• Published 26th May 2020
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Tales from Everfree City - LoyalLiar



Celestia's first student and Princess Platinum conspire to cheat the princess out of an arranged marriage.

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VIII - III
When I Told Gale This Story, She Just Said 'Hot' And Never Clarified What Part She Meant

…But I Do Have A Compelling Guess

Summer Celsus, the Second Sister of Luna's Night Guard, had probably been quite a beautiful mare in life, before Luna swapped out her feathered wings for a leathery bat-like pair, and more importantly, filled her mouth with a set of voracious fangs. (I suppose she still was after, if you're into that sort of thing…) Her mane and tail were what I can only fairly call 'blood-colored'—though I should clarify I mean rich red, freshly shed blood, not the crusty brown dried variety. In between those streaks of color, she was the pale, almost-white pink to my pale, almost-white blue.

While I'm not sure if this little piece of information will ever be useful to anypony, I nevertheless feel it may be useful in the aftermath of our recent Night Guard-filled war with Nightmare Moon to explain anyway: because most former ponies in the Night Guard wind up on the darker side of the color spectrum, many ponies are surprised by this description of Summer. The uniform dark coats aren't actually a quality of the necromancy that raises her victims, however, but instead a show of illusion. As Luna began to display her undead more and more openly in the days since my youth in Everfree, she took to enchanting their armor to provide them a uniform appearance—yet another layer of deflection to keep anypony who knew them in life from recognizing them, as well as, no doubt, for the aesthetic. Which, if we're being honest, one has to respect—one of the only respectable things to come out of Luna in regard to the Night Guard, really.

Beyond her coloration, and perhaps more importantly, Summer looked young; perhaps twenty or so, though judging effective age can get tricky when one has to look past the bat wings and the jagged maw. The resemblance to Blizzard was unmistakable even through the monstrous bits, though, and I have to admit, she'd be a decent catch, if being nibbled on is your 'thing'.

It certainly wasn't mine, and time and the experience of having not-at-all trivial parts of my body bitten off have only hardened my position, though. So, instead of paying attention to a mare at least apparently my age, beyond the satisfaction of my theory about her permission to enter the Rains' home, my mind went to all of Wintershimmer's lessons about the undead.

"You must think you're real smart with that stupid stunt, colt," Summer announced as she walked in to greet us. "Rain. Runt. Damn, you two got old."

"Too bad you didn't," Rain answered with more coldness to her tone than I had expected. Pathfinder shot his wife a questioning glare, but it faded when Summer laughed at the jab.

"It's good to see you, Summer," Pathfinder offered, much more gently, taking in the figure before him with wearied eyes, tracing every line of her youthful face. "You went back to wearing your mane like you did at Fort Updraft."

Summer cocked her head. "You remember that? That was fifty years ago! I don't even remember that." She rolled her slitted eyes. "I guess your weird memory still works. I take it you got my message. Thanks for letting me use the house."

"Finder can take all the thanks for that," Rain answered coolly.

"Something wrong, Rain? Still not over how it ended?"

Rain's brow furrowed, but she said nothing in reply. Summer just stared, her undeath sparing her the need to blink. After a very, very long moment between the two old soldiers, Summer drew in a deep breath, her slitted red eyes—oh, did I forget to mention those?— finally broke from her old friend and focused her gaze on the purpose of her visit. "Blizzard… Look how you've grown." A slight (and discomforting) smile spread on the dead mare's lips, accentuating her fangs. "It's been so long."

Blizzard was caught up in emotion; she didn't speak quickly, and when she did the words were broken up—not quite with tears, but certainly the better part of the way along that path . "I… I don't even remember you." My friend had to force down a difficult swallow to speak further. "I always wondered what you looked like. I used to draw pictures…"

Summer's smile softened, still full of fangs but gentler. Instead of answering with words, she spread her wings and began to walk forward, offering a pegasus hug.

I had to move quickly to insert myself between them. "Hold on."

"What the hell are you doing?" Rain asked, but I ignored her.

"Pathfinder, can you boil some water? And if you have soap, go grab some." Holding up a hoof to indicate I wanted Summer to pause, I turned away from her to face my friend. "Sorry about the interruption; I would have said something earlier if I'd known. But a couple quick rules about handling dead bodies. Ideally, you wouldn't touch her at all, but I understand she's your mom, so just try and make it a quick hug. Absolutely no kisses, even on the cheek. And stop by my house in three days; I'll need to check for any rashes, infections, parasites—that sort of thing."

"I'm not some bloated corpse, you little shit!" Summer snarled behind me.

I chuckled, finding some amusement in the overlap of the first answer that came to mind, and turned to face her. "Oh, I'd never call you bloated, no; anypony with two eyes can see you're quite shapely… So I guess, Rain, you'll have to take my word for it." Judging by the noise he made from over by the sink (where he was, in fact filling a small cauldron) Pathfinder appreciated the joke. Rain was silent, but I did catch a smirk on her face. Summer was… less amused. "But you are a corpse regardless, which makes the 'shape' discussion sort of immaterial, don't you agree?"

Summer scoffed and paced toward me, rather feline in her movements. She swayed her hips with her stride, flicking her tail like a whip from side to side behind her. "Thanks for noticing." Her eyes slipped up and down my form, lingering heavily on my neck. "Not too many scars, but the neck one's nice." She made a show of licking her lips. "You're not a bad little snack yourself."

I sighed. "I'm neither a masochist nor a necrophiliac."

"Really? You draw the line at me? With all the weird shit you get up to with Hurricane's little slut at night?" Rain winced, Blizzard shrunk back, Pathfinder loudly dropped his cauldron in the sink, splashing water from their expensive cloud plumbing onto the tiled floor, and I grit my teeth in restrained fury. "You were the one who pointed out how good our hearing is. And is it really any surprise we've been watching you? You can't imagine how many interesting things I've gotten to hear."

Solemn Vow immediately jumped to my mind, and without even thinking, a hint of magic crept into my horn. The pain of the mana on the still-sore organ meant it came off more as a threatening flash than a steady glow.

That threat only got a wider smile from Summer. "You think your little death spell works on me? You think you're better than Mistress?"

"She really makes you call her—"

"Believe me, I've heard it before," Summer interrupted. "Instead of repeating that tired joke, let me show you something actually kinky." And before I could reply, she grabbed me by the shoulders with her wings—freakishly strong with necromantic magic—pulled me forward, and kissed me squarely on the lips. As I tried and utterly failed to pull away at the uncomfortable feeling of cold, wet lips and the unmistakable pressure of oversized teeth behind them, Summer let out an (obviously forced) moan of pleasure. Then she pushed forward harder, her inequine strength obviously extending to her jaw as she forced her disturbingly cold tongue into my mouth, seeking out mine.

I pulled back once with my neck, and when that failed, brought a hoof up to press against her chest in an attempt to escape her hold—but even that was no use. Summer, sensing my struggles, decided to get in one final barb before releasing me—well, several, really. When the tips of her fangs dug into my lower lip more than hard enough to draw blood, I let out a short scream that accompanied the stomach-turning wave of coppery taste. Only a moment after the outright bite, Summer released me. I fell fully onto my side on the Rains' floor. At the same time, she threw her head back with a satisfied gasp of air I know was for dramatic effect, given her lack of need for breath. The combined violent parting was enough to send a rather violent splash of blood up into the air of the room as well as across Summer's lips, even though my wounds were not so especially deep.

Summer made a show of licking her lips lasciviously as she loomed over me on the floor. "Hopefully that shuts you up. I've never gotten to speak to my daughter before, and I don't need some smartass chiming in whenever he thinks he's funny. So let me just say this: I know your type, colt. Smooth talking, tripping on power. Keeping a second filly in your back pocket in case the grand prize doesn't work out. So if you break her heart, I'll break yours. In front of you." Stepping literally over me, she added "Better hope that bite doesn't get infected with one of my diseases. It'd be awkward to explain to the Queen why you were making out with a corpse."

Pathfinder rushed over to my side with a clean dishrag and a bottle of some strong spirit—though I was quickly surprised when, rather than using it to clean my wounds, he produced a small glass, filled it, and more or less poured the clear liquid down my throat. "For the pain," he whispered, before getting to the part I had fully expected, even if it stung like hell.

Trying to take my mind off the pain, I focused on the other ponies in the room. Rain said nothing, but I caught her shooting a powerful disapproving glare in Summer's direction. Summer, for her part, rolled her eyes and held up a leathery wing to deflect the criticism, or at least defer it.

Then her focus, at last, returned to Blizzard. "Well, now we can finally talk."

"Can we?" Blizzard asked, glancing my way. There was a slight steel in her voice, one I had only heard before the day we left River Rock. Then Blizzard took a long, deep breath and the glimmer of whatever inner strength the mare kept buried away was once more covered up. "Mother, Morty is my friend; he's not interested in me that way. Please don't hurt him."

"He's your friend? It sounds to me like he spent all night talking over you, but if you say so."

"He's the reason I'm here, and not stuck back in River Rock," Blizzard countered.

Summer turned to shoot me a surprisingly harsh glare, given how her own daughter had just vouched for me. "Is that so?” Her expression softened as she looked to Blizzard again and took a step closer. “What are you doing here, Little One?"

Blizzard tensed at the question—or perhaps more likely, at its surprisingly accusatory nature that seemed to come out of nowhere. "I felt trapped in River Rock; everything was about Father, every day. I had to mother all his adopted foals because he was too busy and I wasn't interested in serving in his legion. And when Morty found out you were alive for us, I wanted to meet you."

Summer smiled a much more genuine grin by wearing it crooked, so her fangs were only showing on one side of her youthful face. She stepped forward, and wrapped her wings around Blizzard's shoulders. "I'm so glad I get to meet you, Blizzard." After a long few moments of just holding the embrace in silence, Summer stepped back and clapped her daughter on the shoulders with her leathery wings. "I know there isn't a ton of food to go around in River Rock, but you need to be eating more. You look like a stick."

"We'll fix that, Summer," Rain noted from the side of the room with a chuckle. "I promise."

"No," Summer answered with a sigh. "She shouldn't be here. Blizzard, you need to go back home."

"What?" Blizzard demanded suddenly, pulling back from Summer's wings—and, given how I had experienced the dead mare's strength, I could be confident she'd willingly let her daughter escape her grip. "Why? Is it because I'm Cyclone's daughter? Morty's going to enchant an amulet to make ponies not notice me, and—"

"You shouldn't need to hide who you are," Summer interrupted. "Your father was a great pony."

"Summer," Rain warned.

"Did I tell you how to raise your foals?! Or does what I did for Sky not mean anything to you anymore?!" Summer snarled, ivory fangs flaring at her old friend. Rain, it seemed, was cowed by that reminder, an unusual retreat for the one-eyed mare. And so, after a moment to rein in the more bestial elements of her form, Summer turned her slit eyes back to her daughter. "If you learn anything from me, Blizzard, it's that you should never run away from your problems. Running away from Dioda destroyed Cirra. And I don't want you staying with that rat-bastard Hurricane."

"What?" Blizzard winced back, but there was sheer pain mixed in with her grief and surprise. "I'm not leaving! Everfree is the first place that ever felt like a real home!"

"It's a lie, Blizzard. Hurricane doesn't love you—"

"That's the lie," Blizzard insisted. "Grandfather is the kindest, gentlest—"

"He's a snake!" Summer interrupted. "He seems like a gentle old stallion, but he's responsible for everything wrong with Cirra. He and Mistress and Celestia—all of them can burn!."

I quietly noted a bit of surprise in the back of my mind at the idea that Luna allowed her creations to speak ill of her.

Blizzard, too, seemed shocked at that announcement of her mother's hatred. I caught a hint of tears gathering in the corner of her eyes, though her voice carried a steel of resolution. "That's wrong. I know that's wrong."

Summer stepped toward her daughter with all the same intensity that she had approached me. "If you knew what they did—"

A steely gray feathered wing spread into the space between Blizzard and Summer. Rain's motion was terrifyingly swift, given her bulk, and when she stopped there was no wavering, no hesitance to her blockade. "I do know," she told Summer. "And it doesn't matter. Blizzard made her choice, and she's a grown mare. Respect it."

"How could you possibly…" Summer's voice trailed off as she met Rain's eye, and then her pearly fangs ground together in the harshest, most bestial baring of hatred she had yet unveiled. "You know and you're still taking his side?" Summer turned her head and spat directly on the floor. "You know what? Forget it. Get the hell out of my way. This isn't about you, Rain. She's my daughter."

"You gave up that right when you died betraying Cirra," Rain countered firmly.

"Better than living in it!" Summer's slitted eyes shot across the room toward me—or rather, I realized after she spoke, to Pathfinder. "I ought to thank you, Runt. Taking your sword to the heart was a lot better than having to live through this nightmare. Too bad I didn't know how bad it would be when Mistress offered me to live on."

Shuddering, Blizzard's eyes shot between Pathfinder and her mother. "You… you killed—"

"I did it to myself," Summer clarified with a rather grim chuckle. "It's not as if Finder could ever take me."

Finder was silent to that jab, but Iron rain grinned. "You'd be surprised, Summer. Did you forget who killed Yngvilde?"

"Oh, I remember," Summer answered, words full of vitriol. "I was the one who patched us all up. Or did you forget that too, when you sold out to Hurricane? I'm the one who still cares about what those half-breed bastards did. Just the same as I care about your eye; or would you rather forget about me and credit that to that old four-eyed griffon—"

Summer's words weren't cut off by another pony speaking—at least, not at first. Instead, there was a distinct crackling as Pathfinder, kneeling in front of me, turned to stone. And, lest you think I am being poetic, I mean that very literally the green, scarred coat and well whitened mane suddenly took on a stony, craggly texture and froze completely. It was so sudden that I let out a gasp, and then had to quiet myself to spare pain from my lip; at the time, I had never so much as heard of such magic coming from a pegasus—and even to this day, eight hundred-odd years later, I have only ever met two who could replicate the feat.

Summer's neck cracked like a whip toward the noise, and then seeing what had happened, apparently brushed it off enough to turn back to Rain…

…only to find Rain's hoof slamming into her cheek, without a wisp of restraint.

Summer may have been unnaturally strong and fast, possessed of numerous magical abilities, but sometimes, hoof-to-hoof combat comes down to simple physics. Even all her undead enchantments and Rain's age could do very little to make up for the fact that Rain was nearly a head taller than Summer, and by my rough guess, half-again her body weight. Rain's blow would have not just broken, but shattered the jaw of a mere mortal (and certainly the mere jaw of a young Mortal). Against Summer, the damage dealt was less permanent, but the blow was still enough to pick the dead mare up by her head and fling her into the stucco walls of the Rains' home hard enough to shake the walls and send spiderweb cracks across the plaster.

"How dare you?" Rain demanded, stalking over. Summer was surprisingly unfazed by the brutal blow, snapping herself back to her hooves and even hopping up to hover aloft so she was at least at Rain's eye level. But still, the inertia was clearly with the living mare. "I'll suffer your old wounds, and your stupid games with Morty; I don't care if you want to argue old politics with me. And if you want to try and give shit advice to your daughter, I can't really stop you. But to bring that up, to hurt Finder just to spite me and win an argument with Blizzard? Get out of our house."

"Rain, I didn't mean—"

"You can come back to apologize. Until then, I don't want to see your face again."

Summer let out a huff, then her eyes settled on the statuesque Pathfinder again. Her gaze softened, and for a moment she almost seemed a different mare.. "Kid… Rain, you know I—"

"Now is not the time. Last warning, before I start asking with my knife."

Summer flicked her tail, that hardened look overtaking her almost as fast as it had left. She turned to leave, only stopping beside me of all ponies with a flare of her nostrils. "One more thing, Coil: you should put down the bug before he replaces a real pony."

I grit my teeth in anticipation of the pain I'd need to force out my answer past my painful lip. "I'd sooner kill Luna than hurt Graargh."

"Your funeral," she muttered. "Again."

And with that, Summer Celsus disappeared into the night.

⚜ ⚜ ⚜

I would love to tell you there was more to say to this story, that I comforted Blizzard the way she'd been there for me in our journeys, or that Blizzard came out of the encounter more resolved, more determined.

But the truth is, at least then, I had no idea. With the distraction of Summer gone, Iron Rain rushed over to her literally petrified husband's side, wrapped her wings fully around his head, and lowered her own forehead to his, so that the two existed solely in the dome of her graying feathers. I didn't hear what she whispered to him, but after a good few moments, with an audible cracking, the stone shell of his skin began to break. Then from those cracks, like the thawing of frosted steel or glass, the natural forest green of his coat began to creep back across his body. Pathfinder said nothing; he only picked up the poignant tankard of liquor he had used on my lip, lifted it to his own, and with a pat on the back from one of his wife's wings, walked silently further into the house.

"Morty, are you alright to make it to a doctor on your own?" Rain asked. When I nodded, she wandered over to some cabinet and tossed a small pouch at my hooves, which clinked when it hit the ground. "Sorry about the trouble. I'm gonna take Blizzard back to Hurricane—if that's what you want, Blizzard."

Blizzard only offered a nod.

"I'm sorry to both of you. I should have guessed there'd still be trouble, but…" Rain sighed. "I hope when my generation finally kicks the bucket, all these old wounds from the Red Cloud War go with us."

Rain's wish was a noble one, but it was already doomed to fail even before she voiced those words to us. Of course, neither she nor I had any way of knowing at the time what fresh salt already lurked in River Rock, ready to be rubbed into those old, but still unscarred wounds.

But it would not be much longer until we learned.