• Published 1st Mar 2013
  • 2,104 Views, 62 Comments

No Regrets - Ficta_Scriptor

After Twilight becomes an alicorn, the notion of immortality dawns on her and she is plagued by doubts. Distressed, she finds solace with the Element of Honesty. To have no regrets would mean the world.

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Chapter 2 - Fallen Apple

Chapter 2 – Fallen Apple

Twilight’s mind muddled between sleep and the waking world for a minute or so. The usual sensation of urgency she felt most mornings was overshadowed by a sense of contentment at remaining at rest. Before even opening her eyes she could feel a comforting warmth and hypnotic rise and fall in pressure across her back. Slowly coming to, Twilight opened her eyes, the everyday colours of the royal chambers pervaded by an obscure, orange hoof.

Smiling to herself, Twilight unthinkingly brought Applejack’s hoof closer to her face stroked her cheek against it. Memories of the night just gone sprang to mind. At first, she could only think of the two photographs that had caused an emotional breakdown. As a princess, it was necessary to keep her deepest emotions tucked away, which was never a problem until — for whatever reason — keeping them hidden just wasn’t possible. She’d been so sure of herself all these years. Ever since that day with Celestia, she was convinced that nothing was amiss, that she could find solace in her memories while countless centuries passed by. Now though, her self-doubt had toppled that unwavering confidence like a battering ram.

And yet, in that particular moment she felt at ease. She could hear Applejack’s steady breathing behind her and feel the somewhat ticklish sensation of her breath against the crown of her mane. Cradled in the farm pony’s warm embrace, Twilight couldn’t help but feel submissive, subservient even. Given her prestigious title and status it was a rare feeling. With the possible exception of Celestia, all ponies across the land looked up to her as a guiding hoof, someone belonging to a plane above their mere existence. But there was a comfort in feeling lesser than somepony else, an opportunity to be cared for, to be able to make mistakes. A chance to be less than perfect.

Applejack let out a noise not unlike a hum and snapped Twilight to attention. However, despite shifting in the bed slightly Applejack still seemed to be asleep. Twilight let out a mental sigh of relief. She almost didn’t want this experience to end. As embarrassing as it was to finally realise it, this was the most intimate affection she’d ever received.

In a moment of foalish wonder, Twilight brought Applejack’s hoof to her mouth and gave it a brief kiss. Surprisingly, the orange mare didn’t so much as stir. Well that was weird. Why did I even do that? Twilight mused, letting Applejack’s hoof fall back onto her cheek. It’s a good thing she wasn’t awake or I’d have some serious explaining to do.

As time passed the sun slowly crept up over the horizon and beamed through the velvet curtains, casting an amber glare across the room. As Twilight began contemplating what her plans for the day should be — as if on cue — Applejack let out a short breath and awoke.

“Hey, you awake, sugarcube?” she whispered, causing Twilight to flick her left ear involuntarily.

“Mm-hmm,” Twilight responded, silently chiding herself for not pretending to be asleep for just a little while longer.

“Ah gotta say, Ah ain’t had such a good night’s sleep in years.”

Twilight blushed as Applejack sighed contentedly to herself, the mare’s chest bowing against her spine. “Oh, r-really?” Twilight mumbled, searching desperately for an appropriate response. “M-me too?”

“Guess there’s some real perks to bein’ a princess. Ah can’t tell if it’s this mattress, or maybe these pillows. Ah just can’t put mah hoof on it.”

“Y-yeah, they’re, um…” Twilight trailed off as Applejack shifted beside her, burying her head deeper into the pillow. She soon became aware that she’d been holding her breath, and quickly exhaled.

“Oh well,” Applejack said with a yawn, bringing her hoof back up and scratching at her unkempt mane. “Guess we’d better oil the springs an’ fire up the old muscles.”

The orange earth pony sat up straight, tilting her neck until a gratifying click rang out and rolled her shoulders one after another. Grabbing her trademark Stetson from the dressing table, she tossed away the duvet and stretched out her hind legs, letting out a satisfied grunt.

Twilight propped herself up against the headboard and rubbed her eyes. Her left wing ached tremendously, though she expected that was from being restricted by Applejack’s foreleg throughout the night. Flexing it back and forth a few times did ease some of the tension, but it would be a while before it was back to normal. Admittedly, she seldom took to the skies unless it was absolutely necessary, so this was hardly a setback.

Twilight finished her impromptu workout to spy Applejack waiting patiently at the foot of the bed, smiling just the way she always did. It might have sounded odd, but in many ways Twilight envied Applejack. Always stubborn, she could imagine the earth pony being offered wings or a horn, and turning them down with a simple shake of the head and a “thank ye kindly.” Twilight couldn’t even imagine getting through life without her magic, and being confined to the ground was a thing of the past. If she lost her horn and wings she’d feel like a cripple, while hard-working ponies like Applejack got through life without either, taking care of entire orchards just fine.

“You alright there?” Applejack asked curiously, cutting through the silence.

“Feeling a lot better, thanks,” Twilight replied, scooting out of bed and moving to the bedside mirror. Taking a quick glance, she could see a few strands of golden-blonde hair peering out through her mane. She gave it a quick brush and turned back to her friend, who was gazing around at the various paintings on the wall of famous ponies from history, including a portrait of Starswirl the Bearded.

“Can’t say this fancy stuff appeals to mah tastes.” Applejack smirked, turning back to Twilight. “Ah gotta be honest, pictures of some moody old wizard ain’t gonna do much to cheer you up. Maybe Ah should get Pinkie and Applebloom to come re-decorate. Guarantee they’d brighten the place up.”

“And see crudely drawn moustaches on all of my paintings?” Twilight shot back with a grin. Admittedly, Applejack did have a point. “How is Applebloom, anyway?”

“Doin’ just fine. Says she wants to be an interior designer or somethin’. Ya know, Ah sure do reckon any colt-friend she finds will be in for a shock when they see that adorable little mare ploughin’ through DIY like it ain’t no bother.” Applejack took a deep breath and smiled to herself. “Ah’d really best be goin’, Twi.”

“So soon?” Twilight asked disappointedly.

“Ah’m afraid so.” Applejack walked over and gave Twilight a quick hug. “You take care o’ yourself. Ah guess you’ve been goin’ through a lot, and… Well, Ah’m always willin’ to lend an ear if you need help.”

“You too.” Twilight draped a wing around her friend. “I promised to help, didn’t I? You know, whenever you get some free time, we should do something together. Being a princess does have its perks; anything you want to do I can probably arrange.” She paused, staring into Applejack’s hopeful green eyes. “I’m sure I find something that makes you happy.”

“Alright, enough with the mushy stuff,” Applejack said with a roll of her eyes. “Ya got me blushin’ over here. But thanks, Twi. Ah really do appreciate it.”

Applejack quickly got changed back into her dress from the night before — feeling slightly awkward to be wearing it after the Gala but not having much choice if she wanted to take her belongings with her — and the two friends made their way through the Royal Complex. Twilight gave a polite nod to her personal guards, unaware of their perplexed glances to each other at the sight of their princess leaving her room with a mare sporting a suspiciously frayed mane. Scimitar raised his eyebrows suggestively, to which Claymore thwacked him around the head.

Twilight accompanied Applejack to the train station, still feeling strangely upbeat from her friend’s act of immense kindness. Taking care of her like a mother would a scared little filly… She was determined more than ever to find a way to repay her. After all, if there was anypony who deserved a joyful life, it was Applejack. Heavens knew how she’d be able to let her go…

“Sorry Ah couldn’t stay any longer,” Applejack said as they reached the platform, rows of smartly-dressed citizens lined up with luggage in hoof. “Ah must say Ah wouldn’t have minded a tour o’ the big city, but duty calls.”

“It’s OK, I understand. I’m just glad you could spend the night with me. I mean…” Twilight face-hoofed, her cheeks growing red. “Well, that came out a bit wrong.”

“Don’t sweat it,” Applejack said dismissively. “Ah couldn’t leave you like that, could Ah? What are friends for?”

Within a few minutes the train arrived. The two friends said their goodbyes and shared a tender hug before Applejack stepped on, finding herself a nearby seat. Twilight waved enthusiastically as the train started up, slowly chugging its way into the distance. She sighed and turned on her hoof, politely smiling to a group of ecstatic foals and making her way back to the palace, meeting up with her personal guards along the way. There were duties to attend to, of course, and her daily breakfast with Princess Celestia, a tradition that would surely carry on forever. Twilight shuddered at that thought and let it go, taking a deep breath.

“Morning, Princess,” Scimitar greeted as the two stallions marched to her side. “Sleep well?”

Claymore shot his colleague a disapproving glace which the younger guard shrugged off. Twilight was somewhat confused with this exchange but answered his question all the same. “Quite alright, thank you.”

“And did your friend sleep OK?”

“Stop it, Scimitar!” Claymore ordered, taking both ponies by surprise. He cleared his throat and regained posture. “Apologies for raising my voice, your highness. I simply don’t feel that my fellow guard was being entirely respectful to you.”

Twilight scrunched up her face confusedly. “He… wasn’t being respectful?”

“That is my own opinion,” Claymore professed. “I of course hold your opinion higher than anypony’s, but I feel that a line must be drawn. Your private life should never be up for discussion.”

Twilight’s cheeks grew hot as she looked to Scimitar. The stallion was tensing his lips, just barely stifling a laugh. “That’s… That’s not what happened,” she protested.

“No explanation is necessary, your highness,” Claymore affirmed, his steely demeanour unperturbed by Twilight’s suspicious response.

“I think it is,” Twilight replied, trying desperately not to let her anxiety show. “My relationship with Applejack is entirely platonic, and I will not stand for any false assumptions that it is anything more than that. I merely offered my friend the privilege of sleeping in the Royal Quarters, a favour to support her during a difficult time. I am sure you are both aware that she is not in the best of conditions, hence our conversation in the gardens yesterday evening. Understood?”

“Understood,” the two guards said in unison, and the walk carried on.

I can’t believe they thought that! Twilight mused. Though I guess it must’ve been peculiar seeing us both come out of the bedroom this morning. Me and Applejack? Dating? That’s the most far-fetched thing I’ve ever heard. A rouge thought of Applejack curled up next to her passed by, but Twilight was quick to extinguish it. No. It’s just preposterous. Impossible, even.

Bringing her mind back to more important matters, Twilight considered that aside from what her guards obviously thought had happened, there was no denying that something between her and Applejack had changed. It was enough to see the head-strong earth pony lose her cool — effectively breaking down in front of her — but being asked not to speak of the matter at hoof to anyone else put her in an awkward position. Just how was she going to help her? Applejack wanted more from life, but had no idea about what ‘more’ meant. Twilight had a feeling that this may have been a problem for several years, maybe even before she came to Ponyville. Just thinking about her friend being in pain all this time sent a warm flood of guilt across the back of her head. When she voiced her suspicions to Applejack at the Gala she never expected the mare to be so distraught by it. But at least now that it was out in the open, something could be done about it.

But why did I get so hysterical? Twilight mused silently as the three ponies neared the palace gates. She considered the phenomenon known as emotional synchronisation. Could Applejack’s intense emotions have triggered something inside of her? Seeing her close friend in such a state wasn’t exactly going to make her happy, but perhaps there was something more to it.

Twilight tried to think back to the last time she’d suffered such an outburst, sifting through years of memories. However, only one moment stuck out to her: The day Celestia showed her that book. And yet, even then she had recovered from it quickly. Now, however, the pain hadn’t gone away. Truth be told, her heart still ached. Applejack’s company had helped somewhat, but not enough. It seemed tragically hopeless for the pair of them. Twilight had no idea how to help Applejack, and there was no way Applejack would know how to help her.

Twilight once again considered seeking guidance from Princess Celestia on the matter. She had more knowledge and experience dealing with immortality than anyone… So why don’t I want to speak to her again? It was a question that Twilight couldn’t quite answer herself. Despite making logical sense, her gut instinct fought against the idea. Maybe it was because the very method Celestia had used to cheer her up had eventually become the reason for distress. Looking at photographs of long-forgotten ponies from the past was like examining a collection of fictional characters. Understanding the principle of treasuring their memories seemed simple enough, but it hadn’t felt real. But looking between the two photographs of her beloved friends was as real as it got.

It was at times like this Twilight wished she believed in an afterlife. As a foal, her family was fairly religious, and passage into ‘the great beyond’ was considered an irrefutable fact. However, as the years passed Twilight found herself falling from those beliefs and finding her own, much more depressing ‘truth’ to believe in.

Twilight sighed under her breath and soldiered on, wishing for a moment that Applejack was at her side, spouting words of encouragement. She’s a better mare than I could ever hope to be…

Applejack took to the nearest seat as the train sprang into action. After a few minutes of shuffling uncomfortably in her dress she eventually took it off completely, leaving it folded up on her saddlebags. That garnered her a few curious looks, but she wasn’t in the mood for caring. She still had a problem with pretty dresses; things hadn’t changed much in that regard.

Running through her mind was a list of chores that would need seeing to the moment she got back. Staying in Canterlot had never been part of the plan, but she’d left early enough to have time for just about everything. That might take her into the late evening, but that was OK. The biggest trouble would be coming up with a suitable excuse for not arriving home the previous night. The Apples were notorious worry-warts when it came to family, so she hoped to the high heavens that Big Mac hadn’t put together a search party.

Still, she couldn’t possibly have left a friend in need. Twilight had been there to bear the brunt of her pathetic life problems, so it was only fair to return the favour. If anything, at least Twilight’s concerns were coherent. Getting depressed over nothing made Applejack feel utterly worthless. Surely everypony wanted a little more from life; there was no such thing as being truly content. So why am Ah so darn upset about it? Applejack cursed inwardly. She’d been taught to look on the bright side of life, but apparently that wasn’t enough. And now Ah’m getting’ more depressed thinkin’ about how depressed Ah am over nothin’. Way to go, AJ.

Within an hour or so the train pulled up to Ponyville station. Losing all concern for the state of her dress she tossed it haphazardly over her back before putting on her saddlebags, an act she quickly regretted as the fabric slowly massed itself into a crumpled heap at the base of her neck with each step, becoming more uncomfortable than if she’d simply worn it.

The long walk back to Sweet Apple Acres provided her with just the rejuvenation she needed. Canterlot was a busy, stuffy place. With the exception of the Royal Gardens and a few patches of green, the city was bereft of flora and fauna. The air in Ponyville was somehow cleaner, more natural. It was no surprise that life in Manehattan hadn’t suited her; this place really was home.

Sweet Apple Acres came into view, to which Applejack steeled herself, ready to apologise for her absence. She didn’t want to incriminate Twilight in any way — she couldn’t allude to the dwindling mental state of a Princess of Equestria without some serious repercussions — but she didn’t want to outright lie. And so, she would just tell them that she didn’t feel so well, and couldn’t turn down Twilight’s offer to stay in a deluxe palace suite. That was sort of the truth, which would have to be good enough.

As she walked closer, she could already imagine Big Mac overreacting. Ever since Granny got sick a week ago they all took it upon themselves to take care of her, but it was Big Mac who got a bad case of paranoia, seemingly convinced that the bolshie old mare was at death’s door. Granted, she wasn’t exactly in the best shape, but Applejack had seen her pull through worse and come out the other side kicking and dancing. “Yer only as old as ya feel,” she had always said. Just thinking about it made Applejack smile.

Big Mac wasn’t even pleased with her going to the Gala, but when she explained to him just how much it meant to her he finally conceded. Applebloom also wanted to go — especially since it was the first time she would be allowed, along with Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo — but caught a case of the Big Mac blues and decided to stay. Not that Applejack wasn’t proud of her little sister for doing that. In fact it just showed how much she cared about her family, a trait that every Apple was destined to have.

Taking a deep breath, Applejack opened the door. “Howdy, folks!” she called out through the empty corridor. She passed through to the living room and dropped her dress and saddlebags. A quick stretch and she continued on through to the kitchen. Nopony there, so she wandered upstairs, wondering for a moment if her siblings had snagged themselves a cheeky morning snooze courtesy of her absence. Applebloom had never been one to appreciate the early morning breakfast call, something that only became more prominent during her teenage years.

Applejack put her ear to Applebloom’s door, the clear sound of a snoring mare resonating through the wood. Aha! Caught you! Applejack promptly kicked the door open. “Wakey wakey! Rise an’…”

To her surprise, Applebloom wasn’t the only one present. Big Mac and Fluttershy were both stood at Applebloom’s bedside, their faces overwrought with sleep deprivation. It reminded Applejack of the time she refused help from her friends and tried to tackle the entire orchard alone, only to spend her waking moments in a daze. Applebloom opened her eyes to the noise and let out a yawn. Instead of looking up at Applejack with the usual demeanour of a disgruntled teenager, her expression was one of immense worry. Applebloom, Big Mac and Fluttershy looked between themselves for a moment before finally turning back to face Applejack.

“What’s goin’ on?” the orange earth pony asked, trying to decipher the situation. “Applebloom, yer not sick, are ya?”

Applebloom shook her head solemnly, once again turning back to Big Mac. He stroked through her mane and nodded. Wordlessly, he gestured for Applejack to come towards him. She did so hesitantly, her mind swimming with questions. She’d not seen her brother like this since…

Big Mac wrapped his hooves around her in a tight hug, tears streaming down his cheeks. “Granny’s g-gone…” he sobbed.

Nothing else needed to be said. Applejack’s heart sank inside her chest as the truth dawned on her. Tears she didn’t know existed suddenly burst from her eyes. She wanted to believe that this was just a bad dream, that she was still led in Twilight’s bed, just on the verge of waking up. But that wasn’t true.

After a few moments, Applebloom clambered from her bed and joined them, as the three remaining Apples in Ponyville embraced each other, their cries echoing throughout Sweet Apple Acres. Peering up through the mounds of grief and sadness Applejack felt something else — another emotion that grew more powerful with every second.


Ah’m so sorry, Granny. Ah’m so sorry…

Twilight delicately churned her fork through the main course in front of her — butternut squash and pear ravioli with rosemary sauce. It was an undeniably well-crafted dish bursting with flavour, but Twilight couldn’t bring herself to finish it. She prodded one of the pear chunks, flirting with the idea of another bite. She was far from full, but the feeling of base hunger was missing. It became apparent that depression still lingered at the back of her mind, as much as she wanted to pretend that it had subsided.

“I trust your dish is up to standard,” Princess Celestia said from the other side of the table, tending to her mouth with a napkin.

“Oh it’s great, believe me,” Twilight quickly replied. “I’m just not feeling very hungry right now.”

Celestia paused, examining her protégé with a close eye. She smiled and continued with her meal, pouring herself another drink from a china teapot. There was an awkward silence for a few minutes as Twilight simply stayed seated, nodding politely as the remains of her meal were taken away.

Celestia motioned for the kitchen staff to leave and cleared her throat. “I think last night’s Gala was a success, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Yes, of course. It all came together in the end, didn’t it? No mishaps or catastrophes this time.” Twilight let out a nervous chuckle.

“That certainly was a bonus. Did your friends enjoy themselves?”

“Yes, I think so.”

Celestia pondered this answer for a moment, made wary of Twilight’s lack of enthusiasm after such a momentous occasion. “Is that all? Surely you must have a few interesting stories. Go on, tell me all about it.”

Twilight sighed and opened her mouth to speak, only to be interrupted by Celestia.

“Unless there’s something else on your mind?” Celestia looked down at her protégé with a warm, caring smile. “Remember, you can talk to me about anything.”

Twilight shifted her gaze away, realising that she’d been rumbled. “Well, I was just thinking. If it’s alright with you, of course.”

“Anything you want, Twilight,” Celestia assured.

“Well, you see… I was hoping that I could spend some more time with my friends. One of them could really use my help right about now, and I want to be there for them. I know I have my duties, and if I didn’t see to them it would mean either you or Luna would have to…” Twilight looked up to her mentor with reddened cheeks, feeling small and insignificant in that moment. “You can see where I’m going with this.”

“I see,” Celestia replied, furrowing her brow. “I’m sure I can do something.”

Twilight blinked. “Really? Just like that?”

“Just like that,” Celestia chuckled. “Don’t forget that not so long ago, I was the only princess in Equestria.”

“Well, that is true. But if there’s four of us now, how did you manage it alone?”

“Not quite as easily,” Celestia said with a smirk. “But I wouldn’t say that I was alone. I’ve had many advisors over the years whom I could trust, as well as chancellors and lords who helped me immeasurably in running this province. We still have that now, to an extent.”

Twilight smiled as she thought of Spike, whose role had steadily grown in importance over the years since her coronation. He was still prone to his jewel-munching habits, but he made a fine messenger, and had adapted to just about any task that was thrown his way.

“I can’t promise a total reprieve,” Celestia continued. “But I wouldn’t dream of getting between you and your friends. If they need your support, I shall see to it that you have the chance to be there for them.”

“Thank you, Celestia. It means more to hear you say that than you could ever know.”

“She’s finally asleep,” Big Mac muttered, taking a seat next to Applejack. “Ah’d say she needs it.”

Applejack nodded in agreement, wiping under her eyes. A deathly silence emanated throughout their home. Nothing but a mantelpiece clock could be heard. That is, until Mac sighed and asked his sister the inevitable.

“Where were you?”

Applejack winced, her attempts at bracing herself for that very question having failed. “Ah stayed with Twilight, Mac. Ah was tired, an’ she offered me a place to stay. Please, don’t make this any harder for me. Ah never wanted this.”

“Ya knew she was ill,” Mac said bluntly. “Mare of her age? Doesn’t take a genius t’ figure it out. Ah knew you shouldn’t a’ gone in the first place.”

“But Ah never expected thi—”

“Ah kept tellin’ her you were on your way,” Mac muttered, a fresh tear rolling down his cheek. “Ah had to believe you were comin’, AJ.”

“And Ah wish I’d been there,” Applejack replied, resting her head on the stallion’s shoulder. “Ah knew how she’d been but… D-did she say anythin’ about me?”

“She said she loved ya,” Mac said softly. “An’ that she was proud of ya. She meant it, an’ all. Darn it, sis. If only you’d been here—”

“Ah said Ah wanted to be!” Applejack cried, leaping to her hooves with clenched teeth. “Would ya just drop it!? Hell would Ah know Granny was gonna die!?” She slumped against the back of the sofa, rubbing her hooves down her face. “Don’t ya think if Ah could go back, Ah’d have done the right thing? If Ah’d known Granny needed me more than Twilight…”

“Wait, what?” Big Mac asked gruffly, his eyes wide. “Twilight needed you? The heck is that supposed to mean? First you say you was just acceptin’ an offer, but that ain’t it?”

Applejack clamped her eyes shut, damning herself for alluding to the truth. “She’s in a bad place, alright? Let’s just leave it at that.”

Mac snorted angrily. “She’s in a bad place? Princess on top o’ the world takin’ precedence over your sick Granny?”

“Shut up!” Applejack bellowed, staring daggers into her brother’s eyes. “Ah screwed up, alright!? May Celestia damn me for not sensin’ Granny Smith’s impendin’ doom! Ya think Ah don’t feel bad!?”

Big Mac’s cheeks flared up, tears building on his eyes. “You’re not the one who had to sit with Granny Smith, tellin’ her over an’ over that you were on yer way. You never saw it in her eyes when she realised she’d never see you again.”

“Because Ah never got that chance! How d’you think Ah feel!?”

“Of course you had the bucking chance!”

The living room door slammed open as Applebloom stormed in, tears streaming across her coat. “Enough!” she screamed, stomping a hoof against the floor. “This ain’t how Granny would want us to be! What’s wrong with you!?”

Both Applejack and Big Mac hung their heads shamefully. A piercing silence hung in the air for several seconds, the two eldest siblings berating themselves for tarnishing what should have been a tender family moment.

“Ah thought you were asleep,” Mac finally muttered.

“Like Ah could sleep with you two bickerin’ like whiny foals,” Applebloom stated defiantly, shooting her brother and sister with a damning gaze. “Applejack? Just so you know, Ah don’t blame you for anythin’. Ah’m sure you had your reasons.”

Applejack lowered her gaze, a single tear trickling down her cheek and dropping to the floorboards. Sure, she did have her reasons. Twilight had comforted her when she let loose, and it was only natural to return the favour when Twilight broke down herself. But was that really the right choice? Why didn’t Ah face the truth? Applejack said internally. Why did Ah lie to mahself? Why did Ah think Granny would be OK? Why didn’t Ah worry hard enough?

By the time Applejack had come back to her senses, Applebloom had taken the spot next to her and was gripping her foreleg, stroking her shoulder in a motherly fashion. “Go easy on her, Mac,” Applebloom said with a sad smile. “She loved Granny too.”

Mac nodded to himself. “Ah know.”

Applejack smiled, but she knew that something was still underlying between them. All of Big Mac’s fears and worries had come true. His sister — the one who’d stood by him ever since their parents passed — had ignored his cries simply because she didn’t want to believe that he was right. If she’d taken his word over Twilight’s she could’ve been there for Granny. They could’ve been there for her as a family, just like she would have wanted.

Applejack held Applebloom close, her throat growing dry as she wracked her brains, trawling through her memories. But, it was to no avail. She hung her head in shame as the realisation came to her. She couldn’t remember the last words she’d said to Granny Smith.

And she never would.

After some eventual convincing, Applebloom finally went back to bed. With some time to themselves, Applejack and Big Mac conceded to the unfortunate task at hoof. Wordlessly, the two siblings headed into Ponyville proper, trying to act as casually as possible. A few ponies might have offered a greeting, but Applejack barely noticed. Things needed to be done.

The funeral directors were kind folk, keeping a calm tone as they explained the process in detail. Cremation was an option, but a burial — as expensive as it was — seemed to be the most logical choice. Granny Smith was a pony who nurtured fruits grown from the earth, so it was only natural that she be returned to the soil that she slaved over for so long.

Choosing a casket felt like a guilt trip in every sense of the term. The more basic designs were affordable, but with that came the necessary respect for the dead. Granny could do without a portrait of the immortal sisters watching over her as she was laid to rest, but she deserved something special, even in death. Or at least, that’s all Applejack could think of doing to compensate for her failure.

In the end, they chose a delicately polished oak casket with golden accents. It was beyond their realistic budget, but that somehow didn’t seem to matter. Big Mac raised had his eyebrow at the price but said nothing. Applejack wished he could have been more communicative, but guessed that was easier said than done.

The venue for the funeral was quickly set as an area of Sweet Apple Acres known as The Farfields, with six days until the proceedings would take place. Some hymns were chosen — none of which Applejack knew too well — while the music to Granny’s descent would be up to some of the more musical members of the Apple family. Applejack assumed they’d be all too willing. They had been at the last Apple funeral, so…

Every moment that she sat there, Applejack wanted to break down and cry. Her innate desire to adhere to social standard kept the tears at bay, but did little to alleviate the pain. It felt as if she was floating above herself, watching these events unfold as a passive observer. It just wasn’t real. Of course she’d suffered the passing of her parents, but she’d been too young to understand it all. These kinds of responsibilities had never fallen to her, and at the time, they had Granny Smith by their side.

The walk home wasn’t much better. Big Mac was as stoic as always — perhaps even more so — which only made Applejack worry that he hated her. Of course he was her brother, and a good, upstanding stallion in his own right, but he wasn’t being the affectionate, kind pony that she needed him to be right now. Even sparking up a simple conversation seemed stupid. What was there to talk about besides their dead grandmother?

“Did Granny mention her will?” Applejack asked shakily as they began the trek along the dirt path leading to Sweet Apple Acres.

Big Mac slowed for a moment, a short sigh escaping his lips. “No,” was his immediate answer, and the journey continued on. Nothing else was said.

It was then that Applejack scoured through her memories, remembering every instance where the farm took a financial hit, whether it was the result of a storm, settlers bringing competition, crop infestation… Granny had been able to help them out, pulling from her secret savings. And then about two years ago, when the family faced trouble, she had nothing left to give besides her hard work and moral support. She’d given them everything. Applejack mouthed a silent “thank you” under her breath as they arrived home, hoping that somehow, Granny could hear her.

Ever since her parents passed away, Applejack had always been told that they were always watching from the sky, always listening through her prayers. As a foal, Applejack believed this without question. She would tell them about her day, make promises and even wave goodbye to the night sky before she slept. Everything she did was to make them proud of her, and she was always so sure that they’d be smiling just beyond the horizon. It filled her with immeasurable joy.

As she got older and that stone-clad belief began to fade, the joy faded with it. She was still happy to prove her worth on principle — even if Mummy and Daddy weren’t looking down on her — but something was amiss. Something had been lost, even if she wasn’t sure what it was. And despite her best efforts, one pony had unearthed the side of her that she’d tried to bury for so long. Princess Twilight.

Heart heavy in her chest, Applejack sat to the table with her brother as they pored over a list of their extensive family. With stacks of cards, envelopes and a quill each to hoof, the task of doling out funeral invitations was underway. The Apples had never invested in any kind of printing equipment under the impression that they’d never need it. However, it only made things more agonising as Applejack painstakingly wrote out the same message to her relatives, detailing the loss of Granny Smith and her upcoming funeral. Each completed letter only drove the truth home harder. In some twisted way it reminded Applejack of the time she had to write lines in detention at school.

Dear Apple family member, Granny Smith is dead.

Dear Apple family member, Granny Smith is dead.

Dear Apple family member, Granny Smith is dead.

Applejack rested the quill for a few moments, catching her breath as a torrent of tears came spilling down her face. Big Mac looked up sympathetically, but Applejack waved a hoof at him dismissively, making out that she only needed a moment to recuperate. Applejack took several deep breaths and tried again, reaching for another stack of envelopes. However, with a trembling hoof she only managed to knock them to the floor by accident. Letting out an angry shriek, Applejack thumped on the table, buried her head in her hooves and began to cry softly.

Big Mac dropped down from his chair and pulled his sister in a tight hug, stroking the back of her mane. “Come on now,” he whispered. “You can do this, AJ. For Granny.”

“Ah know, Mac. Ah know…”

One day later

Hmm, this could be good. I’ve always wanted to know more about it so maybe that one could… No, no, no. Knowing Applejack she’d fall asleep before it was over. What was I thinking? Twilight tossed the leaflet entitled Gigaparsec — Canterlot’s Planetarium to the floor and levitated a pamphlet depicting various landmarks towards her.

In the day since she’d last seen Applejack, Twilight had requested information on attractions in and around Equestria, determined to find something worthwhile to do with her friend. In her mind, a simple friendly visit wouldn’t suffice. Applejack needed cheering up, and the first step to helping her would be to find something enjoyable to do. If everything went as planned, she could solve Applejack’s problems all while spending quality time with her beloved friend. At the very least, she could expect to find a reason to smile.

What Twilight hadn’t expected was a mountain of paperwork delivered to her door by an enthusiastic purple dragon. Supposedly after Twilight’s brief request Spike had caught wind of her wishes and practically ordered the palace’s workers into overdrive, insisting that every last amusement park, holiday destination or possible outing was found immediately. For a dragon whose duties were technically spread equally between all of the princesses and even beyond, it was typical of him to overreact to anything Twilight said. It was endearing, sure, but more often than not slightly counter-productive. Sifting through the mounds of tourist hotspots was a gargantuan task, even for the speed-reading bookworm.

So far this morning she’d spent just over an hour sifting through the tower of paper and card, but hadn’t gotten any closer to making a decision. She’d come across a translated piece of text about a winery in Cheval famous for its chardonnay. It seemed to make for an appropriate choice. Applejack was a dab hoof at growing all kinds of fruit and vegetables, so she’d undoubtedly find something to be interested in at the vineyards. Not to mention the prospect of exquisite wines, which Twilight found all too enticing.

There was information on a tour of its facilities along with a list of its most popular brands, along with details of exclusive wines with price ranges beyond triple digits. As princess, paying for such things wouldn’t be a huge problem. Twilight giggled at the thought of her and Applejack getting lashed on drinks costing more than a royal chariot.

“Ah do have t’admit, this here char-donney really hits the spot.”

“It’s pronounced ‘chardonnay’, Applejack. Not to be confused with the less acclaimed pinot blanc, of course. They’re both very similar in terms of the grapes used to produce them, though chardonnay grapes produce a more golden colouring when ripening… Are you even listening?”

“Listenin’? Sure. Takin’ notice? You know Ah ain’t got the know how ‘bout that stuff. So long as it makes mah tongue tingle and mah legs go all wobbly, not much else Ah care about.”

“I thought as much. Any better than Granny’s famous apple cider?”

“That ain’t fair, Twi. Not with how much you done paid for these things. But ya know, Ah think it’s all goin’ to mah head. Feelin’ kinda sleepy.”

“Do… Do you need to lie down?”

“Well if ya don’t mind, maybe Ah could just rest mah head on your shoulder for a little while.”

“Well… I don’t have a problem with that. Um… You get as comfortable as you want.”

“Well thanks, Twi. It sure is nice spendin’ time with you. Ah could just rest here fer—”

Twilight’s daydreaming was interrupted by a knock at the door. Shaking her head to rid herself of any remnant of that stupid imaginary event, Twilight levitated her crown into place. “I’ll be right on out,” she called.

Claymore was there to greet her, a stern look on his face. He gave a momentary salute and cleared his throat. “You have a visitor, your highness.”

“What visitor? I didn’t organise a meeting,” Twilight replied prudently. She’d only just managed to be rid of a few key duties, and those leaflets weren’t going to read themselves. As much as she hated to be rude, in the end, the princesses had precedence over virtually everyone in Equestria and beyond. Sometimes, it was all too tempting to take advantage of that fact. “How urgent is it?”

“It’s one of your friends, if I’m not mistaken. Made quite a fuss to see you this morning. I believe she’s in the throne room with Princess Celestia at present.”

Twilight’s ears perked up. Friend? Talking with Celestia? Applejack? Could it really be Applejack? Twilight straightened herself up and nodded sagely to her guard. “Thank you, Claymore. I shall get right on it.”

“Of course, Princess.” Claymore gave a quick bow and returned to his post as Twilight trotted eagerly along the marbled floor of the palace, her mind abuzz with speculation about Applejack’s return. It was a big surprise — though hardly an unwelcome one— from the kind of level-headed mare who held courtesy and planning in high regard. Alternatively, it could just be that she’d lost something while at the Gala, which didn’t seem like Applejack either. Twilight pondered on all kinds of possibilities as she strode onwards, wondering for a moment if she could arrange an impromptu visit to the vineyard she’d just been reading about.

Twilight turned the corner towards the main throne room and cantered in through the open doors, the four surrounding guards saluting as she entered. It was then that she spotted Princess Celestia speaking with…

“Rainbow Dash?” Twilight said aloud, sounding unintentionally disappointed. “I… I mean, Rainbow Dash! What brings you here?”

Rainbow Dash turned away from Celestia, revealing the most morose expression Twilight had seen on the multi-coloured pegasus in years. She gave a weak smile. “Hey, Twilight. This is, um… Well, it’s not good news.”

Twilight cocked her head, feeling a pang of anxiety pulse across her heart. Celestia’s own solemn expression was enough to send shivers down her spine. “Oh? Well, what is it?”

Rainbow Dash handed over a small envelope which Twilight took with her magic. As she deftly tore it open and began to read through it, Rainbow Dash spoke again in a nervous tone. “I tried to get here as soon as I could. You could’ve waited for the postal service, but you know how things are with them. We… We could get flying there now if you…”

The trembling pegasus trailed off as Twilight dropped the card to the floor, tears beginning to form in her eyes. “When did she pass?” she asked, feeling as if she knew that answer already.

Rainbow Dash hesitated for a moment, taking a deep breath. “It was the night of the Gala. Shall we… Shall we get moving?”

Twilight let out a weary sigh. She knew now what this meant. Applejack’s insistence to leave first thing in the morning, her emotional troubles, her hesitance at staying the night… It all made sense now.

“Twilight? Come on, let’s go.”

“Of course.”

The two friends spread their wings and took flight to Sweet Apple Acres. Throughout the journey they talked at length about Granny Smith and all that she had done, her charming quirks and the legacy that she would leave behind. Twilight didn’t care to mention that all she could think about was Applejack. Her friend had been there for her when she’d broken down at the thought of losing her loved ones, and now...

Yet despite every ounce of grief, worry and guilt in Twilight’s mind, one emotion stood above all others.


I’m so sorry, Applejack. I’m so sorry…