• 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.31 Ashes to Ashes

~Chapter 31: Ashes to Ashes~

As the wooden wheels of the cart splashed along the road to the former town of Ponyville, Discipula Star sat in the back, trying her best to keep her mind off of Inferno, whom she hadn’t heard from since receiving a letter from her the day after Nature Spark’s unfortunate fall from the sky chariot. Princess Luna had sent off the letter she wrote in response, but Star hadn’t received further communication from her serpentine daughter. It was a strange thought that she considered the young dragon her daughter, but one that she was more than happy to dwell upon. She had raised Inferno from the time she hatched her from a red and black egg; the first task that Luna had ever tested her magical abilities with and she loved her dearly.

Inferno’s letter had been shocking enough for Star, but only three days after receiving it the princesses had also gotten the news that Ponyville had been set aflame. The rural town was the destination of the cart she rode in, but from what she had heard it sounded as if there wasn’t much left of the place. Griffons had been reported fleeing from the scene of the arson and Princess Luna had requested that Star travel to the city and lend her help in managing the clean up efforts after the disaster. It was mostly to keep her mind off of her friends, but she knew that Downpour and Backdraft had been headed through Ponyville, hoping to find the mule, Chestnut, so her friends were still at the forefront of her mind.

It had to be more than mere coincidence that the small town was the target of griffon attack soon after the pegasus brothers had left Canterlot, there was no tactical advantage to attacking such a small farming town. She was planning to look for clues as to whether or not Downpour and Backdraft had actually been in the area during the time of the fire and if so, whether or not they had been able to escape the town in time. Luna had informed her that the fire was very severe and had consumed many of the homes and shops before a pegasus weather team had managed to cause a large enough deluge of rain to snuff the flames and there were a number of ponies that had died with many more having been injured.

As the cart bounced over a pothole in the muddy dirt road, one of the guards escorting her called out, “We’re nearing the gates miss. You should gather everything that you need, so that we can get right to work.”

“Thank you Brass Heart, I’ll make sure everything is ready by the time we arrive,” Star replied as she began organizing her belongings back into her saddlebags. There wasn’t much she had brought with her; warm boots, a cloak, some food, quills and parchment which all fit nicely into her bags. The last item she packed inside was the Wyrm Stone, her enchanted necklace that bestowed the wearer with the fire breathing abilities of a dragon. Ever since she had left from Dodge with Spark and his friends, Star had been keeping the enchanted jewelry with her for extra protection.

Though she was well versed in a variety of spells, Star was not much of a fighter. She had managed well enough using levitation and teleportation, the staples of a magic student’s abilities, but without her friends nearby she felt very exposed. Just a few weeks ago the thought of needing to be able to defend herself would never have crossed the mare’s mind, but with the threat of war looming overhead like a storm and the recent attacks on Equestrian soil, she felt it wise to learn some magic that could be used in a fight, until she had time though the Wyrm Stone was her best method of protecting herself. She sighed morosely as she tucked the necklace away and latched her bags.

“We’re nearing the town miss,” Brass Heart informed her as she picked up her bags in the white glow of her magic and levitated them onto her back. It was time to see the damage wrought by the griffon mercenaries.

Everywhere Star gazed there were ashes, covering the streets, piled over the charred skeletons of cottages and swirling about in the winter breeze. It looked to her like dirty snow, a macabre illusion of winter peace that had fallen around the small town. It clung to her hair and stuck to her hooves as she slowly walked through the ruins of Ponyville. The princess had been unable to describe the true horror that now stared back at Star from every crumbled wall and shattered window. She didn’t dare to look any closer at the houses, fear that she would find the remains of innocent, hardworking ponies lying beneath the splintered wood and ash. It made her sick even thinking about it.

“What should I do to help?” Star asked the first guard she passed in the streets. He was tall, donning cinder covered armor and a grim expression, clearly even somepony trained to fight could have troubles facing the horrors of conflict.

“Do you have any medical training?” he asked in a rough voice.

“Some. I can manage basic first aid well enough,” she replied.

He pointed towards the south end of town and told her, “Survivors are taking shelter in a barn that was untouched by the blaze. I’m sure that they could really use your help mending wounds and taking care of burns.”

“Alright, I’ll head down there now,” Star responded.

It was a short walk to the barn and easy enough to find, there were ponies milling about the entrance, waiting for any news about their loved ones. Star walked up to the open doors, mumbling quite greetings and condolences as she passed. Nopony paid her much attention, too engrossed in their own injuries and worries to acknowledge another pony entering the barn. To them, Star was just one more ash coated pony in the wake of the tragedy that had befallen their town. It broke her heart to see the tears of fillies and colts whose only concerns should have been making friends and getting their cutie marks, but had now lost everything they once had.

Star noticed an older mare with a yellow hide near the back of the barn, speaking to one of the volunteers, her orange mane streaked with soot and her eyes looking sad. She made her way to the familiar mare, taking care not to disturb sleeping patients and nurses that crowded the small area. It seemed as if most of the town had been injured in the inferno and there didn’t seem to be enough help to go around.

“Doctor Suture,” Star called out to the tired looking mare standing near the back wall and directing the volunteers around. “It’s Discipula Star, I’m here to help you with first aid.” Suture glanced up with a surprised look and whispered directions to the nurse she was speaking with before walking up to meet Star.

“Star, it’s nice to see you again,” she said with an exhausted smile.

“We haven’t spoken since the incident at the hospital,” Star replied with a solemn tone. Suture nodded her head slowly and than motioned for Star to follow her to the back of the barn, where they could hear each other better over the sounds of the makeshift emergency room.

“Yes, I’m very sorry about that. I felt terrible for what happened to your friend Spark. I actually became very depressed and nearly considered giving up medicine altogether.” Star was shocked to hear the news, even if Spark had been blinded by the procedure it was as much her fault as it was Suture’s. They had been attempting a risky spell and it had failed, but the thought that Suture would give up medicine because of it was completely outrageous.

“Yo- you can’t give up medicine. No one else is going to be able to restore Spark’s vision if you do and what about all of the patients that you help everyday!?” Star asked, her voice rising in pitch with the intensity of her words.

“Star. Star, calm down. I said that I was thinking about it, but I could never give up medicine. The first rule of being a doctor is to do no harm and I can’t live without rectifying what happened to Spark,” the doctor replied, her face beginning to warm with a smile at the sight of the younger mare’s concern.

“Oh… good,” Star said sheepishly, unsure as to whether Spark was even still alive to help. Not knowing was making the studios young unicorn sick with worry.

“Of course once I heard about the fire that occurred here I had to put my research on hold to come help out with the survivors,” Suture explained. “There are some pretty severe burn victims and more minor injuries than we can deal with, so I appreciate the extra help.”

“Yes, well, I needed something to keep my mind off of my friends right now anyway and I’m more than happy to help, although I only know basic medical spells.”

“Don’t sell yourself short, Star. I have seen the talent you posses when it comes to magic and I’m sure you could be a fine doctor if you wished to, but for now even basic care will be very much appreciated,” Suture assured her. “Why are you so worried about your friends anyway. The last I heard they were well on their way to helping save Equestria from going to war?”

“I haven’t seen any of them in about a week and it’s been days since my last letter from Inferno, so I’ve been practically pulling my mane out fussing over the thoughts of what may have happened to them,” Star huffed. “Not to mention with all the help we’ve tried to give, Ponyville still ended up being set ablaze. I, ugh, I just felt so useless being cooped up in Canterlot.”

“I know the feeling,” Suture replied sadly. After a few moments of awkward silence the doctor cleared her throat and began directing her new volunteer. “Okay Star, first I’ll need you to set up at a table and then I’ll let the nurses know to bring you any patients whose wounds are within your skill range to mend. Sound good to you?”

“Absolutely,” Star replied as she scanned the crowded barn for a place to work. It didn’t take long for the short black mare to set up at a table in the back of the barn and soon after she was hard at work, magically wrapping cuts and scrapes and setting broken bones. There were burns that needed rubbed with salves and covered with cloth and plenty of other tasks that helped Star forget about her friends, even if it was for just a short while. “I’ll take the next pony in line,” she shouted loudly, doing her best to be heard over the constant roar of the crowded room.

The remaining hours of the morning passed rather quickly for Star and keeping busy seemed to be helping her not to worry about Inferno so much. She mended, bandaged and healed stallions and mares of various colors and ages, but the majority of them were earth ponies. Most were quiet as she worked, only making the smallest grunts and groans as she prodded and felt their bodies for breaks and injuries, but there were a few who, even in the aftermath of such great loss, were able to remain cheery and talked with her while she helped them. It put a smile on her face to hear about their simple lives, plowing their fields or tending their gardens. Earth ponies had always been fascinating to Star; the way they lived without magic, their ingenuity, their physical prowess and their unparalleled abilities in the arts was amazing to Star. She heard about the rural lives they had lived prior to the arson and it helped sooth the wounded ponies when they talked.

Every so often though, Star would catch sight of somepony who had been in the thick of the searing fires and had been badly hurt. It was beyond her skill to help those ponies, though Suture and a few other experienced doctors did what they could. Star had to close her eyes and take a few slow breaths whenever she glanced at the disfiguring burns and blisters on those unfortunate enough to have been caught in the midst of the disaster just to keep from breaking down into tears. She couldn’t understand how the griffons could live with themselves after the havoc they had wrought.

“Star, this is Belle,” Suture said as she walked up behind the black unicorn, who was just finishing attaching a splint around a small filly’s hind leg. The pale green pony looked up at Star, an appreciative smile stretching across her muzzle from ear to ear.

“Thank you Star,” the young pony said as Star levitated her off the table and sent her back to her waiting parents with a polite nod.

“You’re very welcome Rose,” Star called after the adorable little filly as she scampered under the legs of larger ponies on her way to her family. Then she whirred around to face Suture and the newcomer, Belle. “Sorry about that. What can I help you with?” Suture smiled at her and shook her head dismissively.

“It’s quite alright, but Belle is actually here to help you. You’ve been working hard for hours and I think it’s time that you stop and eat some lunch. There will still be plenty more for you to do when you get back,” the doctor informed her.

“Oh, yeah, I guess I am kind of hungry,” Star replied.

“Don’t worry, I’ll let you have your table back when you finish lunch,” Belle said with a wink. Star nodded absently at the purple earth pony as she gathered her belongings and headed for the side door of the barn, stepping gingerly around sleeping patients and dancing around bustling nurses as she walked. Suture followed after her as soon as she had Belle ready to take care of injuries, they nearly made it outside before Suture was called back to help with another severely wounded stallion.

“Sorry Star. You can start eating lunch and I’ll meet you out here as soon as I can,” Doctor Suture assured her.

“Alright, I’ll be right outside if you need me,” Star replied as she disappeared out the side door. The barn was sturdy enough, she had noticed, but it could have used a thorough cleaning and a new paint job. It smelled like wet hay and burned flesh on the inside, which she had gotten used to eventually, and it was much smaller than she would have liked, but beggars couldn’t be choosers and she was happy that it had even survived the fire. The entire northeast portion of Ponyville had been reduced to a smoldering heap of cinders and most of the remaining buildings had structural fire damage that would render them useless. It could take months for the residents to rebuild, even if the survivors had all been in perfect health.

Although the front of the barn was still quite crowded with ponies waiting for their turn to see a healer, there were only two others near the side door, a mare and stallion who were so absorbed in their own conversation that they didn’t even notice the short, black mare tiptoeing out the exit. Star walked to a small table and sat down, sighing heavily as the stress of the last few hours began to slowly dissolve away. There was much more for her to do, but a moment’s peace would go a long way towards calming her nerves. She worked her levitation spell, giving no more thought to it than she did breathing, and pulled out her lunch, setting it on the cracked wooden table. It wasn’t much, but she knew that she didn’t have long to eat anyway.

Star had nearly finished eating by the time Doctor Suture found a second to escape from the bustling, temporary infirmary. The older mare was sweating from the combined heat of a few dozen bodies being stuck in the same room for hours on end. Her orange mane was frazzled and pushed behind her ears haphazardly, but Star didn’t mention any of this, knowing that she wasn’t about to be winning any beauty contests herself at the moment.

“Hey,” Star called out softly as she wiped a few stray crumbs from her fur, “Is it time for me to head back in there?”

“Yes, but I wanted to speak with you for just a second before you leave,” Suture replied. The yellow doctor took a seat at the table, across from Star and shrugged off her saddlebags onto the dirt.

“What about?” Star asked as she packed up her bags while Suture unpacked her own. “Is something wrong?”

“No, well, no more than what was already wrong. I’ve just been giving more thought to what happened when we tried to fix Spark’s eyes,” the doctor explained.

“Oh, that,” Star sighed.

“Mhmm, I think I finally figured out the problem.”

“Because I’m not good enough at delicate medical procedures?” Star asked as she slumped down on the wooden bench.

Suture took Star’s hoof in her own with a sympathetic smile as she assured her, “No. That’s not it at all. You performed amazingly.” Star wasn’t convinced. “I’m fairly certain that it was my choice in gems that ruined the spell. There must have been flaws in the gems that I had us use, so I’ve been thinking that if we were able to find two large, flawless diamonds we would have a better chance of success when we attempt to reverse the condition.” Star perked up at the idea. It sounded like a plausible solution, but it also opened up a slew of other problems, mainly finding two diamonds that would meet the strict requirements.

“You really think that the gems were the problem?” Star asked hopefully. The yellow mare nodded as she released her younger friends hoof. “Where are we going to find two diamonds of that caliber though?”

“That’s my current dilemma,” Suture replied, “and the reason I wanted to speak with you.”

“Me? But what can I do?” Star asked incredulously.

“Well, I was thinking that you could write to Inferno and see if she can procure some that would work,” Suture replied. Star thought for a moment.

“I’ll see what I can do,” she replied, although she wasn’t sure that Inferno would be of much help, she usually ate any gems that she collected.

“Thank you Star. That’s all I’m asking.” Star nodded wordlessly and stood up from the table. As nice as the peace and quite of her lunch break had been, it was time for her to return to work. She walked away from the worn table, leaving Suture to eat a quick meal alone, and took a deep breath before pushing open the door to enter back into the chaotic roar of the barn.

Star was immediately greeted by the unfortunately familiar scent of smoke and burns that hung stagnant in the muggy air. She strained on the tips of her hooves, trying to see if her table was open for her, but being a little on the short side, all that she saw was the ever shifting crowd. She flicked her mane out of her eyes and began fording through the mob until she found Belle working on a patient.

“Hey Belle, do you know where an open table is?” Star asked as she peered around the room. It looked as if every space was being used, but it never hurt to ask.

Belle finished wrapping up a stallion’s burned leg and glanced back saying, “I’m almost done her, if you want your table back.”

“No, that’s okay. I can go find another place. You just keep working,” Star replied as she turned away from the busy mare. There was bound to be some small corner she could set up at and she had no qualms about finding it. Star tightened her bags to her sides and made her way around Belle’s work station and headed back into the thick of the waiting ponies.

Most of the ponies with life threatening injuries had been tended to and were now sleeping on cots thrown up along one wall of the barn or had headed off to one of the other few surviving buildings to rest. There were still plenty more patients to see however and Star found an open table as quickly as she could and headed straight for it, doing her best not to bump into anypony as she walked. A few times she mumbled apologies whenever she did happen to get pushed into another pony, but her words were just a whisper among the cacophony around her.

Eventually Star made it to the empty table and laid her saddlebags under it where they would be relatively safe from being trampled into the dirty floorboards. It wasn’t long before she was back at work, her first patient being a mare with hair that had turned white and knees that shook as she walked. There was a long cut along her auburn side that was scabbed over and bruised and a few smaller scratches along the legs on her left side. Star helped the frail pony up on her table and gave her a warm smile.

“Before I start, does anything feel like it’s broken or did you receive a head injury at some point?” Star asked the question, just as she had numerous times that day.

“The ribs by my cut are very sore, but most of my bones ache from time to time these days,” her patient replied in a relatively happy tone. At least she seemed to be doing better than many of the younger ponies that had been injured, Star thought as she handed a bottle of water over.

“That’s great,” Star told her, “Have some water and I’ll get you fixed up in no time at all.” The mare smiled as she took the bottle in two of her trembling hooves and took a small sip. Star took a slow breath and got right to work, happy to be helping once again.

“Alright, now I want you extend you leg out all of the way and tell me how it feels,” Star said to a brown stallion who was just a bit taller than she was, although she had learned that he was a good ten years her senior. The stallion nodded as he stretched his foreleg out as far as it would go. “How did that feel?”

“It’s still a little sore, but it feels much better than it did,” he replied.

“That’s great,” Star said with a grin. It felt good to see the smiles on the faces of her patients after she took their pains away. If she hadn’t been so happy with her place as Luna’s personal student then she may have actually thought about becoming a real doctor, but until the princess sent her away, which she knew would never happen, she would keep faithfully following her mentor’s lessons in magic.

“Thank you so much young lady,” the stallion said with a chuckle as he flexed his limb a few more times.

“I’m just happy to help,” Star responded. “I’ll see the next pony over here!” Her voice was heard by at least one pony in the crowd, because a few seconds after calling there was a new patient standing before her little medical table. It was an earth pony colt, tall for his age and sporting spindly little legs, but he didn’t seem to be hurt. “Where did you get your owie?” she asked. Star got her answer when the little pony turned his head to face her. She gasped with shock at the sight of his burned face.

“My face got burned,” he said in a wavering voice as tears spilled down the undamaged side of his face. Star nearly broke down at the sight of the colt crying in front of her, but she did her best to maintain a strong appearance for his sake.

“Oh honey, why didn’t your parents get you up here sooner?” Star asked with a sympathetic voice as she picked him up gently in the power of her magic and sat him down in front of her. His green eyes teared up even more and he had to sniff back his sobs before he could manage a reply.

“I- I ha- haven’t se- en them since the fire a- at our house,” he sputtered over a quavering bottom lip. Star couldn’t keep the tears from clouding her vision anymore and she had to blink a few times so that she could look into her young patient’s face. Even beyond the dirty tears and burns Star could see that the little colt was once very handsome, but repairing the damage was far beyond her own expertise.

“Shhh, it’s going to be okay honey. I know somepony who can help you and then I’ll take you to go look for your parents,” she reassured the frightened little pony, picking him up in the soft white glow of her magic and pulling him in for a hesitant hug. If there was anypony who could do something for this colt, then it would be Dr. Suture, Star decided before leaving her table to look for her older friend.

“Thank you,” the colt whimpered into her mane as she carried him on her back through the maze of shuffling bodies. Star choked on her reply and settled for a simple head nod instead.

Suture had finished with her lunch and was already occupied with her third or fourth patient of the afternoon when Star finally stumbled up to her table with the young colt in tow. She waited for the yellow mare to finish up with a simple broken bone repair before interrupting her work.

“Excuse me, Suture,” Star spoke up from behind her.

“Star, what can I help you with dear?” Suture asked. The doctor took in a sharp breath at the sight of the teal colt, face still half-wet with fearful tears. “Oh Luna! What happened?”

“He couldn’t find his parents after the fire and he was overlooked in all of the hustle and bustle of the infirmary. He’s pretty badly burned and I don’t think that my magic is good enough to help him, so I was wonde-”

“Yes, of course I’ll take care of him for you,” Suture interrupted. Star let out a sigh of relief and lifted the colt onto Dr. Suture’s table. He was frightened at first and seemed hesitant to let the yellow mare near him, but a few reassuring words from Star helped put him at ease.

“What’s your name?” Suture asked as she leaned in to get a better look at his damaged face. Star mentally kicked herself for not having thought to ask his name sooner, but she had been so taken aback by the sight of the wounded colt that it had completely slipped her mind.

“My name’s Spearmint,” he replied as he wiped his teary eye with an ash covered hoof. It was a name that suited the teal colt with his light blue and light green mane. Star glanced sideways and could make out the four leaves of his cutie mark beneath the dirt coating his flank.

“That’s a very nice name. Mine is Suture,” the doctor told him in a gentle tone that could have put even the most edgy of patients at ease. “My friend Star wanted me to heal your burn and then we’re going to try to find your parents. Would you like that?” Spearmint nodded his head with an enthusiasm that surprised Star, considering how bad his burns must have felt. Just the mention of his parents caused the colt’s face to light up with joy and Star hoped that she could see to it that his happiness lasted, but if he hadn’t seen either of his parents yet it wasn’t a very good sign.

“Do you need me to help with anything?” Star asked her friend as she prepared her table for the procedure.

“If you could just talk to Spearmint while I start performing the spell that would help. I’d like for him to be at ease, because it will make this go much faster,” Suture replied. Star nodded her head and walked around the table to where she could talk face to face with Spearmint.

“Suture is going to start her magic in just a second and she’ll have you feeling much better in no time at all,” Star explained to the colt.

“It’s not going to hurt is it?” he asked in a trembling voice. Star glanced up at Suture, unsure of how to answer his question.

“It’s probably going to sting a little bit,” Suture told them. Spearmint’s brow furrowed with worry, so Star placed a hoof on the table beside him.

“I want you to take my hoof and if it starts to sting too bad then I want you to squeeze it as hard as you can,” Star said to the scared colt. His small hoof grabbed hers and he nodded his head. “I think we’re ready now.” Spearmint took a deep breath and squeezed his eyes shut as Suture’s horn began to glow. Soon the colt’s face was enveloped in the light of the doctor’s healing magic and Star watched as the burned flesh on his face slowly started to mend itself.

A few times throughout the process Star felt Spearmint’s grip tighten on her hoof and she was surprised by how strong of a grasp the young pony had. His green eyes remained closed the entire time, but Star talked him through the healing as best as she could. Hearing her voice seemed to put him at ease and he didn’t squirm as Suture worked, so it was a relatively simple procedure, but even with all of her skills Suture was unable to heal his face perfectly and the scars of his burns would always remain. By the time she had finished sweat was rolling down Suture’s face and she was breathing heavily, but Spearmint’s wounds were mended.

“You can open your eyes now,” Star told the teal colt. “Your burns are all gone now.” He hesitated for a moment before opening his good eye to look at Star. She smiled back and he opened his other eye as she picked him up from the table with her magic and set him on her back. Suture slumped down into her chair, completely exhausted after the effort of healing such a severe wound and Star took the opportunity to get them all something to drink.

After grabbing water for all three of them, Star returned to her friend’s side, with Spearmint still firmly attached to her mane. She passed a cup of water back to the colt and gave another to Suture before taking a seat.

“How does his face look,” the doctor asked before gulping down her water greedily. “I did my best, but it was a pretty bad one.”

“You did an amazing job. There’s still some scarring, but it’s far better than anypony else could have done,” Star assured her.

“My face doesn’t hurt anymore,” Spearmint told them both with a grin. “Thank you Suture and thank you Star.” The mares smiled back at the little pony who had crawled down off of Star’s back to give his savior a hug. Suture held out her arms and wrapped him up in a hug which he eagerly returned. Star was the next one to get caught in an affectionate embrace and she let out a small giggle as her nervousness about the procedure dissipated.

“As soon as Suture is feeling better we can go look for your parents,” Star whispered into his ear. Spearmint squeezed her neck even tighter, which Star took as a show of thanks. “Not so tight, you’re going to choke me,” she gasped out. He softened his grip and Star broke out into a fit of laughter which Spearmint happily joined in on.

“Where else would they have gone,” Star asked Spearmint as they left the site of what was once his home, but now was nothing more than broken memories and ashes. Like most of the town around it, the colt’s house hadn’t fared well against the blaze, one of the drawbacks of wooden houses with thatch roofs. His entire street had been reduced to scraps and it appeared as if everypony who lived in the area had either died in the flames or had been badly burned. There was no trace of Spearmint’s parents anywhere.

“Did you have friends that lived in the town or did your father work around here?” Suture asked.

“My dad sold stuff in the market,” Spearmint told them. Star groaned as she remembered seeing the remains of the market on her way through Ponyville. There was no chance that his parent’s would have hung around there.

“Did anypony leave the city before you set up the infirmary?” Star asked her friend. “Maybe they were really hurt and tried to find a hospital nearby.”

“I can’t imagine any parent leaving without their child, no matter how badly they were hurt,” Suture replied. Star sighed, because she knew that Suture was right. If Spearmint’s parents were alive, then they would be somewhere in the town, but they were quickly running out of places to look.

Star craned her neck to look up at Spearmint’s face as he clutched her mane and hung over her head, so she could ask, “Do you have any other family in Ponyville like cousins or grandparents that they could be with?” Spearmint nodded his head excitedly and pointed towards the south end of town.

“My Auntie Cinnaswirl lives that way,” he told them with a smile. Star and Suture gave each other their own smiles, glad to have some small hope of reuniting the young colt with his family. Even if it was just a small chance, it was still the only hope they had and if worst came to worst they could settle for leaving Spearmint with his aunt.

“Great, we’ll take you to your aunt and see if your parents are waiting for you there,” Star told him as she stepped over a pile of broken boards that had once made up a wagon. She was getting worn out from carrying Spearmint all over the town, but he felt safer on her back and Suture was still far to tired to carry him, so she grit her teeth and continued trudging along under his added weight.

“Exactly how far away does your aunt live,” Suture asked after stumbling in a pothole and nearly falling on her face.

“All the way to the edge of town,” Spearmint replied with an oblivious grin that elicited another groan from both of the mares who were leading him.

“Great,” Star replied sarcastically, “At this rate we might even make it there before dark.” The colt nodded his head, unaware that she wasn’t actually happy about the long walk ahead. Star just rolled her eyes and tried to focus on not tripping over the debris that littered the streets of the burned town.

It was a starry night, so even though the three ponies hadn’t actually made it to Cinnaswirl’s house before dark there was still enough light for them to travel by. Spearmint had fallen asleep at some point without Star even noticing, but when they made it to the edge of town she reluctantly had to wake him up. His soft snores stopped as she gently shook him awake, doing her best to keep him from falling off his place on her shoulders, which had gone steadily numb as the evening wore on.

“Is this the right house?” Star asked as they approached a small yellow cottage. Spearmint mumbled something that Star couldn’t make out as he rubbed the sleep from his tired eyes. “Spearmint, is this your aunt’s house?” He nodded his sleepy head and curled back up to go to sleep, grasping her black mane loosely in his small teal hoof.

“I think that was a yes,” Suture chuckled as they approached the door of the cottage. There were no lights on, but it was dark, so whoever lived there could have been sleeping or so Star hoped as Suture knocked on the door a few times.

“Please be home,” Star mumbled under breath as they waited for an answer. The seconds ticked by with no movement from behind the door, so Suture knocked again, pounding a little harder this time as what little patience she had left began to wear thin. “Damn. I guess we’ll have to look again tomorrow,” Star said as she turned away from the front of the small home.

“Wait,” Suture told her, “I think I hear somepony coming.” Star walked back up to the door and pressed an ear against the wood. There were definitely sounds coming from inside the cottage, so she knocked again.

“Just one cotton-picking second,” came a mare’s voice from the inside of the dark home. “I heard you the first time, so there’s no need to go causing a ruckus.” The door opened a few seconds later, nearly causing Star to fall to her face and revealing a brown mare with a curly pink and red mane. She looked half asleep still and Suture quickly apologized for the disturbance.

“Are you Cinnaswirl?” Star asked hopefully.

“That’s what my nephew calls me,” she replied with some confusion. “Why do you ask?” Star and Suture breathed out mutual sighs of relief. It had taken nearly half of the day, but they had finally found somepony in Spearmint’s family.

“We brought your nephew Spearmint here,” Suture explained.

“For the love of Luna, is he alright?” Cinnaswirl gasped. “I was looking for my sister and her family all day, but I never did find them. I thought for sure that they died in the fire after I saw how bad their house had gotten burned. There was nothing left and I- I was… where is he?” she asked in a voice that started to waver with concern. Star lifted the sleeping colt off of her back and floated him over to his aunt, he woke up right before a barrage of kisses were planted along his cheek.

“He was burned pretty badly when I found him, but Dr. Suture here fixed him up to the best of her ability,” Star explained. Spearmint wiped his cheeks clean of his aunts kisses and started to nod off in her embrace.

“What about my sister and her husband,” Cinnaswirl asked desperately. Star shook her head slowly, choking on her words as she tried to explain.

“We were looking all evening, but we haven’t found either of Spearmint’s parents,” Suture interjected. “We are so sorry.” Cinnaswirl hugged her nephew tight against her shoulder, tears spilling from her magenta eyes as she rocked his sleeping body slowly, back and forth in place.

“I- I can’t believe that they- they’re…” her voice trailed off, unable to put words to the horrible facts of what she had learned. “Thank you for bringing Spearmint to me. I was so worried about him,” she told them in a quiet voice.

“It’s the least we could do,” Star replied. The three mares stood awkwardly on the porch of the cottage until Star broke the silence once again. “Spearmint is a sweet kid and I won’t leave until I’ve checked this entire town for his parents.”

“Take care of yourself and him,” Suture added. Cinnaswirl nodded her head and thanked them both again before walking back inside her home and closing the door. Star and Suture took a few moments to compose themselves before heading back to the barn, where there were still plenty more ponies who needed their help.

“What are you going to do tonight,” Star asked as they walked the desolate streets of Ponyville, the sound of their hooves echoing off of the dilapidated remains of buildings. “I don’t think I’m going to get any sleep.”

“Yeah, I don’t think I can sleep after this day either, but we have a busy day again tomorrow, so we should at least try,” Suture replied. Luna had been right about Star getting her mind off of her friends, but she wasn’t so sure that she was feeling much better. She still missed Inferno and was worried about Downpour and Backdraft and felt sorry for Spark, but now she also felt bad for the entire town of Ponyville as well. Star nodded her head quietly as the two friends walked by the light of the stars, each of them reflecting on the tragedy and joy that the day had held for them.

Author's Note:

A picture of Nature Spark, drawn by the talented Bree.

Bree (Twinkey Doodle) has just agreed to illustrate my next book, thanks again girl! You can find a link to her pages in the description of The Crystal War Book II.

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