• Published 8th Feb 2014
  • 1,467 Views, 63 Comments

Brothers and Sisters - Alphacat



To find a missing Princess Luna, Private Lucky Break, batpony soldier of the Night Guard, must breach the gulf of a thousand years of guilt to repair an all-too familiar bond between siblings.

  • ...
2
 63
 1,467

Chapter 3

Canterlot

A long time ago, the Moon kept watch over Equestria’s night, while her sister, the Sun, protected the day. But the Moon was lonely, for though her night sky was full of stars, she had nopony to share them with. The Sun had created ponies to live on the earth below, but they slept through the beautiful night, preferring the brighter day.

If my sister has made ponies to bask in her days, thought the Moon, perhaps I could as well. And so the Moon descended from the heavens, taking the form of a pony. She wrapped herself in a coat made from the midnight sky, plucking stars to glitter in her mane.

She made her children in the image of her sister's ponies, weaving them forms from shadow and eyes from starlight. They lived peacefully together, revelling in the night.

But her children frightened the dayponies, who called out to the Sun. The Sun came down, a pony clad in blinding white, and confronted her sister. She accused the Moon of forging monsters that threatened her ponies. The Moon denied this, refusing to unmake her creations. The sisters fought, and the Sun prevailed, banishing the Moon back to the night sky. The Moon’s children were driven far away, to a land of frozen ice and snow where no one else dared venture.

And there they stayed, huddled close in the cold, watching the skies. Waiting for the day their mother would return to them…

… or so the stories went. It was one of several tales the Nycta had told amongst themselves for generations to strengthen their communal bonds. They were more than just an embattled people struggling for survival: they were brothers and sisters all, waiting for the return of their creator.

And then she had come back—as Nightmare Moon, no less. An unease had gripped the community as ponies petitioned Luna for answers, protested against Celestia, and reconsidered their worldviews.

But both Celestia and Luna had kept silent on the issue, and even though the initial burst of curiosity had settled, there was still a deep, simmering impatience for answers.

Many had turned to the Ascension of the Silver Moon seeking those answers.

Lucky still attended services when he could, but the question of whether or not Luna was their Mother Moon had long been settled in his mind. Others, like Comet, were still trying to find an answer that suited them. They tended to dance around the topic when it came up.

“Presenting The Reverend Snow Wing, Father of the Ascension of the Silver Moon, and his associates!”

A nyctan pegasus stepped through the door. He was old but sturdy, and he walked at a steady, deliberate pace. He was flanked by two ponies who kept half a step behind him. All three wore simple white linen robes, but Snow Wing’s was hemmed in silver. All three approached the podium and as one they bowed, their chins almost touching the ground.

“Rise,” said Luna. “Thou hast demonstrated the proper respect.”

“Your Highness,” said Snow Wing as he rose. “It is truly an honor to be in your presence.”

"We will not be flattered by mere words. State your business."

"Of course. During your exile, we have carried out your charge, doing our best to protect your night sky, and holding vigil in anticipation of your glorious return—"

"We were not merely exiled, Snow Wing. We were banished, and rightly so. Thou would do well to remember this."

Snow Wing bowed his head humbly. "Of course, Your Majesty. I merely meant to say that many of us are excited that you have returned to us, to guide us once more."

"We guide all of Equestria's subjects," said Luna sharply. "Not merely yourself and your brethren."

"I did not mean to suggest otherwise,” said Snow Wing with a quick bob of his head. “Nonetheless, we hope for your long and prosperous rule.”

Luna’s gaze was hard and unyielding as she continued to analyze the pegasus. “Proceed.”

“As you wish, Princess.” Snow Wing gestured to his assistants, who brought forward a large cart, covered with a large sheet, and a smaller cart, with several smaller bundles in it. He tugged the sheet off, revealing several bushels of apples, all a deep, rich purple.

“Our first gift to you, to commemorate your return, is a selection of our finest produce, reminders that even in the harshest of conditions life can still bloom.”

Luna reached out with her magic to pluck an apple from the basket, taking a small bite. She studied the apple as she turned the bite over on her tongue before finally swallowing it. “This apple hath a texture most pleasing, and a sweetness, yet there is a most unusual tartness to it.”

“Yes, Your Highness. It was once an unavoidable side-effect of adopting the the crop to its environment, but now stands as part of its uniqueness. A reminder,” added Snow Wing with a quiet smile, “that even imperfections can contribute to the beauty of a whole.”

Luna passed the rest of the apple to her assistant. “Be all of your produce so allegorical in nature?”

“Everything in life has something to teach us, Your Highness, if one is willing to keep an open mind. But to answer your question, no, not all of our lessons involve fruit.”

“Very well. We are quite certain the royal chefs will appreciate the chance to work with such a unique ingredient. Continue.”

Snow Wing bowed. “Of course.” One of the assistants removed a bundle from the second cart and carefully unwrapped it.

Underneath sat a small statue of Princess Luna, carved from shining silver. The statue’s wings were spread wide, and the statue gazed upward with two sapphire eyes, as if observing the princess’ indoor sky. The statue’s mane and tail were made from layers of fine gauze, embedded with a rainbow of small, precisely cut stones.

Luna descended from her throne to examine the statuette, gingerly lifting it in her magic to examine the details. “The craftspony who did create this piece hath a most remarkable eye for detail.” Her eyes narrowed as they traced over the outstretched wings. “Too fine an eye. Every feather upon this statuette is also upon Our royal wings. How come this to pass?”

Snow Wing’s expression drew reserved, and he paused to consider his words before speaking. “I cannot rightly say, Your Highness, except to remark that the silversmith who crafted this gift has an aptitude for fine details. Perhaps he saw a photograph or an old painting and recreated it from that?”

“We find this proposition doubtful.”

“I’m sorry, Your Highness.” Snow Wing bowed his head. “I did not think to ask too deeply into his process.”

Luna set the statuette down and turned towards the last bundle. “You would do well to remember that We do not condone idolatry. ‘Tis one of scarce few things that have not changed during Our exile.”

“Of course not,” said Snow Wing quickly, “and that is absolutely not the case. But can you fault any artisan for being drawn to such a fascinating subject as an alicorn, especially one with such a storied history?”

“A storied history? Quite.” Luna’s feathers rippled as she slowly stalked around the cart, circling the last package. It was a thick, rectangular slab, but the cloth hid any clues to its identity. “We are not completely ignorant of the tales of thy people. Tell Us, Snow Wing, how much faith dost thou place in these stories of thy beloved Mother Moon?”

Snow Wing shuffled his hooves as he took a calming breath. “The stories may not be literally true, Your Highness, but many have their roots in knowledge passed down from our ancestors, and serve as useful guides regardless.”

“So thou dost admit the stories are falsehoods?”

“I prefer to think of them as incomplete, Princess. Many of them do seem to have kernels of truth.”

Luna stopped in front of the cart again, still watching the last package. “And with a kernel of truth one may conjure any tale they wish.”

“I suppose there may be truth to that, but should you also not consider the character and the motives of those telling the tale?”

“Long have We considered the farce constructed from Our legacy, Snow Wing. But come now, present thy last gift.”

Snow Wing bowed his head. “With all due respect, Your Highness, I fear I have taken up too much of your time already. I wouldn’t want to overstay my welcome.”

“But thou hast traveled such a long way, Father. Whatever thou didst deem worthy of delivering over such a distance must be of some import. Moreso if, of these three gifts, it is both the smallest and the last.”

Lucky couldn’t see the last package from where he stood, but as he watched the pastor slowly turn to his associates, he couldn’t push out of his mind an itchy unease that had crept under his coat.

“Very well, Your Highness,” said Snow Wing, gesturing to his second assistant. The unicorn levitated the last bundle up into the air, slowly pulling away the sheet to reveal a thick, wood-bound tome, inscribed with the image of a silver crescent moon.

“Our book of stories,” started Snow Wing, “encompassing all of the lessons given to us—”

“Pray tell, Snow Wing. Who did give thee these lessons?”

Snow Wing bowed his head. “Our beloved Mother Moon, Princess.”

Luna settled back into her throne, looking down upon the priest. “A made—up mare.”

“A pity, then, that you and she were not one and the same.”

The princess nickered softly. “Thou has read a story too many, We think. After a thousand years your people remember nothing.”

“Then tell us, Princess.” Snow Wing turned from the cart and approached the podium again. “You and your sister have said so little about the events of a thousand years ago, yet our stories, the tale of the Mare in the Moon, and the few available historical records match up too well to be a coincidence. We just want to understand. You are just as our legends describe her, a maiden with a coat the color of midnight and a star-filled mane—”

“That is a lie!” Luna leaned forward, lips curled in disgust. “Thou worship’st naught but a foal’s bedtime tale. ‘Tis a fabrication! We shall not be made the object of thy adulation.”

Snow Wing bowed his head, just barely keeping his expression neutral. “If that will be your final answer, I will trouble you no more tonight, Princess. But I wonder, if our lies will not serve your ends, why you will not share the truth with us.” He slowly backed away from the podium and turned, his steps heavier and slower than when he entered. His assistants quickly bowed and followed him out.

The court attendants quickly ushered the carts into Luna’s private storage room, and the whispering of the audience quickly slipped into the silence left in the hall.

Luna’s attendant quietly cleared his throat. “Shall I—”

“Clear the hall.”

“I’m sorry? I don’t understand.”

“Is Our meaning not clear?” Luna gestured towards the court. “Remove these ponies from Our sight. We will see no more business this night.”

The attendant quickly bowed. “With all due respect, Your Highness, there are still a number of—”

“We care naught. Guards, clear the hall.” With a flicker of Luna’s horn, the canopy of stars collapsed, and Luna stormed to her office, the ringing of her hooves slamming against the marble filling the stunned silence.

Lucky and Comet exchanged a glance, and quickly descended down the steps, helping the other guards usher the watchers from the hall. The hall quickly emptied out, save for the guards and a smattering of castle staff.

Lily slipped into the room from the lobby, letting in a brief jumble of confused voices. “What in the name of Tartarus happened in here?”

“I think something Snow Wing said hit a nerve,” offered Lucky.

Comet only offered a noncommittal shrug.

“Great.” Lily massaged the bridge of her nose. “This is just what I need. Now I’ve got a whole lobby filled with some very confused and very upset ponies. You two—” she pointed to Lucky and Comet, “—are still on guard duty. Everyone else, with me! I want that crowd dispersed before someone starts stampeding.”

The rest of the guards left, and Lucky and Comet took up watch on either side of Luna’s office door.

* * * * * * *

Without any ponies to give the Night Court some semblance of life, its decor left it dreary and stifling. Lucky had been staring at the empty hall for half an hour now, only this time without the prospect of listening to solicitors to break up the monotony. The castle staff had long left, with the last being Luna’s aide, who had rushed unceremoniously away some time ago.

He gave his wings a slow flap, working out the joints one by one. “I don’t hear anything outside. I think they finally got everypony out.”

“Mmm. Probably. Lily’s good at clearing out a crowd.”

Lucky glanced over to Comet, who was staring pensively out one of the hall’s windows. “Something on your mind?”

Comet shrugged. “Stuff.”

“Yeah? Any stuff in particular.”

“I don’t feel like getting into it.”

“Fair enough.” Lucky lifted a foreleg and rolled the hoof around. “For what it’s worth, I thought she was Mother Moon at first, too.”

Letting out a long, slow sigh, Comet turned to Lucky. “Thanks. I guess tonight kind of cinches it, huh?”

“Kinda, yeah.”

“It’s just… The stories, you know? I mean, I know a lot of them are probably a little made up, but… It just matches up too well, you know?”

“No, I hear ya. I thought the same thing all of us were thinking. But then I saw how the Princess acted, and figured I was better off separating the two.”

“That’s all fine and good, but…” Comet ducked his head briefly to adjust a strap on his armor. “Where does that leave us? Mother Moon is the backbone of everything we learned as foals. If she’s not real…”

“Even if Luna isn’t Mother Moon, everything our ancestors did and passed down still matters, right? We watch out for clan and kin, just like we’ve always done.”

“I guess you’ve got a point, there.”

They both stood watch over the empty court a few moments longer before Comet spoke up again.

“Hey, Lucky, do you think—”

An anguished scream cut him off, followed by the creaking of wood. Both pegasi turned towards each other and then the office door.

“She could be in danger,” said Lucky.

“Mother Moon or not, what could bother an alicorn?”

Lucky was already rapping gently on the door. “She managed to foalnap Celestia. ‘Sides, we gotta be sure. Princess Luna? Are you okay in there?”

There was no answer except the splintering of wood.


“Princess? We’re coming in!” Lucky pushed the door open and peered around it into the office.

At one side sat an oaken desk. It was bare, with all of its contents swept onto the floor. Aside from a few chairs, there was nothing else in the room save another door across from the first. Lucky slipped in, quickly followed by Comet, and together they approached the second door.

Lucky raised a hoof to the door, when a faint tingle tickled at his forehead. He dropped to the floor just as a blade crashed through the door into the empty space his head had just occupied, showering him with splinters.

“Moon and stars!” Comet threw himself to one side of the door as Lucky scuttled to the other. “Lucky, you okay?”

Lucky flapped his wings, blowing the door shards off of himself. “Still breathing. I’m gonna look.”

Comet nodded his agreement, and both pairs of wings primed themselves for action as Lucky reached up and cracked open the door.

The storage room was in shambles. Shelves were overturned and sundered, and various broken knick knacks and curios littered the floor. Luna was in mid-rear, and as Lucky watched her hooves came crashing down to the ground, shattering a small pot. Lucky drew back as a shard flew out the door and loosely shut it again.

“Okay, unless she’s fighting an invisible gryphon or something, she’s just trashing the place.”

“Well, it’s all her stuff. It’s not like we have any right to stop her.”

“Yeah, but I’m worried what happens when she runs out of stuff to smash. Go find Lily. I think we need to get Celestia in here pronto.”

Comet shook his head. “And what, you’re going to stay here?”

“Well, you could stay here with an angry alicorn while I go get help. Either way I don’t think leaving her alone is a good idea.”

“Fine. Just try not to do anything stupid until I get back.” Comet leapt into the air, wings flapping furiously as he streaked into the hall.

“I’m reckless, not suicidal,” muttered Lucky as he backed away from the storage room’s door. The crashing sounds slowly subsided, and Lucky chanced another peek in.

Luna stood in the middle of the ravaged room, the silver statuette held in two pieces within her magical grasp. Her eyes were wide and wild, her breath coming in quick gulps.

“F-fool,” she muttered. “Ignorant, prideful fool. What didst thou expect a thousand years hence? To be welcomed with open arms? Those who do not fear thee worship thee as… as a savior. A messiah. Fools, all. Those who fear thee have the right of it.”

Luna dropped the body of the statuette and lifted the head up to meet its now one-eyed gaze. “Thou art naught but a monster most foul and despicable, unworthy of the adulation thou once didst seek.”

The door creaked, and Luna’s attention snapped towards it. “Who goes there?”

Lucky stepped out from behind the door frame, raising a hoof in salute. “It’s just me, Your Highness. I heard the racket, and thought I’d check to see that you were okay.”

Luna’s eyes narrowed as she studied the guard. “How much of this… ‘racket’ didst thou hear?”

“Well, there was all the crashing and banging… and the stuff that came after that.”

“Thou admit’st thou did eavesdrop on Our royal person!”

“I didn’t mean to, Princess. Look, it’s none of my business, but you should—”

Luna flung the statuette’s head aside, where it embedded itself into a stone wall. “We should what, pray tell? Thou would presume’st to lecture a Princess?”

Lucky’s eyes tracked the magically propelled statue head but quickly returned to Luna. “Princess or not, I know a pony in pain when I see one.”

“Thou art the selfsame stallion that did defy Our will this night past, is it not so?” Magic flared up the length of Luna’s horn, and the shrapnel around her hooves began to shift and rattle over the floor. “And now We find thy meddlesome presence in Our affairs once more. We had ways of dealing with disobedient currs such as thyself in Our time.”

Lucky quickly backpedaled into the office. “I’m only trying to help, Princess.”

“Thou art naught but a mere child!” The shreds and splinters at Luna’s hooves rose into a furiously swirling storm, circling the alicorn in an ever faster whirl of motion. “We need no succor from one such as thee.”

“It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help, Princess.” Lucky kept edging back towards the hall.

“Silence!”

A bookshelf groaned in protest as it was suddenly wrenched into the air. Books and trinkets spilled from the few unbroken shelves, and Lucky tensed his wings, gauging the distance to the door in the back of his mind.

A clear voice rang through the small room. “Luna!”

Lucky looked over his shoulder to see Celestia standing in the office’s doorway, without her golden regalia. Her normal mask was stripped away, naked worry worn on her face. Lily and Comet stood behind and to either side, both turning alert as soon as they saw the stack of shelves hovering in the air.

Celestia stepped around Lucky, navigating the wreckage on the floor. “Luna, dear, we should talk.”

Luna casually discarded the shelves, throwing them aside without a look. “I do not need to talk, Sister. I will be taking in the night air. I do not wish to be followed.”

“Luna, clearly something is troubling you. Why don’t I draw up a nice pot of tea and we can talk?” Celestia searched Luna’s face, but the younger alicorn turned her head away.

“I will be taking in the night air. Please stand thee aside.”

“Luna—”

“Stand aside!” scowled Luna, her eyes flashing.

Celestia slowly shuffled to the side, bowing her head. “As you wish. But my door is always open to you.”

Luna pushed past Celestia and the guards. Once she was in the court proper she broke into a gallop. She leapt into the air and melted through the window, her body turning black and immaterial until she was on the other side. Luna flew off into the night sky, quickly vanishing from sight.

Letting out a tired sigh that sagged her shoulders, Celestia turned to face Lucky. “Are you injured?”

Lucky stopped brushing off his coat and snapped to attention. “No, ma’am. Just a little dusty.”

Celestia gave him a pained smile. “I’m glad you are unhurt, then.” She turned to the window Luna had leapt through. “I can count on you three to be discreet, correct?”

All three soldiers saluted. “Yes, ma’am!”

“Good. You are all dismissed.”

Lily and Comet headed towards the court’s entrance. Lucky stepped up to Celestia, who was staring at the window with the same faraway look he had seen earlier that night.

“Princess—”

“Private!” called Lily. “Get it in gear!”

Lucky waited. Celestia didn’t react to his presence, and finally he turned and headed for the door.


Manehattan

Lucky set down on a cloud and took in the view. He rarely traveled this far into Manehattan, but it wasn’t hard to mistake his destination.

Manehattan Academy lay before him. The campus was large and sprawling, with its buildings and fields spreading out over an entire city block. The school had multiple wings, providing continuing education for those students who would not leave for a more specialized institution. For a city where space was at a premium, its expanse said much to the wealth of its benefactors.

Students and parents congregated in the school’s main courtyard. Lucky’s hooves clenched at his perch as he watched; even from up here he could see all of the ponies dressed in either upscale clothing or the school’s uniform, and in moments he would have to go among them and put on a show of being respectable. Their respectable, not mine. Mine’s not good enough for them.

The uniform was just another form of constraint. The shirt and jacket tugged on his forelegs with every movement, and the tie felt too tight around his neck, no matter how often he adjusted it. The only solace he had was that his wings were unencumbered by his uniform, but without total body freedom it hardly seemed to matter.

The cloud bobbed slightly. He glanced to the side and then kept watching the crowds. “Hey. Took you long enough.”

“You fly a lot faster than I do, Lucky,” said Slip.

“Remember to wait up for your brother tomorrow, okay Lucky?” said Gale as she touched down.

Lucky rolled his eyes. “Yeah, Mom. I know. But you were flying with him. And I needed to stretch my wings. You wouldn’t let me out all morning.”

Gale gave Lucky’s slicked-down mane a pat. “And ruin your nice uniform? You both look handsome, by the way.”

“Thanks, Mom!” piped Slip.

Lucky just grumbled and flapped his wings to lift off the cloud.

“Lucky, wait.”

“I know, Mom. Pick Slip up after school.” Lucky turned in mid-hover to wave. “Bye, Mom. Bye, squirt.”

Lucky dove down towards the crowds below, circling around and making a short landing under the cover of a tree. Just act nonchalant, and nopony will notice you.

Repeating the mantra in his head, Lucky strode from the cover of his tree and into the thick crowd of students milling around. He headed purposefully to the front doors, keeping his gaze firmly ahead. But out of the corner of his eye he could see the heads of parent and child alike turning to watch him pass. Then there were the quiet murmurs: insults thinly veiled with ‘idle’ speculation and overly professed curiosity.

It was always the same.

Lucky was stopped at the entrance by a unicorn wearing a tweed jacket bearing the school’s crest. The teacher looked down the length of his muzzle at the colt, with his head tilted up as if trying to distance his nose from something foul.

“A-hem. I believe you’re in the wrong place, young stallion.”

“No, sir, I’m not.” Lucky pulled out his school schedule and showed it to the teacher. “See?”

The unicorn adjusted his glasses and peered suspiciously at the paper. “I see. So you are the one.”

Lucky put his schedule away. “Believe me, I’m not any happier about this than you are.”

“Pardon me?” The unicorn arched an eyebrow in a strangely menacing fashion.

He forced a smile. “My mother’s told me how prestigious your academy is. I can’t wait for my classes.”

“Hmm. Quite.” The stallion stood aside, and Lucky proceeded onward.

Just act nonchalant, and nopony will bother you.

At least the adults have tact, thought Lucky as he started searching for his first classroom. The students around him were openly pointing at his wings, and despite the cacophony of a crowded hallway he could still hear friends talking to each other about the ‘odd pony’ that now roamed their halls.

Lucky’s vision was suddenly filled with a scowling face. “Hey, get lost, batfreak.”

“Gee, haven’t heard that one before.” Lucky took a step back. “Hate to break it to you, this is my school now too.”

“Not for long,” said Stormcrasher. “And don’t think that just because you conned your way in here—”

“I didn’t con my way anywhere. You can ask the guy at the door.”

Stormcrasher snorted and stepped forward into Lucky’s personal space. “Your type doesn’t belong here, regardless.”

Lucky defiantly stood firm, staring Stormcrasher in the eye. “Look, I know we got off on the wrong hoof at the Guard picnic last year—”

“You humiliated me! You made me a laughingstock in front of everypony!”

“Look, would it help if I apologized? Because I’m sorry about that whole thing. Let’s let bygones be bygones, huh?” Lucky held a hoof up to shake.

The other colt snorted and whipped around. Lucky leaned back, letting Stormcrasher’s tail pass harmlessly by his face. A group of students—his posse, noted Lucky—followed the pegasus away.

Well, thought Lucky. That could’ve gone better. He plodded through the slowly-thinning hall of students.

A short, piebald teacher stepped into his path. “Excuse me, but your shades aren’t part of the dress code.”

“I need them to protect my eyes.” The colt lifted the shades just enough to show his slitted eyes, then slid them back into place. “They’re sensitive to sunlight.”

“Do you have a doctor’s note?”

“A doctor’s note? Why do I need that?”

The teacher cleared his throat and straightened his tie. “My goodness! If we let one student attempt to subvert our dress code, it could disrupt the orderly learning of every filly and colt here. Take those things off this instant and I won’t write you up.”

Lucky let out a deep breath through clenched teeth. “Sir, all nyctan ponies are photosensitive. It’s how we—”

“Not one more word, mister. I’d hate to make my first write-up so soon, but I will.”

“I’ll get a doctor’s note.” Lucky slipped his shades off and packed them safely away in his saddlebags. He squinted and waited for his eyes to adjust to the extra light.

“Very good.” The teacher smiled and started to walk away. “Have a pleasant first day, and I hope you enjoy your time at Manehattan Academy!”

“Oh, I’m sure it will be an experience, sir.” Lucky held the fake smile just long enough for the teacher to walk away, and then let a faint scowl crawl across his face.

In between the passing students, he caught the smug smirk of Stormcrasher. They made eye contact, and the other colt turned and disappeared into a classroom.

Lovely, thought Lucky. Class hasn’t even started and I’ve already made a friend! He checked the room number as he passed and suppressed a groan.

And we even have the same class together! Oh joy.

* * * * * * *

Lucky charged out onto the field. The morning’s classes had been about as dull as he had expected, but P.E. would let him spread his wings and display his skills for everypony to see. Not that he had anything to prove, of course.

He waited patiently through the expected stretching and warm-ups—all very important, of course—and couldn’t suppress a small smile as the students were finally split up and the flight instructor lead them up into the clouds over the field.

Lucky frowned as he looked over the course awaiting them. It was a typical pegasus flight course. A line of cloud rings marked out a simple path to follow, meant to measure basic flight capabilities and control. The rings continued and wrapped around a thermal in the middle of the course to test ascension and descension control. Finally, after exiting the thermal at the low point, there was a slalom underneath a series of gently raining clouds.

The pegasus colt craned his head around, but there was nothing but empty sky and clouds.

“Lucky Break! Let’s see what you can do.”

Lucky faced forward, flying over to the teacher, a stout pegasus mare. “On that obstacle course?”

“Yeah. Get your flank in gear.”

“Do you think we could tighten up some of the turns, or something?”

The teacher shook her head. “Listen, kid, I know you’re probably used to doing things differently, but I’ve got guidelines I have to follow.”

“I guess.” Lucky took his place on the starting cloud, pulling his tinted goggles into place. Well, if it isn’t challenging, I might as well have some fun with it.

The whistle sounded out, and Lucky took off, flapping his wings furiously. He dove to gain speed, then pulled up sharply, grinning as he felt the pull of the wind against his wings, flowing around his body and through his legs. The first ring shot past and he banked left, turning almost vertical and forcing himself ‘down’ as he skimmed the inside of the rings. He tapped the inside of each ring with a hoof, pantomiming a sideways gallop across the side of the ring tunnel.

The rings banked left and he let himself travel forward, aiming outside of the turn. With a quick twist he inverted, turning his body below the horizontal plane. Lucky let out a loud whoop as the world spun wildly around him. Now turned to the right, he slithered around the outside of the next ring, diving across the course’s turn to skirt the inside of the next ring in the sequence.

He danced around the edges of the rings until they started to bank right, and slipped back inside, driving hard to whip around the turn. The rings led upwards, the hot updraft of a thermal brushing against his side.

He grinned and dove out of the flight path into the center of the thermal. I’d like to see a daypony do this! A full extension of his wings halted his progress as the thermal pushed against him. The stretchy membranes of his wings filled with hot air and he rocketed upwards, soaring higher until he shot past the topmost ring.

He couldn’t help but smile. With the roar of the wind in his ears, and the wind blowing through his mane and coat, it was almost enough to put everything out of his mind but the flying.

And he owned the sky. The meran pegasi could keep their feathers. They’d never know the sky like he did. His wings were alive, and they could feel every tug and pull of the wind, every subtle variation in the air flowing across the skin. His wingbones let him flex and twist his wings in any way he could imagine, and with a thousand tiny adjustments every moment he could steer the wind in any direction he wanted.

Let them keep their feathers. He’d keep the sky.

He leaned back, watching the ground spread out above him. His body sailed out of the thermal, looping back around towards the topmost ring and diving through, circling around through the chilly downdraft wrapped around the thermal in a tightly controlled but breakneck dive, hitting every ring until he shot out towards the slalom and the last part of the course.

Lucky steered towards the first slalom gate. Rain fell him from above, peppering him with tiny droplets of cold.

The back of his neck crawled. He threw himself to the side just as a single bolt of lightning lanced past his stomach, singeing a single stripe across his belly. He spun out of control, stopping well clear of the clouds hanging over the slalom gates.

Live lightning? Not even my school uses that. Lucky glanced upwards and spotted a mane and wing sticking out over the clouds. Figures. Stormcrasher and his goons.

In the distance a shrill whistle cut through the air, but Lucky pushed it out of mind.

“Alright, Stormcrasher! You wanna do this? I’ll show you why they call me Lucky!”

Lucky dashed forward through the first gate. He swerved wide past a set of lighting bolts, letting them strike at empty air. He flew wide, sweeping around through the second gate at a wide angle, pumping his wings to make up speed.

He streaked through the third gate, a final lightning bolt cutting through the empty space behind him. Lucky shot past the finish line, letting his speed bleed off as he circled back towards the course.

Stormcrasher and his friends were trying to dart away from the still-thundering clouds, but the teacher was already upon them, blowing her whistle.

“You lot! Detention, all of you!”

“It was just a little harmless prank,” said Stormcrasher. “I didn’t think he’d be crazy enough to try and fly through that!”

“I don’t care. I will not have you endangering other students. Now get to the ground. You’re sitting class out today.”

The colts started to descend. Lucky flew over them and paused.

“Hey, Stormcrasher!”

Stormcrasher stopped, glaring up at the other pegasus.

“Just so you know? I got my cutie mark for flying in a thunderstorm. Thanks for the practice!” Lucky slapped his cutie mark for emphasis.

“Why you—” Stormcrasher started to ascend, but another colt pulled him back, and lead him back to the ground.

The teacher turned to Lucky. “As for you. I expect you to put your safety above your desire for hotdogging next time. Your life is worth more than your reputation. If you pull a stunt like that again I’ll give you detention too. Are we clear?”

Lucky rubbed at the back of his neck. “Heh. Right, of course. I understand.”

“Good. And next time I expect you to fly the course as intended so I can get an accurate assessment of your skills. Nice moves, though. I’ll see what we can do about challenging you more. Get with the rest of the class.”

Lucky sat down on the edge of the cloud platform where the class was waiting, and frowned as he examined his stomach. He ran a hoof through his coat, and several black flakes broke free. Needs a little snip, but not too bad. Could’ve been worse.

“Was what you said really true?” asked a soft voice.

Lucky didn’t look up. He kept brushing away charred pieces of fur. “Was what true?”

“About getting your cutie mark in a thunderstorm?”

He looked up. Standing well out of hoof’s reach was a filly with a soft red mane. She regarded him with curious green eyes, and smiled warmly when Lucky looked her way.

Lucky shrugged and went back to picking at his fur. “Yeah, it’s true.”

The filly took a step forward. “Your flying is very impressive, Lucky Break. I’m Rose Lark, and I just wanted to welcome you to our school.”

“Look, you can stop with this.”

“‘This’? I’m not sure what you mean.”

“This whole ‘making friends’ thing.” Lucky stood up and started to stretch.

Rose’s face grew tight with concern. “But I just wanted to apologize for how Stormcrasher acted, and let you know that not all of us are like that.”

Lucky bent his spine, flexing until it popped. “Look, I’m sure you’re nice, but I’m not here to make friends. I’m just here to wait out the year so I can go to flight school. And it’s going to be better for you if you’re not seen hanging out with somepony like me. And if you’re looking for a pity case, keep looking.”

The filly stomped her hoof. It sunk into the cloud, and she hastily pulled it free. “I don’t think you’re a pity case at all!”

“Maybe you don’t, but some ponies do.” Lucky lowered himself to the ground, and started pushing himself up with his wings.

“But not everypony. I don’t.”

The colt stayed focused on the cloud beneath him. “If you mean that, then thanks. But it’s still better if you don’t get involved with me. Ponies like Stormcrasher will give you nothing but grief for it.”

Rose slowly stepped closer, and sat down in front of Lucky. “That’s my choice to make, Lucky Break.”

The nyctan colt pushed up with extra effort, catching his hooves under his forebody and standing once more. “And it’s my choice not to talk to you, Rose Lark.”

Lucky lifted himself up into the air and set down on another cloud.

It’s better for everypony this way, he told himself. Better if I just slide through without bothering anypony.

* * * * * * *

Lucky stared at the dining hall. The tables were nicer, and the food seemed a bit more pretentious than in his old school, but the chatter and noise was familiar. He surveyed the room. There were only colts and fillies near his age; the younger foals had their own dining hall in their wing of the school.

At least I don’t have to worry about my brother at lunch, he thought to himself as he slowly flew through the dining hall.

He already had a tray loaded up with food; even now there was a tantalizing mix of aromas drifting past his nose as he searched for an open seat.

Over to his left, several chairs were ‘mysteriously’ pushed inward. To his right, he could see a saddlebag hastily pushed onto a chair, or a hindleg hooked around a chair leg.

In every direction he saw the looks: the suspicious stares or the outright contempt.

Don’t know why I expected anything different… Screw this.

With a quick flap he swooped through a window, ignoring the shouted protests of a teacher as he ascended into the afternoon sky and found an empty cloud to sit on.

They want to treat me like a freak? Fine then. I don’t need ‘em.



Rose lowered her hoof as she watched Lucky fly out the window. “Never mind, I guess.”

“Rose, whom were you waving to?” asked a filly at her table.

“I was waving to… Oh, I suppose it doesn’t matter now.”