• Published 23rd Mar 2018
  • 1,584 Views, 103 Comments

Night Mares and Daydreams - Dreams of Ponies

It's been months since Nightmare Moon was banished, and things have started to settle down. Yet, mysterious things were still ahoof, when one night a stranger happens upon my door with something that will change my life forever.

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Chapter Nine: Canterlot

Shing. Shing. The moderate amount of coins gave a comforting chinkle as I finished packing. The moon was just starting to peek over the treeline as a shuffle of hooves from upstairs made me sigh.

By the time my little moon could see the big moon, I was packed and ready to go. Moving carefully down the stairs behind her, hooves against the wall for support, was our— I mean her patient.

“Moony, Starbright, I’m heading for the new castle.”

“Oh, Canterlot!” Little blue eyes lit up as Starbright spoke. “But that’s we--” He stopped, shaking his head. “I mean, how come?”

I raised an eyebrow, but continued anyway, “Out of stock of a few more mundane ingredients. You can find the craziest things around here, but you try to grow marigolds without the forest turning them purple just because it feels like it.” I shook my head and grinned at Moon Flower. “The forest messes with me more than you do.”

She giggled as I booped her nose. “I learned from the best, Daddy! Oh! Do I get to come with you this time? Pweeeeeese! You promised!”

I clutched my heart in an overblown gesture as the waterworks began. “Oh, my poor little princess!” Then I straightened. “Doctor Moon Flower needs to tend to her patient while I’m gone. Annnnnd,” I interrupted her groan with a raised hoof, “if she does a good job, I’ll bring back a bag of something sweet for you two to share.”

She looked pointedly away while trying to smile. “It better be a big bag.”

Snorting, I reached forward and brushed her mane back, looking into her big, turquoise eyes. “Be safe, Moony. I love you.”

We hugged tight, her wings pressing against my shoulders. “I love you too, Daddy. Please come back soon.”

I kept the embrace for a few seconds longer before pulling away to look at Starbright. “You focus on getting better. Do everything your doctor tells you, okay? 'Cause if you don’t, well…”

Moon Flower developed the most mischievous grin. “Oh, I have my ways, Daddy…” The evil giggling was my signal to head out, a little smirk on my face as I crossed the line of toadstools that bordered my yard.

Taking a deep breath, and with only a small glance backwards, I moved into the forest proper. The lovely rain of autumn leaves almost felt like the forest crying, in its own way. A while later, with my steady pace and whimsical mood, I found myself talking to the Everfree.

“You know, I always love strolling this time of year. The air feels great, everything is calm and quiet… even the Timberwolves are settling down for the winter.” The subtle creek of trees in the wind was my only answer. I chuckled. “Yeah, I know some herbs can be harder to grow in the colder weather, but there’s just something… magical about this time of year. Really, I just wish more ponies could see it.”

Crack! A branch snapped and I nearly lost my fur before seeing the squirrel scampering back up a nearby tree. Rolling my eyes at my own jumpiness, I resumed my slow trot.

“It’d probably be a bad idea, though, bringing more ponies. You don’t like a lot of company, do you?” A soft whistle through the branches brought a little smile to my lips. “Me neither… Although, maybe just for Moony’s sake.”

I stepped lightly through a patch of flora, stepping only on the solid stones I could see. “Moving things around on me again?” I looked up and shook my head. “I know full well that prickly poppies settle on the other side of the forest. This your way of saying you’ll miss me?” An acorn fell on my head with a thunk, and as I massaged the spot with a hoof, it fell on the patch of poppies.

“Oh, no. No, no, no,” I grumbled as I jumped clear over the rest of the stones onto solid grass. There was a hiss as the little devils popped up, before puffing up great plumes of green smoke where I had just been. “Fine, I’ll miss you, too. Don’t worry, I won’t be long.”

The rest of the trip out was less exciting, and less deadly, thankfully. Down and out through the thinning trees, I found myself in a big, open valley. The rather quaint pasture was set out beneath the far peak of the most ridiculous structure I’d ever laid eyes on.

“Why is the bloody city suspended off the side of the mountain!? Who’s responsible for that level of absurdity? Is the god of chaos back already?”

With a heavy sigh, I stepped forwards. It was going to be a long walk.

“Well, this is something.”

The city turned out to be quite a bit more than the former castle in both size and form. Indeed, a palace did sit looming above the rest on the highest, grandest parts of the structure, but there was so much more. Unicorns and pegasi trotted out and about, heading to little shops or elsewhere. A few earth ponies made their way through the streets, many with carts of either ponies or supplies, but less free-roaming than their counterparts.

Heads seemed to turn towards me in particular, and it didn’t take long to figure out why. Almost everypony was wearing clothes, many of fine materials. Even the earth ponies were mostly garbed, the working ones included. My healthy coat of earth and a few twigs and leaves in my mane apparently weren’t part of the acceptable ‘attire.’

I gave a little wave and a polite smile to the more curious ponies, but only a few waved back. Shrugging, I moved forward as I tried to get a feel for the city. Small, wooden posts named sections of paths, roads, or streets… What’s a parkway?

Then my eyes alighted upon a cozy looking building; old shaved wood carved from a majestic oak with a hoof-lacquered sign, firefly lamps hanging outside with what looked like snap-dragons on the windowsill. The whole place warmed my heart.

“Cozy Little Canterlot, eh?” The particular glow of a hearthfire tinted the windows with inviting hues. I pulled at the old brass handle. The smell of slow-cooked stew, the warm colors of timber, and the cheery, but not overly loud sitting area melted the stress from my body like butter. A little wave attracted my attention to a long wooden bar.

“Heyo! Welcome to the Cozy Canterlot!” A mare of lovely blue and silver shading gestured me over. Not one to ignore such an enthusiastic reception, I made my way past the tables of drinking, chatting, or otherwise relaxing ponies to sit on the long, wooden bench before the bar. A familiar aroma drifted from the mare before me, and I couldn’t help but smile.

“Lotus Blossom?” I cocked my head at her. She stopped as she was about to speak, then blinked.

“Have we met?” She wore a rather confused half-smile as she cocked her head back at me. “I’m very sorry, but I seem to have…”

I waved my hoof. “No, no, I mean the scent. Lotus blossoms are particularly common in the northern part of the forest, along the cliffsi…”

She snorted, shaking her head as the biggest smile crossed her lips. “Oh, pony, you got me gooood!” Now it was my turn to look confused, but she was ready for that. “My name is Lotus Blossom… I just thought it might be funny to wear perfume that, well… Nopony has ever actually called me on it.”

I couldn’t help but give a good-natured roll of my eyes as she fixed me a drink. An interesting blend of apple butter, lemon, and sage with… “Is that kelp water?”

“Hah!” Her laugh was as infectious as it was hearty. “I knew you’d figure it out. Now, let me guess: Hyacinth?” She gestured at me, all of me.

It took me a second, but I got it. I shook my head at her.

“Harabell?” Her giant grin turned to a frown of determination. “Amaranth?

“Nope.” The chuckling was starting to hurt.

“Larkspur!” I shook my head; she groaned. “Gardenia?” Another head shake met her frustrated moan. “Pansy!”

“No!” My indignant snort startled her back to Equestria. Finally, I turned and gave her a nice look at my flank.

“Oh, Nightshade! Isn’t that poisonous?” She gave a little chuckle.

“Only if you don’t know how to handle it.” I blew a tuft of mane out of my face. “Not many ponies can.”

She started to reply when a yell came from a side door which I hadn’t noticed. “Lotus, stop flirting with the customers or I’ll let you do all the cooking tonight!”

A little pink tinged her cheeks as she turned and yelled back, “Sorry, Snap Dragon. I promise I’ll send the next one your way.”

“…You better!”

There was a round of laughter throughout the inn and Lotus shook her head. “Anyway, never mind that. You said you were from the forest? Like the Everfree Forest?” The room seemed to still at that. “Isn’t it really dangerous?”

I nodded after a moment. “If one is not prepared and doesn’t pay the proper respect, yes.” A couple ponies turned and listened in. “I’ve been there awhile, and I used to get quite a few visitors... Though, there has been a great lapse of traffic since the castle was abandoned.”

The life seemed to be pulled out of the room as if a stray windigo had passed by. To break the silence, I drank from the concoction, which somehow also tasted a little less cheery.

Lotus leaned forward and whispered across the bar. “We try not to talk about that stuff here… It tends to upset a few folks.”

I slowly started to nod. “Okay, I guess I understand.” I pulled out my coin pouch to pay for the drink. “How much?”

She shook herself of the chill that had settled in the room, but stopped as she saw the sterling silver and glimmering gold coins I had. As I started setting them down on the counter, she held out her hoof to stop me.

“Those coins are illegal, Nightshade. We can’t take them.”

My mouth fell open. “Well burn me a book.”

After a minor panic attack, Lotus had explained where I could safely exchange my coins for the current currency, something called ‘bits.’ She had also answered a few other general questions about the layout of the city, given directions to my points of interest, and assuaged any anxiety that had built up in my stomach.

“Really, though… Did they have to change the currency?” I slid the Lunare and Solare back into my pouch, tilting the little silver moon pieces one last time in my hoof. “Anyway, thanks for the help.”

Lotus waved, her hoof clutching some of the powdered lemongrass I’d brought to sell as payment for the drink. “Come back soon!”

I headed outside, the blinding sun seeming almost like a barrier beneath the inn’s door. I glanced back with a little smile, raising a hoof to shield my eyes, only to glimpse Lotus’s own smile. She shook herself as she noticed me watching, then turned away.

Stepping outside, the sun pouring down on me, I found myself talking aloud again. “Wonder what that was about.” That goofy little smile still on my face, I found my way to the local depository of currency, apparently called a bank now. “You stay away in the forest for just a bit and they go and change everything!”

Nopony paid me any mind, caught up in whatever business they had as they trotted along. Thankfully, the currency exchange was relatively painless, with the simple explanation that I had been out of the country for a long expedition. Apparently the rough state of my appearance, relative to theirs, and the various strange herbs I was carrying was enough that they didn’t ask any questions.

Next time, bring the rest, Nightshade. The mental checklist scrolled down for me as I headed for the next item. “Apothecary, here we go!” I started towards the west side of town with a little pep in my trot. “Now, I think Lotus said it was this way.”

I hadn’t talked to myself this much since before little Moon Flower, really. Can you feel it, Nightshade: the loneliness is creeping in… Giving myself a shake and a smirk at my own silliness, I resumed my walk. Down and to the right… first left after the little bakery.

“Ooh, that smells good.” My grumbling stomach agreed. “Afterwards, okay?” I patted my belly before heading into the much richer and familiar-smelling shop just down a little alley. An old metal cauldron was just outside; a burning mix of lavender and something else I couldn’t place made it feel like I was stepping right back into the forest.

“Hello?” I pushed the door open and immediately took to looking around. Nopony came at my first call, so I called again and resumed my child-like wonder. Fresh coriander, snips of infused wolfsbane, and even an encased bit of poison joke. The blue plant seemed to perk up as I approached, but before I could even get a closer look, something else pulled me away.

“They have electric honey? Ohhh! I need to get some for Moony.”

“Five bits a comb, youngster.” I turned away from the ooey, gooey goodness in a jar to find an old unicorn stallion looking at me through a pair of large lenses. “Well? You gonna buy some? Or just stare at this old coot ‘til Celestia puts the sun away?”

Brushing the back of my mane with a hoof, I stepped forward and we exchanged a proper hoofshake.


“Teakettle.” His grey eyes seemed to search me over, before a smile formed around them. “Now, how can this old pot help you today?”

With a chuckle, I produced a small, ragged book from my pack and turned about halfway through it. “Marigolds, Willowtails, dried Sunflower petals, and—” A hoof touched the page I was reading, and looking up, I let it slip into Teakettle’s grasp.

“Go on, sonny. Take a look around while I get this together.” He pushed his glasses further up his nose as he looked down. “You remind me of when I was a wide-eyed buck.”

The warm chuckle was contagious. Down the well-maintained aisles of wonder I went, examining each and every item like it was a long-lost treasure.

“You know, it’s rare to meet ponies that enjoy such things even more than I do.” I picked up a sleek mortar and pestle. “These made of dragon bones?”

Teakettle looked over and chuckled before shaking his head. “Hydra, actually. Haven’t seen any draconian bits since the Princess signed the new treaty.” He moved with a slow, but sure pace around the store, collecting the ingredients from my list.

“What? They’re not gonna raid for pony snacks anymore?” I blinked, watching him shrug before going back to looking around. “That’s a surprise.”

Teakettle set the basket that he’d placed all my ingredients in onto the counter and gave a soft smile. “After Prince-- I mean, Nightmare Moon’s attack, Princess Celestia seemed to turn her focus inwards. I don’t think she had it in her to fight a war with the dragons.”

I stopped, turned, and slowly, our eyes met. “Do you miss the Moon Princess, Teakettle?”

All he did was lower his head and take a long breath. “We don’t talk about that, Mr. Nightshade.” Turning around to face an old tapestry I hadn’t noticed, he reached up and gently touched it. “The nights haven’t been the same since that day.”

A long silence hung in the air before either of us spoke.

“Anyway, here you are; that’ll be twenty-three bits.” He pushed the basket towards me. “And yes, that includes the basket. Bring it back next time and it’ll be cheaper.”

I cocked my head at him. “That’s still pretty cheap.” Counting out the coins, I couldn’t help but smile. “Neat way to sell baskets, though.” With a glance inside, my smile grew even wider. “And you threw in some fresh Horsenettle.”

“Just makin’ sure you come back, youngster.” Teakettle was returning to his previous work when I suddenly held out a hoof.

“Wait, for Celestia’s sake, I almost forgot something.” He rolled his eyes at my profanity, but waited as I pulled out a golden vial from my bag.

“Breath of Celestia.” He whistled. “How much you want for it?”

I chuckled as I set the vial into his hooves. “I’m trying to drum back up some business. After the castle and everything, I’ve sort of run low on funds. Let’s say you can have the vial, and instead, let ponies know I’m still around and selling.”

Teakettle set the vial gently into a collection of other potions before returning to me. “I like the cut of your jib, Nightshade. There’s always a market for such things. Come see me next time you’re in town.”

With a nod, I took the basket and proceeded to exit the wonderfully aromatic shop. “I wouldn’t dream of skipping it.”

Back outside and basking in the warmth and cool colors of dusk, I started back towards the forest. The busy ponies seemed to be heading outward from the city center, and from what I could see, going back to their places of residence. Many seemed hurried: mothers ushering their children with a hoof, cart vendors packing up their wares, and finally, the low tone of a bell echoing out into the town from high above.

As I trotted around, ponies rushed past me, giving me even less of a glance than earlier. Nearing the town’s perimeter, a mare’s voice caught my attention.

“Nightshade! What are you— Get inside already!” Turning, I was assaulted by the hoof of Lotus Blossom, hauling me back into The Cozy Canterlot. “Are you out of your mind, colt?”

I stared at her for a long moment, and then she blinked and finally removed her hoof from my own. A little red tint crept up her cheek as she pointedly looked away.

“So… what’s the problem?” I looked around at the formerly merry inn, many of the ponies with their heads down, bubbly mugs untouched. “I was just going home and—”

“Curfew, Nightshade. Don’t you know?” She watched as I shook my head, then facehooved. “Right, right, you’re new to town, ugh.” Again, she dragged me by my hoof to the bar I’d rested at earlier. “Look, here’s the nail in the horseshoe: after the sun sets, any pony caught roaming around is dragged into the castle and questioned…”

I tilted my head. “And?”

“And!?” Lotus screwed up her face in response. “Some never come back!” She pushed a filled glass across the counter to me. “Seriously! Stop laughing at me.”

I’d been biting my lip for a little while. “That’s crazy, Lotus. The Princess can’t kidnap ponies, just like that… Can she?” From the glances and grimaces the rest of the ponies were giving me, I got my answer. “That’s, well, insane.”

Lotus finally released a long sigh. “From what I’ve heard, there’s claims of night cultists in the area.” She poured herself a glass of something bubbly. “Apparently they’re trying to bring back her.

“You mean Nightm--”

“Shhhhhh!” The entire inn turned ‘stern librarian’ for a second.

Snorting, I nodded to Lotus. “Alright, so I guess… How much for a room?”

“For you…” She gave me a long, long look. “…ten bits. Five for the room and five for saving your flank.”

“And here I thought I might get a friends discount.” I chuckled, giving her a warm smile.

“Friendship, huh?” She took my bits and refilled my drink. “I was hoping for a bit more.”

I sputtered in my drink, spraying foam all over the counter. “W-what?”

“Oh, nothing, nothing at all~” She began cleaning the mess with a rag before tossing me my room key. “If you get up early enough, maybe I’ll make you some breakfast on the house… maybe.” As I picked up the keys, she gave me a wave, pointing up the stairs with a hoof. “Third door on the left.”

“What a day.” With a slow trot, I found my room. Then head met pillow and I was out.

Stiff legs, and a bit of drool; that’s what greeted me in the morning. I looked around, muscles tense as I waited for a batty dive to the chest, but none came.

“Good morning,” I said to nopony. “Readjusting sleep is the worst.” The small room silently agreed with me as I slid off the bed. Without ceremony, I collected my bags, brushed my mane with a hoof and a bucket of clean water beside the door, and trotted out.

“Mornin’,” I yawned as I slowly made my way to the bar. Lotus was there waiting, a plate of hot eggs and a pair of potato logs with cheese. “Wow.” My eyes flicked from her to the food, and back again.

“That’s some good timing. How did you…”

“Definitely wasn’t listening for you, nope.” She slid a glass of water over to me.

Sitting down, I took a fork in my hoof. “Thank you for the meal, Ms. Blossom.” I started chowing down, but still caught the frown she shot my way. After making sure to swallow, I looked up. “What?”

“It’s just Lotus, okay? Ms. Blossom sounds so stiff and formal.” She looked away, her silver bangs covering her eyes like her namesake.

“Okay then, Lotus. Thank you for the food.” I resumed eating, albeit a little slower. “I guess Ms. Snap Dragon is still asleep?

“You’re very welcome, Nightshade. And yeah, she does lunch and dinner.” She watched me eat for a moment before returning to serve a few other customers who had also risen early. Before long, I had finished my plate and put a couple bits down for good service.

As I started to leave, she called out to me, “When are you coming back?”

Stopping, I touched a hoof to my chin. “Soon, I suppose. I promised my daughter she could come, after all.”

As I slid out the door, waving a friendly goodbye, I thought I heard something delicate shatter from inside. Shrugging, I continued on. Once again, I resumed my journey towards the forest, but then something else caught my attention.

Near the outskirts of town was a billboard, probably for posting wanted ads for goods and services. Before the billboard stood a panicked and stressed-looking earth pony stallion, his dark coat and hooves caked in dirt. “Have you seen my son?! Has anypony seen my son?!”

Something nibbled at the back of my head, and so I trotted towards him.

“Excuse me, Sir, but is his name by chance, Starbright?”

Author's Note:

And hello again, ponies. How goes it? This will mark the end of Nightshade's second section, and now I'll be shifting back to adorable Moon Flower antics next chapter. Either way, I hope to hear your thoughts and opinions about the direction the story is taking.

'Til next time, with love and dedication,

Dreams of Ponies :twilightsmile: