• Published 16th Aug 2019
  • 534 Views, 19 Comments

The Pros and Cons of Working Over Time - meanderingNekomata



Minuette and Limestone Pie are bound by the Choosing Stone.

  • ...
1
 19
 534

Dream a Better Dream

Author's Note:

Little note about the reference here, if you haven't listened to the album Razia's Shadow by Forgive Durden, I spoil some pretty big plot points for the musical that series of songs lays out (albeit using pseudonyms). So if you're curious, I recommend checking that out first. Also, sorry this upload's coming in just under the wire again. Once again, I was unable to dedicate what I deem to be a proper amount of time to editing, so feel free to point out any typos or other story errors I may have overlooked in my haste to get this out. Thanks.

--The night before

“And what have we learned about trying to fight a night terror prior to having a full grasp of the underlying cause?” Luna asked her new team of interns.

“To wage war against the unknown may yield strange crops, indeed. A new path is charted, the road veiled in mist. The Magician, to be sure, but shall it be upright or reversed?” the unicorn mare replied, her far-off gaze falling on nothing in particular. Her alabaster hoof rose only to clear a lock of her flowing periwinkle mane from her forehead, revealing the third eye she had manifested. The two remaining eyes remained tightly shut, as they had all night.

“That night terrors are fuckin’ weird. It was a monster, okay? I thought I could just kill it and everything would go back to normal. Like normally, foal dreams up some monster, you kick it’s ass, crisis averted. They’re not supposed to get worse!” the earth pony stallion complained, his charcoal gray coat and juniper mane blending strangely with the darkness which surrounded them.

A chuckle erupted from their fourth and final member, gradually growing into full blown laughter. “You shoulda seen yourself, all ‘don’t worry child, I’m gonna lay out that baddy out in ten seconds flat.’ Then ya just go to town on it with those runes of yours and it hurls ya right into the nearest rubbish bin! You can’t make this shit up!”

“Oh yeah? I’d like to see you do better!”

“If you recall, I did. It was so obvious, the foal’s a crystal pony, the monster’s a dark shadowy entity that turns the earth to jagged black formations in ‘is wake. I’m new to Equestrian ‘istry and even I know who King Sombra was. Goin’ straight up to the kid with offers of protection is gonna make ‘im peg ya for ‘is father figure. At that point, you were no match for the monster in ‘is mind same as ‘is real dad. S’why ya shoulda used the dream to become something scarier than the monster and crushed it like I did.”

“At least I didn’t lose control and become a flaming ball of rage who nearly destroyed all in his path!”

Silence!” Luna exclaimed in her Royal Canterlot voice, drawing the attention of her interns once more. “The lesson which you should take from this incident is that you must fully understand the nature of the problem which plagues a pony’s subconscious and form a plan which will alleviate the fears and anxieties at the root of the nightmare. Failure to do so properly could cause further damage to their psyche, strengthening their insecurities and hardening their hearts. Sometimes you may even need to simply watch the nightmares play out several times before you fully grasp the situation.” The former royal sighed, “I understand that you are eager to master the art of quelling nightmares and prove yourselves. When I first learned to enter the dreams of ponies, it was with the desire to obtain the same love and respect which was shown to my sister. I thought that if I could appeal to them by slaying the demons which plagued their nightmares, they would praise me for my efforts. That eagerness lead to more than a few mistakes of my own, mistakes which caused irreparable damage to the ponies around in those times. I do not wish for you to follow in my hoofsteps in this regard, so be patient, listen, pay close attention, and act only when you know how to approach the situation.” she gave them all a slight, somber smile.

“There is no flawless path to travel. Errors in judgement are as certain as the northern winds.” proclaimed the unicorn.

“Of that, I have no doubt. But you all have something I never had the benefit of. You have allies and, if you want them to be, possibly friends as well.” Luna turned even as the last sentence left her muzzle, trotting over to the next dream bubble followed by her motley crew of helpers. Her students.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The walls of the establishment were simple, yet sophisticated in their adornments. A few paintings by well known local artisans and and red draperies which hung about the windows. Lights were dimmed, and much of the illumination was instead provided by candles which sat in the center of each and every table. All the while, servers flitted about in a well dressed frenzy, attending to the needs of each guest.

“Pie, table for two?” asked the host, startling Minuette from her reverie.

“Yeah, that’s us.” Limestone answered in her stead.

“Right this way,” the stone faced stallion professionally replied before turning and leading them to one of the tables draped in starch white tablecloth.

Once they had been seated and their drinks had been ordered, Minuette turned to look at Limestone. She was scowling, not at her, but at some of the well dressed ponies sitting adjacent to them.

“Hey, Limestone?”

“Yeah?” Limestone answered, her scowl subsiding as her gaze drifted back to her date.

“You really didn’t need to go to all this trouble, y’know?” Minuette gave a wave of her hoof, indicating the restaurant around them.

“What do you mean?” she asked, warily.

“I mean, I don’t need you to be somepony you’re not just to impress me.” she gave Limestone what she hoped would be interpreted as a reassuring smile.

Limestone’s next response came out almost as a growl. Tears formed and hung in the corners of her eyes, as if held there by sheer force of will. “You don’t think I can handle this. You’re just like the rest of them, aren’t you? Looking down on me, pitying me!”

“No, that’s not-” Minuette tried.

“I knew this was a mistake! I’m better off on the farm! To Tartarus with whatever that dumb rock says!” the mare got up abruptly, knocking over the table in the process and rushing for the exit.

“Wait! Limestone, that’s not what I meant!” Minuette called, starting to give chase.

Meanwhile, the candle rolled freely towards the draperies, catching them alight.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

What seemed like hours had passed. Minuette quickly lost track of Limestone in the dark as the street itself seemed to shift about her, confounding her attempts. When she returned to the restaurant, she found fireponies at the scene of a badly charred building. Alarmed, she trotted up to a pegasi mare she remembered seeing at another table. The pony had a beige coat and a brown mane which was currently in a chaotic state, her dress was singed, and she kept glancing back at the damaged structure.

“Excuse me, do you know what happened here?” she asked, even though part of her dreaded the answer.

As she turned to see who had addressed her, the mare’s expression went from somber to angry as recognition flared in her eyes. “You!” she snarled. “You’re the one whose date started the fire!”

“Wait, what!?”

“Don’t even try to play dumb, I saw the way she was staring at us! You two did this on purpose! I already told the police everything and they have her in custody, so don’t even try to weasel your way out of this.”

“They’re taking Limestone to prison? No, no, no! This can’t be happening, this whole thing is just a huge misunderstanding!” Minuette turned to head for the police station, and plowed right into another mare.

“So sorry about that, I’m just in a hurry. I gotta get to the police station.”

“What is done can be undone, for it has not happened and will not be. It is anxiety which blinds you to what is immaterial. Your attempts to deny the fates their due strikes me as comedy most foolish. All is written, as are we, but marionettes drawn by silver strings. Rest assured, your performance shall be most wonderful and kind indeed, my dear, through all struggles which arise. Leave doubts behind you or cling to it as a foal to a beloved trinket, both outcomes remain ever the same. It is only the journey which is uncertain.”

Hearing these strange words, she looked up to see a tall mare with an alabaster coat and a long periwinkle mane. The mare’s build reminded her of Fleur de Lis and a few other upper class ponies. It was a widespread belief among the Canterlot nobility that ponies of such proportions were descendants of royalty, and they usually took care to ensure that everypony knew it. This mare in particular was smiling though. Her eyes seemed shut tight, or at least they did until a breeze caught her mane and revealed the existence of a third, amber iris. She wasn’t prepared for that.

“Who are you?” she asked, intoning the words slowly as she digested the sight before her.

“Hello again, Minuette.” came a familiar voice from behind her. “I apologize for not visiting sooner, things have been busy as of late.”

She turned again to see Luna trotting over, followed by two others. Two stallions, one an earth pony, the other a member of a race she only knew about through Lyra’s fascination with all things cryptid. A kirin.

The creature had violet eyes, a dark blue coat, and a literal mane of lime green hair. His rust red horn was accented with stripes of a lighter shade, and peeked out from a patch of sapphire scales that extended from the top of his face down to his tail.

Minuette looked back to the unicorn from earlier, then to Luna and the stallions flanking her. Finally, she spoke, “I guess this is just a nightmare then, huh? Well, that’s a relief at least. So, Luna, you gonna introduce me to your new friends or are we just gonna sit here giving each other weird looks?”

“Ah, of course, pardon my rudeness. These are my pupils, I am teaching them to handle nightmares in my stead. I’m sure they’re all capable of introducing themselves personally.

“Fair enough. I’ll start then, I’m pretty sure if you’re all here Luna probably told you a bit about me, but my name is Minuette. In any case, it’s nice to meet you all, or nicer than continuing this nightmare anyways.”

As if on cue, the kirin strode up and held out a hoof which she took and shook. “Name’s Winter Breeze, and I bet you’re prolly tryin’ to pin down just what in the blazes I am, am I right?”

She smiled at that. “You’re a kirin, I’ve only ever heard the old stories from a friend of mine though, you guys are in some kinda war with a group called the nirik, right?”

“Whoa, smart lass, but you’re off by a hair, or I guess it’s more ‘long the lines’a the legends’re off. S’like this, right? We kinda are the nirik, but only when we let our anger get th’ better of us. I’d run ya through the whole sorry tale, but we don’t got much time for that.” The kirin returned to his place by Luna’s side and the earth pony took his place.

“Hey, my name’s Grim Harvest. Creepy and dramatic, I know, but my parents had a much more literal reason for naming me this. Basically, I was born during a drought, and my parents own a farm, so they named me in remembrance of the hard times they made it through. Maybe that’s oversharing for somepony I hardly know, but I feel like I need to tell folks ahead of time so they don’t get the wrong idea. I like to think I’m a friendly and helpful guy, so I like to get ahead of it before anypon-er, creature starts judging me for the name.” he pointed to his cutie mark, which consisted of several interlocking symbols arranged in a circular pattern. “Doesn’t help that I have an affinity for crafting and understanding ancient magical runes.”

Minuette winced in sympathy. “Sounds rough, sorry you have to go through that kinda thing. I kinda get what you’re going through though, I get some strange looks when ponies find out my special talent is time magic. I’ve scared a few potential friends and marefriends off with that. They always worry I’m gonna abuse it and rig our conversations or something just so I can manipulate them or make myself look good. All I really use it for is to see more of the world and go to events I might’ve missed otherwise. It’s a whole thing, but basically my rule is that I don’t use it to fix problems, only for fun.”

Grim nodded. “That’s a good way of handling it. All magic has the potential to be harmful, that’s why it’s important for those who use it to do so responsibly.” then he followed Winter’s lead, returning to Luna’s side.

Minuette looked to the mare who had not moved from the spot she occupied beside her since she plowed into her. The mare held her gaze for a good thirty seconds. The silence was long and uncomfortable. When she opened her muzzle to ask the unicorn for her name, she finally spoke, “You may refer to me as Mystic Sibyl. I am merely tangential to your story in most iterations, though the weave does speak of a few rare alternatives in which the cords of our fates become more tightly entangled. So it is, then, that introduction and warning are proper in equal measure. Take care not to become reliant on the gifts of my sight, for darker outcomes shroud that road. To answer your questions: I am fond of poetry and riddles, for they do not provide simple answers. The pink one is known to me. They are the color of the sky immediately following a downpour and what is seen through them is the world as it is, rather than as it shall be. We shall meet again when or if the time is right, you needn’t seek me, though you may.” She smiled ambivalently once more, then trotted away into the darkness of the night.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

--The day of the date

As Limestone led her through the streets of Canterlot, Minuette reflected on the encounter she’d had the night prior. Mostly though, she tried to focus on the positive. One line in particular kept coming to mind. Something Mystic said: Leave doubts behind you or cling to it as a foal to a beloved trinket, both outcomes remain ever the same. It is only the journey which is uncertain.

Whatever other meanings had been hidden in her phrasing, Minuette chose to take it as Mystic’s way of telling her to stop doubting herself. She seemed like a nice enough pony once you got past the cryptic, almost monotone manner of speaking and third eye. Luna took a similar tack in the advice she gave Minuette. Even still, it was hard not to worry she’d somehow stick her hoof in her mouth and ruin everything.

Still, she was going to try. It wasn’t as if she was ever completely in control of her words around Limestone anyway. Besides, a magic stone told her this was a sure thing, just trust in magic rocks, Minuette, it can’t be that hard.

The two continued on in silence and Minuette had become so lost in thought that she nearly ran into Limestone when she stopped. She probably would have too, if it weren’t for the mare stating the reason for her sudden stop aloud. "We're here." Registering what the words meant, her eyes flew up to examine the building before them.

It was a theater, more specifically the Canterlot Community Theater. It wasn’t an outlandishly rich or lavish establishment, but rather one filled with a lot of heart. In fact, most ponies who had ever taken part in school plays around Canterlot had been on this stage in some capacity. She remembered doing a few plays there herself as a filly.

Canterlot Community Theater wasn’t a large building, not much larger than an auditorium and the place could barely seat more than two hundred ponies, but somehow it was rarely full enough to require extra seating. They ultimately decided to sit closer to the front, ending up in the middle of the third row, behind the seats reserved for family members of the cast and crew.

“So, what are we watching today?” Minuette asked, genuinely curious about Limestone’s choice in plays. She vaguely remembered her saying something about only ever going once, so maybe it’d be a surprise for both of them.

“The play’s called Serenity’s Shadow, it’s Ma’s favorite. I don’t really know a lot about this stuff, but I thought you might like it too since you brought it up with Pinkie last week.” she gave Minuette a sheepish look. “Uh… you haven’t seen it already, have you? If you have we could do something else or…”

“No, this is great, and I haven’t.” she covered Limestone’s hoof with her own. “And even if I had, every play is different. Different ponies play different roles in different ways, and I have a different experience with whoever I go with. For example, I’ve never been on a date here. That memory will be ours and ours alone. Who knows, maybe we could make a tradition of it, most of the plays done here do happen at least once a year.”

“Yeah! That sounds great. If we like it anyways. It should be good though. It’s gonna be good.” she was smiling again.

“Oh! I should get a picture of us before it starts!” Minuette reached into her saddlebags, pulling out a compact camera she’d brought with her just in case, holding it out in front of them as she wrapped her other hoof around Limestone’s shoulder. “Say ‘first date’!”

“First date.” she said, her near whisper easily drowned out by even Minuette’s inside voice.

And with that, Minuette snapped the photo. It wasn’t a digital camera, so they’d have to have the photos developed later. They wouldn’t know how they looked until later, but she hoped that by then it would be a cherished memory worthy of a scrapbook regardless.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

By the end of the first act, it was very clearly a romance. The story hit fairly close to home too. Two lovers, Kharma and Aurora, connected by destiny, divided by society and social status. Really, Limestone knew it would fit better with her parents’ story than her own, but still she found herself invested, even inspired and envious in a way of how the main character took to his destiny. Still, he left his family to chase his love, she didn’t think she could do that. She loved her family too much, she had to be there for them or everything would collapse. Wouldn’t it? Part of her worried she would be the one to collapse without them.

She looked over to Minuette, who was enjoying one of the cookies the students were selling for a couple bits out in the hall. Her marefriend seemed happy. Limestone wanted to keep that expression on her face, protect it even. I want to be the Kharma to your Aurora, but I can’t be in two places at once, can I? Even Ma says you can’t have your pie and eat it too. She left her family behind for love, but how could I do the same to mine?

Limestone thought all this, but she kept it in. It was selfish, she decided, but she wanted this moment. Even if it couldn’t last, she knew it could keep her warm on cold lonely nights on the farm. When Minuette told her she couldn’t live on the rock farm and the two went their separate ways until one or the other ultimately gave in. That was the only way she could see this going, and so she opted not to think of her own inevitable heartbreak, but of the many memories she planned to make between this date and then.

So she talked about inane things like how she was enjoying the play and which character she most connected with. She shared the story of her parents’ romance and gave her explanation for why her Ma felt so strongly about this play, how her father learned he was destined to marry her then noble mother through the Choosing Stone, how she left her family for him, connecting the two stories. Not an easy feat for a fifteen minute intermission, but she felt like she gave a decent summary at least.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The play ended with Kharma giving his life for his love’s continued happiness, health, and for the unification of their kingdoms. He lost his life at the hooves of his brother, Palace, when he attempted to save his brother from what he believed was nothing more than a harmful delusion by killing his bride. Kharma took the fatal blow in her place, to his brother’s regret and dismay.

It was the kind of story which made Minuette actually cry, and cry she did. She soon found a hoof about her shoulders and a teary eyed face beside her own. “Hey Limestone, it’s okay, y’know?”

“What is?”

“If you wanna cry you can. It doesn’t make you weak.” she replied, wearing a small smile.

“I-I don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re the one crying here.”

“C’mooooon,” teased Minuette “bet you’d cry if something like that happened to me.”

“I wouldn’t let…” she hesitated. She couldn’t promise that. Not if she couldn’t be there to protect her. Not if she chose her family. “That’s never gonna happen. And you really shouldn’t make those kind of jokes.”

“Okay, I’m sorry.”

There was a silence between them after that. The comfortable kind, as organic when it forms as when it is broken. So when Minuette finally broke it on their way to get lunch at a local sandwich place, they fell right back into conversation as though it had never happened.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Somehow, Minuette found her nervousness growing less and less prevalent as the date went on. It was as though Limestone herself somehow projected an idea of safety, of comfort. Her previous worries, the nightmares, they all felt silly as the two sat at a table outside, just talking about anything and everything. No serious topics, of course, as she didn’t feel like tackling those this early was a good idea, but stories and jokes and general chit chat were liberally exchanged.

The sun had begun to set before they realized. And even as the bright ball of flame made its way over the horizon, she wished this day would last forever. She could make it happen, she knew she could, but that would ruin it. Things like this were precious because they didn’t last.

So she walked Limestone to the station, the two took one last picture, indulged in another electric kiss goodbye, and she promised to plan the next date for the following week. Minuette practically floated home that night. The day Minuette fretted over had come and gone, and now the next one couldn’t come soon enough. Time is weird like that, nopony could ever really decide what they wanted it to do. It really was for the best that so few ponies could bend it to their will.

The gray stallion looked on from beneath a streetlamp as Minuette returned to her townhouse and trotted through the door. He adjusted his suit, which had been ruffled during over the course of the day’s activities. The stallion pulled a sucker from his breast pocket, unwrapped it, and popped it in his mouth. Trotting off into the shadows of the night, he hummed a tune he remembered from a certain play.