Día de los Muertos

by Gabriel LaVedier

Nightmare Night

“Twilight... ah never mean ta be unkind, ya understand but... somehow ah can't help but think there may be a better way ta go about this,” Applejack said as she and Twilight stood at the edge of the Everfree forest. It was the day of Nightmare Night, but early, well before the sun had passed the midpoint. Applejack was dressed up as a Wonderbolt, with false wings giving her the proper appearance. Over that she wore overalls, and had a shovel hooked in one leg.
“Honestly, I'd be delighted to hear it. I'm just as nervous as you, maybe more. Because Fluttershy and Rarity are not able to participate in this, Pinkie and I have to tackle the middle portion,” Twilight said. She was wearing the dress that she had for her coronation and abdication, also with a set of fake wings. “It's desperate, it's... unpleasant. But it might work. And it requires the fastest mares in Equestria, not to mention the strongest.”
“Ah don't envy Dash her duty. She wanted ta be Darin' Do but this... it ain't gonna be good. She'll be needin' plenty-a love when she comes round here,” Applejack said with a sigh.
“We're all counting on the two of you. There's no getting around it, you'll have to go through town. Hopefully everypony will think it's just a Nightmare Night stunt produced by a fun-loving couple,” Twilight said.
“Ah never thought ah'd be wishin' fer a normal Nightmare Night with Dashie playin' pranks on everypony,” Applejack chuckled.
“Next year... assuming we can survive this one,” Twilight said with a laugh.
Applejack gave Twilight a deadpan stare. “Always seein' the tree half-unbucked, ain't ya?”
“I had hoped that humor would defuse the tension. You know, like Pinkie says,” Twilight explained with a blush.
“Ain't nothin' much funny 'bout what it all means an' what we gotta do. But ah 'preciate th' effort,” Applejack said.
“Thanks... I think it's time to check on the progress of Dash's side. I have a checklist for all this and I'm eager to finish it off, file it away and hopefully never have to do anything like this again,” Twilight said.
“Send her along as soon as she's done, ah'll be needed some help on th' same kinda thing and, well, we may as well get it over with all at once,” Applejack said, turning to slip into the forest.
“Right. I'll make sure she comes straight to you,” Twilight said, turning away towards Ponyville.
In Ponyville proper, at Carousel boutique there was much activity. Besides being a popular place to purchase specialty costumes, it was where the Cutie Mark Crusaders prepared for their Nightmare Night. Rarity was down below selling pre-made attire to last-minute shoppers and collecting final payment on custom jobs ordered weeks before. Fluttershy was upstairs, with the three fillies.
“There, don't you look cute? I mean... oh, so scary...” Fluttershy said with a mock quiver as she finished attired Scootaloo.
The young pegasus was in her wolf costume, with a twist. The formerly-fearsome head had smaller teeth, the eyes a more friendly lid position, and the mouth curved up into a pleasing smile. The fur was notably fluffier and better groomed, and the fake claws on her front hooves were shortened and filed. “I guess it's still cool. I'm a wolf and all but really... I look more like a big, puffy dog,” Scootaloo said with a look at herself in one of the full-length mirrors.
“No, you're the nice wolf that came in to guard the sheep from bad ones. Then you saved one of the ewes, she fell in love with you and the Princesses thought it was so wonderful they gave us a baby cublamb,” Sweetie Belle said, pressing up against Scootaloo's side. The young unicorn was already in her outfit, a slightly pink-tinted little ewe outfit with large, innocent eyes, a big smile and a split painted on her front hooves. Tied to her tail was a string that pulled along a little toy that resembled a short-haired lamb with wolf legs, a longer, pointed snout and perked ears. “Just like in the movie we watched like five times.”
“Okay, okay, I get it. I thought getting a makeover from those crazy sorority mares was weird,” Scootaloo grumbled, a huge blush dominating her cheeks.
“Does this look alright?” Applebloom asked. She was dressed in a large white lab coat, with red rubber booties on her front hooves. Her mane had been done up in a crazy style and dyed white, while goggles rested above her eyes. Her coat pockets were bulging with real potion-making ingredients, while a Grand-Veldt-style braided grass necklace hung around her neck.
“It's looks perfect. You look just like the mad herbalist Zecora saw in a movie she watched while she was on her journey of learning,” Fluttershy said, giving Applebloom a little more mane fluffing, getting it to look crazier.
“Wanna trade outfits, Applebloom?” Scootaloo asked on the sly.
“Not if yer meanin' ta trade marefriends too!” Applebloom snapped.
“Woah! Chill! I was just kidding,” Scootaloo said with a nervous blush suddenly feeling two angry glares and one minor application of The Stare.
The lesson seemingly learned, Fluttershy halted The Stare and smiled. “Good! You all look just right for tonight's big festivities. Rarity and I will be your chaperones tonight.”
“Why isn't Pinkie Pie doing it again this year? You know what she says, 'Time is Candy' and she never gives up free candy,” Scootaloo asked.
“Ummm... well...” Fluttershy wasn't sure what to say about that. She couldn't reveal the horrifying details to fillies. Talk of murdered Dogs and self-starved mares was hardly appropriate for the cheerful scares of Nightmare Night. “She and Twilight have... something they need to do.”
“Probably going to play more dice-rolling roleplaying games,” Scootaloo noted. “Twilight is my dad's best customer. I knew it was a good idea to stock all the geek stuff.”
“Y-yes... yes, that's what she's doing,” Fluttershy said with a false smile, accompanied by her trademark squeaky noise. She was a terrible liar, but she hoped it was enough.
“She's missing out. I hope that I don't get like that,” Scootaloo said, suddenly getting a soft hoof-thump to the back of her head. “Ow!”
“Just for that, I'm intentionally going to make you stay in one night a week and play seamstress,” Sweetie said with a firm tone.
“Me and my big, stupid mouth,” Scootaloo grumbled, to a small chorus of laughter.

”Stop! Please stop! You don't need to run!” Larkspur yelled, as she followed Heliotrope's trail in the Everfree Forest. He was not hard to track; he may have been smooth and cool underground but he was a no expert above, particularly in disguise as he was. He left a trail of broken branches and crushed bushes.
“Father is here! You say he angry and mean!” Heliotrope called from deep in the dark expanse.
“I can make him understand! Please come back! I'll show him the monograph! He'll understand!”
“Larkspur!” The baron cried from behind her, his voice heavy with anger. “Come here and explain yourself!”
“Don't be afraid of him! Please stop!” Larkspur pleaded.
The decision was made for Heliotrope when his luck with running in the restrictive outfit ran out and he crashed to the ground, damaging or tearing off a good portion of it as he rolled to a stop in a small clearing. As he rose, a hand on his unmasked head, Larkspur arrived and pressed into him. “Must... run...” He said.
“No. It'll be fine. It'll all be fine, he'll understand,” Larkspur said, with a hopeful smile as her father's cries and hoofbeats drew closer.

“We're set for the happening. It should all come off right... I hope,” Twilight said as she nestled against Pinkie Pie. She wasn't being very careful with her coronation dress, letting is fold and deform under her as she laid out comfortably on her bed with her marefriend.
“You worry too much, Twilight! You have your super awesome checklist, you have all our friends helping, you have a great and romantic idea. I think this will be the best Nightmare Night ever, even if there's not candy! Even better than the time Princess Luna came over, and we'll have less yelling... unless the ghosts come through Ponyville. Then we'll have screaming. Lots of screaming,” Pinkie said, laying over Twilight's back on her own back, forming a plus sign with their bodies. Pinkie was wearing a shawl around her neck, black with intersecting white lines and a small cameo on the front holding it closed. She also had on a set of half-glasses on a chain and her hair was done up in a messy, but recognizable bun. On the whole she looked like a young, pink version of her mother.
“Well, with that vote of confidence and... with those visions of terrorized townsfolk I guess I'm mentally prepared for this,” Twilight said with a huff and a roll of her eyes. “Are you ready to go, Goody Pie? It's a bit early but we can help set up and prepare for coordination duties.”
“Sounds like fun! I'll make sure I can get up onto all the roofs I'll need and get all the decorations looking just right. This is a party and I'm the party pony!” Pinkie said, leaping up off of the bed and landing in a dramatic pose.
“That you are, Pinkie, that you are,” Twilight chuckled, more sedately getting off of the bed and giving a stretch. "Don't bring your party cannon. We don't need a repeat of the incident. Which was a repeat of another incident.”
“I swear, as Celestia and Luna are my witnesses, I thought turkeys could fly. Good thing there was a haystack...” Pinkie said.
“No, the other one. 'The Day of the Cake Batter,'” Twilight said.
“Oh! I apologized to Cranky, and to the whole town. I thought I put the confetti in the cannon and the batter in the oven. Again. Fine. No cannon,” Pinkie said with a closing grumble. “One little mistake...”
“Don't be so down, this way we can take more time, so it'll be dark by the time we begin. We're gonna need it to be around the time the Stonebeast and the Maudlin Mare show up. Then the plan comes into motion, we finish everything off, and we can enjoy what remains of Nightmare Night,” Twilight said, pulling her checklist from a hidden pocket and looking it over.
“And we pick up some candy, plus bob for apples, and throw spiders at a web, and dance and-” Pinkie's words were cut off by a kiss, Twilight pointing to the checklist as she broke it.
“In the 'Optional Activities' section, assuming there's time, I have it all down. I know you, Pinkie. I know you very well,” Twilight said with a warm smile.
Pinkie bounced gleefully around the room. “Then let's get this decoration started, Pinkie style! Party planning instincts are a go!” She cried, zooming out of the room and leaving a cloud of dust in her wake.
“Pace yourself! Pace yourself! We're tying to make it last longer!” Twilight yelled, as she ran out behind Pinkie.
Spike watched the two of them go, shaking his head. He was dressed in a dark suit and black bow tie, with sunglasses on his head and his favorite mustache on his upper lip. Peewee was sitting on his shoulder, wearing an extremely tiny dress shirt and dark jacket, and a miniscule set of sunglasses. He also had a little mustache attached to his beak. “I'll tell ya, Peewee, I'm actually glad I saw them running out. If I had just heard that I'd probably be too traumatized for Nightmare Night. Well, let's go. As my mom-to-be likes to say, 'Time is Candy.'”

Baron August reached the clearing in short order, the gloom and blurriness caused by fatigue meaning he thought his daughter was pressed up to the earth stallion he had seen at the festivities. “Larkspur... you lied to me! This thing I found... you've been keeping a secret...”
“Father I... I know it was wrong. I should have been up-front. I was wrong. It was very wrong of me to keep you in the dark about something so import. So earth-shattering and special. I should have included you, so you would not worry. But... you just get this way and sometimes I'm the one who worries about how you plan to react,” Larkspur said, pressing to Heliotrope a bit tighter then slowly stepping in front of him.
“I can't... my own daughter. You know what it's been like since your mother...” August began.
“I know, father. I know. I know it very well. I loved her too, I miss her too. But father... it doesn't give you the right to hold me so tightly I suffocate. You made it necessary to keep a secret, I didn't have another choice,” Larkspur whispered, coming forward to give her father a hug.
August returned the hug with a sigh and looked down at Larkspur. “I know I seem unreasonable. It's just the way I am. Now, show me this stallion of yours...”
“He's not a stallion, not in the strict sense,” Larkspur said with a laugh.
“One of the Veldtfolk? A jack?” August asked, looking up at Heliotrope. He went stiff when he finally noticed the fake snout had fallen off and his disguise was no longer hiding his hands.
“No, father. There's really no proper masculine term. 'Male' is what I've gotten from study...” Larkspur said, finding herself shoved back by her father's body.
“Behind me! This... what is this thing, this beast? He's wearing that armor that was on that stallion from the dance... it must be the fae! They can change forms! I'll protect you!” August said, thoughtlessly waving the carved stone.
“No, father! His name is Heliotrope and he is a Diamond Dog,” Larkspur insisted forcefully, pushing her way around her father's attempt at protection.
August was barely taking in what his daughter was saying. He was only watching the strange beast approach his Larkspur, his only foal, and place its strange, unnatural paw on her back. Then it reached out for him with another, a strange look on it's short-muzzled face. It showed off the teeth of a meat-ripping predator and spoke with the harsh rumble of a Discord-forged monster. “Am Heliotrope. Not wanted to meet. But now have met...”

Rarity checked her outfit in the mirror again, twirling slowly to admire herself as the lovely gown flowed and the crown glinted on her head. As she did at the Hearths-Warming Eve pageant, she made a lovely Princess Platinum. Certainly, the material in the dress was only a passing imitation of the real thing and her crown wasn't actually made of platinum, but she was carrying the look off and that was the important part. “Fluttershy, darling! Come along! We must chaperone the foals.”
“Um, alright, I'm coming...” Fluttershy slowly and carefully made her way down the stairs, lightly clanking in her light barding. Though mostly made of heavy cloth there was still metal in the form of rivets, reinforcing strips and most of the helmet. It was just tin, and so was very light, but Fluttershy still looked weighed down. “I'm ready... I think... it fits much better but, um... well...”
“I know, darling, I know. You prefer sequestration on Nightmare Night, to hide from the things that may frighten you. But our friends have need of us. We are already avoiding the most daunting talks. Would you prefer the grim duties of Applejack or Rainbow Dash?” Rarity asked.
Fluttershy shivered softly and looked away. “N-no, of course not. I know it's necessary but it's still bad...”
“Or even the coordination duties of Pinkie and Twilight? They will be the ones to first head-off the Fiend. Should it arise, and I hope it does not,” Rarity noted, trembling a little herself.
Fluttershy nodded slowly and came closer, to nuzzle against Rarity. “If our friends can do that, then I can certainly help foals gather up candy. M-maybe we can even have some punch, or dance, or play games, as long as they aren't scary.”
“Everything is scary on Nightmare Night, darling. But as our gracious Princess Luna learned, sometimes there is fun in being frightened. If the fear is safe and those around you are there to protect you why... it can be a little exciting, and set off laughter once it ends,” Rarity said, gently nuzzling Fluttershy back.
Fluttershy gave a little smile, and nodded her head. “I trust you, Rarity. Even if I get scared and want to run away I won't. I know you're all looking out for me and nothing's going to hurt me.”
“Exactly, darling. We shall keep you safe, happy and full of delicious candy. It's half the fun of Nightmare Night,” Rarity said with a laugh. “Now go and summon our first little charges, we must be off to gather the rest.”
“Girls! Girls! It's time to go. The sun is down and the whole town is ready. Let's get going so we don't miss out on anything,” Fluttershy called.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders scampered eagerly down the steps, Sweetie Belle taking it a bit slower because she had to carry the little cublamb pulltoy on her back as she came down. They all looked eager and ready, with sacks for candy slung across their back like miniature highwaymares. “Let's get goin'! Ah wanna be all candied up when it's time fer Zecora ta lead us all ta Nightmare Moon's statue. She said she was gonna come back ta th' farm fer dinner an' a night over,” Applebloom said, bouncing energetically in place.
“Alright, alright, settle down. I know you are eager to 'go a-courting' as Applejack frequently puts it. But we still have others to gather into our little coterie. I do hope that it will not take long but... oh!” As soon as Rarity opened the front door to Carousel Boutique she was confronted with a small mob of youngsters dressed in all manner of costumes. “It would seem that the process was more expedient than I thought it would be.”
“Such wonderful costumes, it looks like you and your parents worked really hard on all of them,” Fluttershy said, looking over the assortment. Vamponies, another lupine-like costume besides Scootaloo's, witches, mummies, and characters from popular television shows. As was appropriate for the cosmopolitan village there was a modest mix of other species, including a mule, three Diamond pups and a Changeling nymph, which was very much like a Changeling, but smaller.
“What're we waitin' for? Let's go get our candy!” Applebloom cried, dashing out to the crowd with Sweetie and Scootaloo following in her wake.
The youngsters marched off in a mass chanting 'Candy! Candy!' while Rarity and Fluttershy scampered at the rear of the group. “W-wait! Please wait! Don't wander off!” Fluttershy pleaded.
“Now, now, please remain orderly! We're trying to maintain propriety,” Rarity said, with a rather hopeless look growing on her face.

The stone hyacinth swung through the air, missing Heliotrope more by luck than through any skill inherent in the flailing dodge he performed. “Wh-what? What is? Why is..?” He started to ask, the awkwardness of his rear leg disguise sending him tumbling.
“Father stop this at once! What do you think you're doing? He has been helping me prepare the single most important monograph since the days of Starswirl!” Larkspur shouted, using her magic to try and break her father's hold on the pillar.
“I can tell he's got your mind. These evil creatures do that. He's making you say things, do things, I know,” August said, magic increasing and sending Larkspur's magic force back to her horn with a crackle of conflicting mana. “You keep away from her! You've got teeth like a timberwolf and a body by Discord! You're trying to steal her away to devour her!”
“No! No eat ponies! Eat gems and metal and plant, some rodent things... tell him!” Heliotrope cried, shuffling back to avoid another swing of the carved stone.
“It's true! I observed him consuming the materials! Stop this!” Larkspur tried again, pouring as much magical force as she could into her attempt to wrest control of the pillar from her father. She also got in front of him and attempted to physically interfere with his magic.
“Don't worry, I'll protect you. I'll save you from this thing, this beast!” The pillar wavered, trembling as the magical auras fought over control. The physical and magical interference left the match dead even, until the pouring of force struck both of them, dual sparks of magic knocking back both of their heads and dropping the stone to the ground. “L-larkspur...”
“He's not some beast, father. He's an intelligent creature. You'll see. There's a whole civilization. They're wise and well-experienced in the ways of magic and stonecraft. Soon all of Equestria will know. And... and besides...” Larkspur slowly went to the fallen Heliotrope and helped him up, pressing a kiss on his cheek as she did so. “I've quite fallen for him...”
“Mister Baron father pony,” Heliotrope said, unsure what title was appropriate after the scare, “Not mean to cause harm, not want to make angry but want to say, love daughter very much. Is good pony, sweet, soft, very kind to scout...”
Anger surged in August's eyes as he watched his brainwashed daughter forced to kiss a monster. He grew sickened as the thing tried to speak to him like it was a sensible being, a creature with sapience and good intentions. But every word dripped with his real intent, his malevolence. “Get away from her!” he screamed, magic force violently separating the two, throwing Larkspur solidly into a tree and knocking the wind out of her, while Heliotrope was tossed to the ground and rolled in the dirt. August's magic resumed a grip on the stone. “I'll end your evil for good...”

“How's it looking?” Twilight asked, standing at the Everfree border with Applejack.
“Dash is finishing up the last of it. It ain't good sugarcube, it jes ain't good. Ah don't like it more'n she does but ah'm ready,” Applejack said with a sigh.
“Was the stone-intrusion effect too great or was it all coating and filling?” Twiilight inquired.
“Near as we can tell it's all jes coated. Pinkie'd probably know better, ah grow apples, not rocks, but there ain't no boulders attached if that's what yer getting' at,” Applejack replied.
“Thank the Princesses for small favors,” Twilight said. “You know you might see him there. If he's the Stonebeast that's where he'll appear after the fog comes up. Pinkie and I will be where the Maudlin Mare likely begins the night, after we see your path clear through Ponyville. And then the Fiend...”
“Ain't no guarantee he'll be there. He ain't always. And he never comes ta town, accodin' to Rarity. If we see him it'll be here 'r out there at the end. But ah think we'll get it off without a hitch,” Applejack confidently said.
“Good. I promised Pinkie we could have some fun at the Nightmare Night fair if there was time. And I'd really, really like there to be time,” Twilight said with a blush.
“Don't worry 'bout a thing. Dash an' ah can take care-a this. We got blankets an' all, and we're the fastest mares yer gonna find,” Applejack said.
“Good. I'll go tell Pinkie. We'll be expecting you in town shortly. We'll clear the way so you can make straight for the gem fields and your destination,” Twilight said, trotting off towards the lights and sounds of Ponyville.
Applejack turned her hooves towards the Everfree and galloped through the growth, back to the clearing with the stone hyacinth. Rainbow Dash was there, in her traditional Nightmare Night Shadowbolt outfit. She was working with a shovel and brush, uncovering Heliotrope's entire skeleton and looking none too happy at the idea. “Ah'm here ta help ya finish. We gotta move, Twilight wants this happenin' before he shows up as the Stonebeast.”
“Daring Do can keep her lousy job. If this is what it means to be an archaeologist, I'll stay a weather pony,” Dash said with a shiver. “Look at this. It's more than just his head that got cracked.”
“We all figured that baron had a mean streak, hidin' his daughter's book, killin' this poor feller, ain't a surprise ta know he didn't jus' hit him once an' let him alone...” Applejack said, taking up a brush and a small shovel to finish the excavation.

“Larkspur!” Both males cried. August was shocked out of his rage momentarily, and stopped cold. Heliotrope was not so restrained and rushed to the fallen mare.
“Larkspur! Is alright? Must be alight...” Heliotrope said, kneeling beside her, body hunched over her prone form.
“Mm, I have a handsome and strong scout seeing to me. I think I'm fine,” she said with a breathy laugh and a slight wince. “Maybe a bruised rib or two but I'll live.”
“So worried, couldn't bear thought-” Heliotrope was cut off by the stone pillar being whacked against his back.
“Get away!” August shouted, swinging the stone again.
Heliotrope braced himself and took the blow, feeling a fiery, radiating ache coming from his bones. If they weren't broken they might as well be, the pain couldn't be any different. “You not hurt her!” He tore the false lower legs off of his paws, to restore his natural prowess and turned on August, eyes narrowed in rage. “Already hurt her once, not do it again!” He leaped at August, fists balled and ready to strike.
“Stop! No!” Larkspur's magical aura reached out to restrain Heliotrope, stopping his punches, if only just, and keeping him from advancing on her father. She also reached out to try and hold her father back again, and bring some kind of peace.

“We'll need to subtly clear everyone from the path that AJ and Dash have to run, so that might mean getting creative with things,” Twilight said across to Pinkie. The two were walking through the center of Ponyville, keeping track of the festivities and waiting for a sign from Applejack or Rainbow Dash.
“That's easy, I know every way possible to get ponies to move, and I get really creative with things. Did you want that creativity with or without buttercream frosting?” Pinkie asked.
“Errr... without?” Twilight ventured.
“Then I'll need some time to come up with something,” Pinkie said, pulling out a piece of paper and a graphite stick, seeming to work on some kind of plan.
“Well, glad to see I'm rubbing off on you, at least a little. I enjoy our distinct features but I think we could both learn to take in salient...” Twilight was silenced by a hoof pressing over her mouth.
Pinkie slapped her paper up against a pole. It was just a note that said, 'Keep Pathway Clear.' A few milling ponies who were headed in that direction turned off after seeing the sign. “There! Now what were you saying?”
“I was saying that sometimes your inimitable skills are all the solution we need,” Twilight said with a chuckle.

Heliotrope was stopped, standing there and restrained from attacking August in a misguided defense of Larkspur. But because of the pain and distraction of her injuries Larkspur's magic was pushed off of August who swung the pillar of stone at Heliotrope and cracked him solidly over the head.
“No!” Larkspur's magic dropped and Heliotrope fell to the ground, bleeding, semi-conscious, and attempting to paw at the ground, ripping out some hunks of dirt. “Heliotrope...”
“Pony... was so... pretty...” Heliotrope mumbled, whining softly and making a few other canine noises. “Wanted to talk. Wanted to be nice...”
“You were, so nice, and so...” Larkspur's comment ceased when the pillar came down again and split Heliotrope's head, making her scream in horror.
“It's done...” August said with a businesslike huff. “The beast is dead. And you're free to-”
“How could you?! How could you just kill an innocent creature?! How, father, how?!” Larkspur flew at her father in a rage, crying and screaming in pain as her battered body impacted him over and over.
“Y-you're still under his control. That will pass. Come along, we'll get you situated,” August insisted, pulling his struggling daughter from him and leading her out of the forest.
“No! You go back! I can't... not with him... like this...” Larkspur insisted, her angry hiss turning into a choked sob.
“This will pass. I'll return to the manor, and when your mind becomes your own, you will too,” August stated, turning out of the tangled forest and trusting his daughter to follow.
“I never should have spoken to you...” Larkspur whispered, tentatively kissing Heliotrope's bloody lips and shivering at his stillness. “I did this. This is my fault. Your kind were content to be unknown. My pride brought you to this, and I should be ashamed.” She took a moment to cradle the huge, silent body before she stuck her hooves into the ground and started to dig, using hooves and magic to move the earth. She knew it wasn't his way. But it was hers. The only apology she could possibly make. She wouldn't let him moulder on the ground. She'd at least give him the honor of burial.

“So this is how we're gonna do it? Just put the bones in a blanket and carry them through town?” Dash asked, in an incredulous tone.
Applejack was already moving Heliotrope's bones onto a blanket. “Best way ta do it. We move quick enough an' ain't nopony gonna get in the way. Then we jes settle 'em down with Miss Larkspur an' that should settle the Maudlin Mare.”
“And the Stonebeast. But if these are all the same folks... the Fiend is the evil dad. Do you think that a guy who killed his daughter's non-pony love is gonna let us bury them together? He didn't even do that,” Dash noted.
“He ain't always around, so... maybe we'll get lucky,” Applejack said.
“'Lucky' would be not carrying bones through town on the way to another open grave,” Dash mumbled, taking her own collection of bones and placing them in a blanket. “Keep pace, AJ, I want this over fast.”
“We both do, sugarcube, and it will be,” Applejack responded.
“I'll believe it when it happens...” Dash said, placing the blanket of bones between her wings and shivering a little bit. “Just think Daring Do thoughts... I've got a dead Dog's skull on my back. And the magic flower isn't making it less weird.”
Applejack settled her own bones on her back and huffed. “And ah've got his chest on me. It's 'bout half rock, them ribs is all cracked an' ah know who done it. Quitcher whimperin' an' get ta runnin'.”
“I'll get there before you!” Dash said, taking off. There was a smile on her face for about half a moment before she heard a howl and the clatter of stones behind her in the clearing. “I hope that's you, AJ!”
“Only if ya got yer weather friends makin' this fog!” Applejack called, squinting as a sudden fog rose up, accompanied by a growling roar. “If we ain't prankin' each other...”
“Larkspur...” A guttural voice said, followed by heavy stomps, along with the clatter and grind of rocks moving against one another.

Larkspur stumbled into the manor hours later, her Luna attire torn and filthy, her face a mask of horror, her eyes holding a thousand-mile stare. August went up to her and embraced her tightly, kissing her filthy head. “Do you feel more yourself, my dear?”
“I feel... very calm. I know the right thing to do now. I... need to wash, and sleep. I'm sorry, father...” Larkspur said, her voice hollow and distant, barely above a whisper.
“Dangerous creatures are everywhere. They have terrible powers and abilities, and can affect the innocent. But you're here now, safe and whole. You have nothing to fear any longer,” August said, reluctantly pulling away from his daughter and smiling at her as she walked away.
“I'm sorry...” Larkspur whispered as she passed her father. When she was out of earshot she muttered, “I'm sorry for what I do... but you have earned every bit of it...”

“So far this has been a success... to an extent,” Rarity said, her mane slightly frazzled but mostly in place. She and Fluttershy were still behind the group of youngsters chanting 'Candy!'
“I don't know how Granny Smith did it for so long,” Fluttershy commented, shaking her head a bit.
“Well... though Applejack is not here to approve of such tales, she knows well that her grandmother is... iron-shod, to say the least. And she had Pinkie there. Though a bit wild she maintains efficiency to get candy a-plenty,” Rarity commented, using magic to sweep the stray bits of mane into place.
“O-oh, right...” Fluttershy went quiet for a moment and then said, “I know it's wrong, but... is Granny Smith like..?”
“She is more socially restrained. Harmless,” Rarity said succinctly. “Let us pause for a moment, children, so we may refresh ourselves at the party.”
“Alright, but let's not take too long, I can't just hang around...” Scootaloo began.
“Miss Zecora! Don't ah look scary?” Applebloom asked loudly, running up to the zebra, who was in her usual spider-inspired attire.
“Oh Applebloom, my dear, you're very scary this year,” Zecora said with a small laugh. She leaned down to give the young filly a kiss on the forehead, agreeable mumbles coming from those around.
“Ugh, fine. Applebloom can go visit and I can-” Scootaloo found herself confronted with the toy cublamb.
“You can lead the baby along now, while I get us the treats I think we should have,” Sweetie said firmly, tying the string of the pulltoy to Scootaloo's tail. That accomplished, she sauntered off, leaving the pegasus filly dumbfounded.
“She is a proper lady, an iron frame under a silken raiment,” Rarity said with a small laugh. “I hope you don't expect to lump about on weekends watching sports.”
“It crossed my mind...” Scootaloo grumbled.
“Rarity? Fluttershy? I didn't expect to see you out here, I heard that you both took refuge on Nightmare Night,” a voice from the crowd said. From out of it stepped the speaker and a compatriot, Doctor Soft Heart and her fiance Labradorite. The Ponyville veterinarian was dressed in a light gray vest, with a broad gem-studded collar around her neck, along with a fake Diamond Dog muzzle over her pony snout. Her greenish-brown, small-breed compatriot had on a lab coat, with a stethoscope around his neck, a sphygmomanometer in one pocket and a stick of small rodent food in another pocket.
“Yes, yes... situations have, er, conspired to keep us occupied this night with the care of these wonderful foals,” Rarity said, keeping her smile bright as her young charges dashed around making lots of noise and leaving a bit of a mess.
“Is good to help children. Much love needed to raise them right,” Labradorite said, laughing at the antics. “And thank you for new design. Fit better, color is good.”
“Oh it was my pleasure, I want your wedding to go off without a hitch,” Rarity said, looking between Soft and Labradorite. “You know... more than ever... I truly wish this wedding to be a smashing success and for you two to be blissfully, deliriously happy.”
The pair looked between one another, Soft asking, “Well... thank you but... what brought on this position?”
“Certain facts from history have made me more aware of how beautifully broad our society is, and I want nothing more than for it to remain so...” Rarity said.
“Oh! You're... here...” Twilight was suddenly there, looking a little shocked at seeing Rarity and Fluttershy. “I thought you and Fluttershy would be across town right now, with the children.”
“We needed to stop. Honestly Twilight, Pinkie must be three mares to be able to wrangle this mob,” Rarity said, on the edge of whining.
“It's... not really so bad...” Fluttershy commented, looking down. “Should we leave? Where are Applejack and Rainbow Dash?”
“They're off-schedule, not by a lot but in this case that's not good,” Twilight responded. “I need to go and see...”
“They're coming! But they're not alone!” Pinkie zipped into the scene and pointed desperately down one of the Ponyville streets.
Applejack and Rainbow Dash were running up the street, hooves clacking loudly on the cobblestones and stone-crusted bones clattering in the blankets on their backs. Behind them loped the great Stonebeast, a collection of gray rock in the vague shape of a double-sized Diamond Dog. It let out a howl filled with pain and longing and cried out, “Larkspur!”
“Oh dear... this wasn't part of the checklist!” Twilight said, using a pulse of magic to clear the path. Applejack and Dash were off their scheduled route but given their panic that was natural. “I should have considered the possibility that the ghosts of the local dead were tied to their graves. That means that they can't range too far from their remains. I was right! Putting them in the same grave will...”
An incomprehensible roar of anger nearly shook the scene, forcing all the folk in the area to hit the ground. Fire leaped up out of the earth and coalesced from the air, leaving the large, flame-licked figure of a unicorn standing right in front of Applejack and Dash. “What the hay?” Applejack cried, hooves skidding her to a halt before the fiery brute.
“Th-the... the Fiend!” Rarity shrieked, pointing and trembling.
“Woah... okay, I think this puts me one up. Ahuizotl's got nothing on this!” Dash shouted, backpedaling and doing her best to hold her blanket of bones.
“Uhh... think we can giggle at this ghost?” Twilight asked across to Pinkie, looking quite stunned.
“Nope... I hope screaming scares it away because I'm about to do that,” Pinkie confessed, huge, frightened eyes tracing over the roaring form of the Fiend.
“You said it never comes to town!” Fluttershy squealed, hiding behind Rarity.
“It never did... but then... it never...” Comprehension dawned in Rarity's mind. “It's here to stop the bones. It probably came if the Stonebeast or Maudlin Mare were helped by anypony or either tried to go too far from their graves.”

Larkspur was in her hothouse the very next day, bright and early. Her dedication to her plants had waned in the previous weeks, and she had much to do. Rather than making notes or performing further experiments she was rather busily dismantling everything and uprooting her plants.
Baron August came by to see how his daughter was recovering, and looked taken aback by the destruction of what he always took to be one of his daughter's favorite places. “Dear... what are you doing? Your hothouse was supposed to provide the means to make a name for yourself in science...”
“I can't stand to look at it any longer,” Larkspur said with a cold tone. “It will never give me what I want, not unless I can brew and distill the elixir of life out of these odious weeds.”
“Elixir of..? I thought you were over this. The filthy monster is dead and probably eaten by timberwolves. Your mind ought to be your own once more. Do I need to call in a doctor?” August asked.
“Only for yourself if you persist in insisting my mind was ever not mine,” Larkspur huffed. “It does not fit in with your controlling, arrogant pride, father, but I may have thoughts that are not in concord with yours. This is normal and natural. If you do this to convince yourself you did not perform an act of murder then I pity you. If you do this because you have some secret hatred for non-ponies then I condemn you to Tartarus with the other fiends.”
“You will not speak to me in such a manner! I am your father and I will have your respect,” August growled, stomping firmly. “It cannot be murder, he was some creature that imitated speech like a parrot. I have no hatred of non-ponies but I recognize that ponies are best with one another.”
“The coward's cover,” Larkspur said icily, throwing uprooted plants into a trash can and throwing certain chemicals over them, making them shrivel and wither. “Have it your way, father. You are a well-respected and loved champion covered in mercy, liberality and glory.”
“Your mocking notwithstanding, I thank you all the same for at least attempting conversation rather than petty physical assaults. Now come along, breakfast has been served,” August said, motioning to his daughter.
“I do not wish to eat,” Larkspur said, simply.
“It has been a long night, nerves are on edge, and a meal will help you,” August said.
“I said I do not wish to eat. I will not eat,” Larkspur insisted.
“Very well. Shall I have the midday meal brought to you or will you come to it on your own?” August asked.
“You do not understand, father. I will not eat, again. I won't nourish myself,” Larkspur said, withering more clumps of greenery.
“Don't be ridiculous. You're not honestly going to starve yourself. Now come along,” August said firmly.
“Just watch me. Watch me... wither...” Larkspur said, openly pouring her withering compound on her namesake plant, the green stalk shriveling up and dying.

“You!” Rarity shouted suddenly, striding forward and leaving Fluttershy to huddle in terror on her own. “How dare you come to this town and frighten these good folk?!”
“Rarity? What are you doing?” Fluttershy squeaked. “You said you were afraid of him.”
“As a young filly I was terrified of him, and I stayed terrified of the mysterious, fiery Fiend. But I am not as ignorant as my filly self had been. Now I know his crimes and my fear has gone. Now I feel anger!” Rarity called back to Fluttershy.
The Fiend roared out, swatting a hoof towards Applejack and Rainbow Dash, preventing them from moving around him. He even held the great Stonebeast at bay, causing the big thing to meld itself down into the cobblestones of the street. “Larkspur... will mind me!”
“Why need she mind a fiend like you? Why need she obey a father unworthy of the title? A terrible creature like you is unworthy of holding respectable titles like 'Baron', 'Father' or 'Equestrian,'” Rarity said, using flares of magic to try and move the flaming creature away from Applejack and Dash.
“My daughter! She was my only daughter and she betrayed me! She betrayed me for a beast! A monster! A thing! I gave her everything and she repaid me with betrayal!” The Fiend stomped hard, a flare rising up from the street.
Rarity was washed in the heat of the flare and covered her eyes to protect herself from the flash of light. When it was over she remained standing proud, stepping even closer to the raging stallion. “I'm no longer afraid of you. You don't scare me, you sicken me,” Rarity hissed, her normal calm fury replaced with undiluted anger. “You foul and horrible bigot! You beat an innocent creature to death because he dared to give your daughter love?”
“My Larkspur was a good pony, a quality pony, she would think better of herself than to love some monster,” The Fiend replied.
“She loved you for most of her life. She loved at least one monster,” Rarity said, voice heavy with disdain. “How deeply does your bigotry cut? Would you have similarly killed a griffin? A cow? A donkey? A zebra? A ROA?! Just how pervasive is your hate, you disgusting, prejudiced beast?!”
Dash looked at Rarity in awe, while paused in her attempt to get around the Fiend. “Remind me never to piss Rarity off,” she said aside to Applejack.
“Noted,” Applejack said with some trace of amazement.
The final word of Rarity's accusation made the flames leap higher on the surface of the Fiend and he turned his flaring eyes on Rarity. “I am no beast! My name is Baron August Bearing, a true noblepony of Canterlot! I am nothing like you say, and I am only concerned with my daughter!”
“Concerned with her unhappiness, perhaps, if all you could do was hide her discovery and kill the one she loved. Even now you won't admit you did so,” Rarity said, in a slightly calmer tone.
The flames lowered a little bit, though the petulant look remained on the flaming face. “I am a proper father, a protective father. I saved her from a beast taking over her mind and I want my just reward for doing right.”
“You did nothing of the sort. She was an innocent mare, in love with a new species, excited by the prospect of presenting the coup of the era to the Noble Society. She needed your support and your love. She received your rage and your hate,” Rarity accused.

Baron August paced the halls, his anger fighting with his worry before he made his way to Larkspur's room and opened the door. Lately she had grown too weak to move around the manor and had confined herself to her room, to languish in bed. “Larkspur... this has gone on long enough. Now eat something and be done.”
Larkspur laughed from the bed. She had grown drawn, pale and cloudy-eyed. Her skin was pulled tight on her bones. “There remains... breath in my lungs and be... beats in my heart. I'm not done yet...”
“You've proven your point. You had a serious message to convey and it has been. Now, please eat something. Look at you! You're scarcely more than skin and bones,” August said.
“When I am only bones I think I will be finished,” Larkspur said in a single, long breath, eyes closing afterward while she rested.
“You will not just kill yourself. I know you to be a sensible pony,” August said, evenly.
“I knew you were... kind and loving. I suppose we... we were both wrong...” Larkspur whispered, still laying back with shut eyes.
“I still love you, dearest daughter. I wish you could understand that,” August pleaded.
“Your actions say otherwise. But that is immaterial. I have a request...” Larkspur said softly, rising up slightly and opening her sunken eyes to look at her father.
“Please, my dear, anything. Anything I can do to make this end, to get you back,” August said eagerly, approaching the bed.
It took Larkspur a moment to activate her magic and get it strong enough to lift her book. “You remember this. I tried to prove he w... was a sapient creature. This book for wh-which he died...”
“Yes, I recall. Are you going to yell again? I find it very unkind,” August grumbled, looking almost contemptuously at the book.
“I haven't the strength to yell. This is my magnum opus. This work killed an innocent. This work fills me with guilt. But this work is vital. When I am gone... present it to the Noble Society in my name. Equestria must know. And when I am gone at least... one guilty party will have been punished...” Larkspur said, her magic fizzling, the book falling to the bed.
August took up the book and looked it over, repulsed by the detailed depictions of the body of a beast. “You want this to be your legacy? A monster's catalog?”
Larkspur huffed in exasperation and fell back onto the bed, looking entirely drained. “You can't even muster love to make this happen. I knew you were a liar.”
“If it's what you want...” August said, rising up and slowly backing out of the room, watching as Larkspur's eyes slowly closed and her breathing became slow and even. He looked at the book again and shook his head. He had been placed in an untenable position.

“All I ever did was for her. All I ever wanted was never to lose her. Larkspur... Larkspur could have had a good life...” The Fiend rumbled, his fires down to a dull roar, revealing some trace of the glowing-hot unicorn body beneath.
“She was trying to have that. A successful scientific endeavor, perhaps some form of political position, and well... she could have been very, very happy with this Heliotrope fellow...” Rarity commented.
“Never. Never! I knew her, I knew her mind and her heart. She was a good mare. She never, ever could have been happy with some mere beast,” The Fiend snarled out.
“You did not know. In the end, you brought it on yourself. It was your doing. You lost her,” Rarity scolded.
“She took herself away... my little filly took herself away from me. How could she do that to me?” The flaming stallion pleaded, his fires burning lower than ever, showing that the smoldering form beneath was smaller than the robust specimen of ponyhood he had been in life.
Rarity slowly shrugged her shoulders. “Because she was guilty, I suppose. The gift her darling gave to her ended his life, and her own father wielded it in ignorant anger. She was upset, and preferred to die before your eyes, rather than live with what you did to her, and to him...”

August was beside himself. He couldn't believe it. Even after the doctor had confirmed the case he couldn't believe his little filly was gone. She had finally slipped away, with hardly a word, little more than a barely-living skeleton. Her body was being prepared for burial, and he had to make the preparations.
Little fillies were supposed to bury their parents, it was not supposed to be the other way around. She was gone, taken away by her own stubbornness. All for the sake of a beast.
The thought of a beast brought August to the cornuscript she had given him, the one he was meant to give to the Noble Society, to let them know about the beast that had trapped her mind. It would be good to let them know that such creatures were out there. He would have to tell them of what happened to Larkspur... from beginning, to end.
His eyes darted quickly to the fireplace burning high and bright, and the book in his magical grip. With one simple motion he could destroy every trace of that from the face of the world. All evidence that such a thing had existed would vanish in a puff of smoke.
He hesitated, however. This was his daughter's work. Her great work, she had said. Her guarantee of fame and notice by the Noble Society, all the nation and posterity. He had promised her he would present it. He didn't want to be a liar, but he couldn't just show it. It could not be shown or destroyed.
He saw a small box on his desk, a red-lacquered wooden thing with silver hinges, used mostly for ink and quills. It was the right size for the book. And he still had to come up with the headstone and plot for her. She had mentioned the fields outside of town as the place they had met one another. The best way to keep folks away would be to put a burial plot there. And the book could be placed in the headstone. It could stay with her, forever.
“I'm sorry, my daughter. I can't destroy your work but I won't flaunt your shame. You can keep this testament to a beast's power over you, but hidden. Let no one know this ever happened...” August said, wrapping the book in a piece of white cloth that had served as a decoration for a small side-table and settling it inside the box.

“I couldn't let the knowledge go, couldn't let the nation know she had ended her life for the sake of a beast,” The Fiend said.
“You say that over and over, but you are wrong. We know about Diamond Dogs, we are more than well acquainted with their ways. Their United Colonies are a vassal of the Principality, and their citizens are Equestrians. They may move among us freely. And more...” Rarity motioned towards Labradorite and Soft, the Diamond Dog standing protectively before his fiancee.
The flames died down more around the Fiend, little licking waves of orange all that was left coursing over his body. The form beneath was no grand noblestallion. He was a haunted-looking, shriveled figure, all made of gray ash. This was the hermit-like recluse that had scurried to Canterlot and locked himself away until he was nothing but rage and regrets. “You're sapient, aren't you? You have the ability to know you love that mare...”
“Do love Soft, is most precious gem in all world, worth more than all crystals in Crystal Empire,” Labradorite asserted, one hand gently stroking Soft, the other thumping his chest firmly.
“I did it... I killed her... and I killed him too...” The flames on the Fiend's body waned to nothingness, his ashy form flaking and cracking. “I did not merely kill a beast, a cruel thing on its own. I killed a sapient creature. She was right. I deserve Tartarus. I was a fiend all along...” His body crumbled into powdery soot, blowing away on a breeze that moaned, 'Forgive me.'
The whole town had been holding its breath, watching the war of words with great interest. As the Fiend crumbled and blew away they all let out a tremendous cheer. Rarity did not join in that jubilation, she summoned and fell into her fainting couch, soon joined by a very relieved-looking Fluttershy. Twilight approached with a stunned expression. “Rarity, that was incredible! I know you said you were angry but... you started off fearful. How did you overcome that?” she asked.
“It was just as I told Fluttershy,” Rarity said, stroking her marefriend's mane as her heartbeat came back down to normal. “As a child I was afraid of a screaming and unknown figure, a flaming monster roaring on the most frightening night of the year. I learned the truth, he was the last pieces of an unworthy father, a bigot and a murderer who never accepted he had killed the one his daughter loved, and brought about her own death with his callousness. He even hid away her creation, because of his own unwillingness to admit she had been so in love.”
“It was quite a thing to do. You were very brave. I guess a little knowledge really is a powerful weapon,” Twilight mused.
“Now, without the interruption of that monster, let us all go bring these remains to the site they were always intended to occupy, the love of his life,” Rarity said, rising from and dismissing her fainting couch, speaking to Applejack and Rainbow Dash.
“Oh, right, the bones. You know I was getting used to it,” Dash said with a sheepish grin.
“I think that's a good idea. Something to take the terror out of this Nightmare Night,” Twilight said, sending up a beacon of magic to gather the other ponies. “I think everypony's going to want to see this. This should make up for that frightening interruption of a good time.”
Though the entire town was a trifle frazzled from the experience of seeing the fiend in all his rage they were also eager for anything that could take the memory away. In short order they organized a procession, with Rainbow Dash and Applejack at the head. It was a bit of a jaunt to the gem fields, but no one seemed to grow winded, neither did they seem to notice the trailing bulge in the dirt, the hidden Stonebeast on the move with them.
There was a ring around the cairn marking Larkspur's grave, where Dash had dug to find her body, plus the open pit that led directly to her. Once they had arrived Applejack and Rainbow Dash set the blankets full of bones beside the pit and opened them up. Twilight came forward rather boldly and began to arrange the bones into their correct anatomical positions.
Stalking around the stones was the figure of the Maudlin Mare, Larkspur's questing form. She was just a skeletal pony, with tatters of Larkspur's Princess Luna costume hanging off of her bones. She wailed and wept and made the gathered ponies quite uncomfortable, as they were not quite afraid but unsure of what to think.
From out of the ground the Stonebeast emerged, hunching over before the Maudlin Mare to bring his head at least somewhat close to hers. No words passed between them, then simply embraced, bones scraping on stone as the ghostly lovers finally had the chance to be together.
A small collection of soft and encouraging sounds emerged from the crowd, and many quiet conversations voiced approval. “Nothing can make up for an error that lasted several hundred years,” Twilight said, drawing all eyes, “But perhaps we can ease some of the harm. Rarity, can you help me with this?”
“It would be an honor,” Rarity replied, trotting over to the graveside. Though the sight of two skeletons should have been unnerving she was buoyed up by the rightness of what she was doing. She and Twilight carefully lifted Heliotrope's bones and laid them in the grave with Larkspur, adjusting the reposed mare such that the two figures were seen to embrace.
As each piece was interred and the positions adjusted in a respectful manner the two embracing spirits regained themselves, the stone cracking and falling from Heliotrope's form, the flesh growing back over Larkspur's frame. They were restored, top to bottom, embracing as they had once long ago. They kissed firmly, to the cheers of the crowd. That finally seemed to make them aware of the others, both looking surprised, yet not afraid.
“What is? Ponies cheer Dog like me? Is not what you said...” Heliotrope's ghost said.
“Look at them, my love. There are more than just ponies here. Your own kind are among them. This... must be a dream. But it is a beautiful dream. It feels so real. Come, my dearest. Let us dream together,” Larkspur's ghost said, drawing Heliotrope down to the ground with her and getting into a restful pose.
“Yes, dream. With you, all life is dream,” Heliotrope's ghost said, wrapping his arms around Larkspur and squeezing her firmly. The ethereal images faded away as the first scoop of dirt fell on the mingled skeletons.
The citizens of Ponyville came forward as a group, to help move some of the dirt back into place. They didn't have the whole story and on some level it didn't matter. They knew only that a very bad creature had been defeated and that two lovers were reunited. All the important matters had been touched upon. The details were only going to make all the participants known, which would make the celebration of the event more wonderful.