• Published 27th Feb 2013
  • 7,282 Views, 765 Comments

Fallout: Equestria - The Hooves of Fate - Sprocket Doggingsworth



A young filly in present day Ponyville is cursed with nightmares of post-apocalyptic Equestria. She finds herself influencing the course of future history in ways that she cannot understand.

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The Talk

* * *


BOOK FOUR
THE SOUND OF SILENCE


* * *

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE - THE TALK
“Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.” - Wallace Stegner




The town was full of life. Folks going about their business. Earth ponies lugging firewood and barrels of apple ale. Pushing ploughs. Salting roads. It was a lot like Winter Wrap Up, only months ahead of schedule, and twice as chaotic as usual.

The pegasi were busy moving clouds. They'd set up some kinda pega-patrol. Nothing special. Regular folks scouting around. My only guess was that they were looking for odd weather phenomena, making sure they wouldn't get snuck up on again by a rogue storm. But mostly they just coasted over us, laughing and chatting with one another, hollering to their friends down below.

"Nice snow alicorn!" My sister’s friend, Blossomforth, shouted to a family of unicorns, who lay splayed out on the ground, making wing marks with their hooves.

"Thanks!" The mother waved.

Blossomforth giggled and waved back, just before crashing into the top of a pine tree. She was just a flower pony after all, and not very good at sky work. Roseluck, anxious to get home, hurried us both underneath, hoping Blossomforth wouldn't notice us and wanna talk.

* * *

The closer we got to the square, the more crowded the roads got. This classmate of mine, Apple Bloom - she and her brother zoomed by, towing a giant sleigh full of cider kegs. Bon Bon passed moments later, going the other way, towing Celestia-only-knows-what under some tarp.

It was weird. All around us, ponies everywhere were going about their day. Like it was normal. Like a blizzard that had appeared out of nowhere, unplanned for by Cloudsdale, was totally normal. Sure, there were a few pegasi keeping an eye out, but they were still treating it like some random mishap.
But we had been attacked! By shadows! The inky bastards had assaulted the whole town, and put Roseluck in the fucking hospital. I didn't expect anypony to know about the shadow stuff. But to act like nothing weird was going on at all?

It seemed so insane.




You could see the fallen mistletoe banners that the storm had taken down, and folks just trampled right over them like they weren't there. You could see some of the side roads and walkways, still untended to. Folks just trotted on by the snow mounds like it was perfectly normal. Like there was no such thing as shadows. Like our golden age would last forever. Like a giant apocalyptic war wasn't waiting for us all, only a generation away.

I don't know what I'd been expecting exactly. Obviously, nopony was gonna freak out like I did. But it still felt just plain wrong. For all of Ponyville to be so full of whimsy, and mirth after what had happened.

I sighed. Closed my eyes. Decided just not to think about it. I focused instead on the wind as it hit my face. Felt the sunlight warming my eyeballs even though my lids were closed. I marveled at how long it had been since I had felt these things. I had been cooped up so long. It was even longer since I had appreciated them - really appreciated them - ‘cause as a foal, I had just sorta taken it all for granted.

Maybe that was the world I have been fighting for all along. I thought. A world where folks have it so good that they take it for granted.

* * *

“So," Roseluck broke the silence. “What do we do now?”

I snapped out of my haze. Thought long and hard about the question. Roseluck was right. I had to swallow my uncertainty. Formulate a plan. I couldn't afford to stand around all day, getting lamenty.

Zoom! An emerald green pegasus zipped over us all of a sudden. Sassaflash. One of the patrol. For a minute, I thought she might have seen something - that somepony somewhere was treating the shadow blizzard with the gravity it deserved. But she just stopped a hundred feet down the road, and ungracefully karate-kicked a tiny hunk of cloud she’d hunted down.

“Ten points for me!" She hollered at the sky, before dashing away, giggling.

“We should maybe talk to some of the pegasi.” I said at last. “They might not know much about the shadows, but maybe one of them noticed something about the storm, or saw something that we didn't.”

Roseluck opened her mouth as if to speak, but didn't get the chance.

"Ooh!" I exclaimed. “I’ve also gotta check out the Everfree Path and see how bad the snow is over there. Zecora might have some answers about my evil hoof. The zebra I met in the future seemed to know a thing or two about it.”

“What? Rose Peta--;”

“Oh! Oh!” I interrupted. “And books. We're gonna need lots and lots of books. Cliff’s science. Bananas Foster’s history. It's helpful. But the problem is I don't know where to start. Maybe if I--;”

My sister plunged her hoof in my mouth.

“What should we do for lunch?”

"Oh.”

My stomach growled from underneath me. I hadn't even noticed I was hungry, but the mention of lunch woke it like a sleeping dragon.

“Anything but pudding.” I let out a shy little laugh.

I looked up at Roseluck, expecting a snicker in return, or maybe a playfully disapproving glance. But I saw worry in her face instead. She looked away when my eyes met hers.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"Oh, um, nothing." She shook her head, and wiped her face with her sleeve. "We'll just, uh, get some hayburgers. I don't feel like cooking."

Her voice was dead and distant, like she was off somewhere miles away.

* * *

At first I thought it was a fluke - that my sister, like me, was a little out of it - that her brain had just gotten weird for a minute, and skipped a beat. But Roseluck acted totally odd the whole rest of the walk home. She kept stealing these glances at me from behind her scarf - kept looking at me all concerned-and-such whenever she thought I couldn't see her.

It made my guts twist around a little.

Whatever was eating at Rose was gonna come out. And sooner or later, we’d end up having a great big long talk about whatever was bothering her. But in the meantime, all I could do was guess. Was it because I'd been so distracted? Preoccupied with my mission, fixated on the future?

The idea seemed stupid. Roseluck knew about my visions. She knew what a big responsibility it was to have knowledge of the end of the world. She knew that there were shadows and stuff actively looking to destroy me, and those I cared about. She couldn't possibly be surprised that I was so focused on the fight.
What then?

Was she still hung up on the whole special kind of friendship thing that Foster had mentioned? That had really hurt Roseluck - the idea that I couldn't confide in her.

I didn't know. I just didn't fucking know.

“Roseluck?” I asked. “Is everything okay?”

“I’m fine.” She replied with a sigh. “Just a little tired.”

Even though it was super mega obvious that she was not, in fact, fine.

“Why don't you go on home while I pick up the food?” She added.

“Home?”

“Yeah, or I don't know. Play with your friends or something.”

She gestured with her face at two of my classmates playing nearby. Snips and Snails. The two colts most likely to annoy the crap out of me.

“Hey, come back!” Snips cried out in his shrill nasal voice.

“You'll have to catch me first.” Hollered his oafish friend, Snails, as he darted away, chuckling.

I through Roseluck a look. She had to be joking.

“Seriously?”

“What?” She replied. “They're in your class. So they're not your best friends. There's nothing wrong with being friendly.”

“Ow!” Said Snails. “Ow! Ow! Ow!”

He galloped past us.

Turns out that he and Snips were playing some weird house rules version of tag that, for some reason, involved dragging a ribbon tied to a frying pan. The pan bounced up and whacked Snails every time it hit a bump on the ground.

I turned to Roseluck again, and raised an eyebrow.

“Okay, fine." She said with a laugh that finally broke the tension between us. “I'm not gonna lie. There's something on my mind, but I'd really like it if we could talk in private after we eat. Is that okay?”

“Did I do something wrong?" I asked.

“No, dearie." She said with a kiss to my forehead. “Now go on, I'll meet you at the house in half an hour.”

“Okay,” I said. “If you're sure.”

“I'm sure.”

She did her best to be stable for me. To throw on what she thought might pass for a serene little smile. An everything's gonna be alright smile. So I returned the favor. Smiled. Pretended like I was fine with not knowing what the fuck was bothering her.

“Okay, see ya.” I said, and shuffled off nonchalant-ish-ly.

I didn't want to worry her further.

* * *

The rest of my walk home was pretty uneventful. But I still couldn't shake the feeling that something was off. It felt like walking through an alien landscape.

A few hundred yards from my house I came upon a stallion, fretting over a busted blade on his sleigh. The support bar had bent inwards, and he was stuck.

Logically, I know that, in his position, I would freak out too. But watching him yell and grunt and kick at the thing - it seemed so petty. So meaningless.

Thirteen would do anything to trade her problems for his. And Screw Loose! She couldn't even imagine a life on the outside. Her fear was so intense that it had turned her into a dog.

But folks like me? Folks like that stallion with the broken sleigh? We all get to be free. We get to go out in the open. And what do we do? We spend that precious time flipping out over objectively meaningless bullshit.

* * *

I got home. Somepony somewhere had been kind enough to plow the little path from the road to my house, and clear the mound of snow that had fallen on my sister. I could see the big pile they’d created just to the left of the front door. It whittled away some of my cynicism to know that some anonymous stranger had thought to do that.

I nudged the door. It swung open. The inside was full of cold air. Still air. I could taste it. I stepped into the living room, and was astonished. I could see my own breath! Inside!

“What the buck,” I whispered to myself with a puff of frosty breath mist. “Hello?”

There was, of course, no answer.

I let my saddlebag drop clumsily onto the ground. Startled myself when it went thud!
“Ah!” I jumped up, spun around expecting shadows, or attackers, or windigo, or whatever. But there was nothing there. Just quiet. It wasn't a haunted by evil spirits kind of cold. It was a nopony had been home for days to light a fire kinda cold.

You're losing it, Rose Petal. My brain said to me, all condescending-like.

“Shut up, brain,” I said aloud, as I piled a bunch of sticks into the fireplace over a crumpled up page of the Ponyville Chronicle.

About six matchsticks, forty-seven attempts, two splinters, and three newspaper pages later, I had a fire going. A real fire. One I had made myself.

I tossed my coat vaguely in the direction of the door, and let my scarf and hat drop to the ground by the fireplace. Then I pulled up a blanket, leaned in real close, and waited for Roseluck, all smug and proud.

The flames boogied with one another, and I stared at them daydreaming.

About Hearth’s Warming. The Founding Sisters. The Fire of Friendship. I looked further back. The first pony in the history of ever to figure out how to make fire. How amazing must that have felt? To master a force so primal and so powerful!

Civilization began with her - the nameless one who taught our ancestors to get a flame going, by magic or by flint. And it seemed our civilization was gonna die that way too. in flames.

And then, of course, there were cupcakes. Somewhere between our creation fire, and The Fire That Would Kill Us All Horribly was cupcakes. Sweet, chocolatey cupcakes that also could not exist at all without ovens to bake them.

As the room slowly warmed, I shed my blanket, stared into the fire, and thought about how damn hungry I was. How Roseluck was taking forever with our burgers. I checked the clock. She was twenty minutes later than she said she’d be.
I tried not to worry. Resolved to pass the time unpacking.

* * *

It was still pretty chilly in my room, but the heat was slowly rising. I plunged my face under my sweater and pulled out the dogmare’s sock. Her only toy.
I didn't know what to do with it. I obviously had to keep it safe, but I couldn't carry it around with me wherever I went. I rummaged through an old jewelry box, and dumped out a drawer of trinkets that I had very little use for – cheap bracelets, a Captain Pinkbeard figurine, some string - stuff I hadn't played with in years. The sock would have to live there.

I stuffed it inside, and gazed into the mirror with a sigh. It was my first time looking at my own reflection in over a week. I hadn't realized how weird it was to have gone without until I actually saw myself. I looked like I’d just crawled out from under a wagon. My eyes were puffy. My mane was frizzled. I reminded myself of this drifter pony who used to pass through town every now and again. Looking all run down and sad.

I stared, and stared, and stared until I just couldn't take it anymore.

“Pbbbt!” I stuck my tongue out, blew a raspberry at myself.

That made me smirk a little. So I made a face. Jiggled my eyebrows, and wagged my tongue around. Anything not to be so serious - so full of self pity and whiny piratetry. Then, as I was watching my face soften, I got an idea.

I ran over to my end table. Grabbed a Sapphire Shores record, Get Your Pony On, dropped a needle on it, and danced. I strutted. I made duck face. I giggled at myself. I let myself get lost in the beat. And when the song was done, a slow pop ballad followed, and I stopped to catch my breath.

I checked in on the pony in the mirror once more. I looked bright again, not so run down, even if my mane still was pretty messed up. I admired the pink pocket watch too. How pretty it looked. How well it complemented the pink streak in my mane - how ridiculous I looked with a string of Misty’s tail, and Twink’s candle-twig tied to it.

It occurred to me that I could, at long last, keep those artifacts safe - tuck them away once and for all, after days, and days, and days of fretting over them - making sure they didn't get lost, and swept away at the hospital. I leaned forward, fussed with the watch, gripped it with my teeth. But the second I started actually getting to to work on the knots in Misty’s tail hair, the front door swung open and my sister called to me from below.

“Rose?” She said. “Rose Petal? Sorry I'm late. Hello?”

I turned the record player off, and rushed downstairs.

* * *

“What happened?” I said, plunging my face into one of the five million bags, and bundles she’d lowered onto the floor.

“Aha!” I said, when I found it – the hay burger bag that I suspected was already pretty cold.

“Gimme that.” Roseluck playfully swatted my face with her face, and snatched up the bag.

“Sorry it's a little cold," she said as she picked my winter coat up off the floor with her teeth, and hung it on the rack where it belonged. "I would've been home sooner, but I ran into a stallion along the way. He busted his sleigh, and needed an extra set of hooves to help out.”

“A stallion?” I said softly. “With a broken sleigh?”

I suddenly realized that I had passed by him without so much as a ‘Hello,’ or an ‘Are you okay?’ I had simply judged him for being upset.

“Yeah," my sister said. "I'm surprised you didn't see him.”

“Oh.” I said grimly. “I must not have noticed,"

Roseluck kissed me on the forehead.

“Don't be so hard on yourself.” She said. “I know you've got a lot on your mind. And the way I was acting - I'm sure that didn't help!”

She snorted.

“It's okay.” I whispered.

“Just try to keep your eyes open.” Roseluck added. “Goldengrape has a sick daughter at home, poor thing. He really needed to get home to her.

My heart and my stomach twisted around inside me. It felt like they traded places. My belly was pounding, and my chest was gurgling.

He had a sick daughter to get home to, you jerkface. My Rose Voices rightfully berated me. Jerk, jerk, jerk, jerk, jerk!

I squeezed my eyes shut good and tight. Hated myself quietly.

“Come on," Roseluck put her hoof on my shoulder. “Let's go eat.”

“I'm not hungry.” I said.

My sister stopped and looked me over. She knew something was wrong. Something deeper.
She chose not to say anything about it.

“Well I’m hungry," she continued. “Come on, keep me company.”

* * *

I sat sulking at the table, burger in front of me. I took a few bites for the sake of being polite, but had a hard time working up any enthusiasm.

Roseluck, on the other hoof, inhaled her burger. She didn't ask questions. Just ate. She knew I would talk when I was ready.





"What is it you wanted to talk to me about?” I asked her totally out of the blue.

I figured that if I had to say something, it might as well be that.

My sister paused, quit her chewing even though her mouth was stuffed full of hay burger. She ran a hoof through her mane, and closed her eyes. Chewed ‘cause she had to. Swallowed hard. Sighed.

“Well,” she said at last. “It's, um, about your plan.”

“My plan?”

“Yeah, well you know how said you were going to hit the library, talk to the pegasi, and consult the zebra?”

She took an awkward bite of her sandwich.

“Yeah?”

Her mouth, now full of hay again, chewed, and chewed, and chewed, and chewed and chewed. I got the feeling she was buying time.

“Well,” she said at last, as she tapped her lips with the cloth napkin,
"I don't think that last part is such a good idea.”

“Why not?”

“Well,” she said. “I don't want you to take this the wrong way, but zebras aren't like you and me.”

“Wait, what?”

“I know what you're thinking," she threw up her hooves. "I'm not saying we should hide from her, and I don't think she's going to gobble us all up, or make a tasty stew out of you. I just don't, you know, really trust her magic.”

I felt like somepony had just shot an anvil out of a cannon straight into my chest.

“This is how the war starts." I said.

“I don't want to go to war with them!" she exclaimed.

“You just don't trust them." I retorted. "Is that it?”

“It's their magic.”

“But you've seen her magic.” I squeaked. “She's helped heal ponies right here in Ponyville. It's just herbs.”

“That's what I don't trust." She said.

“Herbs?!”

“That's right. I don't want you messing around with herbs, Rose Petal. Especially the kind she uses - the kind we know nothing about.”

“But you use herbs." I shot up to my hooves so fast that the chair behind me fell to the floor.

“Everyone uses herbs. We have a garden in the back full of herbs. Mom had a garden full of herbs. We have a cupboard. Full of herbs.”

“Not anymore.” Said Roseluck sternly.

“What?”

“You almost died.” She asserted.

The room fell suddenly silent. Just a crackle and pop from the fire.

“What did you do?” I stormed into the kitchen.

“I'm sorry, Rose.” She said.

I flung open the cupboard with my teeth. Half the jars were gone! We had earl grey tea, and orange pekoe, but no valerian root, no ginseng. We had basil and rosemary for cooking, but no turmeric, no lavender. The little apothecary that we had collected for ourselves of the years – that Mom had collected since before I was born - it was a glorified spice rack now.

“You almost died." My sister repeated.

“You threw out the family herbs?! What, do you think I'm going to go eating a pound of chamomile with every meal, and put myself put in a coma?”

Roseluck folded her forehooves, all parental like. “I did what I had to.” She said dryly.

“Why didn't you just put safety locks on all the cabinets, since clearly I can't be trusted?!”

I slammed the cupboard shut with a kick and a buck.

“Herbs are dangerous.” She said. “They're a big responsibility.”

“And I’m just a foal, is that it?--;”

“You!” Roseluck finally raised her voice - really shouted at me for the first time in years. “Are a young mare. Not a foal. That's what worries me.”

Tears flooded angrily down her face.

“You’re under a lot of stress right now - grown up stress - and yes, it's affecting your judgment. Like it would for any grown up.”

“Pfft.” I said. I wasn't buying it.

“Rootwork is dangerous.” She continued. “It takes patience. It takes discipline. I don't want this stuff in the house when you’re so, so...so….”

Roseluck struggled for the right word.

“When you’re desperate.” She said at last.

“I guess I'll go be desperate somewhere else then.” I stormed across the dining room and flung open the front door, only to be greeted by a freezing cold breeze. It made me shiver.

Fucking winter. I thought. You can never just leave the house. You have to suit up.

I grumbled. Shut the door. Grabbed my coat off the rack, or at least tried to. My teeth were shaking with anger, and Roseluck had slid it over the hook very, very securely when she’d come home.

“Where do you think you're going?” She said.

I yanked at my coat again, struggled, got tangled, and wham - dragged the whole damn rack down.

“Answer me.” My sister snapped.

“Out.” I grumbled at her softly.

I couldn't be bothered to yell anymore. I had to focus on getting the fuck out of there,

I plopped my flank down on a stool by the door, slid my boots on hastily, and leapt up before I was even done. Then I stood there defiantly. One boot was halfway off the hoof. The other boot was sloppily buckled. The third was, by some miracle, on good and tight. And the fourth one was on sideways. I didn't even wear my socks. They were all the way on the other side of the house, drying by the fire with my scarf and hat.

I swung the door open again with my teeth. Roseluck charged across the living room.

“You shut that door this instant,” she said.

“Oh, so you're all parental now?” I scowled. “An hour ago you were all, like, why don't we talk like sisters.”

Roseluck shook her head at me and bit her lip. I had hurt her.

Good. I thought.

I stepped out into the cold, no hat, no scarf, and slammed the door behind me.

* * *

Ka-fwump, ga-jood. Ka-fwump, ga-jood. Ka-fwump, ga-jood

My sloppily buckled snow boots squirmed every which way beneath my hooves. But I wouldn't stop to adjust them. Not ‘till I was well out of sight.

Stupid Roseluck. I said to myself as I wobbled on down the road. Bet she's waiting to see me fall. So she can call me a stupid foal. So she can lecture me on how I can't be trusted with boots, just like I can't be trusted with fucking tea.

I pushed myself - concentrated real hard on not tripping, Ka-fwump, ga-jood. Ka-fwump, ga-jood. Ka-fwump, ga-jood ‘Till I finally made it around the bend. Then I plopped down on a hunk of ice-snow. Took my boots off, and slid them back on properly. Wishing the whole time that I had stopped long enough to grab some socks.

Stupid Roseluck, I grumbled to myself. I would still be good and warm, if she hadn't driven me out of my own house.

I pushed onward. Right past the spot where the stallion had stood beside his broken sleigh. I still couldn't believe I had ignored his plight, because I had been oh-so-absorbed in my own. It felt awful. Because I saw in myself everything that I hated.

How are we ever gonna stop the war, if we can't even stop ourselves from coming apart? How can I stop everypony else from letting their hatred of their enemies consume them, when I don't even know how to show basic kindness to my own neighbors?

I sighed, stomped along, hating myself. ‘Till I realized how upset Roseluck had made me with all of her we need to talk about something awful, but not just yet bullshit. She was the reason I had been distracted in the first place! She was the reason I hadn’t thought to help out.

"Fucking Roseluck,” I said to myself, as I stomped down the road. “I’ll show her!”

I stormed over the snow, fully resolved to take the road as far as it would go. Damn my socks, damn my hat, damn my scarf, damn my hunger.

I was gonna make it to the Everfree Forest if it was the last thing I did! 'Cause if Roseluck wasn't gonna teach me about herbs, then I figured I’d just have to talk to the zebra about them instead.

I stomped, and stomped, and stomped. I was so mad that I didn't even notice that with each passing step, my bad hoof grew just a teeny bit colder. Shadowier.

Author's Note:

SPECIAL THANKS: First of all, I would like to thank Seraphem as always for his tireless assistance providing feedback during the editing process, and Kkat for writing the original Fallout: Equestria story that inspired me to write Hooves of Fate in the first place.

SUPPORT: Hooves of Fate is a labor of love. However, I also have mouths to feed. If this story, or my Heart Full of Pony essays have touched you in any way, and you can manage to spare a few bits, I'd very much appreciate your support on Patreon.
If you can't, no pressure. For those of you who already are pledging, seriously, and for real, thank you. Your support makes a difference, and it means a great deal to me. /]*[\

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