• Published 31st Dec 2014
  • 5,943 Views, 299 Comments

Essenza di Amore - Cerulean Voice



Like Princess Twilight Sparkle, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza was not born into her royal title. Follow a younger Cadance along the path to ascension, and her discovery of the true essence of love.

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Chapter One: Eva

Just inside the western boundary of the White Tail Woods, a small village lay tucked away from Equestrian civilisation. Mostly, the citizens of the village kept to themselves, and had no need of any outside help, for the weather remained temperate and cool all year round.

A pink filly raced about the village: around wooden houses of oaken log, through alleys between them, and around the village well.

On her tail, a lime-green colt chased her in circles, though he could not match the filly’s agility step-for-step. He growled under his breath as he was outwitted again and again by slender legs and guiding wings. Continuing from overnight, light rainfall coated and drenched everything in the vicinity.

“Not fair, Kaviyayu! You can’t use your wings to help you dodge! That’s cheating!”

The filly grinned back at her pursuer as she repeatedly danced around his sluggish attempts at tagging her. She giggled and stuck her tongue out, blowing a raspberry. “Hey, the rules were that I can’t fly, not that I can’t use them at all.” Still giggling, she added, “If you can’t catch me, that’s your problem, not mine.”

The colt growled and blew a lock of red out of his face. “They need to change the rules. Either that or you need a handicap.”

Again, the giggle. “What’s this? The mighty Avran outwitted by a mere filly? For shame. And you want to slay a dragon someday.” Kaviyayu shook her head and clicked her tongue with a mocking smirk. “Can’t even catch little—” he lunged again, and she dodged backward with a flap of her wings, sending him falling into a puddle of mud “—old me.”

Avran looked up, his face dripping and teeth bared. Kaviyayu matched his stare… then lost her wits and collapsed, laughing uncontrollably, into the same mud puddle. The grimace immediately faded from Avran’s face; both ponies cackled as the wet earth painted them in a generous, sticky layer of muck.

After a short time, Avran stuck out a hoof, nudging Kaviyayu’s shoulder. “Heh… tag. You’re it.”

“Oh, taking advantage of a young mare in the mud? Who’s the real cheater now?”

Kaviyayu got slowly to her hooves as mud trailed down her legs. Larger clumps fell and squelched back to the ground. She flashed her pearly-white smile—the only part of her face not caked over—at Avran. She held out a hoof.

“Come on. Time for a dip in the river, or Mother will flay us and tan our hides.”

Avran snorted. He knocked away Kaviyayu’s hoof and stood as well, though he almost slipped again. “I guess…” he said, “you’d better catch me then! One-two-three-go!” With a mad dash forward, Avran ran past Kaviyayu and headed east, weaving through an alley between two houses.

Kaviyayu rolled her eyes, spread her wings and lifted off into the air. Looking down, she could see the entire village, inhabited by close to a hundred ponies. The sparkling Snowflow River ran down from the permanently snow-capped tip of the Smokey Mountain. One of its lesser tributaries trickled through the village, a generous flow that supplied the villagers with all they needed and more, before continuing on toward the nearby Western Ocean.

To the east—closer to the Snowflow, where Avran galloped—stood a grand mill, bordered by a field filled with wheat, barley, and lucerne shoots. Shallow trenches led a convenient supply of water through the ground at regular intervals. In the centre of the field stood a tall straw figure of a pony. Kavi had heard from elder colts that once a month, under the full moon, it would come to life and leave the fields, off to do who-knew-what.

She chuckled at the memory. Who ever heard of a stick pony coming to life before? It was surely a scaretale meant to frighten the younger ones. Shaking the memory from her head, she breezed over the rooftops in pursuit of Avran; he would soon make it to the river, and she knew that nopony was allowed to approach it by themselves.

The river entered her view as Kaviyayu weaved amongst greening trees, partially sheltering her from the drizzle with their fresh new leaves. She followed a trail of fresh divots, filling with water, that Avran had left behind. When the trees cleared a minute later, she landed at the water’s edge and shook herself free of a little excess mud.

“’Bout time you caught up to me!”

Kavivayu turned her head left toward the voice yet saw nothing but the Snowflow’s steady stream, just barely below the bank’s level. She smiled and trotted upriver, where a circular pool—ten stallions tail-to-nose in diameter—had been dug out. Water trickled in from the river, filling a hole deep enough for three ponies to stand on each other’s shoulders and still be submerged.

She was greeted at the edge of the pool with a splash that soaked her from nose to tail. The cold shock of spring’s fresh-melted ice gnawed at her coat, and she gasped as three green heads broke the surface, along with three pairs of hooves that had so graciously given her such an unexpected shower.

“Come in, Kavi!”

“The water’s great!”

“Wow, how’d you get so filthy?”

Kavi glared at the offenders and paused to strike the ground with a hoof while her blonde and pink mane almost dragged along the muddy earth. She shook off the remnants of the deluge, her mane whipping about, the tips slapping her back and legs.

Avran and his friends snickered at her futile attempts to dry herself.

“You little brats! You are so going to get it!”

Kavi rose into the air as the other ponies continued to laugh. When she reached the height of a nearby yew, she grinned and dived directly at the centre of the pool.

“Uh oh…”

Kavi tucked herself into a ball and slammed into the water's surface, sending a wave of water crashing over her brother and his friends. Flaring her wings to halt her underwater descent, she pumped them and rose back up toward the surface, muffled shrieks and the crashing of water echoing in her ears. Breaking the surface, she gasped and rubbed her face before examining the results.

All three colts had been pushed back against the edge of the pool. Water continued to swish back and forth, eroding the soggy walls and letting in even more water.

“Whoa! You need to lay off the sunflower cakes, Kavi!” Avran said.

“Says the big, fat clydesdale who ate all the cherry pie last night,” Kavi countered with a wink.

“S-shut up,” Avran said as his friends laughed from the other side of the pool. “You know Mother makes it irresistible.”


“Hey, who wants to play Merpony Out Of Water?”

While the colts played and splashed, Kavi paused to look at sundown's golden glimmer over the treetops. “It's getting late," she said, ducking a splash aimed at her flank. "Come on. We should get back before the elders start to worry.”

Amid groans and a few final splashes, Kavi, Avran and the two colts finally exited the pool. She fluttered her wings and shook her body, flinging away the last drops of mud and water while the colts did the same.

“Hey, Kavi?”

She turned to Avran. He stuck out a hoof and tapped her on the muzzle.

“Tag!”

Kavi’s eyes had not even the chance to uncross before Avran laughed and bolted back toward home, his lackeys in tow. She shook her head again and glared after him, though a giggle escaped her lips anyway as she galloped after him, her hoof-falls sounding pursuit and egging him on faster. Back through the woods they ran, laughing as the Sun completed its descent, leaving only a fading, incandescent glow in the sky.

After a minute, the village came within sight, its wooden houses bathed in the late evening’s red and gold radiance. Ponies toiled away in the town centre, some collecting water from the well, others setting up kindling in the communal fire pit while a stallion bashed a flint together at its base.

Delicious smells filtered between the cottages and reached Kavi’s nostrils. Her mouth watered at the scent of herb-infused mushrooms flowing from her mother’s house.

“There you are!”

Kavi’s ears shot up. She looked over her shoulder at her sister, whose face was creased down into a frown.

“Kara? You were after me?”

Kartanya sighed and shook her head, then trotted next to Kavi. Only slightly taller than her sister, the mare—like every other pony in the village—bore no wings. Her lengthy braided mane and tail, both of palest pink, lay draped over her shoulder and tailbone. She placed a green hoof over Kavi’s shoulder and directed her attention to the largest house.

“Mother has something to discuss with you. She’s wondering where you’ve been all day.”

“Oh, that’s my fault.” Kavi brushed the ground with a hoof. “Avran and I were playing tag, and we ended up going for a swim. I promise, we had no idea we’d be gone for so long—”

“You went to the river? Without telling anypony?” Her mouth fell open and her eyes widened.

Kavi shifted again. “Well, yes, but Avran—”

“No ‘but’s about it, Kavi. You know that an adult must be there to watch over you: you and anyfoal else. The river is dangerous at full flow—you know that!”

Kavi dropped her head and backed away from Kara. She stood still with her eyes closed for a moment then raised her head again. “Look, Sis,” she said to a pair of glaring hazel eyes. “I’m practically old enough to be considered a mare now anyway, aren’t I? Can you not trust me with a little responsibility?”

There was quiet between the two as the kindling in the fire pit flared to life with a rushing crackle. Kavi felt the silence stretch taut, her uncertainty growing. Ponies began to settle around the blaze, chatting among themselves.

“Honestly, Kara,” she continued, “I’m glad that you look out for me so well. Really, I am. But I’m not a little foal anymore. I know the lessons, I heed the warnings, and I can be mature when I have to be.”

The two ponies stared at each other for several long moments before Kara sighed.

“Kaviyayu… you’re right, you know. You really are growing up, and Mother, Father, and I are all very proud of the mare you’re becoming. I just worry, you know, after what happened to Artax all those years ago. Actually—” she pointed toward a cabin near the mill “—that’s the main reason they want to talk to you tonight. Don’t keep them waiting. It’s important.”

“Well… I suppose I should, uh, be on my way, then.”

Kavi backed away then turned from Kara and trotted off home. Fillies and colts ran by, most already having eaten and looking forward to the early spring fire. Laughter rang in the air.

She clopped up three short wooden steps and pushed through the reed doorway. “I’m home, Mother,” she called as the reeds fell back into place. “Are you here?”

She approached the back of the main room, meandered past the large stone slab, and ducked through an alcove into a warmer room. The fragrances of rosemary, ginger, and bay leaves coalesced into a single heavenly scent. Her mother stood before the small brick range, her light green coat obscured by a woven apron and her blonde mane draped over her shoulders.

“Dearest Kaviyayu. So good of you to grace me with your presence.”

“Sorry, Mother,” Kavi said as she wandered up to the mare and pecked her cheek. “Daylight escaped me today. Kartanya said you have something to tell me?”

“Yes indeed. We would have told you earlier today, had you and your brother not wandered off together all day. But never mind that—dinner’s almost ready now, so we’ll tell you after.”

“It can wait,” Kavi said. “I love wild mushrooms, especially the way you cook them.”

“You’d better.” Her mother chuckled. “Your father roamed far from home to find these ones. Why, they were almost as large as his head. I had to cut them down just to fit them in the baking dish.”

Kavi’s eyes widened. “Father was home?”

“He was.”

With that, her mother slipped her forehooves inside a pair of thick cotton mitts and reached into the range to draw out a circular clay dish. Chunks of diced fungus and a smattering of herb sprigs filled the bowl.

Kavi sighed. “Did he really have to leave again so soon?” She exhaled and shook her head. “I wish we would see him more often. I shouldn't have gone to the river today.”

“It was a surprise to me as well,” her mother said. “You couldn’t have known he’d drop by. Don’t think ill of yourself for missing him. Now, go and fetch your brother—then, come back and sit at the table.”

“Yes, Mother.” Kavi turned to depart the kitchen, her head bowed.

“Oh, sweetie? One more thing.”

Kavi halted and raised an eyebrow at her mother, who set the dish down on the stovetop. She walked to her daughter and wrapped her limbs around Kavi’s shoulders, adding a kiss on the cheek. “Happy birthday.” Another kiss on the other cheek. “And happy birthday from Father, too.”

Kavi beamed and nuzzled her mother in the embrace. “Thank you, Mother.”

As Kavi left through the front door and spread her wings, she slowed and stopped with them raised in mid-flap. She felt a sourceless prickle of unease tingling between her ears, raising her hackles and setting her thoughts on edge. The feeling dimmed as soon as she turned to face the gathering gloom.

Was there…?

She shook her head and looked forward again. The feeling returned, and she could not shake it quite as easily.

* * * * *

On the outskirts of the village—crouched in the long grass and camouflaged in the lengthening shadows—a hooded figure watched the single pink filly walk among a sea of green Earth ponies. Under the Mare in the Moon’s silhouette, a pair of white lips pulled back to reveal an equally bright set of teeth.

“Yes, this place will do quite nicely.”

* * * * *

An hour later, with a full belly and music in her ears, Kavi sat on a log before the crackling fire feeling utterly relaxed. Tribesponies passed her by, offering words of encouragement, congratulations, well-wishes, and in some cases, courting proposals. She smiled at each pony who approached her, accepted their kind words, and politely declined the older stallions’ advances.

Despite all the positive attention, she was grateful when Avran came to take a seat next to her.

“Why aren’t you up dancing with everypony, Kavi?” he asked. “It’s your birthday, isn’t it?”

“Oh, I don’t mind,” Kavi said. “I like to watch them having fun." She smiled and nodded towards the fire. "I’m fine with staring into the flames. You know, sometimes I swear I can see shapes flickering in the pit, like the flames are trying to tell me something.”

Avran laughed. “And what do they say now? That you’ll meet the Sun Goddess? You’ll find the love of your life? No, wait, I’ve got it: you’ll fight and defeat a mighty foe!”

Kavi rolled her eyes. “No, silly. Just, the way the flames flicker sometimes, I like to think I can see faces or other shapes. Never for very long—they always vanish with the flick of a red tongue.”

Avran gasped.

“What?”

He pointed toward the flames, his hoof shaking.

Kavi whirled around to look at the fire; dead centre in the hot light, a pair of eyes took shape and cast their roving gaze over the village square. Many dancers halted in their manoeuvres and stood, transfixed, at the disembodied eyes as they fell upon pony after pony. Instruments faltered, and the square fell silent but for the crackle of fire that sustained the unknown stare.

Please, fear me not, my little ponies.”

The voice was harsh and dual-toned, grating against the ears of ponies within earshot. Not a muscle moved save for the twitching of tens of pairs of ears.

What you are witnessing is my special talent at work. Even now I walk among you, though you do not realise. Be not afraid, though, for I mean you no harm. Rather, I would hope that I could enrapture you all with my illusory gifts, and tales of the wide world around you. I have been many places, seen many things… and fought many foes. If you would extend me a warm welcome, break your bread, share your soups and divide your desserts, you will find yourselves thoroughly entertained. What say you, natives of Western White Tail?”

Nopony moved. All were silent, barring the crickets and the ever-hungry flames as they danced upon their oaken bed.

Well? Be there any among you with the courage to stare down a mere illusion?”

Silence reigned again. The eyes roved around the camp, searching, seeking—

“I’m not afraid of you.”

All eyes turned to Kavi as she strutted forward, her wings outstretched. “Come out from your hiding place, weaver of flame. Face us in your true form. If you truly mean us no harm, trust us to show you the same courtesy.”

A dull murmur permeated the herd as the flaming eyes returned to their full luminosity. They narrowed in Kavi’s direction, sustained her curious stare... then disappeared.

“I will take you at your word, pink one.”

The voice was softer, more feminine, like a regular pony instead of the harsh tones the face has spoken in. Beneath the moonlight, a rainbow glow shone—seemingly suspended in midair—before Kavi. Tendrils of the aurora peeled off from the middle and circled around, until it seemed like a miniature spectral tornado swirled before everypony. It fell slowly from the air to the ground.

During the descent, a figure materialised from within the spiral. Covered from head to hoof in a dark cloak that reached the ground, it raised its horned head. The rainbow magic vanished as the figure solidified. It threw back its hood to reveal a pure white head, complete with an equally colourless mane. Pale pink eyes blinked as though unseeing, though their pupils met Kavi’s own.

“What name belongs to this pretty face of trust?” the mare asked.

Kavi stared at the black and white figure. She seemed to have no pigmentation at all on her body, which was mostly covered by her cloak, save for her head and hooves. And those eyes…

She shook her head quickly, then lifted her chin. “My name is Kaviyayu Samanka, and this—” she waved a hoof about the campsite, indicating all of the stunned and whispering ponies “—is my family. Tell us: what is your name, and what brings you to our little neck of the White Tail Wood?”

The white pony rotated slowly in place, taking in all the staring faces. She caught the view of the village elder, whose beady eyes seemed to absorb the night sky as they scrutinised their pale-pink subjects. She fixed her look next upon a small herd of foals to his left and gently bowed when a mare stood in front of them. Turning in a half-circle, she flashed her impossibly white teeth upon a trio of adolescent colts, who chuckled nervously and looked at each other.

“Excuse me, Miss.”

The mare turned back to the white-bearded elder as he coughed to clear his throat. “The young filly asked you two questions. It would be in all of our interests for you to answer. Yours included.”

The mare looked around again after the elder’s words. Stallions began to step forward in front of their herds while mares stood behind with their foals. Some of the stallions held a hoof in the air, as if paused in taking another step.

“Very well.”

A rainbow danced around her horn and spread to the fire pit. A map appeared in the flames, which rose as though a dragon had just burped from the ground up. A pulsing rainbow ‘X’, revolving in the roaring flames, marked a position on the flickering map.

“Wood-dwellers, my name is Eva,” she called over the orange din. “I am a unicorn from the northern town of Tall Tale.” She pointed to the ‘X’, which shot toward the north-western corner of the map. “My travels have taken me all over the wide world of Equestria, from my humble hometown, to the city of Manehattan—” the ‘X’ raced across toward the north-eastern corner, leaving a dotted rainbow path in its wake “—to the remote desert community of Dodge Junction—” the ‘X’ traced a path to the south-east “—and even to the royal stronghold of Canterlot, where the Princess herself resides—” the ‘X’ tracked back north around a clump of dark-looking forest and rested at the summit of a mountain.

“Finally, after passing through a small town called Ponyville—” the ‘X’ floated toward the south-west a short distance “—I sought a quiet, peaceful place to reflect upon my journey.”

The ‘X’ came to rest at the western edge of a forest, beneath an ice-capped mountain.

“Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon your little village here, for it does not appear on any map that I have ever seen…”

The rainbow glow spluttered and died, taking the map with it. The fire rescinded into the pit, crackling gently once again.

“So.” Eva smiled at the elder as she approached him. “Am I correct to assume that you are the head of this cute little camp site?”

“Oh, er, yes. You are.” The elder coughed once more, thumped his chest, and lifted his head. “I am Havijhan. This is our village of Zahara, and there is a reason you will not find it on any map. We keep to ourselves, you see, and we prefer it that way.” He leaned forward. “On that note, I request that you keep our presence here a secret, and not share knowledge of its existence when you leave. In the meantime… you may stay.”

Eva smiled and bowed. “Of course I will keep your village secret, Havijhan. The world will never know I was here.” She stood, then turned to Kaviyayu and her brother. “Thank you, Kaviyayu. Your faith in me is most heartening.”

Her stomach rumbled.

“So, about that ‘bread-breaking’ I mentioned... anypony up for a story?”

Author's Note:

Avran: meaning "Shield."
Samanka: a variant of Samanta, meaning "Kinship."
Eva: a variant of Eve, meaning "Life."
Havijhan: derived from Anubhav and Jivan, which mean "Knowledge" and "Life Experience" respectively.
Zahara: meaning "Flowering," also a reference to another song from Dark Passion Play, Sahara.

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