• Published 15th Mar 2020
  • 770 Views, 6 Comments

A Pegasus Promise - Waterwindearthfire



In a tragedy's aftermath, Fluttershy will take on her to honor a promise she made to a dear friend.

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Chapter 6.5 - A Worthy Harvest

To have meaningful work is a tremendous happiness.
- Rita Mae Brown, pegasus -

“Ah, horse feathers!”

Applejack struck hard at the soft soil of one of the many fields of Sweet Apple Acres.

“That's not good, not good at all!”

An appalled silence followed as Big Mac and Granny Smith stared at the source of Applejack’'s frustration, an empty bottle sitting on a crate.

Granny Smith put a comforting hoof on Applejack's shoulder.

“Now, now, Applejack, ya're being too hard on yourself, I tell ya. The cider's fine. Ain't that right Big Mac?”

“Eeyup!”

Applejack had a sorry smile. She explained herself in a calmer voice.

“Ah know the cider's fine, Granny, but that's just it. It's only fine... Ah would like it to be memorable. Rainbow was mah friend, she deserves our mightiest cider. The gal loved it so much...”

Applejack refrained from shedding tears, she didn't want to let her sadness show, even in front of her close family members. Her pride prevented her from doing so.

Yet she had to admit she was disappointed. Her tribute to Rainbow should be something spectacular but this cider was no different from anything else she had ever made. As good as any, sure, but of the same ordinary quality.

Rainbow deserved better.

“I'll go buck some apples before t'night. We need to make an'ther try. Ya ready Big Mac?”

“Eeyup!”

“Then let's get t'work.”

_________________________________________

The night had spread its black cloak over the sky before Applejack returned to the farm.

Lit by the glow of a few lanterns placed across the orchard, the mare had spent the rest of the evening bucking trunks and picking apples.

When she opened the barn door, late into the night, to drop one last tub of apples, her legs were sore and tired. Only then she payed her throbbing hooves some attention.

Hissing, she bit down a curse and gently caressed her muscles.
She knew she couldn't buck trunks and pick apples all night, but maybe...

Ah should have enough energy to fill another few baskets after a short break.

She hoisted herself up on the most comfortable-looking bale of straw and began to stretch her legs.

She closed her eyes, covering her face with her trusty Stetson hat to take a few minutes of well-deserved rest.

Right then, she heard a noise. A muffled sob, up there on the second floor of the barn.

Her ears perked up and she waited a few seconds, alert, trying to hear something that would confirm she hadn't imagined the sound. It wasn't long before she heard another series of sobs that someone was deliberately trying to silence.

With no regard for her poor, tense, burning legs, she threw herself down her haystack and headed for a ladder to the second level.

“Who's up there?” asked Applejack

There was a few seconds of silence, then another sob.

“It's... it's just me, Applejack...”

“Scootaloo?”

No answer. Applejack started climbing up the ladder.

Once upstairs, in the faint light of the moon, Applejack caught a glimpse of the little pegasus silhouette on the window sill.

Hiding her face away, ferociously wiping her cheeks, the little thing was doing her best to not show any sobs, or tears.

“It really is ya,” Applejack finally said as she approached the trembling filly. “What're ya doing here, all alone? Ah thought you were all sleepin' in Applebloom's room. It's getting late Scootaloo...”

“I couldn't sleep... and I didn't want to wake them up... so I came here,”

Scootaloo looked at her. Applejack saw those naive, reddened eyes. Before realizing it, she was already sitting next to her.

“Please don't tell the other girls... about me... crying... they think I'm fine...” pleaded Scootaloo.

“Did Applebloom did somethin' to make ya sad? Ah told her ta well behave if ya where ta stay here all week.”

Scootaloo shook her head and sighed.

“No... It's not about Applebloom... or Sweetie Belle. They did nothing wrong.”

“Then what is it, sugarcube?”

Scootaloo turned her gaze to the stars, which she looked at for a long time before answering, between sobs.

“It's about her... It's about Rainbow...”

Of course it was.

“Oh sugarcube... c'mere,” Applejack said while she put a comforting hoof on Scootaloo’s shoulder.

Scootaloo took refuge against the mare's flank, freely expressing her grief. She cried, moaned and sobbed until her stream of tears dried up, long after.

_________________________________________

Once soothed, her eyes still a little watery, Scootaloo saw Applejack who was tenderly smiling at her.

“Why are you smiling?” Scootaloo asked her, wiping the last traces of tears from her cheeks.

“Ah was just thinking. Ya're just like me, Scootaloo.”

“Huh? Why? What did I do?”

“Well...” Applejack began with a little wink. “Ah think ya're looking at the stars, like me, because ya think yer loved ones are up there in the sky. Mah mom and mah dad are up there, ya know?”

Applejack showed her two particularly bright stars, far out in the sky.

“There they are, Scootaloo. Ah think Rainbow's there too and since Ah saw ya lookin' at the stars, Ah think ya have figured the same thing. Ah'm I right sugarcube?”

Scootaloo nodded her head, embarrassed, her cheeks a little red.

“So?” Applejack asked. “Where is Rainbow then? Where's our friend?”

The little pegasus timidly pointed another star, quite close to the moon’s right side, brighter than the ones Applejack had shown her.

“I... I think she's there.”

To Scootaloo’s surprise, Applejack shed a tear as she looked at the star. A tear that flowed down her cheek and, once it reached her chin, fell on the window sill.

Then, a warm and honest smile grew on Applejack's features. She was satisfied by Scootaloo’s response.

She amicably tousled Scootaloo’s mane.

“Ah think ya got a mighty good eye for that stuff Scootaloo,” finally told Applejack. “Ah think ya're right. Ah'm sure she's there, lookin' at us.”

_________________________________________

They kept on admiring the starry vault, clearly visible in the sky above the farmhouse. They talked a little about Rainbow, but soon took refuge in a comfortable silence that allowed them to enjoy the fresh air of that summer night.

When Scootaloo yawned and showed signs of fatigue, Applejack, who was also tired, decided it was time to go to sleep.

They quietly returned to the family home, and when they arrived at the doors of their respective rooms, they wished each other a good night's sleep.

Before going into the room where Applebloom and Sweetie Belle were sleeping, Scootaloo turned her head in Applejack’s direction, the one who had sacrificed her time to console her.

“Applejack?” whispered Scootaloo

“What is it, sugarcube?”

“Thanks... for tonight... I feel better now.”

Applejack gave another smile.

“Ya're very welcome Scootaloo. Rainbow liked you a lot and she always said ya were an extraordinary filly. Ah guess t'night Ah finally saw the truth in her word. Ya're very kind to yer friends, Scootaloo. Ah mean, hidin' yer sadness to not make them worried, that's very brave of ya.”

Scootaloo smiled back at her and on a final goodbye, the little pegasus entered the room and gently closed the door.

Scootaloo, ya're very much like me, thought Applejack as she entered her cool, cozy room.

She went to her bedroom window to close it. Just before she did so, however, she said a short prayer to Rainbow’s star.

“Rainbow, ya got up there too soon. None of us were ready. Ya shouldn't have left us, sugarcube, especially not Scootaloo. She's lost without ya...”

Then, in the darkness of her room, far from any witnesses, the tears began to fall down her cheeks in a continuous, inexhaustible stream. Held back for too long, her emotional dam broke under her sadness.

“And Ah'm lost too, Rainbow. Ya leave me and now... more than ever, Ah would need yer help,” Applejack whispered between her sobs. “Ah can't make a cider worth yer fame, ya know?”

And she cried bitterly, silently, taking care not to wake the sleeping fillies in the room next to hers.

She continued to plead her case to her friend, looking at the distant stars with tears in her eyes.

“Ah only need one more chance, only one, to make the most incredible cider Ah ever made, the one Ah always wanted to present to ya. Apple bucking season is almost over and if Ah don't succeed in makin' the best cider ever, Ah'm just not worthy enough to be called yer friend.”

She took a deep breath. What she was about to do had happened on rare occasions. She put her pride aside to formulate her request to her friend's star.

“Rainbow. Ah will only ask for this once but Ah really need yer help. Can ya lend me a hoof in this?”

Hoping that her friend could somewhat hear her prayer, she closed the window and took refuge under the blankets of her bed, her last tears wetting her pillow as she fell asleep. She dreamt of a late summer day when she and Rainbow were enjoying a cider under the shade of an apple tree.

_________________________________________

Applejack slept no more than a few hours before being brutally dragged from her sleep, at dawn, by powerful howls of rage.

Surprised, she fell out of her bed, entangled in her blankets. Although her first impression was one of dismay, she quickly became angry when she recognized the monsters behind the howls.

“Those damn Timberwolves varmint!” she squeaked before running to the window to open it and shout her response to the horrible creatures. “DON'T YA DARE COME TO THIS FARM YA HEAR? AH WILL NEVER LET YA HURT ANY OF MAH FRIENDS AGAIN!”

Then her attention was distracted by a concert of metallic noise further down in the barnyard, a melody of clanging pots and pans. The maestro was none other than Granny Smith. She was running around in circles shouting at the top of her lungs, with no less than six pots hastily tied together and thrown on her back.

“THE TIMBERWOLVES ARE HOWLIN', THE ZAP APPLES ARE COMIN'!” Applejack heard her screaming from her bedroom window.

Applejack stepped back into her room, stunned by the unexpected news.

“The zap apples are comin'”, she murmured, not believing her luck. “Rainbow, sugarcube! Ya did it! Ya answered mah call and woah nelly ya did it big time! Ya really gave me one more chance and Ah swear Ah will not let ya down!”

Looking at Granny Smith, Applejack began to carefully consider her next actions.

She then went to Big Mac's and Applebloom's room to tell them to meet her outside for a meeting she described as "important".

Even before Celestia's sun was shining above the Sweet Apple Acres orchard, the entire household was gathered near Applejack, even Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo whose half-closed eyes gave a glimpse of the tiredness that still gripped them, unaccustomed to the early riser schedule of the Apple family.

“Good mornin' everypony, Ah'm sorry ta wake all of ya so early. Somethin' extraordinary is happenin' right now! We have a last chance to make the most incredible cider we ever did, usin' the most fantastic kind of apple ever discovered: The zap apple! Startin' now, Ah would need the help of everypony to make this project a reality.”

She glanced at the rows of apple trees behind her.

“First, we'll get rid of the last bunch of apples 'cause we'll soon be harvestin' zap apples!”

_________________________________________

The rest of the day passed quickly, with Applejack and Big Mac working hard to clean the cider vats, put the old apples into bags to sell at the market, and clear the orchard of rotten apples that had fallen off their branches and wasted away on the soft grass.

At supper, gathered in the dining room around a steaming vegetable soup, Applejack looked at Applebloom, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, who were chatting animatedly about the future projects of their club. She asked them a very special request.

“Girls, Ah just wanted to say that this cider thing is a surprise to everyone but ya. Ah hope Ah can count on yar discretion fer this.”

The three friends shook their heads positively, promising to keep the secret.

“Ah'm also tellin' ya this 'cause Ah would need yar help. Ah can't tell much more pony. That wouldn't be much of a secret if Ah did. So ya will be the only non-apple to help with the zap apples harvest.”

“Us?” asked Scootaloo, skeptical. “Are you really sure you need us to help you bucking tree?”

“Yeah,” added Sweetie Belle. “The last time we tried, we kind of figured that it wasn't our special talent.”

Applejack had a small laugh.

“Ah reckon ya made quite the mess. But no, Ah have something else in mind. Especially fer ya Scootaloo. Ah'm curious to check somethin' Rainbow praised ya fer.”

Her face expressing boundless pride, Scootaloo vowed to do her best, quickly imitated by Applebloom and Sweetie Belle.

“Now finish yar meal and hush to bed girls. Ya need strength 'cause tomorrow's a big day.”

_________________________________________

Applejack stood at the edge of the family orchard. A good night's sleep had given her energy and rest, and she was now awaiting the weather phenomenon that would herald the second sign of the Zap Apples' arrival.

A strong breeze suddenly began to blow through the orchard, twirling between the trees, carrying a pleasant scent of apples. It crashed down on Applejack's chest, as she stood firmly on her feet, knowing what to expect and staring up at the sky.

As if in response to her gaze, heavy black clouds, carried by the strong breeze, piled up in the sky, black, threatening, dark. The air became charged with electricity, so much that Applejack felt tingling all over her body.

“The second sign, just in time,” she simply whispered.

All this accumulated charge suddenly poured out in a long electric arc that ran through the orchard all the way to the horizon. A myriad of small electric currents climbed up the trunks and wrapped themselves around the branches, creating buds on their length that opened under the effect of the current, revealing long hanging leaves.

“They look healthy enough... Now, time to get t'work this flank off!”

She spent the rest of the day looking for damaged branches scattered throughout her apple trees, ones that could produce deformed apples. She was helped by Big Mac. He carried to the barn the heaviest bundle of wood to be burned in the family home during the long cold winter months to come.

The work went on until late in the evening and, back home, after a delicious meal with her family, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, Applejack took advantage of the luxury of a bathtub filled with hot water to loosen up her aching muscles a little.

The hard day ended under a cozy blanket. After a thankful prayer to her parents and Rainbow’s star, Applejack closed her window and left behind the cool night air to warm up under her quilt where sleep soon closed her eyes.

_________________________________________

The family's rooster powerful call woke Applejack up in the early light of the dawn.

Throwing away the warm blankets to get up, without even a sigh for the magnitude of the task ahead, Applejack went to the kitchen to prepare a hearty breakfast for the whole household.

Eggs, pancakes, hay bacon, toast with last year's zap apple spread, tomatoes, fresh cheese and, of course, a basket of crisp red apples, Applejack had prepared a feast to fill up everypony with energy that would be wisely spent in the orchard.

Applejack, Applebloom, Big Mac, Sweetie Belle and Scotaloo spent all morning cleaning the many bottles and then putting them away in the crates where they would wait patiently until the day when they would be bottled and distributed.

_________________________________________

True to the tradition of the third sign, a little later in the afternoon, the sky was once again covered with heavy and impressive black clouds pushed by a strong wind.

And at the center of this chaotic landscape, hundreds of ravens. They were coming from all directions and started to perform, driven by a mysterious instinct, an aerial choreography above the orchard. It took the form of apples.

A new electric arc formed under the surface of the clouds, and it flew towards the ground, crossing and dispersing the cloud of crows to voraciously throw itself on the trees below.

Small flowers, with golden pistils, appeared and bloomed under the influence of the current, releasing magnificent petals of an electric blue color among the foliage.

Everything seems to be in order.

Applejack had witnessed the advent of the third sign alongside Applebloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo.

“Now girls, we should go help Big Mac. Ah know he's strong and all, but he can't do everything without us. And if ya work hard enough, Ah'll let you see the fourth sign tonight.”

The small group of cutie mark crusaders allowed the joy brought by this rare opportunity to flow freely. Accompanied by Applejack, the three fillies set off for the family barn.

_________________________________________

Later that evening, the day's tasks had all been completed and supper was over.

True to her word, Applejack allowed Applebloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo to join Big Mac and Granny Smith in the garden. She would also join them soon enough to see the fourth sign under a beautiful starry sky.

Applejack hastened to finish the dishes, a huge pile by the counter. This would be a big task, for on the eve of the arrival of the Zap Apples, a large part of the Apple family, strong, eager, cheerful and talkative cousins, and benevolent aunts and uncles, had come to help Applejack, Big Mac and Granny Smith for the next day's harvest.

A charming attention for which Applejack had warmly thanked each of the pony who had volunteered to help. The Apple family had once again proven the strong bonds that united each of its members, Applejack remarked.

And, as if in response to her silent thanks, four of her cousins entered the room to help her to take care of the dishes. Apple Fritter, Apple Bupkin, Apple Cobbler and...

“Pinkie Pie? What in tarnation are ya doin' here?” Applejack exclaimed in disbelief as she watched the pink filly walking casually toward the sink.

“The dishes, silly!” Pinkie laughed deliciously before changing to a worried look. “Or is it not what we are doing? What are we doing Applejack?”

“Huh? No... wait Pinkie. We are doing the dishes but I meant what are ya doin' here?”

“I'm here because you need help from every available member of your family for the upcoming harvest of the zap apple to make a cider that will match the fame of our friend Rainbow Dash!”

Pinkie said all that without a break. Then she grimaced.

“That was an easy one Applejack, you will have to try harder next time.”

“What? How did ya know about all this? T'was supposed to be a secret to everypony.”

“Everypony except for a member of the Apple Family, silly!”

This had the effect of a slap in the face for Applejack, who could only stare at Pinkie, mouth wide open, at a loss for words. Then a smile lit up her face and she started washing the dishes again, with obvious pleasure.

“Ah guess ya're right Pinkie. Well, Ah'm glad ta have ya aboard. As long as ya can promise me to keep this whole thing a secret.”

“Oh ohhh ohhhhh! I promise I will keep this a secret! I Pinkie Promise!”

“That's good enough fer me, sister.”

Pinkie's laughter rang out across the room.

“I'm not your sister, silly! I'm your cousin! Applebloom is your real sister!”

Then the pink filly started laughing even more, dragging Apple Fritter, Apple Bupkin, Apple Cobbler and, finally, Applejack into her delirium. The kitchen was filled with a warm atmosphere as it was at every Apple family reunion.

_________________________________________

When Applejack walked out of the house with Pinkie and her cousins, free from the mountain of dishes, the sky was deep black, lit by a thousand stars.

Many tents were massed on the edge of the orchard. They would soon be used by the ponies, which for the moment were gathered in a circle around a great fire, scanning the sky in search of the fourth sign. An omen awaited by all, which could happen at any moment. Applejack could feel it.

Apple Fritter, Apple Bupkin and Apple Cobbler naturally headed towards their close family members, Applejack and Pinkie did the same and went to sit next to Big Mac and Granny Smith.

Applejack noticed her little sister and friends in the company of Babs Seed and other young cousins. The scene was touching for the mare, for whom family was one of her most important values. And a sincere smile lit up her face at the thought of one day seeing her offspring playing and bonding with family members.

A cry of wonder echoed somewhere to the right of the campfire, prompted by Jonagold. And several ponies, including Applejack, followed the direction of his hoof and looked up to the sky to see a shooting star crossing the sky.

Then, dozens, hundreds and thousands more appeared on either side of the galaxy, converging on the orchard. One star for each of the greyish apples that magically began to appear in the foliage of the trees.

The phenomenon lasted more than an hour during which a ballet of shooting stars illuminated the galaxy to the delight of the fillies gathered around the pleasant warmth of the fire, wrapped in warm blankets.

The fourth sign disappeared with the passage of one last shooting star and calm returned among the stars.

Soon, the fatigue of a busy day gave way to the excitement of the event, especially among the younger ones who yawned without restraint, their eyelids getting heavier and heavier.

“Okay everypony!” Applejack shouted. “Tom'rrow is a big day fer all of us so, fer now, Ah suggest we shut our eye and hush ta bed. Good night y’all!”

_________________________________________

At dawn, Applejack was busy in the kitchen with Granny Smith, Pinkie Pie and a few cousins who had offered to help provide a nutritious breakfast for all those who would be working in the field. This would be a great start to a beautiful day with clear skies.

Pitchers of milk and orange juice followed one another in great numbers amidst pies, toast, pancakes, cereals, steaming dishes of scrambled eggs and beans, baskets of fruit, mostly apples, cupcakes and muffins, courtesy of Pinkie, on makeshift tables of wooden boards mounted on crates, set up outside the house so that everypony could gather in one place.

“SOUP'S ON EVERYPONY!” Applejack shouted at the top of her lungs once the last plates were put on the tables.

_________________________________________

“Thank you sugarcube. Ya really helped me this morning. The cupcake and muffins were delicious, everypony agreed on that.”

“Ahhhh, thanks. I was super excited to try this recipe. I'm glad you all like it.”

Pinkie and Applejack were sitting in the shade of an apple tree, their stomachs full. Waiting for the fifth sign, they took the opportunity to have a little chat.

All around, everyone was busy with small tasks. There was increasing energy, almost palpable in the air. Everypony could feel the imminent arrival of the last sign. Another hour, at most, and the picking could begin.

“Hey, hey Applejack! Do you think we will be able to gather all the zap apples before they disappear?”

“Ah can't see why we wouldn't Pinkie. We're a lot more than usual. And if it's not enough, Ah got a secret weapon. Ah still have an ace up my sleeve.”

Pinkie let out a loud laugh.

“Applejack, you need to stop saying silly things! You don't have any sleeves. You don't even wear clothes!”

Applejack breathed a little amused sigh while Pinkie started giggling again. Then, after a while, the pink mare got serious again.

“What is that secret weapon you were talking about Applejack?”

“Not what, Pinkie but who. It's Scootaloo.”

Pinkie opened her mouth only to be interrupted by a small orange and purple ball.

“You called me, Applejack?” asked Scootaloo.

“More like Ah was talkin 'bout ya. Ah was sayin' to Pinkie that ya will be very useful to everypony today.”

“Me? Why?” said the troubled filly.

“'Cause Rainbow praised yar performance on this scooter of ya. She said ya were mighty fast with that thing. And Ah need ya ta make quick runs between the barn and the trees to bring all the zap apples to Granny smith. Ah choose to believe in what Rainbow said. Do ya think ya can do it?”

If Applejack's words surprised her at first, it was a smile of pride that lit up Scootaloo's face, who, much like her idol Rainbow, smiled slyly.

“Leave it to me, she simply said.”

_________________________________________

“An'ther one here Scootaloo!” Applejack shouted over the noise of the surrounding cheerful conversations.

“We're on it!” replied Scootaloo after stopping her scooter, in an impressive skid, in front of the mare.

With a nod at Applebloom and Sweetie Belle, the three friends hoisted the apple basket, filled to the brim, and set off again, at full speed, towards the ancestral barn of the Apple family.

“Ya were right Rainbow, the gal is incredibly fast,” Applejack whispered before getting back to work.

The fifth sign had appeared over the trees less than an hour earlier, after a brief but intense storm that had filled the sky with dark, stormy and threatening clouds.

The compact mass of clouds was pierced and dissipated by a gigantic rainbow which seemed to be made of a strange vapor which the apples hastened to suck into them. Their colors changed from the most neutral grey to the shimmering shades of the rainbow. They swelled with a sweet juice that deformed the apples into a more squared shape.

A final ray, still displaying the colors of the rainbow, had lit up the sky before it died out. The Apple family had given a loud cry of joy and the harvest had begun with laughter and song.

And within an hour Applejack, with the help of her family members, had filled a hundred barrels of apples that Scootaloo, Applebloom and Sweetie Belle rushed to take to the barn.

At this rate, Applejack predicted a harvest five times more impressive than the previous ones. She took a satisfied look at her entire orchard and the ponies working in the warm afternoon sun.

“Pinkie?” Applejack then asked, immediately catching the attention of the pink mare a few yards away from her, who was busy juggling a few apples to the delight of the younger members of the Apple family.

“Yes Applejack?”

“Our family has been workin' hard. They deserve some happy time. Do ya think ya could throw a party fer them t'night?”

“Well duh! Of course I can! That's my special talent! For dessert, I'm thinking zap apple pie. What do you think?” asked Pinkie, displaying a big smile.

“Perfect idea,” replied Applejack with the same warm smile.

_________________________________________

It took three months before Applejack enjoyed her first vintage of Zap Apple cider.

After harvesting, storing, brewing, washing the apples, grating, crushing, vatting, pressing, first racking, fermentation and second racking, Applejack could finally taste the fruit of her labor.

And what a cider! Pure, exquisite, delicate yet rich in flavor.

Yet, Applejack was still not completely satisfied. Something that Granny Smith and Big Mac immediately reproached her for.

“Yer crazy Applejack. I tell you, this is the best cider Ah ever tasted. Isn't it right Big Macintosh?”

“Eeyup!”

“Sorry Granny Smith, Ah misspoke. The taste is incredible, no doubt 'bout it. It's just not yet representative of mah friend Rainbow. But Ah know just what ta do. Listen close y'all...”

_________________________________________

Some time later, during an evening at her farm, Applejack proudly presented all the guests with a memorable cider displaying the colors of the rainbow fondly named "Shy Rainbow Cider".