• Published 8th Aug 2012
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The Crystal War Book I: A Spark to Light the Dark - NatureSpark

A unicorn burnout, two pegasus brothers and Princess Luna's protégé, along with many other friends they meet along the way, embark on an epic journey to prevent war from consuming Equestria.

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Ch.1 Head in the Clouds, Hooves on the Ground

~Chapter 1: Head in the Clouds, Hooves on the Ground~

A stray beam of early morning sunlight shone through the window of a small cottage in the forest just north of Dodge, striking a young, unicorn stallion in his half closed eyes and stirring him from his dreams. He awoke the same way he had nearly every day for the past five years, groggy and craving a nice cup of hot tea to shake off the last remnants of sleep. The tired stallion walked into his small kitchen and set about getting the morning brew ready. A faint green glow around his horn was the only sign he was still awake as he stood in the middle of the room, wondering how earth ponies and pegasus managed to get ready in the mornings without magic.

Before long, the tired pony was sipping on a delectable brew with just a dash of honey and planning out his day. This mostly consisted of deciding what to eat for lunch and how long he would spend visiting with his friends. He had nothing of importance that had to be done, so he figured he’d spend most of the day with them. He soon finished his tea and after some leg stretching, went about cleaning up his mess from the night before. Soon the small, mostly unfurnished home was again spotless and the stallion was well into the process of rolling up a bit of his leftover magical herbs for a morning smoke.

He stepped outside and into the crisp autumn air and took a deep breath, enjoying the aroma of decaying leaves that was carried on the wind. Sparking the end of his rolled up herbs and breathing in a velvety mouthful of smoke, he started his slow trot into the nearby town. Autumn had always been his favorite season. All of the colors nature had were on display during the cool, fall months and it wasn't long before he was humming to himself and laughing at nothing in particular. Days like this always brought him back to the time he finally received his cutie mark.

He had always been fairly gifted when it came to magic and could conjure up a few complicated spells just from memory. His only lacking quality had been the drive to practice his abilities. It hadn't come as much of a surprise to anypony however, when he received his mark after sparking up his first joint. From that moment on, most of the ponies he knew just wrote him off as a burnout. The name, Nature Spark, could have been a dead give away from the start, he supposed. It was funny how names seemed to work out like that. He was happy with his destiny though. Growing natural medicines was something that helped other ponies and made him happy.

Between the high and his wandering mind, Nature Spark had completely forgotten to look where he was going and tripped head first over a small shrub in the middle of the trail. Scrambling to his hooves, he shook himself off and quickly looked around to make sure nopony had seen his latest fall. Confident that he was still alone on the old dirt road to town, he proceeded on his way as if he had never stumbled at all. That kind of thing seemed to happen to him quite frequently and he had gotten used to it, but it could still be very embarrassing when somepony saw him. Although from a third person perspective it would seem that Spark was clumsy because of how often he tripped, it was really more of a problem with his wandering mind.

His train of thought would often get led down seemingly endless paths and he could go from ideas about lunch to thoughts about the intricacies of inter species politics in ten seconds flat. This often led to people thinking he was a shy stallion, because there would be long periods of him being silent while he contemplated one idea or another. In reality however, he was very sociable and in some cases it was even hard to get him to shut up. The variety and volume of random facts he could retain astounded most ponies that he got into deep conversations with and it was never a good idea to get him started on the effects of magical plants and potions on a pony’s psyche.

After a brisk twenty minute walk down the road, Spark arrived on the outskirts of Dodge, the city he had grown up in. Although it was a nice place when all was said and done, he still preferred to live a little ways away from the town limits. It cut down on the amount of ponies that might accidentally bother him while in the midst of one of his experiments. Not that what he was doing was illegal or even dangerous in the right hooves, but most ponies still frowned upon some of the strong, mystical potions he would concoct. He’d spent a number of years testing out different plants for medical purposes as well as for recreational reasons.

While many ponies would themselves buy a nice sampling of the magical herbs Spark grew, most did not really care for the intense effects of his elixirs and brews. He had carefully studied many taboo mixes though. He could produce powders that gave ponies amazing foresight and grow mushrooms that would slow time around the consumer, but every drug had its dangers. Unintended side effects were the reason he and his two best friends were always performing tests on the new mixtures and tonics he created, just to be safe.

Grinding his hoof on the snub of the joint, Spark pushed his glasses back up his face and knocked on the door of his friends’ home. Inside he heard a muffled voice saying something he couldn't quite make out, so just for laughs he began pounding on the door with more vigor.

"Oh, for Celestia's sake, I'm coming! Just hold the hay on for one flipping minute!" The shouts of his pegasus friend grew louder as he approached the door to open it. The door swung open and there stood Spark’s old friend, Downpour, glaring at him with unrepressed anger. "I should've known it was you Spark, why the hay didn't you just let yourself in?"

"Meh, it's more fun to wake you up like this" the unicorn replied, chuckling to himself. "Besides, I wanted you to wake up faster than usual. I was thinking that we would smoke one real quick and then go get some food, because I didn't eat any breakfast before I stopped by."

The stocky pegasus yawned and then flopped down on the couch in the crowded living room. Spark took a seat beside him and began rolling up some more of his best herb, letting his well practiced magic do its work while looking around at his friend's cottage. It wasn't a very large house by Dodge standards, but it did have a good sized shed attached, which is where they always went to do their smoking, so as to not stink up the place. There was only one other pony who lived in the house with Downpour, his brother Backdraft, who was their junior by almost two years. They got along well for the most part, at least as well as siblings ever could, but once in awhile they could have pretty heated disagreements.

Finishing the task at hoof, Spark's magic carried the rolled up paper over to Downpour and with a small flash from his horn it was shoved into the pegasus’s mouth and lit. "So where's your brother at today?" the unicorn asked, stepping into the shed behind his friend. Downpour puffed on the herbs as he took a seat in the storage shed.

"Sleeping. Where else would that lazy ass be?" Downpour coughed a few times and passed the joint back to his friend.

"Well, I'm going to go wake his flank up and see if he wants to hit this," Spark replied, turning back towards the house after passing the partially smoked herbs over to Downpour. He let the last of the smoke trail out of his nose before stepping back inside. "Draft! Wake your lazy, good for nothing flank up, before your brother smokes all of this green without you!" It took all of a minute before the grey pegasus flew out of his room and into the shed, nearly clipping the door with his wings and leaving Spark standing in the shed’s entryway with a grin on his face.

Even though he slept in later than his older brother most of the time, Backdraft was certainly easier to wake up. He was also much more reserved than the older pegasus, who had a short temper. While Downpour would get in a pony’s face if they said something he didn’t like, Draft was more likely to try and view the situation from their perspective and reach an understanding, except with his older brother. In fact, there were a great many differences between the two pegasus.

Downpour was a grayish blue color and built like a small tank with slow, powerful wings and a short stocky body. His mane was mostly black, but had thin, dark blue streaks running through it. The cutie mark sitting on his flank was of a thick black cloud and had two small, electric blue lightning bolts coming out of it. He often wore a very serious expression, despite the fact that he was usually joking around.

His brother Backdraft, on the other hoof, was nearly as tall as Spark and built about the same. His coat color was a dark grey, as was his long mane. His mane did however, have white streaks in it, which ended in dark blue tips. The younger pegasus’s cutie mark was a dark blue pegasus wing. Draft could also look very serious from time to time, but he was more apt to break out in a smile for no real reason.

Nature Spark was taller than both of his friends, without even counting the extra height that his horn added. He had a light tan and brown colored coat with a brown two-toned mane. He wore a pair of black rimmed glasses, which only added to his image of youthful wisdom. His cutie mark was a peace sign with special type of leaf behind it, something which he had loved immediately upon seeing it was there. Honestly, they weren’t much different than most other ponies. Although they could act strange sometimes, the three stallions were simply trying to make it through life as happily as possible.
Spark stepped back into the hazy shed and snagged the last of the joint in his magical grip. He smoked down the last bit before snuffing the end in an old tin cup that they always used as an ashtray. Then, after taking a moment to let the high set in, they all walked back into the house and sat down in the living room.

"Where are we gonna go get lunch at?" the elder pegasus asked Spark, "because I'm in the mood for some haycakes and coffee."

"Sounds good to me too." Draft responded to the question even though it hadn’t been directed at him. He stood up after that and walked off towards the bathroom, stomach rumbling all the way.

"Yeah, whatever sounds good to you two is fine, as long as we go soon. I need some food in me within the next ten minutes or I'm going to be one unhappy pony," Spark explained.

After another fifteen minutes or so, the trio was off to get their much needed brunch time meal. They had decided to go to Coffee Bean’s Diner because it was by far the best place in Dodge to get a well made breakfast at a reasonable price. The affordability and the fact that it was only a few blocks north of the pegasus brothers’ house, made it one of their most frequented restaurants in town. The three stallions found themselves in the quaint diner two or three times a week it seemed like.

Walking down the street they saw only one pony they really new that well, a mare that Downpour and Nature Spark had attended school with, Heart Charm. She was a very pretty earth pony that Spark had been crushing on since high school, but he was far too nervous around mares to make a move. He’d always entertained the idea of asking her on a date however, if he ever got up the courage to ask. After another couple minutes of uneventful walking they arrived at their destination, much to the delight of their starving stomachs. Spark shoved open the doors and walked inside the sweet smelling restaurant, with both of his friends following right behind him.

It wasn’t until after they had already been seated and ordered their food that Spark realized how much busier than usual the building was. While there were always at least two or three other ponies on a weekday, today was a completely different story. Close to a dozen ponies seemed to have crowded into the diner in just the past few minutes that they had been there. Realizing this, Spark turned to the table behind him and asked the couple sitting there what was going on that had drawn such a crowd.

“You mean you haven’t heard yet?” the light green mare questioned, unbelieving. She stared at him like he must be the most oblivious pony in town. “Well, apparently the queen of the Crystal Empire was captured a few days ago and all the blame is being pointed at Princess Luna.”

“What? That doesn’t make any sense though. Why would our princess have any reason to do something like that?” Downpour replied a bit testily.

“Yeah, I’m afraid that I have to agree with my brother on that one, it just doesn’t really add up.” Draft’s voice held a hint of disbelief. “I mean, that would be like asking for a war. Why would Luna want to start a war right now?”

“True. Discord was only defeated like fifty years ago and we still haven’t even fully recovered from that,” Spark stated, much to the chagrin of the stallion at the table behind them.

“If you want my opinion, that Luna has always been a little unsteady and I wouldn’t put it past her to do something like this for whatever strange reasons she has.” The white stallion spoke with more conviction than Spark would have expected concerning the subject.

“My husband is right. I’ve never trusted her either. She’s always been jealous of her older sister and I don’t think it bodes well for us common pony folk,” the prissy mare added. Spark ignored her attitude and turned back to his friends.

After the short exchange of words, their food arrived and the three friends got too preoccupied with their thoughts to do much more than eat quietly. While shoving bites of syrup soaked haycakes into his mouth, the young unicorn pondered what he had heard. None of them spoke until the last few bites had been eaten and then it was Downpour who broke the silence.

“I think we need to go to the town square. I can almost guarantee that somepony there will know more about this whole situation,” he stated.

“Agreed,” said both the younger ponies in unison. After they paid for their meals, all three of them stepped out of the dimly lit diner and back into the bright light of Celestia’s sun. The sunshine caused them to squint their eyes as they turned and began the walk to the town square, where they hoped to find some answers. It was already around eleven by the time the three of them were rounding the last block on their walk. The fogginess of the herbs they had smoked was starting to fade and the implications of Equestria going to war began crossing Spark’s mind. The princesses were going to have to sort out the truth if they wanted to avoid a battle. He was contemplating how the royal sisters might avoid war when he had the misfortune of smacking into the back of somepony’s flank.

“Watch it!” was the response Spark thought he heard, but it was hard for him to tell over the sound of the crowd. Only now did he realize that most of the town had come to the same conclusion as the three of them. It looked as if everypony was collecting about a small stage. A large crowd had gathered around the podium, shouting questions at the mayor, an older, yellow earth pony with only trace amounts of white mane left on his head. The mayor cleared his throat and began to address the anxious ponies before him.

“Ladies and gentlecolts, if I may have your quiet attention for a moment, I will answer all of your questions to the best of my knowledge,” the earth pony began. Upon hearing that, the crowd started to settle down, eager to learn what news the mayor had received from Canterlot. “I have yet to formally meet with the princesses themselves, as they are very busy in this time of crisis, but I have gotten word from their representatives about the situation.”

“What the hay is going on!” someone in the midst of the crowd yelled, to the nodding agreement of the masses.

“Please, hold all of your questions until I am done speaking. Now, as most of you have heard by now, there is a rumor that the empress of the Crystal Empire has been taken by somepony. Due to the fact that their emperor is very sick and their daughter is far too young to rule, it has become a crisis for them. They have also placed the blame for this travesty on our own Princess Luna and they claim to have the evidence to prove this theory.” The crowd’s shouts seemed equally divided between anger and disbelief at this turn of events. The three friends remained quite in the back, not wanting to miss out on any vital information that the mayor might give. “While I do not believe for one minute that this is the case, if something doesn’t happen soon, I am afraid that Equestria will have no choice but to go to war with our neighbors to the north.” Downpour, Backdraft and Nature Spark turned and began trotting back to their homes not long after the mayor’s speech had ended. What had seemed unbelievable before, now proved to be very true.

“What do you think about this whole situation, Spark?” Draft asked him. “Is this as bad as everypony is making it out to be?”

“To be completely honest with you Draft, yeah, I’m afraid that it just might be,” Spark replied flatly. In fact, at that moment, he was afraid it could be even worse then the mayor was willing to let on. Only fifty years after the massive battles with Discord, it seemed highly improbable that Equestria would be able to wage total war and win. He had a feeling that things were about to get very bad very fast, not that he would ever worry his friends about it anymore than he had to.

After both of Spark’s friends headed back to their home, he decided that he wanted to do some more fishing for information. He was pretty sure that somepony could tell him more than the mayor had been able to. The bright unicorn wasn’t sure why he was so interested in what was going on. It wasn’t like he was going to be able to do anything about it, but for some reason Spark couldn’t shake the feeling that he should pursue the matter further. There was always that small chance that he could find a way to help, however unlikely it seemed.

Spark decided it would be a good idea for him to visit his mother and find out what she had heard about the events. Scarlet Bloom lived close to where he currently was, as her house sat on the southwest side of Dodge. He decided to head that way so he could talk with her and then stop by Downpour’s house on the return trip to his cottage. It would also give him a chance to see his younger brother, Sugar, which was always nice. Maybe if his mother knew something more, then he could figure out how to proceed with the little mission he had given himself.

Spark was only about half way through his walk when his stomach started growling like a manticore. The news of war had killed the appetite he’d had in the diner earlier and most of the meal he ordered had gone to waste. The unicorn paused momentarily to pull a carrot out of his saddlebag and then, after munching down on the delicious snack, continued on his way. Like always, he was lost in his own thoughts, which caused him to run right into a pink, earth pony mare with a loud thump.

“Oh Celestia, I am so sorry, Miss. I really need to start paying more attention to where I’m going,” Spark mumbled as he picked up her bags with his magic and placed them over her back again, stopping momentarily as he recognized the cutie mark on her flank. “Wait a minute, Charm, is that you?” he asked, glancing up to her face.

“Huh? Oh, Spark, I didn’t even realize it was you,” Heart Charm replied as she got to her hooves and brushed the dirt off of herself. “It’s partially my fault too. I was looking up at the sky, admiring the sun shinning through the clouds and I didn’t even see you there.” She blushed slightly as she spoke, causing her cheeks to turn a hot pink color. Spark couldn’t help but find the mare adorable.

“I haven’t seen you in weeks and then suddenly, twice in one day. What gives?” Spark asked with a chuckle, trying not to blush himself.

“Well, I just started working as the mayor’s assistant, so I’ve been very busy lately. He has me running errands all over town,” Charm replied. That was certainly a good bit of luck, Spark thought. She probably knew something more about the situation with the princess.

“You’re working for the mayor you said? Then you might be the one to ask about any developments in the Crystal Empire conflict,” he stated.

“Oh, well I’m not really supposed to talk about it with anypony,” Charm explained.

“Come on, we’ve known each other for how many years now? You know you can trust me,” Spark replied and then smiled sweetly at the earth pony, but some of the effect was probably lost due to his glazed, red eyes. She shifted around uncomfortably from hoof to hoof for a minute before finally giving in.

“Well, as you can probably imagine, the princess is denying any involvement in the incident. What you may not know is that they are claiming to have evidence implicating her royal night guards in the crime,” she confessed.

“Really? What sort of evidence are they claiming to have?” Spark asked, intrigued by the claim.

“We don’t know that much yet. I hear that the princesses are doing their best to solve the situation peaceably, but who really knows if that will work,” Charm added. The pink mare opened her mouth to say something else, but thought better of it and chose to remain silent instead. Spark was just thankful to learn what little information he had.

“Thank you so much for telling me and please, when you can find out anything more, stop by my house. I would love to hear from you again soon,” Spark said with a smile. This had to be one of the longest conversations he had with a mare that didn’t end in him embarrassing himself horribly.

“Yes, I’ll be sure to do that. You have a nice afternoon, Spark,” Charm replied. She turned to leave and Spark couldn’t help but admire her flank once more as he mumbled a quick goodbye, then he was on his way down the road once again.

Before long, Nature Spark found himself admiring the town around him. Even with the clouds starting to dampen the light of the sun, it really was quite a beautiful place. He would still much rather take a stroll through the Haysead Forest, but all in all, he really couldn’t ask for a better town to live by. Let the cities have there stuck up ponies and crowded streets, he thought. A small town would always be where his heart was at. The unicorn’s mind then turned to thoughts about what would happen to his beloved home if Equestria really did go to war with the north. He soon found himself quickening his pace, eager to get to his mother’s house.

It was late afternoon by the time Spark reached the street that his mother lived on and the rain had just begun to fall. From the looks of the thick, grey cloud cover, it promised to be quite the storm indeed. Galloping the last couple blocks up to his mother’s gate, Spark decided that he might just stay the night at her house and resume his little journey once the skies had cleared up. He walked through the door, shaking the dampness from his coat and was greeted by the scent of fresh apple pie cooling in the kitchen.

“Mom, it’s me, Spark. Are you home?” After asking, he reminded himself to have his mother start locking her door whenever she went out from now on. Dodge might not have been a major city like Canterlot, but something told him that it would still be getting more dangerous around there eventually.

“Spark dear, I’m in the back room with Sugar Leaf,” his mother called back to him from the far side of the house. Sugar Leaf was his little brother’s full name. Sugar was just a colt and still hadn’t received his cutie mark yet. He was a little big for his age and had a lighter coat than Spark, but the same brown mane. After Sugar’s father had ran out, Spark had basically raised the little colt while his mother worked to support the family. They may have had different fathers, but Spark still loved his half brother all the same. He had only moved out a year ago, after Sugar was old enough to start attending school and their mother started staying home.

“Spark!” The shout came just a moment before he was bulled over by a light brown blur. “Do you wanna play blocks with me?” Sugar questioned, practically bouncing around as he asked. The same big, blue eyes that their mother had were staring right into Spark’s brown ones as he shoved the small body off of himself.

“I’d love to play a little bit later, Sugar, but right now I need to talk with mom, okay?” Sugar looked up at him with his cheeks raised in a chubby smile.

“You promise?” the colt asked.

“Of course I do. When have I ever lied to you?” Spark replied. He smiled at his younger brother and the colt took off running to his room, most likely to get the blocks ready to play with. Spark walked into the back room where his mother was sitting in her chair, reading a book. He sat down in the open seat beside her, waiting for her to finish the page she was on before he tried speaking with her.

Scarlet Bloom was a light brown unicorn mare with hair that was once an apple red color, but now had streaks of grey beginning to show through. The red rose that was her cutie mark had begun to wrinkle as well, but it wasn’t that noticeable yet. It wasn’t that surprising that her age was beginning to show really, considering her sons were born nearly fifteen years apart. That made her about forty three now, if Spark remembered right. Time sure seemed to fly by the last few years, but he supposed that was just a part of getting older and moving on.

“You said you needed to speak with me, Spark,” Scarlet said. His mother was looking at him with her book set aside on the end table beside her. Spark had spaced out and failed to notice that she had finished reading.

“Yes, I assume you’ve heard the news about the accusation against Princess Luna, because that’s what I am here to talk about,” he replied. The young stallion shifted slightly in his seat to better face his mother as they talked.

“Oh, yes, of course I did. Such a terrible thing to happen too. I really hope it all gets worked out before somepony gets hurt,” his mother responded.

“That’s why I’m here. You know almost everypony around town right? Have you heard anything that I might not know about?” Spark asked.

“Hmmm…” Scarlet paused for a moment, lost in thought, before saying, “I’m afraid not, Spark, at least, nothing that you probably don’t already know.”

“Damn,” he blurted, followed immediately by an apology for swearing.

“That’s quite alright, dear. I know how much this must bother you,” Scarlet replied. She was right of course. Spark wasn’t the kind of pony to be happy around conflict or violence. That was the reason his cutie mark was a peace sign. He was a firm believer that violence should only be used as a last resort. It was a quality that he had gotten from his father, who was a gentle soul with a gruff voice that never spoke harsh words or so his mother said. How she and his father had gotten along, Spark could never fathom, after all, his mother was quite the hot head back in her day. He imagined that if he had known his dad better he might have understood.

“Thanks anyway, mom. I guess it would have been too easy if you knew all of the answers to my questions,” Spark observed.

“How about I go cut us each a piece of that apple pie I just made. That might help take your mind off of things that can’t be helped,” his mother suggested, flashing him a sweet smile as she got up from the armchair.

“Sure, that sounds good. I’ll go get Sugar,” Spark told her. The unicorn stood up and walked off to his younger brother’s room, while his mother went to the kitchen. Spark’s mind was still preoccupied with thinking about who else might know what was really going on, so he failed to notice Sugar charging him head-first at full speed. “Sugar, we’re about to cut the pie if you wa-aaaahh!” Spark was cut short as the blow sent him rolling head over hoof into a pile of blocks.

“Yeah! I got you good, Spark!” the chubby colt shouted. Sugar burst into a hysterical fit of giggles as his older brother got up and shook the hit off. The little pony stopped laughing as soon as he saw his older brother’s sly smile though.

“Oh, you got me good huh? I’ll show you getting it good,” Spark replied as he picked Sugar up in the green glow of his magic and proceeded to tickle the colt until his face turned red and he begged for mercy.

“Spark, haha, Spark, stop it!” Sugar squealed between laughing fits, until his older brother finally set him back down.

“Now let’s go get some pie, unless you’re ready for round two, of course,” Spark said. He gave Sugar the same sly smile and chased the screaming unicorn colt into the kitchen, where their mother had three plates already set on the table. “Mmm, this looks great, mom. You really out did your self this time.” Spark’s mouth was watering at the aroma of fresh baked apples. If there was one food that the herb smoking stallion loved the most, it would definitely have to be his mother’s apple pie.

“Thank you, Spark. That is so sweet of you to say. It was always your father’s favorite recipe,” Scarlet replied, before taking a seat and wrapping a sharp knife in a red glow. She sliced up three pieces of pie and levitated one to herself and the other two to her sons. It was hot and steaming, having just finished baking a few minutes before Spark had arrived.

“Yeah, I remember. He could eat a whole pie to himself… and usually did,” Spark chuckled. He could still remember the look on his dad’s face right before he would take a big bite of apple goodness.

“I coob eat a whob pah thoo,” Sugar mumbled. It was funny watching the chubby colt try to talk around a mouthful of dessert. Wet chunks were falling down his chin and back onto the plate, where he would scoop them up with his hooves and shove them back in his mouth. It was a terrible show of manners, but their mother didn’t seem to mind all that much.

“I’m sure you could, Sugar, but if you keep trying to talk with your mouth open like that then you’re going to choke,” Spark explained.

The rest of the meal passed with the same sort of conversation they always had when Spark visited. He answered all of his mother’s questions and asked similar ones in return, making sure to find out how Sugar had been doing in school. How have you been? Fine. Do you have a marefriend? Nope. How are Downpour and Backdraft? Good. The pegasus brothers had become like a part of the family after their father walked out on them and their mother died. She had committed suicide a few years back and it had been awhile before things had returned to a sort of normalcy. The pegasus didn’t like to talk about their parents much.

It was getting pretty late by the time the storm let up, but Spark had passed the time playing with Sugar and talking to their mother. He had decided not to stay the night after all, figuring that if he left as soon as it was clear outside he could make it to Downpour’s house before the pegasus had gone to bed. He gave his mother and Sugar both a kiss on their cheeks, promising to visit again soon and then he was out the door and on his way. Spark paused momentarily outside of the wooden gate to roll himself up an after dinner treat and then continued on at a slow trot. His horn sparked once, lighting the end of the rolled up herbs while he took a deep drag. He let his mind wander and admired the smoke for a moment, watching it drift up into the air before dissipating into nothingness.

As he walked down the muddy road, Spark continued to ponder many things, but most of all he considered the fate of the Crystal Empress. “Luna bless her, because if she comes to harm, it might not matter if you’re responsible or not,” the unicorn said aloud. He had the feeling that if that were the case, Luna’s subjects would all pay dearly for her transgressions. Hopefully it wouldn’t all come to that though. Then his mind turned to the other countries near Equestria. It was very possible that another kingdom could be behind the attack. It couldn’t have been the dragons though. They never cared for the politics of ponies and besides, there was nothing for a dragon to gain by framing the princess.

The griffins seemed much more likely to have been responsible. The alliance that had once existed between them and Equestria had been all but dissolved since the time of Discord. At least one of their factions had even sided with that monster, for reasons Spark couldn’t comprehend. The abduction could have been the work of one of those original rogue groups, he thought. Then again, for all Spark knew, it could even have been an attack from the Zebra’s home land. They lived a very long way away though, so it would be highly impractical for them to start a war. Shaking his head, he decided to stop thinking about the possibilities, until he could find out more information at least. It wasn’t long after those last thoughts before Spark arrived at the brothers’ house once again. He walked right in this time, not in the mood for messing with either of them.

“Hey, it’s me, Spark. Where the buck are you guys?” he shouted in the direction of their rooms, but the answer he received came from the shed in the back.

“You are just in time, my friend. We just now lit a joint up to smoke before dinner,” the older stallion replied. Downpour then broke into a fit of coughing, which elicited some laughs from his younger brother.

“Where have you been all day?” Draft asked around the joint in his mouth. The grey stallion took a long puff while he waited for Spark to walk in and take a seat beside him in the rotation.

“I went to visit my mother and Sugar. I had to wait for the rain to stop before I came back here,” Spark explained. He grabbed the joint with his magic, pausing to light the side that was burning unevenly before he took a hit. Pegasus just couldn’t roll as well as a unicorn could, so their joints were always smoldering on one side.

“How is Scarlet? It feels like I haven’t seen her in ages,” Downpour stated. He had always been her favorite out of all her son’s friends. It was probably due to the fact that he had the same sort of brash personality that she used to flaunt as a youth.

“Good as ever, I suppose, although I was hoping that she would know a little more about the whole Princess Luna situation,” Spark huffed. He passed the half smoked herb over to the stocky pegasus after he spoke. “She wanted me to say hello to you two for her.”

“You didn’t learn anything new then?” asked Downpour.

“Well, I did bump into Heart Charm. I guess she’s working for the mayor now,” Spark answered with a wistful smile.

“Oh, really?” Downpour asked with a hint of humor.

“Yup. She told me that the Crystal Kingdom is claiming to have evidence implicating Luna’s guards in the abduction. She didn’t know exactly what that evidence was though or if she did, then she wasn’t going to tell me,” the brown stallion replied.

“What, you mean to tell me that you couldn’t charm Charm?” the older pegasus joked. Draft snuffed out the roach into an ashtray after that comment, chuckling quietly at his brother’s joke as he did so.

“Ha ha ha, you’re a bucking comedic genius,” Spark replied sarcastically. The unicorn pushed Downpour’s chair over backwards with his magic, spilling the pegasus on the ground and causing all three off them to burst out in a fit of laughter. After they had caught their breath, the stallions got to their hooves and headed back into the small house. They all took a seat in the living room, where they could finish their conversation in comfort. Downpour made sure to grab a couple of drinks before he joined his friends, for when the cottonmouth set in

“So what’s the plan now?” Draft asked, taking a cider that his brother offered him. “Where can we find out more information?”

“For tonight I’ll just bed down here. If you don’t mind of course…”

“Not at all,” said Downpour.

“And then I think we should go see Old Mule Chestnut in the morning,” Spark suggested with a shrug.

“Are we going to need to grab some more herbs before we go?” Draft asked. Even though he hadn’t spent as much time around the old mule as his brother, the tall pegasus knew how much Chestnut loved the green stuff.

“No, I’m pretty sure that I’ve got enough for all four of us in my saddle bags. We should be just fine,” Spark assured him.

“I’ll take your word for it,” Downpour replied before he tossed back the last of his cider and let loose a mighty belch. The other two ponies finished their drinks as well, each of them following up with their own burp, neither of which was as loud as the older pegasus’s.

They decided to play a couple hands of poker, Spark kicking the brother’s flanks each time before finally retiring for the night. Downpour and Draft headed off to their rooms, leaving the tired unicorn to crash out on the couch. Spark’s mind only pestered him with thoughts for a short time before he was finally able to fall asleep. Between the bad news and the herbs, he was pretty exhausted and though his dreams were about his father, they were very sweet dreams.

Author's Note:

I started this story before season three had begun, just hoping that there wouldn't be anything to poke a major hole in the plot, but I think it all worked pretty well. I hope you enjoyed this chapter and will continue to enjoy every one after.

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