• Published 8th Feb 2021
  • 460 Views, 30 Comments

Healing Shadows (2e) - AzuraKeres

On her scavenge for volt shrooms in the bayou, Meadowbrook comes across a shadow that will alter her future for the good and worst. Follow her tale of love, hope, and despair as tries to build a future with a stallion trapped in the past.

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02: Commoner and King

“Ms. Meadowbrook,” a young mare spoke before the healer. “Do you know about Whitetail Willows?”

Meadowbrook shifted her eyes from a clipboard in her hooves. She was amid jotting notes of her inventory in her apothecary shop. A task she would do at the end of every week before she proceeded in her forage through the bayou.

Her business had overwhelmed her home with lines of residents and travelers, prompting her purchase of a building within the vicinity of Hayseed swamp. Her tasks around the shop became less stressful with the aid of her assistant.

“Whitetail Willow?” Meadowbrook repeated. “You mean the trees with white leaves that droop like tails? What do you want with those, Pye?”

The young yellow mare pulled her tail before her. “Pom wants to dye his tail white. He said he plans to use it as a lure for the Firefly Rank. I told him he could use mane dye, but you know how he feels about corporate products.” Pye emphasized by swiveling her hoof near the side of her head.

“So, you want to make homemade dye for him,” Meadowbrook surmised. “That’s very kind of you.”

It had been more than a year since Meadowbrook took in Pye as her pupil. Before the opening of her apothecary shop, Meadowbrook hoped to find a creature to pass down her knowledge of herbs, passed down from generations of the swamp. To her convenience, Cattail recommended his niece, Pye, to her.

She found Pye to have quite the curious mind and persistence. Though she could be a bit impulsive in her actions, Meadowbrook found her moxie and kindness encouraging.

“He kept whining about how he wanted me to persuade you to make it for him,” Pye grumbled, sat, and crossed her forelegs over her pectoral. “Doesn’t he know I’ve been working really hard to become a healer?”

“I’m sure he does, Pye,” Meadowbrook assured her pupil. To emphasize it, she dropped her clipboard on one of many shelves of her brews and hugged her pupil. Pye wagged her tail wildly within her teacher’s warmth.

“Does that mean you’ll help me?” Pye asked.

“Of course,” Meadowbrook confirmed. “But it’ll take some time to make preparations. Willows commonly grow in the Far East of Equestria. I’ll have to ask a friend to collect the leaves for us.”

Pye’s tail halted. A frown plastered on the young mare’s face. “Why can’t we go together? Don’t you think it’d be fun to venture into the east? We could find all sorts of plants and even try out those fancy kimonos.”

“Pye,” Meadowbrook said with an arched eyebrow. “You know, I don’t have time for that right now. There’s no pony else but us to run this shop. Just trust my friend. She’ll get it for us as soon as possible.”

Pye groaned with a pouty face. It nearly tempted Meadowbrook to pinch the young mare’s inflated cheeks. “Fine,” Pye relented.

“You’re so understanding, Sugar.” Meadowbrook then released her hold on Pye and picked her clipboard back up with her hoof. “Now, before I send a request to my friend, I have to go out and forage for some volt toadstools in the bayou. They’ve been going out fast as of late.”

“It’s not that surprising.” Pye hopped beside Meadowbrook as they made their way to the shop’s counter. “I’d think any creature would flock to an energy drink that’s both energizing and healthy.”

Meadowbrook strapped a saddlebag onto her behind the counter and then made her way to the entrance. “Well, it’s certainly added more workload on my plate. I’m going to head out now, so I’ll trust you to close up the shop.”

Pye made a dramatic salute to her teacher. “You got it!”

Meadowbrook breathed in the fresh air of the sunlit swamp. Outside of her apothecary shop, she stood atop a long and conjoined bridge that extended across a broad lake.

The aged woods of neighboring buildings showed its long history within the swamp. For generations, it housed descendants of Meadowbrook’s loved ones. To outsiders hailing from urban towns and cities, this place didn’t look like much. But to Meadowbrook, it meant everything.

This was where it all began for her. From her family, her friends, her purpose, all her roots stemmed from Hayseed Swamp.

When she discovered she missed a whole millennium during her entrapment in limbo, she was heartbroken to never see her old friends and family again. For her, it was a mere moment. But for them, it was their entire life. She never had the chance to say goodbye to them.

Even after two years, she had yet to move on from her regrets. However, she could take solace there was still a home for her to come back. By living amongst descendants of her family, though different in many ways, her family remained at her side through the centuries.

Meadowbrook hummed through the bridge and waved at the residents on their merry day. A young mare draped dampened garments on a clothesline before patting them. A group of stallions took apart wood planks of a now prohibited path of the bridge to replace them with new ones.

Meadowbrook then came upon a red ball that bounced before her. She stopped it in place with a hoof and was then immediately approached by a rushing group of foals.

“Hey, Ms. Meadow,” one foal spoke. “Pass it to me.”

Meadowbrook arched a brow at the foals. “Now y’all know better than to play around on the bridge. You could get yourself hurt if you’re not careful.” She picked the ball up with a hoof and threw it into the hoof of the asking foal. “Why don’t you frisky tadpoles go play on the land where it’s safe?”

“Yes ma’am,” the foals said, taking off without so much as a fuss. Meadowbrook watched them ensure they heeded her words. When they gathered at the coast of the lake, Meadowbrook simpered, pleased with their compliance.

“You sure do have a way with the young ones,” Meadowbrook perked her ears high to a voice.

An old stallion approached her. His languid braids of caramel seemed loose and inevitable to unwound.

“Elder Moab,” Meadowbrook recognized. The sloppy wind of his mane and tail garnered an infamous reputation around the swamp. Neighbors would gawk at him with perturbed looks at Elder Moab’s messy braids. They would often offer to fix it. Despite his stubbornness to tend his braids on his own, Meadowbrook and the rest of Hayseed Swamp still honor him as their chief of the bayou. “Good afternoon.”

“And a good day to you as well,” Moab reciprocated the gesture. “I see you’re on your way to the bayou. Good thing I get to see you off. How’ve you been?”

“Oh, I’m just fine. Pye’s closin’ up the shop while I’m heading off to the swamp to collect more volt shrooms to brew. It’s been very popular as of late.”

“Aw yes, that.” Moab stroked his long goatee. “That special herb of yours has attracted a lot of outsiders. Hopefully, they don’t take our mares and stallions away with them.”

“Don’t be like that. I think it’s important that every pony follows their heart.”

“I know, I know. I just don’t like to go without familiar faces for a long time.”

“I understand what you mean,” Meadowbrook said, a small frown wedged onto her face. “You get this bad coldness in your body when you find the ponies you’ve known for so long are no longer around to greet you every morning.”

“Well, you won’t have to worry about me going anywhere,” Moab assured. “Place just wouldn’t be the same without an old coot like me.”

“You shouldn’t call yourself that,” Meadowbrook chortled. “You’ll end up making that a new nickname from the young ones.”

“Hah, I wish they would,” Moab gloated. “Anyway, I know you got a long day ahead of you. Make sure you’re finished before the night arrives, got it?”

“Yes, sir.”

After a bow, Meadowbrook continued her journey to the bayou. Though her mind would often ail of longing for the past, she took solace that there was still a home she could come back to. As long as ponies continued to thrive in the bayou for generations to come, Meadowbrook felt assured she would never be alone.

The musky smell of the humid dirt made Meadowbrook nostalgic of her younger days. She remembered many forages with her mother, who taught her of the many plants, creatures, and winds of nature within the bayou.

Meadowbrook found it hard to believe that the swamp had changed little over the centuries. The same critters and trees littered the place, almost like a timeless sanctuary.

Her sight darted upon neon shrooms emitting small sparks beneath the large roots of a tree. She crawled near the plant and picked it out from their stalk, where the bolts were mostly weak. She dumped the shrooms in a rubber pouch she fastened tight to ensure none of the bolts would escape.

These were indeed the volt shrooms she was looking for, but this batch wouldn’t be enough to satisfy demanding customers. If the shrooms weren’t so common in the swamp, she would find it troublesome to remove so many from the biome.

Continuing her forage, she noticed a small cluster of volt shrooms near a river.

“Oh no,” she gasped, her face riddled with concern.

A few wouldn’t cause much harm, but with their fast growth, it could quickly become a hazard.

Meadowbrook picked the stalks of the volt shroom and then dug beneath the dirt to tear out its mycelium. By nipping its roots, she hoped to control the direction of its growth. Guiding it away from the water was the safest bet to prevent danger.

As she continued to tear out the mycelium, an odd sound suddenly caught her attention. A sizzling sound of something being roasted vibrated in Meadowbrook’s ear, garnering her attention. “Hm?”

She traced the sound through a shrub and then gaped before a strange black sludge. Its body shook gelatinous and appeared to have white dust trickling off from a region of its skin. “I’ve never seen a thing like you here in the bayou. What are you?”

The sludge remained still under Meadowbrook’s sight. Curious, she neared the creature, hoping to see more of its composition.

The sludge suddenly pounced on her, causing the mare to yelp. Instinctively, she swiped the creature away with a hoof. She sent the sludge flying into an opening of the sunlight, where its skin singed under it. The sludge moved sporadically to escape back into the shade.

“Oh,” Meadowbrook gasped. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

The black sludge shivered wildly, unnerving her of what could be going through its mind. However, she took a breath to collect herself. “Don’t worry, I can fix you right up.”

Meadowbrook withdrew a small jar from her saddlebag and attempted to approach the sludge again. It tried to move away from her, but its movement was as slow as a slug.

Without difficulty, she scooped the creature inside of her jar. When she tightened the lid on the jar, she beheld the sight of the creature. The inside of the sludge was like a bottomless void that had no end. An endless pit of darkness too thick for her eyes to see through.

She’s never seen a creature like this in the bayou. And as her mother told her, when something new entered the swamp, it’d be highly important to watch its activity closely in order to ensure the safety of the swamp.

So, Meadowbrook made a decision. After she healed the mysterious creature, she would debate whether it’d be safe to allow it to roam the bayou.