• Published 10th May 2014
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Pound and Pumpkin Tales 1 - Never2muchpinkie

Set a few years into the future, six year old Pound and Pumpkin have a lot of growing up to do. They fight and make up, make mistakes and learn lessons, and love and protect each other as much as they get on each other's nerves.

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Happy Birthday 3: A second chance

Cadance sat down on the floor against Pound’s bed. “Come here, Flurry.” Reluctantly the filly complied. “Pumpkin?”

Pumpkin shook her head to focus. “Um, yeah?”

“Do you have a brush I can borrow?”

“Sure…” She went over to her bedside drawer and took out a brush, then handed it over to Cadance. She went back to the rest of their group and sat down. The others followed suit. They'd done all they could. Now it was up to the adults to handle things.

Flurry hugged her mother as she ran the brush through her mane.

“Flurry’s always loved having her mane brushed,” said Shining to the others. “Until she calms down there’s no point in talking to her.”

“How long were you listening?” asked Tree Leaf.

“Long enough to hear about the root of Flurry’s anguish,” said Twilight. “Our attention was all drawn when she knocked something heavy over.”

“Makes sense,” said Pumpkin. “She wasn’t exactly being quiet at the end.”

Flurry’s mind was going in twenty directions at once. What was about to happen to her? Were they mad at her? Did they hate her now for what she had said? Had she just made them sad?

Her mother was being nice to her, doing one of her favorite things, but maybe that was just so they could get her to talk. Who knew what they’d do to her once they got all the information they wanted.

Maybe this was all a big test. Maybe they had expected her to bring her books with her to study and she wasn’t really supposed to participate in the party at all.

Despite her terror she couldn’t escape the soothing comfort of the brush. Ever so slowly her trembling stopped and her fear eroded. Her rapid thoughts slowed until it was quiet inside her mind and she had her eyes closed as she just enjoyed the sensations.

After a few more minutes Cadance stopped her brushing motions. This made Flurry tense as she looked up into her mother’s eyes.

Sincerely Cadance said, “I love you, Flurry Heart.” She gave her daughter a kiss on the forehead and wrapped her in a hug. “Don’t be afraid.”

Flurry gulped. “But how can I not be afraid?”

Shining sat down next to Cadance. “Flurry, we knew there was something off with you. We just couldn’t get you to tell us what it was. Now that it’s out there do you think we love you any less?”

Flurry winced, her eyes shutting. “I-I don’t know! W-what do you want from me?”

“Flurry,” said Cadance, “we don’t want anything from you except for you to be happy. That’s all.” Rubbing Flurry’s back she continued, “All those heavy thoughts swimming around your mind were too much for you. They were also unnecessary. If only you had come to us and told us what you were feeling we could have helped you back then.”

Flurry sniffed. “I… I was too scared to.”

“Scared of what?” asked Cadance. Flurry didn’t answer.

“Come on, Flurry,” said Shining. “Just be honest. I can understand your misgivings about fighting, but why are you so opposed to ruling the Crystal Empire after your mother, or being a princess?”

After a few seconds she said quietly, “It’s not… so much that I don’t want to…” She sniffed again. “It’s just… I want to make that decision myself. I hate the way everyone else seems like they’re already decided the way my whole life is going to be.

“If I’m going to rule the Crystal Empire I want it to be because I CHOSE to do it, after I’ve thought about whether there are other things I want to do with my life.”

“I see,” said Cadance. “So it’s less about the title itself, and more about feeling like you’re being forced into it.”

Flurry nodded. Looking up with a teary expression she said, “Do you hate me for that?”

A few tears came down her own eyes as she hugged Flurry close again. “Oh, Flurry! Of course not! We’ll love you no matter what you decide to do with your life.”

Flurry pushed away from her mother. “WHY?” she yelled angrily. “Don’t YOU expect me to be your heir too? Just like everyone else?”

Shining rubbed her head. “As our child we would consider it your inheritance, and the greatest gift we could bestow upon you. It is true that we had an expectation for you to continue on in your mother’s hoofsteps, but don’t think for an instant that we would despise you if you wanted to walk a different path for your life. Not all rulers are alicorns, after all.”

“That’s true,” said Cadance. “And you’re absolutely right that this sort of choice is one that must be made by yourself. A ruler must always think about the needs of their subjects and address them. If you’re not willing to commit to such a thing with your whole heart then you’re not fit for the job. In the end you’d just wind up resenting everyone around you if we tried to force you into the position.”

Twilight walked over next to Cadance, sitting on her other side. “You’re not even seven years old yet. There’s still plenty of time to decide what you want to do. There are plenty of ways you can help others without actually being a leader.”

Flurry’s head sank. “A-and what about the rest of it? If… if Mom and Dad both go down who else are they going to turn to except for an alicorn?” She hugged herself. “I’m not ready!”

Cadance gently pulled on her hooves until she could hug Flurry again. “If we had known that this was on your mind we would have talked to you about it ages ago. All those things you’re concerned about are already planned for and taken care of.”

“T-they are?” Flurry asked, returning her mother’s hug.

“That’s right,” said Shining. “There’s no possible way to one hundred percent guarantee that we won’t be taken out if it came to war, but we have no intention of leaving you out to dry if it came down to that. Starlight and Sunburst have proven to be effective caretakers for you. And Starlight, when she was still bad, was able to fight Twilight, an alicorn, to a standstill, so she’s one of the most powerful spellcasters we have. Although she’s not a blood relative of ours, Starlight has agreed to be your guardian if something happens to us, as well as to be your protector in the case of war.”

“I… I wouldn’t mind living with Aunt Starlight,” Flurry said, a little calmer.

“All our royal guards have specific instructions in the case of danger. When it comes to you and your sister we have twenty of our most trusted and skilled unicorns that are ready to defend you and Skyla no matter the cost to themselves.

“Unlike the rest of the royal guard they are not going to participate in the fighting. Their only goal is to get you and your sister as far away from the Crystal Empire as possible. If they’re discovered on this trek to safety they will lash out to stop the threat, but their main goal is simply to defend you.”

Flurry let out a breath. “And… what… what about me?”

“We just explained that,” said Cadance.

“No, I mean…” She twiddled her hooves together, looking away from them. “I’m still inexperienced, but I’m pretty good at magic too.”

Shining and Cadance shared a look. “If… if it comes down to that, then do what you must to keep Skyla safe. However, don’t push yourself and go crazy. I’d rather you stay out of the fighting entirely and leave it to your guards, but if it looks like you’re going to be overwhelmed if you don’t add your own skills into the mix then by all means help out.

“Just keep in mind that while you’re focusing on the battle it means that Skyla will be less protected.”

Flurry nodded.

“As for the two of us we are two of the most powerful shield users in Equestria. And that’s not even counting the Crystal Heart that keeps a perpetual barrier up that keeps our empire safe. The chances of a war breaking out are slim, as there aren’t many ponies or creatures that have the ability to overcome it. But even if someone could bypass the protective magic of the Crystal Heart we also have preparations for that in place as well.”

Shining continued, “If it comes down to full-scale war all of our royal guard are prepared to fight, and we’ve gone over countless simulations in preparation for the day that it becomes a reality.”

“And,” said Cadance, “as for the last thing you were worried about, we also have a new ruler lined up if something happens to me. I understand your feelings that people will naturally turn to an alicorn for leadership, but no sane pony would expect a child your age to sit on the throne.”

“You already picked out someone?” Despite her uncertainty about leading she also felt a sting. “I thought you said you wanted me to take over.”

Cadance could see that she looked a little hurt. “We do, but being a leader is about more than power. It takes intelligence, maturity, humility, and a lot of other things. We’re not saying that you don’t have those qualities that could make you a fit leader in the future, but your age means that no one would accept you as a leader right now. Until you’ve at least become an adult we wouldn’t consider you for it because it carries with it a lot of pressure, and you know what that’s like.”

Flurry nodded a few times. “So is it Aunt Starlight? She’s powerful and smart.”

Shining shook his head. “No, it’s not Starlight. She’s personally assigned to you and your sister in case of an emergency, her only role to run. A leader, even if they don’t fight themselves, must be around to lead and give orders, so Starlight isn’t a fit candidate.”

She nodded again. “That makes sense.”

Twilight rubbed Flurry’s chin a bit. “There will always be danger in the world. It’s impossible to prevent every bad thing from happening, but we can prepare as much as possible for every scenario we can so we’ll be ready to face it when it comes.”

“So you see, Flurry, everything you’ve been worried about has been taken care of well in advance,” said Shining. “Let all those troubles that have been weighing you down float away.”

Flurry indeed felt a lot calmer. “I don’t think I can. Unless…”

“Unless what?”

Flurry lifted up the hairbrush with a toothy grin.

Cadance smiled as she took the hairbrush, going back to combing Flurry’s mane as the filly leaned against her and closed her eyes, letting out happy whimpers.

The children let out sighs of relief. Flurry had nothing to worry about after all.

Peppermint walked up to them. “Miss Twilight?”

“Yes, Peppermint?” she replied.

“You said you came up here because you heard Flurry knocking over the dresser.”

“Yes. And?”

“So you heard about all the things that Flurry was afraid of, but you didn’t hear about her difficulty with making friends, right?”

She shook her head. “No, I guess we didn’t.”

Shining and Cadance both focused on Peppermint.

“Do you remember the first time we met? What we talked about?”

Twilight nodded. “Yes, I do.” A few seconds passed, then realization hit. “Ooooh. So that’s what it is.”

“What is it, Twily?” asked Shining.

“Peppermint noticed how Pumpkin didn’t address me by my title, and grew curious about what kind of pony I was.” Looking over at her niece she said, “Come here, Flurry.”

“Do I have to?” she asked.

“You can have your mane brushed all you like later.”

With a sigh she let go of her mother and went to Twilight’s lap. “What is it, Aunt Twilight?”

“Going from what Peppermint said you’ve been having issues with other kids treating you like you’re not even a pony.”

Flurry’s relaxed gaze was once more replaced with a pained expression. “Other ponies treat me different. Even when I tried to make friends it just… it didn’t feel real.”

Twilight nodded sadly, letting out a sigh. “I understand that feeling perfectly. Peppermint came to visit me because she found it hard to believe that I was a pony just like her. She thought that having both wings and a horn meant that I was unable to relate to her, which is why I spent some time just reading together with her before I answered her question. I let her see me as I am so she could make up her own mind about me.”

Flurry’s eyes started swimming with tears. “It feels like every kid I know is either afraid of me or wants something out of me! Either that, or they make fun of my wings because they’re so big. No one cares about who I really am, just that I’m a princess. Only you, my parents, and Aunt Starlight and Uncle Sunburst treat me like a normal kid.”

Twilight pulled Flurry closer, hugging her. “Well, Flurry, there are plenty of ponies like that in the world. I have to deal with that frequently.” Releasing Flurry she pushed the filly’s head up so they were eye to eye. “But you know what?”

A tear came down her eye. “W-what?”

Happy tears came down Twilight’s. “While there are many ponies who can’t look past my title to appreciate who I am underneath it, I’ve been blessed with quite a few friends who can. Even Peppermint there was able to see past her bias to become one I can count among my inner circle.”

Picking up Flurry she turned her around and gestured towards the other children. “And here before you are ponies that are willing to do the same for you. They understand that whether you have wings or horns or both or neither, that at the end of the day we’re simply ponies with all the same needs.”

Flurry looked at them, thinking about the way they had been treating her. When they saw how big her wings were none of them laughed or mocked her for it. They didn’t kowtow or suck up to her. They just tried to talk with her, inviting her to play a game, cheering her on and congratulating her when she won. As Twilight had said, they didn’t treat her like she was a princess. They treated her like a pony, someone they’d want to be friends with.

She got up, walking over towards them. “I know I’ve been a lot of trouble, but can we start over and be friends?”

“Not yet,” said Pound. “I think you owe someone an apology. If you want us to be true friends then first you have to make up with Mayhem.”

“I agree with Pound,” said Pumpkin. “He was the only one you really hurt.”

“I think that’s a fair request,” said Cadance. Turning to Flurry she asked, “Don’t you?”

Flurry gave a little nod.

“Alright, then. Let’s go get Discord so we can get things underway. Except…” She groaned. Discord hadn’t shown up at the party. They’d have to go get Fluttershy and see if she knew where he was.

A fly landed on Twilight’s nose. As she went to swat it away she heard Discord’s voice come from it. “Oh, there’s no need to go find me.” He grew in size until he was back to normal, sitting on Twilight’s head.

Tree Leaf was beaming. He’d get to see more cool magic now.

Flurry still felt a little uncomfortable, but she wasn’t quite as off-put about him as she had been when she had first seen Mayhem.

Twilight pushed him off. “Glad to see you were spying. Where have you been all this time?”

Discord wagged his finger, hovering in the air. “Oh, just keeping an eye on things. After Mayhem returned to me I could feel his pain, and I knew that they’d still try to win Flurry over. When I saw the children in the room I wanted to ensure that things didn’t spiral too badly out of control. These sorts of things usually evoke strong emotions, and an alicorn throwing a temper tantrum might call for an emergency horn removal.”

Twilight let out a huff. “Fair enough.”

“And besides, this works out much better, don’t you think?”

“How do you figure?” asked Shining.

Discord extended a finger, magic coming out of it. “Because now Mayhem has seen Flurry’s feelings firsthand, rather than just hearing about them. It should make things go a lot smoother, don’t you think?”

“Oh, right,” said Cadance, her face lighting up.

The plaid magic changed until it manifested into the shape of Mayhem.

The baby draconequus stood there with a neutral expression, staring at Flurry Heart.

The children watched, waiting to see what would happen between the two.

Flurry met his gaze. “Look, I’m… I’m really sorry about what I said before. It was wrong of me to treat you that way. I wasn’t being a good princess at all. I…I…” Tears started forming in her eyes. “I… was just feeling so scared and lost and I didn’t know what to-”

Mayhem closed the distance between them and patted her head as he said genially, “It’s okay. I forgive you.”

The suddenness of it took her by surprise. “B-but why? After the way I treated you…”

“I forgive you because I know it’s what my mom would do, so I’ll do it too.”

Flurry didn’t look reassured. “That’s not right. If you’re only doing it because you think you should it means you don’t really forgive me.”

Mayhem shook his head. “That’s not what I meant.” He lifted a claw, giving it a snap. A box appeared, showing Masky crying on Fluttershy’s lap.

“When Masky made my mom upset I thought he was terrible, but the next time he came around I found out that he was only acting that way because he had a lot of bad stuff inside weighing him down. He was feeling neglected by his parents because they were more focused on their jobs than him, and because they moved a lot he didn’t have a chance to make lasting friends.

"When the bad stuff came out I saw the way he really was: a pony looking for love and reassurance. When Mommy listened to him she helped him solve his problem and be happy.”

He took another step toward her and hugged her. Flurry stood there, surprise on her face. “I thought you were terrible too, up until I got to hear all the bad things you had inside you. Just like Masky you need some love and reassurance so I can help bring out the better pony that’s hiding inside of you. I want to help take your bad things away so you can be happy too. Let’s be friends!”

Flurry’s eyes clenched shut as she hugged him back, quietly sobbing. “T-thank you!” she cried out gratefully.

With that Pound walked over and hugged Flurry too, and the rest of them quickly followed suit.

Twilight beamed at Mayhem. He was growing up so fast, recognizing when he felt like he was a danger to others and learning how to forgive. It was clear that the time he spent with Fluttershy was helping him to mature. She felt so proud of him.

Shining and Cadance snuggled up against one another, their hearts soaring to see Flurry surrounded by so many friends. That heaviness in her face was gone, replaced with contentedness.

Author's Note:

Mayhem takes center stage next chapter, spicing up the twins party.

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