweetie Belle replied. “Maybe Babs Seed’s group took off faster than we thought.”
“Nah, ah haven’t heard any news like that from mah cousin Babs,” Apple Bloom answered.
“That’s because Babs doesn’t live in Canterlot, dummies,” Scootaloo said. “These guys said they did, but there’s no way they could have copied our capes exactly. Right?”
The other two remained quiet, both not knowing an answer and not wanting to continue the hunt. Their attention was no longer on the newcomers. Scootaloo sighed.
“Look, we only have a few houses to go and we’re done. We still haven’t been to Fluttershy’s place. Maybe they’re in there. Let’s at least try it before we give up, okay?”
With a reluctant sigh, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle got back up and followed, trudging all the way. Flora followed them quietly as they made their way to the woodsy area where she grew up. Perching in another cloud, she watched as they approached. Seeing her home once again, a feeling of nostalgia blew through her like the light breeze that cooled this warm and sunny day. The sight of all of the animals that surrounded the cozy little cottage reminded her of the many picnics she shared with her family and the little critters that her mother loved so much. Part of her half-expected to see her father by the bridge, tending to the garden that she loved so much. Upon realization that her daddy would not be here, a feeling of homesickness filled her.
“I want to go home,” she said to herself while the CMC’s knocked on the front door.
After a moment of pause, the door opened to reveal Rarity.
“Sweetie Belle?” Rarity said. “What are you doing out here?”
“We’re looking for some kids. They’re new in town and we…”
“We….” Scootaloo interrupted, “saw them drop one of their capes, so we’re trying to bring it back to them. Have you seen any?”
“There are three of ‘em!” Apple Bloom added. “Two colts an’ a filly.”
“Why yes,” Rarity replied, “I have seen them! The orphans! Orion, Peach Cobbler, and Bucky, right?”
“Orphans?” the three fillies exclaimed.
‘Orphans?’ Flora thought, nearly yelling it aloud herself. ‘What are you foals doing?’
“That’s right,” Rarity continued. “They wandered into Ponyville last night and dear Fluttershy found them sleeping in her chicken coop. Can you imagine? Three little foals trying to survive a storm like last night’s? The idea is just dreadful! I can’t even imagine how their hair looked!”
“Where are they, then?” Scootaloo asked, ignoring the unicorn fashionista. “Are they in the house?”
Rarity shook her head.
“They left for town just ten minutes ago. I overheard them talking about finding a cape somewhere. Curious, don’t you think?”
The three fillies looked at each other with excited looks.
“They’re in the park!” they said together.
The lethargy of the Crusaders vanished and was replaced by a newfound surge of excitement.
“What are you three up to?” she asked with a suspicious tone.
Scootaloo and Apple Bloom took off towards the direction of where the field day was, leaving a confused Rarity.
“Sorry sis,” Sweetie Belle replied, turning to catch up with her friends. “I’ll tell you later!”
Seeing them race towards town, Flora launched high into the sky and jetted towards the park as fast as she could. She was actually a fast flier, but she never had much interest in athletics, which frustrated the older Rainbow Dash. With a green streak, she blazed through the blue and white atmosphere and began nearing her destination. Diving towards the ground, she released her wings at the last second and landed…..roughly. As soon as her hooves touched down, the force of her descent pressed onto her and her weaker legs tripped over themselves, throwning her facefirst into the ground. Flora skidded a moment and came to a stop, groaning as she picked herself back up.
“I’ve got to figure out how Tempest makes it look so easy,” she grumbled, brushing the dirt off of her face.
“Flora?” a familiar voice exclaimed. “Is that you?”
Not far behind her stood Peach Cobbler. Flora turned to face her little sister and laughed in happiness as she ran towards her. Orion and Bucky arrived to see the two pegasi hugging it out in their reunion.
“I was so worried for you!” Flora nearly cried. “Are you okay? How did you make it through the storm? Were you hurt? How…”
“Flora,” Peach gasped from her big sister’s embrace, “you’re kind of crushing me.”
“I’m sorry. I’m just so glad to see you….all of you!”
“I knew we weren’t the only ones here!” Bucky exclaimed. “If Flora’s here, then the rest must be here somewhere.”
“They are here,” Flora replied. “All of them! They’re all at Zecora’s place right now.”
Bucky grew excitedly anxious.
“Is Bismarck okay?”
“Yes, Bismarck is just fine.”
Flora noticed Orion hadn’t mentioned his sister and walked up to him.
“Andromeda is here too. She’ll be taking us home.”
“Great!” Orion bluffed, secretly terrified at the thought of confronting his big sister after this fiasco.
“What are you three doing here?” Flora asked in curiosity. “I went to our house and saw Rarity speaking to the Scootaloo and her friends. Why does she know who you are? Why do they all know your names?”
Peach cowered with a look of guilt.
“I might have accidentally told them our names,” she said apologetically.
“It’s not completely her fault though!” Bucky said, defending her. “She helped us find shelter from the storm.”
“Yeah,” Orion added, “at Fluttershy’s house.”
Orion braced for a Peach Cobbler love-tap, but got one from Bucky instead.
“Ow!” he winced.
“You went to our house?” Flora gasped.
“No, not our house! Our chicken coop. We couldn’t just go to somepony’s house, so we hid there. I thought we’d be able to wait the storm out, but we fell asleep and mom found us in the middle of the night or something. I’m so sorry! Is this bad?”
Flora thought about it and breathed slowly.
“It’s okay. It’s over now. Andromeda should be readying the time travel spell, so it shouldn’t matter whether or not they know your names. Now that I’ve found you, we can all go home.”
“Home,” Orion smiled to himself. “That sounds good right now.”
“What about our capes?” Bucky asked. “Peach lost hers.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Flora replied. “Your capes should still be around when we return to our own time. Now come on, children. Let’s go.”
Taking her sisters wing, Peach Cobbler walked along side her as they made their way back to Zecora’s with Bucky and Orion following right behind. However, not far away, in the bushes, hid the Cutie Mark Crusaders. As Flora spoke to them and eventually led them to the Everfree Forest, they watched with unblinking eyes and discussed the sight. Slowly they followed, keeping their distance until the newcomers fully disappeared into the thick trees of the woods.
“I knew it!” Scootaloo said. “I knew the whole orphan thing was a lie. Who is the mare? I’ve never seen her before!”
“Keep it down,” Sweetie Belle hissed. “Do you want them to hear you?”
“So who are these ponies?” Apple Bloom asked. “Ah’ve never seen them before in mah life until the Field Day, but now they’re livin’ with Fluttershy.”
“And if they’re orphans, then why do they have Crusader capes?” Sweetie added. “Whatever reason they’re here for, they’re being awfully secretive about it.”
“So now what?” Apple Bloom asked.
She and Sweetie looked at Scootaloo, who was hatching a plan.
“If they come back,” Scootaloo replied, “we’ll confront them.”
“But what if they refuse to tell us what is going on?” Sweetie Belle asked. “If they have been keeping secrets so far, they’re not just going to tell us now.”
Scootaloo smirked lightly.
“Don’t worry about that. I know just how to get them to talk.”
Some time later, at Zecora’s house, Flora and the children finally arrived. No sooner did they reach the hut did Bucky race past them and throw open the door. His excitement was off the charts and being away from his family for so long was beginning to get to him.
“Bismarck!” he yelled. “It’s Bucky! Are you there!”
Zecora turned the corner and faced the small yellow colt as the others entered in behind him. An aura of warmth filled the room as she scanned him with a loving look and bright white smile.
“You must be the colt they call ‘Bucky.’ You are AJ’s boy, I can plainly see.”
Looking at Peach and Orion behind him, the zebra mare laughed lightly.
“The daughter of Fluttershy. The son of Twilight. Meeting you both is quite the delight!”
“It’s really good to see you again, Zecora!” Bucky replied happily. “Is Bismarck here?”
“He is not, my little pony. He has left for town, you see.”
“Gone?” Flora asked. “Why? I thought we were going home.”
Zecora’s smile disappeared and looked up at Flora.
“Perhaps you should speak to Cherry,” she answered. “She can tell you better than me. The Twins are with poor Radiance and will help these things make sense.”
Flora’s heart sank like a rock. If the twins were going to break the news to her, she knew something had gone horribly wrong. Turning towards the kids, she faked a cheery smile.
“Radiance isn’t feeling very good, so I’m going to check up on her okay? Why don’t you guys get something to eat or talk with Zecora a bit. I’m sure she’d love to hear all about you guys for the first time.”
As the kids continued their conversation with the tribal mare, Flora entered Zecora’s room to see the twins taking care of Radiance, who was asleep. Berry and Cherry turned towards Flora and grinned.
“Flora,” Cherry whispered, trying not to make a racket near Radiance, “you’re back.”
“Did you find the kids?” Berry asked.
“Yeah, I found them. They’re in the other room right now.”
Flora could immediately tell something was wrong. Neither of the twins’ eyes sparkled when they saw her. Cherry’s hair was a mess and
Berry seemed distracted with taking care of Radiance to be a presence in the room. Flora sat by the bed and spoke.
“Zecora told me something was up,” she began, hoping that her uneasiness was just overreaction. “What’s going on?”
Berry shook his head.
“Where do we begin?”
After waiting for a few minutes, the crusaders talked while Zecora made them something to eat. Peach sat by Bucky, who was playing around with Bismarck’s Stetson hat, and Orion laid down on the floor.
“Bismarck never goes anywhere without his hat,” Bucky said. “Why would he leave it behind?”
“Maybe he put it down,” Peach answered. “From what it sounds like, Andromeda, Bismarck, and Tempest all seemed to leave in a hurry.”
Bucky raised an eyebrow.
“Have you ever seen mah brother walk around without his hat before?”
Peach Cobbler thought about it for a moment, her eyes widening in realization.
“You know what,” she said, “I’m not even sure! What is it about your family and hats, anyway?”
“It’s a part of our tradition,” Bucky explained. “In fact, it’s a tradition rarely broken, which means somethin’ is up.”
Orion sighed and sat up.
“Forget about the hat! Am I the only one who’s worried about why my sister isn’t here?”
“What do you mean, Ri?” Bucky asked, using Orion’s abbreviated nickname.
“Flora said we were supposed to go home when she found us and Zecora said everypony was here not too long ago. If we were going to go home once we were all together, why is Andromeda not here? Why did she bring Bismarck and Tempest with her?”
Before Bucky and Peach could respond, a door creaked open across the house and shut with a soft click. The three foals held their breath as Flora and Cherry walked out of the room. Their looks were solemn and their faces were downcast. Orion’s body shuddered lightly. He knew exactly what was going on.
“We’re not going home,” he whispered with a raspy voice.
Flora shook her head “no,” leaving the kids with heavy hearts. Her eyes were reddened and Peach could easily tell she had been crying, but she had heard no sound earlier. In a way, it was her older sister’s way of trying to be brave. Flora sniffed and wiped the remaining tears from her cheeks.
“We’re going to be here for a little bit longer,” she finally explained after regaining her composure.
Cherry stepped in and spoke up. Though she looked even more shaken up than Flora for some unknown reason, she tried her best to reassure the kids.
“Andromeda says we’re going to get sick unless she finds a way home, but don’t worry about a thing. Andromeda wasn’t able to cast the spell, but she’s working on it right now. That’s why Tempest and Bismarck have gone with her to figure things out.”
“Sick?” Peach asked in horror. “Why?”
“We don’t know, sis,” Flora replied. “Something happened when we all time traveled and now we’re trying to fix it. All we can do is wait for Andromeda to find the answer.”
Approaching Flora, Bucky hugged her tightly and buried his head into her.
“Ah wanna go home.”
Flora tried to fight back another tear and hugged him back.
“Me too, Bucky. Me too.”
Even a normally stoic Peach walked up and joined the two’s hug, but Orion stood apart. His mind was a highway, speeding within him, thinking loudly in his head. He watched as his friends continued to embrace each other and lamented his stupid idea to ever try to get his dagger. Because of him, everyone else was in danger.
And it was all his fault.