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    “Rarity, wait, please!”

    Nothing mattered to Rarity.

    Not Fluttershy’s pleading, not Applejack’s calls, not the cries of her sister and her friends, not the fact that she’d left her bags on the train; the world could be coming to an end around her and still nothing would matter but getting to Twilight’s library.

    Please, let me find her, please.

    To think of all the dangers she’d faced, all the times she’d been at risk, all the times she thought she’d been afraid, only to realize that fear was something she had not so truly and viscerally experienced until that moment.

    On any normal day, when her entire world wasn’t at risk of crumbling, it would take her around fifteen minutes to travel from the train station to her house. On that particular day, it took her five, ignoring the ponies calling to greet her, ignoring the pain in her chest, ignoring still the friends she’d long left behind.

    Arriving at Carousel Boutique, her chest only hurt more at the sight, or lack thereof, of the creatures who were supposed to be waiting for her arrival.

    “No,” she choked out, before desperately yelling out, running around the exterior of her home as tears brimmed around her eyes. “Elara! Themis! Where are you?!”

    They did not come, no matter how much she called. As the seconds went by she began to feel faint, finally falling numbly to her haunches.

    “Rarity! For pony’s sake, hold still!”

    She looked around and saw Applejack running toward her. She stood, feeling as if an external force was controlling her, and quietly spoke when Applejack caught up: “The owls aren’t here.”

    It came out hollow, like she’d been given a death sentence and was simply relaying it to whoever might listen. The owls weren’t there.

    Applejack didn’t reply immediately, stepping back and looking at Carousel Boutique. She rushed to the entrance, and even through the haze that now clouded Rarity’s head, she heard Applejack calling for the owls. After a moment, the mare returned, and though she looked serious, she did not seem as utterly hopeless as Rarity felt.

    “We came early, Rarity. Princess Twi ain’t expecting us until tomorrow,” Applejack reminded, voice steady. “I’m sure it ain’t because of any curse. We just have to wait until they come and—”

    “I know the way,” Rarity whispered.

    She knew the way to the library. She didn’t need the owls, she didn’t need to wait, she could not wait, and she knew the way. Without bothering to explain, she stood and prepared to sprint, only to be brusquely pulled back.

    “Whoa there, sugarcube! You ain’t goin’ nowhere in the state you’re in,” Applejack said, earning herself a nearly murderous stare from the unicorn. “Lookin’ at me like that ain’t changing my mind. You’re more shaken up than a cup of Granny’s cider, and I’m not gonna have you gettin’ into danger because of this!”

    “Unhoof me this instant, Applejack!” Rarity protested, appalled and indignantly trying to break free from the mare’s grip. “I can’t wait until they come! Please, Twilight—!”

    “Rarity! Applejack!”

    They turned around to find Fluttershy and the Crusaders running to join them. Rarity once more tried to jerk herself away from Applejack’s grip in desperation, but the mare was resolute.

    “Applejack, please—!”

    “Fluttershy, stay here with the fillies,” Applejack said, and Rarity finally stopped her struggling to look at her.

    Please, please, please.

    Fluttershy looked unsure. “But… I…”

    “Please, Fluttershy. Somepony needs to stay here and make sure they don’t follow after us,” Applejack continued, finally letting go of the unicorn. “Rarity and I are goin’ to see if we can find the princess.”

    “But what about us?!” Apple Bloom demanded. “We wanna go fi—”

    No. Absolutely not,” Rarity interrupted, her sense of responsibility overpowering her sheer desperation to just leave already. “You will stay here. End of story.”

    And before another protest could be uttered, Rarity took off without a care for whether Applejack was following or not. Her heart had gone back to beating itself into a frenzy in her chest, and beat faster still once the Everfree Forest appeared in her line of sight.

    She knew the way.

    She knew the way, she was certain of it, she could traverse the forest with her eyes shut. No curse, no Princess, nothing would keep her from Twilight Sparkle, because in less than a dozen minutes she would be in the library, and that was a fact, not prayerful hoping.

    When at long last she reached the edge of the forest, she slowed to a stop and gave Applejack a second of her time.

    “Rarity,” Applejack said, and Rarity knew that though the mare would not stop her, it did not mean she necessarily approved. “You’re absolutely sure you know the way?”

    “I am,” Rarity said, and she was, because she had no other option; she refused the other option.

    “And if you don’t? What if this curs—” Her sentence came to an end when a tendril of magic snapped her mouth shut.

    Don’t you dare say it,” Rarity nearly hissed, determined on taking Rift’s words to heart. “Don’t you even think about it, Applejack. There is no curse.”

    There was no curse. It was her mantra now, her new agonizing philosophy, because she refused to believe anything else. After a moment, she let go of Applejack’s muzzle, and when the earth pony only shot her a less than pleased look, Rarity turned around, moved toward the forest, and began to feel ill not even a minute in.

    She didn’t feel ill in the poetic sense. Her heart was not figuratively bleeding—yet—but she was faint, honestly and truly, like the blood had been drained from her body. Her gallop slowed to a canter, and the farther she ventured in the direction she knew to be right, the less sure she felt and so her canter became a trot and then nothing at all.

    Standing still, she looked up at the trees, hesitating over which path to take. Cursed malaise! It was doing a fine job of making it difficult for her to focus, to remember the way and follow it! Why did such a thing have to happen now? Was the weight of her fear finally catching up to her?

    She turned to Applejack, ready to insist that she knew the way before her companion might question her, but instead she found Applejack looking similarly under the weather. She’d gone pale, and as she rubbed a hoof against her forehead in a soothing gesture, her eyes did not leave Rarity’s.

    “You feel it too, don’t you?”

    It was not a question, though it was phrased as such.

    Rarity stepped back and then quickly turned away. “Feel what? I feel nothing—no, I feel fineFabulous! Splendid!” she shrieked with a harrumph, ignoring the sinking feeling in her chest because she was fine. “I have no idea what you’re talking about! You must be imagining things!”

    “Sugarcu—”

    Rarity shushed her, turning her gaze back toward the forest. She took a deep breath and then focused on her surroundings and on the library. It took her a moment, but the sickness subsided as a certain path seemed to beckon her.

    “Quickly, follow me!” she exclaimed, rushing off, once more confident in her choice. Her fears had clouded her view, but now they had gone and so she could find her way again.

    This is the way.

    The more she thought it, the more she was sure, and the more it felt like the forest was guiding her. Any minute now, any moment, she would arrive at the familiar old oak tree, and within it she would find Twilight, perfectly safe from any curse. She could feel herself getting close now, and finally she stopped, her heart nearly stopping alongside her.

    She did not reach the library.

    She reached two large timberwolves, both sitting on their haunches and facing them, like their master had ordered them to wait patiently for their food to arrive.

    “Don’t move,” Applejack hissed, which frankly should have gone unsaid.

    The two timberwolves stood up, green slime drooling from their muzzles. They stood still, apparently waiting for the mares to make their first move.

    Eventually, it was Rarity who acted first, signaling for Applejack to run one way while she went for the other. They would get separated, yes, but simply standing there was putting them more at risk. Applejack didn’t seem all that convinced, but when Rarity screamed, both mares ran off.

    Or, at least, Applejack did, because Rarity ran straight into a third timberwolf, falling to the ground, and barely had time to lift her forelegs in a kick before it lunged at her.


    Rarity had a dream.

    Not a dream in the sense of an aspiration or something to achieve, like becoming a world-famous designer or freeing Twilight Sparkle. She had a dream in the literal sense, where she could swim into the deepest oceans of her own psyche thanks to a questionable psychology book and five hours on Twilight’s proverbial couch.

    She dreamt a timberwolf attacked her, and viciously, at that. She had been walking through the Everfree Forest, searching for the tree of legend, certain of going the right way but instead walking right into the roaming grounds of the Everfree’s nastier beasts.

    Despite her best attempts, the beast was faster and stronger, and her leg was caught in its jaw, its claws and fangs tearing into her flesh. It was agonizing. She called for help, sure that death was at her door, and if it would stop the pain she’d gladly welcome it, but it was not. Instead, she was strong enough to overpower the beast, running away and reaching the library.

    Inside, she found Twilight Sparkle, lying by the entrance and reading a book. How beautiful she looked, Rarity thought out suddenly. A sight for the sorest of eyes.

    Rarity trotted toward her, trying to steady her breathing.

    “A timberwolf nearly attacked me,” she said, but the words came out like casual conversation. How’s the weather? Fine, and oh, by the way, I was almost mauled by a feral beast. Quite the experience, honestly. He could have used some breath mints.

    Twilight looked up. “Almost? It did attack you.”

    Rarity looked to her leg, but she saw no evidence of an attack. She had felt the pain, yes, but perhaps it had merely been adrenaline. Her leg looked as splendid as it always did.

    “Well, yes, but I escaped it!” Rarity said, playfully rolling her eyes.

    “Oh?” Twilight said, and she frowned. “Did you really?”

    Startled by the question, Rarity woke up.

    Despite the late hour and dim lights, Rarity could still make out the interior of the white room she was in. She tried to get up from the bed, but a sharp pain in her leg forced her back down with a groan.

    “I’m just saying this because your friends aren’t here,” a voice said, “but you’re hardcore, Rarity.”

    Rarity turned around and found Rainbow Dash lying on a nearby couch, smiling at the unicorn. “I… what… where am I?”

    “The hospital,” Rainbow said. “You’ve been here three days.”

    Rarity blinked at her. She tried to get up, then yelped when an agonizing pain in her leg forced her back down. She lifted the covers to find her right hind leg swathed in bandages tinged pink.

    I… I really was attacked? It wasn’t a nightmare…?

    “Oh geez, you need a change,” Rainbow Dash said, her words barely registering in Rarity’s horrified mind. “I’ll call the nurse.”

    “Wh… What about Applejack?” she whispered, eyes still glued to her foreleg. “The… The earth pony mare…”

    “She’s alive, only got a few scratches. She saved your life,” Rainbow said, pressing a button on the wall before returning to the couch. “A nurse was telling me earlier that Applejack ran in here with you, like, dying on her back.” She grabbed a clipboard from the couch and looked it over. “All I got from this thing is that your leg was a timberwolf’s chew-toy, and some ligament is busted for a few weeks or more.” She waved it at Rarity. “Wanna read?”

    Rarity slowly shook her head and instead laid back on the bed again, feeling numb.

    “Don’t worry, Rarity. Scars are awesome!” Rainbow said enthusiastically. “And a scarred cutie mark totally screams hardcore.”

    A… A scarred cutie mark…?

    “What are you doing here?” Rarity asked, trying to keep herself collected. A realization dawned on her, and she turned to Dash. “Did you meet with Princess Luna?”

    Rainbow grinned. “Wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t! I wanted to bring Pinkie along, actually, but she had to stay home and deal with other stuff,” she said. “Your friends told me about Canterlot, too. I’d ask how it went, but so far your friends don’t really want to talk about it, so I know it was a bust.”

    Memories resurfaced of Princess Denza, the castle, the forest and… the curse… and Twilight…

    “I haven’t seen any of Denza’s ladybugs, though,” Dash continued. “Guess they didn’t think you were worth dealing with.”

    And of course she wouldn’t be worth dealing with when Rarity was now totally and utterly useless, wasn’t she?

    Rarity tried to get up, even despite the pain. “Rainbow, you—you need to see Princess Twilight…”

    “I will,” Dash replied nonchalantly. “I’d have gone yesterday but your friends didn’t really want to take me. Guess they got scared because of you, but Fluttershy said the owls can take me. And don’t worry, I’ll tell the princess you’re not dead yet.”

    Rarity could feel herself drifting back into unconsciousness, only anchored by her desperate need to somehow see Twilight.

    “Rainbow, please, you… you need to help find the princesses…” The words came out from her mouth unbidden, and for a moment, she felt a burst of energy flowing through her as she said them. Her eyes were fixed on Rainbow, and she felt again like some external force was taking hold of her. “Please.

    Rainbow blinked, taken aback. “I will, geez! No need to go all creepy on me,” she said, then clearing her throat. “Chill, Rarity. I’m definitely finding Princess Twilight.”

    Her reassurance, however, went unheard by Rarity, who’d already collapsed back onto the bed, her consciousness fading back into dreams of her princess in the forest. She slept and slept, through the night and through the day and again through the night, waking in the morning to find her three friends sitting close by.

    For a moment, she smiled, in hopes of good news.

    Her smile died, however, when she took a closer look at their somber expressions.

    They asked her about her well-being at first, and only after she’d finished did she get to ask her own questions.

    “Well?!” she asked. “How did it go?! Did you find the owls, Rainbow?”

    Rainbow crossed her arms, and though she was looking toward Rarity, it still felt to her as if the pegasus was avoiding eye contact.

    “The owls don’t work,” she said flatly.

    “What do you mean ‘the owls don’t work’?” Rarity carefully asked, because surely Rainbow must know that was impossible because they were owls.

    Rainbow looked increasingly uncomfortable, ears lowering. “Listen, I know it sounds crazy, but I’m telling you: they don’t work. I tried following them into the forest, and all we did was run into timberwolves! Even they seemed confused!”

    “That’s impossible!” Rarity snapped, trying to sit up despite the pain shooting up her leg. “You—! You must not have—!”

    “What if the owls can get cursed?” Applejack asked suddenly.

    “No!” Rarity insisted, slamming her hoof against the bed. “Rainbow Dash is simply doing something wrong!”

    “No, I’m n—!”

    Yes, you are!” Rarity interrupted viciously. “The second I’m out of this forsaken place, I will go with the owls, and then you’ll see! In fact, when are they coming back? I have to write to Twilight and… and…”

    She drifted off the moment her statement drew yet another somber expression from Applejack and Fluttershy.

    “What?” she asked, her anger fading. “Why do you look like that? What happened?”

    Fluttershy gulped before speaking up. “Princess Twilight wrote to you.”

    “What?!” Rarity gasped. “When?! Why was I not told about this?!”

    Fluttershy reached into her saddlebags on the floor, taking out three letters. However, rather than hoofing them over to Rarity, she continued talking.

    “You were asleep whenever I came to visit,” she explained. “I haven’t read them.”

    “Well, what are you waiting for?” Rarity demanded, gesturing for the letters. “I need to tell her—”

    “She already knows,” Applejack interrupted.

    “She sent me a letter yesterday,” Fluttershy continued, readjusting her wings and pointedly avoiding eye contact with Rarity. “And I told her about the curse and…”

    She drifted off, and there was silence for a moment.

    “Please,” Rarity whispered, hooves pressing into the mattress while she tried to keep calm. “Please tell me you did not tell her about the attack.”

    When again Fluttershy replied with silence, Rarity felt herself go faint, forehooves flying to her mouth.

    “You… You told her?!” she demanded, having half a mind to jump off the bed to go and—! And—! And something! “Why would you do that?! Do you want Twilight to torture herself?!”

    Fluttershy winced, making herself small on the couch. “We-well, I—”

    “I told her to put it in,” Applejack said firmly, sitting up straight. “The princess was mighty worried about why you weren’t replying to her letters, and I wasn’t about to have Fluttershy lie to her about somethin’ so serious.”

    Rarity gritted her teeth, nearly shaking with anger. How could… How dare they… She was supposed to tell Twilight what happened! She was supposed to tell her, and Twilight wasn’t supposed to know, and her “friends” just… just completely jumped over her?!

    Rarity laid back down, not wanting to look at them another moment.

    “Look, I’m sure Princess Twilight is going to write back again soon with one of those corny ‘get well’ letters,” Rainbow said. “So just sit back and chill, ’kay?”

    Rarity didn’t reply, Rainbow’s words only crushing whatever remaining delight Rarity had at seeing her friends.

    “We’re only doing this because we care about you an’ her,” Applejack said, defensive tone gone from her voice. Rarity heard her get up, and moments later a hoof patted Rarity’s shoulder. “Try an’ get to restin’, and I bet you’ll have a new letter from the princess first thing when you wake up.”


    In the three weeks after Twilight Sparkle cut off all contact, Rarity had very cruel dreams.

    That was the only fitting description, and yet, if somepony else were to gaze into her dreams like through a window, they would be confused.

    Where was the cruelty in dreams where Rarity spent her days in the library, doing things she usually did when awake? One might even call them boring, these dreams where she and Twilight talked of trivial affairs, kept each other company, read books, worked on clothes. Surely the cruelty couldn’t refer to waking up. Who would be sad to wake from such an unexciting dream?

    Three knocks at the door, and Rarity’s ears pressed against her head.

    No, not yet, she wanted to say. Let me go back to her.

    She heard the door open, and Sweetie’s voice chime in, “Rarity? Wake up!” After Rarity replied with silence, Sweetie trotted into the room and shook her sister. “Come on, stop pretending you’re asleep.”

    “Have the owls come back?”

    “No,” Sweetie said. “But everypony’s downstairs for pancakes!”

    “Curious. I don’t remember agreeing to hosting breakfast for whoever ‘everypony’ is,” Rarity dryly remarked, hissing with pain when Sweetie patted her on her hind leg.

    “Ugh, come on, Rarity. Stop being so grumpy! Didn’t you say frowns leave wrinkles on your face?”

    Rarity snorted. “I did, and you know what else is marvelous at keeping a frown on my visage? Being a prisoner in my own house, that’s what.”

    “See you downstairs,” Sweetie said, moving away and leaving the room.

    Rarity waited until she closed the door before sighing and rolling onto her side, wincing slightly when her bandages shifted over her wounds. The thought of her injuries no longer brought tears to her eyes, but even so…

    If Twilight were there, she’d have already healed Rarity.

    But she isn’t here…

    Rarity took one long, deep breath and sat up, blowing air through her gritted teeth. She looked around and found her standing wrap, which she begrudgingly levitated toward her. She hated the thing. It was as unseemly as a cast, it brought attention to her injuries, and the only redeeming thing about it was its color: lavender, like Twilight’s coat.

    That way, Sweetie had said, it’s like Princess Twilight is keeping your leg safe!

    She tried not to look at her hind leg when putting it on. Wounds lined her flank, and when her eyes landed on her disfigured cutie mark, rendered hideous by three massive claw marks and bite marks, she…

    Rise above it, Rarity, she thought, pushing back tears and looking away. Rise above it.

    “Rarity!” a voice called. “Come on!”

    “I’m coming!”

    She sighed again.

    This was her routine now.

    Wake up, make clothes, limp to the doctor every five days, limp to the spa every three days, tea time with Fluttershy every two days, go home, sleep. If it wasn’t for the doctor, her routine would be no different than it had been a year ago or so. Her friends were constantly visiting and pampering her, her injury made everypony treat her like a delicate flower to be sheltered, and rather than feel grateful, she was irritated. Annoyed. Stressed. Miserable.

    She lifted her hoof and pressed it against the cracked necklace hanging from her neck. She’d already tried so many times before, and yet she still closed her eyes and tried to cast the communication spell, only for nothing to happen, just like the time before that, and before that, and before that, and…

    She let go of the necklace and finally got off the bed, wincing again when her hind leg touched the floor.

    When she finally decided to grace the others with her presence, she found Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Sweetie Belle, and Apple Bloom huddled in the kitchen, preparing what smelled like admittedly delicious pancakes.

    “Oh, good morning!” Fluttershy said, putting down the bowl of batter and smiling at Rarity. Her eyes flickered briefly toward Rarity’s leg before coming back up. “Did you sleep well?”

    “I had a very nice dream last night, unlike yesterday’s nightmare,” Rarity said, pulling up a chair but debating whether to sit on it or not. “What do you make of the name Amethyst Wind? Isn’t it just awful?”

    “Hey, Rares, don’t you have maple syrup?” Rainbow interjected, looking through Rarity’s cupboards.

    “If it’s not there, I must have run out,” Rarity replied, now catching Apple Bloom glancing at her leg. Rarity had long ago learned Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom were disastrous at being discreet, while Scootaloo didn’t even try and instead gawked at how “cool” the battle wounds were.

    “Where is Scootaloo?” Rarity asked, moving to try and help Rainbow find the syrup.

    “Saturday morning classes,” Sweetie replied, watching as Fluttershy flew over to the stove and started another batch of pancakes. “She failed the math test.”

    “Rarity, how can you not have maple syrup?!” Rainbow said. “What kind of kitchen is this?!”

    “Goodness, if it’s such a concern, I’ll go and buy some,” Rarity replied, shaking her head. Truthfully, she didn’t mind the walk to Sugarcube Corner, and she could use the exercise. “I’ll be back soon.”

    “O-oh, wait, I’ll go with you!” Fluttershy blurted out, stopping everything she was doing.

    Rarity turned to her, smiling brilliantly. “Darling, I’m simply going to the shop. I’m sure I can handle that all on my lonesome.”

    “Yeah, Fluttershy,” Rainbow said, grabbing the batter Fluttershy had put down and hoofing it back to the pegasus. “One of the squirts can go.”

    “Rainbow Dash, I do not need an escort,” Rarity curtly said, trying to keep a smile on her face. Honestly! What did they think she’d do?! Run off?

    “Hey, Sweetie, question,” Rainbow said, grabbing chocolate syrup from the counter and pouring it into the batter. “How many times has Rarity tried sneaking out to the forest since she’s been out of the hospital?”

    None!” Rarity protested.

    Sweetie frowned. “Uhm… Ten? No, wait, eleven?”

    “That is slander!” Rarity exclaimed, trotting out of the kitchen. She took her black cloak from the rack and put it on, harrumphing though no pony could hear her.

    She opened the door, intent on leaving before somepony could catch up to her, but Apple Bloom ran into the room, asking for her to please wait.

    The trek toward Sugarcube Corner was much less pleasant than Rarity had hoped. Apple Bloom was a delight, yes, but the stares of everypony else weren’t. She knew that half the town had seen her bleeding her leg away on Applejack’s back, and the other half had already gotten the “delicious scoop.”

    Every limping step she took felt heavier under the weight of their stares, their eyes almost always flickering toward her hind leg, which Scootaloo reported half of them thought was a peg leg.

    A peg leg! What, should she be a pirat—

    “Rarity? Are you listenin’?”

    Rarity looked at Apple Bloom. “Pardon?”

    Apple Bloom frowned for a moment before proceeding. “Zecora wrote me!” she exclaimed, her cheer returning. “She wants me to go to Canterlot to visit her ’cause there’s a big market there where I can buy lots of potion books.”

    “Apple Bloom, that’s wonderful! You must be excited,” Rarity said, still trying to ignore the stare a passing pony gave her. “Especially with her gone for so long!”

    Apple Bloom nodded enthusiastically. “Eeyup!” she said, grinning. “Except…” Her ears dropped and she kicked the ground. “Granny said I can’t go.”

    “What? Whyever not?”

    “’Cause Zap Apple Jam is next week, an’ nopony can take me,” she said.

    “Well, that’s not too bad, darling,” Rarity said, looking up and noticing Sugarcube Corner in the distance. “Why, I remember you saying you were excited for Zap Apple Jam season sometime last month!”

    Apple Bloom winced. “I know, but… that was when I thought I’d be able to bring some for Princess Twi…”

    “Oh…” The words sunk into Rarity’s heart like a dagger, and yet she powered through. She stood up straighter. “Now, now, Apple Bloom! I’ll find a way to break this curse soon, and you’ll be able to give Twilight all the jam you want.”

    “…But… Great Granpappy Fritter Cobbler never—”

    “And I am not Fritter Cobbler, Apple Bloom,” Rarity interrupted, which she realized came off a bit more forcefully than she’d have liked when Apple Bloom’s ears lowered.

    Stepping into the shop, Rarity was again met with stares and whispers. She marched right up to the counter, grateful that Missus Cake was at least discreet. She sweetly greeted Rarity, fetched the maple syrup, offered her a free cupcake, and everything was going along perfectly until the very last second.

    “Dearie,” Missus Cake said, taking hold of Rarity’s hoof the moment Rarity lifted it to pay. “Everypony’s worried about you.”

    Rarity smiled. “Worried about me? Whyever for?” she asked, even though both knew what Missus Cake had meant. “I’m perfectly fabulous!”

    “Rarity,” the older mare continued, and her tone changed. “All this talk about how ponies keep seeing you go into the forest for months, and now… Sweetie Belle came here with her friends while you were in the hospital, and the poor dear looked miserable.”

    Rarity gulped, her smile cracking. “We-well, I—”

    “You’re an adult, Rarity. You can do whatever you want to do, but for the sake of those who love you, it might be best to let go of whatever keeps you going into that forest.” Missus Cake finally released Rarity’s hoof and smiled. “Don’t want to lose one of my favorite customers, hm?”

    Rarity stepped back, heart thundering in her chest. “I… Thank you for the syrup,” she said weakly before turning around and joining Apple Bloom at the entrance.

    The walk back to Carousel Boutique went by in silence. Whatever the filly said, Rarity did not hear, her mind too clouded by what Missus Cake had advised.

    Let go of whatever keeps you going back.

    How could she let go? She couldn’t let go! Twilight… Twilight…

    Twilight already let go, didn’t she?

    Rarity frowned, trying as hard she could to kill that thought, murder it, bury it six feet under. No, Twilight had not let her go. No, something had happened. No, there was another reason she had not sent the owls to Ponyville. No, no, no, Twilight had not let go of Rarity.

    She told this to herself over and over, up until she opened the door of Carousel Boutique and stepped inside.

    “Hey, you’re finally back!” Rainbow Dash said, poking her head out the kitchen. “Come on, everything’s ready!”

    Rarity and Apple Bloom followed her into the kitchen where all was prepared, and finally, when Rarity sat down, they conversed. First about the doctor, and then Fluttershy, Rainbow, and the fillies talked about trivial affairs. The weather, Ponyville, all sorts of things Rarity cared nothing about.

    Finally, the fillies left the room to play.

    Rarity hummed. “Rainbow,” she said, turning to her friend, “you’ve been here for about three weeks, yes?”

    “Yeah,” Rainbow said, speaking with her mouth full of food. Rarity chose to ignore it. “Why?”

    “Why haven’t you gone to the Everfree Forest again?” she asked, and Rainbow rolled her eyes. Rarity, again, chose to ignore it.

    “You already know why, Rares,” Rainbow said, going back to eating her pancakes.

    “No, I do not!” Rarity protested. “We don’t know if you’re truly cursed! Maybe it wore off from whenever you got it! Maybe it’s not the curse, but you simply being a lousy seeker!”

    “Hey!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed, dropping her fork and getting up. “I went in there five times, remember?! Even with those dumb owls, and like I’ve told you a jillion times, even they got confused! You want to permanently curse them, too?!” She sighed and rubbed her forehead. “Look, I don’t like this curse thing, either, you know? That means that all the hard work I’ve been doing has been for nothing! But just because you don’t care about almost losing a leg doesn’t mean I’m going to risk my legs or my wings!”

    “Then find somepony else! Not everyone in Ponyville is cursed!”

    Rainbow Dash snorted. “Find somepony else? Who, Rarity? Anypony we ask for help might get cursed! And besides, remember last week?” She slammed her hoof down, enough for Rarity to wince. “Everypony saw you after your accident! You think just anypony is going to happily go find a lost princess after seeing that?! Get real!”

    “You need to get better first,” Fluttershy said, cutting off Rarity’s protest before it could even be voiced. “Princess Twilight can wait for that.”

    No, she can’t, Rarity wanted to say. No, I can’t.

    “Anyway, I got another letter from Pinkie,” Rainbow said, sitting back down and trying to relax. “We have to do something about her, and quick. I don’t think she’s really buying our excuses anymore.”

    Rarity sighed and rubbed her temples.

    Pinkie Pie had no idea what happened in Canterlot. What she knew was that it went well, but Princess Denza requested some very particular things, and Pinkie could not visit until they were done. It was a lie, and like many other things, Rarity loathed it. Lying, misdirection, and deception were the three elements that got them all into that cursed position, and there she was, doing the same with Pinkie.

    And yet, as Rift had said, they had no way of knowing how the curse spread. If it really spread just by talking about it or by asking for help while being cursed, then… then there was nothing they could do, was there?

    “What do you suggest? We can’t risk her getting cursed,” Rarity pointed out. “You were able to see Princess Luna, weren’t you? We know the curse doesn’t affect dreams, so we could perhaps ask for her advice as long as we find a way to avoid Pinkie Pie in doing so.”

    “Well, maybe you’ll think up something while you’re at your spa thing,” Rainbow Dash said, pushing away her plate. “Actually, isn’t that, like, happening in ten minutes?”

    “Fifteen,” Fluttershy quickly said, taking the dirty plates and putting them in the sink.

    Rarity got up, taking her own plate of uneaten pancakes and putting them in the fridge.

    “We can talk about it later, Rainbow,” she said. “You’re sure you don’t want to come with us to the spa?”

    “Pfft, right. I have stuff I want to do, but I’ll catch up with you guys tonight maybe,” she replied, trotting off toward the lobby. “Later!”

    Once she was gone, Rarity ran a hoof through her mane and sighed. “It wouldn’t be too outrageous for her to go to the forest one last time…” she said, following Fluttershy into the lobby. It certainly feels like I’m the only one who cares about finding Twilight.

    “When you’re better,” Fluttershy repeated, taking Rarity’s saddlebags and putting them on. Despite the fact that she was doing better, the pegasus was resolute against Rarity carrying her saddlebags and potentially worsening her injuries.

    “Why don’t you go ahead without me?” Fluttershy said once outside, smiling at Rarity. “I have to go to the cottage for a moment, and I wouldn’t want us to lose our reservations.”

    Rarity blinked. “I… You want me to go alone?” she asked, raising an eyebrow. “Without an escort?”

    Fluttershy hesitated for a moment before nodding her head. “I trust you, Rarity,” she said with finality, her smile widening. “I won’t take long, all right?” She cleared her throat and trotted off. “Please tell Aloe I’ll be right there!”

    Rarity waited until Fluttershy had left before slowly walking toward the spa. She walked, and walked and walked toward the one place to relax and let go, be perfectly content. The spa could certainly do all that, yes, except…

    Except…

    “…for the sake of those who love you, it might be best to let go of whatever keeps you going into that forest…”

    Except a little detour wouldn’t harm anypony, would it?

    Determined, Rarity walked away from the spa and toward the small plaza where the local ink and quill shop was. Rarity knew for certain that Twilight’s ink never lasted more than a week, so Inky Owl must have seen Elara or Themis in the past weeks.

    When a dozen minutes later she found the shop, she was happy to see its owner standing outside, filling the large cauldron.

    “Well, well, if it isn’t the talk of the town,” Inky said the moment he saw Rarity approaching.

    “Hello,” Rarity said shortly, wanting to get right to business. Her eyes briefly flickered toward his peg leg, and shame burned through her upon realizing she was doing exactly what everypony had been doing with her. “Pardon me, but ha—”

    “Well, come on, let me see!” he exclaimed, tapping his peg leg against the ground. “Must be some damage if even I heard about it!”

    Rarity gasped. “Why, I never—!”

    Before she could protest, the unicorn used his magic to lift her cloak, revealing her wrapped leg.

    “You got lucky. And here I hoped I would have somepony who could relate to having a peg leg,” he said, smiling softly at her. He let go of her cloak, which she quickly readjusted with a loud harrumph. “We’re unique, Miss Rarity! The only two ponies to survive a timberwolf attack in nearly two centuries! We’d be joining Princess Booky otherwise!”

    Rarity cleared her throat. “Mister Owl, if I may ask, have the owls come by lately?”

    “The owls? You mean the ink owls?” he asked. “They have! The white one was here yesterday.”

    Yesterday?!” Rarity asked, stepping back. “But—! But…”

    “And the black one came twice last week,” Inky Owl continued. “That one actually stayed for a few minutes!”

    Rarity opened and closed her mouth several times, feeling herself go faint.

    So…

    So Twilight really had ordered the owls to stop coming, hadn’t she? Rarity suspected that already, but having it confirmed… Now she couldn’t help but wish she hadn’t come and seen Inky Owl at all.

    “Is that why you were in the forest?” Inky Owl asked, but his question fell on deaf ears.

    Anger boiled inside Rarity. How… how dare Twilight do that? Who did she think she was?! What gave her the right to—! To just—! To cut Rarity off like that?! After everything they’d done?! After everything Rarity had done?!

    What gave Twilight Sparkle the right to let go?!

    Tears stung at her eyes, and she stepped back even more, indignant, furious, betrayed.

    She would go into the forest, and she would find Princess Twilight Sparkle, and she would—!

    Rarity turned around and limped off, ignoring Inky Owl’s calls. The spa was long forgotten, as were Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash and anypony else who wasn’t the one alicorn who was extremely lucky her ethereal properties prevented Rarity from slapping her.

    Once she finally arrived at the forest and crossed the threshold, the familiar sickness from weeks ago returned, mixing in with the chest pains Inky Owl’s revelation had forced upon her.

    She knew the forest! She knew it, and no curse would stop her from finding the library, because she was the only one who was doing a damn thing to find Twilight.

    And yet, the farther she walked, the more her conscience clawed at her, whispering about Fluttershy’s show of faith. It got louder with every wrong turn, every accidental retrace of her steps, every second the influence of the curse showed itself.

    It’s the curse, the voice whispered venomously, and you will never see Twilight Sparkle again, because you didn’t listen.

    But no! No, no, no! It wasn’t her fault! It was the Spirit’s fault! He did this!

    She was innocent, completely and utterly, and everything she was doing was because she was forced into such a position. Besides, she could do it! She was Rarity! She’d faced off against dragons, timberwolves, all kinds of horrors and she’d done it all by herself!

    She didn’t need anypony.

    When she passed by the same tree again for the fifth time, she stopped and nearly stamped her hoof against the ground before remembering her leg would not appreciate it.

    “It has to be here!” she exclaimed to no one, gesturing wildly. “Where is—!”

    A growl that made her hair stand on end interrupted her.

    She looked around, finding a lone timberwolf in the distance, watching her from between the trees. The beast was looking right at her, and the whispering voice inside Rarity died away, much like she soon would.

    She had no options.

    She couldn’t outrun it. She couldn’t fight it. She couldn’t do anything, especially when her entire body was consumed with paralyzing fear, the memories of her previous attack flooding her. Her hind leg began to sting.

    She thought of Twilight, as she always did in dire moments. Only Rarity could help her, and if Rarity died then and there, so would Twilight’s chances of escape.

    She had to run. She couldn’t, of course—she could barely even walk—but she’d have to try, and if she was unsuccessful, then at least… She took a deep breath, bracing herself for what could be her last moment of life, and just as she stepped back, the timberwolf howled and dashed at her.

    And yet, it never reached her.

    Winona, Applejack’s dog, came first, launching herself at the timberwolf and distracting it from Rarity. Applejack arrived next and jumped in front of it, throwing her lasso at the creature and pulling on its head, the timberwolf yelping in pain as it was yanked to the ground.

    It didn’t stay down for long, however, and before Applejack could react, the timberwolf grabbed the rope with its paw and pulled violently, sending Applejack tumbling down.

    The timberwolf howled and lunged at the mare, missing her by a hair when its target quickly—and painfully, by the sounds she made—rolled out of the way.

    “A-Applejack!” Rarity gasped, stepping toward her.

    “Stay back!” Applejack ordered, getting to her hooves.

    Her warning was fruitless, though, as the timberwolf decided to attack Rarity regardless.

    Just like a few weeks back, she watched as a timberwolf threw itself at her, and once again, she was rescued—this time when Rainbow Dash flew out from the trees, kicking the timberwolf as best she could and nearly breaking its leg.

    Fluttershy came in moments later, rushing toward Rarity, asking if Rarity was alive and unharmed.

    The beast tried to make Rainbow Dash its next meal, but Applejack yanked on the rope still tied around its neck and it fell back.

    Like before, the timberwolf’s face crashed against the ground, but before it could rise again, Applejack stood on her hind legs and used her injured forelegs to quite literally smash its face in. The timberwolf howled in agony, ripping free of the lasso and running off, splinters and twigs falling from its deformed face.

    All three newcomers stared into the forest, panting and, like Rarity, waiting to see if the beast would come back. When it was clear that it wouldn’t, they finally turned to her, and suddenly she felt like the terrible timberwolf.

    “What is wrong with you, Rarity?!” Rainbow exploded, wings flaring and taking a step forward as though she was going to strike the unicorn—she probably wanted to. When Rarity responded by stepping back in silence, Rainbow yelled again. “Well?!”

    Rarity gritted her teeth. There was nothing wrong with her! Nothing, she insisted to herself, even after a nearly-in-tears Fluttershy fell to her haunches and buried her face in her hooves.

    “It’s all my fault!” Fluttershy cried out. “If I hadn’t gone to the cottage and—”

    “This isn’t your fault, Fluttershy!” Rainbow protested. She turned back to Rarity, only further enraged. “What if Winona hadn’t been able to find you, huh?! Then what?!”

    “I couldn’t just sit there anymore!” Rarity yelled back. “I had to do something!”

    “Do somethin’, sugarcube?”

    Applejack finally turned to her, stepping forward and giving Rarity a very good view of the marks the timberwolf attack had left on her forelegs. “You’ve done it, all right. You’ve really done it.”

    “And?!” Rarity shot back, stepping away from her friends again, her conscience fighting every word. “Let me be! I didn’t ask for you to follow me! I didn’t ask for your help!”

    “Are you crazy?!” Rainbow Dash said. “You’re our friend! Of course we’re going to come after you, you—! You IDIOT!”

    “Friends?!” Rarity nearly choked on the word. “By keeping me trapped in Carousel Boutique?! By sitting here and doing nothing about Twilight?! I do what I have to do because Twilight is alone, and it’s obvious no one gives a damn but me!”

    Silence fell afterward, the three mares staring at the unicorn.

    “You really think that, sugarcube?” Applejack asked, looking more tired than Rarity had ever seen before.

    “You—! You think you’re the only one who—! You don’t know anything!” Rainbow Dash snapped. “But fine! Fine, Rarity! You don’t want help? Great! Fluttershy, I never want to see you helping Rarity again, got it?!”

    Fluttershy reeled back as though she’d been slapped, her wide-eyed gaze darting between Rarity and Rainbow. “B-but…”

    “Why can’t you just let me be?! Why can’t you let me do wha—”

    “Let me put it this way, sugarcube,” Applejack said, and she stood tall and intimidating in front of Rarity. “Being dead ain’t gonna reunite you with the princess.”

    A-Applejack!” Fluttershy gasped, while Rarity only stared in silence.

    Applejack held up a hoof to stop any further interruption, her gaze never leaving Rarity’s.

    “I don’t know why you think we don’t care about Princess Twilight, and I don’t rightly care because I can tell you I ain’t letting her stay there forever. We’re trying to figure this out just as you are, but it ain’t easy as pie, Rarity,” she continued, voice composed. “All I’m trying to say is, it’s gonna be mighty sad when I have to tell the princess you went and made yourself a nice home in the graveyard lookin’ for her.”

    The world seemed to grind to a halt around Rarity. The distant howling, the wind against the trees, and the arguing between Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy: all these noises dimmed and grew distant as Applejack’s words sunk in, like she was drowning—but she could not bring herself to try and reach the surface.

    Tears stung at her eyes, just the thought of Twilight… standing over her grave…

    She couldn’t take any more, and buried her face in her hooves. A lady did not weep in front of others, even though she dearly wanted to, but it felt like Rarity had long ago given up so much of herself for the sake of Twilight Sparkle, and only now did she realize it.

    She said nothing. It felt like she’d be conceding defeat, admitting she’d been wrong, and she could not bring herself to do as much. Apologies were the same as resignation, but desperation meant there was a fighting chance. She would not be Fritter Cobbler, she would not… She would not apologize for her actions until her dying breath, because her actions were all she had left.

    “Come on, Rarity,” Applejack said, the edge gone from her voice. “Let’s go home.”


    They’d locked her in her room.

    Caged her like a beast, tied her like a dog, that’s what it felt like.

    They were all downstairs, talking and talking and talking about what would be done with her, as if they were the wise adults and she was the misbehaving child. It was downright insulting, and whatever shock and regret Applejack had drawn from her earlier had now completely evaporated.

    She moved away from the window and walked to her bed, carefully lying on top of it without putting too much pressure on her hind leg. She closed her eyes and laid there for countless minutes, breathing in and out, in and out. Eventually, she opened her eyes and they landed on Twilight’s letters, resting on her bedside table.

    A pang of guilt made its way into her heart, and she forced herself to roll over, even if it brought pain to her leg. She thought of Applejack’s words again, of Twilight standing in front of a grave marker with Rarity’s name on it. But, worse than that, Rarity thought of Twilight still in her library, long after Rarity was gone from the world of the living.

    Applejack was so sure they’d free her, but what if they couldn’t? What if Twilight stayed in her library for another thousand years because Rarity sat by and did nothing? Because she resigned herself to Twilight’s fate? Heroes did not win by not taking risks, did they?

    She rolled over again and levitated the scrolls closer.

    One by one she opened and read them again, and much like Rarity these past weeks, each was more desperate than the last. When Twilight had written them, she’d had no idea why Rarity had not come back. The poor thing had thought Rarity had been avoiding the library because she’d learned terrible things about Twilight, and asked for Rarity to please allow her a chance to explain.

    She put them back on the table and closed her eyes, trying to hum herself to sleep.

    A knock on the door interrupted her.

    Silly, she thought, for them to knock when they had locked her in in the first place.

    “Come in,” she called out, and heard the keys open the lock and the door swing open to reveal Rainbow Dash.

    “Hey, can you come down in like ten minutes?” Rainbow said, sterner than Rarity had ever seen her. “We decided what to do.”

    Rarity laughed dryly. “Splendid! Ten more minutes to continue my terribly busy affairs of lying in bed and staring at my ceiling while my future is decided by somepony else!”

    “I know you’re upset, so I’m gonna pretend you didn’t say that, ’kay?” Rainbow said, grinning at the unicorn before turning around and leaving. “Ten minutes!”

    “I demand at least thirty minutes to prepare my arguments against whatever you’re all planning!” she called out.

    “’Kay! And you better start taking out a suitcase and packing your stuff, too!”

    Rarity immediately sat up. “What?! Why?!” she asked, but no answer came.

    She lay back down on the bed, turning her head toward the window, and that was when she saw it. There, resting on the windowsill outside, was one of Twilight’s scrolls.

    She wrote me again.

    Rarity jumped out of bed, ignoring the pain shooting up her leg, magicked the window open and took the scroll. It was Twilight’s! She was sure of it! She quickly undid the ribbon, a smile on her face, because Twilight hadn’t given up hope, because she was still communicating, because not all was lost.

    Rarity unfurled the scroll and read:

    Dear Rarity,

    I’m not sure how to say this, and I don’t want to, but this is probably the last time I’ll be writing to you. I…

    The scroll fell to the floor, and so did the tears from Rarity’s eyes when she stepped back, lifting a forehoof to her mouth and refusing to read whatever came next.

    No.

    She fell to her haunches, her eyes fixed on the letter because please, no, please, please, please. So many times before she’d wanted to faint, and yet now she felt alive, now she felt aware of a nearly still heart, of her difficult breathing, of the first step to a downward spiral she saw coming.

    Twilight had let go.

    And she would have laughed at how curious it all was, how funny, how years ago, a little filly had cried upon finding out the four princesses didn’t exist, and again, there she was, her fairy tale coming to an abrupt end.

    No.

    She stood up, levitating the scroll and rolling it again.

    No.

    She placed it on her bed, and then moved to her desk, because what else did she have in the face of despair but hope? She took out a fresh piece of parchment and began to write a letter to Princess Twilight Sparkle because she had not received any letter from the princess, and because Twilight Sparkle had not let go.

    She wrote and wrote, hopeful sentence after hopeful sentence, like nothing had happened, like the curse was but a pesky illness Rarity would soon be rid of. She’d been attacked, yes, but she was full of life still, she insisted even as her heart shrank and withered. She would deliver the letter to Inky Owl, and once she knew it would be delivered to the owls, she’d devote herself to find a way to break the curse, and she would! She would! She would!

    She would not be Fritter Cobbler.

    She would not spend the rest of her days like him.

    She refused to do so.


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    1. Zanna Zannolin
      Sep 21, 22 at 8:36 pm

      HELP rarity doesn’t even read the full letter she just reads one sentence and goes “excellent, I will not take in any of the context for this and will proceed to formulate my own conclusions JUST like i’m in a hallmark movie and overheard one (1) line of dialogue and RAN WITH IT” like RARITY. RARITY PLEASE. RARITY NOOOOOOO. as i type this i’m in fits of giggles i love her but she’s truly dumb as rocks sometimes.

      honestly though this chapter is like. OUCH. maybe not as ouch as the last chapter but watching rarity’s descent into her grief like. that’s rough. she’s not even properly processing what’s happened to her at ALL like she almost died, she got her leg mauled by a timberwolf and she’s permanently scarred and she’s like mm we dont have time to unpack all that! rarity…i think maybe you SHOULD unpack all that. maybe with a therapist. just a little.

      but it is so rarity of her to ignore her own problems and throw herself into trying to help someone, especially twilight. like there’s just this whole aspect of rarity’s character i feel like never got explored in the show (probably because it’s a bit more adult and dark than a kids show would normally go) about how generosity can go too far. about how it’s incredibly easy to overlook self-care and trying to heal yourself in order to help others because it’s just easier. it’s so much easier to fall into this mindset of “well, i don’t matter anyway” and instead to focus on others because that makes you feel like a better person, like you’re doing good, and it’s so easy to get caught up in one person and ignore the fact that you can’t pour from an empty cup. and that’s something that’s really starting to come into play here, something that i’ve seen pop up in the other raritwi fics i’ve read (though admittedly it hasn’t been THAT many yet, don’t know HOW finding fics works in this fandom lol) and something that i’ve never gotten out of my head since reading a few of your oneshots involving it. it’s this vastly interesting aspect of rarity that i’m really glad gets addressed.

      and like that ties in with what goes on here in the end of the chapter—how not thinking about yourself at all can ultimately hurt others around you. self-destructive behavior is, well, it’s NOT all well and good, but it SEEMS all well and good if you think you’re the only one getting hurt, but that’s such a selfish mindset because everyone who cares about you is getting hurt when you hurt yourself. not just “oh, twilight would never see you again if you get yourself killed rarity!” but also, applejack just got injured fighting a timberwolf because you didn’t stop to think, and your sister is miserable and worried you’ll die, and rainbow and fluttershy could have been killed too, and fluttershy is blaming herself for everything, and all your friends are fucking MISERABLE watching you go through this and shut them out and sink into obsession and throw yourself into danger because you don’t care enough about your own life to stop and think for two seconds that maybe you’re important too! IDK MAN IT’S JUST SO GOOD the conflict in this chapter is fannnnnnntastic and i’m obsessed. like i remember reading this for the first time and being GENUINELY obsessed with how it all played out. the complexities and the nuances and UGHHHHHHHHH it’s amazing. maybe the best plot i’ve ever read in a fic in my entire life man idk.