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Time was growing short; Swiftlight was certain about that much. He took a deep breath, already feeling shame in anticipation of his next action. He knocked on the door of General Mane Crusher's room and waited for a reply as dread began to fill him. It was a quiet evening, which only underscored the anticipation that filled the stallion’s mind. The door opened, and Mane Crusher was there.

"What is it, Captain?" the general said directly.

"Sir, we have a situation," Swiftlight said in a hushed tone. "I was approached only moments ago by a captain from Brax's battalion. He was in our meeting earlier."

“You mean Radiant Pyre? Go on," Mane Crusher said slowly.

Checking to make certain that the hallway was empty, Swiftlight continued, "He seemed to think that I was not committed to our cause, and he suggested that we work together to prevent the plan we discussed in that meeting."

"I see," the general replied; a look of deep concern etched itself on his face. Looking directly at Swiftlight, General Mane Crusher said, "I want you to take care of this, permanently."

Swiftlight swallowed hard and heard himself say, "Affirmative."

The door closed, and the stallion stood alone in the corridor. That had gone about as he’d expected, and certainty was assured of Mane Crusher’s determination. The captain turned and walked to the clerk's office. The hallways seemed much larger, or perhaps he was stepping more slowly than usual. A member of their group would be stationed there at all times to assist with monitoring information that came and went. He was sitting outside the door, looking rather bored.

"Corporal," Swiftlight addressed him.

The corporal stood and saluted, "Sir!"

Speaking softly, Swiftlight said, "Go find Captain Radiant Pyre in town and keep him in your sight at all times. He is not committed to our cause, and you are to do whatever is necessary to prevent him from telling anypony else about our plan. If he does not attempt to do so, just follow him. Is that understood?"

"Yessir!" the corporal said, trotting down the hallway.

Swiftlight entered the corps clerk's office. There were stacks of paperwork everywhere. It would have looked messy if not for everything being so neatly arranged.

"You're in late," the clerk's squeaky voice greeted him.

"Yeah, I'm supposed to double-check some paperwork for discrepancies."

The corps clerk pushed his glasses up, looking a bit offended, "There are no discrepancies on anything that comes through this office!"

"Look, I just follow orders," Swiftlight said with a tone of bored exasperation. "Just give me the last five sit-reps we sent to Cloudsdale, will you? I don't want to be at this all night."

The corps clerk rolled his eyes, "Fine, do you want the new one?"

"Huh?" Swiftlight played dumb. "Oh, yeah, better get me that one too."

The clerk went about his files and rapidly gathered the requested documents.

"You'll be needing a pen?" the clerk asked indignantly.

"No, there are no discrepancies on any paperwork that goes through your office," Swiftlight replied sarcastically.

The clerk snorted as he dropped the files on a desk for Swiftlight.

"If you need anything, I'll be in my rack," the corps clerk said.

He exited into a small room next door. Swiftlight tried desperately to contain his excitement. For several minutes he went through the old paperwork, exactly like he’d said he would. When all was quiet, he took a paper and pen from his pocket. Quickly, his heart racing, he composed a brief, but direct letter for Shining Armor's aide. He described the details of the conspiracy to overthrow the prince that they had discussed. Then he added the names of the conspirators that he was sure of. He had strongly considered not signing his own name to this, but in order for it to be believed, he thought it worth the risk. Additionally, if things went badly, he would need the prince to know that he was still loyal. He completed the message and buried it in the new report. After this, he put his pen back into his pocket and continued pretending to pour over the reports in search of anything that was amiss. Now that this was taken care of, all he had to do was finish betraying Radiant Pyre. The thought sickened him, but it would ensure that he was completely trusted by the conspirators. Also, it had served as a fantastic excuse to send the guard away so that Swiftlight could get his message to the prince unnoticed.


Several hours worth of questions had come and gone, effectively consuming half of the night already. The full moon hung almost directly overhead now, and Scootaloo was tired of waiting in line. Moonlight aside, the paper lanterns that had been strung across the square for the occasion provided a soft glow. The murmur of the audience was a low background noise to the speakers bandying their words.

"So, Applejack you're saying that you don't believe in taxes? How would you fund the city without them?" a stallion asked. Scootaloo suspected that Diamond Tiara had many supporters that had been given incentive to be here.

"Oh, my, no, now that's not at all what I'm sayin'," Applejack replied. "I don't have a problem with taxes; I just think they should be fair is all. Let me put it this way. If we're going to have a sales tax, everypony should pay the same percent of it. If it's going to be an income tax, everypony should pay the same percent. Now, that would mean that anypony earning more will pay more tax, but it won't be as convoluted as what we have right now. Our tax code is longer than the city charter. Basically, I just don't think any government should be giving things to one pony and not to another, especially if they have to take that from somepony else. The only way to be completely fair the way I see it is to have the taxes the same, and the services offered the same too."

Scootaloo could tell that Applejack was still nervous, but she was at least able to speak intelligently to everything that had been asked of her.

"An excellent question," Diamond Tiara began; it was her turn to answer. "I for one wouldn't try to fund a city without taxes. My opponent speaks of fairness, but what could be more fair than protecting the citizens of Ponyville? What Applejack is asking you to accept is a tax code that puts more of the burden on the middle and lower classes. Right now, we have a more comprehensive approach to our tax code than the idealistically simplistic model that was just suggested. If such a system actually worked, we'd already be using it...”

She continued talking, but Scootaloo stopped listening. Those exchanges were becoming frustrating to Applejack, and Scootaloo could see it. When her time ran out, Diamond Tiara finally stopped, and the next question was asked.

An older pony spoke, "Mayor Diamond Tiara, you talked a little about your new farming initiative; why did you pick the orchard at Sweet Apple Acres?"

This had Scootaloo's complete attention. The entire gathering went totally silent. Somewhere on the other side of the square, Scootaloo could hear a foal crying.

"I'm glad you asked me that," Diamond Tiara said, still completely composed. "Our goal is to get oats and hay grown up as quickly as possible. Sweet Apple Acres is an ideal location for this, as it has already been very well-farmed and prepared. Once the attack on Ponyville was over, and the orchard had been destroyed, it only made perfect sense to begin there, as it is closer into town, and already irrigated. Even from the beginning, we had plans to expand beyond that, but we determined that it would be our best place to start."

She continued talking until her time ran out. Then Scootaloo noticed that Applejack was grinning ear to ear.

Applejack said, "Well, shucks madam mayor, I didn't know you knew that little about farming."

Stomping and applause broke out briefly, but Applejack held up a hoof to silence the crowd. The moderator was banging his gavel against his lectern to calm the outburst.

When order was restored, he scolded, “I’ll not have you turn this business into a circus! Keep your response to answering the questions.”

"My apologies, your honor," Applejack said to the moderator. “The part of Sweet Apples Acres that she picked is an apple orchard. I grew up there; I've worked there since I was just a filly, and I've been running the farm for the last twelve years. Everything that the mayor just said about it being so ideal for hay and oats is just a load of hooey. Just clearing the roots of the downed trees was quite an undertaking. Shucks half of you were there when we cleared the zap apple field; y'all know what I'm taking about. But there was also a lot of damage to the irrigation pipes that still haven’t been repaired. There are plenty of places around Ponyville, as the mayor even agreed earlier, that are good for farming. The fact of the matter is that they would have been as easy, if not easier to farm than the Sweet Apple Acres orchard. To answer your question, I've been a farmer my whole life, and from a farming point of view, I have no idea why she picked Sweet Apple Acres. It don't make a lick of sense."

Applause erupted again, and Scootaloo could see a crack in Diamond Tiara’s heretofore solid composure. The moderator banged on his gavel in an attempt to calm the crowd, but the noise was lost in the thundering applause.


Swiftlight turned his head to the sound coming from downtown. At first, he'd thought a storm was coming, but then he decided it sounded more like a crowd had become excited about something. ‘The debate must be rather fired up right now.’ Though he didn't have much use for politics, he'd have rather been there, if only to spend the evening with Java Chip. Each passing minute grew worse for Swiftlight. He was already filled with regret for how he had handled this situation. His choice was likely about to get Captain Radiant Pyre killed. Swiftlight wished that there was some way he could warn him, but it just wouldn't be possible. Even attempting such a thing would surely only serve get himself killed as well. A great swell of laughter washed out from the center of town as the captain headed to the barracks to get some more ponies to come with him. Three should be enough. That would make four, not counting the corporal that was already following Captain Radiant Pyre. After they finished the job, they'd have to dispose of the body. Five against one would be plenty.


Sparklefly felt hopeful, but not certain as to the outcome of the election as she listened to the questions and tried to read the crowd. A few of the others had gone to stand in line several hours before, but Sparklefly had stayed in their place with Sweetie Belle. Fluttershy had only just found them and was there also. All of them were still recovering. Pinkie Pie had asked a question that caused an uproar of laughter from not only the towns ponies, but both candidates and even the judge had also lost their composure. As they settled back down, Sparklefly strained to see but couldn’t tell who would be speaking next.

“Mayor Diamond Tiara,” Java Chip began, “with regard to Ponyville’s ‘small imports business tax’, when exactly was legislation for that actually first drafted?”

Diamond Tiara took a sip of water, “I’m afraid I don’t have the answer to that on hoof. I know it was sometime last year, but we do so much city business every day that I can’t remember something that specific. I’m sorry.”

Her tone was cool, but Sparklefly suspected that she did in fact know. Applejack began to answer next.

“Well, Java, I actually took the time to look into that over the past few weeks.” Diamond Tiara’s fake smile became a slight grimace. “I can’t say for certain when it was first thought up, but the first record I could find of it in the minutes from city council meetings was from last year, one week after you catered Diamond Tiara’s birthday party. Also, ever since it passed, yours is the only business on the books that has ever qualified to pay the tax.”

A murmur returned to the crowd as Applejack finished speaking. Sparklefly felt herself grin as she rubbed at her eye patch.
The Last Cutie Mark Crusader 20.7
Next:  coming soon 10/23/16


Cover art of Swiftlight is by the fabulous :iconjocular-arts: & my lovely :iconthecrochetdragon: did Scootaloo; and of course, :icongummysky: did Sparklefly.

Please leave creative or clever comments below. Let me know you're there; even a gurgling sound would be helpful. What do you like, what don't you like? Constructive criticism is always appreciated. Even just a :thumbsup: or a :) (Smile) is helpful, because then I have an idea of how many people are actually reading. :D

Beginning of this Chapter:…

The Beginning:…

Other stories which I have written or to which I've contributed...
The Forgotten:…
Sweetie Belle's First Time:…
Rarity's Hearts and Hooves Daysaster:…

"You're welcome," Silver Spoon said as she permitted Swiftlight to pass. He opened the door in town hall and found Mayor Diamond Tiara inside. She was engrossed in what looked like speech notes. Her office was cluttered with campaign materials and other paperwork. He approached her slowly, but she didn't acknowledge him.

"Madam Mayor," he spoke as calmly as possible through his fears.

She looked up, and then gave him her full attention, "Captain Swiftlight. I take it you have a message from the general?"

"No, ma'am," he began. "But the matter is of the highest importance."

"What do you mean?" she asked. Without waiting for his reply, she continued, "What could you possibly have that is of higher importance that what's going on here right now?" She suddenly seemed rather frantic.

"I have information that-"

"Do you realize what I'm dealing with?" she cut him off. “I should be making Ponyville a better place, not campaigning again. This entire town has risen up against me." Swiftlight had never seen her so ill-composed. "I'd have never thought it would come to this, but they might be throwing me out tonight, me. They might actually do it. I'm about to go into a debate with the one mare in the city the nopony questions her honesty. Do you realize what kind of advantage that gives her?”

Swiftlight was already frustrated. "Ma'am, I get that you're stressed, but we don't have time for this. We're all-"

"That's where you're wrong, captain. I don't have time for this! I am very busy trying to save my position, so whatever you have to say can wait until later!" she spoke aggressively and stood from her desk.

Frustration was nearing a breaking point, “Ma’am-“

“Get out!”

"Well, I hope you lose tonight!" Swiftlight's anger flash-boiled, "I'm not sure how a toad like you ever got elected in the first place!"

He stormed out of her office, slamming the door as he went. He could hear her shouting after him as he walked down the hallway. He didn't care. There were more important things to figure out presently. He stomped loudly through the corridor and left the town hall. A lungful of fresh air outside was helpful, but clearing his mind was troublesome after that unpleasant confrontation. As he stamped around in the fading light of day, he caught sight of the setting sun and Java Chip's words came to him from long ago. 'You're fine, just relax. Rushing around like that is bound to get you hurt sooner or later. Now take a deep breath, calm yourself, and let's keep moving. We'll be fine.'

They had been climbing a mountain and making good time when she’d spoken those words to him. Swiftlight was sure that they'd be able to break the speed record for reaching the summit, but then he'd made an unsure step and slipped, sliding down a slope. As they were tied together, she was pulled down after him. Neither of them were seriously injured, but they lost too much time to be able to beat the record. It was sound advice that he had never forgotten.

'So, what do I do now?' he thought to himself. 'Think, think,' but answers were slow in coming. 'What is my objective? Warn Prince Shining Armor. How can you do that? Get a message to him.' Swiftlight perked up a little as his mind worked through this. 'Or get a message to someone he can trust.' Swiftlight knew just the pony to receive such a message, but how to get it to him? Shining Armor's aide would be trustworthy, and he would certainly pass along any message of such importance. 'But how to get it to him undetected? I can't just send a letter; I'd get caught. What about the sit-rep dispatches?' Swiftlight grinned and began walking toward the castle. He now had a plan. He was going to include a covert message inside the normal report that gets sent up to Cloudsdale every week. Once those reports were assembled, nopony looked at them until they were in Cloudsdale. It was his best chance to get a message to Shining Armor that would be read quickly.

As he walked away, everypony in Ponyville was heading toward the town hall to gather in the square. From what he had heard, the debate was supposed to begin at sundown. That seemed a strange tradition to Swiftlight, especially considering that everypony was allowed to ask a question. This thing could take all night.

"Hey Swiftlight," Java Chip called through the crowd.

He stopped and waited for her to get to him.

"You're not coming to the debate?" she asked.

He shrugged trying to not let her distract him from his purpose, "No, I've got things to do."

"At night?" she inquired, tilting her head.

"Nothing serious; I just need to go over some paperwork. We filed it earlier, but I just have a feeling that they weren't done correctly." This would make a good excuse if anypony else asked why he wanted to see the report. It was not uncommon for Swiftlight to go over these before they were dispatched to Cloudsdale.

"Okay, well come find me if you change your mind,” she said cheerfully.

"Affirmative; I'm sure I'll need coffee in the morning," he replied.

She grinned at him before walking off, following the amassing crowd. Swiftlight pushed his way through. By the time he got near the castle, there was nearly nopony around. As it came into view, a voice called from a nearby building.

"Captain Swiftlight," it said to him in a hushed tone.

Swiftlight stopped, turning to face the one addressing him. It was the captain from Brax's battalion that had been at the secret meeting before. Swiftlight approached warily.

"What is it?"

"I saw you in that meeting, and I know you feel like I do," the captain began.

"I don't know what you're talking about. If you'll excuse me, I have work to do," Swiftlight said dismissively as he turned to walk away.

In a hushed tone the captain frantically said, "I don't want there to be a coup!"

Swiftlight stopped dead in his tracks as his heart began pounding. That was a foolish thing to admit to somepony that is involved in a conspiracy. He wasn't sure how to respond, and all options quickly ran through his mind.

Turning suddenly back to the captain, Swiftlight quietly said, "Are you insane or just stupid? Don't ever say anything like that, not to anypony."

"I saw your face when they were talking about it. I know you don't want this any more than I do," the captain said.

"You're serious about stopping it?" Swiftlight asked. At this point, he decided that the captain was likely sincere, and a complete idiot.

The captain nodded with a defiant fire in his eyes.

Swiftlight said, "Meet me at the Ponyville school two hours before dawn. Do you know where it is?"

"On the hill on the southwest side of town," the captain replied. "I'll be there."

"Do not speak of this to anypony," Swiftlight cautioned him.

The captain walked silently away, leaving Swiftlight standing there a moment. The last light of the setting sun could just be seen beaming over the treetops to the west. Swiftlight turned and walked into the castle. His pulse was quickened from that exchange, and from what he knew he had to do. This captain had just provided him with a perfect distraction to ensure that he'd be able to get to the dispatches and add his covert message undetected. Of course, this was only an opportunity. This was still a dangerous game to be playing, and Swiftlight was well aware of it. His heart was still beating rapidly inside his chest as he entered the castle.


A quick heartbeat was the tell-tale sign of the nervous excitement that Scootaloo felt as Applejack and Diamond Tiara came out on the stage to address all of Ponyville. The judge was going to moderate, and he was making the opening address. The open square around town-hall was jammed full of stallions and mares, colts and fillies from all over town; nearly everypony had come. Outdoor illumination had been set up to spotlight the candidates and also for the thick congregation to be able to see as well. Up the center, an aisle had been roped off that went up to the platform they all faced. The air was crisp in the early evening.

"Hey guys," Java Chip said quietly as she pushed through the crowd to get to Scootaloo and the others.

"Howdy," Apple Bloom greeted her.

"Have you met Cloud Blazer?" Sweetie Belle asked.

"No, I hadn't. Hi, I'm Java Chip."

Cloud Blazer turned in his wheelchair to see her, "Nice to meet you. I'm Cloud Blazer."

"I know," Java Chip replied cheerfully. "Your friends have told me all about you."

Scootaloo shushed the others as applause broke out. The introductions were over, and it was time for the opening statements. Applejack stepped forward, as it was custom for the challenger to speak first.

"Howdy y'all!" she said heartily, only a hint of nervousness seeping through. "I must say, I'm plumb amazed at the faith you've all shown in me to let me come here today. So, first of all, I wanted to thank y'all for giving me the chance to come here and speak." She paused briefly before continuing, "I'm not terribly fond of politics, but sometimes things just ain't being done well, and they need fixing. I've lived here in Ponyville all my life. Most of you knew my Granny Smith; she was just a little filly here when the town was founded, and we Apples have been here working the land ever since. I only mention that 'cause I want what's best for all of us. That begins with personal rights and fair laws. The way I see it, and I'm not the only one, there've been some things of late that just don't add up. Did y'all know there's a tax that only affects one business in town? Now, I don't claim to know the full truth of the matter, but I do know that Java Chip catered the Mayor's birthday, charged her full price, and within two months this new small business tax hit, and Java's is the only business in all Ponyville that has to pay it. Now that seems a might strange to me, and I think some investigating needs to be done. In case anypony here hasn't heard, the mayor sent her aide to tell me that by some new authority she had been given, she was effectively seizing Sweet Apple Acres and telling me what I can and can't plant. More than that, they were gonna give away the food that was produced, so I would have got nothing. Never mind that there is land of plenty all around Ponyville that's fit for farming, and that she did eventually offer to pay me something for the use of the land; it just ain't right to tell somepony what they're gonna grow on their own land. That’s the way I see it.”

The moderator motioned at Applejack, and she stepped back. Diamond Tiara had made some notes, but she set her pencil on the lectern and stepped out from behind it to address everypony.

"Good evening," Diamond Tiara greeted the crowd. "I would not argue against anything my esteemed challenger has said so far... in the best of times. However, as we all know, these are far from good times we are living in. The war has threatened to destroy us all, especially in the last few weeks. All of the recent measures that have been taken to help Ponyville and Equestria have been completely necessary as part of our comprehensive survival strategy. Who wouldn't support personal rights?" She paused a moment; Scootaloo thought she seemed incredibly polished as she spoke without notes. "At this very moment, the greater concern is that we survive. What would our rights matter if we all starve to death? Sweet Apple Acres was chosen as the beginning of the new farming initiative. It is already prepared to be planted, making it the best possible place to begin, and that gives us the best chance to not only support ourselves here in Ponyville, but we'll be able to export to the rest of Equestria. It is true that we had initially thought to give away the produce, but the wisdom of selling it was quickly accepted. In time, that will mean lower taxes for all of us. When the war is over, and we stand victorious, all personal liberties will be restored, and I should add that nothing has been done without the approval of your city council.” Diamond Tiara began pacing to one side as she spoke, "I'm asking you to join me right now. Let us band together, and each of us give of our strength, of our abilities, of our talents, of our very lives to see that victory comes soon. If you join with me, I will make certain that everypony receives what they need to live to see that day."

The moderator was motioning again, and Diamond Tiara bowed her head slightly and returned to her lectern. The sound of her hooves clopping on the stage echoed through the early evening, the sun having set only moments before. Sporadic applause erupted throughout the crowd. Scootaloo was sure it must have been started by Silver Spoon, but she couldn't find her in the masses. The moderator banged his gavel, restoring the calm and quiet.

Standing, the moderator spoke, "Everypony that would ask a question, please form a line up the middle aisle."

The stillness of the crowd became a great deal of movement, like waves on the ocean with bobbing and rippling as ponies made their way to line up. It was going take some time for Scootaloo to get to ask her own question.
The Last Cutie Mark Crusader 20.6


Cover art of Swiftlight is by the fabulous :iconjocular-arts: & my lovely :iconthecrochetdragon: did Scootaloo.

Please leave creative or clever comments below. Let me know you're there; even a gurgling sound would be helpful. What do you like, what don't you like? Constructive criticism is always appreciated. Even just a :thumbsup: or a :) (Smile) is helpful, because then I have an idea of how many people are actually reading. :D

Beginning of this Chapter:…

The Beginning:…

Other stories which I have written or to which I've contributed...
The Forgotten:…
Sweetie Belle's First Time:…
Rarity's Hearts and Hooves Daysaster:…

Swiftlight shifted a little nervously in CIC. Everypony had left for the day, and the conspirators had gathered for a meeting. His every endeavor was to be incredibly discreet in how he gathered information. He knew that if his intentions to warn Prince Shining Armor about the plot were discovered, they'd probably kill him. This now constant threat of danger made Swiftlight a little shaky at times, and he had opted to avoid Java Chip for the time being. The last thing he needed was for anypony to suspect he might have told her anything.

"Thank you all for coming; we'll keep this brief tonight," General Mane Crusher said. "We have now confirmed our positions throughout the EUP. We are poised to take control at every corps and division level of the entire army."

Swiftlight involuntarily gasped, and he was pretty sure one of the captains from Brax's battalion saw him. He tried to play it off as an excited gesture. None of the others paid him much attention, but he was certain he was convincing to the captain.

"Now that preparations have been made, we must contact all forces and prepare to move quickly," the general continued. "I have sent dispatches that will arrive by morning. We execute the change in three days."

"Three days? We’re not ready,“ one of the officers objected.

“We have to be,” Mane Crusher countered, stroking his mustache. "The faster we move, the less chance of being discovered."

Swiftlight's heart was racing, but he was doing everything he could to stay composed.

"What about the local battalion under Brax?" another officer asked.

"Leave that to me," came the reply. "I'm the senior-ranking captain, and there are several officers I can trust when it is time. Brax won't be a problem, and once he's out of the way, the others will follow me."

“We have our work cut out for us, take care with the final arrangements,” Mane Crusher said in conclusion. "We will strike so quickly that Prince Shining Armor won't know what hit him. My only hope is that he will step down peacefully. The less blood shed in the transition the better it will be for all of us."

There was a general consensus around the room. Swiftlight wondered whether that was simply a nice sentiment or if it were sincere.


The group dispersed, casually leaving CIC. Swiftlight's panic was on the verge of returning. If they were moving in three days, he had run out of time to gather information. If Shining Armor was not made aware of this with time to prepare, he wouldn't stand a chance.


"I don't stand a chance!" Applejack sulked.

Scootaloo was trying to think of anything she could say to be helpful, but she just didn't have any wisdom for this sort of situation. The debate was going to begin in the next few minutes, but the waiting was apparently getting to Applejack.

"It's just nerves, sis," Apple Bloom said.

Applejack snorted.

Cloud Blazer spoke up, "All you have to do is answer questions the best you can."

"You'll do fine; we all believe in you," Sweetie Belle added.

“They’re right,” Sparklefly began. “Remember when Diamond Tiara came to you yesterday with an offer of selling the produce off of the farm and giving you a fifth of the income if you dropped out of this? She wouldn’t have done that if she weren’t scared you could win.”

Applejack smiled nervously. Scootaloo could tell that no amount of well-wishing, rationale, or pleasant sentiment was going to change Applejack's disposition as she paced the room. Her fears, combined with her ever growing pregnant belly made her seem somehow more vulnerable.

"Just keep breathing," Scootaloo finally said.

Confused, Applejack turned to her, "What was that, now?"

"Breathing," Scootaloo answered. "All you have to do is keep breathing. You're going to get through this. You are the most honest mare I've ever met, and everypony in town knows it. It's Ponyville out there; they already know you. In fact, the whole town already likes you."

Applejack nodded, her green eyes boring directly into Scootaloo. The anxiety was lessening, but it was still strong.

"The fact that we've even made it this far is huge," Scootaloo continued. "If the town didn't want to give you a chance at being mayor, they'd never have signed the recall petition, and we wouldn't be here tonight."

The fear faded from Applejack's eyes, and she began to grin. It was small at first, but widened in the moments that followed.

Just then, Silver Spoon poked her head in the door and said, "It's time to begin."

She left without awaiting a response.

"We all believe in you. Make that awful Diamond Tiara sorry she picked this fight," Scootaloo concluded.

Applejack crossed the short distance of the room and embraced Scootaloo in a sideways hug. "Thanks, sugar cube," she said. "Come on, everypony!"

At Applejack's invitation, the rest of them approached and joined the embrace for a moment.

"Thanks to all of you for getting me this far,” she said. "I've got to go. See y'all out there!"

Applejack left, seeming much more confident. Once she was gone, Scootaloo let out a sigh of relief. Now if Applejack could just stay focused through the debate, they had a fighting chance. Scootaloo caught Sparklefly smiling at her.

"What?" Scootaloo asked.

"Nicely done," she replied.

"How'd you do that?" Apple Bloom asked.

"I don't know," Scootaloo shrugged. "I guess I just tried to think how to make me feel better if I were about to give a speech."

"That was amazing," Sweetie Belle chimed in.

Cloud Blazer was smiling, but he looked as if he were going to be ill.

"Are you okay?" Scootaloo asked him.

He cleared his throat and coughed, wincing from the pain. "Yeah, I think that immobilizing spell needs to be done again. I'm starting to hurt all over."

Sweetie Belle nodded, and the others stood back as she closed her eyes to focus for a moment. Her horn glowed green as she reapplied the spell to Cloud Blazer's injuries. When she finished, Sparklefly was already in place to catch her as she nearly fell over again.

"Thanks," Sweetie Belle said. Her eyes were shut, and she looked exhausted.

"You alright?” Apple Bloom asked.

She nodded her answer.

Scootaloo said, "The immobilizing spell drains her a little. It's a complicated one."

Cloud Blazer sighed relief, "Thank you."
The Last Cutie Mark Crusader 20.5


Cover art by the fabulous :iconjocular-arts:

Please leave creative or clever comments below. Let me know you're there; even a gurgling sound would be helpful. What do you like, what don't you like? Constructive criticism is always appreciated. Even just a :thumbsup: or a :) (Smile) is helpful, because then I have an idea of how many people are actually reading. :D

Beginning of this Chapter:…

The Beginning:…

Other stories which I have written or to which I've contributed...
The Forgotten:…
Sweetie Belle's First Time:…
Rarity's Hearts and Hooves Daysaster:…

Trying to stay positive was becoming a full-time job for Cloud Blazer. His reputation as an optimist might be in jeopardy given the current situation, not that reputation was a major concern. The pain-numbing medications were being used much more sparingly now, which made sleep difficult, a shame for it was the one sweet relief he could get from the numerous hurts now. His body ached all over as it mended. Sometimes stabbing pain would shoot through various places, and headaches were frequent. Sometimes even the faintest light would be intensely upsetting to him.

He didn’t receive many frequent visitors. Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom were the only two that were around often. In actuality, Sweetie Belle was there constantly, for which Cloud Blazer was grateful. Sparklefly and Scootaloo also visited daily, but only for minutes at a time. Sweetie Belle didn't have much knowledge of the war in general, but she told him everything she knew. Scootaloo's promotion and sudden demotion had been of particular interest, especially as those events had caused such a stir in town. Cloud Blazer had never been overly fond of Diamond Tiara, and he very much hoped that Applejack would defeat her in the election. More than anything, he kept wishing that all of this was just a nightmare, that he had hit his head when he fell but wasn't otherwise hurt. Try though he might to keep his mind occupied, dread and grief always found him quickly now. His wings had been amputated; this was not a dream. A cold sweat formed on his brow as the thought crossed his mind.

"What are you thinking about?" Sweetie Belle asked from the visitor's chair.

"What? Oh, nothing really," Cloud Blazer lied.

"How bad does it hurt?"

"Which part?" he attempted a joke.

She smiled uneasily at him. He hadn't meant to make her uncomfortable.

"Sorry," he said. "I'm getting better, but I try not think about the pain. It only makes it worse."

"I'll try not to bring it up again," Sweetie Belle apologized.

"It's fine," he replied as he winced from a stinging that shot up from his back right leg. It was apparently the worst injury, not counting his wings. The one thing he didn't break was his spine. Doctor Horse had explained to him that the intact spine would provide him with a “very good possibility” to “eventually” be able to walk and run again. He had an “optimal chance” to lead a “full life”. Cloud Blazer could only wonder how the doctor could know what it was like to lose the ability to fly when it was something he'd never experienced. Still, he was trying to stay positive. There remained hope for happiness, even if he never flew again. The main thing Cloud Blazer wanted right now was to find some time with Scootaloo to tell her how he felt about her. Every passing day made him much more certain that it wasn't a dream, delirium, or the medication that had caused him to fall in love with her. Perhaps some combination of those things made him realize it, but the attraction had been there for a long time. The very thought of her made his pulse quicken; it was almost intoxicating. They'd been close friends for several years, but there was never previously any cause to think of her differently...

"Now what are you thinking about?" Sweetie Belle asked again.

Shaking his head slightly, Cloud Blazer said, "Still nothing."

"Well, look who's finally awake," a familiar voice said.

Cloud Blazer looked up just in time to see Sparklefly pushing a wheelchair into his room. She was followed closely by Scootaloo. He felt his heart begin to race at the sight of her. Time could stop for all he cared; he could live in that moment. She smiled at him. Somehow, she seemed much prettier than he had ever noticed before.

"Hi, Scootaloo; hi, Sparklefly," Sweetie Belle got out of her chair.

"Hey," Scootaloo replied.

"Where's Apple Bloom?" Sweetie Belle asked.

"She wanted to stay with her sister in case she needed anything," Sparklefly replied.

The newcomers from Cloud Blazer's old squad approached the bed. He could have sworn that Sparklefly blushed and turned so that her eye patch was away from him.

"Welcome to my new mansion," he said, trying to sound overly cheerful. "The food's not that great, but they wait on my every need. I haven't had to get up for anything."

Scootaloo snorted a laugh. She asked, "How are you feeling?"

"Better every day," he lied.

She smiled again. He decided he really liked it when she smiled.

"Feeling up for a ride?" Sparklefly asked.

"Are you kidding? I was hoping you guys would show up to break me out of this joint."

Scootaloo asked, “Didn’t you just call this your mansion?”

“Hey, that’s the past. Try and keep up, will you?”

"I've already been over everything with Doctor Horse," Sweetie Belle began. "Zecora helped me learn another immobilizing spell that will strengthen all of the injuries, but you’ll be able to move."

"So I can walk?"

"Oh my, no!" Sweetie Belle almost squeaked. "You're not nearly ready for that."

Cloud Blazer realized that his expression was disappointment when he saw their reactions. Trying to quickly cover his feelings, he said, "Eh, no matter. I'll be running soon enough." It looked like Sweetie Belle and Sparklefly were convinced, but he could have sworn there was a lingering concern on Scootaloo's face, if only for a moment. He'd have given anything to be alone with her so he could tell her... but he was far too nervous to even attempt to make that happen.

"Are you ready?" Sweetie Belle asked, her horn beginning to glow with pale green magic.

"I've been ready for a week," he said, still feigning cheer.

Everypony was silent as Sweetie Belle's magic began flowing over the stallion. He could feel several joints stiffen and become completely rigid. Her face had extreme concentration written on it. She worked her way from head to hoof on him, and as she finished, a small shower of sparks shot from her horn, making him flinch. Sweetie Belle teetered a moment and sat down abruptly.

"Are you okay?" Scootaloo asked, trying to catch her as she went down.

Sweetie Belle shook her head, "Yeah, I'm fine. Just give me a second. How do you feel, Cloud Blazer?"

He tried moving everything, but two of his legs, as well as some other muscles were immobilized by the magic. The best part that he noticed was the lack of sharp shooting pain when he did move. The strong dull ache continued, but he could manage that.

"I feel like I could fly," he said with a smile. The grimaces on everypony else's faces made him realize that he should have chosen his words more carefully. That choice of words had to make them all feel uncomfortable. This in turn reminded him of his newfound lack of wings, but he wasn't sure how to spin this in a positive way. He finally said, "So, are you guys going to put me in that chair, or what?"

Scootaloo and Sparklefly loaded him in the wheelchair, which was an uncomfortable process. More than once, he was poked or positioned in a way that was rather painful, but he did his best to politely have them change it. After a few minutes they finally had him sitting as comfortably as possible and ready to go on an excursion. Cloud Blazer was able to breathe a little more easily once they had him situated.

"Alright, shall we go?" Sparklefly asked.

"I'm pushing first," Scootaloo declared.

"As if you don't push me around enough anyway," Cloud Blazer teased.

"Well, I have to stay in practice," she retorted.

They made it out of the hospital without incident. Sparklefly and Sweetie Belle led the way with Scootaloo pushing Cloud Blazer following behind them. As they emerged into the afternoon light, Cloud Blazer's eyes had to adjust from the interior lights of the hospital. It was a cloudy warm day; it looked as if rain might be coming soon, not that it would get through the protective shield. The air was much more fresh than inside, but there was a scent of dust and a faint lingering smell of sweat. As he looked around, the thing that amazed him most was the near total transformation of Ponyville. There were gigantic banners blanketing many of the buildings with pictures of Diamond Tiara on them. They had sayings about her and her politics. From his knowledge of her, most of it was either stretched truths or outright lies. As they continued on toward town hall, everypony stopped suddenly. It took him a moment to see why, but when he did, he understood the expressions of shock on their faces. The biggest banner they had seen yet was right over the town hall, which is where the debate was to take place. Engulfing the building, it had a photo of Mayor Diamond Tiara visiting Cloud Blazer in the hospital. The caption read, ‘Your mayor supports the troops and the defense of Ponyville. Re-confirm Mayor Diamond Tiara!'

"How did that even get printed today?" Cloud Blazer was aghast.

"She came to see you this morning?" Sweetie Belle asked.

He nodded in reply.

Sparklefly said, "It certainly does defy sense that she'd even be able to get something that large printed on such short notice, but I think they really captured you."

"That's not funny," Scootaloo said.

Sweetie Belle sounded frustrated, "Oh, that Diamond Tiara just makes me so mad! I do not like her, not one bit!” she exclaimed as she kicked the ground.

Suddenly struck with an idea, Cloud Blazer said, "No, you guys have it all wrong."

"What do you mean?" Sparklefly asked.

"This is going to work out well for us," he continued.

“What are you talking about?” Scootaloo asked.

"Well, I'm a citizen of Ponyville. That means I'm allowed to ask one question during the debate. One just came to mind," he said with a fiendish grin.
The Last Cutie Mark Crusader 20.4


Cover art by the fabulous :iconthecrochetdragon: :love:

Please leave creative or clever comments below. Let me know you're there; even a gurgling sound would be helpful. What do you like, what don't you like? Constructive criticism is always appreciated. Even just a :thumbsup: or a :) (Smile) is helpful, because then I have an idea of how many people are actually reading. :D

Beginning of this Chapter:…

The Beginning:…

Other stories which I have written or to which I've contributed...
The Forgotten:…
Sweetie Belle's First Time:…
Rarity's Hearts and Hooves Daysaster:…

Sparklefly was leaving the officer's mess after her lunch ration. She turned to look at the mountain peak where Drill Sergeant J had taken Scootaloo's squad, unconsciously rubbing her eye patch for a moment. She had intentionally been ignoring Duster, but she hadn't missed the way that he'd looked at her, especially that first day. She imagined she was quite a sight with her bandaged wings and eye patch. Ultimately, the mare knew that she would have to learn how to interact with her brother in the new setting in which they found themselves. Even though her role in the instruction was fairly small, it was a strange feeling to be training her own cadet platoon.

"That's a lot farther away than it looks," Scootaloo interrupted her thoughts from behind.

Sparklefly turned to face the sergeant as a gentle warm breeze tickled her mane, "Oh?"

"Nothing I couldn't handle," she added with an assurance or pride. "These cadets are pretty wimpy.”

Sparklefly nodded, speaking thoughtfully, "I can't even remember if we were as useless our first week.”

"You might have been," Scootaloo teased.

Grinning, Sparklefly replied, "Maybe, but you never were able to outfly me."

"I don't know what you're talking about," came a haughty answer.

They both snorted a giggle. The shield rematerialized around the training grounds with its energetic hum and eerie purple light. It effectively killed the wind.

"For what it's worth, your brother's not the most useless one," Scootaloo said.

All silliness evaporated from Sparklefly. Her feelings on this matter were ambivalent. She did not want Duster here to train or in the EUP at all, but at the same time, he was here; she wanted to make absolutely certain that he would be the best soldier he could be. She was compelled to ensure that he had the best chance to survive. She pawed at the earth with her hoof.

"Are you okay?" Scootaloo asked.

Sparklefly didn't answer, but stared at the ground for a moment, sorting out her feelings. She finally looked back up and said, "I'm fine. I was able to get us leave for the evening, after our last ration. I was instructed to keep you out of trouble.”

Scootaloo snorted and said, "That figures."

"We'll stop by the hospital first and see if Cloud Blazer wants to go to the debate. I've already made the arrangements, but make sure you let your squad know that you'll be gone."

The sergeant nodded. They stood silently for a moment, then Scootaloo said, "I know you better than that; you're not fine. You've been a little off since the recruits arrived."

Sparklefly stared blankly at her friend. She didn’t want to talk about her brother until she made peace with it in her own mind. There was a determination or resolve in those purple eyes that looked back at her.

Scootaloo continued, "I understand that you have a certain image to project, being in command of a platoon and all, but if you ever need to talk, you know, off the record..."

Sparklefly nodded slowly. Her feelings were still rather wound up; she wanted to fly away, high and fast, but her wings were still bandaged for at least a week. Then again, the doctors and medics had all been telling her, “it will be about a week,” ever since she’d been hurt.

"Thank you," Sparklefly finally replied. "The same goes for you."

Scootaloo smiled.

"Go see to your squad. I'll meet up with you at the hospital later. Until then, see you in drills, okay?"

"Yes, ma'am!" Scootaloo said sharply with a salute.

Sparklefly snorted at her and returned the gesture. They parted ways for the moment. On her way to the quartermaster, Sparklefly came across the donkey drill sergeant.

"Good afternoon, Drill Sergeant J," she addressed him.

The donkey changed course, walking straight to her and snapped to attention with a stiff salute. "Sir!”

"At ease, drill sergeant," she said, still a little surprised at how formal he was at all times.

When he moved into the "at ease" position, it somehow looked almost as starched as he was when at attention. He stared ahead, almost past her.

"What is your estimation of the cadets?" she asked him. She couldn’t help but feeling she had created an awkward moment. If she had, the drill sergeant showed no sign of feeling it.

"I will make them soldiers, sir!" he replied sharply.

"Of that I have no doubt. Do you know one called Duster from Apple Loosa?"

"Yes, sir!"

"How do you assess him?"

"Permission to speak freely, sir?" he asked.

"Go ahead," Sparklefly replied.

"Some ponies should not volunteer to be soldiers, sir."

Her heart sank a little and she nodded, considering his words, "That may be. Make certain that he receives the best instruction you can give."

"No compromise on that for any cadet, sir!"

She was satisfied with his answer; it actually made her feel somewhat better.

"Will that be all, sir?" Drill Sergeant J asked.

"Dismissed," she said.

She returned his salute and continued on her way. The quartermaster's tent was buzzing with excitement when she arrived. A new batch of post had finally come through, and there was a crowd several dozen thick trying to see if they had any news from home. It took a little while to work her way through, but it lifted her spirits to hear that she had a letter. She retrieved it and went outside. Getting a little distance from the tent, she sat down and opened her mail in the few minutes that remained before training would resume. The outside of the brown parchment had the return address for Baltimare, which is where her family had fled after they’d left Apple Loosa.

She read, 'Dear Sparklefly, The last three of your letters came at once. We've been hearing all sorts of horrible rumors, many of which are completely outlandish. However, we thought the same of the reports of Canterlot falling when we were first told. The common stories now are that Las Pegasus has been destroyed and Manehattan was infiltrated by changelings, but I try not to put much stock in such things; we are glad to hear that you are well. I hope this reaches you soon. Your brother, Duster, is shipping out in two days to join the EUP. We're all very proud of both of you. Food has become even more scarce in the city, but we have heard there is a supply coming in from the griffins. Another rumor, but if it’s true, the shipment should arrive in port within a week. We've been saving as much of the money you've sent as we can for this sort of occasion. We had to spend some for medicine. Thunderfly's fever is worse now, and I'm afraid that Shimmerpuff may have caught it as well. But the medicine is helping, and if the illness is the same fever that hit our neighbors, it should break soon. It has been a very widespread infection in our part of Baltimare. There has even been some talk of quarantining the city, but I don't think that is likely. The EUP is still actively recruiting here. Duster requested Ponyville for his assignment because he knew you were there. If you see him, he can tell you more about all of this. They are starting a new farming program outside the city now, but I've not been able to get any work there yet. I gave them my name, and they know I come from a farming family, but I've been so busy taking care of the little ones that I just haven't been able to get out to work. Glitterdust will go tomorrow to see if she can work in the new fields, but you know how she is. She didn't take to keeping the orchard back home the way that you and Duster had. Braeburn's cousins, the Apples that you mentioned before, sound like a really great family. If they are as knowledgeable as Braeburn, I'd imagine Sweet Apple Acres is quite a place. Maybe we'll all get to come and see it after the war is over. I hope to hear from you again soon; we are all eager for any news, and it always sets my heart at ease to see a letter from you. Know that wherever you go, the love of your family is still with you. Missing you, Mamma Mare.'

Sparklefly pulled the paper close, cherishing the moment. ’After the war is over...' what a wonderful thought. Sparklefly hadn't considered the possibility the war ever ending since the siege of Ponyville. She'd been so focused on the problems at hoof, she had almost forgotten that such an achievement could be realized. She carefully folded the letter, her emotions rolling through a wide range. There was a depth of sadness that had been with her since her father had been killed, but her heart was warm and feeling well loved as it usually was after receiving a letter from home. Then there was the anger at Duster for enlisting. Sparklefly wondered whether the money she’d been sending home was enough. If food and work were as scarce in Baltimare as Ponyville, a single soldier's salary probably wouldn't be enough to support an unemployed family of five. Still, if Duster and Sparklefly were sending money, and Glitterdust was able to get that job on the Baltimare farming program, they just might be okay. Sparklefly felt somewhat inadequate at that moment. All of her efforts to support and help her family were not enough. She gently placed the letter in her pocket. She would have to deposit it in her hoof-locker later. In any case, it was time to get back to drills; she took a breath and started walking.


United States
Current Residence: Home
Favourite genre of music: Soundtracks & Classical
Operating System: I'll let you know if I find one that actually operates!
Shell of choice: the candy coating M&M shell of course!
Favourite cartoon character: I don't know anymore... so many to choose from... In any case, Rainbow Dash is 20% cooler than all the others.
Wp 20160923 001 by Jatheus
Oh my gosh, OH my Gosh, Oh MY Gosh, OH MY GOSH!!!!!

Look at!!! Look at her!!! :D It's Sparklefly!!! :love: :heart:

Made by my talented and lovely :iconthecrochetdragon: (she'll custom make these by commission. Basic pony starts at $150. One like this is $160 on account of the wings taking a lot of extra time. Note her for more information.)

I am going to cuddle this sooooo much! :D Don't judge me! :P

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unbridledmuse Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for the :+fav: on Rocky Seashore! :tighthug:
Jatheus Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2016
You earned it! :)
unbridledmuse Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
:aww: you're so sweet! :hug:
rrainbow22 Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Ty For The Fav ^^
Johesy Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hope you have a fantastic birthday dude! :cake: :cake: :D
Jatheus Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2016
Thank you very much, Johesy! :D
AndoAnimalia Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy Birthday Jatheus!!! birthday cake Happy Birthday Godliek :D :happy birthday: MenInASuitcase  pinky pie party canon emoticon Pinkie Pie Party Canon icon Pinkie-pie-Party You are a talented author and a great friend. May you have an awesome time. :D Happy Labor Day too!
Jatheus Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2016
Thank you so much! :D

haha, nice party cannon! :P
AndoAnimalia Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
You're welcome! :D

Which one? The second one?
Jatheus Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2016
Cannons! :D
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