A Walk in the Sun
The morning sun shone down upon Ponyville, bathing the buildings in its warm rays. The sky was perfectly clear, and the flowers were in full bloom, their colorful petals adding yet more hues to the scene. Birds chirped merrily, singing melodies to recently hatched chicks, and ponies wandered all throughout the village. Some were simply on errands for clothes or groceries, some were merely taking a walk in the sun, and still others were simply spending quality time with friends. Three young fillies ran through the town, roaring with laughter as the golden-silk lining of their capes sparkled in the sunlight, chasing each other around shops, their antics eliciting small smiles from their elder ponies. Six other ponies, marginally older, sat at a table outside of Sugarcube Corner; a sky-blue pegasus with a rainbow mane and tail was chortling with an orange earth pony with a pure blond mane protruding from underneath a brown Stetson hat. A white unicorn with a gracefully curled deep-purple mane and tail was doing her best to look haughty at the crude joke while the pink earth pony next to her with overly curly dark pink hair was nearly falling off of her chair in fits of laughter. A light-yellow pegasus with a pink mane that almost always flowed around her face in a shape resembling a heart was sitting with her head down, eating quietly while a lavender unicorn with a dark blue mane streaked with two stripes, one dark purple and the other a bright pink, tried to draw the yellow pegasus out of her silence. Bursts of laughter would occasionally break out as the pink earth pony would do something that should by all rights be physically impossible.
The picture-perfect sight was all but invisible to an emerging unicorn.
The night before, she had closed her curtains, blown out the lamps, and snuffed out the candles. She had packed a few candies, a modest bouquet of flowers, and her single most prized possession into her saddlebags in preparation for the following day. She had been unable to sleep that night, and now it showed, but she didn’t care. Her once well-kept mane was strewn across her head and bags underlined her normally cheerful eyes, ones that usually radiated joy and happiness, but today spoke of ages. Ages of pain that were far beyond anything that a mare her age should be familiar with.
She felt hollow, empty, as she stepped out into the sun and locked the door behind her. A mere shell of the mare she used to be. A mare that could’ve easily been mistaken for the manifestation of happiness, a mare so full of joy that it spilled over and infected everyone around her, a mare who would’ve spent a day like this outdoors just enjoying the scenery. But time had passed. She had changed. She could act just like her old self, but it was still just that; an act. She no longer felt the joy that she brought to others.
On this day, just three short years ago, the turmoil of emotions within her had threatened to rip her apart from the inside out. She had cried as she had never cried before, endless tears streaming from her eyes to dampen the grass below. On that day, torrents of grief had broken free, her composure giving way to endless sorrow that poured from her eyes, and if somepony had told her on that day that in three short years her sadness would cease, she would have never believed them.
Yet here she was, walking slowly past the circle of friends in front of Sugarcube Corner, their laughter ringing hollow in her ears, and she felt nothing. No happiness. No jealousy or envy, no sadness or anger. Just nothing. A black abyss. Whatever conversation they were having meant nothing; it was just noise in her ears, nothing more than a distraction on her journey.
She trotted silently through the village towards the Everfree Forest. Although she had made the very same trip only twice before, already she felt as though she had been walking down this path for her entire life. She felt mechanical, as though she were merely an observer as the machinery in her body took step after step towards her destination.
Another pony slipped out of the shadows of Carousel Boutique and fell into step next to her, but she didn’t look, turn her head, or even spare a glance at the light grey pony, who was wearing her customary white collar with a pink bow tie and bore a large black case on her back. She knew who it was and why she was here, and there was nothing else to be said. Her companion, likewise, remained silent. They left Ponyville together, a mute pair heading towards the Everfree Forest. Nopony so much as saw them leave.
Both of them, without having said a single word, came to a halt right on the edge of the forest. The infamous trees of the Everfree Forest loomed before them, its heart of darkness clearly visible even from the spot where they stood. Creatures of unharnessed fury lurked beyond this edge, their ferocity legendary, but the dangers they posed were lost on the unicorn and the earth pony that stood nearby.
Sadness returned in full force as she looked down upon the simple marble slab that protruded from the ground. Three years. It felt like an eternity since sadness had flowed so freely from her eyes for her friend, her companion, her lifelong partner, lost to a simple cold. Three years. Forever and a lifetime ago since the funeral that she remembered so clearly, so vividly, where she had used her own form of magic to spell out her grief, not merely letter by letter but stroke by stroke, for others to feel. Her own form of magic that her friend had loved so much. Her eyes began to water, but no tears fell. Three years.
Her horn glowed softly as her saddlebags opened and she levitated out the candies and flowers. Three years. She lowered them gently to the ground to rest before the tombstone, the flowers angled elegantly beneath the three sweets. Three years. In another year, it’d be four years and three sweets, but for now, it was just three.
She levitated the last remaining object in her saddlebags out, then closed them. The pony next to her gently slipped her black case to the ground, opened it, and pulled out her cello and bow. They looked at each other, the pain visible in the gold eyes and lavender eyes alike, but both sets of eyes were dry. There were no tears left now, and nothing more needed to be said between them. Not because they didn’t need to talk, but because there wasn’t any words that would express what either wanted to say. She looked down again.
Here lies the Herald of Joy
May she rest in peace.
And down further, near the very bottom of the grave, a series of tiny markings. Her friend had insisted in her will that this be engraved in the smallest lettering possible. She could barely see it, but she knew it was there, and she knew what it said.
To my beloved—
Ponies call me and me alone the Herald of Joy, but they didn’t know that you were the reason I could spread joy as I did, and that you yourself spread joy just as much as me, if not more. Just in your own special way. I love you, and I want you to continue to spread joy with that magic. Just remember the first song you ever played for me if you ever find yourself at a loss.
That magic. The magic that had first won her friend’s heart over. The magic that so few ponies knew how to wield properly. The magic that is bound not to the horns of unicorns, but to the souls of all ponies. The magic that is fueled purely by emotions, directed and refined by discipline, powerful enough to tug at heartstrings. She knew this magic inside and out, from beginning to end, every aspect and nuance of it etched into her core, just the same as the pony at her side. She lifted her golden lyre, and the pony beside her raised her bow. And as they breathed in as one and began weaving the familiar melody, she sang under her breath.
You reach your right hoof in,
You reach your right hoof out…