My Little Pony
Firefly shivered as some cool morning air swept in through the cracks between the boards of the old barn. It had been impossible to get warm during the night, but she didn't really mind. She had a new friend. One who had decided her plight was worth taking to the current ruler. Speaking of which…
Her eyes shot open, suddenly remembering why she was here. Firefly lifted her head off the ground where it formerly rested and looked outside through one of the many cracks. The ranch yard was empty. But she could hear the crow of a cock from a nearby farm. She knew she'd have to get moving quickly if she were to meet up with Megan but remain unseen by her family. She leapt to her feet and went over to the barn's entrance. She pushed the door open with her nose and steped out. She could see some nearby hills not far from the road where she could hide and perhaps eat a little. She took to them on foot, quickly, and hid herself there as best she could.
The Pastels typically did not like eating grass, much preferring fruit and vegetables, but grass would have to make do unless she actually wanted to anger the locals. She was here to ask for a huge favor. The last thing she needed was their ire, she knew. Holding back a nauseous gag she knelt down and bit off a mouthful of grass and attempted to eat her fill.
"Oh Maker, why. This stuff is nasty. How can ordinary ponies and horsies eat this stuff," she wondered.
She attempted a few more mouthfuls before giving up and taking a low perch atop one of the hills to watch for Megan. She didn't know how many hours passed, but the sun was fully in the sky before three figures emerged from the rancher family's abode. Two of the figures headed for the fields, while one headed up the path.
"Oh good, I'll be able to get her attention without drawing any attention."
Megan made straight for the hill. She intended to make a break for the old barn as soon as she was out of line of sight of Daniel and her father.
"Hey, Meg," Firefly called, standing up.
"Oh, Megan gasped, startled. "Stop doing that!"
"Heh heh. Sorry."
"Well, I brought the saddle again. I had the excuse of use for it at the castle. Mother and father trust me completely, lucky for us," Megan said, waving the seat for Firefly to see.
Megan paused and felt bad for lying. She had an important mission, she reminded herself.
"Come on Firefly. Let's get you muddied up again."
"We have to?"
"Unless you have less brightly colored Pegasi to bring here, I'm afraid so."
Firefly groaned glumly. The process was quick and well…dirty. Before long, Firefly looked like an ordinary brown little pony and was saddled, her wings covered. The two were on their way again, each hoping the tall tale that this was a pony Megan bought on the way in for the ranch, but needed a place to keep it before she could take it home would work.
"We're back," Medley yelled as she flew up and around Dream Castle's towers and walks.
It had taken them walking all night as the trip there and again was an entire day. The six ponies that set out to the Moochic's were tired and in need of sleep. They hadn't dared to stop out in the open.
"So how did it go, darlings," Heart Throb asked.
"Well, we have good news and bad news," an exhausted Applejack replied. "We have a plan to defeat Tirac the Conqueror."
"Gather everyone in the dining hall," Wind Whistler instructed, retaining a mask of professionalism in the face of dead-tiredness. "We'll explain all there."
"…And that's the short version," Bowtie later finished up before the sizable crowd.
"We have a Vessel to hold the Light Element and a lead to an old Magic School of the Lumina, Continent of Light. However, we need a descendent of the Ancients to use it."
"So Firefly's impetuous actions in heading West to the human lands may just be to our advantage," Wind Whistler included. "Paradise, have you brought that book of human history like I asked?"
"Huh? Oh, yes, yes. Give me a second, I'm trying to find the information you asked for."
"What information," Lofty asked.
"Information on The Second Dark Age, of course. It began in light of the fall of the Light and Dark Continents. There are records that show where some of the remains of the Ancients went to live afterwards."
"The lands to the West owe their overall allegiance to the Western kingdom, Midhelm, including the land Firefly saw when crossing Gloom Mountains before."
"Well, then, she's a got a 50/50 chance with anyone she manages to bring with her," Parasite spoke up. "Groups of Ancients from both nations went West, Wind Whistler."
Murmurs broke out amongst the crowd.
"It alright to have a cow yet, Gusty?"
"Yes. Yes, it is, Shady."
"So that's the long and short, Alec," Megan said to the guard. "If I could just keep this little pony in one of the castle stalls just for today and then take it home with me today, that'd be great."
"Well, I'll have to ask the captain, but I don't think it'll be a problem. Come on in, but stay in the yard. I'll bring him right down to talk about this."
The guard stepped aside and allowed Megan to enter with Firefly. He called for someone to go get the captain of the guard. Megan let out a sigh whilst they stood in the yard. Well, step one was out of the way. Step one was get to Lord Frederick and introduce them.
Firefly looked up into Megan's worried face. She wished she could calm the girl, somehow, but she didn't dare to speak just yet. Her thoughts were interrupted by the clank of the captain's boots. She looked and recognized the same, stern-faced man from yesterday who refused her entry. Now she just hoped he wouldn't recognize her.
"So you want to keep this beast of burden in the stalls for the day."
"It'll be the first and last time, captain," Megan hastily said. "I know this isn't a normal request, but I'm willing to pay."
"Ah, forget it. It should be fine as long as that animal behaves itself. I would imagine it should, since it's been bought for ranch life. Good day, Megan."
"Thank you, captain."
Megan and Firefly made a beeline for the stalls and entered. Once an empty one was found, Megan opened the door and let Firefly in.
"Alright, Firefly. I'll be back with Lord Frederick as quick as I can."
The Pegasus just nodded sadly as Megan disappeared. Now she was alone in a place that wanted her put in a cell and no way to get away easily. She reminded herself that Megan would be right back. Still, images of arrows being pointed her direction from the previous day did not do her state of mind wonders.
Megan made her way through the halls of the castle with haste. She didn't trust that mud they used to hide Firefly for long. She knew they needed Frederick on their side as quickly as possible. That would hold off any guards until they met with Bernard. A hall, a staircase, then another hall, a turn to the left, another hall, and finally a door to the right, she went. She stood at the door, wondering how she was going to get Frederick to come with her to the stalls. She straightened out her maid's uniform before knocking.
"Come on in Megan."
"Good morning, milord. How may I serve you today?"
When she entered, Frederick was finishing fastening up his tunic. Next to him was a pile of books.
"Well, today, I'm putting together findings from my research and putting in some orders for certain books on the Elements from the Deckard Magic School. After that I'm heading down to archives to find some maps of the land as it was a millennium ago."
"Well, you cannot overlook a meal in that time, milord."
"Heh. No, I suppose not."
The young lord looked over to his maid and noticed immediately the nervousness in her face.
"Is there something the matter?"
"Oh, nothing. Nothing at all, milord."
After giving her a good look, in which time she masked her worry with a smile, he just shrugged, deciding that she'd probably tell him something of real importance on her own.
"Well, then, Megan let us get busy."
The next few hours were spent in the castle library, as Frederick put together his notes into a comprehensive paper. Megan handled ordering the books as he worked. Her continued anxiety over the pony in the stalls did not go away and Frederick continued to notice it throughout the day. Eventually, he tired of waiting for her to come out with it.
"There is something bothering you. You are as open as this book I'm reading from. Family troubles? Worrying about the coming of Tirac? Whatever it is, you can tell me."
"Well," Megan started.
She stopped talking, not sure how to go on. Finally, she just decided to let it out.
"I am wondering about that flying horse the guards saw yesterday, milord. You do not really think it's some spy Tirac sent, do you?"
"If it was, it would have long since gone. You send spies to find out where your enemy is and what they are up to before they are ready for you to know. If it was here to kill Bernard or myself, then it would not have given up just because the guards threatened it. All in all, I would imagine the poor thing just arrived at the wrong time. Tirac has never used subtly to get his way that I know of. And as far as I knew until yesterday, such equines were things of children's fairy tales. So I would not worry about it."
"Then, what about the wanted posters the guards put out milord?"
"My brother's unfortunate tendency to overreact I am afraid. Cannot say I blame him, though. It's his job to be cautious as acting lord."
"What if they catch it?"
"Then it will spend maybe a night or two in the cells before Bernard or myself have a look and find that there is likely nothing to worry about and let it go."
"What if you did not have to lock her up to get to talk to her?"
At this, Frederic stopped writing and turned to look at Megan.
Megan gulped, then smiled sheepishly.
"Well, what if I said there was an unusual animal down in the horse stalls?"
Frederick raised a brow to this.
"Well, milord...would you?"
"Yes, I suppose. What are you getting at, girl? That you have that thing in the stables right this minute?"
He was dubious in tone, and smirking at this point, convinced of an incoming punch line.
"Ah, well… You see. I know where she is right now."
Again, he raised his brow.
"Would you be willing to follow me to the horse stalls, milord?"
"How in Eoland could you have gotten it…?"
"…Her, into the stables?"
"Nothing some mud and a saddle couldn't fix to look like an ordinary little pony, milord."
He studied Megan closely. Nothing in her eyes told him she was joking. Had she really gotten the wanted Pegasus into the castle stables?
"Alright, I am interested. You…are not joking, are you?"
"No, milord. She…needs help. I am a bit uncertain, but I think her land is also under attack by Tirac. She came to ask for help. Well, maybe I should just let her tell it. Her name's Firefly, by the way. I thought it was real important both you and Lord Bernard be told as soon as I could get in to see you."
"I know I should have turned in her. Please forgive me, milord, but I meant every word of it. I will even spend some time in a cell if I have to over this. I just ask that you hear her out once."
Again, Megan and Frederick's gazes met. He saw nothing but resoluteness in her look.
"I will be right down to the stables," he said at last.
Her face brightened immediately.
"Oh, thank you, milord."
The two left the library and headed on down. Megan breathed out a sigh of relief. That had gone much better than she feared. If nothing else this showed she had his trust. Now she just hoped they wouldn't be met with an empty stall once they arrived. The last thing she needed was interference from anyone else before Frederick had a say. A short time later, lord and servant had arrived at the stalls.
"Well we are here, Megan. Show me this Firefly?"
"Oh yes, right this way, milord."
"Well, here goes everything," she thought as she him over to Firefly's stall.
"Here she is, milord."
She opened the door to the stall and stepped out of the way to give Frederick a good look at the enchanted equine inside. The young lord looked inside and found a sopping wet Firefly. She had become inpatient and had ripped off the saddle and dipped herself in the water container. Her violet color could now be seen clearly now that it lacked the covering of her mud disguise. The pony shook herself off. She looked up at the on-looking humans before her.
Megan cleared her throat uncomfortably as she looked at Frederick out of the corner of her eyes. He stood, blinking.
"It…really is the Pegasus the guards are currently seeking out. Firefly, right? Megan told me you were having some problems back at your home."
"Yep, I'm Firefly. You must be Lord Frederick, the younger of the two lords currently in charge around here. I've heard all about you."
Frederick let out a quiet chuckle, one of his lip's corners upturning into a half smile. Before, he was skeptical of the news the guards had reported, but actually gazing upon the three and a half foot talking equine up close was another thing altogether. He had even been somewhat skeptical in spite of Megan's display back in the library. His first instinct was to be angry with Megan for leading it into the castle instead of just turning her in, but the creature was too small to be a real threat to the people of Dongard as he had previously told Megan. Any anger he felt subsided.
"Uh, Mr. Lord, sir," Firefly said, cocking her head to the side a bit. "You are kind of spacing off there."
"Oh yes. Forgive me. I am just assessing this situation. Ah…"
Frederick put a hand to his forehead as he organized his thoughts. He grabbed a nearby stool and sat it down inside the stall. He seated himself on it and motioned for Megan to enter as well. She did and closed the door behind her. Frederick opened his mouth to speak, but hesitated. He closed it again, then at last spoke.
"Alright, first things first, Megan said you needed our help. Tell me why."
Firefly explained the dragonriders that came from the due north and that she was told by Megan it was probably done by Tirac.
"Ai, Tirac has dragons and riders for them trained and ready to go at his command. His empire is Northeast from his land, and your Dream Valley is directly East. The geography and method both match Tirac, so there is no doubt. Alright, next question. What could he possibly want with you?"
"Beats me, Mr. Lord. Our unicorns have magic, but he also nabbed Parasol, an earth pony."
Frederick furrowed his brows, pondering this. It did not make much sense, indeed but someone as shrewd as Tirac would have to have a purpose in all this.
"Wait, Firefly. You said that you could all talk because you were enchanted by a witch, so all of you have some magic, right?"
"Well, sure, Meg, but nothing like the power he's packing from what you've told me. We couldn't offer him anything he couldn't get anyway."
"Wait, you were altered magically by magic to be this way? Yes, yes… maybe…" Frederick muttered. "There is a possibility…"
"What's on your mind, Mr. Lord, sir?"
"Well, I believe I once read that with the right spell, that something called a Familiar, a magical servant, could be created from any sort of already magical creature. I will have to consult this at the library, but I believe that is the case. How many of you are there?"
Firefly's ears laid back against her head at the sound of this.
"Bu-bu-but what will happen to my friends if he does that? Will they be alright?"
A moment of silence passed, before Frederick broke it.
"I honestly do not know, but I need you to tell me. How many other talking ponies like yourself are there?"
"Oh, I don't know! About thirty of us live at the castle, but there are more that have moved onto other places. My group just likes to stay where Olivia intended for us. There are some others that live at a place called Paradise Estate and others living in The Clearing, but we don't see them often. If they caught us all, I guess they'd have enough for a small army of Families."
"So, milord, are you going to help us get an audience with Lord Bernard," Megan asked.
Frederick looked at her with absolute certainty.
"Yes, Megan, I am. As I have said, I will have to check my facts on this matter once more, but if I am remembering this right, then this can bring whole new problems for all involved. These poor ponies will be robbed of their lives and forced into another form entirely then turned onto the peoples of these lands. My brother must be informed at once, for all our sakes."
Smiles crossed Megan and Firefly's faces at this news.
"Oh, thank you, milord. I knew we could count on you!"
"Yeah, you're the best, Mr. Lord, sir."
"Do not thank me yet. Dongard has its own share of problems. I can get my brother and our generals and advisors to listen. I cannot guarantee any action will be taken on Firefly's behalf."
"Yeah, Meg already told me that yesterday," Firefly responded, now a bit deflated.
"Ah, yes, but I will do what I can on my end," Frederick hastily added.
Firefly managed a partial smile in response to this.
"One thing, though, girls, it would probably work in our favor if Ms. Firefly was not free to go where she pleases when presented to Bernard."
"What do you mean, milord?"
"Well, it would put a few minds at ease, I'm sure, if Firefly's at least collared for the duration of her time here."
"Again with this," Firefly moaned.
"I am sorry, Firefly, but you made quite a scene by flying straight at the capitol of a land under fire. The reaction you received is unfortunately to be expected. It will only be for a little while. Bernard may be suspicious and stubborn, but he will see the truth of the matter if he can just speak with you for himself."
"Oh, alright," Firefly sighed. "Whatever it takes."
"That is the spirit, now," Frederick urged.
The young lord got up and left Megan and Firefly alone for an instant while he fetched a guard. The servant girl tried to smile optimistically at the frowning Pegasus to little affect. An instant later, Frederick reappeared with the captain and a few guards. The subordinating officials looked quizzically at their lord, who held up a hand as they reached for their blades.
"Just collar her. I can promise she will cooperate. Then bring her along with me when I call for you. We are off to see my brother."
"In all due respect, milord, our orders to take this creature down to the cells came from Lord Bernard."
"Then he can give that order once we have been to see him. First, though. Collar the pony here and have two guards stand by this stall to keep an eye on her. I need to take care of something but I won't be long. I will send for Megan to fetch you when I am ready to go to Bernard's office."
And it was done. Firefly allowed herself to have a steel collar clamped around her neck and the other end of the chain was attached to a pillar in the stall.
"Captain, you may return to your duties. I will take care of this matter personally."
"Yes, milord. You're going out on a bit of a limb for this creature, though."
"I understood, captain, but if you've ever trusted me. Trust me now."
"Very well, milord. By your leave, I return to my duties as ordered."
"Yes, dismissed, captain. Alright, Megan, a quick trip to the library and we're all set."
"Then let us be off."
Firefly watched as the other people left, leaving her alone with the two guards. Awkward silence set in almost immediately.
"So… You guys had this job long?"
"You guys are real professionals. Maybe too good. No one's looking. Wanna talk?"
"Ah, Lord Frederick, back so soon," Andrew greeted.
"Quite. Andrew, I need Magi Sevulia's Book of Familiars right this instant."
"Of course, milord, but I implore… Why?"
"I think luck may be on our side at last, Andrew," Frederick stated, setting aside the books he was reading from earlier to make room. "We may have just uncovered another piece of the plot we currently are entangled in and it just flew in on dark violet wings."
Andrew threw up his arms, giving up on understanding the young noble and went to fetch the book he requested.
"Creation, creation, creation…" Frederick mumbled, flipping through the pages, a finger kept at the front index. "Here we are. Creation of Familiars… Let us see… The Basics… Talking animals… Ah-ha, here it is! "The easiest method to create a Familiar is to use an already enchanted creature. The preexisting magicks make it a much more simple task for a Mage to change the being or creature in question into another form and the end result will be more powerful in some cases." I knew it! Andrew' where can we find a Mage? I may need one to cast an Identification spell."
"Well, Magi Christopher was invited by Lord Bernard to a meeting early this morning."
Frederick marked the chapter of the book. It had all the proof he needed to show that Firefly was of an enchanted race and why they would make ideal specimens for a line of Familiar Attack Beasts for Tirac. Barring that, they had a Mage in the castle today to verify it.
"Megan, go fetch Firefly and her escort from the stables. I will meet you out in the hall just outside Bernard's office. Be swift."
And Megan was off like a shot.
"Yes Lord Frederick."
"Could you help me carry these papers?"
Shortly thereafter, Megan, Firefly, and the two guards met Frederick just outside of Bernard's office. Frederick had done some last minute compiling of his findings concerning Tirac's power source in case that was also demanded. Once they arrived, he had had a quasi-finished version of it under his arm along with the book of Familiars.
"Well, then, shall me," Frederick stated, and knocked on the door.
The butler answered.
"Ah, yes, Lord Frederick. I am afraid that Lord Bernard is a very busy man. Unless you have important business to discuss, he has informed me that it will have to wait."
"Oh, believe me, Francis. It does not get any more important than this," Frederick gestured to Firefly.
The butler raised a brow.
"Very well. Milord Bernard will see you, then."
"Hello, brother," Frederick greeted upon entering the office.
Bernard was filling out papers. The other occupants of the room were an adviser, the Magi Christopher, and one of their generals.
"Frederick. What can I do for you," Bernard asked, not looking up from the papers he was signing.
"You may want to see this, brother."
At last the heir looked up from his work to the mob that had entered his office.
"Good heavens, you have brought that beast here," the adviser gasped.
"What is the meaning of this, Lord Frederick," the general asked.
"Interesting," Christopher said, his gaze fixed on Firefly, studying her every move.
"Yes, brother and esteemed gentlemen, I present you with the equine terror of Dongard. I have already looked into the matter of her presence here and I believe this is something you need to hear."
Bernard set his pen down and gestured for them to continue.
"Is this really wise, Lord Bernard," the adviser asked. "We have pressing matters to attend to."
"This will be just a moment, brother. I swear it," Frederick assured.
"Very well, why then has this Pegasus paid our land a visit at this troubled hour," Bernard asked.
"The floor is yours', Firefly."
"That's my name, Lord Bernard…sir."
At this point, all eyes were trained on Firefly. The general had heard the beast could talk, but had not believed it until now.
Firefly cleared her throat as she was led forward to the center of the office.
"Well, here's how it happened…"
Firefly explained her plight to Bernard and his company. He listened intently and did not speak until she had finished.
"I see," He said after. "Well, as I hope you have been made aware of, this land is also standing on the edge of disaster. I do sympathize with you, Firefly. I really do, but we just do not have the resources to allow us to split up our forces right now, unless it is absolutely necessary."
"But-but…" Firefly sputtered almost in tears.
"I am sorry," Bernard replied. "But no. We have too much that needs doing and our troops are
needed in too many places right now."
"I would concur," the general put in. "Our men are stretched thin as is."
"A wise answer, milord," the adviser said.
"Why our land," Christopher asked. "There are other human nations you could have picked from."
"Yours' was the only human nation I knew of."
"Well, just what do you think Tirac would want with you…Pastels, you said you were," Christopher then inquired. "You seem a very humble sort of creature."
"They are enchanted creatures, dear water mage Christopher," Frederick said. "A witch placed a spell on them to make them as they are now. Meaning they are rife with magical energy already. Just what plans could someone like Tirac have in store for them?"
"Oh yes, we were originally just ordinary ponies. It's thanks to the witch Olivia I can talk," Firefly smiled.
"Little brother, I know you must have a point, but it is lost on me."
"Yes, what does that have to do with anything," the adviser asked skeptically.
"Well, creatures that have been previously altered by magic are easy to manipulate once subdued and with the right implements," Christopher explained. "You could strengthen the enchantment and thus make the creature a more potent specimen. You could put a whole new spell on them and alter them to your will, creating Familiars, which are magical servants that can be used for any purpose. They could also be joined with other creatures to create chimeras. The applications are nigh endless."
"Magi Christopher, can you verify that an enchantment has been placed on this…Firefly," the general asked. "As it stands, we have only the word of this creature as proof."
"Well, yes, of course. Spells to identify hexes and enchantments are First Year level spells."
"Do it," Bernard ordered.
Christopher, the water-based mage bowed, and then the wiry little man walked over to Firefly and knelt before her. He brushed back his shaggy raven hair as his baby blue eyes met Firefly's dark violet ones.
"This will not hurt a bit," he said.
He reached and touched Firefly on the forehead and began to chant a spell. He released her and immediately a glyph made up of a glowing purple circle with various symbols on it became visible before him.
"What is that," breathed Megan.
"The spell glyph," Christopher answered. "Mages can make them visible to identify what kind of spell has been placed on an object or being. Indeed. There is something here. It's not a spell glyph like any I have ever seen, but with time and a team of mages I could decipher the entire coding of the spell. As it stands, all I can really tell is that this particular enchantment and Firefly was fused to the core. Not a natural creation, yet not artificial."
"There is no removing this enchantment using even the most skilled wizard in the world. What you see is what you have before you with this Firefly. The magic and she are one. This is who and what she is born from day one. There is no fraudulence about this creature. She really just is a talking, flying, oddly colored being. So rendering them ordinary hoofed beasts of burden is impossible. Yes, so obviously Tirac's intentions are to use these…"Pastels", as likely to create a force of Familiars or Chimeras."
Christopher snapped his fingers and the glyph vanished from view.
"Would Lord Bernard have me have the glyph studied?"
After a moment to think it over, Bernard shook his head.
"No, Magi Christopher, that will not be necessary. What I want to know is why not to create his own Familiars to begin with."
"Using pre-enchanted entities is a big shortcut in the magic world. Enchanting an object or entity into becoming a Familiar is a very long and difficult process. There are several complicated steps to creating one from scratch as well as several items and output augmentations. that need to be collected They would have design the spell precisely to have the desired effect. You then have to infuse the specimen with magical energy and make them while breaking the former apart to a point and allowing the magicks to sink into it's body. Then you must solidify it again. Then, without halting the spell, cast another which will alter it to the spell's design. Using something like these Pastels allows you to skip the entire Enchanting process and go straight to manipulating what is already there. You just need to fully decipher the glyph to understand what you need to do."
"So… What is your decision, Lord Bernard…sir?"
Bernard sat in thought for a while.
"If we remove any troops from their stations as it stands, there will be holes in our defenses, and it will take months to train the new recruits we will soon have coming in. If we can ever render aid to this Pastel, it will be months from now, near the end of summer at the soonest."
"How many Familiars or Chimeras would we be looking at if Tirac's dragonriders tried to capture all of your kin?"
"Hundreds," Bernard breathed, feeling drained now.
"Well, the situation would be disastrous if Tirac were allowed to create these things. It falls to those who know of treachery to counter it, Lord Bernard," the adviser said.
He turned to Christopher.
"Magi Christopher, what are the military applications for Familiars and Chimeras."
"As created by someone like Tirac: one who holds the power to flatten armies before him? They would be ideal killing machines. He could shape to them to meet any deadly form he wanted."
"Then we cannot let him have his way, one way or the other," Frederick said.
"Indeed. Alright, you have convinced me, Frederick. George, send for all my generals and other officials. We're going to hold a meeting about this."
"Yes, milord," George the butler bowed and was off.
"Guards, you may uncollar…Firefly, and send her to some guest quarters. Megan, since you are the one who brought her here, you can tend to her. Dear Frederick can handle his own papers for once. Frederick, General Thomas, Adviser McGovern, Mage Christopher, you are all coming too, naturally. Megan, Firefly, we will send for you once we have come to a decision and inform you of it."
And so it was done.