• Published 6th Aug 2011
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One Last Quest - Vanner

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The Dance of The Skies

Chapter Ten: The Dances of the Skies
Only when you let go can you find freedom

Redheart was amazingly chipper about wandering out into the buffalo territories. She hummed most of the way through the canyon. Pokey was left sorely annoyed. Cheerilee studied maps of the region as Redheart led the herd across the desert floor.

“Are you sure we’re going the right way?” asked Cheerilee. “I’d hate to wind up like, well, him.” She nodded to a dessicated buffalo skull in the sand.

“We’ve got three days worth of fresh water,” said Pokey. “And we both know this region like the back of our hooves. Stop worrying so much.”

“Worrying is what I do,” said Cheerilee. “It’s not every day you walk out into an infectious wasteland.”

“We’ve been vaccinated,” replied Redheart. She had been unable to remove the smile from her face. “And besides, I think you’ll really enjoy the buffalo. They’re extraordinary folk.”

They walked past yet another moss covered boulder towards the distant plume of smoke when Pokey stopped suddenly. He turned back into the dessert. Redheart and Cheerilee turned to look at whatever he was facing.

“What is it?” whispered Cheerilee.

“You can come out now, Little Strong Heart,” called Pokey. A young buffalo appeared from behind the rocks; her khaki hide stood out in sharp contrast to the moss covered rocks.

“You may actually be getting better as you get older,” smiled the buffalo. “And Miss Redheart, I know that every buffalo will be happy to see you again” Pokey shook hooves with the young buffalo, and introduced Cheerilee.

“Cheerilee is a school teacher,” he said. “She's a scholar of ancient Equestrian history and non-pony cultures.”

“A pleasure,” said Cheerilee. “How long have you been following us?”

“Not too long,” she admitted. “With all this red dirt, it’s much harder to hide.”

“That’s actually what we’re here about,” said Redheart. “How is the herd fairing?”

“Not too well,” admitted Little Strong Heart. “We’re not as sick as the Appleoosans yet, but we’re getting there.” She looked around the landscape, her eyes filled with worry and doubt. “It’s going to get worse isn’t it?”

“Not if we can help it,” said Pokey.

With Little Strong Heart at the lead, the ponies came to the village in short order. Tepees rose into the sky, staked to the moss covered ground in small groups. A few buffalo were scraping the moss from their tepees, while others wandered the village looking for ways to help. A few buffalo jumped to alert at the presence of ponies, but relaxed when they saw just who had come to visit. A buffalo approached the group. His coat was a dusty brown, and though he was smaller than most of the buffalo, he still towered over the ponies.

“It is an honor to see you again,” he said. He bowed his horned head. Redheart stared deep into buffalo’s dark eyes for a moment.

“A pleasure as always, Plains Strider,” she said at last. Cheerilee thought she heard sadness in the greeting. She turned to see a tear forming in the corner of Redheart's eye. Redheart caught her staring, and affixed a smile. “May we speak to Chief Thunderhooves?”

“I will let him know you have arrived,” said the buffalo. He nodded to Pokey, who simply nodded back. A few children came barreling from the tepees. They ran circles around the hooves of the ponies.

“Miss Redheart is back!” one of the khaki coated buffalo called. The children shouted and danced around her. Redheart leaned down to nuzzle the calves.

“I’m so happy to see all of you again,” she said. “I missed you all so much!”

“Oh wow!” shouted a deep brown buffalo calf. “It’s really him! He's really here!” The young boys stared in reverence at Pokey.

“I’m beginning to feel like the odd pony out,” teased Cheerilee. “I had no idea you were so revered among the buffalo.

“Are you kidding?” asked one of the buffalo. She had been scraping moss off her tepee. “Pokey is a legendary warrior among the buffalo. He and Miss Redheart come out this way at least twice a year, although she probably shouldn't.” There was venom in that statement, and Cheerilee felt its sting. The buffalo stopped scraping for a moment, and looked at Cheerilee. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”

“I’m Cheerilee,” introduced the pony. “I’m a teacher, and amateur cultural anthropologist.”

“A mare of letters,” snorted the cow. “I am the medicine cow, Standing Grass. What brings you out this way? A book you’re writing? A magazine article perhaps?”

“Nothing of the sort, actually,” said Cheerilee. “We’re here on an assignment from Princess Celestia, and, on a related note, to help with the Red Dirt.” The cow huffed dismissively.

"Good luck with that," she sneered. "I've done everything I can to try to fix it, but nothing seems to work. Baths only kill the moss on the skin’s surface. Once it’s in the lungs, there is no hope.”

“Actually...” said Cheerilee.

“It’s a good thing the buffalo are made of sterner stuff than you ponies," interrupted Standing Grass. "I hope you don't die out here. I really don't know anything of your burial rituals." Cheerilee was too flabbergasted by the buffalo's rudeness to react. Standing Grass wandered away just as Chief Thunderhooves arrived to greet the ponies. The massive umber coated buffalo greeted the ponies with a raised hoof. The ponies returned the greeting.

“Greetings,” boomed Chief Thunderhooves in his usual monotone. Pokey groaned, preparing for the chief’s traditional introduction. “For many moons we have greeted you pony folk as friends of our tribe. Much have we learned from your wisdom, Miss Heart of Red, and too your courage, Horn of Black. For eons we...”

“Chief, can we skip this part?” asked Little Strong Heart. “I think they’re actually here for a reason, not a social call.”

“Oh,” replied the mud colored buffalo. “Very well then, what brings you back again to our home, friends?” Redheart stepped forward and bowed to the chief.

“We have come to ask for the Sapphire of Brilliance,” said Redheart. “Our Goddess Celestia has need of the stones, and has sent us on a quest to find them.” Chief Thunderhooves nodded thoughtfully.

“I would happily give it to you, Heart of Red,” said Thunderhooves. "But we no longer have it. We gave it to a researcher from your city of Canterlot two summers back.” He looked to the skky as if to summon a memory. “She said that the Princess had need of it then too. I thought I mentioned that when you two were here that summer.” He scratched a hoof to his chin. “Kind of rude, now that I remember it. She had an unusual name. I believe it was Ingrid Marie.” Cheerilee’s jaw dropped.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she blurted. “That nag was out here?”

“Cheerilee!” admonished Redheart. “Language!”

“Sorry, sorry,” apologized Cheerilee. “That... mare has been a thorn in my side since she was my professor.” Cheerilee’s brow furrowed in disgust. “My apologies, Chief Thunderhooves; my language is wholly inappropriate for such refined company.”

“No offense taken,” replied Thunderhooves. “I didn't care much for her either. No matter!" He clopped his hooves together. "We will have a tepee set up for our guests, and a celebration in honor of your return.” The herd cheered.

“That’s really not necessary,” said Pokey.

“Actually a celebration is quite in order,” said Redheart. “Chief, I need to speak with Dancing Hooves about a rain dance.” Thunderhooves shook his head and stared at the ground

“She will not be able to help you,” he replied. “Her time is near, and the Red Dirt has taken its toll on her fragile body.” Redheart was taken back at Thunderhooves words. “She will not be able to perform the Dances of the Skies, and none of our calves have the spirit of dance to learn what she has to teach.”

“Oh no,” gasped Redheart. “Please, let me look at her. Perhaps there’s something I can do.”

“You are welcome to try, Heart of Red,” said Thunderhooves. “Standing Grass has done all she can. You may find Dancing Hooves in her tent.”

“Thank you chief,” said Redheart, sadly. “I’m sure we’ll see you this evening. In the mean time, I’ll see what I can do to comfort Dancing Hooves.” She turned back to Pokey and Cheerilee.

“I wish I had actually paid attention in my Buffalo Studies class,” said Cheerilee. “I was far too distracted that semester by this fantastic grey stallion...” She gazed at the sky dreamily for a moment.

“I thought you dated mares in college?” asked Pokey.

“THAT WAS A PHASE,” snapped Cheerilee. “Sleep with one or two mares, and apparently you’re a vanilla frosting lesbian for life! Sheesh!” A few buffalo turned to stare at Cheerilee.

“At any rate,” said Redheart, trying to pull the conversation back to the matter at hand. “The rain dance is made up of two parts.”

“Wait,” interrupted Cheerilee. “The Dance of the Skies is an actual dance? I thought it was just a metaphor for the ceremony and prayers.”

“How well did you do in that class anyway?” asked Pokey.

“I got a C,” admitted Cheerilee. “The Buffalo just weren’t that interesting to me back then.” One of the passing cows stopped and shot her a dirty look. “No offense,” she apologized. “Now the Zebras, there’s a fascinating bunch of equines.”

“You’re a curious pony,” said Pokey. “I’m glad I’ve gotten to know you.”

“Well thank you, dear,” said Cheerilee. She turned back to Redheart. “Now about this dance.”

“Right,” said Redheart. “It consists of two parts: The Meeting of the Land and Sky, and the Call to the Clouds. The Call to the Clouds is done first by one dancer. The Meeting of the Land and Sky comes next and requires a partner.”

“Okay,” said Cheerilee, processing the information. “So, the one dancer who can do both these dances...”

“Is currently ill,” finished Redheart.

The ponies started trotting to Dancing Hooves’ tent. Signs of the mosses spread were evere in the village. The dirt had been tinged red with its taint, and many of the buffalo bote swaths of vermillion moss on their backs. The ones who didn’t were pale and sickly. Though the buffalo were larger than the ponies, they too were succumbing to the effects of the moss.

“I’ll see if she can teach one of the calves the dances,” said Redheart. “I don’t know that we’ll be able to find any buffalo that can do both parts though.”

“Does it have to be buffalo?” asked Cheerilee. Her mind churned along on an idea. Redheart looked at her with a raised eyebrow.

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I’m betting it’s never been done.”

“Since when has something being impossible factored into this trip?” asked Pokey.

“There’s no harm in asking,” said Redheart. She grabbed the tent flap in her teeth and held it open for the ponies to pass inside.

The inside of the tepee was surprisingly roomy and pleasant. The walls were covered in tribal designs, and tally marks of years gone past. A mural of the Buffalo’s history graced the far wall of the tent, and a small fire burned in the center. A woven grass mat lay on the ground, with a silvering umber buffalo resting quietly on it.

“Dancing Hooves?” asked Redheart quietly. The cow opened her eyes, and glance at her visitors.

“Oh,” she said. It was clear she was trying to sound happy. “Oh, my dear Heart of Red, you’ve come to see me off to the final stampeding grounds have you?”

“That wasn’t my plan,” said Redheart. “I came here to help cure you.”

“It is far too late for that, child.” The buffalo coughed with such intensity that Redheart feared she might pass before their very eyes. “I am an old cow, and I have been an old cow since before I met you.” She squinted at the two ponies standing in her home. “Ah, Horn of Black! I knew I’d see you again before I passed. Is this mulberry filly your wife?”

“Sweet mercy of Luna, no,” replied Pokey; Cheerilee punched him. She hit surprisingly hard for a mare. “This is Cheerilee," he said as she rubbed his shoulder. "She’s a teacher and a dancer, much like you.” The buffalo eyes widened, and her smile grew.

“Ah, a dancer!” she said. Dancing hooves tried to get to her feet. “Have you a spirit of music, and a heart of dance?”

“Music has brought me joy all my life,” said Cheerilee. “And dance has taken over my spirit when I let it run.”

“I was hoping you could teach us the Dances of the Skies,” said Redheart. Dancing Hooves nodded solemnly.

“The Call to the Clouds is tricky, and must be performed precisely,” said Dancing Hooves. “I have not been able to teach it to a single member of my herd, and I fear the dance will die with me.” She looked up at Cheerilee. “But I think you may have the spirit to learn. What is your name?”

“I’m Cheerilee,” she said.

“No, Cheerilee, what is your spirit’s name?” corrected the buffalo. “What is the name your spirit calls when when you set yourself to dance? What do you feel when the music takes you?” Cheerilee's thoughts darted around in her mind, trying to understand what she was asking. What took over when she danced? What had she always done when her spirit came alive in the fires of movement?

“Prancing Crimps,” she said suddenly. “I always had my hair in crimps whenever I danced. The music and my mane filled my spirit with fire.” The buffalo smiled knowingly.

“Then you are Prancing Crimps to our tribe,” said Dancing Hooves. “You shall learn my Call to the Clouds. The other dance, I cannot teach you for your spirit of joy will not take the lesson to heart. The Meeting of the Land and Sky requires sorrow.” She pointed a hoof at Redheart. “You, however, already know it, and you already have a partner.” Redheart’s smiling face turned to sorrow in a single moment.

“How dare you,” she choked. “You know I can’t.”

“If you are to call the rains, then you must,” said Dancing Hooves. “I will teach Prancing Crimps the Call to the Clouds, and tonight we will prepare to call the rain.” Redheart threw the flap open and galloped into the camp. Cheerilee gave a confused look to Pokey.
“I think I need to have a word with her,” said Pokey and he followed after Redheart.

Pokey found Redheart her a few minutes later. She was playing a game of tag with the children. She had on her best fake smile to hide tears. She chased after the children. They squealed ion delight as they avoided her.

“Don’t let the pony get you!” called Redheart. The children giggled and screamed around her. They came in close, and then ran away again. She tagged one with a hoof, then dodged away.“You’re it! Now catch me!”

“Redheart, can I talk to you?” asked Pokey. She shot the fake smile at him.

“Can’t you see I’m playing tag?” she asked.

“Hey kids,” said Pokey. “I’ll give five bits to whoever can find me a snipe.”

“Whoa, five bits?” asked a khaki buffalo calf. “Come on, I know where I can find one!” The children stampeded away. Pokey and Redheart were left standing alone in the field.

“Level with me,” he said. “What’s really wrong?”

“I... can’t talk about it,” choked Redheart. She looked away. “Not in the open at least.”

“Then let’s take a walk,” said Pokey.

Redheart and Pokey walked in silence out of the village. One hoof in front of another, they walked to a spot where no one would hear them, and no one would pry. They stopped a few hundred yards away, surrounded by the moss covered rocks and tumbleweeds. There wasn’t another soul around for a quarter of a mile.

“I’m in love,” blurted Redheart.

“Not with me?” asked Pokey. She glared in rage at the unicorn.

“Are you ever not a complete ass?” snarled Redheart.

“I’m sorry,” he said, quietly. “I have no right to be inconsiderate.”

“The problem is...” she looked back to the village. “I in love with a buffalo,” Pokey seemed unsurprised. “Oh, don’t tell me you find it abhorrent, too” said Redheart. “I’ve gotten enough of that from every pony else.” Pokey only shook his head.

“Not at all,” replied Pokey. “I've never loved anyone but ponies, but when the spirit of love finds you, it doesn’t fall along lines of reason. Ponies, mules, or even buffalo; love brings hearts together, no matter who they belong to.” He looked out to the mesas. “Back when Trixie and I ran with the Kin of Luna, I knew a Diamond Dog and a zebra who were devoted to each other, heart and soul.” He looked back to Redheart. “So how did you meet?”

“I was here doing charity work,” reminisced Redheart. “I thought that going out and teaching civilized medicine to the savages would look good on my resume.”

“Savages?” asked Pokey. “Really?”

“I was a foolish filly back then,” said Redheart. “I used to think they were filthy, brutish creatures with barely a spark of sentience. But I got here and found all this.” She gestured out to the mesas and the rolling scrubs lands of the desert. “And then I actually met them. I learned about their ceremonial magic and tribal cures. I started to understand their language, their culture. I began to understand them. And that’s when I met Plain Strider.” She looked into the mesas, her eyes filling with years of onrushing memories.

“You were there at the council of tribes weren’t you?” asked Pokey.

“I was,” said Redheart. “I remember that armor of yours, and how good it looked on you. If I hadn’t met Plains Strider, I probably would have wound up in your bed that night.”

“You tell me this years later,” scoffed Pokey. “Thanks.”

“Oh hush,” admonished Redheart. “It’s not like we didn’t spend plenty of time together later. Anyway, the medicine bulls had gathered to discuss new treatments for the pox that had come up from the south.”

“If I recall correctly,” said Pokey, “The Kin of Luna got blamed for that, until you proved it was a Diamond Dog infection.”

“Yes, that was quite a misunderstanding,” sighed Redheart. “But that’s where I met him. He was a messenger. Everything about him just spoke to me. His kind eyes, his soft voice, his charming wit. I just fell mane over hooves for him.” She shrugged. “I don’t know why, I never found any other buffalo attractive in the least. There’s just something about him.” Pokey nodded silently as he took in her story. “After that, I tried to come out here as often as possible. We met in secret out here in the plain, talking for hours, and making love under the stars.” Redheart looked up; Pokey deliberately avoided her eyes. “We had been meeting in secret for years when we were finally found out.”

“Standing Grass,” said Pokey. Redheart nodded

“She said our love was forbidden.” She choked on her confession as she tried to find the words. “She told me that we were to never see each other again, and if I came near him, she would kill him to preserve his honor.” She looked up at Pokey, her beautiful blue-grey eyes filling with tears. “But I couldn’t stay away. I had to see him. I still came back to the tribe as often as I could, every time staying in the village under her hateful gaze. I couldn’t be with him anymore, but I could see him.” She looked up at Pokey as tears streamed down her muzzle. “And that was enough, I guess.”

“So you’ve been torturing yourself all these years by coming out here,” said Pokey, staring out into the setting sun. “And those times on the train you and I spent together?”

“I wished you had been him,” sobbed Redheart. Pokey simply nodded and put a hoof around his companion. Redheart bawled into his shoulders. Sobs of regret wracked her body. Her crying left tear stains on Pokey’s soft blue coat. He held her in silence. The years of misery and pain ran through her sobs as if a damn had burst. “I’m sorry Pokey,” she wept. “All these years I’ve used you to torture myself with what I can’t have. I knew how you felt, but I just couldn’t give up on him.”

“I forgive you,” said Pokey. He stared into the distance. “Love makes us do strange things. Plain Strider loved you the same all this time, even when he knew about us.” She looked up at Pokey in shock.

“You told him?” gasped Redheart.

“He asked me to look after you,” Pokey admitted. “I moved to Ponyville at his instance to keep an eye on you and to keep you safe. I had a feeling about you two, which is why I told him what happened.”

“And what did he say?”

“He said that he was glad you had found comfort, even if it wasn’t with him.”

Redheart sniffed looked back at the village through her tears of regret. All this time, and yet here she stood at the same impasse she had stood at before. Could things really be different this time? Was that what was supposed to happen?

“Do you think he still loves me?” Redheart asked. “After all these years? After everything that’s happened?”

“Plain Strider loves you more than you can imagine,” said Pokey. "I know you haven't spoken more than greetings in years, but I have. He wants nothing more than to be with you, but he made me promise to never tell.” His head sank to Redheart's shoulder. “And ponies don't break promises.” He closed his eyes, and tried to find the words to apologize. "I should have told you. I haven't been a very good friend to you, and I'm sorry.”

They stood in the grass for a long time. Redheart tried to make sense of it all while Pokey stood as her pillar of support. He looked back at the tribe as the sun dipped low behind the horizon.

“I suppose we should be getting back to the tribe,” Pokey said at last. He helped Redheart to her hooves, and wiped the tears of regret from her eyes. She tried to read his face. There was sadness there too, but it was the pain of loss rather than the pain of regret that hid behind his yellow eyes. She slipped the brilliant diamond from around her neck, and put it around Pokey's instead. She touched his chest, and looked into his eyes.

“Whatever happens, promise you won't hate me for what I've done,” sniffed Redheart.

“I could never hate you,” he said. “No matter what, I want you to be happy.”

They walked in silence back to the tepees. The celebration was already getting underway as darkness took the sky. Buffalo sang and danced; they told stories of great triumphs and of the spirit's victories. They found Cheerilee dressed in feathers and beads as she emerged from Dancing Hooves’s tepee. Her mane had been crimped, and she stood smiling from ear to ear. Pokey and Redheart stared in shock.

“I am ready for this,” beamed Cheerilee. “I hope I’ve got these moves down right; I’d hate to call up a snow storm.”

“You’ll be fine, dear,” said Dancing Hooves as she shuffled from her tepee. “Prancing Crimps has the spirit of a true dancer. I am glad to have passed my dance to her before I leave this world.” She looked at Redheart. “Are you ready to do your part?” Redheart looked at Pokey, who only nodded in silence. He disappeared into the village with a purpose.

“Yes I am,” she said.

Dancing Hooves shuffled over to Chief Thunderhooves and whispered in his ear. He held his hooves up, and the gathered crowd became silent.

“Heart of Red and Horn of Black have asked for our help,” he boomed. “They have asked us to call forth the rains to save the ponies of Appleloosa, and to cleanse this red dirt from our home.” The crowd cheered and stomped their hooves. They hooted at the rising moon and the skies above. “But none of my tribe have the spirit of dance needed to call the rain,” he said. The crowd murmured, and looked embarrassed for its failings. Guilty glances passed between them.

“This is not the fault of member any of our tribe," Thunderhooves continued. "The spirits can be fickle, and their blessings may not come when we need them too. Dancing Hooves has found a spirit able to carry the Calling of the Clouds.” He raised his hooves to the sky and summoned the crowd to join the circle. “Gather, buffalo. Gather now and listen to the tale of the clouds, and watch their dance. Give now your songs and prayers to the sky as Prancing Crimps fills our circle with the spirit of dance.” He nodded to Cheerilee. She stretched her hocks, ready to dazzle the Buffalo as they began a singing chant

“Long ago when the world was young,” boomed Thunderhooves, as the chanting filled the night. “The sky and the land were as one.” Cheerilee danced on her back hooves. She threw her fetlocks in the air and spun in a circle as the chief continued his story. “But the land and sky knew they could not be together if life were to graze upon the plains, and soar into the heavens.” She pranced from hoof to hoof around the fire as she swept her arms, and leaned toward the licking flames.

“As the world separated, clouds formed at their split.” Cheerilee cocked her arms, and shook her fetlocks as she danced around the fire. “The clouds are the children of earth and sky. They are land to those who can reach them, and but wisps of vapor to the children of the land.” She leaped over the fire and spun as her arms stretched for the heavens. Cheerilee landed on her feet, and slowly twirled around the fire ring

Her beads and feathers trailed behind her and wrapped the mulberry pony in soft whiteness that resembled a cloud. She felt lighter on her hooves as she twirled. She swooped in great arcs across the fire ring.

Cheerilee felt herself becoming the spirit of the clouds. She whipped in circles as the buffalo chanted and sang around her. The moistening air filled with the hum of a dozen mantras. The night air practically sang with electricity as clouds rolled in from the distance.

High above, the clouds heard the ceremony and came to listen to their tale. The sky filled with darkness, and blocked out the waxing moon. Appleloosa Valley was covered in shadows, and the night grew darker still as the clouds rolled in.

Cheerilee continued her dance. More clouds to the valley than had been seen in ages came to watch their story. Cheerilee felt the spirits of the sky watching her as she danced with every ounce of her spirit. She threw her hooves to the sky as the clouds above rumbled their approval. Thunderhooves looked to Dancing Hoofs. The graying buffalo nodded, and the chief continued his tale.

“We have called the clouds to watch us now,” he whispered. The songs of the buffalo had become a hushed hymn. “But to bring forth their tears, we must remind them of the story of their parents.”

Redheart appeared from Dancing Hooves’s tent. She wore the blue robes of ceremony that represented the sky. Plain Strider appeared from the other side of the ring. He was wearing the wheat colors of the earth. They danced opposite the ring. They reached out across the fire to each other, and inches apart, they circled the flames

Standing Grass moved to protest, but found herself shoved back down by an angry hoof. Pokey glared at the cow. His horn glowed with inky black light to punctuate the unspoken threat. The buffalo growled at him, but said nothing.

Plains Strider and Redheart danced around the circle. They came close together, only to be driven apart again by the grace of their movements. For every step they took toward each other, they took another two back. They spun, and reached again over the flames in agonizing proximity before they pulled away. A drop of rain fell between them. Thunderhooves continued his tale.

“The sky and the land are two estranged lovers forced to watch as the other passes by,” sang Thunderhooves. Plains Strider and Redheart swept past each other. They came within a hair of touching. The white pony and the dusty brown buffalo swirled again. Back to back they stood, then stepped away. They turned and locked eyes in a shared memory. The flames flicked and spattered in protest as the clouds above trickled rain upon the ceremony. Thunderhooves voice became song as he prayed to the heavens above

“For the creatures of land and creatures of sky to be,” sang Thunderhooves, “the lovers must remain apart, forever destined to watch the other from afar.” Redheart and Plains Strider danced to each other. They avoided touch only by the sheerest of divides. Redheart's robes brushed against Plains Strider. They stepped back one final time, their hooves outstretched to each other, and to the heavens. They touched with but an iota of contact. They stared across the divide, and their eyes fixed on the other.

“Thus ends the tale of the earth and sky, and because their love can never be, the heavens weep for them.”

Lightning and thunder wailed from far away. It filled the plains with the shocks of light and echoing booms of sorrow. The clouds burst forth and sobbed torrents of rain onto the valley. The clouds filled the sky with endless lightening. The buffalo darted for their tents.

Redheart and Plain Strider stood alone in the downpour. Their hooves still touched as the sky fell around them. In that moment, among the lightening and the rain, they found each other again. Redheart pulled Plain Strider close, and pressed her lips to his.

Pokey was sopping wet when he entered the tent. He didn’t bother to shake off he simply stared back into the downpour. Cheerilee stood near the fire. She was near vibrating with elation. She had removed her ceremonial garb, and was wringing out her feathered dress. She chattered happily when she saw Pokey enter.

“Can you believe it?” asked Cheerilee. She was still grinning. “We actually called the rain! I haven’t danced like that in my entire life. And Redheart! Celestia above; the passion in her dance! I had no idea!” Pokey stared into the village. He was barely listening to the pounding rains or to Cheerilee jubilance. She walked to the flap to see just what he was staring at.

He watched as Redheart threw her arms around Plain Strider, and as she sobbed in his arms. He watched as the rains fell around them, and as the bolts of lightning illuminated their shared sorrow and joy. He watched as the heavens poured upon them, and how they held each other as if to never let go again.

Cheerilee didn't see what happened next. Instead she watched Pokey as he failed to hide his own tears.

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