59w, 5dAdventures - Alternate Universe
"Sister? What are you doing?"
"Pack a bag. We are leaving."
"Why? I'm happy here."
"Well, I am not. We have no place in Equestria any more."
"Celina, my dear. Why so eager to leave?"
"You let her go, Desmond. I'm not afraid to break you."
"Yes, that's it. Do give in to your hatred. It very much clashes with your old self. Chaotic, is it not?"
"I don't know what you're doing, but if you value your life-"
"Oh blah, blah, blah. Okay, you win. Take this little tyke and gallop. Gallop for the hills if you must! Don't expect your precious kingdom to look the same when you return."
"That's just fine, for we never will. Come along, little sister."
"Ah still don't get why we have to go all the way to Fillydelphia."
"It's simple, Applebloom. Every business that wasn't destroyed by the fire is closin' down. Let's face it, Ponyville is dead." Applejack kicked the barn door shut and applied the lock. "Fillydelphia is so dense that she'll never find us there."
"Can't we just take the train?"
"And pull up to an army of soldiers ready cut ya in two? That ain't happenin' to mah lil' sister." Applejack patted Applebloom's scarlet mane, mussing up the little one's hair.
"So, what would you do if one a' them soldiers came our way?" asked Applebloom as she fixed her hair and bow tie.
Applejack stopped loading up the cart with rations, tents and blankets and thought about that. "Well, I'd prolly do somethin' like this." She got into a primal stance and kicked out her left hind leg at an imaginary pony, followed by the other. "Then a little something a' this!" She then leaped into the air, landed on her rear and proceeded to wail on the imaginary pony's imaginary face. She stopped and tilted her hat. "Then I'd yell, 'You leave my family alone ya lil' sack a-'"
"Are you two ready to go?" Big Macintosh trotted around the corner and hitched himself up to the cart.
Applejack returned to a standing position. "I guess you want to beat the traffic?"
Thus the Apple siblings walked the stone trail leading away from the town they spent their whole lives in. Ponyville sank lower and lower into the distance.
Apple Bloom couldn't help but glance back, as she could feel her eyes swell from the tears. "Ah'm gonna miss it here..." she looked back at her childhood memories; her, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo always going on zany adventures, always obsessing over attaining their cutie marks. The day Cerberus saved her life from the fire. The day she finally got her cutie mark, creating a masterpiece painting that could even jerk other ponies tears...
The little filly wasn't the only one taking a trip down memory lane, for her big sister had a vast amount of enjoyable memories of her own. Like the day Applejack and her friends saved Applebuck Season. The day she made amends with her rival during the Running of the leaves. Even through the fall of Discord, her bond strengthened as they overcame their obstacles through sheer friendship alone...
Big Mac was stoic as ever.
Heartfelt goodbyes were commonplace on that cloudy winter morning. Even though many a pony had scraped by for a few months in what was left of Ponyville, it was time to face facts, they couldn't live in the wreckage of old businesses and residential districts forever. Ponyville had fallen like the snow from the sky, which was falling rather fast and heavy, but not to the point of being unforgivable.
If one were to ask anypony where they were going, the answer would vary. Some groups were simply relocating to the nearest town over. Others were going to live with distant family. Some were so terrified of what Celestia could do that they would take the journey across the border into a neighboring kingdom.
The Lunar Republic had other plans; they wanted to get as close as they could to Celestia so they could launch an attack on a dime if they so wished.
Fillydelphia wasn't much farther from Canterlot than Ponyville, and the dense population provided necessary insurance. Heretic had reasoned that Celestia would never destroy such a densely populated town to worm out a few select criminals. At worst she would send Captain Black, and with their combined strength, the Lunar Republic was more than a match for him.
Before that, however, the Lunar Republic would take an indiscriminate path through the forest bordering Ponyville. It wasn't nearly as treacherous as the Everfree, but the journey would be rather long.
Heretic surveyed the cold clear water slowly moving down the large ditch. A waterfall could be heard in the distance. It was eery in that it was the only thing to be heard in the silent woods. Even hoofsteps went without a sound in the dense snow.
"Right then. This stream will lead us to Fillydelphia. It won't be the fastest route but it will definitely be the safest."
Pinkie Pie was washing her mane in the stream. When she pulled her head up, her hair fell flat across her vision. She talked to Heretic, though she was looking the opposite direction from where he was. "Harry, I can understand what you're saying! What's up?"
Heretic brushed the snow on the ground with his hoof. "I... simply wish to make sure my words don't fall on deaf ears. Having a superior mind means nothing if nopony cares to comprehend my speech." He adjusted his glasses and looked over his chart. He had spent weeks on this, mapping out probabilities and percentages and researching the history of paths traveled in these woods to make a safe path. He had minimized the possibility of meeting any undesirables along the way. The Lunar Republic would split into two teams. One group consisted of Twilight Sparkle, Heretic, Rarity, Fluttershy, Cerberus and Winter Solstice. The other was smaller, only having Rainbow Dash, Judas and Pinkie Pie and Spike.
Luna had disappeared beforehand to gather followers in other towns. She had sent several letters through Cerberus to inform the Lunar Republic of her progress. Appleoosa, Manehatten, Trottingham and Las Pegasus had given their support to Luna and were gathering troops for an uprising. Other towns disinterested in war would instead contribute food and medicine. Hephaestus Ironwright himself was working under Celestia's radar to supply enchanted armor to the troops.
In silence, the first group walked along the river, and the second crossed to the other side to take a more direct route to Fillydelphia. Winter Solstice lead the first group from the front. The rear was brought up by Cerberus, who, of course, walked next to Fluttershy. Everypony else walked freely in the middle.
More silence. Nopony bothered to speak for the remainder of the day. It wasn’t because talking would be overly risky. Heretic actually encouraged talking, as he said earlier, “Social interaction can relieve stress, and there is a large quantity of that these days.” It seemed that reality was catching up with the group. Now that Ponyville had been left for dead, all that awaited them was a battle. When it would happen? Nopony knew. Would they win? Nopony knew that either.
Twilight Sparkle thought that she would be more anxious about this. If the Lunar Republic was successful, Celestia would likely end up dead, so why was it that she wasn’t going ballistic? In such a short time everything she expected out of life had been tossed out the window, burned at the stake and buried at sea, and yet here she was, taking it all in stride.
Fluttershy was worried. Not for anypony’s life, not for Cerberus, not for herself. It was about something else. Something that had been aching at her for weeks. She felt heavy and sluggish. She knew what was wrong, she just couldn’t let herself accept it, not that it was a bad thing. In fact, it was the possibly the best thing that could happen to her. But why did it have to happen now?
“Fluttershy? You’re falling behind.” said Rarity.
“Sorry. I’m a little distracted.”
“Lucky you. This is all too much for me to bear.”
“You’re not getting all prissy about walking through the woods, are you? Could your hooves use a little trimming?”
Rarity laughed. “Goodness no! Some things are more important than hygiene. I just can’t relax! All this sneaking around, going under Celestia’s radar, I hate being so discreet. Ugh! It’s so stressful!"
Fortunately for Rarity, everpony's hooves began to tire and the sun began sinking down on the horizon, at least they could assume so, for the snow on the ground was beginning to dim in brightness and turn orange to reflect the sunset, so it was mutually decided that it was time to set up camp.
Twilight unzipped her bag of holding, which had been magically amplified to carry much more than it looked like it should, and pulled out three rolled up tents. "There's one for me and Rarity, one for Heretic and Winter Solstice in case they need to discuss battle strategies, and one for Cerberus and Fluttershy." She glanced at the latter two. "Of course these have been enchanted with silencing spells so nopony can hear you-"
"Snoring?" interrupted Cerberus. Fluttershy laughed at his euphemism.
Rarity began searching through the bag. "You didn't happen to bring any towels, did you?"
"Why?" asked Twilight.
"I noticed a most lovely pond a little ways from here. I was going to cast a heating spell to make a temporary hot spring."
"I wouldn't recommend it," said Heretic as he organized the supplies for his tent, which Winter Solstice began setting up with her magic. "The steam would be rather visible to our enemies."
"Don't be such a worry worm, Heretic. I'm plenty capable of handling a few soldiers. Never underestimate a lady."
The more Fluttershy thought about a hot spring, the more appealing it sounded. She grabbed a second towel between her teeth and followed her friend to the pond.
Fluttershy emerged from the warm water and let her now drenched hair fall across her eyes. A single flower that had sat on the surface of the pond now rested on her muzzle. She leaned her head against the edge and closed her eyes.
"Wonderful... it feels so good..."
Rarity had wrapped her towel around her mane and gently eased into the water. "That heating spell works wonders, doesn't it? I learned it from Hephaestus Ironwright. That colt is a saint, he is."
"I'll have to thank him later. I needed this."
"Why, darling, are you ill?"
Fluttershy's smile faltered. "A little bit, I guess you could say so."
"Well, I'm not surprised. I love the artistic effect of snow but when it drags on for months like this, it starts to be rather dull. At least you have a lover that you can cuddle up with when you get cold. Speaking of which, how are you and Cerberus doing?"
"I can't complain. He's always there for me when I need him."
"He's been there for all of us. Helping me sharpen my fashion techniques, loving you, saving Applejack and Twilight's lives... I swear, if you hadn't scooped him up-"
Fluttershy's eyes flashed open. "Don't touch my Cerby."
A moment of awkward silence passed, followed by laughter.
"It's funny, really." said Rarity. "I'm the hopeless romantic and yet you're the only one in this pond with any experience in the bedroom. I do hope your and Cerberus' romance doesn't go stale in a hurry."
Fluttershy was brought back to the issue that had been clouding her mind. Would it be a good idea to tell Rarity? She was her best friend, she could keep a secret. Telling somepony would at least take an invisible weight off her back. "Um, Rarity?" Fluttershy said, lapsing back into her cowardly disposition, which she thought she had left behind in the ruins of Ponyville. "I'm... I'm..."
Rarity moved closer to her dear friend to hear her better. "What's the matter, Fluttershy? You can tell me."
The three tents were set up in a triforce, with Heretic and Winter Solstice's standing closest to the river. Twilight was putting the finishing touches on a cooking fire. She was aching for a toasted daisy club.
Cerberus was hungry too, eager to warm up the last of his sapphires and pack away. If they got jumped, he didn't want to fight on an empty stomach. He warmed the coals with his fire breath and reached into his satchel, only to stop at the sound of his beloved talking in a hushed voice to Rarity. They had returned from their makeshift hot spring, apparently.
"I don't want to."
"It's no big deal, darling, it's actually quite wonderful."
"I know, I'm happy about it, but I can't tell him. I'll just be a liability."
"That's a big word for you. What do you mean?"
"Everypony will be taking enemy fire for me if I tell-"
"Tell us what?" Cerberus intercepted their path. He was rather put off by how somber Fluttershy looked. She was rather happy earlier, what happened, he wondered? "Is something wrong?"
Rarity nodded to Fluttershy and shut herself away in her tent to get her beauty sleep.
"Um," Fluttershy looked back and forth for a possible exit to this conversation. She was foolish to think so. There was no escaping Cerberus, and she would have to say something eventually.
Then she got an idea. If she couldn't tell him, but at the same time, had to tell him, she could just tell him that she couldn't tell him what she had to tell him until she could tell him. Eventually.
"I can't tell you." Fluttershy said as she approached Cerberus. She flinched. "But, I will. Soon."
"Just trust me. It's for the best if you don't know, and please, don't try to find out what it is." She rested her head on his withers and hugged him.
Cerberus returned the hug. "If you think that's what's best." He didn't doubt her for a second. Whatever she neglected to tell him could wait, so long as he could keep her close to him. "Don't worry. I love you no matter what." He raised her head gently and kissed her.
"Let's go to bed."
Heretic was almost done with the prototype of his battle strategy. After analyzing several maps of Canterlot and doing almost obsessive amounts of number crunching, he felt that he had reached the absolute minimum in the odds of fatalities. It was a cinch for him, really. He planned obsessively like this on a regular basis, even for simple shopping trips. He stood up and tried to fix a crick in his neck from doing calculations all evening and noticed he left an ink stain on his bedsheets. His hooves were covered in the stuff.
"Reasonable excuse to exit the tent, I suppose." As Heretic unzipped the tent flap, he realized that as of late, his common vocabulary, while still advanced and proper, had been deprived of overly complicated literature. Pinkie Pie did point this out earlier, he remembered. He chuckled and reassured himself. "I still hold a superior mind. Simpler words have a farther reach."
Somehow the night was noisier than the day. Crickets chirped in the distance and the river frogs sang their nonsensical song of croaking. The glow of the fire had yet to dwindle. Something else was glowing. A light blue color, nearby the river. Winter Solstice was meditating. Heretic smiled and slowly approached her. He always valued her as one of equal mind, though she saw little reason to use it. She let her actions speak for her.
“I have good reason to be awake at this hour. But you, what are you doing, Winter Solstice?” She took a while to respond, lost in her own garbled reflection in the water, which was moving faster downhill. When she talked, Heretic had a feeling it wasn’t a direct answer to his question.
“Some may say revenge will leave one nothing to live for. I’ve already lost everything, so revenge is all I live for.”
“You’re speaking in riddles again.” said Heretic.
Solstice didn’t respond to that. She continued,
“Trapped underneath a frozen prison with all hope sinking as I am. The only one that can help me cackles like a hyena, and trots away without a word. My vision fades into nonexistence, but my horn shines brighter than a hot summer’s day. The ice falls under my control and breaks for me to return to life. Part of me is left in the river, my innocence, forever lost. All that waits for me at home are ashes and glass, and armored individuals ready to decorate the cobblestone with my blood in the name of a crime I had not committed. Their lives are ended by the ice that I guide, and thus I am reborn with no desire left but to send the burning one to the place in which his heart was created.”
Heretic was stunned. He had never heard any poetry of this caliber, but he soon realized that the reason for that was because this wasn’t poetry. It was the story of Winter Solstice’s life. He looked over the river. Yes, I get it, he thought to himself, this is where Black Licorice left her to die. He spat at the ground in utter disgust. What kind of sociopath would abandon his own sister like that? “He’ll die,” he said to his silent friend. “Just like the rest of them.”
Before he closed the tent flap and went to dreamland for the night, he heard Winter Solstice say, ever so quietly, “Thank you, Bubblemint Berry.” For the first time in many years, Heretic wasn’t angry to hear that name.
The tent flap hadn't been closed entirely, meaning the silence enchantment wasn't activated, and Heretic's attempt to fall asleep was interrupted by the sound of somepony screaming.
"AAAAAAAAGH!!! NO!!" Cerberus shot forward into a sitting position so fast he threw the sheets off the air mattress. He was drenched in cold sweat. "No... no no no... please..." he muttered with his head bowed. Fluttershy woke and was comforting him within seconds with her hooves massaging his withers. His hyperventilating showed no signs of slowing.
"Just talk. Tell me what happened," whispered Fluttershy into his lowered ears. "It's okay, darling. I'm right here."
Cerberus managed to speak between breaths. "It was... awful... they were all... dead... everypony was... dead... then... I saw her... laughing... I couldn't... get away... I'm scared..." He curled into the fetal position and let his tears flow freely. They stained the sheets. Fluttershy only smiled and looked upon her lover with her angelic eyes. She lay down next to him.
"It's okay," she repeated, "I'm right here. I'll always be here." She reached out to touch his head and cradled it in her lap while she brushed his unkempt mane.
Cerberus looked up to her and tried to force his frown to leave his face. "I... I love you..."
Fluttershy closed her eyes. Letting her long lost soft voice return to her, she sang the first song that popped into her mind. "Hush now, quiet now, it's time to lay your sleepy head... hush now, quiet now, it's time to go to bed..."
It took many hours and a lot of tears, but Cerberus eventually stopped trembling. He could still hear Fluttershy's heavenly singing voice, even though she had been asleep for a while, snuggled into his warm chest. His draconic body was always a source of heat for her, like a pillow that she could snog.
Cerberus was lost in his thoughts. His nightmare had quickly faded into a hazy memory like all dreams do, but the idea still tore away at him, the idea that everypony he had come to love could end up dead.
Suddenly the tent felt constrictive. He had to get out of there. He rolled over, causing Fluttershy's head to fall onto the pillow. She gave a quick grunt, but she didn't wake, much to Cerberus' relief. He rubbed what was left of the tears he shed earlier out of his eyes and opened the tent flaps. It was really late, at least he assumed so. The only light came from the dimming fire that Rarity had fallen asleep next to. Snow was lightly falling, coating the ground in another layer of white. Cerberus was thankful for this, because his hoofsteps were muffled, keeping anypony from following him, not that he even knew where he was going. He hoped that the falling snow would cover his prints.
You can't run. You can't run forever, Cerberus. No matter where you go, no matter how well you hide, you can't escape your fate. Those voices echoed in his ears every time he looked at Canterlot. It figured that Celestia, damn her, would want to have her home set at the highest livable point in Equestria. It gave Cerberus a continuous feeling of dread. That city was like a permanent reminder that he was unnatural and there were plenty of ponies out there who would gladly see him turned to ashes, or hung at the noose, or left to die of heatstroke in the deserts of Saddle Arabia.
Celestia wouldn't show him such mercy. He had so many brushes with her and lived to tell the tale, she would rather have him utterly destroyed. Emotionally, and physically. Inside and out. Nothing left to live for until he begged for death... and she would not grant his wish. He would hardly deserve such kindness.
"That's not who I am anymore!" he shouted to Canterlot as if the bigots up there could hear him. "I'm not afraid of you!" He spoke with such passion that the birds perched in the branches above him flew away. Cerberus liked to imagine those birds as his inner demons, leaving him forever.
He still dreaded the inevitable battle that lay ahead. What if everything that the Lunar Republic and Hephaestus Ironwright had done wouldn't be enough? What if his nightmare became reality?
Canterlot Castle was lit up. Celestia would be locked away, preparing herself for the fight, gathering what little power she had left. She was expecting a fight, but what if she got less than she bargained for? In some cases, less is more. Perhaps in her weakened state she would powerless to stop a certain somepony from, say, flying into Canterlot, breaking through a stained glass window and severing her neck with his draconic fangs?
"One more shot. Yeah. I can do this."
"That son of a mule, what the hell is wrong with him!? ARGH!" Everypony awoke to the pleasant sound of Fluttershy stomping the ground and cursing her little heart out. "He always runs away! Every time something bad happens, he runs away! What the hell kind of pony thinks that running from their problems will solve shi-"
"Fluttershy!" Rarity was the first one on her hooves. Despite her worst fear of being seen in public with an mussed up purple mane and improperly curled eyelashes, she comforted Fluttershy and put an end to the obscenities. "You cannot get stressed like this! Think of the-"
She stopped and looked behind her. Everpony else was fully awake and leaving their tents to investigate (Except for Heretic, who silently watched from his tent). Twilight was on the scene. "What happened, Fluttershy?"
Fluttershy didn't let Rarity's gentle hooves restrain her. With wide eyes and a strained brow, she continued to shout. "He's gone! Cerberus just up and left!"
"Why would he do that?"
"This... might explain it." Winter Solstice levitated a scrap of parchment partially buried in the new fallen snow. It was partially soaked and dirty, likely from Fluttershy stomping on it in disappointment and anger. It was definitely written in a hurry.
I can't let you get hurt. Going it alone.
It didn't take a specialist to know it was written by Cerberus.
Twilight was clearly stressed out by this too, but more on a logical level than a emotional one like Fluttershy. "He keeps thinking that we're going to get the way and get hurt. He has to understand, this isn't about him. It's about doing what's right, and we're willing to risk our lives for it."
"It's more than that!" yelled Fluttershy. "I need him more than ever right now!" Angry tears were starting to form in her squinted eyes.
Rarity was beginning to show concern. "Just calm yourself, dear. Let's make you some tea and-"
"Buck the tea!" Fluttershy pushed Rarity away and began turning in random directions, trying to find the right words. Twilight took a wild risk and spoke.
"Fluttershy, what's wrong?"
The butter yellow pegasus had learned over the past few months to not bottle up her true feelings, which is what she had been doing this whole Luna forsaken trip. She couldn't do this anymore. She had to let it all out in one shout. "I'M PREGNANT!"
Even the sound of the flowing river seemed to stop. Nopony spoke a word. One could say the reactions were mixed, but nopony even had a reaction. Fluttershy was pregnant with Cerberus' child. Twilight didn't even think that was possible, but then again, she didn't know half breeds even existed at a time.
The one with the blankest expression stood behind Fluttershy. The father himself made his presence known when he exhaled. Cerberus had been standing there the whole time but everypony was too dumbstruck to even notice. Fluttershy's anger disappeared. One half of her was thrilled to see that Cerberus' common sense had returned and he had come back, and the other half was wondering how he would take this news. Would he run away again?
"So..." he said as he scanned the ground beneath him, "...have you thought of a name yet?"
Luna trotted toward this disembodied light that had appeared to her during her personal trek through the woods, until she found herself in a clearing, where the trees were separated by a half kilometer and the night sky could be seen. The light had dimmed and had settled in the center of the clearing. Luna approached it with half a mind of curiosity, the other half of caution. Light was not a sacred thing in these times. Nevertheless, while she mentally recited the incantations of every offensive spell in her arsenal, she touched the disembodied light.
"Hello, my sister." Celestia's all too familiar voice echoed from every direction. Luna could have sworn she even heard it in her mind. The light was now gone, replaced with the Princess of the Sun, still in her weakened state. Just the sight of her made Luna seeth, and her voice made her more angry still. "It seems that our differences have climaxed into a war of loyalty."
Luna stifled herself. "That loyalty falls to me. Every town surrounding Canterlot is at my beck and call."
"I will not deny that you have a vast quantity of supporters, but few of them have experience in combat compared to my army. Tell me Luna, was there any conflict in Equestria before you started complaining?" She chuckled.
Luna couldn't contain her royal Canterlot voice. "How dareth thou question thy queen!" In a lapse of common sense due to rage, attempted to spear Celestia with her horn. However, it seemed that she had missed her target, even though when she looked back, Celestia hadn't budged an inch.
"I'm sorry, did you believe that I would actually come to you in the flesh? This is only an arcane projection."
Luna stomped at the ground.
"You ought to control yourself, sister. After all, you only have so much time left."
"You intend to attack us?"
"No. I have decided to take an indirect approach. Look to your night sky, and despair." Above the minimal cloud cover was a crescent moon surrounded by the many constellations that Luna had recently created to celebrate her return. At first glance, nothing was abnormal, but then she looked to the horizon, or at least as much of the horizon as could be seen through the trees, and saw a sunrise.
"You're forcing the day upon us again?"
"Two strikes, Luna. Do you recall the last spell that Star Swirl the Bearded taught us? Oh no, that's right... you were imprisoned in the moon! I suppose that means you have no way of counteracting this. I call it the Pure Eclipse, for as soon as our celestial bodies cross, the solar eclipse will grant me enough power to destroy every last impure speck in Equestria."
Luna gaped. In denial, she could only utter "No..."
"Yes, Luna, yes. Your son. The half phoenix. Your lover. Every one of them and more will be dead soon... along with you."
"Well, you copulated with that dragon. You carry part of him within you, therefore you are impure."
Luna sighed. Her sisters words were true, but they were mere gusts of wind compared to what she had done before. Luna was not afraid of this impending eclipse. She had too many brushes with death to be afraid. No, she stood her ground, tilted her head back and laughed.
The image of Celestia showed confusion. Had Luna gone mad from the thought of losing everything? Was this a poker face?
"You'll be dead before that happens, sister." Luna advanced on the image, flames of blue aura echoing in her walking path. "You tried to quell this storm with a rain of fire, but I have sour news for thou! Thine fire hath spread in our favor, and thou shalt be impaled upon thy own sword! Thy biggest mistake was failing to foresee that we knew what thou truly art, so we could win the trust of our comrades!"
With every syllable, Celestia's image faltered, not only stepping away from the bigger threat, but also flickering, growing more transparent by the second.
"Never show thine face in our presence ever again, for thine words only fuel our desire to take your throne and your kingdom away!" Luna paused with her head held high. She lowered it. The static image of Celestia remained still as the alicorn of the night whispered into its ear. Luna spoke as coherently as equinely possibly so that her real sister could hear her on the other side. "Be very afraid, sister."
In a flash of imperfect light, the hologram was gone, and Queen Luna had the last laugh.