• Published 7th Sep 2013
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Glory Be - BlackRoseRaven



Luna and Scrivener struggle to set right all the wrongs from their past and save their family and friends. Tenth and final story in the Blooming Moon Chronicles/99 Worlds Saga.

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Familial Advice

Chapter Eight: Familial Advice
~BlackRoseRaven

Luna and Scrivener strode through Ponyville, glancing back and forth at the people they passed and listening now and then to the excited murmur of gossip. Something about Avalon, and rumors of war, and the usual chatter about sightings of strange and fantastic things throughout Equestria. But there were all kinds of wild and weird things in Looking Glass World: monsters like the insectile Takers that infested the bogs and older forests, alien creatures like the Strange Ones and the Pious, nature divinities and peaceful Phooka and even benign demideities here and there.

Looking Glass World was nearly perfect in Luna's eyes, but for her, part of what made it so welcome and wonderful was the fact that they never went more than a few weeks without something happening. Whether it was a festival, a sighting of some marvelous unknown creature, some attack by demons or bandits or dragons... there was always something going on.

The sapphire mare smiled slightly over at Scrivener Blooms as he gave her an amused look, and then she asked cheerfully: “What, thou would rather have our life be boring?”

“Yes.” Scrivener answered blandly, and Luna laughed even as she swung her horn at him, the stallion ducking with a snort of amusement before he glanced up as they approached the enormous, many-times-expanded building that had once been just one humble blacksmith's, and now included several forges that could rival Valhalla's. “I guess it's been good for keeping people in business, though. Never really thought about how great monster attacks would be for merchants and service-based industry and all that.”

“Oh shut up, Scrivy. Stop attempting to suck the magic out of my life with all thy ridiculous talk of ridiculous economics.” Luna scoffed, and Scrivener only shrugged amiably before they both strode in through the wide-open doors of the large building, the mare shouting loudly: “Sleipnir! Spike! We are here for a special order! Get thy lazy buttocks out here!”

“Lazy!” Sleipnir's voice shouted, and there was a loud banging from down the hall before the enormous stallion stomped his way out of the corridor, covered in soot and sweat. He shook himself briskly as he halted in front of the two, and Luna huffed as Scrivener winced and scurried backwards to avoid the hail of soggy ashes. “Thou thinks me a dandy! How can thou think so low of me, my own little sister?”

“'Tis very simple, big brother. Look at how thou sparkles, even after thy roll in the overflow bin to pretend thou had been working!” Luna scoffed playfully, and Scrivener leaned up and then blinked dumbly in surprise at the fact that the enormous stallion was now only speckled by ash and dust, no longer coated from head-to-hoof.

Sleipnir huffed at this then he brushed absently at his viny locks as they twisted on their own, before the stallion complained: “Well, 'tis not my fault! 'Tis because of Mother Nature's love for me, that is all, and she simply does not like to see me so dirty, for I am very pretty.”

Luna snorted in amusement at this, and then she swung at him lightly, but the enormous stallion only reached up and caught her hoof in his own, grinning as his large muscles flexed and easily held her in place, even as she growled and threw her weight and strength into attempting to yank him to the side. “But tell me then, what is so important that thou must have thy talented big brother make it instead of forging it with thine own hooves?”

“'Tis armor for my daughter, Sleipnir. And aye, while 'twould give it great sentimental value if I made it myself, I all the same want the very best for my daughter, and requires thy skills.” Luna paused, then glared up at Sleipnir and grumbled: “And aye, I am admitting that... when it comes to beating and bending metal, thou art the very best. Great idiot.”

Sleipnir laughed loudly at this, and then he let go of Luna's hoof... and barely seemed to notice when she punched him firmly across the face, knocking his head slightly to the side before he rose his head and said brightly: “Aye, I already have a grand idea! It must be lightweight, but Spike has a natural talent for shaping gemstones and I have a good supply of alloys that should be perfect to fuse with... aye, we shall make her safe. Perhaps I shall even speak to Hecate, or Celestia. But I would much rather speak to Hecate, to be honest. She is less frightening as a pretty head instead of a full mare.”

“Aye, I agree. Hecate is only a head and 'tis rather amusing when one gets past her... nastiness.” Luna said agreeably, and then she paused before adding hesitantly: “I would like for thou to... blade her armor. And a full mask, not just a helm: Twilight will be mad at me, but I feel this would be the best choice for my daughter.”

Sleipnir looked curious at this, cocking his head with interest. “Thou art asking for the armor of a warrior, but thy daughter... she is more of a mage, aye? Tell me that thou does not just simply wish to make her look the more intimidating... or 'tis this something wiser?”

Luna shook her head at this, smiling a little as she looked up at her big brother before she said softly: “I do not know, Sleipnir. I do not... want to mold her into my own image, but that is perhaps what I am subconsciously trying to do. Or perhaps I am just thinking of Celestia: she uses her own magic to boost her abilities and make herself stronger than thee. Look at what she is already learning, taking after Twilight. She will be fierce on every battlefield.”

Sleipnir nodded thoughtfully, and then he bit his lip as he tilted his head back and forth before the stallion glanced over his shoulder with a slight smile. “Spike, cease warming the forge and come here! 'Tis still early in the morning, after all.”

After a few moments, there was a grunt before a tall, bipedal dragon joined them from down the hall, rubbing absently at the lime-green scales over his breast, thinner that the dark purple scales that covered his strong, muscular form. A mohawk of darker green fins ran from his forehead to the back of his neck, and his emerald eyes were dryly amused as he rubbed at the back of his head absently, saying mildly: “I hate to point this out, but we've kind of got a lot of work today...”

Sleipnir only huffed, then reached up and slapped one of his earfins lightly, making him wince a bit before the enormous earth pony said cheerfully: “Work is to be welcomed, Spike, and not feared! For work keeps us busy and happy, whilst lack of work leaves us bored and cranky and makes our most-loved mares disappointed in us, does it not?”

“Uh, well. Rarity was talking about me taking time off, actually.” Spike said awkwardly, and he shifted and rubbed slowly at a bicep that was surrounded by tattooing of ruins: a permanent enchantment that kept him at the size he was at now. “Not that it's not good to see you guys, though, and.. well, if Sleipnir says we have enough time to take on another project-”

“Thou had best do thy damnedest on it, Spike. 'Tis for my daughter.” Luna poked at the tall dragon's abdominals with her horn, and he winced and shifted awkwardly backwards, half-hiding behind the heavy industrial apron over his other arm.

After a moment, the dragon nodded lamely, and then he looked over at the enormous stallion he worked with almost pleadingly, but Sleipnir only laughed and shook his head. “Oh, thou worries too much! Have I ever missed a deadline? Have I ever once been late to deliver? Nay, I give thee my word now, Spike, 'twill be the work of only a few days. 'Twill be done fast, 'twill be done right, and we will be paid most heartily for it, fear not.”

The dragon shifted on his clawed feet, and then he sighed a little before he slipped the apron on and mumbled: “Yeah. It's not that I don't have faith in you, Sleipnir, it's just that... you know, we keep getting bigger and bigger orders, and a normal person takes weeks to make a set of armor, maybe even longer than that...”

“Well, that is because they do not speak to nature as I do. For nature still thrives even in these minerals as we temper them, Spike. The metal folds and shapes itself to my will because I am polite enough to ask, and never do I force.” Sleipnir grinned and leaned over, waggling his eyebrows at the purple dragon. “For I have never had to force myself on any mare, Spike.”

Luna only huffed at this, grinning widely before she said easily: “And aye, that is why some mares find thee such a disappointment. Thou art all talk and no shove.”

“Now cease, Luna. At least I am not like thou, who so forcefully forces herself upon thy poor tender mare Scrivener Blooms, or even dares try and kiss the maw of our own big sister Celestia!” Sleipnir replied easily, and then he winked over at Scrivener Blooms before leaning towards him with a wide grin. “Tell me, handsome mare, what is the better: a stallion such as I who attends to the desires of his lucky bed-partner, or a stallion such as my little sister, who kisses her own baby-eating sibling?”

Scrivener looked back and forth as Luna glared at him and Sleipnir leered, and then the stallion dropped his head forwards and mumbled: “I hate no-win scenarios. I choose. Twilight Sparkle. She's only bossy sometimes, and less creepy than either of you are.”

“Thou art creepy. And a cheater.” Luna huffed and leaned over, firmly whacking Scrivener Blooms with her soulstone horn and making him wince. Then she turned her eyes towards Sleipnir, nodding to him and saying mildly: “Well, that is all I have to ask of thee for now. Scrivy and I are going to visit Scarlet Sage and her twins. And possibly Apple Bloom, but she seems to be working nearly as often as Cowlick. Does thou desire to come with us?”

Sleipnir opened his mouth, then huffed when Spike cleared his throat loudly, the stallion turning a mild look on the dragon for a moment, then returning his gaze to Luna's. “Nay, I fear that I must stay behind for now. There is work to be done and cranky dragons to be soothed.”

“I'm not cranky.” Spike grumbled, and then he shook his head before glancing over at Luna and asking hesitantly, as if knowing he was going to regret the answer: “You... what about a weapon for Innocence? I guess... in for a bit, in for a bushel and all that.”

Luna looked thoughtful at this, bowing her head forwards and shifting back and forth before she glanced at Scrivener Blooms, who shook his head. When Luna leaned towards him, the stallion sighed, trading a few quick thoughts with her as their gazes locked before he looked towards Spike and Sleipnir. “No. It's not that she's not ready for that... even though she might not be... but it's more that she doesn't really... she hasn't found anything that's really her yet. And I'm sure you both remember how long it took for Antares to finally find something that clicked with him.”

The two nodded, and then Sleipnir smiled warmly and reached out to slap Scrivener on the shoulder, declaring: “A worthy point, brother, and one that was spoken well at that! Very well, we shall leave off for now and focus instead on the armor, and see how Innocence wears the design I have in mind... it should make for good starting gear for her, but I am sure in the future that as she develops her Celestianess, she will want heavier gear.”

“Stop comparing my daughter to Celestia! 'Tis my daughter, not hers!” Luna complained, and Sleipnir grinned roguishly in response.

“Oh, art thou sure? For I am somehow certain that our most-loved sister may have had her way with thy black beauty more than once.” Sleipnir said cheerfully, and Luna scowled at him as Scrivener cleared his throat awkwardly. “But then again, I also do not know how he would still be alive if she did. He must be hardier than I have given him credit for.”

“Thou would not believe the things I do to Scrivener Blooms in bed!” Luna said challengingly, and Scrivener groaned before he turned around and quickly left, Luna huffing loudly at his back before she demanded: “Tomorrow by nightfall!”

With that, Luna spun around and hurried after Scrivener, catching up to him on the road and lowering her head to ram her crystalline horn into his rump. The stallion yelped and leapt forwards, landing on his butt and glaring over his shoulder at Luna, and she only grinned widely and straightened, saying pompously: “Be glad I aimed not more to the left, or I would be wearing thee like a hat. My butt-hat.”

Scrivener closed his eyes and dropped his face in a hoof, and Luna sniffed before she strode forwards and past him. “Come then, cease thy lazing. Sleipnir shall have the armor ready for tomorrow night, and we must visit Scarlet Sage, then meet Innocence for training in only a few short hours' time.”

The stallion grunted, picking himself up and striding after the mare to fall in pace behind her, heading through Ponyville together before the sapphire mare glanced up at the cloudy skies above, murmuring: “Such dismal weather, is it not? Soon 'twill be autumn... Innocence's birthday has come and gone, and next is Antares, but he is still stuffy when it comes to such celebrations. Yet all the same, he celebrates Nightmare Night with us, and that means much to me. We are fortunate, are we not, Scrivener Blooms?”

The charcoal stallion smiled a little, then he nodded slowly as he murmured: “Yeah, I think we are.” He stopped, then glanced up towards the skies as well, saying finally: “I kind of want to visit Subterra soon. I want to talk to those other Clockwork Ponies we've got locked up in the detention center, and see... if there's been any changes.”

Luna grunted and nodded, murmuring: “'Tis funny. 'Tis like they all knew that Thesis had been destroyed, and thou had inherited... seniority, so to speak. And what scare me most of all, I suppose, is that I enjoy the thought of having thee as a master of monsters.”

Scrivener shifted awkwardly, even as he answered in a soft voice: “I don't think they can be called monsters. Valthrudnir was a monster, but... he created these things to follow his orders. They might have been monstrous in what they did, but... they aren't monsters themselves. They're just machines, tools. I feel sympathy for them.”

“More so because thou art a Clockwork Pony thyself, I expect.” Luna said, and there was a strange braveness in her voice as Scrivener glanced over at her, then he smiled a little, nodding. That subject had once been taboo, but now they were gradually... getting more used to it. They had won, after all: there was no more need to be ashamed, or worried about what it meant.

They walked onwards in quiet, even as they traded thoughts and wisps of emotions between themselves, until they reached Scarlet Sage's home. It was a large, well-kept two-floor house with a pretty, well-tended garden in the front. Much better looking than their own garden back home, Scrivener reflected, which, while it had several precious species of herbs and was protected by living vines, all the same was clustered and crappy and the plants were all half-dead. This garden was alive, in neat, ordered rows, and all the flowers were growing in perfect complimentary colors.

“She must be cheating with her Blood Seer powers somehow, 'tis the only explanation.” Luna grumbled, and then she strode across the front deck to the door and headbutted it open, calling loudly: “Lily, Mercury! Thy favorite Amma is here!”

There were happy shouts before a small, light blue Pegasus shot through the beaded curtain leading into the kitchen, and Luna grinned before she leapt up and tackled the filly out of the air, making her laugh brightly as Luna crashed down on her back with the small filly held tightly against her breast. A second filly followed shortly, this one with a white-gold coat and running along on her hooves, her eyes bright as she leapt forwards just as Luna sat up, but the starry-maned mare easily caught the other child with a wide grin and pulled her just as close.

Lily and Mercury were twins, but bore little resemblance to each other: Mercury was the blue Pegasus, with a deep blue mane that was cut short and rough and a curious, easily-excited personality. Lily was shyer, with her mother's red mane flowing messily around her shoulders, the quieter and more cautious of the fourteen year old pair.

But both of them had their mother's red eyes, and Luna smiled warmly as she hugged the Pegasi tightly for a moment long before letting them slide backwards, as she noted the other thing that paired the two: Mercury had the cutie mark of a black spade, and Lily had the cutie mark of an ivory heart.

Lily, as always, stayed to the ground, while Mercury flitted up into the air and bounced awkwardly off a wall, knocking a picture frame loose, but Luna easily caught this with telekinesis and set it back in place as the oblivious blue filly rambled: “Amma, Amma, you like, Avalon was here yesterday and she said she would tell us all about the Thunderbolts and was going to see if the Wonderbolts were around and and and-”

“Mercury, calm down.” called an amused voice, and the Pegasus huffed and shrank a bit even as she nodded lamely, looking over her shoulder as a silver Pegasus emerged from the kitchen, shaking her head with a soft smile. She looked young and beautiful, with a glowing red mane and tail, and a cutie mark of a crimson mirror edged in black on her flank. “Girls, neither of you are done breakfast yet. Go finish up... Mom, Dad, can I get you anything?”

“Nah, we ate with Innocence a few hours ago.” Scrivener said with a smile, and then he stepped forwards and traded a tight hug with his daughter, before Luna did the same. And then the charcoal stallion couldn't help but laugh as the fillies retreated into the kitchen, studying his daughter and murmuring: “How many years has it been?”

“I know, I know. It's...” Scarlet Sage reached up, touching her breast before she laughed and shook her head slowly, gazing affectionately between her parents. “Well, come on in. I'm really happy to see you two, and... I heard that Innocence is going to be doing more serious training, right? And... that something happened...”

“Do not fear, Scarlet Sage. We are fine and well. We just... we do not see thee as often as we like.” Luna said softly as they strode into the wide, polished kitchen, where the young girls were hurriedly finishing the food on their plates: Mercury was gobbling down eggs, and Lily was doing a slightly-more-neat job of eating down her oatmeal.

Luna smiled slightly at the sight of the foals, while Scrivener Blooms drew an amused look from them towards his daughter, asking mildly: “Have your cooking skills improved as much as mine have from having kids around?”

Scarlet Sage smiled as well, turning her eyes towards the foals before she said mildly: “Mercury, I can see what you're doing with your peas. Eat them, please, don't just save them to throw at your sister later.”

“Mom!” Mercury whined, and then she grumbled and poured the napkin of green peas out onto her dish, saying grumpily: “I never get to have any fun.”

“You get to have lots of fun, Mercury. Far too much fun, as a matter of fact. Often, your fun is what gets you in trouble, little miss.” Scarlet replied pointedly, and then the mare glanced over at Luna as the sapphire winged unicorn looked at her pointedly. “What? She does, and-”

“Oh, 'tis not that, even though I am somehow sure thou art quite the fun-killer. 'Tis rather that thou art feeding thy child booger-veggies first thing in the morning with her eggs. 'Tis not a breakfast food, daughter. I raised thee much better than that.” Luna said pointedly, and Scarlet Sage gave her mother a half-endearing, half-irritated look.

Scrivener only shook his head in amusement, then slipped past and smiled at Mercury as she grinned up at him with a mouthful of egg, and then he stepped up beside the shyer, smaller-seeming sibling. “How are you doing, Lily?”

“I'm good, Grandpa Scrivy.” Lily looked up with a bright smile, blushing and nodding a little as she shifted back and forth before adding warmly: “I got all A's on my special report card, and Mommy said she and Mama are gonna take me to the big bookstore in Canterlot so I can pick up one new book, anything I want!”

“Nerd.” Mercury snorted, and Lily scowled as Scarlet Sage reached up and squeezed her daughter's shoulder, gazing down at her reprimandingly, and the young mare dropped her head with a grumble and mumbled: “Okay, okay. Sorry. But she is.”

Scarlet Sage sighed as Luna huffed and bounced up beside Mercury, leaning forwards and saying pointedly: “Aye, but she is also thy sister, and between thee, one must be the brain and the other the brawn. The brawn must protect and cherish the brain, 'lest the brain stop working... and what would thou do then, little Mercury?”

Luna reached up and tickled playfully along Mercury's sides and wings, and the Pegasus snorted laughter and flailed at the air before she shoved herself backwards, flitting up near the ceiling with a bright grin. “Okay, okay! Yeah, I guess you're right. I guess we do sorta need each other.”

Lily smiled at this, looking up and blushing as she bowed her head forwards, and Luna grunted as Scarlet Sage gave her mother a tender look. Then the sapphire mare cleared her throat and turned her eyes up towards Mercury, asking kindly: “And how hast thou been doing?”

“I'm doing good. I mean, I'm passing the extra courses and stuff.” Mercury looked a little awkward now, but when Luna smiled encouragingly, the young filly brightened a bit and straightened, flying down and saying positively: “Mom and Ma say if I pass, they're gonna let me help out at Cowlick and Ma's place!”

Luna smiled warmly at this, looking up curiously at Scarlet Sage... but before the Pegasus could answer, another pony pushed though the curtain with a grin, the earth pony mare saying easily: “Hey there, kiddo, remember the other part of the deal. You can't go getting yourself into any more trouble with the tutors or with the teacher at the expensive teachin' center.”

Mercury nodded a few times, and Lily turned to wave happily at the toned, tall earth pony mare, who had a gorgeous yellow coat, a deep crimson mane, vital green eyes and a cutie mark of several pretty flowers. “Hi, Mama!”

“Hey kids. Hey Scrivy, Luna. Hey hon.” The mare strode forwards and lightly slapped Scarlet Sage's rump, making her stiffen slightly and look over her shoulder, but any sourness was stolen from her look when the earth pony kissed her cheek firmly. “Thanks for letting me sleep in. It's made you even more beautiful than you were before in my eyes.”

“You're welcome, Apple Bloom. You can do the dishes.” Scarlet Sage replied in an amused voice, and the earth pony mare groaned and rolled her eyes, but then traded nods with the mare before Scarlet Sage glanced over at Luna and Scrivener. “Do you two have the time to watch Mercury put on one of the routines she's been practicing? She's getting very good.”

Mercury's eyes widened in excitement at this, and after Luna and Scrivener both smiled and nodded, it didn't take more than a look from Apple Bloom before Mercury shot off through the beaded curtain, calling brightly: “I'll be just a minute!”

Apple Bloom chuckled and shook her head, then her eyes roved to Lily and she smiled, saying: “And I bet Scrivy'd love to see your workbook, honey. Why don't you go grab that so he can take a look, huh?”

“Okay, Mama!” Lily said brightly, and she hopped down from the table to run quickly off as Scrivener and Luna gazed after the two, then they turned their eyes towards the wives, the partners, the two ponies lucky enough to still be in love after all these years.

There was quiet for a moment, and then Apple Bloom grinned wryly as she said: “Funny, you know? Never thought I'd be wanting to brag about my little girl scraping through a remedial class with a C, but... she's doin' it. She's doin' great.”

“She is great. And Lily's tutors told me the other day the school is going to look at advanced placement next year... she just seems to learn whatever you give her.” Scarlet Sage added warmly, smiling and nodding. “Even if she's having... a bit of a tough time socializing and...”

“Has she even tried to fly yet?” Luna asked softly, and both Scarlet Sage and Apple Bloom shook their heads. “Then Mercury and Lily truly are as day and night. I only hope they better temper one-another for the future. If they do, there will be no pair of siblings stronger, nor more tighter linked. Which may make it fun for any stallion-”

“Ha ha, let's please save jokes like that about my daughter until after they're grown up, okay? They're still kids.” Apple Bloom said pointedly, and Luna opened her mouth, but Scrivener quickly elbowed her as the earth pony mare cut off dryly: “Yes, Luna, I remember all the stories you already told me about what fourteen year old fillies got up to in the old days. And no, I'm actually real happy pretending that Mercury ain't yet started getting interested in stallions, thank you very much.”

“We really should talk to her about that magazine you found in her room.” Scarlet Sage said mildly, and Apple Bloom sighed and shrugged moodily.

“Let's just pretend we didn't find it. Also, I'd much rather have her peeping in a book than get caught peeping in the colt's shower room again.” Apple Bloom grumbled under her breath, muttering: “Things sure have changed since my day, Luna, I tell you what. I don't think stallions would used to scream like little fillies and go running for mommy when they saw a pretty girl tryin' to catch a look at them in the shower in the old days.”

Scrivener and Scarlet Sage both groaned, while Luna only nodded seriously, remarking mildly: “'Tis a very sad world that we live in now, Apple Bloom. But what would thou have preferred, the boys put on a show for her? Well. I would like that, and thou would like that, but as everypony continues to complain to me, fourteen year old ponies are no longer to be treated as they were in the past...”

“And if I saw any stallion trying to treat my daughter that way, I'd punch 'em into the next layer. But it sure would have saved me a lot of trouble trying to explain a whole lot of things I didn't really want to talk about if they'd... wiggled around a little or something.” Apple Bloom replied with a shrug, and Scarlet Sage glared at her partner as Apple Bloom only grinned back.

Luna looked thoughtful at this, then slowly turned her eyes towards Scrivener Blooms, but the stallion shoved his hoof into her face without looking at her as he said dryly: “We are not hiring a male stripper, for any reason, ever. We've been over that before.”

“I really envy your household sometimes. I'd say we should trade wives, Luna, but I guess that'd just be awkward.” Apple Bloom said thoughtfully, and Scrivener gave the earth pony mare a flat look as Luna giggled stupidly behind his hoof.

Thankfully, before any reply could be made, Lily came hurrying back in with a large book tucked beneath one wing. The ponies turned towards this as the young mare skidded to a halt, a pair of little glasses now askew on her face as she slipped the book to her front hooves and held it out. “My first exam is on the literature of Equestria during the Equitarian Era. That's right now, actually!”

“Oh. Fantastic.” Scrivener said with a notable lack of enthusiasm as he took the large textbook... except as he opened it, he realized that the enormous hardcover was actually something Lily had clearly made for her own study purposes, full of study notes and text and pasted-in pictures, all of it organized neatly and... “Uh... wow, you put this together yourself?”

“I finished it last night.” Lily informed, nodding a few times before she brightened and added: “I think you're in there, Grandpa Scrivy, under commercialization and the effectiveness of advertising and corporate backing on the popularity of literature. I think I labeled the tab 'hype' for short. But don't worry, I still really like your books.”

“Great. Thanks, Lily. Really.” Scrivener said in a slightly strained voice, and Luna sniggered at him as Scarlet Sage smiled lamely and Apple Bloom coughed loudly a few times. The charcoal stallion awkwardly checked the tabs, and then he flipped to the one the young filly had indicated as he mumbled: “Really just... just fantastic, really. It's not like I don't already hate my stories enough...”

Lily cocked her head curiously, but then Mercury flew back into the room, clad in safety gear and wearing a brightly-colored uniform as she grinned and stamped her front hooves together. “Okay, okay, let's go out to the back yard guys, come on!”

The adults gazed with amusement at the hyperactive twin as Lily looked disapprovingly over the top of her glasses, and then she complained: “Your straps are loose again. If you'd just tidy yourself up a little you could increase your velocity by upwards of eighteen percent...”

“Your face is loose so shut up!” Mercury shot back, and when Apple Bloom cleared her throat loudly, the blue filly winced and said lamely to her twin sibling: “I mean... I'm fine how I am. Just... I'm fine. So... thanks anyway.”

“I'm going to pretend she didn't learn half of what she says from you two.” Scarlet Sage said dryly, and Luna and Scrivener both shifted awkwardly before the silver Pegasus turned and headed to the sliding door leading out to the backyard. She barely had it open before Mercury shot by her, and she sighed before calling loudly to her daughter: “Please don't go too high this time, Mercury, we need to be able to see you still!”

“I won't, Mom!” Mercury called back loudly, and Scarlet Sage smiled a little as she led the other ponies out onto the back deck. Scrivener had absently allowed one hoof to unfurl into a claw so he could better carry Lily's workbook, and the filly was currently staring up at this, studying it with fascination until the stallion looked down and awkwardly caught her looking.

Lily quickly looked away, and Scrivener smiled lamely before he opened her book again and looked at it, studying the contents for a few moments. Then he cleared his throat and looked back at her, saying finally: “You uh. You have a really great vocabulary here, kiddo.”

“Oh, look, she's getting in position!” Apple Bloom said with a smile, pointing up at the sky. “There, see? We worked on her uniform for damn-near ever to get it right... the way it reflects light actually makes her seem a little bigger against the sky, makes her brighter and easier to see. But she wants to take after Dash and Avalon... I think she might actually have the chops for it, too.”

Luna smiled slightly at this, tilting her head with interest as her eyes roved upwards, easily able to discern the brightly-ornamented Pegasus against the cloudy sky. Scrivener, meanwhile, kept his eyes down with Lily, as the young mare happily bounced over to him and excitedly began to point out the whole timeline she had constructed, naming off authors he had never even heard of and telling him all kinds of comparisons and metaphors... sometimes a little tactlessly, making him wince a bit when she compared him to a few certain renaissance period writers and struggle not to correct her interpretations with his own thoughts.

Mercury, meanwhile, was flying around high above, pulling off a few simpler aerial maneuvers and some moderate difficulty stunts without too much difficulty. She handled herself well, even if Luna could see that her balance was a little off. The sapphire mare grinned a bit as this was accented all the more when Mercury went into a too-hard roll and twisted to the side a bit in mid-flight: not enough to disorient her or knock her off course, just enough to make her recovery noticeable and more than a little messy. “She is talented, but rough. Brash.”

“Yeah, she takes after Mama, alright.” Scarlet Sage said mildly, and Apple Bloom smiled amusedly and nudged her partner firmly, before the two returned their eyes upwards to watch as Mercury went into a steep dive, then bridged into a complicated zigzagging pattern before twisting upwards some twenty feet above the ground.

“She's good though. She's gonna be damn good. I think with time and training, she might one day be as good as Uncle Dash.” Apple Bloom said softly, and then she chuckled quietly and grinned wryly. “Hell. Maybe if she tries real hard, works at it, finds the right focus... she might even be as good as Avalon.”

“So thou art admitting that Avalon Apple is better in the air than Rainbow Dash in his prime?” Luna looked up with honest curiosity... and a bit of surprise, too. But Apple Bloom only smiled a little and nodded, as Scarlet Sage glanced tenderly over at her wife. “'Tis not something I ever thought I would hear thee say.”

“I didn't ever think I would, either. To be honest...” Apple Bloom shook her head, murmuring: “I love my niece, always have. But she was also kind of crazy, and irresponsible... I mean, Dash was always focused on that. On being the bet, on never giving up, on... proving himself. Even after he left the Wonderbolts, he was still the best flier in Equestria.

“But... Avalon learned to focus. She fights like a dragon, you've seen her... I ain't even sure I'd be able to hold my own against her, and you mares know that I'm good in a scrap these days.” Apple Bloom smiled slightly, then she shook her head slowly. “She can take on a high-class demon in the air like I'd take on a dumb dwarf bandit on the ground. And even if I worry that this whole business with the Thunderbolts and what happened to Applejack and all kinds of things have left her screwed up six ways from Sunday, she's still... she's the best. No one can argue that now, especially now that Dashie's... retired.”

There was quiet for a moment, and then Apple Bloom looked up at Mercury, watching her foal perform several quick loops before the earth pony mare murmured: “But you know what? Maybe I'm bein' too hard on Ava. She's takin' over the farm, you know.”

Scrivener and Luna both smiled warmly at this, and Apple Bloom nodded once before Scarlet Sage said quietly: “I told you she would, one day. And you know, it's kind of silly that you of all ponies was so mad at her.”

Apple Bloom grunted and shrugged, saying finally as she glanced at her cutie mark: “Hey, I might make all kinds of guns and stuff, but it's the things I've done for the farm that always... really worked best. Stuff that makes stuff grow, stuff that builds on other things, stuff that has to do with... life, not death. Even if I'm still working with all of Cowlick's crazy crap.”

She stopped, hesitated as she looked up, watching her daughter do another loop, and then a spiral, before the earth pony mare murmured: “I'm a little worried about her. Did you guys notice anything off about her when you saw her last? Maybe it's just me, but... I've worked with her for a long time now and I can't help but think...”

Scrivener frowned a little as he glanced up from where Lily was happily chattering away about her book, and Luna cocked her head curiously, but before either pony could form a question or a reassurance, Mercury dove down towards them before yelling as she lost control and went into not so much a dive as a wild, flailing ball of hooves and wings.

Scarlet Sage winced as Apple Bloom leapt to her hooves, but Luna had already launched herself into the air. And the starry-maned winged unicorn grinned as she snapped her horn out to slow the Pegasus with a harmless blast of telekinetic energy before she easily caught the filly and flapped her wings hard to catch herself in midair, looking down with entertainment at the staring girl caught in her forelegs. “Thou should be more careful, Mercury.”

“You're awesome, Amma.” Mercury said, half-sheepish and half-awed. Luna only laughed loudly in agreement, then nodded as she dropped to the ground and set the filly back on her hooves. Mercury stumbled a little, but then shook herself and looked brightly up at the ponies, asking almost impatiently: “Well? What did you think, huh guys, huh?”

Luna laughed and shook her head, then she grinned widely and leaned down, saying easily: “I think that thou had best work on thy landings. And marvelous as thou art for thy age, thou must still learn to better harness thy own energy whilst airborne... thou lists, my little filly. Like a ship with too much weight on its side.”

Mercury blushed, then then Luna smiled and said softly: “But aye, thou art talented, and better than that, skilled too! Thou just needs to continue thy work, grow better, and pursue thy dreams... I believe thou can achieve them, Mercury. Thou art still young enough thou can mold thyself into anything.”

“I don't think that's technically true. For example, some professions require beginning to develop a comprehension very early on, otherwise you risk permanently falling behind in the field and never measuring up to the standards set by your forebearers and associates.” Lily said pointedly, frowning a little, and Scrivener cleared his throat loudly before the filly mumbled: “But you did better than I thought you would with your... wind resistance and all.”

Mercury grinned widely down at her twin, and Lily shrugged and looked awkwardly back up before Scrivener smiled a bit and reached up to tap his wrist with one unfolded claw. Luna looked over at him grumpily, but then she nodded before turning her eyes towards Scarlet Sage and Apple Bloom, saying softly: “Thou art both gorgeous, and lucky to have such beautiful children. We shall try to come by again soon, daughter.”

“Okay Mom. I'll be looking forwards to it.” Scarlet Sage smiled a little, then she leaned over and traded a tight, fierce hug with the starry-maned mare, before sharing an equally-firm embrace with her father. Further hugs were traded with the rest of the family, and then Apple Bloom took the twins inside as Scarlet walked her parents around the house and towards the road.

The Pegasus hesitated, and then she looked up and said softly: “Mom, Dad, remember that I'm here for you, whatever happens, okay? It looks like with my powers... I'm going to be around longer than most ponies anyway, even if I think I still feel like the years are beginning to wear at me.”

“Apple Bloom looks good too, though... it must be the link you share with her.” Scrivener said softly, and the silvery Pegasus blushed a bit and smiled a little, nodding hesitantly after a moment.

She bit her lip, then looked up and admitted finally, under her parent's inquisitive looks: “Yeah. I've been sharing a little more of my blood with her, to strengthen that link and... because I guess I really would... do anything to keep her around. I love her.”

“Aye. Aye, thou does not have to explain thyself to us, and nor is this anything we would hold against thee, Scarlet Sage. Thy father and I know this well.” Luna replied softly, smiling faintly as she and Scrivener automatically took one-another's hooves, looking softly over at their daughter as the Pegasus shifted a little, but smiled all the same. “And we... trust in thee. Besides, for all the power thou has... thou restrains it admirably.”

“I want to do good with this... demon blood in my veins.” Scarlet looked down, flexing a hoof slowly as she murmured: “Even though it's... it's tempting to use it more and more often. I guess I'm finally starting to understand why my ancestors would be willing to trade their lives, their souls, for the ability to manipulate the blood and life-force of others, but... I don't want to turn into my ancestors. I just know that now that I have these little girls... I'd do anything to protect them. Anything.”

She hesitated, then glanced up and smiled faintly. “And I'd do anything to help you and Dad too, Mom. Because I find myself doing all the things that you used to do for me... reading to them, making sure they're taking care of themselves, trying to... to help them learn from their mistakes. And trying to give them enough room to make mistakes here and there, too. Is it ever hard, but... I had good role models.”

“We were lucky to have you as our daughter, Scarlet. You're a good pony, that's all.” Scrivener said softly, and the Pegasus blushed and lowered her head. “Anyway, Luna and I... we're gonna go meet Innocence. You can come with us, you know, if you wanted to.”

“Maybe later. I get a little jealous of my little sister sometimes.” Scarlet Sage smiled slightly, shaking her head and gazing over her parents affectionately. “Funny, isn't it? I wanted to be a healer, and I love helping ponies. But I get jealous of her because you two are teaching her all this warrior stuff. And even if you trained me a lot, I'm no Antares, and I'm definitely not like Sin, either.”

“You're you. And I also think you're the scariest to piss off.” Scrivener replied mildly, and Luna laughed in agreement as Scarlet Sage gave her father an amused look. “What? It's true: Antares just yells and runs headfirst into things and Innocence electrocutes herself or blows up. You set people on fire with your mind and make heads explode.”

Scarlet Sage sighed, then she asked mildly: “Daddy, are you ever going to understand that some things you just shouldn't joke about?”

“Remember when I was dying?” Scrivener asked pointedly, and Scarlet Sage sighed again before the two stepped forwards and traded a tight hug, the stallion murmuring: “Take care of yourself. You're our daughter.”

“Even if Antares has grown up... I think he needs thee more than ever now.” Luna agreed softly, and she traded another tight hug of her own with the Pegasus. Parents and daughter parted, and traded soft smiles: Scarlet Sage was as much their daughter to them as Innocence was, even if how they'd come to be part of the family was very different.

Scrivener and Luna turned and began to walk away, but neither could resist looking over their shoulder, watching as Scarlet Sage reentered her house. She was so independent, strong, and in a way, braver than Antares, which was funny to think. But Scarlet had never had as much a problem with growing up as the rest of them... she had always been afraid of being a burden, and after finding her special somepony in Apple Bloom, helped along in a strange way by a strange, dark story...

The two shook their heads and looked forwards again, both ponies smiling a little before Scrivener Blooms asked softly: “So what do you think?”

Luna shrugged, tilting her head back and forth before she murmured: “I think too much, Scrivy, that is all. But I adore my daughter, and I adore our sweet little nieces. And whether or not 'tis perhaps a little cruel... I hope they have inherited at least a little of their mother's power. Although the Blood Seer heritage... 'tis difficult to trace, and likes to skip generations at a time. But perhaps...”

The sapphire mare bit her tongue, then she shook her head and laughed despite herself. “Oh, Asgard above, here I am thinking of making deals with our demon friends, to awaken nefarious powers in my niece and nephew! Truly, Scrivy, there is much wrong with us.”

“Well, we live in a weird world.” Scrivener said softly, and Luna grunted in agreement after a moment before the two traded awkward smiles and looks. There was quiet as they continued down the road, before the charcoal stallion finally murmured: “But then again, maybe... we're just a little evil ourselves, after all this time gazing into the darkness.”

“I do not mind being a monster as long as thou art by my side.” Luna said softly, and Scrivener traded a smile with her before the two leaned towards each other and lightly clunked their heads together. Then Luna laughed and drew back, lightly bopping Scrivener Blooms with her horn as she smiled slightly. “Come, come. Before we end up late. Innocence will scold us if we are, and we need to-”

“You need to take a minute and talk with me.” said a sour voice, and all eyes looked up in surprise as a well-built earth pony stallion approached, looking at them moodily from hooded, nearly-black eyes. His almond coat was rough and a little shaggy, and he had thick tufts of hair around his unshorn hooves.

His mane was black and slicked back in something semi-professional that resembled a mullet, and his tail was short but shaggy. He glared at the two of them as Scrivener and Luna traded awkward looks before the stallion halted and sighed tiredly, his tie swaying slowly in the wind as he wrinkled his nose and said distastefully: “Eggs. Disgusting.”

Beside him, Deputy Mayor Mare looked up in confusion, the elderly old lady blinking behind her horn-rimmed glasses. Her mostly-gray mane and tail swayed as she cleared her throat and adjusted her shawl, then said awkwardly: “I don't smell anything.”

The large stallion gave her a flat look, and she grinned lamely as Scrivener and Luna looked from the former mayor of Ponyville and her cutie mark of a scroll to the new mayor of Ponyville, and his cutie mark of a birch arch covered in thorns. There was silence for a few moments, and then the pony who had been mayor for seven long years now turned his dark eyes back forwards even as he said: “Deputy Mayor, go ahead back to City Hall. I'll catch up in a moment after I have a word with these two ingrates.”

Deputy Mayor Mare smiled with more anxiety this time, but then hurried on her elderly way, and Scrivener and Luna glanced over their shoulders at her before the sapphire mare said mildly: “I miss when she was mayor. 'Tis not like any other pony ever wanted the position, and 'twas one the old drunk was not so harmful in. And now instead we have the pleasure of dealing with thee, Monkshood.”

The Mayor smiled icily at them, and then Luna said crankily: “'Tis so much harder to intimidate a creature that carries the curse of the farkasember than a silly old mare.”

“Well, I'm hoping that I won't have to let Wolfsbane out to play to get my point across. Stop using municipal land for your training exercises. Every time we finish fixing property or landscaping or laying down a foundation, you come along and destroy it.” Monkshood said in a moody voice, and he shook his head slowly before growling: “This may strike you as a surprise, but sand is expensive. Wood is expensive. Everything costs money for the city, even if you're happy to stroll about and take what you please whenever you like it.”

“Oh, go chase thy own tail!” Luna huffed loudly, then complained: “And again, have we not offered the aid of demons to thee? Have we not told thee that Subterra can supply demon who can transmogrify materials, or cut down trees and then grow more in the blink of an eye? Do we not have a bevy of nature spirits here in Ponyville, at-”

“I am not making Ponyville reliant on your supernatural friends for every little thing. It's bad enough that we have patrols of demons and specters passing through 'ere each and every night. I know very well the cost of relying on the so-called supernatural to help.” Monkshood replied moodily, and Luna and Scrivener traded mild looks.

Monkshood, meanwhile, only glared at them... and Scrivener had to admit, the big earth pony was tough. Sure, it probably helped that when he wanted, he could transform into a vicious, gigantic dire wolf that had a mind and nasty personality all his own, and it took a tremendous amount of force or the right instruments to kill him... but even First Tier demons usually didn't argue with them as much as Monkshood did.

That was, in large part, why Luna grudgingly supported Monkshood as mayor of Ponyville. He got things done, he wasn't afraid of anything, and he was firm in his beliefs. And it was probably a good thing there was someone in Ponyville to challenge them and stop Luna from running it like it was her own personal kingdom.

The pair of ponies looked at the stallion for a moment, and then Luna glowered over at Scrivener and declared: “'Tis his fault!”

“You're the ringleader. He's just the moron who follows you around.” Monkshood said moodily, and Luna huffed loudly as Scrivener opened his mouth, then only shrugged amiably. The almond-colored earth pony rolled his eyes at this, and then he said distastefully: “Just stay the hell away from Ponyville's property, got it? And go and pay your bill at that disgusting meat-palace.”

“You know, not that I have anything against vegetarians, but... you being all ultra-vegan doesn't really mesh well with Wolfsbane being a 'small living animals are my favorite snack' kind of wolf.” Scrivener said mildly, and Monkshood scowled at him before the charcoal stallion cleared his throat. “Just. Pointing out you. Probably shouldn't judge us for eating meat.”

“Wolfsbane is a curse, and an entirely different person from me. He's an evil spirit that I unfortunately must share this body with. His actions and mine aren't the same.” growled Monkshood, and Scrivener awkwardly held up a hoof before the mayor spat to the side and added in a mutter: “I'm not like you two, who gorge yourselves on meat without any reason.”

“We are not quite normal ponies.” Luna replied evenly, and Monkshood looked at the two of them before he simply nodded, then strode calmly past them. The sapphire mare glowered over her shoulder at the large stallion, and then she shouted: “'Tis because of Wolfsbane that thou art such a big, muscular idiot, thou knows!”

Monkshood didn't reply, likely neither wanting to fuel the fire nor talk about his curse in front of the general public. The two ponies watched him leave, then they shook their heads before Luna groaned and turned around, mumbling: “Well, 'tis a good thing then that we have asked Innocence to meet us in the Everfree. The wilds belong to no one.”

“Technically they belong to the Barony.” Scrivener said mildly, and Luna gave him a flat look as the two strode towards the edge of town, the stallion shrugging as he looked over at the starry-maned mare innocently. “What? It's true.”

“Oh shut up, Scrivener Blooms.” Luna said grumpily as they made their way towards the gates of Ponyville. They left by their usual route in quiet, only nodding to the guards as they strode along the dirt path leading through the fields and into the forest, before the mare suddenly bit her lip and simply turned a nervous look on the charcoal stallion.

Scrivener only smiled a little, however, shaking his head briefly as he glanced over at her and caught the trail of her thoughts in his mind, and then he murmured: “Hey, it's going to be okay, okay? Innocence is doing well and... you said this was a good idea yourself.”

“Aye. Aye, it is, we all know it is, we have all agreed, but...” Luna glanced back and forth, and then she sighed softly and murmured: “I fear that we are readying our daughter for a conflict that none of us shall be prepared for, and it will... it will cost us dearly. I am afraid of what may yet come to pass, Scrivener Blooms... I am afraid of what the future holds for us all.”

The stallion nodded a little, glancing down as they strode along the trail together, feeling the forest around them... twisting, murmuring, the branches reaching out as if to shield them, like it was trying to say it would do a better job of protecting them all next time. Then Scrivener Blooms sighed softly and said finally: “If we don't prepare her... it'll be worse.”

Luna looked meditatively at Scrivener, and then she shook her head slowly and mumbled: “Aye. Thou art stealing mine own thoughts again, Scrivy, and I loathe that. Very well, then we shall train Innocence to be as strong as she can and only hope that, when the time comes, she will be safe.”

The stallion nodded a little, and the two remained quiet as they fell in pace side-by-side together, Luna dropping her head against the side of his neck and closing her eyes, keeping close. They strode evenly together, their minds twisting and working in tandem as Scrivener kept his eyes ahead, but really it was both of them seeing through the stallion, just as both of them were concentrating more on the world inside themselves than outside.

Emotions and images and the indescribable twisted between them through their link, as they felt their mixed soul shifting, twisting, and locking together. Time and space all became relative and meaningless: when they were together like this, they could have as much or as little of them as they pleased.

They stopped feeling each other's bodies as separate things: instead, they were just one, in two, walking down this path. Their hooves strode in time, their hearts beat in time, every muscle flexed in a silent parallel with the body beside it. And they could feel Twilight, too, as they drew closer and closer: they were drawing her in with them, and she was letting herself be pulled, to join them, to become one with them in that beautiful, safe place inside themselves...

But the two shook themselves out of the reverie, pulling apart... and stumbling in synchronization as the same disoriented expression crossed their features before Luna and Scrivener both looked at each other dumbly, for another moment perfectly mirroring. Then they shared awkward smiles before Luna bopped the stallion with her horn and mumbled: “'Tis all thy fault. We must not lose ourselves to fantasy, Scrivener Blooms. Tempting as it is to live in the world inside...”

“We have a lot to do outside first.” Scrivener muttered, and the two ponies nodded at the same time before they both looked up and smiled as they approached the field near the center of the Everfree Forest, where Innocence was impatiently waiting for them and Twilight Sparkle was smiling softly in their direction, her eyes locking on her partners the moment they came into view.

They really did have a lot to do yet, and still quite a few things to make up for... and both Luna and Scrivener only hoped that whatever the future held, the curtains had a long time yet to draw back on whatever play their chaotic audience was waiting to watch, and that even after it begun, it wouldn't start with a clash... even if by now, both ponies were well-aware that no matter how things worked out, there was going to be a truly mighty bang in the future.

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