• Published 16th Apr 2016
  • 522 Views, 8 Comments

O Blessed Night - Dafaddah



This night is going to last forever. This night is never going to end. O Celestia, what are we to do without you?

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No matter how bad things get...

Scootaloo

The low moon provided barely enough light to see. Still, the eternal stars of the Long Night guided Scootaloo on her flight as surely as any landmark could have. She wanted to find a place where nopony would find her, where she could hide and wait quietly for starvation to end her life, the same death to which her actions had condemned so many. She didn’t consciously chose a destination, but in her anguished rush to leave Sweet Apple Acres let her wings beat of their own accord and take her where they would as her tears fell to the ground far below.

She wasn’t sure how far she had flown when she'd regained enough self-control to wipe her eyes and take a look at the landscape beneath. From high above, long shadows knifed from every object on the ground big and small, turning the land into a mad race of silvered lumps pulling behind them long banners of Stygian black. The moon had yet to reverse its course and move westward across the sky, the sign that true night had begun. Thus, in the waning moments of false night, Scootaloo recognized a particular rectangular shape on the ground. She smiled despite how worthless she was feeling. Somehow her wings had led her to a familiar place, one where she could find solitude, and maybe a bit of solace in memories of a better time.

She shuddered and extended her wings, banking and shedding altitude while drawing ever tighter circles with the utter silence an owl on the hunt. Landing soundlessly in front of the cottage, she noted with relief that the door was closed tight as were the shutters visible in the moonlight. To her knowledge she had been the only pony ever to visit this place after the Long Night had fallen. She rubbed the last remaining dampness from her eyes and stood waiting and listening, the cautious habits of the years since now as natural to her as breathing.

A few minutes of dead silence reassured her sufficiently to creep forward up the path that led to the cottage door. A sense of relief washed over her as closer inspection of the entrance showed only dust and the desperate scratches animals had left trying to enter through the door in the days and weeks following Nightfall. On her first visit here, Scootaloo had seen signs of fighting in front of the cottage, including dark streaks on the door she assumed were dried blood. She had never found the corpses of the critters that lost their fights. She assumed they had been dragged off and consumed by the winners.

With a flap of her wings she flew up to the edge of a window above the door and retrieved the key she had hidden there. Floating silently back down, she inserted the key into the door lock and turned. The door creaked open ponderously. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the deeper darkness of the cottage’s gloomy interior.

Scootaloo remembered entering the cottage on that first visit. The door was closed but not locked. Inside, of course, things had been different. Small corpses were everywhere near the door, dried out husks of bone and fur that lay where each critter had curled up and died, waiting for that door to open. There were no signs of predation. It was as if they had patiently waited for their mistress to return, refusing to believe until the very end that she could ever abandon them. The sight had driven Scootaloo to tears. She had carefully collected all the little bundles in a box and buried it in the little cemetery in the back yard. She figured it was what Fluttershy would have wanted.

After the grisly clean-up, she had made herself at home in the cottage. Back then, Nightmare Moon had yet to establish a very regular schedule for moving the moon around in the night sky. Instead of the current forward and reverse arcs across the sky, sometimes the moon had circled or wandered lazily around all over the the sky, making it useless for determining the hour, or as a way to separate one night from the next.

During that confusing time, Scootaloo had taken to visiting the cottage as a means of getting away from her troubles. She never stayed very long, but in Fluttershy’s tidy little home she could pretend for a short time that nothing had changed, that her dad was still alive and waiting for her at home, that it was just an ordinary evening in an ordinary house, and that the sun would rise in the morning on familiar, sleepy Ponyville as it always had before. She had tried to get Sweetie Belle and Applebloom to visit the cottage with her, but with everypony engaged in the fight for survival, those careless times of reckless pursuit of cutie marks were long gone. Simple fun, like foalhood and cutie marks, no longer graced the lives of ponies.

The cottage is also where Scootaloo found books on the flora and fauna of the Everfree. Fluttershy had several such on her bookshelf. Reading by candle-light, Scootaloo grew fascinated by the drawings and garish descriptions of the exotic animals and plants. She read and re-read the books cover-to-cover several times each. Thus when mysterious monsters and night-growing plants began to spread outside of the Everfree, Scootaloo was not only able only identify them, but also to advise ponies on which ones were dangerous, and even suggest how to deal with them when they invaded farmland or came close to pony habitations. When it became evident that there would be no help from Canterlot to deal with the incursions, Ponyville instituted the Infestation Brigade to defend the town and its citizens. Scootaloo was drafted as a founding member because of the knowledge she held.

With the moon almost touching the horizon, the living room was brightly lit by the light coming in through the windows. In imitation of the landscape outside, furniture cast long and intensely dark shadows across the floor.

The only warning Scootaloo had that she was not alone was an impression of a darker black in one of the shadows. She felt a body slam into hers, knocking her painfully onto her onto her back. Her wings pinned beneath her and the floor, she looked up just in time to the glint of a pair of fangs in the moonlight.

I... I deserve this! thought Scootaloo. She gave herself a moment to think of her dad, and then Raibow Dash, and then turned her face away from the horror, exposing her neck.

Please, she thought, let it be quick!


Big Macintosh

Mac stared out into the night from the back porch of Sweet Apple Acres. The moon was so low that it didn’t even show over the wall around the farmhouse. “Ah saw where she went.”

Bracketed between him and Spike, Diamond Tiara and Apple Bloom looked both tiny and frightened. A movement caught his eye at the door. It was was Sweetie Belle.

“Saw where who went? Was that Scoots’ voice I heard from upstairs a few minutes ago?”

“Ayup!” Mac read the sudden concern in her expression. “She had some purty bad news for us all. She told us, then she flew off!”

Sweetie glanced at the expression on Bloom’s face. “There’s been another incursion,” Sweetie concluded. Mac wasn’t surprised she’d figured it out. She’d always been pretty fast on the uptake, even as a foal.

“Lost most of the carrot patch,” said Bloom. As usual, she didn’t waste her breath on sugar-coating. It was at times like these that she reminded him almost painfully of Applejack.

Sweetie’s eyes grew bigger for a few seconds. “Any idea where she’s gone off to?”

All eyes turned towards him.

“Ayup,” he said. “With the moon so low it was easy to follow her as she flew. As far as I figure it, where she went down should be right near Fluttershy’s old cottage. Tain’t nothin’ in that whole area ceptin’ the edge of the Everfree.”

Spike coughed for attention. “I’ll run over there to see if I can find her and talk her into coming back.”

“I’ll go with ya, bro. It’ll be faster with the both of us searchin’.”

Spike nodded and turned to re-enter the farmhouse when Bloom grabbed his arm. She looked up at him, eyes hard. “If ya’ll ain’t back in two hours me an’ Sweetie are comin’ after ya, ya hear?”

Spike smiled, and then leaned over to give her a peck on the cheek. When he rose back up his smile was gone. “Sweetie needs to save her energies for helping light the crops now more than ever. Feed her, and make her eat my share as well, then put her to bed. We’ll be back in time, Bloom.”

Apple Bloom refused to let go of him. “But you need–”

“– I have a few gems I picked up tonight in my bag. Save the greens for those who can’t eat rocks!”

“But...” Everypony could see the struggle on Apple Bloom’s face, and then the resignation when she realized that Spike was right.

Spike leaned in again and put his muzzle next to her ear. “And if I get too much gas from the rich food I can always sleep on the roof!”

Bloom’s eyes grew wide then she swatted him on his tough scaled shoulder. “Fine! Sometimes Ah think yer’ just happy fer any excuse to avoid mah cookin’!” She put her nose up and trotted past her husband and into the farmhouse.

Mac winked at Spike. “Wish Ah could do that!” he drawled.

Everypony laughed until a voice rang out from the kitchen.

“Ah heard that, Big Macintosh!”

Diamond gave him a wink. “I had a chance to add a few spices in the pot when Bloom went upstairs. I’ll save you and Scootaloo some supper for when you’re back. Be careful out there, boys!” She gave him a quick hug, waved to Spike, and hurried in.

“Meetcha at the gate in five?” he asked.

“Ayup,” said Big Mac. "Ah better go put mah plate and chain-mail back on." Turning away, he trotted out towards the armory.


Thora

She had hid, on the edge of starvation, ever since she could remember. Years. That's the word Mother would use to describe a very long time.

She knew the creatures that satisfied the hunger were also a danger to her, but at the same time she had to stay in proximity with those same creatures, for if she got lost in the night it would be the end of her life. She had few recollections of that life, other than the wrenching pang of hunger never sated, but one was her mother’s voice telling her: “Thora, stay close to the food, but do not let them see you.”

It was too late now to follow the second rule, as she sprawled on top of the pony. She had reacted without thinking. This place was hers! It had been her nest, the one comfort in her life, the one place where her constant feeling of fear became nothing more than a background for the hunger. A place where she could sleep and dream of her mother’s embrace.

The place had been hers and hers alone, until the pony had showed up, a dark shape waking her, and her fear, from a deep slumber. She had charged without thinking, and now she gazed down at the face of the stunned pony. It was one of the residents of the farmhouse, she was sure. There was something very familiar about her. Thora was sure she had seen the mare on several occasions when the residents of Ponyville went out in response to some threat or other from the Everfree. She grinned. I guess I’m big enough now to be one of those, myself!

She was surprised when the bitter taste of fear coming from the mare gave way to an almost unbearably sweet draught of love. Thora felt tears in her eyes. Rarely had she been able to get close to ponies experiencing this feeling! The intense and intoxicating emotion swept through her like a gale wind through a house long abandoned, but faded all too quickly into the bland sour taste of resignation.

“No!” Thora cried. “Don’t!”

The pony beneath her slowly turned her gaze back in her direction. She stared up Thora, eyes empty and expressionless, and spoke in a low voice. “What do you mean, No?”

Her voice is like Mother’s, before it grew silent, Thora thought.

“You...” she croaked. Thora licked her lips. She hadn't spoken aloud in years except in dreams. It hurt! Still, the memory of that brief moment of intense feeling! She had to taste it again, somehow.

“Again...” she hissed to avoid the pain.

The pony below her continued to stare into her eyes. Curiosity. It wasn’t the emotional feast of moments earlier, but it was notably sweeter than the sadness the pony had been broadcasting.

What again?” said the pony.

There was only one word that Thora could connect to the feeling the pony had broadcast.

“Mother,” she croaked.

Instead of the expected flash of pleasure, the word brought forth such heartache that it made Thora wince and close her eyes. Behind the sorrow, another emotion built. She had barely registered rising anger when something incredibly hard struck the side of her head. Through the emotional maelstrom she had time for one thought: Mother, you were right about the second rule!

Darkness closed in from every side.


Diamond Tiara

“Momma, I’m still hungry!” Sonny complained. Diamond Tiara looked at her son and daughter sitting between their aunties at the dinner table. She’d seen both Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom sneak spoonfuls from their own bowls into each of the foals’. Sonny held up a well-cleaned bowl in his little brown hooves. Light yellow Goldy did her best to imitate her elder brother.

“Tell you what. If you both kiss your aunties, and promise to go straight to bed afterwards, I’ll give you each a treat!”

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” They sang in unison in their high pitched voices, making the aunties smile.

As they watched with big eyes and wider smiles, she went to the cupboard and took out a tin box, from which she extracted two small granules of rock candy, each the size of a kernel of corn. Sweetie Belle’s horn lit up. The candy floated from her hoof over to the table as the youngsters watched in eager anticipation.

The bits of candy hung in the air. “Well,” said Sweetie, “we’re waiting!”

The foals each stood in their chairs to give the auntie nearest them a smooch, and then scrambled over each other to get to the other auntie. The kissing accomplished, they each sat down on their chairs.

“We promise to go straight to bed!” They recited.

“After you brush your teeth,” added Diamond.

The foals nodded and then both opened their mouths. The candies levitated inside, and the adults were treated to the sounds of “Yum!” and small lips smacking exaggeratedly.

“Okay, now get on upstairs you two!” Sonny and then Goldy each went to their mother for a goodnight kiss, and then in a flurry of tiny hooves clattered up to bed.

The mood turned somber soon after their departure.

“I saw you sneak foods to the kids,” said Diamond, eyes on the table. “Girls, I...” Her voice faltered.

“And we both saw you do the same,” said Sweetie Belle, raising an eyebrow. “Look. You and Macky adopted those foals when their parents died and nopony else would. You were barely sixteen, Di, married for less than a month, and all of a sudden responsible for two young lives! You give those foals something special every day!” She looked away. “Besides, who knows when I might be able to do it again.”

“Well that thar’s the rub, ain’t it?” said Apple Bloom. “The road ahead is fixin’ to be a mighty lean one fer all of us, adults and foals.”

All three mares sat in quiet contemplation, the tick-tock of the parlour clock the only sound in the old farmhouse.

“Hee, hee, hee! Just look at us!” laughed Sweetie Belle.

Diamond and Bloom stared in confusion, first at the laughing unicorn, and then at each other.

“I don’t see what’s so funny about the situation, Sweets,” complained Apple Bloom.

Sweetie smile, her gaze turned inwards. “I was just thinking how not so long ago we were just a bunch of kids, going to school with Miss Cheerilee and waiting anxiously for our cutie marks! Here we are six years after Nightfall, the front line in trying to protect Ponyville from invasion, predation and just plain starvation!”

Diamond cracked a smile of her own. “Six years later and still a bunch of blank-flanks!”

The corners of Apple Bloom’s lips stayed firmly down. “Six years of foals growin’ up without gettin’ their cutie marks. Six years since we lost our sisters, Princess Celestia, and sunshine! Six years of shortages, finding other ways to grow food, pests eating half of what we grew, and raiders taking half of what was left!”

Sweetie Belle reached over to place a hoof on her friend’s back. “It sure hasn’t been easy! But girls, we have survived everything the Night’s thrown at us!”

Bloom kept her eyes focused on the table.”The only reason we all are still alive is ‘cause of dumb luck! We were lucky that Diamond’s dad had fully stocked his warehouse with food just the week before Nightfall. We were lucky that he decided to ration out the supplies to everypony in town, and that Diamond picked up and did the same when her dad was taken by raiders. We were lucky that Big Mac and Spike were able to defend the warehouse from raiders. We were lucky that Scoots had those books about plants an’ critters from the Everfree. We were lucky that Sweetie came up with the idea of farming by mage-light, otherwise we’d already all have starved!”

“Apple Bloom! That’s quite enough!” said Diamond Tiara. “We’ve certainly had our challenges, but we’ve faced them together, and we’ve come up stronger for it!” She waved a hoof towards the window. “As my daddy would say, these are the cards we’ve been dealt. It’s up to us make the most of them. I look back at that spoiled brat I was six years ago, and I can emphatically say I’m glad to be the mare I am now. Maybe it’s not who I was destined to be before Nightmare Moon, but I’m certainly doing my best under the circumstances, as I know all of us are! We can figure this out and overcome this.” She gazed out of the window again. “I’m sure Scootaloo will realize this as well, Apple Bloom, and she’ll come back to us safe and sound.”

The red bow on Apple Bloom’s mane bobbed as she nodded hesitantly. “Ah sure hope so.” She placed a hoof across the table to each of the other two mares, who placed their own upon hers. Together they listened to clock in the parlour ticking out the passage of time.


The far north

A gray-green mist glowed, pulsing and swirling over the frozen tundra. It floated lazily over the low rocks and shrubs until it came to a low hill. Though not very tall, the mound dominated the landscape around it. The mist swirled and condensed as it spun faster and faster, coming to resemble a tornado in miniature. A thrumming sound filled the air, growing louder and louder. Finally, there was a flash of lightning, a clap of thunder, and the twister was gone, replaced by a cloud of grey-green mist from which two red points glowed suspended at head height, and a sinister laugh projected.

Behind the apparition, a line of over a hundred armoured ponies emerged from the mists, marching in unison. The row split, each half flowing like a wave around the low hill. Behind the first came a second line of ponies. As the minutes turned to hours, countless more ponies marched forward, lines splitting and then merging on the other side of the mount.

Up above, the apparition glanced down at its troops and laughed again. That fool, Nightmare Moon! he thought. She's brought Equestria to its knees, decimated the population and squandered its resources. What a foolish waste, but then, Equestria has experienced no less than it deserved. One kingdom's waste is another opportunity! Soon, he knew, all Equestria and its deluded despot would pay for their idiocy, and for what they had done to him. The Crystal Empire was on the march, and it was time that Equestrians came to know the feel of King Sombra's spur upon their scrawny necks!

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