• Published 11th Apr 2016
  • 385 Views, 17 Comments

Drastic Measures - Nimnul

Berry Punch leads a great life. But her daughter's sire suddenly takes an interest after never before seeing the filly. Berry knows he must have an ulterior motive, so she plans to confront him and, if necessary, make sure the past stays the past.

  • ...

Wrapping Up

Princess Luna's opinion of Bon Bon had soured somewhat after the mare's diatribe. She wouldn't let that affect her decision regarding Berry Punch, however. Apparently the mare had previous experience in doing menial community service around Ponyville, to make up for damages caused by excessive revelry without taking her away from her foal.

Berry Punch had practically begged that the matter be managed by Mayor Mare rather than Princess Twilight. Although peculiar, Luna hadn't seen any reason to object. Maybe the mare was past fearing the mayor's judgement, while Twilight's disappointment might be fresh. Pan Flash had declined to press charges, but his attacker shouldn't go on entirely without consequences. Luna would contact the mayor of Ponyville about it.

The ride back to Canterlot had been significantly more tense than the original trip towards Las Pegasus had been, the group of four friends now obviously uncomfortable about conversing in the presence of Luna and her guards.

They had arranged for the children to be watched over by Lyra's parents, whom Ditzy knew by reputation and trusted as well as Berry did. The young ones had been enthusiastic about the idea, as it had also meant getting to skip a few days of school, albeit with the promise of additional work to make up for the absence.

Luna had previously met Lyra's mother, but not frequently. If the mare hadn't been so eyecatching, Luna might not have remembered. She had an imposing physical charm that fixed her in the mind easily, without having to actually know much about the pony. The unicorn's thick coat and stout proportions marked her as a northerner, a primitive, warlike breed of equine. Although they'd found their own unity among the three tribes, they'd been so averse to being ruled from afar that they hadn't even managed to form any kind of political unity between their settlements, let alone consider being part of the newly formed Equestria, if memory served.

Beyond the formidable stature of her lineage, the great unicorn had the appearance of one who enjoyed food a great deal. She moved with an easy grace which suggested that her weight was in no way a hindrance to her.

Enkindle's presence among Canterlot's high society was refreshing. She'd learned all the foibles and conventions of the upper class and ignored them as it suited her. According to Celestia, and some of Luna's own observations, the mare tended to act as anything from a charming foreigner to an uncouth barbarian, seemingly for her own entertainment.

Luna thought that the unicorn was a ruthless savage at her core. She'd adopted the trappings of civilisation and culture, of course. The mare's unusually long coat was impeccably groomed, for one. She recalled that the majority of Canterlot citizens had been deeply unsettled by the changeling invasion. Enkindle Heartstrings had likely managed to earn herself a starring role in the nightmares of several changelings. She'd been subdued, of course, but not before bringing her barbaric strength and fury to bear on the invaders. She'd gained a modest degree of notoriety among the guards who'd swept the city after the invasion and freed her from her restraints.

Of course, she'd required Luna's services after Tirek's attack. The theft of her inborn magic had frightened her as much as any Equestrian. In addition, most ponies in Canterlot did not have semi-regular nightmares about the sort of cataclysmic feral storm that simply wasn't allowed to happen in the heartland of Equestria.

Luna knew ponies by their fears, in a way.

Presently the great unicorn was standing in the doorway to her apartment, coolly regarding the ponies crowding the stairwell. "Berry, did your trip conclude to your satisfaction?" The question had been asked without preamble, the mare had barely exchanged a nod with her daughter in greeting.

"Eh, I'm not out of the woods, but I am taking my daughter home. Nothin' to worry on that front."

"Good, good." She spared a smile for Ditzy Do as well. "Your trust was a great gift. Whenever either of you find yourself in Canterlot, you will be welcome here. Now go on, help the fillies collect their belongings."

It was a bit of an awkward shuffling of ponies for Ditzy and Berry to ascend the rest of the way and squeeze past the larger mare. The stairwell was generous but still not meant for crowds to stay on the landings.

Enkindle Heartstrings sought eye contact with Luna. Although the stout unicorn was large, she wasn't nearly as tall as an alicorn. "I assume by your presence that it would be preferable for Miss Punch to be returned home swiftly. There will be no more reason for her to fear for her daughter?"

"No more than any mother worries for her young," Luna stated evenly.

A minute frown creased the unicorn's brow. "Who will pay the price of your involvement, Princess?"

"T'was a favor, freely done for one who has served my sister ably," Luna declared regally. She was not entirely sure why the other mare would ask such a question. "T'is a pity that it appears difficult to believe."

"Yeah," Bon Bon spoke up. She'd been sullenly quiet thus far. "I sent her a letter through Princess Twilight."

"Well ..." The big mare hesitated briefly. "To one such as I, that seems very foolish. However, I am willing to be enlightened," she claimed readily. "Perhaps you could explain later over supper?"

"We're gonna head home with Berry," Bon Bon stated flatly.

Lyra nodded along. "That was the plan." It sounded like a question, she appeared obviously uncertain of her mother's approval of the idea.

The older unicorn shook her head. "There will be more trains tomorrow." She regarded the smaller mares with great fondness. "See to your own needs. Be sheltered by my hearth, yes? Tell me of your travels, the good and the ill. Your friends will still have need of you, and you should be well rested for them."

Bon Bon hesitated, perhaps she did not want to be seen to immediately acquiesce to the other pony's idea.

"C'mon, Bonny. It'll be nice to see dad tonight, too." Lyra stepped forward. As she passed her mother, she muttered, "be nice to the Princess." It might not have been intended to reach Luna's ears.

"Ugh, fine," Bon Bon ground out roughly. "In that case, I'm taking a nap."

The earth pony didn't make it past the unicorn without being gently nuzzled on the way. Seeing the ill-tempered mare being treated so tenderly may have caused one of Luna's guard some amusement at the seeming embarrassment. Luna was not certain of this, and was herself glad to see ponies treat one another in such a way.

There was nothing gentle about the unicorn once the others had left. Her expression was impassive, yet there was something unyielding in her eyes. "You've done a service for one my daughter holds dear. You have my gratitude, but this does not entitle you to future consideration in my eyes."

"What is it you fear about my involvement?" There had been a time when ponies had occasionally whispered about fearing Luna, wondering whether she would turn into the Nightmare once more. Luna didn't know this mare particularly well, of course, so perhaps she shared similar concerns.

It took a few moments for Enkindle to answer. "I find myself conflicted, Princess. As a unicorn's mother, I shall always be grateful to your sister and now you. Your duty is a burden no mother would wish for her foal, I think."

Moving sun and moon was of course extremely draining for unicorns, even when they worked in concert to make it possible at all. It simply wasn't at the forefront of the common Equestrian's mind that it had once been necessary, before Celestia and Luna. "Your gratitude is appreciated. But please, continue."

"When Lyra was born, she seemed so tiny and fragile to me. She takes very much after her father, I suppose. I grew afraid for her, and in that state of mind I agreed to raise her in Equestria. She would not be the runt of the pack, here."

Considering Lyra Heartstrings appeared to fall squarely into the Equestrian average, this seemed to have worked out. "Do you regret this choice?"

"No." The unicorn pursed her lips. "Yet it was hard work, at first. I was a foreigner and my husband continued to travel often and at length for his work. My Equish was flawed, I had no friends." She bared her teeth. "And I was young to be a mother. Too young to be away from my elders, I would say. But the hearth was mine to tend, and my family's interests mine to defend. I had my little daughter and the luxury of money." She chuckled with a predatory glint in her eye. "I feared nothing, least of all your squirrely little summer ponies. I grabbed your city by the throat and subdued it. Made it mine, learned its ways. My daughter grew up knowing she belonged, because I made it so!"

It seemed like a very peculiar way to to boast of the process of learning to be a well-spoken, well-connected member of the upper class to Luna, but she could follow the reasoning. Many newcomers to Equestria wished the best for the young, but not many had the wealth and resulting idle time to learn how to confidently guide their offspring in a society still unfamiliar to themselves.

Also, not every individual passed through life with confidence as though they were the indispensable bedrock of the world.

"Quite admirable, I would say, but it doesn't answer my question."

The unicorn shrugged. "Princess Twilight has achieved greatness on a path she has been set upon from an early age. We all owe her much! I know for a fact that her mother's pride is great, I would never dare argue against it. But in her place I would struggle to feel the same. My kind distrusts notions of destiny and fate and the machinations of immortals have that smell about them. Part of me would always resent it."

Suddenly the mare smiled, brightly and with such delight it seemed to light up the area. "I tell ponies of my daughter and they nod politely, secretly thinking that I am a simple-minded foreigner and cannot see that she is a layabout without ambition. So few can see what I see! She has a house, it is modest, but it is a place of shelter and of plenty to her lover and her friends. She has chosen her path and found a place of happiness. She adds joy to the life of others. She is aware of her flaws without despairing over them. She can tell when a soul is in need of kinship. Perhaps not as well as I, but she is still young. These things are worthy of esteem to any of my kin. I am proud!"

"I see." The attitude left a sour taste with Luna, but she tried to reassure the other pony nonetheless. "The issue in question was ... modest in scope. I involved myself to ensure that Miss Punch would not simply be a statistic, as Bon Bon so charmingly claimed." She frowned. "Is this attitude common among your kind?"

"I think so." The great unicorn shook her head. "True, we have our seers and sages and we do appreciate raw power in our kin, but magic on your scale only causes disquiet for most of us, not wonder or tempting appeal. We would not be very comfortable with its influence in our life. That is why I said I am conflicted. I very much appreciate all your services! But it is the way I was raised. I regret if this offends you."

Such superstitions were not uncommon, of course. Celestia had been around for long enough to seem perfectly normal to most Equestrians, even if they would ordinarily be fearful of powerful magic entities, they wouldn't conceive of their Princess as anything but benevolent. Perhaps in a few generations' time, they'd view Luna in the same way once again, and not just because Celestia asked it of them.

"Think nothing of it, Lady Heartstrings. I appreciate your forthrightness."

The fillies had been spoiled a little more than Berry would ordinarily appreciate, but she decided not to comment. Maybe it had served to distract them from worrying.

Besides, both of them had been so happy to see her return, she didn't want to say anything to diminish that. Even Dinky had rushed to hug her first before breaking away to properly greet Ditzy.

There was a considerable mess of comics and some board games. The comics they would probably share with Spike. No additional toys for Pinchy, which was probably for the best. Her daughter's room was the sort of place toys had nightmares about. The toys she'd gotten on her previous visit to Canterlot were certainly not long for this world, and Berry would feel a little bad to see such generous gifts reduced to their component parts. In the name of science, she supposed. There was also some sort of mechanics made easy set with all sorts of metal bits, nuts and bolts and things of that sort to build working models and mechanisms.

Seemed squarely aimed at inquisitive kids like Pinchy and Berry felt regret that she hadn't been aware that sort of thing existed. She should have made more of an effort. Maybe she should talk to the Doc, the guy was also tinkering with weird stuff beyond watchmaking. She'd have to convince him that Pinchy was a careful sort and not a Crusader.

"I hope you were proper grateful for all this stuff. This is exceptional, and that's pro'ly gonna be literal."

"Sure! Kinda weird to get so much stuff. It's like Hearth's Warming." Dinky had been the one who needed convincing to accept a gift last time around as well.

"Is everything going to be okay, mom?" Pinchy stuck close to her side, as though worried Berry might vanish. "Are you in trouble with the Princess?"

"I'm gonna have to work for the Mayor for a while, Pinchy." Wouldn't be the first time. Despite Bon Bon's meltdown about consequences, Berry knew that the Mayor and the Ponyville cops had been more lenient with her than they'd needed to be.

"Oh." It was a tiny sound of disappointment, and it stung. She'd rather be nailed in the jaw by Bon Bon again, and the mare was stupid strong for just spending all day in the kitchen or behind the register. She raised a hoof to rub the bruise.

"I didn't get in trouble 'cause of drinking, Pinchy, y'can ask the others." She sighed. "It was kind of a mess. Turns out your sire only sorta recently was outta prison and didn't want any trouble. My mother was giving him grief. Damn the crazy old nag." She bit her lip. "Makes me so angry."

"Okay." The filly hugged her, and it made Berry feel like a million bits. Still, now that it was over she couldn't help but wonder if Pinchy hadn't learned the wrong lessons in life. She was such a good filly, but maybe she'd only been good because her mother was a headcase who couldn't handle disappointment? The Crusaders constantly got into trouble. She didn't want that for her daughter, but at least those other fillies had experienced again and again that their screw-ups couldn't do any lasting harm to the love of their family.

Meanwhile Pinchy knew perfectly well that Berry and her mother hated one another, so she'd probably have picked up the awful notion that a pony could gamble their mother's love away. Berry didn't want her daughter growing up to live like Fluttershy. If the world-saving business hadn't been dropped on that mare, she'd hardly leave her house for fear of ruffling feathers. Regular ponies went nowhere in life with an attitude like that.

Dinky at least gave her mother a bit of sass now and then. Pinchy was probably still worrying about her mother backsliding into drink. Berry expected that the filly might one day take an interest in meeting her sire, but she probably wouldn't say so until she trusted her mother not to come completely unglued about it.

"We got hard work ahead of us, Pinchy."

"Huh? Like what?"

"Your mother's a headcase, Pinchy, there's no way around it. Everypony is a little weird, but most ponies are better at filterin' it and acting like normal." She sighed. "I gotta learn to sort myself out. I gotta learn to be okay with myself, and not just muddle along for your sake. D'ya understand? I love you more than anything else in the world, but I gotta learn to do what's right for me, too, else I can't be strong and healthy for you. Not for long, anyhow."

"Berry is right," Ditzy cut in, with that slow and steady rhythm of hers. "She m-may need real help." The pegasus squinted one eye shut and fixed the other on Ruby Pinch. "We're in this together. All th-the way. Family doesn't have to ... doesn't end with blood. Trust us."

"Yeah!" Dinky nodded with enthusiasm and rushed back to hug Berry again. "C'mon Pincer, with mine for back-up, your mom can stand up to anything." She took a step back again and gave Berry a cheeky sort of look. "If she'll remember that mom is there!"

Berry shook her head. "You got me there, Dinky, I'll try to remember when the going gets tough." Probably helped Pinchy a lot to hear it like that from her friend. Dinky hadn't any more real reason to think that Berry could get herself sorted out than Pinchy had, but Dinky trusted her own mother easily and didn't seem to have any trouble sharing whatever faith Ditzy had in her.

"I'm just glad you're back," Pinchy muttered, but she smiled. "Tell us how it went?"

"Sure I will, but first you gotta help pack your stuff, maybe tell us how things went here?"

"Oh, it was great," Dinky claimed with enthusiasm. "Enny and M, I mean, Mr. Advantage, taught us how to play bridge, and poker!"

"Yeah, and they took us to a gryphon restaurant! It was really cool!"

Berry frowned. She supposed that maybe there was a market for that sort of thing for embassy staff or something. "So how'd that work out for you?"

Dinky didn't look entirely happy about the memory. "Some weird smells, but I had a pretty good salad."

"I had some fried eggs with pickles and onions. I didn't want to get too crazy, but I had a sardine from whatever Enny had. She likes fish a lot."

"Sardines are good," Ditzy stated happily, although her daughter didn't seem convinced.

Neither filly were real fussy eaters, but fish wasn't exactly a popular mainstay at home. There really wasn't much reason to include it in the grocery budget, in any case. "Now you're making me hungry."

Fried eggs sounded good. She'd made eggs a regular part of her little family's diet, especially since the one bit of parenting advice she'd gotten from her dad was that little unicorns could waste a lot of energy trying to do magic and needed to be fed properly to grow up healthy. Eggs were full of useful stuff and were cheap. Berry had known lots of ponies who grew up real scrawny, from being poor or from being raised by young parents who barely knew what they were doing. Often both.

"Lemme know if you wanna try more fish at home sometime, Pinchy. For now, let's get ready and say goodbye to Lyra's mother." She considered her surroundings. "Well, let's do one more sweep. This place is too big."

It was an awfully large apartment. She was pretty sure the lower floors had one on each side of the stairs, so Lyra's parents must have knocked down the wall to the neighboring apartment and merged them at some point. It seemed too large for only two ponies, or even three. Lyra had been an only child, after all. Still, plenty of room to have guests over, and it allowed Berry not to worry whether it had been an imposition to look after the fillies. Maybe having all this space was to Enny's preference. Perhaps a city like Canterlot could feel constricting to a large pony who'd grown up in some wild region of the world.

Berry would absolutely not want to be the one responsible for keeping dust from gathering on the furniture here.

Finally ready to depart, and having been informed that Bon Bon and Lyra would stay the night, they intended to say their goodbyes to Enny. Her friends staying behind made sense to Berry, Bon Bon would probably tell herself that she'd been largely useless or even made things worse by causing a scene, but she was in good hooves with the two Heartstrings.

Apparently the older mare had at least invited the Princess inside and out of the stairwell.

"Thanks for watching the fillies. Ditzy made the right call, asking you. I owe ya."

"You are not in my debt," Enny declared firmly. "I say again: Trusting me with your daughters was a gift to one such as I. Perhaps you only involved my family to calm your own mind, but it has been done."

Well, it was true that naming Lyra and Bon Bon as legal guardians if anything happened to her would likely be a moot point now. She'd been majorly off-kilter at the time. Of course, accidents could happen at any time, so making sure Pinchy got to stay in Ponyville should the worst happen at some point wasn't a bad thing, but Berry decided not to dwell on it.

"I don't regret that part, if that's what you been wondering."

"Good, good!" Enny sighed "I will speak candidly, yes? You are one who has been made to feel unwelcome in her own life. It is a grave wrong to inflict upon a pony. You are a mare of worth, and I will trust my daughter's judgement, and that of your daughter, over your own."

The big unicorn took a deep breath. She looked pained, and Berry thought she saw tears forming in her eyes. It was deeply uncomfortable. Enkindle Heartstring was an enormous, obviously strong pony, and it seemed wrong for such a mare to be moved to tears for somepony she hardly even knew.

"Back north I would say this among my peers and our elders, but this will do. Princess Luna, take heed and bear witness. I, Enkindle Heartstrings, born in Iceclad, home in Canterlot, matriarch of my line, lay claim to Berry Punch and Ruby Pinch. I will treat them as kin, no better and no worse. We may disagree fiercely and I need not understand their choices, but they will belong here as they are, not as I wish they were."

She cleared her throat and regarded Berry warmly. "Please remember this. Under this roof, failure need not be accompanied by shame. When misfortune finds you, as it sometimes will, you will find aid and shelter here."

"So it is witnessed," Luna intoned grandly, smirking all the while.

Berry felt a little ganged up on by a princess who was still centuries out of date and Lyra's weird mother. "Uh, alright then. I'll keep that in mind?" There really wasn't much of a line to the Heartstrings, at least not in Equestria proper. The mare also didn't seem that old. If anypony asked Berry to imagine a family matriarch, she'd imagine a rickety old pony like Granny Smith or her own grandmother.

"That's a good thing, Berry." Ditzy nudged her. "Mrs. Heartstrings just wants ... she wants to help."

She felt herself glowering dubiously. It was unnatural enough for Princess Luna to take an interest in the situation, whatever the reason. She didn't want to be ungrateful or anything of course, not to Luna and even less to Bon Bon, but the Princesses had to manage the whole bloody country, Berry couldn't imagine that the alicorn could really afford to let themselves care about individuals.

Normally it wouldn't have made particularly more sense for a rich Canterlot pony to care about what happened to her sort, but being friends with Lyra was a good enough excuse for her mother to take an interest. If Dinky, or really anypony Pinchy was friends with, were in trouble, Berry would probably want to offer what help she could.

Berry swallowed and glanced down at her daughter. "Alright, fine. I'll call on you if we ever need help again." Life was pretty stable, but everypony's luck ran out sometimes, and if Berry ever had to pay some major unexpected bill, Lyra's mother could probably help out. At least the mare seemed to understand that sometimes life just landed a cheap shot and broke you down. You couldn't take that for granted with wealthy ponies, they usually got to thinkin' that anypony who hadn't made it very far had something wrong with their moral character, too. "Your husband gonna be okay with this?"

"My house, my rules." Enny smirked a little, but didn't explain more.

Well, it wasn't Berry's place to worry about that, she supposed, and she didn't want to stick around to argue. She wanted to go home. Still, there was something else she wanted to say, and Enny seemed to sense that, looking at her expectantly.

Berry had to look away. "Maybe I wanna talk to a professional about ... myself sometime. I don't even know where to start." Needing a proper counselor or whatever was never really a topic for conversation among ponies and it made Berry uncomfortable just thinking about it. She didn't want to give ponies more reason to look down on her, but considering her recent emotional state and actions, she was willing to give it a try.

Enny smiled encouragingly, but she spoke sternly. "If there are costs beyond your means, you will tell me. If you need recommendations, I will procure them."

Didn't seem real fair to have Enny fussing over her like that, especially with Ditzy, who had less money to go around, right there. Of course Ditzy was pretty well put together mentally and would probably just tell her to care more for herself or something. Berry glanced over at her friend. Ditzy was smiling, too, she seemed grateful that Berry was being offered the help.

"That might be good," Berry allowed. "I'll keep you in the loop."

Pinchy took a step forward. "Thank you for worrying about my mother, Enny. And thank you, Princess Luna."

It was so odd watching her filly talk to these large ponies. Luna was very tall and graceful, and she had seemed to stride confidently whenever she moved. She had a weird way of looking at ponies which maybe came from just being really old. Berry didn't know. Besides, alicorns tended to have that mystery about them still, and loomed over regular ponies. Although maybe that was just Berry feeling vaguely guilty around them by default.

Lyra's mother had no special mystery about her. She was just big. Not as tall as Princess Luna, of course, but she was wide and took up more space. Berry hardly knew the older mare, but if you could know ponies by the kids they raised, Enny had to be a solid sort. Lyra wasn't odd by Ponyville standards, but she had some quirks that growing up in Canterlot would probably have sanded down, if she hadn't had parents who taught her that she was fine being herself. The mare did seem to be good with children. She'd also been extremely generous to Berry.

Enny knelt down and regarded Pinchy seriously. "It is my pleasure, little one. A pony such as I is suited to large families, I have love and concern to spare. My heart is very big, in every sense. Please make sure your mother stays in touch. I will have Lyra remind her, also."

"I will," Pinchy nodded severely.

Ponies were laying it on real thick today, it seemed. Berry shook her head. "Yeah, thank you both. Tell Bonny not to beat herself up too much."

At least doing community service in Ponyville wasn't new for anypony involved, although it was too bad that it was probably going to lead to some ponies thinking she'd been drinking again.

"Very well," Luna declared in that princess-type way she had. "Let us return you home and to normalcy at once."

Berry supposed things could be a lot worse. She'd have an uncomfortable time sorting through her baggage so she could be a better mother, of course, but she had good friends. Maybe Ditzy would argue that some of her friends hadn't acted the best way they could have, but nopony was perfect.

Plus, she was back in touch with her dad, and Lyra's mother was a good contact to have.

Normalcy was a tall order, but life wouldn't be so bad.

"Sounds good."

Author's Note:

Thanks for reading. This is it, for now.

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Comments ( 5 )

 She chuckled with a predatory glint in her eye. "I feared nothing, least of all your squirrely little summer ponies. 


Really love Enny, the way she speaks and her mannerisms are something I deeply enjoy. :twilightsmile:
Nice work, well done.

Hah, thanks. I'm kinda working on another slice of life bit with her in it, just haven't been doing that much writing lately.

Yeah I know how it is, I'm also so swamped that I've been barely able to update any of my stories, either my MLP fic here or my other two stories back at fanfiction. :fluttershysad:

Nonetheless I'd love to see an fic with more Enny on it. Really like her as a character. :twilightsmile:

Really good fic! Your characterization for Berry Punch is simply top notch, and I love the colorful cast of characters you established here, particularly Lyra's Mom. My only real issue is that, honestly, this is a story where less would certainly have been more. There are just too many side scenes, parallel plot threads, or simple diversions from the main conflict, that everything simply feels diluted. You could have honestly cut the story to 1/3 of its side, and made it all the more stronger for it.

Thanks for the feedback, I'm glad you enjoyed it despite the weaknesses. I've been trying to write more, and have noticed that tend to have an idea for a scene and just write it for a while until eventually asking myself "Did this even need to be here?" So I'm still struggling with the brevity thing.

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