The section of Whitetail woods near the outskirts of Sweet Apple Acres was usually very peaceful. Aside from the occasional crash landing courtesy of Rainbow Dash, not many ponies came this far out. The normal sounds of the forest were further dampened by a heavy layer of snow.
A punkish, confident voice cut through the singing of birds and the sibilant hiss of wind through pine needles, "Are you two ready?"
"I don't know about this..." a melodic, more hesitant voice followed.
"Don't you wanna get yer cutie mark?" insisted yet a third voice.
"Well yeah. But I just don't know about-"
The second voice was cut off as the first rang out again, "Trust me, this is gonna be awesome."
"Well ok," the hesitant one acquiesced.
"Three... Two... One..."
The three voice rang out in harmony, startling the curious creatures that had gathered to watch the three fillies.
"CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS, TOBOGGAN SLALOMERS! YAY!"
The cloud of snow kicked up only moments later could be seen clear across the wood and all the way into Ponyville.
* * *
Three very dejected fillies sat immersed in warm suds up to their necks. All three shared a similar expression: Eyes half-lidded in annoyance, mouths pulled down into a sulky frown, and ears flat against their manes.
"Ah thought for sure we'd get our cutie marks for honey gathering," the yellow filly's twang carried notes of disappointment.
"I think a pine cone collecting cutie mark would've been really nice," the pink and purple maned unicorn filly added.
"What're we doing wrong you guys?" The orange pegasus asked, using a hoof to wipe away the bubbles threatening to roll into her eyes from her purple mane. "I mean, that ski jump we built had to have counted for something!" Her wings vibrated spraying droplets of water as she stressed "something".
"Now girls," a cheerful voice cut off the round of complaining before it could even have a chance to begin. Twilight Sparkle was smiling as she levitated a brush to scrub the soapy water into a particularly stubborn patch of tree sap caked onto Applebloom's coat. "I know we've been over this, but you can't force your cutie marks to appear. You'll get them-"
"When the time is right," three voices finished the sentence with the purple unicorn. The corners of three mouths turned further downwards as three sighs escaped from the young crusaders.
"You know girls", Twilight continued on, the cheer never leaving her voice, "maybe you should-"
Twilight stopped mid-thought as a loud knock sounded from downstairs. She turned her head towards the door and called loudly, "Spike! Would you get the door?" No answer was forthcoming.
The knocking came again. Twilight snorted. "Excuse me girls. I'll just be a minute. You just stay right there." With that she trotted out of the bathroom and down the stairs.
The door gave off a squeak as Twilight opened it. The three fillies leaned forward, straining to catch snippets of the conversation. "Oh hi, Applejack. What can I do for you?"
The earth ponies voice didn't carry far enough for the crusader's to make out clearly, but Applebloom thought she heard her name. "Oh yes. She's upstairs with Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo." The, after a short pause, "yes, tree sap again I'm afraid."
Applebloom had heard enough to determine that she was the subject of this conversation. She swung one stubby leg over the edge of the tub.
"What are you doing?" Scootaloo asked incredulously. "Twilight told us to stay here!"
"What do 'ya think Ah'm doing? Ah'm gonna hear what they have to say." The yellow filly finished her climb out of the tub, ignoring the disbelieving looks of Sweetie and Scoot. "Besides, if we're sneaky-like, she won't ever know."
The two tub-bound fillies shared a glance with each other and slowly smiles bloomed on their faces. "Cutie Mark Crusaders! Secret Agents!", they whispered. The two soon followed Applebloom.
The trio of fillies walked on the tips of the hoofs, care to avoid the telltale clopping of normal walking. Had they stopped to really listen, they would have realized that they weren't any quietter than normal. In fact, due to the poor balance the tips of their hooves provided, they were actually a great deal louder.
Making it to the doorway, undiscovered, the trio leaned out, straining to hear what the two ponies were talking about.
"-shy's too busy, what with those sick bunnies and all. And Rarity just got a big order for those fancy frou-frou dresses. Big Mac and Ah really need somepony to watch her while we're off in Canterlot. Granny Smith can't hardly keep up with her anymore."
"Oh, I'd be happy to watch her while you're away! It won't be any trouble at all."
"Well thank'ee kindly, Twi. I'm sorry about this being last minute and all. We just wanted to head on out early. You've sure taken a real load off mah mind. Well, Ah'll come in for just a minute to let her know she's staying here tonight."
It wasn't until they heard the door creak closed that the Crusaders realized the conversation was over. The three fillies hastily made their way back to the tub, stopping only to check their flanks to see if anypony had acquired a spyglass or perhaps an inconspicuous hat as a cutie mark.
No such luck.
With downcast expressions, they climbed back into the tub. It was while they were mulling over the unfairness of it all that Sweetie Belle noticed something.
"Oh no!" she exclaimed, the fear in her voice nigh palpable. "Look!" She raised a trembling hoof towards the door and the puddles of soapy water that had pooled where they had all been standing.
"Well that explains why we didn't get our secret agent cutie marks," observed Applebloom. Her voice carried more of an air of annoyance than fear.
"What are we gonna do!" Scootaloo's voice held far more desperation that Sweetie's had. "If Twilight finds out we didn't listen, she might banish us!"
Both Sweetie and Applebloom started at that. "Whatever gave ya' that idea?" Applebloom was far more curious about the origins of this fear than the punishment they might receive for not heeding the purple unicorn.
"Well, she worries about that kind of thing all the time. Why would she if it wasn't something she'd think to do?" Both Sweetie Belle and Applebloom mulled this over for a moment. Their ruminations were cut short by Scootaloo. "We've got to figure out a way to explain-" she paused, searching for an appropriate word. Finding none, she merely gestured with both forelegs, "-this".
"A typhoon?" offered the unicorn filly.
"An outta control raincloud?" suggested the young farmer.
Scootaloo's brow was furrowed in concentration. Her friends could nearly see the gears turning behind the daredevil's eyes. They heard, or imagined they heard, an audible click as her eyes grew wide and her expression brightened. Both fillies leaned closer, the excitement Scootaloo was projecting infecting them as well.
Scoot's expression became sinister; a huge smile stretched across her face, showing nearly all of her teeth as she locked eyes on the pair of suddenly taken aback fillies. Slowly, she raised one hoof towards each of her friends' heads. Their eye's crossed as each tracked the hoof coming to rest upon their foreheads. Scootaloo's wings buzzed as she lifted herself, allowing her weight to force the other crusader's under the white foam.
Four limbs flailed, splashing water over the edge of the tub, as she held the two under the water for a brief movement before relinquishing her advantage. As soon as she did, the two popped up sputtering.
"Scootaloo!" protested Sweetie Belle.
"What did you do that for?" Applebloom angrily questioned the young pegasus.
Instead of an answer, smile still fixed upon her face, the orange filly swept both forelegs forward creating a wave of water that washed over the two fillies and spilled a prodigious amount of water into the bathroom floor.
Applebloom was the first to realize her co-crusader's plan. Her face lit up as she proceeded to create an enormous wave of water with which to strike back at her tormentor. Seeing the water pooling under the tub, the light of realization clicked on in Sweetie Belle's head. She too joined in the water fight.
It took Twilight Sparkle several moments to return to the bathroom. What she saw was an epic struggle being waged. Scootaloo and Applebloom had teamed up against Sweetie the Scourge and were attempting to drown the notorious scally-wag in lightly-floral scented, bubbly water. The dreadful Sweetie was holding her own, her magic was nowhere near the level needed to manipulate fine objects or to lift more than a ball of yarn, but she only needed it to wildly produce waves and torrents.
"GIRLS!" Twilight yelled in her shock, "What are you doing?!" Rather than anger, the young librarian's voice held a hint of panic.
"Applebloom!" The orange earth pony yelled upon seeing the mess.
The three fillies froze in the midst of their naval campaign, Applebloom circling her forelegs as she attempted to stave off gravity's cruel embrace. Good and evil could wait. The three had momentarily forgotten the reasons behind the water fight and their enthusiasm had lead them to go above and beyond the call of duty. The expression of shock, couple with the horror of getting caught that only foals know, painted the young ponies faces and served only to deepen their deception.
Applebloom caught her balance.
Silence ruled for the moment.
"Well?" questioned the purple unicorn.
Applejack made do with a glare.
As one, the crusaders bowed their heads, "Sorry Twilight," they murmured.
Twilight's face shifted into a bemused grin. "Oh girls. It's alright." Her horn glowed as a cabinet opened and several towels floated out. "But you are going to clean this mess up."
"You're darned tootin' they are! Ah can't believe you'd do something like this! Ah've half a mind to-"
"Oh Applejack. It's no big deal. The same thing happens half the time I manage to get Spike in the tub." Twilight turned her attention back to the three fillies, bringing the towels closer, "Don't worry about it. I'm sure they'll do a great job cleaning!"
If anything, the look of horror settling upon the the cornered crusaders was more deep and profound than it had been mere moments ago.
* * *
The three fillies slowly trudged out of the library some time later. They stopped outside and each hitched her leg and check her flank.
"Still no cutie mark," Sweetie Belle stated, her voice was filled with equal parts disappointment and relief.
"Aw, who'd want a spill cleaning cutie mark anyway," Scootaloo added.
"That's it!" Applebloom's exclamation was punctuated by a little jump. "We've tried everything there is to do around here and we've asked everypony in Ponyville how they got their cutie marks, and ain't none of it done a lick of good!" The yellow filly kicked at the ground.
"But Applebloom, what else can we do?" The opal coated filly begged.
The young pegasus followed her unicorn friend, "Yeah. It's not like we'll get anywhere if we just sat around in the club house all day!"
Applebloom locked gazes with Scootaloo. Her eyes had narrowed and shone with sudden resolve. Scootaloo was struck speechless by the air of determination her friend was emitting. After a moment, Applebloom turn her head to meet Sweetie's gaze as well. Her commanding presence quieted the two fillies. "If we've done everything we can do here in Ponyville, and we talked to everypony about their cutie marks, than Ah reckon we'll just have to find a new place to crusade." Applebloom gazed off into the distance. "Mah sister and brother are taking a heapin' load of apples to some fancy party or other in Canterlot. Ah plan to be on that cart with 'em." She steadfastly refused to notice the dropped jaws and large eyes her friend were suddenly in possession of.
"But, Applebloom-" Sweetie started.
"You can't-" Scootaloo began.
Applebloom didn't move except for her eyes which seemed to pin both unicorn and pegasus in place. "Ah'm gonna be on that cart, with or without ya. Ah'm not lettin' anything keep me from mah cutie mark."
It was a moment before anypony made a sound. Applebloom, silent while waiting on her friends, all the while a sinking feeling that she would soon be alone grew within her; Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle were dumbfounded by the sheer audacity of Applebloom's plan.
The silence was finally broken by a melodic voice, "How are we going to do it?"
Applebloom's lips curved up into a smile.
* * *
Sweetie Belle's world jumped. She bolted upright out of her makeshift bed and smacked her head on the top of a crate of apples. The cart lurched again, throwing her into a no-longer sleeping Scootaloo.
"Wha-", the awakened filly started before being shushed by Sweetie. The pearlescent filly raised one hoof to her pursed mouth. Scootaloo could barely make out the unicorn's eyes in the dim lighting.
Applebloom, awakened by the noise, yawned and sat up. The inside of the crate had looked so different last night. She looked out of a small crack, one of the many panels AJ had designed to hold apple-based foods for display, and attempted to judge the time of day. It was nearly nine o'clock! Why, she'd slept half the morning away!
She stiffened, her mane and tail bristling; she hadn't awoken so late since she was a very little pony. How can it be so late! They'd discussed it at great length: while they were being stowaways one of them had to be on watch the whole time in case Applejack or Big Mac decided to inspect the cart. They'd spent all evening planning this operation.
* * *
Getting out of the library had been the easy part. The mare watching me, one Twilight Sparkle, was easily fooled by my fake snoring. I was careful. I was quiet. I shouldn't have bothered. Spike's own snoring would mask any noises I may have made sneaking out of the library.
Once outside, having confirmed that I hadn't got a sneaking cutie mark, I hightailed it back to the Clubhouse. Sweetie and Scoot were already waiting for me. The two fillies were decked out in their capes. Those capes marked them as Crusaders to any eye that cared to look. Soon, I too would be wearing mine. I had left it off. The gold lining reflected moonlight and drew attention. But soon, I would want the attention.
I pulled my own cape tight about me and spoke quietly, my hushed voice's gravelly quality emphasized by the low volume. "Were you followed?" I asked my two partners. My co-conspirators took a half step back. Their mouths dropped open and their eyes held equal measures of fear and wonder. After a moment both of the fillies indicated that they had not with a slight shake of their heads.
"Why're you talking so weird?" queried Sweetie.
"Yeah, what's up with that?" wondered Scootaloo.
I rolled my eyes. My voice returned to its normal timbre for a moment, "Duh! This is how ya talk when you're being sneaky." My explanation placated my companions. I grumbled again, "Come on. We need to hurry. Applejack and Big Mac will be up soon. We need to be in position before the dawn."
* * *
We arrived at the barn shortly before dawn. The light in the kitchen proved my fears were well founded. If they caught us now, we'd never get to Canterlot. It was do or die time. I pressed myself up against the wall of the house, pushing my body as close as I could to the rough wood. I was short enough to just fit under the lit window. I could hear voices inside. The farmer, the muscle, and the matron were in the room. I stopped breathing. My heart almost froze. If I could have stopped it to save the sound of its beating, I would have. In a heartbe-
My partners in crime had joined me by now. They mimicked me, pressing themselves almost flat against the barn wall. Slowly, carefully, we moved towards the open barn where the packed carts awaited.
The plan was perfect in its simplicity. I knew that the farmer would want to bring every last apple she could to the city, but if she was going to sell them, she'd need her apple stand. It was small and cramped, but three fillies ought to be able to fit inside it while it was closed. Sure enough, the mare had hitched it up behind the train of loaded cargo carts.
We gathered around the latch to the apple stand. This was the moment of truth. If she or the muscle had packed this cart with apples, we were sunk. I reached a hoof towards the handle. It seemed like it was a mile away. My hoof touched the handle. I looked towards Wheels. Her eyes begged me to continue despite the danger. Needing more reassurance, I then turned to the Dame. She looked nervous, but she gestured with both hooves, urging me to open the door.
None of us had a choice really. It was this or remain blank flanks forever.
I pressed down on the latch.
* * *
Scootaloo was on her knees. Her face pressed right up against the crack between the doors, staring at the passing scenery. Her wings fluttered. Her tail twitched. She shifted her hooves.--Again. She'd been cooped up in this wooden prison for hours. Why is Canterlot so far away! She looked upwards, as if to ask Celestia's sun. But all she saw was the wooden board supporting the counter-top.
She heard a thump from up ahead and sighed. Her sigh was mirrored by the two others who shared her confinement. On schedule another thump, this one closer. Four more and I'll have to brace. The thumps continued at regular intervals, getting closer with each sounding. When she heard the sixth one, she braced her front hooves against the top of the cart.
The cart shook as the wheels hit a pothole or a large rock. Nopony hurt her head this time, they'd learned that lesson rather quick.
Scootaloo returned her gaze to the snow covered country side slowly passing by. And there's not even anything to look at! She kept her opinions to herself. They'd had a close call already after somepony had gotten a little too sensitive.
Bored, bored, bored, BORED!
Scootaloo lost her balance and fell to the side as the cart came to a lurching halt. "Ow," she muttered, hearing a similar exclamation from her earth pony companion. She forced herself back into a sitting position rubbing a hoof on the side of her head. She noticed Applebloom seemed to be nursing her nose; Sweetie Belle had been lying down at the time and had escaped without injury. The orange filly glared at the board she'd smacked into as if blaming it for her sore head.
"What do you think is going on?" Sweetie whispered.
Scootaloo just shook her head. Probably just something else to make this torture last even longer! Again, she kept the thought to herself, whining just wasn't cool.
"What if it's bandits?" The opal unicorn asked, voice half-filled with excitement and half-filled with fear.
"Or trolls," Applebloom happily added.
"Ssshhh you guys. Listen!" The pegasus could hear voices.
"...high time we took a break an had ourselves some grub. Ah'm plum tuckered out."
"I'll just go and grab those pies Granny made for us. Ah'm glad she insisted we take two!"
Scootaloo looked curiously at Applebloom, her vibrant yellow face had become pale, her checks had gone slack, and her eyes had grown wide. The young speedster followed her gaze to a cabinet set into the side of the cart.
She looked up at Sweetie, the young unicorn glanced at her and gave a small shrug. She was half-way through returning the gesture when she froze, realizing what Applebloom was fearing.
* * *
"Just what in tarnation did ya' think you was doing?" They stood stiffly, lined up alongside the train of apple carts. Their gazes fixed solidly on the ground in front of their hooves. Applejack paced back and forth in front of the fillies and continued her lecture with half-lidded eyes. "Of all the hay-brained, thick skulled things you gals have pulled-" Applejack stopped and fixed her younger sister with an angry glare. "And to think what poor Twilight is going through right now. Ah've more than half a mind to turn back now, apples be darned." She resumed her pacing, "And you two, what do ya' think your families are going through now? Just leaving off on some wild adventure without telling nopony! What in the hay were you thinking?"
Sweetie was the first to break the silence. "We were just trying to find..." Her voice became too low to hear.
Applejack continued to glare at them.
Applebloom spoke up, "We just wanted... We thought that we might, if we tried in Canterlot... We might get," there was a pause, "our cutie marks."
Applejack's expression softened a bit at the explanation. Much of the anger left her eyes as they reformed into their normal, round shape. "Oh girls. It ain't the place that's gonna get ya' your cutie marks." Her eyes narrowed a bit again, "But what y'all've done to Twilight and your parents is going too far." She turned to her brother. "Ah'm afraid we're not gonna be able to deliver this bunch of apples, Mac. One've us has got to take these three back to Ponyville before somepony works herself into a fit."
Big Mac didn't say anything.
"But-" began Scootaloo, raising her gaze from the ground to look up at Applejack. She was echoed by Sweetie and Applebloom who were likewise staring at Applejack.
"Now don't ya go but-ing me young ladies. Y'all have ponies that are worrying their manes off this second over you. And Ah don't mean to let them worry a second longer than they have to. It'll probably take Rarity hours to get her fancy 'do back in order."
The three fillies' gazes slowly sank back down to the ground as Applejack spoke. Applebloom mumbled something.
"What was that? You'll have to speak up."
The little earth pony raised her gaze to meet her sister's. "Ah said, if you wanted to let 'em know where we were quick, you'd take us to Canterlot."
Applejack raised and eyebrow, "How do ya figure that'd let 'em know quicker than taking y'all back with me?"
"You're always going on about Twilight's letters and how she sends 'em everyday. Couldn't you ask the princess to let her know where we were?"
Applejack's other eyebrow shot up. The thought had obviously never crossed her mind. "That-" she began, "that make a heap of sense, little sis." Now all three crusaders were looking up with hope-filled eyes at the pony who held their fate in her hooves. Applejack massaged her chin with a hoof as she looked upwards in contemplation, "Ah reckon' that would be the fastest way to let her know."
"And you get to deliver these here apples on time too!" Applebloom nearly glowed with excitement.
Looking down at her sister Applejack frowned a bit. "Don't go getting no funny ideas. When we get to Canterlot, y'all gonna stay put with me and Mac. Ah ain't gonna let ya' run wild through the city. Ah'd prefer it still be there tomorrow."
"But we're going?" Scootaloo excitedly asked.
"And we're gonna see the castle?" Sweetie added.
"And we're gonna meet the princess?" Applebloom interjected.
Applejack nodded hesitantly, as if she was trying to find the catch.
A chorus of YAY's greeted her gesture.
Applejack laughed. "Sure as sugar you're gonna see the princess. In fact, Ah think Ah'll let you explain what your doin' in Canterlot to her yourself!"
* * *
Today was going to be so fun. Sweetie was sure that she could find some way of getting a cutie mark in Canterlot. Her sister was always going on about the number of clothing stores, outlets, and boutiques that dotted the Capital. She just knew that she'd find somepony that could help her figure out how to sew like her sister. She'd get that cutie mark yet.
The door to the Carousal Boutique slammed open, punctuated by a flash of sunlight and a dramatic lens flare. Temporarily blinded by the bright light, Rarity's mouth dropped open in shock as she let out an overly dramatic gasp. When her eyes had adjusted to the brightness she beheld the most fashionably dressed filly in Ponyville.
Sweetie Belle posed in the doorway. The three hats, all pinnacles of their respective styles, perched one atop another on her head demonstrated her success and commitment to style. Her shoes, heavy boots made of glass, were set against the silk stockings, each one a different, vibrant color.The red and gold of her crusader's cloak perfectly matching the green, purple, and pink of her ball gown. Both were positioned to show her newly acquired cutie mark. The diamonds shone with perfect inner clarity, the rubies stood out brilliantly against her white coat, the emeralds matched her eyes, and the sapphires were so realistic, for a minute Rarity thought they were part of the dress.
"Sweetie Belle! You're back! And so fashionable too!"
"You're not mad for me running away?"
"Oh no! Not when the result is something as marvellous as this! And your cutie mark is just so delightful! Oh be a dear and help your sister out, I'm trying to design this dress and am completely out of ideas. Surely a pony with your fashion sense can help. Please?"
Sweetie laughed triumphantly "Ha! Ha! Ha! Of course I shall help you! For I. Am. Sweetie Belle!"
Today is going to be the funnest day ever!
* * *
Canterlot was going to be so awesome! Ponyville was nice and all, and Rainbow Dash's presence there made it awesome too, but there was no way it could stand up to Canterlot. It was so big! And it had not one, but two princesses living there. Are two princesses cooler than one Rainbow Dash? She wondered. Shaking her head to clear it of such disloyal thoughts, she concentrated on what she was sure of. There is no way I can be in such a cool place and not get an awesome cutie mark.
I know! I'll find somepony to teach me guitar! Then I can totally rock out and show Rainbow Dash how cool I am. Scootaloo's wings fluttered in excitement and anticipation.
There was a knock on the cloud that served Rainbow Dash as a door to her totally awesome cloud palace. Curious as to who could be visiting her here, she pushed the cloud aside.
The guitar riff was wicked-cool. It blew Dash's mane and tail straight back behind her, making it look like she was in full flight. But neither the volume nor the intrinsic awesomeness of the music made the blue pegasus's eyes widen in wonder.
Before her stood a whole new Scootaloo. Her purple mane, twice it's previous size, was puffed up with strands going in all directions, looking like a giant ball of fluff. It hung halfway down her legs and added a full two hoofs to her height. A white vest with metal studs stood out against her orange coat. The guitar she was holding had two necks, each with 12 strings, the top was cherry red and it blended into a cyan sunburst. The black leather pants she wore had an enamel depiction of her cutie mark, a totally awesome guitar under a rainbow, surrounded by lightning bolts, all on a field that looked like an explosion. A pair of sunglasses completed the ensemble.
"Ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh!" Rainbow sputtered. "Scootaloo, that is so awesome!"
Scootaloo's smirk deepened. "I know it is baby. The Scoot's all about rockin' cool."
"You totally have to hang out with me now! Oh! How about I give you some flying lessons?"
Scootaloo looked over the top of her shades, "It's a date."
Canterlot is going to be totally awesome.
* * *
Applebloom watched in awe as the group crested the final hill and walked under the shadow of the gates of Canterlot. This place is just so huge! She couldn't help but stare at everything in wide-eyed wonder. Surely there wasn't anything in all of Equestria that couldn't be found within these walls. With the shear number of apples they were bringing, there was no way she wouldn't get her cutie mark.
She stood in the kitchen back home. Her sister and her brother watched on.
"There's no way we're gonna get all these pies done in time!" Wailed AJ.
"Don't you worry about a thing, sis. I've got this." Applebloom turned her head and drew the large spatula she wore on her back. Closing her eyes, she inhaled, held the breath, and then exhaled. She stepped on the edge of a large platter loaded with apples, flinging them into the air. AJ and Big Mac gasped in awe.
Eye's still closed, Applebloom gave a loud battle cry around the handle she held in her mouth. Spinning, she whipped the spatula around in a complicated pattern, slicing every apple as it fell and defty directing each slice into a waiting pie crust.
Satisfied that the apples were done, she shoved the tool under a large ball of dough. She flipped that around and then up into the air, cutting it into perfect pie tops, complete with vents. Dropping the spatula, her hooves became a blur as she crimped the edges of the pies.
With a single powerful kick, and another cry of "ki-ya!", she shoved the pies into a waiting oven and slammed the doors closed. Turning to her dumbstruck audience, she gave a formal bow.
Yes. There was no way she was gonna leave here without getting her cutie mark.
* * *
"It's not fair!" Scootaloo whined.
"Yeah! Ya' can't keep us locked up in here like criminals!" Applebloom objected
"And I didn't even get to sew a single dress yet", Sweetie added.
"Well it ain't that I don't trust ya' to stay put, it's that I'm sure you could manage to get in heaps o' trouble without moving an inch." The three fillies were trying to use that sad-pony look on Applejack, but she had prepared for it by looking away. "Don't y'all cause no trouble for the princess!" She called over her shoulder as she shut the door. There was a loud click and they knew their fates were set for the day.
The room they'd been confined to WAS very large. It had a number of solid, sturdy book cases. It reminded them somewhat of Twilight's library, but had a more ancient feel to it.
"What are we gonna do now?" Scoot's wings shivered in frustration. "We came all this way and we're not even going to get a chance to find our cutie marks!"
"We could try to get a jail breaking cutie mark," Sweetie pointed out.
"Oh, I wouldn't do that, were I you," a new voice rang from deeper in the library. A new, somewhat familiar unicorn walked out from behind a bookcase. She had a deep, lavender coat and silvery-blue hair. She smiled at the three. "The guards would be most upset, your sister might not take it kindly either." There was something odd about her, but none of the fillies could put a hoof on what.
"But we need to get out, so we can find our cutie marks! Ah need to find a baker and a kung-fu pony!"
"And I need find out how to make a stylish hat!"
"And I need to find a cool, rock'n'roll pony!"
The mare looked taken aback. But then she smiled again. "Oh? Why don't you tell me about it?" The mare settled down as the crusaders eagerly began to recount their numerous adventures.
* * *
"Well, you certainly are dedicated! I don't think I've ever heard of anypony trying half so many things!"
"And we STILL don't have our cutie marks!" Applebloom hopped a little to punctuate her explanation.
"We've asked everypony in Ponyville how they got theirs! And-hey! How did you get your mark miss?" Sweetie asked, her eyes lighting up in excitement.
The mare looked very confused for a second.
"Yeah tell us! Maybe it'll help us get our cutie marks!" Applebloom insisted.
"Well, I'll tell you. But I doubt very much that it'll be of use. You see, I got my mark the first time I raised the moon."
That took a moment to sink in.
"Princess?" The three horrified fillies exclaimed as one.
Now Sweetie realized what had bothered her. The mare before her had a horn and wings. How she missed that she didn't know. And she was too petrified to think over much about it.
"We're sorry!" Applebloom blurted out.
"We didn't realize!" Scootaloo's voice cracked.
"Please don't banish us!" Sweetie ducked her head as if to hide her eyes.
Luna rolled her eyes. "Girls. I'm not angry. If anything I've enjoyed our chat. Now if you'd settle down, I'll tell as many stories as I can remember. Maybe one of them will inspire you to find your special talent."
Nervously, the three fillies lay down and gave Luna their full attention.
"Now, the first story I'm going to tell you is about a pony I knew a very long time ago. She was a pegasus and her name was Surprise..."
* * *
"Rise and shine! Sleepyheads!" Applejack barged into the room the three crusaders had been led to when their eyes had begun to droop. "It's time for us to head on back to Ponyville!" The excitement in her voice was wholly out of place for this time in the morning. It was still dark outside after all.
"Come on sis, just a few more minutes," Applebloom begged.
"No can do sis. We've got to get an early start so we get back in time for Pinkie's 'welcome back stowaways' party."
"Pinkie's throwing us a party?" Scootaloo stopped pretending to be asleep. "Really? A party just for us?"
"Heh. Well it's a party for the three of you, but everpony's gonna be there. You know how her parties can get." The three crusaders nodded. "Now, let's get moving and you can tell me all about your night."
The four walked out of the room, letting the door swing closed behind them.
"Well at first we were gonna try to break out of here-", Applejack didn't say anything, but she did suddenly seem more interested in their story.
"And then the princess told us that we'd worry everypony if we did something like that-", Applejack's eyes grew wide as Sweetie Belle uttered "princess".
"Princes-" Applejack began, but she was cut off by Scootaloo.
"And she told us all these stories about ponies getting cutie marks-" The orange filly hopped excitedly, her wings fluttering.
"You-" Applejack was cut off again, this time by her sister.
"And now we have all sorts of new things ta try! Like lumber jacking!"
"And interior decorating!"
"And fire eating! I've never done anything as awesome as eating fire."
Applejack's eye's grew wider with each suggestion. She glanced from one filly to another, as they spoke. "Now girls-"
"Hey! Maybe we can have another sleepover tonight! I bet we could get a lot of crusading done!"
"Now wait just a min-"
"Yeah! We can build a flume, or TWO flumes and race 'em! The barn would be the perfect place to build 'em."
"And then we could ride down it. That would be so totally cool!"
Applejack looked over at Big Mac, the fear in her eyes mirrored that in his. "We're doomed, ain't we?"
Thanks for reading everypony! Just wanted to let you know that the Writer's Training Grounds is open and willing to help prompt y'all to get writing. You know, if that's something you were wanting to do anyway. This is actually my Week 1 submission to that group, cleaned up, edited, and sent.