• Published 20th May 2017
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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 17: Flawless

We're not flawless
We're a work in progress
We've got dents and we've got quirks
But it's our flaws that make us work

Flawless - Daniel Ingram, M.A. Larsen

It was a tired, wet, but jubilant group that made its way back to town through the storm that was blowing as fierce as ever, as if to say, “Fine, I might not be able to flood your town, but that can’t stop me from dumping my rainy wrath all over you.”

“What now Dad?” Iron Hoof said, sitting on the bench seat in the cab of the truck beside his father while they rode toward home, a seat belt across his furred chest.

“Now, we get home, get you warmed up and get Jean’s girls into bed,” Arnold Kye said to his son, ruffling the yellow mane that Billy’s pony form had and noticing the orange streak in it for the first time.

“M’okay,” Seeker said, slumped over but securely buckled into one of the two jump seats behind the bench seat. “Just kinda tired. Is Rowey okay?”

“I’m okay, Romy,” Shield Maiden said to her sister, cracking her eyes open and speaking for the first time since she had been felled at the dam. “My head hurts. What happened? Did we do it?”

“We sure did!” Iron Hoof said, his voice loud with both excitement and happiness that his friend was all right. “You should have seen it. Seeker was awe—”

“Not so loud,” Shield Maiden interrupted, holding her head in her hooves. “Hurts.”

“We’ll keep it quiet, and get you home,” Arnold said, shooting a warning look to his son. “Just keep your eyes closed if you can and try to relax.”

“Okay,” Rowan said, and leaned her black maned head back against her seat.

“What’s wrong with her?” Iron Hoof whispered to his father, as they dodged the remains of the last set of trees to enter Brightly itself. Arnold didn’t answer, but instead reached for the radio mounted under the dashboard of the truck.

“Kye to all units,” Arnold said, as softly as he thought he could as he keyed the mike. “Shield Maiden is awake but complaining of headache and noise sensitivity. Please advise.”

“Near as I could tell, she didn’t suffer a concussion,” Jessica said, over the radio from the paramedic rescue truck. “So it sounds like a sensory overload of some kind. Get her home, keep her in a quiet, dark place. If she starts vomiting, call me no matter what time it is. Otherwise, I’ve got no idea what happens when a magical unicorn girl overdoes things.”

“Right, will do,” Arnold said, replacing the mike and turning toward home. As he did so he noticed one of the other vehicles in the small convoy peel off to follow his.

“Banta to Harding,” came a second call from the paramedic vehicle, as Jessica’s partner took the mike. “Come in, Ernie.”

“Go ahead, Kevin,” Ernie said, as he followed his friend’s truck home.

“Make sure you put a good meal into the two youngsters you have with you,” Banta said, his serious voice holding some humour to it. “Skylark was smart enough to lay still and rest after she pushed herself, but Darter kept overdoing it.” Everyone on the small radio network heard a small whine come from Ernie’s end of the mike.

“Oh right,” Banta continued, as a chuckle slipped out. “You can take that tape muzzle off him once you get home and remind him that when one of the team medics says to stay down and rest, it isn’t a request.”

“Will do, Kevin,” Ernie said, laughing into the mike. “When the weather clears I’ll have him come over and wash your truck as well. Other than that, I think the muzzle was punishment enough.”

“This time,” Kevin said, as the headlights of the truck hit the small town firehall. “It happens again and he spends an hour in the animal carrier.” A muffled cry of “No!” sounded in the background as Ernie replied.

“Understood, Kevin,” Ernie said, catching his son’s eye, who looked down shame faced, having given up on trying to undo the tape keeping his muzzle closed. It was a standard procedure for making excitable animals safer to handle, and one Kevin had used on the impulsive pegasus as he had tried to rush to Seeker’s aid.

“You’re lucky he isn’t asking that you get kicked off the team, you know,” Ernie said, in a calm steady voice once he had put the mike down. “He and Chief Montcalm are cutting you and the other pony’s some slack, because we couldn’t have done what we did tonight without you five. Plus, all five of you are still kids, one of whom I’m proud to call my son.”

Darter’s head shot up at that, and Ernie pulled the charcoal furred body of his son close, careful not to disturb the sleeping form of Skylark on the far side of the truck.

“Fowwy Bab,” Darter said, nuzzling against his father’s side. “Bibm'g meam go make him mabe ag me.”

“It’s okay, son,” Ernie said, as he pulled up beside Arnold Kye’s pickup in front of Jean Pedersen’s home and he could see the faint golden glow of candlelight from the windows. “I’m pretty sure Mrs. Pedersen or your mom will have a pair of scissors. I’ll carry your sister in, you okay to walk on your own?” Darter nodded, working the door handle and stepping out of the truck into the wind and rain.

Beside him, Arnold’s large form stepped out of his truck, one of the Pedersen girls over either shoulder. Billy came around the far side, chuckling a bit when he saw the predicament his friend Zak was in.

“Guess you can’t be a big mouth now?” Billy said, as the rain drenched them both again. Darter started to glower at his friend but quickly saw the humour himself and a matching chuckle escaped the corners of his mouth.

“C’mon kids,” Ernie said, opening the gate with his free hand. “Let’s all get inside and get warm and dry.” Everyone made their way along the path around the house to the side door, which was the main entrance for day to day use. Ernie, again the only human present with a free hand, opened the door that opened up into the kitchen of the house.

“Who’s there?” Jean called from the living room, which had enough candle light coming from it so that the adults and ponies were both able to see the safe way through the kitchen.

“It's us, Jean,” Ernie said, noticing that Arnold was keeping quiet for some reason. “We’ve got the kids with us.

“Thank the Goddess,” Jean said aloud, in a prayerful voice. “Get your shoes off, there are towels at the foot of the stairs before you come into the living room. I’m guessing the kids are ponies again.”

“How did you know?” Ernie asked, scuffing off his work boots as best he could without disturbing his heroic little Skylark.

“Um, about that...” Billy said, realizing that of the five ponies, he was the only one in any real shape to explain how they had all originally ran out of Jean’s basement after Rowey had triggered the transformation spell.

“Just get in here,” Lynn said, and her voice took on a note of concern. “Is everybody okay?”

“The girls all need some TLC,” Ernie said, padding barefooted across the wooden floor of the kitchen. “Zak ran afoul of some tape, and…”

Ernie’s voice trailed off as he turned the corner into the short gap that led both to the upstairs of Jean’s house and into the living room. He stood there paralyzed as he looked in and saw, instead of the familiar forms of his wife and his neighbor, a snow white unicorn sitting across from an elegant pegasus, black fur gleaming metallically with her mane, tail and wings a burnished silver that glowed in the golden candlelight.

“Well, don’t just stand there,” Lynn Harding said to her husband, fluffing her new wings a bit. “Say ‘hi’ to your wife and bring your daughter over here so I can have a look at her.”

“My God, Lynn,” Ernie breathed, pure wonder in his voice. “You’re gorgeous!” Both mares laughed a bit at that.

“I bet you say that to every pegasus mare you see,” Lynn said, lifting a wing to partially cover her face. “ But seriously, how is our daughter?" Concern for his child shook Ernie out of his shock and he stepped into the living room.

“She’s okay,” Ernie said, laying Skylark down beside her mother, who wrapped a wing around the smaller pony almost instantly. “Just exhausted after lifting a few tons of structural steel.”

“Wow,” Lynn said, smiling as her daughter snuggled up a little closer sleepily.

“Let me get by, Ernie,” Arnold said, softly as he tried to get around his friend. “Shield Mai… Rowan got hurt, Jean.”

“What?” the white unicorn said, in Jean Pedersen’s concerned voice. “Bring her here, let me see.”

“Trying,” Arnold said, carefully moving around Ernie, who was just as carefully moving aside to give Arnold room without tripping over anything. “Romy’s okay. I think her… ascension tired her out.”

“Ascension?” Jean asked, deftly plucking Rowan off of Arnold’s shoulder in a now familiar field of magic. However, where her daughter’s magic was orange in colour, Jean’s was a shade of purple so dark it was almost black. “What’s wrong, honey?” Jean asked her daughter.

“It hurts, Momma,” Rowan said, burying her face in her mother’s chest. “Everything’s too loud and bright. Even the candles hurt.”

“Shhh, it’s okay honey,” Jean said, horn flaring with dark power, and a moment later a damp washcloth floated in from the kitchen to lay over Rowan’s eyes and face with an ease that amazed everyone present. “What happened to her, Arn?”

“She was holding back the lake with one of her shields,” Arnold said, as he laid the now soundly sleeping pony form of Jean’s other daughter against her. “A big cedar tree came along and plowed right through it. She got knocked out, and at first we thought a chunk of the tree clipped her as it went by, but there’s no bruising, blood or sign of an impact.”

“Sounds like some sort of overload or backlash, from when her shield got blown through,” Jean said, wrapping a bandana around Rowan’s head to keep the washcloth in place and partly cover her ears. “Arnold, you and Billy get out of your wet things, grab some towels from the closet by the bathroom and find yourselves a place to sit.”

“No problem, Jean,” Arnold said, as he laid Romy’s limp form beside her mother. Standing, he grabbed one of the lit candles and motioned to his son, who followed him closely.

“You have any bandage scissors?” Ernie asked, gesturing toward Zak who had finally slunk into the room trying to hide his taped muzzle.

“There’s a kit in the cupboard above the stove,” Jean said, with a curious chuckle. “Anyone want to explain what happened out there? We know the kids charged out after you, but no idea how any of this happened.”

“It’s quite a story,” Ernie said, walking back into the kitchen and Jean could hear him open the cabinet and start rummaging.

“It’s the white plastic box,” Jean called, eliciting a whimper from Rowan at the volume. “While you’re there grab the container marked ‘Henderson’ for me.” Jean flared her magic again, and used it to pour a measure of steaming water from a kettle that was sitting on the woodstove into a nearby coffee cup, which she then floated over to sit on the end table beside her.

“Got it,” Ernie said, as he came back into the living room, scissors in one hand, glass mason jar in the other. “Looks like tea.” Jean nodded in answer, lifting the jar from his hand and the adults in the room watched in amazement as Jean’s magic opened the container, filled a tea ball from the jar’s contents, and placed the filled ball into the coffee cup of hot water.

“How are you so good with that, so fast?” Arnold asked, walking in with a towel knotted around his hips and a double load of fluffiness in his arms. Jean and Lynn both paused for a moment to appreciate Arnold’s displayed body. The mechanic definitely carried some extra weight on his frame, but there was no doubting the power displayed in his upper torso and arms.

“Visualization,” Jean said, blinking away from her frank admiration. “I’ve been a witch for longer than Rowan’s been alive. I’ve been visualizing moving forces and energies for years now. Sure, up until now it’s been more a matter of faith than reality, but now I’m getting to put all that practice into practical use.”

“What’s in the tea?” Arnold asked, distributing towels to everyone who had been out in the cold and wet. “I’m guessing it’s something you’ve made.”

“It’s the migraine tea I make for Mrs. Henderson up the road,” Jean said, moving the tea ball around to speed the infusion. “It’s got feverfew, red clover, peppermint, and a few other things. It should help with the headache, whatever the cause was.”

Over the next half hour or so, the group of ponies and people proceeded to towel off and get warm. As the children snuggled against their parents, the males in the room told the story from both the perspectives of the fire department and the ponies. Under Jean’s direction, Arnold another made a trip upstairs, gathering blankets from the bedrooms and everyone burrowed themselves into warm nests.

“The only thing that comes to mind is Epona,” Jean said at one point in the story, careful not to disturb Rowan who had fallen asleep after consuming half the tea that had been brewed for her, “and she healed you? I mean, actual healing?”

“Billy was dying,” Arnold said, his voice roughening a bit. “Jessica told me later that she figured he was done for no matter what she did, and then that ‘Night Horse’ showed up and literally put him back together. I owe her a debt I’ll never be able to repay, but if I can, I’m going to try.” Father and son just spent a minute hugging each other while silence reigned, as all three adults contemplated the tragedy that might have been.

“And it marked you, Billy?” Jean asked, keeping her voice soft. All the children except for Billy were asleep now, Zak having been uncharacteristically quiet after the tape had been snipped off his muzzle.

“Ya, it left me this,” Billy said, shifting the blanket over him to show the breaking barricade mark on his hip. “Romy got one too when she moved the beam into the dish.”

“The same one?” Jean asked, craning her head around to try to see Romy’s flank, but unable to as it was hidden under a comforter.

“No,” Ernie said, running a hand through the silvery mass of his wife’s mane. “Her marking is a beam of light hitting a prism and breaking into a rainbow.”

“Okay, that’s a good thing,” Jean said, nodding in satisfaction. “If they had the same mark it would be a symbol that this ‘Night Horse’ was laying claim to them. But if they have different marks it means that they’ve been given an outward sign of something inside of them.” Jean chuckled for a moment afterward.

“What’s so funny?” Lynn asked, her head laying on her husband’s bare chest and reveling in the simple physical closeness to the man she had chosen as her partner in life.

“A beam of energy can always be diverted,” Jean quoted, laying her head down and smiling at her sleeping daughters and the questioning looks from the other adults. “It’s from the original Tron movie.”

“Well, well,” Arnold snickered. “My Jean, the witch, the earthy pagan, closet sci-fi fan.”

“Your Jean, is it?” Jean said, tilting her head to look at Arnold as her heart gave a small double thump at the possibility his phrasing offered.

“If you’re okay with that?” Arnold asked, leaning over to take one of her hooves in his hand. Lynn and Ernie looked at the pair from across the room, eyes shining as they saw their friend take a major step toward healing the wound in his heart.

“I am,” Jean said, smiling back as her heart warmed with a heat that had nothing to do with the fireplace. “What changed your mind?”

“Tonight I learned that some things are too precious to just let sit on the sidelines,” Arnold said, and at that moment he only had eyes for the unicorn near him.

“You know, dear,” Lynn said, in a quiet voice so as not to disturb her friends, “you should really try being a pony too. I’d love to see what you look like.”

“We’ll see, dear,” Ernie said, before putting some brakes on the incipient romance in front of him. “Jean, is it okay if we all just pass out here tonight?”

“Oh,” Jean said, tearing her eyes away from Arnold’s face. “I’d planned for that. Be honest, do you really want to go back out into that rain?”

“Not a chance,” Lynn said, looking around at the big, pile of people and ponies, noting that the candles were beginning to burn low. “Thank you, Jean.”

Jean just smiled back and relaxed into the couch she was on, as she noticed that Billy had finally fallen asleep as well with his father’s hand resting against his side. Arnold saw her noticing and nodded back, relaxing into the couch as well, and all four adults quieted and began the long, slow, lazy drift toward sleep as the wind and rain continued to blow outside. Until, what seemed a split second later, when there was a loud knock on Jean’s back door.

“Who could that be?” Jean asked, raising her tired head. “Arn, any chance you could get that?”

“Sure thing,” Arnold said, getting up and wrapping a spare blanket around his mainly naked form. He lit a spare candle off one of the dying stubs, and carried it into the kitchen as three steady raps sounded again at the door they had all come in some time ago.

“Hello?” he asked, opening the door and looking out at the wind and rain just a few feet away beyond the covered porch at Jean’s back door. He saw no one and nothing other than the weather, and as the wind blew past his legs he made to close the door.

“Excuse me,” said a voice from below, and Arnold looked down in reflex.

Staring back up at him were the cutest things he had seen, barring his son and his friends. A pair of dark blue little ponies with golden eyes looked up at him, rain dripping off of them and laying their manes and tails flat. As Arnold tried to work his mind around there being even more ponies in town, one of them extended and shook out a pair of leathery bat wings sending water around the porch.

“Um,” Arnold said, as the brief water spray jump started his brain. “Hello there, who are you?”

“Believe it or not,” the slightly larger bat pony, who was about a head taller than Billy, said, “I’m, or at least was, Father Addison. I think you might have met my wife, Natasha. Is Jean Pedersen home?”

“Ya, come on in,” Arnold said, opening the door wide. “Wipe your hooves and head into the living room. There are some towels there you can use to dry off.”

“You don’t seem too surprised at seeing a pair of little horses at the door,” Father Addison said, as his wife preceded him in. "I actually impressed with how easily you're dealing with the shock."

“Father,” Arnold said, smiling ruefully and gesturing the way to the living room, “you don’t know the half of it.”

Author's Note:

Here's a small bonus item as well for everyone. The following is a deleted scene that was originally going to the first introduction of Mayor Montcalm, but I decided it wasn't necessary to introduce him until the storm.

Darrell “Dude” Montcalm was a very distant relative of the general who had commanded the French on the Plains of Abraham.  Nearing sixty years of age he had spent most of the past twenty-five of those years as the Mayor of Brightly, and remained a popular figure in town.  His yard near the edge of town was often the site of impromptu barbeques and potlucks and he had deliberately avoided fencing the yard so that neighborhood kids had someplace safe to play.

This particular late Saturday afternoon found him on his own for once, tending the barbecue as savory smells came from grilling meat.  As he turned a piece over, a flash of movement in the trees caught his eye. The old gravel service road that went around town passed near his house and it was a common pathway.  It was also something of a highway for the local wildlife, including black bears, who occasionally came into town trying to find food.

Which is why he had a pair of binoculars near the barbeque, along with a couple of very loud, very illegal, firecrackers.  Dropping the meat tongs and pulling his binoculars into position he scanned the area where he had seen the flash of movement.  He looked back and forth, trying to pick up what had caught his eye.

I know I spotted something...wait...there! he thought as he spotted movement in another gap in trees.  Focusing now, he was able to track the object. It was a small, yellow horse of all things. What the hell? Horses don’t come in that colour...  Darrell’s mind locked up as two other four legged, horse like creatures, only with wings, flew in to flank the little yellow horse. Then, the animals were past the gap and Darrell knew he wouldn’t see them again with how thick the foliage was.

“Hun,” he called to his wife.  “After dinner remind me to go over and see Ernie Harding, someone might have messed with something on that farm he works at.”

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