• 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 7: Guess who's back

That night, five very tired children slept deeply in their beds, as it had been a long, exciting day, filled with challenges, friendship and family. Despite the awkwardness of their new bodies, each of the children were asleep nearly as soon as their heads found their pillows. Their parents however, were not so fortunate as sleep proved to be an elusive quarry, and each tried to deal with it in their own way.

Lynn Harding found her comfort and solace in the sounds and rhythms of sewing, as she spent the next few hours turning the measurements, and crude drawings she had made of the transformed children into functional items for them. Honed by years of practice, Lynn’s hands seemed to move of their own accord, doing the needed functions without a thought, and allowing her eyes and mind to consider the next steps in the task she had set for herself. Five pairs of saddlebags came together around her in a natural, organic manner. As if the creation of clothing by her hands and eye was a right and proper thing, and no piece of fabric would be so rude as to deny her will in this matter.

Her neighbor across the street, Jean Pedersen, paced silently back and forth in her house. She alternated between checking on her girls, who didn’t even stir, to running her hands over the cover of the old book on her living room table. The mystic power in the ornate tome tingled across the pads of her fingers and she kept resisting the temptation to open the book and read the incantation within.

“It would be easy,” a treacherous part of her mind whispered to her. “You have the ability to channel the power. All you have to do is open the book, read the words, and you can join your daughters on their strange journey.” She began to lift the gilt leather cover of the book, and closed it again.

“That will be enough out of you,” Jean said aloud, dropping a drying cloth over the book and putting it out of her mind as she spent the next few hours cataloging her supply of herbs and noting which ones she needed to search for on her next trip into the local forest.

Arnold Kye couldn’t sleep either, and like the other parents he kept checking on his son, who slept the completely relaxed, boneless sleep of the young. Arnold even had to check his son once to make sure he was breathing, so deeply asleep was young Billy. After the fourth cycle of checking his son, returning to his bed, tossing for several minutes and then rechecking the boy, Arnold gave up. He had long practiced the ability to move silently, so Arnold ghosted silently through his home gathering what he felt he would need for the night.

When he was done, his son’s room hosted an extra chair. Beside it, a small bowl of quiet snacks and a water bottle sat with a small stack of paperback books. Taking one last check to make sure he hadn’t disturbed his son, he settled himself into the chair, a small dim LED light strapped to his head. He picked up the first of the books he had chosen from his personal library. The “Well World” series by Chalker, seemed to be a fitting choice, all things considered.

The fourth parent, Ernie Harding, was just as restless as the other three and like the others decided to try to do something other than lie in his bed, tossing and turning. He went to his small study and turning on the desk lamp began to look for some specific books on the history of his small town. He smiled as he listened to the occasional whirring sound of his wife’s sewing machine. He loved how she could take pieces of cloth and seem to magically create clothing from them.

Ernie’s smile widened as his hands fell onto a very thick and heavy book titled, “Brightly Lit, an Illustrated History of Brightly, British Columbia.” Using both hands, he tugged down the ponderous volume and set it down on the table with as much care as he was able to manage. He began to page through the images and the biographies of people who had made Brightly what it was, and his eyes settled on one entry in particular.

John Leung - Arrived in Brightly as a penniless miner of Asian descent. His first mention in Brightly is as the victim of an explosion and cave-in at Number Two Mine. He was trapped in an air pocket for five days and was not expected to be found alive. However, when rescuers broke through to him he was in surprisingly good health, which he attributed to the assistance of “a celestial spirit” who helped him survive.

He worked in the mines until age 21 when he quit the mines to run an independent store for the miners who used to be his co-workers. He and his store were noted for being willing to bring in anything the miners asked for, and for ignoring the mining company's blacklist, gladly serving any miner, past or present, who entered his store. His stand brought him into conflict with the mining company and he soon found himself blacklisted from using any company supply ships to restock his shelves. Despite the extra costs, he hired his own supply ships and kept his store fully stocked, much to the anger of company officials.

This came to be of particular importance in 1918. After the murder of Albert “Ginger” Goodwin by a company enforcer in the forests near Cumberland, a wave of labour unrest swept across the BC coast, culminating in a series of bitter mine strikes in several communities. During the strike in Brightly, the company forbade any of its stores to sell anything to striking workers or their families with the intent of starving the miners into submission.

Leung cheerfully ignored the prohibition, selling to any and all customers, even allowing striking miners to purchase needed goods on credit. Doing so helped prolong the strike which eventually caused the mine owners to give in to the demands of the striking workers and paved the way for general strikes across the nation, culminating in the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, which was a defining moment in Canadian labour history.

After the strikes were over, and relative labour peace was restored. Leung publicly burned all of the credit slips of the miners who had been forced to purchase on credit, an action that earned him the title “The Spirit of Generosity.” From that point on the company stores were doomed as almost the entire town began to buy from him. More than once, the mining company tried to undercut his prices to ruin him, but such tactics never seemed to bother him or his store. Thugs, hired by the mine, tried to intimidate him on more than one occasion. But each time miners would come to his defence, protecting him and running the thugs out of town.

After the mines closed down, Leung continued to run his store, refusing to leave Brightly for larger, more prosperous communities. When asked why he stayed, he always had the same answer, “This is where the celestial horse of the Jade Heavens saved my life and delivered the blessings I have been able to share with my friends, my family and my community. I do not need to go anywhere else.”

Ernie leaned back in his chair. Old Man Leung seemed to somehow be at the centre of the mystery that involved his and his neighbor’s children. It was at the site of his warehouse where the book had been found after all, and the way it was protected definitely said “Asian,” which Leung had been. Ernie got up from his chair and went back to the shelves. He had almost as much documentation on Brightly and its history as the local museum did, and book after book began to come off his shelves to sit on his desk. This was going to take some digging, but he had time.

Despite their individual restlessness, each of the four parents fell asleep at one point or another over the course of the night. The first of them to wake up though, was Arnold Kye as the chirping of birds outside the window stirred him to wakefulness. Stretching a bit, he quietly pulled himself together and looked over to his son. Billy had buried himself under his covers as he tended to do, but Arnold could see the shape of his son by the light of the morning overcast.

Feeling his joints pop, he stood up as quietly as he could and made his way over to his son’s bed. He drew back the covers carefully and kissed his son’s dirty blond hair. He turned, gathering up the remains of his snacks and books and a smile lit his face as he remembered the cherubic face of his sleeping son. Arnold felt his heart seize as he realized what he had just seen. His son’s face, his son’s human face, and eyes wide in hope, he spun around to look back at the bed. There lay his son, quietly breathing and as human as he had been twenty-four hours ago.

Nerves singing, his hand shaking a tiny bit, Arnold reached out to touch his son’s hair. It was dirty blond and mussed and completely normal. Taking a slow, deep calming breath he crept from the room and made his way to his kitchen phone where he punched in a number. The phone rang several times.

“Huh, Arn?” Jean’s sleepy voice came from the other end. “What’s up?”

“Jean,” Arnold said without preamble, “go check your girls right now. Billy’s back to normal.” Arnold heard a sharp intake of breath followed by the sound of the connection cutting off. Chuckling, Arnold hung up and then dialed the Pedersen’s.

“Are you sure?” Lynn asked, from the phone in her sewing room, and her eyes raised to the floor above where her children slept. “Okay, thanks Arnold, we’ll call you back.” She hung up the phone to see her bleary-eyed husband standing in the doorway.

“Who was that?” he asked her, rubbing his bloodshot eyes.

“That was Arnold. He says Billy is back to normal,” Lynn said, in a deceptively calm voice. She saw the sudden apprehension in her husband’s eyes as hope and fear warred for dominance within him.

“We better go check on them then,” Ernie said, holding out a hand to his wife. She took it and they clasped hands for a moment, looking into each other’s eyes. An entire conversation silently passed between the two of them in that moment, then Ernie nodded and the two of them went upstairs to the bedroom of their son and daughter. By mutual, unspoken agreement Ernie went to check on his son, while Lynn looked in on their daughter.

“Ernie,” Lynn asked, from Kylara’s room, “are you seeing what I’m seeing?”

“I am,” Ernie said, looking down at the sleeping, perfectly normal form of his son in his bed. “Lord of Hosts, Father of Mercy, thank you for restoring my children.” Zak stirred at the sound of his father’s prayer, as fervent as it was rare.

“Hey Dad,” Zak said, sleepily, cracking his eyes open and stretching. “What’s up?” Ernie Harding cut off his prayer, and bent low to wrap his son in a hug. Zak hugged back in automatic response and noticed the changes.

“Hey!” he said, wiggling his fingers in front of him, “I’m a kid again!”

“You sure are,” Ernie said, smiling as he heard similar happy chatter between his wife and daughter in the other bedroom. “Get yourself up Zak, and I’ll make us all an early breakfast. Church is in a couple of hours and today is one day we are going.” Zak’s father gave his son a last squeeze and got up, collecting his wife from Kylara’s room.

After their happy parents went downstairs, Zak and Kylara both got out of bed and began to dress.

“So Kya,” Zak called over from his room, as he put on a shirt. “No more hooves for you either?”

“No hooves,” Kya said, rummaging through her drawers, “and I was really getting to like being a pony too.”

“Granny Smith,” Princess Celestia said warmly, “thank you so much for coming.”

“Oh, shucks Princess,” the elderly mare said, “tweren't nuthin’. Any Apple would be right pleased to be able to help you out.”

“Still, I’m glad you were able to catch the overnight train,” Celestia said, smiling. “Come with me and we’ll go to my sitting room and have some tea.” Granny Smith fell into step beside her ruler, who took pains to keep her pace slow so as not to stress the matriarch of the Apple Family. Frozen Quill and a pair of guards fell in behind them.

“You know why I sent for you?” Celestia asked, as she opened the door to her sitting room. The morning sun streamed in through the open balcony, illuminating the table set with a silver tea service. The room itself was dressed in expensive fabrics and furniture but it managed to retain a lived-in look. It was a comfortable room, putting those who entered it at ease.

“There’s really only one reason why’d you'd be calling me here and not Applejack,” Granny Smith said, following Celestia into the room and taking a seat with some difficulty. “Gloaming’s mirror’s gone and fired up again, ain’t it?”

“Age hasn’t slowed down your mind at all, Granny,” Celestia said, as she began to pour tea.

“Excuse me,” Frozen Quill said, interrupting, “if I may. How do you and Gloaming fit into this?”

“Granny, allow me to introduce Frozen Quill,” Celestia said, setting laden teacups before both her guests. “Frozen Quill is one of our archivists and he is the one who discovered that, as you guessed, Gloaming Gleam’s mirror has activated again.” Granny Smith looked down sadly at her tea.

“Is it the same poor pony on the other end as before?” she asked, taking an apple fritter from a tray.

“I called through the mirror all night, Granny,” Celestia said, taking a sip of tea. “There was no response.”

“Ah still remember the voice of that poor colt,” Granny said. “All alone and desperate to hear the voice of somepony, anypony before they died.”

“I’m sorry, Frozen Quill,” Celestia said, apology in her voice as confusion manifested itself on the archivist's face. “I told you some of the middle before the beginning or the end. Granny, maybe we should just tell our poor archivist the whole story from the beginning?”

“Heh, ya I durn figured this colt of yours here was gonna explode from the half bits we dun gave him,” Granny Smith said, with a cackle. “Yer just like my granddaughter’s friend, Twilight. Always wantin’ to know everything and write it all down.”

“Ma’am,” Frozen Quill said, pleased pride flowing into his breast. “I will take being compared to the Princess of Friendship as a great compliment.”

“Ah meant it as one. The Princess says a lot of good things about ya, which is why I’m fine with you being the one to finally write all this down,” Granny Smith said, as Frozen Quill blushed at the praise. “Anyway, it were all right at the beginning. Oh, I had suitors a’plenty in those days. You may not know it to look at this old piece of fruit leather, but I was considered quite the catch in the day.”

“If even half of what I’ve read of your granddaughter is true, I can believe it,” Frozen Quill said, as he pulled out a stack of parchments and writing materials. “The Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

“Heh, good one,” Granny said, smiling. “As I were saying though, Ah had many a suitor, and among them was a handsome young unicorn stallion by the name of Gloaming Gleam. He was a fine looking stallion, smart as a whip too. He came out to Ponyville and the farm, to try to figure out how Earth Pony magic worked, right from the source as it were.”

“Princess Celestia told me that you had been courted by a Gloaming Gleam. But I can’t shake the feeling I’ve heard the name before,” Frozen Quill said, rhetorically.

“Gloaming Gleam went on to become an archivist like yourself, here in Canterlot, so you've likely seen some of his work in passing,” Celestia said, answering the question anyway. “He also was the father of Night Light, Twilight Sparkle’s father.” Frozen Quill’s eyes went wide as he made the connections and his quill began to fly across the parchment.

“Anyway,” Granny Smith said, continuing. “He came out to study magic, and soon took a shine to me. And Ah have to say Ah took a shine right back. Soon enough, though, he had to go back to the big city and it began to tear him up something fierce. So, he dun’ made me up that mirror so we could talk back and forth no matter where we were.”

“But the mirror is more than a simply scrying device,” Frozen Quill said in protest, looking up from his writing.

“Ah’m gettin to that. Hold yer horses, you young whippersnapper,” Granny Smith said, a little testily.

“Sorry Ma’am,” he said, apologizing. “This is all just so fascinating.”

“Well, fair enough,” Granny Smith said, accepting the apology, “and yer right. The mirror he made only let us talk, in the beginning. But then, one day, we Apples were making one of their first batches of Zap Apple jam and the dang mirror fell into the pot. Ah pulled it out as fast as I could and cleaned it off but the damage was done.” Granny Smith leaned back and took a long sip of her tea.

“What happened?’ Frozen Quill prompted, quill hovering in anticipation.

“Welp,” Granny Smith said, setting down her cup, “we found out the blasted thing would open up a kinda hole between here n’ there. Me and Gloaming could send stuff to each other. Nothing big, mind you, the hole weren’t much larger than an apple. Then...” Granny Smith paused as an old pain brought tears to her eyes.

“Would it be better if I told Frozen Quill the rest of the story?” Celestia asked, wrapping a comforting wing around the old mare.

“Thank ye kindly, but no, Princess,” Granny Smith said, wiping a tear from her eyes. “It all turned out well, in the end.” The older pony seemed to summon the strength inherent in her breed and pressed on. “Anyhow, one night Ah woke to the sound of somepony crying...”

Author's Note:

So, things seem to be getting back to normal and the kids will never be ponies again....


Their four legged days are far from over, but we are going to leave them for a little bit and take a side trip to Equestria. Where some secrets will be revealed.

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