Applejack glanced out of the window and made a shocking discovery. The colt she sought an audience with, was making his way towards her house. She ducked out of sight, her body beginning to tick with adrenaline. It was obvious why he was here; he had worked out what she was up to, and sought to put a stop to it. She resisted the urge to race downstairs and confront him, now wasn't the time. The colt rapped his hoof off the door, the sound of his knocking drifting lazily through the air. She ignored his efforts to draw her out of hiding, by thinking of her object of affection. This was of course, the sky blue Pegasus, Rainbow Dash. Applejack sighed a little, in her mind Rainbow Dash was so close, but in reality, she was so far away. She realised that the colt had stopped knocking, and risked a peek outside. This proved not to be the wisest of choices, as when she looked, the colt was staring right at her. She maintained his gaze, showing that she wasn't intimidated by him. He smirked at her, adjusted his glasses and turned tail to leave. Applejack just watched as he walked away, making no effort at all to get near her. Applejack treated it as suspicious, but continued to watch him. She toyed with the idea of following him, but she couldn't shake the suspicion that this was what he wanted. She understood that she could be walking into a trap, but she had to take a chance now and again. She made her way downstairs and out through the front door.
The colt was nearly a speck on the horizon by this time, but for an athlete like Applejack, it was no problem. She set off at a quick trot, keeping her eyes on the horizon, for any sign that she needed to drop back a bit. Within a matter of seconds she had reached her target, and began to silently tail him through the streets of Ponyville. The townsponies were curious as to why this orange pony was weaving in and out of bushes, and other parts of the scenery. Applejack paid no attention to the stares that she was getting and hoped that the colt didn't notice them either. Finally, the colt arrived at his destination, the house of Rainbow Dash's lover, Volo. Applejack didn't understand why he had come here; he wasn't after Volo, was he? The colt slipped inside, allowing Applejack to slip her hoof in the door, keeping it open, so she could enter as well. She followed him upstairs, but kept her distance as he disappeared into one of the rooms. She listened in to hear the rustling of paper, and the banging of something hard against what could've been a desk. She heard him speak in a soft tone, most likely to himself.
"Two will have to do for now
the rest will come later
Applejack had an idea which two he was referring to, but she had no idea who the rest were. She took a step forward hoping to learn more, however her hoof unfortunately landed on a loose floorboard. The resounding creak caused a wave of dread to wash over her, and her heartbeat to increase tenfold.
"Who's there!?" exclaimed the colt.
Applejack didn't move, she thought that she might be able to make it seem like a random noise, as opposed to a pony made one. She heard what she recognised as a window sliding open. The colt cried out again, his words dripping with rage.
The adrenaline was surging around Applejack's body; she was now ready to run. The only thing keeping her there were the sounds drifting from the room. She was certain that she could here the colt making his escape out the window. She heard a grunt, followed by a loud thud outside, then silence. Applejack took a shaky step forward and peeked into the room. Sure enough it was empty, save for a few pieces of furniture, a desk lamp and a lot of paper. She saw the window where she assumed the colt had left by. An eerie breeze drifted through the window, scooping up loose paper and sending it twirling along the floor. Applejack turned her attention to the desk lamp and what it was illuminating. The lamp itself had been twisted so that it shone on six pictures pinned to the wall. Applejack didn't get chance to fully study the pictures, as something hard and cold struck the back of her head. She crumpled onto the floor, in a state of paralysis. A voice drifted into her ears, it was cold and sarcastic.
"I knew you couldn't resist
These words swam in her head, and were all she could think about before she lost consciousness.
When Applejack came to, she found that she was still in Volo's house, still in the same room to be precise. The loose paper that had littered the floor had been tidied up and taken away. The window had been shut, cutting off the supply of fresh air, causing the room to become stuffy. All that remained before was the desk lamp, and the pictures pinned to the wall. She slowly got to her hooves, testing as much of her body as possible, just to make sure she didn't need medical assistance. Once she was certain she was alright, she began to study the pictures. Each of the pictures contained a shot of one of her friends with the fifth being herself. Rainbow Dash and Twilight's picture's both had an 'X' through them, which signalled either a successful capture or death. Applejack prayed that it wasn't the latter. As she stared at the pictures she caught sight of something scrawled on the wall. Obviously one of the pictures had been put up to hide it. Gently she lifted the picture out of the way and read the scrawl. Two words written in a disgraceful fashion, was all she could make out. The words were 'Everfree' and 'Forest'.
Now Applejack knew the next place to look. Sure it was a big place, too big for one pony to search, but it wasn't going to deter her. She nuzzled up to Rainbow Dash's picture and began to talk to herself.
"Ah'm comin' fer ya Rainbow, you too Twi. Ah'm not gonna rest until you're safe, especially you Dash
She felt a single tear roll down her cheek and drip to the floor. She sniffed and took a deep breath, to compose herself. She needed a clear head, and her wits about her. She turned away and ran out of the room and made her way out onto the street. She rushed towards the outskirts of town, and onward to the Everfree Forest, moving as fast as her legs would carry her. Once she arrived she took a quick breather and made her way inside, without even a second thought. Outside the forest the sun was shining high in the sky, shining it's light all across the land. This was everywhere except the Everfree Forest. The tree branches stretched out, each one carrying an abundance of leaves. It was these overlapping leaves that blocked out the sunlight, keeping the forest in darkness. After what seemed like an eternity of running, which was actually mere minutes, she noticed a light flickering in the distance. She made her way towards the light, being careful, in case anything nasty waited for her. She emerged into a clearing, lit by a ring of torches. At the far end of the clearing she saw two blobs, one sky blue, and one purple. Overcome with a sudden burst of emotion, she raced forward. As she neared, the blobs took the shape of ponies, a Pegasus and a unicorn. Applejack knelt down next to the sky blue pony, which was of course, Rainbow Dash. She found her to be bound and gagged by some sort of purple mist. She glanced over at Twilight to find she was in the same situation. Once they noticed Applejack they started to thrash about, as they tried to tell her something.
"And so the third place falls into place
" said a voice behind Applejack.
Applejack whirled around to find the colt standing behind her.
"What have ya done t' my friends!?" screamed Applejack.
"Me? I just did as I was told" replied the colt in a calm, collected tone.
"Told? By who?" replied Applejack.
"My boss. That was kind of obviously really
"Who's yer boss?!" said Applejack starting to lose her patience.
The colt fell silent, but kept a wry grin on his face.
"That would be me
" said a familiar voice.
The owner of the voice stepped out from behind the colt. The Pegasus was a mint green colour, and her mane and tail were a silvery version of the same colour.
"Volo?!" exclaimed a surprised Applejack. Even Rainbow Dash and Twilight gave a muffled 'what?'
"Yes, yes I understand your confusion, but it's true. I am the mastermind behind this" spoke Volo, her tone soothing and soft.
Volo strutted past Applejack and knelt down on the opposite side of Rainbow Dash.
"Have you worked out my plan yet?" I can assure you it's more than just a few simple kidnappings
"Ah know you need my friends, and mahself, but ah don't know why
" replied Applejack.
"This is true, but so far, as you can see, I only have you three. The rest are beyond my reach, for now. However things can still advance with just you three. Allow me to show you. Restrain her!"
Applejack felt a pair of hooves close around her as she was dragged back.
"It's a shame that none of you will survive the necessary process needed for this scheme. I was just starting to like you Rainbow Dash. Never mind, on with the show" said Volo.
Applejack could only watch in horror as Volo raised her fore hooves above Rainbow Dash. She began to chant something under her breath. Rainbow's body began to glow, every colour from her coat; mane and tail were exaggeratedly bright. The colours began to drift toward Volo and she sat with open arms, as she welcomed it. Rainbow Dash was not in the most comfortable of places right now. Her eyes were wide with fear, her body twisted spasmodically. Rainbow Dash screamed and cried but still Volo continued. All Applejack could do was watch helplessly as her friend, the one she loved, had the life drained from her. Rainbow Dash's movements and cries lessened with each passing second. The bright colours were almost gone; Applejack could see she was clinging to life.
Ah wont let you do this!" roared Applejack.
With a sudden burst of strength, she caught the colt off guard and freed herself from his grasp. Not wasting a second she charged at Volo. As she neared Volo she lowered her head, streamlining her body and quickening her pace. Volo remained adamant that she couldn't stop her and continued on. Applejack closed the final few metres, crashing head first into Volo. Applejack stumbled over Rainbow Dash, tumbling to the floor. Volo was knocked backwards, skittering across the grassy floor. Applejack turned her attention to Rainbow Dash. She held her in her hooves, she felt icy cold. She nuzzled up to the Pegasus, trying in vain to warm her up. She saw a slow, painfully slow, rise and fall of her chest. Applejack breathed a sigh of relief, she was still alive. Just barely though. Applejack wasn't even sure if she was conscious.
Suddenly a thought crossed her mind, something she had only ever dreamt about. She took a deep breath and brushed Rainbow Dash's colourful mane aside. Then she leant in and planted a gentle kiss on her forehead. A smile flickered across Rainbow Dash's forehead, disappearing as quickly as it had appeared. Content in knowing that Rainbow Dash was surviving, Applejack turned her attention back to Volo. Volo was being helped up by the colt. Her body was surrounded by a pulsing, purple energy. Her mane and tail fluttered in some sort of unknown window source. Applejack stared into Volo's eyes; they shone a burning, bright red. Volo spoke to Applejack, her voice twisted and full of malevolence.
"You still don't understand do you?"
"Ah think Ah'm gettin' there. Ya need somethin' that we all have somethin' unique to the six of us. Th' only thing that fits that bill would be th'
"The Elements of Harmony, yes" finished Volo "Once I possess all six, I'll have more power than anything in the land!" she cackled.
"But yer just a Pegasus, yer not supposed t' be doin' magic!" exclaimed Applejack.
"I am more than just a Pegasus, oh so much more
Applejack didn't get chance to think on what she said, before Volo demonstrated for her. Volo's body began to bubble, as though the flesh underneath had turned to molten metal. The energy that surrounded her body seared itself to her, giving her an eerie glow. Her wings sunk into her back, before rising back out, darkened, thinner, and jagged. Her legs dislocated with a sickening crack, and then grew longer. The makeup of her bones in her legs and spine, shifted to allow for bipedal movement, as opposed to quadrapedal. Her hooves changed, to form hands, well more like claws. Her snout flattened back to her head, whilst the entirety of her frame began to stretch higher.
Applejack watched on, mouth agape, as Volo towered over her, her head brushing against the leafy canopy. The eerie glow she had, dulled to a black, causing her to blend in with the darkness around them.
"What are you?" squeaked Applejack, her cock sure attitude, giving way to a more timid and afraid one.
"Your bookworm friend would know, why don't you ask her?" replied Volo.
With a flick of her claw, the mist around Twilight's muzzle disappeared, allowing for free speech.
" gulped Twilight "she's a creature of the shadows
commonly known as a shade. They have an exceptional amount of power, but what she says is true. If she gets the Elements, she will be extremely powerful
powerful, but not without a weakness, she's still vulnerable to
Before she could finish, Volo gagged her again.
"That's enough out of you
" cooed Volo "Y'know, instead of destroying your friends first
I'll start with you, I can see you being so much more
Volo lunged at Applejack, catching her off guard and knocking her to the floor. Volo gripped Applejack by the head, digging her claws into her skull. She then shook Applejack's head back and forth slamming her head into the floor. Applejack winced with each slam, but retaliated, by kicking Volo in the stomach. Volo reared back, letting go of Applejack for a brief moment. It was in this brief moment that Applejack rolled out from under Volo and put a bit of distance between them. Then, without a second to spare, Applejack ran full pelt at Volo, hoping to get another head butt in. However her plan was scuppered, as Volo swung her claw at Applejack, smacking her into a tree, and scratching her cheek.
Applejack rubbed the blood from her cheek, and looked back to Volo.
"Alternatively, you could just give up, save me some energy, might even make your final moments more pleasant too
" smirked Volo.
"Never!" yelled Applejack.
"You're a stubborn one aren't you?" sighed Volo.
Applejack circled Volo, before running in for a second attempt, which once again proved unsuccessful. Volo grabbed her by the head, her palm covering her face, and threw her up into the air. As Applejack made her way down, Volo readied her fist, letting it pulse with energy. She then sent a powerful blast, straight into Applejack, sending her skittering across the ground. Applejack lay on the floor, her body shuddering, causing her to stutter.
"Oh come on, you can't be finished now! We were only getting started!" taunted Volo.
Applejack gritted her teeth as she stood up, her body still twitching a little. With a roar she charged at Volo, weaving around her defences. She scored a direct hit, carrying her off the ground, and slamming her against a nearby tree trunk. Applejack reared back, letting Volo sink to her knees.
"Y'know, there's still one thing ah can't understand
" pondered Applejack.
?" whispered a winded Volo.
"Why'd ya git all cosy with Rainbow Dash? Why not just have yer lil lackey capture her and bring her back here, like ah assume ya did with Dash an' Twi?"
Volo didn't give a response; instead she jumped up and tackled Applejack to the floor. The colt walked into the fray, with the intent of answering Applejack's question.
"I could never get close enough to Rainbow Dash," admitted the colt "She was always racing around. So I procured some spell books for Volo here, and using a powerful shape shift spell, she got closer to Rainbow Dash, than I ever could've."
Something clicked in Applejack's mind, there was more to this shape shift spell than just for getting close to Dash. Volo plunged her teeth into Applejack's neck, causing her to scream out in pain, and start to thrash about. She tried to focus on her thoughts, and ignore the pain Volo caused. Volo pulled back, and Applejack felt the blood gush from her open wound, making her feel a little faint. Her mind was so focused on her thoughts, that she was oblivious to Volo as she prepped her next move.
Volo kicked Applejack in the jaw, with such power that in sent her spiralling through the air. As soon as the pain, hit Applejack, she made a revelation. Volo couldn't survive in broad daylight! Volo had a perfect opportunity to capture them all, when they had visited her house. However if she had wanted to overpower them all, she would've had to have shifted forms. Something she didn't do, well, couldn't do. Twilight's library had been coated with scars from a battle of magic. The magic hadn't come from the colt, but Volo, in her altered form. Applejack's thoughts were interrupted as she made contact, first with the floor, and then bounced up to hit a tree. She heard something snap, although she wasn't sure if it was something in her body, or the tree. She slumped to the floor, as Volo casually made her way towards her. She struggled to get up, her energy fading fast. She had to find a way to bring sunlight into one of the darkest places in Equestria. She glanced upwards and looked at the leafy canopy, then she realised how easy it was going to be. Well, easy for an apple bucker. She took a stance, priming her back legs, so they could spring into action the moment they were needed. Volo continued towards her, and Applejack wished she would move faster, she was starting to tire. Finally Volo entered into the target area, pushing Applejack to buck her legs against the tree. The forces she exerted upon the woods' surface caused the tree to shake. The branches, being thinner than the trunk, shook harder, sending their leaves towards the floor. Sunlight streamed into the clearing, illuminating Applejack and Volo in glorious sunshine. Volo screeched and reared back, her body hissing as the sunlight burned her. Applejack smiled, this was actually working!
Volo thrashed about, roaring in apparent agony. Applejack felt a tiny bit of remorse for her adversary, but not enough for her to intervene. Volo hunched over, and with one final scream, her body exploded, in blast of white energy, which spread all through the forest. When everything settled, Applejack rubbed at her neck, to find she was still bleeding, quite profusely. She started to feel light headed, and started to swing to and fro, just a little.
Applejack turned to see Twilight, alongside a semi-conscious Rainbow Dash, heading towards her. Rainbow Dash had one hoof around Twilight's neck, using her for walking support. As they neared, Applejack's legs gave way, sending her toward the floor. Twilight and Rainbow Dash knelt down beside their injured friend.
Ah...Ah want t'
t' say somethin'
Somethin' I couldn't
"said Applejack weakly.
"What is it AJ?" asked Rainbow Dash, with a brave face
" stammered Applejack.
Applejack didn't get to finish speaking, her heart slowed to a dangerous pace, and her body began to slow down. Gradually her brain turned off, section by section. In her final moments of consciousness she heard Rainbow Dash and Twilight shouting her name, and then she slipped away.