• Published 10th Jan 2016
  • 998 Views, 52 Comments

Wizards of Everfree Valley - Dafaddah

A geeky young Pegasus decides that magic should be for everypony, and sets out to make his dream a reality.

  • ...

Chapter four: Convalescence

The wake: Falcata

Whirligig tittered in the way these modern pegasi mares did so often: with carefree abandon. It is not that I disapprove of such attitudes, but the less frivolous pegasi of my day had born the burden of the fight for unity that modern Equestrians enjoy without a second thought. Something in my demeanour must have caught her eye, for she looked askance in my direction.

“Hey,” said Whirligig, “weren’t you hurt fighting those same manticores that nearly put me and Firefly in the cemetery?” She grinned, and to my embarrassment carried on. “I remember being told you ended up sharing a hospital room with Firefly. Is that true?”

I coughed into my good hoof. “Er, yes, actually, that is how Firefly and I met.”

"That was my doing," said Princess Twilight. “I figured I’d be visiting them both, so to keep the stress on the hospital staff at a minimum I asked that they share the same room. I had no idea that they’d become such good friends as a consequence.”

“Yeah!” said Rainbow Dash, “he had such a hard time fitting-in with the other members of the weather brigade, and then he ends up palling around with our time-displaced pegasus warrior? Who woulda thunk it?”

“Ahem,” I sketched a discrete bow to the Princess, “I nevertheless am most grateful that you did, your majesty! Firefly was most sympathetic to my feelings of displacement at the time, and his support a blessing of which I was most needful.”

“Still,” persisted Rainbow Dash, “an egghead like him and a jar-head like you make for a pretty odd couple!”

I sighed at the old jibe. “We were certainly the closest of mates, but never in that sense, Rainbow Dash. Perhaps it's because neither of us knew the pleasure of having siblings when we were foals. Though we differed greatly as individuals, we most certainly shared much in circumstance. His is the face I see when I hear uttered the word brother, and it shall evermore be so.”

Sad eyes sought out Firefly's coffin. Feeling that the situation was becoming altogether too maudlin, I chuckled.

“But I do admit, our first days together in that hospital room would not have led anypony to even suspect this possible outcome...”

Falcata and Firefly

Falcata tucked in her left wing and flared her right wing just so. Her neck was inches away from the manticore’s razor-sharp fangs when she snap-rolled and flew a perfect corkscrew path around the beast, poising her a hoof's span above its back.

Whither thy prey, foul beast!?

The deadly creature’s eyes widened in confusion and then alarm as it perceived the sudden reversal in their positions. Falcata’s blood sang as her heart beat furiously, wings spread wide, sword in her good right hoof, lips pulled back in a feral grin.

Now I am the hunter!

The manticore dove to evade her. She matched its maneuvers easily, more nimble in flight than the lumbering beast.

I am Pegasus!

The manticore canted his wings, decelerating dangerously fast. She did not change position by so much as a hair’s breadth.

And I. Rule. The Skies!

Falcata roared.

Hers again was the fury of valour in the fight against the implacable foe. Hers again was the hoof of justice thwarting those who would prey on the innocent. For the first time in over a thousand years Falcata felt truly and completely alive. Her ears ached to hear the sound of the monster’s body hitting the ground with a most satisfying thump.

She raised her sword and began the swing that would sever the manticore’s head from its body. There was a massive crunch and...

... she awoke.

Elder gods! she moaned. The pain was everywhere, yet somehow felt very remote.

Whither the sky? Above her was a closed, white surface.

Turning her head brought a bed into view.

A hospice!

The bed was occupied by an orange pegasus stallion with a red mane looking at her with concern.

His countenance be familiar! It took a few heartbeats for her addled wits to deliver a name.

Firefly. The pegasus who would fain be a mage! How ironic!

Falcata shared a sick-room with the very pony whose attack by Everfree manticores had prompted her embarrassingly ill-executed hunt.

She groaned in shame.

“Miss Falcata!” Firefly could hardly see her cream coloured coat through all the bandages and splints. Even her wings were immobilized. Her only unbound limb was the short stump of her left foreleg, the prosthetic she always wore having been removed.

He had seen her on visits to Princess Twilight, when Falcata was on duty as ceremonial guard. There had been plenty of gossip in town when she first arrived, hired by the princess despite having only three legs. Firefly himself thought it was no big deal. Pegasi could compensate for the loss reasonably well with their wings.

Far more fascinating was how, before she had been turned to stone and lost for over a millennium, Falcata had known Clover the Clever personally. He had been itching to talk with her ever since the nurse wheeled her gurney into his room.

Firefly smiled. “You gave us quite a scare!” he said brightly.

His ears drooped when Falcata turned her face away from him and towards the window. She gazed out onto the violet tinged cerulean of sunset. It was a minute before she spoke.

“Twas the second manticore that felled me, Mister Firefly?” she asked in a gravelly voice.

“So I hear.” He was surprised that she remembered his name. “Princess Twilight saw you being struck. She said the second manticore rammed into you at full speed from a dive.” He grinned. “You’re one tough old bird, Miss Falcata! The manticore didn’t survive the collision! It’s unfortunate that its mate got away, but then the princess had her hooves full rescuing you!”

In the dying light he saw her eyes grow wide and her jaw drop.

Firefly’s smile faded. “Miss Falcata, are you okay?”

The mare’s only response was a tear.


“Silence, knave!” she snapped, causing him to start and clutch his blanket tighter. She turned a face full of rage and tears towards him. “Is my shame so sweet to thine eyes that thou must needs bait me!?” She laid her head back, shaking in her restraints and breathing hard. It took a few minutes for her emotions to abate.

“Prithee, sir,” she said in a cold voice, “stay thy tongue and let me be.”

Firefly swallowed. Feeling both helpless and a bit guilty, he turned over on his side and gave the troubled mare some privacy as the room grew dark with the end of day.

Falcata pushed into the undergrowth of the Everfree forest, slashing a path through the brambles and thorns with her eponymous sword. She bled from several deep scratches to both forelegs. Behind her, Clover held her shield with his magic, preventing the remaining branches from scratching him in turn.

“Keep thee well behind me, mage!” she said with a grin. “Piking that witch’s head shall be the Legion’s work, and mine shall be the hoof to deliver the very stroke of justice!” She wiped the sweat from her brow with a fetlock, and laughed. “Thy pretty new cloak will be safe from harm, and thy dainty self to boot!”

The unicorn’s expression remained grim. “Thou shouldst be wary, Falcata! This witch hath dispatched more than one Legionnaire. She be right subtle, and quick to anger. Do not underestimate her!”

She stopped and took a few well earned breaths. “How strange these times in which we live, that after the accord of the Three Tribes, a unicorn and a pegasus would make common cause to hunt a unicorn exile!” She glanced behind to catch his reply.

He'd opened his mouth to respond when his eyes grew wide in alarm. She snapped her head forward and saw the witch a mere ponylength in front of her. With a shout she raised her falcata and stepped forward to strike the witch down. Her sword swished and passed right through the evil sorceress.

An illusion!

There was a loud detonation behind her. Falcata looked back in a panic. Clover stood cowering behind her shield, smoke rising from his right flank, his pea-green coat smeared with soot and blood. A movement caught her eye. The real Witch of the Everfree stood three paces to her left, along a path that had not been visible moments before.

Without hesitation she launched herself forward, falcata held high to cut the witch down before she could cast another spell. There was a blinding flash, the smell of hot metal, and blood. Taking a step back, Falcata stumbled. Looking down she saw a ragged stump, all that remained of her left forelimb. Blood fountained from it with her every heartbeat.

She heard Clover’s scream, or maybe it was her own, and darkness took her.

Falcata awoke in the dark, trembling, the echo of the scream long past still on her lips. Her trussed up limbs throbbed as her heart fought to burst its way out of her bandaged ribcage.

“Falcata?” said a male voice. “Are you okay?”

Firefly. Not him. Not Clover.

The ache in her heart was still there. Even after a thousand years.

Falcata forced a steady breath. “Worry not, sir,” she replied. “Twas but a nightmare, and a very old one at that.”

The stallion moved on his bed.

“Miss Falcata, I...” he began, “I wish to apologize for what I said earlier. I didn’t mean to offend you.”

Her thoughts and recollections were still somewhat hazy.

“I’m sorry! Really!” he went on. “I shouldn’t have called you a tough old bird.”

Falcata snorted. And then she chuckled.

“To such as I, being styl’d a tough old bird is consider’d high praise indeed!”

The stallion continued. “And it was my fault you went on this hunt to start with. If I had been more alert those manticores would never have had been able to hurt anypony in the first place.”

“Pish-posh, sir,” answered Falcata. “Tis my duty to defend...”

Her voice faltered when, finally, the memory of their short exchange of the previous evening returned. She felt the heat of shame and bitter disappointment upon her features.

And I failed. The world felt suddenly grey and unforgiving.

Honour demands this much at least. What little of it I have left.

“Tis not I who should take offense, but rather thee.” Falcata’s ears drooped low. “No, Mister Firefly, twas I who struck out in my shame, and for that I do cry your pardon. My wrath at thee was a craven thing.” She turned her face to the window.

“You see, after my release from the cockatrice’s curse, and my wanderings in this strange, passionless echo of my Equestria, I thought I had finally made me a place for myself, here in Ponyville. I was mistaken.”

“Mistaken how? Aren’t you in Princess Twilight’s guard?”

“I am. But I will resign my commission and depart this town as soon as I be granted leave of this hospice.”

“Really? Whyever would you do that?”

“Because,” she replied hotly, “I am a guardpony. It is my duty to protect Her Majesty, not to be rescued by Her like some hapless foal!”

“Well,” replied Firefly, “why should it matter who saved whom? You’re both safe!”

Falcata shook her head. “Do none of the ponies of this age understand honour!?”

“Honestly,” the stallion persisted, “would you have preferred that Princess Twilight left you to die and chased after the other manticore?”

“Aye!” she hissed. “Aye! A thousand times over, aye! Rather than be thus disgraced!”

“That’s crazy! You’ve got so much to live for!”

Falcata’s eyes narrowed. “Thou callow youngling! What knowest thee of life?” Her laugh was half a sob. “I have lived for over a thousand years! I have seen battles where pony fought pony and took pride in the killing. I have lost a piece of myself, been diminished and rendered useless to those I would love, and loathsome to those who would love me. I have seen life and death aplenty, and know their faces far more intimately than thou couldst imagine!”

Suddenly bone tired, Falcata lay her head down. Outside, Luna’s brilliant night called out to her, adding the pang of longing to the constant pain of her injuries.

“You see, Mister Firefly, there are no constant stars in my firmament. There is no home for me, other than in memories that fade with every passing hour. More the fool I to have hoped otherwise.” She took a deep, trembling breath.

“Miss Falcata, I’m sure that if you spoke with the princess she would tell you that she feels otherwise.”

“It is my honour that is at stake here, Mister Firefly!” she said hotly. “Not Her Majesty’s! I will not be a sham! I will not be a –” her breath caught in her throat “– a broken relic, more pitied than useful!”

Silence stretched. She closed her eyes.

“I tire, sir, and would fain cease these bitter ruminations. Let us sleep now, please.”

Falcata awoke to the enticing smell of breakfast. Firefly was awake and eating. She looked away, hoping to discourage idle prattle.

A nurse entered the room. “And how do we feel this morning, Miss Falcata?” she said cheerily.

Her stomach answered with a loud rumble.

We hunger, nurse,” said Falcata archly. “But we also find ourselves fettered and impotent.”

Still smiling, the nurse was pushing the breakfast cart closer to Falcata’s bed when a gong sounded and a voice announced: “Code blue in room 228. Repeat. Code blue in room 228.”

The nurse jerked to a halt and turned towards Firefly. “This might take a while. Mister Firefly, you’re no longer restricted to bed, would you please assist Miss Falcata with her meal?”

Firefly nodded. “Sure.” He pushed aside his own breakfast.

Satisfied that things were in-hoof, the nurse rushed from the room.

With his muzzle, Firefly pushed the breakfast cart closer to Falcata’s bed. Rising on his hind legs, he wiped his forehooves with a cloth.

“So what do you want first, Miss Falcata, the OJ, toast, or some oatmeal?”

She looked away. “Thou need not do this.”

He laughed. “You heard the nurse! I know an order when I hear one!”

She couldn’t prevent a guffaw of her own. Nor the look of pain on her face that followed the
brief convulsion of her barrel.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

She nodded. “Aye. A drink of juice would be right welcome.”

He held up a folded paper box with a paper straw protruding from its end. She extended her head forward and emptied the box in two strong sips, immediately feeling better as the sweet concoction hit her stomach. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome!” He picked up the bowl of oatmeal in one hoof and a spoon in the other.

She stared at the spoon balefully. “I... do not share this modern affectation for shoving metal implements into my mouth. I find the taste displeasing. Just place the bowl within my reach.” He did so and she pushed her muzzle into the bowl, making short work of the oatmeal.

The breakfast was meager by her normal standards, yet she felt incapable of swallowing another bite. She burped loudly, before remembering that such was considered rude nowadays. “That will suffice, Mister Firefly. I thank thee for thy kindness and good office, sir.”

He nodded. “You’re most welcome.”

She lay back her head as he pushed the cart away. Climbing back into his own bed, he resumed eating his own meal. She noticed him glancing thoughtfully in her direction often as he chewed.

“Out with it, Mister Firefly,” she stated. “Ruin not thy digestion by holding in that which wishes to come out.”

He gazed into her eyes. “Might I ask you a question of a personal nature?”

She nodded.

“Could you tell me about Clover the Clever? Were you really his friend?”

Falcata’s ears drooped. Thinking of Clover made evident a gaping void in her life.

“He was so... unexpected.” Her gaze drew inward. “Thou must needs understand, in those days, relations between ponies of different tribes were rare exceeding, and of necessity quite... circumspect.” She blushed. “But, aye, I knew him well. If not for him I would be dead, though sometimes” – her expression was suddenly fierce – ”I would gladly barter this life of confusion for the sweet comfort of having died in his embrace.”

Firefly’s eyes widened. “You loved him!”

“Aye, I did.” She replied. Her expression softened. “He was such a timid lad, afraid of the smallest insect, yet, so fearless in defense of Harmony. He changed forever my ideas of what it meant to be a good pony.”

Firefly smiled. “How did you meet?”

She chuckled.

“I were a junior pony in Commander Hurricane’s guard, on sentry duty at the entrance of the cave wherein the tribal leaders did hold meetings, when this little green unicorn colt bedecked within an ugly brown cloak, hardly older than m’self, comes up insisting that he was Princess Platinum’s factotum!” She raised an eyebrow.

“So what did then transpire? I did turn him ’round and kick his flank back down the path whence he had come!” She laughed heartily. “I made me quite a face when he return’d with the princess and her retinue! He did approach me forthwith and asked of me my name.”

Her expression softened again. “I gave it, expecting the worst, and he introduced himself again, as if nothing awkward had ever happened twixt us.” She sighed. “Twas the first time in my life I had e’er felt friendship from a non-pegasus. From thence forward, he did make a point to come speak with me whenever we did meet.”

Firefly chuckled.

Falcata’s eyes lit up. “Aye, and there were the one time he thought some miscreant had absconded with his cloak, and he galloped hither and thither in a panic, until finally I discovered that it had naught but blown away whilst drying in the sun!”

The rest of the morning went by in a blur as Falcata fondly recounted her many adventures with Clover the Clever.

Firefly watched as the same nurse that had brought them breakfast wheeled in their lunches. Before leaving, she gave Firefly a pointed look and made a feeding gesture with a hoof. Getting the message, he nodded, and the nurse trotted out happily.

If this continues they’ll have to add my name to the staff list, he thought.

He ate his own lunch as quietly as possible, keeping an eye on his sleeping roommate. Falcata had talked for over two hours before she finally tired and drifted off. After her stories, Firefly would never read Clover’s writings the same way again.

It didn’t take long for the enticing smells to call Falcata from slumber. Her nose twitched as her muzzle turned towards the scent of food.

Firefly slid off of his bed and pushed Falcata’s meal closer. When her eyes opened she smiled. “Mister Firefly!” Her eyes widened as she noticed that he no longer wore his hospital gown. “Art thou discharged from this cheerful demesne?”

He offered her a juice box. “Please, just call me Firefly. I can leave as soon as the doctor gives me a final examination.” Falcata again downed the juice without hesitation. He lifted a daisy sandwich to her lips. “But I will be back to visit later, Miss Falcata.”

“Falcata will do,” she said, and then decimated the sandwich in four huge bites.

“You certainly have no restraint with food!”

The mare blushed. “Aye. I’ve been told it is not considered very comely to eat thus.”

“Oh, I don’t think you’re the only one who can scarf down food in this little town. Not that it’s a problem here, this isn’t Canterlot after all! And the ponies of Ponyville are amongst the most accommodating I’ve ever met.”

She turned an ear in his direction. “How so?”

He held a buttered scone up to her mouth and she took a huge bite.

“I wasn’t born here. I arrived at a very low point in my life, when I thought there was no place anywhere where I could simply be me, and not just a tool for other ponies’ plans.” He smiled sheepishly. “That, and the freedom to pursue my passion. You see, nothing has interested me more than magic since I was a foal. Admittedly, it’s an odd avocation for a pegasus. My parents were devastated. They had named me Firefly after the pegasus general.”

Falcata swallowed, then snorted. “I knew him. He was surly, miserly and vile tempered, but he flew like the wind itself.” She smacked her lips. “I’d much rather your company than his, truth be told!”

Firefly laughed and bowed. “The way to a mare’s heart is through her stomach, so I’ve heard.” He held up an apple for her to bite. “As I was saying, Ponyville is a special place. Different. The townsfolk made room for me. I finally found... myself here.” He laughed, embarrassed.

Falcata swallowed the last of the apple, including the core. “Princess Twilight is most certainly a different sort,” she said. “And hers is the light that guides this place.”

Firefly shook his head. “I thought so too when I first arrived, but not anymore.” He help a cup of tea to Falcata’s lips. He chose his words as she sipped. “Now I think that it’s not Princess Twilight that made Ponyville, but rather that Ponyville made Princess Twilight.”

“What!?” Falcata sputtered as some tea went down the wrong way. Firefly wiped her chin with a napkin.

“If you think about it, she was just an ordinary unicorn when she was sent here by Princess Celestia. Rumour has it she used to prefer being by herself. Now she’s the Princess of Friendship! This place changed her, she’s told me so herself. Also, do you think it a coincidence that all six Bearers of the Elements of Harmony live in proximity to this town?”

He offered her a drink of water, which she gulped down hurriedly. “Thou hast the right of it.” She nodded. “It beggars belief that all these wonders have come to this sleepy hamlet without some guiding agency.”

Firefly smiled. “Then Falcata, is it any harder to believe that Harmony, or fate, or whatever you want to call it, brought us here for a purpose as well? That Ponyville might just have a place for a pegasus who wants to do magic, and a warrior lost in time?”

Falcata gazed at the ceiling, lips pressed tight.

I mustn’t push her too hard, he thought. He pulled her tray away and noticed the doctor standing in the doorway, staring at him with a very wide grin on her face.

“You look perfectly fine to me, Mister Firefly,” she said. “You’re discharged from the hospital. Try not to come back so soon next time.” She turned on her hooves and left.

Firefly turned his head back to the mare on the bed. “I’ll be by to see you later, M... Falcata.”

She nodded, but didn’t seek his eye. “Fare thee well, Firefly.”

He left hoping his words had gotten through to the mare, and not just made her situation more difficult.

Mid-morning painted the walls of Falcata’s room so bright looking at them hurt her eyes. She shifted carefully onto her side. Earlier the nurses had removed the bindings on her wings, leaving her some freedom to move around in her bed. Her barrel was still bound tight due to several cracked ribs, and the limbs of her right side were still in splints.

There was a knock at the door.

“Enter,” she called.

Her former roommate came in, carrying a tall frosted glass tied with a bow.

“Firefly,” she said, “I wish you a pleasant morn!”

“Morning, Falcata!” He smiled broadly. “It must be a relief to have your wings free!”

“Aye... I mean, yes, it is.” Falcata winced internally. Will I ever get a proper grasp of modern speech?

The stallion approached her bed. “I have a little gift for you.” He held out the glass.

A huge grin split her muzzle. “Do mine eyes deceive me? Be this a Rainbow Blitzer?”

Firefly’s smile matched her own. “Direct from Minnie Milk’s Café! She says Hi, by the way, and wants you to know she’ll come by later.” He tilted his head to one side. “You know, maybe you’ve got more friends in Ponyville than you think!”

Falcata’s smile faded as she took the still frosty milkshake from him using her wingtips. “Must we again chew over that topic?”

Firefly sighed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound like a broken record. I just wanted one last chance to change your mind before Princess Twilight comes to visit at lunchtime.”

Falcata regarded him severely. “As I did most clearly state to thee yestereve, Mister Firefly, I consider this a matter of mine own honour. I should hope you will understand and respect my feelings in this regards.”

He nodded, eyes on his own forehooves. “I understand.” He glanced up sadly. “I hope we can still be friends, though.”

“Of that I have no question!” She took a huge, long slurp of the milkshake, followed with an enormous burp. “Ah, but that’s good!” she said, putting the drink down on an elevated tray next to her bed.

Her expression serious, she looked into Firefly’s face. “I have one more favour to ask of thee, one which I fear is of a somewhat delicate nature.”

“Sure,” he replied, eyes downcast. “I’ll do anything I can to help.”

She pointed at the room’s closet with a wing. “Couldst thee fetch me and help me don my uniform? I shan’t be seen by Her Majesty wearing this infernal gown! She wouldst most assuredly boot me from without my post!”

It took a whole glorious three seconds for Firefly to work out the implications of her words. She only winced a few times when the stallion lunged forward and wrapped her in an enthusiastic hug. Looking out over his shoulder through the window, the tiny hamlet of Ponyville called to her. Whether it was Harmony or fate, or something else entirely, there was no mistaking the words the spirit of the town whispered into her heart.

Welcome home.