• 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 5: Hello, I love you.

“Well crap,” Jean Pedersen said, as yet another band-aid fell off the knee of the furry body in front of her. “Sorry Kya, but it looks like the best I can do is clean it off and put some disinfectant on that scrape since band-aids don’t seem to stick well to fur.”

“That’s okay,” said the black furred, pegasus pony in front of her. “It’s just a scrape.” Jean nodded and started to pack up her little medicine kit. She’d spent a few minutes after calling Arnold and the Hardings, tending to the scrapes and bumps of the collection of now furry children in her living room.

“Kya, your wings are absolutely gorgeous,” Jean said. “Those silver tips are lovely.”

“Thank you, Ms. Pedersen,” Kylara said, bringing up a foreleg to cover her face in embarrassment at the praise. “Did my Mom and Dad say when they’d be here?”

“They said they’d be over in about fifteen minutes,” Jean said, looking at the group of transformed children. “I know I said we’d wait until all the adults got here before you explained how and why this happened, but I need to have one question answered first: Did any of you intend for this to happen?” All five shook their heads and Jean sighed in relief, “Okay, sit tight and I’ll bring you some cookies. Actually, can you kids handle cookies?”

“Yes, Mom,” Rowan said, rolling her eyes a bit. “We can handle cookies just fine.” The mother of two of the ponies went into the kitchen and opened a package of cookies onto a large plate.

"At least they all seem to be okay. Huh, I wonder if this makes my girls ‘fillies’ now," Jean thought. "Or if that makes me their ‘mare’ instead of their mom." Jean chuckled over that to herself as she walked back into the living room, watching in fascination as the kids picked up and ate the cookies with no problems at all. She stood there and watched them eat, listening to their chatter until a knock on her back door brought her out of her reverie.

“Okay kids, remember what I said,” Jean said to the group. “Let me handle the initial revelation, then you can talk all you like with your parents.”

Jean went to her back door, and as expected, found three adults waiting there for her. Lynn and Ernie Harding, Zak and Kylara’s parents, along with Arnold Kye, Billy’s dad.

“I’m glad you were all able to come over so quickly,” Jean said, opening her door to let the three adults in. As usual, Arnold had to twist a little sideways in the doorway to accommodate his large, well-muscled frame.

“What’s going on, Jean?” Lynn asked, her classic red hair and green eyes now shaded in concern. “Are the kids okay?” Jean shifted to move between the three others and the entrance to the living room.

“Look, I’ve tried to figure out how to tell you this,” Jean began, and she saw Ernie and Arnold exchange worried glances. “The best way is just to show you, but remember three things: These are our children, they need us to stay calm, and what happened was an accident.”

“Jean, you’re really starting to worry me,” Ernie said. “Where are they?”

“In the living room,” Jean said, making way for the others to move past her, “eating cookies.” As the others went past her Arnold paused, and put a massive hand on her shoulder.

“No matter what Jean, I trust you and I know you would never allow anything bad to happen to our kids,” he said softly, looking straight into her eyes and she warmed a bit at the trust in that steady regard. She was about to reply when they both heard an exclamation from the Hardings.

“What the bloody blue blazes!” the Harding father burst out. “Get the hell in here right now Jean Pedersen, and explain what the hell has happened to my kids!” Jean turned and walked into the living room, Arnold a comforting bulk in her wake and she heard his surprised gasp as he too, saw what had become of his son and his friends.

“I said,” Ernie repeated, loudly, “what have you done to MY kids!” Lynn stood on one side of the room. She didn’t seem to know whether she should be with the ponies that were now her children or with her husband.

“Dad...” Zak tried to interrupt, holding up a hoof.

“Hang on a minute, son,” Ernie said, then continued in a voice just below a shout. “I trusted you to keep an eye on my kids and now look at them!”

“Dad!” Zak again tried to interrupt, but was cut off as Jean stepped forward to defend herself.

“Look Ernie, I know you’re upset—” Jean began, placatingly.

“Upset? UPSET?!” Ernie yelled, fully angry now. “My...Our children are—”

“DAD!” Zak yelled, flapping his wings as he did so.

“What?!” His father yelled, spinning to face his son as the rush of wind pulled his attention away from Jean. Zak didn’t say anything else, he just pointed a hoof toward where his sister, Kylara, was huddled in a corner by the couch, wings and hooves both over her head, as she tried to hide from the emotional storm in the room.

The image of his transformed daughter, cringing in fear at his rage, cut Ernie Harding deeper than any knife ever could and cooled his anger more effectively than the coldest snows of winter. His face fell as it reflected the sudden pain in his heart at the realization of what his unfocused rage had wreaked on his sensitive daughter.

“Oh God,” he said, going to his daughter and wrapping her furred form in his arms. “I’m sorry, my little skylark. I’m sorry, I’m not mad at you. Shh, it’s okay.” He kept repeating his apology to his daughter, stroking her mane as father and daughter both struggled to find their emotional balance again. His wife, son, and the girls clustered around the pair, lending their comfort as well. Billy, however, moved to stand beside his father.

“Dad, what’s wrong with Mr. Harding?” the boy quietly asked, puzzled. “I mean he just got mad because he thinks someone hurt us. He just wanted to know who and why.” His father looked over at Lynn who gave a nod of permission.

“Son, you ever notice that when Mr. Harding comes over, and he and I have a drink, he always has pop?” Arnold asked his son.

“Ya,” Billy replied, green eyes looking up to his father, “I just thought he didn’t like beer.” Arnold chuckled slightly at that.

“Well, when Mr. Harding was a little boy, smaller than you,” he paused for a moment, trying to pick his words with care. “His parents weren’t nice people, and they hurt him, until someone made them stop. So, when Zachary was born, he promised himself that he would never be like they were. That he would never drink, or abuse drugs, and that he would never, ever lose control and hurt his own children like his parents hurt him.”

“And so now he feels really bad because he broke that promise?” Billy asked, wrapping a leg around his father’s leg in a hug.

“No, he feels bad because he thinks he did,” Arnold said quietly to his son. “Good men always blame themselves more than anyone else can. Let’s just give them a few minutes.” It did indeed take a few more minutes, but eventually Ernie got up from holding his daughter and stood, still keeping a reassuring hand on her. There had been no tears but his eyes gleamed suspiciously.

“Guys,” Kya said, sniffling a bit herself, but smiling as she rubbed her head against her father, “is it okay if I change my superhero name to ‘Skylark’?”

“I don’t think anyone would mind,” Rowey said, looking to the others, who all shook their heads. “Skylark it is.”

“So, is that what happened?” Ernie asked, exhaling sharply as he moved to sit on the couch. “You kids all became superheroes?” He patted the cushions on either side of him and his children jumped up to join him. Lynn smoothly moved onto one end of the couch as well, sandwiching Kya between herself and her husband. She stretched an arm over, putting a hand on her husband’s shoulder, to let him know she was with him.

“Billy, why don’t you and your dad share the easy chair, while me and my girls grab the other couch,” Jean said, her own balance restoring as things calmed. Arnold sat down in the big easy chair, just managing to squeeze his bulk into it. Once there his son, now a brown pony with a yellow and orange tail, jumped into his lap and sat there, leaning against his father’s solid chest.

For her part Jean sat down on her second, much more tattered couch. It was what she and her girls called their “working couch”, where everything from homework, sewing or anything else, could be done without excessive worry about spilling or staining anything. Her girls jumped up on the old couch beside her, as all five children snuggled against their parents.

“Okay, Rowan,” Jean said, as she addressed her older daughter. “Why don’t you tell us what happened, from the beginning...” The story went on for about fifteen to twenty minutes, as each of the children told their parts of the story. In excited voices, they told about how they had gone to the new dig new site, how they found intact bottles, then finding the book. Arnold started to ask to see the book at that point but Lynn shushed him, and he subsided. Then, Billy described how Rowan had looked as she had chanted the words that had triggered the spell that had changed them all and Lynn threw her hands up in surrender as all three of the other adults demanded to see the book.

“Fine!” Lynn said in an exasperated tone, but chuckling as she said it, “I wanted to hear the whole story first, but go ahead Rowan, show us the book.”

“Mom, it’s a little hard to reach around,” Rowan said. “Can you get it out of my backpack?” Jean reached for the backpack still strapped to her daughter’s back and then stopped her hand an inch before she touched it. Like her wand earlier, she could feel power coming from the backpack and she pulled her hand back.

“Romy, why don’t you get the book?” Jean asked, and Arnold’s eyebrow rose as he heard a slight quaver in his friend’s voice.

“Jean?” he asked, concerned as Romy opened her sister’s backpack and used her mouth to pull out the box holding the book and lay it on the coffee table. The mother of two said nothing, just holding her hand toward the old ornate box.

“Jean,” Lynn said, reaching over and putting a hand on her neighbor’s outstretched arm, who started and jerked back at the touch. “Are you okay?”

“Can’t you feel it?” Jean asked the room, an odd look on her face. “Kids, didn’t you feel the power coming off of this thing?” The other three adults exchanged worried glances with each other, as did the five children.

“Mom, we didn’t feel anything. Except when I cast the spell,” Rowan said, and then she flipped open the box to reveal the book itself. Her mother threw her arm in front of her face, as if to shield herself from something, and then gingerly lowered it.

“Jean,” Arnold said again, “talk to us. What’s going on? What do you feel?”

“Warmth,” Jean said, holding out her right hand again. “Heat, but not searing. More like summer sun. There’s power here, a strength. I don’t know what to make of it”

“Maybe only us ponies should touch it?” Billy asked, looking up at his father.

“Go ahead, son,” Arnold said, lowering his son to the floor with his massive hands. Billy took a step to the table, reached into the box with a hoof and pulled out the book with its large stylized unicorn on the cover.

“How the hell did you do that Billy?” Ernie asked, leaning forward. “Those are hooves, not hands.”

“I’m not sure how we do it, Mister Harding,” the boy said, as he flipped open the book. “It just works is all. Oh, and here’s the spell.” Billy pointed out the lines of strange text that Rowan had read earlier that day that had triggered their transformation.

“That reminds me, did this...whatever it is, give any of you shoes?” Ernie asked, then continued at the blank looks. “You know, horseshoes?” Zak smacked a hoof into his forehead.

“D’oh,” he said. “Sorry Dad, I should have thought of that. Um, no, we didn’t get horseshoes from the change.”

“Right, let me see those forehooves,” Ernie said, patting his thigh. “C’mon, put ‘em up here and let me have a look.” He paused for a moment. “Actually, we should all do this together. Lynn, grab Kylara. Arnie you’ve got Billy, of course.”

“I’ll check Romy first,” Jean said, sitting cross legged on the couch. “Do like Zachary is doing dear. Rowan, you watch me.” Parents and ponies arranged themselves on couches and chair.

“Okay, first off,” the farmer began, “Check the outside of the hoof. Look for cracks, ridges or any missing chunks.” He demonstrated by running a hand over the outside of one of Zak’s hooves and showing it to the others, who followed suit.

“Got a crack here,” Arnold said, lifting one of Billy's hooves, so that Ernie could see it. Sure enough, there was a small hairline crack in the hoof.

“Okay, that’s not a bad crack,” Ernie said, nodding. “But any crack should be dealt with right away. Hmm, we should really have some tools to do this right. How about we take a small break. I’ll head to the farm, grab a bunch of hoof picks and some epoxy for that crack. I can be back in twenty minutes.”

“Jean, if it’s okay with you, I’ll bring over what I was cooking for dinner, and we can have a bit of a potluck here,” Lynn said, shifting her daughter to one side.

“Sounds good to me,” Jean said, getting off the couch. “I have a feeling we’re going to be doing a lot of things together from now on. I’ll walk you out, Ernie.” He nodded and the two adults headed out via the kitchen, leaving the chatter in the living room behind them.

“Jean, I’m really sorry about what happened earlier,” he said quietly, without preamble. “I lost my cool and got angry at you, in your own house. When all this is done if you—”

“Ernie,” Jean said, putting a hand on his arm to interrupt him. “Your world got turned upside down and you reacted like a lot of people would have.”

“That’s no excuse,” he said in reply, lowering his head. “My anger, it isn’t like most folks. If I ever really lost control...well, you saw what happened to Kylara.”

“Have you ever hit her?” Jean asked, seriously.

“What?” he replied, in surprise. “No, God no.”

“Have you ever insulted her, belittled her, or just plain screamed at her,” Jean asked him, just as seriously.

“No, today was the loudest I’ve ever been around her,” he said, sighing. “She’s so much like I was, when I was her age. Scared of everything. All she wants to do is fly away from things that scare her.”

“And now she has wings,” Jean said. “Now, she can fly, and today, you showed her that she’ll always have a safe place to land in your arms, because you love her and care about her feelings.”

“Thanks Jean, I needed that,” Ernie said, smiling a bit at the corner of his mouth. “But I still owe you an apology for my blowing up on you.”

“You show me how to go over their feet, er hooves, and how to brush their manes and tails properly,” Jean said, smiling, “and we’ll call it even.” Ernie smiled and nodded, got on his shoes and headed out the door. As Jean returned to the living room she could hear him start his pickup, its ever present animal trailer in tow.

“He’ll be okay,” Lynn said, hearing the truck as well, while she ruffled her daughter’s mane. “I’ll be back in a minute or two myself. I’ve got a pot roast that should be ready.” She began to get up.

“I’ll give you a hand, Mom,” Zachary said, getting up.

“No son,” Lynn said, waving him back down. “You and your sister stay here for now.”

“Why?” Kylara said, sounding a little hurt. “Are you ashamed to be seen with us, now that we’re ponies?”

“Of course not,” the mother of two said. “No matter what body you wear, I know that your minds and souls are unchanged, and you two are the best parts of me and your father. But some people might not be ready to see such a radical change. Let’s get you kids settled and see how long this lasts before we start throwing this in people’s faces.” She hugged both ponies to her, which they returned with gusto.

“Jean and I will keep an eye on them,” Arnold said, his comforting rumble echoing slightly. “The kids can give me a hand helping Jean get things ready for everyone.”

“Thanks Arn,” Lynn said, and got after placing a kiss on her daughter’s forehead. “I’ll grab my sewing kit too.”

“Why?” Romy asked. “Is it tho you can sew us some stuff?”

“I’m thinking pockets are a bit of an issue right now with you kids,” Lynn said, as a gleam came to her eyes. “Oh, I can see it now. Cute little saddlebags, or an actual little saddle maybe, a high-viz harness to keep you safe, maybe even some pony quilts.”

“Mooom!” her children both complained, as their mother laughed, and got up to leave.

“We’re doomed, guys,” Zak said, hanging his head low. “Doomed I tell you.” Arnold stood up and deposited Billy onto the chair he had been sitting on.

“Dad?” Billy asked, looking up.

“You kids sit,” Arnold said, and he looked at each of the pony children in turn, getting their attention. “Me and Mister Harding didn’t have a chance to finish checking all your hooves properly so I want all of you off of them for now.” A chorus of groans greeted that pronouncement.

“He’s right, kids,” Jean said backing him up. “All of you, sit your furry tushes down and off those hooves. Billy Kye, don’t you dare move from that chair. I don’t know what you were doing to crack a hoof when you’ve barely been a horse for six hours but—”

“Kicking trees in half,” Billy interrupted. “I was trying out my super powers and I kicked a few trees in half.”

“You...kicked trees...in half,” Jean repeated, incredulously. “How thick were they?”

“About four or five inches across,” Billy said, looking at the crack in his hoof worriedly now.

“You kicked a tree, in half, that was four or five inches across,” his father repeated, slowly. “Way to go, son. Damn, but that’s pretty awesome.” Billy smiled, basking in his father’s pride.

“No wonder you cracked a hoof,” Jean said to the boy. “So, you especially, stay on the chair. You set so much as one foot, um...hoof, on the floor and I’ll have Missus Harding see if you can be fitted for a bridle.”

“Dad!” Billy complained loudly to his father, while making sure he stayed on the chair.

“Hey, I’m not the one who kicked trees in half,” Billy’s dad said, spreading his hands in apology. “But she’s got a point. You. Sit.”

“Yes Dad,” Billy said, head down. The two remaining adults headed into the kitchen and began to set out plates and cups.

“You’re taking this awfully well,” Jean said quietly to her large friend, as he pulled the tray of cooked cabbage rolls out of the oven.

“Well, it’s like Lynn said,” he said, pausing as he slid in the tray of sausages to cook. “Inside, our kids are still the same. Same minds, same attitudes...same love.”

“I know what you mean,” Jean said, getting out glasses and cups. “From the moment I saw those furry faces I could see the girls in them. Didn’t mean I didn’t double check though.”

“We...are the parents of a group of fuzzy little horses,” Arnold said, wonder in his voice. “One of which can kick through four or five inches of solid wood.”

“They mentioned something about powers and abilities,” Jean said, listening to the chatter from the living room for a moment. “I’ve got a feeling they’re going to need them, and us backing them up.”

“What do you mean? Is it something from the whole—” he asked, waving his fingers in the air, “witchy side of things?” Jean grimaced and looked back at her friend as he leaned against the kitchen counter.

“I think so,” she said. “I could barely touch my wand earlier. Something’s changed in Brightly, something fundamental, and our kids are on the forefront of that change.”

Author's Note:

Got in a bigger, extra chapter this time. If all goes well I intend to update this story with chapters of this size or larger, every two to three weeks from now on. Thanks to Sandstorm94 who pitched in on the editing for this.

This chapter is brought to you through the assistance of my current patrons:

Canary in the Coal Mine
and my newest patron,

Thank you, very much. It really is a big help.

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