• Published 10th Feb 2012
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Of Stars Descending - Taldaer



Human, deceiver, martial artist all these words have been used to describe me. Hi name's Stormcloud

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Ch 2. Yet another mask

Chapter 2. Yet another mask

What is your life about today?

A pit of emptiness

A close resemblance

To what you thought was right or wrong

You don't belong

The face you hold is false

If you would ask anypony now, they will tell you how brave Stormcloud was and how he never wavered once. He stayed truthful and valiant through all of his encounters in Equestria. But then we tend to only remember the good parts. The truth is I was never particularly brave, nor was I valiant. I doubted myself more times than I can count and most important of all I was far from truthful. At the time I thought it was necessary, but oh boy let me tell you how wrong I was. Lies have never truly helped anypony. Their world is so different that even the smallest of lies can have impacts beyond our understanding. Although not everything in their world is as pure as the surface shows.

*~*

I felt alive! The wind in my mane, the steel grey sky above me, and the treetops whooshing past bellow me. Flying was certainly a comfortable, if not stylish, way of travel. If was ever going to miss anything from this world it would be this. I was in high spirits due to finally leaving the forest behind me. All I had to do now was find some type of sentient life beside myself and hopefully that would lead to a way home.

I had been airborne for about an hour when the forest environment changed into a mixture of rocky outcroppings and the small patches of trees. In the distance I could see a white dot, and from what I could tell it was moving. With a small adjustment to my heading I was soon moving toward it. As I steadily got closer the dot slowly became another pony, a white pony with a purple mane and tail. The pony was still too far away to be certain but I had a feeling that someone was having a laugh at my expense right now. When I got close enough to see the horn on the pony’s forehead I was certain on where I had ended up. All my doubts were scattered in the wind, as I had feeling that I knew who that pony was.

My thoughts raced back and forth. How should I present myself? What would I say? Was this even real or was it just a dream? No wait I had already confirmed that part. I shuddered at the thought of that memory.

I was pulled back from my thoughts by an ominous feeling that started to spread throughout my body. I could feel the static in the clouds build up in front of me. In fact it was just above the unicorn ahead of me.

Oh hay why can’t anything be simple?! My wings pumped furiously as I accelerated to close the distance between us. Please let me make it in time!

"Watch out!" I cried out as I dove down above her.

My outburst made the unicorn jerk its head up toward me and for a split second our eyes met. Shocked and slightly frightened blue eyes stared into mine. Then my world once again turned bright white with a deafening *bang*.

And for the second time in just a couple of weeks I was once again struck by lightning. Someone must hate me.

I had tried to brace myself against the pain, a pain that never came. I opened my eyes unsure of when I had closed them. Thoughts once again raced through my mind. Where was the pain? I had been hit by that bolt of lightning I was certain of it. How had I sensed the energy build up? Also why was the ground growing closer so fast? My focus snapped back to reality. I had forgotten to flap my wings and now it was to late to try and save the situation. This was going to hurt.

Pain exploded throughout my body as I hit the ground with a sickening *thud*, I slid a few yards over the grass and dirt before coming to a complete stop. The impact had knocked the air out of me and while gasping for air I tried to work myself into a sitting position. However pain wasn't quite done with me yet, as put some pressure on my right front hoof a blinding pain exploded again and I fell forward. I just lay there panting as the pain slowly subsided.

"Anything else you wish to throw at me?" I asked turning my gaze skyward.

As if to respond to my command a slow drizzle began to fall slowly drenching my coat. Equestria choose this moment to decided that it hadn't played enough tricks on my mind and body. Before my eyes I could see my hooves crackle softly with energy.

Oh that can’t be good. I groaned in my head. The energy of the lightning bolt was still contained within me and the rain was working as a conductor allowing it to slowly crawl across my body. The pain in my right hoof was forgotten as I stared at the white bluish sparks that appeared over my front legs. I turned my head and sure enough the same phenomenon was occurring all over my equine body.

"Hello? Anypony there?" a familiar voice called out.

"Over here!" I shouted back, as an almost subconscious response.

A few minutes later the unicorn came into view. This close there was no doubt about who she was. Sneaking a quick glance at her flank confirmed it, this was Rarity and right now she was staring at me with shocked eyes and I was staring back.

*<>*

Rarity had set out early during the morning to find some more gems for her latest creation. Although the weather reports had promised rain today she simply couldn't miss a deadline. Her client was counting on her and it would simply be unprofessional to let a bit of rain get between her latest chance to make a name for herself. She had set a good pace and it was around midday when she reached a suitable spot for gem finding. The spell she used was a rather simple one but it really worked wonders. But today she was looking for a specific type of emerald so she had to concentrate a bit more than usual to make the spell home in on the intended gems. Soon she was casually trotting through the rocky outcroppings bordering the Everfree forest. She wasn't particularly worried about being this close to the forest. According to Fluttershy the forests inhabitants rarely left the cover of the trees, so being here shouldn't prove to be of any real danger.

"Enough day dreaming Rarity." she scolded herself and went back to her task.

So far she had marked five deposits were she might find what she was looking for, another five and she would be done. With some luck she would even make it back before the impending rain ruined her elegant mane.

"Watch out!" a loud voice suddenly cried out above her.

The shout startled her and she whipped her in direction of the source only catch a glimpse of a set of golden eyes. Then the entire world flashed bright white with loud *crack*. She blinked a few times, still seeing the afterimage of the pegasus that had come hurtling down from the sky. She looked around scanning the sky for the mystery pegasus. A flicker of movement to her right made her turn only to see the pegasus crashing behind a set of trees.

The gem finding was completely forgotten as she made her way down from the outcropping she was situated upon as quickly as she could. That pony couldn't be fine after a crash at that speed, and she was curious about what that flash had been. Rarity hurried best she could toward that small patch of trees were she had seen the pegasus pony go down. Before she reached the trees a slow rain began to fall but she barely noticed it, she was determined to find this mysterious pony.

"Hello? Anypony there?" she called out.

"Over here!" came a reply to the left of her.

She readjusted her heading toward where the voice had called out and soon she could see the pegasus lying on the ground. It was clear that he had hurt himself in some way during the crash. For a moment she paused and took in the appearance of the stallion on the ground. He had shaded sky blue coat and a short ice blue mane the tail matched the mane with the addition of a slightly brighter line of blue. Two golden eyes added another touch of color to this odd pony. A scar ran over his right eye but she didn't put much thought into that. What caught her eye were the arcs of electricity that played over his body. She had never seen anything like this, it was surreal and oddly mesmerizing to behold. The bright flash must have been a lightning strike Rarity realized, and without this pegasus I would have been hit instead. She was so lost in thought that she barely realized that the pegasus was staring at her just as much as she at him.

"Um, a little help here?" the odd pegasus asked bringing her back to reality with a start.

*<>*

My request for help seemed to bring Rarity back to reality. But I didn't blame her, I had to look rather odd with my predicament here.

"Of course I will help." she said quickly and reached out toward one of my hooves.

"Wait!" I cried out and yanked my hooves back toward me. A sharp pain that made me grimace reminded me of my injured hoof.

My sudden outburst seemed to have startled her a bit. So I took advantage of the silence that followed and tried my best to explain my theories of me currently being a living lightning rod. Rarity nodded thoughtfully as I presented out my theories.

"...so Imagine what might happen if I came into contact with something or somepony." I finished my explanation.

Rarity looked at me with worry written all over her face. It was odd having somepony you have never actually met before show this much worry about your well being. Not that I didn't appreciate it, it just felt odd.

"If I can’t even touch you how can I help you with your “predicament” dear? I may be a unicorn but I am not strong enough to carry you magically." She said with a frown.

I nodded thoughtfully this certainly wasn't the optimal situation to be in.

"Please just let me think a bit." I replied a bit absently.

What had my teacher droned on about? Lightning rods were generally made out of metal and they were always… oh hay I was close I could feel it! Lightning rods were always… grounded! Of course I needed a way to direct the energy into the ground. But how? Where could I find something made out of metal?

I looked back up at Rarity who was studying me with a regal expression.

"You wouldn’t happen to have anything made out of metal on you?" I asked hopefully.

She seemed pause for a moment and then she levitated an extravagant hairpin made of gold from her mane.

"Would this be suitable?" she asked curiously, most likely wondering what I would need it for.

"That will do perfectly. Now could you please stick it into the ground in front of me?"

The shocked gasp I got in response told me that I had just said something atrocious. I quickly tried to amend my poorly worded request by explaining my reasoning behind it. Her features softened a bit as I explained and at the end she floated the hairpin into the ground although somewhat reluctantly.

"Here goes nothing." I muttered as I reached out and touched the makeshift lightning rod.

I felt a massive surge throughout my body. It felt surprisingly good almost as if the energy had wanted to come out. There was bright flash and when my eyes refocused I could see the melted remains of the hairpin. The precious metal had not been able to cope with the heat generated by the torrential energy surge. I looked up at Rarity and started to stammer my apology.

"I… I am so, so sorry! I didn’t…" I stammered, lowering my head waiting for an outcry, an outcry that never came.

Okay mental note, stop expecting things in foreign worlds.
I looked up again to find Rarity observing me with confusion written all over her face.

“What kind of pony would I be if I put a hairpin over a pony in need?”

I stared at her blankly. This was certainly not the response I had anticipated.

“B…Bu…But I destroyed your hairpin.” I stammered on before Rarity cut through my blabbering.

“Oh don’t worry about it.” She said quickly and then muttered something under her breath that sounded like. “Even if it was a precious piece of my collection.”

Right time for another mental note, don’t press this subject.
Without any further delay Rarity once again extended a hoof toward me and this time I accepted without any hesitation. As she helped me to stand up I was careful not to put any weight on my injured right hoof. In fact I kept it pressed against my body. Rarity watched with a concerned expression as I carefully tried to take off from three legs, which resulted in me falling flat on my face. Odd how that keeps happening.

“Now this simply won’t do!” she exclaimed when I got up on my feet and started to try again.

“I’ll be fine if I can just get airborne.” I tried to reassure her, but all I got was a stern look.

Under that gaze I gulped and bowed my head. If Rarity’s gaze was this powerful I didn’t want experience Fluttershy’s stare.

“As you wish miss.” came my slightly embarrassed surrender.

“Now that wasn’t so hard now was it?” she said with a beaming smile.

“First we need to get some kind of treatment for that hoof of yours.” Rarity went on as she stepped up beside me and let me lean against her. She has got some strength. I realized as she easily helped brace my larger frame. I wasn’t a huge pony but I was still a fair bit larger than Rarity.

“Then we have to get you a shower.” She added thoughtfully.

“What you mean the one we’re receiving now doesn’t count?” I asked jokingly, nodding toward the ever falling rain. Another stern look shut me up.

With a slow pace we began to move, the rain seemed to refuse to let up, but on the other hand it didn’t rain any harder just the same slow drizzle. I had a growing feeling of amazement. Rarity had accepted me, a strange unknown pony, so easily. The situation felt surreal, it was a chance in a million to ever happen back on earth. That someone would just go out of their way to this extent I mean. But under these feelings another one was brewing. I was getting more and more nervous. If I was correct in my assumptions we were heading toward Ponyville, and I had no idea on what my next step was. Rarity broke me from my spiraling thoughts.

“Oh my! Where are my manners?” the fashionista exclaimed suddenly.

“I’m Rarity, and who might you be Mr. mysterious pony?” she continued with a small smile on her face.

I will not lie here, I had a feeling I would do more than just a bit of lying soon enough. Nevertheless I felt pretty stupid and ignorant at this point. In everything that had happened recently an introduction had simply seen superfluous. Well I better introduce myself before I come off as ungrateful or rude. On second thought I couldn’t very well use a human name now could I?

“Um, I’m eh… Stormcloud, pleased to meet ya Ms. Rarity!” I supplied quickly. Oh smooth, she’s never going to buy that, why not call myself Mr. Human and be done with it? I mentally groaned at the generic name I had thrown out. At least my name contained a bit of truth.

“Not at all the pleasure is all mine Mr. Storm.” She replied with a pleasant tone, buying my new identity without a second thought.

What use are mental notes if I don’t remember them? Ah no matter I’ll just go with the flow for now. I groaned again. I kept telling myself to remember things only to forget them when it mattered.

“Please just call me Storm or Cloud.” I said. I certainly wasn’t comfortable being called Mr. Storm.

“Very well, Storm then. I have to say though you’re still a bit of a mystery to me.” the white unicorn complied.

Darn it! Here come the questions, I have been dreading. Was all I had time to think before Rarity continued.

“First off you are clearly a Pegasus, but you’re also as stubborn as an earth pony and you survived a direct lightning strike. Not only that but you seemed to know about the lightning before it struck and you also thought of a way to release the energy of the bolt. On top of that you’re rather eloquent which makes me wonder all the more, just who are you?” Rarity asked as we made our way through the rainy landscape.

I was stumped to say the least. Rarity’s deductive ability was nothing I had expected from her. It was miracle that I hadn’t slipped and called her Rarity before she had introduced herself. Her eye for details was nothing short of amazing. I made third mental note for the day to not ever underestimate a pony’s abilities again, if I could remember it. Okay now to answer her question without arousing any suspicion.

“Eum… Well as you say I’m a pegasus pony no denying that. Although when it comes to being stubborn and critical thinking I blame bad personality traits and good teachers.” I said with what I considered a winning smile. For a second it looked like she would accept my explanation.

“Wait a second there’s one thing that doesn’t add up.” she said thoughtfully.

My heart sank.

“You didn’t explain how you knew about the lightning.”

Oh horseapples. I cursed to myself, I was in bind now. How could I explain something that even I didn’t know about? As I saw it I had two options, add further to my lies or come clean.
The liar inside me won, bad habits die hard.

“Ah well about that, I actually cried out because I believed I was about crash into you. That I shielded you was just dumb luck.”

Rarity gave me an evaluating glance and then muttered “I guess that’s a pegasus trait then.”

“One more thing before I forget Storm. How did the energy get stuck in you?”

Buck my life sideways with cheese on top of a burning carrot! She had to go and ask that!

I needed a way out so I resorted once again to my lies.

“Oh that, It’s a weather pony technique that allows you to channel the electricity from a bolt and release it into another cloud, but since there were no clouds near enough the energy stayed inside me instead.”

My voice didn’t even waver as I lied strait into the face of the mare I probably owed my life. She once again accepted my explanation and deep down I hated the way I acted toward Rarity.

*~*

Over the course of a few minutes the terrain transformed into rolling grass hills, and in the distance you could see the border of a huge apple orchard. We were getting closer with every step, and I was starting to feel nervous again. I fought it down with an effort of will, I would need my wits now more than ever.

As we made our way over the hills Rarity and I made some polite conversation. I feigned intrigue and interest with questions I already knew the answer to. While I was trying my best not to let anything slip, my lies concerning myself also grew more complex.

I had been a weather pony in Manehattan, and I had recently quit my job there. I was now looking for a new job and a place to stay. I kept telling myself that this web of lies was necessary for the moment, although it would have to unravel sooner or later. Lest it would drive me insane, or form yet another mask I would have to wear.

Eventually the rain stopped and not long after that Ponyville came into view.

“…and that’s how I got my cutie mark.” Rarity finished her story with a smile at the fond memory.

I was barely paying attention at this point though. Seeing Ponyville had awoken the brony inside me. Despite all my previous attempts to keep my emotions in check this proved to be a lost battle. Well if there’s a way back to earth I would certainly need to research a solution and I might as well start here. Besides I might as well start in place I’m a bit familiar with, I reasoned.

I was still weighing my options when we reached the edge of Ponyville. The sudden infrastructure made me look up and take in my surroundings. It was all there, the buildings I had seen so many times, Canterlot in the distance and ponies milling about in their daily lives. It brought a smile to my face as I discretely tried to see it all

I’m not fooling anyone am I? My head turned left and right more times than I could count as it moved from one well known landmark to the next. I noticed that there wasn’t as much activity in the small town as I had expected though, so I asked Rarity about it.

“Most are probably still inside due to rain before.” She said knowingly.

It seemed as good explanation as any to me as we continued our way through the streets of Ponyville. Our journey came to an abrupt stop when we reached a large building I didn’t quite recognize. Above the door hung a large sign depicting a red cross over a golden sun Ponyville Infirmare-y was written in large letters under the cross. Infirmare-y hehehe. I was easily amused.

“Uh, miss Rarity I thank you for your assistance, but I think I can manage from here on out.” I proclaimed with more confidence than I felt.

Rarity opened her mouth to protest but I interrupted her.

“Look I’m grateful, I really am. But it doesn’t feel right to take so much of your time. Surely you have something else to do with it?”

Her eyes widened and she looked around toward the clock tower.

“By the sun, I’m behind schedule.” she whispered. Her eyes snapped back to me.

“You are completely correct Storm, I really don’t have any time to waste. I wish you the best of luck here in Ponyville and you’re welcome to visit my boutique whenever you have some time over.”

And with that she was quickly trotting away.

I faced the door to the infirmare-y, hehe, that was still funny, and pushed the door open. The sight that greeted me was a small waiting room with four rows of benches to rest or wait on.

I approached the reception were a light purple nurse pony was working with some documents. When I stopped in front of the desk she looked up at me.

“How may we help you today sir?”

Once my dilemma had been explained I was directed to sit and wait until my name was called. I had gone with Stormcloud again, to be honest It had started to grow on me a bit. I didn’t sit down immediately though, a set of photographs had caught my attention. Infirmare-y staff read a text over the collection of photos. Of all the pictures, there were about 15 of them, one in particular caught my eye. Out of all the smiling mares looking back at me there was one that stood out in more than one way.

A red unicorn stallion stared back at me. Nurse Swiftmend read the name tag under the photo.
I started to turn away from the photos but then jerked my head back as I realized something, the name tags were not written in the standard roman alphabet I was used to. This was an alphabetical system that I had never seen before. The sign outside this building was written in this style too but I had been too preoccupied then to notice. I realized.

What was strange though was the fact that I had understood it perfectly, for some reason I could read Equestrian rune. Well at least this will certainly make finding a way home a bit easier.
I thought to myself as I sat down on one of the benches. Since there was no clock in the waiting room I had no real way of gauging how long I waited, but if I had to guess it was probably not more than a quarter of an hour. During this time I saw two patients leave but I didn’t see any new arrivals. I was struggling to find a comfortable sitting position on the bench when a voice called out.

“Stormcloud.”

The nurse pony who had called my alias led through a couple of corridors until we reached a large room with several beds for patients. She motioned toward one of the beds and told me to wait for my assigned physician to come see me.

“Wouldn’t be a proper hospital without the waiting part.” I grumbled to myself.

Luckily I didn’t have to wait long this time as the male unicorn I had seen previously on the photos in the waiting room was making his way toward me.

“Good afternoon Mr. … Stormcloud is it?” he greeted reading from a journal that was floating beside him. “I’m nurse Swiftmend.” he continued offering a hoof to shake.

Needless to say I met the gesture, with my left hoof.

“Yes, Stormcloud would indeed be me. Pleased to meet ya Swift.” I responded happily.

I knew I had erred in some kind of way as soon as the last word left my lips. As a frown spread over Swiftmend's brow.

“Would you mind to not call me that? I am not fond of that nickname.” he said in a quite irritated tone.

Woah, angry much? Was my initial thought, so I almost missed the underlying current in his tone. Had I not been the deceiving ponies all day I would probably never had caught on. It was faint but there had been a slight pain in Swiftmend's voice. Almost as if he was hiding something. Had I just stumbled upon a pony that was almost as skilled in lying as I was? This certainly made my curiosity skyrocket. Before I had time to pursue the issue Swiftmend interrupted me.

“Well that’s beside the point now anyway. From what I can gather by reading your journal you have an injured hoof due to a flight accident.”

Once I had told him that this was indeed my current situation he ordered me to extend my hoof so he could do a proper examination. His horn began to glow softly with a red sheen and soon my hoof was enveloped in that glow as well.

“Hmm, that’s odd.” he muttered to himself as he extended his spell. Soon my entire body shone with a reddish glow.

“Um, what’s odd?” I blurted out.

Swiftmend ended his spell and spoke, still holding his frown.

“Well the first odd thing is that your skeletal structure seems brand new, almost as if your skeleton was constructed less than a year ago. The second thing however is even weirder, from my brief exam I can tell that your nervous system has been put through an incredible strain recently. What eludes me though is the reason behind it.” he finished and looked me in the eyes clearly expecting me to fill in the blanks.

Bucking Hay stack of unrivaled bats! Why does everypony I meet ask questions I cannot or do not want to answer?!

“Oh, that doesn’t sound good it’s not contagious is it?” I said, trying to feign ignorance. Do or die, was my cover about to be blown by a random pony?

For a second Swift seemed to buy it, but the next his eyes narrowed as he studied my face.

“Now there’s another surprise.” he all but hissed at me.

“I never thought I’d see the day when I would meet another pony trying to be blatantly deceptive.”

By the nine circles of calamity why me? My mind was working in overdrive switching back and forth from bemoaning my situation and trying to find a way out. One thing was clear the truth was not an option, not yet at least. Perhaps if I told him bits and pieces of half-truths? Yes that might work. A plan was forming and I almost felt sorry for the pony in front of me as I forced myself to enter a random state, ready to spew out nonsense.

“Ah, Swifty you are completely correct I have not been completely honest with you. Thus I decided to let you know that I’m really... a really lazy pony.”

Swiftmend blinked once, he had definitely been expecting me to say something that at least made sense or was connected to what he had asked.

“You… what… I don’t…” he said as he struggled to come up with an answer.

I didn’t give him a dream of a chance as just went with whatever came to mind. An unending torrent of nonsense flowed freely out of my mouth. Most of the time I'd answer everything Swiftmend managed to ask with a question of my own, bonus points if the question was completely unrelated to what I had been previously asking about. Towards the end the poor pony named Swiftmend just sat there, mouth gaping while I continued to get further and further sanity. But before Swiftmend could start contemplating an asylum as my next destination I switched back to a more serious approach in an attempt to turn the tables.

“Soooo, Swift. What’s the real story behind that nickname?” I asked suddenly switching back from the random state I had been in.

“I…” he began with a dazed look on his face but stopped and grew quiet as he stared past me.

This time the pain in his eyes was evident, I felt sorry for the guy. I had fooled myself many times before by thinking that it was possible contain your problems within, and then they would magically go away. Only some problems don’t go away they eat you up from the inside until the day you either remain an empty husk without emotion, or take time actually go over the problem and move on.

“Hey this is clearly something that bothers you, I’m sorry that I pressed the matter but what you’re doing isn’t healthy, believe me as another individual experienced with deception. I’m willing to hear you out.” I offered.

“I…” He began again. “It’s nothing really, I just don’t like that name.” he said not even bothering to make a proper lie to explain.

I felt disgusted with his behavior, lying to others isn’t a nice thing to do, and I am not the one who is justified to pass judgment. After all I should practice what I preach. On earth I wouldn’t have reacted this harshly to it, but here it was just so wrong.

The truth of the matter is that moment you start lying to yourself is when lies turn into all that you are, and they start controlling every part of your life. I have been down that path before but thanks to my mother, amazing woman, I pulled away from that abyss. I guess that in a way he reminded me of a past me, a past which I had buried long ago. Oh he had pissed me off now.

“BY CELESTIAS’ BEARD!” I roared at him, feeling a bit like a hypocrite.

“You might be able to fool the others but I can see through your lies as if they were windows.” I growled as I leaned in toward him.

He stared at me his jaw completely slack. I suddenly realized that all the background chatter had died down. Every single pony in the sickroom was staring at me. A nurse pony who had been pouring medicine had failed to notice that the cup was full long ago, spilling medicine on the floor.

“Oh…” Was all I managed before my face grew red hot because of the massive embarrassment.

A snort made me look back at Swiftmend. By the looks of it he was trying very hard not to start laughing. Once he had mastered himself he had an air of seriousness around him.

“Very well “Stormcloud” how does this sound to you? When you are ready to share your secrets I shall share mine.” He suggested.

Oh, well played Swifty. Not only do you make it a trade you play my conscience against me in this as well. Well played indeed.

Well he wasn’t going to budge further than this was he? I hesitated for a moment thinking over the pros and cons of this agreement and then extended my healthy hoof.

“Deal.”

“Then we are in agreement.” he stated solemnly.

“Now let’s get back to reason you are here in the first place.” Swift said as he motioned toward my hoof.

Slap me silly with a carrot on a stick! I had forgotten why I was even here.

Now might be a good time to tell you a secret. No no, not that secret you already know that one. No the truth is my thoughts get derailed real easily. I’m sure you hadn’t noticed yet just wanted to give you a heads up.

“Luckily for you “Stormcloud” there’s only a fracture in the bone and that I can mend within minutes. Had the bone been broken you you’d have to wear a cast for 3-4 weeks.” Swiftmend continued to explain as he gathered magic to his horn.

“Yeah as lucky as a koala with a speech impediment.” I said before I could stop myself.

Back in to your cage you have played your part! I mentally shouted at my true self, trying to force the new mask of Stormcloud back on.

“Rrright.” Swift said as he raised an eyebrow.

“Anyhow this shouldn’t hurt, but it will itch a lot. Do not and I stress do not try scratch your hoof though.”

No problem I could master a bit of itching. I mean how bad could it be? I had been struck by lightning twice already so this would likely be a breeze. While I once again drifted off in thoughts Swift began to work his magic and at first it was just pleasant tingle.

Haha, I knew he was exaggerating this can barely count as an itch. I had enough time to finish that one thought then everything changed. Nightmare Moon in a bottle of apple juice! That itch was unbearable. Okay think of something else, something else … think about the sky, think about apples, think about music, think about how amazing it would feel to just scratch that itch a tiny bit.

*Smack!* My healthy hoof connected with my temple. Small dots danced and flashed before my eyes. Note to self, hooves are freaking harder than hands I thought I had learned this already!

“Would you refrain from adding to my work?” the unicorn in front of me added with an annoyed tone. “I’m almost done and I won’t heal stupid.”

And so I endured the final minute of the healing process. Abruptly the shimmering around my right hoof vanished and Swiftmend let out a small sigh as he released his magic.

“There it should be fine now but refrain from any forceful activities for the rest of the day.” he declared.

This sounded like a well practiced routine to me, so I simply offered my now once again healthy right hoof.

“Friends?” I asked as a peace offering.

He looked at me with a frown.

“Acquaintances.” he conceded after a moment’s thought.

Without further ado he directed me to the nurse pony in the lobby to pay my medical bill.Ooookay. New problem. I thought to myself. Where was I going to get the sixteen bits I owed in medical bills? I began to ransack my memories in hope to find any type of clue. Where did ponies normally keep their money? I was getting closer to the lobby with every step so in desperation I stopped in a hallway and started to pat lightly all over my body. When I started to pat in an area around the base of my left wing I felt my hoof go into something that can only be described as pocket.

I jerked my hoof away from the area but I felt something fall out. Whatever it was it made a soft *thunk* when it hit floorboards. Bewildered I looked toward the sound to find a small bag on the floor. I picked it up from the floor carefully and gave it a light shake, causing it to make a distinct clinking sound. My relief was instantaneous, money wasn’t going to be my first concern here it seemed. Judging by its weight and the tinkling of coins a fair bit of my own money had been converted into bits.

Had I not been so relieved I had probably stopped here and wondered why I hadn’t noticed this before. In retrospect this was oddly convenient a bit too convenient.

“Sa’weet!” I cheered.

The payment itself went rather smoothly with the exception of me struggling a bit with the money bag. Hooves are far less agile than hands, and I hadn’t had anywhere near enough practice with them. At least all my limbs were functioning properly again. What had just been a few hours seemed so much longer in hindsight. What was the time anyway? I wondered idly.

Once I stepped outside I noticed that the sun stood quite low, in fact it was already painting the horizon in a hue of brilliant orange and soft pink. Had I not been preoccupied planning my next move I would probably have enjoyed this sunset. Great, now what? The library will most certainly not be open for visitors at this hour. Well that left finding lodging and a decent meal for the night.

Ponyville isn’t that sizable thankfully, so soon I found myself outside a building with the name The Golden Meadow inn. It was a medium sized two story building with a lot of windows and it held an inviting quality to it. This previously nameless building added another layer of depth to the Ponyville I had thought to know. My stomach grumbled in protest against my dawdling.

Hey ho, hey ho, into the inn we go.

I stepped in through the door and found myself in a large room, a staircase to my left led up to the second floor and to my right was a double door leading to a dining room. What caught my eye though was the reception made from beautifully carved wood. Even if it had been done with magic the work must have taken days of diligent carving. When I trotted closer to the reception the detail of the carving started to show. A beautiful diorama depicting Luna and her moon in one end and in the other was Celestia and her sun all carved into the panel that made up the receptions desk. For a while I just admired the work before I refocused on my reason for being here. Confound these ponies they drive me to think. There was no pony to be seen except me in the lobby but there was a small bell on the reception desk, a clear note filled the air as I rung it once.

“One moment.” a voice called out from a room I couldn’t see behind the counter.

The voice was quickly followed by a white earth pony mare with a cyan mane. Her cutie mark was a bed overlapped with a stalk of grain.

“Good evening sir and welcome to my inn, I’m Sunset Meadow how may I help you today?”

“Well I would like lodging for an unknown period of time. The rest of the week at least and I would like a meal for the evening. Would that be possible?”

“Certainly Mr…?”

“Oh sorry, I’m Stormcloud.”

“Well correct me if I’m wrong here but I assume you want a single room, if so then there shouldn’t be any problems Mr. Stormcloud.”

“No you’re quite correct Miss Meadow and please just call me Stormcloud.”

“Of course, room nine on the second floor is yours for the time being it is four bits per night with dinner and breakfast included should you choose to eat here. Does this sound agreeable Stormcloud?”

“That sounds absolutely lovely Miss Meadow, just one question when do you serve dinner?”

“It starts being served at seven and that would be a bit less than an hour from now.” she said as she looked at a pocket watch that had previously hidden behind the counter.

“Very well Stormcloud if there’s nothing else then here’s your key and I wish you a pleasant stay at the Golden Meadow inn.” she continued.

I thanked her for the hospitality and moved up the stairs.

*~*

Room nine was a small room with a pony sized bed, a wardrobe and a small nightstand. On the nightstand stood a simple oil lamp and a simple clock. A small door led, much to my delight, to a small bathroom with a shower. Remembering Rarity’s earlier remark I turned it on and hoped in.

Now there’s something about the cleansing feeling of hot water running over your body that nothing can replace. It was one of the things that felt exactly the same as a pony as it had done when I still was human. I felt my muscles and mind relax, for the first time since I had come here I knew precisely where I was and I could start on finding a way back. My mind was clear from stray thoughts I had a plan and I had a place to stay for the time being.

I finished the shower and dried my coat with a towel hanging on the bathroom wall. Roughly an hour later I made my way downstairs to the dining room. Aside from Sunset Meadow there were three other ponies at the table. A grey unicorn mare with a black mane and two additional earth ponies. One was an orange colt with a white grey mane and the other was a deep green mare whose mane was golden colored.

“Ah the final guest is here.’ Meadow exclaimed with a smile.

“Everypony this is Stormcloud, Stormcloud these are everypony.” Sunset announced.

I sat down at the table, there were no chairs, and tried to make polite conversation while I enjoyed the food. Now before we get any further I need to tell you how amazing it was to eat cooked food again after all the time spent in the Everfree. I had never really liked vegetables all that much before I got transformed, but the vegetable stew that was being served was out of this world. How could it taste that good?

Anyhow back to the company I had at the table; the two earth ponies were a traveling couple that was visiting relatives in Ponyville.

“I’m Carrotstep and this is my companion in life Jadechaser.” the orange stallion presented the two.

I nodded in response and turned to the unicorn mare waiting for her to say something. She on the other hand yawned and continued eating until Sunset gave her a light poke with her hoof. The gray mare looked up from the food drowsily and slowly looked around at the table until her eyes found me. She looked surprised to find me there, and then I saw her starting to examine my facial features. Her eyes lingered at the scar over my right eye a bit longer than I felt was normal. She mumbled something that sounded like “Curious.” and let out another huge yawn.

“Hello I’m Stormcloud.” I introduced myself again.

“Oh, sorry I… I… Ayyum Dreamcatcher.” she said failing to stifle another yawn.

“Sorry ‘bout my yawning but I haven’t slept since yesterday, or was it the day before that? Anyway that’s not really important, you see I study the possibility of seeing past and future through dreams and I tend to *yawn* lose track of time.” Dreamcatcher explained.

Time passed quickly as I ate and conversed, the company was a perfect addition to the meal. I had missed casual conversation like this during my weeks of solitude. This was my so far most comfortable night since I had arrived here. No really, this beats sleeping in a cave even if you don’t believe me. Throughout the meal I noticed that Dreamcatcher was sneaking glances at my face, although I tried my best to ignore it.

“Yes, Jade and I arrived here three days ago from Hoofington, after Ponyville we're moving on toward Cant-” Carrotstep was interrupted by a loud snore further down the table.

Dreamcatcher had fallen asleep her head resting heavily on the table. Meadow poked her again but she remained fast asleep.

“Perhaps it’s time to call it a night everypony.” Meadow suggested.

We bade each other goodnight and as I turned to leave I saw Meadow trying to rouse Dreamcatcher again without any sign of success.

“Excuse me but I could help carry her to her room if you need any help Miss Meadow.” I offered.

“Thank you, Stormcloud.” she said simply and helped me to load the still snoring unicorn my back.

“Mmmyes, rose petal tea would be lovely right now…”

My head jerked toward the unicorn on my back, but she was once again snoring loudly. Great! Not only does she snore louder than a sawmill she is a sleep talker too. I shook my head slightly to myself as I made my way up the stairs and into Dreams room. The room layout was identical to mine except there were stacks of books and papers everywhere that formed a small maze. I made way toward the bed carefully trying my best not to knock anything over.

Once I reached the bed I slid Dreamcatcher off my back and pulled blanket over her. I made my back through Dreams personal maze of research. As I reached for the door handle Dreamcatcher spoke again.

“A pegasus with a scar just like my dream…”

A shiver ran down my spine, but when I turned to look at Dreamcatcher she was once again snoring loudly. Pondering what I had just heard I entered my own room and crept into bed, a real bed after this long felt really weird. I forced my thoughts away from Dreamcatcher's sleep talk and the events that had taken place today, I simply couldn’t process all that had happened in one night. Tomorrow would be new day and I could finally start my own research. Using a trick I’ve learned over years of staying up late I made my mind go blank and soon sleep found me.