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Slander

by Pandora

Chapter 1: Marked

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SLANDER

AN EIGHT PART EPIC

Written by PandoraBoxable

Sweetie Belle was crying. She was alone.

The wind howled as it traveled its usual path through the quiet town of Ponyville. The sign on Sugarcube Corner creaked slightly as the breeze blew it, the hinges squeaking on their metal hold. A stray autumn leaf bounced along the ground, the crisp edges making a slight crackling sound, like a book being dragged across sandpaper. This time Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon had gone too far.

The fifteen year old filly hugged herself tightly, her forelegs wrapped around her shivering form. The small newspaper that had been draped over her slumbering body laid on the ground a few meters away, the front two pages flapping slightly in time to the gusts that were sweeping through the town. There were black marks around her eyes and on random parts of her body made by a permanent marker to give her the look of a dirty, homeless pony. And it was all her fault.

Just earlier that evening she had gone out with her two best friends, Scootaloo and Apple Bloom, to a party supposedly hosted by Rumble’s parents. As it turned out, the promise that there would be parental supervision turned out to be an elaborate ruse concocted by Rumble so that the fillies and colts invited would be able to convince their parents or guardians to go. Sweetie Belle had been foolish enough to stay, only swayed by three glasses of wine and the promise that “we could get party-attendee Cutie Marks!” made by Scootaloo, her voice slurring from many more glasses than she could count.

So Sweetie Belle had stayed on the grounds of getting Scootaloo and Apple Bloom home safe, as the latter had already landed herself a prime spot at the cider table and was talking animatedly with some of the other colts there. There were a few fun things to do, Sweetie admitted, like dancing, talking with some of her friends from outside school, and Karaoke. She had wowed the crowd of partygoers with her singing expertise, even getting a couple compliments wondering why she hadn’t found her special talent yet. Her heart had soared and she had a glass handed to her of hard cider, one she had never tried before. She could remember the elation she felt, the applause of the crowd, but mostly she could remember the hard stares that she had been given by Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon.

And the fact that once she had drained the last of the glass of cider into her belly, Diamond Tiara let the corner of her mouth slide up into a slight grin.

The rest of the party was a blur, and as it went on it became black altogether. She vaguely remembered stumbling home, mumbling a quick “goodnight” to her sister Rarity - who was still sitting at the kitchen counter waiting for her to come home - and sliding into bed, not bothering to brush her teeth.

And then she woke up on a park bench with a newspaper draped over her, black marks all over her white fur, and a photo of Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon making faces not even a drunk could make while a peacefully sleeping Sweetie Belle lay in the background in her hoof. The photograph hadn’t even been taken at the park. It had been taken in her room.

Sweetie Belle threw the photograph on the ground and stomped on it with her rear legs until the faces of the evil fillies were ground into the dirt and mud below. Wiping crusted tears away from her eyes, she forced herself to her feet, trying not to pay any attention to the splitting headache coursing through her brain. She groaned and rubbed at her eyes, a feeble attempt at making the pain go away. Taking note of her surroundings, she summoned her strength and made her way towards her sister’s Boutique. Maybe she would be able to explain the marks in the morning, and hopefully Rarity wouldn’t go ballistic about not being able to get them out. She’d have to cross that bridge when she got to it.

Scootaloo fluttered her wings, still hanging upside down from the tree that she found herself in when she woke up. Her mind was groggy, and she couldn’t deduce from her situation what had happened during the night. All she could make out was the photograph she held in her hoof, showing a grinning Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon in front of herself, hanging upside down from a tree by her hindlegs. There was some sort of writing on the side of her body, under her wings, but she couldn’t make it out. Scootaloo reached up a hoof to rub her bleary eyes, accidentally letting the photograph fall to the ground twenty feet below. Her hooves reached out to try and catch it two seconds after it already happened.

Processing the new information her brain had been given, she curled her abdominal muscles and raised her head up to inspect the ropes that bound her to the tree branch. Studying the knot and making a decision, she kicked her legs sharply to the side, loosening the knot enough for her legs to slip through. What Scootaloo didn’t realise was the ramifications of her actions, and noticed too late that she was falling. She bent her body slightly to steady herself, her wings quickly picking up speed before crashing into the ground with a sickening crack.

Scootaloo lay on her back for a while, letting the stars gradually stop spinning around her head. The night sky shone brightly above her, each star a pain to her drunken eyes. She squeezed them shut and felt her head with her foreleg, not noticing any cuts or scrapes. Throwing her hoof to the side, her body weight tilted and she found herself rolled over, splayed out onto the ground on her belly. The dress she had worn to the party was far beyond repair at this point, the shreds of the purple material still hanging onto Scootaloo’s slender frame. Her hoof reached out for the photograph and grasped it lightly, pulling it back towards her. She raised her eyes to see the writing, and noticed the big, red letters had spelled something out.

“DEFORMED.”

Her eyes traveled away from the photograph and towards the side of her body where the same letters were reflected back at her. She blinked a tear away from her eyes.

Apple Bloom spit out the disgusting remains of dozens of chewed apples from her mouth, stretching her aching jaw. The strong taste of hard cider was still present on her breath, making her gag slightly before retching, even more apples coming out of her gullet and onto the grassy ground below her. Her lips were cracked and she flicked her parched tongue across them, feeling every imperfection.

The filly fell to the ground where she had awoken, splayed on her side, numb and tired with the effort of vomiting. Her eyes traveled down her body, seeing a small marking on her flank. Her head buzzed with excitement before she saw what the stencilled image actually was, a simplistic drawing of herself with her tongue wrapped around it, a sultry look on her face. Apple Bloom was confused, as she had explicitly remembered trotting home after the party with a colt, although she couldn’t remember who exactly it was. Her sister had turned him away at the door… she had been angry about something…

But now Apple Bloom was alone in the dark, in a secluded area of Sweet Apple Acres. She turned her head and looked behind her, seeing a small photograph on the ground. Picking it up and bringing it to her face, she looked over the image. Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon were standing in front of a comatose Apple Bloom, both chewing apples in their mouths. Silver held a stencil in one of her hooves while Diamond laughed. It was a simple photograph, and it told the young filly how she had gotten out of her house in the first place and received the stencil on her flank. But then Apple Bloom turned the picture onto its back and saw another one, this one containing both Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon spitting the remains of their apples into the filly’s open mouth.

Apple Bloom dropped the picture and turned over, dry heaving.

The three fillies sat in silence in their clubhouse, still the simple wooden treehouse they built five years ago. The decorations on the inside had largely remained the same, save for a few tables here and there, and most noticeably a large white wall that doubled as a projector screen for the second hand projector Sweetie Belle bought on her trip to Canterlot.

“They’ve gone too far this time,” Sweetie Belle finally said, quietly, looking up at her friends. They nodded in agreement but didn’t meet her gaze. Apple Bloom was slowly dragging a ragged toothbrush back and forth inside her mouth. Scootaloo was gazing at her wings, wondering inwardly if they were right. Sweetie Belle slowly rubbed one of the faded black marks on her coat. “I feel violated.”

“We all feel violated, Sweetie,” Scootaloo spat, slamming her hoof onto the floorboards. The old treehouse shook slightly and dust fell from the rafters. The orange pegasus looked up at her friend to see she had recoiled back slightly. “S-sorry… it’s just… they snuck into our homes. And who knows, did they drug us at the party?”

Sweetie Belle nodded. “I think so. I could see them looking at me funny.”

Apple Bloom’s fake Cutie Mark had been washed off come morning, scrubbed meticulously by the filly’s hooves until nearly five in the morning after she had snuck back into the house. Applejack hadn’t asked any questions in the morning, and she hadn’t brought anything up. She took the toothbrush out of her mouth and threw it across the room, leaving it to clatter to the floor underneath a wooden chair.

“They’ve been at this for nearly five years now,” Apple Bloom fumed. “And we’ve never done anything to get them back. Do you girls think it’s time?” Nods of agreement went around the circle.

“But Apple Bloom,” Sweetie Belle addressed, “they’ve done everything in the book. What original prank could we do?”

“I dunno,” Scootaloo spoke for Apple Bloom. The attention turned to her and she puffed out her chest, her wings still feebly trying to hide the red words on her side. “But whatever we do, it has to ruin them.”

“Don’t you think that’s a little drastic?” Apple Bloom asked, raising an eyebrow. Sweetie Belle shook her head.

“At this point,” she countered, “it’s what they’ve done for us tenfold.”

A knock at the door of the clubhouse made Apple Bloom jump. Scootaloo stood up and trotted to the door, looking out the small window. When she couldn’t see anypony, she opened the door an inch and looked down. The day’s copy of the Foal Free Press lay silent on the doormat. The filly leaned down and picked it up with her teeth, shutting the door quickly and turning around, carrying the paper back inside. After noticing her quizzical look, Sweetie Belle gestured with a hoof over towards the wooden table in the corner. Scootaloo promptly flicked her head to the side, flinging the paper onto the table. Before turning away, however, the filly noticed something familiar on the front page. Something she had seen recently.

“Oh no…” she quietly whimpered, dashing back to the table and ripping the rubber band off from around the off-white pages. She picked it up in her hooves and rolled it out, being met with the exact sight she had been worried about. Her stomach came up to her throat and she let out a small wail. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle scrambled to their feet and came to her side, gasping in unison.

Four photographs adorned the front page, with a small subtext in the corner. Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon had been doctored out of every single photograph, leaving the fillies alone in the pictures.

Partying Too Hard - Why These “Cutie Mark Crusaders” are a Menace to Ponyville.” Sweetie Belle squeaked out.

“Guest column by Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon…” Apple Bloom agreed.“Still think it’s not time, Apple Bloom?” Scootaloo breathed.



“Nope.”

Two weeks (of chiding from guardians, suspension from school, and grounding), one day, two cans of clear grease, two rocks, a length of rope, a new camera, a slingshot, a paintbrush, and a can of red paint later, the Crusader’s master plan was set up, waiting quietly in the bushes behind a for-sale house on the outskirts of Ponyville. The three adolescent fillies stood close by, a pair of binoculars pressed up against Scootaloo’s eyes. She slowly lowered them, scowling.

“I thought you said that they were going back to the school for Saturday morning journalism class,” she growled, turning to Sweetie Belle, whose eyes were narrowed in concentration. A light emerald glow surrounded her horn, her detection spell in full effect.

“Yeah, that’s what Firelock told me. They’re still inside.” Sweetie Belle rubbed a hoof on the side of her head to make her headache subside. “Keeping up this spell is hard…”

“We need it to judge the trajectory,” Apple Bloom replied, staying near the slingshot. A length of rope attached to two rocks sat loosely in the sling portion, slack against the two holding pieces of the slingshot. “‘Sides, you learned this spell two years ago. Haven’t you been practicing?”

“Of course I have,” Sweetie Belle countered, turning around and giving Apple Bloom a dirty look. “Keep in mind I first learned how to use magic two years ago also. Can’t exactly perfect a spell you learned when you first started using magic in two years.”

“Plus, Apple Bloom, that spell is extremely taxing on magical reserves,” Scootaloo said, looking back at the orange earth pony. The other two Crusaders looked at her with one eyebrow raised, in a questioning manner. “What? Daring Doo and her unicorn companion had to do practically the same thing in Daring Doo and the Pleasu-

“You’re saying that we’re doing a plan that you learned from a fiction novel?” Apple Bloom interjected, shooting a dirty look at the pegasus. Scootaloo recoiled.

“What? Daring Doo stays with Neighton’s Laws of Physics. It’s not like it’s on another planet or anything.”

“I’m not saying it is, I’m just asking how in the blue hell are you doing to know if it’ll work or not?”

“Because it worked in chapter 10 when-”

“Girls!” Sweetie Belle sighed, “they’re leaving! Get in position!” Apple Bloom sprinted to the side of the slingshot, grabbing the contents with one hoof and pulling it back, keeping them steady. Sweetie Belle let down her magical aura for a moment before lighting it again, sending their camera floating over towards the road in front of Diamond Tiara’s mansion. Scootaloo grabbed the buckets of grease in her hooves and vaulted over the bush, running on her hind legs to the side of the house. She could hear the chattering of the two evil fillies, and then the door slamming. The voices slowly grew louder, and Scootaloo turned her head and nodded back at her friends, seeing both of them nod back, their eyes narrowed in concentration.

Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon appeared around the side of the house, completely oblivious to the orange pegasus hiding beside them. She took a deep breath.

“PAYBACK, BITCHES!” she screamed at the top of her lungs, throwing the two cans of grease onto the ground in front of her enemies. They screamed, a spectacularly girly shrill that hurt Scootaloo’s ears, and whipped their heads to the side, slipping on the grease and leaping into the air, turning onto their backs as they fell back to the earth. The pegasus could hear the snapping sound of the slingshot behind her, knowing Apple Bloom fired at the right time. The two rocks and string impacted the two ponies like she had hoped, wrapping around both of them and binding them together, letting them fall back onto the ground. They struggled, laying in the grease.

She heard the snap of a camera shutter, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight times behind her, the snickering of her friends, the sharp cries of the two fillies rolling on the ground. She turned quickly, galloping back behind the bushes and kicking the slingshot to shreds. Sweetie Belle activated her levitation spell, grabbing all of the broken pieces in her magical hold and levitating them up, dropping them on top of Diamond Tiara’s mansion. Apple Bloom grabbed the can of red paint and the brush and ran up to the side of the fillies, painting “WE’RE BAD, SEXY LITTLE FILLIES” on the ground beside them. Scootaloo picked the camera back up off of the ground and snapped the shutter a few more times, locking in the moment forever in film. The trio then took off running through the brush, leaving the cries of the fillies behind, only just aware of the sound of a slamming door from the mansion and the high pitched voices of their parents.

One Day Later

There was a knock on the door of Carousel Boutique.

“Come in!” the sing-song voice of the local dressmaker rang out throughout the building, reaching the ears of the Royal Guard standing outside. He brushed his unkempt gray and blue streaked mane behind his ears and pushed open the door with a hoof, taking three steps inside before tapping his hooves on the ground, looking straight forward.

“What can I do fo-OH! Well, what do I owe the pleasure of a Royal Guard today?” Rarity asked, her cyan magical aura placing one of her current projects - a red dress with black hems - back onto one of her ponyquins. She trotted up to the guard, sashaying slightly.

“Miss Rarity, I presume?” the guard spoke, his gaze never shifting.

“The one and only!” The stallion nodded slightly and reached into his brown saddlebags, pulling out a scroll with a black ribbon. He unravelled it with his teeth, spreading it out in front of himself.

“On behalf of the High Solar Court of Equestria, I have been issued an arrest warrant for Sweetie Belle.”

Rarity’s jaw hit the ground.

A Royal Guard tapped his hoof on the door of Sweet Apple Acres, his wings lightly fluttering against his sides. His eyes wandered around nervously, but shot straight forward when the sound of hooves on loose floorboards caught his ears. The door swung open and he was greeted by the smiling, freckled face of an orange earth pony mare standing in the entryway.

“Why hello there!” she greeted, laughing slightly. “What can I do ya for?”

“Are you Applejack Apple?” He inwardly cringed at the redundant name, immediately thinking of ten different, more fitting ones.

“Eyup! I hate to repeat myself, but… what can I do ya for?” She was still grinning. The stallion sighed lightly, knowing that smile was mere seconds from being wiped off her face. He leaned his head over his side, his wings immediately stopping their fluttering, and pulled another, nearly identical scroll from them. He hoofed it over to her, waiting until she opened it to continue.

“On behalf of the High Solar Court of Equestria, I have been issued an arrest warrant for Apple Bloom Apple.”

Applejack’s smile turned into a frown. Her eyes narrowed and she gathered in a deep breath. The stallion slapped his ears against his head instinctively.

“APPLE BLOOM APPLE, GET YOUR FLANK DOWN HERE RIGHT NOW!”

The large Ponyville Orphanage, an imposing, brutalist building near the countryside, appeared at the top of a small hill in front of a third royal guard. Her horn bristled slightly with energy, and his gray aura slammed a carriage door shut behind her. Two fillies, flanked by two Royal Guards on each side, sat in hoof cuffs on the benches inside. Their faces were scared, yet they didn’t dare look up. The mare let out a small sigh, always hating to make an arrest. Due to the friendly and harmonious nature of Equestria, this was not something she had to do very often except for the occasional minor noise complaint or petty theft.

But arresting fillies? That was a whole other story entirely. This was the first arrest of a juvenile pony that the mare had ever made. She shook slightly as she ascended the concrete steps to the entrance to the orphanage, sending out her magical tendrils and enveloping the door in her gray aura. The door swung open, the hinges protesting as it opened completely, revealing a small front desk at the end of a large, simple hallway. A single, old unicorn mare sat behind the desk in a rolling chair, a pair of deep blue spectacles perched on the bridge of her snout. She glanced up slightly to check on the intrusion, looked back down, and then swung her head back up as the realisation of who her visitor was sunk in.

“Welcome to the Ponyville Orphanage,” she droned, slowly pushing the chair back from behind her and standing up to her full height. The Royal Guard started slowly trotting down the hallway, gulping audibly.

“Ehrm… is your name Ms. Primrose?” she asked, avoiding any direct contact with the older mare’s eyes.

“Indeed, it is. I have been running this orphanage for fifty years now.” Primrose shifted her weight from one crinkly, old foreleg to the other. “Are you here to drop a foal off or to pick one up?”

“Well, you see, neither,” the guard said, averting her gaze to her saddlebags. She fired her horn and the left one opened, a scroll with a black bow floating out. She levitated it in front of her eyes and dropped it into the waiting hooves of Primrose. “Uh… on behalf of the High Solar Court of Equestria, I have been issued an arrest warrant for a Ms. Scootaloo.”

The once pleasant smile on the old mare’s face turned to dejection, then anger.

“I knew nothing good would come of that foal. All she lives for is making trouble. Messes other ponies have to clean up. And with those friends of hers, sometimes I don’t see her until after curfew, at best.” She wrinkled her nose and fired her horn, making the guard detect a voice amplification spell. “SCOOTALOO. COME TO THE MAIN ATRIUM AT ONCE.”

Primrose turned back to the guard, smiling that same sickly sweet smile again. “She won’t be long now.” The guard gave a curt nod and glanced around the room, locating a small marble bench along one of the walls. She trotted over to it and sat down, gazing at the ceiling, where an ornate grayscale mosaic was laid out. She wondered inwardly why anypony would even bother creating a mosaic in grayscale. Color was a large part of art, and she was a major art fanatic. The picture depicted a pegasus and a unicorn reaching out to each other from across a large chasm. It could have been pretty good, the guard thought - if they had used a little bit of color to liven it up a bit.

A clopping of hooves from down the hallway filled her senses and snapped her back to reality. She looked down and glanced to the side, where Primrose was leading an orange pegasus filly by the ear. The guard levitated a clipboard out of her saddlebags and glanced at the data.

“Well, here the rascal is,” the voice of the old mare permeated her mind. “Don’t worry about making her stay for too long. She hates it here anyway.” The guard could have sworn she heard the filly say “damn straight” but couldn’t be sure. Primrose turned on her hoof and walked back to the entrance desk, seating herself again and picking up the same papers as she had been busy with when the guard had walked in. The orange filly stayed standing in front of her, seemingly unsure as to where to look. She had settled on the clipboard in the guard’s hooves.

“Alright there, just a few questions before we leave,” the guard started. “What is your name?”

“Scootaloo,” the filly replied, not taking her eyes off the clipboard.

“Last name?”

“Don’t have one.” The guard nodded.

“Age?”

“Sixteen next month.”

“Height?”

“One point three meters.”

“Alright,” the guard finished, putting away the clipboard. “That’s enough for now. However, a mental evaluation team is on the carriage to get more information from you regarding your emotional well-being on the way to Canterlot. You will be interrogated while you’re in Canterlot, however.” The guard stood up to leave, clamping her saddlebags shut and running a hoof along her mane.

“Just a quick question,” the voice from behind her said.

“Mhmm?” she answered, obviously only wanting to get this over with. The job was already straining on her emotions. She hadn’t even known what the filly had done to warrant such treatment.

“Why am I being arrested and not Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon?” The guard had no idea who those two fillies were, and even why they would be arrested anyway. Honestly, she hadn’t been handed down any information about the case against them, other than the arrest warrant and the guarantee that she would see to the pickup and drop off. So she chose the easy answer.

“I’m not qualified to answer those questions, Ms. Scootaloo,” she replied, turning back around to the door. “Now come, the carriage is waiting.”

“Another question?”

“Why not.”

“What’s your name?” The guard smiled slightly, then remembered to keep professional and inverted her smile, turning it into a curt frown.

“Kale.”

“Kale? That’s a nice name,” the filly replied. Kale reached out with her magical aura again, grasping the door and pulling. A rush of white light illuminated both of their faces as they stepped outside into the cool autumn air. They walked down the path together, and the unicorn opened the back of the carriage, her magic immediately knowing the magical lock combination. The other guards in the carriage bed nodded slightly at the intrusion, and Scootaloo hopped up. She was immediately hoof cuffed by one of the guards, and once she was secure the guard nodded at Kale to close the carriage bed. She went around the side and hopped into the driver seat, giving minor instruction to the team of four pegasi pulling the carriage to Canterlot.

The carriage lurched, but the fillies didn’t look at each other. Only until they were airborne did Scootaloo quietly observe their current situation.

“Welp. We’re fucked.”

*

Author's Notes:

This is going to be a very fun adventure story. This is the first story where I've actually planned out the entire plot before I started writing, meaning that I have every location, every twist mapped out. Hopefully this will get much better reception than any of my other fictions.

All the chapters will be this long or longer. I will have one or two "interludes," which will be at maximum 2,000 words, but hopefully I can keep all the chapters at 4,000 - 5,000+ words.

Also, the map I'm using for the series is this one: http://static1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20111203153816/wtwe/images/7/7d/Equestria_and_beyond_rev_8.jpg

After the entire book is done, I'll post a photoshopped picture with a red line of where they traveled. It'll be pretty boss.

Have fun reading!

*kiss*

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