• Published 13th Dec 2011
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Far From the Tree - Rust



A mysterious pony turned to stone 1000 years ago is revived by the denizens of Ponyville.

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Divine Intervention

CHAPTER NINETEEN


DIVINE INTERVENTION

Otherwise Known as the Second of Uncle Buck's Bedtime Stories

Stable Mountain gave another mighty roar, and the flume of smoke pouring from the peak was suddenly streaked a bright crimson by an enormous gout of fire shooting several hundred feet into the air. A second rivulet of lava spilled out from the cracked rim of the newly formed crater adorning the top of the volcano, slipping downhill in a glowing tidal wave of molten rock. The town of Stable, nestled below the trembling slope, had little time left. Already some buildings had caught fire, some outright crushed from falling rocks, similar to what had happened to the Apple farm. The sun had been completely obscured by this time, hidden behind a thick veil of black haze extending for miles in every direction. Ironically, the major source of light in this darkened, apocalyptic world were the fires blazing out from the volcano, the very thing that had caused the devastation in the first place. Now, it served as a demonic lighthouse, its glow tinging the air a hellish red.

The group of survivors from the farm made their way into Stable, moving as quick as they could possibly go given the conditions. Several had makeshift rags and the like covering their mouths and face, as to prohibit the breathing in of the foul smog that seemed to hang in the air. Buck's nose wrinkled upwards due to the unpleasant aroma as he trotted along at the back of the group. He thought that it smelled something like a cross between a burning carcass, rotten eggs, and vaporized ozone. He eyed the other ponies with their improvised coverings somewhat jealously. The mare with the broken leg, draped over the back of another stallion from the farm, was traveling in front of him. She eyed his discomfort with some amusement.

"You want something to cover your face?" she asked him, her voice shaking due to the motions of the pony beneath her.

Buck initial reaction was to outright refuse her. However, a sudden intake of a particularly noxious batch of atmosphere that greatly resembled the scent of a burning outhouse caused him to go into a hysterical fit of coughing. The mare giggled softly at this. It was an odd sound, at least in this situation. The last thing anypony would expect during a natural disaster is the sound of laughter, after all. After managing to wheeze out a few clear breaths, he gasped in reply, "Aye. That would be nice."

The mare nodded and proceeded to take off the soot-stained cloth wrapped around her neck, taking it in her teeth and flinging it to Buck. He caught it in his mouth. "Fffwhat about foo?" He mumbled through the cloth.

She laughed again. Buck found that he rather enjoyed it when she did that. The sight of the pretty mare with a smile on her face almost made him forget the hardships he'd been through that day. "I'll be fine, Buck. The smoke isn't bothering me too much."

Buck wrapped the cloth around his neck, examining it. It was a bandanna of some kind, although the original color of it was now completely obscured by the dust and soot in the air. He nodded to the mare in thanks before drawing it over his nose and mouth. His voice was muffled slightly as he spoke through the cloth. "Thankee kindly... Uhm..." He realized he didn't

even know her name.

Her sparkling cyan eyes shone in the dim light. "My name is Leafdapple. It's alright, I worked in the kitchen at the helper's house. I didn't get out that much." She absentmindedly brushed some dust off of her foreleg. Buck could see the deep red of her coat through the gap in the filth. "Anyway, I should be the one thanking you."

Buck shot his eyebrow up in confusion. She was the one breathing in the smog while he used her bandanna. What reason could she possibly have to thank him?

Leafdapple continued, wincing slightly as a small stumble from the pony beneath her shifted her broken leg. "You've saved my life twice now today. It's the least I could do."

"Twice?" Buck could only remember that he picked her up off the ground and carried her to the temporary safety of the farmhouse.

"Once when I was hit by that rock, and again when you broke through that cellar door." She gave him a small smile. "Come to think of it, you saved everypony back there, not just me." Several of the group who were travelling near the two, including the stallion carrying Leafdapple, turned their heads to nod in agreement, murmuring words of thanks.

Buck flinched involuntarily, and turned his gaze away from Leafdapple. "I didn't save all of you," he murmured to himself. The noticeable gap made by the lack of his parents should be evident to the others. He felt that didn't deserve their thanks; he deserved nothing he hadn't earned. Leafdapple, sensing his sudden downturn in spirit, leaned out from her perch on the stallion's back and gave him a peck on the cheek.

Buck was completely dumbstruck. He tripped and fell flat on his face. As he got back up, blushing furiously, he could hear the sound of the pretty red mare laughing once again. He sighed and continued on his way, contemplating how strange this day had been.

The group eventually came to Stable after following the path from the Apple's farm for some time. A steady stream of villagers were heading out of town with them, trotting along the town's main street, which pointed directly away from the volcano, which was still erupting in the background. The destruction even here, although much farther away from the volcano then the farm, was highly evident. Several buildings had collapsed completely. Fires burned on several rooftops despite the best efforts of the local fire brigade. Buck passed a former shop that had been completely crushed by a falling boulder twice the size of a school bus. He shuddered. Hopefully nopony had been in there when it had come down.

There was a sudden rush of air behind him. Buck turned his head to see the two blurs he had spied before, one a whitish color, the other a midnight blue, whip above the town. The blue one peeled off and bolted back toward the mountain, while the white one descended upon the village, contrails streaming out behind it. A hundred or so feet above the ground, it abruptly halted. Buck could make out the sudden movement of powerful white wings moving in a single flap. A massive gust of wind pushed down on him from above. All the rooftop fires were extinguished by the wall of air that blew past. He covered his eyes, suddenly extremely grateful for the raggedy old bandanna Leafdapple had given him, as it protected his nose and mouth from sucking up any more larger particles of soot stirred up by the object's wingbeat. A voice called out, full of confidence and serenity. It would almost have been soothing, if it weren't for the fact that the volume of the words were turned up to incredible levels.

"Citizens of Stable! We, Princess Celestia, hereby order an immediate evacuation! All ponies are to proceed five miles due northeast, where a relief center has been established on the banks of the White Brook Fjord. My sister and ourselves will attempt to quell the eruption, but in the meantime we must ask that everypony must vacate the current zone of danger. ". The Sun Goddess cried out in her rarely used Royal Voice, referring to herself in plural form, as tradition dictated.

Buck was astonished. The Royal Sisters? Here? He glanced back up at the volcano, which was still churning out massive amounts of fire and smoke. The constant trembling of the ground had not ceased one bit. If the Goddess themselves had to come here, then things do not bode well for anypony at all.

Above the town, Princess Celestia flapped again, releasing another concussive downstroke. The force propelled her straight up several hundred feet. With her new altitude, she took off back to the volcano at an unnatural speed.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-

Apple Bloom sat next to Buck on the bed. They were both staring at the night sky through her bedroom window. The cosmos were ablaze with pinpricks of light. A few thin wisps of clouds scattered across the upper stratosphere absorbed the moonlight like sponges, glowing a bright silver around the edges, turning a shadowy blue towards the center. The moon itself was in full glory, the entire circumference giving off almost as much light as the sun.

Apple Bloom turned to her uncle, who had fallen silent for a time, lost in memory of ancient days. His eyes were locked onto the universe spread out before them, and she could see the starlight reflecting off his ocean eyes. Apple Bloom wondered what was going through his mind. He had rarely opened up to anypony about his past like this. Not even Applejack, who treated him like an overprotective sister sometimes, and who he often confided in for her sage-like country wisdom, knew of the tale he'd been spinning tonight. She chewed her lip thoughtfully. "So... What exactly does yer mark mean, Uncle Buck?"

Buck held his gaze on the twinkling ocean above. "Protectin' what I care about with every ounce of strength I have." He did not mince words.

Apple Bloom pondered this. "What is it that ya care so much about?"

He said nothing for a while, carefully thinking over his response as if it carried more weight than he would let on. Finally he spoke, slowly rolling the words around his mouth like he was tasting a new flavor. "At this point, I'm not entirely sure."

"Whaddaya mean?"

"Well, most of the ponies I deeply cared about have long since gone away." He traced a constellation with the tip of his nose. "Aside from you here at Sweet Apple, I've got nothin'."

"Most of the ponies?" She looked at him skeptically.

Buck chuckled. "Aye. There's one left," his gaze quickly flicked down at her, then back up through the window. "Maybe two." His eyes stopped roving around the sky and held position, peering at something with great intensity.

Apple Bloom fixed him with a questioning gaze, but held her tongue.

He continued, "Maybe ya heard of her?"

Apple Bloom was about to say that no, she hadn't, when she realized what her uncle was looking at. She could see it's bright glare reflected directly from his eyes. It covered the entire black pupil, so that it seemed his eyes had turned into silvery, glowing, ocean rimmed orbs.

"Princess Luna?"

"You got it, Bloomie."

She snuggled into his side, felling the rise and fall of his powerful lungs as he breathed. Buck kept talking, "Ya see, it was just after we'd reached the edge of town. Our group was in the back of the herd, on account of Leafdapple slowing up the pace. Wasn't her fault of course, I'd have carried her if it weren't for the fact that I had to turn around..."

-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-

The ground began to vibrate with a higher frequency. It seemed that the eruption was taking a turn for the worse. Buck looked back from where he was walking at the very end of the line of ponies vacating Stable. The caravan of refugees were situated on a hill directly overlooking the town. He could see the entire situation from up here, and it wasn't good. The two dots from earlier, which Buck now knew to be Princess Celestia and her sister, Luna, were flying over the crater of the volcano, using their magic to deflect the worst of the eruption away from the town.

Buck watched as the speck that was Princess Celestia ascended and began to whip around the edges of massive pillar of smoke, circling it and shaping the cloud with her powerful wingbeats. Her motion slowly began to shape it, narrowing the tower until it was a super-condensed, rapidly spinning line of smoke that stretched up past the clouds. The Princess was moving so fast that it seemed like she had turned into a line herself, a white blur that spiraled up the smoke tornado at a sickening pace. The smoke, which now resembled a giant rope, blasted it's material upward at incredible speeds, straight through the atmosphere and into space itself, removing the harmful gases from the world completely. Buck was impressed. The Princess had used a common technique he'd seen performed by weather pegasi, although in this case on a truly massive scale. He directed his attention to the other speck, the midnight blue one that he now knew to be Princess Luna.

The tiny pinprick of darkness was slowly circling over the volcano crater itself, using what seemed to be an invisible force field to deflect the torrents of lava and flaming debris that shot out of the mountain. The streams of material seemed to strike some kind of magical wall, and bounce back straight into the crater. This served as a corking action, plugging up any further eruptions. Buck watched in awe as the Princess shunted away a stream of lava, the hot substance sending out bright sparks when it touched her magical shield that could be seen for miles. Abruptly, the mountain decided to fight back. To counter the Princess of the Night's efforts, it had built up enough pressure now to release it's biggest payload yet.

A flaming meteor with roughly the mass of an oil tanker rocketed out of the caldera, heading straight for the princess. It impacted into her shields with a flash of light accompanied by a terrific thunderclap, and then proceeded to tear straight through them as if they were made of wet paper. Buck gasped in horror as the molten hunk of fire swatted the midnight-blue speck out of the sky like a pesky gnat. The stricken princess, now a blue fireball, was knocked away from the volcano, arcing high over the dim landscape. Buck faintly realized that she resembled a great comet in her descent. The fireball roared across the sky, picking up speed as it fell. Buck's eyes widened. She was heading straight for the town.

"INCOMING!" he roared before ducking behind an overturned cart for shelter. The refugees behind him scattered like leaves in the wind, most simply running away as fast as they possibly could. Ponies screamed in panic as the blazing cerulean streak got closer and closer. The noise of their distress was soon masked by the rumble of the incoming missile.

Buck turned his head away from the volcano and braced his back against the side of the upturned cart. He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, preparing for the coming collision. He didn't have long to wait.

With the force of a freight train, the Princess impacted onto the outskirts nearest to the volcano of the town, releasing a mighty kinetic shockwave that blasted over everything left standing (buildings and ponies alike). Her fireball was traveling so fast that it bounced off the ground and rammed clean through half the buildings on main street before slamming into the local banquet hall, which collapsed on top of her. Buck staggered back to his hooves for the upteenth time that day. The others behind him attempted to the same. The stallion with Leafdapple on his back was struggling to stand, so Buck went over to him and helped him up. He felt a hoof tap his shoulder, and turned to find Leafdapple pointing towards the town.

"I think the princess is hurt!" she yelled over the noise of the eruption. Buck looked back to the devastation of the town, and sure enough, the banquet hall that had collapsed over the fallen monarch was eerily still. His eyes narrowed. He turned to Leafdapple, who was worriedly watching him. "You aren't going back there, are you?" she asked. The concern in her eyes deeply touched him, but he chose to ignore it. Buck got the attention of the pony she was draped across.

"Make sure you get clear of here." His voice was iron, his resolve even harder. "I'm going to go and see if she's all right, savvy?"

The stallion carrying Leafdapple nodded in acknowledgement and began to plod as fast as he could down the path to the fjord. The mare on his back could only watch as Buck held her gaze for a heartbeat longer, and then whipped around and plunged down the hill toward the ruined settlement.

Buck used the added speed of his downward momentum to almost fly over the dusty ground, his large hooves sending up little clouds of dust as he went. The bandanna wrapped around his face whipped the back of his neck as he sped along the path, but served the job of filtering the air well enough. Soon, he arrived in the ruined main street. The going got tougher here; fallen buildings, destroyed market stands, and overturned carts littered the road. Bounding over a collapsed chimney, he hooked a left at the intersection in the center of town. He was now running alongside the path of destruction caused by the Princess' impact. A long, jagged gash had been carved through the buildings on his right, stretching back toward the outskirts of town. Buck realized the Princess had punched a hole clean through every single building in her path before grinding into the banquet hall.

The hall itself was shaped roughly like a loaf of bread, with a high ceiling and small entrance on the side. The long roof had collapsed right along the middle, cutting the building in twain A gaping, slightly smoking hole in the side near the entrance revealed the fallen Princess's path. Buck hopped through the hole and looked around, letting his eyes adjust to the dark gloom of the ruin. The dirt floor of the hall was littered with broken tables and pieces of fallen masonry from the roof. The gash carved in the ground continued to the center of the room, where it abruptly ended in a pile of large support beams. The Princess had slammed straight into the heavy ironwood center support column, shattering it and causing the surrounding roof to fall around her. All in all, the scene eerily reminded Buck of the pile of debris that had crushed his parents.

"OY! PRINCESS! YOU ALL RIGHT?" he called. The second he said that, he realized he shouldn't even have bothered. Of course she wasn't all right, she'd been smacked out of the sky by a ticked off volcano. Buck cautiously approached the pile. If he was going to have to dig her out, he didn't want to cause the wreckage to shift and bury her more. He'd learned his lesson the first time.

"If you can hear me, I'm gonna try and get you outta there! Gimme a tic!" Buck set his shoulder against a solid support beam and heaved at it. With a groan, the ironwood log rolled off the pile. For the next piece, the stallion set his nose under the end of a slab of roof at the edge of the pile. He strained his neck and the slab lifted up a foot or two. This gave him enough room to wedge his head under there and begin using his legs. Powerful muscles contracted with frightening speed, and the slab was sent flying across the room. Buck continued this process for several minutes, picking off the debris along the edges of the pile first so as to not cause the rest to shift.

After heaving another log off the pile, he revealed a midnight-blue hoof, shod in a silver gauntlet. The hoof twitched faintly, and Buck could hear a faint groan coming from under the pile. She was still alive! Buck redoubled his efforts, working frantically. He changed tactics; instead of shunting the debris away, he began kicking it off. Chunks of wreckage the size of mid-sized sedans began flying away from the pile as if thrown by a wood chipper. Buck grunted as he sent another ironwood support column zipping away like javelin. "Princess Luna!" he shouted.

There was another groan, and the entire pile of wreckage shifted slightly, as if being pressed upwards from below. A silky, though somewhat addled voice rang out, using the Royal "We" in a manner similar to Celestia. "We are trapped, there is a large beam preventing our escape!"

"Hold tight! I'll have ya out in a jiff!" He called back. Buck dug out the pile like a madpony. No pony else was going to get left behind today if he had any say in it. Finally, he was left with a single beam covering the Princess. It must have been the main support column, it was several hooves in diameter and clad in a metal casing. Buck could see the midnight blue figure of the alicorn trapped under it. The column was laying across her chest, pinning her wings to the ground and locking her forelegs in place as she strained under it's weight. The Princess shot him grateful glance before motioning with her nose to the beam. Buck got an idea. "This thing is too big for me to kick away. I'm gonna need you to try and raise only one end. If I can get under it, I'll push it up."

Luna looked at him like he had sprouted a second head. The weight on top of her was tremendous; how was a simple earth pony going to move it? Nonetheless, she focused her efforts on her left side, shifting her strength to lift up that end. She groaned with the effort. The beam slowly began to move, inches at a time. Once he deemed enough room had been created, Buck sunk onto his belly and crawled under the lifted end, cutting open the the back of his head to his shoulders on the jagged splinters. He bellowed in agony as the ironwood bit into his flesh, but continued.

Once he had put himself in place, he turned his head to Luna. "When I lift this bloody thing, wiggle out under my legs," he grunted in pain.

Luna nodded and tensed herself. "We are ready."

Buck closed his eyes and pushed. For a few seconds, nothing happened. His entire body strained with the effort, every lean muscle and vein clearly defined under his dusty dark teal coat. The fire he felt in his neck and shoulders was almost unbearable. Buck's hooves slowly sunk downward into the ground. The weight from above was so great that he was compressing the very surface he stood on. His hooves stopped sinking once the material had reached some critical level of density. Now instead of downwards, the force he applied began moving the beam up. The stallion let out a roar and abruptly raised himself off his belly, pushing his colossal burden up several feet. He felt a strange, cooling sensation on his chest, but when he glanced down at it, there was nothing. Now standing at full height, Buck locked his legs and braced himself.

"GO!" He cried.

Luna, who had been watching with wide eyes, rolled around and sprung under his legs. She landed neatly several feet away, and promptly whirled around to help. Buck's left foreleg suddenly gave out, and he sunk to his front knees. The beam began crushing his neck into the dirt floor. His face was violently pressed straight into the ground, cutting off his air. He strained for breath and fought back with all his might, but it was useless. His strength had been spent completely from the day. He was done. With a sigh, he resigned himself to his fate.

There was a glorious release as the weight suddenly disappeared. Buck coughed out a mouthful of soil and turned his head. He almost forgot to replenish his starved lungs, such was the sight before him.

Princess Luna stood tall in all her glory, her huge midnight blue wings extended to full length. They almost spread from one side of the hall to the other. Her eyes shone a silvery white, and her horn was surrounded by a strange, darkly glowing aura. There, suspended several feet above, the mighty ironwood support column hung weightless. With a casual flick of her horn, the entire structure was tossed to one side as if it were a twig. It shook the ground when it landed.

Buck looked at her in disbelief. "What, you couldn't do that before?" A few drops of blood splattered onto the dirt from his shoulders and neck.

Luna folded her wings, and regarded him with interest. "We are afraid not. Something was..." she searched for the words. "Preventing us from using our magic. The force went away once we had managed to escape. But a more appropriate question given the circumstances would be how thou managed to lift that beam."

He shrugged. "Honestly, your Highness, I've been doin' all kinds of whacko things like that today." He took in the sight of her now that she was out from under the wreckage. Long, elegant legs tapered up to small, compact body. Her flank had a splotch of pure black, adorned with a white crescent moon. Deep cerulean eyes peered out from under a long, icy blue mane to return his gaze. He got the feeling that she was peering into his very soul. Despite the eruption still going on, he felt oddly at peace.

"...We do not think that we've met before," she finally stated.

Buck held out a hoof. "Name's Buck, your Highness. Buck Apple.

She shook it warmly. "Please, Buck. Call us Luna."

Author: WOW. Another chapter typed on my Ipod. I need to start using a computer, those tiny little touch-screen buttons are really slowing me up. Anyway, Rate, Comment, and Subscribe. By the way, FFTT has fan art now! I feel special.

So very, very special.