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    I hate myself.

    I'm plain. I'm boring. I don't have any sexual appealing qualities.

    Heck, I'm a C cup for goodness sakes.

    I never went outside during the entirety of my middle school life. The only time I stepped outside was when I went to take my precious dog to go do his business and to go to school. If I went to the mall, it was rare. I had a tendency to lock myself in my room the minute I got home to read a book or to do homework. I sometimes studied when I had a test the next day and I barely ate because I never did anything to have my stomach weep for hunger.

    I was lonely. I was depressed. I rarely ever smiled.

    Geez, I was like a scary frowning clown.

    The moment I entered mid-high, I only had a few friends. Those friends were entirely online.

    Yes, I had a boyfriend. He was my childhood friend. He doesn't count, he's a boyfriend, and he's not someone I can go complain to about my girlish problems and fangirl about my many fandoms with.

    I started writing. Just, typing words in Microsoft Office. Just a couple sentences about a small idea of romance I wanted in my life. It was based around Pokemon, of course, since it was the only fandom I had my heart set on at the time. People commented with such enthusiasm and excitement, it made me feel pleasure for once in my life.

    I decided to continue writing for this purpose. To interact. Though, when I continued to actually write, I began to love it. I could play out the many scenes I wanted to happen in my own life and force them onto characters that had no limitations.

    For the first time in my life, I felt happy, content, and no sadness lingered, for I had found my real source of happiness. My own hobby and people who adored the same fandoms I did.

    I am acknowledged. I am happy. I can't stop smiling.

    Geez, I am like my baby cousin who can't seem to wipe that cutesy little grin off her face.

    As I began to open up online through people who I have never met, I had begun to know them and love them. I began to have idols. I began to actually have conversation with a human being through the sole text of the words I wrote.

    There were certain people that encouraged me to try harder, to reach my goals in life. No, no, not my writing. They wanted me to reach for a bigger picture.

    I began to talk to people in school, and befriend them as well. All because of these several people telling me "You can do it!"

    I'm colorful. I'm hyperactive. I couldn't be any more beautiful on the inside than I am on the outside.

    Heck, who cares what anyone says?

    I love myself.
I can't thank you all enough. :iconaawplz:

Happy 2013!

now let's be honest. Who actually thought up a "cheer up Masq" response when reading the first half of this?

Edit: I mentioned having a C cup. C CUPS ARE GREAT, OKAY. The piece reflected what I thought at the time (which was during middle school). I didn't know this was going to go viral overnight so I deeply apologize if you were offended while reading "I". I honestly didn't mean it to be bad. If you took it that way, I deeply apologize. Everyone that I knew sort of pointed at me and said I was too "small" and if you look at how I organized the piece, if you align the repetition (or whatever literary element I used :XD:) It would sort of say something like "I'm a C cup for goodness sake's, who cares what anyone says?"

Hope that cleared things up :meow:
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Caramel chewed very slowly on a chunk of apple casserole. He was trying trying to find the perfect speed so he looked as though he knew the first thing about polite dinner etiquette, without at the same time looking like a llama with a piece of chewing gum.It was proving to be a more difficult task than he'd anticipated.
Just be cool...smooth...everything's going well, he thought to himself.
They'd managed to make it through the first course: a delicious apple salad with stewed apples and a side of apple chutney. His grandfather had been far too busy putting food in his mouth to make many comments. Caramel dearly hoped this pattern would continue throughout the night. Toffee, while a bit more chatty, seemed to know how important this was to him and kept any questions she posed to a minimum level of embarrassment.
"So," she said, looking at Twilight. "You run the local library, huh? I bet that's interesting."
Twilight nodded enthusiastically. "Oh yes very! The hardest part is keeping the books in order, Spike -that's my assistant- is always leaving adventure stories lying around. Still, I wouldn't trade it for the world. We just got some new stock in, mostly fiction, which of course he's very happy about."
Toffee nodded. "I'll have to come by sometime perhaps. Been a long time since I read a good book."
Twilight smiled. "I'd like that."
Caramel began to imagine Twilight and Toffee as friends, trying to decide whether this was a pleasant development, or an altogether horrifying one. He decided that he would cross that bridge when he got there and hope there wasn't a troll underneath. In the meantime he joined the conversation.
"Yes, and perhaps I could show you around the farm sometime," he offered. "It's pretty nice, if you don't mind...well...trees... but if you happen to love them you're in for a treat!"
Twilight laughed at his joke while Toffee rolled her eyes.
"Well I happen to live in a tree," Twilight grinned. "So I like to think I'm rather fond of them."
Caramel felt a strange warm feeling in his chest as they laughed together. It was the same sensation he'd felt when he asked her if she'd go out with him, the same sense of elation from their first 'date' and breakfast that very morning. He felt like he'd never stop smiling.
Even Toffee broke down and chuckled a few times. The night was going better than he could have hoped. Eventually Toffee cleared the table of the plates from the second course, and went off to fetch dessert, leaving Twilight and Caramel alone with Grampa Jonagold, and him with nothing to eat. He tapped his hoof impatiently against the wood of the table.
Oh Celestia... Caramel thought. There's nothing to keep him quiet anymore....
His grandfather looked at Twilight across the table while they waited. She fidgeted nervously under his gaze. He then looked at Caramel, who wasn't doing much better.
"I swear, you two are cuter than a pair of foal's boots!" he said with a wide grin. "Lovely couple."
The complement was unexpected, and though it was somewhat embarrassing, Caramel let out an internal sigh of relief.
He seems to really like her.
"Now, what are your thoughts about marriage?"
Twilight went from a shade of purple to deep burgundy, while Caramel choked on nothing in particular.
His grandfather chuckled and slapped his knee. "Ha! Shoot, ya'll ought to see your faces, I wish I had one of them fancy cameras. This is too priceless."
There was a pause.
"Oh..." said Caramel. He forced out a laugh. "Ha..ha..ha..ha good one grampa...Isn't it Twilight?"
Twilight smiled a bit too widely and laughed. "Hmm, yes. Ha, ha, ha. Good one Mr. Jonagold."
"Whooo yeah." He wiped away a tear. "But seriously, ya'll remind me of Sprout and I." His smile faded a bit. "That was Caramel's Grandmother, Apple Sprout. Finest gardener you ever saw, that mare. She could make a rose bloom in the middle of the driest desert."
It was quiet for a moment.
Caramel looked at his Grandfather. He suddenly seemed a lot older. His eyes had that faraway look they seemed to get whenever the topic came up, like he was somewhere else entirely.
He chuckled softly. "I'm getting old..."
"Old but spry!" said Toffee, bursting through the kitchen doors, an apple pie expertly balanced on her flank. She set it down in the center of the table and carefully doled out slices. "This old coot boring you with his stories?" she asked teasingly.
"Oh no! Not at all!" said Twilight quickly.
"Word of warning, once you get him started you might as well forget any plans you had for the day."
Grampa Jonagold shot her a look from across the table. "Well Twilight happens to enjoy my stories. Don't you Twilight?"
Twilight nodded. "Oh yes, I'm always fascinated by stories of from the older generation of ponyvillians. It's a unique perspective on history."
The old stallion grinned. "Hear that? I'm a unique perspective."
"You're unique alright," said Toffee rolling her eyes. "Anyway, let's get a 'Perspective' on this pie before it gets cold." She smiled. "How about it?"
Caramel was happy for the change of subject, his grandmother was a rather sensitive topic. Though he found himself surprised at his grandfather's behaviour, he seemed more jovial than usual. Making jokes, trading quips with Toffee, being so lively and vibrant. As he ate his pie he couldn't help but feel a bit guilty for his early assumptions that the old pony would ruin the night.
They ate for a while, the occasional bit of conversation coming in between bites of pie. Toffee had really outdone herself, it was delicious. As Caramel ate, he watched Twilight go through her slice with the same methodical motions he had seen that morning. She'd brought a fork along. They didn't have any in the house, being earth ponies they couldn't properly use them. He noticed his Grandfather and Sister stealing occasional glances.
He hadn't thought about it much, but they'd hardly come in contact with anypony who wasn't earth born on a day to day basis. So far they hadn't made much of a fuss about it besides his grandfather's earlier comment. He hoped the trend would continue.
Caramel couldn't help but smile when he noticed that almost every bite Twilight took had the exact same amount of apples.
He suddenly remembered the gift he'd prepared. His smile grew a bit wider.
Now...now's the perfect time! Gotta finish...
Caramel attempted to eat his pie quickly. He shoved the rest of it into his mouth, only to find that the filling was akin to molten lead when ingested in large quantities. He bit back a yelp, trying his hardest not to spit the sweet sticky lava back onto the plate.
Okay, bad idea, bad idea! Act casual! Just chew it and swallow... Act normal.
He attempted to smile around a mouthful of pie.
Oh sweet Celestia it burns!
"Boy? You feelin' alright?" asked Grampa Jonagold.
Caramel nodded, trying to chew.
"You sure?" His Grandfather put a hoof to his chin. "You look a little red."
Twilight looked on, concerned. "He's right, you don't look well."
Toffee smiled. "He's looked like that all night. I can't imagine why." She winked in Twilight's direction. " I'm starting to think red's his natural coloring."
Caramel attempted to glare at her, he didn't think it was very threatening considering his cheeks bulging with pastry .
"Ekush meh," he mumbled.
Caramel quickly got up from his seat, and tried not to run into the kitchen, his tongue suddenly feeling very sympathetic to the plight of charcoal. He all but slammed the door open, rushed to reached the sink and quickly spat out the offending substance. He bit his hoof, trying not to yell at the throbbing pain still in his mouth, fumbling to turn the faucet on he took several quick gulps to rid himself of the last remnants of molten pie.
Crisis averted, he made sure to clean out the sink. If Toffee found evidence he'd spit out any of her food, third degree tongue burns would be the least of his problems.
He breathed through his mouth to soothe the remaining ache as he walked over to the cupboard where he'd stored his project. He couldn't help but grin as he moved aside old farm supplies and cooking utensils, reaching his goal. His heart speeding up as he finally uncovered the small painted block.
He grabbed it gingerly, making sure the paint was dry and wouldn't chip. He turned it around a few times, checking each side to make sure it was perfect.
Taking a glance back towards the living room door, he could hear his heart now beating in his ears. His confidence wavered for a moment.
What if I screwed it up and she doesn't like it?... He thought. I've never painted anything so small before...or so important. He looked from the door to his gift, feeling its weight, seemingly heavier than it had been before.
Caramel closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He thought back through the events of that day, the good things and the bad.
Hearing the jeering of ponies at lunch?
Bad
Closing the cart?
Bad.
Not telling Grampa about closing the cart?
Bad
Breakfast with Twilight?
Good.
Seeing Twilight standing at the door happy to see him.
Good

He paused.
Oh so good...
This could be a good day, or a bad day, Caramel decided. Right now it was tied. He'd had so many bad days before he could hardly count them all. But he could win this one. He could make a day he'd remember and, he hoped, one she would too.
He turned, and headed towards the door.
Then paused, turned around, and headed right back.
There's no harm in working on the presentation a bit is there?
He quickly found a small basket and some old wrapping paper from last Hearths Warming. It had little cheery windigos on it, but beggars couldn't be choosers. He placed some straw in the basket, wrapped the block and placed it gently in the center.
Now, he thought. Now it's ready.
He grabbed the basket's handle in his teeth, and headed back to the dining room.
Toffee and Twilight were talking about something or other. He really couldn't hear them over the thudding in his chest. Something about history, or maybe it was cooking? He wasn't sure. Grampa Jonagold sat off to the side making his way through what Caramel guessed was his third slice of pie.
He cleared his throat, with more volume than he intended. All of the chatter in the room stopped, his grandfather had a bit of pie sticking out of his mouth as he turned to look.
Caramel felt his face heating up.
"What'cha got there, Mel?" asked Toffee.
"Oh, meh mift mor Mwimight." Caramel realized he was biting down on the basket handle so hard he could taste bits of wood. He sat the basket on the edge of the table, removing his teeth with some effort and tried again. "It's a gift," he stumbled. "A gift for Twilight."
He looked over at the purple unicorn, whose face was now colored by a slight blush.
"Oh! you really didn't have to," she said quickly. "I mean, really, dinner is enough."
"Oh..." He paused, this wasn't an angle he'd be expecting. "Well...I didn't do it because I had too." He nosed the basket gently towards her. "I did it because I wanted to." Caramel smiled a little.
Twilight looked at the basket, then at him and smiled back. "Well...in that case I guess I can't really turn it down, can I?"
He chuckled softly. "Nope, no choice."
The basket was bathed in a purple glow as Twilight picked it up, carefully removing the block from the straw, and brushing off any lingering strands. She turned it around a few times, before slowly tearing the paper off.
"Oh my..." she said softly.
Caramel's heart skipped a beat.
"It's...beautiful!"
It quickly resumed beating at twice its regular rate. His face broke out into an almost impossible grin. Floating in front of her, was the small wooden block he'd spent the afternoon painting, each of its six faces adorned with two little foals performing various actions. A purple one in a blue bowtie, and a yellow one in a clover ball cap. The first showed them running towards the forest, a book held between them. A quick turn displayed the pair sneaking past a large boulder, shaped like a dragon,  and beneath that was the two taking turns going under the branches of an enormous willow tree, then helping one another over a creek and under the hanging vines of the willow tree. The final face, which sat proudly at the top, showed the two of them under a blanket, reading as the sun set over the tree hollow they hid in.
"The Secret Tree..." said Twilight. "I loved that book as a filly. How did you know?"
Caramel twiddled his front hooves a bit. "Well...I noticed the salt shakers in your kitchen this morning...I figured you probably liked the story. I have a copy, my grandmother used to read it to us as foals. So I took a chance and made that for you."
Twilight looked from the small gift to Caramel then back again.
Oh no.... Caramel felt a jolt of fear up his spine. That's creepy isn't it? Noticing something like that. I've freaked her out, haven't I? Oh Celestia, I should have just given her an apple or something. She likes apples, apples are go-
His thought were interrupted as Twilight hugged him.
"This is amazing!" she yelled.
Caramel was pretty sure his mane was standing on end. The shock of it left him too stunned to do much of anything. Several thoughts slowly drifted across the surface of his brain, they might as well have been gibberish for as much as he heard any of them. He stood stock still, like a granite statue until something finally got through, he briefly picked up the words "Hug her back."
He obliged, wrapping his hooves around her as well. She was a lot shorter than he was, his head almost resting on top of hers.
After a few minutes his brain got another message through, this time that he ought to say something in return.
"Oh!" he said realizing he hadn't thanked her yet. He floundered a bit, not used to accepting praise. "Well...thank you. I'm glad you like it."
"I love it, it's perfect." she said softly.
Toffee cleared her throat.
Caramel's brain was suddenly kicked back into the driver's seat, and he realized where he was. Twilight apparently realized the same thing at almost exactly the same moment, as the two of the separated and stumbled back to their seats, cheeks burning.
Caramel coughed in what he hoped was a convincing manner. "Um...so...yes, you're welcome."
Twilight nodded, smiling behind the red tint of her face.
Grampa Jonagold eyed the block of wood from across the table.
"Mind if I see that?" he asked.
"Oh..sure." said Twilight. The small block floated over to him.
Caramel's grandfather took it carefully between his hooves. "Huh," he said inspecting the paintings. "That's pretty neat. What'd ya use? A stencil or something?"
Caramel realized his grandfather was still unaware he could paint at all. He'd been wary of bringing it up, especially now with what happened at the applecart in mind. Still, there'd be no avoiding it now.
Well, he said it was 'Neat' maybe that's a good sign?
"Um...no," said Caramel, finding his tongue. "I didn't used a stencil...I found some old paints in the cupboard, the wood's a piece of the old barn."
The old stallion looked up from the project and directly at Caramel. "I didn't know you could do something like this. And you did it by hoof?"
Caramel nodded. "Though, I did the small bits with my mouth..." he admitted.
"How long have you been at it?"
Caramel pulled a nervous shrug. "A few days really...I kind of had a knack for it."
"I'll say," said Grampa Jonagold inspecting the block of wood once again. "I've been around a long time, boy, and I've hardly seen any earthponies that could paint this well."
Twilight nodded in agreement. "He's really got a talent for it."
He raised an eyebrow. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Caramel blinked, this was not the reaction he'd been expecting. "Um...It never really came up?"
His grandfather smiled. "Well, looks like you're a pretty talented pony Caramel! Grade A salespony, and now this. I'm glad you found yourself a hobby."
Caramel bit his bottom lip for a moment.
Perhaps I should tell him now? He wondered. Everyone's having a good time, maybe he'll react better...
"Well...the thing about that is..." Caramel began.
His Grampa raised an eyebrow. "The thing about what?"
Caramel fidgeted in his seat under the old stallion's gaze. He looked at Toffee, who gave him a little smile.
He took a deep breath.
"I...Well let's say...just for a moment, that I might that I might consider it as a bit more than a hobby?"
Gampa Jonagold paused for a moment. "How so?"
Caramel fidgeted a bit more.
Time to come clean.
"You remember when I sold out of apples the day before last?"
The old pony smiled at the memory. "Shoot, I couldn't rightly forget that now could I?"
Caramel felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as he saw his grandfather's smile.
"Well...you see, it wasn't exactly my...'Grade A salespony skills, that helped me..." He winced as the smile faded. "Applejack came up with the idea to make a sign...like a grand opening thing. So she rounded up some wood and paints and I made one to draw in customers. A pony saw it and told her friends, they've been coming to me for lunch since then....before that I'd only ever sold three apples." Caramel looked across the table at Twilight. "To her..."
His grandfather frowned. "Nonsense! What about before that, you sold forty apples that day without any fancy sign. Toffee told me so."
Caramel stole a glance at his sister. "That...might have been less than true.."
Toffee joined Caramel's fidgeting as their grandfather eyed them both for a moment.
"Well...he wanted to impress you is all!" She insisted. "So I might've...fudged the truth a tiny bit."
For a moment, from Caramel's perspective it seemed as though all sound left the room. He was fairly certain that if her were to really try, he could hear the sound of apples growing outside. His grandfather glowered at the pair of them. Everything jovial about him vanished. When he finally did speak, he didn't yell, but Caramel pulled back nonetheless.
"So, you've been lying?" He asked.
"Well, not exactl—"
"Yes, exactly!" The old stallion held up a hoof. "Do you know what I did when I heard of those sales? How much that Applecart cost? What if your sales hadn't gone up? Hmm? How would I have made that money back?"
Caramel said nothing.
"We're not in the best of times, boy," he continued. "We need everything we can get. This farm has been here for decades, and I plan on it being here for quite a few more. If that's to happen, I need the truth from the get-go!"
"But it worked out for the best!" Toffee interjected. "He found a talent, and he's even got a job lined up to paint something fo—"
A glare from the old stallion silenced her.
"And don't you start young filly. You're worse than him! You're the one that told the lie in the first place. And why? What did you hope to gain?"
Caramel lowered his head, looking at the floor. "Don't be mad at Toffee...I asked her to..."
Grampa Jonagold paused for a beat, then looked Caramel in the eye.  "Then the question falls to you. Why?"
Caramel felt the ice in his grandfather's stare, he shivered, ears flat against his head. He wasn't quite sure how to answer that. He looked back into his memory at the day he'd come home, how he'd felt walking through the door, knowing he hadn't sold anything. Knowing the entire reason he'd been sent was to get rid of him. That he'd just disappoint everyone again. He felt that familiar feeling rising in his chest, the same one from that morning. The shame he felt when he'd lost the grass seeds, or broken something, made a mistake, injured himself or someone else on accident, the one he felt when he was alone after a bad day.
"Because..." he started. "I wanted you to think I was worth something..."
The silence returned at that. But this time it was different, the anger in his grandfather's stare was replaced by a look of surprise. For the first time since he could remember, his Grandfather floundered.
"I....I don't think..." The old pony closed his mouth. "Boy..I..." His face hardened again "Regardless of what you thought. Asking your sister to lie is inexcusable." He got up. "This dinner is over. Twilight, you should go home."
The purple unicorn sat, looking at Caramel. She turned to Grampa Jonagold, frowning. "I agree."
Caramel didn't think he could feel much lower, but in that moment he sunk so far he
didn't think he'd ever come up.
"I agree that he shouldn't have lied," she continued.
His ears perked up.
"But I think you should hear him out. Look at him, he's obviously sorry, and if he's that
concerned about what you think of him maybe you shouldn't be so quick to punish."
Grampa Jonagold jerked back in his chair, anger briefly coloring his features. "Are you going to tell me how to treat my own grandson? This, is an Apple Family matter young filly!"
"And he's an Apple!" she shot back. "Which means he's a good pony. You should give him a chance to show you."
Caramel could see his grandfather clench his jaw.
"I know he's a good pony," he said in measured tones. "This morning I was very sure." He turned his gaze to Caramel. "But now he's not acting like it. Now, Twilight, please leave. There is nothing more to discuss."
They stared at each other for a moment. Then Twilight turned to Toffee and Caramel.
"Thank you for dinner, it was wonderful." A purple halo appeared around small wooden block near Grampa Jonagold's hoof. Twilight snatched it away and floated it gently by her head. "And your gift was absolutely lovely Caramel."
She offered him a smile. Caramel returned it weakly, somewhat shocked at her standing up for him suddenly.
"I-I'm glad you liked it," he managed to stammer.
He listened to the sound of her hooves, until he heard the front door shut sharply.
Grampa Jonagold eyed the Caramel and his sister for several moments before he spoke again.
"Toffee, clean up this mess. And do it quickly so you can get some sleep, tomorrow bright and early you're getting up to harvest the left field."
"All of i—"
"All of it." He turned his gaze to Caramel. "And you, it looks like it's going to rain. Go outside and pick up every apple you see on the ground before the water rots them. If I see a single one left I will not be happy."
Caramel thought about protesting, but quickly abandoned the thought.  It'll do me no good...
"Yes sir..." he said quietly, as he got up from the table.
His Grandfather got up briskly, and marched up the stairs to his room, stomping more than was necessary."
Toffee looked at Caramel. "I..." she started.
"I know." he said. "I know...Well, I'd better do as he said...though it's not like things can get much worse."
He walked out the door and into the night before she could reply. He looked out at all the apples that needed to be collected, and gave a heavy sigh.
This was not a good day.
He walked over to the nearest tree, pounding his head against its trunk. The wood was soft from the humidity.
I blew it... He thought. Things were going so well and I blew it. Why couldn't I keep my mouth shut? I should've have told him...
He lifted his head, only to slam it against the tree a second time.
"Blew it," he said out loud.
"Caramel?" said a voice.
He  didn't need to turn around, he'd never forget that voice.
"Twilight," he said not turning around.
"Are you okay?"
Caramel knocked his head against the the trunk again. "I'm....really not," he admitted. "I'm useless."
He heard her hoof-steps growing closer in the slightly damp soil. "You're not useless. And I don't think your Grandfather thinks so either."
Caramel sighed. "I don't know what he thinks...that's the problem."
He flinched a little when he felt her hoof on his back, out of surprise more than anything. Caramel finally turned to look at her. She looked just as pretty as she had inside, her red dress a bit dirty towards the bottom due to the soil of the apple field. Caramel realized he was still in his suit, but that didn't matter much at the moment.
Twilight smiled at him kindly.
"Well, maybe you should talk to him?" she suggested.
Caramel let out another sigh, this one more tired. "I don't know how to do that either..."  He turned back to the tree, his head making a resounding thunk against the trunk. "Like I said...useless." He brought his head up, then down again. "I'll understand if you want to date someone who's less of a loser."
Twilight didn't say anything for a moment. Then she leaned in, and gave him a peck on the cheek.
"I really don't," she whispered.
Caramel looked up in shock to see her blushing, ears folded slightly.
"Goodnight Caramel." She gave a sheepish smile, then turned and walked away.
There was a burst of thunder as rain began to drip onto Caramel's head. He stood, staring until he couldn't see her anymore.
After several minutes he managed:
"Goodnight Twilight...."
Maybe today wasn't such a bad day afterall.

To Be Continued.
Annnnd new Caramel's Light!

Sorry about the wait! My life's been hectic lately. But I do pull through in the end! Hope you enjoy the chapter, and I always love your comments!
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Kismesis: Terezi/Gamzee/Karkat

Reader: be the blind troll

You can feel it again.  That strange prickling at the back of your neck that means that he's watching you.  Your red eyes narrow in a sneer, but there's a smile twisting at your lips that you can't deny.  "What do you want, Makara?" you snarl, bearing your sharp canines across the lab in his direction.  

Rose - the only other being in the room besides you two - jerks her head up in surprise at your sudden outburst in the otherwise silent lab.  You can smell her rolling her eyes from here.  "Geez, could you two just not get into this right now?  I'm a little busy doing something here, actually."

"Oh, get the stick out of your ass, Lalonde," you growl irritably.  You were upset when you first found out that Gamzee had told her about your secret black relationship and you still rather resented the fact that he could be so stupid.  Besides, humans have little understanding for the subject as it is.

"Well could you two at least take your little love-hate-tango out into the hall until I finish what I'm working on here?" she mutters in her normal sarcastic manner.

"I don't know, maybe you should stick around," you snap back, flashing the human one of your trademark maniacal grins.  "Who knows?  Maybe we could make this whole thing a bit more ashen.  What do you say, Gamzee?  Up for one more?"

"Honk."  The juggalo slinks in the shadows that he's been hiding in and you can hear Rose shifting uncomfortably away from him.  You can't blame her, really.  The clown is pretty fucking creepy, even on a good day.

"Uhhh no, thanks," the girl replies, her confident sarcasm instantly gone.  "I guess I'll just . . . come back and finish this later . . ."

Terezi: spend some quality time with your kismesis

You snicker under your breath as Rose darts quickly from the lab, the cantaloupe smell of her god tier pajamas wafting after her in a yellowy haze.  "Too bad," you murmur aloud, half to yourself and half for the juggalo troll who is now eagerly prowling the shadows at the edge of the room.  "I might have actually enjoyed an auspistice like that.  Oh, well.  Looks like I'm stuck with nothing but your stupid clown-ass, as usual."

Gamzee's thick purple scent is all around you now, bleeding out of the dark shadows.  He is behind you, sauntering close like a wild animal stalking its prey.  "Shut the fuck up," he growls, his voice so low it is barely audible, even to you.  "You know it's as black as can be between us.  No motherfucker could pull this into the ashen quadrant, even if they motherfuckin' tried."

He's right behind you now, his thick, sweet jelly scent completely enveloping you.  His hand reaches out and grasps your arm, but you're ready for him.  Before he has the chance to give even a surprised honk, you have him backed against the wall with your red and white dragon walking cane pressed against his neck.  You snicker once more at the sound of his shocked silence and bring your body flush against his.  Your nostrils flare, soaking in the dark scent of his royal purple blood.  You long to reach out your tongue and run it along his cheek to get a better taste, but as usual his entire face is covered in that stupid white clown make-up that tastes like sour milk.

Your nose cringes in distaste at the hindrance.  "Why do you even wear this stupid stuff?" you growl, voice lowered to a whisper.  "Did you really ever believe in all that religious shit?  I thought it was ridiculous before we started playing this game, but now its even more retarded.  All this make-up just makes you smell rotten."

"Honk!  That's blasphemy, bitch!" Gamzee snarls, his canines bared in your face.

However, you've heard it all before from this stupid juggalo.  You press your cane further against his throat, effectively cutting off his air and making his words end in an angry hiss and gargle.  The clown's chin tilts up in an attempt to escape your deadly grasp, revealing the veins in his neck that pump with the steady rhythm of his pulse.  Once again the heady jelly scent overwhelms you and without a second thought, you lean forward and run your tongue along his clean skin.  The blood pulse is so close to the surface that you can practically taste it.  A groan of desire escapes your lips.

Gamzee gives a grunt as he finally twists his head out from behind your walking cane and frees himself.  Before you can retaliate, he has flipped you both around and is now pressing you hard against the wall.  Your cane falls abandoned to the floor without another thought.  "I'm gonna make you pay for that, motherfucker," he growls as he pins your hands beneath his against the wall.

You open your mouth to offer a biting response, but before you can speak, he has crushed his lips against yours.  The hate burning in your chest sets your heart on fire.  You realize now how stupid you were to ever even consider Karkat to be a possible kismesis partner.  You had considered a possible blackrom with him before, but nothing could ever compare to this.  You had never felt this amount of pure black hate for the nubby-horned troll with candy-red blood, and you doubt you ever could.

Your body twists in an attempt to free your hands from Gamzee's grasp, but he is holding them fast against the wall.  His lips mash against yours with reckless abandon, but you welcome the assault.  Pointed teeth clack against each other and snag against soft skin.  Tongues roughly entwine and invade.  Though his body is pressed against yours, your fingers itch to dig into his chest and drag him closer.

Finally his grip slackens around your wrists and his hands move to replace themselves against your hips.  You waste no time to toss your arms around his neck and crush him closer.  Your sharp fingernails dig into the tender skin at the back of his neck and he snarls in anger, but the sound quickly dissipates into a moan as he presses you back against the wall again.

You can feel his own sharp talons pulling at the back of your shirt and raking against bare skin.  Finally you break away for air, your breath gasping through your raw and now somewhat-bloodied lips.  Now it's his turn to be at your throat.  Sharp fangs graze roughly against soft skin, always threateningly close to tearing it, but never quite drawing blood.  Suddenly, there is a commotion from behind you as the lab door opens and closes.

Terezi: get caught in secret blackrom relationship

"Terezi, are you in here?" a familiar, brash voice calls out.  "I've been looking . . ."  His words suddenly cut off and you know that there's no way he could possibly not see you.  You freeze anyway, desperately wishing that the dark shadows of the lab could conceal you.  Gamzee has frozen, too - his body still pressed tightly against yours and his mouth at your throat.

"Oh, gog.  Gamzee, get off her!" Karkat cries, rushing quickly towards you.  "Not again.  What have we talked about?  You can't go around killing people, remember?  Isn't it enough that I let you keep all those decapitated heads?  I thought you agreed to stop eating all that slime?"

The trance is broken when Karkat reaches you and places his hand on Gamzee's shoulder in an attempt to "save" you.  He tosses his moirail roughly to the side and Gamzee spins awkwardly on his heel once and then just stands there.  You can smell that he has the same blank expression as always hidden beneath his smeared sour-milk make-up.  The hate in your stomach flares again, but this time you do your best to ignore it.  The jig's already up as it is.  More hate-snogging in front of Karkat probably wouldn't be the best idea.

"Gamzee, dude, you've gotta stop this shit," Karkat is rambling on, still blatantly unaware of the truth of the situation.  "I thought you and I had sorted this out?  What's going on, buddy?"

You take the moment of useless chiding to readjust your shirt back over your hips and straighten your crooked red glasses.  You can smell the stink of Gamzee's make-up all over your face and you rub your hand uselessly across your cheeks and chin in a desperate attempt to erase the evidence.

It's not good enough, though.  Even a stupid, nubby-horned troll like Karkat could catch on after a while.  You can feel his eyes surveying your disheveled appearance as he reevaluates the situation.  "Wait a minute . . ." he mutters into the awkward silence.  "Were you two just . . . ?"

You can tell from Gamzee's silence that he's not planning on offering up anything helpful any time soon, so you open your mouth to respond.  However, you just can't seem to find the right words to say.  Why is this so painfully awkward?  Sure, you and Karkat had somewhat of a history, but it's not as if you were cheating on him or anything.  And Gamzee was just his moirail, so there was no infidelity there.  Why was it such a crime to strike up a healthy kismessisitude with someone?  However, the hate twisting in your gut has dissipated into something quite different and it is making you feel like shit.

Finally, Karkat answers his own question.  "Oh, I see," he says, his voice in the same shouting caliber as always.  "I see what's really going on, here.  Are you two fucking serious?  I can't believe my own fucking sight-globes.  Please just tell me - is this for real?"

"Karkat, it's really no big deal . . ." you try to interject.

But of course, the leader must have his say.  He interrupts you as though you had never spoken.  "Gamzee, when the fuck were you going to tell me about this?  I thought we were moirails?  You're supposed to tell me shit like this man!  You're supposed to let me know when you have a concupiscent romance so that I don't . . ."

"Don't what?" you ask, narrowing your eyes curiously as he trails off into silence.  "Don't do a fucking back flip off of the flippin' handle like you are now?  What is even your problem?"

"My problem?" he snaps back, taking an angry step in your direction.  "My problem is that my two friends have been going behind my back for gog-knows how long!  You've been carrying out illicit black romance and neither of you could find the decency to crawl over to my corner of the meteor and warn me."

"Motherfucker, what are you all talkin' about?"  You roll your blind red eyes in frustration behind your glasses as your kismesis decides that this is the time to step in.  "Why would we have to all up and warn you?  What's there to motherfuckin' warn about?  It's just an all completely normal kismessisitude, you know?"

"You're supposed to warn me so that I don't make a fool of myself like this!" Karkat yells in indignant anger.

"You're the one making a fool of yourself," you retort matter-of-factly.  "We didn't tell you because we knew that you'd overreact like this."

"And why exactly do you think that is, Terezi?" Karkat snaps, taking another step towards you.  Now he's right before you and you can feel his heated gaze boring through you.  "Why do you think I would possibly be this fucking angry?  Do you have any idea?  Because I sure as fuck don't!"

For a moment he just stands there and glares at you, but then he spins on his heel and storms out of the lab.  You involuntarily reach out your hand as if to grab him back, even though you know there's no use.  Already his cherry-red scent is being muffled and covered up once more with Gamzee's dark purple blood.  You tell yourself that you were completely justified and that you did nothing wrong, but you still feel like shit.  Even after all Karkat has put you through and all the crap that he's given you, you still feel bad for blind-siding him with this.  You wonder if he'll ever be able to forgive you.  

"Stubborn motherfucker . . ." Gamzee murmurs as he slinks slowly back into the shadows.

You give a half-hearted snicker and give your kismesis a parting smile, but you don't really mean it.  You had sworn to yourself time and time again that you were completely done with Karkat Vantas.  So why did it still hurt so much to see him leave?
Wow. I somehow found time in my schedule to sit down and write this whole thing in one sitting. Yay for Update feels!! ^^ Please excuse the shoddiness since it was all done sorta quickly. :/

I had no idea what to think with this Terezi/Gamzee blindside suddenly popping up in canon, but I used it as an excuse to get all of my kismesis thoughts and feelings out. Personally, I don't care what Terezi does with her quadrants as long as Karkat ends up in the red with her. I still have hope for my OTP!! I WILL GO DOWN WITH THIS SHIP!!!



All characters are from Homestuck belong to Andrew Hussie.
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Change, even that which we most desire, is bittersweet. It's our dual nature to long for the past, while trying to leave it behind.
—Excerpts from the Candid Sayings of Celestia as recorded by her friends


Leaves crunched beneath a dozen hooves. A small party surrounded Celestia and her sister, three stallions in all. Charging Hoof, and Little Apple (Uncle Apple's young nephew who Celestia felt earned the title) took place along the young mare's sides, while Whip guided them deep into the Everfree forest. The trip had gone under way in a silence that grew uncomfortable for Celestia. Last thing she needed now was a chance to think. But despite her feelings, the chance at conversation seemed remote, all consumed in their tasks and Luna as quiet as ever.

Instead, the rhythm of the steps at all sides lulled Celestia into a sense of daydreaming. Her mind wandered over her situation, taking her back to that early morning. Saying farewell to friends was easier than she expected. The little pangs of sorrow were overwhelmed by the excitement at going to see the mythical unicorns. She hugged some, made promises to others, and for the best of friends, even shared a teary departure. But even under watering eyes, her smile beamed.

With Lightning Kick, that changed. They both embraced and tried to wear their smiles, but Lightning's mood began to rub off on Celestia. Sure, a mother expected a stallion to leave the herd at that age when wanderlust took them, but she was losing both fillies she had expected to keep to old age. For the first time, Celestia felt the sadness extinguish her enthusiasm.

"I will come back, mom." She buried her face in her mother's neck. "I will come back, I promise."

"My dearest Celestia, don't be so quick to give your word." Lightning's wet cheek pressed up against her daughter. "You have a unique life, and it may carry you far and wide before it brings you back here. Promise me instead that you will make good on that gift the stars have given you. That you won't let sentiment be your guide."

"Okay," Celestia sniffled, but did not let go of the embrace. "I promise that."

Lightning shared a similar teary eyed farewell with Luna. At first, Celestia thought that Luna's composure—that of a distant observer— would win out, but after only a few minutes, her younger sister was bawling and Lightning was drying her tears. What words they exchanged were private, as was  Celestia's time with her mother.

And then, with the three stallions, they plunged into the forest at dawn.

She kept her head low to the ground, wishing that something would distract her. Excitement to see the unicorns gradually turned into anxiety. Doubts plagued her mind, growing in strength as each hour passed and she stewed in the silence. Would they like her? What were they like? Did she have any actual magical talent or was that little spark all there was? More and more, she began to chew her lip in apprehension.

Finally, she could stand it no longer. "Are we close?" She forwarded the question to Whip at the lead.

"We're here, actually."

Surprise shook her and she raised her head over the backs of her escort. Yet, all she found was an empty, still forest, answered only by  the chirps of a bird.

"I—uh, don't understand?"

"They're probably watching us right now." Whip kept his deep voice low. "Checking us out before they show themselves."

She gasped, recalling the stories shared at home when the sun drew down. Unicorns could turn invisible? She had doubted that bit of lore, yet now . . .

"Luna? Celestia?" Whip looked over his shoulder and gestured form his neck for the two to come closer. He then spoke at a whisper. "When we meet them, don't reveal you were born as Earth ponies."

"Why not?" Celestia blinked, bewildered. Luna looked between them with curiosity in her blue eyes.

"One day, you may understand more. But for now, just accept that sometimes it's better to wait before you tell your whole story to those you don't know. Only when you feel it is absolutely safe should you reveal the secret of your birth." Having said all he planned to, Whip continued the slow walk with his head forward.

Celestia paused her step, the concept hitting her from somewhere unexpected. Luna stopped next to her, still following the lead of her big sister unthinkingly. Among the close knit herd, there was never room for secrecy, and a secret was always a temporary state. To harbor one? So different from her life in a familiar herd. She marched forward with that on her mind.

"That's far enough." A sharp male's voice called with a tone of one accustomed to being obeyed.

"Well met, unicorn ." Whip halted, those behind him following suit.

A full day and more leading to this. Curiosity surged in Celestia as soon as her hooves stopped, and she peaked around Whip's flank, trying to steal her first glance at the mysterious pony. The unicorn must have been average male size, except he stood erect, much in the manner of the chief mare back home, only that his spiral horn made him appear taller still. His coat of faded gray was so heavily spotted with white that the gray appeared as mere lines between milky spots. The mane and tail, a dusty off-white, flowed behind him well groomed. Celestia would have called him a mere pony with a horn on his head, except for a sheen that made the colors almost imperceptivity richer.

"Three Earth ponies, and two filly unicorns come wandering into the forests. Such an unusual arrangement. And far from an Earth pony's home." No jest could be found in him. Dark eyes approaching black marked them with suspicion.

"We come with a matter that concerns your herd." To the unicorn's tone of command, Whip responded plainly and with his own kind of dignity. "We've come to return two of your kind who were among ours." Whip stepped aside and revealed his daughters.

Celestia felt exposed as those dark eyes fall on her. A flush came over her face and her knees wobbled despite the fact she tried to stand straight. She felt as much as saw that Luna sidled a few inches closer to her side once Whip left.

It became easier to stand once she saw the surprise on the unicorn's face. "What's with her colors?"

"That is a mystery to us." Whip answered.

His eyes narrowed, aggression filling his voice. "She is well into her years as a filly. Why was she not taken to us as a foal?"

"That's complicated."

The unicorn shot Whip a glare, but turned his attention back to the girls. "Your names."

"Celestia," She hoped her voice didn't betray her nervousness. "and Luna."

The midnight blue unicorn shuffled out but remained quiet, the question answered for her.

His eyes narrowed again, this time in contemplation. The chief turned to a unicorn next to him who Celestia only just noticed. Quiet, and stoic as a rock, he was easy to miss.  Short for a stallion, with a curly mane and tail, a gleaming horn of silver sat upright on his head. Flank and shoulders slim, he held himself strangely for his stature: his gaze brimmed with an inner intelligence and he stood like a pony twice his size.

The chief unicorn whispered to his partner who nodded and exchanged a brief word. To the guests, he turned again. "We will accept Celestia and Luna into our herd where they belong, despite their age. You three Earth ponies may return to your fields."

Whip gave the chief a curt nod then went to Celestia and Luna. In turn, he wrap both in a hug, his neck to theirs. "Take care of each other. Who can you trust more than a sister?" He chuckled, though his amusement was darkened by the moment.

Luna might have teared up again, but pursed her lips and tried to appear strong as Whip and Luna exchanged one last glance. Celestia's chest tightened at the sight and when Whip turned to her, but she fought off any more reaction than that.

"I love you both." With that, he turned away and the Earth ponies left.

"Come." The chief's commanding voice gave no tolerance for delay and the sisters jerked their heads toward him. Impatience marked his gait, a hurried trot. When they came along behind him, he spoke again "Why did the Earth ponies wait so long to bring you here?"

"Uhh, it's complicated?" Celestia grinned wide, innocent only in the fact she felt clever remembering Whip's answer.

The chief grumbled under his breath and stopped before the trunk of a massive tree. With a magic glow of gray, the bark on one side of the great trunk folded away and rumpled with a property like hair and ease of brushing aside a leaf. Beneath that covering rested a hole large enough for a pony to slip in with ease.

Celestia had to pull her jaw off the forest floor. She rubbed her eyes with one forelimb and stared agape once more, looking from folded faux-bark, to the hole and back again. Luna exchanged a glance with her, blue eyes wide in wonder and astonishment.

It took a nudge from the small, gray unicorn to get them moving, and they both filed in, wonder not diminished in the slightest. Inside, she found the seams where wood joined wood. Three, or possibly more lesser trees had been molded into the appearance of a single great tree, hollow on the inside, but with a ramp that spiraled up to the top.

"Ebon Swift!" The chief's voice echoed in the confined space.

The sound of hooves clopping on hard wood came from on high and a black unicorn trotted down the ramp.

"Ebon, I need you to babysit these fillies. I need to call a council. Until then, they are under your care."

Fillies! Celestia spat the word in her mind. Blood boiled within her. Babysit! She glared at the chief's backside when he left the trunk.

The façade of bark fell over the hole, but the inside remained lit by a soft, yellow light that Ebon sent high above them with magic.

"Babysit?" He said with a good natured laugh. His light aloft, Ebon smiled to both of them wide and friendly. Compared to the chief or Whip, he was young, but unmistakably into an age where he could be called a stallion. A black mane fell long around his black shoulders, suiting his name. Ivory teeth appeared all the brighter set into a dark face. "These two young, beautiful mares?"

The glare was wiped off Celestia's face, and her cheeks flushed red. "Th-thanks you." The fumbling of her words only made the blush brighter. Luna shuffled a forelimb on the floor and averted her gaze, but stole a glance at Ebon with her own light flush.

"Don't mind ol' Grumpy Gus, he can be like that when he has something on his mind." The momen the words left him, he winced and made his way over to the hole to peek out. "Don't tell him I said that, or Silver Spear for that matter."

"Who?"

"Silver Spear."  Ebon let the disguised tree bark close again. "He's the quiet one always next to the chief. That chief would be Phantom Spell, the Grumpy Gus you just met. My name, I am sure you have heard only a second ago, is Ebon Swift." He inclined his head to the sisters, a playful grin ever present. "It's unusual for me to not recognize two mares around here. What would your names be?"

The white unicorn composed herself, remembering the dignified tone her father took. "I am Celestia. Well met."

"Luna." The midnight blue pony attempted to make her announcement strong, but her voice squeaked out her word under the strain of her shyness. Embarrassed, she drew back a single step, letting her sister stand at the front.

"Well met. Two beautiful names for two beautiful mares.  So, tell me." Ebon's eyes glittered in magic light and he leaned in just a hair with interest. "What's your story? If I am to guess, you are new."

Celestia returned a short nod. "We were raised as—" She stopped and recovered without missing a beat. "—by  Earth ponies. They  just brought us here only a moment ago."

"Is that so?" The exclamation was more for surprise than an actual question. He sat back on his haunches at the thought. "Then you know nothing of the unicorns?"

"Only the stories passed down."

Luna, who had slowly been moving forward from her sister's side, gained her voice. "Which isn't much."

"Hmm, perhaps I understand now." Ebon nodded his head, and raised a hoof to his chin in thought. "That explains Grumpy's grump, alright." He hopped from his haunches and turned to walk up the spiral ramp. "Whelp! There is a lot I need to show you, then. If you don't mind, follow me."

The dozen of hooves thudded on wood and echoed across the chamber as they climbed higher and higher. Turning an ear and an eye, Ebon spoke to the mares behind him while leading. "May I ask something, Celestia?"

"Sure."

"Is that mane color natural?"

Celestia tilted her head up at the stallion. "I'm . . . not sure what you mean?"

"The pink. Is it . . ." Ebon took a moment to rephrase. "Was it the color you were born with?"

"Oh, ha, ha!" Her cheeks pulled back in a smile. "Yeah, I was a pink-haired filly."

Ebon nodded his head up and down in a slightly exaggerated motion. "Very interesting! I don't think I've seen anything like it."

"May I ask you a question?"

He turned his head with a broad smile. "Any question at all, and I'll answer."

"Can unicorns," Her voice dropped low, in a sense of awe. "turn invisible?"

"Ha, ha, ha!" The black stallion stopped as the ramp ended at another hole. "Oh, no! That'd be way to much effort. Especially, when we have—" With a white glow of his horn, he pulled back the hole's cover. "—this."

Light, natural light, poured inside the tree, smothering the magic glow provided by Ebon, who wore a giddy grin. Celestia and Luna walked past the black stallion and stood at the edge of the tree, staring out.

Neither could hide their gasp. They had travelled up into the forest's canopy and into a whole new world. In front of them, a wide, long branch extended forward with a flat, wide base large enough for two ponies to cross comfortably. That branch met far ahead by other branches and tangled together in smooth transitions like the joining of strands in a spider web. Down, up, this way and that, the web stretched on in the canopy, unicorns coming and going from tree to tree on their own business.  All of this in a world swimming in green leaves, above, below, either side, and bathed in cool shade as the sun trickled through.

"Welcome to the unicorn herd." Ebon's said in supreme smugness. "And this is how we hide."

Celestia stole several more breathes, still taking in all she saw. Timid at stepping forward, it felt as though the world would vanish once she touched it.

"C'mon," Ebon trotted gaily between them and the branch creaked with his passage. "I'll show you around."

Luna stared down at the pathway and tentatively placed her hoof on its smooth surface. Next, another hoof, than three. Finally, she stood high above the ground, on this living bridge. A smile parted her features and she looked up to Ebon for approval.

Kind eyes met hers, then turned to Celestia. "You are quite safe, I'll catch you if you misstep."

Taking a deep breath, she willed herself forward all at once and found her hooves clopping on a strong surface.

"There we are." He turned back and led the sisters along the pathways, showing them bends and turns that extended far in all directions of the canopy. "Phantom Spell did have some reason to call this 'babysitting,' even if the word is a bit harsh. You two don't know our ways and until you do, it's best you stick close to me. With a little time, you'll pick it up. Otherwise, it won't be safe. The first thing you need to know about is the birds."

"Birds?" Luna asked.

"Birds. We use them to give warning. Different bird calls, different warnings. Ahh, here we are." Ebon stopped and gestured up with a hoof. High in the branches sat a mare of brown, her head going back and forth in a pattern Celestia recognized as similar to the sentries of her own herd. But over her, a waved mesh of vines and leaves camouflaged her from the sky. "This is just one such look out. This one is responsible for making sure no crazy griffin accidently chooses to rest here. If one does," Ebon pointed to a series of birds of several shapes and sizes, that snoozed, preened, or rested on a branch close to the mare. Tied about the ankle with a vine, none attempted escape. "the lookout uses one of them to send out a call. Other lookouts will echo the bird's call until the rest of us know what's going on, which lets us know where to go for cover. We have these all over, guarding the sky, watching the ground . . . so if you hear a bird's call, do as I do and stay quiet."

The talk of griffins caused a lump to form in Celestia's throat and she nodded with a swallow.

The warning system taught, Ebon spent the rest of the day showing the new unicorns routes around the forest to different places of safety hidden inside the hollowed trunks of trees. The nature of the forest and need for concealed entrances made the task difficult, so Ebon taught and retaught the locations until the memories formed strong, stressing the importance of remaining hidden.

"Do wolves or cougars try to sniff us out?" Through the day, Luna had just gained enough knowledge to become inquisitive.

"Those little guys?" Ebon laughed and shook his head. "No, nothing that small. They were chased out of this side of the forest years ago. Occasionally, a lone coyote might try to wander through, but a quick zap of lightning sends him on his way."

Her pupil grew enormous, and her lips curved into a silent oooh. "You can do that?"

"Not myself, heh, heh. But some can."

Celestia narrowed her gaze. "Then who do we hide from?"

For the first time in a long while, Ebon stopped smiling. "There are creatures out there far too dangerous to confront, even with magic."

"Like who?" Luna asked again.

"Hydra, ursa, when griffins travel in groups, wyvern, manticore, loup garou, trolls, gnolls, occasional human explorers, dragons, well maybe not so much dragons. Dragons aren't much interested in ponies, but it's best to play it safe. Nothing quite as scary as a dragon that I know of."

"Oh." Luna all but whispered, blue eyes wide.

"But, that's why we have built this place, and so far, so good."

The rest of the day passed adding routes and safe areas, for either on the ground or in branches—for all the complicated cultivation of the trees, walking the forest floor remained just as vital and it had its own set of hiding holes. Eventually, the sun crested the horizon, and the colors of dusk settled into the sky.

"Enough for today? I think so." Ebon nodded his head, and trotted along the tree-paths to another hole in a wide trunk. "Make sure to stay only in places where you know the route to another safe room. You'd never want to get caught outside when a warning goes off." He chuckled to himself, peeling back the covering with a glow from his horn. "Here we are. It'll be where you can rest for tonight." Ebon lifted another magical light aloft to the low ceiling.

Celestia filed in, Luna right behind. At the word "rest" Celestia breathed a long sigh.

"Been a long day for you, hasn't it?"

The elder sister nodded. Thinking back, the single day felt like many as a memory. The early rise, departure, long and nervous trek through the woods. And then, here, paths to memorize, a new herd, and unfamiliar ways, words, concepts. Her legs ached, her mind fatigued in retaining what she learned, and emotionally she was used up. "It has."

"Time to rest those eyes, then." Ebon gestured with his horn. "I'm sure you need no guide to your beds, but if you need anything, just walk down that ramp and ask. Tell them you are the new arrivals, and that should be enough. Sleep well."

The cover closed in a ruffle, and Ebon's magical light already began to fade without his presence.  "Beds?" Celestia asked herself aloud as she shuffled to a pile of leaves that had a quality of being knitted together with magic. "Like river 'bed?'" " Ebon didn't think to explain what he meant, and what did a river bed have to do with sleep anyways? Earth ponies slept on soft grass, not "beds." Touching a hoof to the leaves, they gave the feeling of cushion and Celestia promptly flopped herself hard into its embrace. Close enough.

She expected sleep to come quickly. It did not.

"Celest?"

The light had long since faded. Only pitch black greeted Celestia's groggy eyes, and she debated if there was a purpose in opening them at all. Enclosed in a room up in a tree, not even moonlight softened the night. To her sister's call, she groaned.

"Celest, I can't sleep."

The elder sister groaned again, in agreement.

"It's . . . weird here. It's too high up. And I can't see."

Thoughts of the cool earth filled Celestia's mind. Thoughts of peaceful nights on the field of grass.

"And no one is here. Everyone is sleeping  all separated in other trees, instead of together. Celest?"

"Yes, Luna?"

"Can I sleep next to you?"

"Of course,"

The woven leaves across the room ruffled, the sound of hooves approached. A moment later, she felt the brushing of a warm body against hers and Celestia adjusted to make room so Luna curled against her side.

"Luna?"

"Yes?"

"Are you thinking of home?"

"No. Why?"

"Maybe I miss it."

"Oh,"

"Do you miss it?"

Luna's mane rustled as she shook her head. "No,"

"Why not?"

"I don't know. Maybe I miss mom and dad. And grass. But not home."

Celestia closed her eyes and rested on the leafy pad once more. A long sigh left her. Luna's chest lifted in her own. Sleep still did not come easy, and her night was filled with the dull ache of knowing what she left behind.
For the description, see chapter 1 [link]

This picture also done at request from Madmax. [link]

Chapter 2 [link]
Chapter 3 [link]
Chapter 4 [link]
Chapter 5 [link]
Chapter 6 [link]
Chapter 7 [link]
Chapter 8 [link]
Chapter 9 [link]
Chapter 10 [link]


And more to come!
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One part of growing up is realizing that the idols you've constructed of gold are merely gilded granite.
                              —Excerpts from the Candid Sayings of Celestia as recorded by her friends

The nature of Celestia's stay among the unicorns had shattered that evening. Phantom motioned to two of the others to take her away before he turned to his own path. They used their bodies to press Celestia back, shouldering and nudging the mare the other direction. She resisted as water resists a brush, holding still and trying to seep through the cracks, all to keep her eyes on the silver light of magic that took Luna away. But Phantom's unicorns won out and she lost track of where the light faded.

Her heart sank deep into her chest, finding a hole in her stomach to settle. Dread and fear raced through her mind and chased away clear thought. Too sudden, too fast did everything change, too much to know where to resist and where to comply.  Celestia let herself be guided for that lack of knowing what else to do, and her chaperones—that title unbefitting them now, were they even friendly?—took her into a tiny, dark room where they stayed and watched, trading shifts through the night. The herd had to sleep , after all.

But Celestia found none. Curled into a tight ball atop her bed, she clutched the mattress of leaves between her forelimbs and stared into empty space, shivering. The first night she ever spent truly alone; her insides ached at that fact with a visceral intensity, almost physical, as if her flanks had been slit open. In the open fields of the forest, Earth ponies always slept next to one another. Coming here, Luna had always been at her side. Luna was gone, now. Life as she knew it gone, with a threat than hung over her head like a boulder. Slavery, her father had called this feeling, stripped of choice to go home, forced to compliance. She longed for another, longed for Luna, to be here to ease her suffering. Occasionally, she cooed softly to herself to nurse the pain.

Confused, tired, and scared, Celestia could only wallow as the hours passed, each one feeling as if she was slowly mauled. After a time seeming an instant and eternity all at once, the curtain parted and Phantom Spell stood at the door, sunlight streaking in through the cracks.

"Get up." His voice had an unusual wariness, confidence that she'd follow orders lost and replaced with an edge of threat.

Without hesitation, Celestia got to her hooves and headed to the door in a determined trot. Phantom came as a relief, ending the hell of the night. She'd meet his challenge head on and take her first steps through this new situation. In grim silence, she watched and he led.

Their hooves pounded across the dirt and over the roots of the forest floor, each one having their own reason for the impatience gait. Phantom took a route leading to one of the larger tree-homes of the unicorns, composed of six or more converted forest woods. As a student, Celestia never ventured inward, having no business to be at the meeting hall of the craft leaders . But as what she was now, whatever that might be, she'd make her debut.

Phantom filed in and held the curtain. Fearless, Celestia hopped over the threshold and into the magically lit interior, though as her eyes adjusted to the paler light, she hesitated. The hall reminded her of an oversized classroom, same sloped floor, same indentations for seats, only the focal point was the dead center of the room rather than one side. However, what made her hesitate was that it was filled to capacity. Most were varying degrees of old, when compared to herself. Mares, stallions, coats of all natural colors, and many speaking in a turmoil that hushed and died at her entrance. All eyes turned to her, and her pink mane, and her pure white body. Celestia shrank back from their stare. Her head lowered and her hind quarters bumped against the wall at her back peddle.

"Forward, filly." Phantom's harsh tones cut the silence and echoed off of the walls.

Taking a hesitant step, she felt every grim face follow. Mane drooped forward, she did her best to hide behind bangs of hair.

"To the center." He directed in that same tone and Celestia took a seat on her haunches there.

Off to the side, Phantom gave a nod. The lights dimmed, the crowd disappeared behind a veil of black, all except the center focal point, and one lone mare hoisting a bright, white light high toward the ceiling.

Celestia considered her old as well, though not as old as some. An unadorned tan coat with brown hooves, mane, and nose prompted Celestia to dub her Sandy. Sandy's horn shimmered with a faint magenta from the hoisted light and continued to shimmer subtly as she questioned. "Would you please state your name?" Like her coat, her voice was plain, though nasally in delivery.

"C-Celestia, daughter of Whip Scar and Lightning Kick, sister to Luna." Curling her tail close to her body, she scanned the darkness, trying to make out any sort of shape.

"Please, pay attention." The brown mare said with polite insistence. "Now, who are Whip Scar and Lightning Kick?"

"My . . . parents," She hesitated, unsure of what exactly was being asked. "Earth ponies from the herd that brought me."

Whispers passed back and forth around the room. The mare looked off to the side for instruction, then focused back on Celestia. "Such things are impossible. Unicorns aren't born from full blooded Earth ponies.  Now, tell us what you know of your birth."

With a sigh, she closed her eyes and did her best to search her memories. Lightning and Whip had told her the story long ago, and the details had to be collected and pieced back together.

"Shaman?" Sandy repeated when Celestia came to that part. The mature mare raised her eyebrows. If she did not know the Shaman herself, she at least knew the word's meaning.

"Yes, she visited my parents and gave them a message. That I had been touched by the stars."

"And did she explain your horn?"

"Horn?" Celestia shook her head. "I was born without one."

Whispers and murmurs doubled, someone laughed and a loud hush was given. Celestia frantically looked left and right, trying to make out anything among the darkness.

"I'm afraid that's impossible. Continue, please, with your next earliest memory."

Celestia sighed in frustration and began to relate her life story as best she could recall. Perhaps in the telling, some may be convinced and release her sister. But periodically, especially on the subjects of the stars, horns, or her parentage, Sandy would interrupt and calmly stress that such things just didn't work that way. Each interruption threw Celestia off balance again in her recall.

The back and forth lasted hours. Fatigue set in from lack of sleep and blurred her concentration. Thoughts became fuzzy and her eyes burned. Losing  attention, Celestia got lost in a daze and wondered when the questions would end, or if it would drone on for yet hours more.

Finally, Phantom raised the lights and stepped past Sandy. "That will be enough for today. Celestia is past usefulness here." With a gesture, he motioned for Celestia to follow.

Groggily, she stretched stiff limbs and swayed as she got to her feet, following with lids that occasionally closed in an inescapable desire to nap.

"Celestia!"

She snapped awake from her sleep walk, with a mane frizzed in surprise to find Phantom glaring at her. "Huh, wha-!?"

"Despite your predicament, you still share our protection, our food, and out shelter. As such, you will be expected to share in labor, like all others. Until you are made well, I will dictate your tasks. I need not remind you what refusal will cost."

"No, sir." Her gaze fell away, thoughts carried on fatigue and daydream.

"Today, I expect you to till these earth paths." With a gesture of his nose and pointing of his horn, he singled out several winding trails where horseshoes compressed dirt. "Make it appear as no pony has tread over the forest. Make it disappear and keep us hidden and safe. Food will be brought shortly."

Without a further word, Phantom trotted away, returning to the craft hall.

Celestia gave a broad yawn at his back, half in need and half in contempt. When she closed her mouth, she froze an instant, noticing that the chaperones –two mares who whispered to each other but spoke seldom to her— had seen the act.

Fine by her, she thought while drawing will into her horn. Needed the time to think anyways.

The task moved at a snail's pace. The forest was complicated in its chaos, several times did one of the chaperones point to a mistake she missed in tired inattention. Pausing, she rubbed her eyes. The sun traveled lower on the horizon but would not set for some time. Upturning dirt and rearranging plants took little energy or concentration, so she reserved as much of her mind as she could to assessing the situation.

She wanted Luna back.

That was the thought that kept returning. She wanted Luna back, and wanted to take them both home.

And to nap, though that was more an immediate concern. She kept circling back over those few facts, fatigue ever growing.

By an act of mercy, the Sun when it finally set and Celestia whispered thanks to the sky turning orange. They finally led her back to bed and she collapsed into the soft leaf mattress, nuzzling it like a friend. Yet, it was not a friend. Celestia slept, but only in fits. Anxious feelings jolted her awake several times, and she clutched the bed tight between her limbs as she tried to fall back into dreams. Until then, she passed time in thought. Celestia knew what she wanted. Knew her situation. Now, she merely had to plan to reach her goals.

The tasks Phantom set her on would work to her benefit. The unicorns had to care for Luna. At the least, taking water and food to wherever they hid and imprisoned her. With an ear to the ground and a careful eye while she worked, Celestia could construct a mental map of where mysterious food was going and what different trees were being used for. That would narrow down where they kept her sister. Just like looking for Ebon.

It seemed reasonable enough. With that in mind, she drifted off.

Phantom Spell woke her again the next morning, and the day unfolded much as it had before. This time, the meeting hall was nearly empty. Far fewer old ponies sat and watched, though what few were there still disappeared all the same when Sandy hoisted her light.

"Tell us again of your earliest memory."

Already feeling the routine and bored with it, Celestia drew on her vague recollections of yesterday, and rushed out the same answer. "I chased a colt in a game, yelling that I was a dragon—"

"Stop!" Sandy's nasally voice cut her off, then resumed in polite insistence. "Dig deep, reexamine your memories, and tell us again without drawing on what you said yesterday. Add to it what you can."

Celestia sighed at the task and searched her mind. "Sunny day, I was just a little filly and chasing a colt, Painted Hoof I think was his name . . ." And from memory again, she began to relate her life story.

"Stop!"

Startled, she bit her sentence off.

"Are you sure you didn't see a horn on Luna's head?"

"Very," Celestia gritted her teeth. The interruptions were already getting under her skin.

"I am sure such a detail is easy to miss. Please continue."

But even as Celestia did so, Sandy questioned the veracity of almost everything, interrupted her even more than yesterday. To make matters worse, Sandy began to give suggestions to the story, ones she hinted were more plausible, but not going so far as insisting. Everything ground to a halt every time she yelled, "Stop!"

And on and on it went until Celestia began to mumble her answers in sleepy exhaustion, only half listening.

"That will be enough for, today." Phantom stepped forward, raising the lights. "She has use elsewhere."  He guided her out of the hall, leading her to a new chore. "Tree mending." He gestured to a thick trunk that housed a few rooms and a path to the canopy. "This one has over grown its last correction and is now at a risk of being found. When you are done with this one, there are others. Corona Blaze will show the rest." Without saying more, he left her to the chaperones.

The pattern repeated. A new day rolled around. A day after. A day after that. Sandy questioned her in the morning over her past and Phantom took her to some new task in the afternoon. Each time the sun fell,  Celestia added to her mental map and tried to think of more ways to narrow where Luna was hid.

The pattern repeated. And grew worse. Sandy threw Celestia off balance more and more with interrupting suggestions, and the process wore her down. Phantom's task became more and more challenging as he tailored better to her level of skill. The map grew in size and complexity as she added location after location. Sleep alone seldom brought rest.

Celestia shrieked in frustration, a high pitched, girlish screech that hurt her ears as it was loosed. Hurtling the bed against the wall of her room, she screamed again. One chaperone tensed, and the other started awake. Tears streamed from her eyes and Celestia buried her face in her forelimbs. It's hopeless. Her mental map descended into fog. The details converged, mixed, became blurred. Too much to recall, too much to keep track of, it all slipped beyond her tired grasp.  The despair wound its way around her heart and sank it low. I'll never see Luna again, I'll never see home again. She bawled and felt like a tiny foal. The tears soaked her cheeks and her hooves and came unending as her voice descended into sobs and sobs carried her into another night of restless sleep.






Luna kicked and squirmed against the bindings that dragged her away. The magic-imbued roots only tightened under the struggle, painfully grinding bone on bone. Mouth pinched shut, her screams of fight came as perturbed squeaks. Summoning a spell, she sent a surge of will to her horn only to find it impeded part way there.

"Sun and Moon!" A pony cursed but she couldn't arch to see who. "She won't hold still."

"Quickly. Phantom Spell can't suppress someone of her power very long." Silver Spear's voice. Calm in delivery and matter of fact in tone.

"I'm trying!"

Doubling her efforts, Luna kicked and screamed anew, surging more will to her horn and lashing out in all directions. An alien touch brushed her forehead, a nearly gentle thing. Gasping, she screamed again and heard her voice ring clear. "Noooo!"

Luna flew to her hooves, her breath panting under the exertion. The binds were gone. The hold on her magic as well. A shining blue light from the will channeled to her horn illuminated a plain and comfortable room.  A bed sat at one side, sizeable and sewn with more leaves than others she had seen. Water collected from rain fed into a bowl via hollowed bamboo, smelling natural and refreshing.

The curtain to the door rustled, sunlight washed in. Silhouetted except for his gray horn, Silver Spear peered in, resolute. Seeing the midnight blue unicorn, his features softened with calm. "Luna, you are awake." He was soft-spoken and quiet as a small stream broken over a rock.

"Yes," Luna nodded, chest still heaving. "I am." Gathering her composure, she sat on her haunches and brought her tail to her side.

Turning to look outside, his horn took on a brighter glow, levitating a bowl and sending it inside as well as holding the curtain aloft. "You are likely hungry. It's been some time since you last ate." Fashioned like a large bird's nest but built from living wood, leaves still budded at the bowl's edges.

Blue eyes shimmered in lust of what she saw. Apples tucked inside, a fine variety of leaves tossed in a salad with hay sprinkled on top. Her stomach growled with the thought of hunger and she looked to Silver with embarrassment.

"You may eat as you are ready." He simply stated with a nod of his head toward the bowl. "Were you hurt in the struggle?"

Luna bent to the bowl and took a large bite from the apple. Food still chewing in her mouth, she shook her head. "No,"

"You have been confined to these quarters for the foreseeable future." From Silver, the statement came as a mere fact, carrying no veiled threat. "There is an enchantment around the walls. I suggest you don't test it."

"Okay," Luna swallowed the bite she had taken. Her stomach replied with great satisfaction.

"You may be here some time." Silver quirked his lips as if addressing a problem. "Would you like some company?"

"No, thanks." Luna shook her head. Silver was no Crescent or Ebon and she dismissed the thought of asking for either of them. What she needed most right now was time to think.

Silver Spear gave a quick nod, accepting the answer. "If you require anything, a sentry will be at the door. Knock for him. The enchantment will otherwise contain sound." Closing the curtain, Silver's hooves trotted away.

Luna took a mouthful of salad and chewed with leaves sticking to her lips.

Where was Celestia?

She sent a bright yellow light into the room and floated it like a fairy, adjusting it so it could mimic the intensity of being in forest shade at high noon. Luna replayed the events of the night before.

Celestia had just revealed the uniqueness of her heritage. Phantom Spell reacted with disbelief, then . . . that's when the roots came out of the ground. In the struggle, things became disorienting. Next thing she realized here, she woke up here.

Calling new will forth, she shaped a spell to reach out and feel along the walls and enchantment. Like the antennae of an insect, the invisible fibers swept over the room and sent back a sensation, both tactile and magical. As Silver had said, a spell had been in place to confine her, her magic, and any sound she made. A strong, thick bubble, very elastic in construction but not invincible.

Forming a new spell, Luna shaped her will into a forelimb with a needle-like hoof and pressed it against the barrier's side. It flexed and held as expected. Gradually, she pushed the hoof deeper, until the magical construct threatened to tear under the pressure.

In the thinness of the stressed bubble, she felt the second spell. Yelping, she jerked back the forelimb and nearly knocked herself over with her own magic.

"Stars and Moon!" She gasped and worked herself back to calm. A binding enchantment layered over the barrier. If the barrier is broken, the spell will swoop in and bind her legs and feet.  Undoubtedly, it'd alert the sentry and she'd be subdued before she could break free.

Mulling over the thought, Luna stood up and refreshed herself on the water. At the wall, a voice caught her ear.

"I don't get it." One chatty mare said outside the tree. "Why only that other crazy one? This one Phantom just keeps locked."

Luna sipped silently and kept her ears up and angled for the sound.

"Because Phantom has a system, he always does." A stallion. Could it be the sentries? They must be changing watch. "He's just made another to fix this problem."

"Only one of them. After that pink one is helped, we got her insane sister still locked away."

"What am I, a mind reader? I can't explain everything Phantom does."

The mare laughed. "Your innocent act won't work on me. I know how you are about gossip."

A pause. "Okay, fine. I may have heard something." The voice grew quiet and Luna used a little magic to draw the sound to her ear. "They say the pink one is the older of the two. Wherever she goes, lil'sis goes. So, they help Pinky, and Blues follows."

Luna slowly sat back on her haunches, realization dawning on her. Pieces fell into place, one after the other. While Phantom kept Luna safe-but-caged, Celestia was subject to this mysterious "help." A memory from the night before became clear. If you run away or disobey me, your sister will never be seen again.

"Stars and Moon." She spat and glared at the wall where the voices came from. Phantom was using their bond to manipulate each in their own way. A sick feeling gripped her stomach and she scooted the bowl of food off to the far side of the room.

"So, wherever Celest goes, her little sister follows?" With sound confined, no reason to not voice her thoughts aloud. "Let's see what happens when little sister cries for big sister."

Using the bed as a seat, Luna started to shape a complicated spell while musing in thought. Eyes closed, and lips moving silently, she planned her escape. The first part felt easy enough.

The binding spell that sat around the bubble. If she could bring Celestia here, her sister would have no problem destroying it from the outside and they could break free. All the defenses were facing the inward, it would be a cinch.

If she could bring Celestia here. That was a big if.

No magic, no sound, no way to signal. But, constructs could be flawed. Perhaps there was a weakness in the barrier she could exploit.

Luna turned her spells to feeling and testing her room, poking at the walls, prodding the enchantment's elasticity and thickness. Each time she felt she learned something new, she added more and more to a complicated spell she built up in the reserve of her mind.

The going was slow, and lasted the rest of the day. When she grew stuck or fatigued, she turned to her salad and ate, or refreshed in the water. At a regular interval, Silver Spear peaked in, checked her condition, and took the bowl to gather more food. Politely, she thanked him at each turn. For all his aloofness, Silver was diligent in seeing to her needs, almost managing to soften her disgust at Phantom's ploy.

When the cracks at the seam of the curtain darkened with nightfall, Luna extinguished her faux-fairy lamp and curled up on the leafy bed. Sleeping alone for the first time, she began to shiver and moan softly with unease, but constructing that spell kept her occupied until sleep whisked her away.

The next morning, she awoke with Silver bringing her breakfast. "You've been alone for a full day. Would you like company?"

The blue unicorn giggled to him with a smile. Only Silver Spear could managed to say those words in such a way that it did not imply flirting. "No, thanks. I'd prefer privacy, today."

The short stallion nodded and closed the curtain.

She spent the morning perfecting the spell she came up with the night before, drawing her will forth and letting it assume the intended shape. It was complicated. Very complicated. It needed to serve a variety of purposes at once and very specifically. First, the spell had to find Celestia. Luna shaped that aspect like lightning seeking the tallest tree from miles away in the sky. Knowing her sister well, she merely had shape it to strike her rather than a tree. Next, it had to draw them together. This part proved more challenging. The signal had to be invisible, and untouchable to outside harm in case a unicorn found it and tried to sever it. It also had to guide Celestia. She went through several ideas before settling on a root. A root sifted nutrients to a tree, likewise Luna could send messages along the tether. If she could "bury" it in the air, then it'd be hidden from attack.

One final problem. Getting it out the bubble without popping it. Feeling the barrier carefully, Luna tried to soak her spell in another layer of magic that would mimic the texture of the enchantment, like soaking a stick in water so it wouldn't burst a bubble it poked through.

Taking a deep breath, she summoned will to her horn. "Here it goes . . ." She brought the idea fully realized to that will, felt it take shape as she desired, then unleashed its reality-altering power.

Her magic arched like lightning, then grew like a vine. Reflecting off the bubble, it crawled across the wall, up and around, the tether disappearing in the wake. Eventually, it faded out, expending itself of all energy.

"Blast!" She eyed the wake in disappointment. "Something wasn't right."

With little more to do, she closed her eyes and felt along the barrier again. The day unfolded quickly in Luna's mind, full of more experiments and failures. And so did the next, Silver Spear always prompt with a delicious meal.  But that was the only thing that went her way. Something about her plan wasn't compatible. She tried new aspects to her spells, substituting the lightning for a curious and slower dragonfly. The roots for spider-silk strands. Soaking the magic different shades of enchantment. Even adding what elements of harmony she could.

Nothing worked.

A deep sigh lifted Luna's chest, and she held her head low, thinking of no magic and no spells. Just a solemn emptiness that filled her mind. Like being submerged and staring into the abyss of a lake at night. Stillness.

"Was this hopeless?"

Silence answered her.

"This spell was perfected by a herd of unicorns and I'm trying to break it in only a couple of days. Am I a foolish foal?"

Soft quiet of the sheltered room.

"Perhaps it's time I ask Silver if he could bring Crescent here. If she still has her instrument. That'd be nice." She answered for herself. "Yes. Maybe I'll ask."

Rising onto limbs weak with lethargy, she walked for the door. But a little visitor caught her eye. "Oh, hello. I remember you."

A black and turquoise butterfly fluttered at the seam of the curtain, passing into the room.

"Come to visit me? I'm glad to see it." She smiled as it landed on her horn, investigating her with its curling mouth.

Luna's eyes widened into saucers and she inhaled a deep breath. "Oh, butterfly, you are a true friend!" With all the gentleness she could muster within booming excitement, she trotted to the center of the room, butterfly in tow. "I can't pass through the barrier, but Silver Spear has many times now in giving me food." She paused. "Do you know what this means, butterfly?" She grinned wide. "You can pass through the barrier as well."

Sitting down on her haunches, she lowered the insect to the remains of an old apple. It settled there, flashing its wings open and closed.

"A friend like you needs a name." Luna lifted a hoof to her chin. "How about," She pointed to him. "Flutter Brave. Because you will bravely carry my message to my sister." Unable to sit still for her excitement, she stood up and arched her tail proudly before leaning down to whisper. "Don't worry, Flutter Brave. I'll give you a little guidance and magic. Then you can signal my sister."
For the description, see chapter 1 [link]

This picture also done at request from Madmax. [link]

Chapter 2 [link]
Chapter 3 [link]
Chapter 4 [link]
Chapter 5 [link]
Chapter 6 [link]
Chapter 7 [link]
Chapter 8 [link]
Chapter 9 [link]
Chapter 10 [link]


And more to come!
Show
Add a Comment:
 
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Ah! The joys of youth.
         —Excerpts from the Candid Sayings of Celestia as recorded by her friends


Celestia's gaze traveled in a practiced motion, a set of movements instilled from when she was a foal. Left, then right, then skyward. Left, then right, then skyward. The motions had long since moved into muscle memory so the filly, on the cusp of being a mare, practiced them unconsciously. Vigilance was needed when traveling the Everfree Forest, even mid-day.

Between thick branches of the tree canopy, Celestia caught a glimpse of sunlight, moving lower on the horizon. "It's growing late. I really don't want to be here at dusk." Colts and fillies of a certain age braved the forest during the day, despite the danger. The craving for adventure was too strong in the young. But even the young had enough sense stay out of the forest at soon as the sun touched land.

"One more moment." Luna dug at the ground with her forelimb. Her hoof made rhythmic clops on the dirt as she unearthed small pebbles of imperfect turquoise. They had found this deposit not long after the herd had settled along this new edge of the forest. Ponies loved beauty: flowers, butterflies, and stones included. But they likewise understood it could be captured in memory, only. Migratory and without tools, it was said that memories are the only things you keep. So each day, Celestia and Luna traveled back to the mineral deposit and gathered a new stone. A new stone, a new memory—and a new chance to show it off to the other fillies' jealousy.

Luna frowned at her quarry once she gathered them. Selecting the brightest, bluest rock with her lips, she planted it safely in her tail. "Yesterday's was better." She fell into a trot beside her sister, practicing the similar motion of a look-out as the two traveled alone. Nothing to the right, nothing to the left, and nothing on the branches to attack from above.

Celestia lead the way, winding through the forest to return to the field. "Yesterday's was great. Round and with specks of black."

Luna's voice fell into a daydream like daze. "Do you think Chosen Oak will like this one?"

The halt came so fast, Luna nearly rear ended Celestia.  The younger sister's admiration for the colt Chosen Oak was a poorly kept secret. Mares grinned and giggled to each other to watch Luna's large blue eyes light up when Oak passed by and watch him quietly from a distance. That information passed down to the fillies, who teased Luna and only made her that much more shy about approaching Oak. Celestia glanced over her shoulder. "Oh my, Luna, you must not have heard. Oak stepped on a snake just yesterday. He's seriously sick." It did not need to pass between them that he was unlikely to recover, or survive.

"Oh," The word left Luna as quiet as a breeze. She stopped her look-out's gaze to stare down at the trail in front of her.  Celestia resumed the walk back, Luna behind her with head lowered. "That makes two this week."

"Two? In one week? Who is the other?"

"Uncle Apple is growing old. His joints hurt when he moves. They say his Time is coming soon, and he is making peace with his family."

Celestia shook her head. A pony's Time came when they could no longer keep up with the herd. Whether it was a snake bite, or old age, if they could not run, it was simply impossible to shield them from predators.  "Two in one week." Thoughts of Painted Hoof drifted through her awareness. Her mother had been right, you never did forget the first. But even prepared to lose more, losing too much, too fast still stung with unexpected pain.

The forest ended on ahead, trees giving way to long shoots of grass and rolling hills. Celestia broke out into a canter, Luna doing the same to keep up. Ahead, a loose crowd of ponies roamed. Foals played, adults grazed or rested, and sentries kept a careful watch on the forest and sky.  Only once Celestia was in the herd with ponies at her back did she let out a sigh of relief.

"We're back!" Celestia found Whip in the throng and greeted him by wrapping her neck partly around his: an equine hug.

"Welcome!" He said with a wide smile, and greeted Luna as he did Celestia. "So, what did your forest adventure find this time?"

Luna fished in her tail and pulled out the turquoise rock with her lips before dropping it on a hoof to show off. "Do you like it, daddy?"

He leaned in, admiring the details of the rare stone. "It's lovely. A thing of beauty."

A smile pulled back the lips of the midnight filly, and she raised her tail in a proud arc at the comment. "Is it like what the humans wear?"

"Sometimes, sometimes." Whip gave a nod, then knitted his brow, thinking back. "I didn't see many humans with such stones. Only their chiefs and people who had lots of money could have ones with colors like this."

"Money?" Luna tilted her head.

"It's something that humans love. They give it to each other to get more things. Do you remember how they live in houses rather than fields or forests? When you have a house, you can fill it with things. Money is a thing."

"Oh!" Luna seemed satisfied with this answer and smiled broadly before tucking away the rock back in her tail. "Did your master have a lot of things?"

A laugh erupted from Whip. "That crotchety old cuss? Maybe he had a lot of things, I can't tell what is a lot for a human. But he didn't have a lot of nice things in his house or mind, and that's for sure!"

The laugh was infectious and Celestia smiled but inwardly the line of questions started to bore her. Scanning over the herd for friends' faces, she found her eyes drifting over the forest  and her thoughts turned to Uncle Apple and Chosen Oak. "Did you fear predators while you were with the humans, dad?"

Whip took a seat on his haunches, considering the question with a long moment of silence. "I suppose there were other things to fear. If master was in a bad mood," He gestured to his back, striped with the scars from where he got his name. "Or if I fell and broke a foot. When I ran, I feared his dogs, nasty creates like wolves, but louder and stupider. But I did not fear predators."

The trees swayed in a breeze that ripped through the field. Dark, foreboding leaves turned only darker as the sky gave way to twilight. "Do you ever wish you could go back and not have to be afraid of them?"

The brown stallion shook his head and the answer came without hesitation. "Never."

Celestia turned her attention back to her father. "Why not?"

"I suppose watching out for medusa, cougars, manticores and the like is not fun." Whip shrugged his shoulders, and tossed back his brown mane. "We'd all be happier to be rid of those things. But forcing a pony to stay when he wants to go, or work for what is not his, and whipping him when he doesn't please you, that just wasn't natural." He gestured with his neck to the field. "Here, I have a herd," He sat up and nuzzled each in turn. " And my daughters." His eyes fell on Lightning Kick and a quiet smile, one he only ever had for her, grew on his muzzle. "And my mate. Things I want to work for. Here, I am happy. Monsters, or no."

Celestia fell silent in thought, but that only lasted a breath before Crimson Coat nearly bowled her over. "Ahhh!"

"Celestiaaaaaa!" He grinned and trotted around with a giddy bounce. "C'mon, we got ol' Tank Flank dared to try to dance the Star Trot in front of everyone! It's going to be hilarious." As quick as he came, Crimson was off like a shot to spread the word.




The night passed fitfully. Dreams of wolves and griffins filled Celestia's rest, and several times she found herself flung to her hooves, awake and panting with fear. The yellow eyes of the wolf remained clear in her mind, still staring with their cold, calculating gaze impressed into her ever since that day some time ago. She curled back up to sleep each time and tried to shake off the feelings that lingered. These things occurred often enough with her, and to some extent, universally, called the Shared Dream.

At a time all too early, warmth bathed her body and light flooded past her eyelids. Celestia groaned over the lost sleep and rolled over. But it was a losing battle, the sun merely grew brighter as it raised itself into the sky. Finally, she rose to her feet and shook out her disheveled, pink mane.

"Good morning, Celestia." Luna's voice held a light and teasing quality. "Not often that I beat you out of rest."

The elder sister grumbled and groggily stumbled forward.

Luna looked over her shoulder with a smile. "Dreams bother you last ni—" The smile vanished and Luna stared unwittingly,  jaw dropped, body frozen, eyes wide.

Celestia stumbled back. "W-what?" A flush came over her face.

Without saying a word, Luna approached step by slow step, reached up a hoof and tapped something attached to Celestia's forehead.

"H-hey!"  She raised her own hooves and felt along her face, annoyance rising in her gut. "Did some pony play a prank on mee . . ." Everything melted away from her awareness, like water smeared over ink, as her hooves told her the shape and feel of the new addition to her features. A long, unyielding substance, shaped like a thin cone, curved with ridges that spiraled up to a pointed tip, on the center of her forehead. Celestia's disbelief nearly matched Luna and she exchanged a single glance before she sprang on her feet and ran full gallop to the river's edge, heedless of anything else.

She snorted out in agitation as the river's flow proved unable to catch a reflection. She ran up and down the river bank, bumping into Crimson Coat and knocking him into the water as he drank. "Hey--!" He got out before the splash silenced him. Not that it mattered at the moment. In a crevice of still water, the blue sky bouncing off a smooth surface, Celestia had her first glance at her new, white, unicorn's horn.

Her breath was stolen by that image. Gingerly she touched it and felt the real sensation of it being a part of her body. She explored it all over, looking for seams, or perhaps some sticky sap that meant someone stuck it on her forehead as a joke. But it was too perfectly matched to her white fur coat, felt too real in hoof, and she threw doubt out the window.

"I'm a . . ." Her face lit up in the pond, shining brighter and smiling wider than she ever had. "I'm a unicorn!" She reared up, bucked, kicked, bounced, screamed and hollered, unable to contain the raw excitement of the fantasy made reality. "I'm a unicorn! I'm a unicorn! I'm a unicorn!"

The commotion gathered attention, heads poked up curiously from the herd, Luna came running over at a canter, and even Crimson Coat came out of the river with the sour look wiped from his face.

"A unicorn! A unicorn! A unicorn!"

What followed was, at best, calm chaos. Murmurs rippled through the herd in waves. Mares, stallions, foals under their feet moved forward. A crowd formed around her, growing thicker and thicker. Whispers were traded until the sheer number grew loud. The whispers gave way to outright talking, and that into a cacophony of voices speaking over each other. Gasps, cries to the Sun and Moon, praises, swears or mere trading words all merged. Sentries abandoned their posts as the commotion stretched to the outermost edges, and joined the growing cluster.

Celestia pranced and posed and grinned wide at the attention, strutting through the crowd  that left her a respectful distance, while savoring each gasp, each jealous stare from a disliked filly, each look of astonishment as she sought her friends to speak to and squee and bounce with in shared excitement. "I'm a unicorn!" She repeated to herself. More than anything, that was her thought. Still finding it hard to believe.

It was the stern command of the chief mare that called sentries back to their posts. The throng of ponies parted, allowing her passage, flanked by Lightning Kick and Whip Scar. The chief, in her grizzled gray fur, stood taller than most mares, though Celestia was not sure if that was merely because she held herself more erect than them. With serious brown eyes, she broke through the crowd and leaned in close to the new unicorn.  Celestia, for her part, knelt politely.

The Chief's presence hovered close to that horn, her breath ruffling the unkempt mane. "Little filly, can you cast a spell?" She risked a gentle touch to the spiral of the horn

"I don't know how I'd do that."  Celestia blinked up at the chief, but the old mare's attention already turned inward and she went to leave with a purposeful trot. Lightning and Whip followed stealing glances back at their child. The crowd closed around their wake, still marveling at the new horn, but with a curious kind of murmur.

That encounter left her in unease.

The night justified her discomfort. "Celestia," Lightning Kick summoned her away from her friends, with whom she whittled away the last of daylight. As Celestia closed, Lightning Kick turned to lead her to relative privacy among the herd. "There is something important your father and I need to discuss with you."

Whip  gave Lightning a passing affectionate nuzzle as she turned to sit and both faced their daughter. Celestia chewed her lip and waited.

"The chief, your father, and myself have been discussing your new . . . blossoming."

The filly nodded her head. Whip exchanged glances with Lightning before she continued. "The uniqueness of your birth has never been hidden from you. Or most of the herd, for that matter. Hard to hide a mane of pink, as I'm sure you know." Lightning let a smile pass over her, but the humor was chilled by the gravity on her face. "There are no stories in our collective memory like yours, no tales of such a birth or growth, and only the faintest stories of unique colors. We believe that this turn of events is the blessing of the stars playing itself out."

Celestia's eyes darted between them. "That's good, right?"

"Yes," Lightning's grave smile returned. "That is good. But it also has certain implications we have been discussing."

Whip gave a quick nod. "The point of this being, it's been decided to take you to the unicorns."

"The unicorns?" Excitement charged Celestia's voice, with equal parts reverence. A wide grin stretched her lips and her eyes dazzled.

"Yes, this herd has no idea how to support your growing. The unicorns will know if you have magical talent, and be able to teach you, if you do."

"I'm going to learn magic?" She'd thought she'd squeed the last word and rose to her hooves, trying not to prance off right away.

Whip raised a single eyebrow, then burst out in a short lived laugh. "You're taking this rather well. But yes, you just may learn magic."

"Thank you, daddy!" Celestia's hind and forequarters rocked as she hopped over to Whip and gave him an equine hug. "Mommy!" Lightning received one as well, and Celestia felt her mother hug tighter than normal. But too many other things were on her mind, and she turned to gallop off. "Wait until my friends and Luna he—" Dirt kicked up under her hooves as she ground to a halt. "Luna is not coming with me, is she?"

Lightning shook her head. "I'm afraid she isn't going. While you have a horn, she's just an Earth pony."

The answer drained her of the gallop and the elder daughter left in a walk.

That night brought much needed rest to Celestia. The dreams treated her kindly, and she slept with a peaceful grin and a soft sighing chest. But before sleep had carried her off, her mind was filled with stories of unicorns. Descendants of the first unicorn princess, inheritors of magic. Elegant mares of grace, weaving beauty with their horns. Stallions strong in magic, commanding the elements, striking at predators. Time could not pass swiftly enough. And yet, what of Luna?

The next morning, she tapped her sister on the flank and watched her large, blue eyes slowly open to the early morning light.

"Ehh-mmm . . ." Luna slowly stretched out. The remnants of sleep still gripped her. "Whaaat?"

"C'mon," Celestia gestured for her to follow. "We need to get you a horn."

Luna pursed her lips and shot Celestia a skeptical look. But silently, she rose and followed. At the River, with other early rises, Luna refreshed herself, drinking cool water and smoothing over her mane with one hoof. Feeling the last dregs of sleep shrug off with the daylight, she shook out her tail and turned to her sister, waiting in silence.

"Are you ready?"

"For what?"

"To get you a horn."

Luna looked to the side and down, contemplating what she heard. "How?"

"Uhh," Celestia's flower-colored eyes of soft pink widened at the question. "We'll figure that out." Turning away Celestia took off at a canter for the rolling fields of green grass. Plenty of room around them, and fewer distractions from all the adults. "Alright!" Celestia stopped and Luna had to back pedal after the unexpected halt. "Well, I think I know what we can do to get you your horn!"

Luna took a seat on her haunches, long shoots of grass tickled her back and rump. Celestia marched and paced in front of her like a teacher addressing a group of younglings without looking at them directly.

"So, the stories say that magic comes from within, and horns are magic. So, we need to get that magic in you, out of you, and on your head. Then you'll have a horn!" Celestia stopped and smiled to her sister. "That easy!"

A nebulous feeling of doubt rose at the back of Luna's mind. She maintained a serious expression when met with Celestia's smile.

"So, start on that. Umm, concentrate. Concentrate on getting that magic out of you."

The sun rose over head. Shadows marked the passing of hours as Celestia coached Luna in the spacious field, repeating the exercise again and again. Luna had long since collapsed to the ground as her legs grew tired of sitting.

"Concentrate harder! Find that magic." Celestia only had so many ways she could convey that one idea, and she to simply repeated herself.

"Ehhh!" Luna grunted out with the sustained effort. Muscles tensed all along her body, her face, her head. She grimaced with the force she pushed herself, harder, and harder, imagining a horn of her own. "Ehhh-GAH!" She stopped, exhaustion set into her once again, head and face numb with the unusual work out.

"Luna!" Frustration took over Celestia's voice. "You've got to keep trying. Otherwise, you can't come with me to the unicorns."

A colt's laugh interrupted the air, and Luna jerked with surprise. Crimson Coat approached, having gotten close while Luna tried to find her magic. "Luna? See the unicorns? Why would she do that?" He smirked with the confidence of a joker, a mocking in his voice.

Celestia swiveled to face him with the bulk of her body and held her neck proud and aloft. "Because she's my sister!"

"Yeah, so? Stars never said anything about her. She's never going to have a horn. Just going to be a little Earth pony." A self-amused, uninviting laugh finished his sentence.

Luna stared down, low, observing the grass around her feet, the intricate seedpods, wide blades, and thin, stiff stems. Crimson's words stung like barbs across her back, each one hooking into skin and drawing blood. She stayed low, and quiet, watching the grass while feeling the words.

"She can get a horn, and she will. Just you wait." Celestia huffed and widened her legs to stand her ground. "We share blood, so we might as well share this."

"I'll be waiting a long time. Just 'cause you want her to have a horn isn't gonna get her one. Face it, all she's going to be is the boring Earth pony sister."

Celestia dropped her head low and grunted, closing her eyes and pointing her horn at Crimson. It glowed with a translucent pink aura, and he fell to his hind quarters, gasping as icy fear gripped him and paled his face. Celestia strained and groaned louder, the pink glow became brighter, more vibrant. Crimson broke out into a sweat, frozen in place.

The white filly let out a cry as she released the building magic, rearing back. A single, white ember leaped from the tip of her horn and drifted down to the ground on the dalliance of the wind, harmless as a firefly.

Crimson Coat fell to the ground in uproarious laughter. Limbs flailed and he rolled uncontrollably back and forth on the ground.

Luna rose to her hooves and tapped a disappointed Celestia on her flank. "I think I need a break. All this concentration has given me a headache."

Celestia exhaled and nodded to her.

The younger filly trotted away from the colt and across the field of green. Adults and others milled about, grazing or talking as they always did and Luna weaved her way through the herd to put some distance between herself and Crimson. Returning to the blue river, she trotted downstream, following the winding curve until she felt satisfyingly secluded from the company of others.

Sitting down at the edge, she finally let out a sigh, releasing the pent up tension of Celestia's training and Crimson Coat's remarks, though she could not say the sigh was a relaxed one when it left her lips. She knelt to the ground and dunked her face beneath the tugging waters of the river. Closing her eyes, the refreshing coolness stole away some of the headache until she needed air. She laid and thought while staring at her reflection in the water. No horn in sight under that waterlogged mane.

Briefly, she tried to envision the horn using Celestia's methods, but abandoned it as it returned the headache at the very thought.

"Magic comes from within?" Luna posed to herself and closed her eyes, experiencing every emotion as it whirled around in her head and sorting through them. The pain still lingered from Crimson's comments, finding a true soft place to pierce. Pressure weighed on her. Celestia would leave without her unless she earned a horn. What would she do at this herd alone? But these were simply emotions. "What is magic even suppose to feel like?"

Her frame lifted in another sigh, this one filled with hopelessness. No shaman ever came at her birth. No pink and white colors marked her as special. Luna opened her eyes and looked down at her leg's midnight blue coat. While a dark blue didn't stand out, her shade was at least a little different, and far more pure a color than any pony had seen. But still not special when she stood next to Celestia.

A yawn stretched out her jaw and she rested her head on crossed forelimbs as thought gave way to a light sleep.

When she opened her eyes again, the sun had travelled another short distance across the sky, no longer rising but descending to the west. Luna stretched out her limbs and shook out her neck, casting her mane over her shoulder. With a pang of thirst she knelt to the river and drank. Satisfied, she pulled back and stared into the water, assessing herself after the nap.

And saw a blue horn on the center of her head.

"Oh!" Excitement flooded her veins and she tapped her horn with a forelimb to confirm what her reflection shown her. It was there, responding with a physical sensation that signaled it was a part of her. Face flushed,  she inhaled a happy breath.

Her hooves could scarcely carry her fast enough back to the herd as she yelled out her sister's name. "Celestia! Celestia, come quick! Where are you?" She darted between mares, searching all around, poking her head out at the river and circling back to check the field. Out of the corner of her vision, she caught Lightning first and turned sharp to her

"Mother! Mom!" Luna's feet slipped on the grass, and her hind quarters fell out from under her, but she stayed on her forelimbs and was up as quick as she fell. She threw herself around Lightning Kick's neck in a hug. "Mom! Look! Look what I just got!" She stepped back and tossed her mane, showing off her new, blue horn.

Lightning gasped, and caught off guard, her mother was unable to block the anguish and shock on her features. Quickly, she covered it with a smile, but it was too late. Luna had seen it. "That's a lovely surprise, dearest."

In that moment, Luna realized her mistake. Whip and Lightning already had to lose one foal. Now, they were going to lose both.
For the description, see chapter 1 [link]

This picture also done at request from Madmax. [link]

Chapter 2 [link]
Chapter 3 [This one]
Chapter 4 [link]
Chapter 5 [link]
Chapter 6 [link]
Chapter 7 [link]
Chapter 8 [link]
Chapter 9 [link]
Chapter 10 [link]


And more to come!
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Answers are always elusive. The fun part is in the searching.
—Excerpts from the Candid Sayings of Celestia as recorded by her friends

The rain from the dark cloud sprinkled into her open mouth, small respite from a growing thirst. Not quite getting her fill, Celestia swallowed a gulp and sat there with hunched shoulders. Though the water soaked her all the way through and chilled her to the bone, she made no move.

The pegasi's laughter and jeering slowly died away once their amusement from the prank dwindled. The trouble makers, those bent on antagonizing Celestia, slung a barbed comment or two at her, hoping to provoke her to new heights. In a gesture not entirely unfeigned, Celestia did not respond, or even glance up. Her frustration at the pegasi felt pointless and her attempts fruitless. Her only recourse was to take their barbs and wait until they gave up.

The cold wasn't entirely evil to her. The pitter-pat of the droplets across her back worked to soothe some of the myriad of bruises she had collected on this journey. A small blessing, though. At the same time, knowledge of just how much hurt—her back, her legs, her neck, her ribs, and the bruises on her face—made her feel beaten down and weary.

At that moment, she'd have given anything for a friend to be there.  She needed to vent, to lay out all her frustrations and problems with another, to feel the relief of their support. Her thoughts trailed to Ebon Swift. A small ache went with him, the memory of the last exchange they had when he signaled the alarm and nearly foiled her sister's rescue. She'd have been eager to forgive him, were he here now. She had other friends too, and felt a longing for them. Other unicorns, and even childhood friends, Earth ponies like Crimson Coat.

Or Whip Scar and Lightning Kick.

The yearning turned into an outright ache for home and belonging. She wished to spill everything that happened to her parents, and hear their advice. They'd have known what to do. Lightning Kick would have remembered a story from the Earth pony past that shed light, or Whip Scar's strength and wisdom would have supported her.

Then, there was Luna. She let out an exhale, half frustrated and half amused. A companion, yes, and something more complicated: a sister. Celestia could have unfolded herself to Luna, too, had Luna's quirky and stubborn personality not driven her to careen down the cave to explore by herself. Celestia muttered at the timing of Luna's stubbornness, leaving her to contemplate the situation by herself.

The question of why still galled her mind. Her skills and magic prowess made her invaluable to both Earth ponies or unicorns. Even here among the pegasi, she saw so much she could do for them with only a tiny bit of effort. She could brighten any stretch of cave with magic light, repair the cloud that concealed the entrance, removed the obvious trail signs outside, organize the glowing bugs and mushrooms into a more effective or appealing pattern. Yet, the pegasus ponies' chief joy with her talent was either tricking her or teasing her into lashing out and avoiding the blows. Why didn't they want her help?

Even her strange colors should have garnered some kind of reaction. Sure, many had seemed curious who approached her, but that was all: curious. Both Earth ponies and unicorns regarded her pink mane and pure white coat with a mix of trepidation and awe. Why would a pegasus pony make so much less of it?

Why would a collection of ponies all coexist and have no chief?

Why were all the pegasi in smaller groups instead of a whole?

Why did they fool their own kind and not care instead of supporting each other?

Why, why, why, why?

Her frustration mounted again, wanting to boil over and spew out. Antsy energy filled her legs and she stood up, looking again at the surroundings. The trouble makers had left, which had been her hope in sitting under the cloud. Seeing that she had reached her limit and would react no more, they grew bored and left to occupy themselves some other way. It would let her travel again without their horseplay.

Celestia felt shivers crawl down her back and she resisted the urge to curl up against the cold while underneath the rain. Teeth beginning to chatter, her sight was drawn to the cave entrance and she forced herself into a trot. The thought of bathing in Sun's warmth at midday—relaxing in golden light with the familiar view of green forest's trees, escaping her worries and the atmosphere of barren stone—proved the most pleasing idea she had since arriving and she immediately made her way to the lair's entrance.

Emerging from the mouth of the cave and onto the rocky mountain shelf outside, she breathed in and filled her chest with the scent of fresh air. Though the wind was cool so high on Earth's brow, Sun's touch was all the warmer.

Crafting a spell in her mind and drawing it to her horn, Celestia wicked the water from her coat and mane a bit at a time by constructing a greedy root out of her will and guiding it across her. She watched the water collect into a ball and felt cleansed by the drenching she underwent. Despite being a little thirsty, she tossed the ball down the side of the mountain. Stars know what sort of grime she collected on her journey to the pegasi.

Now, she closed her eyes and let the warming rays work her body into placidity. She needed this. Needed this more than she even realized. Ever since Luna had been stolen from her those days ago by the unicorns, Celestia hadn't found the chance to relax this deeply. Between Phantom Spell, that Ursa Major, Silver Spear, wolves, and the Everfree Forests, where was the time? Luna was safe now, at the least, and she could afford this moment.

As she rested her chin on crossed forehooves, a sound perked her ear. Close by, she heard the play of ponies carried on the brisk mountain wind. Not that of the other pegasi she met, these voices were much younger, fillies and colts' shrill screams of excitement and joy.

A desire to go over rose up inside and she lifted her head to contemplate it. As comfortable as she was here, surrounding herself with others seemed all the more gratifying. Also, fillies and colts were very poor at lying. They'd have very little luck at fooling her, and if she wanted answers about the pegasi, they seemed the most likely to be bluntly honest.

Gathering her hooves under her, she trotted curiously in their direction. The high shelf that housed the cave's mouth curved around the mountain, stretching flat and level, before tucking into a partly obscured crevice. A mostly-hidden spot for the ponies to run.

And run they did, a score of fillies and colts with no overarching game, cantering, leaping, hopping, pouncing, or taking a break in between. Celestia tilted her head, noting that none of the pegasus fillies and colts were flying and no older sentry guarded them. Yet still, to be around so many innocent and excited faces made her smile.

Moving closer, she looked over the side of the shelf in a habit of vigilance. The platform fell away into a sheer cliff face, straight down almost to the base of the mountain. The height played havoc on her senses and Celestia pushed herself away before vertigo took her balance. Taking a deep breath to recover, she supposed it made sense. What was a bluff to a race of flying ponies but extra protection? Celestia gave ample distance between herself and that drop before folding her legs and lying down to watch the play.

With a pink mane and white coat, she should have known it'd only be a moment before they noticed her.

"What are you?" A brave, little, brown pony approached her, looking every bit the young colt in his curiosity. Having been spotted, more ponies turned to look and ventured close themselves, a herd instinct to follow. In an instant, Celestia realized she had gathered a crowd.

"I'm a unicorn."

"What's a unicorn?" One filly's question came on the heels of her answer.

"Why do you have a pink mane?" Another little pony jumped forward, too exuberant to wait between answers.

Yet, Celestia found one matter too pressing to ignore. "Where are your parents or nurse ponies?"

They looked at her in confusion, but one pony smiled gleefully, ignoring the parts she evidently didn't understand. "Momma is getting food, which means we get to play."

"She lets you play outside of the cave?"

"No." The filly skipped along a faint line in the stone, attention divided between it and answering Celestia.

"My momma isn't here," another pony added in singsong. "So she can't stop me!"

"What's a unicorn?" a colt repeated, changing the subject back to the strange mare.

The idea worried Celestia, that all these fillies and colts would be allowed to play outside unguarded. The pegasi's ways were still strange, and a bit unsettling. Yet, looking at all their eager and innocent faces, a warm and saccharine feeling pulled Celestia's lips to smiling. It seemed that no matter what breed, fillies and colts changed little across herds.

At that thought, an idea leapt to the front of her mind, feeling complete and whole, like a final thread was given to her and wove many together. She stood up and flashed her eyes with mischief, donning a storyteller's grin. Celestia thought of Lightning Kick and tried to mimic the nuance with which she recounted legends. Even of all the Earth ponies, with their pride in keeping of history through story and legend, her mother was the greatest teller Celestia knew.

Then, she stole a trick she learned from the pegasi. "A unicorn is a keeper of secrets!"

The young ponies let out sounds of awe, eyes dazzled and attention wrapped.

It was true enough, and that protected Celestia's sense of honesty. The unicorns were secretive, hiding in the woods. After being on the receiving end of lies and tricks, she wanted nothing to do with how the pegasi treated her. This was, however, truth given with a purpose.

Celestia continued to grin. "Do you keep any secrets, pegasus ponies?"

The adventurous, brown colt that first greeted her bounced eagerly and shouted. "The clouds!"

"O-o-o-oh, that is a powerful secret." Celestia gave him an approving nod.

Her actions played out exactly as she hoped. They all leapt forward, all wanting to impress and gain the mysterious mare's approval because she was an adult and that made her revered. They fought for attention, speaking over each other and crowding around while Celestia kept her ears perked for subjects she needed to know more about.

"The cave!"

"Storms!"

"Flying!"

Celestia raised a hoof for silence and called will into her horn. The act stalled their competition and they fell quiet to gaze at the horn and wow at the glow.

"Flight?" she said while dispelling the gathered magic. "What is the secret of flight?"

"My mom says you flap your wings like this!" A little filly cleared a space around her and stuck out her tongue in intense focus. Tiny wings flapped methodically in the air, careful with each stroke.

"Nu-uh!" a colt shouted in equal parts enthusiasm and prideful self-assurance. "My mom said it's not how you flap your wings but the magic in them!" His own pair stretched out and buzzed like a hummingbird. Slowly, precariously, he lifted from the ground and hovered for a few hoofbeats.

"The power of flight is a wonderful secret!" Celestia exaggerated her motions in performance, but did not need to feign the curiosity or interest. "What more did your mothers tell you?"

One by one, Celestia chose an excited, bouncing filly or colt and listened to what they had to say or show. At each turn, the rest would fall silent before redoubling their efforts to be chosen next when the previous pony finished.

In only a few moments, Celestia had learned more about the basics of flight than she had since Luna's wings appeared. While some accounts contradicted, between all the fillies and colts, she had memorized a wealth of knowledge which to test and perfect with her sister.

As the young ponies continued one after the other, Celestia noticed that the first two who spoke, the filly and that rebuking colt, had disengaged from the cluster of young. The filly glared at the colt with an angry pout, while he maintained a haughty stroll. A few others instinctively sensed the tension and turned to watch. Celestia, too, perked one ear to listen to the exchange.

"Uh-huh!" She breathed out with intense, offended fury. "You do flap your wings like this." The tiny wings stroked again in the practiced motion. "Momma told me."

His upturned nose eluded any eye contact. "My mom told me it doesn't matter, and she is right."

"She is not."

"Is too."

Celestia nearly ignored the rest of the argument, hearing the familiar stalemate that every foal has experienced a hundred times over and knowing how it'd play out. Despite this, the growing heat of the debate still distracted a number of the young.

"My mom is right, because I can fly and you can't."

The filly's lip curled into a sneer. "You can't fly."

"Can, too!"

Celestia saw the filly's anger evaporate in a flash and the little pony's demeanor changed, words coming out as smooth and sly as a fox. "If you could fly, then the cliff wouldn't scare you."

The colt flinched. The comment stunned him. Glancing at all his peers watching him, he hid his reaction and puffed out his chest. "It doesn't."

"Why don't you go up to it then?" The filly rocked her shoulders and hips, replying with mocking and smug smile.

"No!"

She scoffed and turned to walk away. "Told you he couldn't fly."

Aware of the position he was forced into, of the choice between embarrassment and fear, the colt gritted his teeth and chose what he'd endure. "Fine!"

The practice reminded Celestia of a game young Earth ponies played. Told of all the fearful things that resided in the Everfree forest, the young and rowdy routinely dared each other to get as close as possible to the forest's border. The dared pony would stalk closer and closer before nerves overcame resolve and they'd go shrieking back with a playful thrill. The adults knew of this practice and tolerated it. The borders of the forest were not necessarily more dangerous than the field itself, so it was reckoned harmless.

The cliff must have been their version of the forest's dare and Celestia watched it curiously. Either predators could see the edge of the cliff, or there was some thrill to the risk of falling for pegasi who had not mastered their wings.

The colt swallowed, his mounting trepidation showing with the unwitting transparency of the young. Step by step, the colt willed himself to march forward and approach the daunting drop. As he came within pony lengths of the bluff, he all but crawled with how far his shoulders cowered. Front hooves touching the edge, he shuffled his rear legs close as well, pulling up alongside the mortal fall. Assured that his feet wouldn't slip, he timidly straightened, gained his confidence, then stood with his tail arched proudly, and head raised in triumph.

"See! Not scared."

Realizing her defeat, the filly's nose contorted with disgust. "That's still not flying!"

Fear kicked Celestia in the chest as she saw the colt's spirit rise to the challenge. Unconsciously, she raised one forelimb, a grass width away from bolting to stop him.

His tiny wings buzzed away, again sounding like that of a hummingbird, and his hooves left the rock. With an utterly careful ascent, he rose to a tail length from the ground on nothing but the furious beat of his feathers.

Then he looked down.

From his new vantage point, recognition dawned on his face. He could see down the dizzying height and how he left the sure, safety of the ground. The whites of his eyes flashed in panic and the colt listed uncontrolled to the side. In the span of a heartbeat, he dropped from view.

The bottom of Celestia's stomach fell out from her. She surged forward at full gallop, only narrowly stopping at the cliff's edge to peer over the precipice. The colt had vanished among the visual confusion of the clouds, mountain side, and forest.

There was no time to think. She threw herself over the edge.

The world stalled as she teetered on the edge of her upward bound and coming fall. Her insides tried to leap out her body, a fluttery feeling as she crested her jump. In that span, an odd thought struck her. Even if she had wings like Luna or a pegasus, she had neither the skill or ability to save herself from such a long drop. Then, the wind whipped across her face, through her hair, and she plummeted.

Everything began to happen so fast. The safety of the ledge fell away. The cliff side rushed by in an indiscernible streak. Wind gripped at her body, dried her eyes, pulled at her mane and tail so that they whipped wildly. The ground's ungiving presence began to grow and enlarge, threatening to break her on its surface. She had never experienced anything like this. Never imagined, never wanted to, never thought she would be falling so far and so fast. It threatened to overwhelm her senses. She fought through the intense fluttering of her belly, balanced on an obsidian edge of panic, desperation, and determination to save this young colt. With too much happening at once for her to comprehend, Celestia simply acted. From a place of intuition and instinct, she moved, while thought grew silent.

Celestia angled her body into a dive, forelimbs outstretched, reaching, and searched for the colt's plummeting form. The errant clouds and the colt's own coloring obscured him. Each heartbeat that passed drove Celestia to new heights of dread. She screamed out her fear and exhilaration, blinking to keep her eyes moist and searching.

There, in front of her, the colt tumbled. His wings fluttered furiously and he twirled about, flailing with his limbs to try to right himself. His panic undermined him, but what skill he had slowed his descent and allowed Celestia to close in.

Instantly, she cast a spell that bathed him in a pink glow and drew the colt into her limbs. He clung hard to her neck and uttering scared cries. She held him tight against her body while she raced to save them both. Calling will into her horn in preparation, Celestia threw out her magic again and haphazardly summoned a great wind. Clouds that lay scattered all around the mountain found themselves scooped up in a gale and drawn to the cliff side.

A few thudding heartbeats passed with nothing below her but the rocky ground, coming ever closer. Using the growing fright to strengthen her resolve, her will, she forced even more magic through her horn and a yet-greater wind whirled beneath them, collecting every lumpy white shape possible.

She shoved the colt, hard enough to break his grip around her neck. For a moment, she saw the look of betrayal and confusion in his eyes. It constricted her throat to see his helplessness.

Then, she threw him with all her might. A pink aura of magic guiding her aim, she threw him off of her and onto a thick, bulbous cloud.

The cloud deformed with the impact, a small smattering of white puffs scattered to the air, but it held the colt and Celestia soared past, losing sight of him.

The act twisted her around. She fell facing the sky. Her mane whipped past her vision, blurring the edges with flailing pink strands. The mountain shot into the sky, seeming to grow without end. The cliff side raced by, too quick for her to contemplate. She struggled uselessly in the air to right herself.

This had not been suicide. She had not leapt from the edge expecting to die. What thoughts came to the surface told Celestia of her intentions. When she jumped, she fully expected to catch herself. To use her skill in magic and improvise a spell that would soften her landing or catch her and the colt.

On her back, she could see nothing but blue, mountain, and the blur of that cliff, could think of no solution when there was so much to take in. Some distant, quiet part of her knew she'd hit the ground, and that doing so would hurt. It would hurt a lot. She tightened up and braced herself. Scared, she waited for the painful shock.

When she struck, the ground caught her in an embrace lighter than feathers, more giving than water, and more pliable than a brand new sapling. She drew in a startled breath as it folded, stretched, and bent around her, slowing her fall degree by degree until she thought it'd never quit stretching. Her stomach shot back into place, her mane settled, all the overwhelming sensations ceased except a sense of heaviness until she almost collected herself.

Something told her an instant before she halted that the ground felt unusually taut, like a pine taken to the edge of flexibility. Then, it snapped back into place. It slung Celestia helpless through the air. She shrieked in startled confusion, flailing wildly as she went, unsure what was happening, just that she was hurtling over the ground.

The cliff face loomed before her and she threw her hooves out. The impact sent shocks through her legs as they reduced the crash, though she escaped serious injury. For a harrowing moment, Celestia found herself bouncing off in rebound with nothing to catch herself. She flailed and screamed again, the air opening up around her. A snap decision sent a spell into the rock. Granite grew from the cliff face like an overeager branch seeking light, and a long, thick bough reached out beneath her.

Celestia landed on that round thrust of stone and wrapped her all her legs around, clinging harder to it than anything before in her life. Wiggling her hind and forequarters like an inchworm, she scrambled up the length and back to the solid mountain. Only once her nose brushed against the cliff did she let go, forming another spell which molded the stone into a wide, secure ledge for her to nestle her back against the wall.

Her heart pounded furiously, pumping blood hard and thick in her temples now that she laid down. Her whole body quaked with horrified thrill, and she stared fixedly at the ledge, afraid to step forward and view the bottom. She needed to wait and let the lingering feelings pass, to vent them out with her breath now that she was grounded.

Sharply, Celestia's thoughts turned to the colt she had left behind. She looked up and searched through the clouds her spell's wind had collected, eyes darting from one to another. High above and peeking over a fluffy edge, a tiny pony's head peered out and watched her with an unreadable expression.

A smile burst forth on Celestia. Then, a laugh erupted from her throat. "He's alright. We're alive." The remaining horror melted like a snowflake in Sun's gaze and left behind pure exhilaration. "We're alive! We're alive!" She clattered her forehooves on the stone, that fact both wonderful and hard to believe. The laugh was joined by more, uproarious and noisy. As she craned her neck to stare the distance she fell, she could not stop and it felt more a product of madness than joy. She had fallen many hundreds of pony lengths—an experience that felt instantaneous in retrospect despite so much having happened so fast— and survived by the width of a hair. A sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach came with that realization, even as her face split into a wide smile.

Unable to sit still, Celestia stood up with a skip in her trot. Her entire body sang with life and energy in abundance. She lived. She whooped loud and clear with victory. The colt and her were alive. It felt like reason enough to be happy. Out of curiosity, she approached the edge of her granite platform, to peer at what odd thing she landed on that cradled her fall so effortlessly.

The smile stopped. Abruptly, the laughter silenced on her lips and she stared down. The Earth was still fifty or so pony lengths below her, an easily lethal distance.

Nothing.

She had not fallen all the way to the ground. Celestia had landed on nothing. Empty air had caught her and thrown her against the cliff.

"Luna?" Celestia stared wide eyed as she shifted her gaze left and right. She had felt something, she had known for sure. Felt it against her back, her legs, saw it out of the corners of her eyes. Magic seemed the best answer, that Luna had been there and weaved a magical construct to save her from the fall.

Yet, the blue pony's shadow was nowhere to be found. All that she could see was—

A cloud.

In front and just below her, one of the clouds swept up in her spell-cast wind sat idly, as if waiting for another gust to send it on its way. It stretched long and thin, flat with fuzzy edges except for a single dimple at the center, where something had bruised it. Or some pony.

But if she could touch a cloud, that would mean . . .

Celestia scarcely breathed as she looked over her shoulder, quivering at the thought of what she might find. Folded at her side, a pegasus wing nestled against her body.

A gasp ripped from her throat and she stared in shock, a new height of elation coursing through her veins until she felt her skin could scarce contain it. The wings fluttered against her in response. With a thought, they stretched and Celestia beheld two broad, pegasus wings, feathers shimmering beautifully in a pure shade of white that matched her coat.

"O-o-o-oh my!" Gingerly, she touched one with a shaking hoof.

Luna was right. They did feel odd. Suddenly, extra limbs. Celestia knew this day would come ever since she saw her sister's wings. Why would it not? They were always a pair, even before their horns appeared. Yet, this was different. When Celestia gained her horn, she became a unicorn, a kind of pony known and revered. Now, what was she? Not unicorn, not Earth pony, not pegasus. Celestia and Luna were things never before seen.

Right now, though, none of that mattered. In what felt all too natural, her wings responded to her desires. She moved them up, down, tilted one way, then the other. They moved with unparalleled dexterity, able to manipulate themselves in tiny, precise ways for flight.

"Yes!" Celestia shouted and reared up, flaring her wings to either side. "Yes, yes, yes, yes!" No longer did she come as unicorn in a foreign herd, but as fellow pony of the air. If not a pegasus exactly, something very close, something equal. It changed everything.

Placing four hooves on the ground, she trotted in place with uncontainable glee. "I have wings! I have wings! Now, I'll get them to teach Luna how to fly." The next thought stopped her and she smiled broadly. "And I'll fly! And we'll both learn how to be with the pegasus ponies!"

Looking up, she caught sight of the colt, still staring down at her from far off. "Hello, you silly foal!" She laughed and spoke knowing full well that her voice would never carry the distance. "Just stay up there and you'll be fine. I think the other young ponies will have spread the word by now. Help will come soon to scoop you off the cloud."

Which left Celestia. A thought striking her, she craned her head over her shoulder and stretched one broad wing. "No. Oh, no." The wing snapped back into place and she shook her head, scattering the temptation away. The completely untried ability of flight risked killing Celestia at this height if she fell, and she could not trust her life to it. If anything, the colts and fillies had taught her the danger of an inexperienced flier. No, she needed a safer way to return

Leaning against the cliff face, she let loose an unrestrained groan. Without flying, Celestia had to scale the mountain the way she had previously: magic and a steep climb. Memories of the hardship returned and deflated all her enthusiasm.

In some ways, this time it had been easier. She did not have as far to go and had the spells for the task perfected from yesterday. Molding her granite platform like clay, she extended it all the way around, to the side of the mountain she had climbed the day before. As she came to the series of graduated ledges, she forged a ramp, climbed, dismantled it behind her, and repeated the process with thoughtless efficiency. The air did not grow thin like last time, which seemed to be another benefit of pegasus wings' latent magic.

Though, she had new problems. Luna was not there to undo the ramp and share the strain. That, and Celestia had not eaten since arriving. As boredom set in, her stomach began to complain with pangs and groans of hunger, making the ascent all the more miserable.

Twice, she had to do this. Twice climb this mountain, and that took its toll of energy. With her spare attention, Celestia contemplated the problem of food for herself and Luna while living in the cave.

An alternative way to scale the mountain tempted her. After coming near the top, the burning in her legs and drained quality to her mind wore her down. With a nervous swallow, she stared up at the next ledge. Only a few pony lengths high, a fall that would bruise but not kill. Slowly, and methodically, Celestia tested the motions of her wings. Sorting through all the advice the young ponies had shown or spoken, she took their directions one by one. Starting with the physical movements of the wings, she raised, turned, stroked down, and repeated the motion until it came effortlessly.

Diverting her thoughts away from the physical, she contemplated her need. Up. To hover. A gentle ascent to the next ledge. The wings themselves couldn't carry her the way such things worked for birds or bugs. But the magic in them had to be connected some way to both their actions and the pony's need.

Faster, and faster, her wings beat at the air. They were far too broad to buzz like that colt's and instead swept great swaths, swirling little eddies around her hooves. Firming up her resolve, she stared fixedly at where she wanted to go and let the wings do their work.

In an instant, she felt lighter. The weight on her shoulders and knees, so accustomed to holding her as to not be noticed, lifted. In only a breath, they weren't even touching the ground and it sent giddy, nervous excitement though her, where she couldn't help but utter a loud, "Heeee!"

But she couldn't let that distract her. She tossed the feelings aside and concentrated on her goal: a smooth hover yet higher. Celestia continued to rise in that deliberate manner, slowly progressing until she saw herself on level with the ledge.

That giddy excitement redoubled and she held her breath as she tried to drift forward.

"Celestia!" Luna's voice ripped through her concentration.

Her wings faltered and Celestia squealed a high, helpless yelp as she collapsed, only half way on the ledge.

"Oh my, I'm sorry!" Luna's apology came as she hurriedly tried to land.

Celestia scrambled on the stone, hooves trying to find purchase in which to hoist her rear up from hanging over the ledge. Instead of replying to Luna, she grunted with the effort and a touch of annoyance.

The blue mare galloped to her sister's side, clutched a bit of coat between her teeth, and helped haul Celestia onto solid ground. Uncomfortable, but the only feasible way to bring her up.

Once there, the elder sister rolled onto her back and let her chest heave for breath. Sweat collected on her brow, beading off in droplets.

"I came as soon as I heard!" Luna broke the silence still carrying a sense of urgency.

Collecting her thoughts together, Celestia rolled upright. "What did you hear?"

"Not much," The urgency faded, Luna's expression returning to that of the observer, recounting what she saw. "I overheard the pegasus ponies talking about a unicorn who leapt from the cliff. I hurried away after that." A relieved smile spread her lips and she let loose a pent up breath. "I didn't know what I would find. They didn't mention your wings." The smile turned subtle, but genuine. "They're beautiful, Celestia."

Celestia sat up on her haunches, silent only a beat in introspection. "Yes. Yes, thank you." She looked over her sister. "They were right, for the most part. A colt had fallen off the cliff before he really knew how to fly and I went after him. I was going to use my magic to save us . . ." She shrugged, her wings carrying the motion to their tips. "I didn't expect this to happen. They appeared during the fall."

Luna stared fixedly at the new limbs, lost in thought. Then, she asked, "How?"

The question caught Celestia off guard and she did not answer right away. Between the terrifying fall and the elation of their appearance, she did not think to wonder. "I needed them, I guess?" she said out loud, before she shook her head. "No, I would have needed them before when—" the wolves attacked, nearly fell out of her mouth in a lapse of judgment. It was not yet time to tell her little sister and burden Luna with the guilt that knowledge would bring. "When I fought Silver Spear. They would have appeared then."

"So it is something else?" Luna stated as she lifted a hoof to her chin. "What was different?"

"It's not fear," Celestia mulled her thoughts over out loud. "Or need for one's life."

"What were you thinking about when you fell?"

"Huh?"

"Magic comes from within, so . . ." Luna's eyes fell away, searching something inside. Celestia reminded herself that Luna had gained her wings first and had more time to think about these things. When Luna spoke again, her voice came low and heavy. Whatever she found had a deep and powerful place. "What were you thinking about when the wings appeared?"

Attention turning inward, Celestia closed her eyes. Experience fresh, the answer leapt to her tongue and simply felt right. Even if the events occurred too fast to understand all at once, she knew this had been part of her motivation. "The colt." She opened her eyes. "The colt was even younger than Painted Hoof, when he died. I thought of this pegasus' friends crying. I thought of them asking their mothers 'why,' as I had. I didn't want them to have to ask, or be answered."

Luna stared with a solemn frown and no words to speak.

Celestia regarded her sister, and found she did not like the silence, or her own feelings brought up by Painted Hoof. "When did yours appear, again?" the white mare asked with a slight turn of her head.

"Oh, I was fighting Phantom Spell," Luna said without pride, just stating facts. "And a few other unicorns he had brought with him. The battle got heated and magic was being thrown everywhere. They wanted to move me to a different tree, but I refused because that would ruin my plan."

"Aww!" Celestia felt her mouth stretch with a wide, almost teasing grin. "You wanted to be with your big sis!" She pecked Luna's cheek with a kiss and the grin turned into a laugh.

The blue mare's brows furrowed, looking entirely unconvinced.

As far as ideas went, Luna's felt plausible. "Maybe you're right, though." The laugh fell away. "Since magic does come from within, and these wings are clearly magic …" Celestia let her thought trail off. The need to save that colt had indeed been powerful, in ways she felt very hard to express. Powerful enough to awaken another part of the gift from the stars, perhaps?

A young male's chuckle interrupted the train of thought and both sisters looked up to find Rebel Bolt winding effortlessly through the air. "There you are," he said while coming to a gentle landing. "I knew it was a good idea to bring you here." With an expression smug as Celestia had ever seen a pony, he trotted to them. "Everyone is talking about it."

"Rebel!" Luna beamed at the sight. "We've been looking for you, too."

Inhaling a deep breath, Celestia let out a relaxing sigh and regarded Rebel with the shadow of a smile. "Yes, I imagine they are. What are they saying about me?"

The pegasus replied without missing a beat. "It's the funniest thing any pony has ever seen."

Celestia froze solid in disbelief. "…What?"

"They nicknamed you Pink Plummet. No one can stop laughing."

Her jaw went slack before she snapped it closed, anger rising in her blood like a burbling spring. "And the fact I saved someone's foal from falling to his death in front of his friends?!"

Bolt regarded Celestia as if she took leave of her senses. "You jumped off a cliff without any wings." The statement brought another short laugh and he tried to speak through a smile. "Really, who is that dumb?"

The burbling spring swelled and flooded, and Celestia thought she might begin foaming at the mouth. Her lips worked sporadically, trying to form words over meaningless sounds as Celestia's frustration mounted beyond language.

"You have wings now." Bolt remarked mildly before he shrugged. "The story is already too funny, so I don't think that matters."

Whatever impediment had been placed over her tongue vanished, and curses flowed without end. "Of all the Sun scorched, Moon forsaken, foolish, idiotic herds I've ever seen of in my life!" Celestia marched back and forth with her hooves pounding the ground, bucking at the air, or rearing back and flailing her forelimbs in impotent ire. "These pegasi are the most backwards in the Everfree Forest! The wings are sucking the wits out of their heads! The cave is smothering their Sunless thoughts! They are all mad ponies, goat-headed! A topsy-turvy herd of chuckling fools!"

Luna kept her distance, watching in silence as the tirade sent Celestia from one end of the ledge to the other with her pacing and flailing. Rebel Bolt smiled with amusement, using his wings to hang in the air with a relaxed ease, forehooves crossed.

"I save one of their kind and they think it's wolf-begotten hilarious!" Most of her anger worked out, she whirled on Bolt. "So, what now? How do I find help as a joke? We need to learn to fly!"

The pegasus gave her a peculiar look, some part of her statement striking him as strange.

The tide of emotions emptying from her, Celestia felt drained and exasperated beyond her capacity. "Will no pony help?"

"Ugh," Rebel's face contorted with disgust. "Teaching an adult pony how to fly? That sounds boring, and weird."

"What about you?" Celestia cantered beneath the hovering pegasus and looked up, face pleading out of sheer desperation. "Luna called you a friend!"

A pair of midnight blue ears shot up and Luna's neck straightened with sudden, intense interest.

Bolt's mouth parted in surprise, his sky blue eyes clear as summer day and just as transparent. Pain flashed through them and stayed as Celestia saw her comment had stumbled across tender ground. The humor had left Bolt and he settled his wings to land, folding them at his sides.

"I can't help." Remorse, thick and genuine, colored his voice. "Not with all that. But I know someone who might help you understand."
For the description, see chapter 1 [link]

This picture also done at request from Madmax
:iconcsimadmax:
She is an awesome person. Go check her out

Special thanks to Lightsideluc for editing this chapter with me. :iconlightsideluc:
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Very different talents created very different circumstances. Very different circumstances created very different ponies.
                     —Excerpts from the Candid Sayings of Celestia as recorded by her friends



The mist that guarded the entrance to the pegasi's lair whisked around Celestia as she plunged in, leaving a cool, wet touch. The world vanished in the cloud at the cave's entrance, swallowed completely by fog so thick she thought it might be solid beneath her hoof were she to reach out and touch it. Laden and dense with water, the air felt heavy and cloying. Tiny droplets of moisture clung to Celestia's eyelashes, coat, and stray hairs. It muffled all sound except her breathing and the hoof falls of her and her sister; obscured all sight as effective as a curtain.

Any second now, she'd meet the pegasi. If she didn't walk blindly into a wall first.

Celestia mitigated the tension by running through what would happen next in her mind. After they crossed this cloud into pegasi territory, the sentries would be the first to spot them. They'd move forward to bar the newcomers and assess their motives. The fact that they were mares might garner suspicion. While not unheard of, it was far more rare for mares to seek new herds, whereas it was expected for stallions who just came of age. No herd would accept newcomers who might prove a danger, and it might be thought that the two strange mares had been exiled from their home for a good reason.

After the sentries assessed what they could, they'd be brought to the chief for a final decision. Or might be, if they got that far. The sentries could turn them away right there. Not only were they mares, but she was a unicorn trying to gain entry into a herd of pegasi. What if they deemed her mad by that alone? Then, there was Luna, a cross between an Earth pony, a unicorn, and a pegasus. What would they think of that oddity?

Everything depended on the attitudes of these pegasi, the one factor she had no knowledge of and could not plan for. That fact did nothing to assuage her apprehension. The stakes couldn't be higher and rested on a complete unknown. If they were turned away, it would mean a trek back through the Everfree forest that would carry them through night once more.

They'd have to be on their absolute best behavior was all Celestia could surmise; charming and polite to mitigate fears. Also, the flight from the unicorns would have to be carefully framed so as to not cast further suspicion. Her last days among the unicorns had taught her the power of words given without thought, even if uttered true.

The cloud thinned before her, then all at once, parted and revealed the first glance into where the pegasi dwelled. In the final moments before rest, Sun was still bright enough to touch the cloud with her rays and light the interior of the cave. It was indeed as massive as the entrance had led Celestia to believe, stretching both wide and tall, more than she cared to estimate.

And, it was populated with pegasi. They milled about, a score or so of them. Some sat along the cave floor together. Others flew high overhead, playing with little bits of white cloud that littered the air, their wings flapping with lazy efficiency.

Glancing to her side, Celestia checked Luna. She stood quietly, blue eyes observant as ever as she took in the details of this new world. A faint smile upturned the corners of her lips, excited yet unobtrusive.

With another swallow of tension, Celestia composed herself to stand with dignity and waited at the edge of the entrance. She straightened the bandages around her legs that covered the wolf bites. It would be better if they did not try to invade the cave without seeking the sentries' permission first.

A small group of pegasi —half dozen, give or take— sat along the cave wall, not far off from where Celestia had entered. They arranged themselves in a circle and chatted amicably, unnoticing of the visitors. Clearing her throat, Celestia garnered her courage and called their attention. "Hello."

A rust red mare was caught mid story and raised her head, looking over her shoulder. Celestia held her breath and waited for the recognition that would follow, a reaction to the fact a pure white unicorn with a pink mane just stepped into their home.

The mare stared for a moment, regarding the new pony. When Celestia said nothing, she returned to her friends and continued the story at the point she left off.

Celestia blinked. Taken completely off guard by the lack of response, she stood there stunned. Recovering somewhat, she gathered herself to try again. "Well met."

The mare's story continued unbroken as she glanced at Celestia with irritation, then ignored her.

Celestia pressed on. "I'm sort of new here—"

As Celestia spoke, the rust red pegasus stood up and shook out her tail.

"—and I was hoping—"

The pegasus stretched out her wings and turned.

"—that you would—"

With a great flap, she took flight. The group followed suit. Together, they soared over Celestia's head, through the mist, and out of the cave.

"—that you . . . would . . ." She trailed off, watching the cloud swirl in their wake.

Celestia stared dumbfounded after them, unable to comprehend what just happened. Luna regarded the entire exchange with silent curiosity, still appearing distant by the side of her sister.

"So, umm . . ." Celestia turned back and faced the cave anew, at a loss. Awkwardness clung to her skin, her back, her cheeks. It sealed her lips and stuck her hooves to the ground, while blooming like a flower that advertised the fact she felt out of place. They were still uninvited to the territory, and now on top of that, asking some pony seemed to have gained her nothing but ire. She was trapped and needed someone to rescue her from the inability to act.

The pegasi continued to occupy themselves, none taking notice of the unicorn with the pink mane or her midnight sister. If nothing else, Celestia had a chance to look more closely at her surroundings. The cave stretched deep into the heart of the mountain, angled mildly down with the flow of water. Dirt washed into the entrance with the rain and covered the floor, pounded hard and flat by countless trotting hooves over time. The flat, earthen floor contrasted the rough walls that stretched high, full of crevices, nooks, and crannies.

The ceiling had an odd feature. At one point, countless water-smoothed stones hung from the roof like spikes. At some point long ago, all these pointed rocks had been snapped clean off and now hung as time-worn stubs.

As she thought on this, a stallion caught her eye, gliding softly in their direction. A long sigh of relief left her frame as she finally had her rescue from the awkward position. With a pleased smile, she took back a sense of dignity and politely nodded to the approaching pegasus. "Well met." With how sloppy the cloud outside was kept, their sentries appeared to be no better organized.

"Likewise," he let out quickly, distracted. Boldness shown clearly on him, to the point of being cocky. He lifted a hoof and pointed it at her. "You're a unicorn."

"That's right." Celestia nodded acknowledgement.

"I heard that unicorns can do magic."

Again, she nodded. "That is the gift of our horns."

His brow arched challengingly. "Can you?"

A grin threatened to erupt wide across her. "A bit, yes."

"Prove it." The line came straight on the heels of Celestia's answer, a phrase the stallion had been waiting to let out. He gave her another cocky smile to have succeeded.

Celestia rolled her eyes at the pony, then regretted it. Polite, be polite. With a thought, her horn glowed pink with summoned will, then extinguished a moment later. "There."

"No, no, no." He shook his head. "I mean prove it." The pegasus lifted a hoof to his chin and rubbed it consideringly as he glanced back and forth. "That!" With exaggeration, he pointed down the cave where a boulder sat nestled against the wall unmoving. "Lift that rock."

The boulder wasn't overly large, and Celestia had moved far heavier things with ease. Feeling some small irritation, she nevertheless called a small telekinesis spell forward and the stone glowed pink with magical energy.

"Lift it. Higher, higher. A little more. Now hold it steady!" The stallion spread his wings and was off like a bolt of lightning. He slipped underneath the glowing mass, into the crag in the wall, then was out with nary a pause. As he soared past the sisters, he gave them a little wave and the widest, most cocky smile Celestia had ever seen behind the pomegranate in his mouth.

"Hey!" The word cut through the air, strong and angry, startling Celestia. Her concentration broke and the stone dropped back down to the ground with a heavy thud.

An auburn face and black mane rounded the corner, nostrils snorting with fury. Another pegasus stallion, all shoulders and muscle, stomped over to meet them. Recognition came instantly to Celestia as to this one's kind. Born big, these ponies quickly learned how to throw their weight around, and needed few skills other than bullying to get what they want. For an instant, the situation made her feel regressed to a filly again, facing down some big colt back on the fields at home.

"What do you think you are doing with my rock!" He stepped close to Celestia and loomed over her with all his intimidating stature. "Where is my fruit?"

"I'm terribly sorry." She shrunk herself away from him and stepped back. With ease, Celestia could have swatted him away with magic, not evening needing to hurt him. Even as a filly, she never cared much for bullies. Also with ease, she could have her first act among the pegasi be the attack of a herd member, and be assuredly kicked out. "I didn't know, I was just running by and . . ." She tilted her head in a subtle gesture to her sister at the word running.

Luna didn't notice. She watched both her sister and the pegasus, interested and aloof.

"Where is my fruit!?" The heat that bellowed from his nostrils burned on Celestia's skin. Violence rose in him like a spring not quite frothing out.

"A-, a-, a pegasus took it, he ran off with it." Again, Celestia gestured, letting one eye twitch and one lip sneer to her sister, indicating where to go while juggling responses to the bully.

Obliviously, Luna continued to stare, lost in thought.

"Either you give me back my fruit," He lifted a hoof and shook it between them. "Or I'm giving you bruises."

"Oh, of course!" She let loose a nervous laugh and shifted her hips to bump into Luna's side. "Just give us a minute to run and find it." Turning, she glared at Luna and hissed through her teeth. "Run."

Her large, blue eyes snapped into focus. "Huh?"

"Run!"

"Oh. Oh!"

Hooves digging into the packed dirt, Celestia launched backward, her tail hooking around Luna's shoulder and tugging her to come with.

It wouldn't have mattered even if Luna had caught on. The bully spread his wings and leaped over them with impossible speed, cutting off the escape out the cave before they even started.

Celestia nearly tripped over her own hooves in an effort to stop. The bulky stallion marched forward, all too much rage in his stance. Nary a second's time to prepare, Celestia called forth a spell, closed her eyes, and cast. Sunlight flashed from her horn, blinding and pure, aimed just off the tip of the pegasus' nose. In the wake of the light, a crack of miniature thunder made the ears sing in pain.

When she opened her eyes, the stallion had shut his tight, feet back trotting defensively while his ears shifted about aimless and unhearing. Luna sat down, rubbing her own eyes with a forelimb until Celestia nudged her younger sister. "Go! Go!"

The midnight blue pony stood up blinking away the effects of the spell, and obeyed. Together, they galloped down the cave in haste, down the slanting floor covered in pact dirt and deeper into the mountain. As they ran, Celestia searched frantically for any hiding place in which to shake pursuit.

"This way!" Celestia took a sharp turn as she noticed a branching path, then peeled around that into a large chamber where Sun's fleeting light could not reach. Inside, she submerged herself in shadow, and pressed against the wall to catch her breath. Luna sidled up alongside, though a bit careless in hiding herself.

Nose and eye peaking around the corner, Celestia kept quiet and waited to see if the pegasus came down after them. With bated breath, the watch felt long. While others passed by on occasion, none were the auburn stallion. Eventually, curiosity got the better of Luna and she peaked around the side of her sister as well. Feeling a sense of relief, Celestia pulled back and sat on her haunches. "Not exactly the first impression I wanted to make," she said to Luna with both a sense of humor and gravity. "Now, we're deep in their territory, and we've yet to be invited."

Luna nodded with a grave expression that nonetheless held naivety and looked every bit the younger sister.

A frustrated groan left her lips. "What am I going to do with your silly head?" She peered past the dark pony and into the chamber at large. After all that waiting, her eyes had adjusted to the shadowed room and shapes regained their detail. What she saw stole her breath.

Clusters of mushrooms scattered themselves among nooks along the wall and on the dirt of the floor, glowing in luminescent green. Salamanders, lizards, long millipedes and a few other creatures of that size wandered or rested in the cave, each one glowing in its own color: Blue, violet, or red scattered about the walls and floor. Fireflies populated the air and walls, speckling the room like a sky of green stars. All these things provided wells of light which to see by.

It was beyond anything Celestia had ever witnessed, save the night sky itself. "Magic?" she asked, her mouth agape. Like the cloud at the entrance, the scattering of light was uneven and imperfect. Most of the glowing creatures congregated together in pockets with fewer exploring the expanses in between.

"I don't think so." Luna had ventured part way into the room and poked testingly at a mushroom. It jiggled and bounced back under each poke. "No more than most things."

The chamber opened up wide and tall and deep, like most else in the cave, able to house more ponies than Celestia could guess. It, too, had pegasi. Breaking up the open expanse of the room, fluffy white clouds scattered about with no real organization. A number of colts and fillies, ranging from her own age to younger, rushed about shrieking with play. In their tails they had tied tiny fairies, dragged along helplessly for their game. The fairies lit beacons behind the ponies, as well as left leaving trails of sparkling dust in the air as they played some flying game.

Steeling her nerves, she approached their area of play and singled out an older mare, close to Celestia's age. "Excuse me!" she called up, stepping into the light-well of a mushroom. "Sorry to bother you."

The young mare paused, hovering in the air, then swooped down to Celestia with effortless grace. She looked at her curiously, spying the horn and pink mane. "You'll have to get a fairy first before you can play." She smirked with contained laughter. "And some wings."

Giggling erupted around them. The other pegasi had stopped the chase and hovered around the two on the ground, fairies still fluttering on their tails and shedding dust from above as they kept a safe distance.

"I'm sorry to stop the game, but I have need of help. I'm looking for the chief here, of the pegasi herd? In order to introduce myself properly."

The mare stared oddly at Celestia, as if she asked for a frozen moon beam. Then, something clicked. "Oh. Oh! The chief! Why, of course." She smiled politely. "You are not from here, obviously. I've travelled before to a few different herds."

A smile spread wide on Celestia until her eyes smiled too, and she breathed a great sigh of relief. "Yes, yes. And thank you."

The pegasus turned half away. "I need to settle something first, before I can take you to the chief."

Celestia stepped forward to follow. "What would that be?"

The mare gestured up to a puffy white cloud that stood in the center of area they played. "It's in the way of the game. I would have moved it earlier, but I ran into a few . . . problems of sorts."

Tilting her head, Celestia gauged the cloud and found nothing special. "I . . . think I can help."

"Could you?" The mare smiled sweetly. "I've heard the unicorns valued cooperation, but I haven't had a chance to test it myself."

"You need to move the cloud?"

"Yes," The mare shrugged. "Just get, you know, rid of it somehow."

Creating a spell for the job took little effort. Briefly imagining the cloud vanishing like dew on a warm day, she filled that thought with will and unleashed it. A pink sheen enveloped the cloud and it dispersed into rolling puffs of gray fog.

Four pony shapes plummeted out of the mist. One let loose a startled whinny.  

Young, shrieking laughter exploded from the other pegasi. Celestia went stiff and still, grimacing at the unintended results.

As the tired figures groaned and sat up, shooting glares at the laughing ponies, Celestia slunk out of the mushroom's light,  not at all wishing to catch the blame again. The pegasi mare clutched her belly in the pain of laughter. Wiping tears from her eyes, she launched herself into the air.

"Hey!" Celestia poked her head back into the light and breathed out a harsh whisper. "Wait! You promised."

The mare turned lazily over and hovered in place, speaking through an amused smile. "And I kept my promise, every word. I said I would take you to the pegasi herd's chief, and I did." With a single wave of her hoof farewell, the young mare returned to the game with all her peers.

"I-, wha-, you did not!" Celestia stomped a forehoof, nostrils flared in anger, glaring daggers at the back of the playing mare.

With a soft trot, Luna approached curiously. Her attention shifted between the pegasi and her sister, assessing what happened with the odd sense of distant observation common to her. "I think it was a trick—"

"I know!" Celestia cut her off and marched away, full of impotent anger, frustrated and unable to find a vent. She felt trapped by her newness, not knowing where to go, who to go to, and unable to relax. She was dancing on a blade of grass to be accepted and no one was telling her the rules. Instead, they all just toyed with her and laughed.

The march carried her to the chamber's entrance again, where the feeling of entrapment shifted the tide of her frustration and drained her. In the empty wake of those emotions, aching fatigue seeped through all her limbs and weariness sapped her mind of will and thought. The wounds on her legs made themselves known with sore discomfort and she collapsed to sit and stare into the cave. The day had been long and especially trying even before she had come here.

Luna approached and sat next to her, leaving a fraction more space than usual. Celestia eyed her and those new wings that rested on her side. All this trial for those star-cursed things. Still, Luna was no closer to being trained, or even invited.

"Wolves take their invitation," Celestia spat the words. "I'm tired. I want to go to sleep." With that, she whirled around and walked back into the glow-lit room.

Sitting upright at the sudden action, Luna trotted behind Celestia with a small measure of gaiety at the anticipation of resting.

Having a suspicion, Celestia examined the room more carefully. The four she ousted from the clouds had left, finding new perches and thankfully no clear victim to blame. From her perspective down on the floor, she had missed it the first time. On each of the fluffy clouds, shadowy shapes lied strewn about, silhouettes of wings and hooves and bodies that rose and fell with relaxed breathing. Pegasi tossed about in careless slumber. A room dedicated to sleep.

The pegasi playing games here did so in contrast to the purpose, and while the rest of the herd tolerated the noise and commotion, they had not allowed her to move the sleeping clouds. Which was where that mare's trick came in, having Celestia do it for her.

She narrowed her gaze, but ultimately ignored the resurgence of anger. Celestia did not have the energy to indulge it. "We'll sleep here." She spoke aloud to Luna, marking the soft, floating beds and trying to find one she could use without wings. "Tomorrow, we'll try again."

"Do you think they'll let us sleep?" Luna held a small frown of worry.

"I don't know." Celestia raised a hoof to her forehead and rubbed away the growing stress she felt. "No one has stopped us so far. And every time I ask for help, things just get worse. I'm done trying tonight."

A rocky outcropping from the floor grew up in a series of short hops, and a cloud lowered to meet it with a ramp into its fluffy embrace. Celestia could have moaned out loud to fall into that bed, and it was in reach for those who did not wish to fly.

"C'mon," She walked slowly up to the rocks and paused. Luna, an inner excitement filling her, hopped on to the first rock and spread her wings for balance. A few hops later, she trotted onto the ramp and up the cloud.

"Whoa," She tested the fluff with her hooves and perched to sit. "This is very soft." The midnight blue pony flopped to her stomach and nuzzled a rolling mound. "I've never slept on a cloud before."

Shaking her head with a smile, Celestia fought her way up the first rock. Hopping proved difficult, as her legs threatened to buckle and felt weak each time she caught herself. Mustering a bit of determination, she leapt over the last hop and caught herself just before the ramp. This is interesting. She thought as she stretched out her hoof. I've never touched a cloud before. She fell right through.

The white unicorn might as well tried to walk on a thick mist, or thin air. Celestia set out her hoof and simply tumbled off the rock, tail over mane. A sharp breath was all the time she had before she passed through. The ground jostled her, hard packed dirt bruising her back and hips.

An instant later, she focused and found a hole in the cloud, roughly her size. Luna stared down at her with wide, surprised eyes. "Are you all right?"

No! Celestia barked sarcastically in her mind. I'm only upside down, bruised, bitten, hurt, lost, tired, and everyone is treating me like a sap-for-head, what do you think?! Tears pooled at her eyes and she rolled to her side to lie down and face away from Luna. "I'm fine!" She wiped her cheeks, her back singing with pain. It hurt too much to stand at the moment. "I'll just sleep down here, I guess." Celestia couldn't hide the anguish in her voice and she felt like a little foal to lose herself now.

A draft brushed along her coat. She heard the awkward flap of wings and the soft impact of four hooves. She did not need to turn around to recognize Luna's trot to her side. Celestia dug in her hooves and slid herself over to lean against the rock. Luna followed and nestled herself in the crook of Celestia's body, her head resting on her elder sister's shoulder. Finally, Celestia regained enough composure to face her sister and saw Luna's eyes closed and relaxed. Her wing stretched out and curled around Celestia's side before she let out a sigh.

Memories resurfaced, from a time that felt so long ago, when they were not quite yet mares, newly arrived at the unicorn's land. She had held Luna then, in the darkness, when everything felt so strange and foreign, and it was so hard to sleep up high in a tree.

Celestia curled her legs protectively around her young sister, all over again.

Here, once more, they were strange and foreign. But rather than a soft bed of leaves, hard and uncomfortable ground gave her no kindness. Rather than mysterious and heroic unicorns offering the gift of magic, bizarre and contradictory pegasi laughed at her.

"At least we are not prisoners." Celestia lowered her head on her hooves and closed her eyes. "Yet."

For once, the exhaustion helped her. Despite the floor's discomfort, sleep whisked her away moments after she closed her eyes. For all that, the sleep came restless. Her dreams repeated the theme that she was poked awake by a sentry and came face to face with an angry pegasus chief. She had to run a few times, only to find her legs stopped working and her magic had left her.

On the tail end of one of these dreams, Celestia stirred awake. It took a moment to realize that no one had come. No sentry stood before her with a grim expression, or angry chief mare to see a unicorn had trespassed.

She stretched the last dregs of sleep from her legs and back, finding remnants of soreness from all the collected bruises and wolf bites. The movement stirred Luna and she let out a bleary groan, not keen on rising yet.

Chuckling at the familiar sight in the middle of their situation, Celestia nosed a blue bang out of Luna's eyes. "Wake up, sleepy head. It's time to get up."

Luna rolled off her sister, flopping and splaying gracelessly with a huge yawn.

It gave Celestia a chance to rise and she shook out her mane and tail. As lethargy retreated, her mind became clear and sharp. "Very funny." She nipped her younger sister's ear. "Now, get up. Let's go make our introductions." Using her horn's gift, she undid her bandages and checked her wounds. They had scabbed without festering, thanks to the shaman, though the bruises looked swollen and ugly. Quickly, she refastened them to hide the injury.

Luna sat up and stretched out, letting loose another yawn. "How do you even know it's time to get up? The cave is still in night."

"But we're still Earth ponies and we rise with Sun's light, not a cave." It was only a guess, but Celestia felt reasonably confident that day had broken outside. Both now risen, Celestia retraced her steps from the night before.

As Luna had mentioned, the ponies of the chamber still lounged in sleep, one or two with unapologetic snoring. Once they left the chamber, however, light flooded in and small bands of pegasi glided about, as awake as full day. Eventually, the sisters returned to the cave's entrance and Celestia led them back through the concealing cloud to see outside.

She had been right; dawn broke on the far horizon. The sky grew orange and the clouds turned the color of fire as Sun began her rise to conquer the day once more. As vain and silly as she was in legends, Sun had inadvertently created something beautiful every time she woke.

"Why are we out here?" Luna spoke without challenge, simply puzzlement.

"To see Sun for awhile, and the sky. Also, to think. Yesterday was a complete disaster."  

Luna accepted the answer and folded her legs under her to lie down and stare at the coming dawn. The rays of Sun soaked them with gentle warmth, breathing new life and vibrance. "What do you think it was like to see the princess?" Luna gestured to the sunrise. "When she protected us from Sun's burning touch?"

The princess, or course, was the First Unicorn—that old story from their history of the kind and gentle heroine, who inadvertently caused jealousy in the sky with her beauty. Celestia shook her head. "I meant to think about the pegasi herd. I have no idea what she was like."

"Ahh," Luna fell quiet.

Last night, Celestia had been tired and distracted when she entered the pegasus haven. This morning, she had the benefit of a clear mind and some hindsight in which to view her encounters. She cycled through the memories, and found herself returning to that felt strange. "And I kept every word. . ." The phrase did not seem the kind that would be uttered by a liar. Yet, how did that mare keep her word? The chief had not been one of the four on that cloud and the pegasus did not guide her to anyone else.

There had to be an answer. Was that young mare herself the chief? If so, she had not stayed to hear any greetings, nor did she act in charge. It did not fit.

In the end, she sighed and soaked in one last warm ray from the Sun. The problem was not the mystery of the chief, but in getting Luna a teacher. "No one stopped us last night." Celestia rose to her feet and shook out her mane and tell. With a touch of spell work, she straightened her mane and curled the ends as Crescent had taught her to. "We went running all around inside, went to sleep, and no one kicked us out."

As Celestia spoke, Luna rose herself, subtle excitement riddled all over her as she sensed where her sister was leading. Pausing over the site of Luna's mane and tail, Celestia called another spell and saved the blue hair from its disheveled appearance. "I do not think anyone will stop us from going deeper. We can look for answers, and then your training."

Luna bore the fixing of her mane with patience and nodded.

The last strand curled in refined display, Celestia plunged into the cave for a second time. Yesterday's embarrassing encounters still fresh on her mind, Celestia trotted boldly but made no effort for conversation among the pegasi. Much like the day before, the winged ponies were about their own leisure, sitting or playing among the clouds that littered the roof and paying no heed to the unicorns.

On occasion out of the corner of her eye, Celestia noticed she had the attention of a pegasus who would stare at her curiously. It made the hairs of her coat bristle with discomfort, but nothing came from the looks she won. Luna, by contrast, trotted gaily, attention sweeping to all sorts of things she could spy in the cave and caring not for much else.

"Rebel!" Luna shouted, startling her sister. When Celestia paused, Luna cantered ahead of her. "Rebel Bolt!"

A gang of pegasi soared overhead on a path out toward the open air. One of the pegasus ponies, a small colt of splotched brown and white, followed behind their trail, slightly behind their number. At the call of his name, he hesitated, then circled back and hovered in front of Luna.

"You made it." Rebel Bolt had a strange quality to his blue eyes that Celestia now noticed that he was close. A quality made even more unique when considered next to the other pegasi. Whether because of his young age or something else, his gaze was transparent, guileless. When he spoke, the eyes betrayed his thoughts.

"Yes, I did!" Luna replied with a broad smile. "It is good to see you again"

"Yeah, and you, too." The comment was true, but Celestia perceived some hesitation. Luna had no response forthcoming and in the lapse, Rebel's eyes drifted back to the path the other pegasi had taken. "Hey, listen, uhh . . ."

"My name is Luna. I forgot to tell you, when we met."

"Luna, I'm kind of in a hurry."

She smiled cheerfully. "Okay, good bye for now, then."

Celestia slapped her forehead so hard, she thought she bruised it.

"Bye!" Rebel turned around and dashed out the tunnel, back to following the group that passed them by.

Luna returned trotting gaily until she saw her sister's expression. "What?"

Lowering her hoof, Celestia let her frustration leak into her voice. "What have we been struggling to do since we got here, Luna?"

The answering came automatically. "Trying to become part of—" Realization dawned and she meekly added. "Oh . . ."

"Trying to find someone to who will help us join the pegasi herd," Celestia finished for her sister. "And who did you let just fly by?"

Head lowered, Luna sat on her haunches and tucked her tail close, saying nothing.

"Come on." She tapped her sister's shoulder with a pink tail. "We've still got answers to find."

The cave's width and height varied in a natural way, winding deep into the mountain with all the order of a wild vine. Except when the walls grew narrow. There, the in-jutting crevices were broken, like the pointy rocks from the ceiling, hewn so that the path was always colossal. As with every time Celestia looked up, cloud detritus littered the air, leftovers from whatever purpose the pegasi had.

Soon, they ran into a problem. Every step they ventured in deeper, and every twist or branching path they took, the farther away they were from the light of the entrance. First, the cave grew dim. Then it grew dark.

Unable to see well, Luna bumped against Celestia's flank, an accident as she crowded close. "Why are there no light bugs here?"

The fear in Luna's voice made Celestia's skin crawl. The dark corridor reminded Celestia too much of the night in Everfree. "I don't know." Celestia paused and Luna bumped into her again.

A blue glow rose from Luna's horn, a light spell being called to life.

"Wait, don't do that. Not yet."

The glow vanished and darkness swallowed them once more.

"Listen." The cave was never truly silent. Even here, the rock walls channeled sound from far away, the same way the hollowed tree-homes of the unicorns reverberated noise. Voices echoed incessantly, muddled by distance and unclear by number. The rhythmic flap of wings grew, rising above the faint murmur, a sound approaching. "What is that pegasus doing, coming here?"

A rush of air passed overhead and went by, the wake from a pony.

"Quick! Follow her!" Calling a dim pink glow, Celestia went galloping after the noise with Luna fast on her tail. They didn't have to follow long. The pegasus lead them around a curve, where orange shadows danced on the wall.

"Is that a fire?" Luna called over the thumping hooves. "Why would there be a fire?"

"I don't know." Celestia extinguished her horn and slowed to a trot once she rounded the bend. The radiance centered on a small flickering flame that shone brightly in the darkness. The fire was not wild, but controlled, nestled into the wall, in a trough where it consumed branches. In the orange glow lounged several pegasus ponies. Some rolled and played. Others chatted or watched the wrestling match.

Above them, the pegasus that caught her attention was intent on another task. With a bundle of stray sticks clutched in her forehooves, she tossed them into a pile on an empty trough opposite the first. Darting away, she returned an instant later pushing a puffy gray little cloud. Once above the sticks, the pegasus stood atop the cloud, reared back, and stomped the rolling gray puff.

Lightning arched across their vision, leaving after images that Celestia tried to blink away. A thunderclap split the air and an instant later, the wood ignited into a healthy flame.

"Ooooh!" Luna let out with eyes dazzled. "Pegasi can do more than just walk on the clouds. They can make lightning!"

"That explains the fire, at the least," she said and narrowed her eyes, considering what she witnessed. More pieces to the puzzle of the pegasi, but not the one she wanted to solve.

A puttering sound caught her attention as another pegasus passed overhead, tugging a large load. As he passed into the light, Celestia saw his forehooves wrapped tightly around a bright white cloud that he placed in the air far enough away from the first group to be on his own. A look of satisfaction on him, he set himself on the cloud and began to dig as if it were made of dirt.

Light erupted from the hole, as bright as day, and Celestia had to shield her eyes from the intensity. Squinting against it, eventually the pegasus came into focus. He had split the cloud, pouring one half into the other: a waterfall of swirling liquid color, bright and varied as the rainbow. The entire cave bathed in the light as if Sun herself had been there.

Celestia had to collect her jaw, which dropped agape in pure wonder. The rainbow milked from a cloud. The shining light of day in the middle of a mountain.

Before the wonder had entirely sunk in, a stray pegasus leapt from the darkness and bit the tail of the stallion that brought in the rainbow. With a swift yank, the newcomer jerked the tail and darted away. Thrown off his hooves, the stallion let loose a startled yelp. "Hey!" Anger flashed over his features and he gave chase, vanishing around the bend.

Mischievous, cackling laughter followed. A mare casually flew out from her hiding spot, snatched the rainbow pouring cloud, and flew off down the cave, spilling some liquid on her way. The final step in a plan obviously made ahead of time to steal the cloud.

"At least, I'm not the only sap in this place . . ." Celestia muttered to herself before her rose-colored eyes fell on the group of ponies by the fire. They had watched the trick unfold, every step of it, yet not one lifted a hair to prevent it. They didn't even care where the thief went.

Something itched at the back of her mind.

Luna trotted forward and her horn shimmered with magic. A drop of the spilled liquid lifted from the ground and Luna returned, examining it closely. "Look at it! Sun's light captured in a drop of water."

The fires, the mushrooms and bugs that glowed, the liquid light. Why did the pegasi have so many different strategies? The unicorns always chose only one, making an efficient system to use it.

"All the colors swirl," Luna continued to marvel at the drop, rotating it in her magical grasp. "But they don't mix. It's beautiful."

Why didn't those other pegasi help one of their own? What was it that the mare told her? And I kept my promise, every word. I said I would take you to the pegasi herd's chief, and I did. "No, no, no, that can't be."

"What can't be?" Luna paused

She had to ignore Luna, had to protect this intuition and let it blossom.

"What can't be?"

She looked back at the pegasi at the fire, a group of six. The pegasi at the entrance, they were also a group of six. Others they had passed: five, or perhaps a pair, an occasional lone pegasus. The only time they came together was for the game.

Pieces fell into place, one by one, arranging themselves into a pattern, all pointing to one answer. "That can't be right. That's ridiculous!"

"Celestiaaa!" Luna stomped her forehooves in an irritated dance. "What are you raving about?

"The pegasi," She turned to Luna and stared, feeling bewilderment at her own statement. "They have no chief, because they have no herd."

It gave Luna pause. She took a look at her surroundings with new eyes. "Oh, that makes sense."

"That makes no sense!" Celestia reared back, yelling the words before she settled. "In what possible way does that make sense?"

Luna withdrew a step, one forehoof raised in wounded pride, a small part irritated at her sister's reaction. "On all we have seen, it works. No sentries at the door, no one caring we have come in so far." Luna faded as a memory surfaced. "That colt I met, Rebel Bolt." Her gaze became clear, sharp with new revelation. "He gave me a strange look when I mentioned the pegasi herd. That's because there is none."

"But how would that even work?" Celestia felt as though she could jerk her mane straight from her head, that the world had gone mad and she was the last sane filly left alive. "Who keeps the cloud at the door? How do they keep safe? How do they get warning before a hunter attacks? Why would all these pegasi be here and not be a herd?"

"I don't know. It just fits."

Silence followed. Celestia's outburst had run its course, and Luna remained resolute in her new understanding. They stared at each other, neither with more to add. Somewhere off in the recesses or her awareness, Celestia still struggled. Part of her simply rebelled at the idea that seemed more and more plausible as it sunk in, yet no more easy to accept. A group of ponies, yet not a herd. . .

The hair on the back of her neck stood on end. Intuitively, she looked up and caught sight of the pegasi by the fire, all staring at her.

"C'mon, Luna. We should go."

Her little sister let out exasperated sigh and fell in line to follow the lead. Two of the stallions by the fire leapt into the air and approached with a casual flap to their wings. Celestia could see right through them. They hid their intentions poorly with how their eyes gauged the mares. Already being fooled thrice and wary of it, Celestia ignored them and turned to retrace her steps.

"Hey," the first called, a pegasus with a mottled coat. "Hey, Pink Hair!" He swooped down effortlessly and hovered at her side. "What are you doing out here?"

Celestia only looked at him through the corners of her vision, lips pulled tight into a frown.

"Oh, I see. Ignoring me, are you Pink Hair?" He rolled in place, casually flying upside down as if reclining on thin air. He drifted out partially in front and regarded her again, rubbing his chin with a hoof. "What is a unicorn doing up in the mountain, anyways? Got bored of the forest?"

"Maybe she's not a unicorn." The second stallion called from behind and pointed down at Luna. "Look at the blue one, she has wings."

"What?" The first pegasus spun himself upright and darted over to his friend. "Hey, Pink hair! Where'd your wings go?"

She gave no response, keeping her frown firm and her gaze averted.

"Oh!" He laughed. "Oh, I see now. Magic horn, right?" Once more, he flew beside Celestia. A mocking grin split his face. "You turned your wings invisible! And now, you can't find them anymore."

Laughter erupted from the other stallion in a way that galled Celestia and she felt tension mount in her shoulders.

The mottled pony turned to his friend. "You see a pair of wings floating by today? Think hard, because they're invisible." Laughter erupted again and the stallion waited for it to die down before he regarded Celestia's dour expression. "Well, aren't you no fun, Pink Hair. Just like the rest of those unicorns." He pulled away from her and hovered over Luna. "Maybe wings taught the blue one to have some humor."

"Enough!" Celestia shoved will into her horn and it blazed to life as she turned about on the heckling pegasi.

She was met with empty air. They dashed away in a streak of color, leaving nothing for her to retaliate against, only more laughter, scoffing at her anger.

Luna gazed at their wake with wide-eyed wonder and cautious curiosity, but said nothing. Glaring down the tunnel, Celestia extinguished her horn. The pair had lost their interest and there was nothing to do with her channeled will. "C'mon," she said while beating a clipped trot up the tunnel. "We'll go back to where we can see Sun's light. I don't like being down here."

Always choosing the brighter path, Celestia retraced her steps, making her way toward the cave's mouth. Only once she glimpsed the gray cloud shining down on her did she stop. Sitting down on her hind quarters, she breathed in a great breath and turned to Luna with a faint smile. "All this and we still haven't gotten you a teacher. Enough exploring, we need to make acquaintances." She stood and faced the room. The pegasi collected here, indeed they seemed to roam everywhere in the cave, their numbers a mystery. "All that business about sentries or light or chiefs or herds doesn't matter. Now we focus on friend making. Keep watch for Rebel, I don't want to lose him again."

Scanning the room, Celestia singled out a mare of dappled gray, who sat in a position of influence among her small group. Approaching with a kind smile, Celestia called out a greeting.

It did not go well. The tone for her interaction among the pegasus ponies had already been set and she only encountered variations of that note. At first, the mare returned her greeting with reserve, but quickly became friendly as she sensed Celestia's naivety. It was only a guise, and when Celestia refused to do any favors –wary of being deceived again— the guise dropped and the dappled gray mare refused to help.

Others she greeted only cast her annoyed looks at being addressed in the first place, and Celestia moved on.

Some came to the sisters on their own, curiosity getting the best of them. Many came without the guile Celestia had expected, asking questions about their travels. Taking it as a sign of friendship, Celestia asked for help. At that point, they turned sour at the prospect and often left.

She went back and forth, always staying in the light, trying groups, trying pairs, even trying the lone pegasus ponies. Sometimes she brought up her magical skill, other times she downplayed her status as a unicorn. Sometimes she asked for help directly, or tried to strike a friendship before hand, offered to return the favor but only after being taught, or made no offers at all and only answered questions. A couple of times, she foisted Luna forward first to address them hoping wings would make a difference, only to give up as Luna turned exceedingly uncomfortable and resistant, making the conversations awkward.

There was one thing she gained for all her effort: a growing crowd of insults. It didn't take long for a number of the pegasi to notice what she was doing and begin to follow the pair. Much like the stallions from before, once they could not engage the sisters, they began to make light of them. Celestia contained herself as much as possible, ignoring them, but once she made the mistake of whirling on them with bared teeth and a glowing horn. They scattered in a blink, only to collect again like biting flies once her attention was elsewhere. It became a game to see who could antagonize the pink-maned unicorn into a reaction and their efforts became competitive and unruly. The rest of the pegasi began to avoid the cloud of horseplay that collected around her.

"Celestia?" Luna tapped her side, trying to speak over the jeers.

"What?" She tried to restrain the edge in her voice.

As time had rolled on, Luna became more and more disengaged and antsy. An entire cave of mystery awaited her and the fruitless pursuit proved to be a maddening bore. "I think, maybe, we should divide our search."

"What? No." A pegasus hung off the edge of Celestia's vision, wiggling his rump and inviting her to lash out at him. Many surrounding them had been brought to tears in laughter at his taunts. "We're not splitting up now."

"Why not? It's not like before, we're in no danger here. Besides, I've already made several spells that would find you instantly when we need to meet up again." They had tried Luna, too. They slung jeers at her, or mocked her between each other, but she no more reacted to them than a fish reacts to rain. When they tried to distract her, she'd occasionally shoot a puzzled stare, but nothing that entertained the pegasi nearly as much as provoking Celestia.

"Still, no. I do not like the idea of us being separated in a foreign herd."

"What are they going to do to me?" Indignant, Luna lifted a hoof in gesture to the shaking rump. "You're worried about this? They could care less about us."

Celestia sighed and rubbed her temple. The taunts Rump Shaker blared in her head and she toned them out. Luna had a familiar glint in her eye, the kind where she may run off again, if it meant she could follow her interests. "Fine!" She sighed, relenting. If Luna dug in her heels now, Celestia doubted she could be swayed. "Fine, you can go."

Luna's mouth parted with a look of absolute childish glee.

"But!" Celestia forestalled the reaction with a raised hoof. "Stay in the cave, stay close enough that we can find each other at a moment's notice, be careful who you trust, and be careful of exploring the dark. Oh, and keep watch for your friend's return."

"Yes! I can do that."

Her legs primed to go before Celestia stalled her again with a chiding noise. "Ahhh. Repeat them."

Constraining her excitement, Luna took in a breath to speak, but seeing his chance, Rump Shaker began to shout over her with nonsense syllables. Luna considered the problem unperturbed for a hoofbeat, then her blue horn began to glow. "STAY IN THE CAVE, STAY CLOSE ENOUGH THAT WE CAN FIND EACH OTHER AT A MOMENT'S NOTICE . . ."

The magically amplified volume alone nearly blew Celestia away, even if the wind hadn't gust so fierce it sent her mane into disarray.

With the pegasus troublemaker stunned into silence, Luna's finished her reply without the spell. "Be careful who you trust, be careful of the dark, and watch out for Rebel."

Still frozen in place and cringing, Celestia struggled to recover. "Y-yes."

Another smile bursting forth on the blue mare, Luna turned and galloped off down the tunnel.

Once ears began to recover, murmurs grew around the pegasi, trading whispers or comments. Some laughed unexpectedly.

A sheet of icy rain fell all at once over Celestia, sending her rigid with the cold and soaked to the bone. A mare shouted victory above her and leapt off a miniature black cloud, careening down the cave to her escape. Cheers and laughter following in her wake.

The cloud continued to pour out its contents all over Celestia's white coat, water dripping down her sides. Shivering, she sat down on her haunches, pink mane sopping wet and stuck to her. Luna had spoken true. The Earth ponies always considered her special, the one gifted by the stars. The unicorns were awed by her raw talent and incredible magic strength. The pegasi could care less.

Of all the reactions she had anticipated, she had never thought she'd be ignored. That thought sent a slow, sinking pain deep into her core. All her life, she impressed those around her. Yet those very same traits that amazed others made her the butt of a joke among the pegasi. She touched her horn with a hoof, recalling the day it appeared and how special she felt. It hurt to think of it as worthless.

Having not had a drink all day, she threw her head back and opened her mouth, catching the rain as it fell.
For the description, see chapter 1 [link]

This picture also done at request from Madmax
:iconcsimadmax:
She is an awesome person. Go check her out

Special thanks to Lightsideluc for editing this chapter with me. :iconlightsideluc:
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    Sweden had planned many words for this moment even though it wasn’t in his character, he had even found a few poetic words but now all of that meant nothing. His blue eyes studied the smaller nation who stood partway in the ocean with his pants rolled up. “Tino,” Sweden said softly and carefully walked down the long beach so that he stood beside the smaller Nordic nation. Finland jumped in surprise at the sound of his name and peered up at the taller nation with a smile. “I thought you didn’t want to come into the water,” Finland said with a flash of surprise in his violet eyes while the smile remained on his face. Berwald grunted in reply and stuffed a hand in his pocket before turning his eyes to stare at the incoming waves.

    Finland tucked a few blonde strand of hair behind his ear as a breeze blew sand against his face. “Marry me Tino, I love you so much.” Very slowly the small Nordic turned to face Berwald with wide eyes. Gently the giant nation took Finland’s hands in between his and placed the ring against the palm of his hands. Nothing could make the proposal any more perfect – the sky was blue and clear, the sun was bright and warmed the smaller nation to his soul, and the nation whom had started calling Finland his ‘wife’ had the tiniest of smiles on his usually blank face. “The ring has sand from my country and your own,” Sweden muttered when his small companion didn’t reply right away, seemingly shocked and at a loss for words.

    “I-I… of course Berwald,” Tino stuttered and gently placed the ring back in Sweden’s hand. Berwald understood the unasked request and gently slid the ring onto Finland’s finger. A squeak escaped from Tino’s lips and his violet eyes met blue ones before he buried his face in the taller nation’s chest.

    “I love you too.”

---

Berwald, the representation of Sweden, will you have this man to be your wedded husband? (I will)

---

“That is the seventh time you have failed to tie that properly.”

    Sweden met the other nation’s eyes in the mirror and gave a grunt in reply. Norway stood from his chair in the corner of the room and approached the large nation. Carefully with quick fingers he assisted Berwald and adjusted the tie that the other nation had been working on for what seemed like ten minutes straight. Dull blue eyes met Sweden’s own blue eyes before Lukas stepped back.  “You are really getting married,” Norway said with a small shake of his head before returning to his seat. Lukas had decided to guard Sweden’s room to keep the obnoxious Denmark out. A smile crossed Sweden’s face and his eyes widened a bit. ‘I’m getting married to Tino,’ Berwald thought to himself and his heart swelled with love and anticipation. Norway tilted his head as he adjusted his own tux. “Good to see that you aren’t immune to nerves,” Lukas said and glanced towards the clock hanging up in the room.

    “I’m happy for you Berwald, the two of you deserve happiness… it’s time to go.”

---

Will you love and comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto him as long as you both shall live? (I will)

---

    Finland paced about his room and flashes a nervous smile towards Denmark. The other nation grinned and sat upright before tilting his head at Finland. “You know what Tino?” Mathias asked. Finland stopped pacing for a moment and turned to face Denmark with surprise on his face because of the serious tone in the other Nordic’s voice. “I bet Berwald is nervous too but he really loves you so the two of you will be okay, I promise!” Mathias said with a grin as he jumped up from the couch. Finland was touched by Denmark’s thoughtfulness and care. It was odd that he would act so mature even on a day like today. The loud nation headed towards the door and then paused.

    “Oh yeah! Sealand took it upon himself to be part of the decorating committee so there will be a lot of blue and boats. He may be small but when determined he is a force to be reckoned with. The only thing he would allow Sweden to change was the flowers. Berwald picked purple lilacs while muttering something about your eyes.”

    Tino’s heart skipped a beat and a fond smile crossed his face.  “Thank you Mathias, I feel a little more prepared now,” Finland said quietly and allowed for the excited nation to pull him out of the room.

---

Tino, the representation of Finland, will you have this man to be your wedded husband? (I will)

---

    All the nations had gathered to witness the wedding and were instructed to be under their best behavior. Even America seemed to have calmed down a little bit, but everyone knew that he’d let all his energy return during the after party and dancing.

    Sweden walked silently up the aisle and took position after taking a deep breath. The music started and caused Berwald’s heart to beat a bit faster as he studied the doors at the other end of the aisle. Iceland and Norway took their positions as Finland’s best men while only Denmark stood in as Berwald’s best man. Each of them offered the support that the other two needed and appreciated greatly. The doors opened and the small nation Finland walked in with bright red cheeks. He hurried down the aisle so that he stood in front of Berwald. His tiny hands automatically latched onto Sweden’s hands to steady his rush of emotions and thoughts. Sweden blinked his blue eyes and leaned forward a little bit so that his lips were near Finland’s ear. “I love you Tino.” Finland squeaked quietly and hugged Sweden close to him so that he could rest his head against Sweden’s chest.

    Their hearts seemed to beat in sync which soothed Tino. Finally Finland gave the priest a small nod, a signal to go on and that the two were ready to be united.

---

Will you love and comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto him as long as you both shall live? (I will)

---

    All the countries had gathered at Sweden’s house for the after party and presents. England thought the ceremony went wonderfully and the vows had been recited with nothing but love. Nothing seemed to go wrong and more love filled the usually quiet house than he had imagined. Tears pricked at the corner of his eyes and he quickly went to wipe them away. “Ohonhonhon mon ami, are you crying?” France whispered quietly and England swatted his hand away with a look of disgust. Arthur shook his head which caused America to grin.

    “Of course not you git, I got something in my eyes.”

    America pointed a finger right in England’s face causing the Brit to lean away from him. “Did you see who caught Finland’s bouquet?” he asked with a grin. Arthur frowned and shook his head, he had been busy wiping tears away. Alfred grinned and motioned over to Denmark who had taken the bouquet to the after party with him and was currently waving it in Norway’s face.

    “You know what this means?! I’m going to get married next!” Mathias told Norway enthusiastically and waved the flowers around a bit more causing leaves to fall onto the floor. Lukas glanced at the flowers then away, choosing to remain silent on the matter. Denmark wiggled his eye brows at Norway and moved closer to the other Nordic. Lukas sighed and grabbed onto Denmark’s tie before tightening it around the flailing country’s neck. “Idiot, I’m not going to marry you yet,” Norway scolded and released the tall blonde. Denmark fell down on the ground while attempting to loosen his tie. Lukas stepped over him and started walking towards the newest couple. “You said yet! So you will marry me some time right?!” Denmark called after him.

    Finland loved each gift but what he looked forward from the most was the gifts from Sweden and the rest of the Nordics. Norway was the first one to present his gifts after escaping from Denmark, with a light shade of pink on his cheeks and refusing to meet the eyes of the new couple. Tino slowly took the gift and unwrapped it under Sweden’s careful supervision. “Oh!” Finland said in surprise a smile crossed his face. He held the photo album up a little higher so that the taller nation could see better. “Where did you get all the pictures?” Finland asked as he flipped through it with care and admiration. Sweden grunted in agreement.

    Norway shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve collected pictures from over the years, the idiot Denmark suggested it but for once he had a good idea. Don’t tell him I said that,” the emotionless Nordic stated and shoved a hand into his pocket. Norway pulled out two small boxes and held it out to the couple. “Ear plugs so that you won’t have to hear Denmark teasing the two of you.” Finland laughed and the corners of Sweden’s lips lifted slightly.

    Iceland was next to hold out his gift in a small purple bag. “It’s not much but I think you guys will like it,” he said and handed the bag to Sweden. Berwald gently pushed the tissue paper aside and pulled out a box of licorice, a small cook book, and two small bracelets. Sweden handed the cook book to Finland and then gently clasped the bracelets around his wrist and his husbands. “Not much? Just you being here was enough, this is more than I could ask for, thank you,” Finland assured the shy Nordic. Iceland nodded his head. “Good job little brother,” Norway said. Iceland narrowed his eyes. “I won’t call you big brother!”

    While Norway followed Iceland around insisting that the smaller nation call him ‘big brother’ Denmark approached with his usual lop-sided grin. “You will love my gift Finland, it’s the best one!” Mathias insisted with a wink and he shoved a bag into the unprepared nation’s hands. Tino nearly dropped the bag but managed to get a grip on it just in time. Slowly he eyed Denmark then stuck his hand into the bag and pulled out a tube. Finland blinked his violet eyes and turned the label to face him, but before he could read it the tube was snatched out of his hands.  “What is it?” Tino asked with wide innocent violet eyes.

    He had figured that maybe it was some sort of lotion but the pink on Sweden’s cheeks made Finland feel a little bit queasy and unsure. Sweden’s pale blue eyes met Denmark’s fierce joyful blue eyes. “Nothing,” Sweden muttered and Denmark let out an obnoxious laugh, almost as loud as America’s laughs.

---

I, Berwald take you  Tino to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as we both shall live.

---

    Finland closed the door as the last of their guests left the house and let out an exhausted sigh. He walked back into the living room and laid down on the couch. Tino grunted when their small white dog Hanatamago jumped onto his stomach and curled up into a ball. Sweden walked into the living room and paused for a moment to watch the light and shadows from the fire dance across Finland’s form. A small smile crossed the tall Nordic’s face and he continued into the room. Carefully Berwald set the two mugs of coffee down on the small table and turned to face Tino. “Tired?” he asked and placed a soft kiss to his husband’s forehead. Carefully Sweden lifted Finland’s head and took a seat before resting Finland’s head against his thigh.

    “Very,” Finland replied honestly and smiled up at Sweden. Sweden picked up one of the mugs and took a sip while he gently stroked Tino’s hair with his other hand. “Your gift,” Sweden said suddenly out of the blue and pulled a pamphlet out of his pocket before handing it to Finland. Violet eyes widened and then met serious blue ones. “We are going to stay in a beach house?” he asked quietly with excitement. Sweden nodded and took another sip of coffee. Finland absentmindedly began to stroke Hanatamago’s fur. “T-Thank you,” Tino sputtered with a content smile. Sweden put down his coffee mug and looked down at Finland’s face with a smile. Finland’s nerves caused his hands to shake a bit and his face went bright red. Sweden blinked. “What?”

    Tino pushed all thoughts aside and quickly reached up to wrap his arms around Sweden’s neck.  Berwald’s eyes widened for a brief moment in surprise when Finland’s lips were pressed to his. Gently Sweden wrapped his arms around Finland and pulled him close causing Hanatamago to squirm and jump off of Finland’s warm, comfortable stomach.

    Honestly he hadn’t bought a present for Sweden because he couldn’t find anything he thought would be worthy enough for his husband, yet he knew Berwald would be happy without a present because just having each other was more than enough for the quiet nation and all that he ever wanted.

---

I, Tino take you Berwald to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as we both shall live.

---

    Love comes in many different shapes and sizes but the love between Finland and himself had always been there – simple, honest, and true. Sweden gently tucked Tino into bed and slipped his own glasses off. The gentle giant climbed in beside his husband.

    No worries kept either of the nations up that night; love soothed and coaxed the two nations into a content and deep sleep - A sleep that would prevent either Nordic from noticing how the smaller nation scooted back into the warmth behind him and how the taller nation wrapped his arms protectively around the other.
I don't usually do pairing stories but I made an exception for :iconroleplaycrona13: who requested a fluffy SuFin story. I'm not all too familiar with all the Nordics yet so they are probably OOC which I apologize for but I did my best and I like how it turned out.

Comments are appreciated and I read every single on of them and reply to most.



I don't own Hetalia or the preview image, the image was found on google - if some one on DA made it just let me know and I will happily give them the credit they deserve.
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The Ponyville Tinies: A Very Zecora Alphabet Book

A is for Applebloom, lost in the woods.
B is for Big Mac who choked on baked goods.

C is for Cadance, thrown over the brink.
D is for Dash who was shipped with a sink.

E is for Emerald, cursed by a glyph.
F is for Fluttershy, scared very stiff.

G is for Gilda who wasn’t paroled.
H is for Hayseed who fell uncontrolled.

I is for Icy who found a live wire.
J is for Joe who swam in the fryer.

K is for Key Lime, who raved like a loon.
L is for Luna who’s trapped on the moon

M is for Mayor who passed some bad laws.
N is for Noteworthy, hit by a vase.

O is for Octavia crushed by her cello.
P is for Pinkie who drowned in lime jello.

Q is for Quick Fix not building to code.
R is for Rarity     who to the mob owed.

S is for Scoots, swept up by an eagle.
T is for Twilight, tracked by a beagle.

U is for Upper Crust, baked in a pie.
V is for Vigilance, scared of the sky.

W is for Wild Fire, run down by cars.
X is for X-Ray who almost saw Mars.

Y is for Yo-Yo, she should have inhaled.
Z is for Zecora, at yoga she failed.

There are some ponies who just won’t be missed.
You should be careful or you’ll join the list.
With apologies to Edward Gorey, author and illustrator of The Gashlycrumb Tinies. But this may be my next project.

A [link]
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