Soul Searching…And Stuff
Morning couldn’t get here fast enough for me. I had spent all night wondering what Torrentican had been doing, and why I had been able to sense him. Was my meditation finally paying off? Or was that just me being extremely paranoid?
In any case, once the guard arrived to escort Scorch and I to see Princess Cadence, I had already finished my journal entry for that day, gotten our bags packed, and carved the words, “Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, Banana Phone!” into a tree.
They weren’t too happy to see that last part, but I had made sure it was hidden. You’d actually have to be right next to the tree to even see the damned thing. The guard from yesterday nodded in my direction, and said, “Her majesty, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza will see you now.”
“Good,” I replied. Gently, I shook Scorch awake, and we were off to see the Princess. The wonderful princess of Canterlot.
…Okay, I won’t make any more Wizard of Oz song jokes. I’m sorry to have put you through that.
Scorch and I followed the stocky Pegasus through the winding hallways of the castle. This might have been my paranoia acting up again, but it felt like he was making us take an unnecessarily long and complicated route just to throw us off. If he’s got any brains, he probably would do something like that. After all, in his mind, I’m still an unknown monster who just says he’s got a “gift” to give to Celestia and Luna. By directing me to Cadence, this means that not only will they save the God-Princesses some trouble, but they’ll also be coordinated with the guard, in case I end up being a troublesome Werehog.
To pass the time, I pulled a small, unfinished carving from my backpack, and absently whittled at it with the claw on my thumb (note to self, learn if there’s a proper word for that). I smiled when I saw the small trail of wood shavings that fell onto the floor behind us.
Here’s a tip for all castle owners: make sure your cleaning staff doesn’t take the day off when someone like me shows up…Also, get some better curtains for the dungeons. Really, just because we get thrown in there to be tortured/imprisoned, doesn’t mean you have to make us stare at something drab and boring all day. Sheesh!
While I carved the chunk of wood into a replica of a sonic screwdriver (not all of my carvings have to be deep!), I couldn’t help but notice that Scorch was…jumpy. I don’t mean in the usual way, but she seemed to expect something to jump out at her.
Time to start conversating with Scorch. Who knows, maybe the guard will learn something new.
“Is something on your mind?” I asked the dragon, carving out the tip of the screwdriver.
She flinched, surprised by the fact that I had chosen to say anything around the guard. The dragon glanced at him, and I motioned for her to go ahead and talk.
With a deep breath to steel her nerves, she told me, “I had another dream last night.”
“Was it the same one, or something different?” I immediately asked.
“It was…different,” she said, shaking her head slightly. “I saw myself climbing a volcano, and on the other side of it were other dragons. Not only that, but I saw even more of them flying in.”
…Ah, cripes. I think I know where this is going.
Tentatively, I asked her, “Did you, by any chance, see pools of lava, mounds of gems, or anything like that?”
“Yes, I saw all of those things,” she nodded. “I also saw…a very strange looking dragon. It was incredibly ugly.”
Well. Shit. It looks like Scorch has seen the great dragon migration. I’ll be honest. I actually didn’t want to tell her about that. A small part of me was whispering to keep her by my side, to make sure that I didn’t lose another daughter. It was selfish, and it ashamed me that it had even crossed my mind for a single moment.
It was with a heavy heart that I told her about the migration. I didn’t know too much about it, other than the fact that it was a huge dragon get-together, that there are plenty of teenage dragons…
“And nearly every dragon in Equestria shows up,” I finished somewhat lamely. “If I remember right, it’s due to happen here in about a week or so.”
Scorch was dumbstruck. Hope flashed in her eyes, and I could almost read her mind. She then asked me, “Every dragon?”
“As far as I know,” I admitted.
“Could…could my parents be there?”
And there’s the kicker.
“Well…it’s very possible,” I answered. “Unless something happened to them, they’d probably show up.”
The teenage dragon tried to think of how to respond to that. Here was an once-in-a-lifetime (for Equines at least) opportunity for her to finally reclaim what was once hers. She could find her real family. But to do that, she would have to set out on her own. Yes, I had told her how only dragons were allowed at this. If she went, she’d go by herself. I couldn’t accompany her, and she’d have to follow the course of the dragons from the ground.
I’d also like to think that maybe she was somewhat reluctant to leave me, as well. That she still wanted to adventure with me. Of course, my own conscious wanted her to go, not just to find her family, but to also stay out of Torrentican’s line of fire. Yet…I still wanted her by me. She was my daughter, just as much as Amber is…was.
Scorch shook her head, dazed from this revelation, and murmured, “I need some time to think.”
“When we reach Cadence, I’ll ask her if there’s a quiet place for you to do that,” I promised her.
The guard turned back to look at me, and snapped, “That’s PRINCESS Mi Amore Cadenza, swine.”
Did this prick really just ruin the moment? More importantly, DID HE JUST CALL ME “SWINE”?! Why I oughtta-
“Halt. We are here,” the guard stated, stopping in front of…
“DID YOU JUST TAKE US THROUGH THE CASTLE, AND BACK TO THE SAME DAMNED GARDEN!?” I shouted, now noticing my trail of shavings did end up leading back here. Son of a Qwark! Then again, that was pretty smart. Take us on a wild goose chase thing, lead us back to same garden, where they undoubtedly had some hidden security to make sure that I didn’t cause any trouble.
Which I was strongly tempted to do at the moment. Would punching a guard and calling him a nimrod be trouble?
Before I could make any stupid decisions, a kind voice called out, “Welcome…whatever-you-are.”
A soft pink Alicorn sat next to the tree I had carved my little banana phone joke on, a red and white picnic blanket set out in front of her. It even came with its own picnic!
Cautiously, I sat down on the opposite side of the blanket, all too aware of the dozens of guards that were staring at me. Even though I couldn’t see them, I knew that they could see me. It felt like they were just waiting for me to do something monster-y, and attack the princess.
Instead, I did what should be expected by now, and did the unexpected.
“Excuse me, your highness,” I said politely. “But is there some place that Scorch can go for some peace and quiet? She’s got a few things that she’d like to think about.”
“There’s a small pond just beyond those hedges,” Cadence said, pointing with her hoof towards the area in particular. “If she wants, she can wait there while we have our discussion. And some lunch.”
…Cadence is best princess.
I thanked her for her generosity, and waited for Scorch to disappear behind the hedges. Once she was gone, I gave another small bow to the princess, and said, “Thank you, your highness. You have no idea how much this means, for us to have this audience with you.”
She smiled at me, and said, “It’s nothing, and please, call me Cadence.”
“It’s an honor to meet you, ma’am,” I replied. “I’m Omnius. Most folks call me Battleclaw though.”
“Well, now that introductions are out of the way…” Cadence gestured to the large picnic that lay before us. Heaping amounts of fruit, fresh veggies, some sandwiches and chips…I think I’m in love. The princess grinned at me. “Why don’t we get lunch out of the way?”
As soon as she said, “Lunch” I stretched my arms out to scoop a few piles of sandwiches into my mouth. Note to self: PB&J, Cheese, and Egg Salad…actually taste surprisingly good all at the same time. The princess, for her part, dug into a few of the apple pies. We made a silent agreement to let me have the sandwiches, and her the pies.
I think I can live with that.
After we had finished eating, I bowed my head to the princess once more, and said, “Thank you, Princess Cadence. This is a truly welcome break from…well, yeah.” I cleared my throat to make up for the awkward silence, and added, “Well, uh, onto business then.”
Cadence sighed, making me think that she wanted to ask me about it, but wisely chose to say, “Yes. You said you have a gift for my aunts?”
I slung my backpack off of my shoulders, and gently removed a cloth covered bundle from it. Before I could bring myself to unwrap it, I hugged it tight to my chest. I took one last deep breath, and reluctantly gave it to Princess Cadence. Something in my heart told me that I could trust her, at least, to ensure that it reached her aunts.
“Ma’am, what you hold there is my daughter’s most beautiful piece of art,” I whispered quietly. “She poured months of effort into it, just to make sure that it would be perfect for them.”
“You have a daughter?” she asked, slightly surprised.
“Had. I had a daughter,” I corrected sadly. “Her name was Amber Heart. She was a unicorn with a lot of talent in what she did.”
This seemed to confuse Cadence even more.
A voice whispered in my head, “Tell her…tell her about Amber, and her death. She will point you in the right direction.”
Thank you, voices in my head…that sound suspiciously like a certain Goddess whose initials are “N” and “ayru”.
Still, she had a point. If I told her, it’d give her a bit more reason to trust me. At the very least, I’d be able to use this to ask for some information from her.
“Princess, my tale is not a good one,” I sighed, suddenly feeling more like the old sage I was supposed to be. “If you wish, I shall tell it to you. We will most certainly be out here until the sun sets, and the moon rises. It is not a tale I wish to tell more than once.”
Without any hesitation whatsoever, Princess Cadence nodded, and gestured for me to speak.
So, I did just that. I told her about everything that I felt I should tell her about, modifying my story to make it appear that I had amnesia. For hours, and hours, I told her about the beautiful town of Pine Falls, about how Whirl Wing had taken me in when no one else would, how Scorch and I had met…
I nearly choked when I told her about Quartz’s attack on the town, and how it had been the aftermath that had claimed Whirl’s life. Even fifteen years from that tragic day, I still felt deep pangs of guilt and regret shoot through me. Guess I still had a ways to go before I could truly overcome that loss.
Cadence seemed to sense my distress, and said, “If it’s too much, please, don’t worry about it. I don’t need to know the whole thing.”
A mournful chuckle escaped me, as I told her, “No. If you really want to know why I’m trying so damn hard to get this glass to Celestia and Luna, I’d like to say my piece. Besides, I can see in your eyes that you want to know.”
She grinned in a mixture of chagrin and guilt, but didn’t stop me.
When I finally reached the part about Amber’s death, she could only offer me her condolences, and the reassurance that wherever she was, she was in a better place. It was a bittersweet comfort, but a comfort nonetheless.
“And that’s…that’s the story behind this single piece of glass,” I finished hoarsely. I hadn’t talked that long since the last time I had to explain my Traveling. Like I had said, the sun was well below the horizon, while the moon overlooked us. Scorch still hadn’t reappeared from her spot behind the hedges, but I got the feeling she was still there. At least, the fact that there was a Pegasus staring made me think that.
I sighed once more…and uncovered the glass. As the pale moonlight cast the glass’ image onto the field, I heard Cadence gasp quietly at the sight of it.
“Would you like to see its power at work?” I asked her, adjusting the glass so that I could sit more comfortably with it.
She nodded, and took a tentative step towards the glass. I guess that Amber must have made it so that the magic inside of it could be activated without the tear, or maybe I misunderstood what she had said in her final message to me. Why?
Because the touch of Cadence’s hoof on the light image was all it took to trigger its power. I don’t know why it did that. Maybe she had a lot on her mind, or maybe she needed some comfort for something that had happened. It was possible that there was some nagging sorrow that lingered in her heart.
Either way, Amber’s magic did its work.
Right before our eyes, there were two ponies made of the same ethereal stained glass that had shown up the last time it had been used.
Cadence and Shining Armor…
This…this was the memory of his proposal to her.
I wish I could find the words to tell you all about it. But…something that special? The forging of an unbreakable bond, tested in the fires of what is undoubtedly true love? Clichéd as that sounds, I can’t bring myself to ruin it by trying to apply words.
All I can say is that Cadence’s eyes were lit up with joy, happiness, and hope. That look on her face was enough to let me know that I had finally done something right.
That’s a miracle, ain’t it?
“Now do you see why I was so dead set on getting this to Celestia and Luna?” I quietly asked, breaking the trance. “That glass holds something more powerful than anything I’ve seen on this world. Amber enchanted this to remind all who see it to do one thing.”
“And what would that be?” Cadence asked as she took the glass in her magical grasp.
I smiled sorrowfully at her, and slowly eased myself into a standing position. “Hope.”
We were silent for a while longer, before I closed my eyes and leaned against the tree I had carved on. “I’m going to have to let my other daughter go, aren’t I?” Tears started to fall out of my eyes. “I already know that she’ll try and find her family. And who am I to stop her? She knows how to fight, how to take care of herself. Sure, she might get scared by the occasional thunderstorm, or be shy and timid, but…she can be brave when it’s called for.”
There it was. No more denying it. Scorch had grown up. And now, I had to let her go...Ye Gods and Goddesses...I wish I didn't have to. But, it wouldn't be right for me to do that.
I pushed myself off of the tree, and started walking towards the gate.
“I can’t let her pass this opportunity by. Do me a favor, and tell her to…follow her heart.” I turned around, and added, “She doesn’t need an old man like me anymore. I'd tell her goodbye myself, but I'd end up chickening out.”
The princess stared at me for a moment, before her horn glowed a soft, comforting blue color. For an instant, all of my guilt and regret was chased away, replaced by the memories of my time in Pine Falls, with Amber and Scorch. I felt…happy.
“Omnius,” she stated. “If you choose to remember the bad, at least make sure you know that there was good there as well.”
It took me a moment for my mind to remember how to tell her, “Thank you.” I cleared my throat, and then asked her, “If I may…where is the nearest town?”
“I would head northwest, to Silverton. The ponies there should be friendly enough, and you can restock on supplies there,” she answered.
I nodded, and before anything else could be said, I ran off into the night. In a matter of minutes, I had left the town and set out in the direction of Silverton. Hopefully, I could figure out what my next move would be once I got there. I looked behind me one last time, and gave the city one final salute.
Goodbye, Scorch. I thought to myself. I hope you find your family.