• Published 24th Sep 2017
  • 1,516 Views, 80 Comments

To Bring Light to Eternal Darkness - scifipony



In the days before Equestria was even a dream, when mares are second-class citizens, a pony with a solar cutie mark tries to help her brother become a mage. She doesn't realize that she and the sun have an appointment with destiny. (EqD Story Post)

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Lucky

Da whistled as he unpacked our shabby wagonette with rust-rimmed pony-height wheels. The instant he saw us at the gate he whinnied and dropped a log.

Seeing the disappointment in his amber eyes, mine flooded with hot tears of shame. I ripped the lead from the propoli's nonchalant crimson magic and galloped inside. I pulled the drapery closed on my meager space and dived onto the hay-stuffed mattress that masqueraded as my bed. The rope banged when it hit the wall.

How could I think that anything I'd done could benefit the family now that I'd shamed myself before the entire town? A mare had her place in mare society just as a stallion did in his, but I had an unbecoming pride that made me think I was better than any mare or stallion in ways that were dangerously unfeminine.

Nopony good would want to marry me. I ought to have acted normal for Summer Daze's sake today. He would soon become a stallion, the next generation of the family, the pony who would care for Da. Umbra was right. It was hubris. Summer Daze had proved himself capable in a surprising fashion I'd been too blind to see. I may have saddled him with the burden of being seen as manipulated by a mare. I should have left him to muddle through. I'd not only meddled, but possibly hurt the family's reputation—well, probably hurt it—and maybe hurt his future chances of making a living.

What have I done?

I'd put my desires selfishly ahead of everypony's. I needed to stop thinking and start doing only what I was told. That was a mare's best choice.

Tears flooded out of me, hot and salty, and I felt this strange pain in my chest: my heart breaking. I had no right to complain.

#

Every storm does pass. The new sun warmed the chill out of the room, and I escaped into dreams of a yellow and green stallion king who reared and raised the sun.

"Sunny Daze!"

I woke at the sound of Da's voice. My red shame instantly reared. I rolled off my bed away from him and hid my face under my legs.

Da's voice didn't sound angry, and it took my racing mind a minute to decipher that he had said, "You are a lucky mare."

My bad side got control and scoffed out loud. I immediately whined, "Sorry, sorry, sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm a bad pony. And I won't—"

"—act so impulsively? A good idea. Living means surviving, my daughter. Summer Daze and I will survive without you—"

I whinnied and shot upright, heart thumping so hard it felt as if it would fly from my chest. Blood roared in my ears. My eyes burned. I whispered, "I'm to be publicly flogged?"

No, that would not divorce me from my family. Did Umbra hate me that much...?

Gasping, I cried, "I'm to be sold as a slave?"

Da stood frozen an instant, a pale yellow-maned alabaster statue, amber eyes wide. He blinked and raced around the bed, saying, "No, no, no!" He immediately leaned into me, his warmth holding me up as the surge of energy that had brought me upright dissipated in shakes and shivers. "No, my daughter. Never think that horrible thought lest you make it true. No, I said, 'Lucky.'"

"How could that be?" I remembered Umbra's hard magenta eyes. I remembered his leer when he caught me. Some criminals were sold. The worst affronts to society resulted in death.

"Umbra offered to marry you."

I made a strangled sound and my legs gave out. I thumped to the floor in a swoon Da was unable to stop. I lay sprawled, moaning. How could this be lucky!? spun in my head like a spell so flawed that its math reciprocated locking me in a phasing magic that would leave me catatonic until I exhausted my reserves.

Da levered me sideways so I reclined upright and folded himself beside me. When I blinked at him, still stunned, he added, "It is true that you would be his second wife, but nopony else is asking for you."

After being bridled and led on a rope for the town to see, who would?

"Though the dowry he demands is nearly ruinous, it must be done. His standing in town is good. His first wife, Gilt, is older than him and nearly died bearing their daughter, Aurelia. You may yet become his first wife." His embarrassed chuckle at wishing ill upon somepony signaled his desperation.

"I will not ruin this family," I said in little more than a murmur. Was it my selfishness talking? Or did I mean this? I spoke louder when I said, "I won't ruin it. I don't need ever to marry. I won't marry Umbra."

I heard him take a deep breath, then the clatter of his hooves as he unfolded himself. He sighed from above me. "That won't go over well."

"Marrying—"

"Having an unmarried daughter is a stigma, too," he said distantly.

I looked up. "But I can make up for it! I'm really good at working wood—"

He smiled and moved closer. He whispered, "I know you have been holding back and using magic to work faster so you can—"

I gasped.

"I've had to throw away few items in the last week—"

My face heated up.

"—because your technique requires wood with tighter grain and fewer knots, and you've gotten really good at it. Still—"

"That means you can work with me to perfect my craft! I can stay home and work more—"

In a lower whisper "—and build a dowry?"

"I wasn't thinking—"

Quietly: "—that? You don't understand business, my daughter. What happens when I can complete orders faster and improve my quality? My competitors begin to suspect my craft, cast aspersions. My customers begin to expect more and more. And when you leave my shop as you will when you marry—"

"But I won't marry. I promise!"

He shook his head, saying in a normal voice, "That's not your choice, Sunny Daze. It is mine."

"But—"

Again quietly, "And when you marry, your husband could make you my competitor. Best that it not occur to him."

"But I wouldn't!"

His amber eyes looked sad. "My daughter, this is the dilemma of a mare. Your grandmare explained it to your mother and your mother to me. When you foal, you have a family. Your mother moved from the capital, abandoning everything she knew."

Distressed amber eyes held mine.

After a moment, I looked away and said, "But I don't want to marry Umbra."

"Every stallion wants to be wealthy. Everypony wants to be happy. Every magician wants to control the heavens. But Sunny Daze, life rarely gives us want we want. Consider yourself lucky if it gives you what you need. You are lucky. Straighten your cloak and follow me."

When I stepped through the curtain, I froze. We weren't alone. Had Umbra been trying to eavesdrop—and surely he had been—he'd have heard everything I said.

What froze me though was that he sat at the table, beside Summer Daze, looking over his shoulder as my baby brother studied one of his notebooks. That Summer Daze had returned so quickly worried me.

The propoli had hung his robe on a chair. He wore only a silver satin tunic that accented his gray fur, revealing his cutie mark. It was a black marble that threw a conical shadow at a forty-five degree angle onto a gold oval of ground.

What did that mean?

My anger rose as he looked over Summer Daze like a father interested in his son's progress, but in my estimation more like a spider considering a fly. My baby brother seemed oblivious.

I cleared my throat, worried what might come out if I opened my mouth. Magenta eyes turned toward me. He smiled and stood, unwontedly restrained and quiet. He was fifteen years older than me and in his prime. I could not help but notice his muscles move under his metal-gray coat.

He noticed the play of my eyes across his body. He faced Da and asked, "About my proposal?"

"She should say. Sunny Daze?"

I looked to Da, to Umbra, to Da, and Umbra again. My face heated. I'm not sure whether it was anger, shame, embarrassment, or chagrin. "About marriage?"

In a relaxed friendly manner, the propoli said, "The deal I've proposed is excellent. The discipline you'll learn will help you grow and make you happier than you can know."

Da said, "It's a good match." Not great. Not wonderful. Good.

"Will you accept?" the propoli asked.

He wouldn't even say my name. Was I a thing?

To him.

To them both!

"No, I will not marry you."

He stomped his right hoof—lightly as if the gesture had barely escaped tight control. Ten heartbeats later, he looked directly at Da and said measuredly, "Not unexpected." He rubbed an itch on his muzzle with a knee, then added, "Not a total 'no,' either."

Da said, "I'd rather that Sunny Daze agree, too."

My breath hitched.

I looked at the pair. The stallions stood strong; they were the sun and the moon, day and night. Like those celestial bodies, they were forces of nature, locked in orbit, not entirely caring about the desires of the earth upon which they shone.

Umbra glanced at my father, then looked at me. His tail began to swish; he grunted. "Huh. Well. You need to understand the seriousness of your crime, young filly: an unmarried mare found lurking around stallions in an act of disruption. The impropriety is unmistakable. The deal I'm offering you is generous, more so now because I'm going to have to explain to my cohort what you have perpetrated and how it may be excused. I offer you a clean path forward, young filly—"

Through clenched jaws, I said, "My name is Sunny Daze!"

"A mare's name is meaningless. You will marry me; do not dawdle deciding. Do not force my position by further impropriety." He took a deep breath as he levitated on his robes and exited the house.

I caught the door and dashed outside. The sunlight dazzled me. Squinting, I shielded my eyes. Through tears, I saw his dark shape and crimson magic on the compound gate.

"Why?" I shouted.

As my eyes adjusted, his hooves made an ominous click-click on the rock and hard-packed dirt of the inner compound. His magic burned redly around his black horn as his face and magenta eyes swam into focus.

The door slammed behind me. "Why, the pony asks?" His teeth were clenched. I saw anger mixed with anticipation.

I reflexively nodded.

His magic caught my jaw. He jerked my face so I saw him with my left eye only. "You challenge me."

His smile became broader as I let him hold me.

"Ha! Maybe not. I want your 'magic strong.'"

I shuddered. He knew.

"I require a partner, but think carefully. A slave would do."

I heard the rattle of the door handle behind me, and he shoved my face away, hard. He was already trotting to the gate, opening it when he said, "Snow Frost, and you young filly, heed my words. It is a fair deal."

The gate spring snapped the door to the compound shut. He was gone.

My stomach soured. I dashed to the privy in tears.