• Published 18th Jul 2019
  • 8,718 Views, 488 Comments

Time Enough For Love - horizon

Clover the Clever tricked war goddess Celestia out of a coup attempt. Now she's traded the sun to woo him, and he faces a bleak prophecy: if he's brave and clever enough, he just might survive her affection for long enough to break her heart.

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2. The Peak

Smart Cookie and Sergeant Pansy exchanged a wordless look, then both stared at Clover.

"Ya can't honestly be considering this," Cookie said.

"It's complicated," Clover said automatically, then glanced up to notice the worry on their muzzles. He shot back a confused look. "What do you mean, I can't?"

"What do you mean, complicated?! She's insane! She —" Cookie stopped himself with an effort and drew a deep breath. "No. That ain't fair. But she's an alicorn, Clover, and we ain't nothing but toys to her. The last mare to challenge her to hoof-wrestling in the war camps, the Imperatrix broke her leg the instant they shouted 'Go'. Then she kicked a nearby tree in half, an' stomped off shoutin' for us to stop wastin' her time."

"She's not a pony, Clover," Pansy said. "She looks like one. She acts like one, most of the time. And then …" Pansy's voice faltered. "In the Two-Day War, I watched her level an aerie. An entire gryphon aerie. With a single spell."

Clover swallowed through a suddenly dry throat and glanced around Cookie's consul quarters. That certainly put a mere throne-room door in perspective.

"One day she's gonna sneeze and accidentally smear you 'cross the floor," Cookie said. "An' that's if you keep her attention. Harmony help you if she gets bored, like she does every time she goes a week without some monster's face ta pound in."

"Isn't that all the more reason for me to do this, then?" Clover protested. "She quite nearly pulled off a one-pony coup because she woke up drunk and surly. I have a unique opportunity to guarantee my tribe eternal safety from her, and I'm not about to let Queen Platinum down."

"Don't dodge like that," Cookie said, frowning. "The Imperatrix's promise is a done deal — Queen Platinum traded it for her blessing to woo ya — and now what you've gotta think of is you. Trust me, Clover. Tell her honestly up front it ain't gonna work, an' avoid her till she gets distracted by the next border skirmish."

Pansy touched a hoof to Clover's shoulder. "Cookie's right," she said quietly. "The Imperatrix doesn't care about you. She can't. You deserve somepony who —"

Clover swung his head to hers. "That's not true. Look at what she gave up for me."

Pansy's eyes widened, and she jerked her hoof back. "B-but … think about what she said. She just c-cared that you beat her. You're a challenge."

"And what's she gonna do the instant you ain't fun any more?" Cookie added. "The instant she realizes you're as mortal as the rest of us?"

"It's not that simple!"

Pansy swallowed. "But, but, she doesn't —"

"Not simple how?" Cookie cut in harshly. "Pride?"

Clover's cheeks heated as both accusations pressed in. "No!"

"You are our friend," Cookie said, "and I ain't gonna watch ya get snapped in half 'cause ya see an impossible challenge to fling yourself at!"

Pansy tried to interrupt again, her voice growing fainter by the word. "She's n-not in love with you —"

"I know, Pansy," Clover blurted out. "I don't care."

The room went silent. Pansy blinked several times. Then her eyes widened, and she went rigid.

"Clover," Cookie moaned, head drooping. "You son-of-a-plowshare, you are the downright stupidest genius I ever met."

Clover glanced back and forth between his friends, thrown by their reactions. "What? I'd have thought you'd be relieved I'm not going into this with any delusions."

"Except the biggest one of all," Cookie muttered.

"Cookie, what are you talking about?"

Cookie exhaled, then raised his head back up to stare into Clover's eyes. "I get it, Clover. You're in love, and ya think she'll come around."

"What?!" Clover said, more bewildered than anything. "That's not —"

Cookie lunged forward, clamping his hooves on Clover's shoulders. "Stop, Clover, and listen for one fool second. I get it. There's more'n one reason there's statues of the Imperatrix all over the continent — you'd hafta be made of stone not to have her turn your head. But she breaks ponies. She's broken every single pony that's ever looked in her direction. I'm beggin' you, Clover … I don't care what ya feel. Listen to reason, an' gallop the other direction as fast as your hooves will take you."

"Cookie." Clover met his friend's stare with earnest eyes. "You've got this completely wrong."

Cookie didn't move. "If that were true, I wouldn't have to tell ya to flee."

Clover tried to swat Cookie's legs away, but his hoof bounced uselessly off the earth pony's iron grip. He frowned and settled for abruptly pulling back, stomping over to the window and staring out into the Everfree's orderly rows of trees.

Cookie was talking complete nonsense, of course. And yet. And yet.

"I think I can see where you're getting that idea," Clover said slowly. "She is a goddess, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't have the same fantasies every colt in the world has. It would be impossible to be in my position and not have some interest. But I'm interested, not suicidal. I've got nothing to prove to her."

"Really," Cookie said flatly.

"Really. The reason hundreds of ponies have broken themselves against her is that they were trying to catch her eye. I've already done that."

Cookie stared at him expectantly.

Clover squirmed. "Admittedly, there's a certain temptation to doing it again just to show the first time wasn't a fluke."


"And if I did manage to become the first pony to make an alicorn fall in love with me, my name would go down in history." He felt his cheeks begin to heat, and tried not to think about that kiss back in the throne room.

Cookie snorted humorlessly. "Tell me more about you havin' nothing to prove."

"I don't," Clover said without conviction. "To Tartarus with history — I'm already a hero. This is about her."

Clover realized how wrong that had come out before Cookie even opened his mouth to reply.

"I mean, the deal she made for me," he hurriedly added. "Don't twist that into something it isn't."

"Okay," Cookie said, clearly humoring him. "So let's say there's somethin' here which don't boil down to you bein' deep in denial. What's so important about that deal?"

Clover swallowed, beginning to wonder if there was anything to Cookie's insistence. Love had been the absolute last thing on his mind when he'd visited them … but if there hadn't been something nagging at the back of his mind that didn't quite add up, he wouldn't have needed their advice.

What was it about the deal? Surely it didn't have to be anything so complicated as love. Clover took a breath, closed his eyes for a moment and tried to set his swirling thoughts in order. And amid the jumble of fragmentary thoughts, one finally worked its way back to the foreground.

"Okay," he finally said. "Look at how I caught her attention, and look at her response."

Cookie raised an eyebrow. "What's that got to do with anything?"

"I tricked the Imperatrix. I made her look like an idiot in front of the entire Royal Court. And instead of threatening me into silence, or challenging me to combat to restore her honor, or marching straight up to me and smashing me into pulp …" Clover paused, shivered, and shook his head to clear it. "You know something? Everypony is convinced she's some bloodthirsty warrior goddess. But that's not how she reacted back in court, and I don't understand."

Cookie facehoofed and moaned. "Of course. The only problem worse than you fallin' in love. Once a puzzle sinks its teeth into you, it don't ever let go."

"That's not it!" Clover quickly said. "I mean, it's a factor, but …"

The talk of Celestia's reaction finally coalesced the small, nagging sense of guilt that had been swirling deep in Clover's gut all morning.

"I just realized the important thing," he added quietly.


"What I said about tricking her? 'Cheating' was the exact word she used. Yet, even knowing that, she turned right around and made an absurd, unbelievable deal for me. She's traded so much away for that chance, and if I don't even give her that … what kind of cheater am I?"

Cookie blinked. Opened his mouth, then hesitated.

Clover's ears drooped. "She deserves better than that, don't you think? Anypony deserves better than that. Distracting a drunkard to defend my tribe is one thing, but I can't let myself become the sort of pony who uses the letter of a bargain to be cruel." Clover trotted back over to Cookie. "I'm aware of how crazy it is to step within squishing distance of her. But I have a moral duty to let this play out."

"Huh," Cookie said. "That's … huh."

Clover nodded firmly, finally back on solid ground.

Cookie shook his head, chuckling quietly. "I can't believe this. You're crazy, alright. But somehow, ya always manage to twist it into the sort of crazy I gotta respect."

"All this cleverness ought to be good for something." Clover smiled. "I'll be careful, okay?"

"Ya better believe I'll hold ya to that." Cookie leaned forward, pulling him into a hug.

The room went silent for a moment. Clover glanced up.

"Pansy?" he said.

She started. "Um. Yes?"

"You've been awfully quiet over there. What do you think?"

Pansy chewed her lip, eyes flicking around the room, then gave Clover a hesitant smile. "If you really want to give her a chance … I could never live with myself if I stopped you from following your heart."

"Home, sweet home," Celestia said, making a sweeping gesture around the fortress high on Canter Peak.

"Fortress" was, perhaps, a kind assessment: it was a single large room with bare stone walls and an empty hearth-pit in the center, dimly lit by several slit-windows open to the raging snowstorm outside. One wall had stacks of supply crates and a pile of dusty firewood, and along the opposite wall lay a quilt-covered slab of straw that was the room's sole piece of furniture.

"So," she added.

"S-s-so," Clover chattered, huddling inside the thin burlap of his robe.

Celestia frowned. "C'mon, Frumpy, don't be a wimp. The cold's good for you. Keeps you on edge."

Clover swallowed and tried to still his jaw. "I-I d-don't h-have y-your st-strength, a-and c-cold c-can't b-be o-outclevered."

"Wasn't that exactly what you did a few years ago?"

Clover glared.

Celestia sighed theatrically, then lit her horn. With a golden flash, a massive pile of logs vanished from the woodpile and appeared in the central hearth. Her horn flashed again, just for a moment, and the hearth burst into a raging bonfire.

Sweat beaded on Clover's brow, and steam immediately started curling off his robe. He backed away from the combustion zone to where it was merely hot.


"Y-yes, thank you," Clover said, his shivers subsiding, and scrabbled to chisel some casual conversation from the glacier of his brain. "So."

Celestia's eyes darted around the room, and she opened and closed her mouth, her muzzle shifting through several expressions before settling into a frown. "Look," she finally said, "you've gotta have figured out by now I'm all about the direct approach. So just tell me the rules to this 'win your heart' thing."

Clover blinked. "Ah," he stammered, "there are no rules to love, exactly —"

Celestia rolled her eyes. "I know, Frumpy, I'm not a newborn foal. But everypony who gets me alone wants something out of me. What's your price? Power? Bragging rights? Murdering the starbeast who killed your dam?"

"What? My dam's not …" Clover said, feeling the conversation slip away from him. He took a breath and started over. "Imperatrix, you're thinking in terms of base motivations. I'm not like that — I'm a scholar."

Celestia's lips finally curled into a smile — a feral, confident grin. "Ah! Books! You want me to go pillage some for you? The Dragon Palace has this huge library —"

"No!" Clover blurted out. "I … ah … that is … I'm not after things. Or favors."

Because I'm an idiot, a voice in the back of his head helpfully supplied. She's desperate to impress me. Say the word and I could have the world on a string.

And how cruel would that be? another voice countered. All I'd have to do is use her interest as leverage. Use her. The way everypony does.

Clover swallowed and put on a shaky smile. "Maybe start by telling me about yourself?"

Celestia hesitated, but her grin quickly broadened again. "Sure! I've got the best stories. Oh, you wanna hear the one about how I leveled a whole gryphon aerie with a single spell? It was a few years back, when they attacked …" Clover held up a hoof, and Celestia stopped mid-sentence. "What."

"Imperatrix," Clover said carefully, "I don't want to know what you've accomplished. I want to know who you are."

She stared at him with an odd expression for a moment before throwing her head back and barking out a laugh. "I knew I liked you, Frumpy! You're one of those romance ponies. You're not going to let me win without a challenge."

"Romance! Yes," Clover said, seizing on the lifeline and desperately ignoring the sentence afterward. "Find out more about each other while we do enjoyable things together." He returned her smile guardedly. "I freely admit I have no references on alicorn romantic protocol, but I imagine that, for starters, it would be hard to go wrong with sharing some dinner while the room's warming up?"

Celestia shrugged. "No food."

"… Wait, what?"

"I don't need to eat or drink to survive, and it's a pain in the ass to haul it up here." Her eyes darted around the room and locked in on a single small barrel amid the crates. "But we can get drunk if you want."

It was entirely unclear to Clover whether or not that had been meant as a joke, so he settled on chuckling uneasily. "Given the quantity of your alcohol reserves, I somehow suspect that 'we' is overstating things."

Celestia smirked. "Shows what you know. That's a three-day supply of dragonfire ale."

"Dragonfire —" Clover sputtered, his smile vanishing and his face going white. Reflexively, he tried to calculate how far away he'd have to teleport to be clear of the blast if she opened it while the hearth was lit. There was an alarming number of digits in the answer.

"… What?" Celestia said, smile fading.

Clover swallowed. "I'm afraid that I must decline your kind offer at this time, Imperatrix," he ventured. "And request that you store the ale outside. I am a mere mortal, and I would rather not have to phrase that sentiment in the past tense."

"Eh," Celestia said, looking away with a flat, inscrutable expression. But at least her horn flashed, and the barrel vanished.

Clover's adrenaline receded. An uncomfortable silence descended.

Change the subject change the subject! Clover's brain screamed, and he cleared his throat. "So … ah … not to be rude, but I never would have pictured you as the solitary sort. How come you don't live down in the war-camps —"

"— carousing and rutting each night?" Celestia snorted. "I do, when I can stand it. But it gets so tedious. Everypony there only cares about competing over catching my eye, or bragging about how long they can stand up to me … and the harder I smack 'em down, the harder the rest fall over themselves to be the next victim. Only Luna's good enough to be on my level, and she stopped playing my games long ago." Her wings twitched in a shrug. "But here? No demands, no bravado. Just me and the sky."

That certainly explains a few things. Clover sidled a little closer to the fire as a gust of storm-laced air puffed snow through the slit-windows. "Still, if you'll pardon my forwardness, this place seems pretty miserable. Why here?"

"Because when I'm not spending four days sleeping off my worst hangover ever, and I can keep the clouds properly bucked, my mountain has the world's most amazing view," Celestia said, and an unfamiliar sort of smile shaded onto her muzzle. It took Clover several seconds to parse it: none of her usual predation, just a simple, pure joy. "I can see from ocean to ocean, like I'm queen of the world."

The smile suddenly wavered.

"You know. Actual queen. The pony they love, instead of the one who's the best at everything."

An unexpected sort of flutter squeezed at Clover's heart. It took him several seconds to parse it: sympathy.

"I think," he said slowly, "I'd like to see that view."

It was half an hour before she shouldered the door back open, sweating and breathing heavily. By then, the room's chill had retreated from Windigo-spawning to merely nippy, and Clover had hung his robe up on an iron hook on the wall near the bed. Celestia lit her horn. Clover's world shaded gold, and the room rapidly receded as he flew backward toward the cliffside.

She whirled him around and dropped her field. His breath caught.

With the sky clear for leagues in every direction, it was amazing. The mountain dropped away underhoof — a nearly vertical cliff — and beyond that was a landscape worthy of the greatest masters of the brush. The verdant carpet of the Everfree sprawled out to the Great Southern Forests; the gentle hills and gridded orchards of the Earth Kingdoms rolled east to the sea-glimmer on the distant horizon; the cloud cities and towers of the Pegasus Protectorates blanketed the west. The air was clear and crisp, the most brilliant blue he'd ever seen. A single bird wheeled in lazy circles in the far distance, its bright red wings standing out against the sky like a second sun.

"It's beautiful," he whispered.

In between her short pants of breath, Celestia sharply exhaled a sound not unlike a laugh. "I know, right?"

Clover glanced sideways at the war goddess staring breathlessly out into the far distance — at the bizarrely serene smile on her muzzle, at the rise and fall of the sleek curve of her barrel, at the sheen of sweat on her impossibly white pelt that gave her the appearance of living alabaster. An odd lightness settled into his chest.

She was beautiful.

It was a thoroughly unsettling realization, the more so for how obvious it was. Of course she was beautiful — any pony with eyes could tell you that. The Imperatrix's beauty was a simple background fact of her alicornhood. She was the sort of being you compared lesser ponies to. A living ideal.

But there was the Imperatrix's beauty, and then there was … this. Something else beneath that layer of impossible perfection. Something hidden and fragile and tantalizing, only visible in brief flashes when she lowered her guard. Something far more gorgeous than mere transcendence.

Celestia turned her head while he was staring. Clover whipped his muzzle back toward the sky, feeling his cheeks burn. He lifted a leg to cough into his hoof, hoping that would let him cover his face long enough for the blush to fade.

"What?" she said. And though her tone was free of challenge, the shields were back up.

Clover mentally flailed for a moment, then realized she had probably interpreted his cough as a conversational cue. He risked a second glance at her. A slight frown and furrowed brow were tugging at her face as their eyes met, and Clover's heart almost stopped — but there was no disapproval in her look, only uncertainty.

A ridiculously bad idea stirred in the back of his brain. And the instant it occurred to him, he knew he had no other choice.

"It's, um, rather cold out here on the cliffside." Clover chewed his lip for a moment, telling himself he'd come too far for second thoughts. "May I?"

Celestia looked as lost as he felt. "May you what?"

Rather than answering, he stood and walked to where she was sitting on the cliffside, angelic wings half-spread. Ignoring the adrenaline exploding through his veins, he nosed at one foreleg and squirmed stiffly underneath it, nestling himself underneath her barrel, back to chest.

She drew in, and held, a sudden intake of breath — chest pressing uncomfortably on his spine. The clammy dampness of her sweat quickly soaked his pelt. But after the brief shock of unpleasant sensation receded, the warmth of her body began to set in, and Clover's terror receded into mere fear.

Celestia's breathing resumed — making Clover realize he should do the same — then gradually evened. They sat together in an ambiguously awkward silence, muzzles leveled at the horizon. After some time, she lifted a hoof, curling a leg over Clover's chest and making his terror flare anew. But then her leg settled lightly around him, barely touching.

Clover looked down, staring at it uncomprehendingly. As far as he could tell, that was the first time — short of handicapping herself to even out contests — that she'd ever done anything at less than full strength.

Celestia cleared her throat. "Hey? Frumpy? I guess this is pretty romantic, huh." She gave him a brief squeeze, and he felt his ribs flex and protest.

Clover tensed — desperately struggling to keep the reflex from turning into a full-blown wince. "I'm enjoying it more than I expected, Imperatrix," he said tightly.

"Heh," she said with forced cheer. "I should probably start calling you Clover."

"Pet names are not without precedent. I've been called worse."

The silence of the mountain descended. A frigid breeze stirred up. Clover took a breath of searingly cold air, his instincts screaming at him anew to wriggle out of Celestia's grip and bolt away. What was he doing!? He clenched his jaw, ignoring the question, and forced himself to press further into her warmth.

Abruptly, she lowered her leg, hoof coming back to rest on the ground with a soft tick.

"You're scared of me," Celestia said quietly. "Aren't you."

He decided to risk the truth after a moment's deliberation. "Less so than I was this morning. But, yes."


Clover frantically sifted through half-lies to find one that wouldn't get him pitched over the side of the mountain. But before he could settle on one, she sighed.

"I'm too intense, aren't I," she said. "Damn it — I have never understood that about ponies. How can you settle for a life of half-measures, rather than living every moment with every ounce of passion you possess? How can you settle for half-measures knowing you'll die someday? It's bad enough being immortal and bored!"

Clover lifted a foreleg and tentatively patted a hoof against the alabaster pillar alongside his shoulder. "It's less that than the fact that you could snap me in half without meaning to."

He could feel her frown through the tightening of her neck muscles. "I'm being careful. I like you, alright?"

"And I do appreciate that," Clover said. "But as to your question: think of it as if you were one of us. We're fragile little beasts, but greedy ones, trying to wring all out of life that we can. So you've got the right principle, but its actual application is a matter of mathematics. A long life of half-measures offers more overall measures than a single blazing moment."

"Mmm," she grunted. He waited, but she said nothing more.

"I'm sorry," Clover finally said, not quite certain what he was apologizing for.

"Eh, never mind," Celestia said. "Wanna rut?"

Clover tensed again, fresh alarm bells ringing in his head. He hurriedly tried to cover for it with a laugh and a pat on her leg. "Would it involve the aforementioned snapping me in half?" he parried.

Celestia barked out a laugh, and he felt her body finally relax. She lifted her leg back up to encircle his chest again — and despite the circumstances, it wasn't nearly as scary the second time. "Only if you want me to."

"Let's just assume from now on that the answer to that is no."

"Pfah. Never say never, right?" Her weight shifted against his, and he suddenly found himself hoisted off the ground as she rocked back onto hind hooves and stood on two legs.

This time, there was no stopping the adrenaline exploding into his veins. Had she taken his first response as a yes!?

"Wait!" he squeaked, and Celestia froze, and Clover's inner alarm bells redoubled their pealing. "I mean," he added hurriedly, "there may be a minor misunderstanding here, you see, this gets back to what I said about half-measures, we, ah, there's normally more courtship involved —" oh haybales this isn't helping I'm rejecting the alicorn who leveled a gryphon aerie with a single spell — "which is to say that I merely wasn't expecting such an offer, Imperatrix … ah, not that it is without precedent, that is, I experimented with my share of fillies when I was a growing colt, and I am a virile young stallion and you're a breathtaking vision of beauty —" ABORT ABORT ABORT — "but I, I just —" he desperately lunged for the truth — "I don't understand. I'm a sharp-tongued hack of a mage and you're a goddess given flesh. How is this even happening?"

A scowl flitted briefly across Celestia's muzzle, and she dropped back to her haunches. His hindquarters hit the cliffside with a jarring thump. "Because you beat me in a contest," Celestia said, as if explaining to a foal.

"No, I didn't," he said before the smart part of his brain could strangle the clever part. "Like I told you before we started, I keep myself away from alcohol because of my studies. If you had been lucid enough to tell me to grab a tankard after finishing your handicap, you would have crushed me 73 to … maybe 10."

"Doesn't matter," Celestia said, annoyance shading into her tone. "Look. I know nopony's on my level. So every time somepony catches my eye, I challenge 'em on their own terms — and they still fold like paper. You're the only one who hasn't failed. And if I'm ever gonna figure out this 'love' thing that everypony insists is so great, it's not gonna be with failures." She glanced away, and her body tensed back up. "Never mind that. Do you wanna rut or not?"

Clover closed his eyes and took a deep breath, feeling the encircling warmth of Celestia's body — her hinds pressing in around his, the leg across his chest, the rise and fall of her breathing. Then he gave in, twisted his head to look up at her, and said the stupidest, cleverest thing he'd ever said in his stupid and clever life: "You know what? Yes."

She looked down — and he saw fear dissolving from her eyes, and he couldn't be sure if it had been hers or a reflection of his own — and then her familiar predatory smile began to spread across her muzzle. "Excellent."

He tried to smile back, feeling every bit the prey.

"Ever done it in midair, Frumpy?"

He blinked. "Have I ever —"

Then her leg clamped in around his chest, and the rest was lost in an incoherent wheeze. Her wings snapped out straight as she shot to her hooves and bounded forward. He flailed his hooves for purchase on the smooth stone of the clifftop as she tensed and sprang. The earth dropped away.

She tucked her wings in and dove.

The echo of a shriek and the echo of a laugh intertwined on the empty cliffside.

"That," Clover said, between gasps of breath, "was something."

Celestia sprawled out underneath him with a satisfied smirk, both wings at full extension. She wriggled to scratch her back against the fortress' straw mattress, sending a fresh tingle of pleasure through Clover's hindquarters. "Which part?"

"All — nnnnh — of it." Clover couldn't keep a dopey grin from spreading across his face. "Even, if I must be honest, the part where we almost fell to our doom."

It felt strange to say. But it was true. In the blissful haze of afterglow, somehow little things like fear fell away.

Celestia took a deep, languid breath, his body shifting as her chest rose and fell, and her muzzle curled into a relaxed smile. "I thought you'd like it." The smile receded as quickly as it had arrived, and she stared into his eyes with an expression he couldn't quite decipher. "See what I mean about living life with passion? Why settle for anything less than —" and her muzzle twisted through a short word she didn't speak — "than full intensity at every moment?"

Hunh, Clover thought, and felt the heartbeat in her chest quicken to match the pounding in his.

He wanted nothing more than to reach forward and press his muzzle to hers — but he couldn't reach her mouth without pulling away, so he settled for leaving a tender kiss on her chest. "I think," he said, letting an impish smile creep onto his muzzle, "you're underestimating the benefits of taking things slowly."

Her expression softened to match his. "Oh yeah?" she growled in mock-challenge.

"I dare you," he said, "not to move a muscle for thirty minutes." He quickly pressed his hoof to the tip of her muzzle as she opened her mouth to speak. "Not. One. Or is the mighty Imperatrix going to back down from a challenge?"

"Oh, you fragile, greedy little beast," Celestia said with a laugh as he withdrew his hoof. "Challenge accepted."

Clover reluctantly lifted himself from her body, then leaned back in, muzzle almost touching her, the warm exhalations from his nose leaving shallow divots in the short hair of her chest.

"Excellent," he whispered, and then traced his muzzle down the concave curve of her belly.

Her body tensed. A thin whimper left her lips.

He lit his horn as he worked, plucking a feather from one of her wings.

It only took him thirteen minutes to break her.