Disclaimer: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and it’s creative properties is owned by Lauren Faust and Hasbro, not me.
Applejack: The Apple Never Falls Far...
Applejack kept her gaze glued on the horizon ahead.The clouds whipped past her as she let her thoughts wander to the current problems on her mind.
Apple Bloom was, like most fillies of the Apple clan, proud, stubborn, yet through and through, a good hearted pony. If Big Mac’s letter was any indication though, the youngest member of Applejack’s family was not all that happy with the Princess of the Earth (a title she had apparently received if the way some of her guards addressed her was an indicator).
Sure, she had the occasional argument with Apple Bloom, and they’ve exchanged less than pleasant words more than once, but still...
Why didn’t Apple Bloom say anything before, though? Was she afraid that the older mare would be angry with her? Did she honestly think of Applejack as a mare with such little concern for her-
The orange alicorn snapped out of her thoughts as the sound of a pegasus stallion brought her back to reality. “Huh? Oh...sorry ‘bout that, Lightweight. I got a lot on my mind at the moment.” She gave the young stallion a smile. “What’s the problem, Sugarcube?”
Lightweight gave an apologetic smile and nodded. “We’re about a minute away from Ponyville. I figured you’d like to know that.”
Applejack chanced a peek over the side of the chariot, and noticed familiar landmarks. “Huh...so we are. Well, ya’ll can just land near the city hall. I suppose the mayor would like to see me, seeing as I’m droppin’ by an’ what not.”
Lightweight nodded, and the information was quickly relayed to the other pegasi ahead. Sure enough, less than several seconds passed before the chariot made a smooth landing within the center of Ponyville. The residents immediately took notice, most stopping in their tracks and taking a few seconds to look at the strange, yet familiar looking, alicorn.
The pegasi guards unhitched themselves as Applejack hopped off the chariot. She insisted they not worry when they asked if she wanted to put on shoes as she walked along the dirt road leading to the city hall.
“Our you certain, your Highness? We can go and purchase you two pairs from a local store in-”
“Now don’ you worry ‘bout me.” Applejack spoke. “I was born an’ raised here, so it’s not like I’m suddenly unaccustom’d to walkin’ barehooved.” She chuckled when a few of the guards gave her sheepish looks. “I’ll be fine. Yer free to do as you like for the time bein’. If any ya’ll are hungry, Sugarcube Corner’s a mighty nice place to grab somethin’ for yer sweettooth.”
Several of the guards bowed while excusing themselves and heading off to various locations within the small town. Despite her protests though, Lightweight followed her, stating it was his duty to stay beside her (and that Captain Spark Fyre would hang him by his back hooves if he found out he left Applejack to herself).
As the orange mare approached the city hall entrance, the double doors of the building opened and the mayor walked out to greet here.
“Appleja- excuse me, your Highness.” She gave a bow. “I wasn’t expecting you to be here. We just got a letter from Canterlot with the news a few days ago, so we haven’t been given too much time to prepare for your vis-”
“Don’t fret none, Mayor. I’m kina here on family business for the most part, but I reckon you’d like an explanation on my visit.”
“Oh, yes...is this about your grandmother?”
Applejack quirked an eyebrow. “Granny Smith? No...I was here to talk with Apple Bloom. Why, what’s the matter with Granny?”
The mayor’s eyes widened before she looked down. “Oh, I...I’m sorry. I don’t think it’s my place to-”
“Mayor, what’s wrong with her?? Is she hurt? Did she break her hip? Oh, if she went and hurt herself while I was away...”
“No, it’s...not anything like that, but...” The older mare sighed. “I’d recommend making your way to see your family, Applejack.”
The alicorn didn’t even bother pointing out the mayor’s mistake in forgetting the honorifics as she turned towards Sweet Apple Acres. “Right, thanks Mayor!”
Applejack didn’t even register how fast she was galloping by the time she reached the wide expanse of Sweet Apple Acres. She slowed down as she reached the orchard, Lightweight flapping up beside her shortly after.
“Princess, are you alright?”
“Not sure if I should be or not, Lightweight.” She started looking around the rows of apple trees. “Lightweight, you see a big red stallion somewhere? He’s got a big ol’ green apple half on his flank and is ‘bout a hoof tall-” She paused before looking at herself. “half my size.”
Lightweight gave a salute before flapping into the air. He took no more than several moments before flying back down and pointing towards the western field. “He’s tending to some apples over that way.”
The duo quickly made it towards the direction Big Mac was located, and sure enough he was bucking several large trees by himself.
The stallion halted in place upon hearing Applejack’s voice, and looked up. He squinted before his eyes became saucers. “AJ? T-that you, sis?”
Applejack gave a small nod. “Hey, Big Mac.”
The stallion blinked several times before looking at himself. “Um...wow, I heard through some of the gossipin’ mares in town ‘bout this, but I didn’t know any of it to be true...”
“Heheh, yeah, I mighta grown a little since I left for Canterlot.”
“A little? You’re twice my size now. C’mon inside, we’ll talk over some lunch. Um...” Big Mac eyed the pegasus beside her before nodding.
“Ah, sorry Mac. Lightweight, this is my older brother Big Macintosh. Big Mac, this is Lightweight.”
Lightweight gave a slight bow. “Pleasure to meet you, Lord Macintosh.”
The farm pony gave the pegasus a quizzical look. “Lord?”
“Well, you are a brother of Princess Applejack, are you not?” Lightweight smiled while Applejack gave her older brother a sheepish grin. “Therefore you’re of nobility by relation.”
Big Mac was silent for several moments before he spoke again. “Hold on...does this mean I’m suppos’d to be governin’ a town or somethin’, because I have to tend to the orchard an’-”
“Now hold on, Big Mac, you don’ have to do anything like that.” Applejack raised a hoof to calm her brother. “Shucks, Sweetie Belle’s technically a Lady of the Court, but she’s still doin’ what a filly her age should be doin’: goin’ to school and enjoyin’ her fillyhood.”
Big Mac let out a sigh of relief. “Phew, you had me worried for a second there. Heh, I’d definitely not be fit for any royal duties.”
“Heh, right...” Applejack adjusted her hat a little and felt her stomach rumble. “So, whattya say we go and make some lunch. Lightweight, I’d be happy to have you join us.”
Lightweight grinned. “It’d be my honor, Milady.”
As soon as the trio of ponies was situated in the Apple family dining room, Applejack began to tell Big Mac of what had happened since she left for Canterlot. It was a half hour later when she finally concluded her story, and Big Mac seemed to be all the more amazed with his sister.
“Well, AJ...that’s mighty impressive. So, you’re in control of the ground itself?”
“I guess...to be quite honest I haven’ really felt much of a magical connection or whatever since I changed into an alicorn. Princess Celestia says it’ll take time though. Lot of stuff ‘bout me gettin’ in sync with other girls’ powers and such.”
Big Mac nodded. “Well, that’s impressive all the same.” He looked at the clock on the wall. “Hm, Apple Bloom should be back from school soon.”
The orange alicorn’s eyes suddenly widened. “Apple Bloom...hey, Big Mac...I got that letter you sent, by the way.”
The red stallion’s smile morphed into a frown. “Ah...I was goin’ to ask ‘bout that...” He sighed. “So I imagine yer here to talk with Apple Bloom as well, right?”
Applejack gave a solemn nod. “I thought she was alright with me doin’ this when I talked with ya’ll before I left.”
“She was at first...but then she started gettin’ all upset ‘bout you bein’ gone. It started with her just bein’ upset that you weren’t ‘round to help her with homework, then when “Bring A Family Member to School Day” came up...” He sighed. “I can help her just fine with math, but I’m no good with the social studies like you. I was going to go to her school for her project...but...”
Applejack’s head drooped as she pawed the floor. “Shucks, Big Mac, I-”
Further conversation was cut off as the front door opened. “I’m home!”
A yellow filly with red hair trotted into the kitchen. She spotted the taller mare sitting at the table and frowned. “Sis?”
Applejack smiled. “Hey...Apple Bloom.”
The filly looked to Big Mac and frowned. “What’s she doin’ here?”
“Apple Bloom, that’s no way to go an’ treat yer kin.”
“Ah know, but up an’ leavin’ yer family ain’t any better!” Apple Bloom turned towards the staircase leading up to her room. “I bet she doesn’t even know about Granny bein’ sick!”
“Granny Smith’s sick?” Applejack asked, her voice laced with worry while her expression became one of shock.
“Yah see? She only cares ‘bout bein’ a princess!” Apple Bloom stormed up the steps to her room.
“Apple Bloom, get back down here this-” Big Mac’s words were cut off by the slamming of Apple Bloom’s door. “Consarn that filly...” He looked back to his sister and gave her an apologetic look. “Sorry ‘bout that, sis.”
Applejack didn’t acknowledge the stallion’s apology. “How long has Granny been sick, Big Mac?”
The stallion’s gaze fell to the table. “Granny’s been sick with somethin’ fierce for ‘bout a week now. I...I didn’t want to worry you none, ‘specially since yer busy with takin’ on the duties of bein’ a princess and what have you. I was goin’ to write you another letter if you weren’t able to make it...”
“Big Mac...this is Granny we’re talkin’ ‘bout! I ain’t too busy to see my own kin when they’re sick!” She stomped a hoof on the ground to emphasize her point, causing several plates and glasses to fall out from random cupboards and shatter on the ground. She winced as she looked at the shards of broken eating ware. “Oh hayseed...guess I don’ know my own strength. Is the broom in the closet, Big Mac?”
“Eeyup.” The stallion said while looking at the mess.
Applejack was soon sweeping up the broken glasses and dishes with her mouth and hooves. Lightweight insisted on helping her, only to be met with stubborn refusals from the alicorn. As soon as she finished, Applejack sat back down at the table and sighed. “Right...tell me what’s goin’ on, Big Macintosh.”
Big Macintosh sat quietly, his thoughts apparently else where. He looked up, and frowned. “I...I don’ know how else to tell ya sis...”
“Well, just tell me. Is it the flu? The Hacks?”
A cold lump dropped to the bottom of Applejack’s stomach. The name alone sounded bad to her ears. “Come again?”
“Nurse Redheart said it...it’s spread faster than normal. Granny...” Big Mac took a ragged breath before continuing. “...s-she musta ate somethin’ bad...I don’ know, but I told the Mayor and she’s informin’ all the ponyfolk ‘bout steerin’ clear of the corn fields for awhile...”
Applejack hardly realized that she had got up from her chair and was sitting beside her distressed brother. Usually the strong one, physically and emotionally, it was hard to watch him hold back the pain and worry in his voice.
“They can help her, can’ they?” Applejack watched as Big Mac held his head low. “Big Mac, they can help her, right?”
The red stallion looked up slowly, meeting his sister’s green eyes. “Sis...she’s got about a week...though it could get worse really quick. Nurse Redheart says she probably had it in her for some time before it started getting bad.”
A week or less? “N-no...” Applejack got up from her spot. “This...this is Granny Smith! She’s the oldest pony in Ponyville! She’s gotten through darn near every sickness there is an’ bounced back like it was nothin’!”
“Sis, it’s some kinda’ corn mold or somethin’, but it’s still pretty new to equine medicine. Nurse Redheart said...well, she said that it...it spreads fast an’ there aren’ many clear symptoms...” Big Mac shook his head. “G-Granny was the only one who ate any corn on the cob when we had ‘bout a week or so ago, an’...I-I’m just thankful Apple Bloom didn’ touch any of it...though...”
Applejack slumped down, and didn’t even realize the tears that began to run down her cheeks. “It ain’ fair...Granny...Granny’s looked after us since we was just foals...she can’t just...just...”
Applejack was out the door a moment later, Big Mac and Lightweight calling out to her. The pegasus guard was about to follow when Big Mac stopped him. “Hold on...” He wiped his eyes. “You’d probably be better off leavin’ her to cool down...”
Lightweight wanted to object, but this was Princess Applejack’s older brother. He knew her better than some Royal Guard did. “I suppose...” Lightweight sighed. “I...I’ve heard of this sickness...my captain said most of the guard ponies call it Corn Stroke, but I don’t think there’s any real common name for it yet...” He was quiet for several moments before continuing. “I’m sorry that this has happened.”
Big Mac just nodded. “Granny’s been...rather calm ‘bout the whole thing.” He forced a weak smile as his throat tightened. “Then ‘gain, she always told me that someday we’d be the only ones in charge of the farm and orchard when she passes away...I just...never though’ much ‘bout anything like this it until recently.”
Lightweight grunted in understanding. “Yeah...most of us never do.”
Applejack leaned against one of the older apple trees in the orchard, a Red Delicious from what she saw. The sun was beginning to set across the horizon, which snapped Applejack back to the present. It was sundown already? How much time had passed?
“Must be part of bein’ magical an’ such...” She sighed. Her thoughts began drifting to these topics. Magic...that was something she had no familiarity in whatsoever. Flying, well, she understood it well enough. Keep flapping and you’ll eventually lift off with the proper amount of force. She planned on getting lessons from Rainbow and Fluttershy in the future, but it would have to wait. Seriously, though, how would she be able to lift off the ground with such weight on her? Celestia was already big as far as ponies went, but Applejack had both height and muscle mass over her. How could...
The sound of a whippoorwill in the distance shook the mare from her thoughts once more. The sun was now below the horizon, and Luna’s waxing crescent moon was now rising into the sky and giving faint light to the peaceful apple orchard.
“Landsakes...how did I let time slip by so quickly?” The alicorn thought aloud. It felt like she had barely for more than five...minutes...
A cold feeling once again washed over her. Time. Celestia and Luna have been alive for how long? At least one thousand years? Applejack recalled Twilight telling how she had asked Celestia on several occasions about her exact age. Celestia always gave ballpark guesses that varied as much as nine thousand to fifteen thousand years.
Would the same apply to Applejack? Was she going to live for eons while still looking to be in the prime of her marehood? If that was the case...
The knot in her throat tightened. She wiped a few tears from her eyes before letting out a ragged sob. She tried to stand up, but her knees only quaked before she dropped back to the ground, crying openly without shame. After several long minutes of tears and stomping her hooves on the ground, Applejack finally managed to shakily stand up.
Immortal? Her? No, that should not be possible. She was a pony. Ponies aren’t immortal, they age, grow old, and eventually die. That’s the law of the world, that’s the way things are.
“You’re not just a pony though, are you AJ?” She shook her head in an attempt to rid her mind of the betraying thoughts, but to no avail.
If she was immortal, then that meant...
Her head snapped to the direction of her home. She quickly galloped towards the farmhouse at a speed that Rainbow Dash would have been proud of. Before she knew it, she was standing at the front door. She pushed it open, ignoring the salutes and calls from the surprised guard ponies that had shown up since she left the kitchen of her house several hours ago. Big Macintosh and two pegasi guards were sitting at the table, talking from the looks of things.
“Big Mac, I’m gonna talk to Granny.” Applejack stated as she made her towards the main hallway.
“Sis?” Big Macintosh barely registered her statement before getting up. “Hold on, now, Granny’s sleepin’ and she needs-”
“I ain’t arguin’, Big Macintosh, I’m tellin’ you, I’m gonna talk to Granny!” Applejack snapped. Big Mac actually stumbled back, and the orange mare immediately regretted her sharp tone. She let out a deep breath and spoke, much softer than before. “Look...I-I need to do this, alrigh’? Just...let me do this one thing. I...I need to talk to her, just...just in case...”
If he wanted to argue, he didn’t show it. He cast his gaze to the floor and simply nodded. “I think you might wanna talk to Apple Bloom as well. She...she came down for dinner, which you missed by the way, an’ she looked even worse than earlier. Somethin’ is botherin’ her, an’ I could probably name the main cause in one guess..”
The mare nodded before she disappeared into the darkness of the main hall.
The floorboards creaked as she made her way to the room at the far end where Granny Smith slept. She closed her eyes, and channeled a little magic into her horn. After feeling the ‘pull’ like Twilight had told her about, she released it and felt light fill her vision. A faint glowing light emitted from her horn, giving her enough brightness to see where she was going. She pushed open the door of Granny’s room, and poked her head in. She could hear the faint snoring of the elderly mare in the bed, several blankets covering her as she slept soundly.
The matriarch of the Apple clan didn’t stir. Applejack looked to the candle sitting on her grandmother’s bedside table and managed to light it after finding some matches in a drawer. The soft candle glow seemed to create enough light to cause the older mare to stir. Her eyes blinked several times before she spoke.
“App...jack...? That...tha’ you, hun..?”
Her voice was barely a whisper, and the the alicorn just managed to hold back the tears. Even in her advanced age, Granny Smith had a rather strong voice when she wanted. Now that she took in her grandmother’s features she could see how badly this illness had affected her. She looked like she had a stroke, her muscles were slack in parts of her face, and one eye was closed. She had tiny beads of sweat around her forehead, and her breathing was a little more labored than what would be considered normal for a minor illness.
“Hiya, Granny...it’s me, Applejack.” Applejack doused the light from her horn and knelt down a little.
Granny managed to laugh weakly before coughing. There was a glass of water by her bedside, and Applejack helped her take a few sips. Her dry throat soothed, Granny spoke a little clearer. “Landsakes...look at ye’...” Both her eyes opened as she struggled to lift a shaky hoof. Applejack sat down so that she was level with the mare while her grandmother patted her cheek softly. “So all tha’ gossip in town had some truth after all...”
“Yeah...I...I’m a princess...”
Granny chuckled, a little louder this time. “Oh, don’ be so modest now, Applejack. Why, I bet ye got ponies comin’ from Manehatten already, tryin’ to court ye.”
The orange alicorn smirked before laughing as well. “Hardly. Too darn busy for tha’ courtin’ and frou-frou stuff.”
Granny nodded slowly before closing her eyes for a few moments. “I always knew ye’ were special. All grandparents tell there grandfoals that, but...I just knew...” When she opened her rust-red eyes her smile grew. “I bet Apple Bloom gave you some grief when y’stopped by, didn’ she...?”
“That filly...” She chuckled before moving on her side so she was directly facing her eldest granddaughter. “She thinks the world of you...”
“I’d beg to differ...” Applejack said with a weak smile.
“Oh, hush, you used to be mean to Big Macintosh too when you were her age. Yet whenever you had free time, it was always spent tryin’ to get Big Mac to play a game with you, push you on the tire swing, or help y’with yer homework...”
The elderly pony had a far off look in her eyes for several long moments before she spoke again. “Applejack...I’m proud of you...”
Applejack nodded, the familiar knot in her throat returning with full force.
“I don’ want you t’go blamin’ yerself for what’s happen’d to me though, alrigh’? Y’tell Big Macintosh too. You, yer brother, and sister have made this ol’ mare so proud...and I can be happy knowin’ that my little Applejack is goin’ to be takin’ care of the kingdom when I’m gone.”
Applejack tried to swallow the lump in her throat, and failed miserably. She opened her mouth, and her voice came out in shaky breaths. “G-Granny...I...I wanna do a good job with bein’ a ruler...but...” She nuzzled her grandmother gently. “I’m scared, Granny. I ain’t...I ain’t an aristocrat, an’ I don’ know if I can do things right.” She shook her head and let out a few shaky breaths. “I’m in charge of all the ground, rocks, and soil of Equestria. I...shoot, I can make earthquakes!” She was sobbing now. “Granny, I ain’t no unicorn or pegasus, an’ I don’t know anythin’ ‘bout magic other than the little stuff that Twilight helped me with. What...what if I mess up? What if I hurt somepony when-”
“Hush...” whispered Granny Smith softly. “Yes, you ain’t no aristocrat, thank Celestia. You are a smart pony though, and y’got a good heart.” She weakly stroked her granddaughter’s mane as she continued. “You migh’ mess up a thing or two...but you know what?”
A sniffle. “What?”
“You got yer friends...an’ if I remember right, you said they’re the best friends a pony could have...am I right?” Applejack gave a single nod. “Good friends don’ leave each other to fend fer themselves, either. You just make sure to be there for them, an’ I promise they’ll be there for you, thick ‘n thin.”
Applejack nuzzled the elderly mare gently. “I will, Granny. I promise...”
Granny Smith smiled gently before closing her eyes. “That’s my girl...now...this ol’ mare needs to rest.” Applejack said nothing, just watched as her grandmother quickly drifted off to sleep once more. She quietly walked out of the room, a heavy weight in heart and her vision blurred by tears. She sniffled a bit before pausing at a the foot of the steps leading up to her old room and Apple Bloom’s.
“Might as well have a word with her...” the alicorn thought as she made her way up the steps. She stopped upon reaching the second floor and stared at the door with various drawings on it. She took several steps forward and lifted a hoof...
“Go away!” came the voice from behind the door. Applejack froze in place, a bit surprised by the sound of her younger sister’s voice. She must have heard her make her way up the steps
“Apple Bloom, I just wanna talk.”
“Well, I don’t!” was the reply she received. The orange mare frowned before setting her raised hoof onto the wooden floor and grumbling under her breath. Apple Bloom could be stubborn, but she never recalled Apple Bloom acting so bold towards her.
“Sis, look here now! I know that this whole situation is a bit mucked up, but ya gotta understand that I ain’t tryin’ to avoid ya’ll. Yer my family an’ I still love each of you as much as I always did.” Several seconds of silence followed before she continued. “Apple Bloom...I know yer mad at me, but...please, just...just let me have a word with ya. That’s all I ask...”
The sound of hooves walking across the room could be heard on the other side, and a latch clicked the door opened a little. Two orange eyes peeked through the crack, widening a little as they directed their gaze upward to face the alicorn.
“Can I come in?”
There was a snort from the younger filly. “Is that an order, yer Highness?”
Much to her credit, Applejack bit down a retort, instead lowering her body to face the young pony at eye level. “Apple Bloom...please...”
Apple Bloom’s annoyed expression cracked for the briefest of moments before she turned around. “I guess you can come in...”
The two sisters walked back into the filly’s room before shutting the door. Apple Bloom sat on her bed, brooding quietly while Applejack attempted to think of some way to break the silence.
“Just so you know...I...well, I’m hurt, but I’m not all that mad at you for bein’ upset with me...”
Applejack shook her head slowly. “Nope. Big Mac explained....well, everythin’ that’s happened since I left, so I guess I can understand...” She sighed heavily before giving into her mental fatigue, resting her head on the foot of her sister’s bed. “I just wish that you would’ve told me yerself.”
“I can’t. Yer in Canterlot.
Applejack rolled her eyes. “I know that, ya silly filly. You could’ve sent me a letter if you needed to talk to me.”
Apple Bloom cast her gaze downwards, a shameful look on her face. “I thought you’d be too busy...”
“Now what made...” Applejack held her tongue before taking a deep breath and exhaling. “Apple Bloom, I...I may be a princess now, but that doesn’t mean I’m too important to spend time with my little sister when she needs me. The same goes for Big Mac, and the rest of our family.” She nuzzled her sister gently. “Shoot, yer the only sister I have, and Big Mac’s my only brother. You, Big Mac, and Granny...yer my family.”
“What about Braeburn, and Apple Fritter an-”
“They’re family too, Apple Bloom. I mean...well, yer what they call immediate family. You know...closest relatives? Like moms and dads, and brothers and sisters...that’s what I mean.”
Apple Bloom nodded. “Yeah, I know. That’s...kind of why I got upset. Ms. Cheerilee is havin’ a family project for school, an’ I have to interview my family and talk ‘bout how they are important to me and stuff like that.”
Applejack felt the slightest of smiles tug at her lips. “Big Mac said you didn’ wanna interview me.”
“No!” The filly blushed. “Well...y-yeah, but...I didn’t mean it. I was just mad, an’ he said I wasn’t bein’ fair to you. I guess I was bein’ kinda unfair, seein’ as I was makin accusations when you weren’t here.”
“Yeah, Ms. Cheerilee taught us that word two weeks ago. It means to say somepony did somethin’, usually somethin’ bad.”
The orange alicorn just chuckled quietly while shaking her head. “You know, Apple Bloom, if I had half the smarts you have when I was yer age, we’d probably have enough bits to repair the roof of our barn every year for the next decade.”
The older mare just ruffled her younger sister’s mane before pulling her close. “Look, Apple Bloom, I know things are rough right now...but don’t you fret none, alright? I’m gonna stay right here through it all. Granny’s got us, and that’s all that matters right now. I’m here for her, an’ for you and Big Mac. You got that?”
“What ‘bout Canterlot and-”
“Hush.” Applejack placed a gentle wing over her sister without even realizing it. “Princess Celestia and Princess Luna said if me or the girls need to take care of family things, we take care of ‘em. Right now, I’m worryin’ ‘bout my family.” She sighed. “Shoot, I’m still learnin’ the basics right now...me bein’ gone won’t be much of a problem.”
“Basics? Like what?”
The blond mare smiled a bit. “Hmm...well, let’s see, I got to learn a little Archaic Equinic...or whatever it’s called. Celestia said it’s sort’ve pointless, but Luna heard me use my frou-frou voice an’ said it’d be nice to have some formal speakin’ under my belt if I ever need it.”
“Yep. It’s the way most ponies spoke ‘bout a thousand years ago. Really fancy stuff, sort’ve like the language you read in them really dusty old fairy tales and old plays by that Flankspeare pony.”
“You mean Whinniam Flankspeare?”
“Yeah, that one. Never liked his plays that much. Too sappy and kissy for me.”
Apple Bloom giggled. “Is it hard to speak it?”
“What, Archaic Equinic?” Applejack tapped her chin before smiling. She took a breath before clearing her throat. “Dearest Apple Bloom, wouldst thou care to let me partake in thy project for school? We would find it most pleasing to help our sister, if that is not of too much trouble.”
Apple Bloom blinked. “...why are you sayin’ ‘we’?”
“Fancy talk. Luna says it’s the proper way of sayin’ ‘Me and the Elements of Harmony’, since being a princess means speaking for not only yerself, but also Equestria, an’ the Elements of Harmony.” Applejack grinned as her sister just frowned in confusion. “Don’ worry, like I said, it’s kind of pointless nowadays. Rarity caught on to it pretty quick, which isn’t a surprise I guess.”
“Huh...” Apple Bloom’s eyes suddenly lit up. “Hey, did you say you wanna help me with my project?!”
Apple Bloom looked to her hooves before smiling. “Thanks, Applejack. You’re the best sister in the world.”
Applejack pulled the much smaller pony closer to her. She didn’t even realize it when she started shedding tears.
“Applejack? W-what’s wrong?”
“Hmm?” Applejack noticed the moisture on her cheeks and gave a weak laugh. “Sorry, Apple Bloom. I’m just...really tired. Granny Smith and the princess stuff...”
“...and I’m immortal...”
She shut her eyes and forced down the dark thoughts. No. For now, her family was her focus. She wanted just this one favor from the world. Let her be a pony. Just a normal pony with a family that she loved and looked after.
“Sis, are you sure you’re alright? Yer shakin’...”
Applejack looked down to her little sister and shook her head slowly. “I...guess I’m not alright...” She felt her sister scoot closer until she was lying in the crook of her neck. “I’m...scared of...” She couldn’t say it. She couldn’t...
“...scared of losing yer friends...?”
The alicorn’s breath hitched as she once again met her sister’s deep orange eyes. “Apple Bloom...”
Apple Bloom smiled. “Don’t worry Applejack. You still got yer friends, right? Yer all princesses, so you’ll never be alone in Canterlot.”
Applejack closed her eyes for a moment and exhaled deeply. Of course Apple Bloom wasn’t talking about her being immortal. She was only a filly, after all...she didn’t mean alone in that sense...
“Thanks, Apple Bloom...” She looked at the alarm clock on her sister’s side table and raised an eyebrow. It was almost midnight. “You need to get to bed. You’ve got school in eight hours. I don’ wanna be the one to explain to Cheerilee that I kept you up all night, either.”
As if on cue, Apple Bloom let out a yawn. “Okay...”
Applejack tucked the filly into her bed, and made sure she was warm and comfortable before closing her door. For several long moments she stood in the hallway, her feet cemented to the floor as her gaze drifted down the hall, stopping at several photographs of family and friends.
The silence and darkness seemed keen on reflecting her mood at that moment. She let out a ragged breath, but no tears came. She had cried herself dry, it would seem.
“All of them...every single one...” She whispered to herself.
“Come on, Applejack! I’m gonna be late!”
“Hold yer horses, Apple Bloom.”
Applejack adjusted her hat before tapping it onto her head and nodding to her reflection in the mirror before her. She still had the half-asleep look in her eyes, and for the first time in years she was the last of her family to wake up in the house. Even Granny Smith mustered up enough energy to have some light breakfast in her bed. Usually she was up with the dawn, seeing that she was the (former) proprietor of the numerous acres of land that made up Sweet Apple Acres.
The sound of a certain filly grumbling from downstairs could be heard, followed by the deep bass of Big Mac, no doubt telling her to be patient.
Applejack turned to see one of her guards standing at the doorway, a mare to be exact, looking to the floor. “Lady Apple Bloom seems rather...irked...”
Applejack chuckled. “Irked, huh?” She let her guard’s words sink in. “Wait, Lady?”
The pegasus mare gave a brief nod. “Yes, Milady. She is related to royalty, so technically she holds a title of sorts.”
“Best not tell her that for now. She’d probably brag ‘bout it at school if you told her that.”
Applejack and the mare made their way down the steps and into the kitchen. Several pegasus guards were eating a light meal while others stood at the entrance of the farmhouse while assuming the look of professional vigilance.
“Sis! What took you so long? We got...” She looked up at the grandfather clock near the hall before continuing. “...’bout twenty minutes before school starts!”
While Sweet Apple Acres was technically within Ponyville’s borders, it was still in the outskirts. A steady gallop into town took about ten minutes, and Ponyville Elementary was another seven minutes across town if it wasn’t too busy in the morning.
Applejack flexed her wings a bit before smiling. “Don’t worry, we’ll make it in time.”
Apple Bloom bounced towards the schoolhouse doors with an enthusiasm Pinkie Pie would have enjoyed.” Wow, I never went flyin’ before! That was fun! Can we do that again sometime?”
“Heheh, sure thing, Apple Bloom.”
Lightweight and two other pony guards flanking either side of the sisters halted at the doorway leading into the school. They gave Applejack an expectant look, and she simply smiled and shook her head. “Don’t worry. I doubt any of the fillies or colts are gonna try an’ pull a fast one on me.” She chuckled a bit. “After all, they know any smart-mouthin’ out of them means they get nothing during snack time.”
The pegasi all shared a look before giving their princess a nod. “We’ll be out here if you need us, your Highness.”
Applejack gave a nod before entering the school with her sister. Apple Bloom headed straight for her desk while Applejack made her way to the desk at the front. Cheerilee was busy looking over some papers, no doubt reviewing her lesson plan for today or grading assignments. The school house was still relatively empty, which wasn’t surprising. Applejack made the flight to Ponyville in less than ten minutes’ time, which she considered to be a sign of improvement in her book. She still preferred solid ground under her hooves, but hearing Apple Bloom giggle and cheer as she flew a few dozen feet over Ponyville helped put her mind at ease.
That and the pegasi guards had promised they would stay close to her side if Apple Bloom should fall off her back.
Cheerilee kept her eyes on her papers, but gave a greeting. “Good morning, Applejack.” She stopped writing, red pencil in her teeth, and looked up as her eyes widened a fraction. “Ah...App-er...your Highn-”
“Applejack will work fine with me, Cheerilee. You were a grade or two ahead of me in school if I remember right. It’d feel weird if you started gettin’ all formal with me.”
Cheerilee managed to keep her composure as she spoke. “Still, you’re a princess! I should-”
“Today I’m just a big sister doin’ a little presentation for Apple Bloom.”
Cheerilee blinked. “Ah...yes, that’s right. Big Macintosh was going to stop by today for Apple Bloom...I take it there have been a change of plans?”
“Yep. I’ll be here in his steed.” She lowered her voice. “To be honest, I’d rather him be with Granny Smith than me right now. He’s better with those kinds of things...”
As she expected, Cheerilee was aware of the situation back home at Sweet Apple Acres. “I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother...Apple Bloom was so distraught during class for the past couple of days that she even skipped recess...” She cast a concerned look to the young filly. “She’s a wonderful filly, Applejack...but she wouldn’t talk about what was bothering her with anyone. A foal shouldn’t have to bottle up all those feeling at such an age...”
“We had a bit of a talk last night...she’s a little better, all things considered.” Applejack whispered.
“I’m glad. I hate seeing my students in such a state...” She smiled a little as she watched more of the colts and fillies file into the classroom, most pausing to stare at Applejack for a few moments before taking their seats. “I...I know it sounds almost cliche, but they’re all like a family to me. Watching them grow up and become the ponies they’ll be when they’re adults...it’s hard not to get attached to them.”
Applejack nodded, and a thought came to mind. She stored it in the back of her mind before speaking. “Er...Cheerilee, you mind if I talk with you later on? I’ve been havin’ a lot on my mind lately, an’ I think you might be the pony I can talk to.”
Cheerilee must have sensed the urgency in her voice, seeing as she nodded immediately. “Of course, Applejack.”
“Thanks...um...I hope me bein’ here ain’t gonna throw any of yer lessons into a mess...”
Cheerilee shook her head. “Not at all...in fact, believe it or not, we were going to discuss a little about plants and how they change with the seasons. I think you’d be great as far as guest speakers go, seeing as you run a farm that relies on such things all year.”
“Actually...Rainbow Dash is the one in charge of the seasons and weather...”
Cheerilee nodded. “Yes, we received an official announcement from the mayor herself about the changes in Canterlot.” She smiled while looking to her students. “I...” She paused, then shook her head.
“Nothing. I wouldn’t want to cause any trouble for you six.”
Applejack frowned. “Now I’m curious. Tell me what’s on yer mind.”
Cheerilee sighed. “If it’s at all possible, would...well, would you, Fluttershy, or Rainbow Dash be willing to visit our class when I begin covering materials on the the Earth and it’s weather? I...I know we’re a small school, and I can understand how busy you all are so-”
“I’d like that...” Applejack paused, then added. “I should probably bring it up with the others though, and ask Princess Celestia an’ Princess Luna about somethin’ like that.”
That could be a possible issue. If word spread that the royalty was favoring one town over others in terms of visits, it could cause some ponies to wonder how serious they were taking their duties.
“Of course. I won’t make any anouncements until I get word.”
“Mm. Shoot, if yer hopin’ for a guest lecturer, you should just get Twilight to come here. She’d be right in her element with teachin’.” She looked to the clock. “Speakin’ of which, I suppose I should let you get started.”
Cheerilee looked to the clock and noticed it was two minutes past eight. “Ah, yes.” She cleared her throat while Applejack took a seat on one side of the room. “Good morning, class.”
“Good morning, Miss Cheerilee.”
Applejack found her self astonished by the energy Cheerilee had. Most adult ponies would be a little intimidated by the prospect of being in charge of so many colts and fillies, but the fuschia earth pony seemed to be genuinely excited and happy to be teaching.
“As most of you can tell, we have a new student with us today.” Cheerilee remarked in a joking tone, to which several of the young ponies replied with giggles while casting looks in Applejack’s direction. “Everypony, I want you to greet our guest and one of the new co-rulers of Equestria, Princess Applejack.”
Apparently the title of Princess wasn’t that big of a shock to the students, seeing as most of them simply greeted her. “Hello, Princess Applejack!”
“Princess Applejack is, as most of you already know, Apple Bloom’s big sister. Since all of you have been doing reports on your family and letting them visit our class over the past couple of days, Apple Bloom asked her sister to stop by and spend the day talking with us about herself and what she does for Ponyville and Equestria.”
The ponies sitting before her were watching with rapt attention. She gave them a small smile as she walked to the front of the class. “Howdy. Hm...well, Miss Cheerilee mentioned that ya’ll are learnin’ ‘bout plants an’ seasons right now, that correct?”
There was a collective ‘yes’ given by the class.
“Right... well, I’m no expert on that stuff, but...” She looked to Apple Bloom as she continued. “I can tell you a little bit ‘bout how workin’ with apples is dependent on the weather an’ seasons. Now, let’s see...right after Winter Wrap-Up me an’ my older brother Big Macintosh...”
Applejack found herself enjoying a simple daisy sandwich brought to her by Lightweight from a restaurant near the school house. She and Cheerilee were currently sitting at a bench near the school yard where the fillies and colts played for recess.
“I think I can see why you like teachin’ so much.” Applejack said with a smile. “I wish I had yer patience, Cheerilee. Though that Diamond Tiara wouldn’ quit yammering to Silver Spoon right before lunch time...”
Cheerilee sighed. “Yes, I must admit that it can be hard sometimes. They’re still foals, after all. I’m just glad I don’t have to give them the ‘Birds and Bees’ talk.”
The alicorn snorted with laughter. “Aren’t you lucky?”
The two watched as a small group of ponies walked tentatively towards a guard. Cheerilee was about to call out to the group when Applejack raised a hoof. “Hold on. That’s Windswept. She’s a nice mare. Let’s just watch for now.”
Cheerilee gave a nod and watched.
The same mare that had spoken to Applejack earlier that morning turned to a group. She gave a smile as she looked to a young earth filly of blue color with a cutie mark that resembled a bow and arrow. “Yes?”
The filly looked down and spoke. “Um...I was just wondering...is being a Royal Guard hard?”
Lightweight gave a light laugh. “It’s hard work alright. Get to run up Mount Canter- oof!”
Windswept removed her hoof from Lightweight’s side before giving the young blue filly a smile. “It is hard work, but it’s a job I’m proud to do.”
“Do you have to fight dragons?” spoke up Snips.
Ligthweight grinned. “Nope, most dragons tend to shy away from us. They’re big and scary-looking, but most would rather keep to themselves.”
“Well, Spike ain’t like that, an’ he’s a dragon.” commented Apple Bloom.
“True, but he’s also lived with ponies his whole life if I’m informed correctly.” Lightweight replied. “Hey, Stratus, didn’t you see a dragon two years ago outside of Hoofington?”
A gray pegasus stallion who stood a little ways from the group looked up. “Hm? Yeah...she was probably about one hundred years old. She was heading west or something, stopped by to grab a few gems from a local diamond cutter she heard about.”
“No kidding? What’d she pay with?”
“Would you believe platinum armor?”
Cheerilee decided to jump in. “Platinum armor? Platinum hasn’t been cycled through Equestrian bartering systems in over two hundred years...we simply stopped making platinum products after the last conflict with the Griffon Tribes in the north...”
“I know. The jeweler said he couldn’t give her enough change in exchange, so she simply let him keep it.” Stratus grinned. “They say she also gave the jeweler one of her magical scales.”
“What kind of magic?” Snips inquired.
“Don’t know. Never found out.”
The fillies and colts let out a collective groan, then the blue filly from earlier spoke up. “Someday, I’m going to be a Royal Guardspony!”
Windswept beamed. “Is that so? Well good for you!” She looked over to Applejack and laughed. “Your Highness, we have a hopeful recruit over here for you.”
Applejack forced out a laugh. “That so? Well, that’s mighty nice to hear.”
“I wonder if I’ll remember that filly by the time she’s old enough join the Royal Guard.” was what she was actually thinking.
The rest of recess was spent with the fillies and colts running around and playing as ponies do at such an age while Lightweight, Stratus, and Windswept continued their watch. After the recess was over Cheerilee spent another hour on math with the ponies before the final bell tolled. Applejack stayed in the school while the rest of the fillies and colts, Apple Bloom excluded, said their goodbyes to the alicorn before leaving.
“Just to let you know, the afternoon class is smaller. Though you’ll likely recognize a few of the students.” Cheerilee began as she erased the bored. “Apple Bloom will probably know a few of them too.”
“Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, right?” Apple Bloom asked with a knowing grin.
Cheerilee gave a nod. “I must say, I can’t remember the last time I had a student stay after school for another class.”
“Yeah, sometimes I wish I had the afternoon class, but if I did then I couldn’t hang out with Twist.”
“Well...” Cheerilee began. “From what I heard, Twist’s parents were going to start having her go to the later class period next year.”
“Really?” Apple Bloom looked to her sister pleadingly. “Hey, sis, can I go to the later class next year instead of the mornin’ one?”
“Hmm...” Applejack thought for a moment. “I don’t think that’d be a problem...but you’ll have to promise to help Big Mac ‘round the farm in the mornin’ then, as well as make sure to do all yer homework.”
“I will, I promise.”
Soon the ponies of the afternoon session piled into the classroom (Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo both cheered before running to embrace Apple Bloom in a group hug) and two pegasus stallions could be seen drawing a chariot to the side of the schoolhouse. Likely the two that were overseeing Sweetie Belle’s transportation from Canterlot. With Rarity’s and her parents on their year-long cruise through the Sea Pony and Serpent Oceans, the two sisters really had no other option. Applejack could only guess that Sweetie Belle loved the chariot rides.
“Good afternoon, class!” Cheerilee began, speaking a bit louder over the chatter of the classroom. “Now, as most of you have already noticed, we have a very special guest here today.” Cheerilee looked to Apple Bloom. “Would you care to introduce her, Apple Bloom?”
“Sure!” Apple Bloom happily trotted up to the front of the classroom and grinned. “Today I invited my big sister Applejack! She’s the best apple farmer in all of Equestria, and is also a princess!”
There was a general murmur of excitement and interest from the class, aside from Sweetie Belle, who simply sat in her desk and listened intently.
Applejack repeated the same routine as before, talking about the importance of the change of seasons while answering any questions directed to her from the class. Sweetie Belle asked one question in particular that caught her by surprise.
“Do you ever...talk to the Element of Honesty?”
Applejack blinked, and she noted that several pegasus guards peeked into the classroom from outside. “Well now...that’s an interestin’ question.” She hummed in thought before shaking her head. “No, I don’t rightfully claim to have ever spoken to the Element of Honesty, or any of the others for that matter.”
Cheerilee didn’t miss a beat. “Now, if most of you remember, the Elements of Harmony are responsible for bringing Princess Luna back to us and for giving harmony to the land of Equestria.” She gave Applejack a small nod before continuing. “Can anyone tell me the other five?”
“Magic!” shouted a filly once she was called on.
“Yes, Magic is definitely one of the Elements. Yes, Sweetie Belle?”
“Generosity! My sister Rarity is the Princess of Generosity, too!”
“That’s right. How about...Princess Rainbow Dash. Can anyone tell me what Element she’s in charge of?”
Applejack watched in amazement as the colts and fillies before her fired off answers to questions she herself didn’t know until a little more than a year ago relating to the magical jeweled artifacts. An hour later when she had finished her impromptu presentation on farming it was time for arts and crafts. While Apple Bloom joined Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, Applejack watched with Cheerilee.
“Sorry for stealing your thunder earlier...” Cheerilee began as she graded some papers from her desk. “I noticed the surprised look on your face, so I wanted to keep the students from overwhelming you.”
“Huh? Oh, no, thank you for helpin’ me back there...though...how did you know all that stuff?”
Cheerilee smiled. “About three months ago Canterlot sent out textbooks for teachers on subjects relating to the Elements of Harmony. Apparently when Princess Luna returned she thought it a good idea to have the general populous educated on the basic history of the Elements.”
Applejack didn’t know what was more impressive, the casual tone Cheerilee used to explain such things like the Elements of Harmony, or the fact that she was able to talk so clearly with a red pencil in her mouth.
“As for the information relating to you six being princesses, the mayor gave me a little bit of public information to add on the topic from the letters sent throughout Equestria relating to all of you becoming our new rulers.” She chuckled a bit before looking towards Sweetie Belle. “One unicorn filly in particular is our ‘expert’ on those things.”
The two mares chatted quietly for about another hour before Cheerilee let her students go out for recess. This time Applejack took part in the fun, chasing the ponies around the schoolyard in a game of tag. Afterwards Cheerilee called the class back inside for math. The final hour of school came and went quickly for Applejack, and before she knew it she was giving Sweetie Belle a hug goodbye.
“Oh, hold on a sec’ Sweetie Belle. Here,” She gave the filly a sealed envelope. “Give this to yer sister. It’s...well, it’ll explain what the situation is with me an’ my family.”
The young unicorn caught onto the tone in the blond mare’s voice. “Is something wrong?”
“Well...” She didn’t want to lie, and keeping her in the dark wouldn’t be the best of ideas, considering the circumstances...and Apple Bloom would need her friends’ comfort more than ever when that time came. “Scootaloo...can you come over here too, Sugarcube?”
“Sure, Applejack.” The pegasus filly walked over.
She looked to Apple Bloom, who was engaged in conversation with Windswept. “You girls should probably know this. Granny Smith...well...” She bit her lower lip, trying to find the right words. “...she’s not doin’ too well right now. She’s sick.”
Sweetie Belle gasped. “Oh no, how bad is it?”
“Is it the hay fever? The trots?” Scootaloo added.
Applejack shook her head slowly. “No, I wish it were just that. It’s...worse. She’s got somethin’ called Leukoencephalomalacia. It’s a very bad disease, an’ there ain’t no cure.”
“S-so...she’s gonna have to deal with it for the rest of her life?” Sweetie Belle asked tentatively.
Again, Applejack shook her head. “No, it’s...worse than that, girls. She...well...the illness is at its worst stage, an’ I...don’ think she has much longer.”
Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle both went quiet. For several long moments they stood there, trying to process what Applejack had just told them. “S-so...Granny Smith is...gonna...?” Scootaloo shook her head. “N-no...she can’t...”
“I’m sorry, Scootaloo, but...it’s incurable. No magic can fix it, and there ain’t no known cure for it.”
Sweetie Belle let a few tears run down her cheeks. “W-why didn’t Apple Bloom tell us?”
“My guess is that she didn’ want you girls to fret none ‘bout it.” The alicorn looked to her sister and sighed. “A little foolish, really, but...part of me knows I’d probably do the same thing.”
Apple Bloom and Windswept made their way towards the others, and the young Apple filly was caught off guard when her friends both wrapped their hooves around her in a hug.
“We’re sorry about your grandma.” Scootaloo said quietly. “Applejack...she told us.”
Apple Bloom looked to her older sister, who simply nodded.
The young filly blinked several times while fighting off tears of her own. “It’s...it’s going to be okay-”
“You shouldn’t keep things like this to yourself, Apple Bloom.” Sweetie Belle said with a sniffle. “Granny Smith is like a grandma to us too.”
“You’re like family to us, Apple Bloom.” Scootaloo added.
With that, the flood gates opened. Apple Bloom cried quietly in her friends’ embrace. “I-I’m sorry! I was...I didn’ want you to worry ‘bout all of that! I-I mean, Sweetie Belle’s got her sister in Canterlot, and Scootaloo, you’ve got yer tricks to work on an’-”
“You’re our friend, Apple Bloom. We care about you, too.” Sweetie Belle said.
Applejack watched with a mixture of sadness and relief as her sister let the tears out. No doubt she was still hurting badly from all that was happening. She smiled and laughed in school, sure, but Applejack could see that under the surface, the filly was still broken from all the pain she had been dealing with lately.
A featherlight touch brushed against the alicorn’s side. She looked down to see Windswept offering her a sympathetic smile. “O-oh, s-sorry ‘bout that, Sugarcube. What’s wrong?”
Windswept just frowned a little. “Milady...if I may offer some advice from Princess Celestia’s book of wisdom?”
“Her Highness has said it time and time again, “Every pony feels. Alicorns are no exception.” If...if you need a shoulder to lean on...we’re here.”
The former farm pony smiled gratefully. “Thanks much, Windswept. I...I’ll be alrigh’ for now, though.”
Windswept gave a low bow. “Very well. Lightweight, Stratus, and myself will be waiting near Lady Sweetie Belle’s chariot for you and Lady Apple Bloom, then.”
Applejack watched the guard pony head back to talk with her peers, a small smile playing at the corners of her lips. For ponies who were supposedly the most disciplined in all of Equestria, they sure had compassion. No doubt in part because of Celestia.
The blond alicorn looked over her shoulder to see Cheerilee approaching her hesitantly, taking note of her distraught students. “I-is everything alright?”
Applejack gave a slight nod. “I told the girls about Granny. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle are Apple Bloom’s friends an’ I figured they have a right to know. I mean...” She glanced over to the trio of fillies, who were now quietly holding each other. “Those two are practically kin to me as well.”
Cheerilee nodded. “I know the feeling all to well.”
Applejack suddenly remembered her conversation with the teacher earlier today. “Oh, Cheerilee, I...you remember that question I had for you?”
“Yes, what did you want to ask me?”
“I was...just wonderin’...how do you deal with watchin’ yer students grow up right in front of yer eyes...how...how does it make you feel to watch time pass so quickly?”
“Ah.” Cheerilee put on a thoughtful expression before a smile slowly crept onto her face. “I suppose I try to remember the fun I had with my students when they were just little colts and fillies. I haven’t been teaching for very long compared to other ponies in Equestria...but these past few years have been wonderful. I’ve watched some ponies leave town that I truly cared for as students. I know I may never see some of them ever again...” She shook her head. “Some ponies may think a teacher caring so deeply for school age ponies to be cliché, but...I take great pride in what I do. Therefore, I value every moment I have with my students. I try to teach them everything I can to prepare them for the big, open world out there.” She made a gesture with her hoof towards the hills beyond Ponyville. “The truth is, Applejack, even now I think about such things. The day will come when I will no longer be teaching your sister, or any of my other current students. They’ll grow older...they’ll move onto to bigger things and learn more.”
“Aren’...aren’ you scared of what will happen to them when they get older?”
“Sometimes, but I think part of being a teacher involves being able trust your students’ judgement and let them make their own choices. If I continue to hold their hooves, they’ll never be able to reach their full potential.”
Perhaps it was the way Cheerilee said it, or the sympathetic, knowing look in her eyes that said, “I understand what you’re trying to ask me.”, but Applejack found herself nodding.
“Thanks, Cheerilee...I may be a princess, but...I still consider you the smarter pony.”
“Well, someday when I become old and senile I hope you keep those words in mind.” She laughed. “It can’t hurt to boost an old mare’s ego, can it?”
“No, heheh, I suppose not.” Applejack managed to grin a little before walking over to the three fillies. She gently nudged her sister, who looked up, clearly surprised and shaken from her thoughts. “Hey, ready to head home?”
Apple Bloom nodded. “Yeah...”
Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle gave a final farewell to the red-maned filly before going their separate ways, Sweetie Belle taking the chariot while Scootaloo headed into town. Applejack offered to give Apple Bloom a lift on her back, but the filly declined, stating she felt like walking.
So they did just that...
The walk was rather quiet for the most part, neither of them feeling much like talking. Lightweight, Stratus, and Windswept flew overhead at a discrete distance to provide the two sisters adequate privacy, which Applejack couldn’t be more thankful for at the moment.
A sensation cascaded down Applejack’s neck, like tiny pinpricks on skin. She shook it off and smiled. “Yes?”
“So...there’s no magic in all of Equestria to help Granny Smith?”
Darn, should’ve listened to the feeling. “No, from what I understand, there isn’t. No medicine, an’ no magic either.”
“Even...even Princess Celestia or Princess Luna can’t help Granny Smith?”
“I’m ‘fraid not, Apple Bloom. I talked to the guards and they more or less said that magic don’ fix illness, even an alicorn’s magic.”
“B-but...it’s not fair! She’s the best grandma in all of Equestria an’-”
“I know, believe me, I’ve been thinkin’ the same thing. That’s...just the way things work. Ponies don’ live for ever. Nothing does. Not even dragons. Sometimes it’s sickness, or an accident that hurts somepony, but in the end, we all have to pass on.”
She found it odd to be talking about such a grim subject with the filly. Apple Bloom had always been advanced for her age in terms of thought, but this was something even Applejack avoided talking about. Most ponies did, actually. Death was like a weed in a garden: it was a part of the surroundings, but it was typically treated with distaste and most tried to ignore it. Removing it from the picture was a temporary solution, but it would only return later in a different manner or appearance, and cause problems for the rest of the plants.
It was an inevitability.
“What...what ‘bout you?”
Applejack almost tripped. “What ‘bout me?”
“Well, yer an alicorn. So is Princess Luna an’ Celestia...an’...they’ve been ‘round for a thousand years or more, right? Neither of them look that old. I mean...Granny Smith’s not even eighty years old and look at her compared to them!”
Again, Apple Bloom was advanced for her age.
“I don’ think I have an answer for that at the moment, Apple Bloom. I need to talk to Luna and Celestia ‘bout that...” She gave what she hoped was a comforting smile as she gazed into her sister’s inquisitive, worried eyes. “Whatever the case may be though, it ain’t gonna change anything between us. Yer my sister, an’ if somepony has a problem with it, they’ll have to speak to me ‘bout it.”
The filly seemed to accept the answer for what it was and remained quiet for the rest of the walk back to Sweet Apple Acres, much to Applejack’s relief. The three pegasi landed behind the sisters and flanked their left and right sides as they made their way up the road to the farmhouse.
“Hey, Stratus, am I seeing things or are those the Honor Guard of Princess Luna up ahead?”
About twenty ponies in a dark blue armor could be seen standing around near the farmhouse. They noticed Applejack and the others and bowed low upon her nearing the home. One of the more decorated guards spoke. “Your Highness, we apologize for the unannounced visit. Her Highness wished to come by as soon as she got word of your grandmother’s condition from Lady Sweetie Belle.”
Applejack blinked. “That was almost an hour ago. Sure, we took our sweet time gettin’ back home an’ all, but still...”
The unicorn coughed. “Well, Lady Sweetie Belle took a chariot, and the average trip from Ponyville to Canterlot is less than twenty minutes if one keeps a brisk pace. We arrived here via mass teleportation spell about ten minutes ago.”
Applejack frowned. “Well, that’s thoughtful an’ all of Luna, but...we don’ have room for all of you to-”
“Don’t worry, Applejack, we won’t be here for too long.”
Applejack looked to the front porch of her home to see Luna standing there, her dark blue coat and blue mane reflecting the late afternoon sunlight like water.
The orange alicorn nodded. “Well, I’m guessing you’re caught up on everythin’ then, huh?”
“Indeed.” She sighed while making her way towards her peer, giving a small bow of respect, which Applejack returned. “I spoke briefly with your grandmother. She truly is a pony who has lived her years well. I must admit, I’m envious of your family, Applejack. Celestia is a wonderful sister, don’t misunderstand me, but...if my knowledge of the Apple family is correct, you have relatives from every corner of the country.”
“Heh, it’s as they say: Where there’s apple trees, there’s sure to be Apples.” Applejack glanced down to see her sister gazing at the blue alicorn in a mild daze. “Apple Bloom, you remember Princess Luna, don’ you?”
Apple Bloom smiled before stepping forward. “Hello, Princess Luna. I’m Apple Bloom.” She gave the best bow she could. “Pleased to meet you.”
Luna smiled in mild amusement. “The pleasure is mine, I assure you.” She sat down before continuing, her voice softer this time. “You have a wonderful family, Apple Bloom. Your grandmother is one of the wisest ponies I’ve spoken to in ages.”
Apple Bloom scratched at the ground with a hoof. “Is it true that you can’ make her better?”
Luna bowed her head, her mane shadowing her eyes slightly. “I’m sorry, dear Apple Bloom. This illness...I’m not familiar with it myself, and from what Twilight Sparkle has heard of it, Equestria’s finest pathologists are still trying to find a cure for it.”
“What ‘bout magic? Can’ you just make it...vanish?”
“Apple Bloom, I already-”
Luna raised gently raised a hoof, interrupting Applejack as politely as she could. “It’s alright, Applejack. If...if you do not mind too much, I would like to have a talk with your sister.”
The orange alicorn looked to Apple Bloom, then nodded and made her way inside the house. Luna turned back to the young filly and smiled gently. “Magic isn’t a cure-all, Apple Bloom. It follows certain principles and rules, and unfortunately afflictions to the body are something that ponies cannot remove with magic.”
“B-but I’ve seen Twilight do all sorts of amazin’ things with magic! She turned a rock into a hat once, an’ she told me that she even turned her parents into plants by accident when she was a filly!”
“Did she now? I’ll have to ask her about that some day.” Luna laughed quietly. “That was most likely transformation magic. Spells like those, while amazing, are only temporary spells.”
Apple Bloom’s head drooped. “But...you’re a princess! You can do anything, can’t you? You and Celestia move the Moon and Sun!”
“Yes, but even we have limits.” She nuzzled the distraught filly. “I cannot get rid of the common cold or flu. Even alicorns can get sick...to an extent.” The last part was spoken in a hushed tone.
“Yes. Why, a few months ago I had a minor fever. It wasn’t pleasant at all, but I got through it in the end...”
The filly felt tears welling up in her eyes yet again. “So...Granny Smith is just going to die...?”
“She won’t leave you, though.” Apple Bloom gave the alicorn a confused look. “You see, Apple Bloom, the wonderful thing about ponies is that they continue to live on, even after death. You know how?”
Apple Bloom shook her head.
“Right here...” She tapped Apple Bloom’s head gently. “...and right here.” She placed her hoof gently over Apple Bloom’s chest. “We keep their memories alive, and that’s how they live on. So as long as you remember the good times you’ve shared with that pony, they shall never leave you.”
“You really think so?”
“That’s what my sister told me when I was younger. I believe there’s a lot of truth to it. Remembering a pony and keeping the values they taught close to your heart allows those we care for throughout our lives to exist even after death.” She covered Apple Bloom with a blue wing. “She may leave you in body, Apple Bloom, but as long as you remember what she taught you and cherish the times you had with her, she’ll still be with you.”
The sound of a door opening from the farmhouse could be heard. “Apple Bloom?”
The filly in question looked up to see her brother. His eyes were puffy and it looked like he had been crying. “Big Mac?”
“I think...you better come inside with me. Granny Smith is...well, she’s gotten worse...”
Apple Bloom’s eyes widened. “Wh-whattya mean?”
“She’s...well, she’s not awake anymore...she’s in what they call a coma. She...probably won’ make it through the night. I...I figured it’d be best for us t’say our goodbyes.”
“N-no...you can’ be serious!”
Big Mac walked over to his now sobbing sister. He pulled her gently into a hug while giving the Princess of the Night a nod. “C’mon, Apple Bloom.”
The Apple siblings walked inside, the door closing with a rattle behind them. The midnight alicorn exhaled deeply, her eyes now shadowed by her mane . Luna expected Celestia and she would need to have a long talk with Applejack and the others after this was over. While she had seen more ponies than she would like to remember age and pass on before her very eyes, the experience always affected her deeply. Both of the ancient sisters had learned to control their emotions over the centuries of ruling Equestria, but every now and then Luna or Celestia had to find some way to release their pent up feelings. Celestia sometimes ate unhealthy levels of ice cream, or flung paint at a canvas to ‘reflect her inner self’s pain’ or so she put it. Luna would lock herself up in her room and play whatever instrument she had lying around, or stomped in a feathered pillow she had in her room.
She only hoped the others would find ways to keep themselves from breaking down.
Applejack, Apple Bloom, and Big Macintosh stood on one side of the bed by their grandmother, silently watching as she breathed. While she was unresponsive, her body still managed to keep her breathing and alive, if not barely.
“Granny...it’s us.” Applejack began. “We wanted to make sure we got to...say goodbye. It ain’t right for an Apple to not say goodbye, after all.”
The three were silent again, the occasional sniffle from Apple Bloom being the only thing cutting through the silence. Big Mac had a hoof placed gently over her as he and his sister attempted to comfort her as best as they could.
“We’re...we’re all a little scared, Granny, but...” Applejack let out a weak, ragged breath. “We’ll pull through, somehow. We’ll keep doin’ our jobs...an’...an’ I’ll take good care of Equestria. I promise.”
“I’ll keep studyin’ hard, and help Big Mac ‘round the farm.” Apple Bloom added quietly.
“I’ll look after Apple Bloom an’ the farm.” Big Mac spoke, his voice just above a whisper. “I’ll do my best, Granny.”
Eventually Apple Bloom was escorted out after giving a final goodbye, and now only Applejack remained in the room. She looked to the door, then to her grandmother. She gently placed her horn beside her grandmother’s forehead, and closed her eyes tightly. The horn sparked to life, bathing the room in a soft, orange glow. She opened one eye, only to close it again. The light intensified a bit more, and tears began to fall from the alicorn’s eyes. She opened them again, and began to sob as she watched her dying grandmother continue to lie in her bed, unmoving.
The glow became so intense that one would have expected it to be morning from the brightness of the room. Her horn suddenly fizzled out as Applejack collapsed in a silent heap, tears pouring down her cheeks. “I-I’m sorry, Granny...I...I tried...”
Meanwhile, Big Mac stood just outside the room, watching between the partially open door as his sister wept. He hung his head and cried silently before walking back to Apple Bloom’s room.
He would have told Applejack to stop, but...in a way it was probably closure for the headstrong mare. He wouldn’t begrudge her of that.
The following morning Apple Bloom didn’t go to school. In fact, almost all of Ponyville took a day off from normal activities.
Granny Smith had asked to be cremated, and her remains be spread across Sweet Apple Acres after the harvest. Partly because she had put so much of her life into building up the orchard into what it is today, and partly because she didn’t want her remains to land on any of the apples that would be sold to pony folk. That wouldn’t help for business, or so her will had stated.
The two sisters and one brother had placed her remains in a marble urn for the time being, and simply spent the better part of the morning greeting ponies who visited them at their grandmother’s wake. Twilight, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Pinkie, Rarity, Luna, and Celestia all paid the Apple family a visit throughout the day at different times, offering what comfort they could.
Naturally, Granny Smith left all her belongings in the care of her grandchildren, though she stated that Sweet Apple Acres could be passed down to any capable Apple family member who was able run both the labor and finances of the vast estate. This left the three Apple members of Ponyville in a rather tough spot.
Big Mac was a great worker, but he simply lacked the experience of working in the financial field. He could crunch numbers, but he wouldn’t be able to focus as much time on finances while also tending to the farm throughout the year. He simply had too much on his plate, so to speak.
Apple Bloom was simply too young. She lacked the muscular strength to buck as well as her brother and sister. She was also still attending school. Suffice to say, she wasn’t quite ready to run the farm.
Applejack was a princess now, and couldn’t spend her time focusing on the farm and orchard. Doing so would get in the way of her duties, which she was already taking time off from.
As such, there was only one thing left to do: call out to the Apple family for help. Letters were sent to all parts of Equestria to every member that Applejack and Big Mac could think of. Even a few of the Oranges were mailed letters.
“Do you reckon any of ‘em can move out here?”
Big Mac and Applejack were currently sitting and looking out to the vast fields of Sweet Apple Acres. It was somewhere around two in the afternoon, but they both felt drained. Apple Bloom had went to her room where she cried herself to sleep, so now it was just the two of them.
“I don’ know, sis, but I know that Apples don’ leave each other hangin’.”
Applejack grunted in agreement. “If anythin’, I’m sure Braeburn would be willin’ to move on over to Ponyville. He’s still livin’ on his own, an’ technically the town of Appleloosa owns the orchard, not him. I heard Apple Fritter’s been tryin’ to find business in Hoofington, but she’s been havin’ little luck. Maybe she’d like to move in with us...”
The two were silent after that. Big Mac was currently chewing on a piece of long grass, a habit indicating his mind was likely elsewhere.
“Then again, maybe Red Delicious or Golden Delicious can move over here instead. They’re only a few days away in Flank Valley. No...wait, they’re busy with startin’ up they’re family’s grocery store...”
“Maybe Apple Bumpkin can come here...though she’s out in Fillydelphia, an’...wait, she’s got her bakery to worry ‘bout...”
“Well, shoot...this ain’t good at all. Perhaps gettin’ Apple Brioche over here from Coltsburgh is-”
Applejack jumped a little at the sound of Big Mac’s voice. “H-huh? Oh, sorry, what were you sayin’?”
Big Mac shook his head. “I was goin’ to tell you not too worry. Caramel still works with us, an’ I’m sure the Harvest family down the road can lend us a hoof if we are in a real pickle this year. I also know for a fact that Princess Luna told me somethin’ ‘bout gettin’ extra help next season if we really need it.”
The alicorn blinked several times before looking down. “I know.”
“The point is that all that is in the future. What we should focus on right now is the present.” He gave her a gentle nudge with a hoof. “Granny Smith always said you tend to get worked up easy.”
Big Mac wasn’t much of a socialite or talker. As such, when he spoke, ponies tended to listen. “Thanks, Big Mac.”
“Eeyup. Anytime.” He continued chewing on his grass, his gaze once again looking out towards the apple trees. “Granny left us with all of this. This isn’t just ours, though. This is Ponyville’s, and the Apple family’s. It ain’t gonna vanish just like that, sis.”
Surprisingly enough, Applejack felt a little less stressed upon hearing her brother’s words. “Right...sorry ‘bout that.”
“No worries. You just promise to keep bein’ the pony that you are, an’ everythin’ will turn out fine.”
“I’m lucky to have a brother like you, you know that?”
Big Mac smirked ever so slightly. “Eeyup.”
“Now you be sure to write to me as soon as you get word back from any family, alrigh’?”
“If you need anything, an’ I mean anything, be sure to let me know.”
Applejack frowned. “Big Mac, I mean it.”
The stallion just smiled. “So do I.”
The alicorn sighed before looking to her younger sibling. “Take care of Big Mac for me. Make sure he doesn’ go an’ burn dinner every night.”
“I’ll try. He ain’t that bad of a cook, Applejack.”
“Well, all the same.” The orange alicorn leaned down and nuzzled her sister and brother. “I’ll send you a letter if I find out anythin’ ‘bout work for the next season, alrigh’? Just take care of yourselves, an’ I’ll be sure to visit durin’ the holidays.”
“Actually...” Big Mac began. “Somepony was hopin’ we could maybe come to Canterlot.” He directed his gaze to Apple Bloom, and smiled when Applejack caught on.
“Well, I dunno. It’s a pretty big castle, and I hate to have either of you get lost when-”
Applejack chuckled before ruffling her sister’s hair. “I’m only teasin’. Now remember, you write to me whenever you wanna talk.”
“Sis, I don’ wanna make you too busy though-”
Applejack placed a hoof over the filly’s mouth. “I ain’t gonna argue. I’m yer big sister. That’s what big sister’s do.”
Apple Bloom smiled in defeat. “Alright.”
Applejack made her way towards the chariot where her guards waited. “Keep in touch. Promise?”
Apple Bloom grinned. “I will! I Pinkie-Promise!”
“Fair enough. I’ll be sure to tell Pinkie you said that. She’ll hold you to it, y’know.”
Applejack stepped into her chariot and gave the guards a nod. The pegasi made their way down the road, flapping their wings as they slowly got the chariot off the ground.
“Bye, Applejack!” Apple Bloom called out as she raced down the road, Big Mac trailing behind. “Take good care of Equestria, okay?!”
Applejack looked down to the two as she moved further and further away. She waved at them and felt herself tearing up.
“I will, Apple Bloom...I’ll do it for you, Big Mac...Granny Smith...for everypony.”
While she knew she had a long and likely difficult road ahead of her, Applejack no longer felt as intimidated by it. She saw it merely as a part of who she was, and what was expected of her. She was a princess of Equestria, and the overseer of the earth and all it’s resources. She would insure that orchards like Sweet Apple Acres would continue to be healthy and hardy for ages to come, as well as all the other farms and gardens in Equestria.
Granny Smith would have liked that.
End of Chapter 1- Applejack Chapter 1
Next up: Celestia. Eons of ruling a country, keeping peace with other nations, and doing what she can to ensure the health and prosperity of Equestria’s citizens, and raising the sun every day: these are but a part of her duties as a Princess of Equestria. Now she must teach the new co-rulers of Equestria all she can with the help of Luna. What about her, though? What about her wants, needs, and feelings? Surely she has something she wants in life, endless though it may be.