"8 Bridle Lane, Bridle lane. Just where is this place anyway?" Twilight Sparkle darted her eyes over every sign within range, barely recalling any of their names.
"It's over there." Applejack pointed over to a distant right turn. "There's a sweet mare that lives at number 1, ah have to deliver lots of apples to her when ah come to market. She's a nice gal and all, but ah do worry about her sometimes."
"I bet she's good business though." Twilight gently nudged her friend desiring a reply.
Applejack smirked slightly. "Yea, she's good business. But as good as our apples are ah hope she gets some hay in her diet." The orange mare slowed down behind her friend. The unicorn seemed so happy, so innocent. Ignorant even of what was to come. "Look Twilight." Applejack ended their aimless conversation as she called over. "We really need to talk about this."
"I know." The lavender mare sighed. "Fluttershy mentioned it and you mentioned it. I know how you both feel about her, but you're forgetting she's Rainbow Dash's friend. We just need to trust our friend's judgement." Applejack opened her mouth in protest but was overshadowed again. "Besides we've all learned to give others a chance."
"Rainbow gave her a chance, and look what happened!" Applejack intervened.
"We don't know all the details yet!" Twilight stated loudly in response, before lowering her voice to give her thoughts. "That's why we are here, we are going to talk to Gilda, let her know Pinkie is alive, ask her where she is, then she can join us and we can bring Pinkie and Rainbow back together and we can sort everything out. I just need you to trust me."
"Ah do trust ya Twilight, more than ah trust most ponies. But ah don't trust Gilda." Applejack responded sympathetically wanting to discard any thoughts of doubting trust.
"That's fine. Trust takes time, but it will start today." Twilight concluded as she turned around the corner of Bridle Lane.
"Ah really wish ya didn't have to get dragged into this one Twilight." Applejack noticed her friend reappear as she came closer, waiting for her company before continuing. "Don't worry ah won't leave ya." She confirmed with a caring smile to mask her worry.
A photo of an academy class lay on it's back, the glass of the frame shattered where a blue pegasus stood. There were several similar objects littering the room, photos, pictures, charms. All partly broken in a fit of rage. By the window perched a heavily breathing Griffon, staring out across the cold streets of Ponyville. 'Pegasus pony weather' Gilda thought to herself, staring at the mildly frozen sight. 'It's just as weak as she is.' Gilda gritted her teeth in anger as she tore down half of the curtain she was holding, detaching several rings from the rail. "Why has she become so pathetic?!" She yelled forcing down the remainder of the curtain before discarding it. Gilda stared silently at a photo frame on a table near the door, the only one faced down away from the destruction. She lowered her face into her talons, fighting back tears as her thoughts continued. "She used to be cool, Dash was perfect. She was what I wanted, before those stupid ponies forced their weakness on her." Her talons tightened against her feathers. "That pink pony, was just the tip of the weakness." Her grip tightened even further, clutching the skin beneath her feathers. "I will make her cool again, even if it takes all her 'friends' for her to see it."
"Well, we're here." Applejack stated, standing beside her friend before a door numbered 8. "There's no turning back, we're here for Pinkie."
"You're right." Twilight replied happily as she knocked her hoof against the door. She felt reassured as Applejack placed a hoof around her, keeping her resolve strong. 'I'm glad to have such good friends.' her thoughts calmed her against the unknown that was to come.
'Ah will protect her Flutter, ah promise.' Applejack steeled herself as she heard the door open, it swung open quickly revealing the large body of a lion flicking it's tail in annoyance, with the face of an eagle, the sharp eyes prying at the two ponies at the door.
"Get Dash or I'm not interested!" Gilda yelled sharply before slamming the door shut in the ponies faces.
"Wait Gilda! About Dash we need to talk!" Twilight shouted into the keyhole. "She's hurt and we need to find Pinkie Pie and."
"I said GET LOST!" Gilda's voice boomed through the door.
Twilight took a step back, lowering her head in defeat. "I tried, but I can't get her to listen."
Applejack looked down at her friend shortly before returning her gaze to the door sighing. "Then we just make her listen." The workpony rushed over to the door, and before Twilight could think of what to say, raised her back legs and bucked the door. Now forced off it's hinges, the door flew open to reveal the ruined room. Applejack stepped forward with Twilight into the house, staring questioningly at the mess surrounding them. It was like the den of a beast, strewn with broken objects and tattered furniture. As they stepped further once more Applejack stopped her friend advancing, noticing the slowly rising figure from the floor turn to face them, her eyes filled with rage aimed at the trespassing ponies.
"You've got a lot of guts breaking into MY house like this." Gilda raised her voice as she stared into Applejack's eyes, unflinching to her prying gaze.
Twilight leaned over Applejack's shoulder trying to keep to her plan. "Wait please we didn't come here to fight."
"Well that is certainly what it looks like, breaking my door down, standing up against me." Gilda replied, as if desiring the challenge.
Twilight shook her head. "No, please we need to talk about Rainbow Dash, I'm sorry we had to breakdown your door but she's in pain we need to."
The griffon gave a disgusted grunt to the unicorns words. "Dash's so called 'friends' are so pathetic. Sorry I did this, please do that, no wonder she became so weak. But at least this one has some style, why couldn't she just do you instead and not get so sappy."
"What?!" Gilda's words slithered across Applejack, forcing ill thoughts into her mind. "She isn't like that! We aren't like that. She doesn't see Pinkie as a toy, she loves her."
"Love?" Gilda laughed loudly. "How could anyone 'love' such a thing like her. The stupid pink bouncing nuisance. Or that manners spouting 'everything is fine' dork." Twilight withdrew slightly feeling hurt to the accusation.
"Ya leave her out of this." Applejack demanded throwing her hoof to the side to keep Twilight safe.
Gilda began to pace around her room, laughing to an idea that came to mind. "You know, it's funny. This obsession with 'love' you ponies have. I once knew a pegasus, she was always commenting on being Dash's 'friend' as if she could ever like such a weakling. She read romance novels and wanted to find a 'true love' ha, I'm sure she probably went through every colt and filly in the academy in that search, that's likely why she was Dash's 'friend.'" Gilda began laughing deeper. "As if anything could ever love that pathetic shy little yellow."
"SHUT UP!" Applejack yelled stomping her hooves to the floor. "Leave Fluttershy alone!" She couldn't stop herself from protecting her lover, despite knowing it would only fuel the cruel griffon further.
"So it's true, you are that farmpony that uses that weakling as her toy." Gilda could feel the seething hatred filling the air as she continued. "What's the matter, you couldn't get an actual pony so you had to use that instead."
"I LOVE HER!" Applejack once against couldn't stop her voice, regretting every word she spoke.
"Please stop this!" Twilight tried calling out for what must have been the tenth time since the yelling began, to once again only fall on deaf ears.
"I wonder how many others 'loved her' forcing themselves on her, even now I bet she cries for help while you waste your time here." Noticing her adversary growing more unstable she continues. "I wonder how many times you forced yourself on her as well." Smiling knowing the workpony couldn't take any more she concludes. "And I doubt she ever told you, when I forced her, like ploughing a field."
Applejack screamed with rage as she dived against Gilda, striking her beak with her hoof, as she brought her other hoof down against the feathered face a talon gripped it, clenching hard against the orange hoof drawing blood as a result. "heh, pathetic." Gilda pulled down roughly tearing at the muscle in Applejack's left leg before throwing her body against the floor.
Twilight was speechless, unable to act as she watched the one sided fight continue. She rattled through words and spells in her mind trying to think of anything to stop the fight and save her friend. Unable to think of anything she ran up to the Griffon trying to get her to stop. "Please stop this you're hurting he-" Gilda's right talon swung against the weak unicorn's body, throwing her towards the wall in pain.
"So pathetic I don't even see why you try." Gilda smirked as she stared back down at her real target. "But you, you are worth my attention." Applejack attempted to rise back to her hooves before being struck down again and pinned to the floor, Gilda's talons forced themselves into the orange mare's front hooves, causing her to cry in pain as blood trickled down her legs. "Now this does look familiar. Where have I seen this before." Gilda toyed with her prey for a bit longer, enjoying the rare chance of a worthy victim. "Ah yes, this was exactly how your precious little Fluttershy looked before I last sent her to hospital." Gilda suddenly removed her right talon, shooting more pain through the powerless mare. "But here's her little secret." Gilda lowered her beak to Applejack's face. "Your 'good friend' Rainbow Dash, was with me." Gilda merely laughed as the thought implanted itself in her target's mind. "Now time to feel exactly what 'your lover' has felt." Gilda grinned as she rose her right talon into the air.
Twilight slowly rose to her hooves at the wall, holding her side as the pain flowed through her. Noticing Gilda raising her talon, she cycled hysterically through her spells trying to save her from more of the pain she felt herself. Just as her talon was about to strike a spell impulsively appeared, casting itself in her friend's time of need. She opened her eyes to the feeling of her magic, straining from her horn. "What, are you, doing?" She heard the cruel griffon's voice straining. Twilight realised she held Gilda captive inside strong lavender rings, binding her limbs in place, unmoving. "Let me GO!" She heard the aggressive voice again but was determined to keep her magic stable.
Applejack rolled on the floor, rubbing her legs as she winced in pain. "Applejack." She heard her name called, looking up to see the beam of lavender magic forcing itself around Gilda. "Are you ok?"
Applejack managed to pull herself to her hooves, flinching as she lowered her left leg, choosing to instead keep it near her chest. "Ah'm ok." She lied badly before looking over to the captive griffon. "Keep her like this, we need answers." Twilight nodded in confirmation, no longer questioning her friends actions after seeing what Gilda had done. Applejack raised herself to the griffon, grabbing her head with her right hoof. "Y'all gonna tell us everything." She demanded.
"What's wrong?" Gilda spat out. "Can't use your left?" Suddenly she felt a sharp pain as Applejack's right hoof struck her face. "Fine. I'll humour you for now, since you have me here."
Applejack leaned forward about to ask about Pinkie Pie, but shook her head to the thought. As much as she hated making it wait, she had to know the truth, that what she heard was a lie. "Fluttershy, you lied about her."
Gilda sighed lightly before admitting her charade "As much as I hurt her, I never, nobody ever did such things. I just knew it would hurt you to hear it." Applejack felt relieved to have her worries drowned. "But not all of it was a lie." Gilda lowered her voice to avoid her captor hearing. "It wasn't only me that hurt her." Applejack stepped away from the griffon, who began laughing noticing her words still hurting the orange mare. As she looked back up at her, Applejack couldn't see any traces of lying unlike her previous worry. "You should ask her about it yourself." Gilda finalized, happily smiling.
Applejack looked over to Twilight, who looked back questioningly. "Where is Pinkie Pie." Applejack asked, soothing Twilight's worry.
"Pinkie Pie, I don't know any-" Gilda's voice cut out as her interrogator bucked her in the chest. "When I get out of this you are DEAD." She yelled angrily at the unicorn holding her prisoner.
Applejack moved in front of Twilight and asked again. "You know who I mean, the pony you took away, Rainbow's fillyfriend."
"She doesn't HAVE a fillyfriend!" Gilda winced in pain as a second buck hit her chest. "I didn't take her anywhere. She ran of into the forest when I told her Dash was dead."
"Why would you do such a thing?" Twilight asked, disgusted by what she heard.
"Because it was the only way to get them separated!" Gilda replied coldly. "I told them they were responsible for each others deaths, it was the only way to make sure they never saw each other again.
"You, you traumatised them, telling them the worst thing they could hear, for your own benefit?!" Twilight began hyperventilating. "What, what sort of friend are you, you're Rainbow's friend, you're her friend. Friends look out for each other, they, they care for."
"She wasn't being my friend when she hooked up with that pink nuisance. Why should I care for her. She had no more use to me." Gilda continued to reply coldly, telling exactly what she felt.
"You should be happy for her! friends, friend's don't. My, my friends." Twilight's mind began to hurt, her heart began to hurt to hearing the magic of friendship becoming twisted. All her lessons seeming to question themselves at once. As her mind became preoccupied, her bindings faded.
"Twilight!" Applejack called out to no avail as Gilda broke free, evading her interrogator's attempt to hold her and retaliating by grabbing her orange neck. She contemplated strangling her for a short while before throwing her with full force against the table, breaking the wood on impact as the earthpony rolled in agony on the floor.
"Applejack?" Twilight called out as she broke from her mind, she noticed her friend lying on the floor, before being able to think her vision became filled by the face of the griffon she attempted to stop. Twilight began to struggle breathing as Gilda raised her into the air by the throat. "Plese Gilda I I hd to stop y, you wre hurtng her."
"It's not her you should be worrying about." Gilda stated coldly. "Remember what I said?" She shook Twilight's head side to side herself. "Then maybe this will enlighten you!" Gilda withdrew her free talon, clenching it before striking it against her victims face. Twilight cried out in pain. She was new to fights, though she new all to well this wasn't a fight, she had no chance. As a second strike landed on her face her mind lost itself. What Gilda said, was it the truth? Did friends really just look out for themselves. Would they put others down for their own gain. Would they not try to help each other, no matter what the cost?
"Twilight." Applejack slowly rose to her hooves, even with her physical prowess, the injuries couldn't be so easily hidden. She knew she shouldn't be moving, but through her clouded vision she saw her friend in pain, being attacked by the griffon. "I promised, I won't let you down. I will save you." She slowly limped over towards the bully. "Twilight." She called again as she approached Gilda, and with a swift kick, Gilda knocked the injured pony back on to the floor. 'I, I failed. I'm sorry Flutter, Twi.'
Twilight became lost in thought again. 'For me, Applejack's hurt trying to help me. No, trying to help Pinkie Pie, help Rainbow Dash. I'm hurt trying to help them. We all. We would be better if we didn't help. But we want to help, we have to help. Because, because, they're.' Tears gently ran down Twilight's hurting face as she remembered how much they cared, how much she cared. "My friends."
"How pathetic, she honestly thought she could take me in THAT state?" Gilda began to laugh as if begging Twilight to join in. "She is going to need the hospital, I'll make sure you get to join her, to keep her company." Gilda smiled widely as she brought down her talon for a final blow. Twilight's vision, her mind, everything went white.
Applejack cried quietly to herself sprawled on the floor. She heard a loud impact after Gilda finished speaking. "I'm sorry." She continued crying, fearing to look up. But as time passed, there was no victory boast from Gilda. Applejack slowly turned around to where the last blow was heard. The wall on the opposite side to where Twilight was being attacked was broken by a large impact, at it's centre etched into a broken support pillar lay Gilda's broken body. She coughed up blood as her eyes fixated themselves with unbridled fear on a light in the centre of the room. As Applejack looked closer she could tell the bright white light emanated from a pony. "Twilight?" She called out to the light, the lavender unicorn inside was breathing deeply. Her eyes glowing with white hot flame. Applejack was scared, not for herself, but for her friend unknown to what she had become. Even as an earthpony she could feel the raw magic flowing from her friend, it reminded her of when they used the Element's of Harmony, but it was more chaotic. There was no control and there was seemingly no target as the magical tendrils shot wildly through the air around her. But soon that all changed.
"MONSTER." A voice boomed from Twilight, it sounded like her, but at a level Applejack had never heard before, almost sounding like Luna or more accurately, like Nightmare Moon. Suddenly all the tendrils focused on Gilda, the magic seemed to force itself against her as she screamed in relentless agony. Applejack was now scared not only for Twilight, but for Gilda as well. The previous targets for such power had been Nightmare Moon and Discord. Gilda would be destroyed by such power. Applejack slowly managed to pull her broken body up. "APPLEJACK, RAINBOW DASH, PINKIE PIE, FLUTTERSHY, DITZY." Applejack painfully made her way over to her uncontrollable friend, desiring nothing more than to save her, to save Gilda who continued to scream in agony. "RARITY. YOU WILL NOT HURT RARITY."
Applejack threw herself against Twilight's floating body, the magical tendrils scorched her coat as she threw her legs around her friend, pulling her in for a hug. "Please come back Twilight Sparkle." Applejack held her friend, she ignored her pain as she cried, her sincere sadness of the thought of loosing her friend drained from her eyes onto her friends magic. "It's ok, ah'm here, please come back to us."
"Applejack?" Twilight's voice returned to her normal tone, her eyes slowly lost their glow, returning to their usual violet colour. Feeling the comfort of her friends hug, she slowly came back under control. The element of magic lowered to the floor and soon thereafter burst into tears. "What did I, I, I couldn't help it, oh Celestia I'm so sorry." The scared unicorn looked down at her hooves, the final strains of unleashed magic trailed off to the floor.
"It's ok Twilight, ya don't have to say anything, ah won't ask." Applejack continued to hug her friend as her tears began to dry. "It's all ok."
A painful coughing came from the broken wall, both ponies looked up to see Gilda struggling barely able to move on the floor beneath the broken support pillar. She still held her look of unbridled fear as she stared at Twilight. "Gilda, I." As Twilight began to stand up the griffon struggled in an attempt to retreat further away, her gaze still locked on the pony that had unleashed her power against her. Twilight attempted to get closer to apologize but Applejack held her back, shaking her head as she pointed at the broken griffon unable to move, petrified by both her injuries and fear.
Applejack slowly made her way to her hooves, "Gilda." She called out, moving herself in front of Twilight. "Y'all are to never hurt another pony again, and never come near my friends or Ponyville again, and tell no one about what happened here." Applejack felt horrible for using her friend, but knew it had to be done. "If ya do any of those things, ah won't stop her next time." She quickly silenced Twilight's attempt to respond placing a hoof against her mouth. "Sorry, but don't say anythin'." Applejack whispered quietly as they slowly made their way to the door, Twilight helping her limping friend to move.
On their way to the door, Applejack noticed a lone photo stand faced down onto the table. She cautiously lifted it up to see the photo. It was a happy scene, Rainbow Dash and Gilda stood flank to flank filling the whole of the photo, their faces smiling. It was the only object that was not only free from the room's destruction, but perfectly preserved. It was evident it held great meaning to Gilda. Applejack put the photo facing back down on the table. "If ya truly love Rainbow Dash." Twilight looked over to her friend. "Y'all be happy to know she is with somepony that can make her as happy as ya want her to be." Twilight helped her friend out, as she failed to hold back tears. As they slowly make their way down the street Applejack sighed drying her tears. "Ah guess there are some memories ya just can't loose."
"I understand why you did it." Applejack looked over to her friend, still hating herself for using her. "If it will keep us all safe from her, it's ok."
Applejack grinned slightly before returning it to a pained expression. "Well, what happened there wasn't exactly by the books either. It's better if we all put it behind us." Applejack's mind returned to thoughts of Rainbow Dash, her lovers best friend. But also, her bully? "There are some things best left alone."
Twilight nodded in agreement. "I need to talk to the Princess about it though, I won't add any details, but what happened. It hadn't happened since I got my cutie mark. I'm afraid I will." Twilight trailed off, fearing her thoughts.
Applejack turned to gently pat her friend, reassuring her. "Stay with Rarity whenever ya can. Being near her will make sure nothin' like that will happen again."
Twilight grabbed Applejack quickly upon hearing her lover's name. "Please, don't tell Rarity what I did, I don't want her to hate me."
"It wasn't ya fault, an' you know ah won't tell her anything." Applejack raised her friend's face to meet her eyes. "But even if she knew, she wouldn't hate ya. She loves ya Twi. She will always love ya." Applejack smiles as she cheers up her friend, before wincing in pain yet again.
"We really need to go to the hospital." Twilight tells her friend, placing a hoof against her mouth as she explains. "We really aren't going to do well in the Everfree Forest while you are like this, and I could do with something to, my face hurts." The unicorn finished rubbing her bruised face.
"Ah'm so sorry ah couldn't stop her. Ah just wasn't as strong as her." Applejack apologized.
Twilight giggled lightly. "Well griffons are a lot bigger than us, and stronger to. But in the end your heart was the strongest when you saved all of us.
"That's cheesy." Applejack laughed. "But also true." Applejack tried to cheer Twilight up as they made their way to the hospital.
Twilight looked down to the floor as she helped her friend along. "Thank you, for everything. You are a good friend." She closed her eyes in sadness.
"It wasn't ya fault." Applejack brushed Twilight's mane with her supported leg to soothe her as they made their way down the cold streets. "There are some things, that just have to happen."
Ditzy lowered herself characteristically badly to the floor as she reached her next destination. The same destination she feared every time she delivered mail. The postmare walked down Bridle Lane with her letters, not wanting to alert her bully with a nearby crash from flying there. The mare at number 1 was as nice as always, offering a few apples when she took her mail. The following six addresses were bland in comparison, delivering the mail while taking small bites from one of her apples. But as Ditzy reached the dreaded door, her face was shocked in horror to notice the broken door frame. She cautiously made her way inside, the room was even more broken and ravaged than normal, but other than the broken table, door and wall, the room seemed about the same as the last time she regrettably entered.
Ditzy noticed the crying body of her bully lying against the wall. She looked over the cruel body that hurt her so many times, it's form broken and bleeding. But the more she looked, the more her fantasies of revenge faded. Ditzy quietly walked over to her bully and sat down by her side. She slowly continued to eat her apple in small bites while listening to the soft cries of the griffon. "I'm a monster." Gilda finally accepted, as she lay crying into her talons.
"Monster's don't feel regret." Ditzy replied, offering another apple from her mailbag to her bully. "But becoming a griffon needs a lot more, than just not being a monster." Ditzy finished as she stood up and made her way out the door, leaving Gilda alone to lament.