• Published 26th Apr 2016
  • 1,379 Views, 14 Comments

Of Fever Dreams and Falling Stars - Ice Star



When Celestia unexpectedly falls sick in the middle of the desert, it's up to a young Luna to somehow obtain medicine for her sister.

  • ...
3
 14
 1,379

Act One: Rocks In a Sea of Sand

It was always cold in the desert at night. Two little fillies should not have been out then, all alone no less.

The sky was barren of any visible stars on that night. Nothing shone across the reds and browns of this landscape. All would remain quiet until day when the sun was forcibly dragged across the sky in an artless manner by an unknown being, if there was any at all to do so. This was equally true for the moon.

Even the tumbleweeds did dare to not stir. Each and every grain in the sandstone of the mesas was quiet as well.

This was not the first of many unnatural cycles the land experienced. The buffalo, like many others were puzzled about the illness of the land. At one of their camps, half a tribe sat still around a flame hoping that some explanation would emerge from its crackling depths as to what happened to their world within the memory of the more recently passed Ancestors. Why was Nature in such torment?

It was deniable, they could feel it in the roots of Nature's magic. Something was diminished, a vital part of their world. They did not know what it could be, but the Ancestors might.

Even as the matriarch whispered to the flames, and stirred the sparks with a staff decorated with discarded phoenix feathers, she could only hang her head with shame.

The Ancestors were as soundless as the world around them, not a single word of wisdom uttered by either party.

Would they receive nothing?

Many days away, around ash and dying embers lie two fillies on twin piles of quilts. One of them sleeping peacefully, her breathing barely stirring barely a grain of sand, the other sweating slightly.

Her coughs broke the chains of silence that strangled the land mere moments before. She didn't know this of course, being asleep, and she wouldn't know it when she woke up either.

Another cough, going unheard by all, and then the silence resumed, unbearable to all but these blissfully unaware fillies.

...

Tia hung back a little longer today, her eyes looked tired as she squinted at our map. This was not really like her.

We know we both had been travelling for an entire cycle of the sun and the moon, but that was to make up for lost time when We had a hard time waking her up at one of our previous camps.

Typically, We were always the one who was tired when the two of us decided to travel like this, which was not often.

We kicked a loose stone, as red as autumn leaves, across the dry landscape and waited for Our sister to catch up.

"Luna! Why did you stop walking?" Tia has caught up with Us now, We can see her white coat against the sandy soil, which may just be regular sand. We are not quite sure.

"Ooh, We were waiting for you-"

Her breathing seems a little off. Maybe she should catch her breath and sit down for a little bit.

"Luna, you do not need to do so. It will slow us down." She flips a sticky curl of pink mane out of her face. We know it is super-duper warm out here but that does not seem like a good sign. But maybe it is just because she has a longer mane then We do...

"Okay," We say, smiling at Our sister to cheer her up. We will keep an eye on her, though. Only one eye of course, We still need to see where We are going.

She passes in front of us, in her long strides that she insist make her seem more princess-y. We follow her trying to make a game of how long We can walk in her shadow without her noticing.

We walk onward, and after a while We look up at the clouds which are puffy and white and just begging for Us to point out what they look like.

"Look Tia, that one is a turtle! And the one of there - oh my gosh! It looks exactly like a hare with its big ears. It is just like the story dad told us!"

We see Tia tilt her head and look at the clouds.

There is a small smile on her face.

...

Our map only covers the big stuff like big mountain chains and forests. Smaller things are always left out. Even though Tia carries it all the time she has showed it to us before.

"Tia does that mean We will not show up on the map?" We had asked.

She was confused when We asked her this. "What do you mean, Luna?"

We explained to her that if the map leaves out smaller counterparts that means it will show her since she is our big sister but not us because We are small.

"You are letting your imagination run wild again, Luna."

"Well We have to let it run wild so it can join us, considering we no longer have a castle to put it in."

Sometimes Tia would get upset when We mentioned the castle, after all, she missed it very much. Especially pillows. She hated how there were never any good pillows one could find in nature.

After a while, We stopped missing butterscotches so much and hardly ever thought of them yet Tia seemed to still act huffy about pillows and things like soup spoons. We did not tell her that We liked travelling just as much as We liked the castle, just like We never asked her why the oceans were so big, even though all that water had to come from somewhere.

Sometimes, the two of us would be surprised when we found something like a nice hill, field, or lake that was not on the map, which we never marked for fear of damaging our only navigation device.

...

Today was one of those times. Tia stood on the top of a ridge that sloped downward, and We peeked out from behind her.

We were overlooking the newest change in the landscape. A river winding its way through many tall, holey spires and table-hills of orange rock with barely any sandy patches visible. Even from here We could see dry clumps of some plants, although they might just have been still tumbleweeds waiting for the wind to move them again.

Tia declared that we would be staying here for a night, and only a night. She added that we would want to make good use of the water here as well as any tasty or not so tasty plants.

We knew how to make us stay longer.

She mumbled that she would go find a place to sleep, when she was about to tell me what to do, We interrupted her, sounding chipper as usual and telling her We would go find food and water by the river.

Tia did not argue; her eyes met mine.

If one of us was lost, we both knew what to do, that is what her eyes were saying. We have a magic signal as well as a bird call if something prevents the former, and of course always tell the other where you are going to be, because those are part of common sense and Tia's Big Sister Safety Rules which are like her princess rules, but We like the safety ones much better.

Except, We never had to tell her exactly what We were going to do.

...

The river doesn't look very deep, We thought as We stared at it safely from the shore. Small rivers were always disappointed Us because they rarely contained any interesting fish for us to observe. But it would work.

We looked around, making sure that nopony would notice what We were about to do.

Thankfully, Tia had not followed. We undid the buckle on Our saddlebags, sticking our tongue out as our magic fumbled with it until it came undone.

Picking it up in our mouth, We dragged the bag over to the river. Since the straps were dragging, one of the buckles ended up getting caught on a stone, and some of the stuff in it spilled: dried clover, smooth stones, and the candy that I really wish was there, but was not 'cause Tia never let Us bring it, except now that Our scheme is in motion We suppose it was better that way although We would never admit it to her.

We didn't bother to clean any of this up right now. We were going to be a criminal, and We are quite sure that criminals do not clean up their messes.

Yes, We would be a criminal.

Until dinner.

Tia would never let a criminal eat dinner, even if she was sick. She would know. Somehow.

Our half empty bags made a muffled thump as We plopped them down on the dry sand. They would stay here for now, while We did part two of our criminal... umm what was the word that described criminal doings... Uhh, We think it is called criminal-ness. Yes, that is a big and fancy word that We are certain Our sister used too!

"Okay, so here We are doing act two of our... criminalness." We only whisper this because if We shout our problems out to the world like a real criminal who knows what authority figures will pop out and tell us what a bad filly We have been.

Except, We do not think bad fillies help their sisters. So, if We are not a good filly or bad filly... what kind of filly is that? Tia says that there are only those two kinds of fillies. We have never told her that We think she is wrong, instead We just half-listen and look at the clouds when she thinks We are listening and wonder what this sort of filly would be called. Then We usually end up wondering if this applies to the world as a whole. Does it?

Good, bad, and... ? Even now, as We jump up a down, stomping my hooves in the dust to make funny hoof prints that cause us to giggle We wonder what this might be called.

All that happens is We end up scrunching up our face in confusion over a name that doesn't seem to exist for a concept that is just as mysterious.

We kick our saddle bags into the river watching the small splash they make before it drifts downstream leaving a trail of supplies along the way, before getting caught on a rock. Everything else floats away, thank goodness.

We fling all the spilled objects into the river as well. Thankfully, most of them sink.

Lastly, We wade in and submerge our face in the sun-warmed water and blow bubbles wondering why the world is such a funny place.

Gray.

That is it. It seems to come out of nowhere, just like the bubbles. The not-good but not-bad filly has a name now.

Gray. What happens when you mix things to get something both new and old.

Sort of 'the funny world', We suppose, which is most defiantly both new and old.

After a few minutes, when We are done holding our breath and feel soaked, We stumble onto the shore scattering water droplets as We headed off to find Our sister, wet saddlebags slung over Our back.

...

"Luna, what happened?" was the first thing Tia said when We arrived at the latest temporary shelter the two of us shared. It was a small cave slightly redder then everything else around Us, with smooth walls and a floor covered in a carpet of soft shadows that were cool to the touch. The smoothness of the rock fascinated Us; it was as if the wind itself had decided to scoop out stone to create this den.

It had been a bit of a walk to get here, and the heat seemed to be making Us dizzy. We swayed on our hooves.

From her corner, Tia rose from her pile of the quilts that had been neatly stored away, and walked over to Us, repeating her question. Her throat sounds a little funny.

"The river..." We mumble, trailing off as heat teased Our brain.

She poked a white hoof into the saddlebags We had returned with, flipping open the empty lid a few times.

"You fell in. Lost all your provisions."

We nodded, feeling so super-dizzy.

"You see why We would not let you carry anything besides food and herbs? Luna, you do realize that you are klutzy at times."

Celestia, you do realize that you trip over your mane at times? We see that. Our turquoise eyes see all. For now We will ignore this insult but one day, when you least except it...

We will eat some of your food when you aren't looking! You will feel our wrath! Heeheehee-!

"You failed the task We gave you," Tia continued, her face as stern as a certain fish We know. She even sounded like him.

"Since we are now lacking in food, it shall be required that the both of us, dear sister, delay further action until our needs are met-"

It normally is not a good thing when she starts tossing those words around and acting all princess-y, except that this time We knew what was coming.

"-we will have to stay behind for a few cycles, it seems."

To most other ponies, it would seem that she had finished although, We knew that Tia was never done until she proclaimed-

"That is Our decree!"

She fixed her magenta gaze on Us. Tia looked so tired.

We were glad for this. Our plan had worked. Both of us would not continue our journey when the first light of the sun came out tomorrow, instead she would get to stay here and rest. A little bit of rest would do her good. Maybe sometime after We gather enough food to replace what We have lost, we both can go exploring together.

We ask her.

She tossed me a second pile of quilts and says yes, and We see the trace of a smile as white as her coat.

...

We wake up in the dark and the cold haunted by a dream that never ends. It always starts on what feels like a road beneath our hooves but We can never tell. But always, always, it ends the exact same way: two eyes of green, the once-white parts tinted red like blood, and glistening with shattered stars soar above Us, looking out on a barren waste consumed by a fire that steals all the warmth in Our body and twists Our shadow into a shape that is not our own.

No matter where We are, We wake up cold. The air here tells Us that it is not just my dream that makes it that way.

Sometimes, We are scared.

Nearby is the unmistakable outline of Our sleepy sister, rising and falling under her blankets.

We never tell Tia Our dreams. It is for the best, really.

We levitate one of Our quilts toward Us and wrap ourself in it once We realize that We are shivering and walk over to the rim of our den.

The sky is black. Black like pupils, but in a way that feels as scary as the dream. Our hoof traces the worn edges of the quilt and We count a stitch on each weathered patch for each year We know we have been out here.

One...

The moon looks like a snowball, a sharp and cold white against the sky.

Two...

Oh, but We are not afraid of snow. Snow is nice. So why does the moon seem as ill as Tia? We feel bad for it.

Three...

Why is the world falling apart?!

Four...

Where is everypony?!

Five...

Are We really the only one who notices this...?

Six...

It isn't the cold that is causing us to shake is it?

Seven...

We do not think We even know any ponies with green eyes.

Eight...

The fire in the dream is weird... purple and green. What kind of fire is that? Why is it not red and happy?

Nine...

D-Does the fire have Mommy and Daddy...?

Ten, Eleven...

Even if it could how does fire take Alicorns? It is fire, after all.

We swallowed hard and Our mind stopped counting, Our wide eyes staring at the deep starless sky.

The sky is broken. Our family is broken. Where are you?

ARE WE THE ONLY ONE?

Does Tia even know? Where did you go? Is this a joke, Tia said you were playing hide-and-seek but why can We not find you? We know you are out there, and We just want to scream:

WHERE-

ARE-

-YOU?

We close Our eyes, breathing too deep and too fast. We know Our dreams are special but why, Why, WHY?!

We grit Our teeth. Show Us something.

There it is. A vision. A white-gold light flickers everywhere spinning into a beautiful star in the center of black nothing before splitting open and shattering into thousands of pieces that make Our heart hurt to see something so pretty meet its demise... except it does not, not quite. Like a coat of paint the gold light seems to stick everywhere.

The color changes into a light purple with a blue center. This new purple light changes and spinning the former star now just a strange swirl. After this the vision stops abruptly, as if it does not want Us to know what it becomes. They have never done this before, and it is such a shock that We squeak in fear and stifle a scream.

Our eyes are now open, our breathing is worse and We are left more confused than when We were before all this.

Our hoof has stopped. Eighty-three...

It has been eighty-three years without you.

...

"Luna."

We. Are. Asleep.

"Luna, wake up."

None. Shall. Disturb. Our. Slumber.

"Luna, chores do not get done on their own."

Are you sure? Perhaps you should ask them.

"Luna, if you stay under there another minute, We will yank those quilts off of you."

No. We are unconquerable.

She yanks them off.

"Ahh! Our eyes! You fiend!"

"Luna, you are being dramatic."

"Mercy! Mercy on our beloved eyeballs! Please Tia, think of the corneas!"

"Drama queen," and she is only slightly right because usually she is not the one who wakes up late. Bad dreams have reversed our roles!

"If We are a queen, it means We outrank you, and get to order you around."

"Just try, sister, and see where it gets you."

"We cannot see where it gets Us if Our eyes are closed, sister."

...

It turns out that We did not have to order Our sister around in order for her to chase Us out for a while.

Just like yesterday, it was rather warm, with a dry breeze blowing every now and then across a cloudless blue sky. We dragged a small blob of Our magic aura across the parched ground, drawing a line that lead only to Us.

It is so pretty, how the sky looks as if it is touching the ground.

We looked around the horizon, and up at clouds that We wished were there. If only the both of us were old enough to fly. We are still babies, Tia says. When the right feathers come in we will fly. We do not think that we are babies though... We are four, that is not a baby and We do not think that anypony would let babies run around on their own.

Because of this, Tia had been complaining how hard it was to reach our shelter. We had pointed out that all you had to do was hop like a rabbit, but she had just told us that We looked silly jumping up the stones as if they were stairs. Although, she looked even sillier scrambling up them like a cat does up a window ledge. Although. cats do not complain about the difficulties of teleporting.

We need to work on Our teleportation too.

There was a tumbleweed quivering off to Our right. We went over to it and prodded it with Our magic.

"Hello."

It moved again. We nudged it with Our hoof. "Are you alone too?"

The wind stopped and so did it. "Silly question, We know. Can you help Us find some food? There was a mishap at the river-"

The wind picked up again, steering Our friend off in a direction We had not explored.

"Where are you going?"

Our new friend continued to roll.

"Wait for Us!"

We followed, Our line ending nowhere and severing Us from Tia, at least for a little while.

...

"Do you know where to find any food?"

It was a reasonable question, of course, although Baron Tumblesalot might have other ideas. We hope not. We still had to find some food today and even though the sun is still high in the sky, weather could be a problem. We know that there are lots of storms near oceans, and in the stories We were told there were storms in sand-land too. Some of the thunderstorms out in our forest could get pretty nasty, once We saw a tree burst into flame.

Somewhere there is a kingdom called Aerogard. Daddy says that is where weather that is not rogue like ours comes from. How does this Aerogard place make-

"Ahh! Baron Tumblesalot! Wait for us means do not desert your Princess!"

...

Baron Tumblesalot had certainly led Us to something. We stood over a small sort of plant that looked like a green pepper's duller colored cousin.

On our way here We had accidentally brushed against a strange sort of green tree that hurt. Its bristles had turned out to be sharp. Unlike those rather nasty plants this one seemed quite safe and prickle-free, just a few desert peppers growing in a clump on the ground.

We lifted one up with our magic. "These look real nice..."

...But how are We supposed to transport them, We forgot to bring Our saddlebags. Our eyes drifted over to Our windblown companion.

"Huzzah! An idea! The Princess shall weave you into a basket. Yes, most commendable."

We pulled up a few more peppers and arranged them into a neat little pile beside us and sat down to begin Our work, trying to find where one strand of Tumblesalot began and another ended, separating each one before deciding which would go where as Our magic began to weave them together again and the sun climbed higher and higher into the sky.

...

We decided to explore a little on Our way back since We were in no hurry, and what was the point of only sticking to the path when adventure calls?

Why it is so dry here?, We thought, prodding the ground with Our hoof. Does Aerogard not send rain clouds? Did somepony steal all the plants? Does anyone even live here?

We saw some birds an hour or so ago, but they might have just been passing through.

We stopped walking, and put Our basket down, plopping down next to it and twirled a strand of Our short mane with a flash of turquoise magic. The clouds look pretty, and there is nothing better than looking at pretty clouds and thinking.

Is everypony really just playing hide-and-seek like Tia says? It sure does not seem like it, unless We are just very bad at seeking. If Our family is playing hide and seek though why does it seem like the world is doing so? We have not seen a hamlet, hut, witch-of-the-woods or tavern anywhere, just a lot of new saplings at random locations in forests, and We know that saplings are not towns.

"So," We said to nopony, "What is happening here?"

Did everypony move? This country, the Everfree Kingdom, is really nice, or at least has always been so to Us and maybe the other ones are too, although We have only been to Atlantis Castle in Aquastria and wherever it is that our cousins Terra, Flora, and Fauna lived.

If Mommy and Daddy did move, why does it feel like they have forgotten Us? We stayed in the castle for a few years, waiting for them before setting out. Is it not only amnesiac, or really bad parents that leave their foals to run around like crazy all alone in a big castle?

We know it has not been a super long time since We last saw them... but sometimes it sure feels like it...

Who knows? Maybe it has. Perhaps We should just stop thinking about this for a little while and draw silly pictures in the dirt or overturn rocks to see how many bugs We can find.

We wonder if there are any bugs out here?

We sit up and grab Our basket. We guess the only way to know is to try.

Perhaps We will find a cute furry spider to play with. The bigger the spider, the better.

We just hope the spider is alone.

"We would hate to split up a good family," We whisper to nopony, frowning slightly.

We received no reply, and perhaps it was for the better.

...

We scrambled up the rocks with Our basket and its contents still bobbing in a cloud of magic. Tia would surely be proud of the fresh food We found.

It was slightly cooler now that the sun was beginning to descend, most definitely for another gray-and-purple sunset.

Although, this did not bother Us so much since We would be telling her all about what We did today.

Halfway up the rocks We paused to rest and make sure We had not spilled anything.

Perhaps We should at least try to teleport up to - wait, what was that? Out of the corner of our eyes We noticed something white on some of the rocks above Us, barely three strides away from the opening of Our cave.

What could that be? We picked up Our basket once more, clutching the basket of peppers in one of Our forehooves and closed Our eyes as We mustered as much concentration possible for a teleportation spell. A moment later, We were surprised to find that it had worked!

The white that We saw was Tia's coat. She lay crumpled on the stone's dry surface, feeling cold to the touch and slightly damp with sweat. Her mane was sprawled over the rocks in waves.

We was scared when We saw this, but refrained from screaming even though Our legs were shaking and Our eyes watered.

...

We got us both back to the shelter and once we were both inside We placed an unconscious Tia onto her pile of quilts very carefully, since she looked so fragile, and tucked her in with Our own blankets. We do not think We will be needing them.

After We were done, We sat down and tried to stay calm as well as figure out what We should do next.

Tia is sick... which means We have to take care of her... in this strange place...

We have to take care of Tia.

We have to take care of Tia alone.

We gulped, and sat there for a while. This might be hard... especially since We do not know how she is sick... we are outside all the time, which is supposed to be good for fillies. Rain, snow, or shine; we are always outside since there is no castle for us to live in, or any house at all.

Can you get sick from being outside...? We think We became ill when once, when We were in the snow for a long time which meant Mommy had to make lots of soup and get lots of blankets as We sat by a fireplace.

Hmm... we have not been in snow very recently, even though the weather has been very harsh before we came to the desert.

Sighing, We placed a hoof on her forehead. We guess We will just have to go off of this guess.

It was still damp.

We suppose We will just copy what Mommy did. That means We still need to make soup and a fire. The soup should not be that hard to make. We can use the peppers and mix them with some water. For the fire, We are going to need some fuel...

...

"C'mon Tia," We whispered to her as We levitated the bowl close, in an effort to prod her awake. "We made you soup. Well sort of, it is really just a watery green mush, but We are sure it will taste great!"

She opened an eye, glassy with fitful sleep and mumbled incoherently before sitting up and tilting the bowl towards her. Tia took a few gulps before making gagging noises. "Luna this is a most... unusual... meal, what did you put in it?"

It seems you have enough strength to mock our culinary masterpiece.

"Desert peppers," We reply evenly. What else were We to say?

"Desert... peppers?" She coughs slightly and gives us a strange glance. "Did these desert peppers fall from the sky as well, dear sister?"

She doesn't believe us.

"If so, We were not around to see," We answer honestly.

"Luna what plant did you really use?"

"Desert peppers?"

Tia frowns, pushes the soup away and collapses on the quilts.

"We are tired," she declared, or rather attempted to. Instead, her words were only a feeble whisper.

We nodded and sat watch over her for a little while, at least until We heard snoring. After that We rose to go outside, casting one last look at the soup We made which was still uneaten.

We were not hungry anyway.

...

Once Tia told Us that anypony who could catch a star would be granted a wish, she said that Mommy told her, so it must be true. After that, We would stay up night after night running through the courtyards and jumping up trying to catch stars through the trees. We were not any closer to flying then We were now but if We could catch a star We would wish for Our sister to be better.

There were plenty of stars out tonight, and no trees to obscure them.

We stretch a hoof toward the sky and as We expected, it came back empty.

This would be so much easier if We could fly.

Instead, We sat on the ground, the wind gently stirring the sand around Us as We tilted our head to the sky.

...

When We went back, she was worse, Tia was positively drenched in sweat and burning with fever despite the cool midnight air. She tossed and turned about before stopping entirely. Now she was shivering a bit.

We were out of water, it would be too late to go get any now - some night creatures were dangerous.

We had no knowledge of the desert.

We had no medicine.

There was nopony to help Us.

Nopony.

We fashioned a quilt into a makeshift cloak and hugged Tia good-bye. We cannot say that We will return soon, and We will leave her the supplies, she needs it more than We do.

Once more We stepped outside and looked up at the sky, this time We asked the stars to look after my sister.

We can only hope that the tales Daddy told Us so long ago are true.

Author's Note:

Luna, those are not peppers. :twilightoops: