• Published 6th Aug 2011
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One Last Quest - Vanner

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Faith and Miracles

Chapter Six: Faith and Miracles
Maybe the reason your prayers don’t get answered is because you’re asking the wrong Goddess.

Pokey walked away from the clinic, blindly wandering the cobblestone streets. He had gone searching for answers in the waxing moon. He found himself far out of town near a massive stone building. A waterwheel churned on one side, and the dam walls formed a picturesque waterfall. The door hung loosely on its hinges, and the smell of hard cider wafted from the inside. He was glad to see that someone had repurposed the waterwheel. Pokey walked inside.

The building smelled of grease and mold; the stone interior was permanently damp from the decades of spray seeping through the windows. Small puddles formed in the depressions in the stone, and the floor sloped slightly towards drain in the center. All the furniture was stone, save for the badly warped doors that lay propped open with rocks. A familiar grey hooded donkey stood slumped over a stone desk. A deep blue unicorn with a grey mane and blueprint cutie mark sat on the other side of the desk. He was drinking straight from a bottle. The unicorn looked up at Pokey.

“Can I help you?” he slurred. Pokey looked around the room. Hundreds of feet of pipes and gauges adorned the walls. Pokey wasn’t sure what he was looking for, but he was pretty sure this wasn’t it.

“This isn’t a bar, is it?” asked Pokey. War Jenny’s head shot up from the desk and swiveled to look at him.

“Nope,” replied the unicorn. “This is my power house.” He looked at the bottle levitating beside him. “Probably shouldn’t be drinking on the job, but what the hay. It’s been a terrible week.”

“Hey you,” sang War Jenny. “Where are your new girlfriends?”

“At the clinic with Medley,” said Pokey. He sidled up to the table and nodded a horn at the other unicorn. “Who’s your friend?”

“Name’s Blueprint,” he replied and offered a hoof. “Unicorn, architect, and tinkerer, extraordinaire!” He tossed back his hooves to exaggerate his achievements. Blueprint toppled over backwards. Pokey managed to grab the bottle with a spell before it toppled over too.

“Thanks,” said Blueprint from the floor. “Can I have that back? There’s plenty more in the fridge if you want one.” Pokey put down the bottle, and levitated two fresh ones from the fridge. Blueprint climbed back up to the desk, and rested his head on his hooves. “So you must be Pokey.”

“I am,” he replied. Pokey snapped the cap off the cider bottle. He picked up a straw from the table and dropped it in his beverage.

“I have been led to understand that you’re some kind of unicorn samurai?” Blueprint eloquently slurred. “Where’s your armor?” Pokey nodded to his packs.

“In pieces,” replied Pokey. "I don’t think I’m gonna need it on this quest anymore.”

War Jenny pitifully fumbled with her cider. She tried to pry the cap off with her hooves, then with her teeth. War Jenny held the bottle out to Pokey and pouted. Poket caught the cap between the ridges of his horn and popped it off. She set the beverage on the table and clopped her hooves happily.

“Jenny and I just met a week or two ago” said Blueprint. “Did you know that she’s the leader of the Kin of Luna?” he asked in amazement. “That means she’s like a princess or something!” Pokey would have raised an eyebrow at her if his face hadn’t hurt so much. She smiled and held out her hooves.

“Thaaat’s me!” she said. She nearly spilled her cider. “Got elected a few years ago on a platform of aggressive expansion and wealth acclamation.” She steadied her drink. “I’m War Jenny now, and I’m fierce.” She growled playfully. “Grrr.”

“How’d you two meet?” asked Blueprint as he floated another cider to the table.

“She's the sister I never had," replied Pokey. “Well aside from my the sister I do have. Trixie and I used to run around causing trouble. War Jenny here joined up with our band of vagabonds when we rescued her from a lizard.”

“It was draaaaagon,” sang War Jenny. “You never tell the story right. I was trying to sneak into a dragon’s horde to steal some of his gems. You know the old rhyme. ‘Kin of Luna, always rich, never home. To keep our wealth we always roam.’” She hiccupped, and giggled at her rendition of the children's rhyme.

“When the dragon woke up, she nearly got eaten,” continued Pokey. “Luckily, Trixie and I happened to be exploring the same cave. We managed to save her, and get away with half his loot.”

“We didn’t get any treasure from that,” protested War Jenny. “Pity too, he had some great stuff. All you got was a scorched flank out of the deal. I at least got some new family.” She smiled happily, and put her arm around Pokey. She looked into his eyes. Her face drained from happily intoxicated to sadly serious. “Hey, Blueprint, I gotta talk to Pokey for a bit. We’re gonna go outside.”

“Whatever,” saluted Blueprint. “Hey, if you want your armor fixed, bring it here. I can fix anything.” Pokey regarded the drunken unicorn with a skeptical eye.

“You think he’s up to the task?” Pokey asked. War Jenny shrugged.

“I dunno,” she said seriously. “He fixed a bunch of toasters, and he did design a blast proof apron for the miners. I’d say he’s good for it.” Pokey dropped his saddle bags. The ruined armor spilled from them. Blueprint looked over the scales in amazement.

“You weren’t kidding,” he said. The unicorn looked at his bottle of cider. “I’ve had way too much to work on this tonight, but give me a day or two and I’ll have it back to you.” Pokey shrugged.

“I almost don’t care anymore.”

Pokey escorted War Jenny past the broken door and out into the clear spring night. They walked quietly for a while. They wandered up the hill, and along sandy banks of the reservoir. Waves lapped quietly on the shore as the two walked at the water’s edge. Jenny finally broke the silence.

“I thought you had retired from this sort of thing,” said Jenny.

“I did,” replied Pokey. “I was perfectly happy in Ponyville. I had a nice quiet life as a chef, a small house in the middle of town, a cat who hates me. I had it pretty good.”

“I thought you never wanted that kind of life," said Jenny. "Some mare got you tied down?"

“No,” he replied. There was a hint of sadness in that statement. He sat on the sandy banks. “Had a thing for one, but she never really felt the same way.” Jenny sat down beside him and looked up at the moon.

“I know how you feel,” she said. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too,” replied Pokey.

“I’m sorry about your friend.” Jenny put her head on his shoulder. “Why was she with you anyway? She didn’t seem to have that spirit of adventure. She seemed more like a housewife.” Pokey sighed miserably and slid down into the sand.

“I was in line at the post office when one of Celestia’s minions grabbed us,” said Pokey. “Rather than trying to find the ponies he was supposed to, he dragged us to out to the forest. Celestia gave us the task instead. Medley protested the most, but when Celestia mention a reward, her eyes lit up.” He held out his hooves in defeat. “And here we are.”

“That doesn’t seem like a great way to hand out quests,” said War Jenny. “I’m sure if I started doing that, there’d be a full scale revolt on my hooves.”

“Kin of Luna don’t have post offices,” said Pokey. “Plus you’re not some power-mad goddess autocrat who orders her subjects around. I can’t imagine anyone else doing that.” He put his head down his hooves. “And because she chose poorly, a mother of two is dying. It’s mostly my fault. I couldn’t protect her, and I walked out of there alive.”

“I dragged you out of that cave,” corrected War Jenny. “The girl too. I’m amazed either one of you is alive. Luna was looking out for you.”

“You know I don’t believe in her anymore,” said Pokey. “I don’t even believe in Celestia anymore.” War Jenny stroked Pokey’s mane, and wrapped her arms around him.

“It’s a hard thing to lose your faith,” she said.

“It’s kind of freeing,” replied Pokey. “Beholden to no gods, and no ponies, the errant samurai chef take his life into his own hooves with renewed vision and clarity.” He rolled onto his back, and stared up at the stars. “Has that epic tragedy feel to it, you know?”

“It’s pretty hard to deny a goddess when you’ve met her,” said Jenny. “It’s harder still to deny some pony when they’re staring you in the face and giving you orders.”

“I’m done with that,” said Pokey. “Celestia can find her own damn rocks.”

“You don’t mean that,” chided Jenny. “You didn’t go out on this quest because she told you to. You went out because you wanted one last hurrah.”

“And look what I’ve lost because of it,” said Pokey, rolling back toward her. “I’ve lost an heirloom. I’ve lost what little faith I had in Celestia. I lost a friend.” He put his head back down in the sand. “Worst of all, Jenny, I broke a promise. Ponies don’t break promises.”

“You didn’t break anything,” said Jenny. “That creature never laid a paw on her.” Pokey raised his head, and stared at her questioningly. “I could hear you yelling through the land slide. We all could. The fact that you killed that thing is a testament to your devotion to a promise. I can’t think of another pony that could have come close to doing what you did.”

“Fat lot of good it did Medley,” he grumbled. Jenny stroked his mane again.

“Have you tried praying to her?” she asked. “She always listens.”

“Why would she listen to me?” asked Pokey. “I’m just a traitor to my faith. I stopped praying to her and starting praying to her sister. I can’t even pray to Celestia anymore. I have nothing but hate in my heart for her. There are no prayers for those without faith.” War Jenny picked up Pokey’s head and guided him to his feet. She held his hooves and looked up into his soulful yellow eyes.

“Pray for your friend then,” she said. “Have faith in the goddess that you were once proud to call your own.” The moon shone upon them, and silhouetted the ponies on the beach front. Pokey lowered his head, and prayed with War Jenny.

He barely remembered the words anymore. His thoughts fumbled before he found his prayers again. Not the mindless daily mantra of normal prayer, but the true begging for answers. He prayed for forgiveness. He prayed for strength. He prayed for a reason to keep going.

He found himself praying for Medley. Praying that she would someday recover. Praying that she would be able to go home to her children and her husband. Praying that she’d be able to be happy again. Praying that she would be able to teach her children to fly. He prayed to the moon for a miracle.

What he got was a goddess standing before him.

The moon goddess Luna walked across the water toward the praying ponies. Pokey saw her first, and dropped into a reverent bow. War Jenny did the same; the equines humbled themselves before the alicorn. Her blue hair drifted lazily behind her purple coat, almost covering her midnight blue flanks. A moon graced her flank as it graced the sky; serene and touching. She dipped her head to the bowing ponies.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve heard such sincere prayer,” she said, softly. “I heard you both praying for some pony else; some pony who can’t pray for herself.” She turned to Jenny. “My dear Jenny, your kin have always been faithful to me, even when I was not myself.” War Jenny only nodded, daring not to speak in the presence of her goddess. “And you, Pokey.” The unicorn barely looked up. “You used to have such faith in me. I know you still do, even if you barely know it yourself.” Luna’s eyes drifted out into the city, seemingly to search for something. She turned back to Pokey.

“I know how you’re feeling,” she said. “Defeated, confused, angry. I’ve felt all this towards her too. Please don’t hate her. She has her reasons for what she does, I promise you. And she has her reasons for sending you.” She approached the two equines, and gently brought them to their feet.

“Never lose faith,” Luna said quietly. “Though you’re kin of the night, the sun and moon both need your love. Without one, there isn’t the other.” Luna embraced them both. “Even if my sister doesn’t always show it, she loves you all. Remember our promise to equines everywhere. Even when the clouds cover the sky, the sun and moon will always watch over you.” Luna kissed them both on their cheeks. She let Pokey and Jenny go and disappeared into the moonlight.

“I told you she listened,” said War Jenny. Pokey stood dumbstruck. “Are you ready to believe again?”

...
Cheerilee stood at the bar table, a straw in her glass of white wine. There were three others beside it, each long since emptied. She stared out into the town's celebration, and found herself missing the past. Life was simple when she was a young teacher. She was out on the town every other night just enjoying being a pony. Somewhere along the line she had become an adult. She tried playing a few of her favorite old records on the jukebox, but found no comfort in “Ponies Without Hats.” She stared at the table and wondered where things at gone so wrong.

She felt guilty for walking out of that battle with barely a scratch to her name. Redheart was going to have a nasty scar. Pokey probably wouldn’t feel right for months. And Medley; poor, sweet Medley. How was she going to break the news to Snow Catcher and her fillies? She spent so much time trying to bring cheer into the world, she could barely stand to see someone hurt.

“Am I so shallow I can only handle joy?” she asked herself. Her head slumped onto the table. “Obviously not, or I wouldn’t be standing here feeling guilty.”

“It’s called survivor's guilt,” said Dr. Castor. He walked up to her table, and stood next to Cheerilee. “A twister rips through your town, leavin’ every pony homeless but you. You feel guilty because your home wasn’t torn to pieces too. You feel like other are judgin’ you because nothin’ bad happened.” He waved a hoof at the waiter, who disappeared into the kitchen. “No one’s judgin’ you, doll. You were an important part of that rescue. Just ‘cause you weren’t punchin’ in heads doesn’t mean you weren’t part of the fight.”

“It should have been me instead of Medley,” Cheerilee said. “I should have been down there. Earth ponies are tougher stuff than pegasi. I could have taken that hit.”

“Darling, no pony could have lived through what happened to her,” said Dr. Castor. “Maybe the biggest, meanest stallion around could have left there a cripple, but don’t think for a minute that you could have survived that.”

“That doesn’t make me feel much better,” said Cheerilee.

“Well then what will?” asked Dr. Castor. “Clearly not four glasses a’ wine.” Cheerilee glared at the donkey. Her frown fell into a defeated sigh and she slumped to a sit.

“I don’t know anymore,” said Cheerilee. “I thought this was going to be fun and exciting. A break from the normal routine, you know?” She rolled the straw around in her glass. “Sure I protested at first, but once we got on the road, I felt like a kid again. Then there was that fight with the manticore, and now this...” She sighed, her candy striped mane fell in her eyes. “When did Equestria become so dangerous? Everything used to be all candy hearts and tea parties. Now it’s nothing but danger and terror. I can’t imagine taking my eyes off the kids for more than a minute these days.” She looked up at Dr. Castor. “What do you think?”

“I’ve got a few years on you, so let me tell you a story” said Dr. Castor. “You ever hear of the Kin a’ Luna Rebellion?”

“Of course,” said Cheerilee. “I mean, it was more of a skirmish than an all out war, but it’s still important history in this part of Equestria.”

“I was just a young medic back then...”

“Wow, you are old,” blurted Cheerilee. She put a hoof to her mouth, her mulberry cheeks became a bright fuchsia. “Oh my goddess, I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay. I’m old, I know it,” said Dr. Castor. “Anyway, the point is, the world was dangerous back then too. I woke up in a pile of ponies that the Kin a’ Luna had left for dead. I somehow survived where the others didn’t. I felt guilty about it for years till I began to understand that I was still standin’ for a reason. You are too, doll, even if you don’t know it yet.” Cheerilee looked up at the donkey.

“You really think so?” she asked.

“I know it,” he said. The waiter to whom he had waved earlier dropped a paper bag on the table. “Thanks, mate. Put it on my tab.” He picked up the paper bag in his teeth. “That about does it for lunch. You going to be okay?”

“I’ll be fine,” said Cheerilee. “You keep saving the world.”

“You too, dear,” replied Dr. Castor. “Don’t lose faith, love. She’s always watching out for you.” Dr. Castor trotted out the door, leaving Cheerilee to ponder his words. She picked her head off the table.

“Check please.”

...
Redheart tearfully went through Medley’s chart as she searched for any prayer of hope. Not a single figure on it pointed to anything but disheartening news. She kept her glasses on as she tried to hide her tears behind a facade of professionalism. Brolly came in and offered her a glass of warm tea.

“How are you holding up?” he asked. Redheart took the glass and set it on the table.

“You know how it is with these terminal cases,” she sniffed. “Always looking for that one spark of hope; that sign that everything is going to be alright.” She looked down at her charts again and tossed them to the side. “At my age, I expect ponies to start dropping because of poor lifestyle choices and not enough exercise. At her age, who expects this? Her biggest concern should be that foal of hers.”

“It’s tough,” said Brolly. “You lose patients; it’s part of the business. You get used to it. You harden your heart; fill it with black humor so you don’t break down crying at the end of the day.” He turned to Redheart. “Not you though. You took nursing to an art form, and made yourself feel every single patient that passed through your hooves. You were so incredible in school, we all thought you were going to shoot to the top and never come back down.” He put an arm around her. “You traveled the world, spreading your love and care to any pony who needed it, and then you settled down in Ponyville.” Brolly sighed. “What happened?” he asked. “We set out to save the world and now look at us. Two old nurses watching ponies fall through our hooves.”

“I’m sure you’ve done more good than you can imagine,” said Redheart. “Think about all the patients that come through here. All those ponies with broken bones you’ve taught to walk again. All the newborn foals that have left, happy and healthy, their whole lives ahead of them. Think about the fillies you’ve saved, and the colts you turned away from bad lifestyles.” She put a hoof on his shoulder. “We’re only two ponies. Maybe we can’t save the world, but we can make it better.” Brolly nodded thoughtfully.

“You always were too smart to be a nurse,” said Brolly. “But thank Celestia you are.” He left Redheart to her vigil. She lay down on the couch to rest her eyes.

Despite the comfortable couch in Medley’s room, Redheart slept poorly. Her shoulder bothered her, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that some pony else was here with her. She slowly opened her eyes to see a large, purple pegasus standing over Medley. Redheart snapped awake, and onto her feet.

“GET AWAY FROM HER!” she screamed. The Pegasus turned her head to reveal a long and elegant horn. Redheart balked as she realized that she stood in the presence of a goddess. She recoiled in terror, and threw herself to the floor. Luna leaned down to speak to Redheart.

“It’s not her time yet,” she whispered. “I didn't know the prophecy had changed. She wasn’t the one who was supposed to do this. I’m so sorry for what’s happened.” Luna stood again, and gently kissed Medley’s peaceful face. A cold glow filled the room. The machines spun into a frenzy; bells and alarms chimed in every configuration. Paper spewed from the heart monitor; the pen bounced like an earthquake. Glass vials of fluid shattered as the room exploded in light. Redheart shielded her eyes from the divine wrath; intense heat rushed through her.

Brolly was at the nurses’ station filling out paperwork when he heard a scream coming from the hall. He tossed down his papers and galloped for the door. The door burst open, to fill the hallway with a pale blue light. Brolly dodged past the swinging door and into the room.

Redheart lay on the floor; the couch had flipped on top of her. Brolly kicked the couch off, and bent down to help her to her feet. Redheart ran to Medley’s side and tried to gauge what happened.

The pegasus slowly opened her sea blue eyes to see Redheart and another pegasus standing over her. She tried to speak, but found no words. Her eyes scanned up to the ceiling, then the walls. This wasn’t the last thing she remembered. Where was this? She tried to roll to her feet.

“No, no!” admonished Redheart. “Try not to move too much, dear. Here, let me.”

“What happened?” she gasped, looking at the destroyed hospital room. “Where am I?”

Cheerilee trotted though the tiled floor of the extended care wing. She carried flowers in her mouth; something beautiful to balance the misery of ruined life. She took a deep breath and opened the door to Medley’s room. Cheerilee dropped her flowers in shock.

Redheart was wrapped in a hug with Medley, who sat awake and confused. Cheerilee sputtered trying to come up with words.

“It’s a miracle,” she whispered.

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