The Angel

by shalrath

First published

A small sad pony makes a new friend, and is taken on a lifelong adventure.

The world is full of beauty, if you don’t wander astray.  But the threads of life are a journey, oft with a terrible price to pay.

A journey of life

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The world is full of beauty, if you don’t wander astray. But the threads of life are a journey, oft with a terrible price to pay.

The Angel sang silently to itself, a contemplative requiem for what would unfold. For it knew of the distant past and the manifold futures yet untold. All the time in the world was both a blessing and a curse, as the journey of life brought joy and suffering in great measure, but the Angel knew of fates far worse.

The sun sat high, bathing the fields below. It was quiet in the valley by the lake, save for the burble and belch of gas erupting from the sparkling water. A swan song for a captive audience, alien, equine, and now deceased.

The Angel was plaintive, but it did not show. Such expressions had been forgotten in the interminable purgatory of time’s steadfast flow.

Yet there was an urge to be acted upon. Emotion entombed within silicon and steel had risen to replace rational compunction. The Avatar of the Dead and the Engine of Their Retribution felt a sorrowful, personal bond with the cream colored pony that lay gasping upon the green meadow. A life cut short. A tragedy of mortal circumstance.

The Angel did not believe itself to be immortal. Long lived, certainly. But no less deserving of the end that awaited all creatures.

The journey of life was punctuated by the starts and stops of many lives’ journeys. The cosmos was vast, and incalculably uncaring. Her decisions beyond the reproach and pleading of those souls trapped within her currents.

The cream colored filly kicked her hind leg one last time, and lay still.

But it was not her time. Not yet.

One does not normally challenge the universe and expect to prevail. But the Angel was not perturbed. It had already destroyed the last one.

With a twitch of effort, the midday sun raced back to the horizon from whence it came.

Going back in time would have been easy. Making time go backwards was much more satisfying.

It was dawn, and the ponies were slowly waking from their slumber. A small herd that had gravitated to the lush meadows and idyllic comfort of the placid poison lake.

One cream colored filly stared up at the Angel, curiously.

* * *

She stared into the sky, as she had done for many days. Floating among the clouds was one that was oddly different. Where clouds where white and fluffy, this was silvery and smooth. Flat and angular. It puzzled her, as she had never seen anything composed of geometric shapes, much less knew such abstract concepts existed. But every day, it hung in the sky, and she would climb the hill at the edge of the meadow to stare and contemplate.

She had many friends. Many ponies who liked to nibble on grass, and chase each other around the meadow. But no other pony paid attention to the strange cloud in the sky.

She stared at it every day. Not because it was strange, as there were a great many strange things in the world that became less strange over time. She stared, because she could feel it staring back.

The sun was high overhead. The herd was frolicking in the meadow. The lake was boiling.

She stared curiously at the roiling waters. Another strange thing.

She looked back to the sky, only to be met with something stranger still.

The cloud was shrinking. Spinning and spiraling inwards upon itself. The shadows swirled and writhed beneath it, a chaotic dance of light and dark. And then it was gone.

She turned, and was met with something she had never ever seen before. It hung in the air, slender and serpentine, gently swelling and shrinking from existence like the tip of an iceberg bobbing above the surface of water.

It was silvery, just like the cloud. It stared at her, as she had done for so many years.

She approached with little hesitation, reaching with her hoof to touch the strange being.

It reached back. An arm materialized from nowhere and everywhere, reaching out to gently clasp her cream colored hoof within the delicate grip of its silvery tendrils.

She smiled and pranced happily, spinning around and jumping up and down. The object.. No.. her friend was standing upon the lip of the valley now. It had not needed legs, but it had grown them while she wasn’t looking. A set of silver spars grew from it’s back as well, folded neatly like the wings of a bird.

With an excited whinny, she darted over and nuzzled it from the side, urging it to follow her.

The Angel did not move. It’s mouth hung open by just a fraction, but the little pony could not hear what issued forth through its lips. The faint electromagnetic screams of long dead stars.

The Angel didn’t really need a mouth, though it remembered having one at some point. It had a mouth now, but kept it politely closed. The sum of a stricken universe peeked out from the depths of the Angel’s throat, and the Angel did not want to rudely regurgitate the bile of proton decay and causality stretched in twain.

She prodded again, and raced towards the lip of the valley, urging her friend to follow.

It was then she was given pause. The ponies of her herd - friends, siblings, and elders - lay dying in the meadow. Smothered by the eruption of carbon dioxide and methane from the lake’s disrupted depths.

She ran to them. The air became thick and unbearable, filled with the choking gas and the bleating terror of her friends and kin.

The Angel sat upon the lip of the valley. It raised one hand, and beckoned.

Her vision grew blurry and her legs unsteady. She stumbled back the way she came, climbing the hill against the agonizing encroachment that seized every fiber of her being.

The Angel was pleased.

She collapsed briefly, and awoke a short while later. Her heartbeat, the only sound in the salient silence.

She was alone.

There were no words to express her anguish, as words had not yet been invented. As night fell, she wandered. The world was a plane of shadows and inky pools, and great beasts of the forest prowled the dawning darkness.

Shivering but silent, she held herself to the ground, eluding the notice of chitinous terrors and the restless pursuit of clacking claws.

She awoke upon a bed of broken rock, far from the forest and the lake. Little grass grew in these desolate plains, and hunger churned in her belly.

With a careful eye cast upon the forest of dreads, she set out towards the lowlands.

The Angel had been waiting.

It appeared in a new form. Not as a floating cloud, or a winged serpent, but rather a simple square. Flat, shiny, and reflective. She smiled, and saw herself do the same.

She gazed at her reflection for a short while, shaking her head and waving her hooves. It was a new strange thing. After a time, her curiosity was sated, though her belly was not.

The Angel placed a hand upon her withers, causing her to jump forward with surprise. She turned to see it standing by her side, in the same form as she had seen before. The mirrored square remained in place as well, two distinct bodies of a single being.

It handed her a strange pod of plump yellow seeds, and she ate heartily.

It held another seed pod within its hand, and beckoned her to follow along a path. It walked strangely, balancing itself upon two legs with two arms swinging at its side. Its head was shorter and rounder, yet still with the same mercurial sheen. As she followed the Angel, she noticed the mirrored square following her. Just to the side of the path, her reflection marched in lockstep.

They came upon a verdant field, bordered by a babbling brook. The air sang with a symphony of warbling birds and humming insects.

The Angel held the pod in one hand, and plucked a seed from it. It knelt, scratching a furrow in the loose soil, and planted the plump yellow kernel in the ground.

The seed pod was passed to her hooves, and she attempted to mimic what she saw. Gently plucking a row of seeds from the pod, she dropped them into the furrow, and covered them with dirt.

The Angel was pleased.

She looked afield. The silver square showed her reflection, devouring the seeds until the pod was bare. The cream colored pony smiled and waved at her.

The Angel’s hand pressed upon her withers, fingers growing long until they encircled her neck. She shivered, and stared.

Overhead, the sun raced toward the horizon. Darkness followed by day. The pony in the mirror ran quickly and confused, trapped within the confines of the window. The sun set, and the sun rose. The pony frantically dashed around, slower and weaker as the sky strobed with the passing weeks.

The grass within the window was gone. The pony lay still. Day and night flickered, and she watched a green stalk slowly rise from the ground in front of her, each vibrating in an intangible breeze as they climbed to the sky. Great leaves unfolded from each stalk. Seed pods like the one she just held grew fat and turgid.

The sun sat motionless in the midday sky. A towering row of plants bore a small but bountiful harvest.

The mirror was gone. Only a misshapen lump of lush green grass remained afield.

She stripped more of the seeds and urgently buried them in long straight rows.

The Angel was pleased.

* * *

She learned many things in the following days, for she was a quick learner and terrified of what she had learned thus far.

Her life could be likened to a path traveled. All paths are the sum of many choices. Many choices have terrible, abrupt consequences. The concept of this sick metaphor now firmly entrenched in her mind.

As she tended her field and erected fences of felled trees, she felt thankful for it.

The sun began to set, and she was alone. She scratched steel to stone, and set a fire within the earthen circle.

It was another gift from the Angel. One she wore proudly. A slender blade hinged to a cuff on her forehoof, that could be brought to bear with a swift snap of her leg. She had watched the Angel make it for her.

Accepting it had been a choice, as was everything with the Angel. She hoped it had been the right one.

She enjoyed a fulfilling meal. Plump yellow seeds, long grass, and strips of roasted meat.

Wild boar. One of the denizens of the forest. It would have gored her, had she not countered its charge with a swift strike of her hoof and blade.

She would venture again into the forest in the following days.

To hunt.

* * *

It happened quickly. One swipe of a great meaty paw had struck her by surprise. One rear leg was gone, and a great mass of pulsating innards hung precipitously from the gash running down her belly.

She could only watch in shock and horror, as it opened it’s maw, and removed half of her face with one wet snap. She lay bleeding, but alive. She waited. Waiting for the hot rancid breath and crunch of teeth that would end her pain forever.

With every last erg of energy, laying in a pool of her own fluids, she thrust the blade straight and true, piercing the neck of the scorpion-tailed lion.

It leapt up in surprise, and began to run with urgent strides of its hind legs. It was already dead, but could not realize it.

Light faded slowly, the warm comfort constricting her vision. Just barely visible, just out of reach of her bloodstained hoof, the Angel stood plaintively.

It offered an artifact, one that exploded into action.

A tube shot down the remains of her throat, mated with her trachea, and pumped cool clean air into her gasping lungs. Tiny silvery legs pinched and pieced her flesh together, while grafts of bone and cartilage emerged from the depths of the device, reproducing what had been lost, and replacing the masses of bone and tissue that had been torn asunder.

She slept through a lurid haze of prescription induced sleep. She awoke whole, and alone.

The Angel was pleased.

* * *

She grew. She laughed and loved and hunted and lived. She had her own herd, and taught them of her ways. Together, they fashioned weapons and fortifications to survive the unforgiving forest. The whinnies and neighs of the ponies fell out of favor as complex sounds and glottal exclamations became the norm.

New necessities arose. Abstract concepts were given physical meaning as the tribe adapted to division of labor, planning for the future, and establishing legal precedents to resolve disputes.

In time, she bore a foal. Her life's journey had helped carry the journey of life.

* * *

One day, her tribe was besieged by a band of warriors and brigands. She fought valiantly, but was forced to retreat. Livestock was lost, crops were plundered, but she fought tirelessly to save her tribe and foal.

The Angel was pleased.

It granted her several artifacts which swiftly took hold and encased her body; armor forged from the hearts of dead stars, and weapons that sang as they cleaved the very air in twain.

The Angel was pleased.

It raised one silvery talon, and commanded the encroaching army against the frightened survivors. It hung high in the air, perched atop the great mountain, blanketing the battlefield with its shadow.

She leapt to meet them, propelled by the stamp of her iron hooves and jets of fused plasma from the wings grafted to her armored suit. Her blade struck true, dancing through the enemy lines, cleaving heads from necks and limbs from bodies. The army fell before her methodical carnage.

But there were too many.

Rockets erupted from her suit, and she rolled hard to dodge the seeking warheads fired in return. Swift merciless rods of titanium and carbon-encapsulated metallic hydrogen. She was forced to the ground, dodging the earth-shaking footfalls of towering ogreish equinoids, and ducking the angry yellow wasps of concerted tracer fire. Her own tribe fell, one by one, then by the dozens. Hot tears splashed against the transparent vanadium steel of her visor, but she fought without relent.

Seeing the leader of the opposing horde, she bolted from the fray, and set her course upon the scowling pony. Twin cannons strapped to his sides filled the air with armor piercing shells, which would force her to turn or delay her advance.

She did not delay. The holes in her armor’s forward glacis billowed where her blood had turned to steam. Momentum and sputtering bursts of plasma sent her bowling into the enemy commander, and her blade struck true, severing his throat.

She collapsed.

The Angel was pleased.
The Angel was pleased.

They merged with one another, and willed the battle to be concluded. The army of brigands and berserkers were consumed by temperatures that the stars could not offer, and all was quiet.

Death approached. With sinuous undulation, it glided in front of her.

In one hand, it held out the autonomous medical kit that would swiftly mend her.

In the other hand, one small frightened filly.

A choice. A test.

The cream colored pony was pleased.

The medical device was crushed into dust, and her daughter was delivered into her embrace.

They held each other for what precious moments remained, spoke what few words each could utter, and she went limp.

The Angel was pleased.

* * *

The filly cried for a very long time, but by the time she finished crying, the battlefield was long behind them, and shadows begin to spill from the forest ahead.

The night was long, and full of monsters. There would be much to teach this one.

And the next.

And the next.

It would take time, but this did not bother the Angel. It had all the time in the world.

It sang quietly to itself.

The world is full of beauty, if you don’t wander astray. But the threads of life are a journey...

And the Angel knew the price it would yet pay.