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The Drifter (story)

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By RenaTamer
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My Little Pony
The Drifter


With a shrill squeal of iron on iron, and rush of hissing steam, the Pony Express clanged to a halt before Appleloosa's train station. Though word had been sent ahead to keep things simple, a rather large crowd and small marching band stood waiting for the expresses two  VIPs (very important passengers). This year Appleloosa had the honor of hosting the Summer Sun Celebration and everypony for miles around had shown up to get a glimpse of Princess Celestia and her sister Princess Luna.

Even Chief Thunderhoovs' buffalo tribe had been invited and spent the last few days helping the town's folk get the Wild West city of Appleloosa ready for the festivities.

While there were several passengers who disembarked from the express, the crowd of on-lookers patently waited until the door to one of the royal coaches slid open before surging forth and bursting into cheer. While the small band played the Canterlot March, six armored guards descended a ramp that had appeared out of nowhere, four of Celestia's white unicorns and two of Luna's gothic night guards.  Stoically the unicorns took up posts at the bottom of said ramp as the dark Pegasi spread their bat like wings and began to push the crowd back a bit.

The roar of crowd was suddenly silenced by a blinding light and the sound of rolling thunder. Having flinched back and thrown hooves up to protect their eyes, the flock of ponies and bison were quiet long enough for a voice to be heard. "My little ponies, it is good to see you all gathered here today! Yet, please save your energy for tomorrow's celebration…"

The crowd went manic for before them now stood Celestia, Princess of the sun, and Luna, Princess of the Moon.

"Welcome to Appleloosa your majesties; I'm Silverstar, Sheriff in these here parts!" A brown earth pony sporting a mustache stepped up, calling out over the sound of the nearby welcoming comity. He then turned and waved a hoof to the large bison wearing an elaborate feathered headdress. "And this is my good friend Chief Thunderhoovs!"  

"Thank you, Sheriff," Celestia acknowledged the law pony in her warmest motherly voice. "And it's nice to finally meet you great Chief Thunderhoovs."

"It is an honor," the big bison bowed his head.

"I have heard such marvelous things about you and your herd," she gave a soft smile in return. "My faithful student, Twilight Sparkle, holds you, and one named Little Strongheart, in rather high regard."

"I will be sure to pass that on," the chief beamed proudly.

"Sister," Luna moved up, "I do hate to interrupt, but the express does have a schedule to keep."

"Oh yes, I almost forgot," Celestia suppressed a giggled as she turned to address the sheriff, "We would be rather appreciative if somepony would unhitch our coaches and move them to the siding…"

"Consider it done," Thunderhoovs announced, and before anypony could say more, eight huge buffalo gathered and pushed the last two now uncoupled train coaches off onto a nearby siding.

"Now that that's out of the way," Silverstar chuckled while waving a hoof towards town. "Could we interest your majesties in a guided tour of Appleloosa?"

"I think that would be lovely," Princess Celestia nodded after the crowd finally began to quiet down to excited murmuring. "Don't you think so Luna?"

"Oh yes," the smaller royal smiled back up at her older sibling. "We would definitely enjoy a tour."

Over the next few minutes, and with over half the residence of the town following, Sheriff Silverstar escorted them to each of the small shops that lined Appleloosa'a Main Street. They were just nearing the Salt Block Saloon when an odd commotion erupted at the outskirts of town. "Sheriff, Sheriff!" All turned to see a dusty old prospector hurriedly galloping into town. "He's coming Sheriff!"

"Who…" Luna was the first to speak up as both she and her sister tilted their heads in wonder.

"That would be old Pete, bit of an alarmist I'm afraid" the sheriff sighed wearily, moving to intercept the aged miner. "Whoa there old timer, what's got the bur under your saddle?"

"It's the drifter!" Pete said in an all too agitated voice, one that carried throughout the small town. "He's outside the town limits and heading this way!"

"The Drifter?" gapped one pony.
"Did he say the Drifter?" another bewildered pony asked.
"The Drifter, here!?!" still another cried in fear.

"Oh buck me," both Silverstar and Thunderhooves whispered together, all the color draining away from their faces.

In less than a heartbeat the word spread.  A wildfire of fear swept through every living soul save eight ponies… the two princesses' and their six guards. In moments the tiny town of Appleloosa went from happily preparing for the Summer Sun Celebration, to confusion and bedlam. Ponies and Bison ran here and there in panic, while mothers did their best to herd their foals indoors.

"Why today of all days," Silverstar grumbled with a hint of anger before yelling at his nearby deputy. "Slade, try and lay down some order around here, and get everypony off the streets!"

"Sure thing Sheriff," he gave a quick nod before bolting down the street.

"If old Pete's right," Silverstar turned his attention back to the royalty at his side. "We'd better find you and your sister someplace safe…"

"Tell me Sheriff Silverstar," Celestia's warm voice instantly squashing the dread that threatened to overwhelm the lawpony and bison chief. "Who exactly is this Drifter and why do my little ponies fear him so?"

"There isn't a sole that lives between the San Palomino desert and the Bad Lands who hasn't heard the rumors," the Sheriff said as he began to calm. "Most are night tales told to foals to scare them into being good. Others are campfire ghost stories, all about the silent wanderer known as The Drifter."

"He's never in a hurry, hardly ever speaks, and does not fear death. It is said that, as long as no one bothers him, he will quietly wander into one border town or another, find what he needs and leave just as quickly as he came…" The law pony tried to continue, yet he was slightly distracted by the winds that suddenly picked out just outside of town.

"My bison brothers also know these stories," Chief Thunderhooves rumbled. "They say he is a warrior like no other. That he can move through the high desert like a ghost, knows the location of every watering hole, can travel though dust storms with ease and vanish before your very eyes in a waiver of heated air."

"That… doesn't sound… so bad," the Moon Princess began, her eyes now drawn to the dust cloud swirling to life just past Appleloosa's clock tower.

"However it's what he does in these stories that places fear in the hearts of most ponies." Silverstar couldn't help the shiver that rolled through him. "The Drifter has repeatedly committed the most unthinkable of crimes in the pony world… He is a stone cold killer. Anypony who gets in his way, be it Griffin, Diamond Dog, Minotaur, and yes… even pony… die, without question, without remorse."

"He Kills?" Luna blinked, taken aback by the sheriff's words. This interruption brought all six guards to full attention. "As in taking a pony's life?"

"Not all tales paint him in a bad light," Chief Thunderhoovs tried to explain, hopping to calm the younger princess. "In most stories he helps those in need, protecting settlers from the dangers of the badlands, stopping bandits, and leading wagon trains safely through the deserts."

"While no pony can confirm if any of these tales are true," The Sheriff sighed after giving the Princess of the night a quick nod, "the fact is that he openly wears two weapons on his hips, weapons made of iron that use firework powder in a devastating way, ways that were never intended or conceived by anypony before or hence…"

"They are called pistols." Several astonished glances were suddenly cast towards Celestia, who simply clarified, "They are weapons that were built by an old burro of San Miguel during the ending days of the great Griffon/Pony wars. Only two sets were ever made."

"Sister?" Luna started to question, only to have Silverstar interrupt her.

"Princess, how do you know this?"

Yet Celestia's reply was to smile as she turned her full attention towards the billowing sand and the strange, dark silhouette, within.

Slowly the dustup cleared to reveal an overly tall stallion, as tall as Celestia herself. A long unicorn horn protruded from a large dark brown stetson pulled low, hiding his eyes. And though most of his body was cloaked by an earthy brown wool serape/poncho trimmed with green and yellow stripes… his coloring showed him to have a snow white coat, while his mane and tail bled to dark gray. Lastly, two strange looking weapons sat holstered on his flanks, hiding his cutie marks from view.

"He -IS- a Mustang," Celest absently muttered to herself, the smile growing across her lips.

"Why do I feel I should know him?" Luna asked, her eyes still on the mysterious stallion… only to be shushed by her older sister.

As for the residence of Appleloosa, they had cleared the streets by the time the stranger passed Appleloosa's famed clock tower. From behind barrels and doorways they peeked.  From open widows and under wagons they watched with intent eyes. Some showed anger towards the tall stallion for his intrusion on their special day, others curiosity, while most just held fear.

Slowly he plodded forward, paying no heed to those who looked on. There was no urgency in his movements, yet each step showed purpose. The reason he was here on this day was a mystery known only to the Drifter… and as far as the residence of Appleloosa were concerned, he could keep it that way and leave.

"And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and the name fate saddled upon him was Death…" All turned to find a young lime green filly hiding beneath a nearby stagecoach, her voice quivering as she spoke… the final line was but a whisper, "…and Hell followed with him."

Sheriff Silverstar began to shiver uncontrollably, even with both princesses at his side. The stranger was getting closer with each passing second. Even so, Celestia confidently stood her ground, her gaze and soft smile never wavering. "I will understand if you wish to seek shelter Sheriff," she said in that motherly tone of hers.

"N..no, I'll stay," he shook his head.

"Chief?"

"I will stand at your side," the bison rumbled, thrusting out his chest as he took up a battle stance.

"Luna, what do you think," the princess asked of her little sister.

"It is hard to tell," Luna shrugged her wings slightly as she watched the stranger mosey along. "But he seems to have a nice roguish quality about him."

Celestia gave her sister a quick sideways glance, trying to discern if the moon princess was joking, or was actually thinking the same thing she was. "Broadsword," she whispered over to the head guard. "Don't interfere; I'll take full responsibility over whatever happens in the next few seconds."

The guard gave an annoyed snort, but nodded that he understood.

By now the stranger was but a few yards away and still he plodded along, never looking up, never veering from his course. It wasn't until he got within a pony-length of Celestia that he slowed to a stop. The entire town of Appleloosa held their collected breath as they watched the Drifter square off with the princess of the sun.

Oh so slowly the stranger lifted his head, hard ice blue eyes glowered out from under the wide brim and locked fully on the princess. And yet her only reaction was to tilt her head ever so slightly and give him her warmest smile. Neither said a word, neither moved… and no pony dared to breathe. For several agonizing minutes, everypony watched the two large equines stare at each other, tension hanging thick in the air and filled everypony with dread.

Finally something had to give and to the astonishment of all, it was the princess who relented first.

Lowering one of her outstretched wings, Celestia quietly ushered her entourage back and to the side. Once out of his way, the Drifter once again continued on his path. However as he drew even with the sun princess he suddenly paused. Slowly, as to not alarm the guards who were already on edge, he reached a hoof up to his hat…

A collected gasp echoed through the small town of Appleloosa at what happened next.

"Ma'am," he said in a voice so clear, it was as if melting snow had just washed the town clean. Gently he dipped the brim of his hat ever so slightly. "It's nice to see your sister by your side once more." And with that he was on his way once more.

!FOOMP!   (Sound of an umbrella popping open)

Long ago Celestia had learned that, when in public, to keep her wings extended. This was done for two reasons, one, that it made her appear more regal. The other was that the wings of a Pegasus, and those of an Alicorn would spring open when…excited… glancing down she found that Luna's wings had done just that. "So what do you think little sister," she asked, though she already knew the answer for it was the same for her.

"I want one," Luna breathed her eyes intently gazing after the stranger as he wondered down the main-street. "I promise to take real good care of him…"

"He isn't a puppy Luna," Celestia giggled as she turned to follow. "But I understand what you mean, for I want one as well."

"Princess, did you see?" Broadsword was at her side in a heartbeat. "When that pony reached up for his hat, that poncho thing he wears opened and I think I saw…"

"Wings," Celestia finished for the astonished guard. "I know, the Drifter is an Alicorn." By now the stranger had reached the far end of town and paused long enough to turn to his right and head into the store nearest the train tracks. "Everypony stay where you are, this is something Luna and I must do alone." She commanded before nodding to her little sister. "Come along Luna, we need to have a little chat with this one."

"So, he's an Alicorn," Luna sighed once they were out of earshot of everypony else. "What are we to do with him?"

"We will share him," the sun princess said frankly.

"And if he refuses?"

"If this pony is who I think he is," she gave a knowing wink. "He won't."

Using his magic, the Drifter had selected a few items from around the "Odds 'n' Ends" general store, the owner cowering in a corner the whole time. He was just getting ready to pay up, several gold nuggets thumping as they hit the counter, when Celestia and Luna strolled in behind him. Seeing the gold, and then both Princesses, the owner snapped back to life… quickly moving over to weigh the gold and give correct change. "So, you go by the name, Drifter, now?" Celestia asked as she stood in the doorway, blocking any form of retreat.

At first he didn't respond to her, his only action was to shoot the store clerk an icy glance. Abacus, the owner, quickly got the message, "i…I've got…things…" he stuttered before snatching up the gold and rushing out the back of the store.

"I go by many names," he said calmly once the store was empty, his back still to the Princess.

"And I see you dress like a burro," her voice was warm with a soothing lilt.

"It's easier to move through the desert this way," he replied as he slipped his saddle bags off and placed them on the counter.

"When we heard what happened, the total loss of San Miguel, I…We thought you had perished," there was sadness in her tone, a long standing regret that only now threatened for release. With a shaky whisper she continued, "You were missed greatly…"

"After everything that happened, everything I witnessed… what I did…" he said in a cold tone. "It was better if everyone believed I had died."

"How can you say that…" Celestia blinked back the confusion. "You were a hero, you were my…"

"I was a murderer," he snapped back. "Three hundred innocent Jacks, Jennies, and foals… All dead… All because I had to play the hero."

"…tell me…" she asked as she brushed her white coat to his dust covered hide, her horn taking on a soft healing glow. "We never learned what truly happened."

"When I got to San Miguel, I recruited the volunteers, just as instructed," it began to spill out even before he realized what she was doing to him. "Thirty-five Jacks were willing to stand with me to defend the town, the others were packed up and evacuated by wagon train. It took us two days more to completely prepare for the griffons… but we did it and waited for their army to show…"

"It was on the morning of the fifth day that a lone foal came stumbling into town," the Drifter's voice wavered as the repressed memories surfaced from the dark place he had long ago locked them away. "She was just a little thing, beaten and blooded, she died in my hooves but not before telling us what happened."

"A platoon of battle hardened griffons had intercepted the wagon train and for two days they tortured and… " His ears drooped and he hung his head low as the memory became so fresh in his mind that he could smell the dust and death. "Upon hearing her last breath, the volunteers that had stayed behind all mounted up and galloped off… I tried to stop them, told them it was a trap… but they left anyway…"

"The only one to stay behind was the grandfather of the dead foal," both princesses silently watched as a single tear slipped from the Drifter. "He was some kind of half crazed inventor who made me promise to avenge the citizens of San Miguel and his little Bonita…"
         
"And," Luna asked after the Drifter had fallen silent for more than a minute.

"Armed with his new weapons, he followed the griffon platoon back across the border to their forward base," Celestia picked up the story. "Reports from a Pegasi recon team that had trickled back to Canterlot, told of the outcome. How in just one night, a single pony armed with magic and some strange thunder-weapon, slaughtered over a hundred griffons. It was their worst defeat of the war and would later helped lead to the peace treaty."

"After… I kept hunting the griffons, shooting and killing any I came across until the end of the war came." His voice had once again turned to ice, and after shaking his head to clear his conscience, he quickly went back to packing his saddle bags. "I couldn't go home after; I had seen and done too much. So once the war ended, I wandered into the desert… and did my best to disappear."

"But fate had other plans," Luna realized. "No matter where you went, there were always ponies that needed your help… and so the legends of the lone drifter took hold."

"That's my tragic story," he gave a cert nod.  

"You didn't have to exile yourself like that," Celestia said, saddened that he had been living with such pain all this time. "I could have helped you, if you had just come home."

"The desert is my ho…" he began, yet his words failed him when he felt a soft and gentle warmth brush his neck. "Please," he silently begged, closing his eyes tight as a crack formed in his cold demeanor.

"Eight hundred years is a long time to be alone, I of all ponies should know," Celestia crept even closer until she could whisper into his left ear. "First I lost my beloved little sister, and then I lost you…"

"Please… don't do this."

"…Thanatos…" (Greek name of a god of death)

His name, his real name, he hadn't heard it spoken aloud in for so long… or in that voice. Her voice. Instantly the mental barriers he had spent decades erecting, the cold walls of ice that surrounded his mind and heart, crumbed. "Celestia Solaris," silently the name tumbled from his dry lips even before he realized he was speaking it.

"So you do remember me, Thane," the Princess of the sun cooed happily.    

"How could I ever forget the sun," he said softly as he turned and gazed at her with sad blue eyes.

"Thane…" Luna gasped, darting forward from the doorway she paused only long enough to push aside the holstered iron weapon that covered his right flank. There sat his cutie mark, a stylized skull in the shape of a black apple. Only one pony in all of time has that make. He had been her teacher when she was just a little filly, yet because she had such a hard time pronouncing her "T's", she had taken to calling him another name. "Preacher!"

With the sun princess nuzzling from one side, and the moon princess hugging him from the other, the deadly Drifter wilted. In his place stood Thane Appleton, Preacher (teacher), Drifter, and last of the Mustang Calvary Stallions from the Great Griffon/Pony wars. "How did you know I was still alive," he quietly asked the sun princess.

"I have a very talented unicorn student, the same one who helped unite me with Luna," Celestia sighed as she leaned into her once lost friend. "She, Twilight Sparkle, visited Appleloosa and brought Luna back a dime-store novel that held several short stories about The Drifter…"

"Huh, wonder if it's too late to ask for royalties?"
This is for Vicky

(god i hope this works)
Published:
© 2013 - 2020 RenaTamer
Comments6
anonymous's avatar
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riderman09's avatar
riderman09Hobbyist General Artist
Write More Please!
Genesis-Omega's avatar
It has been a fairly long time since I've found your work. I was a big fan of Axel and Rena, and am sad to see it is still not finished. It was that very story that got me into writing in the first place. For that, I thank you. And for this, I thank you again. A pretty darn good story that I hope you decide to continue working on.
RenaTamer's avatar
I was thinking of typing up a few short stories on the exploits of The Drifter, but didn’t know if anyone would care to read…

that and Vicky has asked that I continue from here as well.

would anyone like me to add more?
riderman09's avatar
riderman09Hobbyist General Artist
Yes Pls! Its been years since ya wrote come back to us!!
totall's avatar
Please add more to this and if you want to get a whole lot more readers for this I suggest posting it here ([link])
anonymous's avatar
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