• Published 25th Dec 2012
  • 28,596 Views, 1,929 Comments

An Affliction of the Heart: Volume Two - Anonymous Pegasus

Part two of An Affliction of the Heart.

  • ...

New Beginnings

Warden limped along the line of vibrant Crystal Ice Berries. They were some of the last Crystal Ice Berries in the entirety of Equestria. After the Crystal Empire disappeared, they had become almost extinct. Short of the Crystal Empire coming back, they would continue to be extremely exotic, and extremely rare. They didn’t look akin to regular crystal berries, whereas the normal crystal berries were a solid colour with a sheen and a faceted surface, Crystal Ice berries looked like a coloured ice orb, slightly transparent. Small rainbows painted the rows of berries, where the weak northern sunlight lanced through the berries and split into starbursts of colour.

Warden was wearing a thick fibre coat to guard against the cold, and underneath it, a gold engagement ring sat around the very base of his left wing. Written on the heavy gold band was the words ‘Property of Kuno’. Dragging a bucket behind him, Warden paused at every bush, picking the best berries from each and putting them into the bucket, before moving to the next bucket.

Up ahead, Kuno was happily flitting from row to row, in her natural form, the black of her chitin stark against the white of the snow. A red-and-yellow scarf was tied around her throat, fluttering in the wind as she moved. A gold engagement band was slid over the base of her horn, with the words ‘Property of Warden’ on it. She was so much faster than Warden with the berry picking, hovering in front of the bush and slapping the berries into the bucket she was carrying before moving on.

Green Hoof was fastest of all of them, but she was working at the far end of the field. She denied it vehemently, but Kuno obviously made her uneasy: the earth pony didn’t like going anywhere near the changeling.

Both Kuno and Green Hoof had tried to convince Warden not to help pick the berries, but Warden hated just sitting on the sidelines watching them work. A small amount of pain in his hoof wasn’t going to stop him from doing what he loved.

Once his bucket was filled, Warden dragged it back towards the storage shed, upending it into the large storage tub. The storage tub was just a giant bucket, with a tap at one end for letting liquid pour out once the berries were squashed. The berries, however, would have be pressed with a mechanical process, as it was far too cold to do it normally. Between frostbite and the possibility of the liquid freezing, they would have to use a special machine with a heating element at the base to ensure that the juice wouldn’t freeze.

Kuno came in behind Warden, upending her own bucket into the tub and then stacking it into his own empty bucket, turning towards him with a hoofful of berries. “These taste good!” Kuno attested, grinning as she stuck a red, and then a blue berry onto either one of her oversized canine teeth.

Warden grinned at that, shaking his head and leaning in, curling his tongue around one of her canines and tugging the blue berry free, biting it in half and then offering the other half back to the changeling.

Purring faintly, Kuno leaned in and locked her lips with his own, stealing away the half-a-berry with a happy hum and chewing at it happily.

“You two make me sick,” Green Hoof said with a slow shake of her head, dumping her bucket of berries into the tub and then making a motion with a hoof. “I’m starting to build up a sweat, I’m gonna take the rest of the afternoon off, yeah?”

Working up a sweat in the snow was bad, as the sweat itself would freeze and then rapidly cool your skin until you ended up with hypothermia.

Warden nodded, waving a hoof at the earth pony while Kuno giggled faintly.

Once Green Hoof had moved out of the shed and up towards the house, Kuno leaned in to whisper into his ear. “I think I make her uncomfortable.”

“The fact that you were impersonating me and trying to seduce her when I went into town that one time was pretty off-putting, I’ll guess,” Warden said with a sage nod.

Kuno rolled her eyes, giggling softly. “But watching you trying to explain it to her was so cute. It was adorable, what with you being all stuttery and uncertain.”

“Oh shush,” Warden said, placing a hoof over her lips. “C’mon, back up to the house before we freeze to the floor.”

“Race ya!” Kuno said, brushing past him and bursting out the door, tearing past Green Hoof in a headlong sprint towards the house.

Warden smiled and shook his head. Kuno knew he wouldn’t stand a chance of beating her, but he still jogged unsteadily after her, three hooves thudding the snowy path into a brown slurry. Green hoof just shook her head at them.

Kuno was sitting in the doorway, holding a hole-filled hoof up to her ear, shaking it. “My watch isn’t working real well these days, but it says that I won!”

“Good thing we weren’t racing for prizes,” Warden pointed out, leaving the door open for Green Hoof.

Kuno snorted once, throwing out a hoof to halt the pegasus, shaking her head slowly. “Nownow, Mr Warden, you know the penalty for being late to the finish line!”

Warden sighed faintly, rolling his eyes and shaking his head, before he leaned forwards and kissing the changeling full on the mouth, their lips pressing together. Kuno melted into the kiss, giving a low throbbing purr in the back of her throat, her wings quivering happily.

After a few moments, Kuno drew back, pushing at his chest with a hoof and huffing. “Hey! A kiss! Gotta keep it PG or Green Hoof will complain!”

Green Hoof scowled as she pushed past both of them, closing the door after herself. Warden just gave a wry grin.

Kuno pecked him on the lips again, before she slipped past him and down the hallway, padding towards the kitchen to start on dinner.

Warden headed upstairs, to the room he and Kuno shared, throwing off his cloak and then beginning to slowly stretch his wings. His right wing required a lot of effort. With a faint groan, he tugged at it with his hoof to get it to extend, gritting his teeth.

“It still worries you heaps, doesn’t it?” Kuno asked quietly from the doorway.

Warden nodded slowly, grimacing and then folding his wing tight to his back again, panting faintly at the pain.

“I... never told you, but I... took care of Sunshine and Daggertail,” Kuno said quietly.

Warden nodded again. “I know. I saw the reports. I was a prime suspect until they figured out that I was in the hospital unconscious the entire time. They suspect you, but... the case was closed, apparently. They couldn’t find any evidence.”

Kuno nodded mutely, and then tilted her head towards the stairs. “I’ve run us a bath. It’s heating up. I’ll run some of that wonder weed on your wing.”

Warden smiled at Kuno’s nickname for the Greenswathe Moss. It had special properties that deadened nerves when applied directly to the skin. It was mainly used by dentists and older ponies who had arthritis or other such harmful, long-term injuries.

“You go on ahead,” Warden said, making a motion with his chin. “I’m going to... well, grimace and moan a lot and then compose myself so you don’t see me being all weak.”

Kuno gave a wan smile, flitting across the room to hug the pegasus tightly, nuzzling her chin against his cheek gently, before bounding back across the room and down the stairs towards the bathroom.

Warden followed after the changeling several minutes later, wincing as he tried to extend his wing slowly back and forth, working the stiff muscles. Kuno was already in the bath, splashing about happily, frothing up the bubbles so that there was a thick film of them over the surface.

Carefully, Warden undid the magical engagement ring, twisting and turning it in just the right way so that it slipped off his wing, still a single, unbroken band. He placed it safely on the edge of the tub, and then pulled himself into it.

Kuno immediately paddled around behind him, wrapping her hooves around him and kissing at the side of his neck, wiggling to get comfortable.

“I can never feel my hooves after I use this stuff,” Kuno complained, reaching down a hoof for a glass jar of green liquid. She dribbled some across her hoof, and then began to knead it slowly into Warden’s right wing.

Warden bared his teeth, gritting them, before he slowly relaxed, giving a faint croon. “Ohhhh... that feels nice.”

Kuno gave a sudden giggle and a snort, shaking her head and rubbing extra firmly.

“What’s so funny?” Warden queried lazily over his shoulder.

Kuno gave an innocent giggle, rubbing her hoof along the leading edge of his wing slowly. “I was just contemplating the implications of replacing our bedside vaseline with this stuff.”

Warden paled. “You wouldn’t.”

Giggling more, Kuno shook her head. “But it’s an amusing image. ‘Is it in yet?’ ‘I don’t know!’ “

Warden slowly shook his head, grinning faintly. “You’re a terrible, terrible changeling.”

“And you love me,” Kuno chided, kissing his cheek gently, before holding out her hoof. “Hoof.”

Warden wriggled around to face the changeling, holding out his right hoof.

Kuno took it in her hooves, beginning to rub the Greenswarthe extract into his hoof, frowning down at it. “I shoulda have made Daggertail and Sunshine suffer a whole lot more...”

Warden gave a sympathetic smile at that, leaning forwards to nudge his nose against the changeling’s own. “What’s done is done. If it comes right down to it... I’d rather have a broken hoof and wing and have you, than to be whole and not have you.”

A soft ‘awww’ sound left Kuno’s, and she crooned, leaning forwards to kiss Warden gently. “You say the nicest things!”

Warden smiled, wrapping his hooves around the changeling and nosing into her neck gently. “Saving up affection and nice things I’ve said to trade in for a night with Spitfire.”

“Still a pervert,” Kuno said with a grin, licking his cheek. “And yet, the one time you walked into your room to find Spitfire in your bed, you demanded that I turn back to normal, saying something like ‘I want the real you’.”

Warden flushed faintly. “You keep bringing that up.”

“I wanna remind you what a sweet, over-the-top, romantic fool you are,” Kuno purred, hugging him tightly. “Plus, it’s so cute when you blush!”

Warden rolled his eyes with a soft snort, but smiled and kissed her gently. “So... are you ready to tell me what convinced you to come back, yet?”

Kuno frowned at that, drawing back from him and going quiet.

“I... saw a lot of things while I was away,” Kuno said, rubbing a hoof against her ear faintly. “I spent time with a lot of ponies. Married ponies, dating ponies... I even took the place of a couple that had been together for sixty years. There was so much love there. It was like being inundated in an ocean of it.”

Warden nodded, leaning gently against the side of the tub, carefully not on his bad wing.

“But... at the end of the day, I didn’t want them. I didn’t want any of that. I wanted your love, but most of all... I wanted you to be happy. You walked for miles with a broken hoof, with a half-done splint, faced down the guard captain and got beat up for me. That’s why I left... I knew I couldn’t do that.” Kuno shook her head pensively, frowning. “I was just... stunned by how much your love me for me could accomplish, and I knew I couldn’t measure up to that level of devotion. But then... after all that time away, I decided I wanted you to be the happiest you could be.”

Kuno paused then, and gave Warden a sly little grin. “And I decided that, ego aside, I could make you happier than any other silly pony.”

Warden smiled at that, wrapping his hooves around the changeling again, nosing into her neck. “Ego aside, huh?”

“Ego aside,” Kuno reiterated with a sage nod.

“I love how modest you are,” Warden teased.

“I am the most humble sentient being ever. Aint no one ever been as humble as me, because I’m the best at being humble!” Kuno attested, waving a hoof for emphasis.

“Silly,” Warden accused, kissing Kuno’s nose.

“And you love me,” Kuno responded, pulling him into another kiss. “And that makes you happy, which makes me happy, so everyone wins! Well, except for Green Hoof, because she has to see us being all sappy.”

“She can just deal with it,” Warden said with a smile, kissing the changeling again.

Warden was carefully lying on his left side, with a body pillow along the length of his form. His bad right hoof, and bad right wing, rested on the pillow for support. He hadn’t been able to sleep on his right side since the incident.

Kuno was snuggled up to his back, her nose buried between his wings, hooves slipped under the wings themselves to hold around his chest and hug him close to her smaller form, a smile on her face as she slept.

A faint rumbling awoke them both.

Warden opened an eye, blinking slowly, lifting his head from the pillow. “Huh? earthquake?”

Kuno gave a sleepy whine, pawing at his back weakly. “It’s just a tremor, go back to sleep.”

“Doesn’t feel like a tremor,” Warden murmured, frowning and furrowing his brow, pushing himself from the bed. Dropping down onto three hooves, the pegasus limped over to the window, peering out into the dark icy wastes.

Off to the north, the Northern Lights were being drowned out by light pollution. Some kind of bright magical light was glowing and flickering over the horizon, throwing up a massive white glow interspersed with floating feather-like glows, like white fireworks in the dark night.

Warden looked back over his shoulder with a deep frown. “Kuno... I think you’re gonna have to head into town.”

Kuno whined faintly, pushing herself to her hooves. “Wha? Why?”

“I... I think that’s a remnant of the Crystal Empire, and anything throwing up that kind of magic is bad news.”