Skeleton Grin looked over her shoulder from where she lay on her bed, reading a book. A little filly tumbled into the room, tears in her eyes, covered in flour. She was almost a splitting image of her mother at her age, except for her unruly mane and tail which, regardless how much the stubborn filly brushed them, was always a mess. Skeleton smiled at the young filly.
“Yes dear? What’s happened?”
The filly sat at her mother’s bedside, sniffling petulantly. Another filly peaked in from the door and Skeleton pretended not to see her. The filly by the bed spoke in an upset whine.
“Mummy, Clear Skies put a bucket of flour above my door s..so when I opened the door the flour fell on me.. as well as the bucket!”
The older mare suppressed a giggle, hearing her giggle in the small filly by the door. She looked over at the peeping pony and waved her in, a stern look on her face. The filly trotted in. It was clear she was older than the filly who was sniffling at the bed, who was glaring at her, clearly upset.
“Skies, is this true?”
Clear Skies nodded an affirmative.
“Yes mama, it’s true. But you should have seen it! It was SOOOOO Funny! Well… except for when the bucket fell on her… that wasn’t very funny at all. But she ran away before I could say I was sorry!”
Skeleton looked over the two young fillies before her and smiled at both of them demurely. She could scarcely believe how much Soarin and her foals had changed her life, or herself. She remembered back when she was a much younger, much more immature mare who was constantly looking over her shoulder for potential attackers. She still had the scars from her childhood, but she wore them with pride now, and rarely ever covered herself up.
“Now now Ghost Charm, there’s no need to cry. Skies didn’t mean any harm; she was just pranking you again. Now, did you run away before she could say sorry?”
The petulant little pony nodded slowly, sniffing back her tears. Skeleton reached down and wiped some of the flour from her daughter’s face.
“Well, now that she’s here, would you like to hear her apology?”
Another nod before she turned to look expectantly at her older sister. Clear Skies smiled and hugged the younger filly, surprising her.
“Sorry sis! The bucket wasn’t supposed to hit your noggin.”
Skeleton smiled as the younger filly hugged her sister and they ran off together. She lifted her wing and looked under it at the smallest filly, deep asleep. Whilst Clear Skies had her father’s colours and Ghost had hers, this one seemed to be a mix of the two. There was a deep blue streak running through both her mane and tail and a blue tinge to the white of her coat. Her eyes however stayed true to her mother. She nuzzled the young filly affectionately and she mumbled and snuggled up to her mother more.
“Sleep well my little Pepper Pot.”
Chapter 1: Meet the Family
“But mama, I HATE broccoli!”
Skeleton Grin and her little brood were sitting at the dining room table, and the gentle natured mother was trying to get Clear Skies to eat her broccoli. They all had their much abhorred vegetables. Clear Skies hated Broccoli, Ghost charm thought asparagus was positively the worst tasting food on the planet and little Pepper Pot couldn’t stand alfalfa. It was something she faced quite regularly, especially with Skies since Skeleton herself adored broccoli. She didn’t have as much trouble with Pepper’s peeve, since she’d inherited it from her mother.
Skeleton Grin couldn’t stand alfalfa.
It was an odd little family, the union and quite swift marriage of Soarin the Wonderbolt and Skeleton Grin had taken paparazzi by storm, although after Skeleton had bared her teeth at them a few times they’d quickly learned the value of leaving the content couple alone. Or at least keep their distance. At first Soarin had spoiled her rotten, buying her jewellery, clothing, even going so far as to personally purchase her a plot of land on ground level for her to indulge her hobby of flower tending for a while. However after a rather scathing admonishment from his rather overwhelmed fillyfriend at the time, he’d sheepishly stopped his constant gifts after she insisted she was perfectly happy with just him.
And how jealously she had guarded him.
Whilst she’d never done anything over the top, Skeleton wasn’t afraid to frighten the socks off of any mare that got too direct or promiscuous with Soarin, who very rarely did anything about it, understanding it was something Skeleton felt she had to deal with to establish that he was hers. In similar fashion, anypony who was anypony was suddenly paying a lot of attention to Skeleton Grin and, realising this was something that Soarin had to do, she’d left him to deal with it.
They sounded like the perfect couple.
Naturally they had their disagreements, mostly over the dinner table or after a particularly draining performance when he returned home. They’d reduced each other to tears a few times and Soarin had stormed off after each time. Skeleton didn’t know where he went, but she had missed him almost as soon as he’d left every time. He had, each time, come home with a bouquet of roses, a box of chocolates, a fresh Apple Cinnamon pie and a large tub of ice cream and an apologetic look, a normally evolving into a gentle and loving caress before the pair shared the pie and ice cream.
When she’d fallen pregnant with Clear Skies however, she took him aside and had a rather serious talk with him. She didn’t want her daughter to be exposed to these sorts of arguments between the pair and they’d managed to work out a stable way to sort things out, normally involving copious amounts of sympathy, encouragement and sometimes a kiss, massage or something similar. Neither of them were particularly good at massages, but they made do.
But back to the dinner table…
“Skies, eat your broccoli.”
“No buts Skies, I told you to eat your broccoli.”
Clear Skies pouted and picked at the tree like vegetable.
“Daddy never makes me eat my broccoli.”
Skeleton felt a stab of irritation strike her and she sighed, pushing it away.
“If you don’t eat your broccoli I’ll make you go to bed right now and you can miss your father coming home altogether.”
That did the trick. In a flash the filly was devouring the remnants of her dinner. She smiled demurely and sighed, looking around the table. She often waited until Soarin returned home before she ate, preferring to eat with him rather than just with her foals. It was a sort of ritual she’d developed fairly early on in their relationship and she had no intention of stopping anytime soon. As it was, dinner was finished by the fillies and Skeleton let them all go do their own thing whilst she cleaned up after the meal. They never really left a big mess, disregarding the one time she’d made lasagne, and it was quite easy to clean up. She took her time with it, treating it as a kind of alone time. She rarely got alone time from her little ones, so she cherished it when she could. Normally it was with Soarin who, judging by the time, should be back right about…
A pair of pale blue hooves encircled Skeleton’s stomach and held her close to a warm, still damp body. She smiled as an affectionate nuzzle found its way under her chin.
“Mmmm… Hello my love..” Came the distinctly recognizable voice of the pie loving Wonderbolt from behind her.
“Soarin, you’re a little early tonight. What happened?”
She heard a genuinely amused chuckle from behind her and then an affectionate nibble at the tip of her ear, eliciting a happy murmur from Skeleton.
“Well you know how it is. Had plans with all my other fillyfriends and they had to cancel tonight, you know?”
Giggling, Skeleton Grin turned herself around in his forehooves, putting her hooves on his chest and stroking the fur on said chest lovingly.
“Now Soarin.” She said quite seriously, “You’re not that attractive you know.”
“Oh really?” he smirked at her, “So why did you chase me for so long again?”
She felt her cheeks reddening and mumbled an embarrassed reply. Soarin chuckled again and touched his forehead and muzzle to hers.
“What was that? I’m afraid I had a little trouble hearing that.”
She frowned playfully at him and grabbed his face in her hooves, righting his head and bringing her muzzle almost dangerously close to his, practically tasting his breath as she tried valiantly to hold herself back.
“Shut up and kiss me Soarin~”
It was clear that all of the fillies in the household adored their father, but the one who was always the most enthusiastic one in greeting him was always Clear Skies. She was very much her father’s little girl almost to the point of pushing the others away out of pure jealousy. She never went that far of course, she knew that’d be unfair, but she did frequently get jealous of her sisters when they were with Soarin. That said, Soarin seemed to spend the most time with his little Skies. In a similar fashion, Ghost Charm was very much her mother’s filly and was constantly striving to impress her. She fancied herself a little lady, the only part of her rebelling being her hair. No matter what she did to her mane and tail it was constantly fuzzy and frequently spiky. She hated it. She was also intensely jealous of her little sister, who spent the most amount of time with Skeleton.
This was, by no means, favouritism on Skeleton’s part. On the contrary, she was happy to spend any time with her little fillies she could, they all had a little of her and their father in them. Clear Skies’ devil-may-care attitude came from her father, certainly, but it was clear her sense of humour was a mixture of her father’s light humour and her mother’s much more morbid humour. Her talent, however, had baffled both Mother and Father alike.
Whilst she was a rather skilled flyer, her cutie mark did not portray this as her special talent. Whilst she was quite intelligent and this did show in her schoolwork, her mark was not academically based. She was fit and lithe mainly because of all the time she spent with her father (And the team who, incidentally, absolutely adored her, Especially Spitfire and Firestreak) whenever and wherever she could. But it was clearly not anything to do with this either.
What she was exceptionally good at was manipulating colts and, occasionally, fillies and basically wrapping them around her hoof. She could infatuate them at merely a glance and make them almost beg to do something for her and but a twitch of her tail or a shy little smile. Her clearly suggestive winks had melted the heart of pretty much every single colt at school and several of the fillies and, for a while, Skeleton had been worried for the safety of not only her daughter but of the pupils in the school. After a while of watching her though, Skeleton ascertained that the ability was, while certainly used for selfish little whims, never used in a malicious way and she always let them down gently. In fact she’d made many friends like this. Her cutie mark was, in point of fact, a chain wrapped love heart.
A dangerous skill to be sure, but one she carried with pride and caution.
Her father had been quite suspicious. As is the almost ritual of every parent of the male persuasion, he was severely strict with anypony of the male persuasion concerning his quickly maturing tomboy of a daughter. Clear Skies delighted in the attention this garnered and the chance to prank her father and quite often found herself smugly in bed before her bedtime after a particularly well pulled off prank. He’d always congratulate her on her peculiar little tricks and jokes the next morning, normally with prompting from Skeleton.
Incidentally, she found these pranks absolutely hysterical.
The last little filly of the brood was the very young Pepper Pot. Pepper had just started school that year and had already garnered a following of little friends, mostly of the female persuasion. She was a popular filly in the schoolyard, but incredibly reserved in the classroom, refusing to do most of her schoolwork if the teacher demanded it. Skeleton had left one particular teacher a blubbering mess on the floor after her Pepper Pot came home and told her of the stallion yelling at her.
If there was one thing you did not do, it was piss Skeleton off.
Skeleton Grin was far from normal. Her bright orange eyes seemed to burn in the darkness, although they were quite beautiful in the light, and her thick covering of scars warded many away. But the most curious aspects of Skeleton Grin were certainly her owl-like wings, built for silent flight, and her pointed, wickedly sharp teeth. She’d been born with them, and they’d been considered a birth defect for a long time. Whilst she was thankful none of her children had ended up with this peculiar gene, she had to admit the teeth did bring her a rather distinct advantage in many things. For example her talent to scare the coat right off of a pony certainly called upon her teeth often. Even the simple baring of these teeth scared most ponies away.
But in all the time she’d had her little ones, she’d never bared her teeth at them. Not even when they’d managed to break a hole through all three stories of their house, she still did not ever, EVER scare her children. Well, unless by means of a practical joke. In that her talent was of frightening others, Skeleton and Soarin found themselves practically surrounded by fillies and colts on Nightmare Night begging for candy and for a scare. And who was Skeleton to refuse them all?
That’s what she told Soarin anyway. She refused point blank to not allow her children to go out with a few friends to trick or treat, since Nightmare Night was a very special night for her. It held a place very dear to her heart, a special zone. Nightmare Night was the one time that she’d had when she was younger that didn’t see her suffering. Whilst she hadn’t explained this to Soarin, she was rather adamant that the fillies partake in the celebration.
Soarin had, after quite the debate and a few choice, playful jabs at her, relented.
For about an hour after they’d all eaten, Soarin was quite content to play with his daughters, except for Pepper Pot who had rather determinedly snuggled up to her mother with a look of nervous delight on her face whilst watching the trio. Clear Skies and Soarin were quite rough with each other, but never intentionally hurt each other. Ghost Charm, on the other hoof, was quite content to wait it out, watching for an opportunity before leaping onto her target. She never got very far, but it was something. That was an interesting quirk of Charm’s, she seemed to lose her need to be a little lady the moment her father came home and regained it once it was time for bed. Pepper very rarely played with her sisters at all, preferring the company of her books. This was one thing she did excel in. Pepper was only just starting the first grade, but she was already reading small novels. Skeleton had been delighted and had pleaded with Soarin to buy her more books.
Naturally, Soarin did so. He very rarely refused her anything, but he did make a big show of considering to refuse it. It was a game they played quite often.
“Alright, time for bed.”
Soarin, Skies and Charm all groaned and Skeleton lifted an eyebrow.
“You don’t want a story then?”
The room was vacant in seconds. Even Soarin had left, although she knew that was more to encourage them and play a little longer more than anything else. She stretched herself out from where she’d been laying, her wings spreading out and quivering along with her forehooves and hind hooves, stretching much like a cat before standing up and yawning slightly. It wasn’t that she was tired, but it did help her get some more air in her lungs.
She then trotted upstairs to prepare the girls for bed.
Clear Skies came bouncing in with her father, the pair of them laughing at something that obviously had no relevance to Skeleton Grin. Next came Ghost Charm, who was walking demurely in with an offended look to her face. Skeleton guessed she was who they were laughing at. Lastly crept in the youngest of the trio of fillies, Pepper Pot.
“Alright girls, into bed. Quickly now or you won’t get a story.”
The fillies filed up into their respective beds. Skeleton had many beliefs and most of these were enforced in the behaviour, rules and structure of the household. The top level of the three story house was completely and utterly for storage. And was there a lot to store. Soarin had a lot of possessions, and not all of them Skeleton agreed very much with. She did not, however, make him throw them out. Thinking that was unethical and wrong of her, she’d told him that he could use the top floor for showing off all the stuff she preferred not shown on the bottom two. In time, part of the floor was sectioned off as Soarin’s personal ‘cave’, and no females were allowed inside. He took his male friends in, but whenever Spitfire or Fleetfoot came to visit they stayed down with Skeleton.
Skeleton didn’t mind. She agreed with it in fact. She thought everypony needed their own personal space. The next rather interesting perk was that she believed that in sharing, one developed a sense of what was fair and the ability to work together. So the three fillies shared one massive room. It was circular and the beds sat around the room, an equal distance from each other however, despite this firm belief, she utterly refused to allow her foals to sleep in the same bed as anypony else bar herself or Soarin, she firmly believed that THAT sort of thing was saved until after marriage, as she had with Soarin. As such, the three sections were different in accordance to which filly had taken up residence. Clear Skies’ third was cluttered with bits and pieces, mostly of Wonderbolts and band posters and memorabilia. Ghost Charm’s was immaculately clean and neat and she had requested (and received) a vanity for her birthday the previous year, so it sat beside her bed. Pepper Pot's was filled with books. Books on the floor, on the shelves they put up, on the bed, under the bed, in the chest of draws that held her formal wear.
No matter where you looked, there were books.
The fillies happily tucked into bed, Skeleton sat in the centre of the room. She looked around at the three as Soarin returned to her side and nuzzled her gently, earning a gentle coo of content.
“Are we all comfortable then?”
The fillies nodded, but Pepper Pot seemed a little uncomfortable. Skeleton looked at her youngest daughter and smiled.
“Something wrong Pepper?”
Pepper looked up at her mother like a deer in the headlights of a fast moving carriage and shook her head quickly. Skeleton tilted her head ever so slightly to the left.
“Pepper, if something is bothering you, you can say so.”
It took her a minute, and all eyes were on her, but Pepper eventually spoke up in a tentative but curious voice.
“Mummy… where did your tattoos come from?”
Skeleton frowned and looked at her body, followed by Soarin and the other fillies, confused. Then it hit her and she smiled.
“Oh, you mean my scars.”
Pepper blushed and nodded timidly. Skeleton seemed a little uncomfortable.
“This… is very sudden Pepper.”
“I…. I just wanted to know…”
Pepper Pot was not normally a reserved little filly. On the contrary she was generally harsh almost to the point of being cruel when something somepony did upset her or disrupted her reading and was quite blunt in asking for what she wanted, be it knowledge or items. She didn’t mean to be so direct as to sounding rude, she simply didn’t see the point in beating around the bush, so this behaviour was certainly new to both Skeleton and Soarin. The question she’d just asked seemed to rattle Skeleton and she was looking at the ground before her. It was clear to Soarin she was fighting a losing battle with something in her that not even he knew about and he nuzzled her gently, also curious to hear the reason. Eventually she sighed and looked up.
“Well… I suppose you’re all old enough now. You have the right to know. But this isn’t going to take one night to tell, each one has its own reason.”
The fillies, suddenly detecting the oncoming of a great tale from their mother, nodded eagerly and partially sat up in their beds. Soarin on his part looked equally amazed and curious and one of his wings unfurled and draped itself over her for emotional support and she smiled and nuzzled under his chin affectionately.
“Well, it all happened a long time ago in a small, superstitious village called Cornicopia…”
Well you guys asked, you pleaded, you begged, so here it is. The start of the tale of Skeleton Grin's past. If you're dead set on this course than so be it but I warn you, it's not a happy tale filled with fairies and dreams coming true. Skeleton's past is quite grim. However the tale won't be ALL grim. There will be interludes of much more light hearted stuff. Maybe.
Chapter 2: Even Skeletons were little once.
I grew up in a small rural town off on the far northern edges of Equestria, not quite in the mountains, but close. The ponies up in those mountains were scary and lots of ponies said they were bad luck. So Mother, Father and I never went near them. I saw one of the ponies once. He was big and he was, true to their word, scary. He didn’t stay for long. The village I lived in was called Cornicopia, that’s “Corn-i-cupia” to be pronounced right. It’s a silly name, but everypony was very serious and there wasn’t much time for jokes or pranks. It was a dreary sort of place. I can’t remember what Mother and Father did for careers, it was so long ago. We scraped by on a meagre living. They were very humble, and I was a playful filly with white coat and grey mane.
Even as a filly I had a thing for the Wonderbolts. Well, lots of pegasi did, but very few of them were as devoted as me. I had anything and everything I could put my hooves on about the Wonderbolts. Newspaper clippings, posters, stuffed toys, action figures, everything. The other fillies thought I was weird. Although they came to think I was weird a long time before my obsession with the Wonderbolts. My eyes and my teeth weren’t exactly easy to hide. Father always told me to be more careful. Mother scolded him frequently, but I think they just made it into a game, because they always ended up smiling at each other.
Father often joined me with my little sessions concerning the Wonderbolts, especially if there was a clip from the latest show in the newspaper. He was an avid follower and my mother often thought he was chasing a losing dream. He’d simply replied that he admired them, not strived to be them.
I believed him.
Of course, my interest in them wasn’t entirely admiring when I started maturing, turning from a filly to a young mare as it were. I started admiring them for more than their speed, grace and all the other things that make the Wonderbolts so wonderful. I started paying attention to what they looked like. I thought Spitfire, who was only a new recruit them I recall, was the most beautiful. There was a Pegasus named Power Flap as well, but I didn’t like him. Most of the Wonderbolts from that era are gone now, and it was a bit of a shame to see their old tricks descend into misuse. It’s strange really, I hit about sixteen when Soarin joined them. He instantly caught my attention, not because of his looks because he was a scraggly, gangly sort of colt at the time, but because of his age. He was only a few years older than me and already he was a Wonderbolt. It amazed me. This led to my mother telling me that if we believe in something hard enough and work for it, anything is possible.
It was also around that time strange things started happening to my sleepy little town. Ponies sleeping for days on end with no signs of stopping, manes and tails growing in reverse. I swear I even saw a pony’s eyes change on themselves. Father started getting worried. Father was a unicorn, which is why I spent so much time on the ground with Mother. She was a Pegasus through and through, her blood had the much more dominant Pegasus gene whereas Father had the recessive Unicorn gene. Oh, I loved genetics at school too. I’d given some serious thought into being a scientist one day, but Father warned me away from it. Said it was a lot of hard work with little pay.
I believed him of course. He was my Father. I still believe him.
But when these changes showed up, the townsfolk got more suspicious of everything around them. They still went about their lives as though nothing mattered and everything was grey, but now their eyes were more alert, flicking from place to place, pony to pony. It started to scare me and I became a recluse. Father and Mother didn’t know what to do and eventually told me to stop sulking and get some fresh air. Of course I did as I was told. I was a good filly for the most part. I won’t lie; I’d done some pretty silly things. But we all do at that stage.
The day I got my first scar was at school. Although it faded with time, it’s still there, a constant reminder that I’m not normal, that I’m different.
I’d gone to school, as was usual and expected of me. I had a little Wonderbolts bag with my lunch in it and everything. It was a regular sort of day. Except that one of the colts from my school, and this is in my last year, had fallen sick. Things were still going all weird and wrong. I guess, in retrospect, they took it out on the pony that was most different…
That’s what they used to say. They’d say it and I’d shy away. I never liked confrontation, let alone with ponies almost twice my size. The hoofball team were the worst. I mean, most hoofballers act like they were thumped in the head more times than was strictly safe even before the sport. There are exceptions of course, but this was certainly not one of those times where it showed. I remember they kept asking me what I was doing, where I was going. It scared me because they’d follow behind me and nip at my flanks and sides. There were, of course, more intelligent athletes at my school, but not many. To this day I’m not really sure what they wanted. Sometimes they left welts or teeth marks on my skin, other times not. This was one of those times, only worse. Much worse.
The leader… Despite my obvious differences from the rest of my school mates, I think I was seen as quite pretty back then. The cutie mark on my flank leant me a certain mysterious air and I never was incredibly social. I think the leader of this little band of bullies wanted me for himself, which is why he taunted me so often, maybe thinking he could have an excuse to teach me manners, as he used to put it, so I’d be too scared of him to do anything but what he said.
That day he went too far.
He bit down on my shoulder on my way to the classroom, behind the shed we kept bikes and things in. I’m not saying that he was biting normally either, it was much harder than normal. I remember screaming it hurt so much, tears came to my eyes. I think he was surprised as well, but he ended up just looking smug when he stepped away. He had blood on his lips which he spat out directly onto me. I could barely hear anything he said afterwards, but he and his friends walked away. Only one of them looked back at me, a look of concern on his face, before hurrying after his friends. I could feel the blood ebbing from the bite. It’s still there you know, where my shoulder meets my neck. He bit almost down to bone, my skin was too soft to handle any real punishment. I blacked out after a while, the pain was too much for me. I vaguely remember pain as they stitched up the bite, and them asking me who did it. The problem is, I didn’t know his name. I didn’t follow Hoofball, and I didn’t know his name.
I think I blacked out again during the stitching it hurt so much. Either way I woke up in the hospital with Mother and Father by my side, worried sick. They’d tried to find out who’d done it to no avail. I was quite surprised when the colt who’d stopped and looked back at me came by, apologising profusely for being too scared to intervene. He left me a bouquet of flowers if I remember correctly. The hospital was worried that I had or may have contracted infection or disease from the bite, so I had to stay for almost a week whilst the decided whether or not I was okay. When I finally got out Father was insistent that I stay home for a while. After two days Mother put her hoof down and sent me back to school. There wasn’t really anything they could do anyway right? It wasn’t a nice feeling…
Skeleton Grin paused, a tear in her eye. Her hoof was rubbing at the scar she was talking about absently and Soarin was staring at her in horror. The little ones were fast asleep, which was just as well. She felt a nudge at her hoof and she moved it as Soarin inspected the area carefully. True to her word, there were several round and jagged marks on her skin that could have only come from teeth. Not knowing what to say, Soarin embraced her wordlessly. She clung to him tightly.
She stopped and looked at Soarin. He tried to smile at her with little success.
“They’re asleep, you don’t have to continue anymore. Tell them more tomorrow if you want, or if it makes you too uncomfortable you can read them something else.”
She looked torn between finishing her tale which, Soarin could tell, was nowhere near complete, and following through with Soarin’s instructions. Eventually she sighed a defeated sound and nodded.
“Okay Soar… I’ll go to bed then if you don’t mind, I’m… I need to rest.”
He merely smiled and nodded, relieved she’d listened to him. She could be extraordinarily wilful had she the mind for it. Ever so gently, as though made of fragile china, Soarin guided Skeleton to their room and nudged her to lay down on the bed. She smiled a sad little smile at him and did so, lifting a wing in an offer for him to join her. Only too glad to be with her while she was like this, he nuzzled his way up to her and drew the blankets over them to keep them that little bit warmer.
“Are you okay?”
She nodded, her voice taking on a dejected tone.
“I’ll be okay Soarin… I just need to rest. It’s been a long time since I told my past, and I didn’t realise it’d hurt this much.”
He kissed her cheek gently.
“It’ll be better in the morning, I promise.”
Chapter 2: Sky High.
Clear Skies was quite the heartbreaker.
Her confident strut caught the attention of everypony in the room, male or female, and almost challenges them to refute her or approach her. Not many of the fillies took her seriously, but the colts certainly did. She’d had several of them literally fight over her. Mind you she headed those off quite quickly and forcefully. She wouldn’t have anypony being hurt on her behalf.
Be that as it may however, she wasn’t above making them buy her lunch for even the briefest nuzzle. She was secretly convinced part of her charm was that she was the daughter of a famous Wonderbolt, but she hadn’t told even her best friends that before.
Her entrance to her classroom the following morning was no different. She strutted in almost automatically. She had the attention of ever single colt and filly in the room, although many of the fillies were more looking at her jealously than anything else. Normally, this feeling would make her feel good and confident, but today? Clear Skies had something much more curious on her mind. Her mother had always been there, obviously. As had her scars. Patient, gentle, loving.
Even putting up with her pranks with but a smile, a short laugh and a soft reprimand to be a little more careful if it didn’t quite work, Skeleton had been patient with her. She loved her father as only she could, the two shared a special bond that wasn’t reciprocated by any of the other fillies, but her mother had and always would have a special place in her heart specifically for her. She’d never really given much thought to the scars, simply thinking them as part of her mother.
This new revelation scared her.
She started seeing her classmates with new eyes, especially the ones of the male persuasion, and even more so the athletes. She saw the captain of the cloudball team shoot a barely hidden glance of longing at her and she pointedly ignored him. She’d sat down a little while ago and was barely paying attention to the teacher, and she wasn’t talking. There was a flyer who fancied himself talented looking over at her. A filly over the other side of the room who was very shyly glancing at her every now and then, the twin pegasi of the class quietly discussing her. She could hear every word they said, or close to, having been blessed with her mother’s sense of hearing. She tuned them out and tried desperately to focus on her work.
First period and already behind? Unacceptable. Her father would never take her out to see the team like he’d promised her if she couldn’t even pay attention in class. He’d said if she could keep her grades up, he’d take her. He was coming to pick her up that very afternoon to speak with her teacher in point of fact, during school hours. Picking her up early was part of the deal.
Her mind roamed across the story she’d been told the previous night and it stuck and held to one part.
“I remember screaming it hurt so much, tears came to my eyes”
She could never see her mother crying, not even as a filly. She seemed so cool all the time and even when she was angry she was cold, calculating. Skies had been told she wasn’t always like that and that, once, she was prone to jumping to conclusions and over reacting to the smallest things, but she refused to believe it. Skies looked down at her book, not a single thing written on it. She felt a shadow fall over her and she looked up. The teacher stood before her with a concerned expression on her features.
“Skies? Are you okay? You haven’t written anything down and you look a bit worried. Is everything alright?”
Clear Skies nodded quickly.
“Yes miss, I just… I was just thinking about stuff. I’m sorry I worried you.”
The teacher smiled, relieved. Although Skies was certain she wasn’t convinced, she could see it in her eyes.
“Oh, well okay then dear. Just make sure to study okay?”
Skies nodded tiredly as the bell rang to go to lunch.
“Yes Miss, I will.”
Lunch. The most anticipated part of the day for anypony in school. The time to go out, eat your food and play to your heart’s content until the bell called you back into class. Clear Skies revelled in it.
Today, she sat to one side of her incredibly chatty group munching on her sandwich. It was a simple sandwich, lettuce and daisies, but it was a good sandwich. Unfortunately, the taste of her sandwich was far from her mind. Even now, at school, she thought over the tale her mother had told her and her sisters the previous night. And every now and then she’d glance up at the members of her friends that were male and a stab of fear would shoot through her.
Now, now Skies… You’re in Cloudsdale here, not some little town where everypony keeps to themselves, nothing’s going to happen.
She was jolted from her reverie by a close friend of hers. A pretty pink filly with azure eyes, sparkly red mane and an over the top way of speaking. She looked worried, probably because Skies was acting weirdly, the complete opposite of how she normally would. Her serious frown and refusal to participate in the conversations running across the group had them all looking at her in confusion. She shrugged.
“Sorry, I was just… thinking.”
A small, wiry colt with brown mane, orange coat and a whiplike mind tilted his head to the side.
“Thinking about what?”
“Stuff.” She answered evasively.
“What kind of stuff?”
She looked at the colt, her temper rising in hot bursts that she firmly quelled.
“Private matters that have nothing whatsoever to do with you.” She responded coldly.
Cowed, the colt backed down, looking at his hooves in a show of embarrassment. The other members of the group still chatting stopped and looked at Skies. Suddenly under the intense scrutiny of fifteen sets of eyes, Clear Skies huffed and her temper flared. Rather than risk confrontation, she stood up, swung her bags of her back, snapped open her wings and sprang into the air, leaving the group far behind her.
She chose a much more remote part of the schoolyard to sit in and waited. Her father was meant to be here at any minute now. In fact, he probably already was.
“Clear Skies, please report to the office immediately please.”
Letting her temper ebb away, Skies lifted off once more and flew towards the administration building of her little school.
Spitfire. Household name and Captain of the flight team the Wonderbolts. Coming in second only to a first class, express mailpony, Spitfire had flown more miles than virtually any other Pegasus in existence. She was hard on her team, she was loyal to her team and she looked after her team. She was tough, ruthless on the track and beloved as a bit of a party animal off duty. Her flight suit was specifically tailored to her. Leaving virtually nothing to the imagination, Spitfire’s flight suit was designed for manoeuvrability, style and creating the least amount of drag possible. It also helped her keep warm, and attracted a hell of a lot of stallions and quite a few mares.
Yes, Spitfire was quite the mare. A mare who had, after her unfortunate but mutual breakup with Firestreak, remained adamantly single. No foals, nothing to tie her down and nothing to hold her back.
Well, not counting the filly clinging to her left hind leg as though she was about to vanish into thin air.
Spitfire looked back and smiled at Clear Skies as the excited filly hugged it happily and laughed.
“Hello there little Skies! I didn’t know you were swinging by!”
Skies giggled, her worries pushed to one side for the moment.
Shaking the filly off of her leg, Spitfire turned around and embraced her properly, looking over her shoulder to her father with a smile. Soarin smiled back.
“Look how you’ve grown! Such a pretty young mare now aren’t we?”
Skies beamed proudly.
“Of course! Mother is beautiful too you know, so it’s only natural.”
Spitfire laughed. The other team members were poking their heads in now to see what the hullabaloo was about.
“No Skies, I’m afraid you take a little more after your father, goofball that he is.”
She giggled as Soarin put up a face of feigned injury.
“Spitfire! I’m not that bad!”
She giggled and shot him a disarming smile.
“Of course not Soarin! Don’t be silly.”
It was at this point Clear Skies spotted Fleetfoot and squealed in delight and ran to her, being caught up in the hooves of the laughing mare and hugged quite affectionately. Soarin smiled at the pair as they embraced, a faint thought echoing in the back of his head.
She could have been her mother had Skeleton not come in beforehoof.
He shook his head and put it out of his mind. He watched the pair talk quietly before Skies and Fleetfoot left the room in favour for a little privacy. He watched them go with a faint smile still on his face.
“So you want to know about your mum huh?”
Skies nodded earnestly, eager to learn what she could from the Wonderbolt she held in the highest esteem second only to her father. Fleetfoot pursed her lips.
“I’ll tell you what I can, but I’m afraid I didn’t know her until after your father started dating her, and even then it took time to coax her out.”
Clear Skies sat down and looked up at Fleetfoot in rapt attention as the swiftest of the Wonderbolts began telling the little filly the tale, or what she knew of it, of the nervous, fear driven mare Skeleton Grin.
"She was... very nervous at first. She was quite terrified, it seemed, that another mare was going to swoop down and snatch Soarin right out from under her hooves. She kept her eye mostly on me, since I, I will admit, had my eye on Soarin for some time. Even asked him out at practice once but he told me he wasn't interested. It was... Well, it hurt, but not as much as I thought it would. "
She coughed before clearing her throat and continuing.
"She was extremely affectionate towards him, and very, very jealous of anypony who spent time with him that showed any interest in him at all. The two very quickly became an item and Soarin quickly became tired of the paparazzi shooting pictures of him and her and trying to wrangle it into a scandal. Then your mother put those scary teeth of hers to work. For a while the pair went through a rough patch as the paparazzi pinned her as a madmare and a freak and Skeleton became a recluse, staying indoors and away from cameras. Soarin became adamant that she was not and Spitfire backed him up."
Fleetfoot smiled wryly at the expression of rapt attention she got from the filly before her.
Maybe foals wouldn't be so bad...
"She warned them that if they didn't stop making Skeleton out to be a freak or a bad pony she'd personally petition to the princess about having their organisation permanently disbanded and then made illegal. Nopony believed her of course. Then Skeleton came back out of hiding and she looked like thunder. She glared at Soarin when he tried to stop her and she gave those ponies a piece of her mind."
Fleetfoot shuddered at the memory, reliving it vividly. She had been there after all.
Bunch of nit picking, rumour spreading, flea bitten, no good, worthless....
"The insults... your mother has a very extensive vocabulary dearling, she's rather well spoken and can be very poetic when she's busy insulting somepony for all she's worth. She questioned their breeding, their legitimacy. She questioned whether or not they actually knew what they were really doing. She was very moving. Even the heartless paparazzi were in tears by the end of it. I remember one of them actually smashed his camera and publicly apologized to her as well, in front of all the others. She'd thanked him as gracefully as she could before walking up to Soarin, kissing him and saying they were a couple regardless what others thought. I don't think they bothered her after that. They still pester Soarin of course, but not when she's near."
"Sound like your mum to you dearling?"
Clear Skies made a curious sound in her throat.
"The last part... Well, no none of it did... She's always so calm and nice..."
Fleetfoot nodded with a smile.
"Yes she is. She's one of the nicest mares I know Skies. She just took a beating for her love of Soarin and her peculiar looks and she finally got sick of it and let it be known how she felt. It's been seven years and your father and her are still going on strong."
She smiled and ruffled the filly's mane before looking around. They were in her personal little area of the locker room and a letter sat on the table addressed, ironically, to the very mare she was talking about. She gave the letter to Skies and smiled.
"Here, give this to her for me okay? There's a good girl. We'll have to go out and have a girls day sometime hmm? Even tomboys like Icecream and movies right?"
Skies took the letter and nodded enthusiastically. Fleetfoot smiled.
"That's my girl."
The mood at the dinner table was sombre that night and they all felt it. Nevertheless, Pepper Pot asked, nay, begged her mother to tell them more of the story that night before bed. So, with a patient smile and the firm belief that they deserved to know and with her beloved Soarin by her side, not to mention Fleetfoot's letter waiting for her on the table, Skeleton Grin once more opened her heart to her children, regaling them with the second part of her tale. She had not plan on telling them about all of her scars, they were too numerous for that. But the major ones… that she could deal with.
“It was soon after I ran away from home at my parent’s insistence to protect me that I collected my next scar…”
Chapter three: Scarred
It must have been a month after the first scar when father told me to run away. Mother was there too, telling me to leave post haste. The villagers were coming for me, thinking me some sort of witch or something, blaming what was different for the troubles of the village. I was hard pressed to leave my mother and father behind, I still wonder if they’re still there sometimes… I consider sending a letter, but I can never remember the address anymore. It’s sad, but true.
I took a few things with me. A black cloak with hood from my mother, a black scarf from father. My eyes, I figured, would be okay until I could get a pair of dark tinted sunglasses. I still have all of those, they’re sitting up in my cupboard in fact. The cloak is really warm and the scarf is too.
I’d been wandering. In my travels, I came across one who glistened in the sunlight and whose steps shook the very dirt beneath his bladed hooves, but he payed me no heed. Doubtful it was that he could see me at all, having been trying to avoid detection the entire time. I might not be perfect at it, but I can blend in if the need arises. Maybe if I’d stuck with him, I wouldn’t have had these scars, or at least so many of them. He looked really, really scary though, so I couldn’t take it upon myself to approach him. I was still a young filly at the time anyway.
It had been thirteen days, four hours, fifty-eight minutes when I met her. She was a beautiful mare, and she took me in. She was a relaxing sort of blue shade with bright green eyes. I can’t remember her mane or anything, only those eyes. She lived in a little cottage with a thatched roof. She fed me, patched my clothing up from where I’d accidentally ripped it and such things. She was a very understanding of my… well, I guess I was very petulant back then. I was scared, alone and desperately wanted somepony with me. She was it.
She treated me like a daughter. She hugged me, fed me, tucked me into bed, held me when I cried. Things that any mother would do for their daughter. One day a trio of stallions came to call upon us and she came away from the door looking worried. I never found out what they spoke of that day. It was a dark say, clouds covered the skies when they left. It was son after that a fierce downpour hit the house. The roof would need rethatching the next day, but for that moment it kept us dry. It lasted for almost an hour before it finally calmed a little. She used to sit next to me on days like this and sing. She didn’t have a perfect voice, but she sounded wonderful to me. Often times I would fall asleep at her side, head resting on her side as I snored softly. She used to say I was quite cute and very beautiful. She was the only one since my parents to do so.
Chemise means so much to me and, even now, I still keep my memories of her in a special place in my heart. She never replaced my mother, but she was all I had for a long while. I thought I’d found somepony that I could spend the rest of my life, or at least until I found a good stallion, with. A motherly figure. Two months after the stallions had come to her door they came again. They spoke once more and she was pleading with them. I heard my name a few times in the argument but… Not much else made sense to me in my room. After they spoke she came up to my room and hugged me. I remember she was crying.
For a long time, I wondered what it was she did that made these stallions so adamant. They persistently came back in two month increments, each time leaving her crying. I started to wonder what it was they wanted and why they were here. I never found out what they wanted but…
They came back after eight months of continuous two month visits when she was asleep. They busted the door down and came after me. I didn’t understand what I’d done wrong. She tried to protect me but they hit her, hard. She was bleeding from a cut on her forehead, I remember it vividly. I tried to escape from them but they were too strong. One of them put a bag over my head and said something about me being payment for something overdue. She argued back that love potions don’t make true love and she’d warned him of that. They told her to shutup and I heard a thump and a whimper of pain. I tried to fight back again but…
Well, they took me away from her. To some place in a big town. They hit me a lot and told me to be quiet whenever I cried. I missed my mother, my father. I missed Chemise as well. I was taken in front of some big stallions and they were looking at me hungrily. The one in the big chair was glaring at me as though I’d done something to offend him. So I tried to be as small and innocuous as possible. I remember he said I looked cute and he commented on what I looked like. I don’t think he was talking about me in a nice way though.
He asked the stallions if I had all my teeth and they shrugged, then pulled my lips back to see if I did and… well. Then they were all freaked out because of them. They cast me out as a freak and… Well, the town didn’t appreciate having a freak with them. They attacked me with lots of things. Some of them threw things at me even. But not many of them actually hit me. Then…
I was hit by, of all things, an arrow. One of the guards of the little town drew his bow on me and hit me with an arrow. It pierced my side and nicked my lung. I would have died had it not been for a pony who took pity on me. He called me little ghost and he took me in, hid me and healed my lung. He told me his name was Splintered Dreams and he told me to remember the name well. I… I’m not sure why.
He sent me on my way after a good while. It was only then I realised he… I was being kept in the mayor’s mansion of the town. The mayor had taken pity on me, taken me in and cared for me. It’s because of him that I’m alive. I remember the only thing I thought was memorable was the mask he wore. It was in the shape of a pony’s skull and was painted as though he’d splattered it with blood. He said it was a family tradition and that he didn’t like it either.
“Either way, without him I would have died.”
Skeleton’s eyes were downcast as she spoke and Soarin had his wing across her back. The three fillies looked at their mother in rapt attention. She leaned against him quite heavily, using him as a support. Ghost Charm tentatively raised her hoof.
Skeleton looked over at Charm and smiled tiredly.
“Um… do you remember where the nice mare that took care of you lives?”
Skeleton’s smile faded as she thought about that before sighing softly.
“I’m not sure I know the address, but… given time I think maybe I could find her again, yes. Chemise… I would dearly like to see Chemise again. Perhaps one day I will go to find her. And my parents, unless they moved away.”
Pepper Pot was quiet, as was Clear Skies. Skies almost looked like she was going to be sick, although from the description of her mother’s saviour’s mask or the actions taken, Skeleton wasn’t sure.
“Skies? Are you okay?”
The filly was startled out of her reverie and nodded quickly, paling even further than she already was.
“Y..Yes mama, I’ll be fine I just… There’s a lot to think about I guess…”
Skeleton nodded, still concerned.
“Alright, but I’m still here if you need me.”
Skies nodded before burrowing into her pillow. Pepper Pot hesitated.
“Mummy? Was the nice stallion really a mayor?”
“I believe so Pepper. Why else would he be in the mayor’s mansion?”
“I don’t know… I was just curious. What did he look like?”
Skeleton smiled and she thought back for a while before answering.
“He had very deep blue coat and a royal purple mane. He was a unicorn and had eyes stranger even than mine. They never seemed to be able to decide upon a colour to be, always changing. It was mesmerising to look at and really quite beautiful. They were always twinkling, but there was something about them that scared me a little at the same time. It was… disconcerting. Confusing.”
Pepper Pot, seemingly satisfied with this answer, burrowed down under her blankets. Skeleton’s smile faded again, replaced with an expression of weary fatigue.
“Goodnight my little fillies. Maybe I’ll tell you more tomorrow. For now, I’m very tired.”
The three fillies responded with ‘goodnights’ of their own followed by ‘love you’ from each of them before Soarin ushered Skeleton away to their room. Ever so gently, he nudged her onto the bed and a soft, affectionate and amused hum emanated from her.
Soarin nodded gravely before looking at her side, brushing her gently with a hoof. Under his hoof lay a large cross shaped scar. Soarin nuzzled it gently before laying a caring kiss on the mark.
“Why is it so big if it’s just from an arrow my love?”
Skeleton winced and Soarin pulled away, afraid he’d hurt her.
“Well… He had to dig out anything that’d stuck in… and he… well, I didn’t tell the foals but the arrow was barbed. Designed to do more damage coming out than going in.”
Soarin winced and nuzzled her again.
Skeleton smiled and nuzzled her husband back reassuringly.
“Don’t be. After all, it wasn’t you who did it was it?”
Soarin shook his head sheepishly before cuddling up to her happily.
“Yes well… perhaps I will have to visit this uh… Splintered Dreams? And thank him for all of his help. And Chemise as well.”
Skeleton smiled and giggled tiredly, resting her head under his.
“Yes dear, and when you do make sure to tell me you’re visiting okay? I want to come too.”
Chapter four: Ghost Charm.
Ghost Charm, some would say, was a fussy filly given to temper tantrums and the use of quiet often potentially lethal feminine charm.
She wouldn’t put it like that. Whilst many would use the words ‘ruthless’, ‘manipulative’, ‘dangerous’ or ‘bad news’, Ghost would use things such as ‘Ladylike’, ‘Conscientious’, ‘Delegating’, ‘disarming’ and ‘graceful’. It’s true. Every word of it. From both sides.
Ghost Charm was a complicated little filly. She had a small group of friends and they deferred to her as the ultimate leader. She decided what the group did for fun, what they did in class, how they did things.
What Ghost charm said was law in her little circle.
Of course, outside that little tightly knit circle of friends, other foals looked on her with a mixture of awe, adoration and absolute terror. She had a very piercing voice and always seemed to know precisely what to say to make one feel an inch tall, weak or to leave you mentally broken. She conducted herself with just as much grace and poise as her mother, although her tendency to look down her nose at others had gotten her in trouble more than once, often earning scathing remarks from her mother. She’d been working on it though, and she was getting a little better.
She had a strict schedule every morning. She got up, showered, brushed and shined her coat, attempted vainly to brush her unruly mane and tail into a semblance of elegance, made sure there was nothing in her schoolbags as a prank from her elder sister, had a breakfast of muesli, milk and a mixture of fruits to an exact count, then took her lunch from her mother, kissed her goodbye and left the house with Clear Skies at seven fifteen sharp. She arrived at school, if Clear Skies didn’t deviate from the optimal path, at seven thirty-one on the dot. That left her with twenty-nine minutes to visit the library and prepare all of her things for the day.
One might almost say she’s as meticulous as Twilight Sparkle.
However she didn’t always get to follow this schedule, and she had no choice but to sigh and go with Clear Skies. Sometimes she thought have Clear Skies as an older sister was a bore, a drag or worse, but as much as she’d scathingly deny it, she loved her sisters, both of them, dearly.
This day, it seemed, was a day when the schedule just seemed so… pointless. She rose at her customary time, sure, but she didn’t have the will to get up to get ready. So she lay in bed and thought back on her mother’s story from the previous night. Ghost Charm had never had a nightmare before, and she hadn’t quite started now, although her dream had been disturbing.
Her mind clung to the idea of somepony going around wearing a mask made of bone and she felt her stomach do a flip.
What if it wasn’t paint? What if it really was..?
Her face went pale and she felt nauseous.
Maybe… maybe a shower will help me…
Getting out of bed with a moment to steady herself after a headspin, Ghost staggered to the bathroom and ran a hot shower. Stepping into it quickly, she sighed as the hot water ran down her back and through her mane. There weren’t many places Ghost believed she could relax, but this was definitely one of them. But for all the time she spent in there, she didn’t feel any better when she left. If anything, her queasy and nauseous stomach got worse. Her face was pale when she knocked on the door to her parent’s room. There was a long pause and Ghost was about to knock again when she heard her mother call out “Come in.”
Ghost pushed the door open and poked her head in. Skeleton smiled at her.
“Ghost? What is it dear?”
Ghost blinked once, trying to stave off a headache now coming on.
“Mummy, I don’t feel too good…”
Skeleton frowned. Another peculiar trait about Ghost was the fact she never, ever admitted to being sick. Unless Skeleton told her so, Ghost Charm would force herself to school and back each day even if she’d lost a limb or developed a debilitating disease. She was that stubborn about going to school she refused to acknowledge the fact that she was sick. The fact that she was now coming to her mother’s door and admitting to not feeling well would have to mean it was pretty serious.
Ghost nodded slowly.
“I…I think so…”
“Okay dear, You go back to bed, I’ll let the school know you won’t be there okay?”
Ghost nodded and went immediately back to bed like her mother had asked of her. Her mother was her idol, her role model and her superhero. Needless to say, Ghost did anything her mother asked her to. In this case, it seemed like an excellent idea anyway. She fell into a quasi-sleep state almost as soon as her head hit the pillows, but she couldn’t really sleep. Bemused, she watched as her sisters woke up and left the room. She heard their voices; she heard her name, then her mother’s voice saying something. It went past in a blur before she finally fell into a deep sleep.
It’s a curious thing truly, the story of my mummy.
I always saw her as so graceful, so elegant, so poised, so perfect. Nopony was more perfect than my mummy, and I wanted to be just like her. I still want to be just like her but these stories… It’s strange. Mummy’s always been there, calmly fixing everything. It didn’t matter what went wrong, she seemed to know exactly how to fix it. When she couldn’t, daddy could. I knew mummy had scars, but I never really thought about how they got there in the first place. Mummy thinks that we’re old enough to ask, so we’re old enough to know.
But… as I look up at her with her wing hugging me so close, I can’t help but feel a little sad for mummy. She hides so much, but shows so much more. I think she’s still hurting, deep down inside and that’s not nice. Her memories are full of pain and it hurts her to think about them. Daddy is helping her I think but…
I still can’t believe mummy wasn’t always so graceful and so ladylike. To think that she was scared and stuff? I’ve never seen mummy scared before. Not for real. She pretends when Skies tries to scare her, but she’s never really scared. I think.
I wanna help her, but what can I do? Despite what I want to do, I’m just a filly, how could I help? Is it even my place? Why is everything so complicated… I hate this. But… at the same time… I’m so… I want to know more. Maybe… Maybe I should talk to Pepper and Skies about it. I’m sure that, if I explain to them about it, they’ll come around. If I can get Skies to sit down for ten seconds without flying off, or Pepper to not look at me as though I’m doing something forbidden. If I can get them to agree, maybe We can stop mummy from telling us any more and stop her hurting herself.
It’s worth a shot right? I mean…
Ghost jolted out of her reverie. It had been a day since she’d been too sick to attend school. The sickness had passed almost as quickly as it’d come on, although her mother had babied her outrageously through the entire time. She’d been thinking all lesson and, since it was the last period of the day, hadn’t even noticed that school had ended. The classroom was empty except for herself and the teacher. A large, burly Pegasus stallion, Chalk Duster was, true to his name, chalky white with a brown mane and tail. Despite his size, he was about as intimidating as a box full of affectionate puppies and was prone to worrying about his students incessantly. He did however have a very large, very commanding voice when he wanted to use it.
This was one of those times.
“I.. I’m sorry sir, I guess I just… I was thinking and stuff…”
A look of relief flooded the big stallion’s rugged features.
“Well, that’s certainly a relief. I thought you might have been hurt or sick.”
She forced a smile at him and shook her head.
“No sir. I was sick yesterday, but I’m alright now, I promise.”
He smiled back at her. Although he wouldn’t admit it to anypony, Ghost was one of his favourite students. Eager and willing to learn and she did make the other ponies work, whether they wanted to or not.
“I hope so. Can’t have you falling ill on me in my class can I? Terrible for the reputation your understand.”
She giggled and nodded.
“Yes sir, I understand. I really must be getting home now though, thank you.”
His smile softened and he nodded.
“Of course. Do tell your mother I said hello okay?”
“Will do sir.”
Ghost was still lost in thought, even on the walk home from school. On her left was Pepper Pot, on her right was the prancing Clear Skies. Ghost was considering how exactly to broach the subject of their mother’s apparent discomfort and pain with her sisters and it wasn’t going incredibly well.
What am I meant to say? ‘Hey girls, I think these stories are hurting mummy maybe we should ask her to stop?’ I mean, look at Skies!
She shot her prancing sister a look that went unheeded, or unseen.
She doesn’t look like she has a care in the world, let alone caring about mummy’s disposition. And as for Pepper…
She glanced at Pepper Pot who was in the process of stretching out her wings.
Well, She’s the one who asked the question in the first place. Whyever would she want mummy to stop? It’s hard to tell what she’s thinking.
She was contemplating some way to bring it up when a shadow passed over the trio and Soarin, Spitfire and Fleetfoot landed a short way in front of them, all smiling with wings open. Clear Skies practically squealed and bounded forward, throwing herself at Soarin. Ghost followed at a much more demure pace and Pepper Pot simply continued walking, unfazed, only to be stopped by Fleetfoot. Ghost found herself swept up into the arms of the ever playful Spitfire and hugged fiercely.
“Ooh look at you! So grown up now!”
She couldn’t help but giggle at the captain’s antics before finally relenting and hugging her back. Fleetfoot, it seemed, was having much more trouble with Pepper than the others were and eventually Pepper ignored her and continued on her way. Soarin sighed and whispered to Skies, who nodded and flew happily over to Fleetfoot. Ghost watched as her father followed her youngest sister, trying to talk to her and frowned.
Maybe she’s more affected than I thought…
Reaching home with three Wonderbolts early from practice rather than one later surprised Skeleton Grin, but she took it all in stride, greeting Spitfire and Fleetfoot with hugs and pecks to the cheek. However her attempt to gracefully greet her husband was met without success as he swept her up into a lingering kiss, making Spitfire laugh out loud and Fleetfoot look away. After slugging her spouse on the shoulder playfully, Skeleton insisted the pair of mares stay for dinner. Spitfire quite readily accepted, as though this was her plan the whole time. Fleetfoot made a few excuses, but finally gave in when Skeleton flat out told her she was staying for dinner and that was that.
Ghost was preoccupied the entire time. She was vaguely aware of Pepper Pot reading the afternoon away and Skies doing stuff with both of the female Wonderbolts. It took her a moment, therefore, to realise her father had approached her with a concerned look on his face.
“Ghost? Are you alright? You look a little glum.”
She almost automatically tried to smooth her mane down. It was something she’d developed over the years, almost like a nervous tick. Whenever she was nervous, stressed or something like that, her hoof seemed to automatically seek out her mane. It had something to do with hiding her face.
“I’m okay daddy… I just…”
She stopped and Soarin’s concern grew. Soarin was a very open stallion when it came to emotions. They showed clearly across his face, like somepony had written his current emotion across his forehead with a sharpie or some other form of permanent marker. This was no different.
“Just what Ghost?”
“I… I’m worried… about mummy.”
Soarin felt a frown crease his forehead.
“Worried? What for?”
Ghost sniffed back tears that threatened to pour down her face.
“It’s just… this story, or stories, she’s telling us are hurting her… I can see it every time she talks about her scars. And every time she tells more, she hurts more. I… I don’t know if I can take much more of it…”
Soarin’s brows rose in surprise. He knew that Ghost wasn’t stupid, far from it. But being this observant and clever, especially considering Skeleton’s ability to hide her emotions when she wasn’t tired was extraordinary to him. He smiled.
“I’ll tell you what Ghost. I’ll talk to her about it okay? I’ll see if I can get her to stop so she stops hurting herself and everypony else around her okay? Because it’s worrying me too.”
That night, when bed time came around, Skeleton, Soarin, Spitfire and Fleetfoot, who had decided to stay the night in the guest room, all crowded into the carefully sectioned off bedroom for the three fillies a Skeleton once again resumed her tale, giving skipped the previous night in favour of getting Ghost Charm to sleep as soon as possible.
“What you have to understand is that many of my scars are just from a pony throwing something at me. Be it rocks or other things. But… this one in particular… It’s something Soarin has seen and asked about before, but I’m not sure many others have.”
Chapter five: Judgement
I find lots of ponies are afraid of the dark. Afraid of what they cannot see, what they cannot explain. I’ve found that many are afraid of change, any change. Even if it’s for the better, they still fear it. It is the nature of those with small minds I suppose, to fear that which is new. I went to many places in my youth, all over Equestria. I’ve even seen the sea. Few ponies ever get to see it. It is a wondrous place, so vast and uncaring. It doesn’t care if you’re pony, dragon or otherwise. For a while I stayed on an island off the western coast. It was a small island, barely even large enough for me. Despite what’s been speculated, Sea ponies do exist. They took pity on me, I think. Unfortunately, I don’t like seaweed, which is what they were giving me to eat, being what they ate. I thanked them anyway. They deserved my thanks.
But after a time, it was too much. I thanked them for all their help and I left. There wasn’t anything but seaweed, and even then I may as well have been taking all their food. I flew for a long time, I remember. I passed by a few towns, stealing what I needed to survive. I always felt bad about it afterwards, but I had to do something to survive.
But after a while, even the most wayward adventurer needs to find a place to rest for a while. I found an old, abandoned building on the outskirts of town. It was pleasant enough, and it had an overgrown flowergarden. Whole vines of thorny roses of different colours. Red and white were most prominent . But as I got closer to the house, I found a small area completely dedicated to my favourite rose. The black ones. There were quite a few to be truthful. It didn’t take me long to ingratiate myself in the place.
It was quite beautiful to be honest. Heavy beams of oak I think. Shingled roof, wooden floors. It looked like it’d been abandoned for decades. I guess I figured I could stay there. Of course, eventually I needed supplies. Roses are pretty things, but I never enjoyed eating them. Some ponies think them a delicacy, but I can’t stand the taste. The small town the cottage was on the outskirts of was a quaint sort of place. Lots of ponies. Many of them nice. Most of them accepted me. I thought I’d finally found a place to stay. I stayed in that cottage for a long time. I sold my roses to make money. This was about the time I found out about Soarin. He was about my age still, but he’d filled out. He was very handsome and very skilled. He was standing next to Spitfire when I saw him first. I asked one of the older mares who it was, because I told her he looked familiar and she told me. I knew they were the Wonderbolts, to be sure. But I didn’t know who he was. It had been several years after all.
I developed a crush on him. Every chance I got, I bought a newspaper just to see what news there was of Soarin. The village thought it amusing, and some of the ponies encouraged me to seek you out. Of course, there were some who laughed at me. But that is also in the nature of ponies. To find such things silly and amusing. Magazines had a curious way of ending up on my doorstep without my purchasing them sometimes and nopony knew anything about it. Or, so they said. I knew it was a lie, but they seemed happy, so why would I bother them about it?
Then a stranger came to town.
He claimed he was a doctor, come searching for a place to settle down He had a big bag full of things. A stethoscope, tweasers. The unicorn honestly seemed like a doctor. He had all the relevant knowledge, everything. But..
He took a very special interest in me. He was constantly trying to talk to me, catch me alone. He thought me as fascinating. I think it might have been my more… unique? Physiology. Either way. He kept asking me questions and such things, How my teeth got so sharp, why, what I ate, why my eyes seem to glow in the dark, why my wings were silent. I didn’t know how to answer him. I answered as best I could but… Well, He didn’t seem satisfied with the answers. I tried to tell him I was merely born that way, I didn’t know why. He asked me if any other members of my family were like me. I told him the truth. Nopony that I know of in my family was like me in any way. Is like me in any way. That didn’t seem to be enough for him.
I was at home on day. It was a bright day. He came knocking at my door. He wanted answers, and he was willing to get violent to get them. He forced himself in and cornered me in the kitchen. I was scared of him. I tried to tell him again and again that I didn’t know the answers to his questions. I really did. But he didn’t seem to believe me. He hit me a lot. Every time I did something he didn’t like, or said something he didn’t like, he’d hit me pretty hard. I remember having cuts on my face and bruises on my chest and forelegs. I kept telling him I didn’t have the answer to his questions, and still he refused to listen to me, telling me I must be lying. I got really scared. His eyes were deranged, crazy. I don’t think he was all there. I tried to reason with him, tried to make him see sense. He wouldn’t though. I… I didn’t know what else to do. I reached for one of my kitchen knives to defend myself with. He batted it out of my hoof and hit me, hard. I hit the floor and fell into unconsciousness.
When I woke up… I’m not sure if I should tell you girls any of this...
“It could give you nightmares. I’m sorry, but… I don’t think…”
Spitfire, sitting in rapt attention, groaned.
“Awwwww, come on!”
Fleetfoot clouted her on the back of the head and Spitfire flinched.
“Ow! Hey, that hurt!”
“Be quiet. It’s Skeleton’s house, she decides what happens.”
Spitfire glared at Fleetfoot and just as she opened her mouth to speak, Fleetfoot silenced her with a hoof.
“No Spitfire, you can’t order me around here, you’re team captain, not my superior.”
Pouting, Spitfire clammed up and frowned petulantly. Skeleton giggled softly at her antics and Soarin nudged his wife gently.
“It’s alright, they’re asleep anyway. Come on dear, let us leave them to sleep.”
Skeleton nodded slowly and followed Soarin out of the room, tailed by the petulant Spitfire and rather smug Fleetfoot. As the two reached the ‘guest’ room of the house, the third bedroom on the second floor, also rather large with a double bed, Fleetfoot dragged Spitfire in by her ear after a forced goodnight. Soarin snuffed a laugh, leading Skeleton back into their room where he closed the door and turned back to her.
“Alright, bed then?”
She looked at the floor nervously.
One brow raised.
She gestured him to follow her and, curious, he did so. She rolled out onto the bed onto her back and, hind legs firmly crossed, rubbed at the long, jagged scar running up her stomach to her sternum. Soarin felt his heart drop. He’d seen the scar before, obviously, but had never considered the implications of nor the source of the terrible thing. He gulped and shook his head.
“Skeleton, you don’t have to tell me, it’s a-“
“No, I really do Soarin…”
He squirmed uncomfortably.
“No buts Soarin… but I couldn’t tell this part to the girls… Come here please…”
Hesitantly, but not wanting to let her down or disappoint her, he climbed onto the bed after her. The cloud, normally so soft, warm and beautiful hardly felt adequate now, like something carved from raw stone itself. He sat beside her and she took one of his hooves and brought it to the scar.
“He… He kept me like a lab rat for three months…”
I didn’t like him. He was rude, bossy and seemed to get increasingly more insane every time I saw him. Like, incrementally. Each day more insane than the last. At first he seemed happy merely taking blood samples. Although these often hurt, I could bear them. He kept me in a tiny little cage, big enough for me to half stand in, but small enough that I couldn’t quite stand or lie all the way down. It was… torturous. He didn’t seem to care. The food he gave me wasn’t always fresh, or edible. I eventually learned to eat it anyway or starve.
Then he wanted feathers. For a while I felt I had no choice, giving them to him freely. He wanted to know why my feathers were as they were, what purpose they served. He seemed to think he could find this out by studying my feathers. Through use of magic and machines, he tried to puzzle out the reason I could fly silently. For almost two months he ended up throwing a fit and normally throwing something at me. Never anything large or harmful, but he threw things all the same.
On the third month… He stopped coming.
I waited, I slowly began to starve. I have felt the true power of hunger. I know what it’ll make you do. I held off eating myself. I gave it very serious thought, but I decide I’d rather rot than turn into a monster like that. Eventually he came down. He came down with a tray of food I snapped up very quickly. I wasn’t going to let him take it back, I wasn’t going to let it get cold. No, I wanted that food more than anything at that point in time. It was a novel experience. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so relieved than when he brought that food to me.
But… He had decided that there was only one way to figure out why I was how I was.
He wanted genetic material.
That is to say, he wanted parts of me. Tissue from my stomach, lungs, heart, brain, everything. No organ was going to be spared. He was going to study it closely, hoping it held answers. For a long while he deliberated upon whether or not he should take my wings as well and when to do it. He eventually decided that he’d take them along with my teeth after he’d killed me, so I wouldn’t struggle. He was already certain I wouldn’t.
He strapped me to a big table and brought his bag over to it. I remember trying to get out, but to no avail. Eventually he finished bringing out what he wanted and…
I didn’t know they made scalpels that big.
Or maybe it was all in my mind, I’m not sure. But it was a big scalpel. I screamed as he cut into me, I felt the tip of the blade slicing through my flesh, the blood welling up and over my stomach and up to my chest. I felt the blade slice across the bones making up my ribcage as he finished. I never let him go any further.
Have… Have you ever felt fight or flight reflexes? The adrenaline rush that clouds your mind and makes you do whatever is needed to survive, to save yourself regardless of the consequences? I have. This was the first time I’d felt it though. He came up to cut through my ribcage with a bone saw and… He got too close to my head…
Skeleton sniffled, unable to look at her partner anymore, whilst Soarin stared at her in absolute shock.
“I… I didn’t even realise I was doing it until I heard his screams. The taste was horrible, metallic. I killed him Soarin… I killed him…”
She rolled onto her side, back to Soarin. In her head replayed that moment, followed by the horrifying fear that Soarin was about to leave her forever, to see her as a monster, a freak.
“After that… I gnawed through my restraints, but that wouldn’t help. I couldn’t move or I’d die. I was resigned to the idea that I was about to perish when… When the unicorn from before, Splintered Dreams, came in. He told me I’d be okay and… I blacked out. When I came to I had this scar, and nothing more.”
Tears were openly streaming down her face now and she curled up tightly.
“I left as soon as I could. The doctor’s body was gone and I didn’t think to where. I couldn’t stay there, too many bad memories. Please… Don’t hate me Soarin.”
Soarin just stared at her in abject shock and horror, as she saw when she glanced back at him. She winced and looked away, eyes downcast.
There was a moment of silence, void of all movement. Then a pair of hooves wrapped their way around the grieving mare’s midsection and drew her close to a warm, blue body.
“My love…” Soarin whispered gently, “I could never hate you. You did what you had to. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t nice. But he was going to kill you, and self defence is not a crime in Equestria.”
He nuzzled her gently.
“But I would like to have a talk with this Splintered Dreams fellow. Sounds like he’s been watching you for a long time. I have to thank him for that. Because without him, I never would have met you.”
Skeleton choked back tears, quivering in the arms of her love.
“Y…You know what kept me going… all that time in that cage?”
She turned around in his grasp and nuzzled under his chin adoringly.
“Thoughts of you, flying through the air and, maybe one day, flying with me.”
I did warn you all that this wasn't a pretty fairy story right? Because it's not. I hope I'm not freaking out too many of you. On the real note, I'm sorry this took a while. It's slow going now that my work is finally picking up. I will update when I can okay? Thanks for understanding.
Chapter six: Soarin
A household name throughout Equestria, Soarin joined the esteemed Wonderbolts when he was just twelve years old. He was fast friends with all of the crew, but most notably with Firestreak, his partner in crime, Fleetfoot, his wing-mare and long time rival on the race track, and Spitfire, captain and lovable party animal of the Wonderbolts. Soarin was a simple soul really, enjoying flight, the feeling of wind between his feathers, ice cream and a good, piping hot apple pie. He loved his family with all of his heart and couldn’t bear to see them unhappy. Sure, he argued with his wife now and again, but he always apologised as soon as he’d calmed down, normally with treats. It was very rare now. Most of his time was spent with the Wonderbolts, training and practicing for the next show or race but he often tried to finish early, or get permission from Skeleton to take Clear Skies out of school to hang out with his teammates and himself.
Today however… Today was special.
Today he left Cloudsdale altogether.
Using the excuse of going somewhere with the team, Soarin left Cloudsdale with Firestreak, Spitfire and Fleetfoot in tow. The team captain had told him he couldn’t simply lie to his spouse, regardless the reason and had demanded to be taken along. Faced with no other choice, Soarin had agreed and now had to put up with the oppressive silence between Firestreak and Spitfire. This silence was caused by their breakup which had been several years back now. They still refused to talk to each other. They’d claimed again and again that the breakup was mutual, and for once Soarin was inclined to scoff at them and ask why they never spoke anymore. But his sense of propriety, rare that it was to kick in, stopped him from doing so. It took him a moment to realise Fleetfoot had asked him something.
“What? I didn’t hear you!”
He looked over at the blue mare as she repeated her question.
“Do you even know where you’re going?”
“Not really! But Skeleton said north, close to the mountains! And I don’t plan on letting her down!”
Fleetfoot seemed satisfied with the answer and fell silent again, leaving Soarin alone to his thoughts. Sometimes he wished somepony would talk, just to distract him. The nightmarish quality to the tale his wife had sprung upon him repeated themselves in his mind, images and envisioned thoughts so vivid they might have been memories showed, played and replayed in his head over and over again. The doctor that had meant to kill her, to harvest her genetic material in his mind had no face, but still managed to laugh like a mad pony.
If he had to be honest with himself, the tale terrified him.
He hadn’t wanted to say anything about his fears. He’d brought up the problem Ghost was having and Skeleton had smiled wanly and told him not to worry, that it was making her feel better having it off her chest. Soarin had tried to argue with her, but to no avail. She put down everything he said and had eventually sent him off to work. The idea that somepony had actually willingly tried to kill his supposedly harmless wife chilled him. The fact that she’d killed him in turn was even worse. He felt as though he had a box in his mind labelled ‘SKELETON GRIN’, with everything he knew about her, only to have it tipped upside down and be infested with hidden spiders, venomous, dangerous and powerful. He had no idea what he’d do about that yet. But he tried to push all of it aside to focus on what he was doing.
It was mid afternoon when the quartet hit a small town at the foot of the Godsreach mountains. It was a dreary town, with stately ponies going about in a stately manner no doubt for stately sort of business. Soarin and his friends landed on the outskirts of the town and Soarin eyed it warily.
“Alright, this looks like the place. Few things I need to tell you before we go in though.”
Turning to face the other three Wonderbolts out of uniform, like himself, he gave them a basic run down of what happened to Skeleton when she was here. The grim looks at the end told him all he needed to know and he nodded.
“Let’s go then. We’ll find her parents and talk to them.”
It took the four pegasi almost an hour to locate the ponies they were after. A white Unicorn stallion with tired, haunted blue eyes and a sickly cast to his face sporting a grey mane reminiscent to Skeleton’s and a Pegasus mare who was meticulously clean and tidy with a grey cast to her also white coat and a rich mauve mane. Her eyes shared the haunted look to them the stallion’s did. They sat now outside the pair’s house, a shambled, decrepit old thing that looked to be on its last legs. There were streaks of silvery white through the stallion’s mane. Soarin smiled at the pair.
“Uh, Good afternoon.”
The stallion’s smile seemed a little forced, and it probably was, but his wife’s smile was genuine.
“Hello dears” She said warmly in response, “How can we help you today?”
Soarin found himself liking this mare immediately, and by the relaxing of the stony looks from his companions, he could tell they did too.
“I’m here to ask after somepony. I have it on good authority you’d know about them.”
The stallion spoke this time, his voice tired and stressed.
“We’ll help how we can. Uh, if you don’t mind my asking, who are you?”
Soarin started. He was so used to being instantly recognised he’d forgotten he didn’t have his uniform on.
“Oh! Of course. My name is Soarin.”
He gestured to the others in turn.
“This is Spitfire, Fleetfoot and Firestreak.”
The old stallion’s eyes widened.
“As in, Wonderbolt Soarin, Fleetfoot, Spitfire and..?”
“The very same.”
The stallion looked to be in awe and his wife giggled softly.
“He’s a big fan you know. It’s a pleasure meeting you all. I’m Mirror Image. My awestruck lover here is Beat Heart.”
The stallion nodded dumbly, then finally found his voice.
“I… It’s an honour to meet you and all but… Why are four of the Wonderbolts here?”
“Well, it has to do with us asking after somepony.”
“I… don’t know how much help we’ll be, but we can try.”
“Oh, I have it on good authority you know of them.”
Mirror and Beat actually looked concerned for a moment before smiling hesitantly.
“Uh, okay… Who is it?”
Soarin looked over to Firestreak who procured an old newspaper out of a bag across his back and gave it to Soarin, who then put it face up on the ground before the couple. It was a copy of the Cloudsdale Times newspaper and, on the front page, was a colour image of Skeleton Grin veiled in a wedding gown of purest white.
“This mare. Skeleton Grin. Are you her parents?”
The pair stared at the image for a long while. Her father made a strangled sound when he saw the text blanked out.
“My daughter… How… She got married?”
Soarin nodded, unseen by either of the gobsmacked ponies.
“Yes sir, she did.”
“To who?” Asked Mirror, who looked close to tears.
Soarin sat down and took the paper away from them. The pair stared at him and he smiled hesitantly.
“It’s not just marriage. You’ve been made grandparents as well. Three young fillies, in fact.”
That did it for Mirror, who broke down into tears, hanging off of her partner. Beat stared at Soarin.
Soarin nodded, the hesitant smile on his face becoming even more so.
“And… well, I guess I’m not perfect but…”
Beat looked at the Wonderbolt sharply and Soarin flinched.
“I’m certainly hoping I can impress you… father.”
Both of the older ponies froze, staring at Soarin in utter disbelief. Mirror Image was the first to speak, eyes wide.
“Y… My little girl married…”
“A Wonderbolt, yeah. I’d have visited earlier but… well, she didn’t talk about her past much.”
The silence grew. The sheer length of time that it was silent was intimidating. It was almost as though he’d said something wrong. Then all at once, Mirror Image flew forwards and hugged him tightly, surprising Soarin and Beat. She buried her crying eyes into his chest as Beat came forward and, rather tentatively, hugged him too. Soarin, now being hugged by two ponies he never thought he’d meet, rather hesitantly hugged the pair back as best he could whilst Spitfire and Fleetfoot were near brought to tears in the background and Firestreak feigned ignorance.
This was turning out to be a half decent day.
As it turned out, Beat Heart was a surgeon. His parents were more musically inclined, but they had no problem with their son going into medicine. His cutie mark, a scalpel and a stethoscope, was very boring really. But his talk of business, much to his amusement, sent the four Wonderbolts scurrying in favour of anything at all to do. Even washing a toilet with a toothbrush would be easier than trying not to keel over in a dead faint at his casual way of discussing things that no living pony should really know about. He had a matter of fact tone to his voice and didn’t like beating around the bush. However it was clear also that he was very excited that he had Wonderbolts in his home, if one knew where to look. His eyes had lost the haunted look from before and instead glittered with excitement and mirth at the fleeing Wonderbolts as he laughed.
His wife, Mirror Image, seemed to enjoy cooking.
Her customary place in the house generally ended up being the kitchen as she cooked something or other, even if only for the joy of doing so. She didn’t have a job, saying that Beat made enough money for the both of them to live comfortably off of. She was an excellent cook and Soarin was very partial to her cookies, of which she had many. She was very motherly and had a tendency to coddle all of the Wonderbolts, who loved her immediately. It was soon after the introduction all of the ponies sat in the small, dilapidated living room. Soarin coughed once to gain everypony’s attention before addressing the pair.
“Mirror, Beat. Thank you for your hospitality, it’s been wonderful. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to ask you something.”
“Of course dear” responded Mirror Image almost automatically, “Anything we can do to help.”
He smiled warmly at her.
“Thank you. I’d like you to come to Cloudsdale.”
The pair stopped in their tracks and looked at each other.
“Well… You see Soarin…”
“Please!” interjected the blue stallion before they could continue, “Skeleton needs to see you two. Let her know you’re still here. It’d mean the world to me. To us. And you’ll get to see our daughters. Please, it’d mean the world to us.”
The couple looked at each other for a little longer before sighing and looking at Soarin.
“Honey! Set the table for two more, we have guests.”
Skeleton sighed at the sound of his voice and looked at the large salad bowl in the middle of the table. Her and the foals had just sat down when his voice came through the house. She smiled at the fillies.
“Wait here okay? I need to have a word with your father.”
She got up and walked purposefully towards the front door, talking as she did so.
“Soarin, you need to start giving me warning before you simply go ahead and bring ponies over! I can’t always accommodate more than…”
Her words petered out and she stared, wide eyed, at the ponies before her. Two ponies she never thought she’d ever see again.
Skeleton had never felt s surprised as she did that night. Despite her surprise however, she politely asked her parents to go meet the fillies and stay with them at the table before turning to Soarin, waiting for the pair to leave the room and yelling at him. Loudly. She yelled at him about a lot of things. Lying to her was predominant. He coolly countered that with the fact that Spitfire, Firestreak and Fleetfoot had gone with him. Still she yelled. She ranted at him, raved and at one point almost started hitting him. Then she stopped, breathing heavily and turned her back on him. Smiling, he enfolded her in a hug from behind.
“Now you’re not really angry with me are you?”
“I’m trying to be…” She grumbled in reply.
“But you’re not are you?” He said back softly, nuzzling her ear gently. She sighed heavily.
“No, I guess not… But you could have told me. I could have at least looked presentable.”
“Darling, you’re always presentable.”
She giggled softly and a sly little smile crossed her face.
“I’ll remember that next time you decide to drag me out of bed in the morning.”
He coughed uncomfortably and was thankful she couldn’t see him blush.
They spoke long into the night. Skeleton, Soarin, Mirror and Beat. They spoke about many things. Mostly, Mirror gushed about how happy she was her little filly grew up so beautiful and married a Wonderbolt. Beat was equally proud of her, but he didn’t gush nearly so much about it. Then, all of a sudden, it was the fillies’ bed time and Skeleton excused herself to give them the next part of the tale, this time one that wasn’t so nightmare inducing. They seemed to be holding up, probably mostly because of the amount of horror tales their mother had told them, but she was still worried. Soon after, Mirror Image, Soarin and Beat Heart followed her and stood in the doorway to hear the tale.
“I’ve decided tonight that, instead of telling you something that might give you nightmares, I’d tell you how I got this scar.”
She portrayed her leg to them, the long white scar from thigh to hoof clearly visible even against her coat.
“It was mostly due to my own stupidity really. I was running from a place that I’d been thought of as a ghost at because of my appearance. They’d thrown things at me but, since it WAS Nightmare Night, although I hadn’t realised it before, they were only throwing candy. I actually did manage to pick some up. That’s where I learned of my love for the holiday see. Everypony wants to be scared on Nightmare Night, so I was right at home.”
“My wings were taking me somewhere, I didn’t know where. Wherever the wind would take me is what I used to think. I suppose I kept hoping they’d take me someplace safe, but they rarely did. I was going through a forest. It was dark and had a lot of weird noises in it. Not much came near me to be honest. I think it might have been because I really do look like a ghost in moonlight. An advantage, perhaps. Anyhow, I heard a roar and it scared me, so I bolted. Now if there’s one thing you never do in a forest, it’s blindly run. I found out the hard way. Falling off a cliff is not fun, especially when you don’t have the manoeuvrability needed to pull off a sharp turn, like me. I’m a silent flier, not an agile one. As a result, whilst I got my wings open enough to glide down, I did end up hitting quite a few trees on my way down. One of them in particular did this.”
“It sliced my leg open very badly. I couldn’t walk on it. For almost a week, I wandered in that forest and the cut became infected. I was about to give up when I wandered upon a strange house in the forest. I knocked desperately, waiting for an answer, but none came. I passed out when I tried to move again. It hurt a lot. When I came to, my leg was bandaged and I was inside the little house. Standing by was a zebra who only spoke in rhyme. It was possibly the most musical thing I’ve ever heard that wasn’t classified as music. I never got her name and she never asked for mine. Two days later, she helped me up onto my hooves and unwrapped the bandage. The infection was gone, so she sewed me up. She was remarkably skilled with her hooves, and the stitches were quite small, so all you see is this line now. It was quite marvellous.”
Skeleton smiled at her fillies, who were drowsing, trying to stay awake.
“She bandaged me up and sent me on my way again. It was quite an important learning experience, I must say. That’s about the time I found my little cloud cottage, which was falling apart, and started watching Soarin in his training. I could push the little cottage around. I followed him everywhere he went, unless he left Equestria. Then I would await his return.”
The little fillies, by this time, were asleep. Skeleton smiled softly and looked over pointedly at the three pony audience.
“Bed time Soarin. Now.”
“Yes Ma’am.” He said meekly, but a small smile crossed his face as he left.
Chapter seven: Pepper.
Pepper Pot was a quiet little filly.
Somehow, she always managed to be subdued, never getting excited, never getting upset. Her manner was, quite often, indifferent, or it seemed to be, and her temper was colder than the highest peaks of the Godsreach mountains in midwinter. If she spoke, she did so gently. Most ponies who saw her were first struck by how pretty she was, then by her aloof appearance.
She also despised being the daughter of a Wonderbolt. That’s not to say she hated her father, far from it. She harboured him no resentment, nor her mother for marrying him. She loved them both dearly. Because of the fact that she was the daughter of one of the esteemed Wonderbolts, she’d rather coldly shouldered aside any gold digging foals who only wanted to know her because of her father or any fans of Soarin’s that tried to get to him through her. After doing so, she’d found a small, tight circle of friends that stuck by her. She was, without a doubt, the peacekeeper of the group, passing off leadership whenever she could.
Pepper did not like having the weight of responsibility on her shoulders.
She was, without a doubt, the most driven and most intelligent of the fillies in Skeleton’s brood, and had the alarmingly interesting ability to take in everything that was said or shown mentally and hold it for indefinite amounts of time. Through this, she was excelling at school, powering through as though it didn’t even exist. Her literature and mathematics skills were especially impressive and, along with in close second, her grasp on science.
Pepper adored science.
She loved the complication of it all, the way everything worked. She liked the idea that she could know what was going to happen, and the thrill of not knowing until she tried. Due to her rather excessively driving thirst for knowledge, she always took at least four non-fiction books to school as well as her customary two to three small novels.
Yep, Pepper was a pioneer of knowledge. The perfect student.
On this day, her mind were processing her mother’s rather interesting refusal to repeat what she’d spoken of the other night concerning the doctor and his ‘experiments’ and ‘research’. She could hear what the teacher was saying, and that meant it was being stored away in the vaults of her mind, but aside from that, she was paying no attention. She passed away the day in a half daze, variably answering her friends absently and ignoring them quite by accident. Although there was one time when she rather coldly told one particular filly that she was, in fact, not her friend and that she couldn’t get an autograph from Soarin through her. This seemed to upset the filly a little and she went rushing to a teacher.
Fortunately for Pepper, after the first incident, no teacher was willing to even try to discipline Pepper. That’s not to say she didn't get in trouble. It was normally when she returned back home that she finally heard her mother’s scolding rather than her teacher’s.
The next week passed in much the same fashion. Skeleton stopped telling them stories in favour of spending time with her parents, Soarin was almost always either with her or out with his team, or with his team at the house. She’d noticed that all of the Wonderbolts, even the elusive and rarely seen Jetpaw, adored Skeleton’s mother. Pepper liked her well enough. She just wished she didn’t treat her like a china doll. Ghost Charm might adore it and Clear Skies might complain, much to Mirror’s amusement, but Pepper simply took it in silently. Her brooding silence, however, did not go unnoticed. At lunch midweek one day, one of her friends took her aside. He was a bespectacled young colt with half moon spectacles made after the glasses one of his favourite book characters wore, short cropped mane and docked tail. He was a bookish sort of Pegasus and, like Pepper, was rarely seen without one. Borderline autistic, he was shy, incredibly quiet and an absolute genius. Having already finished the work for the entirety of the year, he spent the majority of the time in his classroom either helping those kind enough to him or reading one of his many books. Whilst he was a genius in general, his speciality was sciences both applied and theoretical. His main interest was magical sciences and his cutie mark had appeared some time ago, an image of an atom complete with ‘rotating’ protons. Pepper liked him quite a bit more than her other friends, since he was indifferent to her father, treated her like an equal to him despite his obvious advantages over her and loved many of the same books as she did. They were rarely seen apart in school.
“Pepper, I know something’s bothering you,” He said quietly, “What’s wrong?”
There were also his eyes. There was something about his eyes Pepper found fascinating. Those rose coloured eyes of his. Similarly, she was certain her eyes fascinated him, with their bright orange colour and almost luminescence.
“Nothing of consequence” She replied a little too quickly, “Just a small thing.”
“A small thing that has distracted you for almost three weeks now?”
Pepper looked at him sharply. He didn’t even flinch. The pair stared at each other for a while before Pepper sighed.
“You’re too clever for your own good. And it’s only our first year at school.”
He smirked at her in response.
“What can I say? It’s part of my charm. Now what’s wrong?”
Pepper considered telling him everything. She knew she could trust him to keep a secret. The problem was the nature of the niggling irritation in the back of her mind. She didn’t want to frighten him, nor leave him with nightmares. She very rarely got nightmares, simply because she was not only a practical and logical pony, but because her mother was practically the queen of scary stories. Eventually she nodded, deciding.
“Alright. I’ll tell you. But This doesn’t go beyond you and me okay?”
He nodded solemnly. Something else that she liked about him. He didn’t seem to be capable of even understanding the concept of lying. And so Pepper started talking. The break was only a half hour long, so she was still talking when they started filing back into class. Even during class she spoke at a low whisper. The teacher did not bother them. She knew that Pepper would have finished her work if she was talking, and it wasn’t far from the truth. She spoke at length and described the stories her mother told them, how it seemed to be effecting her but her also stubborn refusal to stop. That was something she’d overheard her mother and father talking about, and she knew it was Ghost Charm that had finally brought up the thing that was concerning all of the fillies most. At the end of it all it was last period.
“…and now I want to know what happened and she won’t tell me. It’s been bugging me for ages now and she won’t tell me what it is. That’s what’s been bothering me.”
The young colt pushed his glasses up from where they’d slipped down his muzzle and his forehead screwed up in thought.
“Well, perhaps she hasn’t told you because she knows it’ll scare you? Your mama can be pretty scary and her stories are normally about as scary as her Nightmare Night costumes, and that’s scary.”
Pepper made an unconvinced sort of sound in her throat before sighing just as the bell signalling the end of the day rang out across the school.
“Maybe. Doesn’t make me feel any better though. Her not telling me makes me worry even more.”
It was at this point Soarin stepped into the classroom, Clear Skies and Ghost Charm in tow. Clear Skies took one look at the two foals and an impish smile crept across her face. As Pepper walked up to her father, friend in tow, Skies grinned.
“Hey Pepper. Hey Pepper’s coltfriend~♫”
Soarin, seconds away from scolding her, fell quiet as the young colt answered for himself.
“Skies. Still using all the muscles except the one that matters.”
Skies coloured heavily and fell silent. The young prodigy then turned to Ghost and inclined his head to her politely. A move Ghost reciprocated. Ghost Charm liked her sister’s best friend. He didn’t bother her and he treated her with a sort of kind sincerity. Although in many respects, he was still very similar to Pepper. Soarin smiled down at Pepper, having gotten away from training early enough to pick the girls up.
“Ready to go Pepper?”
She nodded quietly before speaking up.
“Can Brainiac come home with us to visit please?”
Soarin looked at the colt sternly. Brainiac, to his credit, didn’t so much as flinch. To be honest, his name wasn’t actually Brainiac, but his friends, few though they were, had quite affectionately nicknamed him so and it had stuck. Now, even the teacher called him that. His blunt look at Soarin made Soarin a little suspicious.
“Well, I suppose. He’s not going to cause trouble is he?”
Brainiac, once more, answered for himself.
“Would an explosion occur if I mixed Sulphur and Sodium?”
Soarin’s look turned very, very perplexed.
“He means no Father.”
Soarin looked a little perturbed that a foal in his first year at school would know this, but nodded warily.
“I suppose he can. If his parents allow it. We’ll drop by and ask on our way home.”
As it turned out, Brainiac’s parents were all too happy to let him go to a friend’s house, to the point of asking if he’d be staying the night. Soarin, not wanting to be too hasty, told them he’d let them know on that score. It wasn’t long before the quartet were home, sweet and sound. Abandoning all forms of social pretences, Pepper and Brain almost instantly left to the upstairs rooms in search of books and things.
Or, so the others thought.
Among Skeleton’s few but strict rules, the one that prohibited the sharing of a bed with anypony other than their mother or father until they were a certain age was possibly the most intensely disciplined rule in the household. As a result, creating another mattress out of cloud was essential for anypony sleeping over. Since Pepper and Brain didn’t really care either way, they cleared a space for the mattress just in case and sat in said space, directly next to each other but not physically touching. This was another almost automatic thing from both of the foals, they hated being unnecessarily touched. Physical contact without reason was seen by both as both useless and pointless as well as annoying.
The pair got along well.
“I think I this is the closest thing I have to possible answers. Shall we take a look?”
The book before the pair was a large, hard cover book labelled ‘Marigold’s Medicine and Medicinal Sciences’. It was not exactly what she’d been looking for, but ‘mad doctors’ didn’t seem to be a legitimate topic in literature for some reason. It took only a nod from Brain for the pair to begin poring over the book. It took them all of about five minutes to give up on the book and sit for a while before Pepper smiled.
Brainiac looked startled for a moment before grinning devilishly back and pushing his glasses up from where they’d slipped.
“No, no story tonight girls. It’s gotten too late and school is in the morning. Maybe tomorrow, when you don’t have school the next day.”
The trio of fillies groaned and Brainiac simply burrowed deeper into the covers of his little mattress. Skeleton raised an eyebrow at the three girls and they fell silent. She smiled at them, slightly regretfully.
“Besides. I’m tired and it’s difficult to remember things when I’m tired. Goodnight girls.”
“Goodnight Miss Grin.”
Skeleton smiled down at Brainiac.
“Goodnight Brainiac. Sweet dreams.”
“So. Decided to stop then?”
Skeleton looked over at Soarin to her left, laying next to her, and blinked.
“The stories,” He replied casually, “You decided to stop then?”
“Oh. No, it’s not that… Just I don’t think the girls are the best audience anymore. I’ve sort of told them what I could. Anything else would scare them out of their wits and I’d rather they weren’t as… socially disinclined as I was.”
Soarin felt his brow raise.
“That bad huh?”
She nodded quietly and she looked at him with a sidelong glance.
“But… if you don’t mind…”
A pale blue wing draped over her and she felt a gentle nuzzle at her neck.
“If it makes you feel better dear, go ahead.”
Hey guys, sorry this took so long. It wasn't intentional, I've just had a difficult time focusing on anything recently. And I'm going to get straight to the point here. I'm running out of ideas concerning tales for Skeleton to tell, so unless I come up with something or you guys can help me out, It'll be moving on from stories about her past to her facing her past after the next chapter, in which her possibly worst 'scar' becomes quite clear for Soarin's eyes. Thanks to you all for your support and I hope I haven't let you down.
Chapter eight: Splintered Dreams
The tale that Skeleton told to Soarin that night disturbed him greatly. But then, most of them did, if not all of them. Once more, the mysterious stallion with the bone mask and ever changing eyes rescued her. But this time?
Well. This time he’d shown a significantly darker side to his character.
The unicorn had slaughtered every last stallion and mare that had held Skeleton against her will with a small hoof scythe held in the grip of magic. Reportedly, the sight of her saviour drenched in blood with eyes dancing with a bloodthirsty, furious light had sent her into shock. She had taken several weeks to recover and even then. She’d woken up alone with a note by her bedside in an abandoned building. The house she’d found was in ruins now, but she still used it. The storm clouds had gotten worse as well. She’d trusted someone and he’d turned on her. She'd tried to explain how this had given her a sort of split 'personality', a darker, more primal side given to not trusting anypony or anything, bent only on survival, but Soarin had had a hard time actually understanding any of it.
She’d told him of a time where she’d finally settled down once again, hoping to put her past behind her. She’d found a friend who’d stuck by her. He gave her shelter, food and a place to sleep. Eventually he’d tried to move beyond this barrier, but Skeleton hadn’t allowed him to. He’d said he’d understood apparently and things had progressed as normal.
But as it had turned out, he was part of an interesting little group of scientists and religious fanatics who decided that she had somehow inherited power from the dark god and had yet to realise it. He’d drugged her whilst she slept and taken her down to their ‘lair’ as she’d put it. They’d asked first, then demanded her to utilise her supposed ‘abilities’. Then when she seemed to be incapable of doing so, had resorted to torture. She had shown him scars he hadn’t even known about, cuts within her mouth and small pockmarks at the back of her neck at each vertebrae, hidden by her mane. They’d attempted to put her in danger that the power they were so fanatically convinced was within her would emerge.
Instead they’d brought down upon themselves their destruction at the hooves of somepony who Soarin now thought of as her guardian angel.
As such, he had come to the conclusion that the strange and mysterious stallion couldn’t be far away from the one he seemed to protect so zealously, so he’d started searching around the immediate vicinity of Cloudsdale. He figured that if a unicorn would stand out like a ruby in a pot of onyx, then a unicorn wearing a splattered mask of bone would be like trying to find an anvil in a haystack, easier than eating a pie.
However, despite his efforts, he went without reward. The stallion seemed to not be around at all and Soarin started to rethink his approach, or even why he was doing this.
Come on Soarin, what makes you think he’d even be able to stay up here in Cloudsdale for any length of time anyway? Even unicorns can’t keep a spell up forever without slipping. Although I suppose it would be possible if they had a power source, like we gave Skeleton’s father when he visited.
He frowned and fluttered to a stop outside a small store, ignoring a small gasp from the cashier as he started walking down the street. Ponies who saw him gave him a respectful berth, given the look of intense concentration lining his face.
Why would he be around anyway? Skeleton is safe up here, it’s not like I’ll let anything happen to her. I think I’ve proven my loyalty to her many times over now, and I’d never intentionally harm her. He has no real reason to be here, which means this is a foolish venture I never should have started.
He hesitated in his quest, this thought plaguing him.
But… then again… Just because I think she’s safe doesn’t mean she always is. So I guess there’s still a good chance that he’s hanging around here someplace. You’d think a guy with a bone mask would be easy to find, but no. This is even harder than the time I had to find my housekeys before I left for work. At least I found those. This guy is like the ultimate hiding machine. Unless he’s not here, in which case I’ve made a right royal fool of myself, but at least nopony knows.
He sighed heavily and swung around on his hoof, spread his wings and flapped into flight, angling towards home. He accidentally reached a no fly zone and had to set down and walk from there. It was greatly annoying, but he could only get angry at himself. As he cut through and alleyway to get through the zone faster, he heard a dark, velvety voice reach out to him.
“Hey. Over here.”
He froze and turned on his hoof slowly to find…
There was nopony there and nothing that looked out of the ordinary. Simply wall. Frowning in slight confusion and deciding he imagined it all, he kept walking. This time the voice came from the other side of the alleyway.
He turned quickly, trying to catch the culprit to find, once more, nothing.
He froze. The voice had been right in his ear, to the point where he felt the breaths being taken and given by the mysterious voice, but when he spun around he saw…
Now thoroughly freaked out, Soarin started hurrying out of the alley. His whole life he’d never been so scared, not even from Skeleton’s little pranks. This was unnerving. An amused sounding laugh followed his movements, dogging his every step that made him pick up the pace when, impossibly behind him and keeping up with his movements perfectly, came the voice once more.
Soarin freaked out and started galloping towards the light at the end of the alleyway, trying to escape the phantom voice. But it seemed that, no matter how much he ran, he could not close the distance between himself and the alley’s entrance. In a blind panic, his wings opened, then closed just as hurriedly as he realised the alley was too small for him to flap his wings in. With a burst of adrenaline he forced his legs to move faster to utterly no avail. With an explosive exhale he simply gave up and stopped running and hung limp.
Wait a second…
His eyes shot open and he looked down to find himself hovering several feet off the ground, his wings still firmly folded against his torso. His entire body was encased in a light that shifted hue every few seconds and a dry laugh filled the alley.
“If you’ve quite finished running away, I think I’ve had my fun now. Is it safe to put you down?”
Soarin looked around for the source of the voice and was moderately surprised to find the owner of the voice floating before him on a platform made of the same, multihued light that was surrounding him. His eyes couldn’t seem to decide on what colour they wanted to be, but his coat was a deep royal blue. His mane and tail were a purple just as deep and somehow just as regal as the blue, if not more. The glowing horn upon his head suggested it was he using magic. His face had a strange, timeless quality to it, and remnants of ancient lines upon it, as though he had seen and recovered from much more than anypony else. At least in the Cloudsdale area. Soarin nodded quietly and the unicorn smiled a creepy sort of smile, lowering the Pegasus down to cloud level, lowering himself at the same time.
“Excellent. As much as I found it amusing, you trying to run away from me, it was growing tiring avoiding you all day. You can be quite the stubborn character Soarin, but I’m tired of hiding from you. What did you want with me and why is it so important to you that you have to spend all day looking for me and ditch everypony else?”
Soarin started at the unicorn’s revelation.
THIS is Splintered Dreams?
Somehow, Soarin had expected something a little more… grand. And there was no mask.
That’s what got me. No mask.
“So… You’re Splintered Dreams?”
The unicorn let his smile widen a little and bowed.
“In the flesh. What is it you want of me? Talk quickly, I don’t have all day.”
“At least, not anymore.”
Soarin coughed and forced himself to smile at the stallion who seemed hell bent on freezing his blood in his veins in an attempt to diffuse his fear and the strange tension only he seemed to be feeling.
“Yes, uh… I…. Skeleton Grin, my wife, has mentioned you before.”
One of the stallion’s brows lifted.
“Is that so?”
“By name and appearance sir.”
Dreams burst out into laughter, unsettling Soarin more than a little. Once Dream’s laughter slowed enough for him to talk coherently, he waved his hoof in the air, a gesture of dismissal.
“Name and appearance. That girl never knew when to leave well enough alone. Let me guess, you thought you’d swing by, find me and, oh I don’t know, thank me for my actions over the years yes?”
Soarin nodded happily, pleased that the stallion understood so quickly. Dream’s laughter suddenly cut off and his voice turned deathly quiet.
Startled out of his little triumphant feeling, Soarin started in shock and then quailed back when the unicorn stepped up seemingly in an instant and looked Soarin in the eye, his eyes as deadly as his voice and intent.
“Because mark my words, Soarin of the Wonderbolts. If you so much as harm a hair upon my God Daughter’s beautiful head, I will end you in the most painful and torturously slow way that I can dream up, and I have a very twisted imagination mister Soarin, you don’t want to cross it. There will be no place you can hide, no mousehole small enough, no cave dark enough, no mountain high enough, valley low enough, river wide enough, place dangerous enough, there will be no reality, dimension or timeline you could possibly hide in that will save you from my infinite wrath and I will tear you apart, mentally, spiritually and physically and I will use a pair of rusty iron tongs that I used to use to pick lice, vermin and dirt out of my tail when I was on the road myself, I will cut your heart out using nothing but a rusted spoon and use your entrails to string my tennis racquet, Your bladder will make up my new water skein, do we have an understanding… Soarin the Wonderbolt?”
Throughout the entire exchange, Soarin was cowering away from the mysterious stallion more and more with time, eventually finding himself on the floor, cowering away against the wall from the stallion who had forced him into a corner…
It vaguely occurred to his mind that there were no corners in the alley, but all he could think of at that moment was the pair of multicoloured eyes glaring at him with the intensity that only a murderer could pull off. Gulping fearfully, Soarin nodded his head rapidly, just wanting this to be all over.
Dreams, just as suddenly as his suddenly vindictive little speech, stepped away and began to walk away. Soarin merely lay on the ground, trembling. About halfway down the alley, as Soarin watched him, Dreams turned around.
“Don’t tell her who I am. She doesn’t need to know. But do tell her and your daughters that they’re looking more and more radiant each day, yes?”
His voice had softened down to an affectionate sort of croon and it was all Soarin could do simply to nod his head in agreement. Seemingly satisfied with this, the image of Dreams vanished.
From the rooftop of a nearby building, Splintered Dreams watched the blue Pegasus in the alleyway as he started once more in shock before standing up and, rather hesitantly, walked over to where the apparition once stood. It had occurred to Dreams that Soarin would never intentionally hurt Grin, but he’d thought that a reminder was in order for the whole thing. An extra incentive if you would. Behind a mask made of bone and splattered with red, he smiled.
Oh, he wasn’t so bad a choice I suppose. She could have done much worse. At least I haven’t had to kill him yet.
With a self satisfied smirk and a sudden mischievous flair of inspiration, his horn lit up and down in the alley, smoke erupted before Soarin as a raging apparition of a skeletal dragon started to claw its way up out of the clouds, shreds of flesh still clinging to its bones. With a startled yelp and a cry of fear, Soarin galloped out of the alleyway like the entire armies of Tartarus had been set upon him, Dreams watching him with a demented laugh.
No, not bad a terrible choice at all.
Chapter 9: A rift between us.
A year passed, uneventful. The tales that Skeleton had told her daughters still occasionally occupied their thoughts as they continuously adapted their perceptions of their mother as, more and more, they began to understand her. As they grew older and experienced more for themselves, natural understanding bloomed. No longer did they think of her as fragile and merely pretty, but strong. Much stronger than she appeared, and possessing of a beautiful heart that could, if needs be, perform even the hardest tasks set forth for it.
It was a curious thing.
But the one who changed the most was their father, Soarin.
A rift had formed between himself and Skeleton Grin, a rift that Skeleton felt was growing larger and larger over time. Even the press had noticed it, and the paparazzi had latched onto it like glue. There was, as of yet, no story or articles written about it due to the possible retaliation of the entire Wonderbolts flight team, but such things always only lasted a while.
For a while, The Wonderbolts had inducted new fliers on a trial basis. Among the ‘contestants’ was the ever overbearing and cocky Rainbow Dash at a personal request from Spitfire and Soarin himself. She had performed easily the most outstandingly, but after it all, she had turned the position down without a second thought. It seemed she had a new goal now and it involved her son waiting for her back at home under the careful watch of his father, the (once) semi-famous music star Rock Ranger. Spitfire had been quite disappointed, but hadn’t pushed her on it. Spitfire had another partner, and dumped them in disgust after learning all he was after was to spend a night in a more intimate way than she was ready for. That relationship had lasted all of three nights before she rather coldly and viciously made an example of him in public in full view of the press.
Needless to say, it was a long time before any prospective mares or stallions approached her.
Skies had played the ultimate prank on her entire school at the end of the year, dumping powdery snow on everypony in the school’s grandly decorated hall. Chaos ensued and the janitor had found her rolling on the floor laughing within the roof itself and had promptly joined her before gently removing her from the roof and depositing her upon the stage. She had smiled sheepishly and glanced at her mother, who had thought the prank quite amusing, but had not found the snow in her mane amusing. She’d apologised to the school and had tried to tune out her sister’s piercing voice on the way home. You guess which one.
Back to the problem at hoof.
Soarin trod around Grin as though she was made of fragile china that would shatter if he so much as touched her. It was even awkward when the pair went to bed. He barely touched her then as well and Grin was well past beginning to worry. Eventually she stopped him from leaving the house one day after the fillies had left with a rather firm hoof. It was a Tuesday.
“Wait. You and I need to talk.”
Soarin gulped and obediently sat down. Grin had adopted a tone that she used whenever she wasn't in the mood for nonsense of any kind. She often used it with Skies when she played a prank that went wrong and she didn't want to admit to it. She very rarely used it with her husband, and he knew she was deadly serious whenever she did.
“You are not going to work today. Spitfire already knows this so don’t try and get out of this. We are going to talk, and we are going to do something about what I want to talk to you about, understand?”
Soarin nodded quickly and Skeleton sighed before taking his hoof in her mouth and leading him upstairs and into their bedroom. Despite nopony being home, she locked the door and led him over to the bed, making him sit down. She sat before him and looked him in the eye. Or tried to. He seemed to be doing everything he could to avoid her gaze and eventually she growled and grabbed his head in her hooves and forced him to look at her.
“Look at me! I’m not that scary and you know it.”
He flinched at her words and looked at his hooves when she released him, this time out of genuine shame. He heard her sigh and looked up.
“Soarin, what’s wrong?”
He shrugged weakly.
She looked at him sharply, obviously not buying it.
“Is that an answer or a question Soarin?”
“Answer of course.”
“It doesn’t sound like it.”
He fell silent. The entire room was encased in it, filled with it. It was suffocatingly quiet in the one room of the household that, normally, was filled with at least quiet whispers when somepony was in it. Eventually, Grin sighed, knowing she wouldn’t get an answer to her statement.
“Alright, fine. What have I done then?”
Soarin looked up at her in mild confusion.
“You..? What do you mean what have you done?”
Skeleton swallowed. This was where she had to tread carefully. She hadn’t wanted to use this line of questioning, since it sounded so manipulative and blackmailing.
“Soarin… you’ve been tip-hoofing around me for the past almost eleven months. Even the girls have noticed it, and Fleet told me the other day that you seem edgy and she’s right. I walk into the room and say something and you jump before I even get the chance to finish one word…”
She hesitated, an all too familiar voice echoing in her head. A sentence she never thought she’d ever say, but it was all she could think of.
And it wasn’t technically her voice.
“Don’t you love me anymore?”
Soarin sat up bolt upright before Skeleton could even register that she said that out loud, his eyes wide and his mouth agape. She might as well have scraped it off the floor with a steel spatula. She rushed onwards, trying to justify her damning question.
“You avoid me whenever you can, you’re out late most nights now and you don’t come home until morning, You don’t seem like yourself anymore, tired and constantly on edge or angry with me or one of the girls… Even Skies is avoiding you now you know, you’re scaring her. You never tell me if you’ll be home late or early and I don’t know who you’re out w-“
She stopped right there and her eyes widened.
That’s right little Skeleton. What if he’s out with another mare? What if he thinks you’re boring now? Not cute enough anymore, not mysterious enough anymore. All the thrill is gone and he wants something new! Awwww, I warned you this would happen, but you didn’t l-
She snapped out of her reverie at Soarin’s exclamation. He looked appalled that she’d even suggest such a thing.
“Of course I still love you! How could I not? I’m not that bad, you’re exaggerating.”
Skeleton felt a shard of ice pierce her heart, quickly replaced by anger.
She abruptly stood up, making Soarin flinch, and marched over to her bedside table, reached into one draw and flung a rolled up newspaper at him. He flinched as it hit the bed beside him. It was this week’s date, two days back. He looked hesitantly up at his wife who glared back at him, daring him to disobey.
“Read it,” She snarled at him.
Hurriedly, he unrolled the newspaper and the picture on the front made his mouth drop again.
It was him and Grin from two weeks and three days back sitting in a restaurant. Hauteclaire was one of the most expensive, high class places one could go for fine dining. It was clean, pristine and Soarin knew that Grin absolutely adored it. They’d gone there for their wedding anniversary as Soarin’s gift to Grin. Even in the black and white image, the tension and level of awkwardness between the two was blaringly obvious. You could almost chew on it, it was that tangible. He gulped and looked to the headline.
Soarin’s Marriage, Dead as a Skeleton?
He felt a momentary flash of anger at the blatant poke against Grin before swallowing again.
“Again,” Spoke Grin slowly with a dangerous voice, “What have I done. What is going on Soarin. Are they right? Are we falling apart? I have to say Soarin, you’ve been hiding something from me for the past few months. I tried to let it go, see if it’d sort itself out. But it hasn’t, and now I’m trying to do something about it.”
Soarin’s mind was cast back to that day almost a year ago in the no fly zone of Cloudsdale Common and the words he could remember with vivid detail.
Because mark my words, Soarin of the Wonderbolts. If you so much as harm a hair upon my God Daughter’s beautiful head, I will end you in the most painful and torturously slow way that I can dream up, and I have a very twisted imagination mister Soarin, you don’t want to cross it. There will be no place you can hide, no mousehole small enough, no cave dark enough, no mountain high enough, valley low enough, river wide enough, place dangerous enough, there will be no reality, dimension or timeline you could possibly hide in that will save you from my infinite wrath and I will tear you apart, mentally, spiritually and physically and I will use a pair of rusty iron tongs that I used to use to pick lice, vermin and dirt out of my tail when I was on the road myself, I will cut your heart out using nothing but a rusted spoon and use your entrails to string my tennis racquet, Your bladder will make up my new water skein, do we have an understanding… Soarin the Wonderbolt?
His meeting with her supposed Guardian Angel, who had turned out to be her godfather, had rattled Soarin more than he’d care to admit. His expectance of a much more subdued, peaceful talk had been swiftly upended upon itself and he’d been thrown into a world he wanted nothing to do with.
“So? Is there somepony else? Am I to be replaced with somepony new? Somepony more exciting than I am? More mysterious perhaps?”
He looked back up at her in blank incomprehension. This was almost too much information for his brain to process. Soarin really wasn’t much of a thinker and tended to act before he thought anything through. It made him a hell of a performer, being capable of doing something and doing it well because he couldn’t think of any consequences of his actions until after he was done, but he was no intellectual.
Better looking, more normal, shiny mane, silky soft tail, velvety coat, NO SCARS, NO TEETH, NORMAL EYES. Somepony who’s not a freak. Somepony who’s not you Grin. You’re no challenge anymore, no mystery. If he wants to bed you he need only begin and you’re practically putty in his hooves. Sure you put up a fight sometimes for a little thrill to both of you and you have bitten him on the odd occasion, but he can get that and not be hurt with any. Other. Pegasus. What if it’s Spitfire?
The thought made Skeleton stop in mid rant. She’d been repeating her thoughts, or rather the thoughts of her more primitive, survival based self, out loud, but had cut off when she began to yell about being putty in his hooves when her mind, working faster than her mouth, produced that thought. The very idea of it shocked her and she swallowed hard, trying to keep tears from her eyes.
It could be Fleetfoot as well you know. He’s shown interest in her as well. Oh, it might just be some bitch that he met at a club! He could be in it with some random fanfilly, or multiple of them, for the sex too. It’s possible you know. He could very easily do it. It would explain why he’s been trotting around you like you’d shatter if he breathed on you.
Thick waves of emotion clogged her senses and made it difficult to breathe as she started sniffing. Soarin looked positively mortified, but Skeleton was far from done yet.
“Just thought you’d tame the little Spook did you? Tame the untameable simply because you could, then marry her and use her as a trophy? Just screw her silly because you could? WHAT IS GOING ON SOARIN!?”
She screamed at him hysterically, now standing up with both wings open and an enraged expression on her face. She wasn’t trying to be scary, but she was quite obviously succeeding in it as Soarin drew back in fear.
His mind in sensory overload, Soarin did the only thing he could think of.
Off the bed and through the wall he went, leaving a circular hole as he departed, trying to make sense of his wife’s suspicions.
Skeleton, after processing what had happened, finally broke down and wept.
He ignored the gasps from fans, ignored the annoyed yells from pegasi he cut off, ignored the cat calls and photography flashes. He ignored everything, his mind zeroing in on possibly the biggest problem he’d had in his life.
If you so much as harm a single hair upon my god daughter’s beautiful head I will end you in the most painful and torturous way that I can dream up, and I have a very twisted imagination mister Soarin you don’t want to cross it. There will be no place you can hide, no mouse hole small enough, no cave dark enough, no mountain high enough, valley low enough, river wide enough, place dangerous enough, there will be no reality, dimension of timeline you could hide in that could save you from my infinite wrath…
His thoughts cut off as he instinctively swerved to avoid an airborne chariot, not hearing the disgruntled coach as he swore at him. Normally he would have stopped to apologise, but at the moment he was simply too distracted to care at that moment. The words of Splintered Dreams kept echoing in his mind. All he could think of was those words from almost a year back. A year and still he hadn’t forgotten about it.
I don’t want to hurt her, that’s all it is…
Again his thoughts were interrupted, this time as he slammed headlong into a wall.
And invisible wall.
He hit the wall and fell out of the sky, hitting the ground heavily, the cloud underneath his hooves a lot unlike clouds. Or at least, it felt like it. He took a moment to try and recover, catching his breath. When he finally managed to look up, he felt himself shrink back.
Splintered Dreams stood before him.
Bright green eyes stared at the blue Pegasus unconscious on the ground before her. Powder blue coat and deep blue mane and tail. He had a very large, very nasty looking bruise on his head. She had a long, ruby red mane and a much shorter tail. Running down one side of her face was a thin scar. With concern etched onto her face, she took the stallion’s tail in her mouth and dragged him into her home.
A small cottage he’d landed outside of after he’d fallen from the sky.
I wake up in the basement…. I’m so tired… and hungry…
I must be here sleep walking… But why?
Following some crimson spots, looking for my wife…
Where could she be..?
Suddenly I realise,
I see it all with real eyes…
These crimson spots are dripping from my hooves…
Soarin groaned in his sleep, slowly swimming into consciousness. He felt a bed beneath him, but not the kind of bed he was
used to. It was harder than he remembered, and there was a warmth lacking from it that he missed. His eyes opened and…
He saw nothing.
He blinked several times, thinking maybe he wasn’t actually open eyed. When he still didn’t get any reaction from his eyes he put his hooves to his face, thinking perhaps something was over his eyes. Feeling nothing, he did what was natural for anypony in his position.
He yelled out his fear, rubbing at his eyes frantically. It was then that he realised that he had a skull splitting headache originating from the back of his head. He instantly fell silent, his head pounding. It was as though his brain was being squeezed in some sort of barbed vice. With a self sympathetic sniffle, he held his head to try and stave off the pain. It wasn’t working all too well.
“Are you alright? I heard your yelling and I feared the worst.”
Soarin cocked his head to one side, almost groaning again from the pain simply of doing that.
“Who’s that? Where am I? Why can’t I see?”
“Hey, calm down. Getting worked up will only make your headache worse. As for where you are, you’re in my home. More specifically, in my bed. As for why you can’t see…”
The voice stopped before beginning once more.
“When you fell from the sky, when I found you, you had a really bad bruise on your head. I’m afraid it hit the part of your brain that operated the optic nerves for your eyes. That’s not to say you’re going to be permanently blind. I promise you, given a little while, maybe a few more days, you’ll be able to see again just as well as you could before.”
Soarin clammed up, ceasing his talking, to consider this information.
“So… you’re a doctor?”
The voice giggled softly. It was quite obviously female.
“No, I’m not a doctor. I trained to be one a long time ago, but I never went through with it. That’s why I know that you’ll recover your sight. It’s bruised, but not ruptured or bleeding, so you’ll be okay.”
Soarin thought about this for a while, now able to detect the subtle sound of breathing from somewhere in front of him.
“You still haven’t told me your name Miss.”
“That’s true. If you must know, my name is Chemise.”
Soarin the Wonderbolt, MIA?
The headline blared up at Skeleton from the front page. Despite the Wonderbolt’s attempts to keep it under wraps, Soarin had been missing for the better part of a week and Skeleton was torn about it. She wasn’t sure if she should be scared for him, sorry for driving him away, angry at his fleeing or dreading that he left home to go with some other mare. Fleetfoot had taken almost all of her time off to visit and keep the desperately confused mare’s company and, whilst she thought her fears were unfounded, couldn’t sway her to see it from her perspective. Skeleton had become a recluse, even to her own foals. Spitfire and the other team members had taken to swinging by each morning almost in a shift like fashion to make sure the three fillies went to school with lunches and ready to tackle the day. Skeleton’s already petite frame and thinned dramatically and she now appeared as she once had, skin and bone. She was plagued by nightmares and thoughts that only served to fuel her terrified and horribly addled state.
She was an emotional wreck.
See, I told you. Do you remember? All those years ago. I told you this would only lead to more heartbreak.
“Go away…” She muttered quietly to herself, trembling as she lay sprawled out on the bed.
No, don’t think so. You knew this would happen. You knew, and I even told you. But do you listen to me? Of course not. Whyever would you listen to the only one who ever loved you? The only one who ever looked after you?
Soarin was after the thrill of the hunt. All stallions are. You were the unobtainable. The mysterious mare that nopony else had captured and tamed. You with your sharp teeth and freakishly quiet wings.
What? Nothing to say? Giving up already? It’s about time you realised that I was and still am right. I’ve always been right. Always have been, always will be. You know it, I know it. There’s no stopping that.
“Leave me alone…” She replied in a small, weak voice.
Ha! Leave you alone? I did that. I did that for a long time. Just over a decade in fact, and look where it got you! Look at yourself. You’re the same, if not worse, than you were before! Drained, unloved, and unwanted. Rejected from everywhere you’ve ever been and anypony you ever thought loved you.
“That’s not true...”
Even your parents threw you out. They could have stood up for you, but they got rid of you instead. Never looked back and never wondered if it could have been different.
Mummy never wanted you in the first place. You were an accident, and you were born a freak.
“You know, self destructive thoughts like that? They can be really, really dangerous. You shouldn’t let yourself develop a second personality; it’s hazardous to your health.”
Skeleton looked up in alarm from where she’d buried her head in her pillows and swung her head around to face the door. There was a tan unicorn stallion sitting at the foot of her bed. Just outside the door stood Spitfire, Rainbow Dash (Who Grin had met years before whilst trying to gain Soarin’s favour) and a purple mare who looked vaguely familiar. She was a unicorn with a pink and purple mane and eyes that betrayed a great intelligence. The stallion cleared his throat and smiled.
“My name is Talisman. I understand you’ve already met my wife, Twilight Sparkle. She assisted you in weaving a two way communication charm into a letter. I’m here to help you out.”
It’s been bugging me since I’ve been here. There’s something about this mare that seems familiar. I can’t place it, but I feel like I should know her, or at least feel something about her. Celestia dammit, Why is this annoying me so much? It’s not like I’ve met the damn mare before. I didn’t even get to see her until yesterday.
Soarin grumbled angrily from his weeding. As payment for looking after him, Soarin had insisted he help his hostess, nurse and doctor all in one to do her gardening, since it was horribly overdue. Unfortunately, he also had to avoid touching the thorns that littered the vines holding the countless roses that made up the majority of Chemise’s garden. He’d already accumulated his fair share of pricks and pokes from the absurdly long thorns from her more exotic roses. Aside from them being almost three inches long, the exotic roses’ thorns were bright red, and the flowers themselves were a pale blue colour. Right now though he was taking care of regular roses, with a standard size thorn. Something he’d gotten quite good at, given his wife’s love for gardening. One would assume that, given that they live in clouds, Skeleton would be incapable of gardening, but then one would be wrong. Skeleton had a small greenhouse like structure in which she housed all of her flowers in beds of Earth delivered by pegasi post monthly. So he’d gotten quite good at it.
Something Skeleton told me once perhaps? I’m not certain, it’s too hard…. Ugh, she’s told me so many things…
That thought made him stop what he was doing as his thoughts were cast back, latching onto Skeleton and all things associated with her. All the troubles they went through before finally beginning to date, the troubles they had when they’d started to date, the subsequent stress and threats and her eventual shaming of the paparazzi and reporters that had made their lives hell. The birth of their daughters, the way she nibbled at his ear gently when she thought about things, her normally gentle nature, the dozens of gifts she gave him to try and keep his attention at first, and her following occasional gift to remind him just how much she loved him.
What did I do?
The thought suddenly hit him. Like a hammer hitting an anvil.
Why did he come for me? What in the hell did I do for him to find me? I wasn't hurting her... I was trying my damn hardest to NOT hurt her... I did my absolute best...
"SOARIN THE WONDERBOLT!"
"A therapist? A psychologist?"
Spitfire's smile faltered as Skeleton's eyes fell on her, enraged. Rainbow, Twilight and Tal took a wary step back.Skeleton's teeth were bared and she growled angrily, low and threatening. Like a rabid dog, an aggressive reminder of just how dangerous she is.
"I didn't ask for your help, and now you think I'm crazy!? So you bring me a Psychologist!?"
Spitfire stammered for an answer.
"I... well I... I just... I was just..."
She was at a loss for words, and finally just went quiet. It was then Talisman spoke up.
"Now Skeleton, I'm not here to call you crazy, and nopony here believes that you're crazy. I'm just here t-"
"Shutup!" She screamed at him, spinning around, her wings flaring threateningly and her eyes almost burning with a malevolent fire.
"You think you can just give me over to a psychiatrist? You think you can give me over to a shrink!?"
They were all backing away by now as Skeleton advanced menacingly, still growling.
"I trusted you Spitfire, I thought you'd know me well enough as a friend to know that I HATE shrinks!"
Spitfire felt tears in her eyes and she stammered, trying to answer.
"I... I was just t-trying to help..."
"Just trying to help!? Trying to help!? I DON'T NEED YOUR HELP!"
The entire crew jumped back a step, backpedaling to try and escape the wrathful vengeance of the bone white mare. Her voice had changed, deepening in pitch. Whilst there were still some aspects of her voice in there, it was mostly dark, dangerous and lethally angry. She looked pissed.
"I looked after myself for years before Soarin, I looked after myself and him with Soarin, and I certainly don't need anypony else now!"
But as suddenly as the rage had arrived, it vanished once more and, as Skeleton realised what she'd done, what she'd said, a mortified look swept over her face. In a flash, she'd turned and, ignoring Spitfire's strangled call for her to stop, she followed in the wingbeats of her husband, and left the building.
She wasn't aware how long she flew, driving out thought with flight. Pure concentration on nothing but flying as far and as fast as she could. She didn't think about where, she didn't think of why, she simply flew, tears in her eyes. She'd yelled at one of her best friends, for trying to help her. Sptifire'd always been there since they'd met, no matter what. Her and Fleet. Now...
She didn't know how, she didn't know when. But somehow, somewhere in her mind, she was seeking a place to stay. A safe haven away from anypony who wanted to hurt her. A place she could never be hurt.
The place she got her first real friends in years.
The Carousel Boutique.
The creature charging at Soarin, for it could only be described thus, was terrifying to say the least. There was no mistaking the mask however, telling Soarin it was Splintered Dreams. This time however a long, razor sharp looking blade protruded from his mouth horizontally, the hilt in his mouth. His constantly colour shifting eyes were focused, sharper than the blade itself and full of pitiless, unconscionable rage. With a shout of terror, Soarin turned tail and galloped, running from the madstallion behind him, using his wings whenever he could, leaping over gardens that didn't seem to slow down the pony behind him at all. With a sizzle and crackle, a bolt of dark lightning lanced through the air and missed Soarin by inches. With a yelp of consternation he kicked off the wall of the house and galloped away from it.
I can't let him get near Chemise!
Unfortunately, it was all open terrain around the cottage, so Soarin was constantly dodging bolts left and right. Until the ground erupted before him and he turned sharply left, then right as the earth exploded again. Sweat lathered his coat and his feathers were being ruffled as he spread them, looking to fly. With a shout of triumph he lifted off, flapping hard to get away.
The sound of something spinning through the air sent a chill down Soarin's spine as he veered left, narrowly dodging whatever it was that was thrown at him only to be hit with another. The bolo wrapped around him, tangling his wings and sending him hurtling back to ground level, shocking him for extra measure. He hit the ground hard and the wind was knocked out of him and, before he could even try to take a breath, Dreams was there, barreling towards him. With nothing left to do, and his wings being helplessly snared by the bolo, Soarin closed his eyes...
And gave up.
But the finishing blow never came.
The familiar voice startled Soarin into opening his eyes and he looked incredulously at the stalwart form of Chemise, staring down the multi-hued eyes of who was to be his killer like he was nothing but a disobedient kitten. Dreams growled through the hilt in his mouth and dropped the blade.
"You..." He snarled angrily, prompting a sharp nod from Chemise.
"Yes Dreams, Me."
"Out of my way!" He yelled at her, his horn beginning to bubble and spark with the power of dark magic, bringing terror to Soarin's heart that he'd never felt before, not even when he was about to crash particularly badly in practice. But Chemise didn't even flinch as a dark aura fell over her and Soarin. Soarin felt it, the inconceivable power of pure, raw fear. Fear, stealing into the heart, the mind, the soul. In that moment, Soarin could feel every doubt he'd ever had, every fear he'd ever imagined and everything seemed infinitely freakishly scary. He whimpered from behind Chemise, who had yet to even flinch, even as Soarin curled into a fetal position as best he could.
"What?" He snarled back, consternation in his eyes.
For a moment, he merely snarled, but his horn faltered and flickered out and fear showed in his eyes as the effects of the spell vanished from Soarin in mere seconds. Soarin stared at Chemise in amazement.
"You are wrong," She said sternly to Dreams, who flinched back, "You have wronged this stallion, and you should be ashamed of yourself. You WILL apologise, and you WILL leave straight after. And leave the sword here as well."
A strangled sound escaped his throat and a tear actually came to his masked eye before he sighed and his head dipped. With a mere thought, the bolo holding down Soarin vanished and Splintered Dreams spoke.
"I apologise to you, Soarin the Wonderbolt. May we meet again under different circ... umstances."
Jerkily, he turned around and, miraculously, he left, taking slow steps with his head down, tail held low looking positively miserable. The sword was still on the ground. Chemise huffed at the stallion's back, picked up the blade and looked at Soarin over her shoulder. He was still staring at her in absolute shock. She sighed softly and smiled, gently placing the sword down again to speak.
Come dear, we have much to talk about."
"Alright dear, I suppose I have a thing or two to explain to you then?"
Chemise had led Soarin back into her cottage and upstairs and was, in this minute, pulling down the trapdoor to what must be the roof. The portal to the upper room was dark and dust hung in the air as the light tried to permeate the interminable black. Soarin didn't answer, looking apprehensively at the dark doorway. Chemise rolled her eyes and started up the steps the trapdoor had unfolded to become.
"Let's go dear. I'd rather not talk out here."
Soarin looked at the dark portal and shook his head.
"Nuh-uh. No way. I'm not going up there. Not a chance. We can talk right here."
Chemise turned around, glaring at Soarin.
"Soarin. Come up here, now."
He shook his head vehemently.
"Not a chance in Equestria lady. Hell no."
Chemise sighed softly.
"Soarin," She reprimanded softly, "I asked you to come up here. Don't make me come down there and drag you by your ear."
Soarin felt like a young foal being scolded and his ears splayed back and he nodded, ashamed. She smiled to him and trotted up the stairs, followed by the ashamed Soarin. It was brighter than Soarin thought within the attic. It seemed that it was only the small space for the entry that was dark, the rest was a filtered gold colour, like the thatching that made up the roof. In the dead center of the place was a red rocking chair. The thing was ancient and was intricately carved to appear as... well Soarin wasn't sure. It was either blowing wind or flowing water. Either way it was a remarkable piece of craftsponyship. Across from it was a comfy looking chair with armrests that didn't look nearly as elaborate or expensive. She nodded to that chair as she crossed the room, Soarin in tow.
"Sit there please," she commanded him and, without thought, he obeyed. She sat in the rocking chair and stared at him intently. Seconds dragged on to minutes onto what felt like hours. Soarin was fidgeting and getting uncomfortable and was literally about to speak when she cut him off.
"I don't know how you irritated Splintered Dreams," She said calmly, ignoring his start of shock, "But whatever you did certainly riled him up. Now, before you go on a justified tirade, I want you to think carefully of what you may have done to annoy him so that he'd take a stab at you in MY presence."
But still Soarin did not speak, though he wracked his brains thinking. When he came up with nothing however, he merely stayed silent. For the first time since he'd been there, Chemise took on a cold, angry tone.
"Are you blind, Soarin Wonderbolt?" She asked darkly, "Or are you merely stupid?"
Again, he didn't speak, flinching at the words. There was no compulsion to them, simply dark accusation. A long time passed where neither of the pair spoke until Chemise spoke once more, colder, disappointed.
"Soarin, Come here."
She pointed directly in front of her with a hoof. Met with a compulsion he couldn't help but obey, he approached and sat before her, tail curled around his legs, head held low. There was nothing else his body would let him do. Right up until Chemise turned his face towards hers.
"If you will not see what you have done," She said, "Then I suppose it is up to me to show you what you have done to my little Grin."
Shock almost had time to register on his face before it screwed up in pain. Chemise planted both forehooves on his temples and Soarin cried out in pain as images flashed through his mind. Her voice grew soft and gentle, reassuring.
"We will start at the eldest."
Something's happened to Daddy.
He came home today and he looked all scared and weird. I didn't understand. Nothing frightened my daddy, he's the bravest pony in the world. He's fun and fast and he's my daddy. But today is different, I can feel it. I feel it in his hug. His legs are shaking. I can see it in the way he hugs mum, as though touching her would break her. I see it in the way he hugs my sisters as well. My little sisters. I can see it. He's putting on a brave face, but he's scared. Daddy never was a very good actor. I try to talk to him, I ask him what it is he's so afraid of. He smiles and tells me it's nothing, but I can tell by the way he ruffles my mane that he's lying. It's hesitant, afraid.
Daddy never was a good liar.
He's quiet at the dinner table, and he jumps when mum tries to talk to him, dodging the question as best he could. I can see mum looking at him funny, but she lets it go. The others are quiet too.
I don't like it. Nopony seems to be happy.
After dinner, I try to play a prank and get caught out by daddy. He.... He yells at me... D-Daddy yelled at me...
Daddy never yells at me... not even for a prank...
What's happened Daddy...? Why are you being so weird....?
"Skies..." Whispered Soarin, a tear leaking out of the corner of his closed eye. Chemise grimaced at the sorrow she was causing, but what had to be done often was painful, and if she didn't do it, nopony would.
"Keep watching Soarin, we have some time to go yet."
The time went so quick. Hearth's Warming came and went, but the warmest part was Auntie Spitfire. She played with me a lot, and took me flying over Cloudsdale for a little while. Almost made Daddy seem like his old self. I thought that... maybe time would help him. But it's made him worse. Much worse. He hardly eats now, and I hear mum and him arguing at night when they think we're asleep. But I've seen Pepper and Ghosty awake at night, same as me. I know they hear it too. They've fought about us, about mum, and about daddy. Mostly about Daddy. They don't sleep in the same bed anymore. I've seen it, Daddy has his own bed, and mum looks depressed. She looks really tired all the time, and she's getting crankier all the time. She doesn't have time to make our lunches anymore, and she rarely gets up before we leave. Auntie Fleetfoot has taken the job to make sure we're ready to go, and Auntie Spitfire comes as well. I put on a brave face for them, so they don't think I know, but I'm getting scared.
I don't know what's happening, but Mum and Daddy aren't getting along very well anymore. I've heard stories of parents going away and leaving ponies like me and Ghosty and Pepper with only one parent, a mum or a daddy.
I don't want that to happen.. I don't want to be left alone. I want a mum and a daddy. I know I love my daddy more than my mum, but I still love my mummy... I don't want to leave her...
I don't want to go away...
Soarin was openly weeping by now, and Chemise was holding back tears of her own.
"Please stop... stop it now..."
She shook her head gently.
"No dear Soarin, we still have a bit left on your eldest, then two more."
Daddy's gone... He didn't come home this afternoon, and Pepper told me he wasn't coming back. Not tonight, maybe not ever. Auntie Spitfire scolded her, told her she was being silly. Said of course he'd come back. Time went slowly. Very, very slowly. Several weeks, and he's still not back. My hope dwindled ages ago.
Daddy's given up... He's not coming back...
I miss my daddy.
My father is a very brave pegasus. A Wonderbolt, a fantastic flier and a great pony. But today he came home different. Something was wrong, but I couldn't place my hoof on what it is. He's quiet, and he isn't his normal, happy self. But he has no bandages or anything on him, so he can't be hurt. But...
I don't know, he seems off. His voice is odd. Not normal. His voice is normally so confident and so comforting. I won't hesitate in saying mummy is my favorite, but my daddy is important to me too.
Something's wrong, and I want to know what it is.
He yelled at Skies as well. He never yells at Sky. If anything, he looks for any reason to not yell at her.
Something is definitely wrong.
Time passed. But my father didn't improve. Now it's visible. He's not happy, and everypony knows it. I've heard fights when I've been in bed, when Mummy has tried to talk to him about things. He treats her like she really breakable, like touching her will break her. She's getting more and more scary. She gets angry really quickly now, and I have to be careful not to set her off.
I want my father back, but more than that, I want my mummy back.
Hearth's Warming was almost normal again, but there was still something wrong. Aunt Spitfire came along, so did Aunt Fleetfoot. Aunt Spitfire spent most of her time with Sky. It was almost normal, but under it all it just seemed... wrong.
Nothing is the same anymore... I want it all back to how it was.
I want mummy back how she was, I want my father back as he was. I want Pepper and Sky back how they were. Daddy never came back today... Pepper says he might not ever come back...
I want my family back how it was... This isn't how I want to grow up... This isn't how I want things to go.
I want it all back.
My father has never been especially clever. He doesn't make money from being clever however, so one is to expect that he would not be entirely intellectual. His maturity is deplorable sometimes, much like my sister, Clear Skies. She is also not terribly bright. Not stupid by any stretch, but not bright. dull of attention to detail perhaps, unless one counts physical detail. She does have a keen eye. But father? Only on the track. A fatherly figure is an important part of growing up. All the books say so, and it sounds right in my head. But lately, with the stories I've requested, father has become ensnared. Several times I have observed him being especially loving or careful around my mother. This day, he left the house just before we left for school, precisely seven fifteen a.m. He returned several hours after we had. He had the distinct scent of sweat on him, and he reeked of fear. There was a nervous twitch in his hind leg, left, and his mane was wilder than usual. When one is as dull as father is, one tends to forget that fear exists.
Evidently something has retaught him what 'fear' is.
Everything I've read points to the idea that a little fear is good for a pony. It teaches them bravery, the ability to overcome fear. Of course, the more you're subject to, the harder it is to combat and defeat it. Father has not felt fear, I imagine, in a long, long time. His mind isn't used to the concept, so I think it's struggling to cope. Mother has noticed too, and though my sisters try to hide it, I can tell they see it as well. Clear Skies hides it best, beaming and smiling and hugging him like normal. He wasn't right. I'm not sure if it was a small jolt of fear or a heavy dose, but whichever it was, it's clearly not helping. Then, I may be incorrect. Observations will have to be made.
Stress is obviously getting to him. And only after a few hours. He lost his temper at Clear Skies when she was setting up a particularly devilish prank to play on Ghost, her favorite target. She looked shocked at first, then utterly terrified. Father walked away soon after. Clear Skies spent the rest of the day and night trying not to cry. I could see it in her eyes, the way she moved. Everything pointed to depression. It was not a pretty sight, and not one I wished to observe. Dinner was quiet and reserved. Nopony spoke. Not really. Bed followed soon after.
I have observed father over several months, and his condition is deteriorating. He treats Mother like she's made of fine china or cracked glass, ready to shatter at the lightest touch. Mother is getting frustrated. I can feel it. The atmosphere in the house is riddled with pent up emotions. Mother feels it too. She's getting more and more irritable and often refuses us what we could have had beforehoof. Probably because Father's performances are diminishing in quality. Spitfire has been forced to replace him in shows more than once. I saw her arguing with a reporter in the street outside our house. She didn't want him to come in. Said that Mother and Father liked their privacy. She's right, of course. But that can't be the only reason.
Hearth's Warming was almost normal. Except the frustrations and tensions running high. They diminished when Spitfire entered the domicile with some semblance of alcohol, probably eggnog, followed by Aunt Fleetfoot. She spent a lot of time with me, and I told her what I was afraid of. She told me she'd speak to father. I think she tried to as well. But Father has a thick head and a stubborn streak a mile wide. He'd never listen. He's in denial, saying nothing's wrong.
This is starting to annoy me.
I asked my friends at school about things like this. They said it normally happens before their parents leave each other. Divorce. Divorce isn't unheard of in Equestria, but nopony can say it's common. I don't think that will happen for a long time. When I got home, it looked like Mother and Father had just had a fight, and Mother was trying not to cry. I've heard them before, arguing. Mother always gives up. She can't get him to see what he's doing. He's coming home later and later these days. I think Mother suspects him of infidelity. It's possible to suspect, but I don't think Father is that stupid. Dull perhaps, but not outright stupid.
He left sometime that night. The fool. Mother is in despair. She's hurting much, much worse than she ever did getting those scars of hers. Perhaps the pony in her stories has something to do with this. It would not surprise me. He always seemed to turn up, so what's stopping him doing so again?
I want my Father back. Things were better the way they were. Change isn't always for the better. Now I want what I had back. My books bring me no comforts. My sisters irritate me with their whining.
Father had better get his act together and come home.
Gray was many things. A stallion with the theater at heart, Gray Lapis was a, coincidentally, gunmetal grey stallion with silky black hair making up his mane and tail. Lithe and lightly muscled, his physical condition is thanks to his rather physical lifestyle. Owner of the Lapis theater based in Ponyville and husband to the ever stylish Rarity, owner of the Carousel Boutique, Gray liked comedy, acting, tea, styling his mane and clothing.
He was also one of the first ponies to ever tell Skeleton he was her friend, having swiftly followed his wife after her own thoughtless admission. As such, whenever Skeleton had a problem she couldn't solve, she contacted Gray and Rarity.
Which is exactly where she was now.
Gray and Skeleton were sitting at the dining room table, both with a cup of chamomile tea. Gray had answered his door to the distraught Skeleton Grin with quiet surprise, and had quickly accepted her request for entry, brewing herself and him tea. There was a young colt with a purple mane asleep in a small cot next to his chair. Apparently, Rarity had gone to Canterlot for a little while, something to do with her career.
"So, Skeleton," He started carefully, "Tell me what happened. What's wrong?"
So, Skeleton Grin spilled the beans. In a rush that, were the beans she was spilling real beans and not metaphorical beans intended to bring meaning as to what exactly she was doing which just happened to be telling him everything that had happened over the past several months, would have spilled the beans not only all over the table but onto the floor and the sauce would stain the tiles something fierce meaning Gray would have to look at said beans in shock and then clean up the massive mess caused by the spilling of said not so metaphorical beans and possibly put up with a very apologetic Skeleton Grin concerning the nature of the spillage of the beans upon the table and floor in such a way as to cause such a mess simply by spilling the beans..
Good thing these are metaphorical beans eh?
Even so, Gray could barely keep up and, at the end of it all, looked thoroughly bewildered.
"Uh... Could you uh... Could you repeat the part with the things in it?" He asked hesitantly, "Like, from the beginning? As in all of the things?"
Skeleton sighed gently and began again, taking her time to speak slowly and gently, trying not to sound frustrated or annoyed. She started with the day he returned, then onto the months that followed, his actions, his change in attitude, his denials of her advances, everything that happened. Down to the last details. Perhaps even more than Gray was prepared to hear, although he never complained. Not once. Now that she was being slower, he could sit and listen with more focus and attention.
This was going to be a long day.
Soarin was asleep. Chemise could only hope she'd done the right thing. She had... taken a peek into his mind whilst she showed him what he she believed he needed to see. She'd seen it too, but in her experiences, her heart had hardened to hardship and heartache. A valuable, if not sometimes dark trait. She still felt the emotions from things, but she could choose to shut them out and think/look upon things objectively. This is what she'd done for some time whilst she showed the blue stallion the images, feelings and thoughts of his daughters, but now she faced them. She had cried some, she would not deny it. But she had to appear strong. When she had seen Skeleton in his mind's eye, she had nearly lost control of herself, but had managed to hold things together. She hadn't seen Skeleton Grin in almost a decade, but she was hard to mistake, and Chemise had a very good memory.
Soarin began to stir.
Chemise sighed softly. She'd told him she'd explain, and if he'd met Dreams, she only hoped he was ready to hear her tale, and not proclaim her as insane as him. They still sat in their chairs in the attic, but there was moonlight shining through the eastern side of the thatched roof now instead of sunlight on the western. When his eyes opened, they were glazed and a little glassy. A momentary pang of panic left the earth pony as they cleared up and his head snapped to face her, blinking heavily a few times.
"Good evening Soarin," She said gently, "I trust you slept well?"
He stared at her for a long moment before he finally let out a breath he didn't realise he'd been holding.
"Yeah," He said, thinking her question deserved a reply, "I guess I did. What... what was that?"
Here we go...
"Soarin dear," She said gently, "I told you earlier today that I would explain everything, and I intend to do so now. But you must promise me something."
Chemise fixed Soarin with a fierce gaze and he met it without complaint or fear.
"You will not call me crazy, you will not think I'm insane. I assure you, in all my years I have never been either of these things. Nor have I been deluded, delusional or experienced hallucinations that weren't brought on by magical means."
Soarin's brows furrowed, but he nodded, promising her. Chemise smiled.
"Thank you dear. I know parts of this are going to sound a lot like ridiculous flights of fancy, but I assure you that everything I say is true."
Start off small Chemise...
"To begin, I'm a little over two thousand years old."
Maybe a little heavy
Soarin's face said it all. He didn't believe her in the slightest. Not that she hadn't expected that.
"It's true. About two thousand, three hundred and twelve years ago, give or take a few decades or so, I was approached by a charming, suave stallion. The kind that sweep ponies off their hooves if you catch my drift. Like the vamponies in story books or the dashing princes. Although he was no prince, and he certainly wasn't a vampony. We met at an old gathering. It was the only one to ever occur, when the unicorn council ignored her majesty Princess Platinum to arrange a meeting of all three tribes in a festival to celebrate life. Or something similar. It was a noble notion, but a foolish one. Tensions were high for most. The few of us who didn't think ourselves as above or below one another tried to have a good time.
Obviously I was an earth pony. My job back in those days was, ironically, a florist. I wasn't selling flowers that day, since it was declared a universal holiday. Oh, there were still vendors, but they were occupied with volunteers and helpful ponies. I was, I'm ashamed to say, lazy in those days. I slacked off when I could, slept in the flower beds often, that sort of thing. That day was like a dream come true. Everypony meeting in one place, getting with my friends, you know? Well, I did end up with them, and we wandered the place. The earth pony section was very utilitarian. We built quickly and efficiently, wooden stands selling pottery, jewelry and such things. There was a surprising number of unicorns at those ones to be honest, oohing and aahing over the various trinkets we saw as so frivolous. Oh, I liked being pretty as much as the next filly, and often wore a rose behind my ear. Just in case, you know? In those times, courtship would take place when the pair exchanged gifts, in my case the rose.
In any case.
The pegasus encampment, for that's all it could be called, was very militaristic. Rows of tents in dead straight lines. Commander Hurricane could occasionally be heard shouting orders. I met her assistant there, Private Pansy. A lovely pegasus she was, untouched by prejudices and such. She was such a dear. She didn't deserve to die how she did. In any case, the pegasi were selling arms and armours mostly, with the occasional cloud animal vendor for pegasi foals, a few even with a unicorn with them to help for earth ponies and unicorns who wanted one. It was all very well ordered and disciplined. I didn't really like the pegasi as a whole, they were a standoffish bunch. Proud is probably the best word for them. So much has changed though in time, now they're athletes and hard workers. They're still proud, but tolerable.
The unicorns, I quickly discovered, were intolerable.
Arrogant and ever more standoffish than our winged brethren, the unicorn's had fancy tents and such set up or held up by magical means. Fortune tellers and jewelry makers and toy makers, everything the others strived to achieve. The make, however, wasn't as strong as the earth pony jewelry and looked ready to break at the faintest breath of wind, and the armour for the guards was made almost entirely of gold. It might have looked pretty, but gold is a very soft metal, so it wasn't very good armour. Princess Platinum had decided to attend anyway, to keep some form of appearance. She was arrogant, puffed up and unbelievably pretty. Her assistant, although I'd more call the poor thing a slave, Clover the Clever, was by her side, looking almost as rumpled as we did in winter. Poor dear, she was such a bright filly. In a tent on the far side of the small town like third was, and I remember very clearly, Starswirl. He was quite dashing, but bad tempered and easily disgruntled. I left him alone, and so did my friends.
We wandered the place, and eventually came across an elaborate tent that was bested only by the garish creation of Platinum's. We were informed the inhabitant was not present, and left, disappointed. That could have been anypony's tent, and I wanted to know who. But my friends and I were told to move along, and along we moved.
It was soon after I accidentally ran into princess Platinum. She was accompanied by a retinue of guards and she screeched so annoyingly, demanding I was punished. She ranted about how foul and filthy my hooves and coat were, how I was contaminating her with my earth pony filth. I remember the guards came for me, then he stopped them. With just a casual word. He suggested to the princess that perhaps she was overreacting. I looked for my friends for support but they were gone. I don't blame them, and I didn't then. To my surprise, Platinum just grumbled, motioned to her guards and left. The pony who had saved me was tall, broad shouldered and wore a sable coat over a silver waistcoat. His eyes were mesmerizing and seemed to never settle on one colour and he had such a beautiful smile. His shoes were obviously earth pony made however, and he had a band of the metallic black around his left foreleg that reminded me of the pegasi metal. He helped me up and offered his services.
Obviously, he was a noble to have such influence. He was older than I as well.
I remember blushing and telling him i was just a florist. He told me he was the son of a lesser unicorn noble caste and asked what that had to do with things. With that he'd taken my hoof and led me away. We walked slowly, and a lot of ponies were watching him and whispering. I felt tiny and he noticed this and smiled.
'You know,' I remember him saying, 'You can let them talk. They can't hurt you whilst you're with me. Let them make up scandalous gossip, at least they think you're pretty.'
It was a little easier after that. I made a point of actually looking at him whilst I could. He was easily ten years older than me at least. Maybe fifteen. Before you object, it was common for ponies to be married to older ponies in this time, normally older and wealthier. Anyhow, he was very handsome and his face had an ageless sort of quality to it, if you know what I mean. Like no matter how old he got, he'd still look amazing. He was like... an Adonis, the perfect stallion. Or, he was to me. Gentlecoltly, handsome. Strong jaw... I won't bother you with any more details."
Chemise suddenly stopped and sighed.
"This, of course, was the start of our relationship."
Soarin blinked out of his trance and shook his head suddenly.
"Uh, no offense, but what does an ancient love story got to do with this?"
Chemise glared at him angrily.
"It has everything to do with it Soarin Wonderbolt, and you will be quiet while I am talking to you!"
Soarin went quiet and Chemise cleared her throat.
"Now then. He took me back to his tent, the one my friends and I were wondering about before. I was smitten with him, completely and utterly, and now that I think back on it, I'm sure he knew that. He took every opportunity to be the best gentlecolt he could, and often showed himself off, or his possessions. One look at his wardrobe alone and I knew he was no minor noble. He had to be important. The material alone would cost more than my plantation, and that was for one waistcoat! He showed me much of his tent. Before you ask, yes he did bring his entire wardrobe. He took me to the jousting tournament held by the pegasi, which was a piece taken from their ancestors in the Crystal Empire, the only nation at the time that had successfully integrated all ponies into one society. We watched the warriors of the pegasi ponies joust, and then some of the others do the same. Or rather, the Earth ponies gave it a try, and many of them were quite good at it. The unicorns sat back and watched. He and I watched the rope tricks and traditional entertainments of the earth ponies, juggling and whatnot. Then he stayed with me, one forehoof around my nineteen year old body as we watched the artists of the unicorns spray the evening and night sky with colours and pictures as they told stories.
He kept me there well after dark, and when everypony was gone, he turned to me, smiling that amazing smile, and..."
She stopped again and sniffed, a tear coming to her eye. Another voice caught the tale and continued it, making Soarin and Chemise look to the doorway. A white skull looked back at them from shadows, a pair of eyes shifting in ever colour of the rainbow, and some not in the rainbow.
"And I offered you something I had been missing for the better part of six thousand years. My love. I offered you the band I had collected from the pegasus warriors in exchange for the rose you had upon your ear. You accepted in a heartbeat. As I remember, your parents were, at first, furious. But after I spoke to them, they supported your decision, spurred by the idea of money when they needed it. We were married almost three months later, a traditional white wedding. You were beautiful in your white gown, and I was handsome in a black suit, tailored by the unicorns I called brethren, and still do. Your dress was of the Earth pony tribe, and you wore a wreath of flowers upon your head to hold your veil. It was a step, but then the frosts came in the form of powerful, malevolent spirits. Windigos had descended upon civil war torn towns and cities.
I remember on the third year of frost. You were twenty-five. You were sick, and dying. I couldn't let it happen. Not again. So I begged my master for a favor, and begged you to join me, to outlast the elements and time itself. You refused my offer, saying it was your time, and that the years you spent with me were.... were your happiest.
But I wouldn't have it.
I told you what came at death, I revealed the secrets of the afterlife, and you thought it wasn't that bad. But there are no flowers in either plane, and eventually you would have come back to the war torn land and died all over again, but as a foal. You agreed to my pact, on the condition you served nopony."
His eyes hardened and he sighed, a paradox of a reaction to be certain.
"But my master's touch leaves none untainted. He left you with power. Dangerous power that not even I could avoid. We left the place from whence we came and went abroad. We lived for many years together, but when you came into your power... Your abilities sent you into a possessive, controlling frenzy, and eventually I left. The ability to force another to do your will, to synchronize brain waves. This is the power you wield, and the one that has left you how you are, and how we are."
"Two thousand years, and the wound has never healed."
If tension were tangible, it would be so thick that it could be cut with a knife. On one side of Soarin, his saviour and carer Chemise stood, looking at Splintered Dreams. On the other stood his potential killer and possibly the scariest stallion he'd ever met, Splintered Dreams himself. His mind was still trying to comprehend the idea that these two ponies were hundreds of years old. He wasn't the cleverest pegasus to begin with, but he thought that even the smartest of smart ponies would have a hard time accepting this.
"Uh... so what, you two are like, hundreds of years old?" He asked blankly. Suddenly all eyes were on him and he gulped. He felt sheer animosity in one fierce gaze, and almost amusement from the other tinged with a little annoyance. Dreams was the first to speak.
"No you colossal fool, she is much younger than I. Chemise is just over two thousand years old, I am thousands of years older than her, you and everypony else on this forsaken rock you call Equestria."
He grunted and sat down, growling. He made no move to attack Soarin though, and for that Soarin was grateful.
"I watched this land grow, develop and weaken. At first, Equestria had prominent military prowess, led by the great Commander Hurricane. Hurricane collaborated with the others to not only improve their armed forces, but enhance his own. Yes, Hurricane was male. Private Pansy was not, but Hurricane was. Your memory is getting sloppy Chemise."
Chemise huffed defiantly.
"Commander Hurricane was female, and that's all there is to it!"
Dreams growled and took a step forward. Chemise, not to be intimidated, also took a step forward.
"Dammit woman, he was male and he was a complete Ass! And even that's an insult to the stubborn creatures!"
Somewhere in Equestria, a mule looked around and grumbled something about being insulted. Chemise snorted. All the while, Soarin was stepping back with each step they took forward.
"He was a she and yes, she was a fool, but a practical fool."
"He was a soldier who thought with all he muscles except the one that matters!"
"A trait you seem to share, it seems!"
"Don't you insult me! I've lived longer than you have, and will continue to do so longer that you will!"
"Don't be so certain about that! I'm just as strong willed as you are, I will live for much longer yet!"
The pair were now nose to nose, and Soarin hoped to dear Celestia they didn't start making out like in those cliche' romance novels he had at home. That would suck majorly. Their faces were screwed up in sheer rage. Or, Chemise's was. It was difficult to tell with Dreams because of his mask. Deciding this would be the best time to leave, Soarin started his attempt at sneaking away.
"Don't think we're done yet Wonderbolt, you will stay where you are!"
Dream's voice stopped Soarin before he could take a second step and the fear he felt before hit him like a freight train as Dream's horn burst spectacularly to life. The unicorn slowly turned to Soarin and began advancing as Soarin cowered in fear. Soarin had felt fear, for certain. But even last time seemed irrelevant to what he felt now. If fear was what he'd felt before, what was this? Terror? Hysteria? The feeling one gets when their soul is crushed? He couldn't tell.
The spell snapped and dissipated, and Soarin gasped out a breath, not even realising he hadn't been breathing before and Dreams snarled and turned on Chemise.
The sound startled Soarin so much, he seemed to jump ten feet off the floor and whirled to face the pair, his cry for Chemise silenced as he beheld the scene. Unlike what he thought, it was Chemise who had struck Dreams. Her hoof was still in the air from where it had impacted and she hadn't dropped it yet, and there was a part of Dream's mask that had actually shattered. A bruise had already begun to form on his face and his eyes were wide.
"You will NOT instigate violence in MY house Splintered Dreams!" She commanded, although Soarin couldn't feel the authority that normally went along with her commands, "Is that understood? No bloodshed, no nothing!"
There was a long pause as Soarin stared at Chemise in absolute shock. This stallion had scared Soarin, a Wonderbolt and thus part of Equestria's military, into an absolute wreck, and she seemed to find it simple to hit him!? But despite this, Soarin had felt that her voice carried no such authority that it had several times, and a low growl escaped Splintered Dreams. His horn lit up in an explosion of light and Chemise was sent flying off her hooves and Soarin bolted just as Dream's blade appeared in his mouth and he gave furious chase. Through the simple cottage they raced, pegasus against unicorn, ancient against wonderbolt. Soarin fled for his life until he finally remembered he had wings and leapt through a window, bursting the glass and opening his wings, ignoring the sting of cuts from the broken glass as adrenaline surged through him and he flapped hard and fast to get away.
A surge of fear gripped the blue pegasus and he rolled to the left instinctively just in time to void a net of raw energy that would have thundered into him with enough force to break something. Calling on his stunt training, he dodged once more, avoiding another.
Then they stopped, and a much more ominous noise began to follow him.
The clink of bone
Soarin spared a look behind him and his blood ran cold. The unicorn was off the ground, a pair of skeletal wings allowing him impossible liftoff. Soarin's mind tried to grasp the impossibility, but he shouldered it aside and forced himself to go faster, determined to get away from the madpony behind him. But despite his best efforts, Soarin couldn't shake him. In fact, the unicorn seemed to be gaining on him.
And then basic flight school lessons hit him and he almost facehoofed.
Slipstreams! Idiot Soarin, he's using your slipstream to reduce drag!
He wheeled out of the way and Splintered Dreams made a wide turn to compensate, but not before losing ground. Soarin felt a grin on his face widen.
You can scare me, but you can't keep up like a real Wonderbolt can fly!
Barrel rolls were now his best friend, since his pursuer didn't seem capable of doing them with the disproportioned, featherless wings he had, and Soarin began gaining ground once more. Until just before he barrel rolled for his fifth time. A sparkling net of raw magic, just like earlier, shot past his wing and he yelped, plunging through a cloud to throw Dreams and only managing in blocking another net with it. With that in mind, he began barging through every cloud he could, making holes only large enough or him to fit through, basically rendering the nets useless.
Then he spotted Cloudsdale and his first thought not about his survival popped into his head.
He bolted for Cloudsdale.
Meanwhile, Skeleton Grin was just finishing her third cup of tea with Gray Lapis and had insisted that she had to go home, as she was feeling much better now. Gray had helped her, spoken to her, listened to her, everything she'd needed from a completely unbiased (in her eyes) Source, and a friend to boot.
"I do hope you and Rarity can visit sometime," Skeleton said with a serene smile and Gray chuckled.
"Well, I'll see if we can't arrange it no?" He replied, "And perhaps you can visit us? I'm sure little Xero would be glad to make new friends."
"I'd be delighted to, once I've rounded up my wayward husband."
This was the conclusion the pair had finally reached. Through many tears, several large pieces of cake and three cups of tea and a light lunch, Skeleton had reached the conclusion that perhaps something she had done had spooked Soarin, and now it was up to her to fix it up. Perhaps the story wasn't the best idea, and that'd also been addressed, with Gray looking quite disturbed at her decision. Despite this, they parted still as good friends. There are some friendships that withstand even time itself. With a gentle nod to Gray and a thankful 'goodbye', Skeleton lifted into the sky silently, or almost. As she flew, she felt infinitely more confident. Gray was no psychiatrist, but he was her friend, and he'd helped her better than any silly shrink would. Even one married to the purple unicorn she'd been helped by to catch Soarin's heart.
Her children were her first concern. They were probably worried sick about her. It was time to reassure them that she was perfectly fine and back to her usual self. Or, mostly. She had the feeling she wouldn't be completely back to how she was until she had Soarin back and they'd sorted everything out. Cloudsdale wasn't too far from Ponyville, and she reached it in good time, heading immediately in the direction of her home. Judging by the time, she was sure her fillies would be getting home from school soon. But a casual asking of a nearby passerby informed her that this was incorrect. Instead, they'd be finishing school soon. With a small smile, Grin dropped off at a nearby bakery that she knew well. She knew it well because the baker was the one she normally went to to get Soarin's pies. It was his favorite place after all. Whilst there, and after a short chat to the baker himself, Grin left with three cream donuts and a large, steaming pie that he'd guaranteed would get the wayward Wonderbolt's attention.
Altogether, she felt pretty good about herself.
She arrived at the school with a few minutes to spare, and some of the other parents stared at her. They knew who she was. Mostly because of the occasional appearance in newspapers, most recently in the past weeks, saying she was having trouble with her relationship. In her mouth was the final item she'd purchased from the baker, a freshly baked apple turnover. She waved at a few of them and smiled and they smiled tentatively back. One tiny little colt ran on his stubby little legs over to her, chased by his mother and she giggled as the mother apologised profusely, waving it off as adorable.
The looks on her fillies faces when they saw their mother sitting, ready to pick them up, was heartwarming and the trio, even reserved little Pepper, rushed to their mother and showered her with hugs.
Heartwarming. The word used by many of the witnesses that day, including a sole journalist/photographer for the Cloudsdale Weekly magazine, who snapped a shot of it with a smile as his own young foal joined him to go home. Skeleton was lost in a sea of hugs, happy fillies and joy.
Soarin was afraid. And not just for his life.
He'd returned to his home to find it empty, and the Wonderbolt's normal place to stay was also empty, which probably meant they all went out as a group. Not uncommon. But he couldn't find anypony he knew anywhere.
Another net flew past him and hit a building, prompting screams from ponies beneath him as he was chased by the bone winged menace he'd come to hate so much. The last place he had to look he didn't want to go anywhere near whilst a maniac was flinging nets at him. Dipping and diving had worked so far as well as various different stunts and maneuvers, breaking his slipstream and dodging. Working quite often indeed. The maniac behind him had fallen behind enough that Soarin should have been able to lose him, but he hadn't. He just kept coming. He had no choice in the matter now, The school was the last place he could think of Grin being, and he headed there.
As luck would have it however, he didn't have to go far. A powerdive to the floor saw him land before what was his family and clutch at Skeleton in the fiercest embrace he could manage on his adrenaline, which was quite a powerful one. The sharp-toothed mare yelped and for a moment, almost fought back against the sudden randomness of the 'assault'. But the familiar smell of Cinnamon was one smell she knew well, almost perfectly one could say.
He was babbling in her ear, and she could feel tears hitting her coat as she stood, dumbfounded.
"Wow..." She mumbled, "That pie must have really done the trick."
Grin's ears perked up and, in an instant, all three fillies were behind her as a familiar sensation rolled over Grin. One she'd known for most of her life.
Skeleton felt an overwhelming fear.
The area around her seemed to darken and the one pony she never thought she'd see again landed before her and her family. The bone mask was unmistakable, although there seemed to be a serious part of it missing, and he had massively disproportionate bony wings on his back. His horn was glowing ominously, sizzling with dark magic.
"You will find no solace hiding behind her! I warned you Soarin Wonderbolt, and now it's just about time you owed up and payed!"
There was a sword in his mouth and Skeleton's mind, in the nanoseconds that the brain can operate in a crisis, put two and two together.
Soarin was spooked, but it was nothing I did! It... It was this.. Fiend!
A pox on him sister, I'm not ready to let him destroy us yet.
Soarin cowered away as the unicorn charged and Skeleton felt her mind, her personality, her entirety being shoved out of the way as something else took charge. The familiar feel of her primitive mind as she saw everything in some sort of demented slow motion. Her old 'saviour' lunging forward, fury and bloodlust in his eyes, Soarin grabbing the fillies, screaming at her to run... fly away. Orange eyes lowered into angry slits and sharp teeth bared as Skeleton leapt out to meet the new threat, primal forces driving her to protect her family, her source of happiness and to destroy the source of her past anger, despair and depression. Vengeance, Protective instinct drove her as she dodged underneath the blade of the sword as she watched with a cruel satisfaction the look of incredulous shock on the creature before her's eyes and her maw opened wide and bit down hungrily, seeking out her prey's throat.
Dream's screamed in pain and began bucking and twisting wildly and Grin was thrown off of him, tearing bloody furrows into his flesh. His horn ignited and he looked furiously at Grin as she spun up and growled at him again and, for the first time in a long time, he felt pure raw terror. Chemise scared him, but this pony... Blood dripping from her sharklike teeth as she bounded back in front of her family, matting the fur under her mouth and on her muzzle with a red stain. It occurred to him somewhere there was a flash, but it was of no concern. The blade in his teeth dropped and he pushed the terror to one side the best he could.
"...Why?" he asked slowly, "Why protect him?"
The voice that came from Skeleton's throat was not that of the gentle pony herself, but of something entirely different, dark and dangerous.
"They are our family," It said, shreds of Grin's gentler, stern voice shining through now as, even now in her mind, she was given more assertion over herself, "We will protect them with our life, even from monsters like you."
"Monsters like me...?"
His eyes hardened suddenly and his horn burst spectacularly into life once more.
The voice carried so much authority, so much power, that for a moment, everypony in the immediate vicinity actually stopped breathing in their shock before, out of seemingly nowhere, Chemise stepped out of the air and landed lightly on the clouds between Splintered Dreams and Grin, glaring bloody murder at Dreams. For the third time that day, fear was evident in his eyes.
"How dare you! Attacking a Wonderbolt, AND your goddaughter? What's wrong with you!?"
Dreams growled, "How dare YOU? What authority do you-"
The pair of them continued to argue. It was really quite childish to be honest. Skeleton, Soarin and the girls just stared at the pair of ponies, arguing like an old married couple.
Soarin was the first to talk.
"Uh... Grin, do you think we should just...?"
Skeleton frowned and shrugged.
"Well, I was going home to begin with. We'll just go another way..."
The five ponies backed away slowly from the stupid argument, Skeleton wiping her mouth and looking at her hoof in horror a time or two before ducking into a public toilet halfway home to clean up.
By the time they got home, Dreams and Chemise were still arguing, but by now it had changed from being about Dream's blatant physical assault to the correct colour of curtains in a pale green room.
Almost six hours later, the foals were in bed and Skeleton was in the bathroom brushing her teeth as she had been doing for the past fifteen minutes for the sixth time that day. Soarin was waiting impatiently outside the room.
"Grin, it's fine! There's nothing there, I'm serious. You can stop trying to file your teeth down to nothing now. A toothbrush isn't the best tool for that anyway."
"I can't help it! I can still see it all... It's terrible!"
a pair of powder blue hooves wrapped around her waist and Soarin pressed a gentle kiss to her cheek.
"You did what you had to to protect your family. I owe you my life, among other things."
She couldn't help but giggle as he peppered butterfly kisses on her ears and nuzzled her ticklish spots.
He chuckled along with her and spun her around, pressing her up against the sink with a sly smile. She blushed.
"Well, I can think of a way to start repaying my debt to you my love~"
She giggled and lowered her eyelids, fluttering her eyelashes at him.
"I can't wait for you to start~"
Two weeks later, a snapshot of Skeleton Grin picking up her fillies was in the Cloudsdale Weekly, along with a still of her fighting off Dreams to protect her family followed by the headline 'Skeleton Grin. Devil or Angel in disguise?' It was an interesting read that essentially lauded Grin's motherly instincts. The media went into a frenzy, but couldn't find any dirt on the young mare. And if they could get past the Wonderbolts holding them off from their house, they were welcome to whatever dirt they could find.
For their part, Skeleton and Soarin were reunited happily and the pair sorted out their problems. Soarin was paying for his stupid little stunt for some time and often found himself pulled out of training to wait on Skeleton hoof and tail much to his embarrassment. But the pair were back, and life had gone back to normal.
Well, almost normal.
The stories Skeleton had been telling ceased swiftly and she never mentioned her scars again, and she still had trouble eating beetroot, but all in all they were well.
And Splintered Dreams? Well, who knew. Chemise visited regularly and was a favorite of all of the fillies, even shy little Pepper, who thought she was just wonderful.
Life was good once more.
And, cliche' as it sounds, Love had prevailed once again.