The story will be taking a slightly darker turn for a while in the next chapter, (it was an accident.) but I promise there will be a happy ending. Satisfied?
It had been a while since Cadence had stopped foalsitting for the Sparkles, but she still communicated with eleven-year-old Twilight on a daily basis, sending little birthday gifts and receiving little scroll reports on what was going on in Twilight's everyday life, mostly what she was learning in school, but also her personal opinions on the books she was reading.The teleportation of small matter spell was one of Twi's favourites, but once in a while she used the common speech spell like most unicorns. Today came such a message, but the spell was shaky with Twilight's excitement.
"Cadence!" The excited filly in her mirror bounced up and down, uncharacteristically hyper. "Cadence guess what! Wait, don't guess, come right over, I have something really super-duper extremely important to tell you. Hurry!"
And the spell was cut. It was quite possibly the shortest call ever, Cadence didn't even have time to speak. Maybe it was a recording. But Cadence, who was lounging on her bed, still in pajamas, at the time, got up quickly and summoned Florence, leaving a note on the table for her sleeping parents.
The Sparkles door was already wide open when Cadence arrived, and Twilight was parked directly outside of it with an unfamiliar creature by her side. She bounced down the steps and attacked her foalsitter almost before she could get out of the carriage.
"CadenceCadenceCadenceIgotintotheSchoolofMagicandI'mgoingtobethePrincess'sspecialstudentandI'msosohappyandlookat- mycutiemarkanditgotspiked!" Cadence had never heard Twilight use such an un-gramatical sentence in her life, and she struggled to understand the way-to-quickly shouted news. When she finally understood the gist of the statement, Cadence hugged Twilight hard, jumping along with her.
"That's wonderful, Twi! But what got spiked? Punch?"
"No, silly. I got Spike. My baby dragon. And my cutie mark is for magic. Look!" Twilight shook her rump, drawing Cadence's attention to her new pink star-shaped cutie mark.
"Wow. I think we need to celebrate this with, hmmm, how about some green ice cream?" The fake ice cream had become a joke between them, and Cadence couldn't resist bringing it up. Now a small bowl of the stuff appeared out of thin air, and Cadence lowered it in front of Twilight's face, pretending to taunt her with it. "Come on, Twilight. You know you want it," she said persuasively. With an uncharacteristic shriek, the filly skittered away, the pushed the bowl back into Cadence's face n a burst of purple magic.
"But you never met Spike. He's right--oh, ponyfeathers, he's hiding again. Come out, Spike, she isn't scary." Twilight disappeared behind a bush and came back dragging a little purple-and-green blob with spines.
"That's a dragon?" Cadence eyed the thing doubtfully.
"Of course he's a dragon. Stand up, Spike. stop being a baby." At Twilight's command, the purple-and-green blob unfolded himself into a tiny, rather pokey-looking dragon. He stood for a moment, yawning, before plopping himself down on the ground and sucking the pronged end of his tail peaceably. Twilight cuffed it away from him gently, with a firm, "Stop it," before turning back to Cadence. "Isn't he wonderful? I hatched him myself." She added proudly.
"He's certainly very cute, but doesn't he take a lot of work to take care of? He's still a baby, you know." She squinted at the creature who, finding the scene rather boring, retracted into his blob form and, beginning to suck at his tail again, promptly fell asleep and began to snore softly with a wheezing sound. Cadence knew that Twilight probably had a whole shelf full of books on how to care for baby dragons, but she knew firsthand that babies of any kind were a lot of work, books or no books.
"Oh, don't worry, Cadey. I know just what to do," Twilight said confidently, patting her former foalsitter's hoof. The, predictably, she added, "I have a book all about it!"
As months passed, and months turned into years, Cadence saw more and more of Shining Armour, even though she didn't foalsit his sister anymore. They almost never fought--there was something about Shiny that made him almost impossible to quarrel with. More often then not they stayed at Cadence's family's unwanted summer lodge, peacefully spending all the time they could together before Shiny was called to serve in the Royal Guard. Sometimes the now determinedly bookish teenage Twilight visited near the beginning, but then she was sent to Ponyville, where she stayed, and she quickly fell out of touch with her brother and his marefriend.
One night at the lodge, Cadence lay folded into the crook of Shining Armour's body, warm and comfortable and safe, but unsure. Lately her sleep had been laced with unpleasant and disturbing nightmares, often distorted and awful versions of her own foalhood, that left her scared and conused. So while Shining Armour snored softly, content to sleep next to his marefriend despite the fact that she often woke up screaming, Cadence lay awake for as long as possible, to keep the terrifying dreams at bay.
Eventually, however, Cadence did drift off to sleep, and almost at once she was hurled into another unfamiliar dream realm.
A little Cadence walked down a dirty, narrow street, a torn and patched saddlebag drooping at her sides. The place was familiar to the filly, even though Cadence didn't recognize it. Her younger doppelganger gingerly opened the creaky old door of a dingy little shack, and stepped inside.
A dirtier version of Cadence's parents stood in the little room, which was heavy with the stench of alcohol and rot, seemingly in the middle of a heated argument. Cadence watched the greyish pink filly creep behind the dirty sofa and take a battered picture book out of her bag, trying her best to ignore the rest of the room. But the unfamiliar, drunken, not-princess Melody gave a piercing scream sending a bottle of dark, stinking liquid to shatter on the wall just to the left of her husband's head. Melody charged across the room, her horn glowing ominously, and pinned the stallion against the wall. Then, with a wordless, or perhaps simply distorted with drink, cry of rage that would haunt both old and young Cadence for a long time, she plunged her sharpened horn directly into the poor stallion's heart. He crumpled, and the little filly gave a terrified but quiet shriek of despair. Cadence flew to her, a comforting word at her lips, only to find that she couldn't speak, and her soothing hoof went straight through the unknowing filly in question.
"And now," the mad un-princess Melody turned, horn dripping with blood and her face nothing but a gaping black pit. She stared directly at the two trembling Cadences and said, "You."
Cadence screamed and woke up shaking and soaked with sweat next to Shining Armour. He woke too, rubbing her back soothingly and yawning. Cadence simply lay there, trying to control her emotions as tears of relief trickled down her cheeks, letting his gentle touch comfort her back to reality before she dared try to explain.
"Nightmare...again. I s-saw myself a-as a filly, but poor and lonely, and my mother...killed him...no f-face..."
"It's okay, Cadey. It was only a dream. I'm here for you. I'll keep you safe. I promise. Shining Armour said quietly. His hoof still gently massaged her taut shoulders, and now she felt the other softly caress her cheek.
Cadence rolled over so that her face was buried in his neck, then moved slightly to kiss his lips before trying to sleep again. She had fitted herself in the warm embrace between his forelegs, where she felt safe, protected by his bulk. She whispered a shaky goodnight into his chest before falling into a deep, exhausted slumber which blocked out any dreams until sunrise.