• Published 29th Nov 2012
  • 4,794 Views, 107 Comments

Polarity: A Tale of Two Sisters - Shinzakura

Prequel to All-American Girl. Derpy Hooves must face a number of sudden important life decisions

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Chapter Five: Until the Quiet Comes

Ditzy woke up the following morning. Where she woke up didn’t matter to her. Who she woke up with – four stallions, she noted; it had taken four stallions to “satisfy” her – didn’t matter either. The four were still asleep, so she walked out of the bedroom. Good thing, too; it was decidedly…“messy.”

Instead, she walked away from the house, found a secluded park to sit down in and cried her heart out. This was her now, she realized: when her family needed her most, off she was, getting gangbanged by four stallions and living it up. When her daughters needed Ditzy in their arms, she was busy being in between a mare’s thighs. When her husband needed her, she was nowhere to be found. She couldn’t even stick around to tell him she was leaving.

If she was lucky, right now Cloud Kicker would come at any moment and beat the stuffing out of her so badly she’d be hospitalized with a permanent coma. It’d be, at the very least, what she deserved. But no, she wouldn’t be that lucky. And by tonight, she’d be somewhere else, in somepony else’s bed – because it was so much easier to get lost in a stranger’s coitus than to face facts and be strong in her family’s forelegs.

And then the one thing that usually filled her with comforting soothing hate came into her head: Derpy would never do this. She’s too “perfect.” But for once, Ditzy’s hatred for her older sister didn’t fill the younger twin with resolve, but instead buried her in a deep shame. For once, she saw her sister as perfect.

…and her sister was right.

Breakfast that morning was subdued and strained. Sparkler looked at both adults and thought they were mad at each other. She ate her food quietly, nervous at the tense silence going on.

Finally, Silversteel cleared his throat and looked at Derpy. “Look, Derpy….”

She smiled. “It…don’t worry. Accident. Heat of the moment. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, Silver. We’re friends, and that won’t change.”

“Good,” he replied, relieved that she held nothing against him. “I’m glad. So what’s the plan for today?”

“First we’ll go see that captured unicorn,” Derpy replied, “and after that, this afternoon we have a meeting with a couple of the bison chieftains. Then in the evening, we meet with some of the injured troops at the hospital to gauge their opinions, and afterwards, I need to file my first report.”

“Wow, buffalo!” Sparkler cried. “Can I see them, Miss Derpy, can I?”

“Sweetie, it’s rude to call them ‘buffalo,’” Derpy corrected. “They prefer being called bison.”

“But Daddy always calls them buffalo or gaurs,” Sparkler said innocently. Both Derpy and Silver looked at each other for a brief instance, noting that only out of the mouths of foals could something so foul be said so without malice.

“But they don’t like it,” Derpy answered, “and if we want to make friends with them, it’s not something that friends say to one another, okay?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Sparkler replied, looking worried, as if she did something wrong.

Silver smiled. “You didn’t know, Sparkler. It was an innocent mistake, and as long as you do your best, everything will be okay, right?” She favored him with a sunny smile for that.

“So can I see the bison?” she asked, hoping that she’d get it right this time.

Derpy reached over and hugged the younger pony. “Yes, of course. We’ll see them this afternoon. But this morning Silver and I have to go talk to someone important, so I want you to stay here and practice your magic, okay?”

She pouted. “Do I have to?”

The gray pegasus reached down and mussed the unicorn’s mane. “Tell you what: if you practice, I’ll come back with a caramel apple for you, okay?” Derpy earned a hug for that one, Sparkler happy as a clam to get a treat for schoolwork.

Meanwhile, Silversteel had left the table and started to put on his barding. “Just give me a second to get suited up and then we can go,” he told her. She stood there, watching him, and as she did, a blush came to her face. Finally, she turned away, completely mortified; had Silver noticed that Derpy had been just unabashedly gazing like a lovesick filly? A few more seconds later, he slipped on his helmet and announced, “Okay, ready to go when you are.”

“Thanks, Silver.” Derpy kissed Sparkler on the forehead and said, “We’ll be back soon, promise.” As Sparkler nodded, Derpy and Silversteel briefly looked at the junior guardspony assigned as her galloper’s aide. She looked at the guardspony, a pegasus mare, and asked, “Please watch her, private.”

The galloper’s aide saluted; she’d already been told how important Derpy was to the situation and thus not a pony to get on the bad side of. “Yes, ma’am,” she replied, “You can count on me.” Comforted that Sparkler was in good hooves, the pair departed the quarters, walking out into the dusty outdoor expanse.

It was a few minutes of silent walking across the grounds of the settlement before one of them spoke again. “Derpy, about last night: I know you said not to worry about it, but regardless, I’m sorry,” Silver replied as the duo walked on. “I…I got ahead of myself and—”

“You have nothing to apologize for,” the gray pegasus replied with a smile. “I was clearly giddy last night and not quite myself. Besides, that kind of attention would spoil a mare and you should save it for somebody worth your while, Silver. I assure you there’s somepony out there just waiting for your wedding band.”

“Maybe,” he replied, unsure of what else to say. He knew what he felt last night. After his breakup with Exotic Beauty, his sister Golden Sun warned him about rebounding off another mare; it was a great way to bruise feelings and screw up another relationship. That had been the source of his desire not to do anything with Derpy, because she was too special a mare to ever hurt – well, that and Shining would tear him a new plothole if that happened.

But last night ensured what he was feeling wasn’t mere rebounding. And based on the way she was acting, she might feel the same way and was trying not to hurt his feelings. All he had to do now was convince her.

As for Derpy, her mind was a stew. She was in love with her brother-in-law, a stallion she could never have – she was already in trouble for him siring a foal on her. But she was also looking at Silver, and it was clear that he was attracted to her. And truth be told, he was very easy on the eyes and not at all what she expected. Sure, he was a few years younger, but that really didn’t matter. But breaking her vow of self-imposed celibacy was dangerous and in a time when she really didn’t need a relationship, just a moment’s falter could cost her everything – she didn’t want to hurt him like that.

But who are you hurting by that, Derpy? Yourself or him? her conscience accused. Will you continue to pine for the stallion you can never have when you have this young stallion pining for you?

She couldn’t answer that. And the fact that she couldn’t filled her with worry.

With a skip, Autumn landed on the floor clouds of Cloudsdale. It was always nice being back in town. But he wasn’t here for that. He was here to file the D6 paperwork and to get the 8A appendix, the In Absentia add-on. Ditzy had left the night before after claiming to love them all; it was clear where her true loyalties lay.

Just like she’s probably getting right now, he snarled mentally. He cut off the line of thought; it cut too sharply. In his mind, all he could picture were her promises of love and care from the night before, a grand performance so strong that it had made him fall in love with her all over again and almost made him forgive her. Thankfully, he hadn’t done that; she’d shown her true colors now and in the morning, once she left, Fluttsy and Orange once again wondered where their mother was.

He’d wanted to tell them the truth, so much. He wanted to tell them they were leaving home for good, and their Aunt Derpy would be their new mommy, and they’d have a new brother or sister soon. But he crumbled under their eyes, and as he took them to school, he told them both that their mother went to go see Aunt Derpy and would be there for a few days. A blatant lie, but he loved his daughters too much to tell them the sordid truth about their mother. It was wrong, he knew, but he wanted to protect them both as long as he could.

“Hey, Autumn!” Autumn turned his head and found an old friend calling his name. “Hey, buddy, what’re you doing in the Big C?”

“Hey, Rocket!” he said, waving to the dark gray pony approaching him. Rocketstar had been his mentor when Autumn first joined the Weather Service, and while Rocket now served in Cloudsdale as a weather instructor, he was still a good friend and somepony to lean on for advice. “How goes?”

“Eh, getting my kid out of trouble. I tell ya, though she’s a hoofful now, Blossomforth’s going to do great things when she’s older. I can feel it. She’s always telling us she doesn’t want to be a weather pony when she grows up; that she wants to work in politics like her grandfather. Of course, my wife’s soured on the idea – Blossomwind would rather our daughter just stay local and find a good stallion – but I want little B to chase her dreams, you know?”

“Isn’t that what foals are for? To let the dreams keep going?”

“Yeah. So how are your fillies?”

“Great. Fluttsy’s really interested in art – just got her cutie mark a couple of months ago, earlier than the norm – and Orange is dead-set on getting hers in baking. It’s real adorable, and I try to support them every way I can.”

“And how’s your wife? From what I remember of her, Ditzy’s a pretty playful kind of gal. She’s probably keeping you very busy working on another foal, right?” At the mention of his wife’s name, Autumn suddenly became downcast and Rocket picked up on that very quickly. “Sounds like you need some advice from an old friend.”

“That obvious?” he asked.

“Let’s go find a coffee shop and you can tell me all about it. I get the feeling this is going to be a long one,” Rocket said, noting the broken look on his friend’s face.

“Look, Rocket, I don’t have the—”

“—time to have coffee with an old friend, because you need to get to the Pegasus Courthouse to file divorce papers, right?” When the younger stallion’s face went slack in surprise, Rocket shook his head and said, “Look, you’re not the only one who’s been there. Bet you didn’t know I was married to another mare before you met me, did you?”

“You were?”

Rocket nodded. “Lima Bean and I were something that shouldn’t have happened, but we didn’t find out until too late. Thankfully, she was all-too-eager to sign off on the D6s and get out of my mane – it was a messy marriage and a messy divorce. Are you sure you and Ditzy are Splitsville? Especially when you two have two fillies?”

“I love my daughters very much…but I’m not their sire,” Autumn said in a hushed voice. “I’d do anything for them, and as far as I’m concerned, I am their dad. But Ditzy went looking elsewhere, twice.”

“Ouch, sorry to hear that. Well, sounds like it’s a trip to the bar, then. You’re going to need advice no matter what, and it’s never too early in the morning for a tall, cold cider.” Leading his distraught friend, Rocket pointed down the road to an open bar that usually handled the overnight crowd.

As they arrived at the jail, they were met by a white unicorn mare with orange and pink mane. Her cutie mark was unusually ornate; a butterfly with a complex pattern. “Doctor Hooves, I presume?” she asked as Derpy and Silver approached. “Hi, my name is Tiny Dynamine. I’ll be your magical protection while we’re talking to the prisoner.”

“Love your cutie mark!” Derpy said, being polite; she’d never seen one so ornate before. “What’s it stand for?”

“I’m really not sure. I can do magic just as capably as any normal mage; it’s just that all my magic aura emanations are butterfly-shaped.” To prove her point, she powered up her horn; a series of tiny violet butterflies bristling with energy encircled it. “It’s not like I have some great power over lepidopterids or anything like that.”

“That’s really interesting,” Silversteel commented. He’d always been interested in unicorn magic, seeing as with the exception of his pegasus sister, his family was entirely earth ponies. “Is that common?”

“It happens now and then,” Tiny replied. “There’s no real difference between a shaped aura and a normal one, just something a little more interesting to look at, I guess. Anyway, Doctor, are you ready?”

“As ready as I can be,” Derpy answered. “Is there anything we should know about this unicorn ahead of time?” As they headed into the jail, Silversteel immediately assumed a protective posture, moving ahead of both mares as he moved into military mode even though he made sure to listen to the conversation behind him.

“His name is Wisdom Seeker,” Tiny explained, “and he’s supposed to be the soothsayer for the group. We’ve already checked him out; he’s got no weapons, spells or anything of the sort. His background states that he was an oracle in Vanhoover prior to joining the Nightmare Army, but nothing really else.”

“Any reason why he wants to talk to me?”

“He didn’t say, only that he felt it was important to talk to you. I suspect they’ve got a pony on the inside somewhere and have been waiting for the moment Canterlot sends a bigwig out here. I hope not, though: if we’re compromised like that, things could get ugly pretty quickly.”

“If he does, we’ll catch ‘em,” Silversteel insisted. “Traitors and criminals never escape justice for long.”

“I wish I could be as confident as you, Private,” the unicorn mage replied, “but I have my doubts. In any case, it’s this way.”

The trio walked down the pathway, towards the back of the small building. As they moved on, they passed a few other cells, mostly filled with drunks, pickpockets who insisted they were innocent and in one case, a mare of the night who was glad for a “place t’ rest with’t liftin’ mah tail”, as she explained. On past these, they went, until they reached the back of the building…and a set of stairs that led to a basement.

“A basement? You’re keeping a prisoner in the basement?” A stitch of concern rolled up Derpy’s spine: despite the fact that the prisoner was supposedly of no concern, they were clearly keeping him in the most secure portion of the jail. As they walked down the stairs, she fell into old habit, looking at the structure of the underground chamber: the joins of the ceiling, which looked as though it had been carved out rather than actually built; the occasional gemstone was still embedded in the rock.

At least they smoothed out the floor, she noticed, as they walked over to a large cage in the back of the room, surrounded by four guardsponies and hosting a frail looking unicorn, though something seemed amiss there. In front of them all was a table, so the four could sit.

“We’ll take it from here,” Silversteel said, dismissing the other guards. “Miss Dynamine, if you’d be so kind?”

“Certainly,” Tiny agreed, as her horn lit up. Unlike the usual aura surrounding a horn, dozens of tiny butterflies, each as small as a mote of light encircled her horn, flying outward and away from it. Once a decent distance, they began to encircle all three of them as well as the prisoner, before the multitude of energy constructs solidified into a force field. “There, that should do it,” she said, as she took a seat at the table.

Derpy looked at Silver and asked, “Private, please let him out of the cage.” She then took her seat at the table, taking time to take out a sheaf of paper and a pencil so she could take notes as needed.

“If you insist, Doctor,” the barded pony replied, undoing the latch and letting the unicorn out.

The frail thing merely walked over to the table and sat down, and as he did, Derpy’s mind went to work. His craggy face showed the wrinkles of great age, possibly in his eighties if not older. He had a long gray beard with a few strands of its original brown color in it; the beard itself was wild and unruly, its tangles and roils unfamiliar with the likes of a brush or comb. His tan coat showed the sags and jowls of a pony no longer used to regular activity; said coat was also overlaid with the unnatural black splotches of a pinto, considered a rare and atavistic trait in their species. His cutie mark was a moon overlaid by a scroll, possibly a telling of his prior position as an oracle in Vanhoover. But it was his eyes – wild, deep red eyes – that indicated that not only was an intellect still there, but that mind, backed up by his nature as a unicorn, could make him more formidable than previously thought.

“Hello, sir. My name is D—”

“Ah, yes, you I know. You indeed I know. Derpelle Jessica Hooves. A mind sharper than any spear, an intellect more expansive than the dusty annals of the Great Canterlot Library. Yes, you I know, young mare. For my mistress sent me to come to you, bearing great tidings.”

Derpy looked at his as if he were addled. “And you are, sir?”

“Oh, please – no games now, no simple trifles here. But since formality and decorum rule the day, so shall I introduce myself.” Getting up briefly, he bowed slowly and carefully due to his age before sitting down. “I am Wisdom Seeker, visionary and herald of her Nocturnal Highness, The Rightful Ruler of Everything. And I have come with a message for you, Doctor Hooves.”

“And that message is?”

Widsom Seeker smiled, but there was no joy in that rictus, only madness. “The stars shall aid in her escape.”

“The stars shall aid in her escape?” Derpy asked. “What does that mean?”

The elderly unicorn laughed. “Come now: you’re a scientist and a scholar, a mare of many talents. You are the first non-unicorn in ages to have graduated from a unicorn university. You are an inventor and grasp concepts that even capable minds have trouble envisioning. You, young lady, are a nonpareil above nonpareils, and yet you cannot fathom this elemental truth?”

“The stars shall aid in her escape….” Derpy ran the thought around in her mind, coming up blank at first but a second later it hit her, from the letter that Cadance had sent: “They claim to worship The Mare in the Moon and attacked ‘in preparation for the return of the Nightmare and the culmination of Endless Night.’”

Wisdom Seeker caught the flicker of recollection in her eyes. “You do understand, don’t you. Our mistress bides her time, and that time is almost done. Soon she will be free to enshroud the world in the velvet touch of her night, and such a luxe the world has never known.”

Something clicked in Tiny Dynamine’s mind. “The Warden Stars? Is that what you’re talking about?”

Silversteel caught on that idea and went with it. “So you’re telling me the Warden Stars are going to free your mistress soon?” The guardspony said from his seat. “What a load of feathers. You have no idea what you’re talking about, do you, old stallion?”

“You two are but barely-grown foals, incapable of understanding what the Doctor and I are discussing,” Wisdom Seeker hissed, an angry tone. “This discussion is for adults. If either of you persist in interrupting, there will be consequences.” Turning back to the gray pegasus he added, “My apologies, Doctor, but you should really control your underlings – it looks unbecoming otherwise.”

“They’re not my underlings, they’re friends,” Derpy said; well, Silver was. She’d just met Tiny, but she was more than sure given enough time the two could make great friends. But in any case, that wasn’t the point here.

“Regardless, Doctor, you are an important mare. I have seen it in the skies, in my dreams, in the ripples of water as a tea leaf dances on the toroidal. There will come a time when your actions will change, irrevocably, the future of all ponydom, and with your silence you will send a foal on a journey that even you cannot comprehend and she will change everything we will ever know. But until the quiet comes, you have much to do.”

A foal? Is he talking about…? Derpy thought about her unborn foal in her barrel, three months into its gestation. A she? I’m going to have a filly? Would she be the foal that would change everything? And what was meant by that? Would the foal become an alicorn or a monster, a savior or a demon? In the corner of her eye, she could see that Silversteel had seen her concern and gave her a brief nod of comfort. She found it warming, and she lo…no, no I can’t….

Seeing the hushed concern on her face, the aged unicorn smiled, a near-kind gesture, but only near, not actual. “Forgive me; prophecy comes out whether I wish it or no. But you needn’t worry about that premonition; it will come whether you wish it or no, just as the one we are discussing now.”

“Which is the Warden Stars and the Mare in the Moon,” Derpy replied. “You’re saying that a calamity will happen with the Warden Stars and a tragedy will befall us?”

“Poetic, but incorrect, madame,” Wisdom Seeker spoke, his voice somber. “The Warden Stars are naught but décor, mere entertainment for my mistress, and when she descends her cosmic dais, the world will be bereft of that quartet of four. The Warden Stars are nothing more than propaganda assembled in the sky by the false princess sitting on the throne.”

“Celestia is our Princess Regnal – she’d be queen if she desired the title,” Derpy countered. “Her majesty is no fraud.”

“So little you know, Doctor, but I blame you not for that. Even I once believed that Fair Celestia was our rightful ruler once – as a Royal Oracle, I defended her against anyone who would say otherwise. But one night my eyes were opened and I could see. Our true mistress is coming, shrouded in dreams, and her righteous wrath will be terrible. And the stars shall set her free.”

“What stars? If you’re saying that the Warden Stars are nothing but a joke, then what stars?”

Wisdom Seeker closed his eyes, then sat and meditated for a few seconds. It had almost seemed as though the wizened pony had fallen asleep before he spoke once more. “My mistress spoke to me and said I may reveal all to you, but in doing so, I will be forfeit. And so will one of you two,” he said, pointing to Silversteel and Tiny Dynamine. “It is not yet the Doctor’s time, but fate has no such hold on either of you. And if you wish the truth, then one of you shall forfeit your lives.”

“This is horsefeathers!” Silversteel snarled. “You’re saying that the only way to reveal your so-called ‘wisdom’ for one of us to die? Listen, old stallion, I am not playing that game. Now either you tell me what you’re up to or so help me Celestia I swear I’m going t—”

Unbidden, Tiny Dynamine got out of her seat and walked up to the aged pony. “No one dies here today!” she snarled, crossing the space quickly and charging up a spell. Butterflies made of flame danced around her head and she snarled, “I don’t know what you’re up to, but you’d better start talking, prisoner!”

“You have made your choice,” the old unicorn said, sighing, “So be it. I would have thought it to be you, young stallion, but…now I understand, now I see. Fate has claimed you as well and your lodestone is fixed on Generosity’s wheel.” Turning back to Derpy he asked, “May I be allowed to conjure a quill, ink and paper?”

Derpy looked at Tiny, who conjured a second fire butterfly before saying, “It should be safe. I’ve got him in case it isn’t.”

The aged unicorn powered up his horn, and it became enveloped in a sea of glowing feathers all in a hue of navy-blue. Seeing the sudden look of shock on Tiny’s face, the old stallion chuckled. “Young miss, while shaped auras are exceedingly rare, they’re not so rare that you’re the only one blessed on the planet with one.” Three of the feathers floated down towards the table and in a flash became two pots of ink, two quills and a scroll of paper.

“Now then, you and you…please turn around,” he said, gesturing to Silversteel and Tiny. “This isn’t meant for your eyes.”

When Tiny balked, Derpy said, “I should be fine for a second, Tiny. I’ll be okay, I promise.”

“You are protected by fate. Until the quiet comes, your only wounds will ever be self-inflicted.” With that, Tiny and Silver turned around, and Wisdom Seeker picked up both quills, dipping them in ink. The two colors flew and splattered on the scroll, and when it was done, with a flicker of his magic, he rolled it up and floated it over to Derpy, placing it in her pouch. “This is the answer you seek, Doctor, but it will come at a terrible, terrible price. Your quiet will come soon enough, and when it is over, you will have irretrievably changed everything that will come from ponykind.”

Derpy looked at the scroll, poking out of her saddlebag. It seemed like a snake poised to strike, to impart a venomous truth on the world whether it was ready or not. “I thank you. In the meanwhile, is there anything I can do for you, Mister Seeker? Medical attention or to see a lawyer?”

He shook his head. “In the end, you are nearly as benevolent as Kindness herself, coming on golden wings and a timorous heart. But I am sorry to say that I will not live to see her graceful smile.” Turning to Tiny, the elderly unicorn asked, “Do you know why shaped auras such as ours are incredibly rare, mage?”

Still with the attack spells flitting around her horn, a curious look crossed Tiny’s face as she said, “I’m at a loss, though I doubt you know why, traitor.”

“I would only be a traitor if I betrayed the one I served. But I no longer serve Celestia, but instead the True Liege of Equestria, and she will come soon enough. And yes, I know why.” With a sudden burst of speed that no one had expected, he collided into Tiny, snarling, “Did you know shaped auras are unstable? That’s why they’re so rare – if one with such an aura were to run into another, well….”

As her power began to feed back on itself, Tiny let loose with an unnatural scream, bloodcurdling and horrific. Wisdom Seeker’s power also fed back on him, but the look on his face was unnaturally calm, as if he’d planned and expected this to occur. Jags of energy began to encircle the pair like electrical charges, and both feathers and butterflies fell to the ground and were stilled before they burned and charred the ground.

“Tiny!” Derpy yelped as Silversteel rushed to help the fallen mage. Instead what he got was a blast of magical lightning that slammed him into Derpy, bowling both over and through Tiny’s force field as it shattered like the thinnest glass. Both collided into a stanchion holding up the ceiling and came to a painful stop.

As both gained their bearings, all they could hear was the thrumming sound of magic power beginning to eat away at the local area, just barely drowned out by the heart-wrenching screams of Tiny as her own power and that of Wisdom Seeker’s cancelled each other out at a local point, beginning to tear each other apart, atom by atom.

“Derpy! Get out of here!” Silver roared as he rushed back towards Tiny. “I’ll save her, just go!”

“Young stallion,” Wisdom Seeker said through clenched teeth, “you have only seconds to save the mare you love. Go now, if you dare and if fate is true.” Then to Derpy, “Fare thee well, Silent One. May you be as brave when the quiet comes. And one last word of advice: thunderheads and town halls rarely make for a good combination.”

Silversteel had just enough time to turn and dive at Derpy when the explosion came, a prismatic blast of energy, followed by sprays of blood. This didn’t last long, though, as the ceiling suddenly gave way, capturing both in the blast.

“We’re not going to make it!” Derpy cried, mere feet from the stairs leading to the top floor. A chunk of the ceiling fell and slammed down on her wing hard; she screamed in pain as she hit the ground. The impact of the ground knocked the wind out of her, leaving her dazed and gasping.

“I’m not going to let you die!” Silversteel said, standing over her and letting the stones and gems fall from above on him as he grabbed her by her mane with his teeth, using his body as a shield as he took every blow. His armor dented, gems sliced into his mane and skin, and as his blood dripped on Derpy, he snarled, “I won’t ever let anything hurt you!” With a final bit of strength, he threw her onto the safety of the stairs as the rest of the ceiling came down, crashing on all that had been below and bringing the floor of the above jail with it.

Ditzy landed by the train station; despite the pegasus natural magic of nullifying weight while carrying something in flight, the bulk of the item was making it improbable to fly with. And she was now back at work, with a new boss – the old one having resigned due to “personal circumstances” – who was female, married and pointlessly strict. Ditzy knew within a few minutes she wasn’t going to be able to get “extra bonuses” in with her new boss, so she had to put in actual hours. Clearly, this sucked.

But here she was, landing at the nearest train station to the weather factory. The plan was to get the package to the train station just below Cloudsdale, and she could fly it up from that point; if she did it directly, it would take a whole day of her time. At least with the train, she could get a decent amount of sleep, something she really needed to catch up on if she was to keep up her strenuous lifestyle.

She arranged to have the hailmaker placed in steerage, then went in the second class passenger cabin – at least the factory was paying for it – and took a seat when she noticed a cute little thing sitting across from her. Unicorn, early teens, mare – that pale gray coat and short violet hair. Oh, and those eyes, those naturally sensual bedroom eyes…Ditzy was getting a little stirred up just thinking about it. But alas, she wasn’t old enough. Maybe – maybe if she was just a little older Ditzy would be happy to introduce that filly to the mysteries of marehood, but…well, Ditzy was a parent after all, and she did have standards.

“Excuse me, miss, can I help you?” Ditzy realized she’d been staring at the teen filly a little too much, enough so to get her notice.

Ditzy blushed. “Oh, sorry, it’s just that you reminded me of someone I know; a, uh, filly in my neighborhood.” Intending to show no harm, she said, “I’m Ditzy Doo. And you are?”

The filly smiled. “Rarity. I’m headed to Ponyville to apprentice with Cardigan Sweater. She’s only the most fabulous seamstress in all of Equestria! A true shame that she hasn’t received her due as the fashion maven that she is, but sad to say, some ponies have no taste whatsoever, as it were.”

“Travelling all alone?”

The unicorn nodded. “Well, for the moment, yes. But my parents will be joining me soon enough; Father’s selling our house in Maneapolis and he and Mother will arrive in due time. For the moment I’ll be living with my mentor, however.” Rarity then asked, “And what brings you to this train, Miss Ditzy?”

“Taking something to Cloudsdale, but it’s too bulky to fly there directly, so I’ll be taking it to the Cloudsdale Station and then having some additional ponies help me carry it to the Main Factory.”

Rarity squealed. “Ooh, that sounds simply fascinating! Well, hopefully you’ll have plenty of time to stop by Ponyville on your way back. Please, swing by Miss Cardigan’s shop – I’d be delighted to make something suitable for your beauty, though, uh,” Rarity suddenly appeared downcast as she added, “my skills might not be up to the exacting standards ponies require. But I’ll do my best!”

Ditzy smiled, charmed by the teen’s display of sincerity. Maybe I’ll let her just find her own way to marehood, the gray pegasus decided. She seems like the kind of gal who’s got a bright future ahead of her, and I’d hate to be a drag. “Thank you very much,” Ditzy said, and the two continued to chat breezily as the train began to pick up speed, heading towards its destination.

“NO!” Derpy bolted straight up, her heart slamming against her chest and her eyes wide with terror. “SILVER!” she cried.

Instantly a pair of forelegs wrapped around her. “Derpy, calm down! You’re safe!” She forced herself to calm down, catching the familiar scent of Shining Armor as he held her close, trying to calm his friend. As her panic subsided, she began to focus, noticing she was now in the fort’s infirmary. Standing at the seat of the bed, her eyes red from crying, was Sparkler, worried about her guardian.

“Shining, I’m okay now, thanks,” she said, calming down just in time for Sparkler to leap on the bed and glomp Derpy, the tears starting again. She looked down and craned her neck to kiss Sparkler, saying, “I’m okay, sweetie, I promise.”

“It was a close call,” Shining replied. “And we know what happened. Tiny…I have to write a letter to her husband and colts. That won’t be easy. As for you, you got a sprained wing, but nothing else, thankfully. And I had the doctors check on your condition; the foal is fine – and looks like your cousin’s going to have a filly.”

A filly…. Derpy’s mind swam with Wisdom Seeker’s earlier words to her: “And with your silence you will send a foal on a journey that even you cannot comprehend and she will change everything we will ever know.” My daughter…mine and Autumn’s daughter…. Derpy looked down at her barrel, and the life that grew there. What will I name you? What will I do with you?

Meanwhile, Sparkler, holding onto Derpy like a lifeline, sobbed. “Miss Derpy, I was so scared! There was the big boom like Mommy and Daddy’s stuff, and the jail was on fire and Mister Shining said I had to come with him and that you were hurt and I….” She started crying again, afraid that if she let go, Derpy would be hurt more.

“I’m okay, sweetie,” Derpy assured her, mussing her mane and holding the foal close. She then looked at Shining again. “Where’s Silver?”

“Derpy, I….” The unicorn stallion turned away, and Derpy’s heart stopped.

“Please, Shining,” she said, her heart near bursting as she begged for a response.

“He’s injured badly,” Shining said, finally. “We got to him just in time, and if he hadn’t been wearing his barding, I….” Shining seemed distraught. “Derpy…you two just met, but…go to him. He needs you right now.” He pointed to a bed at the far side of the room, with privacy screens placed around. “We’ll talk about everything later,” Shining said, using his telekinesis to scoop Sparkler up and place her on his back. “But go to him.”

Derpy needed no further urging. Scrambling out of bed, she winced as her bandaged wing naturally moved, the pain excruciating. But with each step she took, her heart raced. He sacrificed himself for me, she realized. When I was just about to die, he sacrificed himself for me. Finally, practically shoving a nurse out of the way, she moved behind the privacy screens.

He lay there, still and barely able to move. His head was immobilized, and he tried to sit up for her. “Derpy? Are you okay?” he asked, straining to try to sit up, with no avail.

She moved to his side in a heartbeat, smiling sweetly and looking at him, her heart racing like Commander Hurricane in a tornado. “Shh. Rest, my hero,” she said, nuzzling him gently. “Don’t say another word.”

“But Derpy, I need to s—” Silver was suddenly cut off as Derpy’s lips connected with his, the pair kissing awkwardly at first before settling into a loving, needing kiss. As she broke it, she said, “I told you not to say anything else.”

“Are you going to make sure of that?” he asked, hopeful.

“As long as you’ll have me,” Derpy said, kissing him again before holding him close, crying on his barrel. “Why did you do it?”

Straining to do so, he used a foreleg to lift her face to his, kissing the tears from her eyes. “I couldn’t let my fillyfriend down, could I?” he said, giving her a loving smile before they held each other close, letting their feelings show.

“She’s going to kill him at this rate,” the nurse grumbled.

At her side, Shining Armor groaned. “You obviously don’t have a special somepony, do you?” he snapped.

The bar run had lasted the day, and by the time they got to Rocketstar’s favorite drinking establishment, both stallions were blasted beyond the point of recognition.

“Heh, so I showed Ditzy,” Autumn slurred. “Slept with her sister. Shoulda married Derpy, too. But I was too much of a buckin’ idiot.”

“Hey, she pushed you, pal,” Rocket said, lifting another mug of cider to his lips. “But you gotta look out for your girls.”

“Yeah, I do. And I think I still love Ditzy,” Autumn moaned over his glass, before falling off his stool and hitting the ground. “But I don’t know what to do anymore, Rocket, I just don’t.”

“Look out for your family, that’s what,” the older stallion said, looking down at the floor where Autumn was. Somehow in between his comment and Rocket’s, the younger stallion had fallen asleep, snoring away on the cider-stained cloudfloor.

“Buuuuuuuuuck,” Rocket said, smacking his head with the empty cider mug. “That was my skull,” he told the bartender. “I’m so wasted!”

“Yeah, and I think you’d better get your pal home, Rocket,” the bartender told him. “Drunk and depressed isn’t the best way to go, you know that.”

“Yeah,” the older pony slurred. He then looked at Autumn’s pack, still sitting on the bar. “Hey, Martini? Do me a favor. Take his bag and lose it. Burn it, I don’t care. Whatever.”

Martini took it in hoof and looked at Rocket. “You sure? I mean, I know the weight of D6 paperwork when I feel it. Only reason a stranger like him comes to Cloudsdale this time of week.”

Rocket looked back at the bartender. “Yeah, I know. But…he wouldn’t be here just debating it if she didn’t mean anything to him. I mean, when Lima Bean and I were splitting up I didn’t go and ask for advice – I just went and filled out the paperwork. He asked for advice, which means he’s conflicted and despite everything, he still loves Ditzy. He’s not ready for this, and I won’t let him make the mistake. Just…get rid of it and I’ll talk to him tomorrow when he sobers up.”

“You got it.” Martini pulled the pack off the bar, throwing it into the recycle bin. Tonight was trash night and they’d burn everything via lightning bolts anyway – the ash helped give thunderclouds their distinctive color.

“Are you sure about this?” Shining asked, the look on his face ashen. He and Derpy were back in his office, and she’d given him the scroll that Wisdom Seeker gave her.

“Those were his words: ‘the stars shall aid in her escape’, Shining. He focused on that and insisted that he didn’t mean the Warden Stars. I thought he was insane, personally, but….”

“Please don’t tell me you actually believe him,” Shining said, a worried look coming onto his face.

“Shining, what’s wrong? I know you, so don’t try to hide it.”

“Have you looked at this scroll?”

She shook her head. “Other than that he said it would reveal the stars that would aid in the Mare in the Moon’s escape. I could study some of the star charts if you’d like. I’ll find those stars, though I doubt any of it will be true.”

“He said he was an oracle,” Shining said, looking at Derpy with pleading eyes.

“Shining, please tell me what’s wrong. I don’t care if it’s a military secret – we’re friends, and I’m worried.”

He unfurled the scroll. “If what he’s saying is true, these are the stars that will cause calamity in the near future.”

Derpy looked at the stars on the scroll: one large star, surrounded by five smaller ones. “Doesn’t look like any constellation I’m aware of. Actually, it looks like a cutie mark.”

The look on Shining’s face was one of fear. “This…this is my sister’s cutie mark.”

Author's Note:

Useless trivia time: a galloper's aide is an old British infantry term for what we'd call a military batman or aide d' camp nowadays.