Merely a Mare, 4th Interlude

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Warnings and Disclaimers:

Characters in this work are property of their respective owners, I do not own any of them, and do not intend to make any sort of profit off of this work.

This My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fanfiction involves shipping. If you don't know what that means, please go read up on it at… before reading.

If you are made uncomfortable by ANY form of romance between ANY two intelligent beings, this fanfiction may not be to your liking. Continue only with caution.

And now, on with the show:

Merely a Mare, Fourth Interlude:


"Are you sure you don't want help with that?" Luna asked, eyeing the bulging saddlebags slung over Applejack's back, "It wouldn't be any trouble."

The Earth pony's reply was muffled, but intelligible; she was busy adjusting the thick leather straps of her burden, "Sure I'm sure! What'd'ya think my kinfolk'd think of me, usin' a princess like a pack mule?"

"I could levitate it." The alicorn offered.

Applejack snorted, "Oh no, missy. You agreed to do this the Earth pony way, and that means no flyin', no teleportin', and definitely no levitatin'. Now we got a schedule to stick to; let's get crackin'. Gotta be off the farm before Pinkie starts settin' up. She's a right hellion if you get in the way of her most important party rule: no birthday fillies allowed before everythin's ready." And with that, she strode off down the path away from Sweet Apple Acres and Ponyville. Morning sun lit a beautiful scene: the narrow road meandered through a large meadow before disappearing behind a small, green hill. Beyond the rise, in the distance, a dark line of rocky mountains loomed. The alicorn smiled in anticipation of a pleasant hike.

The farmer's deliberate steps covered ground with surprising speed; after a few seconds, Luna followed, trotting to catch up before slowing to match her companion's pace. "Do we even need all that stuff? We're only going to be up there one night. A tent makes some sense, though it's not going to rain. And some of the food. But a week's worth? There are streams, I checked; we don't need all that water. And a whistle? Really? "

Applejack did not meet the other mare's questioning gaze; she kept her eyes on the path ahead, walking in silence for a few moments. Her eventual reply was terse, "It's for emergencies."

The princess scoffed, "What could possibly happen that I'd be unable to deal with? I could grow you food in an instant, pull water from the air, summon a cottage if it gets chilly. Dragon attacks? Not likely; they're more afraid of me than I am of them, and for good reason. Land's sakes, Applejack! I can make the mountain grow legs and walk us back to Ponyville if we need it."

"Ha! Land's sakes, y'say?" the orange mare barked, "I'll have you talkin' like a farm filly yet." Her expression hardened as she turned to look at her companion, "But that ain't how Earth ponies deal with emergencies."

"You're just being stubborn."

"No I ain't! I'm bein'...," Applejack paused, "What's a word that means 'stubborn' but doesn't make it sound like I'm bein' stubborn?"

"Steadfast?" Luna suggested.

"I'm bein' steadfast," The farmer said with a nod.

The alicorn sighed. "Fine. But if you get hurt, I'm not going to fiddle around with that first aid kit. You're going find yourself in the hospital before you can say 'Earth ponies don't teleport'."

Applejack smiled and turned her head to meet Luna's gaze. "You gonna be steadfast about that, sugar cube?"

"Of course," the response came with a grin.

"Then I guess I'll just have to appreciate it, won't I?" The Earth pony's eyes returned to the travelers' path. After a moment, her brow furrowed, "But why the hospital? Fluttershy said you put a bird's busted wing back together good as new. Couldn't you just fix me up?"

Luna stopped. Applejack continued for a few moments, then looked over her shoulder. "You comin', sugar cube?"

The princess closed her eyes for a moment. She took a deep breath, then released it in a rush. She galloped forward to close the gap that had grown between the travelers. When the alicorn reached her companion, she looked away, unable to meet the other pony's eyes. She spoke, "My sister and I agreed long ago not to heal any pony, to any degree, for any reason. No exceptions. I'm sorry, Applejack."

"Huh," The Earth pony replied, "That don't sound like the omni-bena-whatever princesses that I know."

"We have our reasons," Luna said.

"Well?" Applejack prompted, impatient.

"Well what?" the other mare replied.

"What are the reasons?"

The question hung in the air. Eventually, Luna whispered, "It's complicated."

The Earth pony tilted her head, "Well, we're gonna be walkin' for the next... hmm... somethin' like twelve hours. I reckon you have time to do some explainin'."

"I'm not going to tell you, Applejack."

"Don't trust me?" The farmer asked with a smile; Luna couldn't tell whether the jestful tone was genuine, or a cover for concern.

"I do trust you, Applejack," the princess insisted, "But I want you to keep trusting me. There are some things that you're better off not knowing, when it comes to my past."

They traveled on in silence, the Earth pony seemingly lost in thought, and the alicorn dreading an inevitable question. After a few minutes, it came as Applejack whispered almost to herself, "I already know about Nightmare Moon; what could be worse than that?"

"I never killed anypony as Nightmare Moon," Luna replied, doing her best to sound dispassionate, "I couldn't bring myself to do so, even then. I put you Elements in danger, but only danger that I knew would not end your lives. I probably would have even have saved you, if there was any real risk. I did what I safely could to delay you, to deter you, to drive you off. But I never wanted death."

Applejack's opened her mouth to speak, but no words came.

After a second, the princess continued, "You've seen what I can do. Did you think that the power to stop my sister from raising the sun, the power to banish her from Equestria and prevent her return as long as I willed it so, was insufficient to kill six young ponies before they ever laid eyes on that castle?"

"I... reckon not." The Earth pony frowned. After a few seconds she spoke again, "So it was worse than that? Does that mean you..." she gulped, and her voice dropped to a whisper, "Killed somepony?"

"There was a tragedy. I tried to fix it with an atrocity." Luna said.

"Did it work?"

"That's the wrong question, Applejack," the princess replied, eyes distant, "It's more important to ask: 'Was it worth it?'"

"And?" The Earth pony asked.

The alicorn did not speak. The farmer waited. The path continued, over verdant hills, across crystal clear streams, winding between stands of trees where oak mixed with heath. Bird calls filled the air. The grass lining the path often rustled as creatures unaccustomed to ponykind fled from the travelers, or watched them, curious. It was a beautiful day, and all the living things in Equestria thrived.

In time, the dark mare whispered her reply, "Was it worth it? I wish I knew."

Applejack's next words were far softer than the princess was used to hearing from the farmer, "Whatever you did, Luna, I forgive you."

The alicorn smiled at the Earth pony, looking her in the eyes; Luna saw only trust within the orbs. "You are too quick to forgive, Applejack. It is a most endearing flaw."


Conversation turned to more trivial things after that: apples and stars and distant cousins. The two ponies laughed loudly and often, their mirth only growing whenever they startled an animal out of its hiding place. Their way grew more strenuous as they climbed the foothills; even with switchbacks, the way was steep. Luna ended up doing most of the talking as Applejack's breath grew more labored. The Earth pony was unaccustomed to the altitude, but her endurance did not fail her. The farmer needed no breaks before they stopped for lunch in the early afternoon.

The princess guided them to a quiet glen dominated by enormous trees, red barked evergreens that seemed to touch the sky. Applejack dropped her pack and looked upward, struck dumb by the sight. The verdant crowns of the living towers, high above, swayed gently in the breeze. When her gaze dropped once again to ground level, she saw Luna leaned up against the bark of the largest of the lot, a true behemoth. The barn at Sweet Apple Acres could fit comfortably in the trunk.

The farmer called out to the alicorn, "Luna, did you know about these when you planned the trip?"

"Of course I did! This is was one of my favorite places to come for solitude, before my banishment. These hills were the nearest forest to my old castle." Luna nodded toward the trunk supporting her, "I planted this one myself, to even out the shade, though all the trees that were around before seem to have died and been replaced. At least this old friend remains," She turned to grin at Applejack, "It's come a long way in three thousand years. As have I."

The Earth pony rolled her eyes, "To even out the shade, huh? Just a little gardening?"

"Eeyup," the princess replied.

Applejack recoiled, "Oh, not you too. Come on now, Luna, I get enough of that from my big brother, you ought to know better."

The alicorn just chuckled through a satisfied smile.

"Anyway, this was the closest forest? Isn't your castle in the Everfree?" Applejack asked as she began walking toward the princess.

Luna shrugged, "It wasn't anywhere nearby when I was banished. It was small, and distant, and it was home to somepony that my sister and I did not want to have to deal with. It did not grow for thousands of years; I can only hope that its expansion came because the master of that place is gone, one way or another." She sighed, eyes downcast, but brightened when Applejack reached her, "But that depressing subject is of no importance. Come, I have something to show you!" And with that, she rushed off, trotting around the gently curving trunk of the ancient tree.

Applejack struggled to follow, still worn out from the morning's trek, but she burst with new energy as soon as she saw her companion's destination. It was a mountain stream, deep and wide and crystal clear, and it looked so blessedly refreshing. Luna leapt in with a great splash.

The Earth pony hit the water seconds later, and soon found herself fully submerged. The frigid liquid gave her quite a shock, but as the gentle current pressed at her side, the chill across her overworked legs felt incredible. After a few moments, she surfaced with an excited exclamation of, "Yeehaw!"

The woods were silent. Applejack didn't see Luna in the water. She glanced at the shores, but there was very little undergrowth in the shadows of the massive trunks. Certainly not enough to hide the princess. She blinked, confused, and tried to spot any sign of her companion. For a few seconds there was nothing, but soon the orange mare spotted movement in the corner of her eye. A little triangle of ripples spread from the night-blue tip of a distinctive unicorn horn, poking just above the waterline.

Applejack smiled to herself. She wondered what the alicorn was doing, but not enough to interrupt and find out. The movement got closer, approaching slowly from her side; impressively, the advance was completely silent. The Earth pony just waited.

When Luna got within a few feet of the farmer, she burst forth from the stream, wings spread wide and forelegs raised, with a prodigious splash and a loud but unconvincing, "Rar!" Applejack's eyes widened, more surprised by how far out of the water the princess got than by the act itself. The dark mare seemed to hang above her for a full second before crashing down to grab the Earth pony and drag her beneath the ensuing waves.

The ponies surfaced laughing. Applejack laughed all the harder when she saw that her hat had ended up hanging on Luna's horn, and had fallen forward to cover the princess's eyes.

The alicorn, for her part, turned her head to face an area of the stream far from the Earth pony, and pointed menacingly with a hoof at nothing in particular, "Ha ha! Now you have felt the wrath of Nightmare Stream! I am queen of this place and all that is chilly and flowing! It is customary to bow, but exceptions can be made for those without gills. I demand service of you, newcomer, if you wish to remain in my realm."

"What do I -" Applejack suppressed another bout of laughter, "got to do?"

Luna flapped her wings, rising to hover above the water. "First, you must wait here while I get apples out of the saddlebags. Then, you will wash the apples in the stream. And finally," the alicorn burst into an over-exaggerated melodramatic cackle before continuing, "We will eat the apples. Nefariously!"

"Whatever that means," The Earth pony replied. The princess flew off, managing to avoid running into the trees despite the continued obstruction of her vision. Applejack called out after her, "Make sure you leave my pap- my hat by the saddlebags! I don't wanna lose it!"

Nightmare Stream soon returned with apples, and the traveling companions enjoyed their lunch in the shallows. In time, Applejack left the water, rested and ready to continue the hike.


They ended their journey on top of the world. The air was thin at that altitude, and cold, but there was a sharp freshness to it; it carried none of the scent of farms and bakeries of Ponyville, none of the ozone tinge that lingered in the magicians' playground of Canterlot. It reminded Luna of years long past, before her sister had brought other intelligences into being, when it was just the two of them, playing with a new toy that they now called 'life'.

There was precious little of that around: just the occasional stunted evergreen, twisted by storms and harsh climate, and a few sparse tufts of grass. The plants clung tenaciously to cracks in the naked granite. It was barren. It was remote. It was desolate.

It was beautiful; a stark beauty, but Luna appreciated it all the same. A depression in the rock held a small lake, and the ever-present wind kicked up ripples in the water, ripples that caught the fiery light of the setting sun and shone like burnished gold. It danced, and the alicorn was compelled to watch.

Applejack stood beside her, speechless.

In time, the show ended. The sun could no longer reach the heights, and Luna turned, walking to a smooth stretch that overlooked a cliff. She lowered herself, folding her legs beneath her body, and her companion followed, lying just at her side. Together, they watched as the line of sunlight swept down the mountain and over the foothills, racing away to escape the coming night.

Luna raised the moon. Her horn did not glow, but the Earth pony did not comment. The princess spoke, for the first time in an hour, "Now, Applejack, you will see my night in all its glory." Hearing no response, the alicorn looked to her companion, then smiled to herself, whispering, "Another time, then." There would be other nights, for that.

Applejack's head had fallen forward to rest on her foreleg, and her sides grew and shrank in the slow, steady rhythm of deep sleep. Her hat had fallen off, and laid on the ground in front of her, shifting slightly in the evening breeze. It had been a long day, and the princess knew that the fmare had earned her rest.

Luna levitated the farmer's hat, placing it on her own head, its brim resting lightly on her horn; it was precious to Applejack, she couldn't risk it blowing off the cliff. A bit of magic, and the wind parted around the ponies, leaving them in a pocket of warm, still air. It would do for a tent, though the princess suspected that the other mare would object to the arrangement in the morning. It was not, after all, the Earth pony way of camping out.

She'd risk it.

The princess looked once again to her companion. The farmer looked so peaceful, content. Luna shifted closer, until their bodies touched; she could feel the slow rhythm of Applejack's breath.

It was then that the alicorn realized that the wind had come back. The grass was still, Applejack's hair was still, even her own coat was motionless, untouched by the breeze, but the soft tug of moving air remained on Luna's mane and tail. She looked over her shoulder, and softly gasped.

Her tail was different. A stripe of its normal color was flanked by other stripes, blues of ice and midnight; the colors did not mix, even as the sourceless wind caused the hair to slowly sway in a wavy dance. She knew that her mane had changed in kind. The last time her physical form had shifted was when she became Nightmare Moon, but she could not bring herself to worry. She did not feel the desperate longing that brought that insanity upon her, only peace and joy. It didn't feel dangerous, just somehow right. The alicorn curled around Applejack, resting her head on the other mare's neck. She laid a wing protectively over the Earth pony's sleeping form.

Luna, for the first time in all her years of life, went to sleep.

She dreamed of apples.
Editing by :iconpeppermint-roo:

Check out that last scene as a commission by :iconcrappyunicorn: here: [link]

Backpacking is fun, and the mountains are great for stargazing.

Up next is Chapter 5: Loyalty. It might be a bit; I'll do my best to stay on task, though I'll probably write something for :iconmlp-wtg: this week.

Hey, I warned y'all that this was shipping. Whatever else it is.
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Knowing what we know of Alicorns now Luna has been fairly frustrating through this fic. Walking through the story as some untouchable wall of perfection unaffected by anything besides her own actions. Hopefully it changes in later chapters but to be honest there needs to be some sort of challenge to her otherwise there's no stakes, no important climax.