• Published 9th Oct 2013
  • 2,147 Views, 48 Comments

Día de los Muertos - Gabriel LaVedier

The Mane Six investigate Ponyville's Nightmare Night legend and find it's not quite so legendary...

  • ...

The Lonely Larkspur

“Pinkie... how do you manage to do something like that?” Twilight asked as she watched Pinkie bouncing all around, with a giant, stuffed pack on her back. “Earth pony strength should only go so far...”

“Oh, that's easy,” Pinkie said cheerfully, opening her pack to reveal it was filled with balloons. Once freed the balloons floated up and away, leaving the pack far, far less packed. “Awww, I was gonna let them go when we found something.”

“That makes sense... for certain values of 'sense,'” Twilight said with a light blush. She checked the map of the Ponyville area that Roseluck had marked and looked out at the scraggly border area of the gem field. “We should be seeing it soon. She said that the flowers were present but closed at the moment, and that the stone itself was pretty significant...”

“Found it!” Pinkie cried, already a significant distance from where she had been. She was within the territory of the gem field, pointing to a lumpen stone mass. It looked to be composed of several large stones piled together, with forethought, not quite stone blocks but very close, with the top containing the aforementioned hollow that likely reached straight down the center to the ground. As mentioned from out of that hollow stood the stem of a larkspur, flowers budded but closed. Given the lateness of the season that was very odd. “It feels weird here, Twilight. The mana's all wrong, and I know earth mana,” Pinkie reported, tucking herself behind Twilight.

“No, I know. I can feel it too. The flow is off and the feel of it is different. There's something about the whole thing...” Using magic Twilight reached into her own pack and pulled out a charcoal stick and piece of paper, writing as she narrated. “Structure appears to be crudely-constructed and a distinctly unnatural item. Form recalls Griffin-style cairns, but made of ill-dressed stone slabs, affected by weathering and other environmental factors. Flower is an out-of-season un-bloomed larkspur.”

“This is really, really spooky. And it's just a pretty flower. I didn't even know flowers could be spooky,” Pinkie said quietly, all but clinging to Twilight's flank for protection. “You said it looks like a cairn. What's that?”

“A 'cairn' is a grave marker, common in Equestrian Capal and all Griffin Kingdom areas... grave marker...” The phrase struck Twilight suddenly, and she began washing planes of glowing magic over the sides of the stone.

“Now what's going on? Are you cleaning it off?” Pinkie asked.

“Almost... this kind of magic can be used on small areas to detect patterned anomalies. Err, that means it reacts with things that have a pattern but are not natural, like letter traces. Some things like that are very recognizable. It also strips away a small layer of the surface dirt to do that, because the hollows formed by letters would show their edges more clearly if... wait... here,” Twilight said, focusing on one area of the side. As she ran more magical force over the space faint letters began to emerge.

“'Larkspur, my dear Larkspur, why did you go away? I wanted ever the best and nothing more. Why did you leave me, Larkspur, all for the sake of a beast?'” Pinkie read, tilting her head some. “Wow... this is somepony's grave. Somepony named Larkspur. That's a pretty name.”

“It certainly could be or it could be the grave of the one who lost her. There might be another name somewhere, I hadn't finished my look at it. Those letters are very weathered and indistinct, so this was from a long time ago, well over a hundred years at least...” Twilight noted, drawing her magic along more of the stone.

“'A beast'... now that sounds scary. I wonder what kind of beast? There aren't any I would go off with, they're no fun. Timberwolves and cockatrices and hydras are too scary,” Pinkie said, idly picking at a seam in the rock.

“Pinkie... don't pick at somepony's headstone. That's very rude,” Twilight said sternly, making her way back over to Pinkie.

“Sorry. But this looked weird. There was a little dip here,” Pinkie said, in a contrite voice.

“I would imagine some of the stone has slipped. This wasn't exactly professionally m... wait... this part slipped because there's a space here,” Twilight said, her magic probing into the edges of the seam. “It's not all stone. There's glass and metal inside. This is some kind of container hidden by a plug.”

“Who would wanna hide that? Unless there's something inside, like a buried treasure! But wait... it's not buried, it's over someopony who got buried. And if it is treasure, it belongs to that pony. Plus isn't this more rude than picking at somepony's headstone?” Pinkie asked, giving Twilight a serious look.

Twilight blushed a bit as her magic slowly worked to shim out the well-fitted plug of stone. “I-it's for science. Looking at old tombs and things is sometimes what science does. It's how we learn things and... oh!” The plug came off with the scrape of rock and dull clink of glass.

The back of the plug was revealed to be a ring of semi-rotted cork, whose deterioration had led to the sagging of the plug, with glass on the inside of the cork ring. Inside the revealed cavity was a coating of mostly un-rusted metal coated in more glass. A red-lacquered box, about the size of a normal-sized book, sat at the back.

“Oh my... this is... I wish I had an archaeological team from the University here. These kinds of artifacts need special protection...” Twilight said quietly, peering into the cavity with some worry.

“I thought you knew everything about everything. You always know what to do,” Pinkie said, looking in as well, her face pressed against Twilight's.

“Knowing and doing are two different things,” Twilight clarified, “I could know how to do any number of things but doing them requires muscles and responses to variables you can only really understand through practice. I know the mechanics of bucking an apple tree, but Applejack can tell you about how talented I am at it. I don't want to make a mistake and potentially ruin a precious piece of history. Plus I... I never actually had to dig around in a grave, I was always a behind-the-lines academic processing what actual field researchers found.”

“I believe in you. I know you can do this. You can do anything because you're Twilight,” Pinkie said, giving Twilight an encouraging kiss on the cheek.

“That doesn't follow... but your confidence in me is what I need right now,” Twilight whispered, activating her magic and slowly levitating the box. She drew it out of the space with as little swaying as possible, exposing it to the light.

The red lacquer was still somewhat shiny after all the time, protected from the worst of weather by the glass and cork. It appeared to be a simple hinged box, made of wood with silver hinges, whose purity thankfully prevented corrosion. Lifting the lid revealed an object wrapped in heavy white cloth.

Twilight carefully unfolded the cloth with more tendrils of magic, being cautious in case it had grown fragile over the years. The cloth yielded up a small book, bound in the style of centuries back. “That's what's in there? A book? That's a pretty bad buried treasure that's not really buried. Oh! But you love books, so I guess it's a treasure to you. Is it a really treasure-y book?” Pinkie asked.

“Inside of hollow revealed a space covered in metal and glass applied like enamel, which was sealed with cork to prevent water intrusion,” Twilight narrated while she wrote. “Inside was wooden box, red-lacquered with pure silver hinges, which contained a cloth wrapped around an old book of the sort made in prior centuries. Book is smaller than normal, of the kind used for cornuscripts. There is a title calligraphed on the cover which reads...” Twilight stopped narrating and just stared for a long moment. “This gets more and more interesting.”

Pinkie tilted her head as she regarded the strange, flowing letters. “'De Rerum Adamas Canes.'” She read, with poor pronunciation. “'Corpus, Cultura, et Historia de Heliotropus.' What's all that?”

“It's Equusian, a common language for writing cornuscrips of natural phenomenon several centuries ago. The word is pronounced 'cah-nehs'. The initial title means 'On the Things of Diamond Dogs' or 'On the Subject of Diamond Dogs.' The secondary title means, 'Body, Culture and History of Helotropus', potentially 'history' means 'tale' or 'account' and that might be Heliotrope, Equusianized, which would make sense as that is a Diamond Dog name.”

“A book about Diamond Dogs sounds neat. You have some magazines and books about them in the library already. Will you put this one there too? It's a really old one, so that makes it really special,” Pinkie noted.

Twilight opened the book gingerly, picking a random page in the middle. It revealed two pages of carefully horn-illustrated color images of a Diamond Dog's lowest leg joint and toes, in several views, with labels pointing to all the features. Picking a different spot revealed two pages focused on the hand and lower arm.

“This is more than special,” Twilight said, casting her gaze over each new revelation. “Formal, scientific Diamond Dog study came from Jasper of the LaRoulette Chateau and from voluntary, private revelation before the United Colonies became a vassal of Equestria. Prior to that there were no Equestrian references to Diamond Dogs, not in a formal sense. The best that could be said were rumors and vague legend. This shows that at least one pony knew at least one Diamond Dog. One named Heliotrope. And she compiled a cornuscript of scientific study of him, arranged in the fashion of the time.”

“'A beast'...” Pinkie said quietly.

“What was that?” Twilight asked, looking up from the book.

Pinkie pointed to the stone, in the area of the inscription. “'Why did you leave me, Larkspur, all for the sake of a beast?' It's a really meany-mean-pants thing to say... but not everypony likes Diamond Dogs. Does that mean...”

“In an older time other species were accepted by the majority but there were still pockets of negativity,” Twilight said, glancing back down at the book. “And a brand new species, completely unknown, sapience unknown, would have been seen like a beast. This was hidden away because whoever hid it... wanted no one to know that such a thing as a Diamond Dog had ever existed. They would rather throw away knowledge than let the memory continue.” Twilight carefully closed the book and placed it back in the box. “Who were you, Larkspur? If this is you, somepony hid away your greatest contribution to Equestrian understanding, and that's unforgivable...”

“So much drawing...” Heliotrope whined, as he held his hand in front of Larkspur. “Did not know pony was artist, or would have not talked.”

“You never complained before, now please let me work,” Larkspur laughed, magic dragging the colored graphite along the pace to capture the hand correctly. “I am not an artist. But I learned to draw while cultivating my flowers. Conuscripts like this make for fascinating reading no matter the subject. And you... you fascinate me.”

“Not have many books like this, not many papers. Carve on walls or stamp on metal. Always about gems, or math, or magic things. Not fun, but need to know. Must be smart to live safe,” Heliotrope said, taking a seat while keeping his hand out.

“Yes... I will be sure to write that down in the account section. I wish to know everything... if you can tell me. I will never pry or force,” Larkspur said, slowly shading in the illustration of Heliotrope's slightly curled fingers. “I wish to thank you, in fact, for indulging me. I recognize that this is beyond your usual activity.”

“Is fine. May complain but like seeing art. Is very good. And is me, so is better,” Heliotrope said with a rasping laugh. “Make feel special, not just dumb scout. Like minister or scientist.”

“'Dumb scout'? Hardly. You may deprecate yourself but the truth of the matter is the very circumstances and realities of your life require that you be well-educated in subjects considered important by many. I find you smart, in any case,” Larkspur said, with a light blush.

“Pony is too kind. Pretty and kind. Not need to be nice to scout. Only doing job, but take long break,” Heliotrope said, with a softer laugh.

“You are very easy to be nice to, Heliotrope. I am rewarded with new revelations and y... oh... I must mind what I say. I would hate to be improper,” Larkspur said, blush deepening as the colored graphite came down from the book.

“Not hold back. It Dog way. Be honest or bad things happen, may get hurt in tunnels,” Heliotrope stated, flexing his fingers and pulling his hand back.

“Your revelations, of your body, your mind, your culture are all well and good and will make this monograph an earth-shaking landmark in Equestrian history, and there will be much study and so forth. I consider that secondary. Pleasant but irrelevant. What I enjoy most about you is... you,” Larkspur confessed, using plain black graphite to mark features and note observations on the hand illustration.

Heliotrope's tail thumped solidly on the ground and a smile spread across his features. “Too kind... too kind... not worthy of so much. Am only Dog. Look different from pony.”

“How you look is how you look. And certainly is no impediment to my admiration. It makes you unique, special, wonderful. You are unlike any I have ever met before. This opportunity is marvelous, and you made it possible,” Larkspur said, closing the book after finishing her last bit of text. “If I may... I have something for you.”

“For me? What is? More food or useful pony things? Not need to give so much,” Heliotrope said, peering at Larkspur's small collection of packs. Since she had begun illustrating her monograph she had brought along several packs for her supplies, as well as food and beverages to share or little things to give, like paper and cloth.

“This is something special. Something from me, personally, not pony culture at large...” Larkspur said, pulling a small box from a pack. Opening it revealed a lush, blooming blue hyacinth, looking dewy and perfect.

“Oooh... What is?” Heliotrope asked, hands almost reaching out for it.

“It's a hyacinth I grew. Here, let me put it on you...” Larksput took the flower in her hooves, rather than magic, and slowly placed it behind Heliotrope's right ear, the petals just slightly covering the front of the lower part of the ear. “It's a variant, blooms in the fall, is much larger than normal, has a headier fragrance and is very hardy. The bloom lasts for a long while. It's quite unique, like you.”

Heliotrope touched the silky petals with trembling fingers, a blush growing across his face. “N-no... not deserve. Not special. Take pretty gift. Give to better creature.”

“That... would be quite impossible...” Larkspur whispered, still close to Heliotrope after placing the flower on him. “I haven't met all the other creatures in the world but... I don't think there's a better one than you...” She closed the distance between them with an unhesitating motion, pressing her lips warmly against his, and bringing her hooves up to hook them over his shoulders.

Heliotrope was caught quite off guard by the kiss, his initial reaction to throw his hands up and pull back a little. Larkspur maintained a good grip on him, however, and the kiss did not break. After a bit of hesitation Heliotrope returned the kiss, adding pressure, lip motion and the warm, strong wrapping of his arms around Larkspur's body.

They held together for several long, wonderful moments before the kiss broke with a mutual pant, their lips separating by barely an inch. Little strings of saliva connected the two and their tongues were just barely touching tips. Hot breath washed over both faces and they were loath to separate any more. “Sorry...” Heliotrope said, with a slightly downcast look.

“Why do you think you must apologize?” Larkspur asked, stroking one of Heliotrope's shoulders comfortingly.

“Should have asked before touching tongue. Not polite to touch tongues,” Heliotrope said with a blush.

“You may not have noticed, but I started it,” Larkspur said in a giddy whisper. “I liked it. Perhaps when the monograph is finished... one thing at a time. I think... I think we should, perhaps, get back to work and then have something to eat.”

“Oh yes! Do not like holding still but like to eat delicious treats. What you draw now?” Heliotrope inquired.

A playful grin crossed Larkspur's face and she tittered softly. “I think... I'll draw your tongue...”

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