A soft cover of fog rolled through the streets of Ponyville, a grey light spilling forth from the sun through the sheet of clouds draped across the sky. The only visible creature outside being a lone unicorn. Her hair was long and curled, her steps slow and careful. She walked slowly through the silent streets of Ponyville. Slowly her mouth opened looking upward at the dreary sky with her violet eyes.
"Sheesh, can't you guys do something about the clouds at least?" Dreamer Dust called out to the pegasus above her, the white pony stopping to see her below and smiling sheepishly as she caught him mid-flight.
"Oh hey Dreamer Dust. Sorry, we're trying to get all of these clouds together in time to bring in enough rain and we kind of forgot about the fog that came with it. I'll clear a path for you." The white pegasus named Cloud Kicker flew down and used his wings to blow the fog aside. The weather giving way to his pegasus magic easily. "That better?"
"Much, thank you Cloud. Sorry if I snapped at you, I ran out of tea this morning and I feel like the walking dead." The unicorn yawned and covered her mouth with a hoof.
"No problem, we're going to be setting off the clouds in an hour or so. Be sure to be inside before it comes down okay?" The friendly pegasus waved to her and flew back up into the sky to assist the other weather ponies. Dreamer Dust waved back and watched him go, then trotted through the road towards the farm of her good friend. She didn't have to go far before she met up with said pony halfway there unexpectedly.
"Howdy Dreamer. Lookin' like it's gonna come down hard this time, don't it?" The light green earth pony with the silver braids said cheerfully. "Guess that's lucky fer us though on the farm. The orchard could use a good drink."
"Annie Smith, you didn't have to come all this way to see me." Dreamer said half out of concern. "I could have escorted you from your house you know. We gotta be sure you're fit as a fiddle more than ever before. No unnecessary risks." Dreamer fussed over her friend and the two mares started walking away from the town.
"Awww hush now Dreamer. Ah may be showin' a bit but that don't mean ah can't still handle a little walk now and then." Showing she was. Annie Smith wasn't over weight but her added bundle of joy was starting to come become apparent on her figure the further along she got in her pregnancy. All of her friends worried and fussed over her every time the headstrong pony tried anything strenuous. It was sweet but Annie personally hated not being able to do things herself.
"Well I'd feel better being with you the whole way to be absolutely positively sure you were okay." Annie rolled her eyes but it didn't deter Dreamer's smile. "I guess we're overdue for a visit huh? We haven't been by to see him since we went to Canterlot to sell the last of the products."
"Ah reckon so. It's kinda funny but ah get all nervous and jittery when ah go up tah talk with 'em. Not like I'm spooked out tah be there just... ah'm never sure what tah say." Annie looked at Dreamer with a nervous and tired smile, her friend rubbing a hoof against her back lightly.
"I know what you mean. I don't think we have to say anything though. It's probably enough that we just come by to say hello. Besides Annie, if he's anywhere I'm sure he's always nearby checking up on you." Annie blushed a little and Dreamer thought it was pretty cute to see her still get flustered over him.
"Shucks, yer gonna make me even more nervous like that Dreamer." The girls turned on the path and walked towards the hill just outside of Ponyville that held its past residents. The cemetery had been on their minds ever since they returned to Ponyville from their out of town trip but neither of them had the courage to go up there alone after cleaning out Knick's store. Now that they were together it was a lot easier to find their strength.
"Hey Annie, are you sure you're going to be able to make it up the hill? I mean... It's kind of ways up and your kind of a ways... um... 'showin'." Dreamer Dust phrased the statement as best she could. For the most part Annie was in control of her emotions but being sensitive to a pregnant mare who still had a lot of her bucking strength was always a good idea.
"Why ah can climb up this hill no problem. Heck, WE can climb up this hill no problem. Walk in the park." Annie Smith said confidently and strolled through the gate of the cemetery and up the incline, Dreamer strolling just behind her to keep an eye on the green pony. They got up about half way before Annie was taking some deep breaths and paused. "Um... just admirin' the smell a them flowers is all."
"Of course." Dreamer had her turn to roll her eyes but she didn't mind it. She'd wait all day for Annie if she had to. When she finally got the wind back in her sails Annie Smith proceeded back up the hill and down the row to where her love rested eternal. Passing by many flower beds and plaques adorned with names of loved ones long gone.
"Hey, somepony else is out here too." Dreamer commented looking down the row at a stallion who was standing over a grave. He wore a brown jacket and a black scarf around his neck for warmth from the incoming rainy weather. The areas where his natural coat was visible the girls could see he was a white pony with speckled black spots along his coat. His mane was a deep black with blotches of white and shades of grey from age. "Wonder who that is?"
"Hm, that's funny Ah'm pretty sure he's a unicorn." Annie peered farther down, narrowing her eyes. "Yep, he's a unicorn alright. Don't recognize 'em myself. Maybe he's a friend of Mayor Clarity?" Further inspection showed something else that was interesting about the mystery unicorn; he was standing before Knick Knack's grave. "Looks like he's checkin' out Knick's flower bed. Maybe he's confused as to where his relatives are? Hey Dreamer do you recog...nize him?" Annie wondered if maybe she did, because there was a look of surprise on Dreamer's face that Annie had never seen before. Not the kind of surprise from a birthday party or a quick startle. More like she couldn't understand what she was seeing.
"We should go." Dreamer said suddenly and Annie could hardly believe her ears.
"Go!? Ah ain't goin' nowhere. Ah just climbed up this dang hill and ah'm gonna see Knick tonight no matter who's in my way." Dreamer was shuffling her hooves and trying not to look at Annie's face.
"Then... maybe we should wait till that pony leaves. So we don't disturb him."
"Well it's a bit too late fer that, he done spotted us already." Dreamer's head snapped up to see the unicorn looking their way. Annie wasn't sure what exactly had gotten into her friend but she was determined to speak to her love one way or another. If there was some random unicorn that wanted to hang around so be it. "Ahm headin' over there."
"Annie." Dreamer said her name almost pleadingly but she wasn't in any mood to be denied her goal with it so close. After a few fretful moments Dreamer followed behind her friend, keeping her face hidden behind her thick mane. As the girls got closer the unicorn didn't move, instead watching their approach. He was tall and thin, considerably older than the two mares and there was age carved in the lines on his face. Annie stopped before him with Knick's grave near by. "Howdy there."
"Evening." He had a deep voice and piercing eyes. "Are you ladies taking a late night stroll? The weather is rather bad for such a thing."
"Actually we're here tah see somepony fer the night. Yer standin' right by 'em at the moment." Annie glanced over at the bed of flowers, something that always filled her with a hint of love and sadness every time she gazed upon it. It was hard but she wouldn't give up the feeling of that love for anything.
"Oh, so you knew Knick Knack as well?" Annie's expression became wide eyed as she looked up at the stallion.
"Y-yeah... you knew 'em too?"
"Yes, very well actually. He was a friend of the family. His parents and I were friends and colleagues back when I was writing best sellers." The stallion glanced past Annie and looked at the violet unicorn trying to stay out of sight behind her. "Back then my daughter and he were quite the pair. It saddens me to see that he would have passed away so young."
"Ah never met anypony that knew Knick before he moved tah Ponyville." Annie said looking amazed at this mystery stallion that suddenly had access to a whole world about her lost love that she never knew.
"Is that so?" He said curiously. "That's quite the surprise. Tell me, how did poor Knick Knack pass away?" Annie swallowed a lump in her throat that appeared suddenly when confronted with that memory. She tried to stick to the facts and leave out the emotion.
"He... he was being treated fer some... trauma. He was havin' nightmares that were haunting him somethin' fierce." Annie tried to mind the feelings of her friend as well as she spoke. "Ah'm afraid there was an accident an... well he didn't survive."
"That's awful." Somehow the tone of his voice wasn't as melancholy as Annie Smith had expected. "So tragic for such a promising young stallion. I'd heard about his passing from a friend of mine that runs a music store in Canterlot. She said that his marefriend had come in and sold her an antique record player. When I inquired where it was from she told me about the previous owner and his fate."
"Ah see." Something about him was making Annie uncomfortable. He spoke politely and carefully but his tone was almost smug. It left Annie suspicious as to why he'd come all this way. "Well ah'm sorry ya had tah learn 'bout all a this second hoof."
"Yes, I would have expected to learn about it much sooner. But you've never been good at keeping in touch, have you Dreamer Dust?" Annie looked between the two unicorns completely confused now. Dreamer rose her head up to look at the stallion, her eyes careful and glaring. "You're looking well."
"Thank you, father." Annie's jaw dropped suddenly learning of the connection between the two ponies before her. "I'll introduce you. Annie Smith; this is my father Ink Blot. Father; this is my friend... my best friend, Annie Smith."
"A pleasure." Ink Blot extended his hoof and shook it with Annie's, the mare still getting over the sudden appearance of Dreamer Dust's father showing up in Ponyville. "So Knick Knack has left us. He was one of the good ones, very promising in his chosen line of work for an earth pony. As I'm sure you knew better than any of us."
"Yes." Dreamer Dust responded, the tension between the father and daughter thick enough to cut with a knife. "Knicky was amazing in a lot of ways. If you've come to pay your respects then thank you for doing so. But if you don't mind we need some time alone with him."
"Dreamer!" Annie said shocked. "Is that anyway tah talk tah yer own pa? After he came all this way tah pay his respects?" Dreamer looked at her friend and Annie could tell that she was fighting back her tears. Annie didn't really know what was going on between the two but it seemed intense.
"No Ms. Smith it's quite alright. I'm afraid she's always had a problem with behaving correctly, despite how well I tried to raise her." Ink Blot walked past Annie now to be face to face with his daughter. The two unicorns staring at each other intently now. "Why she even abandoned me in Canterlot all by myself shortly after she graduated. That was hard for me Dreamer... being alone again. I missed you." His words almost sounded genuine and Dreamer looked as if she was going to break into tears. However she held them back.
"I had to leave. I... I had good reasons for doing so." Dreamer was breathing carefully now as she pulled up her courage to speak. "I'm not sorry I left. But I am sorry you're still alone father. I'd hoped maybe you'd found a special somepony by now."
"So you're sorry are you?" He said in a challenging voice. "Look at us Dreamer, is this any place you think your mother would have wanted us to be?" Dreamer Dust bit her lip as she tried not to cry but was slowly losing that battle. "I provided you everything I could and yet you threw that all away. Your schooling, your talents with magic, the connections I made. Even if my worth had dried up years ago you still had such potential. Then what did you do? You threw it all away to go chasing some silly dream of yours. Now after all these years I find you here of all places?"
"Dreams are my talent..." Dreamer Dust said through a sob.
"Dreams are futile! You left our home and your future to go help ponies find their 'dreams', all you do is support decadence and wastefulness." Annie was too shocked to speak seeing the two of them like this. Sure she'd fought with her father before but deep down she always loved him and he the same. There was so much venom in their words towards each other you'd think they were enemies. "Telling fortunes? You tell lies and speak words other ponies want to hear. You took the path that was easiest so you'd never have to pull your silly head out of the clouds." Dreamer was crying now as she cast her head down towards the grass, the sky rumbled threatening rain on the three ponies. "Now here you are with absolutely nothing. No future, no family and not even a husband to show for it. You're a disgrace."
"That is enough!" Annie shouted and got between the two of them, glaring at Ink Blot. "Now ah don't know ya from the Princess but ah ain't gonna stand by and listen tah another word ah this in front of Knick's grave of all places!"
"This is a family matter Ms. Smith." He was polite towards Annie but his tone was arrogant and cruel. "This goes back farther than you know between the three of us. It involves him as much as my wasteful daughter."
"Well he's the father of my foal, so if ya got an issue with him ya got an issue with me." Those words seemed to stop the stallion in his tracks as he looked Annie Smith over and took notice to the size of her torso where she carried her precious bundle of joy. He glanced between the two mares and suddenly his arrogant face returned.
"Oh Dreamer... it wasn't even you." He said looking at the violet unicorn who couldn't raise her head to meet his gaze. "I knew his marefriend had come by, I asked what the ponies had looked like and I knew you had been there. But to think that this whole time your precious Knick Knack was in love with another. Why did you even come to this town in the first place?" Annie was confused now more than ever as she looked back at her unicorn friend who refused to lift her head.
"Dreamer... what's he talkin' 'bout?" Dreamer just shook her head, her thick mane shaking along with it.
"Tell me then my precious only daughter." Ink Blot leaned forward towards her. "Who exactly was it that treated him and was the result of his death?" Dreamer rose one of her hooves to her eyes to cover them as she started to sob hard. "I see. I wish I could say I was surprised by this. I honestly never would have thought you to take that path. You are my daughter after all though."
"Leave!" Dreamer growled the word more furious than Annie had ever heard her say anything else. Ink Blot nodded to himself and his horn lit up with his magic. One of his pockets opening up and a green, mint leaf hair clip floated out.
"Very well. Here, when you moved out so abruptly you left this behind. I'm sure your mother would have wanted you to keep it. It just keeps bringing back memories for me." Ink Blot floated the hair clip onto Dreamer's mane, she didn't fight it. "I should get going back now if I want to catch the next train to Canterlot. It was good seeing you again Dreamer Dust. Nice to meet you as well Ms. Smith."
"The pleasure was all yers." Annie retorted though she was more mixed up than ever. Ink Blot didn't seem to take offense as he walked away from the two ponies towards the exit of the cemetery. Annie waited until he was far out of sight before she turned to her friend. "Dreamer Dust?"
"Annie!" Dreamer suddenly threw her front legs around her friend and hugged tightly, crying against her shoulder. Annie was taken by surprise as she was sure at this stage of her pregnancy she'd be the one in hysterical crying fits out of the two of them. They stood there near their friend's grave in comforting embrace before Dreamer finally found control of herself. She pulled back and wiped her eyes dry, slowing down her breathing. "I'm sorry Knicky... I didn't mean to ruin today for you and Annie. I'm sorry Annie, I just..."
"Shhh, Dreamer Dust, there there now." Annie said patting the unicorn on her back. "It's okay. Ah can tell that there's somethin' goin' on there between ya'll."
"Yeah... there is. Dreamer, can you come over to my house? Like right now?"
"Like... right now right now?" Annie said a bit surprised.
"Right now right now. It's important." She was looking at Knick's flower bed as she said the words, Annie figuring it must have been a serious issue for her to impose like this. Dreamer had gone out of her way always to make sure she never inconvenienced Annie. This was actually the first time she really asked anything of Annie since she requested to be hired at the shop.
"Okay then, ah'm sure Ma and Pa will understand. We should get goin' though, it's gonna rain any sec now."
"Yeah, okay. Lets go." Dreamer Dust got up and helped Annie back down the hill till they were both on even ground again. On the way back to Dreamer's store the unicorn made a quick stop by the post office. Annie didn't understand why but she made sure to put the hair clip her father had given as a gift into an envelope and dropped it in the mail box. She asked why Dreamer would do such a thing but she didn't want to talk about it until they were back at her home.
The rain was starting to fall just as they got to Dreamer's door. The unicorn let her friend in and then was sure to look around outside before closing the door and locking it. She shut the drapes to her windows and lit some candles around the house to provide them with light. Annie laid on some plush pillows that had been provided for her by her friend on past visits and was glad to get off her hooves. Carrying the little one around was getting to be harder every day.
"Okay, we can talk safely now." Dreamer Dust sat near by Annie and still averted her gaze. "I imagine you have a lot of questions."
"Darn tootin'." Annie expressed with her unique method of speech. "Ah don't even know where tah begin though. Ah mean... yer father back there. Ah can't even believe that. Ah've never seen a pony be so cruel tah his kin before. It ain't right."
"My father is a very stern pony." Dreamer explained. "He wasn't very happy when I decided to move out of Canterlot on my own. Truth be told I didn't even tell him when I was leaving, I just packed my bags and ran away from home as fast as I could. I imagine he was furious with me for it. I did abandon him after all."
"That don't justify the way he talked tah ya back on that hill." Annie countered still angry that he'd speak that way to her in front of Knick's grave no less. "Ah see him again 'round these parts ah might have Spring Shade and Tough Odds have a chat 'bout manners with 'em. If ah don't buck 'em myself."
"Thank you Annie. But you have to understand my father never really recovered after losing my mother. She... she passed away giving birth to me. I think he blames me for it." Dreamer admitted and Annie reached out and put a hoof on hers.
"Dreamer Dust, don't go blamin' yerself for things outta yer control." Dreamer smiled at the comfort she was receiving from Annie, approaching the dreaded part of her story.
"There's... there's more to it than that. Annie listen I'm going to tell you things I've never told anypony. Things that can never leave these walls. You might not think of me the same way after you learn about what I'm going to tell you. Are you sure you still want to hear?" Annie wasn't sure what exactly Dreamer was speaking about, but if it had to do with her and her deceased love she was willing to endure any shocks.
"Lay it on me." Annie agreed and Dreamer took a breath getting ready to confess.
"As you probably figured out already I knew who Knick was before I moved to Ponyville. We've actually known each other since we were foals and went to school together all the way up and after we got our cutie marks. My father is a writer you see and he was very successful when he was younger. Knick's father was a publisher and my father was one of his biggest money makers. He promoted my father's books and they had a successful partnership while it lasted."
"I... never knew anything about Knick's papa." Annie said realizing that she didn't really know much of anything about Knick's life before Ponyville.
"I'm not surprised. His father's name was Book Mark and his mother's name was Twinkle Star. She was really a great mare. She was very nice and she was pretty much the closest thing I ever had to a mom myself."
"She... she's dead. Both of Knick's parents are dead." Annie looked hurt by the knowledge and went she went to ask more about it Dreamer raised her hoof to delay her questions. "You see after my mother died and it was just me and my father. He wasn't very available emotionally to me after the loss, much less competent in taking care of a foal. He ended up asking for help a lot in how to raise me, usually receiving that help from Twinkle Star. My father being the widower he was often spent a lot of time alone, never doing well when it came to meeting other mares his own age. The only one he talked well with was Knick's mother." Annie had an idea of where this was leading though she didn't like the path it was going down.
"I'm more than certain that my father was in love with Twinkle Star. His behavior changed when ever she was around and he was always a lot nicer to her than other ponies. But she was the wife of his best friend and partner, so naturally she was off-limits to him. My father always seemed to have a habit of longing for something he himself couldn't have... I guess we both had that in common." She looked down again at the table.
"Dreamer... what is all a this building up tah?"
"I was in love with Knick Knack, Annie." Dreamer confessed finally. "I was completely in love with him. He was my most constant friend growing up and the one pony I could turn to when I needed to feel good about life. I had other friends as I got older but I wasn't able to ever forget about him. To me... he was my one true love." She lifted her head to look at Annie. "But I wasn't his true love."
"Wait now, just hold up a minute. Ah remember the day ya moved tah Ponyville. Ah remember it crystal clear like." All of this was snowballing fast with revelations and Annie was doing her best to keep up. "Ah was even there with Knick Knack and he didn't know who ya were any more than the rest of us. How could he have fergotten ya so easily if ya'll spent your foalhood together." Dreamer took another deep breath as she prepared to let loose her explanations once more. It was something Annie wasn't sure if she was ready to hear or not. She didn't have a choice though, Dreamer's burden had become her own. She'd help her unicorn friend bear it.
"Your right, he didn't remember me. I was... I was pretty foolish. I mean after I finally learned where Knick had ended up after all those years the first thing I did was run out on my father and head for Ponyville. I don't even know what I was thinking back then. The whole train ride over I dreamed of how much better my life was about to become when I saw him again. Like a fairy tale we'd be reunited together and live happily ever after... but..."
"But ah ruined yer fairy tale endin'... right?" Dreamer Dust shook her head hard in response.
"No. I was being stupid from the beginning. When Knick introduced himself to me like a complete stranger my life suddenly came to a halt. The pony I'd longed for my whole life not only forgot about me but he didn't need me like I needed him. Shortly after that I learned that you two... well what you two meant to each other. I was completely devastated. When I came home I sat there wondering if there was even really any point to keep going on." Annie put both hooves around Dreamer's and held them to her, the unicorn happy for the comfort that Annie provided. "I wont lie Annie, I hated you at first. You stole my Knicky from me in my eyes. Even if that was never actually the case."
"Ah never meant tah hurt ya."
"Don't apologize Annie, it was my own fault. I thought that somehow I could show Knicky that the fancy unicorn from Canterlot was better than some farm girl. That if I got him to come to me then he'd remembered what we once were and... and..." Dreamer started crying again and leaned against the green earth pony. "Sorry. I told you I was a crybaby."
"Dreamer, ah get how ya felt and ah don't hold no ill will towards ya fer what's happened in the past. Ya know that right?" Dreamer nodded against her friend and sat up again, wiping her eyes. "But that still don't explain why Knick had no idea who ya were. How could he forget so much about his past?" Dreamer braced herself for what she was about to reveal next, steadying her nerves.
"You wont like this." She admitted in a grave tone. "Years ago when we were still in school Knick's father was going to another town to promote a new author he was publishing. They were desperate for another big seller and Knick's dad was working hard to make it happen. They rented a wagon to take the books themselves instead of paying for a train to take them." Dreamer pushed some of her hair out of her face to look at Annie. "The road was long but generally not considered to be that dangerous. Ponies traveled farther on hoof and nothing bad ever happened."
"But?" Annie asked now starting to regret she had ever asked about this.
"But... well, you see I talked to Knicky that same day earlier. He had said he was going to stay home for the weekend while his parents traveled. I figured he wanted to spend time with his friends so knowing he'd be home all weekend and by himself I tried to tell Knicky what my feelings were. It didn't come out well, looking back I think I may have scared him off. Maybe... it's my fault? He might not have gone on that trip at all if I didn't say those things to him. Maybe he knew I was planning to try and visit him when he was alone so he..." Dreamer was getting wide eyed as she was falling back into her past memories and possible blame on herself. Annie put a hoof to her shoulder to bring her back.
"Dreamer Dust, what happened next?" Dreamer stared at Annie and slowly nodded as she continued.
"Right, sorry... in any case Knick didn't stay home and went on the trip with them. The road took them past one of the wild woods that grows without ponies to govern it. There was bad weather that gathered over the trees there and they thought it provided cover to their attackers."
"They were attacked on the road?" Annie asked in shock and Dreamer nodded her head slowly. "By who? Ponies don't normally go round robbing wagons and coaches."
"The investigators said it was dogs." Despite saying those words Annie could tell there was something more to it by Dreamer Dust's body language. "There was a group of them called the Hunting Dogs. Years earlier they were known for attacking traveling ponies and robbing them for food. Eventually somepony got killed and the royal guards were called in. The executions of the criminals were brutal enough that it scared the rest of the dogs into behaving. Apparently though that wasn't the case for these three."
"There was three of 'em? So they caught 'em?" Annie asked looking for some sort of justice in this story but Dreamer shook her head.
"No one ever found the dogs who did it. Knick's family's wagon was pulled into the woods but it wasn't hidden very well. A pegasus flying by spotted it and went down to investigate. She found them down there but..." Dreamer grabbed onto Annie's hooves and held them tightly. "All she found was Knicky. He was tied to a tree, he'd been there for days maybe. He was starving and delirious when she eventually found him." Dreamer was holding Annie's front legs tight for support for herself, not wanting to continue. Annie couldn't leave it at just that though.
"What about Knick's parents?"
"They were there. The dogs ate them." She held Annie's hoof tightly in her own hooves. "They ate them and they left Knicky with the bones. He... he put them together again! She said she found him with the skeletons put together and Knicky keeping them close. He was holding his own parents corpses for comfort."
"'Give them back. I can fix them.'" Annie repeated to herself, remembering the words from Knick's nightmare of the last night they had spent together. "Oh Celestia, that's what he was dreamin' 'bout. He was trying not tah remember it." Annie dwelt on the horrifying history of her love's past. The pony she loved had suffered so much that he'd blocked it all out. "No wonder he never spoke none about his family or where he'd been before Ponyville. He couldn't remember it cause it was so awful."
"Annie." Dreamer spoke up seriously. "Do you remember that hair clip my father gave me before he left?" That seemed like an odd question but she hadn't forgotten something from so recently past.
"Yeah, ah remember. Ya mailed it off somewhere pretty fast. Ah didn't quite understand what ya'll were doin' but it seemed like ya had a good idea." Dreamer nodded.
"Yes, you see, that hair clip was mine from when I was just a filly. My father always told me it belonged to my mother but... I don't even know if that much was true or not." She said sadly. "My father was always protective of me but also very strict. Growing up he never wanted me to go anywhere I wasn't supposed to and whenever I did do something out of the ordinary he almost knew about it instantly." Annie tried to process the significance of that.
"So... he was watching you?"
"It's almost impossible to watch another pony non-stop unless you were behind them at all times. But if you're a unicorn there are options available to you. You see my father wasn't ever the best at magic but he did have talent. I'm better than he ever was but even with his skill level I'm able to recognize what kind of magic he could have done. When I was little sometimes at night if I wandered too far or if I didn't come home I'd see... well monsters is the only thing to call them. Huge beasts that had long claws for snatching ponies. I believed in them for a long time until I learned a few things about creating illusions with magic." The words were starting to make sense to Annie.
"So yer pa was makin' monsters appear outta thin air tah scare ya back home? Seems awfully extreme."
"Extremes were something my father specialized in. His main subject of study was dealing with the minds of deranged ponies who were mentally ill. His books on the subject were best sellers and it paid for most everything in our lives. Still to make an illusion like that every time you'd have to know exactly where the pony you were fooling was going to be. There's no way to do that unless you can predict the future or track your victim. Which can be done if you have a magical item that lets you follow somepony every step they take."
"Wait, yer sayin' that yer' pa was using that little bitty hair clip tah follow yer every move?"
"Yes, I recognized the spell on it much later when I was older. Annie listen... that year my father gave Book Mark a pocket watch for his birthday. It was something Knick's dad wore all of the time. My father also had a study that he almost never let me inside of unless he was around. I knew my father had books for his work in there but he also had magical books as well, some with powerful but simple spells that can be used for things like teleportation or self defense." Annie didn't like where this was going, her blood pressure was rising at just the thought of it.
"Dreamer Dust, yer not suggestin' what ah think ya are tah me."
"Annie my father was obsessed with Twinkle Star. I could tell that every time he saw her it pained him because he couldn't be with her himself. That night Knick's family went missing off the road, I heard my father come into the house late at night. I didn't know why he'd been outside but I knew that it was a lot later than he normally stayed awake even when he was working. With the kind of magic even a unicorn like him could do... Annie I've always suspected that my father may have killed Knicky's parents." Annie was trying to keep herself in check but her mood was starting to rise out of control. She was angry over the things she'd heard, over the suffering Knick Knack had gone through. But now she was angry about even more.
"You knew!?" Annie stood up and looked down at Dreamer Dust, the rain pounding against the earth outside adding to Annie's fury. "You knew he did that to him? You knew your father killed the mare ya thought of as a mother and ya said nothing!?" Annie was seething with anger; before she could have forgiven everything about Dreamer's past. She was just as much of a victim as Knick Knack had been. But now to think she'd hold back this information that would bring a killer to justice. "Ah thought ya loved Knick? Ah thought tah ya he was yer special somepony? Now yer tellin' me that ya let a murderer walk free and left Knick tah suffer alone in the woods, nearly dying? How? How!? How could ya ever let such a thing be!?"
"He's my daddy!" Dreamer said through a new batch of tears. "Despite everything he's my daddy. He was my family growing up and took care of me and held me when I needed to be loved. He was my daddy, I couldn't help but love him." Dreamer said in helpless shame. "Besides I didn't know for sure at the time. It wasn't until many years later when we visited Knicky's parents graves that he admitted how sad he was that Twinkle Star had died. He never said that about Book Mark. It took me a long time to even figure out how he could have done it with magic, or that he was that obsessed over Knicky's mom that it would drive him that far." Despite Dreamer's explanation the fire in Annie's heart wasn't put out. She was angry for her fallen lover and his family, for her foal's family. She wanted vengeance.
"We can do somethin' 'bout it now though. Ya can make it right Dreamer. We can tell Mayor Clarity and he can get a hold of the royal guard in Canterlot." Dreamer shook her head.
"Annie it's too late. Don't you think my father would have thought about that? He's a very smart pony." She sighed and stood up as well. "Regardless of what actually happened and how things got to where they were the trail is cold. It would just be speculation if we accused him of a murder so many years ago. All it would do is drag him into the public spotlight and shame him further into depression. My daddy already has such little left to live for." She looked away from her friend. "I don't want one of the last things I do to him being that I accuse him of a crime that there's no proof to actually land on him. To be what drives him to his grave."
"So then ah gotta just live with it?" Annie asked and Dreamer looked her in the eyes again. "Knowin' the pony that drove my foal's grand parents to their deaths and possibly caused Knick's crippling dreams and memories is still out there free as a bird?"
"I know you're angry, I've been upset about this my whole life. But nothing will be accomplished by fighting this with him. My father's light died out that night and he's been a shadow of what he once was. Taking the life of the one you love... even by accident... what's the point of living anymore?" Dreamer said looking away again. "If he should die then I should go with him. It's like he said; I'm his daughter. We're poison to the ones we love." Annie was still burning with a righteous anger. It had all been so much to process in a single night and the little one within her felt her distress as it moved. This reminder shifting Annie's focus to the child Knick had been forced to leave behind. "Maybe this world would be better without us. Before we cause more harm."
"Dreamer, lift yer head up." Dreamer slowly picked her head up from the floor, and was surprised when she felt her friend nuzzle her face. "Ya can't be that poison, ya understand?"
"I... I don't honestly." She said blinking but grateful for the comfort Annie gave her.
"Tonight yer burden is mine too. Ah'm startin' tah understand a lot about what a pony needs tah do tah survive in this world. Sometimes ya gotta be silent about the things around ya, and let 'em fade so they don't consume ya from the inside." She thought of her father and how he had taken on the burden of caring for ponies that were afflicted by the darkness of this world and its unavoidable pain and unknowable threats. How he worked to keep that darkness from consuming them and the guilt he felt at failing in doing so. She'd stop it now though before it could possibly take root. "Ya gotta be strong now, ya hear? Ya don't have a choice anymore cause somepony has to carry on yer family line too. Now that's restin on yerself."
"I don't think anypony is going to want to be my special somepony again Annie. This family is tarnished and cursed. I don't deserve..."
"Hush now, no more a that. Ah wont allow it. Yer my friend and yer the closest pony tah me ever since this little foal here started slowin' me down. Ponyville, the bright side of Ponyville, it loves its neighbors. Yer one of 'em. So from here on out ah want ya tah believe ya can be loved and love again too."
"But it's so hard." She responded with a pained expression. Dreamer did have a lot of weight to bear, almost more than Annie herself with how much guilt she carried. Still she wasn't alone.
"Ah know, but that's why ya got friends. So please don't leave me alone too. Okay Dreamer Dust?" The pregnant mare held out her hoof waiting for the unicorn to take it. She stared at the green leg for a while before lifting her own foot and holding it against hers.
"Okay Annie Knack. I'll stay for you... because you're my friend."
"Least till ya'll start to notice that Tough Odds has had a thing for ya since ya got tah Ponyville." Dreamer's eyes widened up when Annie mentioned of a pony liking her like that.
"He has? But he's never said anything!"
"Course not, he's too shy tah go up tah a pretty pony an' just ask her out on a date. Wither Rose and Spring Shade been checkin' that flank a yours out too but ah wouldn't let those rascals get a piece of it if ah were you." Dreamer laughed lighty and that got a smile out of Annie as well.
"Thank you Annie. You're pretty amazing you know that? Your foal is going to be so very lucky."
"Shucks, twern't nothin'." Annie said blushing at the compliment. "But ah think ah'm a bit worn out after tonight. Ya mind if ah crashed on yer couch fer the evenin'?"
"Of course I mind!" Dreamer said in a sudden haughty attitude. "A pregnant mare on my couch, why what would the rest of the town think?" She suddenly turned Annie around with her magic carefully and directed her towards the bedroom. "You're getting my bed. I'll take the couch. There's no way the two of you are going to fit on it all night anyway."
"That a fat joke?" Annie suddenly asked more loudly than she intended.
"Well you are taking up the whole door way trying to get through." Annie gave Dreamer a glare and she started giggling. "Sorry sorry! I didn't mean it honest! Was just too good to pass up."
"Hmph. Yer lucky ah like ya so much ya fancy-shmancy unicorn."
"Well I happen to like you a lot too, you back-water earth pony." The two mares smiled at each other and gave each other big hugs before they went to bed. "Good night Annie Knack."
"Good night Dreamer Dust. Hope ya'll be havin' pleasant dreams." The two went to bed that night and slept soundly as the rain beat against the roofs of Ponyville. Their minds slowly putting to rest the sad memories of the past, thinking of the future that would be waiting for them both tomorrow and every day after. Their dreams were pleasant ones, their kindness keeping the dark at bay. Watched over lovingly by those no longer with them, but who would never leave their hearts.