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This part of a series of fanfics documenting the stories of the Equestrian Conspiracy.  Enjoy!

Prologue[]

When we are born, many of our beliefs and ideals come from our parents.  As we grow older and more independent, we begin to form our own thoughts about the world.  And with so many thoughts that exist because of this, there are bound to be some that conflict.  And thus a rivalry is created.  This rivalry can be so strong as to break friendships, draw impossible lines, and become an obsession for the rivals themselves.  They may not even realize that their rivalry is nothing more than a simple misunderstanding.

Chapter One: The Good Ol' Days[]

In a small house in the city of Baltimare, a dark blue Earth Pony woke from his sleep.  He leaped out of his bed with a boundless energy only to be found in colts and fillies.  He rushed to the kitchen to greet his parents.

"Morning Dad, morning Mom," he said excitedly. 

"Good morning, Shadow," Switch Blade replied behind his newspaper.  "Have any interesting dreams?"

"Hmm," the colt thought.  "Well, there was one where I found that I could fly!  It was really cool to soar with the rest of the Pegasi."

"That's good, son," Switch chuckled.  "A dream is your brain's way of letting you know your imagination is working just right."

Fall Out looked at the clock.  "Oh, Shadow, honey, you're going to be late for school."

"Better hurry up, son," his dad said.

"Don't worry, I've got all of my stuff in my saddlebag, right here."  He motioned to the side of the chair.

"Well, have a good day, and be sure to learn something new," Switch said to him as he left for school.

"Of course, dad, of course."  He blew his parents kisses and trotted off to school.


A similar scene unfolded in the Shield household.  Young Silver woke up and ran to the family room.  He jumped onto his father, who was relaxing on the couch.

"Woah!" said Iron Shield as his son landed on his stomach.  "How did my rambunctious little pegasus sleep last night?"

"Great!" Silver answered.  "I'm so excited for today!"

"And why is that, exactly?" his father asked.

"Because each day is a new adventure," the colt said with wide eyes.  "There's new things to discover, new places to explore, and I get to do it all with my best friend Shadow."

"Well I'm happy that you're so eager to sieze the day," Iron said with a smile.  "Now, hurry off to school, I don't want you to be late."

"Okay, dad, see you after school.  Say hi to Mom when she wakes up."

"I will," his dad said as the door shut.


Shadow and Silver met up on their walk to school.  They performed their regular 'secret' handshake, consisting of multiple hoof bumps.

"Ready for the day, Silver?" Shadow asked his best friend.

"As ready as I'll ever be, Shadow," Silver responded.

Both of the colts were the only blank flanks left in their class, and they always were looking for ways to earn their cutie marks.

"So any more luck on cutie mark ideas?" Silver asked.

"Not really, no," Shadow answered glumly.

"Well, we always have Saturdays to look forward to," Silver said.

Shadow immediately felt better.  "Yeah, Saturday sparring is the best!"

Every Saturday, Silver, Shadow, and their fathers would meet in a training room of the local gym.  There, both colts would spar in combat with each other to gain physical strength and to take a break from daily life.  

"I'm gonna kick your butt this time!" Silver challenged.

"It'll be hard to kick my butt when you're sprawled out on the floor!" Shadow countered playfully.

The two of them laughed as they headed into school.


At work, Switch Blade was experiencing a much less cheerful scene. 

"Fired?" he asked his boss.  "But I was just getting the hang of things here!  Give me one more week, and I promise that I'll show you that I'm worth something."

"That's what you said last week, Mr. Blade," his boss told him.  "You and I both know that economic times are tough, and that you're the easiest one to get rid of.  I'm sorry to have to do this, but my job is to keep this business alive.  You understand, don't you?"

Switch grumbled.  "Yeah, I've heard it before.  Well, thanks for the opportunity, sir."

"Good luck, Switch."

"Thanks, I'm going to need it."


He told his wife when he got home.

"Honey, this is the fourth time you've been laid off this month!" Fall Out told him.  "What are we going to do?" 

"I'm not sure, sugar," Switch replied.  "I just can't seem to find the right job for me, even without my plague of bad luck."

Fall Out always thought about the worst situations.  "Well, what are we going to tell Shadow?  I don't want him worrying about money, he's too young for that.  We've managed to keep this from him for this long, but I don't know how much longer we can."

"I think the best thing to do is to tell the boy," Switch said.  "I'd rather tell him myself than let him find out."

When Shadow came home from school, he noticed that his father was not his usual cheery self.  "Hey dad, what's up?" he greeted him.

"Noth... well, to be honest, Shadow, it would be a lie if I told you nothing was up.  Come over here and have a seat."

Shadow walked next to his father with a puzzled look on his face.  Something was off here, but he couldn't quite place it.

Switch Blade sighed deeply.  "I don't really know how to say it, so here it goes.  I'm not sure how to support you and your mother anymore.  I got laid off from work today.  But one thing that I've kept from you is that this is not the first job I've been fired from.  In fact, I've had nearly every job in Baltimare at one time or another.  I'm sorry you had to be told this way, Shadow.  I just want you to be able to live a normal life.  I'm afraid I'll have trouble giving that to you now."  Tears were beginning to well up in Switch's eyes.

"Oh, dad, it's okay." Shadow felt a bit out of place consoling his own father.  "I'm sure that you can think of something.  We'll get through this as a family."  Shadow gave his dad a hug.

Switch sniffed up his tears.  "You're right, bud.  We can do this as a family.  Thank you so much for understanding."

"Of course," Shadow whispered into his father's ear.


Shadow thought about telling Silver about his father, but decided against it.  After all, it was pretty personal family business, and he didn't want to hurt his father by telling Silver.  They met up in the training room, and greeted each other with their hoofshake.  

"Ready to spar?" Silver asked.

"The real question is are you?" Shadow countered.

"You know that I am!" Silver replied.  He went to his saddlebag and grabbed his wooden sword.  Shadow did the same.

"Okay boys, you know the drill," Iron Shield told the colts.  "Don't try to hurt each other, but fight to win."

The look of friendly competiton faded from their eyes, and turned into one of determination.  Each was waiting for the simple command to attack, in hopes of disarming the other first.

Switch hesitated, then spoke a simple, "Go".

Shadow and Silver charged at each other, swords drawn.  When they met, they swung forcefully at each other.  Shadow immediately took an offensive role, thrusting and swinging at Silver to try to catch him off guard.  Silver swiftly blocked each attack, while throwing in some of his own.  They were evenly matched at a high skill level for their age.  Neither one seemed to make any progress.  

While they were sparring, a buzzer went off for the basketball game being played outside.  Shadow heard this and lost concentration long enough for Silver to knock his sword out of his hand.  Silver gave him a smile.  "I win," he said smugly.

"No fair!" Shadow complained.  "I was distracted!  That doesn't count does it?" he asked his father.

"Sorry, bud," Switch answered.  "I'm afraid that distractions like that happen in real battles too.  You have to learn to overcome them and focus."

"It's still not fair," Shadow grumbled.  

"Oh, it's okay," Silver consoled him.  "It was just one little mistake.  You would've won soon, I was getting exhausted from blocking you.  Wanna go grab an ice cream with my dad and me?"

"Sure, ice cream sounds great!" Shadow said.  He was glad that he had such a great friend in Silver.


Later that night, Switch was putting Shadow to bed.

"I still hate losing to Silver," Shadow complained.

"Hey, you're just as good of a fighter as he is," Switch consoled his son.  "You just have to learn to focus.  Not only in battles, but in whatever you're doing.  As long as you focus, you can do anything."

"'Anything' is a big word, dad," Shadow said.  "Are you sure that 'anything' is really possible?"

"Of course I am," Switch said with a smile.  "Now, go to sleep.  You need rest for tomorrow."

"I love you, dad." Shadow kissed his father on the nose.

"I love you too, son."

After he had closed the door, he gave a big sigh.  Tonight he was going to start his new job.  It really wasn't that bad: it had good pay, no bosses, and flexible hours.  All he had to do was not get caught by the police while he broke in to these homes.  He sighed again and pulled a ski mask over his face.  He knew that it wasn't right, but he had run out of options.  He left the house as silent as possible.


When Switch returned in the early hours of the morning, he was surprised to see his wife waiting for him.  In a moment of hurry, he had forgotten to make up an excuse for why he was leaving.

"Hi, honey," he said slowly.

"Where have you been?" Fall Out asked.  "I was so worried about you!  How do I know what could've happened to you out there!  For all I know, you could've been dead!"

"Sugar, calm down," he told her.  "I was just out at my new job."

She had a puzzled look on her face.  "New job?  Why didn't I hear about this?"

He took a deep breath.  "That's the thing," he started.  "It's not a job in the traditional sense.  You know that I've been fired from every company in Baltimare, and I have no source of income.  I had to resort to theft.  I'm so sorry, but it's my only other option.  But," he reached into his saddlebag, "I have good news." He dumped several pounds of bits on the floor.

She gasped.  "This... this... this is more than we've ever had.  But you stole it!  What if they catch you?"

"Hopefully it won't come to that." he told her.  "We'll save up enough money to move somewhere else, where I can get another job.  I'll only do this until then."

Fall Out wasn't so sure.  "Well... if it's only for a little bit.  But as soon as we have enough, you stop.  Understand?"

Switch gave a smile of relief.  "Of course, honey."


Shadow didn't notice his dad's new profession for a while.  But one night, about a week later, Shadow woke up early one morning to use the bathroom and get a glass of water.  He was shocked when a masked pony simply walked into his house.  He froze for a moment, then remembered his sparring lessons.  With a loud yell he charged at the intruder.  

Switch quickly covered Shadow's mouth and removed his mask.  "Shhh..." he said quickly, "it's just me, Shadow."

Shadow was confused.  "Dad?  Why?  What are you doing?"

"I'm, um...." Switch was at a loss for words.  "I'm coming home from my new job."  Shadow was still lost.  "My job as a criminal.  It's the only way that I can support you and your mother.  But as soon as we have enough money, we'll move to a different city where I can get a real job."

This got Shadow's attention.  "Move?  But then I won't live so close to Silver!  We'll never see each other again!"

"No, you'll still see him every saturday for sparring.  I promise the two of you will still remain good friends."

Shadow settled down after this.  "Well, I hope you get the money soon.  Moving away will stink, but making sure you have a job is more important."

Switch smiled at his son.  "Thank you for understanding.  I'm sure it won't be long."


Shadow told Silver about the plan to move that same morning.  

Silver was shocked.  "What?  Why do you have to move?"

"I told you," Shadow said calmly, "my dad has to find a new job.  But it's not for a while and he said that we'd still do Saturday sparring."

"But we won't be able to hang out every day anymore!"

"Well, this will only be for a bit."  Shadow's face lit up.  "I know!  We could write letters to each other!  Every single day, we could write about our lives and how they were changing.  Then we'd have stuff to talk about on Saturdays!"

"Hey, yeah, that is a good idea!" Silver exclaimed.  "We could be pen-pals!"

"But for right now, let's have as much fun as we can before I move," Shadow said.

"For sure!" Silver replied.


The following Saturday, Silver and Shadow met for their usual sparring.  But instead of a wooden sword, Silver carried a big wooden shield.  

"Whoa, what's that?" Shadow asked. 

"My dad gave it to me this morning," Silver responded.  "It used to be his when he was our age.  I'm going to use it in sparring today."

"Cool!  I can't wait to snap it in half with my sword!"

"We'll see about that." Silver chuckled.  They took their positions.

Iron Shield looked at the two colts.  "Ready....... Go!"

Once again they charged at each other, but Shadow's first strike seemed to be less impactful than before.  Silver was blocking his attacks with more ease and greater speed than in previous fights.  Shadow was caught off guard when Silver pushed him aside with his sheild.  He quickly regained his senses and swung his sword once more.  He remembered what his dad told him about keeping his focus.  After more fighting, Shadow thought of a new strategy.  He swiftly jumped over Silver and thrusted his sword downwards.  Silver turned and blocked the attack just in time.  The force from Shadow's blow knocked both of them over.  They were panting on the ground from the tiring fight.

Iron and Switch looked at the colts and gasped.  When the two colts got up, they noticed that the other had earned their cutie mark.

"You... you... you got your cutie mark!" They said in unison.

"What does mine look like?" Silver asked.

"Yours is a blue shield, kinda like your dad's."  Silver looked over at Iron Shield's cutie mark and smiled.  "How about mine?" Shadow asked.

"Yours is a..." Silver was confused.  What was Shadow's cutie mark?  "It's a... it looks like a sword... but it's covered in a shadow.  Oh!" Silver understood now.  "It's a Shadow, like your name."

"Wow!  That's cool!"  The colts hugged, happy that they had found their destinies.  They talked about it the whole way home, and what they could do with their special talents.

Chapter Two: A Terrible Tragedy[]

Switch Blade had almost stored enough money in order to make the move to Fillydelphia.  He just needed one more night of theft, and the Blade family would be packing their bags.  However, most of the ponies in Baltimare were taking precautions to protect against his burglaries ever since he started.  He figured it would be easier to rob a business.  It would be more work, but there would be more reward as well.  He put on his mask and headed out into the night.


He was almost done with the operation.  He had snuck in, taken a couple of bits from the safe, and all he had to do was sneak past the guards again.  He relaxed and realized it was all over.  The feeling was short-lived, because in the next instant there was a blinding light in his face and a securtity guard yelling at him.  He froze.  He thought about running, but realized that there would be no chance of him outrunning all of those guards.  He put his hoofs up. But then he recognized one of the voices of the security guards.  There wasn't any time to say anything before they pulled off his mask.

Iron Shield gasped as he looked in the face of his friend.

"S-Swtich?" he said.  "What?  Why?  What are you doing?"

Switch sighed.  "I didn't want to tell you, but I ran out of job options.  This was the only way I could make an income.   I promise it was only until I had enough to move to Fillydelphia.  I'm sorry.  I was just trying to support my family."

Iron was still shocked.  "I can't believe that you were the one behind all this.  You've hurt a lot of ponies by doing this!"

Switch looked down.  "I know it wasn't right.... I'm so sorry."

Iron felt bad for handing his friend over to the cops, but he knew that justice had to be served.  He knew that he was doing the right thing, but his thought turned to Shadow and Fall Out.


Shadow awoke that morning to a knocking at his front door.  He was surprised to see two cops there.  They asked if his mother was home.

"Yeah, I'll go wake her up."  Shadow thought it was weird that they didn't ask to see his dad first.  Then he remembered his dad's new job.  He gasped and hid out of sight from the cops.  Should he really wake up mom for this?  She would freak out if she knew that dad had been caught.  He suddenly realized this and slowly walked back to the police in the front.

"Can I ask why you're here?" Shadow stammered.

The cops looked at each other with sadness in their eyes.  "Son... your dad... he did some bad things.  He was hurting other ponies, and... well... he's where he can't hurt anyone anymore."

Tears welled up in Shadow's eyes.  "And where would that be?"

The other cop sighed.  "The Baltimare city jail.  He was breaking into and stealing from other ponies' homes.  But he won't do it anymore."

Shadow couldn't hold in the tears anymore.  He hated crying in front of the cops, but what else could he do?  It was all over - dreams of the future, about moving to get a new job, about learning and growing with his dad - they were all put to death at that moment.  The more he thought about this, the more he cried.

"Oh, don't be sad, little guy," one officer said.  "We'll make sure you and your mom are safe and are able to support yourself.  Can we speak with her please?"

He sniffed up his tears.  "Just give me a second." He walked to his parents bedroom.  He gently shook Fall Out awake and told her to go to the front door.  As she walked to the cops, he followed and listened from behind a wall.  He heard his mother sob and ask what would happen.  The police told her that there was nothing to worry about and they would figure out what would eventually happen.  They told her that they would be back later in the day to check on them.  She thanked them and they left.

Fall Out went to her son and hugged him tightly.  "I'm sure everything will be okay, honey."  She sobbed more and hugged him tighter.  He hugged her back, again, feeling odd consoling one of his parents.  After a moment, she asked him if he wanted to go to school today.  He said he'd rather just walk around town.  She said that would be a good idea and told him that she needed to collect herself as well.

Everything seemed to be grey in the city of Baltimare.  Gone were the happy memories of places like the library, the school, the post office.  He looked the city with a heavy heart.  It had barely been an hour since he was told, but it felt like it was an eternity ago when he last saw his father.  He couldn't think about the future, because his emotions were clouding his judgement.  Shadow realized that he just wanted to go back and hold his mother close.  He headed back to his house.

The house was quieter than it should be.  He looked into his parents room for his mother, but she wasn't there.  He called out, "Mom?", but he heard no response.  Then he noticed a note on the kitchen table.  It read:

"Dear Shadow,

I'm so sorry I had to do this to you.  I don't feel safe in Baltimare anymore.  I feel like they could be coming to get me next.  So I have taken my belongings and traveled to a different city.  Take your things and move in with your great-grandparents.  I wish you the best of luck in life.

Love,
Mom."

The letter was tear-stained by the time Shadow was done reading it.  He can't believe that he had lost his mother as well as his father.  He hurriedly packed the most important things he could think of and put them in the biggest saddlebag he could find.  The last thing he put in was a family photo, reminding him of his previous life, a life that was now over.  As he walked out the door, he took one last look at the house.  With tears in his eyes, he turned and walked away.

Instead of walking towards his grandparents house, he went toward the mountains that border Baltimare on the west. He didn't know an exact destination, but he knew that he couldn't go live with his great-grandparents.  They would've made him do all of the house chores that were too hard for him.  No, he had to learn to be self-sufficient.  He approached the foothills of the mountain.  His head tilted upwards to look at the staggering peak.  He started to walk around the mountain, admiring it's natural beauty.  Eventually, his eyes rested on a small cave.  Making sure there were no bears or dragons, Shadow set his bag down.  Taking knowledge from his dad, he knew he would need a fire and firewood.  He set off to find some.


When Silver got home from school that day, he saw that his dad was troubled.  He went over and asked him what was wrong.

"It's Mr. Blade, son," Iron said.  "I caught him stealing from where I work."

"But why would he do that?  I thought he was a good guy."

"He is, Silver, he is.  He just made a bad decision.  Apparently he was out of a job and had no way to make money."

A look of shock came over Silver's face.  "What about Shadow?  What happened to him?  Why wasn't he at school today?"

Iron sighed.  "That's the other thing.  When the police came back to their house, both his mom and him were gone.   Nobody knows where either of them went."

"We have to find him!" Silver shouted.  "I can't leave my best friend alone!"

"Whoa, calm down, son," Iron told him.  "You can't go by yourself.  The police will begin an investigation tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?!  But it will be too late by then!"

"Shh," Iron soothed his son.  "I'm sure everything will be alright.  The police will find him, and they'll make sure that he's safe.

Silver wanted to trust his dad, but he still wasn't sure.  "If you say so, dad."  He wondered where Shadow was right now.


At that moment, Shadow was trying to start a fire in his cave.  He was having difficulty in rubbing the sticks fast enough.  He got frustrated and threw them against the wall.  He felt the tears coming on again.  "No," he told himself, "I have to be strong."  He decided another thing he would need was an income.  Luckily, he saw a farm on his way to the mountain.  

Shadow knocked on the front door of the house in front of the barn.  An old farm pony opened the door.  

"Can't ya read the sign?" he growled.  "I'm not buyin' whatever yer sellin'!"

"Oh, no, sir," Shadow started.  "I'm not selling anything.  I was actually looking for a job.  This is a big farm, and I figured that you could need some help."

The farmer squinted.  "What's your name, son?"

Shadow looked down.  "I can't tell you that, sir.  If you don't mind, that's something I'd like to keep private."

The farmer squinted even more.  "I don't know son.  You seem awful shady to me."

"I promise that I'm a hard worker.  I don't need much, just enough to live on."

"Yer awful young to be livin' on yer own."

"Sometimes you have to do things before they were intended to be done."

The young colt looked honest enough for the farmer.  "Come on in, I'll show ya what ya need ta do."

Shadow smiled for the first time that day.  "Thank you, sir."


Shadow walked home that day covered in mud and dirt.  It was hard work, but he earned the bits that the farmer gave him.  He was also lucky to get some food before he left.  But his mind started to wander back to his father in jail.  Why couldn't he have just gotten a job?  It wasn't his fault though; he tried harder that anyone that Shadow knew.  Shadow started getting angry at the world.  If the world was fair, his dad would've gotten a job, and no one would be in this mess.  He waited for his dad to tuck him in.  Shadow then realized that getting tucked in was one of the things he left in his old life.  His tears slowly soothed him to sleep.


The next morning, the two police ponies who came by Shadow's house started looking around town for him and his mother.  They went to every house and asked if anypony has seen them.  Disappointment met them at every door.  They started working their way outward of the city and approached the door of the farmer.  Shadow had arrived early to work, and gasped and hid as he saw the police approach.

The farmer looked at him.  "You's afraid of the coppers?"

"Please, sir, tell them that you haven't seen me at all," Shadow pleaded.

The police knocked on the door, and the farm pony answered.

"What business do the two of ya have on my farm here?" he demanded.

The first one spoke.  "Sorry to bother you, sir, but we're looking for a blue Earth Pony.  He ran away from home and we're trying to find him."

"I haven' seen any pony lookin' like that!  What do ya think I am, a babysitter?"  The farmer spat at the ground.

"Thank you for your help, sir," the second one said.  "We're going to check the mountains next.  Have a nice day."

Shadow's eyes widened at mention of the mountains.  If the police checked there, they would find his stuff.  He made a small noiset that got the farmer's attention, and quickly shook his head no.

The farmer picked up on this and called back to the police.  "What are ya hopin' ta find in the mountains?" he asked.  "If I was a colt runnin' from home, I would go to another city.  You should try lookin' about Fillydelphia.  Plenty places for a kid ta disappear in there."

The cops looked at each other.  "Umm, okay.  Thanks for the tip," the first one said.  He was a bit confused at the farmer's change in attitude, but he did have a point.  The cops headed north, to Fillydelphia. 

The old farm pony slammed the door.  He looked at Shadow and said, "So, runnin' away from home, are ya?"

Shadow sighed.  "I'm not running away from home, I'm running away from them.  I don't want to get into the story. You wouldn't be interested."

The farmer motioned for Shadow to sit down.  "You'd be surprised at what I'm interested in."

So Shadow told the story to his employer.  When he was done, Shadow said, "See?  I knew you'd be bored."

"I ain't bored, I'm thinkin'," he replied.  "So you just want a place to work while you figure things out?"

Shadow shrugged.  "That's the long and short of it, I guess."

The farmer smiled.  "Well, I do need an extra hoof keepin' the place up, and if ya worked as ya did yesterday, I think we can get along just fine."

Shadow returned the smile.  "Thank you, sir."


Switch Blade awoke from his cell with a groan.  The cot they gave him to sleep on was much too small.  "I guess that's what you get for being a criminal," he thought as he stretched.  He was constantly thinking of Shadow and Fall Out, and was hoping they were safe.

Switch started thinking about after lunch, when all of the prisoners were left alone for 'recreation time'.  He had managed to avoid most of them yesterday, but he knew that they would begin to get curious about 'the new guy'.  But since they didn't give the prisoners anything to do in their cells, Switch had to wait in boredom until then.

When it was finally lunch time, Switch sat down with his food at a table by himself.  One of the more tough-looking Pegasi recognized him as the new guy, and motioned for his gang to sit down next to him.

"So, what are ya in for?" he asked in a gruff voice.

Switch ignored him.

"Hey, the boss asked you a question," one of the followers told him.

Switch sighed.  "Breaking and entering."

The gang laughed.  "So you weren't sneaky enough to get away with it, huh?" the boss asked Switch.

"I really don't want to talk about it," Switch told them.  He went back to eating his lunch.

"Hey, man, we're all in this together," another gang member told him.

"We may both be in here, but I am nothing like you."

"Let me guess," the boss started off.  "You're not a criminal, you just had to get things done.  It was your only option, and besides, it would only be for a little bit."

Switch's mouth dropped open.  "Yeah.... How did you know?"

The boss smiled.  "I've been here for a while.  Seen a lot like you come in here.  I could tell you were like them.  But you could be like us instead.  Around here, we're the top dogs.  We get whatever we want, and I could include you in that, if you'd like."

Switch looked around at the gang of thugs.  "I don't want to be anything like you.  You're all just a bunch of dumb bullies."

The boss's face expression changed to become much darker.  "So that's how it's going to be, huh?"

"Yeah, I guess.  I'd just rather be left alone, if it's all the same to you."  Switch got up to leave, but was quickly blocked by the gang.  

"Oh, but it's not the same to us," one of them said.

"I told you that we get what we want around here," the boss threatened.  "You look tough enough.  I want you to be one of us.  You would be feared, and I would get some more protection.  It's a win-win if you ask me.  But if you'd rather not, we could just as easily beat you and give you some nice scars."

Switch stood there silently.

The boss tried a different approach.  "You got a family?"

Switch tried to be a statue, but he couldn't help flickering his eyes toward the boss.

He grinned.  "Aww, yeah, he's got a family.  What's this family of yours like?"

No response.

"Here, if you won't describe them, then I will.  I bet your wife's pretty.  Probably too pretty for you.  You know what else?  I bet she's a whore.  She's been selling herself away behind your back for years."

Switch didn't let his remarks get to him.

The boss still wanted to get a reaction.  "I bet you have a kid too.  He doesn't have any friends because he's so lame.  He's the dumbest in his class, and he's a weakling too.  Yeah, the kid's a sissy, just like his old man.  He couldn't take care of himself even if..."

Switch interrupted the boss's last statement by punching him in the mouth.  Before any of the gang could react, Switch was on him, beating him mercilessly.  He wouldn't let the boss insult Shadow like that.  He let all of his anger out through his punches.  However, he didn't get too many out before the thugs pried him off of their leader.  Switch tried to get away, but he was being held by four of them.  He didn't have a chance.

The boss got up off of the floor and wiped away the blood from his nose.  "Now you've done it," he said.  "At least you showed some fight.  It makes it more interesting."  The boss kicked Switch in the stomach with all of his might.  The wind was knocked out of him, but the boss wouldn't let up.  He let some of the other thugs join him in beating Switch up.  He looked around for one of the guards, but they were nowhere to be found.  

One of the gang members pulled out a knife and gave it to the boss.  He smiled.  "Look, just like your cutie mark. Ain't that sweet."  Switch screamed as the knife entered his chest.  The boss took his time in carving the word, "Loser" from the top of his chest to the bottom of his stomach.  Switch began to cough up blood.  

The boss instructed the thugs to let him go when he was finished.  "That's what ya get for messing with me," he said to the crumpled pony on the ground.  He walked out, gang behind him.  

Switch couldn't move.  He knew that he was going to die.  He thought of Shadow, and spoke to him, "I'm sorry."  Then he closed his eyes and laid his head to rest.


Shadow went to the farm early to start his day of work.  The farmer was reading his paper like he normally did at breakfast.  But there was a look of discomfort on his face that Shadow had never seen before.

"Good morning, sir," he said.  "Is something wrong?"

"Son, is your name Blade?" the farm pony asked.

"Umm, yeah," Shadow said.  "Shadow Blade.  Why?"

"There's somethin' you should see here."

Shadow took the paper and noticed the front page picture.  He once again felt tears come to his eyes as he saw his father, lying dead on the ground.  He read the story that followed.

"No," he said.  "No, no, no, no, it can't be!  This can't happen!  Not after everything we've been through!  It's not fair!"  He buried his head into the farmer's arms as he cried.

The farmer didn't quite know what to say.  He let Shadow cry for a bit, then said to him, "I know that it's hard ta take in.  But I'll be here ta help ya.  We can make it through this together."

Shadow sniffled.  "You really want to help me?"

"Of course I do.  Ya are a pony, after all.  Ya have a life, hopes, dreams, and feelings.  Plus it'll give me somethin' ta do other than keep up the farm."

"Thank you sir," Shadow said, still crying.  "But if it's the same to you, I'd rather mourn alone today."

The farmer nodded.  "Understood.  You hang in there, kay?"

Shadow turned back to look at him.  "Of course, sir."


Shadow sat in his cave and tried to think.  His emotions kept getting in the way of his train of thought.  They were all mixed up because he had gone through so much latetly.  The joy of getting his cutie mark, the sadness of his dad being caught and killed, the relief that the farmer didn't turn him in, the anger at the unfair world, the lonliness of never being able to see Silver again.  He was so frustrated that he threw a rock against the cave wall.  Suddenly, he heard his father's voice in his head.

"You have to learn to focus," it said.

Shadow realized his dad was right.  He had to let go of his emotions for a second and think clearly.  With nothing else to focus on, Shadow turned to the rock.  He let it fill his thoughts and push the emotions out of the way.  A look of deep concentration came over his face as he stared the rock down.  When all of the emotions were gone, Shadow felt a strange sensation come over him.  The more he focused, the more he felt it.  He channeled the sensation into his focus on the rock.  To his shock, the rock moved!  

Shadow immediately drew back.  He checked outside for a wind of any sort, and looked at the rock to make sure that it wasn't any trick.  But he didn't find anything.  Slowly, he realized that he moved the rock by focusing!  He tried to give any other explanation, but he couldn't find any.  An Earth Pony had just moved a rock without touching it.  A wave of exhaustion finally caught up with him, and he became very tired.  He still thought of this act as he lay his head down.  His last conscious thought was, I just did magic.


Shadow awoke light-headed.  He remembered the strange occurance that happened before he passed out, and had a strong urge to find out more about it.  He ran back to the farmer's house.

He was panting as he came through the door.  "Do you have any books?" he asked.

The farmer was surprised to see him.  "Uh, no, not really.  Why?"

Shadow caught his breath.  "I just haven't read in a while, and there are a couple of things that I'd like to research."

"I guess I could go ta the library and get ya what ya need.  Ya just tell me what ta check out."

Shadow gave him a smile and a hug.  "You're a saint, sir.  I need a couple of books on the theory of magic."

The farmer looked confused.  "But son, you're an Earth Pony.  What would ya want ta know 'bout magic?"

"Umm..."  Shadow looked nervous.  "It's hard to explain.  I just really need the books."

"Okay," the farm pony sighed.  "I'll get ya yer books."

Shadow hugged him again.  "Oh, thank you sir!"


When the farmer came back with the books, Shadow immediately went home to study.  The farmer had gotten the best books for him, written by world-renowned doctors and specialists.  He looked at every single one, from the basic ones to in-depth analyses.  The last one he read through was titled, Where Does Magic Come From?.  It was written by a doctor who Shadow had never heard of.  He figured it would be like the rest of the volumes he had read, but he was wrong.  The doctor claimed that magic was not exclusive to Unicorns!  He claimed that magic was an inherent ability in every species of pony!  He backed up his claim, too.  Pegasi weighed the same as other ponies, but they could walk on clouds and control the weather.  Earth Ponies have a unique bond with the earth and some animals.  He claimed that a Unicorn's horn was an easier way to output magic.

The part that Shadow was really interested in was how magical ability was measured.  He said that magic is a measure of intelligence, whether or not you have a horn.  He finished with a bit saying that if there were a smart enough Earth Pony or Pegasus, they could use magic like Unicorns do.  Sadly, he said, none of this had been proven.

"Until now!" Shadow exclaimed.  "I'm the smartest Earth Pony!  I can do magic!"  He pranced around his cave for a bit, but then remembered about the farmer.  He quickly rushed over to share with him his knowledge.


The house was quiet when Shadow got there.  He wondered if the farmer was tending the crops, but he remembered there would be a sign on the front door if he was.  He looked all around the lower level and couldn't find him.  He checked upstairs and knocked on the door of his bedroom.  When there was no answer, Shadow opened the door.  He screamed and drew back with shock.  There, on the floor, was the farmer.  His eyes lay wide open, and he was clutching his heart.  Shadow went over to check for a vital sign, but he couldn't find anything.  Once again, Shadow found himself crying, this time for the farmer.  He never realized how special the farmer had become to him, almost like a replacement father.  He didn't even get to say goodbye.

Shadow thought of what to do next.  The farmer needed to go into town, but if he went there, the cops would find him.  He couldn't let that happen.  But if he walked away, no one would know he was dead.  How long would it be before they notice?  Days?  Weeks?  Shadow felt so alone right then.  In a quick decision, he kissed the head of the farmer and shut his eyelids.  Then he ran back to his cave.


Shadow sat in his cave, trying to think.  He calmly thought about everything that had happened in the last couple of weeks.  He noticed all of his emotions, and once again focused on the rock.  He tried to re-create the sensation that overcame him last time, but he couldn't quite find it.  He thought harder and harder, and concentrated even more on the rock.  His emotions were still getting in the way.  He was able to release all emotions but one - anger. He let his anger fuel the sensation, and with one thought, the rock flew across the room and hit the cave wall.  He cracked a smile of superiority toward the rock.  The wave of exhaustion came again, but it wasn't strong enough to knock him out this time.

Staring at the rock, Shadow realized that he possesed power.  I need to use my ability for good, he thought.  What could he do that would benefit everyone.  Thinking of the past again, he realized it.  He didn't want anyone to feel the pain that he did.  If I can prevent this from happening, no one will have to be like me.  But how do I do that? he asked.  A lightbulb went off in his mind.  Equality, he thought as he smiled, equality is the only answer.

Chapter Three: Seven Years Later[]

Life continued for Shadow and Silver.  Shadow learned to hunt on his own, while practicing combat and his newfound magical ability.  Silver stopped waiting for Shadow to come back, but he was always on his mind.  He sparred against his dad, and studied alone.  He graduated his school as valedictorian.  During his speech, he talked about how they now had to find their own way in the world, no matter what else happens.  A memory of Shadow and a tear came when he was done.

Silver decided that he had to go on a journey to find what his true purpose was.  He planned every last detail; he would go to Appleloosa and find a job there.  He would save up enough and figure out what else to do.  Silver was confident that he would find his true calling when he was out there.  

Silver went around town and said goodbye to everyone.  When he was near the city limit, he looked back at the city.  He smiled at the life he was leaving behind, and looked toward the life he was about to start.

In order to get to Appleloosa, Silver had to pass right next to the Baltimare Mountains.  Shadow was watching from the mouth of the cave, and he did a double-take when he saw Silver.  It couldn't be the same friend from years ago, could it?  Shadow apporached him to make sure.  "Silver?"

Silver turned around and was stunned.  "Shadow?" he said.  Silver didn't even think he was alive, let alone living in the mountains.  "Wha... How are you.... Aren't you dead?" he stammered.

Shadow looked at him with confusion.  "Is that what they say happened to me?  No!  I just couldn't live in Baltimare anymore, not with everything that had happened.  I'm so sorry I had to leave."

Silver smiled and held out his hoof.  Shadow returned the smile, and the two performed their hoof shake like old times.  "I'm sorry for what happened," Silver said to his friend.

"It happenes, I guess," Shadow said, looking away.  "So what are you doing now?"

"I'm going to try and find myself," Silver replied proudly.  "I feel like I'm important, so I'm going to see how I can change the world."

Shadow's face lit up.  "I'm going to change the world too!" he exclaimed.  "I can't let anyone else go through what I did.  That's why I'm going to make the world equal.  Everything will be the same, and no one will end up like me or my dad."

Silver was puzzled.  "Do you really think equality will change all that?  It's a nice idea, but I don't think true equality is possible.  How do you plan to do that anyway?"

Shadow looked down.  "I don't know all the details yet, but I have to convince the Princess that it's a good idea."

Silver was surprised.  "Princess Celestia?  From Canterlot?  How are you going to convince her?"

"I don't know.  But I can't let anything bad happen to anyone else.  I've been through too much."

"But all that happened years ago.  Don't you think it's time to move on?"

"How do you move on from that?  I can't just pretend that everything is okay, because it's not!"

"But how far are you going to go with this idea of yours?"

"As far as I need to to make sure that it happens."

"What if you hurt people in the process?"

"Then they will have died for a worthy cause, unlike my father."

"That's a terrible thing to say!  You'd be putting little colts and fillies in your same situation!"

"No, I won't, because the world will be equal by the time that happens!"

"Oh my god," Silver said.  "You've gone mad."

"If being a genius and the only one who knows what's right is mad, then yes, I'm mad!"

"I can't let you go through with this plan, Shadow."

"You can try, but it is meant to be!  I know that it sounds crazy, but think about it from my perspective."

"That doesn't justify it any more!"  Silver sighed.  "I want the old Shadow back.  The one who loved to spar and study with me.  The one who didn't have a care in the world, who wanted to explore and discover everything that there was out there.  I want my old friend back."

"Yeah?  Well your friend died seven years ago!"  Shadow stopped himself and drained his emotions.  "I'm sorry for that.  But in all honesty, I do believe in my cause."

Silver paused.  "I'm sorry to hear that.  Well, I guess this is goodbye, then."  He stuck out his hoof.

Looking in Silver's eyes, Shadow gave a simple shake.  "Goodbye, Silver.  Good luck with finding yourself."

"I think I've got an idea of what I might do," Silver said.  And with that, he continued toward Appleloosa.  Shadow watched him walk away with a pang in his heart.  He slowly turned and went back to his cave.

End of Book One.

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