• Published 26th Nov 2011
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Redemption - PourMeADrink

At the end of his life, Ryan Williams stumbles across something to live for.

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Chapter the Fourth

February 4th, 2018

“You’re mine now, there’s no where left to run!” The shout echo’s through the room, its sound reflecting off of the walls and absorbing into the bedding that’s strewn all over the place.

“You’ll never catch me!” A softer voice returns, its defiance muffled and its position unclear.

Standing in the doorway, her intent gaze picking carefully over the jumbled landscape of blankets, toys and books, she searches for her prey. Movement is spotted…there! Between the bed and the wall, a slight motion under the humped shape of the discarded down comforter.

Moving as silently as possible the pursuer begins edging her way into the room, angling with quiet, careful steps around the nearer of the twin beds. She can hear a slight rustling. A faint sound of breathing. Grinning evilly, she leans low and tenses her legs, ready to bound over the remaining bed and pin her quarry. Taking a deep breath, she launches herself over the disheveled sheets, hooves tucking neatly as she reaches apogee. Fore and rear legs unfold as she descends, the butter yellow light streaming through the venetian blinds painting her hide in citron stripes as she braces for landing.

The perfect victory.

All victory however, like glory, is fleeting. As she falls upon her unsuspecting target there is a flurry of movement from beneath the blanket as a dark indigo shape streaks out and around the foot of the bed, trailing a pillow case in its wake as it sprints for the door.

Landing with an indignant squawk and tangling in the mess of linens and pillows, she falls heavily against the bedroom wall with a grunt and a hollow boom, causing the nearby window to shudder in its frame.

“Come back here, criminal scum!”

The only response is fading laughter and the staccato thud of hooves, making speed down the hall for the stairs. Kicking finally free of her textile impediment, Celestia vaults her sisters bed and zigs around the foot of her own in fast pursuit.


Slowing to an easy canter just outside her bedroom, she looks down the hall to the open door at its opposite end.

“Yeah Dad?” She calls out, walking towards the stairway.

“Come here please.”

Sighing, she trots past the stairs and further down the hall towards her father’s room. Stopping at its entry she looks around before spying the bathroom door standing ajar. “Yeah Dad?” She repeats.

“Come in here, please.”

Padding over with a slightly dismayed expression, she noses the door open further and pokes her head in. She tries, unsuccessfully, to suppress a giggle. Her father is standing in front of the bathroom counter, wisps of steam rising lazily from the sink and fogging the edges of the mirror as he shaves. With half of his face shaved and the rest covered in white foam he looks funny, like he was hit with half a pie.

Turning his head slightly to look at her he clears his throat. “What, exactly, are you two doing out there?” As he turns back and raises his razor a thick clot of white falls from his cheek, splashing noisily into the water

Giggling again, she answers, “We’re playing criminals and guards.”

“Criminals and guards?”

“Criminals and guards, like in my book!” she responds brightly, watching as the razor makes straight lines down his cheek, removing shaving cream and leaving behind smooth, wet skin. This act has always fascinated her, like some sort of half ritual, half magic trick that her father performs.

“Tempered Throne?”

Tattered Throne, Daddy.”

“Are there any earthquakes in Tattered Throne?” he asks, finishing his other cheek and grabbing a damp wash cloth.

Brow beetling at the question, she shakes her head. “Earthquakes? No, why would there be earthquakes?”

“Why was there one while you two were playing?” he asks, voice muffled by the steaming towel.

Confusion grows and is subsequently replaced by comprehension and a creeping chagrin on Celestia's face as she begins picking idly at the door threshold with a hoof. “Oh, uh…I fell onto the wall…”

Into the wall, sweetie.” He says, hanging the washcloth on its rack and draining the soapy water from the basin. “You fall onto the floor, you fall into a wall.”

Continuing to watch her hoof as she flicks it shyly at the metal strip separating tan bedroom carpet from grey bathroom tile, she amends her statement. “I fell into the wall while we were playing.”

Bending, he lifts her head with a gentle hand on her cheek. “You’re not hurt?”

Gazing up at him she shakes her head in the negative. Sighing slightly he straightens up, turning back to the counter.

“No more running, and no more shouting. Understood?”

Nodding her head yes she turns to go, feeling light and buoyant again.

“Now you and your sister go straighten up your room. I know it’s a mess.”

Groaning, but quietly, she heads back out the open bedroom door and towards the stairs, looking to round up the sister that got her into trouble.

“I thog yu sad ee wadn’t mab.”


“I thought you said he wasn’t mad.” Luna states again, dropping the toys she’s carrying from her mouth into the low white box against one wall.

“He isn’t mad.” Tia responds, nosing the blankets back onto her bed.

“Then why do we have to clean our room?”

Pulling at the corners of her comforter with her teeth to straighten it, Celestia sighs irritably. “Because you were running in the house.” Surveying the work done, she smiles and nods her head slightly. It looks about as good as it usually does, at least when she does it instead of dad. Turning, she encounters the disgruntled countenance of her younger sister.

You were running too. And yelling.”

“I was not.”

Luna takes a step towards her sister, “Was too!”

“I was not yelling!” Celestia yells, taking her own step forward.

“Girls! What did I say about the noise?” Their father’s voice, echoing down the hall and causing them both to freeze for a moment to eye the open bedroom door.

Exchanging a glance, they both turn their heads towards the hallway. “Sorry Daddy!” they call sweetly in unison, waiting a moment to see if that’s good enough. Satisfied when he says nothing further, they look back at each other and lock gazes, their faces going deadly serious.

Slowly they approach each other, step by measured step, until they’re almost nose to nose. Neither one blinking, neither one daring to look away. This contest goes on for almost fifteen whole seconds before Luna’s face begins to work, lips trembling with the effort of keeping her expression straight. Seeing this causes a similar reaction in Celestia, and in moments they’re both leaning against each other, necks hooked as they laugh loudly.

Breaking away from their embrace, Luna grabs a book from her shelf and climbs up onto her bed, giggles trailing in her wake. Her sister follows suit, stopping first to pull on the draw cord that raises the blinds, flooding the room in mellow, mid-morning sunlight.

Settling herself into a comfortable position, Celestia opens the current installment of the Tattered Throne series to the page she has marked.

“What do you think our surprise is?” Luna asks, paging through her book.

“I don’t know. “ Celestia returns distractedly. “Dad just said he wanted to talk to us about something.” The enduring silence that greets this causes her to glance over at her sister.

Luna gazes back, trepidation and worry drawing an anxious expression on her delicate features. “Do you… think it’s like what the last time was about?”

Pausing for a moment - the idea had not occurred to her - she slowly shakes her head. “I don’t think so…” she trails off, remembering the concerned way her father had looked at breakfast that morning. Giving her head another shake she continues. “No, I’m sure it’ll be okay. Remember, he said there wouldn’t be any more like that.” She tries to sound confident, doing her best to ignore the uncomfortable tightening in her stomach.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, he said we’d like it, right?”


Shooting her sister a reassuring smile she turns again to her book. But as she begins reading, she finds that instead of focusing on the valiant guardsman-lieutenant and his ongoing struggle to keep the crown safe from wicked plots, her mind instead keeps wandering back to the last time their father had wanted to have a serious talk.

So he had called it six months ago, his face strained and his eyes worried as he had sat in his recliner, smoke rising almost vertically in a blue-grey ribbon from the cigarette in his left hand. That he had been smoking in the house was somewhat alarming; he almost always smoked outside, and usually tried to do it out of sight of them. More alarming still was the serious and almost nervous cast to his face, the faded afternoon light filtering through the living room windows from a slate ceilinged sky, limning his features in ash colored highlights and picking out the stubble on his cheeks and the lines around his eyes and mouth, making him look old.

Butting his smoke, he had placed the ashtray down on the floor and picked up a folder. “Girls, we need to discuss some things. Serious things.”

Looking worriedly at each other, she and Luna had sat themselves on the floor before him, fidgeting anxiously. Had they done something wrong? What had they done? What was in the folder and why did Dad look like that?

Watching the way the light played upon his face and the way he was looking at them, smelling the remnants of the cigarette smoke still curling its way lazily towards the ceiling, she had felt her stomach start to go funny, sort of twisty and tight.

Leaning towards them, his hands toying absently with the dark brown folder, he had sighed. “Girls…” another sigh, “Girls, you know that you’re different from me, right?”

Sharing another glance with her sister, this one confused, she had shaken her head. “What do you mean Dad?”

“Well, like how I look different from you and your sister.”

“Like… how we have four legs and you only have two?” Luna asked hesitantly.

“Yes, different like that Lunabelle, or like how I don’t have a coat like the two of you, or a tail, or a horn.”

Tilting her head slightly, her expression mirroring the look of bewilderment on Luna’s face, she had answered “Well, yeah Daddy. Of course we know that.”

Tilting his own head, betraying where she had learned the odd tick, he had looked them both in the eye. “Do you girls know why?”

Opening her mouth to answer, she had stopped, delicate blush colored eyes widening slightly. Normally when Dad asked her like that, he wanted her to try to think out the answer.

She began to think. How were they different? Dad walked around on two legs. They walked around on four. Dad had hands, while they had to use their mouths a lot of the time. They had hairy coats, which is why they only had to wear clothes when it was cold outside. Dad always wore clothes. So did the people in her books and magazines, and on T.V. They watched a decent amount of television, and all of the people on it looked like Dad, more or less.

You’d have to be blind not to see that they weren’t the same. So why were they different? Her eyes widened a little more, several half formed and barely acknowledged suspicions beginning to connect to each other in her mind. Like puzzle pieces she hadn’t quite realized were there. Everyone on television looked like him. The only shows that ever had characters with wings or horns were animal shows, cartoons, or movies, and she knew the last two were only about make-believe things. They didn’t look like the people on T.V., and nothing on T.V. looked like them. Not exactly like them, anyway…

“Are we different because…are we horses?”

Her father had started slightly, chuckling and smiling for the first time since he had called them into the living room. “No sweetheart, the two of you are definitely not horses.”

“Why would you think we’re horses?” Her sister asked, arching one eyebrow and looking at her as if she had started spouting gibberish.

“Because we’re not like the people on T.V.” She returned slowly, her mouth feeling dry as the pieces began to interlock for her. “…We’re not them.”

Tail curling in tight around her legs, Luna had returned a panicked gaze to their father, her eyes growing large with alarm. “We’re not people?”

“Of course you’re people.” He had answered with a bemused expression. “But, you’re not like other people.” Closing his eyes for a moment he had taken a deep breath, holding it before releasing it in a gust.

“You’re not human, like I am.” Looking steadily into their eyes, his face serious again. “The two of you are called Alicorns. You weren’t born in a hospital, like I was, and… you didn’t always live here with me.”

The tight, hot, twisty feeling in her stomach had started to fade, replaced by a strange lightness, almost a weightless sensation. Like when she went swimming. “Where did we used to live?” She heard herself ask, her voice sounding faint and distant to her ears.

“I don’t know, honey.” He had answered, swallowing. “I found you and your sister in the canyon, about four years ago. I don’t know where you came from, or how long you were there for.”

“You…found us?” Luna had asked breathlessly, a tremble entering her voice.

He looked from her to Luna then, nodding slowly, and something around his eyes had caught her attention, bringing her back to herself momentarily. He looks afraid.

It was silent for a moment, an eerily quiet tableau, Luna taking deep breaths, eyes still large and starting to shine wetly. Her own face was expressionless, almost numb, save for a growing feeling of pressure from behind her lips.

The pressure was a question, one she desperately didn’t want to ask. The question was dangerous. She knew this without fully understanding the how or why of it, and she recognized that in its asking, everything could change. Her sister, her father. Herself. She could sense it hanging over them, her small family, like some unfathomable weight, and she was chilled in its shadow.

The quiet stretched and stretched for what felt like forever, punctuated only by the dry, measured ticking of the kitchen clock sounding distantly from the other room. She didn’t want to do it, she didn’t want to know. She wanted her dad to stand up, laugh and yell ‘April Fools!’, and ask them if they wanted some ice cream and a movie, even though deep down she knew. She knew the response he would give to the question struggling to be born from her lips, but she resisted, fighting vainly against it, as if by not voicing it she could negate the truth of its answer.

She felt like she was speeding towards a cliff and couldn’t stop.

Gooseflesh raced up her spine and she shivered a little, ruffling her wings as she took a deep breath. She released it, and her lips parted. “If you found us in the canyon, then who’s our dad? “ She blinked her eyes slowly, delicate nostrils still catching a stale hint of smoke. “Who are our parents?”

They sat, motionless, two looking at one looking at two. Her mind felt numb and her body felt hollow. As if when the question had left her mouth, it had taken everything with it, leaving behind only an empty skin. She imagined for a moment that she was a balloon, one connected to the ground by only the most tenuous of tethers, and all it would take was one puff of wind, one exhaled breath, to send her floating away forever.

He had sat back, not looking afraid anymore but tired, and sad. Seeing him look that way made her want to cry. “I don’t know, honey.”

That awful quiet might have resumed again, giving stage to the dusty metronome of the clock as it counted off its endless slices of time, the desiccated sound marching past them ceaselessly in the grey washed light of the living room, and she became frightened. She worried that it really might not ever end, that it might always be quiet from now on. That it might always be cold.

Breath hitching and eyes streaming, Luna began to cry. Long braying sobs that echoed back from the living room walls, startling them both, and as the noise crashed over them that horrible moment was broken forever. Dropping quickly out of the recliner he had knelt down, the forgotten brown folder tumbling to one side and flapping onto the floor as she and her sister had rushed into his embrace, toppling him back against the base of the chair.

He had tightened his hold on them, their heads buried in his chest as they lay against him. Hugging and soothing them both as Luna cried.

“Does…do-does this mean you’re not our Da-Daddy anymore?” Luna had sobbed as she clung to him with her eyes screwed tightly closed, tears leaking down her indigo muzzle, her breath catching as she shuddered. She felt tears running down her own face as she trembled across from her younger sister, fearing the answer.

Shh, shh sweetheart,” He had said, stroking their necks like he would when they would wake from a nightmare. “Shh now. Of course it doesn’t mean that. You’re still my girls. You’ll always be my girls, and I’m still Daddy…” His breath had caught as he continued. “I’m still Daddy, if you want me to be.”

They sat that way for a long time. How long she didn’t know, her mind and emotions churning slowly. Luna’s sobbing had gradually quieted and eventually Celestia had opened her eyes, blinking at her sister dumbly before realizing that she was asleep. Lifting her head she noticed in the fading daylight that it had started to rain, a gentle pattering against the windows that rose and fell in pitch with the errant wind. Looking back up she watched him. This man who wasn’t her father, his arm encircling her and hand stroking her neck gently as he stared out at the rain with far away, red rimmed eyes.

He wasn’t her father. His saying so hadn’t been necessary, not really. She had known. Not in any real, concrete way, not with her thinking mind, but deeper down, where logic and emotion gave way to instinct and impulse. That part had sensed it, dozens of little things. Segments in their lives that didn’t quite fit together properly.

What was he, really? What were they to him?

More importantly, what was he to her?

He was just somebody who had found her and her sister. Just some man, some person, who was not like them. No, they were not like him. Who had taken them in, like you would a stray dog you found shivering by the side of the road. Was that what they were, just some weird animals he had found and felt sorry for, like strange pets?

She began to fill with something, an emotion she had never felt before when looking at this man; anger. Why did he have to tell them? Why did he have to hurt them and make them afraid? Whether the telling had been a revelation or a confirmation to her, she hadn’t wanted to know. She hadn’t wanted the truth, and now she couldn’t not know it, and it was his fault. Breathing steadily, feeling the anger simmering bitterly in the back of her mind, she followed his gaze to the window and watched the rain impacting against the pane.

She focused her building ire on the drops spattering against the window, watching with a sort of embittered satisfaction as each one met its violent end, to run in rivulets towards the sill and mix with its predecessors. Sitting there, her mind gradually became unfocused and began to drift, buffeted by erratic ebb and flow of her swirling emotions. Eventually the tumbling swells within her began to wane, and after a while she noticed something; the more she watched the rain the more she felt her fledgling animosity begin to ebb, seeming almost to flow out of her and into the individual water droplets to be dashed against the coolness of the glass. Until eventually she felt not anger, but confusion, and a soothing calmness.

Was that all there was? Were they nothing more than strays?

No, her oddly placid mind returned to her. There’s more to it, isn’t there?

He was raising them, and he was teaching them. He pushed them to learn, to do better. He took them out and showed them, giving them the names of trees, animals, plants, stars. He took them camping, and swimming, and hiking. He bought them gifts sometimes for no reason. He didn’t just feed them, he knew all of their favorite foods. He played with them, laughed with them, talked with them and paid attention to what they said. He tucked them in at night and read to them. Praised them when they did good and scolded them when they misbehaved. He took care of them when they were hurt, or sick, and reassured them when they were scared. He made them feel safe and warm. He loved them.

Wasn’t that how a father was supposed to be?

He loved them, and looking back up at him, she realized with relief that she still loved him. That she still wanted to be his little girl, his Tia Marie, and with this realization she felt the cold shadow lift away, and she lay warm against her father in the sound of the rain.

Watching his face, she was relieved to see that he didn’t look sad or afraid any more. Just worn out, like when he spent all day working on the house. Like she felt. Yawning hugely, she had adjusted her position against him slightly, getting more comfortable and thinking that she might follow her sister’s lead and go to sleep, when he had startled her by speaking.

“I’m sorry Tia,” he had said, pausing to take a breath. “I’m sorry sweetheart. You and your sister are too young for this. You’re too young, and it’s not fair to you. To either of you.”

Fetching a sigh, he looked down and met her eyes. “It’s too soon for all of this, but we don’t have a choice. There’s still more I have to talk to you girls about, things you have to understand about the world. I wish it didn’t have to be this way.”

Swallowing the lump that had formed in her throat, she looked back at him. “More…like this, Daddy?”

Blinking, he had smiled gently at that and leaned down to brush her forehead with a kiss. “Not like this, Tia Marie. Important things, about you and Luna, and how we’re going to keep you both safe. But nothing else like this. I promise.”

“I love you, Daddy.” She had said, settling into him and closing her eyes, already beginning to drift off as she breathed the clean linen smell of his shirt and the strong fragrance of the soap he used. For the rest of her life this particular combination of scents would always make her feel comfortable and safe.

Reaching down, he had gently wiped the damp spots from her cheeks with his thumb. “I love you too dear heart. I love you too.”

Ryan settled himself in his study, a mug of fragrantly steaming coffee warm by his left hand. Listening for the girls for a moment and hearing nothing, he smiles and turns on some music. Good, they've finally quieted down.

Opening a drawer, he removes a brown folder, setting it atop the pile of books and printouts already occupying the desktop, the dulcet notes of Take the ‘A’ Train drifting from the expensive Bose speakers and filling the room with warm mellow sound.

The folder contained everything he had been able to learn about Alicorns, as well as relevant material on unicorns and pegasi, all painstakingly researched and cobbled together from a wide range of sources. The painstaking part hadn’t been getting the information, so much as weeding out the fanciful and the made up from the historical. He had been doing most of his work through the internet, and that had become increasingly frustrating until he had contacted an old college roommate now working as a world history professor in Reno. That friend had given him the email address of a colleague at Sacramento State, who had provided the titles of some excellent mythology references before cheerfully forwarding Ryan to his ex-wife, who chaired the Department of Antiquities at UC Berkeley.

Since then he had contacted over two dozen universities and museums around the country, ordering books and copies of manuscripts by the dozen. A lot of it was depressingly repetitive, but it represented nearly four years worth of effort. Effort which he had then laboriously and methodically trimmed down to a more manageable three-hundred or so pages of material. He still tried occasionally to add to it, but at this point he wasn’t finding any new information, and was finally admitting to himself that he was unlikely to learn anything more. His efforts had paid off though as he’d used it to teach first himself, and more recently the girls.

It was going better than he had hoped, after their ‘discussion’ six months ago. Luna had had the most trouble, insisting on sleeping with him for weeks afterwards and waking with nightmares when she didn’t. Her sister had been a tremendous help in settling her though, and now she spent most nights in her own bed, with only the occasional bad dream. Tia, being the older of the two, had coped better, though they had both stuck very close to him for some time. To the point that he had been more than a little relieved (and ashamed at feeling so) when they had finally began to behave more independently again.

He shivers a little, trying to throw off the disquieting feeling that settles over him as he remembers that grey afternoon and the expression on Celestia's face as she had sat with him watching the rain. That had been his worst moment, when he had glanced down and seen the unmistakable look of hurt and anger in her eyes, causing all of his fears to come rushing to the fore. Feeling keenly the ache at his center he had opened and closed his mouth several times, uncertain of what to do and afraid to say anything to her, least he risk widening the rift he imagined he felt forming between them.

He couldn’t be certain, and he could never ask, but he thought he may have come close to losing her that day. When she had looked at last back to him, the sincerity in her eyes and the affection in her voice had been like a soothing balm against blistered skin, and he had finally felt his heartache and worry leave him like a departing spirit.

Since then they had both made remarkable progress, accepting with some trepidation that they had to be careful not to be discovered by others. They had of course been frightened by the idea that other people, outside people, might want to take them away. But he had worked with them, gradually replacing fear with understanding and a prudent caution.

They were warming up to the idea that they were special, growing excited whenever he finished up a normal school lesson and brought out the folder, always overflowing with questions. They wanted to learn about themselves, were in fact eager to do so, and he was immensely proud of them.

Giving his head a brief shake, he opens the folder before him and removes the bundle of papers marked with the tag Pegasus, setting it off to one side. Replacing the folder in its drawer he begins shifting through the stack of materials on the desktop, picking out several stapled printouts, pausing, and then selecting a pair of books before shuffling everything together.

Arranging his chosen material, he feels his earlier disquiet replaced with a deeper sense of unease. They were going to be excited about this, that was immutable, unchangeable fact. If he knows nothing else, he knows that excitement and youth combine together to obliterate carefulness and good sense. He wasn’t excited. He was a worrier. A chronic one, as his late wife had so often pointed out, and he knew without a doubt that the ulcer inducing pile before him would be an unrelenting source of worry over the next few months. He needed to instill in them a healthy sense of, not fear, but respect, for the dangers involved.

Finally satisfied with the order he leafs briefly through the stack, each title and heading jumping out at him and pricking his unease like a partially diluted shot of anxiety; Miraculous Nature: The Mechanics of Flight. From Nest to Treetop: The Rearing Behaviors of the North American Sparrow. Beginners Physics: Air Pressure and Lift. How Do They Work: A Guide to Avian Anatomy. Veterinarians’ Best: A Basic Guide to First Aid and Field Triage.

Groaning he lowers his head and takes a deep breath, allowing the bright notes drifting languorously from the speakers to wash over him as Duke Ellington skillfully tickles his eighty-eight keys. They were going to be excited. God help him, they were going to be so excited.