In the late afternoon, my father and I liked to climb a little ways up the mountain. From the slopes of Mount Canterlot, you could see all of our village at once.
Our favorite place to view the village was a ledge of rock jutting out from the mountain. Dad waved off the hoof I offered to help him up the last boulder. His dark brown mane had turned white in the last few winters, but he was still fit and strong. Mom had taken to calling him White Oak, instead of Black Oak. Out of love for Mom he accepted this with good humor, but grumbled good-naturedly about it to me.
We sat together in companionable silence, looking down on the farms and fields that were our whole world. A dozen families had come together a generation ago to make a new life, and we had done well. We were content.
Unexpectedly, my father spoke. “Your mother has been talking to me. She wants to know when to start planning for the wedding.”
“Was it that obvious? Blueberry and I have only been courting for a season.”
“Your mother is anxious for grand-foals. Put that out of your mind. If you think she’s the right mare for you, sooner is better than later.”
“I’ll have to ask her father for permission. Mulberry looks cross at me every time I come around their farm.”
“Don’t worry about it, Bur. When I was a colt, Mulberry got in a few scrapes and I gave him a hoof. He’ll remember that. He’s only sore because his wife drinks more than she ought.”
“Then I’ll ask Blueberry tomorrow night. We’ve plans to go down to the lake.”
Dad put a hoof on my shoulder. I was surprised by the gesture; Dad was not a sentimental pony. “That’s good, son. Ponies are made for hard work and family. About time you started your own.”
We returned the quiet of our thoughts. What would marriage mean for me? The oak tree plantings managed by our family were on the opposite side of the village from the berry fields of Blueberry’s family. By tradition, she should come to live with our family, and I would inherit the Oak farm; I had no brothers. Instead, I could ask my parents for a share of the land and build our own home. Blueberry was a stubborn mare and might ask for her own house. I loved her stubborn nature. She never gave up on anything.
My thoughts of Blueberry were interrupted. Something was wrong. My father must have noticed it; he had stood and was looking around. It took both of us several moments to understand. We both looked at the sun.
“Are you seeing this?”, I asked.
“Is the sun ... wrong?”, he said.
The end of the day was approaching, the sun was setting, and Celestia would put it to bed. Now it glowed as bright as if it were high noon. We covered our faces with our hooves as the brightness continued to grow. I felt like I was standing near the oven while Mom was baking. The light burned my eyes.
A choked gasp came from my father. I looked at him. His ears were flattened to his head, and his legs were shaking. I had never known my father to fear anything. My head began to feel light, and my throat was closing up on me. Was this terror? I had never known this feeling.
Fear tricks the mind, and I can not say how long we stood there trembling in the sun’s wrath. It was my father’s voice that caused time to move.
“Look!” He pointed a hoof upwards.
I squinted past my hoof. The oblong shape was an airship. It was on fire.
Constructed of thin cloth and light wood, held aloft by buoyant gas, and moved by magic, airships were the most common method for travel. Hundreds of airships crossed Equestria in the high sky every day, where the thin air allowed speeds faster than a gallop.
Ponies could distantly be seen running back and forth across the deck of the airship. The purple and green balloon sagged in the middle where flames rose from a gash in the fabric. The airship was falling quickly. Right toward our home.
My father startled as I used a hoof to draw his attention. “Dad, we’ve got to get to the village! Quickly!”
My father stared at me blankly for a moment, then nodded. We scrambled off the ledge and to the hoof-path to the village, breaking into a gallop. My father’s terror had subsided, but there was still a paleness to his face. Overhead the sun continued to burn fiercely. I felt the urge to hide, to cover myself from the sun’s wrath.
Through gaps in the trees we could observe the airship falling toward the village; slowly but without reprieve. My father began to fall behind. The air scorched our lungs, and we shone with sweat.
I stumbled and fell. It was impossible to continue at a gallop in the heat. I lay on the cool dirt, lungs heaving for relief. My father came to me moments later, his face pale and nose flaring. Wordlessly he helped me up. We continued toward the village at a walk, breaking into a canter as fear pushed us toward home.
The airship vanished behind the trees. Soon a thick black smoke could be seen rising. Desperation combined with despair, but we could move no faster. My father had fallen behind again, and I did not slow for him, thinking of Mom, Blueberry, and the rest of the village.
The sun set. It did so abruptly, with the final hour of the day passing in moments. I stopped. Dad caught up to me, and we stood blinking our eyes in the sudden darkness. Relief from the heat was immediate.
“Praise Celestia!”, Dad said, going to a canter. I followed but held my mouth. Where had Celestia been earlier? Why had she let the sun do this? I could not believe it was a willing act.
The smell of smoke appeared as we approached the edge of the forest. We reached the end of the path and the start of the village, in the orchards of the local Apple family. The towering shape of the airship’s hull lay across several buildings consumed with flames.
Dad spoke quickly. “Go to the Berry family! They have several foals. I’ll find your mother! Meet us down by the lake.” I nodded agreement and we galloped in opposite directions.
Thick smoke burned my eyes and disoriented me. When I approached the Berry’s farmhouse, I spotted Mulberry and his wife outside, a terrified colt beside them. Mulberry rushed up to me.
“Bur Oak, praise be! Cranberry was still inside and Blueberry went back in to find her, through the flames! Please help us!” One of his back legs was clearly injured.
“I’ll find them, sir!” I approached the burning farmhouse, but couldn’t help but turn back to him for a moment. “Sir! Can I ask for Blueberry’s hand in marriage?”
“You fool Oak! Get her out safe and you can rut her in the barn!” he roared.
I suppressed a grin and ran into the farmhouse. Like the angry sun, the heat pressed down from all sides. I coughed and my eyes watered. “Blueberry! Where are you?” I shouted.
Faint noise directed me toward a back room. Blueberry was standing at a door, trying to buck it down. She was a mess of sweat and tears, face curled in anger, and she looked beautiful. On seeing me she pointed a hoof to the door. “Cranberry is trapped inside! This bucking door is bucking stuck! Help me!”
I turned my back to the door and gave it two hard bucks. On the third, the door splintered and then fell outward. Smoke poured out of the room, and the heat increased. We had added fresh fuel to the fire.
Blueberry darted into the room. “Cranberry! Cranberry where are- “
She put a hoof to her mouth. I came up next to her. Cranberry’s ashen body lay on the floor, unbreathing. He was gone.
I pulled her away, outside the room. She did not resist. A crash could be heard somewhere nearby. “Blueberry, we have to get out of the house before it burns down.”
A fallen beam had blocked the way back to the front door. We went around to the kitchen door, but the smoke and heat caused both of us to stumble. My head swam and I realized I might faint. Blueberry pulled me along, and I pulled her along. Together we made it to the door.
We coughed and rubbed our eyes in the clear night air, stumbling away from the burning farmhouse. Through my tears I could see Mulberry ahead of us. He was shouting. I waved to show that we were alive, but he wasn’t facing us. He was facing away, his hoof pointed to the sky.
I looked up. Flame, terror and death. There was no time for other thoughts as the second airship fell onto us.
“And that’s how the village of Greenroots was destroyed, 66 years ago. No survivors were ever found. Every building had burnt to the ground, and most of the fields and orchards were badly damaged.” Cherilee spoke quietly.
The mood in the Canterlot Museum of History was somber. Cherilee’s class of colts and fillies made little noise, not talking to friends, moving carefully. In front of them were artifacts labeled “Village of Greenroots”. A plow twisted and deformed by fire. A black and soot-covered doll. Warped and faded photographs.
Scootaloo inspected the most intact photograph. It showed two stallions and a mare, hooves around each other. The label said “Oak Family: Bur Oak, Black Oak, Sweet Birch.”
Scootaloo looked up at Cherilee. “Ms. Cherilee, what happened to the sun that day? Doesn’t Princess Celestia control the sun?”
Cherilee’s teaching voice came from years of experience. It was effective at hiding her doubts from her students.
“After the Day of Wrath, Princess Celestia was so distraught that she locked herself away. When she emerged, she told her ponies that the sun was old magic. Older even than Princess Celestia. The Princess had made a bargain with the sun, and was allowed to bring it up in the morning, and put it down in the evening. “
“The Sun had become angry with ponies, but Celestia could not say why. Many ponies thought it was the spread of airships, which covered the skies in those days. “
Sweetie Belle spoke up. “The sun got angry because airships flew too high?”
Cherilee nodded. “Ponies grew too bold, and dared to reach so high as where only the sun and moon belong. That is what many believe. After the Day of Wrath, airships were only allowed to fly a little above Mount Canterlot. Trains were built across Equestria, and today more ponies use trains than airships.”
Apple Bloom touched a gentle hoof to a black, bent frying pan. “It’s an awful shame so many ponies had to die because the sun got mad.”
“Miss Cherilee, will the sun ever get angry again?” Scootaloo asked.
“Miss Cherilee, what bargain did the Princess make with the Sun?” Sweetie Belle added.
Cherilee looked between them. She answered both. “No one knows, my little ponies.”