• 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 42: Instruments of Destruction

It was Sunday morning in the Carmanah Valley, and people were starting their day with the knowledge that it was going to be a special day. In spite of the clouds beginning to move in, most of those living in the town looked forward to the hours ahead with a cheery glow in their hearts and hearty smiles on their faces. It wasn’t every day that the premier of the province came by to visit someplace as tiny as Brightly.

Nor was it every day that the Prime Minister of Canada himself showed up in such a place. There had been no official announcement, but the rumour mills had been working overtime, and everyone thought it was only a question of when and how he would show up during the day.

For Jessica Harkins, the day started with a bowl of granola in milk, with toast and a cup of very light roast coffee. She’d heard once that the lighter roasts had more caffeine in them and to date it seemed to be true. After eating and a quick shower she started getting her dress uniform ready.

Naked, but for her scars, Jessica looked at the uniform. It was something that she had worked hard to obtain. It had represented freedom and the ability to make her own life apart from those who tried to chain her in a prison of flesh. Somehow though, at that moment as it sat on her bed, the uniform seemed lessened. As if a vital part of it were missing.

The paramedic sat and stared for several minutes, trying to puzzle out what was wrong. It took awhile but she realized that her uniform didn’t show something else that had become an important part of her. Padding over to her dresser on bare feet, she opened up a narrow wooden box to reveal a pair of long feathers, one red and one white.

They were a pair of Medevac’s feathers that she had deliberately plucked out to make sure she had a remembrance of the pony who was the person—ponification of her soul itself. If her uniform was meant to reflect who she was, then these feathers needed to be a part of it.

Smiling, the young woman plucked up both feathers and carried them over to her kitchen table. Some surgical thread, and a few strategic knots would serve to attach the feathers to an epaulet and let her show the world something that she was very proud of.

However, something odd happened as she was walking. The breeze of her motion carried the feathers out of Jessica’s hand. Spinning in place, she placed her hands under the falling feathers only to see them begin to float back upwards in an unseen breeze.

Gasping in surprise, Jessica lifted her hands upwards and snatched the feathers in her fingers before they could float further away. She held them for a moment until a thought crossed her mind that caused a corner of her mouth to twitch upwards. With gentle care she held out her hands, palms up with both feathers lying across them.

Jessica pictured winds in her head, and nothing happened. She shouted, “Up!” and nothing happened. Nothing kept happening for a handful of minutes as she tried a variety of magic words from every book and TV show she had ever heard of.

Letting out a sigh, she was about to close her hands back around the feathers when her mind flashed to those moments just after Jean had transformed her back into Medevac. Of flashing through the skies to rescue the survivors of the plane crash, and of the incredible joy that she had become part of when the magic had granted her the Mark of her calling.

A moment later, Jessica felt something twitch in her hands and her remembered joy doubled and tripled as the feathers across her palms began to shift, twitch and finally take flight. Around and around, the feathers danced together in a circle over her outstretched palms and Jessica laughed from pure happiness at the sight.

The small ballet carried on, right up until the moment Jessica’s phone rang. Thought patterns shattered, the feathers fluttered to the floor in a gentle drift. Jessica snatched up her phone and growled, “This had better be good.”

“This had better be good Sir,” replied the voice of Darrell Montcalm, her boss. “I know it’s a little early but can you come down to the station now? I’ve already got reporters crawling all over the place and I could really use some help.”

“Be there in fifteen,” Jessica said, humour restored as she recognized the call for aid. “Sorry about that, Sir.”

“Meh, don’t worry about it,” Montcalm tossed back, with more than a trace of amusement to his voice. “It’s going to be a big day. A little stress is to be expected.”

Montcalm hung up the old style landline phone and looked up at the other person in his office. “Where in the bloody blue blazes is Cummins?” he asked.

“I don’t know, Sir,” replied John Wilcox, snapping to an attentive stance almost by reflex as he replied to a cranky superior. “He wasn’t at breakfast, and I haven’t seen him since yesterday.”

“Sorry, I get a little grumpy when people up and disappear on me,” Montcalm said, waving an apology toward the younger man. “We’ll look into it later. Right now, give me an update.”

“Things are a little crazy out there,” Wilcox admitted. “The original plan had been to hold the award ceremony over at the dam, but for some reason it got changed to here, at the town hall.”

“My doing, I’m afraid,” Montcalm replied, and Wilcox’s tilted head was eloquent with inquiry. “It’ll be easier to sneak Iron Heart and Foxfire into there, plus it gives a lot more room to work in.”

“Okay, fair enough,” Wilcox said, with a nod. “Any reason why you didn’t mention it to me?”

“With everything else going on, I straight up forgot,” Montcalm sighed. “Sorry about that. Hope it isn’t going to be a problem.”

“For me, not much,” Wilcox replied, with a small snort of amusement. “Shaushka however, has been on the phone twice now, asking when we were going to be showing up.”

“Damn,” Montcalm cursed, while Wilcox rolled his eyes at the unintentional pun. “I forgot to tell her too. I’ll call her myself and apologize. You had better get back to it. Jessica is on her way to help with reporter wrangling and she should be here pretty soon. Anything else?”

“Just this,” the lean reporter answered, pulling a cloth bag out of his pocket and dropping it on the mayor’s desk. “My friend ‘Scotty’ with the dam crew said this was found inside the workings of the turbine they’ve been dismantling.”

Montcalm pulled open the drawstring of the bag only to rapidly close it as a bright scarlet light erupted from the bag. “Is that what I think it is?” he asked.

“If you think it’s a big ass ruby that’s been exposed to several million kilowatts of electricity that shines as bright as a flashlight, then yes,” Wilcox replied, turning to go. “Scotty told me that if they had been just junking the turbine, they never would have found that. Sort of makes you wonder what other surprises are just lying around, waiting to be discovered. Oh, one other thing.”

“What?” Montcalm asked, stashing the bag into a desk drawer.

“Horgan’s press secretary called me,” Wilcox said, from the doorway. “The premier wants to meet with you a half hour before the ceremony. Said he wants to go over things in advance.”

“Tell him that’s fine,” Montcalm replied, waiting until after Wilcox had closed the door and left to continue. “That should be a fine time to introduce him to Foxfire and Iron Heart.”

Neither man at this point would have been terribly surprised at the apple tree in the small clearing in the woods near town. The nearby trees seemed to have spread apart a bit, to give the newcomer room, and it was now a fully mature specimen nearly ten meters tall. Luscious fruit hung from several points on the tree, and more than a few birds had feasted on the unexpected bounty.

The birds cared only for the rich, sweet flesh of the apple and not one whit for the fact that the apples themselves were in all colours of the rainbow. The feathered gourmands sang out their joy and the cheerful birdsong only added to the already significant beauty of the clearing.

A beauty and joy that was shattered by a being who cared not one whit for any of those things. A being whose heart was as cold as ice and as hard as stone. A being for whom light, love and hope were nothing more than meat and drink it wanted to consume. A being that had taken the name, “Godwindigo.”

“That tree,” the creature seemed to say to itself. “It’s warm. Like the rats climbing in their burrow. Let’s eat it.”

“No!” the creature shouted, to no one in particular, in a slightly different voice. “If we kill the tree there will be no more fruit. We need that fruit.”

“We don’t need fruit,” came the response. “There are always things to eat. Like the isolation and guilt of that man we left back home.”

“Taste one fruit,” argued the second voice. “Just one, and you will see why.”

“Fine,” grumbled the first voice, and the three meter tall being of ice and shadow glided forward. The birds in the tree felt the approach of a killing frost, and wisely fled in an explosion of feathers. Within seconds Godwindigo was alone in the clearing, save for insects, and those of them that could flee, were doing so.

The tree seemed to recoil as the creature reached up a taloned hand, and twisted off a purple apple. The apple rimed over in instants, making the crunch of the fanged maw taking a bite into a much more brittle sound than it should have been. The taste of the fruit drew an immediate reaction from the creature.

“So much power!” the creature shouted, devouring the remainder of the apple in a couple of quick bites. “It’s like eating a battery soaked in honey. How did you know?”

“After we feasted last night on the man’s spirit,” the fused spirit of the windigo explained, “our senses expanded along with our power. We were able to feel this place. It smells like the power coming from the rats in their hole.”

“Then we need to eat the entire tree,” reasoned out what remained of Dora Godwinson. “Gain all the power at once, and that should be enough so we can have our revenge.”

“But only once,” cautioned the cold spirit. “After that, with our strength used up, we would be easy meat for any that wanted to take us in turn. We must plan, not just for our vengeance, but for what comes after.”

“After…” the warmth replied, thoughtful. “We had not thought about what comes after we drive the witch to despair, and feed upon the fear and self-loathing we will make in her.”

“This is why you need me,” the cold said. “We know planning, we know to lay supplies for winters to come. This is why we do not kill the flesh unless we need to. Far better to let the mewling insects live so that they can continue to feed us.”

“Which is why we do not eat the tree,” the warm half replied in understanding, the creature’s shoulders slumping. “Can we at least have more of the apples?”

“So long as we do not kill the tree, we can have as much of the fruit as we want,” cold answered with approval. “We will allow it to live, so that it can make us strong when it grows new fruits.”

With that, the Godwindigo gathered up almost thirty apples, doing it’s best to not touch the tree itself. The one time it did so, the touched branch froze solid in an instant then shattered and destroyed at least six of the precious fruits. The being of ice and hate cared not at all for the damage it had done, but the loss of the precious energizing food forced it to leave the highest apples untouched until such time as it no longer needed the tree at all.

Harvest done, the creature feasted, taking only a handful of minutes to gobble down apples of all colours. When Godwindigo rose back up from the frosted ground it had grown almost another full meter, and was wreathed in frost smoke as the cold of its body battled against the warmth of the mid-spring morning.

Now we are powerful,” stated the coldness of the icy being. “Now we have the strength to ambush the mice with ease.”

“How are we going to get close enough?” asked the warmth, if warmth could be said to exist in such a creature. “We will get spotted for sure, and all it would take is one person giving the alarm and our attack on the mice would fail.”

“You are learning the caution of a true predator. This is good,” the creature said to itself as it began to move out of the clearing. “I will show us a trick of the light I know. How to use our ice to bend light and shadow around us like a cloak. Allowing us to move unseen.”

“Good,” the warm voice growled, rage warming the creature’s heart for an eternity of milliseconds. “I want Pedersen and her unnatural get lying at my feet in terror as soon as possible.”

Minutes later, the last of the ice melted away and the birds began to return to the warming glen.

“Sister, wake up,” a voice said, intruding into a pleasant dream.

“Twilight, twelve friendship reports a day is…” Celestia’s words trailed off as she drifted back into slumber.

“‘Tia, I need you to wake up now,” the voice said again, determination in its voice.

“Five more minutes,” the alicorn mumbled in her sleep. “No, Pinkie Pie. I can’t turn you into a cake. Mmm, cake.”

“CELESTIA!” yelled the voice, right into the ear of the Princess. “I need you!”

“What?” demanded Celestia, sitting bolt upright and nearly bashing her head on the rock above the small ledge she and Luna shared.

“Sorry to wake you, but you have to see this!” Luna enthused, grabbing her sister by the shoulders.

“Ugh, I didn’t get enough sleep to deal with this much enthusiasm,” Celestia grumbled, pushing away her sister for the moment. “How much sleep did you get?”

“Enough,” Luna replied, maintaining her exuberance. “But look what I’ve found!”

“If my head is any indication, sister,” Celestia continued to grouse, rubbing her head with a hoof. “Neither of us got even remotely enough sleep.”

“I know, but I woke up to answer Nature. When I was done I was filled with the need to try to learn how close we are to the surface,” Luna replied, nearly bouncing in mid-air. “And I did find out. ‘Tia, we are very close.”

“Really?” Celestia asked, headache abating a bit with the news. “How close?”

“Very close, come see,” Luna urged, and Celestia let herself be led off the rock shelf and up to a spot near the top of the shaft.

Soon Luna was pointing to a long squarish mass that was only a little less dark than the surrounding rock. It was long, thick, and it seemed to have a regular texture.

“Luna,” Celestia said, tilting her head back and forth to try to get a better look at the thing. “What am I looking at?”

“It’s a support timber, sister,” Luna replied, tracing the lines of the ancient timber. “A support timber for a mineshaft.”

“Luna, I didn’t get enough sleep and I haven’t had tea yet,” Celestia replied, feeling an ache behind her eyes. It was going to be one of those days. “You’ve known we were in an old mine all along.”

“Yes, but this is the first actual proof we have had. Also, do you realize what else this means?” Luna asked.

“No,” Celestia said, briefly wondering if banishment to the moon was an acceptable punishment for excessive cheerfulness.

“It means we are close!” Luna enthused, grabbing Celestia again and hugging her. “If we push, we can be through very soon!”

“Fine,” Celestia declared, in a voice she usually used when dispensing justice to her little ponies. “Breakfast first, then we make a last push upwards.”

“But—” Luna began, looking at her sister in surprise.

“If I didn’t get enough sleep, you certainly did not,” Celestia said, chopping off her sister’s objection. “We eat first. If we don’t, I might just keel over and you certainly will. And after today, if we don’t break through, we take a full day off. Meals, a day in the spa, the works.”

“But… but,” Luna sputtered, waving her hooves upwards. “The shaft?”

“Will still be here,” Celestia replied, her voice a little less firm. “I agree, we are close. But we will not make a good impression on Lee Ung’s descendants if we emerge only to collapse at their feet.”

“I suppose you are right,” Luna said, and it was almost painful to see her enthusiasm give way to cold reality. “I will confess to feeling a little worn out.”

“Some food, some tea, and we can spend the rest of the day trying to reach the surface,” Celestia replied, settling the two of them back on the ledge and getting out the things for breakfast.

“Food would be welcome,” Luna admitted, getting out a piece of travelbread. “I wonder how my unicorn is doing?”

“That was the mayor,” Iron Heart said, hanging up the phone. Pony hooves had a surprising degree of dexterity once you stopped trying to figure out how you were able to do things and just did them instead. “The Premier wants to meet with him early and he figured that might be a good time to introduce him to ponies.”

“I thought the agreement was to demonstrate the transformation with the kids after the ceremony?” Foxfire asked, as she sat on the floor in her living room. The three children in the room stopped what they were doing so they could pay attention to the adults.

“It was, but Montcalm figures that once Trudeau shows up Horgan knows he’s going to be busy and wants to take care of the small stuff first. Oh, and one other thing,” Iron Heart paused in his speech to look his mate in the eyes. “He wants it to be you and I.”

“Us?” Foxfire asked, looking up at her stallion in surprise. “But why?”

“Not entirely sure,” Iron Heart admitted, nodding to his son who had come up to put a hand on his father’s shoulder. “I think he wants just introduce the Premier to the concept of ponies in general first. Get him used to the idea in a private setting. Plus, Montcalm didn’t say it, but I know there’s another reason.” He glanced significantly at the children in the room.

“Dad?” Billy asked, hand on the furred shoulder beside him tensing.

“Us,” Rowan replied, before her mother could explain. “They’re protecting us. The whole town is.”

“I think you’re right, Rowan,” Foxfire said, in confirmation. “Iron Heart and I are adults. We can take an adult chance on this. If it goes well, then everything works out for the better. But you three, Kylara and Zak are still children.”

“But—” all three started to say, in protest.

“Brave children,” Foxfire continued, overriding the protest with a mother’s voice. “Whom I… who all of us are very proud of. You’ve thrown yourself into dangerous situations best suited for adults, and done well. Give us a chance to follow in your footsteps.”

“But what if it doesn’t go okay?” Romy asked, looking very much the young pre-teen girl that she was, in that moment. “What if they put you in jail or worse?”

“Then that is the chance we take,” Foxfire answered, her voice serious. “If anyone but me or Iron Heart comes and knocks, asking for you kids, give them the challenge. Do you remember it?”

“What is UNIT?” asked Romy, looking for confirmation from her mother, who nodded approvingly.

“And the correct answer is?” Foxfire prompted, looking at her other daughter.

“United Nations Intelligence Taskforce,” Rowan responded, in an instant. “Unified is for retcon losers.”

Iron Heart snorted in amusement, but then asked in a serious voice, “What are those from, and why do you even have them?”

“Something from my bad, old days,” Foxfire answered, leaning over to take in the rich and familiar scent of warmth and iron that came from her stallion. “I needed a way for the girls to be able to tell if someone claiming to be from me, actually was. It’s from the original Dr. Who series, before the modern reboot.”

“Only you,” Iron Hoof responded with a smile. “I’ve heard of ‘techno-pagans’ but not ‘nerd-pagans. Heaven help me, I’m doomed to watch endless episodes of the show now, aren’t I?”

“And you shall lie at my feet while I braid your mane and explain all the details,” Foxfire declared, a teasing smile on her face. “And while you are in that form, you might want to say, ‘Epona, help me’.”

“I think Father Adamschek would have an objection to that,” Iron Hoof commented, as the children moved on their own to put away the things in the living room. “I wonder how he’s doing today, anyway? He had mentioned giving a pretty important sermon on love and tolerance...”

Author's Note:

I'll be putting these out as I get them done!

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