• Published 20th May 2017
  • 5,218 Views, 816 Comments

Brightly Lit - Penalt

The village of Brightly, British Columbia is a small, isolated place where everyone knows everyone, with a strong sense of community. A community that starts to include colourful little ponies.

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Chapter 15: Fly by Night

Moon rise, thoughtful eyes.
Staring back at me from the window beside.
No fright or hindsight.
Leaving behind that empty feeling inside.

- Fly by Night, Rush


High up in the storm swept skies, the Tantabus looked down on the small village below and considered its options. Princess Luna had directed it to carry Equestrian magic to the potential ponies on this side of the portal, and its encounter with the brave ponies by the lake had convinced the Tantabus that the power of the Princess of the Night was sorely needed.

It could visit each of the not-yet-ponies one at a time, but it would take far too long to meet each of the roughly two thousand beings below. The Tantabus smiled as it hit upon another idea. It was in a powerful storm, with rain pouring down over every part of the village beneath. Why not use the storm to its advantage?

Turning inward, the Tantabus touched the glowing magic inside of it that Luna and Celestia had bestowed. Touched it, massaged it, and then sent it flowing outward into the clouds that filled the skies. The storm did not appreciate being violated by both the power of the Sun and the Moon at the same time and made its displeasure known with a sudden, rippling discharge of lightning that spread from cloud to cloud.

The Tantabus forced more power into the clouds, and not just the magics the Diarchs had given it either. Like positive and negative energies, the power of sun and moon were cancelling each other out, manifesting as thunderous bolts of lightning. To keep the powers from annihilating each other, the Tantabus had no choice but to throw its own power into the mix, keeping the energies separate until they merged with the clouds and began to precipitate out with the rain.

For many long minutes the Tantabus continued to pour power into the sky around it, until finally it was forced to stop for the simple reason of having nothing left to give. Nearly completely drained and no longer able to keep itself airborne, the Tantabus allowed itself to slowly drift down to the ground below. As it did so, it reached out with its senses, searching for the portal through which it had originally come. With all the twists, turns and motions of the storm, the one-time creature of dreams had gotten turned around and had understandably lost track of where it had come from.

The Tanabus was in luck however, and it sensed the portal nearby as it touched down in a small, rain-soaked clearing with the sign “No. 3 Mine Memorial Park” above the entrance. Touching down, the Tantabus was shocked with surprise when its legs and hooves nearly gave out from beneath it from the force of gravity acting on it. Where once the Tantabus had flowed out of the cement covered mine entrance with ease, it now staggered gracelessly across the ground, barely able to walk a straight line.

Pushing with its waning power toward the entrance the Tantabus discovered how badly it had drained its reserves, as the dregs of its power simply bounced off the concrete instead of sinking deep into the created stone, and allow the Tantabus to slide further toward home. For a minute the Tantabus simply stood in place before the entrance, trying to figure out what to do next. It needed to merge with Luna again, having never been meant to be away from its host for this length of time, at least not without the power necessary to sustain itself in the waking realms. Power the Tantabus had held, but had used to spread Equestrian magic across the community and its environs.

In desperation, the Tantabus spread wide its senses again. If it could find some source of power, some way that it could regain enough energy to pierce the barrier of rock and concrete, it could make its way back to Equestria and become one with Luna again. As luck would have it, there were two sources of power nearby. One was very close, but quite weak. The other was fairly distant, but glowed with the power of a small sun.

Which way to go, the Tantabus wondered. It could tell it only had enough strength left to get to one of the two sources, and if it chose poorly, the mistake could prove to be fatal. The Tantabus could not die as such, but it could become so drained of energy that it would lose coherence and drift into nothing but random wisps on the aether. It would not be death in the physical sense, but it would be close enough for most purposes. Which way, close or far? The Tantabus then studied the terrain it had to cover to make the journey to both. The weak, close source was downhill, in a large building that had only one or two beings near it. The strong, far away source was uphill and had multiple beings nearby.

That clinched it. With the Tantabus so low in strength, the sky was denied to it at least for now, so it would have to walk on the ground like any other pony. Wobbling on its legs, the being from the dream realm turned and staggered downhill toward the nearby weak source of power. Hoping against hope that there would be enough power there for it to return to Equestria, or at least enough for it to head to the larger, but harder to reach source.

The Tantabus travelled unnoticed along the streets of Brightly, its dark colouration providing the perfect camouflage for a dark and stormy night. After what seemed an eternity, it reached a strange building with a broad front door and a section of its roof shaped into a tall tower. It pushed on the door to walk in but was stymied by a simple lock that kept the portal shut. The Tantabus had no choice but to use the very last of its strength to deal with the lock.

The doors blew open under the pressure of wind and rain as lock released, and the Tantabus staggered into the building beneath a sign that read, “Brightly Anglican Church, Welcomes You.”

Addison Adamschek, known affectionately to his friends as “AA”, had been an Anglican priest for twenty-five of this forty-five years of life. Born into the Heiltsuk First Nation, he had left to find his way in the greater world offered by the big city. While living in Vancouver, he had first become an alcohol and drug counselor, which garnered him his nickname, and put him in close proximity with members of the Anglican faith who helped run the “Mission for Seafarers” out of Vancouver Harbor. He found his calling in helping others and in the quiet peace of relying on God to help with life. Five years later, and with a wife who was a forestry major from UBC, Addison moved back home to the lands claimed by his nation.

Brightly might not have been the most exciting of postings, but Addison didn’t mind one little bit. It was home, and there was a small but vibrant congregation to minister to, along with the usual assortment of hikers, forest fire fighters and traffic from the nearby herring fleets. His duties ranged from holding the usual services, to counseling local youth and helping them avoid the twin snares of boredom and intoxicants. As the only minister within a hundred miles, he’d even been called on a few times to bless ships, firefighting gear and the occasional climbing tool.

So, he was used to odd things going on, and his wife nudging him awake at odd hours. Which is why he was able to snap to instant alertness when a familiar elbow impacted his ribs.

“Honey,” his wife, Natasha, said to him in an urgent whisper. “I just heard a big bang from the chapel.” Addison paused for a moment, listening carefully. He could hear the storm outside still howling fiercely away, and despite his confidence in the solid construction of the old rectory and church, he could hear a definite difference in the noises coming from the outside.

“Okay dear,” he said, sliding out from the ever so warm covers beside his wife. “I’ll go have a look, hopefully it’s nothing bad.” Addison flipped the switch of this bedside lamp and frowned when nothing happened, cursing softly.

“Power out, dear?’ Natasha asked, reaching over to her night table, and searching for her phone to shed some light.

“Again,” Addison said, feeling the round grip of a flashlight come into his hand. “I swear, we should just go solar and get one of those battery bank things going. It would be more reliable than relying on Hydro.”

“Not the time, love,” Natasha said, from her side of the bed just as another loud bang came through the connecting hallway to the chapel itself. “Want me to come with?”

“Probably just a branch from the storm,” Addison said, shuffling his feet into a pair of slippers by the bed that he kept there to protect his feet from the cold hardwood floor. “If I need you I’ll give a yell, okay?”

He saw his wife nod in the gleam from the flashlight as he shucked on his housecoat that was hanging on a bedpost. Making his way down the hallway was easy and he ignored the strange imagery made by the branches of nearby trees against the coloured windows that lined the passageway into the chapel.

Opening the door to the small church office where he did most of his ecumenical work, his legs were immediately made aware of a cold draft coming from the far side of the room, where another door led into the chapel proper. The sounds of wind and rain had become louder, and the priest turned to look back up the hallway.

“Nat, I think something may have blown open,” Addison called back up the hallway. “Better get your housecoat on. I think I might need a hand.”

“Right,” came the immediate response, “be there in a minute. Or as soon as I find my flashlight.”

“It’s the rechargeable in the outlet down low by your night table,” Addison replied, stepping around his office chair to the door leading out of the room. “You forgot to plug it in last time, so I did it for you.”

“Right, got it,” Natasha replied, just as Addison opened the door to the chapel proper, and a gust of wind greeted him.

“Just like in one of those old horror movies,” Addison said to himself as he swung the flashlight around toward the chapel’s windows, looking for damage. “The naive priest, dressed in his holy vestments of housecoat and bunny slippers, goes forth to battle unspeakable evil.”

The windows seemed to be intact, so he swung the beam of light toward the doors of the chapel and immediately saw that the pews closest to the entrance had been blown over. Continuing his sweep he saw the problem. The doors of the chapel had blown open somehow and the source of the noises was now obvious. The doors must have been very slightly unlatched and had been pushed open by the storm, causing the first bang. The pews being blown over must have been the second.

“Found the problem,” he called back, and he could see the beam of his wife’s flashlight as she began to follow him down the hallway to join him.

“Anything bad?” she asked, her voice concerned.

“Doors blew open,” Addison said, moving toward the entrance. “Grab the mop and bucket for me while I get the doors?”

“Okay,” Natasha said, already entering the chapel behind him.

Walking briskly, Addison stepped toward the entrance to the chapel. He had to slow to watch his steps when he reached the overturned pews. Prayer and hymn books, along with some bibles, lay scattered on the floor. As he stepped into the vestibule, wind-blown rain blew heavily against him and he could see that even in the short amount of time the doors had been open, enough rain had come through to thoroughly soak the floor. He was just about to ask his wife to grab both of the mops from the concealed storage closet behind his lectern when he heard her fall heavily.

“Dear, you okay?” he asked loudly, even as he swung the doors closed against the wind.

“I’m fine, dear,” Natasha called back to him, and Addison could see the beam of her flashlight jerk around near the pulpit as his wife recovered the light. “Just tripped over some—AAAAHHHH!”

“What? What’s wrong?” Addison said, turning to run to his wife, adrenaline singing in his veins. “I’m coming!”

“Holy Mother of God! Oh, God be with me,” Natasha yelled out, babbling in panic as she pushed herself away from the thing she had tripped over.

“I’m here, honey,” Addison yelled, his wet slippers letting him slide to a stop beside his wife. For her part, Natasha Adamschek continued to stare wide-eyed toward the pulpit, and Addison’s gaze was drawn toward what she was looking at.

“Mary, Mother of God, be with your servant,” Addison breathed in prayer as his eyes took in what had so deeply terrified his wife.

There, sprawled on the steps leading up to the raised platform that held the pulpit, was a shape, a thing. It was something not of this world, Addison knew instantly. It was if someone had taken a piece of the night sky, shaped it into something like a small horse, and set it to movement in the world. What was more, the creature was alive, for as the frightened couple watched, it raised a vaguely equine head and laboriously tried to drag itself up a stair.

“What is it?” Natasha gasped to her husband. “I was trying to get the mops and I tripped over...that.” Badly frightened himself by what appeared to be creature of darkness, he fell back on his training and the cultural impact of a hundred movies and proceeded to brandish the cross he held around his neck.

“Back, minion of Satan,” Addison said, trying to keep his voice from squeaking. “Leave this holy place of the Lord.” He might as well have been waving a newspaper for all the good it did. The creature turned its head toward him for a moment with a quiet regard and then continued to drag itself up the last stair leading to the raised platform that occupied the sanctuary of the chapel.

Laboriously, the Tantabus dragged itself across the wooden floor. It could understand what the not-yet-ponies were saying, and if it could, it would have wept in frustration. The Tantabus’ strength had failed it as it started up the aisle, knocking over two of the benches in the room and almost making it to the platform that held the source of the Equestrian magic that beckoned it onward. If only Luna had given it the ability to speak it could have told the not-yet-ponies that it meant them no harm, that it only wanted to go home, and that it desperately needed their help.

The Tantabus could sense that its final dissolution was close, the framework that made it a distinct entity rapidly beginning to unravel. All it could do was keep trying, and hope that it could reach the power in time. Pausing, as it finally climbed the last of the three stairs, the Tantabus reached out toward the thing that held the power, mounted as it was on a sort of bent “X” shape.

Addison continued to watch the creature make its slow and painful way onto the sanctuary. He watched it as it paused, and reached out toward the cross mounted to the back wall. That cross was an old gift from one of Brightly’s leading citizens, now passed on to his reward. The cross was an old piece of beautifully carved Douglas Fir, dipped in gilt paint and had a single, large but extremely flawed ruby mounted to its center. So many were the flaws in the stone that it simply wasn’t worth selling, but as Addison watched, the creature on the floor of his chapel continued to painfully drag its way toward the symbol of his Lord’s love and suffering, as if it was the most precious thing in all the world.

“No creature of the Pit would try so hard to be near the symbol of God’s love,” Addison said, confidence welling in him as he came to a conclusion. “Nat, whatever this creature is, it is one of God’s children, and in its final moments it seeks comfort as so many have before it.”

“What do we do?” Natasha asked, relying on her husband in this. She was the scientist of the two of them, with a degree in forestry and forest management from UBC. In things that touched on her areas of expertise, he listened to her. This was something from his side of the fence however, and she resolved to follow Addison’s lead on this.

“We do what we would do for anyone at this point,” Addison said, moving forward and sitting down beside the creature. “We give it what aid and comfort we can in its final moments. Go get me the cross off the wall.”

The Tantabus felt itself being lifted off the floor by the male of the two not-yet-ponies, and placed onto its lap. It made soothing noises while its mate went to the wall, and began working to pull down the thing that the gem that held some of the magic of Equestria.

They understand! the Tantabus thought to itself, hope rising within its breast. They want to help. Luna was right, these are good not-ponies. The female of the two brought down the frame and handed it to her mate, who said some strange words about their father and son, before placing it on the Tantabus, who clutched it eagerly to themselves.

“See?” Addison said, smiling through the unshed tears that stung his eyes. “In nomine Patri, et Filis, et Spiritu Sancti. Be at peace, creature. Surely God will know his own and welcome you home.” The creature had no eyes, or mouth, but Addison would swear to his dying day that the thing in his lap looked up to him and smiled in gratitude.

Yes, the Tantabus cried out to itself, as it dove its awareness into the gem against it, accessing the power within. There was almost no power to be found however and the Tantabus was again knocked back in shock. It examined the gem with everything it had trying to find the power, and what it found a moment later would have made it weep if it could.

The gem had been damaged at some point in the passage of time. The gem was and could, only hold a few minutes worth of absorbed power before it leaked out again. Which is what the Tantabus had sensed as Equestrian magic. The Tantabus would be better off standing in the rain for all the power it could get from this gem, and the Tantabus realized it was doomed.

There was no time to reach the other source of power, and while it could cannibalize the enchantment in the gem to cast a single spell the Tantabus simply didn’t have the power for anything that would reach beyond the room it was in. The Tantabus felt despair as it realized it would never be one with Luna again, and it lay its head down on the lap of the creature that held it. Both the not-yet-pony and its mate seemed to know this was the end for the Tantabus, and it felt grateful that its last moments would be with ones who had shown it Kindness and Generosity.

Wait, the Tantabus thought to itself. Two of the Elements are present in these not-yet-ponies. Maybe there is one last thing that can be done. Acting quickly, it ripped apart the enchantment in the gem at its breast and reshaped it into something else. The spell would burn away the last of the Tantabus’ life force, but it would help the not-yet-ponies that had shown it kindness, and there was even a chance it might save its life. Even if it failed, Luna would be proud that her Tantabus had done all it could, right to the very end.

For Luna, was the last thought of the Tantabus, as it activated the spell.

“Is there anything we can do for it?” Natasha asked, stroking the body of the creature that lay in her husband’s lap as she tried to give it what comfort she could. Despite all appearances, it seemed that a personification of the night sky felt furry.

“All we can do is provide it what peace and comfort we can,” Addison said, ruefully. “I wish Jean Pedersen was here.”

“The witch?” Natasha asked, surprised until the answer came to her. “Oh, you think this is something from her side of the spiritual street.”

“Yup,” Addison replied. “Jean’s a good person and...wait. What in God’s name?” As Addison said the last, the figure of the creature in his lap began to pulse and glow in a rhythm not unlike a heartbeat.

“I think this is it,” Natasha said to her husband, bending over the creature and holding it close. “You came in peace, may you go in peace as well.”

The pulsing of the creature became greater and greater, and its body started to become immaterial, passing through the couple as they tried to comfort it. Light pulsed and flowed in time with the movements of the body, until with a final flash, the creature disappeared. Addison had a brief impression of something flowing into him and his wife and then everything went dark for him and it felt like someone had dropped a cloth over his head.

Addison tried to get out from under the soft fluffy fabric he had been inexplicably buried under, but for some reason his limbs didn’t seem to want to work properly. His arms didn’t want to seem to lift up over his head and the cloth seemed to be caught on something at his sides. He could hear his wife nearby sounding like she was having similar problems.

“You okay, honey?” Addison called out, as he struggled to get out from under whatever had him trapped.

“Yah, I’m just stuck under a big, fluffy…” Natasha said, and then paused. “Oh crud. I think I know what we're under. Hang on, I’m gonna try something.” Addison could hear his wife start grunting as she started exerting herself in some sort of pattern. Then he heard a rolling sound followed by a thump.

“Aha!” Natasha said, her voice triumphant, then dipped as Addison heard her say. “Oh...oh crap. This is not good.”

“What?” Addison asked, still stuck under the cloth. “What isn’t good?”

“Okay, first off, you’re under your housecoat,” Natasha began, as Addison frowned at how he could possible stuck under a housecoat. “Second, start rolling yourself side to side until you roll out of it. Go ahead and you’ll see what I mean.”

What his wife was saying made no sense at all, and there was a very strange tone in her voice, but it was a very foolish husband who didn’t listen to his wife. So, he began to rock back and forth sideways, building momentum, until he flung himself as hard as he could to one side. He rolled over across his back, a couple of spots complaining as he rolled over them. He rolled a second time and suddenly, he was out of the cloth, rolling onto his stomach as his four hooves made a clopping sound as they came into contact with the wooden floor beneath him.

“Don’t freak, dear,” came his wife’s voice, from a cute furry muzzle beneath slit pupiled, golden eyes.

Luna, Diarch of Equestria, Princess of the Night and Guardian of Dreams suddenly staggered against the wall of Twilight’s castle, her moonlit eyes filling with pain. Seeing her sister collapse and clutch her chest in pain, Celestia rushed over to help.

“Luna, what’s wrong?” Celestia asked, alarm growing as Luna said nothing in reply. “LUNA!” There was no answer as Luna’s eyes unfocused and she began to stare off into the distance at something only she could see and sank to the floor.

LUNA!” Celestia screamed, unleashing the full power of the Royal Canterlot Voice at point blank range in an attempt to get her sister to respond. It worked, as the Princess of the Night blinked, her eyes returning to normal and focusing on Celestia, tears flowing.

“Luna, what’s wrong? What’s happened?” Celestia asked, checking Luna for wounds, magical or otherwise.

“The Tantabus,” Luna said, in a voice filled with sorrow and pain. “It’s gone. Sacrificed itself to accomplish its goal.”

“The poor thing,” Celestia said, torn between happiness that her sister was okay and empathy for her sister’s sorrow, “but it was just a construct, Luna. Something you made to punish yourself with.”

“It was far more than that, sister,” Luna replied, muzzle dark with tears. “It was a part of myself, and I was a part of it. I saw its last moments, and when it is possible, I intend to journey to that other realm to thank those who were of comfort to my Tantabus at the end. In person. This, I vow.”

Luna looked up once more and when she spoke again her voice was filled with her magic, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. You have earned your rest.”

Author's Note:

I've only been in an Anglican church once, for a wedding. I likely made a metric crap ton of errors with the layout, but i hope the mistakes aren't too egregious. We will get back to the drama at the dam in the next chapter, which will be out later this month. As for the brave Tantabus, this is not the end. Heroes never die.

Support me on Patreon. Patreon is probably one of the best things ever for word Sherpas like me. So, I'd like to again acknowledge the ongoing support through Patreon of:

Canary in the Coal Mine,

Thank you. I probably couldn't do this without you and your support.

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