• Published 30th Nov 2015
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Analemma - Miller Minus



Once every month, a mare appears on a remote beach, far from her home. She plays, she reads, she sleeps, and she wastes precious, precious time.

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7 – Grandmother

Whenever a bunch of awful stuff has happened to me, or I feel like I'm at a loss for what to do, I always find it best to not dwell on the past or worry about what's happened, and to instead just figure out a step one and move on from there. So that's what I did after Sunny's latest stunt left me feeling worse for wear. I sat, I pondered, and I decided that the best step one for me was to do a cheeky little review.

So where was I?

I was stranded on an island in the middle of Nowhere Ocean. I hadn’t seen my friends in over half a year. The only thing I had to keep me company was a princess who – if provoked – blew large-animal-sized holes in tree houses. I was so close to carking it that I barely had the strength to get out to the window. On top of that, I was getting scared to death of death. My mum told me not to worry; as long as it's natural, you’ve done something right, but that didn’t make it less scary. It was my first time, after all.

But that was all no big deal, right?

Yep!

See, once the storm had gone (plus a few days just to be sure) I gave my poor home a once-over. And by that I mean I dragged myself across the floor to the hole in the wall and poked my head outside to see the damage. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do a patch job, but I didn’t want to not have a gander at her accomplishment.

I swiveled my head around, trying to locate the shredded pieces of wood. When I didn’t see them, I scoffed. She had sent them far. I sat up against the side of the hole and looked up, down, left, and right.

There was still no sign of the things. I laughed and I thought to myself, ‘It’s like they aren’t even on the island anymore.’

In fact, it was uncanny how much it was like that.

See, I always thought of Princess Sunny like a shooting star. She appeared out of nowhere, was never around long enough to get anything done, and was less impressive every time I saw her. But, when I couldn’t find the boards she’d blown out of my wall, I realized that connection was a little too distant for her. No, she was more like a tugboat. She had a schedule, she took ages to get places, and she carried a ton of baggage.

And the most important difference? Tugboats could be boarded.

So I cooked up a plan. A really sad, kinda pathetic plan. Not that it wasn’t going to work, but just that it involved me coughing and wailing like a whooping crane with pertussis the next time she was in earshot. Either she would feel sorry for me and whisk me away to her castle where I’d be nursed to death, or maybe she could cook up a spell that would patch me up and keep me going for a few more years.

All I had to do was survive long enough for her to pull in again.

Piece of cake, right?

Yep.

The boom on the beach came right on cue. I sat up tall, lifted my chin, and prepared to hack like there was no tomorrow (and that was starting to feel like a pretty fair assumption).

“So this… is where you go.”

“Yes. Peaceful, isn’t it?”

I darted to the window. I hadn’t heard that voice before. Sunny brought a mate! Another big one just like her, but not quite so big, and also sporting a crown and shiny shoes. She was a few shades of dark blue and had a mane that was so full of stars she must have stolen them from space, along with a few extra ones to go with the moon on her flank.

The new visitor cantered towards the water until her hooves were dipped. “Uh…,” she started.

“What is it?”

“We art… confused.”

Sunny laughed. “Art thou?”

“Do not jest, Sister. I must prac—We must practice the dialect expected of a royal princess. Thou spokest it thyself. Our subjects’ approval depends on how we present ourselves.”

“Oh, forsooth.”

The guest narrowed her gaze. “Thou art still… tomfoolering.

Something wasn’t right with these two. I could have sworn I heard the younger one say ‘Sister’, but the way Sunny pulled her in under her wing made them seem more like mother and daughter.

“It takes more than words,” the more motherly pony soothed. “Please, can we not strain our voices today? We’re on vacation here.”

The blue mare pulled away and harrumphed. “Please respect our decision. Our duty is just as import—”

And she probably would have kept yapping if not for the sudden splash of water in her face. Well, I say splash, but the sound it made was more like a firm slap. The cold water froze her face for a few seconds, after which she twitched and spat a small stream back into the ocean. The elder sister put on a cheeky grin as the tip of her wing dripped wet.

“Did you just…?” the younger murmured.

With her hoof this time, the elder splashed again.

“Cease thine unbecoming shenanigans at once, Sister!”

“Maketh me!”

“Stooooop!”

The elder sister pranced into the ocean and kicked yet more water up, and the younger’s horn flared. A wisp of blue magic brought the water into the air and blasted it at the playful white mare, pushing her off her hooves and into the drink.

“Take that!”

A golden tendril rose out of the water beneath the blue mare and swept her legs out from under her, plopping her into the damp, muddy sand. She scrambled to her hooves and took flight towards her opponent, bringing a piece of the ocean with her.

“Prepare yourself!”

It was a battle for the ages. They swam out into the ocean and traded watery blows, using their hooves, horns and wings. That white mare may have been a professional homewrecker, but at least she knew how to put on a show. Plus, she’d done something I was pretty confident nobody would ever do. She got that snooty mare to shut her trap. Honestly, her voice was driving me insane. Unlike the experienced and warm tone that her sister used to roll every word off her tongue, her voice was like a childhood bully, pushing its words down a slide while they weren’t looking. She and I would never get along, I reckoned. Ponies who talked like that were ponies who took things way too seriously.

Including splash fights, it seemed. Down in the drink the two of them were going at it like there was no tomorrow (and I was pretty confident they both had a tomorrow). Sunny was having fun, taking a few hits but also dodging her fair share as well. Her sister, meanwhile, was out for blood. She growled and snarled every time she was hit, and even grew less and less satisfied with each of her own successful attacks.

As the fight went on, it got worse and worse until finally, right in the middle of a war, the younger sister just stopped. She stared straight ahead and scowled, while the water was slapped in her face over and over by a big sister who took a little too long to realize she was the only one still playing.

The blue mare bellowed, “ENOUGH!”

The white mare recoiled. “What’s wrong?”

Silent and seething, Sunny’s sister turned away and walked back up the shore, wrenching the water out of her mane with a spell. “You are making a fool of me,” she muttered.

“Sister… It was just for fun,” Sunny muttered back, gliding back to shore and casting her shadow over the brooding mare.

Enough. We should go home. I have my night to attend to and you need your sleep. We haven’t the time to shirk our duties here.”

It was a simple enough statement – one that was begging for a reply – but Sunny had no answer. She’d heard the words just fine, but instead of answering them she just looked away and rubbed her foreleg.

Her sister was facing the forest, almost looking straight at me, and waiting for the simple reply. But when no answer came, her face changed from focus to confusion, then from confusion to betrayal. She turned around to share the look with her sister. “You usually spend the night here,” she concluded.

The guilty child look didn’t suit Sunny at all. I wanted it to stop. I was happy somebody had told her off for what I’d been complaining about for the last few months, but I hated the way this new mare had done it. Especially with that voice.

“It’s only once a month,” Sunny finally replied. “It helps me focus. Besides, this is my second last visit. It’s only until I’ve made a decision, after all.”

“A decision? You mean the council’s little game.”

Sunny’s eyes lit up a little, and she trotted to her sister’s side. “Which is why I brought you here!” she remembered. “I was hoping you could help me.”

“…How long did they give you?”

“A year.”

“And it’s been?”

“Eleven months.”

I will forever remember the look that Sunny’s sister had on her face after that. I call it the ‘Gaze.’ She just sort of loses all emotion and gives her sister a vacant look, and it’s always accompanied by everything going silent something awful. I quickly learned that she was hiding something whenever the Gaze came out. Or maybe “bottling” was a better word.

I hated the Gaze. I hated how my little mare in white was being treated. And most of all, I hated that these two were pretending to be sisters. Sisters were supposed to be mates! They weren’t supposed to glare, bicker, and treat games like they were war. That wasn’t sisters. That was enemies.

And if they had something to sort out, couldn’t they do it elsewhere?

“Fine,” Sunny’s sister answered eventually, breaking free from the Gaze. “Sit down.”

Sunny obliged. For a princess, she was good at following orders.

“Tell me about them.”

“Okay, well, first there’s Homestead. He’s a handsome farmer from out west, known for putting his family and his hometown before himself. The council has assured me, actually, that he would put our ponies first as well. He’s a remarkably confident stallion. He’s never put a word wrong around me.”

Sunny’s sister blew out a sigh. The corner of her mouth rose up her cheek. “Next,” she drawled.

Sunny swallowed and nodded. “Right, um, the second is Clemence Greatheart. He’s a well-travelled pony who has had a hoof in starting charities all over Equestria. You may have even heard his name…”

No reply.

“…Anyways. He’s incredibly sweet and has a gorgeous smile. I think you’d like him, Sister.”

“Any more?”

“Yes, there is… the… third one. He was pleasant, wasn’t he? Hmm…”

There it was again. The Gaze came back for round two, and the three of us were just choking in silence. It was torture, but honestly, it was better than what it was hiding. There was a fighter breaking out from underneath the younger sister. Thankfully, the special ingredient that every fight needs to get started wasn’t there, and it didn’t look like it was going to come into play.

Sunny smiled, powering through the Gaze. “Isn’t that funny? Sister, I’ve forgotten the name of my own suitor. I suppose I should have written it down…”

“Actually, it’s quite plausible.”

“Oh?”

“Sister, do you think their lives a game?”

Sunny’s smile weakened. She pivoted her head so slightly that I almost missed it. “Whose?”

“Househead and Greenchart, or whatever their names were. The council. Our subjects. You know, the current blips in our peripherals.”

Sunny’s mouth fell open and she rose up from the sand. Just like that, we had the missing ingredient. A second fighter. “What did you call them?” she questioned.

“Oh, don’t act like you have more respect for them than I do. You know full well they’re different from us.”

“I created the council precisely because we are different!” Sunny paused to breathe in and out before continuing. It was a waste of a breath. “Because we can’t be trusted to make all the decisions. You realized that.”

“And you did a commendable job pretending that meant anything. If you had any respect for the council, you would have refused this matchmaking farce of theirs and disbanded them for even suggesting it.”

“Love is a powerful force, Sister! It’s a good idea!”

Sunny’s sister pounded her front hooves in the sand. “Then why do you waste their lives?! Puttering away on this forsaken beach, pretending you’re getting any closer to picking either of them—!” She thrust her hooves again. “If Equestria only knew what little you did for them.”

Sunny took a step back. “Would you rather I did everything for them?”

“I would rather they didn’t look at you like you DID!”

The trees around me all rustled at once. A flock of seagulls swarmed in the air, but they didn’t dare make a peep.

Sunny’s mouth quivered open. “…What?”

Her sister pressed her ankle against the bridge of her nose and grimaced. “They don’t realize that the day is there to be attended to,” she ranted, “and it is the night that cares for them, restores them, and prepares them for the next time they can praise what a wonderful morning it is. They look at you, and they delight. They look at me… and they cringe, Sister. And they don’t look for long.”

Something went wrong with the little sister’s speech. I couldn’t tell exactly what it was, but the word ‘cringe’ had come out sounding downright metallic. I thought I had imagined it at first, until I saw Sunny narrow her eyes at it. The pause gave her sister a chance to let the anger fade away, and for the Gaze to come back in full force.

Sunny took a step towards her sister and looked deep into her eyes. “You’ve never wanted the spotlight,” she reminded her. “There’s something else behind this.”

Her sister cocked her head to the side and shut her eyes. The beginning of a tear started under the one facing me. “I made a promise,” she whimpered, before clearing her throat. “A promise that we would lead our ponies through example and guidance, but not through assistance. And by taking that too far, you are breaking my promise.”

Sunny lifted a hoof to rest on her sister’s shoulder. “Sister, I miss grandma as much as you do, but she didn’t wan—”

“You miss whom?”

Sunny blinked. “…Grandma,” she replied, through a crack in her voice.

The younger pony prodded her sister’s hoof away. “Remind me,” she seethed. “What was her name?” There was the metal again.

“You… you weren’t even there when she—”

“TELL ME HER NAME!”

“I’VE FORGOTTEN!”

The seagulls overhead scattered and blew away. I wished I could follow them. Then maybe I wouldn’t have to see Sunny rock back onto her flank and bow her head. The only comfort I took in it was that she was defeated. And defeat meant the fight could end.

The hum I’d heard over the storm last month started again. It was from the younger sister this time, pulling out from shore, giving the loser one last chance to see the Gaze, and hear her stinging words one more time.

“If only you’d written it down.”

“Luna, WAIT!”

She was gone in a flash, leaving me and Sunny with the beach all to ourselves.

Actually, I take that back. She was alone down there, and she didn’t like it.

She stood up and growled. “What is wrong with you?!” she screamed with that beautiful voice of hers, and suddenly, it was like we were back in that first month again—the month of her first visit. She was shaking, her breathing was unsteady, and her eyes were shut tight. She started her exercise to calm down, and though it took a little longer than the first time, she still succeeded. Then, she looked to the early morning sun for guidance, and I assumed, closed her eyes.

That was my chance, really. The chance to start the plan and have her come rescue me. The chance to board the little tugboat and live happily ever after. At least until I died. Then who knows where I’d be. But I just watched her for the five minutes she stayed behind before warping after her sister. She didn’t seem like she wanted to be bothered.

And I couldn’t shake the feeling that the little tugboat was about to start taking on water.