• 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.40 Idle Hooves

~Chapter 40: Idle Hooves~

A faint shimmer of golden light caught Star’s eye as she looked up into the billowing clouds that covered the midwinter sky. Sleep had proven to be just what she needed and by the time Axel had woken her up to take a turn keeping a wary eye on Brass Heart, she was feeling up to the task. Princess Luna hadn’t visited her dreams overnight, but Star hadn’t expected her to. With everything that had been going on the past couple weeks, dream walking was probably a low priority for her teacher. Star yawned and a small flake of snow landed gently on her tongue, melting in an instant.

The snow had continued unabated all through the night, but thankfully had refrained from developing into an all out blizzard. A thin layer had accumulated along the floor of the chariot and Star wondered if Axel’s next revision to her vehicle would be some sort of cover, but she wasn’t sure if the weight would be too great with one. Suri slept through the whole night, neither Star nor Axel trying to wake her, because they both figured that a full nights rest was uncommon for the adventurous unicorn. That left Star to sit with her own thoughts as her friends slept and she kept watch over Brass Heart, who had somehow managed not to pass out midflight.

With Manehatten behind her, but the memories of her short escape from the tragedies that had occurred over the past few weeks fresh in her mind, Star turned her thoughts toward the future. There were important decisions being made as she sat there, decisions which would not only affect the fate of Equestria, but also the entire world. If somepony was trying to incite a war between the Crystal Empire and Equestria, then it stood to reason that they would soon turn their sights on other countries. While Princess Celestia and Princess Luna wielded the Elements of Harmony, Star had no idea what the other nations would be able to do to protect themselves.

Over years of studying magical artifacts, Star had learned that there were very powerful forces that could be used for good or evil. She had personally discovered relics which could grant the user power beyond what they had ever thought possible, yet all those paled in comparison to the Elements. The princesses’ secret weapon had the potential to banish evil from the world completely and yet, if they had tried to use it on another country without receiving that nations blessing, the fallout would be dire. Even if all the princesses wanted to do was help, without the citizen’s express permission, they would only cause more strife. That was the only reason that they hadn’t taken the Elements of Harmony to the Crystal Empire in the first place, though Star wished that they could have. It may have been the only way for anypony to save Ponyville from its undeserved demise at the claws of the griffons.

It didn’t help that they were completely in the dark as to who had initiated the Crystal Empress’s capture to begin with. While the griffons had carried out the act, the princesses had made it clear that they did not believe the mercenaries had acted of their own volition; rather somepony had hired them to do the deed. The only question left to answer was exactly who had motive and means to enact such a dastardly crime. Once the perpetrator was identified it would be far easier for Princess Celestia and Princess Luna to convince the Crystal Empire to allow the use of the Elements.

Thankfully, as long as Downpour and Backdraft were able to accomplish what the princesses had set them out to do and there was indeed evidence to be gathered, they would all know soon enough who was to blame. Star could only hope that the pegasus brothers returned in safety. Nature Spark would play his part as well, because if the Red Eyes were working in tandem with Equestria’s enemies it would only make it that much more difficult to stop the looming threat of war. They would need any aid they could gather for the struggle that was sure to come.

Star stopped in her silent contemplation as she felt the first warm rays of red-gold sunlight radiating on the nape of her neck. It was a soothing sensation and she took a deep breath of crisp morning air as she absorbed some of the warmth. Winter had come, but it would be getting far colder before the year was over and if the blizzard they had passed by was any indication, this year was going to be colder than usual. Even now, as Star gazed out into the horizon, she could see the snow continuing to increase as the clouds made a serious effort to cover all of northern Equestria in an icy blanket.

“We’re almost to Hallow Shades,” Brass Heart huffed as he continued the ceaseless beating of his feathered wings. Star had nearly forgotten that she wasn’t the only one awake. The soldier had remained nearly silent throughout most of the night, but had somehow managed to keep from falling asleep.

“Alright, I suppose I should wake Axel and Suri,” Star acknowledged. The two mares had been sleeping peacefully, Suri for longer than either Axel or Star had managed, but they would be landing soon and the faster they got their gear packed and made it into the Village Inn, the happier she would be.

“I think that’s a good idea,” Brass Heart replied. “Have you seen Dawn Glory flying up there?” the pegasus asked, casting a quick glance in the direction of the conglomerated cloud cover that had formed during the night.

“Not in a little while, no,” Star told him as she too looked around for the telltale glint of armor somewhere far above. She gave up after a few minutes, sure that Dawn would be keeping a close enough eye on them that he wouldn’t be left behind. “I can’t seem to find him, but I’ll keep an eye out.”

“Okay, I just hope he didn’t fall asleep on a cloud somewhere,” Brass Heart chuckled. He was joking of course, but Star didn’t want to rule out the possibility. Even if Dawn was a trained soldier, skipping a night of sleep after traveling for three days couldn’t have left him feeling very alert. The last thing they all needed right now was to be forced to find him if he had passed out somewhere in the clouds.

Axel’s hoof nudged Star as the earth pony shifted around in here sleep. She had been surprisingly still during her slumber, most likely because of how late they had stayed up drinking the previous night, but it now appeared as if she was going to awaken whether or not Star tried to get her up. A red leg poked out from under the blankets as Axel stretched her limbs in all directions, accidentally bumping Suri in the process. The white mare woke with a start, her dark green eyes darting around wildly as her head shot up from the side of the wooden chariot.

“Sorry,” Axel yawned as she realized what she had done. “I didn’t mean to wake you up.” Suri blinked at her a few times as she remembered where she was, giving a faint smile of recognition once it all clicked.

“I wouldn’t worry about it, Axel,” Star told her. “I was about to wake you two up anyway. We should be arriving in Hallow Shades pretty soon.” Star pointed out past Brass Heart to the forest down below. “You can see part of the town showing through the tree cover if you look carefully.” The sun hadn’t yet fully risen above the horizon, but Star had noticed a couple of the buildings as she squinted.

“Thanks for letting me sleep so long,” Axel said with a smile before rubbing her eyes and giving another yawn. “I guess I was more tired than I thought.”

“Mhmm, you slept like a foal,” Star giggled.

“Um, I think it was more like a rock… or maybe a log,” Axel replied, lightly tapping a hoof against her chin as she thought about it. “Either way I don’t think I slept like a foal, they never seem to sleep very well in my experience.” Star just sighed as she glanced past the earth pony at Suri, who had already pulled a brush from her bag and started combing out her flowing strawberry blonde mane.

“How about you Suri, did you get enough sleep?” Star asked.

“Absolutely,” Suri replied with a smile, “I feel completely refreshed.” She certainly looked that way, Star thought as she observed the elegant mare’s look of contentment. Star wished that she could look half as good when she got up in the mornings. Suri’s mane wasn’t even that messy, even though she had spent an entire night sleeping in a moving vehicle with it blowing out behind her. “What are we going to do when we get to town?” the white unicorn asked as she stood up to better reach her tail with the small wooden comb.

“Well, Hallow Shades isn’t that big of a town to be honest, so I don’t know what there is for us to do,” Star explained.

“We can always chat with Cary,” Axel suggested. She seemed to have taken a liking to the sweet, older mare. “I’ll bet that between the four of us we can cook up some food that’s even better than what she and I made the last time we were here.” Axel grinned eagerly at Star and Suri, the former giving a halfhearted smile in return while the latter merely groaned.

“I’m not a very good cook,” Suri said with a look of distaste. Star laughed at how unhappy the taller mare sounded with the prospect of spending any amount of time in a kitchen. “I will certainly eat whatever you make though.”

“Don’t be like that,” Axel replied, “Everypony has to learn how to cook at some point in their life. What are you going to do when you have children to feed?” Suri stared at Axel with a dead eyed expression for a moment before breaking down in hysterical laughter. Star joined in, because the idea of Surinam ever having a foal was a wild idea.

“I’m sorry, Axel, but I just don’t see that happening,” Suri replied once she had gotten control of herself. “I’ve never been great with foals. That was always more of my brother’s kind of situation.” Star hadn’t been aware that Suri had any siblings and was reminded of the fact that she hardly even knew the slender unicorn riding with her to Canterlot. It wasn’t as if she knew Axel all that well either, but after a few weeks Star had begun to think of Axel as one of her closest friends. Spending awhile so close together had a tendency to do that, she supposed, either that or make two ponies loath one another.

Star was about to ask Suri more about her family when Brass Heart interrupted her thoughts, saying, “I’m taking us down for a landing, so don’t stand up while we’re still moving.” He glanced over his shoulder to see if they had heard him over the constant sound of the rushing wind and his flapping wings, so Star nodded her head in confirmation. A few seconds later and the sky chariot began its slow decent to the earth.

The ponies living in Hallow Shades were just beginning to rise for their morning routines as the chariot made its bumpy landing into the snow covered clearing on the edge of town, its reinforced wheels cutting twin paths in the snow as they touched down. Even with Brass Heart being exhausted, their second venture into the town had gone much more smoothly without the blizzard to contend with. Star was grateful for that fact as she looked up into the sky, where only a light sprinkling of snowflakes could be seen.

“You weren’t joking when you said this place was small,” Suri observed as they neared town. There were only a few buildings that even had a second story and they were all inns. The few stores that were around sold only the essentials, relying on traveling merchants to procure any luxuries they may have wanted and Star had only noticed one bar over the many times she had passed through. Suri would most likely be bored to tears by the time they left.

“That’s why I suggested that you spend the day learning how to cook,” Axel retorted, “but no, you don’t like to cook.” Axel’s serious expression only lasted a few seconds before it broke into a smile once again.

“I think that there’s one bar somewhere around here,” Star told them. She had no interest in drinking herself, but if her friends felt like having a few then she would at least accompany them, just to make sure they were behaving. The thought of Axel and Suri together, drunk and unsupervised was a frightening one.

“One bar?” Suri gasped, as if it was an inconceivable idea.

“Well, I’ve only seen one anyway, but I suppose we could walk around town and find out if there are more,” Star replied.

“Yeah, we could actually walk around the town too,” Axel laughed, “It would probably only take us an hour.”

“If that,” Suri added dryly. It was obvious that the actress had grown used to living in a booming metropolis, but there wasn’t anything else that Star could do for her at the moment, even if she tried her pouty face again.

“You mares feel free to hop out anytime,” Brass Heart broke in, annoyed at having been standing in front of the Village Inn for the past couple of minutes, fumbling with the latches on the harness binding him to the chariot.

“Sorry,” Star apologized as she snatched up her white saddlebags and swung them over her back. Axel grabbed her own faded brown bags and Suri lifted the three bags she had brought with her as well before all three ponies stepped down from the chariot and onto the snow caked dirt road leading up to the front doors of the inn. Star glanced back, horn flashing white as she helped Brass Heart get out of the chariot harness and followed Axel and Suri to the log building.

A gust of warm air, smelling faintly of cinnamon, greeted the four ponies as they entered the lobby of the inn. Judging by the scent hanging in the air, Star assumed that Caresma had risen with the sun and started preparing cinnamon rolls for her guests. Her stomach growled out its expectation of food as they crossed the room to the open doorway separating the inn from Cary’s home. Nopony else was in the lobby at the moment, but with the innkeeper’s reputation for cooking it wouldn’t be long until the few guests who had rooms would be crowding in.

“Cary, are you back here?” Star called out to the magenta earth pony as she stepped in front of her friends.

“Yeah, I’m right in the middle of making breakfast,” Cary shouted back, though not so loud that it would disturb whichever guests were still asleep. Star walked into the back apartment that Cary called home, followed closely by her three friends. “I thought that was your voice I heard,” Cary said with a quick glance over her shoulder to confirm the identity of who she was speaking with.

“I told you that I’d be back,” Star replied.

“I know, but I knew it was you because your friend Dawn is already here,” Cary told them, much to everypony’s surprise.

“That good for nothing,” Brass Heart grumbled. “I can’t believe he would ditch us like that. Does he have any idea how much trouble he could get into if the princess finds out he abandoned his post!” Star hadn’t thought Dawn’s absence was a big deal, but Brass Heart sounded as if he was about to explode.

“Don’t be too harsh on him now,” Cary told the pegasus in a motherly tone. “He’s only been here for maybe ten minutes.” Cary’s calm statement seemed to pacify Brass Heart, at least for the moment.

“What are you making?” Axel asked as she cantered up to the counter Cary was working at, eyeing the cinnamon scented dough that the older mare was in the midst of kneading. “It smells scrumptious,” she added with a big grin.

“Oh, I’m just whipping up some cinnamon rolls to go with the fresh fruit on the table out there,” Cary replied without even glancing away from her task. Star hadn’t even noticed the fruit out in the lobby; mainly because the smell of Cary’s homemade cinnamon rolls were overpowering her senses. She had once again skipped a meal and, although she wouldn’t have minded losing a few pounds, her stomach had issues with her poor eating habits as of late.

“No wonder you said we should cook,” Suri said as she joined Axel near the counter and watched Cary work the dough like she had many, many times over years of running the Village Inn. “I might actually try to learn if I can make something that smells this good.” Axel bumped her on the shoulder as she snickered.

“I wouldn’t get too far ahead of yourself,” Axel told her. “We should probably just start you off with something simple.”

“Maybe a soup?” Cary suggested as she looked up to see who exactly Axel was talking to. “Hello, I don’t believe we’ve met,” she said, holding out a flour coated hoof to Suri as she introduced herself. “I’m Caresma, the owner of this fine inn.” Suri reached a hoof out and Star could see that she wasn’t thrilled about getting flour on her hooves, but she managed to hide her mild distaste from everypony else.

“It’s very nice to meet you,” Suri replied. “My name is Surinam Cherryblossom, but you may call me Suri.” Cary nodded her head as she committed the name to memory. The innkeeper had a knack for remembering the names of all her guests, especially the ones who stayed more than once.

“Well it’s a pleasure to meet you too, Suri,” the older mare replied with a warm smile before turning to Star. “Three years I’ve known you and never once have you brought along a friend when you’ve stayed here, but now you bring four different ponies in one week?” Cary laughed as she returned her attention to her cinnamon dough.

“Yes, I suppose I’ve just gotten quite a bit more popular as of late,” Star replied.

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Brass Heart interjected. He had been silent since hearing about Dawn’s whereabouts, waiting patiently for the four mares to finish talking, but when it became clear that they were more than willing to spend the next few hours chatting nonstop, he decided it best to cut into the conversation, as rude as it may have been to do so. “Could you tell me where Dawn is? I don’t mean to be rude, but I am worn out and I’d like to get some sleep if you wouldn’t mind.” His face split in a weary grin when he finished speaking and Cary clicked her tongue in distaste.

“You should have spoken up sooner, hun,” she informed him with a piteous expression. “Dawn already checked into the same room that you two shared the other night. Just go on up and knock on the door, although you might have to knock hard, because he looked pretty beat too.” Brass Heart nodded his head and thanked the earth pony before excusing himself from her house to go to bed. Star assumed he would be sleeping most of the day, if not all through the night as well. She had no idea when they were leaving, but knew that Brass Heart wouldn’t let a little sleep deprivation be a hindrance to following the princesses’ orders.

“What were all of you doing last night, anyway?” Cary asked with one slender eyebrow raised in suspicion.

“Not what you’re thinking,” Suri answered for them. “I just took Axel and Star to see the nightlife in Manehatten,” she explained.

“Yeah, we went to this really neat bar and drank and danced and had a great time,” Axel chimed in. Cary laughed at Axel’s insistence that they had a good time, reading more into the overzealous mare’s statement than she ought to have.

“Did you now?” Cary asked.

“Mhmm,” Axel responded. As oblivious as Star could be sometimes, she had at least known Caresma long enough to be able to detect the inference of sexual promiscuity in the chubby mare’s tone.

“All we did was drink and dance,” Star reiterated, much to Suri’s amusement. She had apparently picked up on the undertone of the question and had seen the humor in Axel’s response. Star had only a trace amount of blush evident on her face, which was much better than how she would have responded to the line of questioning only weeks before. Her recent adventures had tempered her blatant naivety to manageable levels.

“Then we slept for a few hours before leaving,” Axel continued as Cary finished kneading the dough for her cinnamon rolls and started preparing them. The innkeeper’s hooves moved quickly over the sticky substance, perfectly flattening and rolling it within seconds.

“Well, I’m glad that you had a good time,” Cary replied before gripping a knife in her mouth and cutting the rolled up dough into roll sized slices that she could bake. “You’ve always been too serious for your own good, Star, so I’m glad to hear that you took some time to unwind a bit.”

“Yes, I think it did me good to relax for awhile, but duty calls so I believe that I’ll be leaving you once again after tonight,” she replied with a sad smile. Axel and Suri watched the brief exchange silently, allowing the two friends a moment to talk without any interruptions, although it was hard for the rust red earth pony.

“Just remember that I’m always here if you need somepony to talk to,” Cary assured the young unicorn. Star nodded her head in reply. She didn’t have many friends, but the few ponies that she could genuinely refer to as such were there for her whenever she needed them and that was a great comfort for her.

“Thanks, Cary, I will,” Star replied as she walked up and wrapped her forelegs around the pink maned mare in a tight hug, startling Cary into a fit of surprised laughter.

“Okay, okay, I’ve got to get these rolls in the oven, otherwise there are going to be a bunch of hungry ponies beating down my door,” Cary chuckled. Star released her and stepped back from the wooden counter, giving the earth pony a wide berth to take the tray in her mouth and maneuver it into the blazing oven behind her. “Are you three going to be joining me for breakfast?” she asked once the cinnamon rolls were taken care of.

“I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t,” Axel replied with a wide smile.

“Okay, then I need you two to get the table set,” Cary said to Star and Suri, “and Axel, I want you to help me finish up this last batch of rolls.”

“Sure thing,” Axel beamed as Star and Suri walked over to the cupboards and started pulling out plates and glasses. It wouldn’t take long for the two earth ponies to finish making breakfast, but Star’s stomach reminded her that it would never be fast enough. Brass Heart and Dawn were most likely famished as well, so Star considered waking the dozing pegasus, but decided against it. They would have only been in a bad mood anyway, she imagined.

“Alright, that’s the last of it,” Star said as she took a seat on one side of the small table. Suri nodded her head as she took a seat beside Star and the two of them waited patiently for breakfast, chatting quietly between one another as they did. Star liked talking to Suri, she was a very world wise mare for only being a couple years older than her, but every second the black unicorn worried that her friend was going to bring up the kiss they had shared back in Manehatten. They were going to have to talk about it eventually, Star knew, but now wasn’t the time nor the place. Star breathed a sigh of relief when their conversation was interrupted by Axel, toting a tray full of steaming cinnamon rolls that she placed next to the fruit. It looked as good as it smelled and Cary gave them permission to start eating while she brought food out to the lobby for her other guests. Star didn’t hesitate to take the pink maned mare up on her offer.

The slightly painful feeling in her stomach told Star that she may have eaten too much, so she pushed aside her empty plate and slowly leaned back from the table. The rolls were delicious and she had eaten three of them, as evident by the sweet stickiness all over her lips which she was in the process of licking off. There had also been two plump oranges that she managed to eat as well. Star’s stomach was overly satisfied and she felt a bit like a glutton. At least it was a rare occasion that she ate that way, Star thought as she looked over to her friends.

Axel was in the process of licking her plate clean and Star worried that the high sugar content may have been a bad idea, but it was too late for her to do anything about it now, so she just had to hope the earth pony would burn off the excess energy without doing to much damage. Axel set her plate down and suppressed a belch, which she apologized for. The red mare took a sip from her glass of juice before adopting the same position that Star had, clearly done gorging herself for the time being.

Suri, not too surprisingly, had managed to eat with a bit more care and restraint, settling on one cinnamon roll and a small apple before calling it quits. Star didn’t know whether the taller mare was actually full after that or whether she just cared about her slender figure too much, but either way Star envied her commitment to eating with grace. Manners were important in Canterlot and Star was very well versed in them, but when she was away, with only her friends around her, it was just easier to eat like a common pony, without having to worry about offending anypony else.

“I suppose it’s a good thing that I made that extra batch,” Cary observed with a laugh as she eyed the empty baking pan. Their host had only eaten about as much as Suri, because Cary was usually snacking while she baked, which was most likely the cause of the slight pudginess she had developed over the years. While most mares wouldn’t have been thrilled about even a little extra weight, Cary wore it without shame, or even much acknowledgement, and it gave her a very motherly quality that only served to boost her reputation as running the best inn north of Canterlot.

“Mhmm,” Axel agreed as she set her empty glass back on the table and dabbed her mouth with a crinkled napkin, “Thank you again for the wonderful breakfast. I haven’t eaten that well since, um, the last time we were here.” Cary just shook her head with a faint smile visible on her face as Axel laughed.

“Yes, it was spectacular Caresma,” Suri agreed.

“Oh please, just call me Cary,” the older mare told her, “Any of Star’s friends are my friends.” Cary smiled her chubby cheeked smile at the white unicorn.

“Alright,” Suri agreed with a matching smile, “The food was delicious Cary, thank you very much.”

“I have to agree, although I wish somepony would have stopped me after I finished my second roll,” Star said.

“I was too busy licking the sugar from my plate,” Axel laughed. “I didn’t want to waste a single drop.”

“Yes, we noticed,” Suri giggled. “I suppose that we should get this table cleared off now, hmm?” Her large green eyes glanced between each of the other mares, but none of them seemed to be ready to move, “Or I guess we could always sit here for a little bit longer,” she told them as she rolled her eyes.

“That sounds like a good idea,” Star replied as she waited for her midsection to stop hurting. “I don’t believe I could move right now, even if I wanted to.”

“That’s okay, Star,” Axel told her, “I’ll help Suri clean up and you can just wait here until we’re done. I want you to think up something for us to do though.”

“Sure, I’ll see if Cary has any ideas,” Star replied. Axel gave a quick nod before picking up her plate and walking back to the kitchen, followed a moment later by Suri, carrying her own dishes in the soft pink glow of her magic.

“Ideas about what to do around town,” Cary said, trailing off as she thought about the question, “What exactly are you three looking to do, something specific or just whatever you can find to pass the time?”

“I know Suri would probably prefer to go to a bar or something, but to be honest, anything that you think would be fun will work,” Star replied with a shrug.

“I see,” Cary mumbled, still lost in thought. Star sat there quietly for a few seconds, giving her friend time to come up with an idea, but Cary didn’t seem to have any clue. “I’m not really sure what you three would consider fun around here, but I know there are two bars on opposite ends of town,” she informed the small unicorn. “I’d start at McGallophree’s Pub and ask the old stallion if he has any ideas. That bartender has been serving drinks around here since I was your age and before. Take a left when you walk out the front doors and follow the road until you reach the last building. It looks a bit rundown on the outside, but Mister McGallophree takes good care of the inside, so I’m sure you’ll be comfortable enough.”

“Alright,” Star responded, “That is as good of a place to start as any.” It would work out fine even if the bartender didn’t have anything for them to do, because her friends could at least get a couple drinks. It was better than sitting around doing nothing all day. “How about going to a bar?” Star asked Axel and Suri as the two mares walked back into Cary’s dining room to grab the last of the dishes.

“That works for me,” Suri replied as she lifted up the empty serving tray and fruit platter. “I’m always in the mood for a cold drink.”

“Yeah, that sounds like fun,” Axel agreed as she took Cary and Star’s plates and glasses, balancing them on her head with earth pony skill.

“It’s settled then,” Star said as she finally stood up from the table, “We’ll head on over to McGallophree’s Pub to get a drink and then we can make our next plans from there.” Her two friends nodded in agreement before taking their last load of dishes back to the kitchen sink.

“You three girls have fun,” Cary said. “I’d go, but…” she gestured all around her, indicating the inn needed somepony to look after it at all hours. Cary took two weeks of vacation every year, but aside from that she was at the inn all day everyday. There were weekly visits to the town market so that she could buy what supplies she needed to keep the place running, but Star couldn’t imagine those being much fun. Caresma loved the place though and ever since her husband had died, she put her all into maintaining the old log structure and the guests within. “Besides, it’s a bit early for me to start drinking.”

“Oh, I completely agree,” Star replied. “I don’t even plan on drinking, myself, but I know that Suri and Axel will want to and I don’t mind spending the day in a bar if they’re having fun.” It wasn’t like she couldn’t talk and laugh with them if she was sober.

“We’ll just see about that,” Suri laughed with feigned menace. Axel joined in on the laughter, though she was unable to force even a small bit of villainy into hers.

“Well as long as you’re having fun,” Cary said as she got to her hooves and started scooting each of the dinning room chairs back in. “I’ll be here whenever you three are ready to call it a day and I’ll let Brass Heart and Dawn know where you are if they happen to wake up.”

“That would be very helpful,” Star replied, knowing that Brass Heart would be less than thrilled if they disappeared without his knowledge. Even being in a small town like Hallow Shades, Star knew that terrible things could still happen. Ponyville had seemed like the pinnacle of a laidback rural town, one of those places where the world felt at peace with itself, but all of that changed in an instant. Star shuddered at the memories of the blackened remains she had walked through.

“Axel, Suri, are you ready to leave yet?” Star asked her friends.

“Mhmm,” Axel replied, “Let’s get going.” Star gave a last wave in Cary’s direction before turning to follow her friends back into the lobby. There were a few ponies milling about the cozy room now that breakfast was waiting for them and Star gave a few polite smiles whenever she made eye contact. The Village Inn was at least getting business through the winter, Star observed as she saw another young couple descending the stairs. That was good news.

“It’s to the left, right?” Suri asked as she cantered out of the building ahead of them, eager to get a few drinks in her. Star may not have been a big fan of drinking, but she had to respect the actress’s dedication to staying intoxicated. She knew plenty of stallions who would have never been able to keep up with Suri.

“That’s what Cary said,” Star replied. “I guess it’s straight down this road. It’s one of the last buildings before the edge of town.” She pointed her friends in the right direction and noticed that the snow had died down to just a few small flakes drifting around here and there. It was still cold enough for Star to readjust her cloak more tightly around her though.

“I’ll race you!” Axel said as she galloped past both of her friends as fast as she could. Star was going to let the hyperactive mare run there alone, but to her surprise Suri took the earth pony up on her offer.

“Good luck!” Suri called back as she took off in pursuit of Axel, leaving Star staring at her well toned flank in disbelief. She knew that there was no way she was going to keep up with her friends. Axel was running on a sugar rush that Star couldn’t match and Suri’s legs were much longer than hers, giving the older mare a longer stride and subsequently, a much quicker pace, but she decided to give it her best shot anyway. The sound of twelve hooves trampling over the snow covered dirt filled Star’s ears as she tried her best to catch up.

The bar was easy to spot, sitting at the very end of the road as if it were attempting to keep tourists from leaving in that direction and sporting an eye catching forest green paintjob, that wouldn’t have been as obtrusive if there hadn’t been snow everywhere. Star gazed up at the sagging roof as she trotted up to the front doors, where Axel and Suri were already waiting for her. They had run fast enough that Star had given up chasing them after a short while, although she maintained a quick trot so that they wouldn’t have to wait long. She could see the effects of their sprint in the heavy breathing they were doing as they both leaned against the frosty wall of the pub.

“What took you so long?” Suri huffed as she nudged the heavy wooden door open. “I thought you had gotten lost for a little while.” Suri walked into the bar, followed by Star and Axel.

“Yes, well we can’t all be long legged or ridiculously energetic,” Star replied. “Which one of you won anyway?” Axel giggled as she raised a hoof.

“Yes, Axel won, but I told her that I want a rematch at a time when she isn’t hopped up on sugar, because that’s just not fair,” Suri stated as they walked out of the small antechamber-like room and into the greater bar area.

Judging from the decorations, Star figured that the place hadn’t seen any remodeling since it opened. There were portraits of soldiers from the end of Discord’s War decorating nearly every wall, along with Statues and medals commending various ponies’ acts of valor and bravery sitting on shelves in the back. This was exactly the kind of place that Star loved to see. History was practically oozing from the smooth, wooden walls. While Axel and Suri had their drinks, she could take some time to wander around and get a better look at everything.

“Hmm, I’ve seen better,” Suri said as she headed to the polished, wood topped bar. “I have to admit that it does look far better on the inside than it does on the outside though.” Cary had been correct when she said that Mister McGallophree took good care of the place. Star couldn’t see even a hint of dust on any of the tables, even though it appeared as if most of them didn’t get much use these days. Axel walked up to join Suri for a drink, although the owner of the establishment was nowhere to be seen, so Star took the opportunity to walk around.

The first thing she wanted to inspect was the shelf holding all of the various medals and other objects from the war, so she headed to the back of the bar. There looked to be a few dozen medals from many different years, spanning the entire war. Some of them were hundreds of years old. Star wanted to pick each one up and examine them more thoroughly, but she would never do something like that without first getting permission from the owner. Whoever Mister McGallophree was, he clearly had a respect for those who fought in the war and Star admired his attempt at honoring them in his bar.

Her gaze lingered on a few of the oldest looking medals momentarily as she tried to read the names which had been all but worn off over the years. Anything she could learn from this collection would be of great educational value, because much of the time during Discord’s reign of terror had been left undocumented. Objects such as these were one of the only tangible links to what had once been Equestria’s darkest time.

Sitting on the shelf beside all of the medals were a few other artifacts of equal significance. Star saw two different daggers, covered in rust and badly dulled, but in better condition than any others she had ever seen, as well as a strange pendant that caught her eye. It was a small triangular piece of some sort of polished metal, hanging off an unremarkable chain. Two wings protruded from the top points of the upside-down triangle and the head of a unicorn stuck out from in between them. The most interesting part of the pendant however, was the blood red ruby in the center of it. The gem was perfectly cut and held no discernable imperfections that Star could see with her naked eye, but the most striking aspect was the way it drew her eyes into its depths.

She reached a tentative hoof out, hovering just above the strange relic for a few moments as she felt a strange sensation. Her horn throbbed, but not painfully like when she had a migraine from over exertion. It felt as if there was a spell trying to force its way out, a very powerful spell. Star brushed her hoof against it slowly and her breath caught in her throat at the contact. It felt like a spark of pure energy shot through her foreleg and pooled in her horn. She felt powerful just touching the amulet and wondered what it was and why in Equestria it was in the possession of a barkeeper.

“You ought not to touch things that don’t belong to you,” a rasping voice whispered into Star ear, causing her to jump and nearly knock over the entire shelf of medals and artifacts. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you any manners?” Star whirled around to see who the rasping voice belonged to, only to meet face to face with the withered light orange countenance of a very old earth pony.

“I- I am so sorry, I wasn’t going to break it,” Star hurriedly apologized. “I- I was just admiring this, um, wartime collection and I noticed that strange pendant there.” The old stallion’s face broke into a wrinkled smile at Star’s stammered apology.

“That’s quite alright cutie,” he replied. “Besides, I doubt that you could have hurt that amulet, even if you had wanted to.” His eyes looked past Star, resting on the red jewel for a moment before he snapped back into the conversation. “My name is Lucky McGallophree and you are?” he asked, drawing Star’s attention away from his display.

“Oh, I am Discipula Star an archeologist and student of Princess Luna,” she introduced herself with a quick bow, “My friends and I are passing through on our way back to Canterlot and Caresma told us that this was the best place to get something to drink.”

“Well then she told you the truth,” the barkeeper chuckled. “Has been the best place to get a drink for the past sixty-five years.” Star could tell the earth pony was very advanced in age, but exactly how old was a mystery. Cary had told her that Mister McGallophree had been tending bar in town since before she was Star’s age, but hadn’t said for how long before. Star wouldn’t have been surprised to hear that the bar had opened before Discord’s war ended; it certainly would have fit in with its minimalist fashion styling and basic furniture.

“Great,” Star replied with a smile. “I don’t really drink myself, but both of my friends at the bar do and I’m sure they will be the best customers you get all day.”

“That really wouldn’t be saying a whole lot, missy,” Lucky McGallophree snickered. “The only other customers I ever get these days are my friends and the occasional tourists that Cary sends my way.” Star followed the earth pony up to the counter, where he opened a small swinging door and walked behind it. “Sweet young lady that Cary is,” he mumbled aloud as he wandered over to the pair of young mares sitting in front of his bar.

“She certainly is,” Star replied, though she doubted the stallion’s hearing was good enough to have picked up her statement.

“Sorry about being so slow,” Lucky apologized as he hobbled up to Axel and Suri. “I hate to keep beautiful mares waiting, but these old bones don’t work like they used to.” Both mares just shrugged it off because they weren’t in any hurry at the moment. “What can I get for you?”

Suri didn’t even have to consider the question before replying, “I’ll take the strongest shot of whiskey you have, followed by your hardest cider.” She backed up her request by dropping a hooffull of bits onto the counter.

“And for you, young lady?” Lucky asked as he scooped the bits up and dropped them into a small box on his side of the bar.

“Um, I’m not really sure,” Axel replied, “What would you recommend?”

“Hmm, I suppose you might like a pink whiskey,” Lucky told her as he started grabbing various glasses and bottles from the old shelves behind him. Star could see quite a few bottles, although not nearly as many as in Cockatrice, but most of the ones she saw looked to be of a much older vintage. Above all of them, hanging on a polished brass plaque, rested four perfectly maintained horseshoes, the kind used in war. The metal looked pristine and there was a razor thin blade protruding from the shoes that would have been worn on the forehooves.

“Whose are those?” Star asked, pointing a hoof up at the plaque as she took the stool next to Suri. “They look like they’re almost new.”

“Those belonged to my great-grandfather originally,” the old stallion told her. “They’ve been passed down from generation to generation since the war. I meant to give them to my son, but he’s never been the type of stallion to care about heirlooms of that nature. I don’t think he’s even gotten in one fight his entire life and although I can appreciate that, well…” Lucky trailed off as he turned his focus to pouring drinks for the two mares who had ordered them.

“They’re beautiful,” Star commented as he passed a shot of whiskey over to Suri and placed a large mug of cider next to it.

“Mhmm, I try to keep them in good condition,” Lucky told her. He poured out two shots of the same whiskey that Suri had gotten into a tall glass and mixed in some pink liquid that smelled like lemons before giving it a quick stir and placing it in front of Axel. Star had to admit that it looked like it would taste pretty good. “Can I get you anything, Miss Star?”

“Um, I think that I will have a glass of juice,” she replied. “I’m not really much of a drinker.” The old stallion nodded his head before turning around to grab one more glass from the shelf.

“How does some pink lemonade sound?” he asked as he picked up the large jug that he had used to mix Axel’s drink.

“That will be just fine,” Star assured him with a smile. He poured her a tall glass and dropped a few ice cubes into it before setting the drink in front of her.

“I have some crates to unpack in the back,” Lucky informed them, “but you can just give a holler if you need anything else.” The three mares nodded their heads in unison as he took his leave.

Suri’s horn glowed pink as she lifted the shot glass to her lips and took it in one swig before slamming it back down and following it with a sip from her cider. Axel took a taste of her drink at the same time and then, deciding that it was just as good as Lucky had promised, she took a longer drink. Seeing how much her friend had enjoyed the pink whiskey, Star helped herself to a large drink from her own lemonade. It was tangy and sweet as it went down, the perfect combination.

Star had no idea what time it was, the windows inside the bar were covered by thick curtains in order to keep the natural light out, but she did know that both Axel and Suri were very intoxicated. Suri’s former job had paid well enough, Star deduced, so she had plenty of coin to spend on drink after drink for her and Axel. Star had quit counting what number the mares were on, but she was almost positive it was around six or seven, not to mention the couple of shots that they had taken in between mixed drinks. Star eventually caved in to Suri pressuring her and ordered one drink, a pink whiskey, the same thing that Axel had started out with.

Lucky had finished unpacking crates and cleaning off every table in the bar earlier, though nopony else had come in after the three mares, so now he was enjoying his own drink each time he poured one for Suri. The old stallion had clearly been a heavy drinker in his prime, but now he was having trouble not spilling liquor all over the bar after just four whiskey sours. Lucky had plenty of interesting, as well as very humorous, stories to share though and he kept all three ponies laughing while they drank. Star was glad that they had decided to come to McGallophree’s Pub, because she couldn’t imagine having a better time anywhere else in Hallow Shades.

“Sho, there we are,” Lucky continued his current story, slurring his words pretty heavily at this point, “we had jusht finished an entire, hic, an entire keg… and my old buddy, Prim, deshides that we should try our hoovesh at alligator wreshtling.” It seemed like all of Lucky’s stories involved copious amounts of alcohol. Star wondered how he hadn’t succumbed to poisoning based on how much he used to drink. “Needlesh to shay, it wash a very bad idea and that’sh how Prim lost his right leg up to the knee.” Star couldn’t believe that the old stallion was still smiling after telling such a horrid story, but Suri and Axel had no qualms about joining in on his laughter after he let loose.

“No alligator wrestling for you two,” Star said as she took another small sip from her drink.

“You don’t have to tell me twice,” Suri giggled.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Axel replied, “it sounds like it could be fun.” She was joking of course, but Star still decided to keep a closer eye on the rambunctious earth pony. If one of her friends was going to do something stupid while they were drunk, then it would most likely be Axel. The earth pony glanced over at Star and noticed her serious expression. “I was joking,” she assured the unicorn.

“Mhmm, well I’m still going to ke-,” Star began to reply before the door to the bar opened up. Everypony swiveled around to see who had entered.

“Cary was right, you are still here,” Dawn said as he walked through the doors and stood beside the bar. “I came to get you because we’re going to be leaving soon.”

“Aww, but we only just started drinking,” Suri complained.

“According to what Cary told me, you three have been here most of the day,” Dawn replied as he took a seat beside Axel.

“What time is it?” Star asked, realizing that she may very well have completely lost track of the time in the dimly lit bar.

“It’s a little after four,” Dawn told her. Star’s eyes widened in surprise at the pegasus’s answer. They had spent a good six hours in the pub without even realizing it.

“I had no idea it was that late,” Star admitted. “Alright, I suppose we should finish up our drinks and get going.” Axel and Suri picked up their glasses and swallowed the last few drinks all at once before hopping up from their stools. Star did the same, her face puckering slightly at the overpowering taste of the tangy liquid. “Thank you for a wonderful afternoon, Mister McGallophree,” Star said with a polite smile.

“Anytime,” Lucky replied with a drunken grin of his own. “It was nice to have three gorgeous young ladies to talk to.” The three mares giggled as they waved goodbye to the old earth pony and turned to follow Dawn back to the Village Inn. Star noticed Axel and Suri had a slight sway to their stride, which meant that she probably would have had a chance of winning a race against them, although she doubted either mare was in the mood to do more than canter slowly.

“Did you get enough sleep,” Axel asked Dawn as they left the well-worn building behind them. “Because I could always try to convince Brass Heart to let you sleep a little bit longer while we have a few more drinks back at the bar.” Dawn snorted as his face broke out in a smile.

“I’m sorry to disappoint you, Axel, but I got plenty of sleep to last me until we get back to Canterlot,” he replied. “In fact, I believe that Brass Heart and I are going to take turns pulling the cart so that we get all of the way to the city in one go.” Star was very surprised to hear that coming from the soldier who had abandoned his post to take a nap, but figured that it was Brass Heart’s decision to do so.

“And you’re okay with this?” Star asked.

“To be perfectly honest, I would much rather make the trip in two days with a night of rest between them,” Dawn admitted, “but Brass Heart wasn’t too happy with me flying ahead of you to the inn, so I think I’ll let him have this one.” That made sense to Star. Brass Heart was known to be painfully rigid in following orders, so Dawn’s little slip up would be something he wouldn’t tolerate very well.

“At least I can still sleep on the way,” Suri snickered.

“Good for you,” the stallion replied mirthlessly. “I should have gotten a drink while I was at the bar.” Suri and Axel laughed at his bad mood, but Star chose not to. She was just happy to have two escorts with her that were so faithful to their job.

The snow hadn’t faltered in its continued assault on the ground and had even grown worse during the mares’ time in the pub, so that as they walked Star was forced to stop for a moment and tie the sash on her cloak. Her horn flared white for a moment as she readjusted her damp garb before continuing on her way. The charm of winter was already beginning to lose its luster in her eyes and she couldn’t wait for the season to end, even though it wasn’t yet Hearth’s Warming Eve.

The majority of the trip back to the Village Inn passed uneventfully, the constant muffled thumping of four sets of hooves against the ground was broken by the occasional statement from a fairly intoxicated Axel as they walked. Star’s mind drifted off as she got lost in the monotony and she once again found herself wondering what exactly had caused the princesses to call them back so suddenly. The question would go unanswered, she knew, until they arrived back in Canterlot, but it didn’t keep her from imagining worst case scenarios as she followed her friends down the ice crusted road. By the time they reached their destination, Star had considered everything from another attack on Equestria to an ill fate for her friends away from home.

“I’ll go let Brass Heart know that we’re back if you three would like to say goodbye to Cary before we leave,” Dawn said as he shook the snow from his slender wings. “Try not to take too long though,” he added as he held the door open for the three mares.

“Mhmm,” Star mumbled as she walked into the lobby of the inn, with its warm air and comforting looks. Cay was standing behind the counter, having already finished with lunch, but not yet preparing for dinner when they walked in. Dawn gave a quick nod in her direction before heading straight up the stairs to find Brass Heart. “Good afternoon, Cary,” Star called out as she wiped her hooves off on an old matt sitting in front of the entrance. Cary put so much effort into keeping the inn clean that Star hated to make another mess for her.

“It looks like you three had a good time,” Cary observed as she glanced up from the parchment scattered across her wooden counter. “I trust that Mister McGallophree treated you well?” Axel and Suri followed Star up to the counter, the former stumbling slightly as she walked with a drunken gait.

“Yes he did,” Star replied. “I really admired his bar as well. I haven’t seen that many war medals and the like outside of a museum before.”

“I thought you might enjoy seeing his collection,” Cary said as she flipped over one of the papers in front of her and made a little note on the side with a flick of her quill. “That collection has been in his family for years, but maybe you could convince him to part with it. He’s always talking about how his son won’t want to take care of everything, so he might be open to putting them on display in a museum.”

“That would be wonderful,” Star replied with a smile. She knew that the Military Museum in Cloudsdale would love to add the collection to their exhibits. “Remind me to ask the next time I’m in town,” Star told the older mare.

“I can certainly try to remember, but it all depends on how long it’s going to be until I see you again,” Cary explained. “Sometimes you go entire months without visiting.” Star knew it was true and felt bad about how infrequent her trips to Hallow Shades were, but it was a long trip and her studies with the princess, combined with her work as an archeologist made it difficult to for her to find the time.

“I will definitely try to get up here more often,” Star assured her, “although with the way everything has been going lately I get the feeling that it’s going to get more and more difficult to do so.” She almost mentioned the curfew that might be put in place soon, but thought better of it.

“Don’t worry, Cary,” Axel spoke up, “I’ll make sure that she comes back real soon. I’ll be coming with her of course.”

“Are you three ready to leave?” Brass Heart’s voice called out at he descended the stairs with Dawn. “We need to get moving soon.” Star wished that she could spend just a little longer with Cary before she left, but there was no use drawing out her goodbyes, so she nodded to Brass Heart before turning back to the magenta earth pony behind the counter.

“I guess we’re leaving now,” Star said, doing her best to disguise her disappointment behind a weak smile. “It was great to see you again, Cary.” The older mare leaned over the counter and wrapped Star up in a hug.

“It was really nice seeing you too, Star. You take care of yourself, hun,” Cary told her as she broke the embrace and turned to the other mares. “It was very nice meeting Star’s friends as well. Axel, Suri, I want you to keep an eye on her for me.” Axel nodded her head quickly a few times in response.

“Don’t worry, she’s in good hooves,” Suri assured the innkeeper. “We’ll see you soon, Cary.” With their farewells taken care of, Star and her two friends left the comfort of the inn, giving one last wave at their gracious host before walking out into the cool Equestrian evening. Brass Heart and Dawn were waiting out front, having suited up in their armor and finished packing. Brass Heart gave a half smile and a nod in Star’s direction when their gazes met as she was climbing into the chariot, before taking off with his and Dawn’s saddlebags, leaving the other soldier to pull the mares through the cloudy winter skies.

In light of the bad weather that seemed intent on following them all of the way to Canterlot, Star decided it wise to once again pull out the blanket she had brought along and drape it across her, Suri and Axel. Though it managed to reach across all three mares, the alcohol had already caused her friends’ body temperature to drop even further and Star found herself crowded by Suri as Axel squished in closer on the far side of the white mare. Despite the fact that Suri harbored no apparent intent to grope her, Star still shied away from the added contact at first, but finding no more room for her to scoot away she was forced to endure the closeness of the other mare’s body against her own.

The kiss that she and Suri had shared meant nothing significant to the actress as far as Star could tell, but it had caused the younger unicorn to question her own sexuality. She hadn’t even considered dating mares before the incident in the hotel room, but the memory of Surinam’s lips against hers was burned into Star’s mind now and a part of her was perfectly content with that fact. Confusion clouded her mind and she knew the best way to banish it would be to talk the situation out with her newest friend, but Star was worried about how Suri would respond. Even if Suri hadn’t made a big deal about Star’s reaction to their kiss at the time, she might act differently when they were alone.

Star was unsure whether she would have preferred Suri to make another move or rebuke her request for closure altogether. The thought of rejection was almost as frightening as the prospect of finding out that she really did have romantic feelings for a mare. Star could only hope that the two of them would get a chance to be alone and discuss everything that Star was currently panicking about, but that would only work if Suri agreed that there was something worth discussing. Star couldn’t imagine that the brief connection had actually had a lasting effect on the actress.

Suri was talking to Axel about something and her foreleg bumped into Star as she moved her hooves around animatedly while she spoke, causing the black unicorn to flinch away again, as if she was a filly who had been caught by surprise in the midst of breaking a rule. Star’s forehoof hit something in the front pocket of her cloak as it moved, but Star didn’t remember leaving anything in there. Curious, she reached a hoof into the pocket and felt something cold and hard; a piece of metal. She could have sworn that she had left the Wyrm Stone in her saddlebags, but she had forgotten more important details before and it wasn’t much of a surprise that she had, considering what had been on her mind lately. Star’s horn flashed with magic as she pulled her bags over.

She opened the side that looked the least overstuffed and pulled out the amulet, only to gasp in shock at what she saw. She had been right about it being an amulet that she felt in her cloak, but it certainly wasn’t her Wyrm Stone hanging limply from her hoof as she stared at it. The glint of red gem and sparkling metal was all she needed to see before shoving the magical necklace into her pack before anypony else could see it, not that they would even know what it was. Star still didn’t even know what it was, or how it had found its way into her pocket for that matter.

She could remember seeing it on the shelf in Mister McGallophree’s pub and feeling the power it radiated as she ran a hoof over it, but she hadn’t actually picked it up. Lucky had interrupted her before she could do much more than brush against it, yet there it was, inexplicably resting in her saddlebags. The old stallion had to have slipped it into her pocket at some point during the day, at least, Star tried to convince herself that was what had happened. Whatever the odd little relic was, Star needed to study it further before she even thought about using it.

“What do you think Star?” Suri’s voice broke through the black mare’s thoughts, startling her back into the moment as she kicked her bag over to where her friends’ belongings were sitting.

“About what?” Star asked, her muddled feelings about Suri all but forgotten at the discovery of the magical device.

“About the three of us making an annual trip up to Manehatten from now on,” Suri huffed, as if she couldn’t believe that Star had failed to listen. “I think that we should go to Cockatrice at least once a year, or more if we can manage.”

“Mhmm, that sounds like fun,” Star mumbled in response, her mind still dwelling on the mystery of the red gemmed necklace. Suri seemed to accept her answer and turned back to Axel so they could continue their conversation, leaving Star to her thoughts once again. Star was thankful for the peace, because she was grappling with whether or not it would be best to turn around and take the amulet back to its owner.

On one hoof, Star considered, Brass Heart would be hard pressed to turn back now, but on the other hoof, Star would have wanted any of her artifacts returned as soon as possible. The fact that Lucky may have very well slipped the device in her pocket also occurred to her, but Star wasn’t positive that it was actually what had happened, though she couldn’t fathom another reason for it to be there; it wasn’t as if she had stolen the amulet, after all. The old stallion’s carelessness with such an obviously powerful relic wound up being the main factor in Star’s decision to hold onto it until they reached Canterlot, then she could show it to Luna and get the princess’s advice.

With a course of action decided upon, Star was finally able to relax a bit and even participate in Suri and Axel’s conversation. It was a way to pass the time since they were going to be in the air all night and day and she was in desperate need of a way to keep the endless wash of thoughts in her head from wearing away at her sanity. She wasn’t exactly sure when, but at some point Star had begun to have more personal issues than she could deal with at one time. It was hard for her to even prioritize everything she needed to take care of at that point. Between repairing Nature Spark’s eyes, continuing her studies, sorting out her personal problems and now figuring out what to do with Lucky’s strange little trinket, Star felt like she her brain was being pulled apart and that wasn’t even addressing the bigger issue of the war.

Star did her best to shut out the maelstrom of worries as she talked with Suri and Axel until long after the sun had set, all while Dawn continued to pull them ever closer to the capitol and whatever was waiting for them there. The anticipation was eating at Star and once her friends had fallen asleep, she decided to try one more time to dream walk, in hopes that her mentor would be waiting for her. Star was disappointed when she finally managed to cross through to her dream world however, because the princess was nowhere to be found. She gave up waiting after an hour or so and begrudgingly settled in for a more peaceful sleep, without the much needed advice.

Author's Note:

Well, that certainly ended up being longer than I thought it was while writing it, I hope you all don't mind the extra reading. (It makes me feel even worse about the first part of this book though, but I guess you have to start somewhere). Anyway, Star is now in possesion of the Alicorn Amulet, for better or worse, and they'll be back in Canterlot soon. Only five more chapters in book one after this, so there's going to be a bunch of stuff going on. I hope you're all ready.

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