Chapter VI - The Cover of Night
Shell was practically dragged through Canterlot as the stallions moved towards the castle. They trotted up the white marble stairs, and through the halls of the castle until they reached his room. They unlocked the door, and quickly tore off the shackles before shoving him in and locking the door again. Shell sat up against the bed, and pulled off his muzzle. He fumbled with the inhibitor ring on his horn, and sat back against the foot of the bed, exhausted. He stood and paced the room, muttering under his breath and gritting his teeth. Outside dark clouds seemed to build in the sky, and soon a heavy rain began to tap on his window, mocking how close escape was as night began.
He flexed his wing, and felt a jolt of pain. It was still sensitive, but from what he could tell, it was flight worthy. He looked out into the rainy night, and kicked at a leg of the bed, thoughts brewing in his head. Now was his only opportunity to escape. He tried being nice, he tried helping the ponies, now this was his only option. But even if he didn't suffer another migraine while changing, how would he disguise himself? He searched his memory for ponies he could change into.
The only pony that came to mind was... Rainbow Dash. He stood, looking towards the door, and pointed his horn. It glowed faintly, and a green pane of magic briefly covered the door before dissolving. "Now that I won't be heard..." He unraveled the bandage on his wing, and held it for a moment. For some reason he couldn't simply throw it away. He grabbed an over-the-shoulder bag and rolled up the bandage.
He placed it in, along with the book Pinkie and Twilight had given him. He sighed, and the bottoms of his hooves lit with green fire. A loud boom from a lightning bolt made him jump, knocking over the chair. He turned and screamed when he saw the chair alight with green fire. He pushed the doors of the balcony open and tossed the chair out onto the balcony. The rain slowly reduced the fire until it was extinguished. He sighed, and returned inside. He lit his hooves once more, concentrating on the image of his disguise.
Rainbow Dash sat in front of a window with crossed hooves, watching the rain ruin any chance of late practice. She let out a bored sigh and cocked her head when she looked towards the castle. She saw a green glinting light flare from the western tower's balcony and pulled a pair of binoculars from a drawer to see a black figure kicking the doors of the balcony open and tossing a burning chair out into the rain. The two neon green eyes of the shadow looked around quickly before returning inside. "What are you up to, bug..." Curious, she glided out into the rain, and shot towards the active balcony.
Shell gritted his teeth, fire traveling up his legs, leaving sky blue fur in place of his black shell. He hissed quietly as his chest fluffed up with fur and his wings plumed with feathers. He felt his head itch unbearably as his now rainbow mane extended down from his head and down his neck. He winced as his horn and fangs receded, and his tail drooped with fur. He opened his eyes, and looked over himself. He was surprised by how well it turned out. He still felt small fangs in his mouth, but other than that he looked exactly like Rainbow Dash.
He looked in a wall mirror, and still saw green changeling eyes staring back at him. He didn't need to change it; all he had to do was make it to the Everfree Forest. He nodded, finishing his self-inspection, and turned to the storm. He put the bag around his neck and over his front left leg, walked out onto the balcony, and gasped when he saw a rainbow blur approaching. Cursing his poor luck, he called forth his dormant magic and cloaked himself just as Rainbow Dash landed on the balcony. She looked over the chair, now singed, and walked into the room. Shell growled and ran in, pulling the light switch with his magic and pushing her towards the bed.
"Hey! Who's there?" Rainbow Dash turned to see a silhouetted pony dashing out onto the balcony. "Stop! Who're you?" Shell turned to her, and he saw a shadowed pegasus staring him down. A lightning bolt flashed in the sky, and for a split second they saw each other. "Shell!" She growled. He gasped, and slammed the doors shut as Rainbow jumped at him, and she collided with the glass.
He removed the sound barrier on the door, and flipped on the lights. Rainbow Dash fell back, and Shell turned to fly off, but stopped and glanced back at Rainbow Dash. He shot a quick puff of green fire at her, causing her eyes to fade to a pure green, her mane a dark grey and her coat black. He smiled and flew off, knowing the spell would disappear once he got out of range. He heard the distant sound of the guards hurrying into the room, and chuckled before flying off.
The guards burst in, and saw a black figure on the ground resembling Rainbow Dash. As she tried to stand, the guards ran at her. "ITS TRYING TO CHANGE! STOP IT!" They tackled Rainbow Dash, and put her in shackles as Shell's spell gave out, making her flash with green fire and return to normal. "It's changed! keep a close eye on it while I fetch the princess!" One guard said before dashing off. Before Rainbow could comment, the remaining guard gagged her mouth with a rag.
Shell flew slowly, trying not to strain his wing, and landed under an apple tree near a red barn. He felt a tad guilty for what he had done to Rainbow Dash, but if anyone deserved to see what he had to endure, it was her. Shell jumped when a filly's voice called out right behind him. "HEY RAINBOW DASH!" He quickly changed his eyes and cleared his throat. He turned to see three fillies he'd saved before. One in particular was a giddy orange filly.
"Oh, hey girls. Err... whats up?" The three fillies stepped closer.
"What'r yah doin' out here in the rain, Rainbow Dash?" The country filly asked.
"Well... I..." He began, when the orange filly interrupted.
"Apple Bloom, obviously she was practicing in the rain!"
"Why would anypony be flyin' in the rain Scootaloo?" Apple Bloom argued. Shell rolled his eyes.
"Say Rainbow Dash, how about you show us some of your new tricks?" Scootaloo asked.
He bit his lip, and Scootaloo cocked her head. "You okay, Rainbow Dash? You're acting kinda funny." Shell glanced around, when a southern voice saved him.
"Little fillies! Get inside! You'll catch a cold!" Applejack called from the door of the Apple's house.
"But AppleJack, Rainbow here was gonna show us some tricks!" Apple Bloom whined.
AppleJack squinted and perked up when she saw Shell, or as they all saw it, Rainbow Dash. "Rainbow Dash? I didn't figure y'all for practicin' on a rainy day." Shell collected his thoughts, trying to match Rainbow's mindset.
"Yeah well, thought i'd mix it up. I'm to cool to do the same thing all the time."
AppleJack rolled her eyes. "Well get in here, 'less y'all wanna catch a cold." Shell's eyes widened.
"Uh, I don't-"
He was interrupted when Scootaloo started pulling on his hoof. "Yeah! Come on Rainbow Dash! It'll be a blast with you spending the night!" Shell bit his lip, and sighed.
The fillies jumped with joy and ran towards the house, splashing through the many muddy puddles. "Might as well get in here, sugar cube." AppleJack motioned for Shell to come in, and he glided over and walked in.
As Shell walked in, AppleJack raised an eyebrow. "Thanks? Since when did y'all get manners?" Shell ignored her as he thought Rainbow Dash would, and sighed with relief when AppleJack shrugged it off. He wiped his hooves on a floor mat, and observed the farm house. AppleJack tossed him a towel, and he went to catch it with magic, stopping just short of blowing his cover. It hit his face, and he grabbed it with his mouth.
"Y'all getting sick, Rainbow?"
Shell shook his head and began drying himself. "I'm fine." He said through the towel as he dried his mane, and AppleJack hesitantly left for the kitchen. Scootaloo hopped down the stairs, and stopped at eye level with Shell.
"Come on, Rainbow Dash! You can bunk with me!" Shell followed Scootaloo up the stairs to a bed room with two bunk beds, where on one was Sweetie Belle on bottom bunk and Apple Bloom on top. On the other Scootaloo rolled out her blanket on the bottom bunk, and didn't notice as a doll dropped from her saddle bag. Shell stepped over, and as soon as Scootaloo realized the doll was missing, she whirled around to see Shell holding it.
It was a poorly stitched pony doll, that to his surprise resembled Rainbow Dash. "Ah can't believe y'all still have that thing Scoots!" Apple Bloom mocked. Scootaloo's eyes were stuck on Shell and she was blushing nervously. Shell saw how nervous Scootaloo was, and looked towards Apple Bloom. For some reason, he felt he needed to defend Scootaloo.
"And what's wrong with having a doll, Apple Bloom?" Everypony's eyes widened, but none more than Scootaloo's. Shell smiled and handed the doll to Scootaloo. "I like it, Scoots. It's... Cool." Scootaloo beamed and hugged Shell.
"Thanks Rainbow Dash..." He felt a swell of love travel through the filly, energizing him.
hey all turned to see AppleJack standing in the doorway. "If y'all are done, soups on!" The fillies quickly ran out of the room leaving AppleJack and Shell alone. "That... that was a nice thing y'all did, sugar cube. I don't know what's gotten into you..." Her face got closer to Shell's as she stared into Rainbow's eyes. "... But keep it up."
AppleJack slugged Shell's upper front leg, and walked downstairs. Shell rubbed his now aching arm, sighing. His ears twitched, and he closed his eyes to see AppleJack running at him, and his memory blacked out with two rear hooves hitting his face. as the memory filled his head, he smirked and rubbed his jaw, remembering the blow she'd dealt him at the wedding. For a soft shell, she sure could pack a wallop. "Applejack... the element of honesty." He shrugged off the memory and hurried downstairs.