• Published 9th Feb 2013
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The Next Level Of Your Studies - cleversuggestion

Twilight Sparkle gets a letter from Celestia that sets her on a quest for knowledge which will transform her more deeply and completely than she ever imagined was possible.

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11. The First Value

CE 1203

They arrived, in groups, pairs, or by themselves; all linked together and all terribly alone.

Many lived close enough to walk to the farm, while others had immediately packed and taken the train, carriage, wagon, or skyship after receiving their black-bordered letters. They all brought food, in barrels and baskets, presenting it to the stallion of the house with their condolences. In happier times, the farm would have provided for them; now, they provided for it.

They set themselves to work: Apple Strudel organizing the foodstuffs, putting some in the cellar, others in the pantry, and sending the rest to Apple Brown Betty, who had commandeered the kitchen. This part they knew how to do; the chores occupying their minds and limbs and keeping the horror and grief at bay.

They all knew each other, though the old remembered some ponies that the young would never meet. They had watched the stallion of the house grow up, a sturdy colt now as large as other stallions but not quite done growing, who had taken up his father's yoke nonetheless. His grandmother stood behind him as they were greeted, a new wrinkle joining the many others surrounding her flinty eyes. Some of them murmured their concerns about the financial state of the farm as they presented their gifts. “We'll make it,” the two replied. Braeburn offered to stay on for a bit as a farmhand, and was warmly accepted. Peachy Sweet offered to buy the farm, and was coldly rejected.

Then they had all arrived, and it was time to consider the departed.

For an hour, there was no wall of work, no distraction, only them and their future. Two boxes lay open, and one by one they passed them, saying goodbye to ponies that could no longer hear them, trying to pour their grief, horror, regret, and despair into those boxes. Then the lids of the boxes were carefully closed, the boxes carefully lowered into the earth, and the graves carefully filled with dirt. Two saplings were planted. They all agreed how terrible it was, for two to be taken so young.

Then they departed as they came. Braeburn lingered, waiting until the rest of the family had left, then he went to the house to start supper. The four survivors stood on the hill, grown cold without the heat of the crowd's bodies. Granny Smith shivered.

This was the first of her children that Granny Smith had buried. She had lost count of how many funerals she had attended before this one.

Big Mac had been to one funeral before; his other grandmother. There, many had said that she had lived a full life. It had seemed impolite to disagree, so he hadn't. He was both glad and sad that no comments like that had been said today. Granny Smith was not worried about him; he would make it.

This was Applejack's first funeral. She had put on a brave face, but even Braeburn staying had barely consoled her. Now that they were alone, she began to cry. Mac, crying himself, comforted her with a leg over her withers. Granny Smith worried about her.

Applebloom was not yet old enough to understand. Granny Smith knew that she would have to be told, again and again, that her parents would not be coming back. She would have only the faintest of memories of them; besides the tears the answer would cause, there was little reason to worry about her.

Applejack finished crying, and looked up at Granny Smith. “Why aren't you crying?” she asked.

The old mare looked down at the filly. “The same reason you aren't, sweet filly. I ran out of tears.” She looked at the farmhouse, a welcoming light shining from its windows. “Their spirits have fled, and their bodies aren't going anywhere. Let's go eat dinner now." They didn’t move, and she continued, "You can visit them tomorrow, but remember always: they live on inside you, not in this hill. We have a lot of work to do with them gone, but we can make it. We will make it.”

“I wish they hadn't gone,” Big Mac said softly.

Granny Smith fixed him with a sharp look. “Wishing won't make it so. We've got to make the best of what we've got, and do what we need to do.” She took a deep, ragged breath. “But for what little it is worth, I wish it too, Big Mac. Oh, how I wish it too.”