• Published 31st Oct 2011
  • 1,393 Views, 14 Comments

Patchwork - Kegisak



Caramel runs away from Sweet Apple Acres, and finds a small village hidden in the woods.

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Chapter 4

Patchwork

Pt. 4

“Careful,” Jute warned, “Careful...”
Caramel’s hooves moved slowly and steadily, carefully manipulating his tools. He weaved the thread through the shoe he was working on, pulling it through the last hole, and tying it off.

“Well done!” Jute said happily, “That’s a darn good shoe, if I do say so myself! How’s the shoulder holding up?”

“It’s good,” Caramel told him, “hardly aches at all, anymore.” In truth, it wasn’t even that bad. The only times that it was sore was at night, after a full day working on shoes with Jute. He had been working with the white stallion for a few weeks now, and his shoulder was almost completely healed. He would have been ecstatic - if it weren’t for the fact that Tack’s flank was still every bit as bare as the day she was born.

Caramel was beginning to worry that his plan wasn’t going to work. He knew that he couldn’t keep it up forever; his shoulder would be completely healed soon, and he doubted Powder would lie on his behalf. He had seen her talking to Jute some days while the town had dinner. He could guess that Jute was asking about his shoulder; as much as the stallion lauded Caramel’s knack for shoemaking, he was eager for his daughter to take up the tools again. Tack herself didn’t seem to be any closer to getting her cutie mark - that sort of thing was difficult to tell, but Caramel could see that she didn’t consider her time off to be anything lasting. She still thought she would have to back to cobbling and, unless she could get around that, Caramel feared she would never get it.

It might have been for the best. If Tack had gotten her cutie mark, she would have to leave her parents. Everything in Brumby was too regulated; there would be no room for somepony who wanted to do what she wanted. Still, Caramel couldn’t help his heart sinking a little. He had wanted so desperately to help the little filly, help anypony from the village... but in the end, it didn’t seem like there was anything he could do.

“Hey, what’s the matter?” Jute asked, giving him a gentle nudge, “you’re doing a darn good job here, Caramel! What’s got you so down?”

“Huh?” Caramel said, shaking himself away from his depressing thoughts. “Oh, it’s nothing. Nothing’s wrong.”

“My hoof nothings wrong,” Jute scoffed, “But, if you don’t want to talk about it, you don’t have to.”

“... Thanks,” Caramel sighed. He couldn’t tell if Jute was very good at reading him, or if he was just completely transparent. He looked at the shelf that usually held the work for the day, saying, “Should we get started on the next one?”

“Naw,” Jute told him, “Those are just practice shoes up there. We’re done for the day, unless you want to work on them - personally, I don’t think you need to. Besides, Powder’d skin me alive if I worked you too hard.”

“That’s it?” Caramel asked incredulously, “But it’s still so early!”

“Early’s a bit of a stretch, I think,” Jute laughed, “It’s probably... mid afternoon?”

“Really?”

“Well, there’s nothing left to do in here, why don’t we pop outside and check?” Jute suggested, “It’s getting pretty unbearable in here anyways. Maybe we can catch a bit of a breeze out there.”

“Good idea,” Caramel agreed. It wasn’t particularly hot inside the hut, but it was unbelievably muggy. It had been threatening to storm for days now, the air heavy with humidity, and as Caramel exited the little house with Jute he could see nature preparing to make good on that threat. Dark clouds had formed above and, with an ironic smile, Caramel remembered the night that he had arrived here. It must have been the longest month in history, Caramel thought. He and Jute took in the cool breeze that the oncoming storm whipped up, and Caramel asked,

“Are the pegasi going to try and move the storm?”

“... No,” Jute said, giving him an odd look, “Why would they? Crops need all the rain they can get.” Caramel shrugged.

“They did all the time where I’m from,” he said, “They’d push the clouds out over the country, where nopony lived, so they wouldn’t bother anypony.”

“You come from a strange place,” Jute said, shaking his head.

“I could say the same for you,” Caramel smiled, “So what happens when it storms here, then?”

“Pretty much nothing. The farmers can’t work when it’s raining, so everypony just stays inside. We all miss a meal, if it’s too bad.”

“Well, I guess there’s worse ways to spend a stormy night than with family,” Caramel commented, “Speaking of, where’s your wife?”

“Oh, she’ll be off cooking right now, I don’t doubt. I guess you never noticed, since you and I were hunkered down in the shop all day until now, but Cocoa’s one of our head chefs.

“Really?” Caramel started. He was about to make a joke when the rumble of thunder interrupted him. The two colts looked around, to see if they could spot the rainfall beginning anywhere. It wasn’t until Caramel saw a flash of lighting lance down in the distance, and another angry rumble, before it started to come down. It began very lightly, almost like mist was falling. Jute looked around, to see if his wife was coming at all, but soon the rain was coming down harder, and the two colts were forced to retreat inside. Those few moments that it took them to cross the threshold were enough to saturate the ponies, and they found a set of towels to dry off with as they spoke.

“I hope Cocoa doesn’t get caught out in this,” Caramel said.

“Don’t you worry about my Cocoa,” Jute laughed, “Powder might worry over her, but she’s a good, tough mare. She’ll be here soon enough. Probably carrying a bit of stew she snuck off, and insisting you stay with us for the night.” He shook his head, chuckling.

“Oh, I don’t think I could stay the night,” Caramel said, “Powder’ll probably worry about me... and I couldn’t impose on you, anyways.” There was a small lull in the conversation, when a mare’s voice came from outside the door.

“Did I hear,” It demanded, as the door swung open to reveal a soaked Cocoa, “someone denying our hospitality, Jute?”

“Hey,” Jute said, taking a defensive pose, “Take it up with Caramel, not me!”

“What?” Caramel asked, confused by Jute’s sudden change in demeanor - at least, until Cocoa swayed across the floor to him.

“Now Caramel, dear,” she said, “would you care to repeat what you told my husband?”

“W-well,” Caramel sputtered, strangely taken aback by the mare’s friendly tone, “Um, he thought you might ask me to stay, and, um, I just thought that Powder would probably worry, and I mean, I wouldn’t want to intrude on your family time anyways, so...”

“Oh, is that all?” Cocoa smiled an unnervingly calm smile at him. “Silly, Powder’s an old friend of mine. I’m sure she’ll understand when I tell her tomorrow. And, as for coming in on our family time...” She walked forward slowly, driving Caramel backwards until his haunches met a stool, and pushing him to sit upright, “Tack adores you, and you’ve spent so much time here lately, you practically are family, dear. And I won’t have my family running about in all this rain, okay?”

“Um,” Caramel gulped, “okay?”

“Good,” Cocoa said, smiling satisfactorily. Caramel looked over to Jute, and asked,

“How did she do that?” Jute merely shrugged.

“Got me. She’s been doing that to me since we were foals.”

“Actually,” Cocoa cut in again, “Speaking of being out in the rain... where’s Tack?”

The look that Caramel and Jute shared changed instantly, from a mild humor to fear. Caramel could practically see Jute’s heart freeze in his chest.

“I...” The white pony said slowly, “I thought she would have been with you?”

“No,” Cocoa said, “I haven’t seen her at all today.” A concerned look was exchanged between all three ponies.

“Well,” Jute spoke up, “She’s a smart little filly. I’m sure she’s knows well enough to get home as fast as she can. I’m sure we’ll see her back here in no time at all.” The three ponies all mumbled agreements, but it was clear that none of them were convinced. There was absolute silence in the little house, save for the patter of the rain on the roof. It grew steadily heavier and louder as time dragged on, the drumming, rumbling noise serving as a score to the oppressive atmosphere in the house. Jute sat at the table, his hooves together in front of his mouth, while Cocoa paced in the meager space their home allowed. Caramel’s heart thudded in his chest.

“Maybe,” he said, “Maybe... the rain got too bad, so she couldn’t come back here?” Jute and Cocoa both stared at him, their eyes screaming with dread. Caramel quickly tried to reassure them, explaining,

“I mean, what if she had to stop into one of the other houses? You know, until the storm let up? For shelter?” The older ponies relaxed visibly.

“That’s a good point,” Cocoa sighed with relief, “That’s probably all that it is.” Silence fell again, every bit as heavy as before, despite Caramel’s words. It was Jute who spoke up next.

“I’m going to go out - just to check. See if any of the houses on the edge of town have taken her in.”

“I’ll go with you,” Caramel said, standing up. The two ponies headed out the door, but not before Jute turned back to his bride.

“We’ll be back soon,” he promised, “And we’ll have Tack with us, safe and sound. Don’t you worry, Cocoa.”

“I know you will,” she smiled at him, “Be safe, both of you.” The colts nodded, and set out into the downpour.

“We should split up,” Caramel said over the dig of the rain, “You take one side of town, I’ll take the other!”

“Good idea,” Jute nodded, “Just check on the houses on the outskirts! If Tack was in town at all, she’d have come straight home!”

“Got it!” Caramel said, and set off. He moved as fast as his shoulder would allow, dashing from house to house along the outside ring. House after house, not one of them had seen the little yellow filly. Finally, the door closed on the final home, leaving Caramel in the rain, without any leads. He hurried back to Tack’s home, hoping that Jute had found her instead. The white stallion arrived at the same time as Caramel - alone.

“Nothing?” Jute asked, worry clear in his voice. Caramel shook his head.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “Nopony’s seen her.” The door opened, revealing Cocoa. Fear was written across her face, plain as day.

“Oh, Celestia,” she said, “You didn’t find her?” Jute embraced his wife.

“I’m so sorry,” he said.

“Don’t be sorry!” Cocoa barked at him, “Do something about it! Our baby is out there, she could be lost, or hurt, or, or -"

“Calm down,” Jute insisted, “I’m going to go round up as many ponies as I can. We’ll all go looking for her, and I promise - I promise, we’ll find our little girl. She’ll be back home soon, you’ll see.”

“... Alright,” Cocoa said, calming down a bit, “alright.”

Caramel’s mind was racing. There were a lot of places that she could be - and in a storm like this, they could miss her by inches. There had to be something, some clue to where she might be. He wracked his brain, trying to think if there was somewhere she might have been when the storm hit. The barn? No, she had stopped going there lately. Powder’s house? The doctor would have brought her back by now... the forest? But there was so much of it, so much ground to cover...

Lightning flashed.

So did inspiration.

“The road!” Caramel shouted, suddenly. Cocoa and Jute jumped, and stared at the sopping colt. “The road! That’s where the first lightning bolt struck, right when the storm started up! Tack told me she always watched the road, just in case somepony else came by!” Both ponies stared at him. Fear passed through their faces, but Jute’s expression solidified into one of determination.
“You’re right,” he said, “Last time there was a storm, she found you. She’d have gone back there for sure!”

“I’ll go ahead,” Caramel said, “Get Powder, and as many other ponies as you can, and come after me!” Jute nodded, and ran to the house next door. Caramel dashed off in the opposite direction, towards the mountain visible over the treeline.

His legs pumped furiously, propelling him along as fast as he had ever run. In spite of himself, a humourless smile passed across his face. A month ago, for just a moment, a storm and that road had played such an enormous role in his life. Now, they were doing the same. He hoped - he prayed, to whichever of the sisters would bother to listen to an idiot colt like him, that things would turn out better for Tack than they did for him. He ran even harder, ignoring the ache starting in his shoulder and the pain in his ribs.

“TAAAACK!” He shouted as he reached the cliff, “TAAACK! CAN YOU HERE ME?” He stopped to listen, but all he could hear was the rain. He ran back and forth, calling her name as loud as he could. He stopped, just for a moment, and heard a sound. It was a tiny, far away voice.

“TACK?” He called in the direction of the voice. The reply was too faint to make out, but Caramel knew where it was coming from now. He dashed off in the direction of the voice, calling out for the filly. “Tack! Tack, is that you? Can you hear me, Tack?”

“Caramel?” the voice replied, much closer now, “Caramel, help! I’m stuck!”

“Tack,” Caramel cried, darting around the trees. He finally found the filly. She was dry, sheltered by the leaves of a fallen oak tree. “Oh, thank Celestia! Are you hurt?”

“I don’t know,” Tack whimpered, “But I can’t move. I can’t feel my back leg, either! It just feels numb!”

“Don’t worry, Tack,” Caramel assured her, “Your Papa’s on the way, and he’s bringing plenty of ponies with him. You’re gonna be okay, alright?”

“... Alright,” Tack nodded. Caramel circled around her to check on her leg. It was trapped beneath the great Oak’s trunk. He wouldn’t be able to get her out alone. Fortunately, he heard another voice pierce through the rain.

“HEEEEEEEY!” He shouted at the top of his lungs, “I FOUND HERE! OVER HERE!” Before too long, several shapes appeared through the rain. It was Jute, flanked by Powder. Several other ponies were with them.

“I found Tack,” Caramel told them, “Her back leg is caught under a tree.” Jute nodded, and ran to his daughter.

“Daddy’s here, Tack,” he assured her, “we’re gonna get you outta there, okay sweetie?”

“Okay, Papa,” Tack whimpered. Jute beckoned for all the other ponies to come over to the tree. Powder took a hold of Tack’s front hooves, while all the others braced themselves against the oak’s trunk, Caramel included.

“HEAVE!” Jute shouted, and as one the ponies pushed against the fallen tree. It barely budged, but that didn’t stop anypony. “HEAVE!” Jute cried again. The ponies fell into a fast rhythm, pounding themselves up against the tree. Caramel strained desperately again it. His shoulder burned, and cried out in agony, but he ignored it. He pushed, along with all the other ponies, working as one.

“HEAVE! HEAVE! HEAVE!”

Finally, the tree began to move. It rolled, just slightly, but it was enough. Powder pulled Tack out from beneath the tree, and the ponies all let it fall back into place. Jute embraced his daughter, holding her tight.

“Jute!” Powder told him, “We need to get Tack back to my house! I need to look at her leg as soon as possible!” Jute nodded, and put Tack on his back. The party of ponies headed back into the village. Most of the ponies went back to their own homes, but Jute followed Powder into her home. Caramel ran to Jute’s house and told Cocoa, who demanded they go as well. The two ran across the fields, not bothering to stick to the paths. The barged in, to find Jute sitting at Powder’s table, alone.

“She’s looking at Tack now,” he told them, “She doesn’t know how long it’ll take.” Caramel and Cocoa nodded solemnly, and sat at the table. Cocoa sat beside her husband, leaning in close to him. Caramel sat across from them, in silence. His brain was screaming at him. This was a thousand times worse than any time he had broken a plow, or lost some seeds. Nopony would ever say it out loud, but they all knew it - this was Caramel’s fault. He berated himself internally, between hoping that it wouldn’t be too bad. Jute and Cocoa hardly looked at Caramel, staring down at the table, or squeezing their eyes shut to hide from what might happen. After what seemed like an eternity, Powder emerged from her office. All three ponies at the table looked to her expectantly. She sighed.

“She’ll pull through,” Powder said. Both Jute and Cocoa breathed a sigh of relief, relaxing visibly. “It doesn’t look like she suffered anything beyond the tree on her leg. It’ll bruise - a lot - but that’ll subside in a few weeks.” Despite the good news, Powder still had a look of apprehension. Caramel, Cocoa and Jute could all see it clearly.

“But...?” Cocoa asked.

“But,” Powder told her, “The fact is, that tree fell on her back hoof. Hard. Her leg is badly damaged. I’ll put a splint on it, so it at least heals stable, but...”She breathed deeply, and broke the news. “The impact crushed her leg. It’s never going to heal right.”

Caramel’s heart turned to ice. He didn’t look over to see Tack’s parents’ expression. He could guess what they were feeling, but actually seeing their faces would shatter his heart into a million pieces.

“She’ll be able to walk on it,” Powder continued, “But only barely. It’ll hurt, and running is right out of the question.”

“It’s...” Jute said slowly, “It’s good that it was her back leg. She won’t need that... working as a cobbler.” His voice was pained. Powder nodded.

“She got off lucky, I think.”

“Right,” Cocoa sniffed, “Lucky.”

“I’m sorry, Cocoa,” Powder told the mare.

“No... don’t be. It’s nopony’s fault.”

That isn’t true, Caramel thought. That isn’t true at all. This is my fault. My idiot mistake. My stupid hope that she could make it out. My fault. He put his face in his hooves, and sighed. He was vaguely aware of Powder talking to Cocoa and Jute again, but he didn’t listen to what they were saying. All he knew was, after a short while, they left with Tack still in Powder’s office. The purple mare sat across from Caramel.

“Well.” She said.

“I’m so sorry.” Caramel whispered. Powder didn’t say anything. He lifted his face from his hooves, and saw the doctor stare back at him. He didn’t understand the look she gave him. Maybe it was sadness. Maybe it was hate. Maybe it was pity. He didn’t care. Whatever it was, he deserved it. “I’m so sorry,” he said again.

“You said that already,” Powder said, “what are you sorry for?”

“This... This. I’m sorry for what I did to Tack. I’m sorry for what I did to Jute and Cocoa. I’m sorry for what I did to you.” Tears welled up in his eyes, and words in his mouth. “I’m sorry I ever tried,” he said, unable to stop himself, “I’m sorry I broke the plow. I’m sorry I got drunk. I’m sorry I ran away from home. I’m sorry that I made Applejack, and Big Macintosh, and Apple Bloom and Granny Smith worry. I’m sorry I fell off the cliff and got hurt. I’m sorry that I’ve been gone so long they probably think I’m dead. I’m sorry I ever tried to do something for anypony. I’m sorry I’m such a miserable screw up. This... all this. I’m sorry about this whole stupid thing. This is all my fault.”

“Yeah,” Powder said coldly, “Yeah, it is. Congratulation, Caramel.” She stood up, and walked into her office, closing the door behind her. The tears in Caramel’s eyes streamed down his face. He stared at the door until he couldn’t take it anymore. He ran out of the house. He ran out of the village. He ran into the forest, not paying any attention to where he was going. He ran away from the problems he caused, again.

Before too long, he found himself back at the fallen oak tree. He didn’t recognize it at first; his eyes were blurry and stung from the tears. He leaned up against it, up against the spot where he had been pushing. His hooves had dug into the seared bark, leaving grooves. He settled his hooves into these grooves gain, and sobbed. He hadn’t been crying before. This, this was crying. He sobbed, and choked, and screamed. He screamed at the sky, screamed until his throat was raw. He pounded against the tree, taking out all his frustrations on it.

“WHY?” He demanded of some unseen deity, “WHY? WHY CAN’T I DO ANYTHING RIGHT!? WHY AM I SUCH A FUCK UP!?” He wailed, spending all of his energy on the tree, until he collapsed. “Why?” He whimpered, “Why, couldn’t I do it? Just once... It wasn’t even for me. It was for her... I didn’t care what happened to me. I didn’t care if I’d be stuck here making shoes for farmers the rest of my life. I just... I just wanted to give somepony else a chance. Give them a chance to be something.” He looked up at the sky, tears staining and matting his fur. It had stopped raining now, leaving only the dark, evil clouds. He turned around, leaning against the tree, and sniffed miserably.

“Way to go, Caramel,” he said. “Looks like nothings changed after all. Farming wasn’t the problem, it was you. You just can’t do anything right.” He sat against the tree, wallowing in self-pity as the sun rose. It’s light danced around the trees, bouncing and glinting off the dew left by last night’s storm. A small ray of it snuck into his eye, stinging it. He tried to blink it away, but no matter how he turned his head, the light would always get in his eyes. Slowly, steadily, his self-pity was overcome by frustration, and finally anger. He stood up, drying his eyes, and stared at the tree where he had struck it. The bark had been torn away where he was hitting it now, but he had worn two hoofprints into the meat of the tree. They were almost perfectly shaped, and they gave Caramel an idea.

“I’m the problem,” he said, turning away from the tree and heading back for the village. “I wasn’t bad at farming. I was just bad. Well, if I’m the problem, then I’m going to fix it. No more running away. No more apologizing. This time, I fix the problem I caused.”

Caramel marched into the town as the sun came fully into view. Only a few ponies were out this early, and they paid him no heed. He made his way back to the cobbler’s house, and sat in front of the door. His heart thudded in his chest, but he knew what he had to do, and he knew he couldn’t back down now. He knocked on the door.

A very tired looking Jute answered it. “Caramel?” He asked, confused, “What’s the matter?”

“Jute... I need to use your workbench.” Caramel told him. Jute gave him a puzzled look, but let him in.

“Why do you need my workbench?” Jute asked quietly. Cocoa was asleep, and the two ponies tried not to wake her as they walked to the other room. Caramel wasn’t quite sure how to answer the question.

“I...” He started, “I need to make a shoe. A special one.”

“Special how?”

“You’ll see when I’m done,” Caramel told him, “That is, if you’ll let me use it.” Jute looked skeptical, but shook his head.

“I’ll need it back sometimes, so I can do my work,” He told the yellow earth pony, “But you can use it the rest of the time. I’d suggest working during the night - you can use our bed while we’re up, if you need it.”

“Thank you, Jute,” Caramel smiled, “I promise, I’ll make this up to you.”

“Caramel,” Jute told him, “I just want you to know. Whatever you think, we don’t blame you for what happened. You couldn’t have seen it coming.”

“How did you...” Caramel asked. Jute smiled at him.

“I’m a father. You pick up a few things - and guilt is an easy feeling to pick up on. Don’t be too hard on yourself, Caramel. You’re better than you think.” Caramel nodded.

“I will be,” he said, “I will be soon.” Jute closed the door behind him, leaving to pony to work alone.

Hardly anypony saw Caramel for days, after he went to work. The only pieces of evidence that he was even still in town were the extra bowl missing during mealtimes, and the bizarre demands that the town’s craftsponies were given. Jute handed out the requests almost daily, and anypony who attempted to put them aside where met with fierce repercussions, from a pair of mares. The request varies from simple, if odd, construction tasks, like springs from the blacksmith, to odd designs scratched onto pieces of shoe leather. More than once the objects were sent back with notes, or more requests were made for the same things. Nopony had any idea what Caramel was working on in that shop - not even Jute himself, for whenever he shifted Caramel from the bench his machinations were always covered by tarps, and the stallion hadn’t the heart to spoil the surprise - but everypony imagined it must be something absolutely enormous, for everything that he was asking for. After a while Caramel began to make more public appearances - only mealtimes, at first, but slowly making the rounds and speaking with all the craftsponies personally. Even then, the artisans barely understood what was going on. He would only ask what he needed from them, never bothering to explain himself before zipping off to the next stallion or mare. At one point, he even went around to all the town’s colts and fillies, asking questions that none of them would repeat. It went on that way for days, maybe even weeks. Tack began a steady recovery, slowly walking around town, careful not to let her injured leg touch the ground - whenever it did, and small cry would escape her lips. Caramel would never leave the work room to speak with her, or see her. After a while, even his mealtime excursions ceased. Jute or Cocoa would carry him out of the room when the morning light came, depositing him in their bed, only to have him rise again in the evening. He had a glint in his eye, Jute would later tell the ponies of Brumby, a single-mindedness about him. Like the entire world existed only in that tiny little room, and everything else was just an obstacle to getting back there. Finally, one day, Cocoa entered the work room.

It was littered with strange devices, all almost completely identical save for a few features. This one would be slightly larger than that one, and that one would have thicker springs on it than the next, and so on. But there on the workbench, cradled in Caramel’s sleeping hooves, was another. It’s springs were hidden away behind a gold-coloured circle, the size of a hoof. Metal bars stretched up, supported by straps and hinging in the middle. Cocoa inspected the device, and gently woke the sleeping colt.

“Caramel,” she whispered in his ear, “Caramel, dear, wake up. It’s morning.” Caramel mumbled sleepily, and his eyes fluttered open.

“Cocoa...” He said slowly. Cocoa smiled at him.

“Yes dear,” she said, “Jute needs to work now. Let’s get you to bed, okay?”

“No,” Caramel said, smiling at the device in his hands, “No, Jute can’t work yet. He needs to see this.”

“What... what is it?”

“It’s done, Cocoa,” Caramel beamed up at the mare, “I fixed it!”

Caramel blinked in the morning light. Jute, Tack, Cocoa and Powder had all gathered around in front of their home. Most of the village had stopped what they were doing to watch, but Caramel ignored them.

“Tack,” he said, “Jute, Cocoa, Powder. I’m so, so sorry for what I did to all of you.”

“Oh, Caramel,” Cocoa insisted, “Nopony blames you for what happened - “

“I blame me, Cocoa,” Caramel cut her off, “Tack got hurt because of me. I spent my whole life messing up. But now, now I fixed it. Tack... I’m going to make you better. You’ll be able to run again, I promise!” He presented her with the device, and she stared at it in confusion.

“What... is it?” She asked.

“It’s a shoe,” Caramel told her. All present stared at the earth pony like he had just declared himself the first president of the moon.

“A shoe.” Powder said, “You think a shoe, is going to help Tack...”

“The shoes we make keep the farmers from getting injured, Caramel,” Jute said, “but they can’t help somepony who’s already hurt.”

“Those ones can’t!” Caramel said, “But this one can! It’s special! Here, Tack, I’ll show you.” He undid the straps on the shoe, and circled around Tack. The young filly watched him carefully, keeping her injured leg tucked tight against her body. Caramel looked pleadingly at her.

“Please, Tack,” he begged, “Let me make this up to you. Let me fix you!” Tack gulped, and slowly, ever so slowly, put out her leg. Caramel slipped the shoe around it carefully, tightening the straps around her flank. “Try it out,” he said, “Put your hoof down.”

The crowd was breathless, and silent. Tack’s tiny little face screwed up, expecting a sharp pain as she pressed her hoof against the ground. But there was no cry, just a small, metallic squeak as the springs bent under her weight. Peeking an eye open, she pressed down hard, bouncing her hoof off the ground. She started to grin, and she tried prancing. Soon, she was skipping in a circle around the four ponies, bouncing happily and squealing with glee.

“It doesn’t hurt!” She declared, “It doesn’t hurt at all!” She bounded around the fields, ecstatically proclaiming for anypony who could hear, “I can run! I can jump! It doesn't hurt even a little tiny bit!”

From the back of the crowd, a clapping was heard. It took Caramel off guard, at first, but then another pony joined in.

And then another

And another

Soon, the whole village was applauding. Caramel didn’t know why, really. He was too tired to understand what he had done, but everypony else knew. He had made a miracle. For the first time in hundreds of years, a filly’s flank glowed brightly in Brumby. As Tack bounced around the crowd, the image of a letter appeared on her flank, declaring that she, Tack, daughter of Jute and Cocoa of Brumby, would dedicate her life to spreading the good news - whatever it happened to be.

Caramel sat in the middle of the applause, just watching Tack bounce. He would need to sleep soon, and only when he awoke would he really understand what had happened. But now, on some subconscious level perhaps, he knew. A tear streamed down his face, as Powder came and sat beside him.

“How did you make that thing?” She asked.

“Lot’sa tries.” He answered, “Lot’sa mistakes. But I fixed them.”

“Well,” She said. Caramel looked at her, and smiled. She smiled back. “Congratulations, Caramel.”