Far to the west of Canterlot across the very edge of the coast lay a town long forgotten by time, a once busy port town since abandoned in the favour of more convenient pegasi shipping. The once bustling settlement since reduced to a port of poverty untouched by the outside world. Very few of the ponies living inside even know of the colourful and vibrant outside world, most being born in the rust covered buildings and splintering shacks long after the days of being left in the dust.
The residents of Port Mareina attempted to find solace in their lives wherever possible, most lived in small groups sharing the cold collapsing houses. Very few remembered their real family, but to the poor ponies of the town, such groups were their family. The law itself vanished over time, however rather than spiralling into a criminal fantasy, the few remaining families began to act as governing figures, spreading order and hope through the distressed population.
With the loss of laws, one family in particular along the southern docks began to rise in fame and power among the local ponies. The Apple Family turned their warehouse into a gambling paradise, a place of fun and hope which soothed worried souls. Some ponies would get lucky, others would not. But one thing was for sure, all had an escape from their seemingly worthless lives.
"Two fives!" The blue mare shouted over the loud cheering in the distance before tossing her dice over the smooth green table, clashing them against the wooden wall before finally landing on their side.
"Snake eyes." The brown stallion cupped the dice in his hooves before looking over to the withdrawn gambler. "Sorry again babe."
The blue mare checked her saddle pack, scrounging around the badly corroded contents inside. "Wait, I think I still have some more..." She trailed off still looking for left over bits.
"Look babe, I know it's not my business, but you've been having a bad streak, how about calling it a day?" He looked over the mare's body, unlike the majority of the gamblers she was wearing a tattered waistcoat hiding her wings, the dirty rainbow hairs in her mane and tail made the mare look surprisingly beautiful to him, or at least she would have been if his customer didn't clearly have a problem with trotting away from the table.
"Ah here!" Rainbow Dash pulled out a selection of dull bits, placing them on the table. "How many tokens for these?"
The dealer looked down at the hoof-full of bits, they were only one bit coins, clearly she was scrapping the bottom of the barrel now. "I can give you thirty token worth, a bit extra since I like you, but just this once the Boss would have my flank if she knew." He leaned over to collect the coins, swapping them for thirty tokens respectfully.
"Thanks Rusty." She gave an honest smile appreciating the gesture from the dealer she had gotten to know all to well over her weeks at the establishment. "Okay." She lifted the dice in her grasp, withdrawing into her mind as if feeling the future of the roll in her hooves.
"Sis please, let's just go." The pink earth pony pulled at her sisters tattered waistcoat.
"It's okay Pinkie, don't worry. I'm in the zone." Rainbow rolled the dice in her hooves, trailing them over each other until two numbers shone brightly in her mind. "Four and two!" She fired the dice to the far side of the table again, clashing them against the wood to land on the soft green cover.
"Two threes." Rusty gathered the remaining tokens from the loser before looking her in the eyes with clear care and compassion. "Sorry babe, I wish you better luck in the future."
Rainbow slowly backed away from the table, allowing another gambler to take her place. "Sis, are you okay?" She looked up to her little sister, she doubted they were really related, but she didn't care. Pinkie Pie needed somepony there for her, and it helped Rainbow Dash feel less alone herself.
"Yeah, it's just that I used to have the fire. I just used to score the hits and win, but lately." Rainbow shook her head in sadness. "I just can't seem to win anything." She looked down into her saddle pack, the last of her borrowed and stolen bits had once again vanished to her addiction. "Pinkie, mind waiting a minute? I need to go talk to a friend."
"It's about borrowing bits again, isn't it?" Pinkie asked knowingly as her sister walked away.
Rainbow looked over, hating the fact she had to loan on a near regular basis. "Just wait for me, I'll be right back." She made her way up the warehouses steps to where the Bosses room resided, being converted from the old warehouse managers room. Ironing her will, she made her way proudly towards the two tall stallions outside the door.
"Da Boss don't wanna be disturbed." The goliaths besides the door stated, they may have lacked brain cells but she knew not to attempt to pass them. Rainbow waited still for a few moments until a green eye gazed between an opening blind, closing it soon after to be followed by a knock from inside the door. One of the guards opened the door for a moment before turning to face the host. "Da Boss will see ya now."
Rainbow made her way through the door, the guards closing it behind her. She stood in a well decorated room overlooking the casino floor. "Nice to see ya again Dash." The voice came from a seat observing the workings of her families business below, it turned around to reveal an orange earth pony wearing an almost clean waistcoat and hat. "Ah see you had some more trouble downstairs." She stated with a powerful, yet caring voice.
"Hey AJ, yeah I had another run of bad luck again."
"For two weeks in a row." Applejack responded leaning forward in her chair. "Two weeks of loosing solid bits."
"Look AJ I know it seems bad, but you remember how lucky I've been in the past right? I guess this moment just had to come for a bit but I'll get better again soon I'm sure." Rainbow paced around in a circle as she spoke, keeping eye contact off her friend.
Applejack stepped down from her seat, lending a hoof to calm her host. "Dash, I've known you for a long time. Ah know all about ya luck in the past. It was great, but we have to worry about the now." She brought her friend's face to meet her own. "We've known each other since we were fillies, that's why I keep lending ya bits. But no more. You have ten times the maximum lending allowance in debt. We're a legitimate business family, we can't keep hoofing out our bits."
"AJ I just need another chance to win, you can trust me."
"Dash." Applejack removed her hoof from her friend, returning to her seat. "We already repossessed that measly splinter covered shack. Don't make me take the cardboard from over your sister's sleeping head."
"Please AJ, my only chance to make our lives better is if you give me another chance." The homeless mare almost resorted to getting on her knees and begging, before her friend reluctantly gave in to her request.
"This is the final time." Applejack leaned over to her desk, carrying a small bag of bits. "I expect payment from you tonight."
"Thanks AJ!" Rainbow leaned forward to wrap her legs around her friend, hugging her for a few seconds before returning to the door. "Don't worry, I'll pay you back tonight."
"Yes you will." Applejack sighed as the door closed, turning around on her seat to observe the casino below.
A large figure appeared from behind a cabinet. Looming towards the Boss. "Ya know she won't win."
"Yea, I know Mac." The Boss sighed again turning around to face the red stallion behind her. "She just doesn't have it any more, an' she won't listen to reason." Applejack returned her gaze to her business.
Big Macintosh kept his vigilant stance. "Ah know she's your friend, but she's hurting business. Others are complaining about her getting more chances, it's causing an uproar in the back."
Applejack remained focused on her job, staring down at her ground floor. "Nopony touches her." A short silence passed as her mind pondered the available options. "I'll deal with her personally."
"Eeyup." Big Macintosh leaned forward stroking his sister's mane.
Applejack stroked her brother's hoof in appreciation for comforting her. "What's the Number tonight?"
The Boss smiled to the answer. "She's a useful mare."
Rainbow Dash returned downstairs with her new bag of borrowed bits. "Dashie!" Pinkie ran up to cuddle her sister. "I'm getting tired, can we go home?"
Rainbow gently pushed her sister away, smiling down at her. "Just a bit longer, I got some more bits, let's put them on the next race and we can get our old home back."
Pinkie seemed ready to cry looking into the addicted mare's eyes. "I don't care about our old home, I don't care if I need to sleep outside I just want to be with you."
"I'm sorry Pinkie, but I got us into this mess, I'm going to get us out." Rainbow gently stroked the pink pony's cotton mane. "Don't worry, I'm not about to leave you, I will make everything right again. Trust me." With a smile she galloped over to the betting booth. It was crowded and loud, but eventually she managed to push her way through the crowd to the booth. The blue mare placed her supply of bits on the counter, allowing the clerk to count and collect them. "All these on Number Three."
The betters and watchers alike made their way to the stands above the racing track. Pinkie cautiously approached her sister, holding her hoof around her for support. "It's okay Pinkie, everything will be fine. Just watch." Finishing her comforting statement a bell rung and the eight small gates flung open.
The crowd began to cheer as the rabbits raced around the track, Two Three and Six were leading for the beginning, to which Rainbow began to cheer herself seeing her betting choice speed ahead. The track turned several times in quick succession causing several of the racers to fall behind, while Number Six jolted forward. "No! Quick catch it Three!" She yelled to some avail as her rabbit began to overtake the other. Numbers One and Seven were to far behind to stand much of a chance, causing several betters to walk away frustrated while the remaining cheered happily.
As the rabbits passed the final corner to the strait burn to the finish line, Numbers Three, Five and Six made it ahead, looking at each other through hurt eyes. Number Three began to beat the other two causing Rainbow to further become exalted. But as the rabbits reached the last few yards Number Five slowed down behind Six, and Six gave Three a stern look reminding him of the talk before the race. Three gave an agitated expression as he slowed down just before the finishing line, allowing Number Six to take the first place victory.
Rainbow Dash looked on stunned as the victory was torn from her. She was positive she knew which racer would win. But in the end she had failed, wasting her final supply of borrowed bits. Pinkie gently hugged her sister to comfort her. Attempting to cheer her up. "It's okay Sis, let's just go home, the two of us."
Two large stallions loomed over the sisters, one of them readied his hooves before being stopped by the second, whispering into his co-workers ear. "Da Boss said no violence." Both stallions stood still over the ponies before speaking. "Da Boss said she wants to speak to ya."
Rainbow slowly stood up, removing herself from her cuddling sister. "Don't worry Sis, I'll be right back."
"Da Boss said we are to see her home." The guards new statement concerned both of them, but Rainbow knew her best friend wouldn't want Pinkie hurt, she knew she would want her to make it home safely. Reluctantly Rainbow Dash nodded, making her own way upstairs as the guards gently helped Pinkie Pie up.
"Sis..." Pinkie could feel herself tearing up as she accepted the escort home.
Another guard stood outside the office holding open the door, allowing Rainbow Dash inside before closing it behind her with what sounded like the door tumbler locking. "Hello Dash." Rainbow looked around to see her friend sitting down on a sofa in the back of the room.
"Hey AJ, I'm sorry for."
"It's okay, come take a seat." Applejack tapped her hoof on the spare space beside her, welcoming her friend to sit by her.
"Thanks." The unlucky mare sat down next to her friend who placed a hoof around her, it had been a long time since they last had a moment like this, the last time just before Applejack inherited her parents business. "About."
"We aren't here for business Dash." The orange mare replied, grabbing a bottle on the table. "I want to have a good time with ya again, work's been all I've been able to focus on lately. It is good to have a night just for our old friendship don't ya think?"
Rainbow nodded happily, it had been to long, almost long enough to make her fear their friendship may have faltered. Applejack began to pour apple flavoured vodka into two mugs, she left the still open bottle on the table before taking a mug in her hoof and her friend followed suit. "For our friendship." Rainbow stated in a slightly cocky yet serious manner before taking the drink to her lips, enjoying the taste and slight hit of the delicious beverage.
Applejack on the other hoof downed the drink in a single go, holding the mug upside down on her mane when she finished. Providing both the challenge, as well as the escape she needed. "Beat that." She stated in an arrogant tone.
"You're on!" Rainbow finished her current drink before pouring a new drink for herself and her friend. "Okay, three, two." They both cheated, downing the drink before the countdown ended. Rainbow managed to finish first, slamming the mug upside down against her mane as she stared with hazed vision at her friend with a slight giggle. "One all." Applejack merely smiled in reply.
Applejack began to pour the third round. "You've always been my best friend Dash, ah really wished it didn't have to come to making a choice between you and the family business. But in the end my family has to come first, and with all respects, you're just a homeless thief that the town wouldn't miss." She finished pouring the drinks, offering her best friend hers, she could see the sad look in her eyes as she heard the truth about her, the truth she already knew. "I would miss you, and ah would take care of Pinkie."
"You're a good friend, a really great friend." The broke mare managed to smile as she took the drink from her best friend to stare into the reflecting surface. "At least two ponies would remember me, when I do eventually go."
"For our friendship." Applejack repeated her friend's toast.
Several rounds passed before the count came to 'two four' in favour of Applejack, she had always been a better drinker than her friend which she remembered from the times they used to drink together. Rainbow was almost out cold, barely able to move as the alcohol infested her body and mind. Applejack simply stroked her friend's mane, enjoying their final moment together. "Well. It's time." Her drunk friend murmured something beneath her breath, being to intoxicated to form a reply or realise what was happening as her friend lifted her onto her strong back, making her way outside.
Rainbow Dash lay at the very edge of an abandoned pier, several open bottles lay around her, soaking her body with a strong smell of alcohol. She struggled to make out where she was, still being to intoxicated from the drinking game to see. "A,J. P,innk,ie?" She struggled to speak hoping to hear familiar voices to help comfort her. But other than the sound of the crashing waves against the pier and the falling rain, there was silence.
Far up a hill facing the pier Applejack stood with her back against an old heavy goods cart, stacked high with heavy boxes. She enjoyed the feel of the rain as it fell against her coat, hoping in some way it would wash away the guilt for what she was about to do. Rainbow Dash had always been her best friend since they were fillies, business or not nothing would change the fact she liked her. "Sorry, Dash." Applejack raised her backlegs, forcing all her strength against the cart, sending it flying towards the docks with speed. Within seconds the heavy cart hit the end of the pier, sending it and all nearby into the freezing depths below.