Timbrewolves howled in the distance.
The Milky Way shined through the canopy of apple trees as Big Macintosh clipped the last of the dead branches from this part of the orchard. On an average night, he'd be asleep, warm in the old sheets of the same bed he'd had since he was a kid. Tonight was not average, however. The recent Zap Apple harvest had caused the usual farmwork to pile up, and to keep on schedule meant working well into the night to keep things running. Sure, he'd rather be sleeping like everypony else right now, but what had to be done had to be done.
It wasn't all that bad either. The cool Autumn wind kept most of his exhaustion at bay. On it's breeze he felt the faint chill of Winter, reminding him how important getting in one last harvest was. Soon all the trees would shed their foliage, and that meant no more stock for at least a few months-
As the last dead limb on the last tree fell, he heard what seemed like a wail float through the air. The burly stallion shut his eyes, listening closely, closing out everything else in the world.
He heard it again.
Mac quickly propped the old saw against the tree and sped towards the source of the sound. At first he was afraid. It sounded like a scream, so naturally he was afraid somepony was hurt and needed help. Yet, as he moved farther from the clean rows of the farm and into the less maintained, brush ridden area of his family's property, the noise sounded more like...singing? He slowed to a trot, carefully winding through briars and poision oak leaves until he reached the old pond at the edge of the property.
It was a mare. She sat at the edge of the water, he back turned to her. Whether she was a Unicorn, or Pegasus, or even a Changeling he couldn't tell for she wore a coal black cloak. All he could tell was she was taller and more slender than the average mare, judging from the silhouette.
And she had a lovely voice. For a moment, he just allowed himself to be swept away by the sad melody. Each note seemed to ooze emotion. It was clear she put her heart into it. Not only that, but the world itself seemed to help her. Nightingales chirped at the correct moments, beads of dew dripped from an old willow tree to create what almost sounded like piano notes. The magical scene only seemed to enforce his belief this pony was a Unicorn.
The last word drifted on, slowly lowered in volume to a mere whisper until the evening returned to its normal state. There was no theme to the dewdrop's fall, no symphony of birds chirping. It was just Mac and the songstress, divided by about fifteen feet of grass. The stallion tried to think of something, anything to say. It's not natural when a pony wanders onto your property and just starts singing for no reason. He almost entertained the thought of walking away, but knew that was rude. Ah may not be a lord or prince, but ah know proper manners enough to know you don't just walk away from someone after you go up to 'em.
Unable to take the silence anymore, he opened his mouth to ask if she was okay. But before he could speak, he noticed tiny twinkles of light decending in front of the songstress.
She was crying.
Maybe'n this case action speak louder'n word he though, taking a step forward. During that step, however, one of his massive hooves broke a branch. The natural shape of the pond caused the tiny snap to reverberate, echo, and fan out across all of Sweet Apple Acres. A flock of birds, probably the ones from earlier, passed overhead. Squirrels, racoons, and every other nocturnal creature fled in the opposite direction. But worst of all, the girl had very much noticed him. She only turned enough for a sidelong glance, yet Mac could feel her eyes on him, even if he couldn't see them beneath the hood of her cloak.
Thouroughly embaraced, he swallowed the lump in his throat and said in a friendly tone, "Howdy"
"Good evening," she said in a voice that sounded much like a teenagers', yet with sophistication and wisdom hidden beneath, "We...did not expect company."
'We'? he though What pony talks like that anymore? Ignoring her olden form of speech, Mac simply explained, "Ah heard noises, thought somepony was in trouble."
The lady turned back towards the pond, wiping the tears from her eyes. Mac tried to discern what color her coat was, but the full moon reflected off the pond in a way that the figure was backlit, so it was impossible to tell. "We apologize for causing thee such worry. Pray tell, most are asleep at this time. Why art thou not?"
"Finishin' up some chores, farmwork," he replied, the tension in the air dissipating a bit.
"Thou owns this property?"
"We were not aware anypony owned this area. Umm...sorry."
Another long silence resumed. Now aware she had company, the pony was probably too shy to sing. Along with that, Mac was now aware of the situation he was in. Alone, in a cliche, romantic spot with a mysterious young mare. Not only that, the fact he'd been drawn by her voice didn't help him feel less guilty for putting not just himself in a scene right out of a bad romance novel, but also this pony obviously looking for some time by herself.
"Nice night," he just blurted out, the tension lost slowly coming back with a vengence.
"Thank you," the mare replied.
"What?" Mac asked, the weight in his chest gone for a moment at the confusion. Of every possible reply he could have thought, "Thank you" was not one of them.
"Umm, err...We mean yes. Indeed. Very nice."
Another silence. Now it was just annoying. Mac started to walk closer to the girl, hoping to ask if she wanted to be alone, yet instead she just said," Please stay back."
"Uh, why?" he asked.
She faced him and replied," We fear if you knew who we were, you would not like us any longer..."
"Ah doubt that," the colt replied, but still he respected her wishes. Still intent on keeping another awkward quiet away, he said," Y'know, if y'all wanna come here, to be alone'n such, ah don't mind."
The rustle of fabric told Mac her ears had perked up as she asked, "Art thou sure?"
"We...we thank thee."
He smiled to her, and thought he heard a slight giggle from the mare as she turned back to the glistening water. At that, a yawn escaped Mac's mouth. Suddenly, he realised how tired he was. In fact...he felt as though his legs would give out any moment now. The sudden realization brought on another yawn. Still rubbing his eyes, he asked, "Y'all gonna come back tomorrow?"
She simply looked up to the moon, and replied softly, "Verily."