• Published 13th Feb 2013
  • 13,554 Views, 329 Comments

Steel Spirit - Masterweaver

  • ...
20
 329
 13,554

Sparks of Faith

Stones.

Every night for the last two weeks, the stones. And the names.

Oh, the particular arrangement was different, and she was different too. Sometimes she was a full grown mare, somehow, with a cutie mark and everything. Other times, she was still a filly.

But every time she slept, she saw the stones, the names upon them, and it was only after she awoke that she recalled it hadn't happened yet.

Every name she had ever known. Every name.

She wondered why Luna never visited her in those nightmares... or even if she could.

***

It was a bright sunny day in Ponyville, not in itself a remarkable occurrence. Sweetie Belle grinned alongside her friends as they cantered through the streets, determined to accomplish SOMETHING today. This was part of the reason why she was dragging an inflatable raft along.

Actually, that was the only reason she was pulling the inflatable raft along.

"So you're sure this'll work?" Scootaloo asked again, adjusting her grip.

"Ah told ya, this is mah greatest idea yet! One of us has GOT ta be a cutie mark white water rider."

"Hmmm. I guess that could work. Rafting the rapids."

Sweetie rolled her eyes. "Well, I know I'm not going to be a river rafter."

Apple Bloom gave her a curious look. "Why not?"

Because I'd spark and fritz. "I'm just not built for that sort of activity."

"Yeah, I'm actually kinda amazed you keep up with us," Scootaloo agreed casually. However, she soon regretted her choice of words when a yellow hoof slapped her upside the head. "OW! What was that for?!"

"Being rude ta Sweetie."

The unicorn filly giggled. "No, it's alright. I know she didn't mean anything mean!"

"It's still wrong," Apple Bloom grumbled. "We don't know fer sure that Sweetie's special talent ain't something sporty. And 'sides, it ain't like she's out of shape."

"Well, no," Scootaloo agreed. "Still, I mean.... Sweetie Belle? Professional wrestler?"

"....it could happen," Apple Bloom insisted uncertainly.

"No it couldn't," Sweetie said calmly.

"...yeeeeeah, maybe that's a bit too much ta swallow."

"GIRLS!" Scootaloo stooped suddenly, a wide grin on her face. "WE HAVE ARRIVED!" She flung a hoof forward, pointing at the water that whisked down the hill faster than a train. "Soon, we will be earning our cutie marks in the most AWESOME way possible!"

"Let's just get this over with," grumbled the unicorn, dragging the inflatable raft next to the river.

Apple Bloom gave her a worried look. "Are ya okay?"

"What? I'm fine, why?"

"Ya kinda seem a bit.... melancholy."

Sweetie Belle gave Apple Bloom a look. "What happens when you get your cutie marks?"

"Ah'm sorry?"

She opened her mouth, about to explain, but stopped. Then she shook her head. "I'm being a silly pony, that's all."

"Well will you STOP being a silly pony and hop in?" Scootaloo looked at them from her seat at the front of the raft, her annoyance and impatience making her flutter her wings. "I'm not pushing off until we're all ready!"

"Sweetie Belle...." Apple Bloom put a hoof on the unicorn's shoulder. "We are yer friends. Nothen', and Ah mean ABSOLUTELY nothen' could evar change that."

Sweetie Belle smiled at her gratefully. Apple Bloom smirked back, giving her one final pat, before tucking herself in behind Scootaloo. Neither pegasus nor earth pony saw the smile fade from their friend's face as she slipped into the rear of the raft.

"Alright everypony. On the count of three we shove off these rocks." Scootaloo put an orange hoof right outside the raft. "One... two...."

***

"....three of tha most thick-headed fillies Ah've ever met! Look at ya'll, all covered in bruises and tree sap and...."

Applejack sighed, seeing the way that her audience was shamefully hanging their heads. "Look, girls. Ah know ya want ta get yer cutie marks. Ah respect that. But when Ah see ya beaten up like this... Ah just can't help but worry that yer gonna find somethen' that actually takes ya away forever."

"Sorry, big sis..."

The farmpony melted at the sad look Apple Bloom was giving her. "Now come on.... don't do that. Listen just.... next time ya'll do somethen' dangerous, try ta have a grown up looken' out fer yah. Ah don't want ta lose ya, ya hear?"

"Okay, big sis..."

"That goes fer all three of ya!" the mare added, giving the other two fillies a pointed look. "Now if ya'll excuse me, Ah gotta get that raft ya'll rented off tha cliff-face... somehow."

She stared at the yellow object, still bewildered; the river was quite some distance away from the stone slope, and she could not for the life of her understand how the raft had ended up hanging from the precipice.

"Gonna need mah rope," she grumbled, walking toward the barn.

As soon as she was out of earshot, Scootaloo perked up. "THAT! WAS! AWESOME!" She checked her flank. "I have to have gotten a--oh. Still blank. " She shrugged, turning to the others. "What about you girls?"

"Nothen' here.... dang."

"White as a sheet of paper."

Scootaloo sighed. "And I was SURE one of us would get a cutie mark out of this. Oh well.... hey, want to go by Sugarcube Corner?"

"Yeah!" Apple Bloom perked up instantly. "That sounds like a great idea! Ah could really go fer some cookies."

Sweetie Belle, try as she might, couldn't work up the enthusiasm. "I'm sorry, but... all I want to do right now is go home and take a bath." And check to make sure my skin's not torn, she added in her mind, giving her foreleg a glance. "I'm just going to head home and wash up."

The pegasus looked at her friend suspiciously. "Really? You're skipping out on cookies?"

"....I'm sorry, I'm just.... I don't know. Tired." The unicorn shrugged halfheartedly. "I.... I've been having some bad nightmares recently, so I keep waking up in the middle of the night..."

"What kind of nightmares?" Apple Bloom asked gently, stepping closer.

"Oh it's... nothing trust me." Sweetie laughed off her friend's worry, trotting down the road. "Come on, let's get those cookies!"

Scootaloo thrust her face into Sweetie's, stopping the unicorn in her tracks. "Nothing? If you're losing sleep, it's not nothing. Tell us what's going on."

"...I really don't want to talk about it."

"Is it somethen' ta do with Rarity?"

Sweetie Belle snorted. "No. Can we drop the subject?"

"Do you think we should be doing something different to get our cutie marks?"

"I don't know! I'm just going with whatever you guys try!"

"Are ya worried that yer never gonna get yer cutie mark?"

The unicorn blinked. She turned her head slowly to Apple Bloom, who was looking at her sympathetically.

"...I... yeah." She slumped. "Yes." That wasn't all she was worried about, but it was all she was going to let them know.

"Hey." Scootaloo tried to smile comfortingly. "We won't stop trying until EVERY crusader gets their cutie mark. Me, You, Bloom, Babs, whoever else Babs has recruited... We're the Cutie Mark Crusaders and more importantly we're your friends. Rainbow Dash doesn't leave anypony hanging... and I won't either."

"We're always here fer ya Sweetie." Apple Bloom wrapped her forelegs around her friend's neck. "And we'll always be here fer ya even after we all get our cutie marks."

Sweetie Belle let out a long, slow breath.

Then, reluctantly, she returned the hug. It hadn't helped at all, but Apple Bloom was trying. And even if they couldn't help her, she could at least let them feel useful. "Thanks... I really just don't want to talk about it."

"Still..."

"Yeah."

They stood there for a silent minute.

Eventually, Scootaloo sighed. "You two are stuck, aren't you."

"Eeeeeeyup."

"Have I mentioned I hate tree sap? I hate tree sap. Put that on the record."

***

Hot cookies. On a blue plate.

Of course Scootaloo and Apple Bloom were eating eagerly. And Sweetie Belle was also eating... but for every two one of her friends took, she only had one.

Pinkie Pie raised an eyebrow. She could see the signs and, unlike the crusaders, actually knew what was going on. She slunk out from behind the counter, unseen by the fillies, sneaking around them in a shockingly silent manner.

Without warning, she stuck her head between Scootaloo and Apple Bloom. "HIYA SWEETIE BELLE!"

"AAAAA!"

"AAAAA!"

"AAAoh hey." The unicorn recovered quickly. "What's up Pinkie?"

"Well I'll tell you what's down. Your cookie-eating speed!" The party pony spun the plate around. "You've not even eaten half of what your friends have COMBINED!"

"Oh... um.... sorry?"

"THIS IS A PROBLEM!" Pinkie declared emphatically. "I think.... you have gotten... the rare illness. The most horrific of illnesses." She nodded gravely. "Papillangitis."

"Papa whatnow?"

"Taste bud cold!" The pink pony grabbed Sweetie's tongue, stretching it out. "Your taste buds are so congested they're not tasting buds! They're not tasting anything! Oh my oh me oh moe, this is very very very bad. FORTUNATELY, I know the cure." Pinkie gave the other two crusaders a pointed look. "You two, stay here, this is a delicate operation. AWAY!"

Picking up the unicorn, the baker whisked her into the kitchen proper and began to rifle through the pantries. producing a variety of ingredients and mixing them before the befuddled filly's eyes. "Sugar, yes. Flour, yes. Nitroglycerine, maybe... no, I got hot sauce, nitro's not necessary. Vinegar, definitely not. Eggs! Chocolate! Vanilla! High fructose corn syrup? No, anachronism." She dropped that bottle in the trash. "Catsup... nah. Oranges!"

"Pinkie... what are you making?"

"A super-sense-spectacular!" The party pony whirled around with a smirk. "Just let me find some baking powder and a dash of olive oil and some pinapples! Probably some cinnamon too. Oh, and can't forget the spices! Pepper, rosemary, jimbu, paprika--"

"And you expect me to actually eat that?"

"Or you could tell me what's really going on. Either way I win."

Sweetie Belle stared in shock at the suddenly very calm, very focused expression on Pinkie Pie's visage. Never would she have expected such a level of cunning from such a silly pony.

Cautiously, she decided to test her luck. "Well, I really don't want to talk about it..."

"Okay fair enough. OH LOOK JALAPENOS!"

"ALRIGHT! You win! I'll talk!"

Once more, Pinkie's face reformed into that calm, observant face. It was unnerving.

Eventually, the unicorn sighed. "...every night, I... I have this dream. It's not always the same, but... I'm walking in a graveyard, and... and there are names. Names I know, names I love, and I'm all alone.... Last night, I dreamed that Apple Bloom died young." Tears began to form in her eyes. "I.... I'm a machine. Machines don't die. I'm going to see all my friends die. I--"

"Stop." Pinkie put a hoof to her muzzle. "I see the problem. You're worried about the future."

She nodded, eyes brimming.

"That's exactly what you shouldn't be doing! Look out there!" Pinkie pointed at the door. "Scootaloo and Apple Bloom are eating cookies and laughing and wondering what that crazy pink pony is doing with their friend! Even if they die one day, that day isn't today. You still have time with them! You have a lot of time with them! Use it! Live in the moment! And if you do outlive them--not a guarantee, even for a machine--you don't mourn them forever. You grieve... and then you keep the good parts, the good times in your heart. Make HAPPY memories, Sweetie Belle. That's what the now is for!"

The unicorn sniffed. "But... they'll be gone one day. You'll be gone one day..."

"Hey, listen to me. You know princess Luna?"

"...yeah?"

"Everpony she used to know is gone. She didn't even get to mourn them before she was thrust into this new world." Pinkie leaned down. "And she was scared, and hurting, and sad. But... she's been smiling recently. It's rare, but it happens."

"How? How does she cope?"

"By looking at what's around her now."

Sweetie Belle blinked. She stared at the baker with shimmering eyes.

"...I.... I'll try to live for the moment."

"In the moment. Not for it." Pinkie smirked. "Trust me, there's a huge difference. Now if you don't hurry, all those cookies will be gone!"

The unicorn stared at her.... and broke out a sly smile. "I'm in a kitchen. Why don't I just make more?"

***

"....Sir? The latest data packet.... you need to look at this."

Author's Note:

GOTCHA!

Now for those of you who know about the blog, this story is canonical to the blog, but the blog is not canonical to the story. See? Also, the cover image is made by the same guy who made Steel Soul's picture.