• 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 9: Eye of the Tiger

For several long moments there were no sounds other than the scratching sound of Frozen Quill’s writing implement as he wrote out the account while the two mares in the room, one elderly, one eternal, gave him the time to get caught up while they finished off their tea.

“Incredible,” Frozen Quill said, as he finished, looking up. He had the look of a starved pony who was halfway through a feast. “What happened next, Granny Smith? What did you talk about?”

“Oh, all kinds a things,” the elderly earth pony replied. “Over the next five days I think it was, Ah sorta held his hoof while he waited for the other miners to dig him out.”

“I assume they did,” Frozen Quill said, adding to the account.

“Indeed they did,” Celestia supplied, her eyes distant. “Lee Ung was discreet enough to hide the portal before his fellows opened up the area where he was. Even discreet enough that we were able to make contact again afterwards.” Frozen Quill’s eyebrows and ears both went straight up at that bit of knowledge, but he held his tongue, even though Celestia could see he was burning to ask more questions.

“Go ahead Frozen Quill,” Celestia said, with humour in her voice at the restraint of the archivist. “Ask your questions before you pop something.” The pony had the grace to look a little embarrassed at how obvious he was being.

“Thank you, Princess,” he said, nodding his thanks. “If this other pony was able to make contact with you later, does it mean that the portal on his side is mobile? Like the hoof mirror?”

“I’m afraid not,” Princess Celestia said, an oddly wistful smile on her face. “Much like the portal to the world that plays host to Sunset Shimmer, the portal on the far side of the hoof mirror is fixed to a specific location. It would take several unicorns working together or an alicorn on that side of the portal to move it.”

“We stopped hearing from Lee Ung about three years after we got him outta that pickle,” Granny Smith said. “Said he was getting outta mining and was gonna start selling supplies and such to the others. Seems those gems Ah passed him were worth a few bits on his side and he was using them to start up.”

“Wait,” Celestia said, interrupting. “You sent him gems? I sent him gems over those years as well. Oh...Oh my.” Celestia's eyes became distant again as she looked back across the years, and an amused half-smile came over her lips.

“He he he,” Granny Smith cackled. “No wonder he sounded so pleased with hisself the last time we talked. Oh, we musta set him up a pretty bit, eh Princess?”

“Indeed we did,” Celestia said, coming around the table to give Granny Smith a hug. “We got taken in by a pretty voice. Oh, that rascal.” Celestia’s smile was wide and broad now.

“Eh, Ah don’t regret nothin’,” Granny Smith said, returning the hug. “He was a good pony, even if he really weren’t one. But that gets us to where we are all at now. Have either you or this smart pony here figured out why the mirror has lit up again now, after all this time?”

“Well, Frozen Quill, any thoughts?” Celestia inquired as she released the earth pony and looked over at Frozen Quill. The unicorn finished writing things down and frowned in thought as he consulted his notes for a few moments, before looking up at the two mares across from him.

“My guess is that someone is drawing on the power absorbed by the book,” Frozen Quill said. “As that power drains out, the portal is opening in a sympathetic response. Princess, this explains why you wanted the mirror watched, to see if somepony was going to make contact again.”

“Indeed, but as the years passed into decades I assumed that the portal languished in a forgotten section of that mine, which is likely long abandoned by now,” Celestia said, a little saddened but then her expression brightened. “I wonder. Perhaps Lee had foals of his own, and it is his descendants who are now drawing on the power.”

“Perhaps,” Frozen Quill said. “Princess, with your permission I would like to take the mirror to be examined by the College of Magic.” Celestia nodded.

“You should also contact Princess Twilight, to have her take a look at it as well,” Celestia said, putting a hoof to her chin as she considered options. “She knows more about mirror portals than anypony alive, including myself.”

“Of course, Princess,” Frozen Quill said, bowing to his monarch.

School. The bane of children, that chains them for six or seven boring hours in one place away from the wonder of fun. A dungeon of drudgery, tormenting children with fact, figures, letters and learning. A seeming endless enslavement to unwanted and unneeded knowledge, only relieved by the occasional break. So when those breaks came, they were embraced with the thorough fullness that only the young can bring to such an activity. Their minds and bodies engaged completely in the process of having fun, at least until they were dragged back inside by their teachers.

Brightly Regional School was located on the opposite end of town from the lake and the old town site, and well positioned on the road leading down and away to the ocean, some eight kilometers away. The school’s single, large building sat in a big grassy field, which was bordered on one side by the road, houses on the other, and the pines and firs of the local second growth forest on the other two.

As such, the near areas of the woods, while not actually allowed to the students during breaks, were not completely forbidden either. As long as the students stayed within about five or six meters of the edge of the field, no one really batted an eye. In fact, years ago, an enterprising parent had actually marked a line of trees with bright paint and they had become the de facto border, with the children not straying beyond the line in return for being allowed to enter the forest at least that far.

It was in this wooded between space that young Romy Pedersen was playing during the Tuesday lunch break by making a pretend house out of sticks surrounded by groomed pine needles and other forest materials. It was another fairly warm day with a surprising amount of sunshine for spring. Engrossed as she was in the fantasy homestead she was creating, she didn’t hear the three older girls come up behind her.

“Well, if it isn’t the eye freak,” came the voice of Alice Seigler, a blond girl who was fully two years ahead of Romy, and who in a regular school system would already be in the lower levels of high school. “Watcha seeing, freak?”

Due to Brightly’s relative isolation, in comparison to the urban schools in the province, the school catered to the entire run of grades, from kindergarten all the way up to Grade 12. This made for an extremely wide range of ages in the student body of around 150 who came from Brightly itself and the few nearby hamlets.

Romy startled a bit in surprise, knocking over a mini lean-to she had been setting up beside the little house, and then hunching her shoulders she turned to look at her tormentor. There was Alice, a couple of meters away and flanking her were her two friends, Connie and Sharon. The three were friends by dint of their parents all having served in the Canadian military, and coming back alive from a deployment to Afghanistan. A fact the trio never failed to remind anyone at any opportunity they could.

“Hello Alice,” Romy said, knowing this probably was not going to end well. “Are you lost?’

“What do you mean by that, freak?’ Alice demanded, emphasizing the word as she took a step forward.

“The last time you saw me you said you never wanted to thee me again,” Romy said, standing up slowly. “Tho I have to wonder if you are lost and need directions.”

“I think freaks with weird eyes who can’t say their words right shouldn’t talk at all,” Alice said, taking another menacing step forward, her companions moving out a bit to the sides. Romy was trying to think of a response and how to get away when a quiet voice interrupted things.

“Is there a reason why you’re picking on someone half your size?” the quiet voice interrupted, and Kylara calmly stepped from around the fat bole of an old cedar tree, her red hair like a banner behind her back. She regarded the trio menacing her friend with all the fear the wind had of a mountain.

“This doesn’t have anything to do with you,” Connie said, planting a fist on her hip and half turning to face Kylara.

“Romy’s my friend,” Kylara replied, in that same calm and still voice as she moved up to stand to one side of Romy.

“Fine,” Alice spat, recovering her balance after the sudden arrival of an ally for her prey. “You can have some of what she’s having.”

“Oh, giving something away, Alice?” another new voice asked, and from the other side of the group Romy’s sister, Rowan, came striding up. “I’ve heard that you give a lot of things away.” Rowan smirked just a bit to help the verbal barb slide home.

“Uh...” Alice said, unsure of how to react. Things had started out pretty straight forward, catching the little eye freak all by herself during lunch break. Plenty of time to have some fun by trolling her in real life and teaching her to stay out of Alice’s way. Alice hadn’t planned on having to deal with both the freak’s witchy sister and her friend. Connie and Sharon both looked at her, questions in their eyes, and the doubt Alice saw there stiffened her spine and her resolve. “Fine, I guess there’s enough for all three of you.” Alice said, setting her course.

“Enough what?” yet another voice asked, and Alice looked wildly around in time to see Billy Kye step through the trees from beyond the boundary line. He was walking along with a trimmed branch as a walking stick, and everyone could see the stems and leaves of several plants he had gathered, sticking out of a plastic bag he had tied to a belt loop.

“Um, nothing,” Alice said, her aggression gone. Bullying one freak, even two, wasn’t a problem and taking on all three of the shrimps in front of her wouldn’t have been much of a problem either. She and her friends were bigger than the freaks and their friend after all, but the arrival of Billy changed everything. Not only was her side now outnumbered, but Billy had a reputation for strength and toughness, especially when it came to sticking up for his friends. Alice began to back away.

“Is there some sort of problem?” Billy asked, circling around the aggressors to take a stand with Rowan, with Romy and Kya behind her. He watched Alice continue to back up, Sharon and Connie with her, confused at the turn of events. “You know Alice, maybe you should just head in for now.” Billy was more than willing to let Alice keep backing up with her friends, especially if it brought this confrontation to a close. Alice backed up another step and Billy was about to breathe a sigh of relief when, attracted by the clustering going on in the trees, Alice’s brother decided to check things out.

“Are you messing with my sister?” Gary, Alice’s brother demanded, as he walked up with his buddy Nelson. The two had a fearsome reputation among the local youngsters, such that the pair had earned the nicknames “Turtle” and “Knuckles” because of how they would get into fights and just shrug off blows while dishing out damage. Billy had never had to confront them because of how much older they were than him. The pair would be graduating soon and would likely never be seen again as they had told everyone they had planned to get jobs up the coast in Kitamat.

“I’m not messing with anyone,” Billy said, trying to keep things calm and knowing that if things got physical, the odds of him lasting long against the pair were very small. “Maybe we should all just walk away and head back to school, eh?” Gary just sneered at that.

“I don’t think so, you little shit,” Gary said, stepping up to loom a full two heads of height over the younger boy. “I think maybe I should beat the crap out of you just for talking to my sister.” Gary had all the advantages and he knew it. He was going to pound this little worm who had the nerve to talk back to his sister right into the ground. It was just a matter of deciding when and where to punch.

“You know, Turtle,” Zak Harding said as he ran up and slid to a stop by his friend, so that he was in front of Nelson, aka Knuckles. “I hear that the principal told you that if you get in one more fight before graduation, he’s going to suspend you so you can’t graduate at all. Maybe we should all just walk away.”

“No little shit tells me what to do,” Gary said, angered now. “I’m gonna pound you all into the ground like tent pegs. What are you gonna do about that?” He pushed himself into Billy, chest first, forcing Billy back a couple of steps and assuming that like so many times before, his opponent would passively wait for him to strike the first blow.

Billy was afraid, but he didn’t let it show because he knew that you never let a predator see fear. Instead, he took a calming breath and some of the words of his father rolled through his memory from a talk they’d had just after Billy started school.

“Son, one day, no matter what you do or say, you will be in a fight. When that happens you need to remember two things,” Arnold had told his son. “First, only fight to protect yourself or others you care for. Don’t fight for money or honor or stupid things like that. Fight for people, because everything else can be replaced. Second, when you fight, fight with everything you have. Forget about rules or ‘fighting fair.’ Fight to win, because it’s who wins the fight that decides what was fair or not.”

His father had never mentioned it again, but Billy had never forgotten the quiet steel in those words, along with the one or two bits of fighting he had taught to Billy and Zak. So, when Gary came in for another empowering chest bump, Billy was ready and knew what to do.

As Gary thrust his chest at Billy to push him back again and continue to establish dominance, Billy dropped to a crouch and bounced straight back up, bringing his fist up along with him. His rising fist gained the combined momentum of his arms and legs together, and he hit Gary straight in the groin with every erg of power he could muster. Everything seemed to slow down from that point as Gary began to fold over his gut, letting out a noise that almost sounded like a steam engine tearing itself apart.

Nelson looked on in shock as his friend, who had rarely been staggered by even the hardest punches, began to keel over like a fallen tree. He turned, took a step to close the distance, and swung a leg back to kick the hell out of the little bastard who had gotten in a cheap shot on his buddy. In doing so, however, he ignored the fact that Zak was right in front of him, being under the assumption that there was nothing that the smaller and lighter boy could do to him. He was wrong.

Zak kicked off from the fallen trunk of a sapling like it was a starter’s block, launching himself forward with the force of a small missile. Either through intent or accident, Zak threw a near perfect rugby tackle into the much larger boy, but with one vital difference. A standard rugby tackle is to the upper legs or thighs, but Zak’s shoulder hit Nelson’s knees at right angles to the motion of the joint. Around forty kilograms of weight, backed up with the speed of Zak’s lunge, impacted the joint that was carrying all of Nelson’s weight at the exact worst possible angle and the joint popped under the blow.

Nelson’s keening wail of agony sent birds flying, as it joined Gary’s groan and both collapsed to the ground. Terrified of what would happen if the two much larger, more powerful boys managed to get their feet back under them, Zak and Billy got on top of Nelson and Gary, and started raining down blow after blow. While this was happening, Romy, Rowan and Kylara jumped the three girls in front of them, and the entire fracas turned into a massive biting, kicking and scratching affair that went on for a few minutes more before it attracted the attention of the teacher assigned to monitor the play areas.

“I have to say, I’m very disappointed in you lot,” Principal Hoeppner said, about an hour later to the assembled group of five in his office. “I can’t think of the last time I’ve had a problem with any of you.”

“But Principal--” Zak began, before a raised hand cut him off.

“I’ve got a pretty good idea what happened,” Hoeppner said, schooling his face to maintain a disappointed frown. “I’ve already spoken to Mrs. Knights, who was on playground duty, and to the other group involved in this headache.”

“Yes sir,” the group of children said in unison, staring down at the floor with shame as they did so.

“Now, while it’s pretty clear the others involved in this were the aggressors, it is also true that there is going to be a district level inquiry into this,” Hoeppner continued. “Do you know why?” A mumbled chorus of “No, sir” reached him from the group.

“It seems someone caused a major injury to Nelson,” Hoeppner said, looking toward Zak. “It’s severe enough in fact, that Nelson is going to be airlifted out to the hospital in Haida Gwaii in a few hours and may even have to go down to Vancouver at some point to have his knee repaired.” The room was still for nearly half a minute after that, until Zak spoke up.

“Sir, I did it to him,” Zak said, looking up at the principal. “I didn’t mean to. I just wanted to tackle him and I lunged and things sorta...popped. Don’t punish the others, I’m the one to blame.” Hoeppner sighed.

“I know the actual injury was an accident. In fact, odd as it sounds, you and Billy seem to have gained some respect from Nelson and Gary,” the principal said, with a wry look toward the boys. “However, school district policy is clear. For fighting and causing injury, all five of you are suspended for the next three days. The superintendent will be here tomorrow for the mandatory inquiry, but in exchange for being allowed to graduate, Gary has freely admitted that his group caused the altercation and is accepting all blame for it.”

“Are you going to tell our parents?” Romy asked, in a small voice.

“Young lady,” Hoeppner said, with a slight chuckle. “I think your mother would notice if you weren’t in school for three days. I will be arranging for your teachers to send work home for you, after which I will be calling your parents and having chats with them, explaining the situation.” He was interrupted as an old dot-matrix style printer sprung to life behind him, startling everybody.

“I didn’t even know that worked,” Billy said, nodding to the printer chattering away underneath a rigid plastic case.

“It’s one of two printers in town that are hooked up to the microwave system used by BC Hydro,” Hoeppner said, by way of explanation as he turned to read the message being printed out.

“Microwaves?” Rowan asked, in an attempt to distract the principal as she saw how intent he was on whatever it was that the machine was printing out.

“As you know kids,” the principal said, slipping into "teacher" mode. “BC Hydro is responsible for generating and distributing electricity across the province. Part of that includes a series of microwave relay towers to send important messages and data, and this printer here, plus one in the mayor’s office, are part of that system.”

“What’s the message say?’ Zak asked, craning to get a look.

“It says there’s a storm coming, a big one.”

Author's Note:

I borrowed the names of a couple of my own elementary school teachers here. Edna Knights was my Grade 3 teacher, and Mr. Hoeppner was the principal. Both have since moved on to that great chalkboard in the sky, having shaped generations of young children. And, in case anyone was wondering, this is about as gritty as this story is going to get. I need to stick to that "E" tag after all.

If you want to say "Hi" or anything, you can find me often on Damaged's Discord server. Just be aware, the server is for 18+ as any and all conversation there should be considered NSFW. You can also find me hanging out in Second Life as "Penalt Godenot." Frequent hang out locations are the YouMustObey sim, which is welcoming to all avatar types and has some very mellow tunes that I find good to write by. I can also be found in Trotsdale or The Burning Mare near their central fires.

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