Shades of Midnight
She was aware of many things. The wisps of cool night air tickling her as they snuck in from an open window. The comforting snugness of fresh clean sheets pressed against her body. And the almost oppressive silence that hung in the room, which served more than anything to remind her that she was still awake when nopony should be. The clock tower was far away, but she could hear the single chime as if it was sitting on her nightstand, informing her just how late it really was.
With a sigh, the young unicorn slipped out of bed and trotted over to the window. Her horn glowed faintly as she opened it the rest of the way to let the breeze roll in earnest. The single clock chime still echoed in the air; it made the back of her head throb, as if she associated the noise with some old injury. She chuckled.
“The clock struck Midnight. Hardy har har, Spike. You big jerk...”
How many nights had it been? It seemed like every time she and her surrogate big brother had been awake to hear that chime, he'd be ready with a playful swat to the back of her head and a pun. The memory brought a bittersweet smile, and another thing to be aware of: she missed him. She missed everypony.
“If I'm going to be awake, I guess I might as well finish unpacking.”
Midnight turned away from the window, turning on the lights and taking a good long look at the dormitory that would be her new home while she earned her degree. The excitement she had felt on the way here had drained before her week of orientation had even finished, and now all she could think of was how nice it would be to travel back to Ponyville, just for a bit, and snuggle up between her mothers like she used to when... ugh. Really? What, was she a little filly again? After the months of begging Twilight for the recommendation letter, how bad would it look to turn around and run right back to her looking for cuddles? Especially at this age. Her cheeks flushed crimson and her magic flared to life, pulling a couple boxes out from under the bed and starting to sort the contents.
She halted at the bottom of the first box, pulling out a strange book she didn't remember packing. It looked brand new, and yet somehow... ancient. And familiar, even though she'd never seen it before. She ran a hoof across the supple surface of the cover, noticing two very distinct emblems in opposite corners: one a star tipped wand and cloak, the other a large starburst surrounded by motes of light.
“Mom? Momma? Did you guys make this?” She pulled the tome close and hugged it tight, shocked by just how much it smelled like home.
Unpacking was forgotten. Midnight curled up on her bed, lights still on and book sitting in front of her. Taking a second to brush away the blue and purple mane that had chosen that moment to flop in her eye, she opened the cover with reverence. Her mouth hung open at what waited for her inside...
Midnight is staring at a very worn out party streamer. The paper seems as though it will crumble away in the wind, and the vibrant pink it must once have been has faded away but for the tiniest specks and traces. It tells a story. It is not a story she remembers herself, although it's one she's heard a thousand times. After all, it's hers...
“Surpriiiiiiise~” Pinkie Pie bounds joyously about the room, “Do you like it? Huh huh? We all worked together to make this one super extra special for our favoritest of favorite new mommies!”
A bewildered and exhausted Trixie turns her head slowly around the room, trying to piece together just what in heaven's name has become of the home she had so been looking forward to sleeping in after finally being released from the hospital. She can think of no response that doesn't sound like snapping the pink earth pony's head off. Which, frankly, she's somewhat tempted to try at the moment.
“Shhh. You'll wake her, Pinkie...” Twilight intervenes, motioning with her head toward the tiny bed she had just left an equally tiny foal curled up in.
With a dramatic gasp made all the more dramatic by its total lack of sound, Pinkie bounds across the room, bouncing this way and that for her first good look at little Midnight, somehow soundless despite the wild energy of her actions. She peers down, and lets out what would later be determined to be the most genuine (and also the quietest) “Awwwwwww!” in the history of Equestria. Turning her head back around, she grins her grinniest grin at the new parents, who stare back at her unthinking before each shrugging in turn and returning the smile.
Over in a corner, Rainbow Dash is remarking to anypony who will listen about how she would never in a million years go through what Trixie just did. She marvels at how unicorns 'must be tougher than I thought'. An amused Applejack rolls her eyes, but keeps her thoughts to herself. It's the wrong time to be teasin' anypony for bein' a wuss, she reminds herself. Fluttershy overwhelms the new parents with a torrent of tips for raising their child, meekly doubling back on each one and lamenting that caring for animals probably isn't the same as handling a foal, and then moving onto the next bit of advice like she had forgotten that already. Um, you know, but whatever you want to try will do fine, probably.
Rarity lets out a gasp, and soon everypony is bowing low to a pair of surprise guests. Celestia's smile is as magnanimous as ever, but today she is here to play favorites. She wastes no time in seeking out her prized pupil and wrapping her in a warm embrace.
“I'm so proud of you. Of both of you. It's been quite some time since our family has had any new additions...”
Twilight beams up at her mentor, but her expression falls away to mild confusion. “Our family?”
Celestia says nothing, merely stepping aside to make room for her younger sister, a mischievous twinkle in her eye. Luna, for her part, does her best to puff herself up proudly. She's still not very good at it yet.
“Well, yes. I'm a mother today too, after all.”
Jaws all across the room hit the floor. Eventually, it is Trixie who manages to articulate the thoughts swirling about the room, “What? But... I... you... when? With whom?”
Luna chuckles, and with one wing motions toward the sleeping Midnight.
“But... it was Twilight and I who...”
“And just who gave you the book that made it all happen?” Luna retorts, leaning her head to whisper conspiratorially with her fellow parents.
“W-well, that's...” Trixie sputters. She shoots nervous glances at Twilight, who tries to cover the gap, “We're... very grateful, but... um...”
Luna's eyes sink, and her voice comes out a little bit more hurt than she means for it to, “I was just as involved in that night as either of you.”
“But you're the princess of the moon! We can't ask you to --”
“Please.” Luna cuts her student off, “I... I want to do this. I can do this. I will be part of this child's life.”
There is a long pause. Twilight gives her lover a reassuring nuzzle. Both smile in tandem. And agree.
Midnight is staring at a drawing of a pegasus. It is not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, being very clearly the work of a child, but she can't help but find it beautiful. There's an earnestness in the strokes of crayon that outstrips many of the paintings she's studied. It tells a story. A story about a little filly bursting to capacity with imagination and creativity...
Twilight Sparkle turns the page in the book she has in front of her, using the break in the reading to glance up and check on her daughter. With Trixie out running errands, it leaves just the two of them together to enjoy a lazy summer day out on the balcony. Waves of periwinkle dance across Twilight's field of vision as Midnight swishes her tail happily, humming to herself while she hovers over a sheet of paper.
“So, what are you working on over there?”
“I'm makin' a friend for Princess Mommy!” Midnight chirps.
Twilight laughs softly at the name the child had given Luna, and stands up. It's a process made difficult by the half-asleep nature of her legs. “Oh, are you? I'm sure she'll love it...”
“...I hope so. She looked real lonely before. Is she ok, momma?”
“She'll be just fine, sweetheart. She just wishes she could see you more often. Now, let's see what you've got he-- oh dear.”
“Isn't it cool?” Midnight smiles brightly at her momma, eyes shimmering in anticipation of praise for her hard work.
“Yup!” Brighter and brighter. If momma could guess what it was, that meant she did a super good job!
“...She has four wings.”
“And a... halo?”
“Yup yup!” Midnight is grinning from ear to ear now.
Twilight furrows her brow, cocks her head from side to side, and then disappears into the library. Midnight shrugs and returns to putting the final touches on her masterpiece. She isn't able to get very far before her momma returns, a book floating alongside her. She flips it open and lays it next to the drawing, displaying all sorts of diagrams of pegasus ponies and their wing structure, musculature, and body types.
“See? This is what a pegasus is supposed to look like.”
“Yuh huh. Like Auntie Dash. I know.”
“Yours is nice, but it's not technically--”
“But, this one's special! 'Cause it's for Princess Mommy!” Midnight nods for emphasis.
“She needs cool friends, so I made this one cool! She's named Silver Lining, and...”
“But the book says--”
“Oh, momma. You're so silly.”
The air fills with various tones of giggle.
Midnight is staring at an emblem, something that had been sent to her by mail a long time ago. It's a seal – the royal crest of Princess Luna. It tells a story. It speaks of a lonely night spent sleepless and staring up at that same crescent moon as it hung in the sky...
This late at night, Midnight must take great care not to wake her family up. She's already very nearly stepped on Spike, and she doesn't want to think about how much trouble she'd get in for that on top of not staying in bed like a good girl. But she's lonely, and missing one final mommy, the only one who would be up at this hour. Quietly, she slips through the door and to the outside. Success!
The night is chilly, and she shivers constantly while staring up at the stars. Already she feels the temptation to run back inside and snuggle up under the covers where its warm, but some things are just more important than being warm and toasty. She tries to remember how long its been since all three of her mommies have been together. Maybe forever? Longer? She sniffles, fighting back a tear. It's not 'cause she's not loved. Everypony knows Luna loves Midnight. That's why the moon is always out then. But the moon is the thing that keeps her so busy, keeps her from visiting.
Midnight focuses on the moon as hard as she can. Her horn is glowing, and tiny sparks of energy flare up into the air before drifting back down to the ground like snowflakes. If she can just... move it... a little... she slumps forward a little, panting for breath. If she can just do it, even an inch, then maybe her Princess Mommy won't be busy anymore, and she can come visit Ponyville again.
Her eyes are wet with tears, but they shimmer with hope and she redoubles her efforts. She is a tiny little unicorn, barely knowing a thing about controlling her magic, let alone casting spells. But the light show she is putting at this rivals almost anything ponyville has ever seen. Brighter and brighter she flares, like a star that's fallen from the sky. More and more. Move. Move. Move! Just... please. Move.
She collapses into a heap of tears and exhaustion. The moon hangs callous and unbudged overhead. She shudders, curling up tight for warmth, knowing she should go back inside but not having the energy to try. And what did it matter, anyway? If she couldn't move the moon even the teeniest bit... Princess Mommy must be so disappointed in her. She'd probably never come see Midnight again.
Fatigue pulls her eyes shut, and she barely registers the soft touch of a feather wiping away her tears. She dreams dimly of a tall and graceful figure lifting her up and sneaking her back to bed. But in the morning, there she is nice and comfy in her bed with no idea how she got there. And there's a little silver emblem sitting on the nightstand beside her, shaped like the moon as it appears on a certain somepony's cutie mark. Midnight doesn't understand any of this. But she feels happy again.
Midnight is staring at a picture clipped from an old copy of the Equestria Daily. It shows a gigantic stage, which is somehow still completely dominated by the Great and Powerful Trixie, frozen forever in the act of handing a bouquet of flowers to somepony in the audience. The picture cuts off the lucky recipient, but Midnight knows full well who got them. Who always got them. She remembers the story...
The show is going better than any of them had dared to hope. The biggest stage since that fateful day in front of Celestia. More than twice as large as any since Trixie returned from her sabbatical. The story she is telling is an old one but a classic, and one of Midnight's favorites because it's about how momma and all her friends helped rescue Princess Mommy from the moon. It's the best of the stories that doesn't have any scenes with mommy in it, definitely.
Trixie is pulling out all the stops on this one, showcasing daring new tricks to enhance her tale and display the culmination of months worth of work improving her technique. Proving to all the critics how completely wrong they were to write all those reviews calling her washed up. The 'oohs' and 'aahs' shake the stage, filling the air with electricity and anticipation. Midnight stands eagerly atop Twilight's back to get a better view of her mommy's finest hour. Her eyes light up when she sees the trademark bow and cocky smirk that means it's time for the finale.
“Higher, momma! I wanna see!”
“...And so ends my tale. But not my legend.” She pauses to flash a winning smile, savoring the expectant looks from the crowd, “Fillies and gentlecolts, they say a good magician never reveals her secrets. But some secrets are all the more mysterious for being told. Tonight, let me tell you where my stories come from. It's the stars!” Here, she points dramatically into the open air of the night sky, where many twinkling motes of light obligingly glitter like diamonds, “Yes, the stars are the first storytellers. If you so much as look up, they will tell you all they can from times when even Canterlot was just a far off dream. But to listen, to really listen...you have to walk among them.
“What I am about to show you has never been seen before by equine eyes. They say of Trixie that she is 'no longer a star'. Well tonight, she shall become one! When next we meet, I shall regale you with tales the likes of which have never crossed pony ears... or eyes.”
Ponies in their seats gasp in wonder as The Great and Powerful Trixie shimmers and grows insubstantial before their eyes, fading until she's nothing but a glittering, dusty outline of herself. They cry in amazement as the dusty outline lifts itself into the sky, slowly at first but gaining speed quickly. Now it shoots high above everypony, leaving a trail of fire in its wake until... boom! It is the most spectacular display of fireworks any among the audience can ever recall. They scream with delight and stamp their hooves in thunderous applause. Wonderful! Incredible! More, more! Encore! The curtain drops, teasing them. Oh, but how they're looking forward to the next show. Midnight is not so pleased. She flings herself around Twilight's neck, wailing in despair.
“Mommy! Mommy's gone! She's dead! She's...”
“Oh, sweetie, she's just --” Twilight is cut off by a sharp wail from her daughter. Ponies are beginning to glare at her now. The nerve of some ponies, bringing a young child to a show like this! Can't she just shut the little brat up? Twilight smiles sheepishly at the strangers about her as she pulls Midnight close, patting the filly on the head and giving her mane a comforting stroke.
“It's ok, it's ok... here. Come with me.”
The walk backstage takes longer than it should. Along the way, no placation or reasoning works. Midnight is convinced she has lost her mommy to the stars forever. Her throat hurts from crying now, and she resorts to quietly sniffling and hiding behind momma's back as they enter a room she doesn't recognize.
“...And just how long were you planning on disappearing for?”
“Until the next show, of course! Did you see them, Twilight? Ooh, I haven't felt this kind of charge since...”
“Trixie.” Twilight's voice is flat, “How many parts are there to a magic trick?”
The smile fades a little bit, “Well, three usually. But--”
“You left one out. You didn't have a Prestige.”
“Ugh, this again? Twilight, honey, we've been over this a thousand times. If you want to put on a good show, you can't just stick to the books. You have to--”
“You can't just make something disappear,” Twilight interrupts again. She's getting irritated, “You have to bring it back!”
“Look, just because you're the more powerful unicorn doesn't mean you know more about surprising an audience! I know what I'm doing!”
“You have to bring it back! Or this happens!”
Twilight steps aside, revealing the thoroughly miserable Midnight. She looks straight at her mysteriously all alive and perfectly fine mommy in disbelief, and then distrust, backing away to hide behind Twilight's flank again. Was it a monster?
Recognition slaps Trixie across the face. She is momentarily ashamed. And then she laughs.
“Oh, you silly little thing. Did you really think I'd go away like that forever and just leave my little pony behind? It's like you don't know your mommy at all... come here. Come here.”
She's slow at first, but after Twilight gives her a nudge she's scurrying along into a warm embrace from her mommy.
“Never leave...” she squeaks.
Mother and child do not let go of each other for the rest of the night.
Midnight is staring at a torn piece of a starry blue cloak. It flutters in the breeze wafting through the room, and she tries to turn the page quickly: this is not a story she wants told. But the fabric is insistent, much like the one who wore it, and it draws the mare in...
It is dark in here, and not the good kind of dark. Little Midnight can feel eyes upon her, see the stirring of clawed and gnarled tree branches clutching at the air. Maybe this was a mistake. She gulps nervously, looking for her previous courage. Time to go over the facts. Momma is sick and can't get out of bed. Mommy went to the Everfree Forest to talk to the zebra-lady about medicine, but she's been gone a long long time... now it's Midnight's turn to help. To be brave and have adventures like momma and her friends. A low grumbling sound can be heard. She wishes she had friends her age, too.
The path continues, but Midnight is having difficulty following it. Around her it gets darker and darker, and she can't figure out where she's going anymore. Or where she is now. The brush in front of her stirs. She freezes. Now the trees begin to shake. She backs away. A massive hulk of a figure bursts out of the foliage, a terror straight out of her bedtime stories. It sniffs the air and stares at her silently. A hind leg twitches almost imperceptibly from an old injury, and its eyes narrow. It recognizes her shape, too.
“U-U-U-Uuurrsaa!” Midnight shrieks and runs as fast as her little legs can carry her.
The chase is on. The filly can barely keep pace with her pursuer, it's so dark and hard to see. Once, twice, a hundred times she barely manages to avoid tripping over some sort of bramble or root. She twists, she turns, she doubles back? Where is the path‽ Luck abandons her, and she tumbles face first into the dirt scraping her side against some thorns. The Ursa Minor rears up on its hind legs and roars, raising one giant paw for a swipe. Midnight screams. The blow comes down hard.
There is a wet tearing sound, and Midnight feels herself picked up and tossed away. Oddly, there is no pain. A torn piece of a very familiar looking cloak floats down and lands on her snout. Could it be?
“Well, well, well. It seems our paths cross again. Did you want to try taking even more from me?” The voice cuts through the forest, haughty and positively dripping with venom, “Back. Off.”
If the celestial bear had seemed angry before, it was nothing compared to now. The force of its roar knocks several branches off of the surrounding trees. It glares balefully down at the pony in front of it with a particular sort of hate that only comes from an animalistic grudge. And Trixie stares right back, icy and unmoved. Her horn and eyes glow an intense blue that Midnight has never seen before.
It's over in seconds. The earth around them rumbles. The Ursa Minor rears back and lunges at the brightly glowing pony, only to hang in mid air, caught in a sudden surge of vines and roots that wrap and constrict it from every angle. It growls in frustration and struggles against its bonds, but this time it's not so easy. Trixie spins the beast upside down, grinning in ugly triumph when it begins to whimper. In moments it is hogtied and dangling helplessly from an especially large tree.
“Hmph. That's what you get. So much as look at her funny again, and I'll make you wish you were facing Twilight Sparkle again.”
She begins to trot off, and stumbles. Midnight rushes up to her side to support her as best her little body is able.
“And just what do you think you were doing out here?” Trixie snaps. Her legs wobble under the effort of standing up.
The smile dies on the little fillies face. “I... I was just... momma's so sick, a-and you were gone so long and I..”
“And you just came all by yourself? It didn't run through your thick little skull even once to go and ask for help? If I ever lost you, I...”
Midnight says nothing. She hangs her head in shame and presses up against her mommy's side as they make the long, slow walk home. It's difficult, as Trixie has to stop often to rest. All of her energy seems to be gone. Eventually, the lavender filly gets up the courage to ask a question.
“...I'm grounded, aren't I?”
“Ha! Grounded if you're lucky. And if you do something this stupid again, you'll wish the Ursa got you.”
“You'd darn well better be.” Trixie snorts with annoyance. Her eyes, though. Those tired, violet eyes tell Midnight how her mommy really feels. Silence passes between the two of them again as the journey begins anew, taking them to the edge of the forest.
“Thanks for saving me, mommy. You were amazing...”
“Well.” A genuine grin sneaks onto the proud magician's face, “I am the Great and Powerful Trixie.”
Midnight is staring at a letter from her old school, which regrets to inform her parents that she's been involved in a fight with several other children. It goes on to suggest that Midnight's claims of self defense are somewhat difficult to believe in light of the fact that the other participants were all found tied up with jump ropes, and mouths very forcefully gagged with... well. Gagged. It tells a different story, too. An afternoon of shocking revelations...
“And just what do you have to say for yourself, young lady?” Twilight fumes and paces across the room, the letter floating and following her along every step.
“Pfft. You're just mad I'm not going to have a perfect student record anymore.” Midnight scoffs, shaking her mane out of her eyes and revealing a nasty bruise. There's several dotting her lanky teenage body, each one marking a hoof or a rock that had struck her that afternoon.
“I'm mad because you put three colts in the hospital! What made you think this is acceptable behavior?”
“I didn't teach you that spell to go meting out personal grudges.” Trixie adds. Of the two, she is the more composed and quiet. To Midnight, she looks deeply disappointed, and this is somehow infinitely more terrifying than Twilight's high strung ranting.
“I told you, they came after me! Because of you!” She stomps a hoof, bubbling over in anger. “When were you planning on telling me? Why did you just let it all come out in school‽ You... cowards!”
Twilight stops in her tracks. “Tell you what?”
“That I'm adopted!” her scream echoes off the walls. Somewhere upstairs, a door can be heard hastily shutting; Spike ducking for cover.
Midnight's breath comes in ragged gasps. She fights hard to keep composure, to be angry and righteously indignant instead of crying and hurt. It's only barely working. Trixie gestures toward the other room with a quick jab of her head, while Twilight nods and quietly heads in that direction.
“You aren't.” Trixie is calm and composed, soothing, “You are one hundred percent my daughter.”
“Liar! You're lying! Everypony... e-everypony says it... they laugh at me 'cause I'm the only one who didn't know...”
“Sex-Ed started this week, didn't it?”
“How could you let me find out this way?” She's sobbing now. She can feel Trixie draw her into a warm embrace, and she clings to her mother.
“Well, for one thing because I remember giving birth to you. With painful clarity.” Without meaning to, she winces.
“I don't... don't believe you.”
“Well, if your momma would just – for goodness' sake, Twilight! You know seven different locator spells. For once in your life, just cast one! – would just come along back in here, we'll show you the birth certificate to prove it.”
A minute later, there it is, official and in writing. Midnight stares at the document for a long time in what she finally realizes in relief, and the dam bursts. She cries openly, as a week's worth of nasty words and hurt feelings floods out of her. And through it all are her mothers – both of them. The idea of tea and a nice snack is brought up and pounced upon. Several soothing hours later, Midnight is feeling much calmer, and very content. Until a strange idea enters her head.
“So...” Midnight takes a delicate sip of tea, “Do you think I could meet my father?”
Twilight chokes on her drink. Trixie's face instantly turns seven shades redder. “E-excuse me?”
“Well, it's just... he helped you guys out, right? We wouldn't be a family if it wasn't for him! I want to see him, and say thanks. Why hasn't he ever visited?” She gasps, “Is it that Doctor guy? I see him all over the place!”
Twilight has very nearly disappeared under the table. Trixie fights to maintain the composure she found so easy when her daughter was merely accusing her of hiding a malicious secret. Midnight looks between the two of them, more lost by the second. At long last, looking at Twilight involves ducking her head under the table.
“...Momma? What's wrong?”
“...There 'he' is, sweetie.” Trixie tries to clear her throat in vain, “Under the table.”
Three things follow. The first is the sound of a pony striking her head on the underside of a table. The second is the rattling of half empty teacups. The third is a very freaked out young voice exclaiming, “Wh-wh-wh-wh-what?”
Neither one of her mothers can meet her gaze. She can see them trying to, but to no avail. Nor can either seem to keep their faces in their proper color.
“W-well,” Twilight manages at last, “We... had help from Luna.”
“But... that doesn't... you can't... how?”
“We're magicians.” she tries again. Anything to get a simple answer accepted.
Midnight's eyes narrow. She can smell something fishy. Curiosity gnaws at her like a starved hound. Just what are they keeping from her? At long last, Trixie lowers her head in defeat.
“Do you remember when you found that book in our bedroom, and we grounded you for a week?”
“That was a gift. From your other mother. There's a spell in there, that... lets a pony...” her mouth hangs open, searching for the most delicate words, “...explore their 'other half.'”
“So,” Twilight gulps, “That night, I was a...”
Midnight's eyes pop out of their sockets.
Midnight is staring at a card emblazoned with intricate glyphs interweaving around the border and surrounding a cloaked figure. A gasp catches in her throat. The card tells a story. It tells many stories; every story. But its one story only that she can hear, about a night full of doubts and truths, and one life changing realization...
“Midnight, honey, won't you please come out? You're going to miss dinner.”
“I don't care! I'm not coming out; I don't want to see you!”
She can hear her momma sigh even through the closed door. It's a sad sound, almost enough to make her feel pity. Almost.
“You don't have to be embarrassed. Lots of ponies don't have their cutie marks at your age.”
“I DON'T WANT A CUTIE MARK!”
Fresh tears pool in Midnight's eyes as she listens to the sound of momma's breathing, and the half formed words sticking in her mouth as she tries to restart the conversation. The teenaged pony pulls the covers tightly over her body and wraps herself in an invincible bubble that seals her off from the whole big stupid world. Finally she gets what she's been waiting for: the dejected 'clop clop' of hoofsteps leading away from the door, fading away into nothing.
“It's not fair,” she whimpers, “I don't want it to happen. Why does it have to happen?”
Inside her impenetrable blanket fortress, time stands still. The world, no, the universe ends at its satiny purple borders and there is only Midnight. There is no Ponyville, no Canterlot, nopony praising her for learning magic spells, no crippling weight of expectation. It is safe and warm, without questions or the search for stupid answers she doesn't really believe. There is no future. In here she is free from all pressures, free to be. Not to be herself; she has no idea who that is. Just to be, in this dark purpley world where there is only Midnight.
Her stomach growls. She curls up more tightly than ever before, squeezing her eyes tight in defiance of her bodily needs. There is no warm table full of smiling faces waiting downstairs. No, there is no downstairs. And there is definitely no smell of sauteed rose petals with... is that hay fries? Darn it stomach, you traitorous fiend. With a displeased groan she leaves one reality for another, and walks downstairs to where her mothers are waiting.
“Are you feeling any better?” Twilight's voice is full of concern.
“Can we help?”
“Could you at least tell us what's wrong?”
“How the hay can such smart ponies be so stupid?” Midnight seethes with adolescent rage, “My special talent is magic!”
Trixie shares a bewildered glance with her partner. “But you've always had so much fun learning from us. You're not happy?”
“Why would I be happy? My 'special talent' is being just. Like. You! Who would want that? My whole life is going to be about living up to the 'Great and Powerful' Trixie and Twilight Sparkle! Or, oooh, maybe I'll get lucky and they'll only be comparing me to the princess of the moon!”
She huffs, out of breath, trembling as her parents wait patiently for her to let it all out. It's Twilight who finally speaks.
“Well, what if you're wrong?” she asks.
“I'm not wrong! How could I be wrong?”
“You don't have your cutie mark yet. So really, it could be anything.” She offers her daughter a soft smile.
“You're just saying that...”
“Well, we could always try predicting your future.” Now it's Trixie's turn to smile. It's always somehow more disturbing when she does that, like the particular turn her mouth takes is some sort of bad habit from her past. “It's always better to know for sure, right?”
Midnight rolls her eyes as Trixie summons a deck of cards from a cutesy puff of smoke. She knows exactly where this is going, and it is so like her mother: now would come the big theatrical display, and at the last second she would “amaze” with something silly. Midnight would laugh, and the world would be well. Not this time. No way. But... something makes her sit through it all anyway.
She watches with a detached boredom as the deck floats in front of Trixie, surrounded in a silvery blue light. Each card separates from the others, spins and twirls and dances about its unicorn master, until they form a ring around her that glows like a halo of magic. Trixie casts her forelegs to the sky dramatically, and the cards pile together again and shuffle.
“The Arcana is the means by which all is revealed,” It's the best stage voice she's had in years. She offers the deck to her daughter, “Choose.”
Not much point in thinking about it. One card comes off the top, and flips over to reveal... she grimaces. The First Arcana – The Magcian.
“Attaining one's dream requires stern will and determination.” Trixie intones, her eyes flashing briefly with triumph. Somehow, Twilight already has a book open.
“Huh. Did you know that The Magician symbolizes a pony's potential? It showcases their ability to grow, and change into something extraordinary...”
Midnight is bewildered. She blinks. “So... my talent is...?”
“Magic, of course.” Twilight smiles, “It's in your blood, it's where you come from. But it's what you do with your gifts that makes you you. Look at that card closely, and tell me what you see.”
Unbelievable. The filly blinks rapidly, almost forgetting to breathe in her bewilderment. Obediently, she peers down at the tarot card sitting in front of her. There is a pony silhouetted against the moon, reared onto his hind legs and casting some sort of spell while a cloak billows in the wind. Nothing out of the ordinary. But then she sees it.
“That's an earth pony!”
“Magic is an amazing thing, Midnight. It takes whatever form you can dream of. Your special talent will carry you to places Trixie and I could never dream of going...”
Pieces of a puzzle fit into place, and there is... relief? A tightness in her chest Midnight did not realize was there unwinds all at once. She smiles, and looks down at the magical earth pony again. Her eyes narrow. Magic, huh?
“Wait a second... you set all of this up, didn't you? You were planning that whole stupid speech!”
Her parents both just smile. They got her gooooood. The moment passes in favor of a delicious dinner, and soon everypony is enjoying some quality time together before bed. That night, underneath the protective shield of purple satin covers, a card bearing the shadowy form of a cloaked earth pony appears on Midnight's flank.
Midnight is staring at two photographs of herself, sitting side by side. On the left, she is attempting to hide herself and a gorgeous deep blue gown behind the laughing form of her Aunt Rarity. On the right, she is smiling awkwardly for a photographer, still wearing that same gown. She is standing next to the ever-graceful Princess Celestia, whose lips are upturned in the most serene smile a pony could imagine. These pictures tell a story, about a rather infamous dinner that taught a certain young unicorn a lesson about family...
“Hold still, darling. If we don't get this fastened properly we'll have to start all over!”
“Everything... getting dark...”
“Ooh, but this is so exciting! I haven't had the chance to show off any new fashions in so long, and here you are dining with the Princess!” Rarity's eyes sparkle with delight as she pulls a strap a little tighter, oblivious to the strained squeaks of her subject.
“With my last breath... I curse... whoever invented... eep! Corsets.” The words coming from Midnight are pure falsetto. There is a final loud snap, and precious, precious oxygen finds its way to her lungs. She sucks it down greedily.
“There we go. Simply divine!” Rarity smiles happily as she admires her work. She peers critically at the ensemble, from the delicate blue and gold trim that trails along the ground to the glistening new horseshoes that glinted in the light of her boutique, to the corset she had just spent so much time tightening to show off the lovely figure the young Midnight had just grown into. Everything marvelous. Still, she frowns.
“I-is something wrong, Aunt Rarity? Is my mane out of place?”
“Hm? Oh, no no no. There's just something missing, and I'm not sure... ah!” Her face lights up again and she dashes off to some unseen part of the store.
Midnight swallows nervously, fighting the urge to use this opportunity to dash right out the door. She can feel pins and needles all over her body, although a cursory glance suggests there's only actually one sticking into the dress. She plucks it out anyway, not that it helps. In another second Rarity has returned, a necklace adorned with a gaudy sapphire in her mouth. She has it fastened around the young mare's neck in a flash.
“There we go, perfect!”
“Th-thanks, but... oh goodness, I don't know if I can do this! What if I upset her? What if I say something stupid and she locks me in a dungeon? Sh-she wouldn't lock me in a dungeon... would she?”
“...It must run in the family.” Rarity shakes her head in bewilderment. “Darling, you'll be fine. This is Princess Celestia you're going to see! You practically grew up around her you silly, silly filly.”
“Yeah, but... it's been forever and I don't know what to say and --”
There's a knock on the door. A signal that it's time to go. Rarity nods encouragingly.
“Just be yourself. And have fun! I want to hear all about the goings on in Canterlot when you get back!”
The flight to Canterlot is nerve wracking in the extreme. The pegasus escort pulling her chariot are as curt and professional as their reputation suggests, and Midnight is left with nothing to do but stare at the Equestrian countryside below her and worry that the wind will knock something on her dress out of alignment. She's not sure how much time passes, but it feels like years. Finally, she is on the ground again, among the alabaster towers of the Canterlot palace. More aloof pegasus guards lead her inside to a room with a long table and a certain pony of importance. They bow and back out without a word.
Celestia is, of course, beautiful. She towers over Midnight, the pastel blues and pinks of her mane flowing in a breeze that nopony can feel. Nervously the young unicorn bows, and nervously she approaches until she is standing directly in front of the monarch and smiling sheepishly. The Princess locks eyes with her, staring not at her so much as through her. Ancient eyes that have seen the rise and fall of more than a thousand years pierce her soul, almost as if she's looking into the past, seeing something or somepony that had stood in this place in days gone by. Midnight has no idea if Celestia finds what she is looking for, but after a long while, the princess' face brightens with a smile that is every bit as beautiful as the dawn.
“I'm so glad you could make it. It's been too long since I've seen you.”
“I-it has, Your Highness.”
“Please, there's no need to be so formal. I have everypony else to call me royalty.” She chuckles. There is the tiniest flash of disappointment in Celestia's eyes, but her smile remains unbroken.
“Oh. Um... right. Sorry, uh, Princess?” Midnight squirms in the awkward silence that follows. Servants pour into the room before another word can be said, laying out a variety of wonderful looking foods on the table, and shuffling out as quickly as ponyly possible.
“Midnight dear, I know you haven't seen me in years, but you still call my sister 'mom'. You don't need to worry about formal titles with me any more than she would.”
“Well, I can't just call you Celestia!”
“Oh no?” The changes on the alicorn's face are as subtle as ever, but to one looking closely she seems rather playful at this point, “Well, when you were little you gave me another name which I quite liked. Why don't call me that?”
“A name I gave you? I don't... oh no.” She blushes brightly and tries her hardest to stuff her mouth so full of food that further conversation is impossible.
The sounds of the sun-princess' laughter reminds Midnight of ringing bells. A series of chimes that sound bright and clear in a musical fashion nopony would ever dream of conducting. And here is this being of supernatural grace, the bringer of the dawn, looking at Midnight (herself almost totally grown up!) with growing insistence and expecting her to call her... no, no! She couldn't possibly! Every part of it feels wrong, a-and... she swallows, and flattens her ears against her head.
“G-Gammy Cestya?” She shakes like a leaf as the fillyhood name springs from her lips.
“Yes, that's the one!”
The blood is all rushing to Midnight's head along with the unreal levels of embarrassment flowing through her veins. Oh, if somepony heard her say that, she'd just die! And yet, there is something about the way Celestia had perked up that made it feel... right. Childish? Silly? Yes. But still right. The pair settle into a sort of ease as they begin to eat. The conversation drifts from topic to topic, controlled almost entirely by Celestia and mostly asking about the things Midnight has been up to. How is her schooling? Are her parents well? Has she been up to any mischief lately? Oh goodness, now there's a topic they linger on forever!
For every 'Princess' that slips out of the young unicorn's mouth there is a gentle cough from across the table, and a nod that coaxes the name from so long ago back out as a correction. Midnight's entire face is redder than a sunset, but as the meal wears on, a little smile starts to sneak onto her face every time the words come out. And so the evening wears on...
“...And then she just burst into flame right in poor Fluttershy's hooves. Philomena certainly has an interesting sense of humor, wouldn't you agree?”
“No offense, Gammy Cestya, but your pet is kind of a jerk.” Midnight laughs, until it crosses her mind what had just slipped out so free and easily. “U-um... can I ask you something?”
“What is it?” Celestia tips her head ever-so-slightly toward the young pony before her.
“Are we... family?”
“What does your heart tell you?”
Midnight closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. Then another. And another. “...Yes.”
“That's certainly a relief.” laughs Celestia, “You can imagine the gossip that would spread if word got out I was inviting strange young mares into my chambers and asking them to call me pet names.”
Midnight is sipping from a glass of juice when those words fully process. Suddenly that juice is coming out her nose.
“M-maybe I should just switch to Celestia.”
Midnight feels a wing wrap around her, warm and comforting. She leans into the princess and smiles.
“I'll treasure any name you give me, as long as it's coming from your heart.”
Dear Princess Celestia,
I am happy to report that my daughter has finally settled on attending the university in Canterlot. I could not be more proud of her. To mark the occasion, enclosed is my final report on the Magic of Friendship:
I have learned that the bonds that link you with your friends are stronger than anything else in this world. But more than that, a friend isn't just somepony you like to spend time with, she's a missing piece of your heart that you didn't know you were missing until she hands it back to you. And even though it's easy to forget sometimes, the bonds you share with close family are exactly the same as the ones you forge with your best friends. And with all our hearts linked together, no amount of distance can ever keep a pony from sharing every moment of her life with her friends.
What are you doing, Twilight? Aren't you getting a little old to be sending these reports to the Princess? She must be sick to death of them by now! And you really going to end on a line that tacky? If I'd ever ended a show like that they would never have let me back on stage!
Oh be quiet, you! Celestia loves my letters! And this one's special, because it's... oh good lord. SPIKE! WHY ARE YOU STILL WRITING ALL THIS DO--
Had anypony been awake to hear it, they would have been struck dumb by the sheer mirth of the laughter pouring out of Midnight's dormitory. As it was, she was left to keep it all to herself. She shook with wave after wave of giggles as she stared down at the final pages of that magical book her mothers had snuck in with her things. Her cheeks grew wet, and little spheres of saltwater shimmered in the air as they splashed their way down where the letter would normally have concluded with a 'Twilight Sparkle' had a certain dragon not been such a prankster.
She found herself again glancing out the open window at the stars. Ponyville was so far away, but she had never really left it. Her eyelids grew heavy, and she tucked the book reverently under one of her forelegs, slipping under the blankets and letting her head rest on her favorite pillow. And as she felt the weight of the fabric against her, she realized that it was more than just a blanket. It was something so much more than that.
And she slept soundly, snuggled up with the ponies she cared for more than anything else in all the world...
Cries In The Autumn Wind
Pt.1 "The Best Birthday Ever"
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" shouted Autumn's parents as they opened her bedroom door.
Autumn Dancer, now five years old, jumped with glee as her parents presented her with a small box, clad in white with a red ribbon around it.
"What is it?" the little orange filly asked.
"You have to open it up and see, honey." chuckled her mother.
As she untied the ribbon and tore off the packaging, Autumn's eyes widened, and her father took a picture of her with his camera. She caught a glimpse of a small pendant, embroidered in garnet. Staring at the beautiful piece of jewelry she could only manage a few words.
"Oh, it's pretty!" She gasped.
"It was an old necklace I used to wear when I was little" said her mother. "I had Rarity help me turn it into a locket. Here." She motioned her to flip it on it's side. "See? It's a picture of all three of us, honey!"
As the locket hinged open, a small photograph of Autumn and her parents displayed itself in the center of the locket.
"I love it! Thank you mommy and daddy!" The little unicorn beamed up at her parents as she tried it on.
"You're very welcome, pumpkin. We want you to wear this all the time. That way, we are always close to your heart, even if we're not here to see you. "replied her father.
"I will! It's so pretty! Thank you!" squealed the filly enthusiastically.
Autumn Dancer was a young unicorn who had the dreams of one day becoming a great magician. She long been able to use simple spells like lifting light objects and opening doors. Her dexterity with lifting spells had been getting better as of late, so she was one of the few fillies who could write using magic at her age, and especially impressive coming from a unicorn who's father was an earth pony. Her parents had always been very supportive of her interest in magic. Most parents in Ponyville were nowadays, considering the family that lived in the Ponyville Library. As soon as Autumn calmed down, her mother trotted over to her and sat down next to her.
"Autumn dear, you know your father has to work today, right? And I know I promised to spend the day with you, but something very important has come up." As soon as Autumn heard those words, her bright, happy smile degenerated into a questioned frown, and then a desperate stare.
"But why?" she pleaded. The words combined with the expression she wore on her face was almost enough to make tears well up in her mother's eyes.
"Well you see, honey, grandma isn't feeling very well and I need to go and check up on her."
Gracious' mother, also a unicorn, has been sick lately and needs someone to look after her. A normal, everyday task...except for the fact that she lives in Canterlot.
"I'm sorry dear, but you know grandma loves you very much. But guess what? I'm going to have Auntie Lotus come over and spend the day with you!"
Lotus, who worked at the Ponyville spa with Gracious as well as her own sister, Aloe, was Gracious' best friend and Autumn's god-mother. Autumn had always loved spending time with Lotus. After hearing she would be coming over, the bad feelings she felt from knowing her momma couldn't spend the day with her had all but disappeared.
"Auntie Lotus is coming over!? We're gonna have so much fun!" She jumped up and down with excitement.
"You didn't think we'd just leave you here all by yourself on your birthday did you?" laughed her father. "I'm sorry I can't spend more time with you, pumpkin, but daddy's gotta go to work now. Have a great birthday!"
Ember Dasher, Autumn's father, worked as a firepony, and spent many long hours at work. Autumn was used to missing her daddy, but understood he had a very important job, and looked up to him as her hero. The big red earth pony gave his daughter a fond neck-hug, and trotted out of her room, headed for work, leaving mother and daughter alone.
"Have a good day daddy!" shouted the little filly as he walked out of the room.
"You too, pumpkin." replied the stallion, as he made his way down the hallway.
"Okay honey, let's get your hair done." said Gracious, as she picked up a brush using her magic. "You have a big day ahead of you!" She began brushing her daughter's messy, bed-headed blonde mane into a recognizable form.
"Mommy? When do you gotta go see grandma?" Autumn asked as she flinched from the assault of the brush.
"Just as soon as Auntie Lotus comes. She should be here soon.”
"Is grandma gonna be okay?" Autumn asked with one eye clenched shut.
"I think she'll be fine, honey. She just needs my company while she's trying to get better." She said, as she finished brushing her daughter's mane. "There! You're all done, honey!"
Autumn hopped down from her bed and put her new pendant back on. "You look so pretty, Autumn." Said Gracious, with a tender smile.
After their morning rituals, mother and child sat down to a breakfast of Autumn’s favorite morning-time specialty. Sweetgrass pancakes drizzled in maple syrup with a delightful rose tea she enjoyed more than anything. Autumn greedily gobbled down every morsel as though she would never get the chance to ever again, much to the amusement of her mother.
Shortly after breakfast, Lotus had arrived, following the sounds of potware and dishes clanging in the kitchen.
"Hello sweetheart! Happy birthday!" She chimed as she walked into the dining room.
"Auntie Lotus!" Shouted Autumn, as she ran up to hug her, almost knocking her off balance.
"Oh my! You know I couldn't miss your birthday, darling!” Lotus smiled down at her affectionate little assailant. “My, you're getting so big! You'll be all grown up before I know it!"
Gracious looked on as the two seemed so natural in their embrace. She really was glad she decided to ask Lotus over for Autumn’s birthday. Although Lotus was a frequent visitor to their home, it seemed like she was there to save the day.
After exchanging a few goodbyes and hugs, Gracious set out for Canterlot, and the other two ponies were left at home.
"So how did you like your present, darling?" asked the pink and blue earth pony as she settled into the old worn out couch in the living room.
"I love it! Mommy said she had some help from Rarity!" chirped the little filly.
"Ooh is this true? Well then I'll have to take extra care of her next time she stops in for helping make my favorite filly so happy! And you know what? I have something for you as well, darling." Lotus said, with a devious smile. "I'm taking you to see The Great And Powerful Trixie's show tonight! It will be magnificent!"
Autumn could hardly contain her excitement upon hearing those words. She had never been to one of Trixie's shows before.
"No way! You're the best, Auntie Lotus!" Screamed the tiny filly as she ran up and hugged her again. "This is going to be so much fun! I can't wait to go!"
Trixie had been putting on magic shows and telling stories since Twilight Sparkle had helped her recover after her return to Ponyville. Since then, the two had become a couple, and surprisingly, even parents! Their daughter, Midnight, was about Autumn's age. After Trixie’s recovery from foaling, she had gone back to doing her shows, now with the inspiration of having her own family. Autumn had always wanted to go and see one of her performances. Trixie was a genius in Autumn's eyes. She had wanted to be able to do magic just like her for a long time and often mimicked her stage mannerisms from seeing her in newspapers and fliers. To get to see Trixie performing a show on her birthday was nothing short of a dream come true for her.
There was still quite some time until the show, and it was Autumn's birthday, so Lotus decided they should spend the day doing things Autumn enjoyed. Autumn showed Lotus what she had learned about magic, thoroughly impressing the mare. They played all manner of games outside. Hopscotch, hide and seek, and they even went to visit her father at work later in the day. He was happy to see her, and greeted her with a big hug.
"How's my little birthday girl doing today?" he asked as he lazily gazed at something on his desk, not wanting to admit being busy.
"Good!" She replied with excitement "Daddy, guess what! Auntie Lotus is taking me to see Trixie tonight!" She bragged, as her father worked on something.
"Is that right? I'm excited for you, pumpkin! I'll have to lend my camera to Lotus!" he heartily laughed as he craned his neck to meet her eyes.
They were in her daddy's room, and his locker was open. He had wallpapered it with photographs of her and her mother, in chronological order. At the top there were old photos of her parents when they were younger as well as photos of herself when she was a tiny foal, and as her eyes scrolled down the sides of the metal she got older. There was a photo of him and Gracious when they were on their first date, and in it she was wearing her pendant. There were dozens of photos from their wedding followed by photos of Autumn when she was a newborn leaving Ponyville Urgent Care. There was a photo of her on her first birthday, and she had cake all over her face. Her second birthday photos had her in a pretty dress littered with punch stains. Her third birthday photos were taken at Sugar Cube Corner and Pinkie Pie was in almost all of them, making faces. There was only one photo from her fourth birthday and it was one of her in front of a big Happy Birthday banner. Her father had made the mistake of letting Autumn hold the camera for a minute after that picture had been taken.
Autumn giggled at the memories. Her daddy even had photos of when she first learned to use magic as well. She was about halfway down the bottom of the locker when she saw the snapshot he had just taken of her this morning as it's last entry.
"Daddy, you have a lot of pictures of me and mommy!" She said in amazement.
"Yes I do, pumpkin. I spend so much time here, that I miss you both. This way I can look in my locker and see you whenever I miss you." He replied with a big smile.
After Autumn and Lotus had left the fire station, it was just about time for Trixie's show to start, and the two wasted no time in making their way to the town square where a gigantic stage had been set up for the showmare's act. Autumn was hardly able to contain herself as she and Lotus found a good place in the audience just as the show was about to begin.
"Here, darling" Lotus helped the little pony climb on to her back so she would have the perfect vantage point to see Trixie and her performance, and with that the lights had dimmed, signaling the start of the show. Autumn forcibly calmed herself. She tried to think of this as more than just an opportunity to see the Great and Powerful Trixie perform right in front of her, but also, hopefully, a rare chance to try and learn some advanced magic tricks. She focused on the stage and setting as hard as she could with that thought in mind.
"Here we go!" Lotus whispered excitedly.
As if it were a cue, a voice rang out over the audience.
"Come one, come all! Come, and witness the amazing magic of the Great and Powerful Trixie!" echoed a magically enhanced voice. With a flash of light, Trixie appeared in a dramatic cloud of smoke and fireworks, seemingly out of thin air, a brilliant smile spread wide across her face and wearing her trademark starry hat and cloak. Autumn immediately began to unintentionally loosen her contemplative posture as she watched Trixie somehow make the enormous stage seem so much smaller than it was before she appeared. Trixie waved to the already applauding audience. As they cheered, Trixie's horn began to glow softly and a second later, a bouquet of roses appeared before the crowd. Trixie slowly grabbed the beautiful flowers and offered them to a certain lavender-coated unicorn in the front as her daughter clapped happily atop her back. Autumn's attempt to try and study Trixie had vanished as quickly as it came. Her eyes already locked onto the charismatic blue unicorn.
"Tonight, the Great and Powerful Trixie shall regale onto you the tale of the most beautiful and magical unicorn in all of Equestria! Together, with her courageous friends, she ventured forth through the perilous Everfree Forest with all it's dangers and mysteries to free the Princess of the Moon from the bonds of hatred that had held her prisoner for so long!"
It was a popular story among ponies in Ponyville. Autumn, completely captivated, couldn't avert her gaze as Trixie began to cast her magic into the evening sky. As the illusory visage of six ponies made their journey through the night sky, The awe-struck filly could only watch in amazement as Trixie wove her tale. The spectral illusions having triumphed over several tasks presented to them, making their way through the fabric of reality around the crowd as Trixie narrated. ‘Oohs’ and ‘aahs’ could be heard from all directions. It was quite an extravagant spectacle. As Trixie's story drew to its conclusion, she bowed and gleamed arrogantly.
"And so ends my tale. But not my legend." Trixie smiled, absorbing the looks of amazement and anticipation from the crowd.
"Fillies and gentlecolts, they say a good magician never reveals her secrets. But some secrets are all the more mysterious for being told. Tonight, let me tell you where my stories come from. It's the stars!" she motioned the crowd to look up into the night air.
"Yes, the stars are the first storytellers. If you so much as look up, they will tell you all they can from times when even Canterlot was just a far off dream. But to listen, to really listen...you have to walk among them" Trixie paused. "What I am about to show you has never been seen before by equine eyes. They say of Trixie that she is 'no longer a star'. Well tonight, she will become one. When next we meet, I shall regale with you tales the likes of which have never crossed pony ears...or eyes." Autumn was so blown away by the performance she thought it was over...Until...
Trixie began to glow in the night air, transcending reality. Slowly she became something phantasmal. As Autumn and Lotus watched, mouths agape, Trixie's form became more and more unstable until it began to lift off the stage. Higher and higher into the sky until the silhouette spouted a flaming tail, and eventually exploded into a spectacular firework display.
Autumn cheered until her voice hurt and Lotus couldn't help but join in with the rest of the crowd as they stamped their hooves in a rolling wave of applause. This was definitely the best birthday present Autumn could ever have gotten. She was so excited she wished the moment could never end.
The curtain fell, signaling the end of the show, and the thunderous applause finally began to die down.
As Autumn and Lotus began to leave, Autumn noticed the sounds of what sounded like crying, and not the happy kind of crying. As Lotus led her away from the bustling crowd, Autumn strained to look in the direction of the sorrowful whimpering. It was Midnight, clutched around Twilight Sparkle's neck wailing in grief. Autumn couldn't fathom why Midnight would be so sad about seeing her own mother at her show, but before she could say anything about it, Lotus had called out to her.
"Autumn dear, stay with me!" She was about to get lost in the sea of ponies cramming around her. The tiny filly rushed quickly through the crowd as to meet back up with Lotus.
It was getting very late as the two ponies meandered their way towards Autumn's home through the cobblestoned streets of Ponyville, in no particular hurry.
"Trixie is the most awesome magician in all of Equestria! That was the best show ever! Thank you soooo much for taking me to see her, Auntie Lotus!" squeeled Autumn as she trotted alongside Lotus.
"You're quite welcome, darling! Did I not say it would be magnificant?" Lotus smiled.
"I just wish mommy and daddy could have been there. They would have-" Autumn paused to yawn "yaahhhhh! ...loved it." Autumn was beginning to look very fatigued. It was long past her bedtime.
"Oh darling, you must be so tired. Here, climb up and I'll take you home." As Lotus carried Autumn home, she began to hear her steady breathing turn into soft snoring. Autumn had fallen asleep right in her back.
"Oh your poor thing. Let's get you into bed, darling." When Lotus had reached the front door to Autumn's house, she noticed that the lights were on inside.
"Grace must be home by now." she whispered to herself. As she opened the door, Gracious looked at her and her daughter with an contented look on her face.
"Thank you so much for everything today, Lotus. You really are the best friend a pony could ever have." Gracious hugged the blue mare.
"It's quite alright, dear. I enjoy spending time with you and little Autumn. You're like family to me after all." Lotus whispered, as the two mares quietly made their way to Autumn's room.
"So, how did she like the show?" whispered Gracious.
"I had never seen her so excited for anything in my life, darling, and it truly was an astonishing performance. She loved it." Lotus grinned.
After they had tucked little Autumn in to bed, the two mares sat side by side on the old couch and reminisced over all sorts of topics until late in the night and into the morning. Old friends, moments of weakness, memories of school, memories of Autumn, all sorts of things.
"Well," yawned Lotus "It certainly is getting late, Grace. I should be heading home." Gracious was about to fall asleep as well.
"Yeah, you're right. Listen, thanks again for taking Autumn for the day. It meant a lot to her. I'll see you tomorrow, Lotus."
Gracious gave her friend one last hug, and Lotus sleepily made her way outside.
As soon as Lotus was a speck in the distance, Gracious slowly trotted up the stairs and down the hallway and stopped in front of her daughter's bedroom, glancing in. Autumn was sound asleep. She quietly trotted over and gave Autumn a loving nuzzle.
“Happy birthday, honey.” She whispered before heading off to bed herself.
Cries In The Autumn Wind
Pt.2 "Line In The Sand"
It was a gorgeous fall morning, and Autumn had just woken up from a deep slumber. As she yawned and shook the disheveled blond hair out of her face, she staggered out of bed, walked down the hallway, and down the stairs to see her mother making breakfast.
"Good morning, mommy." yawned the little unicorn with a groggy look, still half-asleep.
"Good morning, sweetie! How was she show last night? Auntie Lotus said it was amazing!" Gracious said with a grin. Autumn perked up a little.
"It was! I had a lot of fun! Trixie's the most amazing unicorn in the world! You should have seen it, mommy! She..."
Autumn went on and on about the show, recapping moments where she almost fell off of Lotus' back in amazement and times when she had almost drooled on herself staring at Trixie's paranormal figures in the night air. She particularly liked how she described Everfree Forest and all of it's mysteries. She had never heard of a manticore before, and all of the scenery and flora seemed wonderful to her. The Ancient Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters was also there. That's where Princess Celestia and Princess Luna lived so long ago. It couldn't be all that bad! As she trailed off in thought, her mother grabbed her attention once again.
"Honey, are you alright?" she asked with a quizzical smile.
"Yeah, Mommy. I was just thinking about something." Autumn replied with one last yawn.
"Haha, okay then. What do you say we get that fixed, huh?" she replied to a confused filly. "Your hair's a mess, dear!" Gracious looked at her bedraggled mane with a fond grin. "Let's get you all cleaned up and you can tell me more about last night."
After mother and child had finished their meal, they sat and brushed each others manes while Autumn continued to babble on about the show Trixie put on last night. It's all the tiny unicorn could think about, but her mother didn't mind. While she was having her mane brushed, she noticed her mother was using magic other than the lifting spell. Autumn began to smell a familiar scent. Rose petals. Her mother was using a scent magic on her!
"Mommy, how do you do that?" she asked with surprised look on her face.
"Oh Autumn, I do this all day at work. It's not that hard, really. I bet you could even do it!" Gracious giggled.
"Really!? Show me mommy, show me!" She bounced with a familiar enthusiastic smile.
"Okay, then. Let's try this. You see these flowers?" Her mother pointed at a nearby planter. It had a row of lilacs in it. "Try and focus on the smell of these flowers, dear." Autumn did as she was told with a nod. As she was focusing on them, her mother began giving instructions.
"Alright, now pick something in the room and focus on it. You have to try and combine the object and the scent using your magic."
Autumn nodded in affirmation, and thought about using her pendant, but decided to use her father's chair as her target instead. Autumn's eyes clenched shut in concentration. As her small horn began to glow, her mother's attention was caught, but before she could stop her.
Poof! A large, thick cloud of dusty smoke enveloped the living room and poured into the other parts of the house. As the two ponies coughed and meandered through the smoke, they staggered out the front door with Gracious laughing at the sheer mirth of the situation. Autumn didn't seem as pleased as her mother.
"I'm sorry mommy, I didn't mean to use that much magic! I was trying too hard..." she pleaded.
"It's alright honey, it's alright! You did a great job!" Gracious laughed, and Autumn looked at her mother in confusion "Smell that, dear?" Autumn sniffed at the air. The thick smell of lilacs filled her nostrils. She had worked herself up so much she had forgot to check if her magic had even worked!
"It worked, it worked, it worked!" Autumn bounded around her mother in triumph with her typical excitement.
"Yes it did, honey. Now you just need to practice on controlling how much magic you use." Her mother continued to laugh. As Autumn and Gracious shared the laughter, a deep voice broke the cachinnation.
"What happened here?" spoke Ember Dasher from behind them, carrying two huge saddlebags, clearly confused.
"Daddy!" Autumn shouted and darted up to give her father a hug.
"We had a little accident, dear. Your chair is going to smell like flowers for a while." Explained Gracious, still chuckling.
"Well as long as everypony's okay, I don't mind it!" The big red earth stallion gave a hearty laugh. "Actually, it gives me an idea. Since the house is like this, why don't we go for a picnic? It's almost lunch time and I'm sure hungry."
"That's a great idea dear." Replied a smiling Gracious as her daughter continued to hug her father. "I'll just go and-"
"I already got it covered, hun." Ember cut his wife off, and motioned towards his saddlebags. "I thought we could go and spend some time together to make up for yesterday. Whadaya say, pumpkin?" He looked at his daughter with a lazy smile.
“Sure daddy! That sounds like a lot of fun!" Autumn replied with glee.
Ember Dasher led led the family to a quiet field on the outskirts of Ponyville near the ridge of the Everfree Forest, close to Fluttershy's cottage, just far away enough to enjoy the beauty without fear of being in any danger. As Gracious and Ember Dasher set up the quilt, food, and refreshments, Autumn talker her father's ear off about Trixie's show. After she finished her final yarn, Autumn's father laughed.
"It sounds like one knockout performance, pumpkin! Now I'm jealous that I had to miss it!" his laughter fading into a smile. "Well, I hope Rarity and Lotus make it here soon. I don't want the food to get too cold." Ember had invited the two mares to the picnic to help spend the day with Autumn, but both of her parents were tired. Gracious had stayed up late talking to Lotus, and Ember was exhausted from work. They decided they didn't want to wait any longer. Autumn was very pleased at the decision. She was hungry!
As the three began to enjoy the meal, and each others company, it was becoming apparent that both parents were growing sleepier by the minute. Both Gracious and Ember we’re busy talking about issues at their jobs as Autumn scarfed down as much of her father’s barbecued food as she could, enjoying the smokey flavor.
Autumn was eating a lot. She loved her father's cooking. His was a bit more hearty and bold then her mother's. She took the opportunity, and ate as much as she could, so much that she was stuffed! Her bouncing, youthful energy was beginning to ebb at the feast, and it was warm out. A slight breeze tickled through the air. Everything was so serene. It wasn't long after that where Autumn decided to lie down for a minute. Knowing what that signified, her parents lied down beside her, and soon, Autumn had dozed off. Her parents quickly found themselves following suit, sleeping on either side of their dreaming daughter.
An hour passed. It was around mid-afternoon when Autumn awoke from her nap. She was surrounded by her loving parents, and she let out a happy little sigh as she roused herself into a sitting position. Surely nothing could be better then this moment, but after some time, Autumn was beginning to grow bored. She wanted to do something. Something to pass the time while her parents slept. Out of the corner of her eye she spotted Fluttershy's chicken coop. All the chickens busily bustling around their small enclosed yard, pecking at the ground for scraps of food. Autumn decided to have a closer look, since it seemed like it was the only interesting thing nearby.
As she neared the coop, the chickens began to grow weary of her presence. They all crowded to the other side of the fence, away from the unicorn. Autumn furrowed her brow. She wanted to see a chicken up close, so she followed the fence line until she reached the other side, by which time the chickens had doubled back to the other side.
A little disappointed and frustrated by the situation the chickens were causing her, she sighed and looked around. She noticed a slightly worn, dirt path leading into a direction outside the chicken coop, into the Everfree Forest.
Autumn's first instinct was to ignore the path, as her parents had told her to avoid it, as the place it lead to was dangerous and Autumn wanted to be a good girl and listen to her parents. But, then she thought of how descriptive Trixie had been when weaving her tale about Twilight and her friends' adventures through the Everfree Forest. She was reminded of all the mysteries it held inside.
Without knowing it, Autumn found her hooves guiding her into the direction of the forest, being drawn in by the allure of it's enigmatic secrets like a magnet. She wanted to see for herself what the forest was like, and as she entered, she felt a sense of obligation to turn around and return to her parents immediately, but didn't act upon it, too entranced by all the strange flora around her. She had walked a ways before beginning to notice a few plants she recognized in one of her mother's botany books once. She identified a row of leafy stalks with small, black berries as deadly nightshade. Autumn was frightened of the plant, and decided to keep her distance. She didn’t remember exactly how the plant was dangerous, only that it was true to it’s name.
Not far from there was the field of the infamous poison joke, something Autumn was tempted to get a closer look at. The petals on the flowering plants were a pretty, vibrant azure, but she reminded herself of the story Lotus once told her about. One of Twilight Sparkle and her friends' having all manner of 'pranks' pulled on them by the mischievous plant. Again, Autumn decided to leave the plant alone, veering off in another direction, trotting towards her unknown goal.
The air slowly grew colder. The wind whispered through the trees as Autumn continued her curious peregrination through the forest, stopping from time to time to examine a few curiosities. She was growing more comfortable with the serenity of this place that so many ponies considered dangerous.
Before long Autumn came upon a small cave. It was dark and damp, but Autumn could swear she heard something in the cave. Ever the curious pony, she moved closer to the entrance for a better look. As she peered inside, trying to allow her eyes to adjust to the darkness, she noticed a rather foul stench hanging in the air. It smelled worse than anything she had ever smelled before. She held her breath, she moved towards the direction of the sound.
It was pitch black, and she couldn't see a thing. She decided to try and use a light spell with her magic so she could have a look around. As she concentrated, her horn flickered, and within seconds, a light sprang forth, illuminating the cave. The direction Autumn was looking in happened to be right in front of the wall of the cave. As she turned to face what she thought was the depth of the cave, she saw something that made her freeze in her tracks, stricken with fear.
"W-w-w-wyvern!" she screamed...
As Autumn's mother groggily opened her eyes, she yawned as she felt the familiar weight of her husband shift behind her as he snored. She sighed and sat up to wake him. As she sat, she looked around the large crimson quilt. Oddly, Autumn was nowhere to be found. Feeling a sting of panic, Gracious shook her husband awake.
"Honey? Honey wake up!" she hoofed at his shoulder, and then continued in a slightly sterner tone. "Honey, where's Autumn?"
"Autumn? She's right...!" Ember Dasher was cut off by his own thoughts. "Autumn!" They both jumped up, looking around for their precious filly.
"Autumn! Autumn where are you? This isn't funny young lady! Come out!" her father called.
"Autumn, dear! Autumn where are you?!" her mother shouted, beginning to panic.
As the two frantically looked around for their daughter, they looked in the direction of Fluttershy's cottage, and quickly made their way towards it. Maybe Autumn had went to see Fluttershy? That must be it!
As they neared the small cottage, they heard a sound that could only be described as horrifying when heard, stopping them in their tracks just before the gate to Fluttershy’s. The sound of their daughter screaming off in the distance...that sound emanating from the Everfree Forest. Both parents' hearts rose into their throats.
As Autumn threw her hooves over her mouth in realization of the creature's close proximity, it's eyes flew open, and the beast let out a terrifying roar, and Autumn screamed as loud as she could. As the wyvern began to fling itself in a rage from being woken up by this little nuisance, it flared it's wings and bore it's teeth. Autumn, absolutely terrified, had only one reaction. Her horn began to glow brighter and brighter, until a overwhelming flash illuminated the cave, effectively blinding the wyvern who, up until that point, had been sleeping in the blackness of the cave. This only served to make the creature furious, and it began to throw itself around the cave as Autumn's tiny hooves began to work on their own. She wheeled in the opposite direction, and dug her hooves into the ground. In a second she was outside of the cave, with the blinded monster closely thrashing about behind her.
The wyvern may not be able to see her, but it could smell her just fine. It began to clumsily chase after the unicorn, thick with rage. It slashed wildly in her direction, missing her by a mile, then barely trimming her mane with it's powerful claws. Autumn had never been so scared in all her life. Her adrenaline kicked in big time, as she scurried as fast as she could away from the clawed monstrosity, barely escaping a terrible swipe. Another swing from it's spiked tail, yet another close call.
Autumn's mind wasn't responding normally. She couldn't focus on anything except what was in front of her. As she weaved between two trees, the monster crashed through them, getting stuck for a moment. Just long enough for Autumn to gain some ground, but to no avail. The wyvern was right on top of her in no time.
Fearing the end was near, Autumn tried to find something to hide behind. Anything. Anything that could help shield her. All there was were small bushes and trees. In that moment, Autumn began to think of her parents, of Lotus, of her studies. Everything she loved. Everything she was about to lose.
As the monster drew back to take another mighty swipe in her direction, Autumn only had the will to brace herself. She closed her eyes. This was the end, she thought. A loud thud was heard. The sound of the creature's claws connecting with something, but Autumn was fine. Was she dead? She dared to open her eyes, only to see a red pony, lying on the ground a few feet away from her, gasping for air.
"Daddy!!" Autumn cried in horror. Ember Dasher had used his own body as a shield to protect his daughter, and paid the price for his heroism.
"A-Autumn..." He gasped, his voice weak from the blow that the wyvern had landed. "Go... Run!" In that instant, Gracious had appeared from behind Autumn, shouting at her daughter to run away. She was awe-struck momentarily at the sheer size of the monster, flailing around in it's blinded fury.
"Autumn, come on!!" She frantically called waving her hooves about. Autumn didn't know what to do. If she left, the monster would surely kill her father, but if she stayed...
"I SAID RUN!" Her father screamed in a voice tinged with anger. Autumn was a bit shocked to hear this tone coming from her daddy, but not one to disobey her father, Autumn reluctantly wheeled around and ran for her mother.
The wyvern was keen. It smelled Autumn, and quickly lunged in her direction, but before it could connect with a blow, it was knocked off course when Ember Dasher landed a brutal kick to the side it the creature's head, collapsing from the pain afterward. As the wyvern regained it's balance, it became apparent that nothing in the world could possibly have been more furious. It lashed out at Ember Dasher with a mighty fling of it's tail, connecting with the stunned stallion, sending him hurtling through the air like a rag doll, slamming against a boulder with a sickening crack. He laid where he fell, motionless. Realizing it had won this battle from the mortal scent in the air, the beast continued it's pursuit.
Gracious and Autumn ran in the direction of Fluttershy's cottage with tears streaming down their faces from leaving Ember Dasher behind. Was he alright? Autumn had mental images going through her head like a photo album being quickly skimmed. She imagined her daddy triumphantly returning with only the most minor of wounds. Her father was a firepony. There was nothing he couldn't handle... right? As she thought and thought about her father, the high-pitched howls of a serpentine monster were drawing close to them. Autumn couldn't believe it! It had already caught up with them!
Gracious was beginning to piece the puzzle together. She noticed the wyvern couldn't see, and was after Autumn. She thought her daughter must have stumbled upon it somehow to anger it. As the monster became visible behind them in the brush, Gracious knew she had to act quickly if she would be able to save her daughter.
Her horn began to glow, as she stopped to concentrate. The clever mare thought to use her magic to mask Autumn's scent from their assailant so she might get away. It was a frantic, last-minute effort, but as she began to cast the spell, the creature had appeared and took a surprisingly fast lunge at Autumn. Moving faster then she thought possible, Gracious darted at her daughter, ramming her out of the way just in the nick of time, forcing the monster to miss it's target. The force of her mother threw the filly far, and as she fell, she landed against a tree trunk, banging her head. For a split second, the last thing Autumn saw was her mother, her horn glowing, the mare desperately shouting her name, before drifting away into a dizzy state of unconsciousness.
Driven to protect her child, Gracious began to cast her spell. She swiftly directed it at her daughter, and within a blink of an eye, it was completed. The monster paused for a second while righting itself, sniffing the air as it gained it's balance. Gracious stood quiet and still, moving her eye's focus between the wyvern, and her unconscious daughter. As it sniffed through the air, it was beginning to seem like Gracious' plan had worked...until the monster caught whiff of a scent it didn't like. Her own.
Without a second thought, it threw itself at her, talons open. Gracious began to try and mask her own scent, as she dodged the sudden charge, and just as she managed to finish the spell she was struck in the side by a sickening pound from the beast's tail, that sent the mare sprawling in the same direction as her daughter. Gracious let out a low groan before passing out.
Suddenly no longer able to smell the scent of either pony, the furious wyvern began to thrash around in random directions, hoping to hit something solid. It bashed into trees and tore into bushes, but hit nothing that felt like a pony. The brute, thinking the two ponies had gotten away somehow, tore through the forest in the opposite direction, quickly removing itself from the site of the carnage it laid.
Gracious slowly opened her eyes. She could feel there were broken bones, lacerations, and even worse damage, deep inside her, from the blow she had received. She could see her daughter, breathing slowly, and despite her grave injuries, a slow, serene smile crossed across her face. She was alright! She was going to be okay! The monster was gone, and her daughter was alive! She tried to crawl towards her precious filly, inch after painful inch. She wanted to hug her daughter, knowing that it would be the last time she would be able to do so. She had to embrace her one last time. Memories of when she was a foal flooded her mind vividly. She was cradling her in her hooves, with Autumn silently sleeping so peacefully, so beautifully. That feeling of love had never left.
Gracious stretched her hoof out despite the pain, and made contact with her daughter's mane. Within seconds, tears began to stream down her muzzle, but they were tears of happiness. Her daughter would be safe, and nothing else mattered. Gracious' eyelids became heavy, and she could feel her heart beating sluggishly in her chest, the life draining away from her. She tried to speak through her breathlessness. The only words that could come to mind. The words that never held a truer meaning.
Rarity and Lotus were hastily making their way in the direction of Fluttershy's cottage.
"Oh dear. I suppose I shouldn't have insisted on that pony-pedi. Now we're so late, oh I do hope they're still there." Rarity groaned out loud.
"They are, darling. I promised we'd be there. I know we're late, but when Lotus makes a promise, she keeps it." The blue mare proudly smiled. "Besides, I also promised Autumn I'd take care of you for helping with her locket, darling. That was very kind of you."
Rarity beamed with pride.
"Well, it was a magnificent piece if I do say so myself. Not in the best of shape when I first got it, but Rarity the unicorn is a master with gems and craft!"
Lotus rolled her eyes, but knew she was right. The locket really was beautiful, Rarity had done a wonderful job.
As the two mares neared their destination, they took note of a red quilt had been laid out in the field outside Fluttershy's home. Trotting up to it, they noticed the family wasn't anywhere around, but the food was still out.
"I wonder where those three could be." Thought Rarity out loud, looking in the direction of the cottage.
"They must have went to visit Fluttershy." Lotus answered.
The two moved in the direction of the shy pegasus' house, but when they got close to the entrance near the chicken coop, Rarity stopped, eyes focusing on something in the air.
"What's wrong, darling?" asked Lotus.
"My horn. I feel a gem nearby...." Rarity paused, focusing. Her eyes widened, and the tone of her voice grew worried, her eyes widening. "It's Autumn's necklace!"
"What's the matter, Rarity?" asked the slightly confused earth pony.
"It's coming from the Everfree Forest, Lotus! She's in the forest!"
Lotus almost stopped breathing, and the expression on her face contorted into a combination of realization and fear.
"We need to find her! Come on, Rarity!" she shouted as she charged into the forest with the fashionista in tow.
Autumn awoke in a daze, her head pounding. What had happened? Did they get away? She was still alive, so they must have...right? Autumn opened her eyes and sat up, looking at the tree in front of her. It had slash marks all over it, serving as a chilling reminder of the monster that was chasing her.
As Autumn turned her head she saw her mother, lying on the ground, her body battered.
"Mommy!!!" Autumn cried as she staggered over to her mother. "Mommy? Mommy wake up we gotta go." Autumn desperately nuzzled her mother, and there was no response.
"Mommy come on, stop playing around, we gotta find daddy and go home. Mommy, wake up!" she was beginning to cry. Frantically shaking her mother's shoulder. "Mommy please. Wake up, mommy..."
A long time passed while she tried to wake her mother up. Realizing she wasn’t going to get up, Autumn burst into tears, nuzzling under her mother. She was gone. Her mommy's warmth was gone. And where was her daddy? Was he gone too? All Autumn could do was cry. Wave after wave of tears flowed as she curled up next to her dead mother, wailing in agony. She was cold. An eerie cold Autumn had never felt before that brought with it a pain like no other. Autumn suffered as the new-found heartache robbed her of all happiness she ever had in her life.
As Rarity led Lotus in the direction her horn was taking her, she began to notice all sorts of damage done to the trees and foliage around her. Lotus felt a lump form in her stomach as she feared it had something to do with Autumn, and before long, her fears were realized as the two mares came to a grizzly scene of destruction with Autumn and Gracious in the middle of it all. Lotus couldn't move. Her face frozen in an unreadable expression.
"Oh Celestia no..." she half-whispered, voice breaking, as she saw Autumn, curled into a miserable ball under her mother's chest, whose lifeless body was covered in wounds.
The filly lifter her head. Her ordinarily cute face had been transformed into something absolutely destroyed from the bout of sorrow. Tears staining her fur in lines under her eyes a darker shade of orange. Her mane, frazzled and roughed up.
"Mommy...she's gone..." she mumbled through the tears.
Lotus' vision was becoming distorted with tears. She ran up to Autumn and tried to embraced her as the filly began to wail once again, but hesitated. An odd, yet disgusting thought crossing her mind. This was the last time she’d get to be with her mother in her entire life...
"I-I’m so sorry, darling... " Lotus almost choked on the words. She didn’t know what to do.
Rarity only looked on in disbelief as tears stained her muzzle as well. It was a scene she had hoped never to have to see in her whole life, and never wanted to see again.
The next day, after the bodies of Autumn's parents were retrieved from the forest, their funeral was held. Lotus and Rarity had spent the night trying to console the miserable child at her parents deaths, but it was useless. Just trying to pry her from her mother’s body was an emotional hurdle. She told the two mares what had happened with difficulty, and afterward there was a great, awkward silence before Autumn cried herself to sleep curled up against an equally miserable Lotus.
As the three entered the garden where the service was held, Autumn's eyes formed with fresh tears at the sight of the caskets.
"It's all my fault...If I had just listened to mommy and daddy they'd still be here and I wouldn't-" Autumn was cut off by an embrace from Lotus.
"Stop it, darling! I’ve told you already. It was not your fault." was all she could manage. Autumn stayed silent. Her words didn’t help. Her parents were still gone. It felt to Autumn like her body was wandering around as her spirit lied still in sorrow.
The service was short. Autumn didn't remember much of it, due to the thoughts of guilt scrambling through her head, and the constant tears. Much of it was spent in silence between the her and Lotus, who now had the responsibility of Autumn alone. She didn't care. All she wanted at that time was to be there for her. Her heart was shattered every time she looked at her goddaughter. She didn't know how she'd be able to handle such a sudden change in her life like parenthood, but in that moment, as the funeral drew it's close, Lotus had a spark of love ignite in her heart like no other she'd felt for the filly. She suddenly understood and felt an obligation fall on her and spoke, grabbing her new daughter's attention.
"Autumn. I swear to you I will never leave you. I will help you through this no matter what the cost, darling. Do you understand? It'll just be you and me." She cleared her face of all wetness. "You and I have always been like family, and now we truly are. Autumn, I love you, darling and I always will."
Although she couldn't bring herself to show it, Autumn, for the first time since yesterday, felt a wave of warmth fall over her like a thin blanket. She knew she wasn't truly alone, but it didn't help the way she felt until she heard Lotus say those words. As the two shared a long, tearful embrace, all Autumn could think about was those words: "Autumn, I love you, darling and I always will." It was then, she felt like she had someone who she still considered a parent. A guardian. Someone to look up to. Someone to talk to. In her heart she knew Lotus was sincere, and hugged her as hard as she could while she cried.
"I love you too Auntie Lotus."
After they left the funeral, Lotus took a still crying Autumn to get something to eat. A completely futile endeavor. She felt so miserable she couldn’t even bring herself to eat anything. Lotus felt awkward and terrible, so she decided to simply take Autumn home to rest. All of the events from the past two days that had been reeling through her head began to slow as Autumn put her situation into perspective. Her parents were gone, but at the very least, she still had a loving mare to look after her. She would be fine as far as safety goes. In the middle of that thought, Lotus trotted into the room Autumn was in. The filly was sitting on Lotus' bed, looking at her locket. She slowly walked over and sat down next to her.
"Darling, what do you think of all this?" Lotus tentatively asked.
"I...don't know, Auntie Lotus. I don't know what to do now." Autumn said staring down at the pendant. Lotus scooted closer to her on her bed.
"You know, darling, it's normal to feel like this after these sorts of things happen. You're going to feel sad for a long time, but I promise it will get a little easier. I'll be here to help you every step of the way too, just like I promised. Your parents wouldn't want to see you like this forever, you know. It would break their hearts." she reasoned with the filly.
"I guess you're right, Auntie, but what should I do? Just forget about my parents?"
Lotus shook her head and reached for her locket, opening it.
"This is a gift from your parents, darling. It's a reminder to you of the love your mommy and daddy have for you. They may have...passed on, but they'll never really be gone, darling. They will live on in our hearts and memories forever so long as you wear this."
Lotus was trying her best not to look sad in front of the filly. It wasn't just Autumn that had lost someone. Gracious was like a sister to her, and Lotus herself had been crying hard all night.
"I have an idea." Lotus spoke, drawing Autumn's eyes to hers. "You love magic, yes? Why don't I move all your books into the spare room and make it into a bit of a study? You could use it as an escape if you need to get away from all of these bad thoughts, honey."
Lotus used the name her mommy called her. Honey. She liked it. It felt right. Autumn thought long and hard on the mare's words.
"I think I'd like that, Auntie Lotus." She finally uttered, and for the first time since the picnic, Autumn managed to smile and that in turn got Lotus excited.
"Well then, what are we waiting for?! Let's get all of your books and things and I'll get started on it right away!" Lotus jumped up in a slight enthusiasm of seeing the filly perk up a bit from her suggestion. She reassured Autumn, petting her mane gently.
"You'll see, Autumn. Everything will turn out okay."
After all of her things were moved into the spare room, and Lotus had bought tables, candles, shelves, bookcases, and all sorts of other things for Autumn to utilize, Autumn decided to ask if she could make it her bedroom. The question didn't shock Lotus at all, and she agreed to move a large bed into the study so that Autumn could use this room as her own. All of her mother's botany books were moved in here as well, which Autumn held dear as keepsakes. She read them all dozens of times over the course of the next few months, as well as several books on magic, including spells, concentration, and all sorts of other various subjects.
Over time it was becoming apparent to Lotus just how obsessed Autumn was on the subject, and decided it would be a good idea to take her to the library to get her a card, knowing full well the library was well-stocked with books on the subject. Autumn was thrilled with the idea. Normally her parents and Lotus always went to get the books Autumn wanted, but with a library card she could go and get them herself.
As the two approached the library, Autumn was getting excited like she used to whenever her parents planned things for her. She was getting a giddy bounce in her trot. As the two trotted in through the front door, they were greeted by Spike, the baby dragon who helped as Twilight's assistant.
"Good afternoon ladies, what can I help you with today?" He smiled as he looked at the two standing in the doorway.
"Hello, we're here to get little Autumn here a library card of her own." Lotus answered with a proud smile. Spike coughed a little.
"Uhm, right... library card. Let me get the librarian for ya. She deals with this kind of stuff, not me." Spike answered, as he dashed off up the stairs to the head librarian's quarters.
The two sat there for a couple of minutes before Spike returned with the “librarian” Twilight Sparkle in tow.
"Good afternoon, Lotus. Spike tells me you want to get this child signed up for a library card, is that right?" Twilight asked with a degree of professionalism.
"Yes, darling. We need to get one for young Autumn here, so she can come and study all she wants." Answered the mare, who was trying to match the violet pony's tone.
"Well that sounds wonderful! Let me just go and get the paperwork and we'll have you your card in no time." the librarian replied cheerfully, clearly proud at the thought of the little filly wanting to study.
After Twilight returned with the paperwork that she was looking for, she placed it on a desk in front of the two and explained all the rules and restrictions involved with giving a pony as young as Autumn a card, after which she asked if Autumn understood everything she had told her and with an enthusiastic nod, Autumn agreed.
"Great! Now, all I'll need is your signature, sweetie." Twilight floated a quill in front of Autumn.
"Okay!" replied the filly as she levitated the quill using her magic and neatly signed her name in top of a line marked by an X.
"Wow, that's quite impressive, young lady! I only know of a few ponies that could write with magic at your age!" Twilight cooed with a look of surprise on her face, as she watched that quill float in the air. "I thought my daughter was the only one your age who could do that in Ponyville!"
At that moment, Trixie had walked into the library with the aforementioned daughter, the light purple filly who went by the name of Midnight following closely behind the vivid magician pony, both of them carrying bags of groceries.
"Twilight, honey, what's going on?" asked the midnight blue mare with a cheerful smile.
Midnight herself shifted slightly, looking curiously at the two new ponies. Growing up in a library, she had long since gotten used to the fact that ponies oftentimes visited her home
"We have a very talented young filly here! Trixie, meet Autumn Dancer. She's only five, and can already write with perfect dexterity using her magic!" Twilight bragged.
"Oh my! I thought Midnight was the only one her age in Ponyville that could do that! That's quite impressive. What was your name again, young mare?" Trixie asked flashing that grand showmare’s smile.
"Autumn Dancer, ma'am." Autumn was trying to hide her intense excitement from meeting Trixie for the first time. She couldn't hide it for long, as everything began to spill out, the filly beaming up at the showmare "It's such an honor to meet you, Ms. Trixie! I'm such a big fan of your magic! You're my hero!"
"A fan you say?. Well, it's always nice to meet fans, Autumn Dancer. And please, just call me Trixie." Trixie's smile changed shape from one of showmareship to one of fondness. There was something else in Trixies eyes, too, that Autumn couldn't place. Almost as if there was something that Trixie was recognizing in the filly.
"How did you become so great at magic, little Autumn?" Trixie asked with the same smile on her face.
"Well... I dunno, I just study really hard and stuff." Autumn nervously answered.
"Well, THAT sounds like a couple ponies that I happen to I know." Trixie shot a playful grin at Twilight and Midnight. Twilight rolled her eyes, looking bemused. Trixie reached, giving Autumn a gentle pat on the head.
"Well, I think it's amazing you have such a gift, Autumn. You know, not many unicorns have such control over their magic at your young age. You should be proud."
"Maybe you and Midnight can spend some time together in your studies." Twilight chimed in with the idea that had just sprung into her head. She gave her own filly a loving pat on the head, and giving the surprised looking unicorn a motherly smile. "Well, what do you say, honey?"
. "S-Sure, that sounds like fun." Midnight answered uncertainly, looking at Autumn with a nervous smile. Twilight nudged Midnight in Autumn's direction, the filly letting out a bit of a yeep, surprised at her mothers forceful advancement of the idea.
She smiled nervously at Autumn. "Um, hi...I'm Midnight."
"Hi, Midnight. My name's Autumn." Replied the cheerful filly. "Wanna be friends?"
Midnight looked at her fellow filly, and then over at Trixie and Twilight, who were both flashing encouraging smiles towards their daughter. At that point, there was no way Midnight was going to be able to refuse.
"Sure, Autumn. That sounds nice." Midnight answered with a tiny smile, starting to grow a little more comfortable with the idea. Noticing their plan was working, the two magical mares looked at each other, and then back at the two foals.
"Honey, maybe you could show Autumn some of the things you know with your magic." Twilight said with a confident stance. That seemed to perk Midnight up to the idea of getting to know this strange filly, as she nodded happily. "Good, now you two run along and play while we talk to Lotus."
With that, the two unicorn fillies scrambled into the main hall, leaving the three mares alone in the receptionists lobby.
"Thank you for your help, ladies. You have no idea how helpful this will be for Autumn. I assume you know about her...situation?" Lotus asked with a look of nervousness on her face.
Twilight nodded softly, and reached out comfortingly to her mate, whose eyes shown with the familiarity of the pain that Autumn was going through.
“We know about her situation, Rarity told us what happened. That poor little filly...” Twilight murmured, and the usually bright and cheery Trixie had a downcast look on her face.
It had been hard for Lotus to try and raise Autumn on her own so far since the accident. Her sister, Aloe, would often come to help with her. And Lotus wasn't used to Autumn being so meloncholy all the time. Nopony was, although considering the circumstances it was understandable.
“I...all too well understand, Lotus, what Autumn must be going through. If this can help her, then we're glad to encourage it.”
"Yes, and I think it'll work out for both of those two. You see, it's been very hard for Midnight to make friends her own age. I think we may have surrounded her with our own friends too much...” Twilight explained. “I thought maybe if she had someone her age she could relate to as far as interests, it would be a lot easier for her to make a connection." Twilight mused as her own experiences with the magic of friendship were rendered useless on her daughter.
"I think this will work out perfectly!" chirped Trixie, trying her best to brighten up once again. Lotus peeked into the main hall, watching the two fillies, as they showed off their magics to each other. Midnight had placed that vivid purple hat on her head, and was throwing her arms out.
“Behold, as the Amazing Midnight shows you feats of magic never before seen by ponykind!” Midnight boasted playfully, sending out small magical fireworks, and Autumn erupted into giggles.
Lotus felt a pulse of relief, watching the two play. It felt like a burden had been lifted off her own shoulders. For the first time since that fateful day, Lotus truly believed that everything would work out alright for her new charge. The future was beginning to look a lot brighter for everypony.