• Published 23rd Jun 2017
  • 1,344 Views, 39 Comments

The Ones Who Returned From Stone - Skijarama



Equestria has fallen. The Crystal Empire is all that remains of organized pony society, and the survivors want their home back.

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Chapter 10 - Reconnecting

Twilight stood a ways away from Blackberry, eyeing him curiously while Lumberjack gave him one more look over with Wonderboom assisting. He was sitting up on the edge of one of the tables near the fireplace, his forelegs propping him up. He seemed to be doing better, now with a large patch of gauze covering up where he had been wounded, held in place with medical tape and likely having a healing salve smeared over the area underneath. Blackberry chuckled slightly at some remark Lumberjack made before his eyes locked with Twilight’s. Twilight’s eyes flicked away for a moment before she shook off any of her unease and approached.

“...Princess Twilight.” Blackberry greeted with a small nod of his head as she approached.

“You all healed up?” Twilight said in a friendly tone.

“Yup. Wonder says I’ll need to take it easy and try not to let anything irritate the wounded area, but besides that I should be fine,” Blackberry replied before gently touching a hoof to the bandage. “Guh, it itches like a mother, though.”

Lumberjack caught site of Twilight then and rotated himself to look at her face. “You and Drifter get it all sorted?” he asked gently while looking for any signs of bruising on Twilight’s face where Drifter had punched her earlier.

“Yeah. We’re good. Drifter’s spending some time with Luna before we go… we’ve been gone a while. The two should catch up,” Twilight answered with a nod before looking down slightly.

“Well, don’t you forget that you’ve got… what was it? Eight? Nine?” Lumberjack trailed off and looked to Wonderboom for help. Wonder got a thoughtful look on her face.

“Let’s see… You’ve got Twilight’s main circle of friends and Spike, so that’s six. There’s also Shining Armor, Starlight, Sunburst and Flurry Heart. That’s ten ponies she’s going to be catching up with at bare minimum.” Wonderboom said while doing the math. Twilight’s eyes shot over to Wonderboom, widening slightly.

“Wait… Flurry Heart? But she’s just a-” Twilight began before stopping herself. She bit her lip before shaking her head in exasperation. “...Right… she’s all grown up now, isn’t she?”

Wonderboom sighed softly before trotting up to Twilight’s side and rested a hoof on her shoulder comfortingly. “Grown up and in charge of the Empire. ...Drifter doesn’t want us to say anything more than that for now, though. She thinks it’s best if you hear it from the rest.” she said before giving Twilight a small smile, though it was clearly forced.

“Right…” Twilight closed her eyes before taking a deep breath. She then re-opened her eyes and locked gazes with Blackberry. “Anyway, Your name is Blackberry, right?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Blackberry nodded curtly.

“Drifter says you were the one who tracked me down. That, in a way, means that I have you to thank for my release,” Twilight said before shuffling in place a little awkwardly. “We’ve been traveling together since I was released. And yet I know almost nothing about you. I guess I’m wanting to fix that.”

Blackberry raised an eyebrow but nodded. “Huh… not a question I’m used to answering. Where do I start…?” he hummed and put a hoof to his chin in thought for several long moments. As he did this, Lumberjack and Wonder silently excused themselves, trotting off to tend to the fireplace and meet up with Palmwood, respectively. “Well, I’m not anypony super special, first off. I was only a colt when Princess Celestia died; had only had my Cutie Mark for a year or so. Good at growing plants and especially good with blackberry bushes, obviously,” a small smile found its way onto Blackberry’s face. That smile then faded. “Well, once you and Princess Luna were captured, my life turned upside down along with everypony else's. My folks had the foresight to teach me the necessities of survival in case things got really bad, which they did… I’m grateful they managed to do that. I owe them...”

Twilight frowned when she heard the despondent and sorrowful edge creep into Blackberry’s voice. “...You lost your parents, didn’t you?” she asked carefully.

“That’s nothing new, Princess. A lotta ponies did. Those kids running around with your hybrid friend seem to be a pristine example,” Blackberry pointed out before sighing. “But yeah. Lost them when Canterlot collapsed. They were right in the impact zone at the base of the mountain, gathering supplies and food and whatnot. Then the city fell down the mountain. I was miles away watching it happen from our camp… Powerless...”

“I’m so sorry…” Twilight said softly, reaching out to comfort him.

“It’s fine, Princess. I got over it years ago,” Blackberry dismissed simply while brushing Twilight’s hoof away. There was still a downtrodden look about him as he continued. “But… I won’t lie, it was horrible at the time. I mean, sure, I knew how to make it on my own, but… I didn’t want to be on my own… Damn near offed myself a few times, I’m ashamed to admit.” a thin smile replaced Blackberry’s frown. “Heh… But then, like a freakin’ miracle, into my life came Grapes.”

“Grapes?” Twilight asked curiously, noting the way that Blackberry started to relax and look happier just thinking about it.

“My wife,” Blackberry elaborated before his muzzle scrunched up. “Well, I say ‘wife,’ but we never had a ceremony, never got officially hitched. Nopony around to seal the deal, what, with Equestria crumbling into dust at the time, you know? But… we just… kinda agreed. We’re married as far as we’re concerned.”

Twilight felt her heart and blood warm up a little at that. “Sounds like you really love her.” she said softly.

“I do. I love her and our little boy more than anything else in this world,” Blackberry said with a curt nod before slipping off of the table. “And to be honest, it was only thanks to the promise of their safety that I even agreed to help find you. If entry into the empire wasn’t the reward, I would not have left them for even a second, even if doing so would mean bringing you and Luna back.”

Twilight nodded slowly. “I think I understand…”

“I mean… I know Grapes can take good care of herself and Bramble, but…” Blackberry shook himself and sighed. “They're my family, you know? All I got left. Grapes has called me ‘papa wolf’ more than one because of how protective I am... They should be waiting for me up in the Crystal Empire by now.”

“Then let’s make sure we get you back to them, okay?” Twilight asked, a sliver of confidence and hope worming its way into her voice.

Blackberry grinned and nodded enthusiastically. “Hell yeah. Now, pardon me, but I’m going to go get some soup, okay? It was nice chatting with you.” he said before moving past Twilight to a table a little ways off that had an enormous serving bowl filled to the brim with warm, divine smelling soup on its surface.

As Blackberry strolled by, Twilight bit her lip for a moment, then turned to look into his back as he trotted away. “Oh, and, Blackberry?”

“Hm?” Blackberry looked over his shoulder at Twilight, tilting his head curiously.

“Thank you for helping Drifter… I owe you.”

Blackberry smirked over his shoulder at Twilight before chuckling. “You owe me, eh? Ah, shit, that’s an honor. Tell you what, you can repay what you owe me by making sure that Luminous Horizon bastard dies. Do that and we’re even, deal?”

Twilight grinned and nodded sharply. “Yes, deal.”

In stark contrast to the warm interior of the inn, Drifter and Luna were resting on the roof, having cleared away some of the snow and keeping more out with an invisible barrier created by Luna. They were both looking up in the general direction of the Red Ring. More specifically, they were looking at the moon, still faintly visible next to it. For a time, the two had just sat there, enjoying the quiet. Finally, Drifter looked at Luna to her left with an uneasy expression. “...Luna?”

“Hm?”

“What was it like… being stuck inside that stone prison for so long?”

Luna grimaced and dropped her gaze away from the moon. “...To be frank, being trapped and then being released were the worst parts. My mind was completely shut down in there and Horizon didn’t seem capable of assaulting my mind with nightmares,” Luna snapped her eyes shut and shuddered uncomfortably at the memory. “But being petrified… it was a horrific experience. Your entire body locks up, unable to move. You can feel your body becoming heavier and more rigid as the stone spreads… you can feel it filling your lungs and you can no longer breath. You can only look forward, powerless. And then, even that is swallowed whole by the stone as it covers your eyes…”

Drifter nodded grimly. “Well, at least for you, it was over as soon as it started, right? Like somewhat knocked you forward in time with no delay?”

“Indeed. From the moment I lost awareness within that prison, it was mere moments before I found myself waking up by your campfire.” Luna confirmed with a small nod before opening her eyes again.

“...To be honest, I’m not sure which is worse,” Drifter began after several moments of silence, drawing Luna’s attention. Drifter looked out over the surrounding landscape. “For you, it must be jarring. Waking up and finding the whole world is so completely different than when you lost consciousness. But for me… for the kids…” Drifter’s eyes took on a far more somber tilt. “...for all of the rest of us, we had to see the changes. Played a part in trying to stop them and make the best of a worsening situation. We were able to harden ourselves against it all, but that doesn’t make it easy.”

“...The difference between intense pain that lasts for only a moment, and a dull throb that lasts for years,” Luna simplified with a small nod. “...Alas, I fear I cannot say for sure which one is worse. But that does not matter. All that matters is that it is suffering, the degree is arbitrary. All we can do now is ensure that this suffering ends.”

Drifter nodded confidently before the two fell silent again. Drifter closed her eyes for a moment before looking at Luna one last time. “It’s good to have you back, Luna.”

Luna smiled in returned before unfurling one of her large, midnight blue wings, and drawing Drifter in closer with in. “It’s good to be back. I am looking forward to rebuilding.”

Drifter nodded and relaxed somewhat, feeling her aunt hold her close. “So am I. But we need to deal with Horizon, first.”

“And we will,” Luna said, a cold edge entering her voice as she once more glared up into the Red Ring.

“...We will.”