Trials of Blood and Kindness
14 years before Nightmare Moon’s return
“Here you go,” said the yellow pegasus with three bats as a cutie mark. A falcon with a bandaged wing was standing on her head. “This poor dear is feeling much better. He should be ready to fly again tomorrow morning, but I would advise against difficult stunts.” She pointed at the falcon’s wing. “A gentle massage on this point and at least twenty wing flaps each hour should help him get back into shape.”
“Thank you very much, Miss Flutterbat. My son has been very depressed ever since the accident. I’m sure he will be overjoyed when his favorite pet returns healthy,” the mare pegasus said with a thankful smile. She exposed her shoulder and pointed at it. “Let's go, Leaf, I’ll give you a ride for today.”
“Leaf is such a cute name,” Flutterbat said as she lowered her head, letting the bird walk onto his owner’s shoulder.
“Cute? I suppose it’s a cute name, but a bit odd for a falcon. Way too cheesy.” The falcon nodded in agreement before making a loud shriek.
“If you say so. Anyway, I wish your pet to be at his best soon,” the veterinarian said before lowering her head again as her eyes dropped. “Farewell.”
The moment the door closed, the facade disappeared from Flutterbat’s face and was replaced by a frown. She turned towards the door for working personnel and whimpered. “So it’s finally today… I hoped this day would never come. ”As she opened the door and entered the room, many welcoming noises reached her ears. Bats flew over and sat on her head, an eagle nuzzled her foreleg, and several birds started singing. She looked around at the large room, cages, pillows, and tables with medical equipment scattered about. Despite the cheerful atmosphere, she didn’t smile, and in turn caused the birds to discontinue their melody.
“I’m sorry, I really am, but I… I don’t feel like celebrating.” Noticing several curious and confused stares, she continued, “From tomorrow morning, this clinic will have a new owner.” She turned her head to the side and bit her lips. “Don’t… don’t look at me like that. I don’t like it as much as you. I would love to run this place much longer. Healing animals is like a dream come true, but the ponies will start to get suspicious.” She knelt and gently hugged the eagle, careful not to aggravate it’s injuries. “I’ll miss you all. Maybe I’ll lead this clinic again as a new pony. I may very soon be turned into a filly by an age altering spell, but my love for you will never change.”
After finishing the last check up on every animal and saying individual good-byes, she waved towards them with her hoof and approached the door, only for an eagle to get in the way. “Is something wrong, Mr. Claw?” Seeing as the eagle exposed his neck and pointed at it with his wing, Flutterbat blushed and rubbed her neck. “Oh, I am not sure I should…” After receiving a few more gestures for her to feed, she said, “Well…if you insist… maybe a tiny little sip won’t hurt.”
Flutterbat opened her mouth as two sharp fangs grew from her teeth. She approached and gently pushed them into the eagle’s neck, but whatever pain it would cause was neutralized by the painkilling magic she used as her eyes flashed in red. After three seconds of drinking, she pulled her fangs and licked the wound before hugging the large bird. “Thank you very much, Mr. Claw.” She released the eagle and asked with worry, “I didn’t drink too much… are you feeling alright?” A nod from the eagle calmed her worries as she continued, “That’s good. Once again thank you, and stay healthy.”
Flutterbat approached the exit and opened the door as she licked her lips. She raised her foreleg protectively as the rays of the sun assaulted her eyes. While she could resist the sun for many hours before it would cause any significant damage to her body, it was still very unpleasant and canceled most of her powers. With her wings spread, she leapt into the air and turned around, looking at the big letters ‘CLOUDSDALE VETERINARY CENTER,’ a place she loved to work in.
“Farewell, my dear animals,” she murmured to herself before noticing three old pegasi who flew towards her, most likely worried ever since they heard that she was retiring.
One more time, Flutterbat examined herself, making sure that her illusion spell would fool her friends this last time. She looked at her pink mane, which was much longer thanks to her illusion, had a few traces of grey, and was purposely messy. She looked at the blurry reflection in a window of her own face, noticing age bags under her eyes and visible marks of cheekbones. She quickly examined her fur, which was mix of yellow and grey, while her forelegs seemed very thin and fragile.
Flutterbat took a deep tired breath and half closed her eyes, faking a stressed and tired look.
“Is that so?” asked a yellow pegasus with three sunflowers as a cutie mark, her voice tired and depressed. Grey was somewhat visible on the tips of her feathers.
“I am sorry,” Flutterbat apologized as she looked to the side, her flank perched atop a soft cloud. Her friends lowered their heads as they were sitting in a circle on some sort of balcony attached to a restaurant. None said a word for several seconds as they contemplated their situation. “I suppose it is a goodbye… Sunflower,” Flutterbat said before looking at her other friend, a tall and old pegasus with a bowl full of birdfood for a cutie mark. “Farewell to you as well, Little Seed.”
The elderly pegasus stallion poked a half eaten salad on the table that separated him from his friend, suddenly losing his appetite. Little Seed raised his head slowly and rubbed the small beard on his chin as he spoke, “Are you feeling blue? I know you loved working in that clinic…” He chuckled weakly before it turned into coughing. “I still remember how I had to stop you from feeding that pidgeon… and Sunflower had to come up with special exercises to help him lose weight. In terms of birdfood, you were always my best customer.”
Flutterbat sighed as she hesitantly looked into the eyes of her friend with exhaustion. “I do… but there’s nothing I can…” she paused to take a slow breath, “...do about it… Everypony needs to go into retirement sooner or later.”
Sunflower raised her shaking forehoof and pointed at the bypassing mail-pony. “Not really. I met a few ponies who were still working in the mailing service... despite their sight problem and memory issues that came from old age.” She frowned. “One of them mixed up my packages to Canterlot with the ones to Manehattan and Ponyville.”
She cleared her throat before continuing, “I got a few complaints from a noble family that instead of solar panels to heat up the water in their swimming pool they got two containers, one with apples, and another with oranges.” Sunflower chuckled. “The stallion even called it offensive that he should lose a few kilograms. He could use losing a bit of weight in my opinion though, which makes me wonder if he even used the swimming pool in the first place.”
Flutterbat giggled a little as she advanced a forehoof up to her face slowly, trying her best to not appear too energetic for her age. She shot Sunflower an honest smile. Thestrals can’t stand the sunlight, and one of my friends teaches me the wonders of sun-powered devices. Oh the irony, Flutterbat thought as she looked up at the sky as another drop of sweat went down her face. As unpleasant and weakening it was to bask in the rays of the sun, she endured it to spend time with her friends.
The talk between Flutterbat and the others lasted for at least an hour before carefully pressing themselves into one another’s embrace while hugging eachother, with both hooves and wings. They shared a few tears of both sadness and joy before saying their final goodbyes.
As Flutterbat waved her hoof at them and was about to head for home, one more sentence struck her like a hammer. “It’s such a pity that you will have to move away from Cloudsdale to your cousins,” Little Seed said as he rubbed his own foreleg, “but no matter the distance, we will still have letters.”
Flutterbat turned around as she grit her teeth. Even after starting a new life, she would still try to stay in contact with her old friends, forced to come up with various lies about her life as an elderly pony while using fake addresses. The worst, however, would be when, instead of a letter, she would receive an invitation for their funerals. Such was the price she had to pay for who she was. With a deep breath, she said with a weak voice, “Yes, we will… even the distance won’t separate us.”
She flew back home while fighting back tears from her watery eyes, barely flying as she felt her wings burning from long exposure to the sun. As she struggled to flap her wings, a thought crossed her mind.
But time will.
“Mom, Dad, I’m back,” a calm voice echoed through a midnight blue room. Its walls were covered with various works of art, while the ceiling was supported by four solid pillars with bat insignias decorating them. In the middle of the room sat a long table set with food and glass cups filled with red liquid on a violet tablecloth decorated with various constellations and moons.
On the right side of the table was waiting a tall white-gray batpony with his big blue wings folded on his sides, almost large enough to cover his cutie mark, a test tube filled with blood. The stallion's eyes focused on his daughter who approached the table and sat at the end of the table. Noticing a grimace on his daughter’s face the moment he took a bite of the half eaten fish, he slowly raised his head and spoke in gentle but firm tone, “Now, now, dear. I know how you don’t like eating meat, and we respect that, but surely you can forgive us for eating fish once a month.”
“Sample Taker’s right. A little meat once in a while is both tasty and healthy for our kind. You should try one as well,” a dark-gray female batpony said from her spot on the left side of the table. Her wings were a medley of violet and black and her cutie mark was a set of tweezers. With the help of her magic she levitated the blood towards her fangs in a thin stream, before a servant batpony wiped her mouth with a napkin.
Flutterbat shook her head. “I understand… “
“Is something wrong?” her mother asked with concern.
“I… I just wanted to ask,” she said before her long ears dropped down. “Do I really have to… you know…”
The mother cleared her throat with a cough. “We’ve already talked about this, my dear daughter. Our presence among ponies must remain a secret. If somepony found out that we are thestrals, pureblood no less, our well being would be put in jeopardy. Do I need to mention the panic that would raise in Cloudsdale?”
“Clean Mouth is right,” Sample Taker added. “We have to hide our age by using illusions and age spells, change our names, jobs and locations. It is necessary. I know you may miss your peaceful life as a vet, but while seventy three years is most of a pony lifespan, for purebloods like us, it is not even considered maturity.”
Flutterbat placed her head on the table and let out a quiet frown. “Yes, Mom, Dad…”
“Please, cheer up,” Clean Mouth said with a smile. “The age spell will just temporarily take away your maturity and experience, so you can fit in with the other colts and fillies. It will return over time. While we will need to cast an illusion on you to hide your cutie mark whenever you are in pony form, we will even let you keep your wonderful yellow fur.” Hearing that, Flutterbat raised her head and looked at Clean Mouth who scratched her chin in contemplation. “Now all there is left is to find you an alternative name...”
“I…” Flutterbat said with a raised foreleg before she shrank from the sudden attention, her eyes looking up at the ceiling. After several seconds of silence, she looked between her parents with a smile. “I would like to replace the ‘bat’ with… with ‘shy’.”
Both parents chuckled with hoof on their mouths. “Fluttershy... such a charming and suitable name,” Sample Taker said as his wife nodded.