The following morning found Rarity hard at work tracing patterns on a length of shimmering cloth in her workroom, humming softly to herself. Sweetie Belle was home with their parents, and so she only had her surly cat Opalescence to keep her company.
To be perfectly candid, she was grateful for a chance to work in peace without dreading the inevitable crashes, splashes, scatterings, and tearing noises, or the strident denials and/or weeping apologies that followed them, when her sister was underhoof.
She let out a clipped sigh and adjusted her glasses on the bridge of her nose as a frantic, staccato tapping came to the front door of her boutique. Tucking her charcoal pencil behind her ear, she trotted out through her empty showroom, wondering if she'd forgotten to hang up her "Back in 5 Minutes" sign.
The door shimmered with her magic and swung open wide enough for her to look out. "Hello? Can I help... you..." She trailed off as she looked out on empty air. She let out a mild huff and made to close the door when more rapid patter sounded from the ground at her hooves.
The elegant unicorn looked down with her sapphire blue eyes widening in surprise as she spotted the diminutive form of a small white rabbit, who sat on her stoop tapping his hind foot on her doormat with a troubled look on his little face.
Rarity recognized him at once. "Angel Bunny? What are you doing here all by yourself?"
The rabbit started hopping up and down and pointing frantically in the general direction of Fluttershy's cottage. After a couple moments of this, he dropped to all fours and let his ears flop down in front of his face, assuming a fairly accurate imitation of the gentle pegasus who took care of him, before leaping back to his feet and hopping and pointing again.
Rarity raised a hoof to her mouth. "Oh dear. is something wrong with Fluttershy?"
At this, the rabbit alternated between nodding emphatically and tapping his paw on his little pink nose. The alabaster mare gave a resolute nod and levitated her glasses off of her face, setting them on a nearby countertop.
She turned and called into the shop. "Opalescence! I'm going to Fluttershy's house! Watch the shop would you? Opal?"
She looked down with a gasp to see her cat crouched with her rump raised and her tail lashing behind her, a predatory grin on the chubby white feline's face as she set her sights for a pounce on the tiny rabbit on the doorstep.
Angel caught sight of her at the same moment, and scowled in Opalescance's direction. He defiantly stomped a foot toward her and raised a paw, letting her know in no uncertain terms that she would taste the back of it if she made her move. The rotund white cat blinked, sat back on her haunches, and turned away to nonchalantly lick a paw as if that's what she'd been doing the whole time.
Rarity blinked and shook her head, then crouched down on her knees and motioned for Angel to jump up, which the tiny rabbit did with alacrity. Once he'd settled himself on her back, she gave him a nod. "All right, lets go."
With that, she set out at a gallop, pulling the door of her shop closed behind her with a flourish of magic.
Not ten steps down the path she balked, nearly throwing the startled rabbit off as she reared back in shock with a hysterical cry. "WHA HA HAAAAGH!"
The elegant mare stood with a frazzled mane, a hoof pressed to her chest as she gasped for breath and tried to recover her wits. She boggled at the boulder that she had been refusing to even acknowledge for weeks now. Somepony had painted it to resemble a huge staring eyeball with a pink iris, and even more incoherently had perched a top hat on its crest.
Rarity craned her neck to look back at Angel who gave her a puzzled shrug in return, before pointing emphatically down the path and flopping his ears down in his Fluttershy impression again. She gave him a nod, and after edging sideways in a semicircular path around the unnerving boulder, set off again at a gallop toward the cottage at the edge of the Everfree Forest.
As she trotted up the path to the rustic little homestead, Rarity could hear the calls of a multitude of birds and small forest animals on the air. She laid her ears back in alarm. While she had nothing like her pegasus friend's considerable empathy with wildlife - in truth it had taken her a couple years of painful scratches before she'd figured out her own pet cat's moods - she could tell that the myriad denizens of the cottage and the woods that surrounded it were spooked.
Rarity called out as she approached the front door of the cottage. "Fluttershy? Fluttershy, darling? Are you all right?"
She was met with nothing but more animal and bird calls.
She looked warily back at Angel, who hopped down and bolted inside through a tiny swinging door set in the wall next to the pony door. A moment of scrabbling on the other side later, the latch clicked and the top and bottom of the split door swung open with an ominous creak.
The elegant unicorn, now a bit disheveled from running, swallowed hard and briefly wondered if she should go and get more of her friends. Angel gave a frantic little hop and beckoned her inside, scurrying to the foot of the stairs and waving her forward with both paws. He let his ears flop down again and pointed emphatically upstairs. The alabaster mare pursed her lips, narrowed her eyes with resolve, and forged ahead, following the tiny rabbit inside and upward.
Rarity cast a nervous glance around Fluttershy's bedroom, taking note of the details, as Angel scampered under the bed and vanished. Her friend's bed was unmade, the sheets thrown aside as if its occupant had risen in the night and never returned. She noticed a candle lying broken beneath a candleholder on the floor by the window, a splash of wax and a bit of scorching indicating it had been dropped while still lit.
The unicorn mare stepped cautiously up to the window and drew aside the curtain, looking out over Fluttershy's back yard and chicken coop. Rarity's gaze lingered curiously on the glass itself for a moment, her brow furrowing as she wondered if she was indeed seeing the faint imprint of a pony snout on the outside face of the pane.
A cackling erupted below, drawing her attention to the fenced in chicken run, where the birds were milling uneasily in little clusters, giving a wide berth to an arrangement of eggs laid out on the ground in the shape of letters.
Her sapphire blue eyes widened as she stared incredulously and read the word aloud. "Tuba?"
Rarity's head whipped around as a muffled squeak sounded out from underneath the bed in response to her voice. Pursing her lips, she tiptoed over and crouched down, raising the trailing hem of the comforter and peering underneath.
A blur of butter yellow and pink erupted forth, wrapping itself tightly around her neck and bowling her over before she even had a chance to cry out.
As the sound of her own heart pounding in her ears subsided to a low, urgent thumping, Rarity heard the softest whimper at her chest and looked down to see Fluttershy's haggard face, her eyes clamped tightly shut and streaming with tears as she clung to the alabaster unicorn with all four legs.
The disheveled fashionista let out a sigh of equal parts relief and weariness, and reached up to stroke her trembling friend's back.
A pot of tea, some honey covered slices of toast, a good mane brushing, and a liberal application of concerned birds, bunnies, and chipmunks later, the two mares sat side by side in the sunlit grass in front of Fluttershy's cottage. Angel lay nestled against Fluttershy's side opposite Rarity, fast asleep after having done his heroic bunny duty.
Rarity floated the teapot solicitously over and freshened up her timid friend's cup, speaking gently to her. "Come now, darling. I think the sooner you tell me what happened, the better you'll feel."
The pegasus mare let out a shuddering little peep and bunched up her shoulders, looking away with fresh tears rolling down her cheeks. "It... it was so s-s-scary, Rarity. Oh, I'm going to have nightmares for weeks..."
The unicorn set the teapot down beside her and nudged her friend gently with her horn. "Darling, please... You've faced down cockatrices, manticores, dragons, no fewer than two malevolent immortals, and the full fury of the Cutie Mark Crusaders. There's a core of solid diamond under that velvet exterior of yours. Surely you can face telling one of your dearest friends about a frightening experience so that she can help you get over it?"
Fluttershy swallowed hard and nodded, giving Rarity a fragile smile. "All right. It... it was late last night. You know I'm sort of a light sleeper, in case one of the baby animals needs a bottle, or one of the little birds has a bad dream, or one of the raccoons needs some cinnamon toast, or..."
Rarity discreetly rolled her eyes and pointedly cleared her throat. The soft spoken mare caught herself and picked up the thread of her narrative. "Um... Right... Well, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning to hear a commotion out by the chicken coop. They sounded really worked up, and I was hoping I wouldn't have to go out and ask a fox or a weasel to please look elsewhere for dinner. They always look so disappointed. Anyway, I lit a candle and went over to the window and pulled aside the curtain."
She trailed off, shuddering, as her friend leaned in and nuzzled her neck. "Go on, darling. I'm here and it's a beautiful sunny day now."
Fluttershy let out a small squeak and continued. "It... it was... well it looked like a pony. It was floating over the chicken run making all these weird noises. It didn't have wings, and I didn't see a horn or any magic being used, although I think it was wearing some kind of hat with a little pinwheel on top. It just drifted around like a cloud or a balloon with its legs dangling underneath. It was scaring the dickens out of the chickens, and I wasn't very comfortable at all with it either."
She raised her eyes to meet Rarity's, the unicorn staring back at her with her jaw hanging open. "I just... just stared at it, and... and I guess it saw my candle in the window, because it... it... it looked back, and floated up at me until its snout was bumping against the window. Its... its eyes..."
She let out a tiny "meep" and clenched her own eyes shut, shivering violently but finding the courage to continue. "Its eyes were spinning in opposite directions like a couple of tops, but... but I still felt like it was staring straight at me... It started to slowly roll over, until it was hanging upside down right outside my window, and then... and then..."
She swallowed hard. "Then it opened its mouth and started ringing like an alarm clock. I would have had a heart attack right then and there if I wasn't too busy diving under the bed and curling into a little ball."
Fluttershy let out a long, shuddering breath as she released the built up tension her story had caused her. "And that's where I stayed until you came by. I think I heard it floating around outside making accordion noises for a while after I hid, but then all I could hear was my little animal friends calling out to each other."
She sighed wistfully, letting out a little sob as she looked down at Angel sleeping peacefully at her side. "I feel just awful that they were all scared and all I could do was cower under my bed all night."
Rarity nuzzled her cheek in a sisterly fashion. "They were scared because you were scared, darling. And I don't blame you, I would have fainted on the spot at that sort of spectacle. Oh, how frightening for you."
She laid her hoof on her butter colored friend's shoulder. "Don't feel too bad, though. If your strange visitor had actually been trying to harm any of your little friends I don't doubt at all that you would have been out there fighting like an ursa major."
The pegasus mare gave her friend a brief smile from behind the draped locks of her pink mane, before a puzzled expression settled on her face. "But, what... what did it want? Why would it spell out "tuba" in my chicken run with eggs?"
The alabaster unicorn sadly shook her head. "I have no idea, darling. Nothing this... creature has done makes even a little sense. There have been some awfully peculiar things going on around Ponyville of late, and I think you might have been the first pony to get a good look at the culprit, whoever or whatever it is."
Fluttershy swallowed hard. "Do... do you think it'll come back?"
The elegant unicorn shook her head sadly. "There's just no way of knowing, darling. This thing is so random it makes Pinkie Pie look like Button Stitch."
The shy pegasus' voice was quavering with fear. "Wh-what are we going to do, then?"
Rarity drew herself up decisively. "We're going to go talk to Twilight, that's what we're going to do."
The leaves of the Books and Branches Library rustled softly in the late morning breeze as the two mares trotted toward it. The diminutive purple shape of Spike the Dragon was crouched in the grass out front, peering intently at something on the ground.
He didn't look up as Rarity called out to him. "Spike dear, good morning! Is Twilight home?"
The little dragon half murmered in response. "Yeah, in the reference stacks with her nose in a book, same as always." He caught himself, blinking as he realized who had spoken to him.
He stood and faced them with a blush spreading across his reptilian features, sheepishly clutching his tail in front of him with a smitten grin on his face. "Oh! H-hi there, Rarity!" He gave a little wave at her companion. "Hey, Fluttershy. I'm sorry I didn't realize it was you guys at first."
The elegant unicorn batted her eyes at him. "And what's got your attention so completely riveted that you didn't notice two of the most beautiful mares in Ponyville coming to pay you a visit?" Fluttershy blushed slightly and hid behind her mane with a tiny grin on her face.
The dragonet's slitted green eyes flicked toward the ground and he beckoned them over with a clawed hand. "Check it out, it's kinda weird."
At this, the two mares exchanged an uneasy glance, and Rarity furrowed her brow. "Weird, eh?"
Spike nodded as they approached. "Yeah, look at this. Somepony must have done this really late last night, 'cos it wasn't here when Twilight and I went out to pick up dinner at Pasta Sauce's place yesterday."
Rarity's eyes widened and Fluttershy let out a little squeak as they beheld what the young dragon was showing them. Several winding concentric rings made up of all sizes, colors, and shapes of buttons had been made on the ground around the base of the huge tree that served as both library and home to their friend Twilight Sparkle and the little purple dragon.
Spike stood up with his hands on his hips and shook his head. "Yeah, I can't make any sense of it. I found 'em when I was taking the pizza boxes out to the trash this morning. There's maybe seven complete circles, and some squiggly lines at intervals. And that's not the weirdest part, come here."
They followed him around back, and he showed them a spot between two of the rings of buttons, where the word "foopnarple" had been spelled out in shiny bobbins.
Fluttershy stared at the cryptic message and murmered. "Whats a... foop... narple?"
Spike shrugged. "Got me. I showed this to Twilight and she ran back inside and started pulling dictionaries off the shelves. Couldn't find an entry in any language, not even in Sindarin or Klingon. She's doing research on magic ritual circles now, but I've never heard of anypony making one of those out of buttons. It's usually blood or gemstones or salt or vanilla cake frosting or something..."
A thoughtful expression had settled on Rarity's pristine features as she stared at the glittering bobbins on the ground at her feet. She looked up at Fluttershy with a decisive look on her face. "Fluttershy, darling. Why don't you go inside and tell Spike and Twilight about what happened to you last night? I'll be back shortly."
The shy pegasus looked at her friend quizzically. "Wh-where are you going, Rarity?"
The alabaster unicorn gave her a cagey look as she turned to trot away. "A notion just struck me..."
The characters depicted in this fiction are copyright and trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. This is a work of fan fiction, and the author makes no claim on Hasbro's copyright or trademarks.