The sun had risen above the small village of Ponyville just as any other day, basking the citizens in its nourishing light. Light providing the crops that which they needed to grow, the ponyfolk the light they needed to begin their work, and ushering in another day for them to live. For despite the sorrow that had beset the town just days earlier and lingered in their hearts in various amounts the sun showed them the inevitable truth; life does go on. With fresh memories of lost and past love within their souls the ponies took to this natural law as any other creature of the earth. Proceeding about their tasks and routines and bringing energy back into their town. Life, despite its many hardships and lessons, indeed goes on.
So the shops opened and the skies were cleared of their clouds, mail was delivered and everything began to go about its normal order. That is aside from one pony, who had been so far pushed out of her order in the past several days it was a miracle she had the strength to find any form of path to follow. Yet she had found that old strength and nurtured it to do what needed to be done. Not just for herself but for those around her that she loved, present and passed on. Which is how Annie Smith found herself before a door that she had not had the heart to see for some time, and thought she'd never look upon again just days ago. Letting out a sigh the light green pony with the sparkling silver mane gathered herself together to ensure she was ready. "Alright now... this is it Annie. Ya promised yerself ya wouldn't back down. No way no how." Letting out a breath to steady her nerves she walked before the door and knocked at it with her hoof.
A short time passed before she could hear movement on the other side, and light steps approaching the door. When it opened the eyes that greeted her had a much dimmer light than when she'd previously met them. "Annie...?" The unicorn blinked at the green earth pony in disbelief, looking as if she hadn't rested very well for days. Annie couldn't blame her after all the things Dreamer Dust must have borne witness to. She looked at Annie for a time before moving aside. "Come in." She said simply with a sad voice that didn't at all suit her. Still Annie entered and Dreamer shut the door behind them as she did.
"Mornin' Dreamer." She kept her voice even, having promised herself she wouldn't give into any emotions once committed to this task. Dreamer herself looked like a mess of emotions. Her coat and mane were a distilled color of their previous vivid violet and pink. Her mane and tail were poorly maintained and her expression was of one that had given up. "Ah needed tah speak with ya if ya don't mind." Dreamer shook her head to advise she didn't and sat her haunches onto the ground, casting her gaze downward.
"I know why you're here." Dreamer finally spoke but refrained from making eye contact. "Just... just hear me out first. I just need to say what I need to say, then... then I promise I wont interrupt you." The bubbly and lighthearted manner of speech she normally carried was as faded away as her coat. Still Annie nodded and Dreamer continued. "I know you must hate me... I hate me. I hate myself so much. But understand I never thought... I never thought that... I just wanted to help him. I wanted to help him so much." She swallowed a lump in her throat, looking to continue. "I let myself get blinded to what could happen. I never thought that spell would hurt him! I didn't really! And... and it never said anything could go wrong in my books... but those are just excuses aren't they?" She blinked her eyes a few times but she wasn't able to prevent tears from passing down her face. "He's gone now, and it's my fault. I didn't think... I didn't know what to do. I never knew what to do! I just wanted to feel like... like I could help him, and be his hero." She raised one of her legs to wipe off the tears on her face.
"All the more reason, you know, to hate me. Because I was so stupid, and like I never really got it. But I got it now, I do. He really loved you Annie. Like he didn't just like you, or like just want you, but he really loved you. But I didn't get that, so like, I did whatever I wanted. Just to impress him but now..." She shook her head, out of the energy to make excuses for herself. "Now it doesn't even matter. So I decided that, like I knew, when you were coming I'd just let it happen. I don't care what it is but... just do it. Do whatever you like. I don't care what you want to do, but like, if it makes you feel better... just do it." She raised her eyes quickly to look at Annie's, then averted her gaze once more. "I won't say a word, to anyone! I might... I might cry cause like... I've always been a cry baby but... you can still do whatever you like. 'Cause I don't deserve any better!" She stood on all fours and bowed her head before the green earth pony. "So punish me! I'm ready... so you can punish me like I deserve. Because I'm not as important, I get that now, that I'm not as important as you. So... anything you want. It's yours."
Annie watched the unicorn confess to her, asking for retribution to be taken. She let her speak as promised, listened to each word carefully and never changed her expression. Once Dreamer had finished Annie approached her, and the unicorn shook and shrunk back out of fear like a scared woodland creature. Annie raised her hoof and Dreamer closed her eyes ready for the impact. She felt the hoof touch against her... gently on the shoulder.
"Anything ah want... that's what ya promised, right?" Dreamer Dust blinked in confusion and looked up at Annie, who's eyes didn't contain the anger she had been dreading and preparing herself for. Instead there was something deeper like an understanding. "So it don't matter none what ah say, ya'll do it?" Dreamer had a confused expression but nodded slowly. "Right then... follow me." Annie turned and headed out of Dreamer's store, leaving the unicorn in a confused haze but she obediently followed, locking up behind them as they left.
As they proceed through the streets Dreamer kept her head down unable to find the strength to pick it up. She didn't know where she was being lead but expected whatever Annie had planned she didn't want anyone near by for. Whatever it may be... she deserved it. Following the back of Annie's hooves she proceed along slowly until they finally stopped and turned to the nearest building. "Well now, here we are." Dreamer lifted her head to see Annie smiling at her, then looked on confused at the sign above their heads that read "Curiosity Shop". Her expression became one of realization as she understood where they were.
"Annie... Annie I shouldn't be here. I don't deserve to be..."
"Ya'll said ANYTHING ah wanted, right?" Dreamer had indeed agreed to such terms, but she didn't think Annie Smith would have taken her someplace that was so heart wrenching. Perhaps it was what she deserved. After all any satisfaction she got for feeling a debt was paid to Annie was undeserved. Slowly she nodded her head to Annie. "Right then, ya'll better be ready. By the time ahm done with ya, ya'll be covered in sweat and sore in every part of yer body." Dreamer looked at Annie a bit frightful not sure what that meant but didn't think it was anything good. Reaching up with her hoof Annie pulled down her hat and removed a key from the inside lining. With a careful accuracy she slid the key into the shop door lock, opened it and replaced the key in its resting place.
"You... you have Knick's key?" Dreamer looked on even further confused and Annie nodded confidently.
"Sure do, but I s'pose it's mah key now. Since it's mah store now." Annie trotted inside and Dreamer just watched on in astonishment. "Ya'll gonna follow me or just stand outside all day?" Shaking her head awake she walked into the building behind Annie and looked around. It was the first time she'd even come by this building since... since their loss.
"Whoo Wee! Ain't this place a mess? Guess it needed a cleaning before ah got mah hands on it anyway. Good thing ah got me a free employee to help out." She looked back to Dreamer who was still in a perplexed state. "What, ya'll think it looks fine? We least gotta dust."
"Annie... this is your store now?" Apparently getting abused was essentially the primary thing on Dreamer Dust's mind when she had been called out this day. Being let into her deceased friend's store for hard labor not anywhere on her radar to be comprehended.
"Sure is, seems Knick was bout as organized as he could get when it came to this old store. Aside from keeping it tidy that is." She blew on the counter to clear some dust off it and the cash register. "He had a will written out, never even knew mahself till yesterday. Seemed he'd left the store an all his belongings to me. Guess he wanted tah be sure ah had something tah keep me well off. That or he just wanted tah be sure the store had someone tah take care of it." She smiled a little and brushed the dust off of a few other items. "Either way seems it's mine now. So we're gonna clean it up." She looked up at Dreamer from behind the counter. "No objections right? Ya said ya wouldn't complain." Dreamer looked on in amazement as to what was unfolding before her, looking all around the store itself and all the items that reminded her of her departed friend... and her current friend. Then cried openly.
"Annie! You... you really want me to help? You really will let me... let me be in here?" She sniffed trying to control her speech but it was difficult and Annie Smith rounded back around the counter to hug her unicorn friend.
"Shush now, ain't no one else ah can ask tah help me. No one else knows mah store better than me and yerself." Dreamer hugged her tightly and cried.
"Oh Annie! I'm so sorry! I've done so many... so many things wrong! You're too kind Annie! You're such a good pony!" She gasped for air around the embrace, letting it all out onto her friend's kindness. Once she was able to control herself she lowered onto her legs again and wiped her eyes dry. "So you... for... forgive me?"
"Ah do. But yer gonna work fer me today and were gonna clean this store up good. No complaints right?" Dreamer nodded furiously, feeling her heart soar from her friend's kindness.
"I just, kinda, you know, thought you'd be punishing me some way. I thought I deserved it." She looked down again at the floor.
"Well ah guess ah could stop by the clothin' store an get yah fixed up in one of them fru-fru lacy maid outfits. S'pose the boys wouldn't mind see that workin' round the store." Dreamer picked her head up, wide eyed and blushing redder than a tomato.
"You... I mean I agreed to, like, anything! But you wouldn't..." Annie couldn't hold it back any further and began laughing out loud at Dreamer's expression.
"Ya'll shoulda seen yer face!" She stomped her hoof against the ground she was laughing so hard. "Ya'll feel fer it like a rock in a pond. Phew. Haven't laughed like that in a while." She sounded a little sad, but relieved to say it. "'Sides we ain't got time tah fit ya fer a dress, there's work tah be done around here! So stop dreaming and get tah dusting these shelves." Dreamer Dust smiled for the first time in days, not minding to be the expense of a joke if she got her friend to laugh again. She nodded enthusiastically and went to work just as Annie said while the earth pony went to the back store room. It would be a long day.
Morning had given way to noon, afternoon and finally evening. The two mares worked diligently all day cleaning, organizing and at times giving light repairs to the various items in the store. It wasn't until Annie dug around in Knick's store room that she realized just how much stuff he had! On top of that there were the mailed orders that had arrived at the store over the course of the week, his bed room and personal belongings, and thankfully his kitchen that had enough food in it to provide the two ponies with lunch and dinner. They cleaned, toiled and organized until the entire building was presentable again all in a single day. Annie looked over all the display items in satisfaction of their condition. Dreamer was sitting on the floor, true to Annie's word the unicorn was indeed sweaty and sore even before the day had finished. But both mares would admit it had been worth it. "It looks great Annie."
"It does, don't it?" She smiled proudly at the transformed shop. In truth this entire act had not only been to improve the store's image but to help heal the hearts of the two ponies that had spent the most time in here outside of its previous owner; the act of cleaning catharsis for the remaining sorrow in their souls. "Well, we did a pretty fine job here. Looks like it'll be good an ready fer tomorrow." Dreamer picked herself up at the sound of more work approaching.
"We're coming back tomorrow? But didn't we clean everything already?" She looked around the store for any spot she had missed. Dreamer would have come back any day Annie had asked to help, no longer out of obligation but rather for desire to help her. Still she didn't see anything their previous work had left untouched.
"Yep, got it all nice an shiny. Now I can open up shop and start selling this stuff off." Dreamer's eyes widened.
"Your going to continue to run the store?" She sounded so surprised, Dreamer not sure if she'd have the strength for such an act so soon after... after it happened.
"Yep! That's why ah needed yer help to get it all cleaned up. Doors open tomorrow and everyone can come on in fer their discounted offers. Well, almost ready anyway." She turned to Dreamer and smiled. "Go on now, pick yer gift out."
"Ummm... what?" She looked more than a bit confused.
"Pick out yer gift. Ya get to choose what ya want from this store. Least I can offer ya." Dreamer look so touched by the offer she almost cried again, but held back the tears.
"Annie, I can't like... just take something from here! This is all yours!"
"That's right, now ahm offering ya a gift from it. Don't you go tellin' me that ya feel nothin' here is worth ya time." Dreamer shook her head in disbelief.
"That's not it, I don't, like, deserve this! I shouldn't be getting any gifts after I..."
"Hush. No more a that. Okay? 'Sides, ah got the most important thang ah wanted right here." Annie reached into the saddle bag she'd prepared while cleaning today and pulled out a blue fabric that was decorated with yellow stars, the blanket that had been on Knick's bed that Dreamer had noticed when they cleaned his room. The detail was so beautiful she wasn't surprised Annie would have wanted it, and figured she had probably spent a few nights under it with Knick herself.
Still, did that give her a right to take something too? Dreamer looked as if she would protest again but gave up, nodding to the earth pony. After all she'd agreed to go along with whatever Annie wanted her to do. No questions asked. So she lifted her head to look over the many exotic wonders the store had to offer. She was familiar with most of them but she'd never considered what she'd want from the store that was normally beyond her means, usually satisfied with any small item she was able to buy from time to time.. Standing before the shelves felt daunting... until she finally found that perfect thing.
"These... I'd like these." She commented, approaching the book case and motioning to the collection of books with matching covers. She used her magic to pull one out and admire it's exterior reading "Grimm Ponies' Fairy Tales". She flipped the pages slowly with her magic, looking at the illustrations.
"Are ya sure there Dreamer? Ah mean he's got a lot more impressive stuff here. Like that old record player, or that fancy decorated vase, or even that collection a rare gems." It was true that for a shop in a small village like Ponyville Knick had found one way or another to acquire some pretty rare items. The store wasn't abundant with them, but the few Knick owned he had enjoyed displaying for others to admire. Or purchase if they had the bits. "Them books ain't even that expensive ah don't think."
"No, these have to be it." She nodded and closed the one she was reading, collecting the others with her magic in a neat stack. "These have to be it for a gift to remember. From Knick Knack and Annie Knack." She smiled affectionately at Annie, who looked a little embarrassed at being given that last name.
"We a... we never actually got hitched y'know." She rubbed the back of her head shyly and Dreamer just walked up to her, nuzzling her face against Annie's.
"I don't think that matters, not really, not for your hearts." The mares enjoyed each other's company for a while longer before walking out the door, Annie pulling out the key to lock up once more. "So when do we start tomorrow?" Annie looked over surprised at the question.
"Ah shucks, ya don't gotta feel pressured no more Dreamer. Ah needed the help gettin' started but ah can handle it mahself."
"Oh... I see." Dreamer looked away a little disappointed. She didn't want to be in Annie's debt forever but she didn't mind helping around the store. "Then um... can I ask you for a favor, just a small one, if it's okay?" Annie nodded to the unicorn as she got up the courage for her request. "Can you like, I dunno maybe if you need it, hire me to work for you?" She looked on at Annie expectantly. "Don't think you need to pay me, I don't even want like, a single bit! Just if I could maybe keep working along side you at the store, I'd be happy."
"But Dreamer, what about yer own store? Ya can't just abandon it without a way to make some money, can ya?" Dreamer looked away disappointed at having to answer Annie's question. She sighed lightly.
"It's like, you know, it wasn't really the most popular store to begin with." She trailed on slowly. "Ever since... since then nopony's come by. The mailpony doesn't even knock to leave what letters I get. It's not like anypony, and I mean anypony, has come by to even borrow a book. So if I could be around you... be around another pony again, I'd love it." She kicked her hoof against the ground shyly and Annie looked on with concern.
"Well then... I guess this is a two mare store." Dreamer perked up instantly at the agreement, the color even seeming to come back into her coat. "Heh, well now don't get yerself too attached. Ya'll can feel free tah help me out till ah sell it off anyhow." Dreamer's expression and her books dropped to the ground in shock.
"You're... you're selling the store!?" She exclaimed out loud.
"Yep, reckon so. Gonna discount most everythang in there and when it's all said and done gonna put up the shop fer sale. Can't really afford tah run the farm and keep this place goin'." Dreamer had trouble hiding her disappointment. She understood what Annie was saying but it still seemed shocking.
"But... isn't this your precious gift from Knick? Are you sure you wanna sell it?" Annie rubbed the back of her shyly as she seemed at a loss for words for the first time tonight. Dreamer watched on as her earth pony friend struggled to come up with the right thing to say.
"Well ya see... Knick actually left me with one other thang to remember him by." Dreamer looked on puzzled, not really understanding what that could possibly be.
"Your... blanket?" That didn't seem right and Annie's expression confirmed it.
"Something that's gonna be a bit more of a hassle to handle than a store." Annie rubbed her side with her hoof gingerly and Dreamer watched on with a confused expression. Until slowly the gears began to turn in her mind and eventually the idea clicked.
"YOU'RE PREGNANT!?" She practically shouted it to the whole village and Annie stumbled back a bit from the shout. "Sorry, sorry!" She walked forward looking at Annie, then her stomach, then her again. "Are you... are you really...?"
"Heh, looks like Knick left me with a gift neither of us knew about. Just like 'em to leave me saddled with the hard job, ain't it?" Even though she was complaining Annie smiled proudly talking about the bundle of joy she'd be carrying for some time now. Dreamer was actually hopping up and down in place looking at her until she just exploded into a laugh.
"I can't believe it! You're going to be a mom! Oh wow! OH WOW! Oh Wowie-wow-wow!" She kept hopping up and down, now moving around Annie in circles till the earth pony pulled her back down to earth. "Sorry! But oh wow! Are you excited!? I'm excited, are you excited!?" The color rushed back into Dreamer's body with the happy news and Annie could only smile on calmly.
"Well ah'll be honest when ah first found out ah was a bit nervous ya'know? Ah mean what do ah know about being a mama? But when ah consider everythang ah guess that yeah ahm pretty darn happy about it." She beamed proudly at the unicorn. "'Course Mama bout near flew threw the roof when ah told 'er. Couldn't tell if she was happy with me or upset that ah got mahself knocked up but was nothin' she could do but celebrate." The two mares giggled a bit over the scenario. "Papa well... once he picked his jaw up off tha floor he told me ah wasn't allowed back out in the field till the little tyke came out. Poor Arrow got saddled with all mah chores and he and Mama are watchin' over me like a hawk. So if nothin else but tah keep me from goin' stir crazy ah got this here store." She smiled up at the building that would be opening it's doors and coming to life with tomorrow's sunrise. "Guess ah got me an employee tah look after now too." Dreamer nodded proudly.
"Don't worry boss, I'll totally be the best employee you've ever had!"
"Ya'll be the only employee ah ever had." The girls laughed lightly with each other, thankful to be able to do so again. Turning out of town Annie headed back to her farm from Ponyville, escorted by her unicorn friend. "'Course if ya really wanna help me drum up business maybe ya can get fitted for one of them frilly maid outfits like we talked about before?"
"You're joking. ... you are joking right?"
"Ah was joking a course, but ah threatened her with it on the slow days of those last few weeks we kept the store open just fer fun. That first day though ah don't think ah ever did see so many ponies in Knick's store at once. They were all so surprised when they got their letters informin' 'em of their orders finally being received and the advertisement of the discounted sale we put on. Ah opened that store every mornin fer four weeks, Dreamer Dust with me every day of it. We made a lot of bits, and even though she didn't want none of it ah still managed to pay her back with lunches and dinners at least." Granny took a sip of her refilled tea, enjoying the soothing feeling of the warm liquid after having talked on for such a long while.
"Once ah closed up shop fer good ah reckoned the best place tah sell all the unwanted and too expensive stock woulda been Canterlot. So ah hitched up a cart full of it and ah got ready tah travel, but Dreamer insisted she come along with. Ah reckon she felt she had tah be there tah the end and ah didn't mind the company none. Course once word got out ah was carrying a foal well Wither Rose and Spring Shade insisted on pullin' the cart themselves with us mares in it. Even though they wanted tah help they insisted they were only comin' along fer Wither tah find some new scenery tah paint, and Spring Shade said he wanted tah show off tah the royal guards fer a chance tah join." The old mare stretched herself out a bit and let out a yawn. "Oh, pardon me deary." She took another sip and for a moment gathered her thoughts.
"News traveled quick tah the rest of town that ah was headin' out and Lolli Pop asked tah come too. She said she wanted tah shop around Canterlot but ah reckon she just wanted some time round all of us and maybe one of the stallions in particular." Granny laughed a bit to herself, it sounded light-hearted but filled with many years of experience. "Her and Spring Shade got tah talkin' too after that trip, reckon they were lookin' tah spend some quality time of their own together. But a bunch of fillies and colts travelin' round on their own didn't sit right with my Pa, us being unsupervised and all. So he got into his head to send Arrow along." She laughed a bit louder this time. "Ah reckon he had no idea what he was doin' there with all a us but he enjoyed his time all the same."
"Dreamer and ah sold all the stock in the first two days, barely had tah work hard at it. Seemed Knick's high quality items was just the thang those fru-fru ponies in Canterlot loved, no offense deary. Since we all had prepared for a longer trip we spent the next three days just enjoying the town. The girls and ah found a bunch a different stores tah shop round in with our newly acquired bits, picking out outfits fer ourselves and a few items fer the little one on the way." Granny smiled momentarily thinking back on those days forever ago. "Wither managed tah paint more than scenery, somehow sweet talking two of the local mares tah do some private modeling fer 'em. He never did show us what exactly he got up tah painting with those ponies but he said it was one of the best vacations he ever took. Spring Shade had the most memorable, staying true tah his word and performing publicly tah get the attention of the royal guards, this time round with Arrow's help since he had a pegasus friend tah do some fancier tricks. They got their attention all right, nearly kept us another day trying tah talk them outta gettin' in trouble. Ah spared those boys any grief by not tellin' Papa about it, but at least he got tah see the inside of the castle. Be it accompanied by the guards than bein' with 'em, and only the holdin' cells." She smiled again, looking down into her tea cup having let the memories poured out of her so openly after so many years.
"Ah s'pose there ain't too much tah tell after that. Ah inherited this here farm an mahself and family been workin' it ever since." She nodded, looking thoughtful in recollection of all the events she had just unfolded to her audience. "Well ah've been rambling on for how long now? Ah just wanted tah say thank ya for lettin' an old pony relive her best years." The purple unicorn before Granny Smith watched on in wonderment, just registering that the story she'd been told had ended. Twilight reached a hoof up to wipe her eyes a bit, getting rid of a few tears more that had sprung up listening to Granny recall her history. Small stains from the tears having fallen onto her scroll which had not a word written since Granny had begun to tell her tale.
"You went through so much." Twilight finally said in a forlorn voice. "You endured so much difficulty... I can't even imagine what it must have been like." She looked on at Granny Smith with a concerned pity but the elderly pony wasn't having any of it.
"Ah reckon no more than any other pony before me." She nodded with an unbreakable spirit that Twilight was beginning to admire. "Ponies live and die every day Twilight, ah got tah send off my fair share and usher in new ones as well. Ah consider mahself blessed."
"But your husband..." Twilight looked on with a sadness, feeling slightly ashamed she had ever come to Granny with these questions knowing how much pain was tied to them for her.
"Ah ain't never been married Twilight. But ah s'pose it don't matter none, was how everypony remembered ole Knick Knack as mah husband." The name alone summoned so many emotions to the old pony's face, and it was pleasant to see that the most powerful one seemed to still be love in her smile. "Knick passed on an ah miss him no doubt. But he left me with a greater blessin' than ah ever knew before. Ah think had he been round long enough he would have been more than happy tah see his kin growin' up, having foals of their own and seeing them grow to run this farm just as well as ah ever could." The sun was setting now out the window and Granny grunted a little as she began to rise. Twilight sprung up to walk around and help her onto her hoofs. "Reckon ah ain't the young, purdy thang ah used tah be in that story huh?" She smiled on at Twilight who smiled back.
"If I were to look at your heart I don't think I'd be able to tell the difference." Granny nodded to her.
"Well, like ah said ah doubt ah gave you anything more tah work with than ya had but that's mah story." Despite having hinged on every word Twilight realized it was true. She now understood how dangerous her actions had been and the possible risks involved. She now knew something more about the cause but it was still too undefined to take action against. There was something in this town that somehow was drawn to her friends.
"I think I've learned a great deal Granny." So much to consider. This terrible thing that had stolen Knick Knack away and threatened her friends had no known source but could latch to their hearts. Had no known motive that Twilight could decipher; all of their problems had originated from things experienced in their foalhood. If she had some sort of frame of reference like a dusty old book about these dreams they had that... "Dusty book... dreams... That's it! That's the key!" Twilight suddenly exclaimed and surprised Granny much how she'd shocked Rarity earlier today. "Dreamer Dust! Your unicorn friend! She had a book! It was... it was... ooooooh... you told me..." Twilight looked at her scroll but it was still blank aside from the small wet stains near the bottom. "Spirits... Spirits and Deities of Ages Past!" She finally announced in victory.
"Granny, I've never seen or heard of that book before. I've gone through all of Ponyville Library's literature as well as most of Canterlot's and my own collection. That book might hold the source of all these problems!" She felt a swell of spirit surge into her from the excitement of an actual clue! "If I can get my hands on that book I can find out what this is. I can identify it, contain or dispose of it, and then I can protect everyone from it happening ever again! No more nightmares and I can avenge Knick Knack!" In her rush of excitement she'd failed to notice the disapproving gaze of Granny Smith looking upon her, and hunkered herself down while lowering her ears feeling like a foal that spoke out of turn. "I'm... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to speak his name so freely..."
"Twilight, head up now." Twilight took a moment still feeling guilty but raised her head to the kindly old pony's request. "Ya listened on tah my story word for word and held each bit tightly in yer mind, but did ya not hear the spirit of it?" Twilight looked on confused, not sure what Granny meant. "Like mah Papa told me when ah was just a young mare, we gotta protect others from this. We can't just go diggin' round less we disturb it."
"But... but your husband. And Pinkie and Fluttershy. Anypony else that's suffered because of this, we have a chance to stop it with this one book. How can I ignore them when I can possibly do something to stop it?" Twilight pleaded feeling her self twisted inside, pushed into a place where she didn't want to be disrespectful to her home but couldn't ignore a problem before her. "How can I let somepony be in pain when I can stand up to it?" Granny put a gentle hoof on Twilight's shoulder.
"Be a good friend Twilight. Keep being a good friend, like ya always have. Like dear Applejack talks about the lot of ya. If ya all support one another, if ya'll protect each other in yer love and kindness you can protect yer hearts from any sort a pain. Be there an maybe it won't be able tah take hold again." She rubbed her hoof on the young mare's shoulder to ease her suffering and internal difficulties. "'Sides, ah don't remember where that book could'a possibly gone."
"Wait... it isn't still with your friend Dreamer Dust?" Twilight asked confused and Granny closed her eyes with a sigh.
"Ahm afraid Dreamer is no longer part a this world, Twilight. Ah've had tah see more than my share a friends off onto the next place we go. Ah couldn't even begin tah tell ya what happened with all a her possessions."
"Oh." Twilight lowered her head in defeat. She thought of maybe pressing further to ask if Dreamer Dust had any relatives but didn't want to batter the kindly old pony with any more sad memories after listening to her story. "Well... I guess it was worth a shot. But thank you so much Granny. I feel I learned a lot more than what I came here to find." Granny nodded to the young Unicorn who turned to exit and let her begin on dinner.
"Oh Twilight, can ya do a favor for an old mare?" She stopped and turned eager to repay any favor to Granny Smith. "Be sure an leave out any a this in yer letters tah Celestia if ya don't mind?" Twilight's eagerness dropped hearing the request. She was about to question further but remembered what Granny had said about the spirit of her story. Of the lesson she'd asked her to remember about Ponyville. Although it weighed on her heart, she nodded to the old pony.
"As you wish, Ms. Annie Knack." Twilight thought she saw some of the old youth sparkle in Granny's eye before she turned to her stove and got to work. Twilight exited the home and headed up an old but familiar path back to Ponyville.
It had taken some time but Twilight was rewarded as she had expected to be when the moon finally rose full of light from Princess Luna's magic. Before her the blue flowers each began to slowly unfold and bloom, catching the moon's light and sparkling for an instant as they released the contained moisture and resembled the stars of their namesake. They really were lovely flowers and stood out amongst the field on the hill overlooking Ponyville. Twilight had never come out this way before as she never had a reason, but understood why she may have subconsciously avoided it. No matter how beautiful it was, a cemetery was still a cemetery and it made a pony feel sadness to look upon the lost memories of those before them. Clearing her throat Twilight prepared herself, feeling a little silly and glad no one was there to see her.
"Hello there Mr. Knick Knack. My name's Twilight Sparkle, I'm uh... a friend of your grand daughter Applejack. I don't know if you know about Applejack but I'd imagine you would considering well... I just think you probably would." She was stumbling through this never having addressed the departed before. Out of respect for him she tried to clean her speech up. "I know I should have a seed to offer you before talking but I'm afraid there wasn't any way for me to get one in time and well... I had to see you right away. I spoke with Annie. I know you remember her. She's a lot older now but I bet she's the same as when you knew her. Her farm is doing well too and she uh... she told me about your situation." Twilight was feeling flustered but managed to continue despite her audience not actually being present while she spoke.
"You see, Annie was really sad to see what happened to you and I can understand. Your other friend Dreamer Dust was sad that you had to leave too. But my friends... my friends had the same problem as you did. But I solved it, I managed to save them! I didn't ever realize how lucky I was to have done it but somehow they came out okay be it their hearts or their will or mine or... well... I still don't know." She admitted trying to stay on topic. "I don't want to have something like what happened to you happen again, and it seems some people in town think there's something here. Maybe you saw it or maybe you never did... or maybe it was just in our heads to begin with. I can't tell but I know it's caused by things that happen in the real world and well... I want to stop it. For my friends and for you Mr. Knick Knack." Now came the hard part, the part that felt a bit selfish but necessary.
"I don't know how or even if it will help but I can't just leave it be. I know now that there's a book out there. It might be lost forever but I know that there's something out there with a possible answer. I'm going to find it Mr. Knick Knack, and I hope you'll wish me well in doing so. Because you're the only one I can tell this to or ask for help from... directly anyway. I promised Annie Smith I wouldn't spread rumors and that I wouldn't tell Princess Celestia, oh, I'm her student by the way! But I guess that's not important... anyway! If somehow my words get to you than just know I'm not giving up the fight. For you and everyone else. I'll let you know if I learn anything, but that book is probably long gone now. So I guess it's you and me when the next clue arrives." Twilight somehow felt better. She knew she couldn't leave it alone, she knew that she couldn't talk openly about this with anyone else. But she felt more at peace with her problem now that someone had shared their experiences with her. Even if one of them had already passed on she was grateful to him as well, and regretted only that she never got to speak to him in person. "You rest though, okay? Because your wife and granddaughter... they're amazing ponies. And with ponies like them around I think everything will be just fine."
With a calm mind and spirit Twilight descended the silent hill back to Ponyville. She didn't know what the future would hold, but now she would be careful. This mystery wasn't solved (and it may never be solved) but it had one heck of a unicorn to deal with should it arrive again.
Applejack walked along the barn's side counting the baskets of apples they'd collected thus far. It had been a few days since her friend Twilight had come by to visit her Granny and even though AJ didn't know what the visit had been about it seemed to perk up Granny's mood some. For that alone Applejack was grateful to her friend. Seemed like there wasn't a thing in Equestria that Twilight couldn't improve upon. "Lookin like it's gonna be a good harvest this year." She smiled at the collection of apples that her brother and herself had bucked and brought in. They weren't even half way done but had more than enough to sell off to the stores, restaurants and at the market for anypony to buy. She hoped anyway, never was good with them fancy mathematics. Should have just let Big Mac do the counting. Still a harvest like this should bring in...
"About two hundred thousand bits!" Yeah, two hundred thousand bits! Wait... Applejack didn't say that.
"Nah, it's all dusty. It's probably only worth like fifty thousand bits." Applejack looked around to see what the source of the voices could be. She wandered around the barn as the tiny filly voices grew louder.
"That dust is all old too! It's probably got like... extra value cause it's so old." As she rounded the corner into the barn and looked about she recognize the voice of her little sister Applebloom and what was probably her friends. Applejack dreaded what the Cutie Mark Crusaders were up to today on her farm trying to find their special talents.
"Then this book must be like a million bits 'cause it looks super old!" That was the charming little voice of Rarity's sister Sweetie Bell. The search lead to little results before AJ realized they were coming from above in the loft.
"Land sakes, what are them fillies gettin' into now?" Applejack began the slow careful climb up the ladder and found the girls up top with a familiar chest near by and a blanket spread out between all of them.
"It's all like old mare stuff in here. The only cool thing I found were these old spurs. They're maybe like five hundred... thousand bits." Applebloom's tomboyish friend Scootaloo stated with some dejection. It was with the dread of realization that Applejack recognized that chest and some of the things in it.
"Applebloom! What in the hay are ya'll doin up here!?" Applejack rose up into the loft off the ladder and all three fillies looked over to see the older sister. "This is Granny's chest!"
"Ah know, we're trying tah get our appraisal cutie marks!" Applebloom held up what looked like a collection of small gems that she was sure Rarity would buck a pony across town to get her hooves on. Meaning Granny would buck her kids into next week if she caught these fillies rooting through her possessions. "Ahm appraising these thangs at about... thirty million bits!"
"No way!" Scootaloo commented dropping the spurs onto the loft's wooden floor. Applejack winced seeing them hit the ground but thankfully they were a solid enough metal that it didn't damage them. "They're only like... 25 thousand bits at most."
"Oh an ya got yer cutie mark fer tellin that already?" At the question each one of the girls looked to their sides to see if they indeed did get their marks, each flank still rather blank. Applejack sighed and shook her head.
"Alright! Ya'll git outta Granny's thangs and ah'll help yah get yer marks some other way. Lets see..." Reaching back into her pretty blond mane she pulled out a small bag and shook it open onto her hoof, dropping some money. "That's about... ten bits!" She offered them to her sister. "Ya'll head on down tah the thrift store an see if yah can find the most valuable thing ya can buy for that."
"That's a good idea, maybe if we don't get the appraisal cutie marks we can get bargaining cutie marks!" The girls seemed thrilled at the idea of a new crazy quest for their hidden talents and all rose up.
"We all better put away Granny's stuff first." Applebloom reached down to repack her grandmother's heirlooms but Applejack was quick to step in.
"That's not necessary none!" She tried to put a smile on despite sweating bullets over the girls breaking something. "Ya'll just git on goin' an ah'll take care of it fer ya."
"Thanks sis!" The trio made their way down the ladder discussing what would be the best item to buy at the thrift store and debating that against the idea of using the money for ice cream instead. Once they were gone Applejack breathed a sigh of relief seeing nothing looked damaged.
"Thank Celestia." She murmured and began gently loading each item back into the chest, careful to protect each of Granny's special memories. As she did she looked a few over and began to recognize them. "Hey... ah remember this ole lamp. Granny used tah keep it in Big Mac's room." She smiled and lowered it in, picking up the gems she didn't know where they came from and then pulling up the blanket off the floor, shaking the dust off it. As she folded it over the blue blanket with the moon and star design sparked memories as well. "Ah'll be... Mama used tah wrap this round us when we were just lil' foals. Ah always wondered where it got tah." She admired the beautiful design and always enjoyed having it warm her up when she was young. As the last of the items were collected up all that was missing was the big book Sweetie Bell had opened before they left. "Hmm... what's this here now?" She leaned forward reading the text and clearing her throat.
"... while it cannot be defined in traditional senses of good and evil, even pertaining to those in direct influence over chaos and harmony, these forces are often undeniable and have a profound effect on the individuals. What little information given shows these forces can tie themselves to a location and manipulate outwardly from these sources. This outward source isn't confirmed to have motive, but can possibly be manipulated by the motives of the affected with the possibility to directly draw in other individuals. The origins of this magical influence has never been given a direct correlation to any known spirit or deity of recognized name or history. However those that have studied it say it is most likely tied to..."
"What the hay is all of this!?" Applejack closed what seemed like a weird textbook and read the cover. "Spirits and Deities of Ages Past? The heck would Granny have a book like this fer?" Seemed awfully weird that Granny would have held onto anything with some kind of supernatural ties. She never spoke of anything of the sort, in fact she always seemed to disapprove of that weird mumbo jumbo. Gave Applejack the creeps. "Hmmm... wonder if Twi' would want tah git her hands on this? I dunno how it ended up in Granny's chest but it don't seem like somethin' she'd keep." Applejack looked over the book in hoof considering the value of it, similar to her little sister just moments ago.
"Nah." She tossed it into the chest and closed the lid, sliding the storage chest back into its original resting place. "If Granny kept it, it must'a been important to 'er. Best get back tah work." She already felt guilty she'd let Applebloom and her friends root through her old belongings, she didn't want to make it worse by doing the same. 'Sides all that old stuff only really had value to her Granny anyway, and nopony else... for now.