• Published 9th Oct 2013
  • 2,146 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 Archives

“That is what we seek, Mayor...” Rarity said, shuffling on her hooves a bit as she bled off some nervous energy. “An... unusual request to be sure but it is the truth.”

Rarity and Fluttershy had gone to the refurbished City Hall, where all the pertinent government records were kept. Gaining access to them was not a hard matter, more of a tedious one. They had had to wait for an appointment with the mayor, then carefully lay out their intentions, with Rarity doing the talking.

The mayor stroked her chin softly and nodded as she considered. “I used to swear I could hear the Stonebeast all the time, and once a friend of mine told me she had met the Maudlin Mare and ran away before she could be asked for anything. These are very deep and important things around Ponyville.”

“Indeed they are, Mayor. They reach out and grab all we natives powerfully and even ensnare immigrants like my friends,” Rarity noted, reflexively hugging Fluttershy tight.

“Immigrants... and tourists...” The Mayor noted, turning slightly to look out of her window. “Have you considered your actions? Maybe some folks would prefer the mysteries remain unsolved. Perhaps it would be better with a hint of doubt. It's what Nightmare Night is all about, and it helps us draw in more ponies.”

“Mayor! I am shocked! Learning is for the betterment of all, so Twilight tells me. It's a general good. Ponies should always promote learning. Why this cold look at the figures of tourists drawn in by a mystery that's...” Rarity said, hesitating in her accusation.

“No! Don't say it. I don't mean it that way,” The Mayor said quickly, tapping her hoof nervously on the desk. “There are sometimes thin lines but rest assured I am on the Equestrian side of that line, and firmly so. But I think this was for the sake of those who do a good job on Nightmare Night and who find that the legend, as a mystery, helps them.”

“I apologize for nearly making an accusation that was unfair,” Rarity said. “But revealing the mystery for what it is would only affect those who care overmuch. We know Nightmare Moon will not gobble us up, but we offer candy all the same, and we know the Hearthkeeper does not bring our presents but we still offer cookies and hay. It could even help those who saw what they did not understand. It would be a comfort and relief to those who... who had met the Fiend...”

The Mayor winced softly and cleared her throat. “I... I didn't know. Yes... for every harmless and fun mystery there is something that hurts. Knowing the truth could heal those hurts... I think we would all like to know what the reality is behind the Fiend. I support you all the way.”

“So... may we have access to the archives?” Rarity asked, looking hopeful.

“Of course. But it will be... a very difficult task. I heard about the legend from my own grandparents who told me they were told by their own grandparents. And I suspect it was passed down from older traditions. I would suggest that you look at the oldest records. Before this region was Ponyville it was a small noble holding that was given to the farmers. That was the origin of the town. There might be something there.”

“If nothing else, we will have tried our best,” Rarity said. “I know that the archives are in a lower area, but... how low must we go?” She asked with a shiver.

“You know how important records are. When we had the chance we put in a deep sub-basement for the oldest records. Are you certified to work with archival materials? Our resident archivist can be there to assist you,” The Mayor said, beginning to activate her intercom.

“I... I took the courses for that,” Fluttershy whispered out, stepping forward a little bit. “Twilight said I should try something new, and suggested the care and viewing of old documents, because she said I had a naturally gentle touch. She helped me get certified in Canterlot.”

“I had wondered about the old parchment you had about your home, and that sudden trip to Canterlot you invited me on,” Rarity said with a smile.

“I-it's just a silly little hobby. It wasn't that important, and I knew you loved to go. So I took my exam while you were out,” Fluttershy said, blushing.

“You should have told me, darling, you know how proud I am of all the things you do,” Rarity noted, kissing the bridge of Fluttershy's nose.

The Mayor smiled at the show of affection and pulled a form from in her desk. “Since I doubt you have the certification with you I'll take your word and likely the word of Miss Sparkle. You are both what I would consider trustworthy citizens. Just sign this form stating you may work with archival materials and that damage incurred is not the fault of the city administration, should any occur.”

“Of course. A standard APS-19 form, general indemnity from an internal or external audit for letting non-government personnel view and work with delicate material,” Fluttershy said before signing the proper section of the form. She noted that both the Mayor and Rarity were looking at her with shock. A dark blush crossed her features and she hid behind her mane. “I-I had to memorize the common forms. Twilight had flashcards...”

Both mares broke into a soft laughter while Fluttershy blushed deeply.

With the legal matters taken care of the duo entered an elevator and rode it deep into the earth, arriving at a level four floors below the ground. Thaumatoelectric lights crackled to life, washing the space in a blue-tinted light. The elevator let out in a semi-circular room of plain, polished stone with plaster molding along the ceiling and floor. A few tables with the same curve as the wall were pressed against it, while a short corridor led into the archival space, its lights a bit dimmer, and dust covering everything.

Both mares hesitated as the elevator closed and went back up behind them, both appearing quite unnerved. Rarity finally gave a breathy laugh and shook her head. “My goodness... I would imagine you dislike the dark while I despise the dust. My, aren't we a sight?”

Flufftershy laughed lightly and nodded, a little smile coming to her face. “Yes. We really shouldn't be worried. It's not like we're going to the Everfree or really poking around in anyplace that's dangerous.”

“Indeed that is quite so, darling. Look at these walls...” Rarity tapped on the walls with a hoof. “Solid, straight and precise. This was Dog-built. It would last through anything. We may feel secure here however dark or, err, dirty it may be.”

“Speaking of Dogs, has there been any change? I've sewn a few of the pieces but there were some alterations...” Fluttershy said as she and Rarity braved the dim and dusty archive room.

“Oh you know how males are. No matter their race or their species, be they griffin, pony, donkey or Dog, they will always go on and on about their clothes. How it doesn't flow well under the arms or how his cousin Lazulite cannot move properly or that the color is too dark but then it can't be too light. 'Not bituminous coal, anthracite,'” Rarity groused, affecting the exact tone of her client on the quotation.

Fluttershy laughed softly, finding once again that Pinkie's advice eased her tensions. “But you like it. It's a good thing, helping a wedding.”

“If I had not the desire to be a designer of all classes then I think I would exclusively design wedding attire,” Rarity said with a romantic sigh. “It will be a beautiful one. And of course, you and I are both invited. After that business with Opal and Angel plus preparing the nuptial wear Doctor Soft Heart decided it was only fair we be invited.”

“Oh such a wonderful thing. I'll have to thank her the next time I take in one of my animal friends,” Fluttershy said with a smile. She looked over the rows of papers, some in scroll form with tags, some in heavy tome form. “Will you help me? Magic is very useful in preventing damage and you have a very light touch with your horn.”

“As you always compliment,” Rarity noted with a saucy wink.

“O-oh...” Fluttershy said with a blush. “R-rarity...”

“I apologize, darling. But we are alone, and I know you appreciate such affectionate boldness when we are by ourselves,” Rarity said.

“I wish we could flirt like the other girls. But I like being quiet, and private,” Fluttershy said with a small cough. “The mayor said this used to be a holding before it was converted to free land. That would be in the oldest records.”

Fluttershy slowly looked through the shelves. Despite the chaotic and disheveled look of the shelves there was typical pony order and careful attention to detail. There appeared to be a lot of dry information, reports of land usage, notations of property allowances, collections of taxes and other duties. “It doesn't look like there's a lot here about legends or things. It's very normal government files. Plus documents about the change.”

“We should see about who used to own this land, perhaps there are secondary sources in the library that could relate if they ever made mention of such things. In those older times the nobility were very serious about reporting any unusual things, especially from the Everfree, before the Nightwatch came in to protect it,” Rarity noted.

“That would be this one, right here...” Fluttershy said, pointing to a large, heavy-looking old scroll tagged as 'Notice of land conversion.'

Rarity's magic slowly flowed around the old document, lifting it evenly by molding her magic field around the lowest portion. She drew it out and carried it slowly over to the tables in the front room. She laid it out and stepped away. “You perform this activity, darling, I may deal with delicate fabrics and be able to walk on rice paper but I don't believe I could accomplish such a feat.”

Fluttershy nodded and stepped forward with a tremble. “You can do this. You can...” She whispered to herself. Her soft, gentle hooves touched the ancient, yellowed scroll and slowly pushed it open, letting her read the text, the letters reasonably ornate and black ink turning reddish from age. “'Let it be hereby known that the controller of this land, as demarcated below, situated beneath the sight of her Glorious Solar Majesty Princess Celestia of Canterlot, of the Diarchy-in-Abeyance, the Principality of Equestria, hath, by will and word, forsaken all rights, responsibilities, privileges and duties attached. The Baron August Bearing, whom hath held the land in demesne, hath paid the fees required and divided his real property in form of the below-demarcated land unto his tenants, with no passing of title. The Baron now maintains title in honorarium without land, while the prior barony hath been dissolved to free lands in ownership of tenants below-named...'”

“It seems the words of government have changed little in all the years. A comforting thought, as it keeps us so stable,” Rarity said with a small laugh. “So... Baron August Bearing. We should examine the records of this year, to see about significant events.”

“What do you mean?” Fluttershy asked.

“Even today a landed noble making free land of their holding is a serious thing. A significant event surely must have happened to make him consider such an action,” Rarity noted.

“Oh! Of course...” Fluttershy rolled the scroll back up and supervised Rarity putting it back into place. She scanned the shelves again and indicated a large tome tagged as the records of births, deaths, arrivals and departures, its large size due to the presence of reports on transient ponies and others.

“Tell me how I must turn these pages, darling, they seem stiff but fragile, like metal filaments,” Rarity pleaded.

“Just turn when it feels good, don't rush, don't force it, and use even pressure,” Fluttershy said softly, one hoof on Rarity's back, her cheek against Rarity's cheek.

“I remember seeing the date on the declaration. I shall find a near period before...” Rarity carefully looked for the date, and then began to run through all the notices before that. “Oh dear...”

“What's the matter?” Fluttershy asked, casting her own eyes over the book. “Oh... oh...”

Under one of the death notices, roughly a month after Nightmare Night and just before the freeing of the land, there was an entry reading, 'The Honourable Larkspur, Sole Daughter and Heiress of his Honor Baron August Bearing.'

“I wish I could be here forevermore,” Larkspur whispered, snuggling herself more tightly and comfortably in Heliotrope's powerful hold. Like an earth pony or a donkey his strength was great, yet he only ever held her tight enough to make it clear without harming her comparatively fragile unicorn form. Powerful yet moderated and careful.

“Wish I could hold until rocks go away. Until coal turn to diamonds and sand to opal,” Heliotrope whispered, softly kissing Larkspur's forehead beneath her horn. “Do not deserve... am only scout. Bad scout who not do job. Should be working. But do not want to work. Work is over... must leave precious pony.”

“Never say that you are lowly or stupid again, Heliotrope,” Larkspur insisted, kissing her paramour on the chin. “Your eloquence is evident. Perhaps it is selfish of me to take you away from your work... but I don't care. I love you and I want you to stay here with me.”

“Have already dug test tunnels, put in torch places, made soundings. Ground is good for Dogs, has solid strata, grows gems, makes stone, has Beneath. This good place to live. Cavities and local conditions would make good Colony,” Heliotrope said with a sigh.

“You... you could lie,” Larkspur said, pulling Heliotrope tighter against her body. “Or just... just never go back.”

Heliotrope whimpered softly, and looked to the side. “Idea not... bad... want to stay...” He went quiet for a time, and then looked at the sky. “Sun going down. Time for you leave. Always leave now.”

“Would that I never had to go away...” Larkspur sighed, reluctantly removing herself from Heliotrope's grip and stretching out. She started arranging her items, the packs of drawing materials, containers for food, and the quilt on which she and Heliotrope had made love.

“Wait, have present for you...” Heliotrope said. He touched the flower that he kept tucked behind his ear, the petals still lush and beautiful. “You give flower, say it go to best creature...” He leaped down into the hole which led to his den and came up a moment later with a stone. It looked like a broken-off stalactite or stalagmite, a fairly robust one. The pointed end had been blunted, to look something like a column bottom, while the wider upper portion had been roughly and inexpertly carved into the image of a hyacinth. “This flower also for best creature.”

Larkspur gasped on seeing it and took it slowly in her magical grip. The weight was not too terribly bad, and the object itself, despite being roughly made, was well-balanced and it did not sway when moved around. “This is beautiful. And it's for me? Th-thank you... whenever I see it I'll think of you.”

“Is good. Wish other way to be with pony. But cannot. Even if make love in sunlight, still hide...” Heliotrope said with a sigh.

Larkspur tapped a hoof on the ground, considering something for a moment. “Do you know about Nightmare Night?”

Heliotrope tilted his head. “'Nightmare Night'? Have heard in classes. Is pony celebration, yes?”

“Yes. And the important part of that is the disguises. We all wear costumes. I know this isn't perfect, it's just one night, and it's not all you... but would you accompany me to Nightmare Night, see me crowned Harvest Queen and be there with me? All night long you and I will be together, with ponies all around wondering at the mysterious figure with me. A mystery. Everyone loves a mystery; it will make it all the better.”

“Can be with you, in front of ponies? Not care if disguised. Not care if other ponies not know am Dog. You know. Most important pony in world. Only pony that matter,” Heliotrope said, pressing a warm kiss on Larkspur.

Larkspur savored the kiss as long as she could, but she eventually pulled back, wrapping the quilt around the stone flower and pressing her head to Heliotrope's chest. “I'll make you a costume. And then we can have our night. A real date. One that will be repeated more publicly once I finally finish and submit my monograph to The Noble Society in Canterlot. We'll never have to hide again.”

“Dog way is to hide. Live in ground, not meet ponies, not make noise,” Heliotrope said gravely. He then stroked over Larkspur's ears and a cupped a cheek, adding, “But you... want to have whole world know about Dogs if can be here...”

“They will, and you can be. Until tomorrow, farewell, my love...” Larkspur trotted off, hearing Heliotrope shuffled back into his burrow.

Larkspur took a circuitous route back to the manor, avoiding the public areas and dodging around anypony she might meet. She preferred to not answer questions or exchange pleasantries while she felt so sad. She just made her way through the gates and up the walk to the house.

Past the foyer was a pony she could not avoid. Her imposing father the baron. August Bearing was a large, robust example of a unicorn, the sort with feathered ankles and a regal presence. He was a fiery red all over, with a yellowish-orange mane styled short and tight. He was dressed in his Canterlot best, a formal suit coat and shirt. He stared down at his daughter with a stern gaze. “So, Larkspur, just where have you been?”

Larkspur was inclined to go off without comment but knew that could only make matters worse. “I was where I always am, following the mana traces where they lead me and making a record of all those things I see.”

“The doctors never should have told you how sensitive you are but your mother insisted. I knew it would make you flighty and unfocused. You make records incessantly but nothing ever comes of it. Proper gentlefillies are scientists and researchers or other important things by your age. But you have never assembled anything more significant than your floral variants which fail to gain notice,” August harrumphed.

“Don't worry father, I am certain that I shall find something which will gain notice, flighty and unfocused as I may be,” Larkspur snapped. “Then I shall present a monograph to the Noble Society, and my name will be remembered forever.”

“We can only hope...” August muttered. He took a look at all the cases, and especially the quilt wrapped around an object and snorted. “You bring so many things when you are just wandering aimlessly. And what is that in your quilt..?”

Larkspur moved quickly away, directing herself to the staircase. “Nothing, father. I simply gathered some unique examples of stone. Maybe I can make a name in geology.”

August raised a brow and approached his daughter slowly. “A gift... somepony has given you a gift. Who is she? Or he?”

“No one! There's no one,” Larkspur insisted, a wave of revulsion passing through her. She so casually threw Heliotrope aside. She disgusted herself, but there was little she could do. “I promise you. I know just how much you treasure keeping me locked here. This is hardly a hothouse and I am no flower.”

“Don't you take that strident tone with me! I may be but a stallion but I am your father!” August cried, with a stomp of his hoof. He closed his eyes and composed himself slowly, taking several large, deep breaths. “I'm sorry... you know that I... you're very important to me. I've already lost your mother. It's why I moved to this place from Canterlot. I could not bear the memories. But this place is wild and untamed. If I lost you...”

“You won't, father. I promise,” Larkspur said softly, coming in to give her father a peck on the cheek. “I know there is danger. I am ever on my guard. But what danger is there in love? I needn't be taken away. Someone could be brought in and make our family larger and more friendly.”

“You may say it... but I don't think I can believe it,” August said, with a hollow laugh. “I just... I can't lose you. Though harm or heart. Not when I still... I...”

“I do too. I miss her so much. But I'm learning there's more to life than just remembering. I hope you find that out too...” Larkspur gave her father another quick peck and made her way up the stairs to her room.

August sniffed softly and wiped at his eye. Some little trace of something made him sniff again. Hiding in the traces of his daughter's favorite perfume, inside the melange of her hothouse blooms there was the small hint of something distinctly masculine.

A scowl crossed the baron's features. She had lied to his face. She was seeing a mysterious somepony. She was so eager to leave she would lie to do it. He didn't know what to think, except to be enraged by the deception and the betrayal.

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