• Published 1st Apr 2013
  • 2,386 Views, 17 Comments

Mac's Tale - Sir Barton



Getting their cutie mark is a pivotal moment in every pony's life. How pivotal? This mark is the hinge upon which the doors of destiny swing.

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Unbidden

Unbidden

Run!

It was all the thought that was on the young filly’s mind.

Run Faster!

Breath, no, that was no longer important, her nostrils were flared wide, mouth agape, her breakneck pace forcing air into her lungs it seemed. Her hoof beats resounded more as the roll of a snare drum through the orchard than the rhythm of a true gallop.

Can’t stop. Must run, FASTER!

Speed, haste, it was its own necessity, the only necessity in the moment now. Within her chest her heart buzzed more so than beat, frantic, frenzied, fearful. Fear, that was it, fear drove her, propelled her, chased her, and if she slowed down even a little, the little filly was beyond absolute in the knowledge that the fear that so permeated her would kill her, for her heart would surely propel itself up her gullet and out of her muzzle as if it were a cannon. So she had to run, if only to keep her body wrapped around her terror drenched fluttering soul.

FASTER! … MUST! …RUUNNNN! … FAAASSSTTERRR!

Apple trees sped by the coursing filly. Ahead the tightness of the orchard thinned as the edge of the farmyard came into view, the double white rail fence rushing up to meet her. Laying herself flat in the air the light olive-blonde filly slipped airborne between the upper and lower rails of the fence, threading through without missing a beat … almost.

The jump did nothing to mess up her timing, the clod of earth two steps beyond, well that did a nice job of rolling awkwardly under hoof, sending the terrified school filly tumbling rump over withers into the side of the pump trough in the middle of the yard.

Recognizing where she was the red haired little pony threw her fore-hooves over the edge of the trough and pulled herself up onto her hind legs. Her brilliant orange-eyed visage stared back at her from the calm cold water. Her cherry red mane appeared windblown and askew, hair bow pulled half loose, stiff white froth caked about her lips. Within though, the effort of her attempt to outrun fear itself left her winded and burning. Without thinking the young filly plunged her head into the cool water.

As her head submerged under the water past her eyes, her fear cocked ears could barely hear the seeming distant voice of her older sister calling out over the thundering of her own pulse ringing in her ears.

“APPLE BLOOM! DON’T!”

As the sound of her name sank into her rattled consciousness, the cool water flooded down her throat into her body snuffing the flames of fear burning in her chest, quenching the burning in her … Lungs?!

Apple Bloom yanked her head free of the trough, a cloud of vapor erupting from her nostrils as she pitched over onto her side, hitting the ground as if she were a sack of wet sand. Coughing, burning, aching, Apple Bloom could feel her consciousness fading as she thrashed helplessly on the ground beside the trough as her elder sister ran up to her.

Dropping to her haunches the blond mare with the light dusty orange coat who answered to the name of Applejack, wrapped her forelegs around her younger sister, pulling the younger pony’s head into her lap.

“Apple Bloom, what in the hay were ya thinkin’?” the concern in the young mare’s voice was prominent, panicked even.

The world swam and began to fade as Apple Bloom continued to cough weakly, water dribbling from her mouth and nostrils. She could feel Applejack’s gentle hoof smoothing back her tousled mane as she lay in the older pony’s lap quivering feebly. The warm embrace of her sister’s hooves was surely the last thing she was going to feel in this world.

Apple Bloom could almost feel the tears on her water soaked cheeks as she nuzzled against her sisters warm belly. Peacefully, Apple Bloom felt strangely calm about leaving this world, knowing her parents were already waiting for her in the Elysian Fields. Parents she could not remember, who had departed this life far too early.

The calmness of the moment was suddenly interrupted by a horrid, painful, twisting sensation. It was as if her innards were being rolled up inside her like a toothpaste tube. Was this the painful crossing over? Was it the torturous ripping of her soul from her body? The …

Apple Bloom suddenly contorted violently in her sister’s lap, eyes wide as a torrent of water, half digested apples and grass leapt from her muzzle and splashed across Applejack’s midsection. Before Apple Bloom could contemplate apologizing, a second, then third gusher burst forth, adding to her sister’s disgusting decoration. Wretched and exhausted, the world finally went dark for the young filly. Well, mostly.

Apple Bloom was vaguely aware of Applejack splashing water on herself to clean the vomit from her belly. Next, Apple Bloom felt herself being gently hoisted onto her sister’s back and carried into the bathroom where she was propped up, snout hanging in the bowl of the commode while Applejack ran the bathtub. A warm bath with her sister later and the next thing Apple Bloom remembered was being tucked into her bed and drifting off to sleep.

How long she had been asleep she couldn’t say for sure, but it was near time for supper when she slowly drifted back to the realm of the conscious. The aromas drifting up from the kitchen spoke praisingly of her older sister’s cooking skills, and Apple Bloom knew it was Applejack in the kitchen, Granny Smith being off visiting relatives out of town for a few days.

The light clip-clop of hooves on wood drew the young filly back into the world of reality.

“You awake there Apple Bloom?” Applejack called softly nudging the bedroom door open slightly with her hoof.

“Uh-huh.” groaned the younger pony as she moved slightly to sit up in bed. Her limbs ached in protest as she did so. They itched too, like she had ants crawling through her leg muscles, and to top it off her innards felt three sizes too small for her body, as if she were somehow eerily hollow inside.

Applejack deftly slipped the short-legged serving tray from where it had been balanced atop her battered brown Stetson, to her hoof, and finally to the bed, laying it across her younger sister’s lap.

“You've been asleep f’r most o’ the afternoon there AB, an’ Ah figured you might be getting’ a might peckish.” The orange mare ruffled her younger sibling’s hair with a hoof as she spoke.

Apple Bloom leaned in close to the bowl on the tray, inhaling the vaporous aroma wafting from it, oatmeal porridge with apples, cinnamon, and brown sugar. The little filly’s gut sank, it wasn’t the heavenly aroma of carrot and sweet potato casserole with mushroom gravy that had drifted up from the kitchen earlier, and could still be caught in the room’s air emanating from her older sister like a culinary perfume.

Apple Bloom lowered her head for another sniff at the bowl before her and her gut did a weak twist at the latest revelation … corn syrup. Of all the indignities she could have awoken to this was low by any standard Apple Bloom held.

“Baby food?” gasped the youngest Apple sibling, her eyes going wide with surprise, her voice pitching into a plaintiff whine of disbelief at her elder sister.

“Eeyup.” Applejack nodded, doing a particularly good imitation of the eldest Apple sibling, her elder brother Big McIntosh.

“But why baby food?” Apple Bloom asked as she tried to muster her puppy dog eyes against her sister.

“’Cause aft’r y'r havin’ gone an’ heaved up y’r last weeks’s worth of eatin’s all o’er mahself down by the trough, y’r gut ain’t gonna be takin’ too kindly to nothing too fancy jus’ yet.”

“Oh.” Was the muted confirming acceptance of her elder sister’s reasoning that escaped Apple Bloom’s mouth as she pondered the bowl’s contents once more before leaning her muzzle into the gray mass. Using her articulate equine lips she pulled some of the warm paste into her mouth.

The little filly let the sweet warm mush linger a bit on her tongue before letting it slide down her gullet leaving a warm trail in its wake. Feeling the gentle warmth spread through the emptiness inside her, Apple Bloom smiled as Applejack scooched herself up onto the bed beside her little sister, a foreleg wrapped lovingly around the smallest Apple.

“Now,” Applejack started, her voice taking a slightly more serious, yet still caring tone as Apple Bloom finished her oatmeal, “ya figure ya can tell me what in Equestria got ya so scared that y’d come boltin’ back ‘cross the farm all frothed an’ blown, an’ go an’ do somethin’ as all fired foalish as to almost drown y’rself in the water trough?”

Apple bloom shrunk from the question, slipping lower into the cushioning comfort of her bed. “Ah, …” she started not knowing what to say or where to start.

Applejack pursed her lips slightly letting her tongue glide across the front of her teeth and fixed her eyes firmly on her younger sibling. “An old family trait” Granny Smith called it. Referring to the expression and tooth licking. Applejack could still hear the elder mare in her mind. “You look jus’ like y’r Pa right there, fixin’ t’ work out some confangled problem ‘r ‘nother.”

The problem right now was getting her youngest sibling to explain what had got her so blown scared that she’d try something as daft as to stick her head in the water trough while desperately sucking for air and nearly drown herself. A sigh of resignation from the little strawberry maned filly next to her, followed by a deep breath, signaled Appljack she was about to get her answer.

“IwantedtospendtheweekendwiththeCrusaderscrusadingforourcutiemarksbutScootaloogotthechanceto spendtheweekendatRainbowDash’sgettingflyinglessonsan’RaritytookSweetieBelltoCanterlottomodelforherinthe finestforfilly’sfashionshowan’Iendedupstayinghereonthefarmso …”

Wow, Pinkie mus’ be twitchin’ up a storm iffin this explanation is a two breather, this’n ‘s gonna be a doozy. Thought Applejack, as her younger sister paused to pull in another deep breath before continuing her accelerated explanation.

“IwassittinginthecrusadersclubhousetryingtothinkofawaytogetmycutiemarkwhenIsawBigMcIntoshworking intheorchardandhe’sgotagreatbigcutiemarksoIdecidedtoask’imhowhegothiscutiemarkan’hesaid‘Nnope’an’I asked’imwhynotcauseyou,an’Fluttershy,an’Rarity,an’Twilight,an’PinkiePie,an’RainbowDashalltoldushowyou gotyourcutiemarksan’hestillsaid‘Nnope’so Iaskedhimwhyhewouldn’ttellme’causeI’mfamilyan’allanthen …” the little filly’s voice finally ran out of steam as she finished her tale to her sister.

“Whoa, slow ‘er down there Nelly, I think I got ‘bout half o’ that, but this all got you scared right outta your hide … how?” Applejack asked as her little sister, who turned her head away breaking eye contact, her strawberry locks falling in front of her eyes like Applejack’s close friend Fluttershy.

“He got angry an’ yelled at me …” Apple Bloom sullenly admitted, her voice fading out to a barely audible squeek similar to the way Fluttershy’s was known to occasionally.

“Um, who all up an' yelled at ya again?” Applejack eased the question out, not quite sure if she should. Truth be told, she hadn’t quite followed the high speed ramble of her younger sister completely, but had an irked feeling that needed confirming, and oh did she ever hope she was wrong.

Oh she hoped, but for not, as Apple Bloom’s answer exploded into the room’s evening calm.

“BIG MCINTOSH GOT REALLY MAD AND YELLED AT ME ‘CAUSE I ASKED HOW HE GOT HIS CUTIE MARK!”

Her revelation released, Apple Bloom immediately dissolved into torrents of tears, as her older sibling wrapped her forelegs around her little sister and pulling her tight, pillow, blanket, and all, to her chest, holding on as if she never meant to let go again. Applejack tucked her sister’s head below her own chin as she held her there and let the little one cry herself dry.

Dang it all Apple Bloom, why’d ya have to go an’ pester y’r brother ‘bout his cutie mark? Why’d y’ have t’ make him think about … that. Thought Applejack. Inside she felt as though a great weight had been tied round her guts and dropped through her body landing somewhere in the cellar far below.

After all these years it still hurt Applejack inside to think of her parents. It wasn’t painful or debilitating, nothing unmanageable, she’d gotten used to it as time passed. It was still a scar though, to have lost them at such a young age. In some ways she was jealous of her younger sister. Apple Bloom had been only a foal a few months old when their parents had died, so she never knew them really. It didn’t mean that she was without hurt; not having known them may have been in some ways just as hard. To see friends out with their parents knowing you didn’t have any, Applejack knew that feeling all too well.

A gentle nuzzle and the slow even breathing of her younger sister told Applejack that the little filly had finally worn herself out for the second time today. Tucking her sister in and giving the littlest Apple a good night kiss on the forehead, Applejack picked up the serving tray and headed down stairs.

It wasn’t any secret what had happened to her parents. They’d been killed in a mudslide on the edge of the farm closest to the Everfree Forest. Even Apple Bloom knew that, she’d been told not that long ago when she’d been ‘old enough’ to understand. It had been a rather wet spring and the ground was heavy with moisture. Pa had been concerned about root rot in the orchards, and after he and Ma had tucked her in that night, they’d gone out to walk the orchard and check the ground as the rain had let up. It was the last time she saw them.

Applejack involuntarily wiped away a tear with the back of her hoof, as she looked at the casserole on the counter, half cold, but still warm.

Wouldn’t be the first time Big Mac an’ me had a half cold dinner in the orchard after dark. Applejack mused to herself as she carved into the casserole and filled a lunch pail she’d pulled from under the counter. She’d lost count of how many times she’d brought dinner out to her big brother out in the fields or orchards. After their folks had died McIntosh had taken it upon himself to uphold the farm. The deep red colt had foregone the last few months of his formal schooling, taken their grandfather’s harness down off the wall, and had hardly said a word since.

Hmm, pondered Applejack as she slipped a canteen of cold tea and cider into her saddlebag, it ‘ccurs t’ me that Big Mac done got his cutie mark right ‘bout then too …

It was true, the first time she’d seen her brother’s cutie mark had been the day after the funeral. She’d been on her way to the schoolhouse and had seen him out in the field along side the road hitched to the plow and pulling for all he could, though not getting as far as he’d liked. Her brother was still a scrawny colt back then, and had been more given to books and figures than plow-horsing. The other colts had called him ‘Stick ta Toss’ for his long gangly legs and narrow barrel. Sill it had been hard to miss his cutie mark as he struggled against the plow harness.

Big McIntosh didn’t just have a cutie mark, as Applejack saw it, he had A cutie mark, with a capital A. Where most pony’s cutie marks covered probably less than half the flank of the pony they belonged to, Big Mac’s was big, huge in point of fact. It covered nearly her brother’s entire sizable flank, a huge green half apple, face out, in stark contrast to his scarlet coat. As Applejack could recall she’d only seen two cutie marks close to the size of her brother’s, and both of them belonged to royalty.

The stylized sun that adorned Princess Celestia’s flank might have been pretty close in size to the great green apple half that rode broadly on Big Mac’s, though Applejack wasn’t about to ask for measurements. Princess Celestia’s younger sister, Princess Luna, though, her cutie mark was immense. It actually, from what Applejack remembered, covered the whole of the Night Princess’s flank in a depiction of the night sky replete with crescent moon and stars and even extended further up the princess’s back and down her leg slightly.

With a sigh, the plucky orange mare tapped the barn-house door closed with a rear hoof, lunch pail handle held firmly between her teeth, before trotting off to find her elder brother in the deepening dusk. She stopped at a small grove near the entrance to the main orchard, ‘The Family Grove’ as it was called. Bounded by a low white fence that any grown pony could easily step over the grove formed a long gallery bounded by apple trees on both sides and a small mix of others, it served as the last resting place of the late members of the Apple family.

Lowering the lunch pail from her mouth Applejack slipped the Stetson from her head and held it to her chest, bowing her head as she did so.

“Ma, Pa, Granpa Smith, ‘n all,” Applejack whispered into the grove, “I could really use y’r help ‘n’ all right now, but I don’t rightly know what t’ ask f’r in advice.”

As if in answer, a soft breeze rustled her mane slightly a few of her loose blonde bangs trailing off in the direction of the Everfree edge of the orchard, where a distinct and heavy ‘thok’ of hoof hitting something harder than wood echoed up back through the trees.

“I guess y’all means I should jus’ do it then.” Applejack answered softly into the grove. “Thank ya.”

She replaced her hat and picked up the tin pail and trotted off down the orchard path to find her brother. As she made her way deeper through the stands of apple trees that formed the main orchard, she pondered what it was that could have been that had gotten her big brother so angry as to frighten their younger sister as badly as she’d been earlier that afternoon.

Sure, he didn’t like to talk about his cutie mark. He’d even refused his own cute-ceañera. Still, it wasn’t like Big McIntosh to fly off the plow handle or anything. He was known as the most patient, even-tempered, pony in town. Hard working, he never got more than the slightest bit riled at the worst of times, and even then he barely had to raise his voice any more than a little to make his point known.

So, what was it?

Applejack found him seated on his haunches under an elderly walnut tree on the very edge of the orchard nearest to the Everfree Forest. Her great-grandfather Pokey Oats had not been just an apple farmer, but a seed collecting settler pony that had collected and planted all manner of seeds over the years, and the occasional odd clusters of non-apple trees were his legacy to Sweet Apple Acres. Applejack’s heart would have normally swelled with pride at that fact, though not here, not now. The slump-faced ridge that reared out of the edge of the Everfree forest and looked down on her family’s homestead from beyond the last line of trees was a mute reminder of why she’d come out here, why she was about to risk the ire of her normally placid older brother. But most importantly, it was why he was here.

This is where their parent’s … had died.

“Soopuh’s ahhn.” Applejack grinned at her brother. The pail handle still clenched in her teeth made enunciation a little awkward as she gave the lunch pail an inviting rattle.

The big Red stallion turned his head slightly to look at his sister before turning back toward the tumbled earth of the slope face, his eyes fixed on a point atop the ridge.

“How’s Apple Bloom?”

Dang, He don’t miss a thing. Applejack thought at the flatly distant tone of her brother’s question as she plunked her haunch down beside her brother, lunch pail between them. Still, something coiled deep inside her that wanted oh so badly to buck her brother right in the nose for not being more concerned. To yell at him about how their youngest sibling had inadvertently tried to drown herself in a water-trough after he’d scared her so badly. Oh how she wanted to tear a strip right off his red hide up one side and down the other and back again.

“Resting,” the orange mare replied calmly as she pulled a pair of tin plates from her saddlebag along with the canteen, “you scared her mighty bad there, McIntosh.”

“I’m sorry AJ,” the red stallion sighed, picking up a plate of casserole that his sister had spooned up, “Apple Bloom’s gotta learn that nope means nope.”

Applejack watched as her brother stared at the food for a few seconds then put it aside untouched.

“But why does your cutie mark have to be ‘nope’?”

Applejack could have full on bucked herself in the back of her own head right then when she saw her brother quiver like somepony just trod on his grave. Brain had connected to mouth with no delay to consider her words.

The silence that followed was pregnant and deathly. Applejack watched her elder brother just sit there. He took a deep breath in and held it for a few seconds, and eased it back out. And said ... nothing.

“Why McIntosh? I mean there was a lot happened right then. It’s okay if y’all can’t remember when 'r how ya got y’r cutie mark.”

The orange mare watched as McIntosh trembled again, he fought another breath in and out and again. She knew she was on to something; he was fighting something, something only he could feel. What was it?

Obstinacy overrode common sense. Whatever this was, Applejack was tartarus bent on seeing it done with. She was sure as set on getting to the bottom of this, as her brother got up and started trotting about in agitated circles.

“Ah mean, sure you got it after Ma ‘n’ Pa died, so did I, so will Apple Bloom.” Applejack could feel the emotion rising in her voice. She watched as her brother trotted about moving faster head shaking like he was desperately trying to be rid of something hanging on to him.

“It was an accident that Ma ‘n’ Pa died, everypony knows that.”

It was then he stopped. Right next to a large alluvial boulder near the crumbled slope of the rise, Applejack could see the pain coursing through his expression. Then it happened. McIntosh planted, coiled, and bucked … right into the boulder.

“NNOOO!” McIntosh’s scream was chased up and down the edge of the Everfree and orchard by the echo of the impact.

Applejack thought her teeth would crack from the shock as she flinched. Surely her brother was about to bust both his legs and she’d be the cause of it. Her eyes pinched shut as she waited for the agony scream that wouldn’t be far behind. A heavy earthy thud was all that came.

Applejack cautiously opened her eyes to find her brother pawing the ground staring at her. The boulder, which had been nearly as thick as her brother and stood a height almost twice his length laid on its side, snapped at the base.

“You want to know ‘bout mah cutie mark?!” bellowed the scarlet stallion as he thundered up to his sister. Glaring right at her, green eyes aflame with an intensity Applejack could not have imagined being locked within her brother.

“I got mah mark right here!” he roared into his sister’s face, slamming the ground with his front hoof so hard Applejack thought she’d jumped. “I got it right here, watching as Ma an’ Pa DIED!”

Applejack could feel the tears, sad, terrified, painful, begin to slide silently down her cheeks as her brother laid bare a horrifying secret he’d borne alone all these years.

“And it weren’t no accident.” His voice slowed to a magma hot simmer.

“It was the Albino.”

Author's Note:

Well, I'll leave it to you the Bronies and Pegasisters if there will be a second chapter. As I implied in the long description, I'm not, by my own consideration a Brony, and this is the prototype of a research and writing project.

Now I will leave the feedback and comments to the 'Tremendous Machine' that is this very good and active fandom. Enjoy.

Damn it. I've been Bronified.