• Published 27th Feb 2013
  • 9,117 Views, 905 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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A Horse With No Name

“Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” - Henry James

It was kind of awkward going back to class that afternoon. I mean, it’s one thing to tell a miserable, monstrous, no-good excuse for a filly that they’re gonna die alone someday; it’s quite another to sit two desks down from her a few minutes afterwards and get working on your papier-mâché volcano like nothing had ever happened. On the one hoof, you can’t just sit there all day staring at her, but on the other hoof, you can’t exactly freak out and dodge her eye contact either, (which totally sucks cause there’s this voice in your head screaming at you the whole time, saying Look away! Look away! Look away!).

For over an hour, the tension was in the air, but toward the end of the day, Miss Cheerilee passed around our art projects from the week before. Construction paper, glitter, paste - it was the perfect excuse not to look up from my desk for any reason whatsoever.

I’d already constructed a strong border for my portrait-to-be. It was made of popsicle sticks and phony gems. All four corners were speckled with confetti, raw macaroni, and bits of blotchy color, but right smack in the middle, there were still plenty of empty spaces that needed filling – the heart of my work.

I gripped a colored pencil, and stared at the empty canvas, (so to speak). At first, I latched on to all the tiny little distractions going on around me (and didn’t draw at all): Cheerilee’s watchful eyeballs as she roamed the aisles; Diamond Tiara’s hatred radiating from two rows down. Once that pencil started moving, though, it all just sorta melted away.

I scratched at the page feverishly, slashing sharp angles of contrasting color across the page. A shape was coming into focus before my eyes. I could see my own hoof scraping against the paper furiously, and lines slowly starting to articulate themselves into ideas, but honestly, I had no idea what was coming next. It was as though my hoof had a mind of its own.

Each pencil stroke scraped away the falsehood that was the blank page, and revealed something true underneath. Something I absolutely, positively, totally needed to see.

There were jagged edges framing the picture. Blades? No, wait, it was a hole – sharp corners of a gap in some grey concrete wall, and beyond that hole was the Most Importantest Of All Things.

A fragment of a face. Pink! No, red! No, yellow! A sullen eye stared back at me through the hole in the concrete. She was hopeless - defeated. I could see just barely enough of the face to know that it didn’t have a horn. It was an earth pony, (or maybe a pegasus), but what mattered more - what haunted me - was that she was afraid. This poor girl trapped in my drawing was terrified, and yet so darn calm and resigned - as if that fear had been all she’d ever known. As I looked down and pitied her, a song poked into my head. It even had lyrics that hid from me right on the tip of my tongue. But somehow, it all seemed to sum up what I already knew deep down inside - that nopony so young should ever feel such hopelessness.

That girl was imprisoned somewhere. That much was certain. She was behind a wall, wherever that was, and she was looking right at me, waiting for me to help her. I dropped my pencil in shock.

I couldn’t believe it. It was her. The one I’m meant to save.

I suddenly felt a hoof rest gently on my shoulder. It startled me so hard I nearly leapt out of my seat.

“That’s very good,” Said Miss Cheerilee. “Does she have a name?”

I looked up. The classroom was empty. Bare-naked empty. Everypony had rushed out the door the second the bell rang. I didn’t even hear it.

“Oh…No. Not really, Miss Cheerilee.”

I froze. Here was this filly right in front of me, pleading with me through the pencil and the paper – this child who needed my help so badly that the Universe Itself had put me in harm’s way just to get it to her. But I didn’t know her story. I didn’t even know her name. I only knew that she was trapped.

“What is this here?” She asked. “A wall?”


“And what’s this on the other end?”

I shrugged. “Um…That’s a filly.” I said.

Miss Cheerilee just nodded.

“She’s uh…peeking at stuff!” I added to assure her that the image was rather ordinary, and not, in fact, a plea for help. I didn’t need her thinking that I was messed up in the head.

“Well, I think it’s lovely.” Said Cheerilee. “It’s been a big day for you.”

Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no! The schoolyard gossip had reached her. She knew about what had happened between me and Diamond Tiara.

“It has?” I cringed.

“Of course!” She smiled. “First you get your cutie mark, and now, here you are, blossoming as an artist!”

I took another glimpse at the drawing: glitter and gumdrops adorning a scratchy whirlwind of colored pencil marks. It looked like a living nightmare with bits of macaroni stuck to the corners.

“Do you mind if I hang this on the wall for our Open House?”

“So everypony can gawk at it and point and laugh and be jerks to me about the window into my madness?” I clapped my hooves to my mouth.

I can’t believe I just blurted that out. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

“What makes you say that?” Said Miss Cheerilee earnestly.

“Um…” I leaped to my hooves and backed against the wall. Scouted both directions for a viable escape. I was desperate. She was asking too many questions and I was letting on too much.

“Rose Petal, Rose Petal, it’s okay.” She said. “Good art – really good art is supposed to be a little crazy. And you’re not in trouble, so relax. Nopony is going to laugh at you.”

That one caught me off guard. It even calmed my paranoia long enough for me to stop and give it some serious thought. Art is supposed to be crazy.

“Let me get this straight, Miss Cheerilee.” I said to her. “You mean to tell me that art is crazy.”

She shut her eyes and nodded with a smile.

“And that my art is good…because it’s...also crazy?”

She nodded again.

“And you want to hang this weird…thing.” I gestured down at my scribbles. “Up on the wall, so that everypony can come by and look and see how crazy it is?”

She squeezed her eyes shut, and nodded again with an even, bigger, wider smile. I was beginning to think that I wasn’t the only one in the room playing cards with only half a deck.

I sighed. There’s no sense trying to make sense out of grown-ups sometimes.

“Sure.” I said.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of it. Cheerilee wanted to know everything there was to know about the picture, and all I wanted to do was high tail out of there. Luckily, there wasn’t that much to talk about, apart from the mystical significance of the picture (that I myself didn’t really understand, and didn’t want to talk about anyway).

“Can you tell me why this um, Filly With No Name over here is behind a wall?”

“I dunno. She’s stuck there, I guess.”

“Mmhmm. And what’s on the other side?” She continued. “What’s she looking at?”

“I guess she’s waiting for me to save her?” I really wasn’t sure what the filly in the picture was looking at. All I knew for sure was that it felt like she was digging straight into my soul with her stare-ity eyeballs.

“That’s very nice, Rose Petal.” Said Miss Cheerilee, trying to mask her understandable apprehension with a giggle.

“Thanks, Miss Cheerilee. Can I, um, go now?”

That’s it, Rose Petal. Make a smooth exit.

“Oh, sure.” She laughed. “This isn’t detention, you know. You’re not in trouble.”

ZIP! I was halfway out the door when she called my name out one last time.

“One more thing.”

I spun silently on my hooves and faced her. At least I meant to spin. I ended up whacking one of my knees into the doorframe instead, and stumbling all over the room to regain my balance.

After the mutual reassurances occurred, (-“Yes, I’m fine, Miss Cheerilee. Jeez!” -“No, Rose Petal, don’t worry about the broken globe”), she asked me what she’d meant to ask me all along. The thing that had made her giggle at me all awkward-like a few moments before. Grown-ups always do that. They wait to tell you what’s really on their minds dead last.

“If something’s ever bothering you,” She said. “You know you can talk to me, right?”

“Of course, Miss Cheerilee.” I faked a smile.

* * *

After school, I had quite a lot of organizing to do:


[X} Cheerilee

[X] Roseluck

[X] Blue

Have you ever seen an earth pony attempt to write in a notebook while walking? It’s not pretty. I tried doing it on the way home - walked right into a tree and almost swallowed my pencil! That sort of thing happens all the time when you take the scenic route home.

Darn trees. I swear they leap at you out of nowhere.

“You okay?”

Huh? What? Who said that? The colt I’d helped back at the playground came trotting up beside me.

Great. He’s gonna wanna talk at me now. I thought.

“Grumble, grumble, grumble.” I said out loud in those exact words, and kept walking.

“Thanks, by the way.” He said nervously.

“I saaaaaid ‘grumble, grumble, grumble.’” This was starting to get irritating.

I had important business to attend to.

When I heard that thought bouncing around the inside of my head – important business - I took a long hard look at myself.

“Jeez,” I said. “You’re talking like one of them.”

“I’m sorry?” Asked the colt.

I stopped dead in my tracks. Had I said that aloud or was he listening to my brain? Holy cow, what else did he know?! Get rid of him! I urged myself. Do it now! Do it quick!

I turned to face the colt and snapped at him.

“Grumble!” I said before going about my business and stomping away further off into the hills.

I didn’t have time for talk. I had Equestria to save.

“You didn’t have to do that for me, you know.” He added.

I rolled my eyes. “ I didn’t do it for you. I gotta keep Diamond Tiara from destroying the world.”

I was way too tired to have any hope of making anything that could even be said to resemble sense.

“Yeah, I hear you.” Said the colt without skipping a beat.

I groaned and tucked my Ponies-I’ve-Worried checklist away into my saddlebag. It was clear I wasn’t going to get any more work done. Not that I’d accomplished all that much anyway.

I had yelled at Diamond Tiara, and she’d definitely had it coming, and for just a few moments, I’d felt great – I mean really fantastic. But what good had I done? I mean what good had really come of it?

The end was extremely bucking neigh, and if I couldn’t figure something out, the blood of millions would be on my hooves.

“Are you okay?” What’s-His-Face asked me flat out.

The dreaded question. I guessed I’d worn my worries on my face.

I spun around to snap at him again, but this kid, for some stupid reason looked up to me. When I glared at him, and saw only a Say-It-Ain’t-So pout on his face, the last thing in the world I ever expected to come out of my mouth actually went and fell right out of it – the truth.

“No.” I said.

Stupid mouth! Quit saying things!

“No, I’m not okay.”

* * *

I told him everything. I thought it was a dumb move, even as the words spilled right out of my mouth like water gushing out of a hole in a bucket (that you had clumsily tried to nail to a plank of wood for some reason). I just couldn’t help myself. I had to tell somepony.

So I talked, and I talked, and I talked, and I talked, and I talked, and – Sweet Celestia, was I sobbing?

Darn it, Rose, stop that! I thought.

I wiped my face off clumsily with my hooves and caught my breath. I’d actually been heaving. When I was done with that embarrassing display, the pegasus kid looked me up and down.

“I’m so sorry.” He said. His eyes were also filled with tears.

“That’s it?"

He hung his head low, blue mane falling in front of his dull grey face.

“I wish I knew what else to say.” He whispered.

“No ‘You’re crazy,’ ‘You’re weird’?”

He stared at me blankly.

“No ‘Get away from me, you nut job?’”

“What?! No!” He objected.

“Well, why not?” I kicked a pebble. It knocked harmlessly against the display window of a storefront. “What’s wrong with you?”

He shrugged.

“What about me? What’s wrong with me?” I asked.

He shrugged again.

“What in the hoof am I gonna do?” My voice cracked with desperation.

I gave him a long and thorough stare down. He responded with yet another shrug.

“Why do you keep shrugging?” I yelled. He was starting to make me mad.

The boy just shrugged yet again. I stared at him hard.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” He pleaded.

Oh, jeez! I’m intimidating him.

One rant at a spoiled brat in the playground and I had become what I hated most in the world – a bully.

“No, no. Please.” I said as he unconsciously backed away from me.

“Please what?” He said.

It was my turn to shrug and shy away.

“Please don’t be afraid of me.” I muttered softly.

My hooves were shaking.

* * *

So I cut the nonsense and was nice to the kid. He bought me milkshakes. Plural. It’s a well known fact amongst us kids that a cousin of a friend of Peppermint Swirl’s Mom’s pen pal once walked the deserts of Los Pegasus alone, drank seven milkshakes in a row to cool himself down, and got so hyper that the little teeny specks that we’re all made of...Well, they just started vibrating at a different frequency or something, and he disappeared into the ether, never to be seen or heard from again.

I was in no danger of that.

“Can I get you another?” My new kinda sorta friend-type pony asked.

I should have stopped to ask his name at some point, but we had been in the same class for a really long time, and I couldn’t just admit to him that I’d forgotten, or worse, that I’d never absorbed it in the first place.

I nodded with a weak smile.

“Sure, thanks. But two milkshakes is my limit.”

He ordered, and was kind enough to pay. We sat in silence for a bit as I gathered my thoughts. Before I knew it, Milkshake #2 was in front of me, and I was sucking it down.

“Cliff Diver!” I shouted out of the blue. His name was Cliff Diver. I remembered it!

“Yes?” He said.

I'd yelled his name real loud in public… And now he’s staring at me.

“Oh, um…I forgot what I was gonna say.”

I got back to work on my milkshake.

“Where’s the boy now?” Cliff Diver asked at long last.

“I wish I knew.” I said.

“Can you follow him?” I must have been looking at Cliff Diver like he had five legs and a suction cup growing out of his forehead, because he stifled a laugh and hurried to clarify. “You said you could see him during class, right? So where’s he now?”

Cliff was right. I had seen the poor captive shadow-boy-from-my-dreams during class. I’d followed his journey over rubble-littered hill and dilapidated plain. As I sat there in the ice cream parlor and tried to concentrate on him, though, I came up with nothing.

“I don’t know.” I said at last

The colt nodded in contemplation. “So what are we gonna do?”

What were we gonna do? We. I had to think about that for a minute. We? Really? What was wrong with this kid?

My mind shot straight to thoughts of my best friend Blueberry Milkshake. The first to give up on helping me find my cutie mark once she’d found her own, first to shrink back into the crowd and pretend she didn’t know me when I ranted at that jerk Diamond Tiara, and the very last to congratulate me on it – only after she had realized that the coast was clear, and that my explosion had actually turned me into some sort of playground folk hero.

That’s what I'd thought friendship was my whole life.

Then this pegasus kid comes along at the worst possible moment. He’s got absolutely nothing to gain, and in fact, everything to lose by putting himself out on a limb for a nut job like me. And still, he decides that he wants to help. What gives?

I gotta be honest with you, it freaked me out. It freaked me out good.

The last thing in the world I wanted to do is burden anypony else with my troubles, but one look at him told me that I couldn't just get rid of him with a clap of my hooves. I’d already selfishly invited him into my World O’ Rose Petal Problems when I’d opened up my big fat yap. That made him my responsibility.

Still, the question remained:

“What are we gonna do?” I said out loud to myself.

I sucked my chocolate shake straight to the noisy, slurpitty bottom. And when I was finally done - when even my straw was sucked dry of every speck of foam, I looked up at him and said,

“We’re gonna stop the bucking war.”

* * *

I wanted to stop the war right then and there, twenty years before it was destined to happen. I was ready to run out and find whatever Evil was fated to cause the catastrophe and kick its flank. I wanted to hop a train to Canterlot, buck the door to the throne room wide open, grab a princess – any princess – and yell, “Do you have any idea what’s going to happen?”

But I couldn’t. I had to be home in time for dinner.

Besides, there was no flank to be kicked – only our own cowardice and fear. We weren’t facing the kind of Evil that laughs at you maniacally and tells you its plan like a Daring Do villain. This was a much harder Evil to tackle – the weakness inside us all – the part of every pony that stands by, and does nothing as zebras in posters are victimized. The kind of Evil that whimpers.

The good news? Cliff Diver had a plan. There wasn’t much time before sundown, but we still got to initiate Sequence Alpha (which is like super secret spy talk for Stage One): The Library.

“Helloooooo!” I shouted, banging on the door to Twilight Sparkle’s giant treebrary. “Anypony home?”

“Maybe we should--;”

“We don’t have time for this!” I shouted at the top of my lungs as I hurled myself against the door again and again. “Let us in, you book-o’s!”

“Um, Rose?” Said the boy behind me, but I just kept on hurling myself against the door.

Suddenly it swung open with no effort at all and I fell face forward into the darkness inside.

“Hello?” I said again, this time a bit more unsure of myself now that I had broken into the joint, and was apparently, all alone.

I sucked in my first breath of treebrary air. It stank. I had to cover my mouth just to keep from choking. "Cliff Diver?" I turned around, but he was gone. The door was not only closed behind me, but barricaded too. I grabbed at the doorknob and yanked at it with all of my might, but came away only with a hoof full of grease.

I stumbled backwards. Fell into a little sliver of light, and saw the gook o my hoof for what it was. It was liquid pony.

The walls were spattered with it. Lined with bits of the dead. Everywhere. I had to stuff my clean hoof all the way into my mouth just to keep from screaming. Disaster was everywhere. Somepony had ransacked the place. I mean, scorched it! The books were gone. The globe was gone. I don’t even think I can describe what they had used as décor instead, but let me tell you, it was not an improvement.

Every muscle that I had suddenly clenched. There was so much horror around me. Except for one little thing. I could see it. Clear as day. Right in the middle of all the filth and the Evil, was one lone book, sitting out unmolested on the reading table against the wall. It was green with gold lettering.

It just sat there. Pristine. So clean that it even seemed to shine a little despite the darkness surrounding it. It didn’t belong there - not after whatever had happened. No, that book was definitely left on that table just for me. I knew it. I felt it in my bones.

The rotten floorboards moaned and creaked as I took a few steps closer. I still couldn’t make out the lettering, so I moved juuust in a little further, reached out with a steady hoof and tried and touch it. But the instant that I acknowledged the book’s importance – the moment that I finally grasped that it was really, really, really, really, really actually just sitting there, waiting for me, the book disappeared into thin air.

So did the blood and the darkness and all of the shelves and upturned tables and things.

“Rose Petal?”

I squinted my eyes. It was broad daylight again. Cliff had a hoof on my shoulder.

“Are you okay?”

“What? Oh, yeah.” I said. “There’s um…nopony home.”

The smell of rot was still souring my nose. So bad I could taste it. I threw up right there on Twilight Sparkle’s lawn.

Without even stopping to catch my breath, I whipped my head up cheerfully and flashed Cliff Diver a big “Really, I swear, I’m perfectly fine” grin.

He didn’t buy it. I just saw more worry on his face. With a sigh, I leaned against him. I wouldn’t ordinarily do such a thing, or seek this kind of comfort in another pony (except, of course, for my sister), but it had been a very weird day.

I grudgingly nuzzled up against him. I must have stank of vomit. It was so unfair to him! But I leaned in just the same, because I didn’t know what else to do. It was then and there that I decided that it was wrong that I should keep all of these dangerous secrets from Roseluck. I had confided in this boy I’d just met, who was turning out to be quite the loyal friend, (and that concept still freaked me out), but it wasn’t right that my own sister should be in the dark.

What I didn’t know is that my evening with Roseluck was gonna get weird. You see, both Roseluck and I had decided (totally separate from one another) that TONIGHT WAS THE NIGHT that we would share our deepest, strangest secrets. You know, because that sort of thing makes for the perfect fireside conversation.

* * *

I made it home in time for dinner, and with plenty of time to spare, but all I could do when I got there was lie around in bed staring at the ceiling with my eyes wide open. I desperately wanted to sleep, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not even for a nap. I was too afraid.

Besides, I needed to figure out how in Luna’s name I was going to tell Roseluck what had happened!

I turned the events of the day around in my head over and over and over again. The daydreams, the fight with Diamond Tiara, the sketch of the one I’m meant to save, the kid who followed me around, that stupid green book. Everything. But above all, I fixated on something that Cliff Diver had said to me just before I got home.

You see, I had demanded to know, quite reasonably, I think, why he believed my story about the future. I mean, it was all totally cuckoo bonkers insane, right? How could this kid just accept something like that? Like it was nothing! No questions asked.

Well, I wanted a reason, so I asked him flat out why the hay he believed my ridiculous story. Do you know what he said?

That boy looked me straight in the eyes, and with complete and total sincerity, he said to me, “Because you’re my friend.”

What kind of answer is that? What was up with that kid? He might have been the one pony in school crazier than I was for saying it, but whatever in the world was wrong with him also made him the most remarkable colt in the History of Ever! Beautiful in a way I hadn’t even thought possible before. I prayed he’d never change, the darn fool.

I was horrified by the idea the he wanted to weigh himself down with all of my problems, and to be honest, letting him do that even a little was already making me uncomfortable. But if nothing else, that boy had my respect.

Finally, after what seemed like an impossibly long quiet in my room, in which thoughts bounced and tumbled and swirled all around the inside of my brain like beads in a rattle, Roseluck called me downstairs. I sucked in a deep nervous breath, and blew a raspberry with my tongue.

Tonight’s the night, Rose Petal. You can do this.

The second I got downstairs, however, my purpose was distracted. Something was fishy. Very fishy.

For starters, the dinner table was empty. Instead our plates were laid out on the coffee table. A nice warm fire was raging in the wood stove we treated as a fireplace, and a cast iron teapot was cooling on a tile coaster right beside it. It smelt of roses and dried berries.

I approached the warm and comforting scene with suspicion.


Roseluck had made sandwiches. We never had sandwiches for dinner.

“What’s wrong?” I asked immediately.

Roseluck rolled her eyes.

“It’s your special day, dummy.” She grabbed me and gave me noogies that tangled up my mane something fierce. “And you’re very welcome.”

“Hey, quit it!” I giggled.

She let me go, and we both made for the coffee table where the food was laid out. I ate in silence, and by ate, I mean “shoveled food in my mouth faster than I could chew,” and by in silence, I mean “to the sound of my own teeth mashing and chomping against bread and flowers, and fruits, and greens.”

As always, I sat on the floor of the den. There was an extra Co-Z-Colt chair of course, but it was Mom’s Co-Z-Colt. Roseluck always insisted that Mom would have wanted me to use it, and she was probably right, but I just couldn’t. Roseluck plopped down in Dad’s old chair, (which nopony gave a darn about), and poured us both some tea.

Sandwiches can’t fix all of your problems, but when your mouth is stuffed full of them, it’s pretty much the next best thing. I was lying there, working on Sandwich #3 (green apples, rose petals, and mango mayonnaise on rye), when Roseluck started in on what she really wanted to say.

“Did I ever tell you the story of how I got my cutie mark?” She asked.

“Hmmm.” Come to think about it, she never had. She was so good at gardening, and she had so much to say about stupid plants and stuff that I just sorta presumed that her cutie mark was mixed in there somewhere with one of her many flower anecdotes.

“I think it’s time you heard it.” She said, slurping at her tea. “Rose Petal, it happened in my dreams.”

I choked a little on a throat full of sandwich.

“That’s what happened to you last night, isn’t it?”

I nodded “yes.”

“I was about your age. Mom had just tucked me in like she used to.” Roseluck closed her eyes and smiled warmly as the light from the fire in the stove made her look like an orange pony. “You were already fast asleep in Dad’s lap.

“Pbbbbt.” I said.

“Well, when I drifted off, I sort of fell into the weirdest dream. It wasn’t like other dreams at all. It was like being totally alert and awake, but in another place altogether. Another time.

“A quick look around me told me I was in Canterlot. I had never been to Canterlot before, but I recognized the castle. All the ponies around me were dressed sort of funny – all ruffles and poofy shoulders and robes.

“At first I thought it was just Canterlot fashion, but it wasn’t. I was in the past.” She leaned in close. “Canterlot: six hundred years ago.”

“I got my cutie mark in the future!” I cried out. “Hundreds of years in the future!”

Finally, a sign that I wasn’t crazy – or at least that I wasn’t alone in being crazy.

Roseluck put her teacup down gently on the end table beside her.

“I thought it might be something like that.” She said. “Do you want to talk about it?”

I shook my head. “You first! You first! What was Canterlot like?”

I sprawled out on my belly and propped my head up eagerly with my hooves.

“To be honest,” Said Roseluck. “Smelly.”

I giggled.

“I wandered aimlessly.” She continued. “I figured out that it was six centuries in the past, not from any particular clues. The idea simply popped into my head, and it felt right.”

That’s exactly how I knew that my dream had been 190 years after the bomb! I dipped my fourth sandwich triangle in my tea and stared up at my sister, hanging on every word.

“I was all alone, afraid. Lost. Sure, there were other ponies, of course – hundreds of them actually, but nopony who I knew. Nopony who cared about me. I started to freak out. I even felt that lump way down deep here in my throat.” She gestured to her neck and spoke in a dark, dry voice. “You know, the kind you get just before you start to cry?”

I nodded.

“But I didn’t get to cry, because just before I lost it, I suddenly heard a sound that snapped me right out of my fool self.” She paused to take a giant gulping swig of her tea. I had never been terribly lady-like when it came to things like that, but Roseluck would've had to be pretty darn excited to rush a cup of tea.

“Well?” I asked impatiently. “What was it?”

“Somepony else who was crying. There were ponies everywhere all around me, but I could hear this one voice over it all, like it was calling to me. Like it was the whole reason I had gone back in time in the first place.”

My jaw dropped.

“Do you understand what I’m saying, Rose Petal?”

I gave her an enthusiastic nod. I knew that feeling too well.

“So I followed it until I came to an open window.” My sister continued. “It was too high for me to reach, so I stacked some crates that were lying around in the alleyway below. The actual crying wasn’t very loud, but I could still hear it echoing around inside my head, and I knew that I was close to something big.”

“When I finally got to the top, I peeked my head over the windowsill. I had to do it slow and careful to avoid being seen. There was a stallion there with a scraggly mane, sobbing boo-hoo-hoo into his long white beard.

“There were random planks of wood, and paintbrushes, and little wooden machines scattered everywhere - all across his room -and on the walls were some of the most beautiful drawings I’d ever seen.

“After standing there like a dope for Celestia only knows how long, I poked my whole head in through the window. I knew I couldn’t get what needed doing done just by standing there, so I summoned my courage and I asked him what was wrong.

“He looked up at me in confusion. ‘What magic is this?’ He said.

“Before I could answer, the old stallion rushed over and grabbed my hoof. I was scared! His grip was hard and his hooves were rough. Then the stack of crates gave out from under me and I understood what he was doing.

“That old stallion saved my life.”

“But why was he crying?” I mumbled, mouth full of sandwiches.

“I’m getting to that.” Roseluck bopped me on the nose. “When he pulled me in, I didn’t get a chance to thank him. He was too busy ranting at me about all the danger I had put myself in. You know, grown up stuff.”

She winked. I smiled at her.

“Well, after all of his blah-blah-blah’s, he finally said to me ‘What were you doing up there in the first place?’

“I cringed. His yelling had made me shy. He barked the question again until I finally whimpered out an answer. ‘Because I heard you crying.’”

I dug my hoof angrily into the rug beneath me. Nopony talks to my sister that way.

“What a jerk!” I shouted. “If I had been there, I woulda--;”

Roseluck reclined, stretched out her hind hoof, and plugged my mouth with it. I took the hint and shut up.

“He wasn’t a jerk.” She said. “I’d scared him is all.”

Ponies aren’t themselves when they’re afraid. I thought.

“Finally the old guy quit his ranting and just sighed. ‘And what business is it of yours if I was crying. Can’t a pony cry in peace? In his own room?’

“I pleaded and apologized and told him that I just wanted to see if he needed any help.

“Roseluck, seriously, why didn’t you just--;” I said.

FWOMP. She stuck her hoof in my mouth again. I furrowed my brow at her and gave her my best disapproving stare, but let her get on with the story.

“The old stallion asked me why I cared that he was crying. But I honestly didn’t know! I just shrugged and told him the truth. ‘Because you were crying.’

“He took a long, steady, silent look at me and then, completely out of the blue, startled me with the coarsest, most monstrous laughter I’d ever heard.

‘Thank you.’ He said. ‘Don’t ever lose that.’

“Of course the next thing I asked was, ‘Don’t lose what?’

“He wiped a loose lock of my mane out from in front of my eyes and told me that I had a beautiful heart. Said that if I wasn’t careful, the world would come along and sweep it away from me like dust.

“After that, we became friends. He opened up to me, told me all about his life and his work. It was mostly a bunch of crazy painter stuff that would bore you, and that I didn’t really understand either.

“Soon I was coming to his place constantly, and we had the sort of friendship where you didn’t exchange words, even names.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “You went to his house constantly? How long were you there?”

Roseluck took a deep breath and hefty sigh.

She prodded the fire with a hot poker and said, “These things are weird, Rose Petal. Sometimes one night’s sleep will put you in a single time and place for months before you wake up. Sometimes you’ll spend a week over here in Ponyville trying to see the events of a single day through on the other side – a little bit each night.

“The point is: one day I showed up with some flowers, and he made a strange remark that changed both of our lives forever. Do you know what he said?”

I shook my head “no.”

“He said that my showing up at his window at that moment was proof that there was something out there, (whatever that meant), and that it cared about him. He told me he believed that, on the day that he’d been crying, I’d been sent to him by fate.”

Roseluck laughed out loud, and raised her teacup high as if to make a toast. “Well, I was. And I knew it!”

She pointed at me in an enthusiastic a-ha gesture.

“But I didn’t want to let on,” She whispered. “So I just kinda, smirked, you know? And it was at that moment that I saw the old stallion’s eyes brighten - like a colt seeing the lights on a Hearth’s Warming tree for the very first time.

“He ran up to me and grabbed my cheeks. Tears were streaming down his face, but he was laughing and smiling. I tried to ask what was going on, but he said ‘No, Wait! Please.’ He contained his laugher for a moment. He whispered to me in the most serious of tones, ‘Whatever you do, hold that smile!’

“He backed away slowly, never taking his eyes off of me, not even to blink. The awkwardness of the situation coupled with the fact that the whole fate talk had been what had triggered him in the first place – it just made me blush and smirk all the more.

“'That’s it!' He laughed and whipped out his brushes and started mixing his paints in a frantic hurry.

“And then he began to paint again.”

Roseluck sat there silently. The fire crackled and popped. I was fresh out of sandwiches.

“Well?!” I snapped at long last. “What happened next?”

“That’s it. I woke up.”

“What do you mean, that’s it? What about your cutie mark?”

She pointed to her flank. “Woke up with it that morning, just like you.”

“What does any of that have to do with roses?”


“What?! That’s stupid!” I exclaimed.

“I thought it was the flowers I’d picked for him that day that was the reason for the rose on my flank. I didn’t find out what it actually meant until I took a field trip to Canterlot with my graduating class years later.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.” I said. “You get your cutie mark when you realize your special talent. You’re saying you didn’t realize it for years…”

“Sometimes these things have more than one meaning.” Said Roseluck. “Just because you found your talent doesn’t mean you’re done exploring it. Now, button your lip for one more minute. I’m almost done.”

Roseluck winked at me.

“We were all wandering the museum, giggling, being stupid teenagers, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a sketch of the old stallion I’d dreamt of years before. I’d always known that those kinds of dreams were more than just dreams – that they were real (and yes, I’ve had many more like it since). But it’s one thing to know that they’re real, and a whole other thing to see the pony from your dreams sketched out on six-hundred-year-old parchment right in front of you.

“It was Leonardo DaWhinny. And do you know what I found all the way at the very end of the exhibit?” Roseluck whipped out a post card from the Royal Canterlot Museum of Art and Antiquities and placed it right in my hooves.

“My smile.” She said. “On the Pona Lisa.”

I examined it carefully, and for a long time. When I looked up from the picture, and saw my sister sitting in Dad’s old chair, there was the smirk. I had never looked at the painting all that closely. Ponyville doesn’t exactly have a lot of replicas lying around, but even on the post card, clear as day, I could tell that I was looking at my sister’s smile.

Cheerilee was right. Art is crazy.

Finally, I passed the card back to her.

“I don’t understand. How come I never heard this story before?”

“Nopony has.”

“Whattaya mean?”

“I mean I’ve never told anypony about this before.” She gestured at the post card.

“But that’s not fair, you totally, like, changed art! Like…Forever!” My voice squeaked with indignant enthusiasm. “…Or something. Didn’t you?”

“No,” Roseluck said, tucking the post card safely away in a drawer. “Leonardo DaWhinny did. I just warmed a sad old pony’s heart.”

“But without you--;”

“It’s not about me.” Roseluck interrupted very firmly.

This was starting to get really confusing.

“How do I explain this? There are great ponies who do great things, Rosie. Folks will talk about them for thousands and thousands of years after those great things are done.” She held out an open hoof. “And there are other ponies, equally great, (sometimes even more so), who do great things that nopony ever notices.

She held out her other hoof, and made a gesture mimicking a scale.

“Equestria needs all the greatness it can get sometimes, and can’t really be bothered dishing out credit everywhere that it’s deserved.”

“That sucks.” I pouted. “That’s not right. It’s not fair!”

I didn’t consider myself destined for any kind of greatness, but I was mad as Tartarus about my sister. Her name should be in history books - in art books. She should be making a living off of this, instead of just scraping by on a part time landscaping gig.

“No, seriously, Rose Petal. It’s an important job.” She looked at me with stark and serious eyes, suddenly all ablaze with the reflection of the fire in our chimney-stove. “These dreams are important! What if Princess Celestia and Luna had never discovered the Elements of Harmony?”

“That’s silly.”

“No it isn’t. Think about it! What if the whole reason we haven’t been living under Discord’s rule for thousands of years is that somepony like you or me came along and gave them a little clue. A nudge. Is that so impossible?”

“Yeah. They’re Celestia and Luna!” I said, voice cracking again. “Just…No way!”

Roseluck opened the drawer beside her again and thrust the post card of the Pona Lisa at me.

“Way.” She said.

Perhaps she had a point.

“Look, everypony wants to be a rock star, or a fashion designer, or the next big important leader who comes along and changes history, and gets parades thrown in her honor, but it just doesn’t work like that. Nine hundred ninety-nine times out of a thousand, what the world really needs more than anything is a good background pony.”

I must have been visibly pouting, because Roseluck snapped at me.

“Hay! Being a background pony is nothing to be ashamed of. We make history happen.”

“I guess.” It still sounded like a raw deal.

I supposed I might have seemed mopey, but it was really just more thinkiness coming back and rearing its ugly head. I had a lot to digest.

“What has any of that got to do with your cutie mark?”

“Beauty,” She said. “My friendship showed an old pony beauty, and that’s what the rose symbolizes.”

She clapped her flank and smiled. “Beauty.”

“I see.” I hung my head. Moping for real. I could even feel those darn tears coming on again.

“But…but…but,” I sniffed. “Then why is mine all broken?”

There were, after all, no roses on my flank. Just petals.

“I don’t know.” Said Roseluck honestly. “I don’t see it as broken. Just a different kind of beauty, that’s all. A whole rose ends up in a vase, and rose petals, end up…um…they end up…in tea.” She smiled and took a sip.

“So my special talent is turning into tea?”

My sister shook her head. “No. Never mind. Bad analogy. I’m being a total foal. I’ll help you make sense of this as best I can, Rosie, I promise. Would you mind telling me about your dream, though? It’ll help.”

“Well,” I said, avoiding eye contact.

“That is, if you’re ready.” Roseluck jumped in.

“No, no, I am. It’s just--;” My turn to look her gravely in the eye.

“Just…What?” She prodded gently.

I took a deep breath and a hefty sigh. “We’re gonna need a lot more sandwiches.”

Author's Note:

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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