• Published 30th Jan 2015
  • 3,327 Views, 12 Comments

Crusader's End - CalebH

Luna finally visits Applebloom in a dream. Unfortunately, it's not under the best of circumstances.

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Chapter 1

Crusader’s end

Applebloom wiped a tear from her eye as she slipped the note between two loose boards beneath her mattress. Even if she did sit here and bawl her eyes out nopony would hear. Big Mac and Applejack were out bringing in the harvest and Granny Smith had found some sunny spot on the porch to nap. Scootaloo was out tearing up the stunt circuit and Sweetie Belle was making a name for herself in the Canterlot Chorus.

Wasn’t like anypony cared anyhow. Just leave the little blank-flank at home, less likely to break something there.

She reached up and took the dreamcatcher from its place in the wall. She’d heard Scootaloo and Sweetie talk about how Luna went into their dreams. Maybe the gift from Little Strongheart had worked or maybe Luna just never bothered. Either way Applebloom knew she wasn’t worth the princess’s time. A worthless little blank-flank wasn’t worth saving.

Applebloom stepped out into the crisp air. It was at least a good day for it. The stepping points up to the roof of the barn wouldn’t be too cold or wet. Getting up would be easy and getting down... getting down wouldn’t be too much trouble either, unless a cutie mark in flying decided to appear.

Luna stifled a sigh as she looked around the gilded room. Family dinners were at least predictable, Cadence and Shining would sneak kisses like an unmarried couple half their age while Blueblood would provide an endless stream of the most inane prattle Canterlot had to offer and Celestia would pretend to hang on his every word. The food would be too good, the portions too small, the wine too weak and despite the October chill the room would still manage to be unbearably stuffy.

The first course was set on the table, a few leaves and some overly expensive dressing masquerading as a salad. Luna poked at the course absently, she would likely have to raid the pantry after this meal to sate her appetite.

“You’ll never believe what Jet Set said at the latest soiree…” Just like that Luna had lost interest in her family’s conversation. Discreetly she charged her horn and reached into the dreamscape. Perhaps there was a nightmare she could interrupt or some early dreamer she could offer wisdom to.

Luna opened her eyes in surprise. She had been looking for Applebloom’s dreams for years. Somehow they had always escaped her sight. Why would she see them now of all times? Luna scanned the room, her family were playing their usual parts, none would notice her absence. A quick spell and she found herself in the filly’s dreams.

The world around her was black and formless. There was only a pair of figures standing near a doorway. One stood only as high as her knee with a pink bow tied in her red mane. The other was an alicorn who stood taller than Celestia and was draped in a black cloak, only a pair of bone-white wings was visible.

“No!” Luna gasped. She galloped through the void as she saw the hooded pony lean down to whisper in Applebloom’s ear. She crashed into him at full tilt yet he didn’t even budge. He never did.

“You shall not have her!” she shouted as she struggled in vain to distance him from her subject.

“Luna,” he said with a hint of laughter in his deep bass voice, “I am surprised to see you here. She is no soldier that she should earn your escort to my door.”

“She is my subject and I shall not give her to thee Charon!”

Though his head was completely concealed within his hood Luna got the impression that Charon was smiling at her.

“She gives herself to me. I only wait for Gaia to release the filly.”

“No,” Luna insisted as she turned desperately to Applebloom. “No, she would not, she could not!”

“I did,” Applebloom whispered. “I just want this to be over.”

“Hold filly,” Charon said as he raised a pale hoof to stop her, “Gaia yet holds you and I will not risk her wrath.”

“What the hay does that mean?” Applebloom asked.

“You are at death’s door but you are yet alive. Gaia guards her own from my touch jealously and I will not take you until the time comes and you chose to cross my threshold.”

“The filly still has a choice?” Luna interjected breathlessly.

“It seems to me the choice is already made,” Charon said, “We only have to wait until it can no longer be unmade.”

Luna turned to find Applebloom sitting dejectedly faced away from them.

How could she have done this to herself? Luna thought. How could a filly, young enough to not yet have her mark, feel so much pain that she would want to die?
She walked over to the filly and settled down beside her. Silence reigned between the two. Luna attempted a start at conversation several times but after opening her mouth the words escaped her and only a strangled breath escaped.

Luna reached back into her memory. She had seen the filly several times over the years and she even considered herself a friend to the filly’s two companions. They had even accompanied her guard once, attempting to earn cutie marks in guarding.

Luna looked at the filly’s painfully blank flank. She was extremely late in gaining hers but surely that wasn’t reason enough for Applebloom to end her life. Luna mentally chided herself, her own cutie mark was marked by a pain that haunted her for her entire life. She should never underestimate the pain such a thing could bear.

“I think it is time I told you of my mark,” Luna finally said.

Applebloom rolled her eyes. “I’ve heard more cutie mark stories than you can shake a stick at and I’ve heard the same damn lesson every time, “Do what you love and be patient”.”

“My cutie mark?” Luna asked with a derisive snort, “A year after Celestia gained hers I raised the moon and gained mine, ‘twas a boring and predictable affair even for me. No I will not tell you about my cutie mark, it is not the only brand I bear. Look at my flank and tell me what you see.”

For a moment it seemed as if Applebloom would not even comply but with a long suffering sigh she finally turned her head. She scrunched up her face as she examined the princess’s side. “The moon and that black bit, it’s supposed to be the night sky ain’t it.”

“Aye that is the lie I have spread. It is a scar from long, long ago,” Luna began. “Understand, Applebloom, this was a different time, a different age. Ponies did not seek to live in harmony with nature, we sought dominion over it. Years of perpetual summer gave us a land of endless prosperity. But nature would not be denied her course. During the day weather battalions fought off blizzards and tamed them into rain for the crops. During the night we could not see them coming.

“Months of work could be taken away in an instant as crops froze in the fields. Unwary households would freeze to death in their own beds. The earth spawned horrors to fight back against our encroachment. It is only that the tribes worked together to subjugate nature that the windegoes did not take us then. During the night our farthest outposts would simply disappear, our newly cleared fields would be invaded by ents and timberwolves and reclaimed by the forest. Even our most secure strongholds soon found themselves under attack.

“The night itself rebelled against us. The moon birthed stars and began her phases. Some nights she even refused to rise. The night had declared itself the enemy of ponies.

“The moon on my flank did not merely make me an outcast it made me a traitor to my own kind. These ponies were not cruel or vindictive. They were farmers and artisans. They were good and misguided ponies who sought to give me another chance at a better fate.

“Even at such a tender age alicorns are nigh indestructible. They spirited me away and chained me over a blacksmith’s furnace. After a half hour of adding coal and working the bellows my throat was more damaged from my screams than my flank.”

Luna shuddered at the memory before continuing, “It took hours for them to burn me deeply enough. Even then they were only half done. I was too exhausted from straining against my bonds to even attempt to escape when they flipped me over. They--they had to quench me like a rod of overworked iron before they could take ahold of me. Even after all of my torture there was yet another side to cleanse.

“When they finally released me from their torture I ran to my home and hid under my bed. Servants asked why I smelt of burnt hair but I was too afraid to say. I waited until none were looking to even dare apply bandages. I knew that if I told it would only bring more violence and pain. It was not a clean wound. Infection put me abed for weeks. I would not let the healers examine me to find why I was sick. I only lay in my bed, sipping my medicine while the world continued without me.

“After my fever had passed and my wounds had healed it was…easy to convince everypony, no matter how close that my mark had always been that way.”

“No offence princess but I don’t really care about a scar. If it’s all the same to you I’m gonna be going with your friend over there,” Applebloom said.

“It is not all the same to me!” Luna all but shouted, “And this is no mere scar. Alicorns are extremely durable and very fast healers and we do not scar. I know this more than any. My shattered leg pierced through the skin when I threw myself from the Canterhorn. I spent months enchanting a blade to pierce my heart only to find that I healed too fast to be killed by such mundane means and after removing the blade from my flesh I did not even bear a mark of my attempt. I have lead armies and fought with a reckless abandon that nopony could match. I have challenged the most ancient and dangerous dragons. I have bathed in their flames and I yet remain unscathed!

This mark on my flank is no mere scar filly. It is a wound to my very soul. A hurt that runs so deep that not even Nightmare Moon could escape it. For thousands of years I have thought them right. I sought no retribution, no justice. They only did what I lacked the courage and the self-worth to. I could not be cleansed with fire because I was not worth saving.”

Luna stomped the ground as angry tears began to make their way down her cheeks. She turned to glare at Charon “I am so worthless that death himself will not have me! I have tried time and time again to approach this threshold yet I am denied and imprisoned within this worthless life.”

Luna deflated as her anger seemed to cave in on itself. “In my desperation I took the guise of a demon so that Celestia would kill me. Everything I have ever done she has done better. It was fitting that she should succeed in ending my life but NO! A millennia I wept on the moon forgotten and with only my longing for death to accompany me. Nightmare Moon was no more successful than I was.

“I returned with violence in my heart. I would show her than imprisonment had done nothing, that my death was the only answer. She used your sister and her friends against me. They weakened my until I was but a helpless foal so that I could return to Canterlot under Celestia’s watchful eye. She was meant to be my escape but now she is the warden to my prison. She shows me the wonders of this new age, how much better off the world has been without me. Do you know what I feel when I see each of these?” Luna asked bringing her head down to look straight in Applebloom’s eyes.

“Worthless,” came her despondent reply. “Like what you do doesn’t matter, like the only time you get noticed is when you’re in the way, like you’re just holding everypony back, like they’d all be better off if you just weren’t there, like you’re an outsider looking in and as hard as you try and as much as you want you’ll never be a part of that world, you’ll never get your cutie mark. Unloved, unwanted, worthless. Like jumping off that barn is the only good thing you can do.”

“That pain,” Luna said gently as she brought herself closer to the filly, “those doubts, those fears they will not go away. But beneath them I am so, so thankful that Celestia made a way for me to come back. There is a small orphanage that I visit,” Luna smiled fondly despite the tears coursing down her cheeks. “The foals scream with delight when they see me. They—they call me mommy Luna.” Luna grinned and let out a soft laugh even as fresh tears fell.

“I am not saying that making another happy should become your reason for living but sometimes seeing another smile and seeing joy light up their face quiets the pain and reminds us that our lives do mean something, that we are worth saving even from ourselves.”

“What do you want me to do then, give up on everything and get a cutie mark in raising orphans?!” Applebloom shouted with hot tears streaming down her face. “It ain’t like I can just turn around and stop being a worthless blank-flank. I always have been and I always will be, unless you got a spell that even Twilight didn’t know there ain’t nothing that can be done about it.”

“What I want you to do is wake up and tell somepony why you did this so that they can help you. Take some time to make another happy so that the fires of friendship can chase away this darkness but first I want you to give up the idea that a cutie mark will bring you worth.”

“Now hold just a minute,” Applebloom said, “just because you got a bad story with your cutie mark that don’t mean mine wouldn’t fix this.”

“For a time you might feel better. For a time you would live into your destiny with all the joy you see in others but it would not last. In time you would find life with a cutie mark as worthless as you found it without. You must go to your friends and your family let them remind you of the remarkable and worthwhile pony you are, let them give you strength to live.”

Applebloom fiddled with her hooves and sniffled as she considered Luna’s words. “I—if you are right how am I supposed to tell my family what I did? How am I gonna tell them why I wanted to die?”

Luna shook her head with a sardonic laugh. “It is ironic that this is where pride should find its voice. In truth I do not know, Celestia believes the same lies I have told everypony else. For years I have wanted to tell her but there was always some crisis, some event, too many ponies in the room, too little time that day, there was always some reason to put off telling her. So I will strike a bargain with you Applebloom, when we next see our families we shall tell them the painful truth.”

“But how am I supposed to look them in the eye when they know I tried to do something that’ll hurt them so much? How am I supposed to say that I was tryin’ to end the life they worked so hard to make good? It’ll crush them! If I go through that door at least I want have to face them with all that pain.”

“You must trust them to be strong, stronger than the pain of what you say. You must have faith that family will weather even this storm if they weather it together.”

Charon approached the two. “Time grows short, you must chose filly.”

Applebloom looked nervously at Luna. “I tell my kin and you tell yours, that’s the deal right?”

Luna nodded “As soon as we are able, no waiting for an appropriate time, no hesitation.”

Applebloom looked at Charon and through his door to the bright pasture beyond. Luna felt her heart catch in her throat as she took a step towards it.

“Thank you,” Applebloom said, “thank you for letting me wait around and decide but I think I’ll be taking Luna’s deal.”

“Goodbye filly,” Charon said, “I hope I do not see you again for a long and happy lifetime.”

Applebloom’s world went white.

Blurry indistinct shapes crowded her vision as sound began to pound at her ears. There was shouting and rhythmless beeping. Pain lanced up a foreleg and across her skull.

“….breathing again.”

“Her heart rate’s stabilizing.”

“She’s opening her eyes!”

A bright yellow light took over her vision as her eyelids were peeled back with magic.

“Dilation’s a little slow, I want hourly checks for any sign of a concussion while we have her in observation. Now that she’s out of danger let’s get that cast on her leg.

Her eyelids released Applebloom blinked away the spots in her vision as the world around her gained distinction. She was in a white room with three doctors hovering over her. A nurse a few steps back scribbled furiously as the doctor rattled off more doctor-ey sounding words that Applebloom didn’t understand.

The room’s door crashed open. The nurse went to the door only to be bulled out of the way by a giant red blur. Applebloom’s vision was filled with her brother’s worried face.

“Big Mac?”

In an instant the worry seemed to vanish from his face. “Eeyup.”

The nurse who was about to launch into a tirade about how the pony who looked and smelled like he had galloped all the way here from mucking a pig stall should exit the now very unsterile operating room was cut off by a bone crushing embrace from the big red stallion. Applebloom couldn’t help but laugh at her brother’s antics: he still cuddled when he was scared. To the doctor’s dismay another sweaty and work-stained pony entered the room with a worried scowl on her face followed by an elderly matron with her mane more out of her bun than in.

“…I cannot say we are always so graceful as ponies seem to think.” Luna heard Celestia say to Cadence as she came out of the spell, “Why, once when climbing the Canterhorn Luna fell off and forgot she had wings the whole way down. A three thousand foot fall and only a broken leg, thank heavens it wasn’t worse, but that should give you an idea of how…resilient we can be.”

“I jumped,” Luna said too loudly.

The entire room fell silent, even the heart monitor seemed to pause at the admission.

“Of course you jumped! This was just some other hair brained scheme to get a cutie mark that’ll come on its own if you just give it some time!” Applejack angrily shouted,
“Nevermind if you almost died—“

“--I wanted to die,” Applebloom cut her sister off, “I—I was trying to kill myself.”

Any other situation Luna would have laughed at the sight of Celestia’s mouth hanging open, a dainty bite of unchewed food plain for all to see. Now it just twisted the knife of guilt further in her stomach.

“A hundred other times I failed and simply hid them or brushed them off as accidents. Nightmare Moon…I tried to…” Luna found that she could not speak another word through her throat that seemed to close up. The soft plink of tears hitting china met her ears as Celestia’s hooves wrapped around her.

Not even the nurse tried to stop Big Mac as he all but climbed in the bed with Applebloom and wrapped her in his embrace.

“Applebloom,” Applejack said in the voice of a pony who had looked down to find that there was no ground and never had been, “why?”

“I felt so worthless,” Luna said between heaving sobs. “I pulled myself away from others and counted my pains like a miser counts coins until I believed I was doing others a service by ending myself. Even then I failed.”

Celestia’s body jerked with its own sobs against her.

The bed jerked with a low choked cough. It took until a great teadrop splashed onto the bed beside her for Applebloom to realize that it was her brother’s sob. He brought her in tighter crushing her ribs while keeping her injured limb safe and stable.

She felt hooves against her back, hesitatant at first but they began stroking her back as whispered reassurances filled the room.

Luna forced herself to relax and accept the comfort the others offered. They were as much family as she would ever find outside of Celestia. Family trusted each other, family depended on each other. Another hoof rested against her leg, far too small to be any adults.

“Mommy Woona, what’s wrong?”

“Applebloom what’s wrong?”

Applebloom dug her head out of her brother’s fur. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle looked up at her with big concerned eyes. Applebloom reached down with her good foreleg to bring her two best friends into the hug.

“I’ve been hurting for so long. I was too stubborn and stupid to tell anypony or try and get any help.”

“But Mommy Woona, you said it’s not nice to keep secrets.”

“No,” Luna said as she drew the foal up into an embrace, “It’s not nice and sometimes our secrets hurt us more than anypony else.”

Luna sneaked a glance at the open door. The orphanage matron stood there with her face buried in her hooves. Luna attempted a reassuring smile but only managed to send the mare a slightly less sad look.

“Don’t worry Mommy Woona, I’ll help you.”

Applebloom smiled down at her friends with tears in her eyes. There was no hesitation, they knew their friend was hurting and they immediately offered to help, to try and save her from whatever pain she may be feeling. Maybe…maybe her friends knew more about who was worth saving than she did.

Author's Note:

I am not any sort of authority on mental health. If you have been thinking of taking your own life please get help. You are more loved, more wanted, and your life is more worth saving than you know.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255

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