A/N: I got the timeline a little skewed last time with Regal’s pregnancy being to advanced for where I set the story so for this chapter the only new story to read is Mariel1/ContraryHeartLiger’s “Shielded from Harm”.
Chapter 2: You are Better than you Think you are
Germaine stirred the bowl of tomato soup in front of her on the table, doing her best to filter out the conversation that surrounded her. She was wearing the same dress she’d brought with her the day she came to live here. She looked up at the empty seat across from her. Alex had gone down to earth to take care of some financial business with help from Bright Heart, needing to keep access to his inheritance despite the loss of his house; knowing the way banks worked he might be busy all day. Germaine sighed and picked up the grilled cheese sandwich from the plate next to her bowl then dipped it in the soup. It was good, better than what she ate at the orphanage, but the food here was only really serviceable as the cooks usually just stuck to a planned menu of good but not great food to feed as many as possible. It wasn’t really necessary, every Care Bear had their own house but most of them still came for meal times at the Hall of Hearts. Whether it was laziness, convenience or the fact that they couldn’t cook it served as a time for everyone to gather and talk, when there wasn’t a caring emergency.
It didn’t take long for her to finish and she looked up to see if anything interesting was happening in the Hall of Hearts. Regal Heart Lioness was sitting in front of a large bowl of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches stacked four high topped with mustard (a pregnancy craving she always experienced) while Stellar Heart Tiger was seeing to Connie and Hope, mostly Connie who was easily the messy eater between the twins. Regal was only a couple weeks from her due date (Care Bear pregnancies only lasted three months).
It had been easy to pick out the usual groups that sat together: Wish Bear with her boyfriend Defender Bear (the white bear with the shield for a tummy symbol) and his brother/clone Truth Bear (a black care bear with the mirror tummy symbol), Funshine and Playful (no doubt planning pranks together), Bright Heart with Gentle Heart and Soulful Heart (Germaine could have sat with them but she wanted to be alone), True Heart and Noble Heart serving lunch with Brave Heart and Good Luck Bear, and Cheer, Love-a-lot, Harmony and Share all sitting together.
Germaine blinked when she spotted the last regular group sitting together: Grumpy Bear, Swift Heart Rabbit, Cozy Heart Penguin and Jolly Heart Platypus (a violet platypus with a laughing heart for a tummy symbol). The four of them were sitting with a young Caucasian human woman wearing a blue tank top and brown shorts with shoulder length brown hair, brown eyes, a scar over her left eye and, Germaine squinted to be sure, a yellow Caduceus symbol on her forehead. Germaine couldn’t make out what they were saying so she got up to take her dishes to the kitchen, slowing when she passed by their table.
“I have to go, Grumpy, this is my only chance!” the woman was close to shouting. Everyone else was ignoring the exchange, this must have been a regular thing with this woman.
“Fauna, what would Blue say if he found out-” Grumpy was cut off.
“I already told him. He wasn’t happy but he didn’t try to stop me so why are you?” Fauna folded her arms.
“Cause the bloke doesn’t want you ta get hurt Sheila,” Jolly said.
“Well it’s my choice and… we have an eavesdropper.” Fauna looked up and locked eyes with Germaine, who has stopped to listen in. Embarrassed, Germaine hurried past the table to dump her dirty dishes in the tray.
Fauna craned her neck to get a look at the retreating raccoon. “Is she new? Where’s her tummy symbol.”
“Bit of a touchy subject,” Swift Heart took a bite from a soup dipped sandwich then swallowed before she continued, “We can’t give her one, at all. Tenderheart and Brave Heart both tried and nothing.”
“That’s gotta suck,” Fauna watched as she walked back in their direction heading for the door, “I’m gonna talk to her.”
“We’re not done, young lady, get back here!” Grumpy demanded and he got up to follow her, until Swift Heart grabbed his hand to stop him.
“Don’t bother, Grumpy, the last thing Germaine needs is to see you two arguing in front of her.”
“Sssshe’ssss right, Grumpy. Maybe sssshe’ll forget about her revenge after they talk,” Cozy took a deep drink from her soup bowl to finish it off.
Jolly Heart shook his head, “Oi doubt it. That’s shiela’s stubborn as a mule.”
Germaine had just made it out of the front door, wanting to find some alone time, when she heard someone catch up to her. “Hey! Wait up!” Germaine turned to see Fauna slowing to a stop behind her.
Germaine averted her gaze, “sorry, I didn’t… I mean I just wanted to hear what you were talking about…”
“Well at least you’re honest.” Fauna extended a hand. “My name’s Fauna Greywolf and you are?”
Germaine shook her hand somewhat reluctantly, “Germaine.”
Fauna gave a perplexed look, “Germaine? No heart or emotion word in your name?”
“I don’t deserve a care bear name…” Germaine let go of her hand and turned to leave.
“Why? Because you can’t get a tummy symbol.” Fauna instantly regretted her words when Germaine winced. “So why are you here?”
“The founders adopted me and Alex doesn’t have anywhere else to go,” Germaine gripped her forearms and shuddered slightly.
“Who’s Alex? Your boyfriend?” Fauna walked around to get a look at Germaine’s face.
Germaine smiled, “Yes. He’s like me too, but he’s a fox.”
“Oh Nightshade, is he like another Soulful Heart?” Fauna rolled her eyes.
Germaine smiled shook her head, “No, he’s more excitable and volatile but so full of life and… sorry I’m rambling.”
“Nah that’s fine. Trust me I know how people get annoyed when I talk about Blue…” Fauna turned to face away, her expression turning serious.
“Blue?” Germaine looked up at Fauna.
“My husband. I have to go now!” Fauna’s body suddenly began shifting before Germaine’s eyes until she had turned into an appaloosa pegasus, gave a whinny then took off and flew out across the edge of Care-a-Lot and dove down towards earth.
Germaine stared, slack jawed, as Fauna flew off. “A pegasus?”
“It’s not like she tries to hide it.” Swift Heart Rabbit had crept up on Germaine while she and Fauna had been talking. “Our Fauna’s not just any pegasus, she’s the queen of the pegasus… well Queendame technically.”
“Queen, what?” Germaine turned to Swift Heart, still staring off into the distance.
Swift Heart sighed, “Want to hear her whole backstory?” Germaine nodded.
Swift Heart took a deep breath. “The pegasus have been hunted for centuries by a group called ‘the hunters’ (yes boring name I know) so they hide out in a place called ‘Pegasus Falls’ and can shapeshift into guardian animals. Fauna’s special and she can change into any animal, not just her guardian, and she shared that with Blue. But some of them don’t like just hiding out. So when Fauna was a baby her dad, Blizzard, and a bunch of her friend’s dads, went to earth to kill some hunters. The Pegasus council, overstuffed tyrants, decided they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with that and banished them to earth as humans. Pegasus are immortal so it was basically a death sentence.
“Anywho, Fauna’s mom, Rainbow, decided to take Fauna to visit her dad on earth and… they were ambushed by hunters. Rainbow was killed and Fauna ran away and hid so she managed to survive and that’s when we found her. Grumpy and I were on a caring mission nearby so we found and adopted her. We basically raised her here and because we didn’t know about any of this, and she was too young to remember much, the rest of the pegasus didn’t find her until she was pretty much fully grown, then she returned and fell in love with their Kingsire, Blue, married him and now she’s their queen.”
“Where’s she going?”
Swift Heart folded her arms and mulled it over for a moment, then decided to tell the truth. “She found out where the hunters that killed her mother are and her gods told he she had a free pass for revenge, so she’s taking it. I’d feel sorry for the bastards if I thought they deserved it.”
Fauna had shifted into an eagle and was diving towards the earth at full speed. She had been told to wait in the Kingdom of Caring for a signal in her mind and it had gone off while she’d been talking to the blue raccoon, a signal from her gods, Daybreak and Nightshade, that now was the time to get her revenge. This was the only time she would be allowed to do this and there was no way she was missing her chance!
“Move aside, we’re only here for the brat!” A tough older man was trying to push past a brown haired woman who barred the entrance for her house. Four older men stood behind him, barely restraining themselves from forcing their way past him to push her away.
“No, please Ren, run!” She called behind her to the black-haired 10-year old boy sitting in the middle of the floor, frozen with fear.
“Enough! Last chance woman, move aside or we’ll kill you too,” one of the men in the back spoke up.
“No more chances!” the youngest of the men grabbed a small derringer pistol from his companion and fired. The woman staggered as blood spread from her chest then fell backwards, dead.
“You idiot! That was out last gold bullet, now what do we do?!”
“DIE!” The five of them had no time to react as Fauna descended on them, changing into a tiger and literally plowing through one of the men, leaving both halves of him bleeding out on the street.
The young boy shut his eyes and covered his ears as he tried to shut out the rest of the carnage, barely hearing the cries of anger and pain and the death sounds happening right outside the small house he used to share with his mom. It was a full five minutes before it stopped. Tentatively, the boy opened his eyes, then screamed and ran from the entrance upon seeing a grey wolf standing over the bodies of its victims.
Her bloodlust sated, Fauna only now noticed the terrified little boy running from her. Changing in to her human form she carefully stepped into the house, catching sight of her blood stained self in the reflection of the screen glass door. She sighed and released her magic to clean the blood from her body, letting the excess magic spill across the room.
“WHAAAAA!” the boy’s cry alerted Fauna to where he was hiding, in a cupboard under a kitchen counter.
“Don’t worry, I’m not goin- WHAT THE HELL!” Fauna shouted as she came across the boy, whose hands had turned into hooves.
“Go away! Stop this!” The boy shouted as black fur spread up his arms. When he received nothing but a freaked out stare, he tried to run past her, only to trip and fall on all four of the hooves he had and banged his head on the opposite counter, knocking himself out. Fauna watched as his transformation finished, his clothes disappearing into him like hers did when she shifted. Fauna gaped, he was a pegasus, and appaloosa pegasus like her except he was black and yellow where she was brown and white respectively.
Fauna shook her head to get her thoughts back in order, then looked back at the body of the boy’s mother. “This is messed up.” She heard sirens coming, one of the neighbours must have called the police. “No time, you’re coming with me kid.” Fauna changed back into her true form and used her magic to lift the boy up and tie him to her back. She stepped outside and flew back to the Kingdom of Caring.
She couldn’t just take him back to the falls. Whoever this boy was she couldn’t risk him being rejected right away because he seemed to be human, or at least half-human. Who else could she go to but Take Care?
Take Care Bear rarely ate with the family in the Hall of Hearts, she preferred to eat at home with Get Well. This meant that she was home when Fauna literally broke down her door with the black and yellow pegasus foal attached to her back and practically begged Take Care to examine him, well… sort of begged, more like “demanded nicely knowing Take Care didn’t take crap from anyone, even her.”
“When I’m done here you’re going to help Grumpy fix my door!” Take Care examined the pegasus colt lying on her exam table. “He doesn’t have a concussion but he’ll be out for a couple hours. Now what’s so special about this foal that you brought him here instead of taking him to the falls?” Take Care turned to face Fauna, who had changed back to her human form since coming in.
Fauna mulled over what she should tell Take Care but caught the doctor’s hard stare and decided to tell her. In all her time with the Care Bear Family there were only two family members who could actually scare her: first was Grams Bear, the only member of the family who had ever succeeded in putting her in time out when she misbehaved as a foal and the second was Take Care Bear and only partly because she had cured Fauna of gold poisoning back when she was too young to know it was toxic to her.
“He’s human, or at least half-human. He was cornered by hunters who killed him mom and after I killed them-“
“You did what!?” Take Care’s shout caused Fauna to flinch back for a moment, but then she regained her composure and stepped forwards.
“They were the ones who killed my mom! Daybreak and Nightshade gave me a once in a lifetime change to take my revenge and I wasn’t going to pass it up!”
Take Care held her head in her right hand and groaned, “Fine, I guess I have to give you that one. Then again I think your gods had more in mind when they let you do that.” She turned back to look at the unconscious colt on the exam table.
Fauna leaned to the side to get a better look at the colt, “I guess they wouldn’t let me off the hook that easy.”
“Question is, how is he half human? Fauna?” Take Care turned back to see a narrow-eyed glare on Fauna’s face. Fauna had been wondering that herself, now that he was out of danger. Considering where she found him she had an idea, one she didn’t want to consider. Even so…
“Can you find out if he’s related to anyone?” Fauna asked.
Take Care nodded, “I can check his blood, but unless I’ve checked any of his relatives before I can’t give a definite answer.”
“That’s fine, I just need to know…” Fauna bit her tongue, even saying what she was thinking aloud would feel like a betrayal.
Take Care could guess what Fauna was talking about, but didn’t say aloud as she went to retrieve her Hemo-Plasmic Indicating Device, a device she had built with Bright Heart’s help that was a far more efficient blood testing machine than what most humans used on earth. Take Care checked for a vein on the colt, something her experience with Fauna had trained her to learn, and carefully drew some blood from the colt for the machine to test, then bandaged the small prick she had made.
They both waited for a few minutes until the machine spat out the information she was looking for. Take Care checked the information over then took a deep breath, “Twice in as many lifetimes,” she whispered before she turned back to Fauna.
“Well?” Fauna tapped her foot impatiently.
“He’s your half-brother, and- where are you going?” Take Care looked up to see Fauna heading out the door.
“To get answers, I’ll be back later!” Fauna charged past the broken door, nearly tripping over Get Well Bear who fell backwards to avoid her, and changed into an eagle before diving off the edge of the clouds and back down to earth.
Take Care followed after Fauna and checked Get Well, “Are you OK?”
“Yes mom. What’s going on?” Get Well stood up with Take Care’s help.
“Fauna found out she has a half-brother,” Take Care said.
“Isn’t that a good thing?” Get Well gave her mother a confused look.
Take Care looked down at her daughter, thought for a moment then decided ot just tell her the truth. “It’s complicated. It should be but… it means that her father had a child with another woman and Pegasus mate for life.”
“Oh…” Get Well thought for a moment. Despite being about the same age as the other cubs growing up with Take Care as a mother had given the cub a surprising level of insight for someone her age, “So Fauna’s hurt because she thinks her dad betrayed her mom?”
“More or less,” Take Care ruffled Get Well’s headfur, “Let’s just hope she doesn’t take it out on him,” she looked back over her shoulder towards the exam room, then sighed and went to the phone. Might as well call Grumpy to fix her door.
Grizz, Dakot and Vader (the exiled parents of Fauna’s mate Blue and their friends Red Snout and Thunder) all lived together as they had found out rather quickly that living alone in human society very difficult, especially when you had no record of who you were let alone any real history on earth. It wasn’t a glamourous life but it was liveable, even on minimum wage. They only had one bed so Vader ended up working night shifts so he could sleep during the day when the others were at work; he had just woken up and was drinking a cup of coffee when he heard a pounding on the front door. Grumbling something about door to door salesmen Vader got up and answered only to be greeted by a seething Fauna in human form.
“Save it, Vader! I have questions and you’re going to answer them!” Fauna sniffed for a moment then seemed to calm down, “Coffee, this late?”
“I just got up, I work nights now. Want some?” It was the only way Vader knew would calm Fauna down at all.
“Yes but you’re not getting out of this,” Fauna pushed past him and followed the smell to the coffee pot where she poured herself a mug and took a drink. The coffee took some of the edge and Fauna sat down and scowled. “I found out I have a younger half-brother. You said Blizzard died of a broken heart after he heard what happened to mom.” She glared at Vader, “What really happened? Did you lie to me?”
Vader sighed, “Partly. When Blizzard heard what happened to Rainbow he thought you were both dead and became deeply depressed then…” he looked over at Fauna, as if he were the one who should feel ashamed, “he started drinking. It was a small thing at first but he spiraled out of control before we could stop him. We tried to keep track of him and keep him under control but he kept pushing us away, saying that nothing mattered without either of you left alive. The last time we saw him alive he was ten years ago and, I promise I’m not making this up, he met a woman that looked… well looked like Rainbow would have if she had been human, even had her hair dyed too. He left with her that night and… he was found dead of alcohol poisoning a week later. We didn’t tell you about that because we didn’t want you to hate him.”
Fauna finished off her coffee then stared into her now empty mug. She didn’t know how to feel: angry or disappointed in her father, let down by his old friends, maybe even… happy? “I have a brother,” was all she managed to say at first.
Fauna stood up, “I’m still mad.”
“I thought you’d be.”
Fauna headed for the door, then stopped and looked over her shoulder. “She’s dead, and for the record she didn’t look like mom at all. Hunters came, probably looking for the kid. I have to go now. He’s going to have a lot of questions.” She slammed the door behind her as she left, a moment later wing beats signaled that she was heading back up to the Kingdom of Caring.
Vader just sat there, stunned. He wished he could do something else but now this life was all he had.
Fauna had changed back into her true form as soon as she was out of sight of the city. She roared and bucked in mid air, letting out all her frustration and rage. How could Blizzard do that?! What would mom think?! The thoughts raced around in her head until her exhaustion threatened to make her plummet to the ground then she continued up to the Kingdom of Caring.
She landed outside of Take Care’s office and took a deep breath. “Remember it’s not his fault, he’s just a foal.”
“Whose fault? The door?” Grumpy Bear looked up from where he was trying to hold the door in place. He scowled, “At least help me fix this.”
Fauna smiled at her adopted father and held the door up for him. “At least one of my dads is still the same,” Fauna mumbled as Grumpy found new holes and screwed the door back in place.
“What?” Grumpy looked up from his work.
“I’ll tell you when we’re finished with this, OK Grumpus?” Fauna did her best to smile.
“OK, just hold it still. The last thing I need is for it to fall on me.” Grumpy Bear turned back to his work.
Grumpy stood up and checked his work. Once he was sure the door was secure he turned to Fauna. “Now, what’s so important that you have to knock Take Care’s door off its hinges.”
“I have a half-brother.” Fauna looked towards the room where the colt was, presumably, still unconscious.
At first Grumpy just stared at Fauna, not sure what he should say. Then he gave her a hug. Fauna’s rage had burned out a while ago, so she started to cry. “Want me to call Swift Heart?” Grumpy asked. Fauna just nodded.
Fauna never let anyone see her cry except Swift Heart Rabbit, Grumpy Bear, and Blue; right now she needed it. Even so she didn’t bawl like a little foal, not here, she just let the tears flow and drew in shuddering breaths as she hugged Grumpy. It didn’t take long for Swift Heart to arrive and she joined in the group hug.
“Hey Fauna, Grumpy told me on the phone. You gonna be alright?” Swift Heart looked up at Fauna.
Fauna shook her head, “No. Blizzard… he… and that foal is…”
Grumpy and Swift Heart winced upon hearing her say her dad’s name. She had always called him dad, never Blizzard.
Swift Heart just patted her adopted daughter’s head, “There there, we’re here for you, Fauna.”
Both were unprepared as she seized them in a big hug, nearly squeezing the air out of them. “I don’t think I could ask for a better mom and dad.”
“Aww,” Swift Heart couldn’t help but smile.
“Choking!” Grumpy gasped out, prompting Fauna to release her grip to let him breathe.
Take Care and Get Well peered into the waiting room then decided to leave the three alone for a while and went back to the foal’s room.
“How long is he going to be out, mom?” Get Well whispered as if afraid the patient would wake up.
“Can’t say right now, he’s probably just tired. I remember Fauna slept for half a day after the first time she transformed,” Take Care checked the instruments just to make sure.
Fauna eventually calmed down enough to regain her composure and sat up. “OK, I can handle this now.”
“What do you mean?” Swift Heart rubbed her arms, Fauna had a strong hug.
“The foal. I need to decide what I’m supposed to do with him,” Fauna sighed. “His mom’s dead and I heard sirens when I was taking him away from the place. He’s probably going to be declared missing or dead in a couple days.”
Grumpy folded his arms and sighed, “I guess it’s a good thing you did… that.” He held up a hand when Fauna looked ready to shoot back, “I’m not saying I’m happy about this but I can’t blame you for what you did. Star knows if I met the people that killed my mom I’d want to do the same thing. I still don’t like the idea of you killing people.”
Fauna rolled her eyes and patted Grumpy on the back, “Love you too, Grumpus. But that doesn’t solve my problem.”
“Why don’t you just take him to the falls?” Swift Heart asked.
“I want to, believe me, but I don’t know how everyone else will react. Not to him being half-human but to him being my half-brother.”
All three knew what she meant. Pegasus mating for life meant that adultery was a very, very serious offense among their kind; any children from such affairs, if any existed, would be ostracised if not worse simply for being evidence of the crime. It was unfair but unfortunately true.
“We could look after him then, I mean we raised you just fine,” Swift Heart smiled.
“That’s what I was thinking. Look how great I turned out: Queendame of all Pegasus!” Fauna laughed.
“Yeah, in no time he’ll be running around making our lives a pain, disappearing to go to earth and party with his friends without telling us and driving us up the wall with worry.” Grumpy sighed. “But I guess there are worse things.”
“Aww you do care,” Fauna prodded Grumpy in the cheek, which made him giggle.
Their conversation was interrupted by distressed cries and whinnying from the exam room. “Sounds like he’s awake,” Fauna stood up, “Want to come meet your adopted son?”
Grumpy scowled, “We haven’t agreed yet.”
“He means yes,” Swift Heart dragged Grumpy to his feet and followed after Fauna.
Take Care was standing over the colt. He had fallen off the exam table and was trying to stand up, unused to both having hooves and standing on four legs.
“Just hold still you’re only going to hurt yourself,” Take Care said as she forced him to lie on the floor.
“Let me go! What did you do to me?” The colt had at least found his voice despite his new form.
“I’m helping you and- Fauna?” Take Care looked up to see Fauna enter the room with Grumpy and Swift Heart lingering at the door. Normally Take Care would have just ordered her to leave but right now she was getting nowhere short of trying to sedate him.
The colt took one look at Fauna and tried to back away, “No, stay away from me!”
“Relax, I’m here to help.” Fauna crouched down.
“Where’s my mom?!”
Fauna bit her lip, remembering when she’d been on the other side of this conversation, but she didn’t back down. “I’m sorry but she’s dead. Those men killed her.”
“Nooooo!” The colt burst into tears and buried his face in the floor, covering his eyes with his forelegs.
“Real smooth, Fauna,” Grumpy said.
Fauna ignored Grumpy and moved closer to the colt, waiting for him to calm down enough to hear her speak. “Don’t worry we’re here for you. What’s your name?”
“Renegade?” Grumpy gave Swift Heart a confused look, “What human names their child Renegade?” Swift Heart just shrugged.
Fauna tried to reach for Renegade but he flinched back and shouted, “Get away!” And a purple wave of magic burst from him, knocking Take Care and Fauna away and smacking them against the wall while knocking Grumpy and Swift Heart off their feet.
“Ow!” Take Care rubbed her head where she’d hit the wall, thankfully she wasn’t badly hurt, “Pegasus magic?” She asked Fauna.
“Definitely,” Fauna shook her head to clear the fog from it.
Renegade was just staring at them, “Did I do that?”
“You did. Take Care can you watch Renegade for a minute, I need to talk to Grumpy and Swift Heart.” Fauna stood up and headed for the door.
“Alright,” Take Care stood up, then groaned when she saw that all her medical equipment had been scattered around the office.
“I have to take him to the falls.” Fauna was standing in the waiting room facing Grumpy and Swift Heart, who had taken seats in two of the chairs.
“Because of that little outburst?” Swift Heart cocked and eyebrow.
Fauna nodded, “He’s at most ten years old, I’ve never seen a foal that young use magic that strong. I need to get him a teacher.”
“Why don’t you just teach him?” Grumpy was rubbing his head where he had banged it on the wall when he was knocked over.
Fauna laughed. “HA! Me teach magic? No I’m gonna get him someone much better, White Fang.”
“That wolf-dog from the old cartoon we used to watch?” Swift Heart asked.
“What? No he’s a polar bear and easily the best shaman we have. If you ask him he’d tell you he’s the only competent one, I’d probably agree. Even if he can’t help him Aurora probably could.” Fauna said.
“Who’s Aurora?” Grumpy shook his head, “What goes on in the falls that we don’t know about.”
“A lot but… look I’ll give you a meet and greet tour later right now I should get him to the falls before he has another outburst. Take Care’s office is a mess after just one,” Fauna turned back to the office, “Now how do I get him to trust me enough to show him.”
“I have an idea,” Swift Heart said.
“It doesn’t involve destroying anything else does it?” Grumpy asked.
Swift Heart laughed, “No. Just listen this is going to work.”
A couple minutes later Fauna stood facing the door of the clinic in her true form. She didn’t need to wait long as Grumpy and Swift Heart exited the building, helping Renegade to walk on four legs. The colt stumbled as he set foot on the soft clouds surrounding the building, then looked up at Fauna.
“Who-who are you?” He asked.
“I’m a pegasus just like you, look.” Fauna pointed to Renegade’s back and he turned his head, for the first time seeing the wings at his sides. “Didn’t notice them did you? Must be weird having two new limbs.”
“But, I’m a boy not a horse!” Renegade shook his head. “Am I in heaven?”
Grumpy laughed, “Hardly, heaven wouldn’t need someone like me to keep fixing everything when it breaks.”
“Grumpy!” Swift Heart rolled her eyes, “You’re not a horse, you’re a pegasus. Just listen to your big sister.”
“Big sister?” Renegade looked confused. He tried to focus on Fauna but his eyes just spun in his head as he tried to turn sideways eyes forwards.
“That’s right, I’m your big sister Fauna Greywolf, and I’m a queen.” Fauna did her best to strike a regal-looking pose, she swore Swift Heart only made her do this to get a laugh, a thought that was confirmed when she saw the rabbit holding a hand over his mouth to hold in her laughter.
“A queen, queen of what?” Renegade was at least willing to hear her out now.
“Of all Pegasus and… you know what I need to show you something.” Fauna shifted back to her human form.
“Oh no!” Grumpy slapped a hand over his eyes.
“What?!” Renegade was startled to see the queen pegasus change back into the woman from earlier.
“You can do this too and I know someone who can teach you if you come with me.” Fauna shifted back to her pegasus form. “What do you say, little brother?”
Renegade just stared at Fauna for a full minute before he shook his head to clear it. He looked to Grumpy and Swift Heart, who both nodded towards Fauna.
“You can trust her,” Swift Heart reassured him.
Finally, Renegade stood up on shaky legs and trotted over to Fauna. “Where are we going?”
“To Pegasus Falls. Just follow close behind me and I’ll take you there.” Fauna trotted slowly towards where the portal in the Kingdom of Caring lay, stopping every so often to make sure Renegade could keep walking. He was getting the hang of four hooved feet rather quickly, pegasus instinct was kicking in, so she picked up her pace a bit which nearly forced him to run.
The portal to Pegasus Falls was always guarded but even when Fauna entered with an unexpected guest they merely asked where she’d found the colt. All the Queendame had to say was that he was lost on earth and she was bringing him home to avoid unwanted questions.
Once they were out of sight of the guards, Fauna sighed and knelt down. Renegade gave her a funny expression, “What are you doing?”
“Something I only do when I have to. Climb on,” Fauna motioned for Renegade with her nose.
“What?” Renegade took a step back.
“I never do this so consider yourself lucky, Renegade. Just get on your big sister’s back. Unless you want to spend half a day walking.” The mere mention of so much walking had Renegade scramble to climb onto her back. Fauna summoned some magic rope to bind him to her then took off. Renegade cried out, trying to grip onto Fauna’s back, though he didn’t need to. He shut his eyes, not wanting to see the world from so high up.
“Take a look, Renegade, you’ll be flying soon too if we’re lucky!” Fauna shouted as she flew north towards the arctic region.
Outside of a large igloo, a silver foal was running around in the snow. She didn’t look quite like a horse, or even a pegasus. She had a longer neck, soft flowing hair, thin legs ending in cloven hooves, and a thin tail with a tuft like a lion’s on the end. She dove into a snow bank and pulled out, shaking off the snow before she got too cold.
The filly stopped in her activity and looked up to see Fauna approaching with Renegade on her back. “Aurora! White Fang! We have a visitor!”
Muffled complaints both male and female came from inside the igloo and a moment later two equines emerged: One a fully unicorn mare, pure white with a spiraled horn on her brow and blue eyes, looking like an older version of the filly otherwise, and the other a purple pegasus stallion with white speckles all over his coat, a lavender mane, white wings, a white tail and ice-blue eyes.
The stallion shook his head, “The kinderlach has some real lungs on her.”
“She does, White Fang,” the unicorn looked down at the filly, “Who is coming to visit, Nova?”
Nova was about to answer when Fauna landed in front of them.
“Oh, Queendame Fauna,” the unicorn bowed in front of Fauna.
Fauna rolled her eyes, “Really, Aurora, do you have to bow every time we meet?”
“Oi let her be, I think it’s sweet,” White Fang chuckled. “What’s that tied to your back?” White Fang looked around at the magical ties holding Renegade to Fauna’s back.
“He’s the reason I’m here.” Fauna knelt and released the magic, then bucked slightly to force Renegade off her back. The black and yellow colt started shivering in the arctic air surrounding him.
Nova perked up when she saw the colt and bounded over to him. “Hi! I’m Nova, who are you?”
Renegade blinked as he stared as the silver filly in front of him. “I’m Renegade. What are you?”
Nova scoffed, “Don’t you know a unicorn when you see one?”
Renegade tried to point at her with a hoof, but lost his balance and fell into the snow, eliciting giggles from Nova. Renegade stood up and shook the snow from his face, “Where’s your horn? Did you lose it?”
Nova blew out her cheeks, “No! I just haven’t grown one yet!”
“She’ll grow it in a year or so. Now then Fauna,” Aurora turned to face the Queendame, “Why did you bring him here?”
Fauna watched as Nova and Renegade were talking, then Nova suggested they race and took off. Despite being clumsy on his new hooves, Renegade took off after her.
“Don’t go out of sight of the igloo!” White Fang called after them, “Now, Fauna, why did you bring the little one here. Who is he?”
“That’s a long story,” Fauna turned to face the pair again. “Want to hear the whole thing or just the important stuff.”
“I have to hear the whole story,” White Fang said. “Do you want to sit out here and freeze or come inside?”
“Inside,” Fauna looked over at the foals as they were playing relatively close by, close enough to overhear them if they wanted too, “Will they be OK?”
“They will. Nova’s energetic but she won’t go too far from the igloo.” Aurora turned and ducked into the igloo, followed by White Fang and Fauna.
The main room of the igloo had its walls lined with shelves full of boxes and jars, each containing herbs, dried plants and other ingredients needed for complex spellcasting. There were three doors leading to other domed rooms where the inhabitants slept and where the kitchen was. Fauna took a seat across from the two older equines then took a deep breath.
“OK. This morning Daybreak and Nightshade told me I had one free pass to kill the hunters that killed my mom, they even said they’d alert me when and where I had to go to get all of them, so I took my chance. I found them and killed them but I didn’t notice until after that they killed a woman and were going to kill a kid. When I went to see him he changed into that pegasus colt I brought with me.”
“And then you brought him here?” White Fang asked.
Fauna shook her head, “No, I took him to Take Care first because he banged his head after he transformed. Then she found out that he’s my half-brother…”
White Fang groaned, “That some Fakakta news.”
Fauna nodded, “I went to get answers and Vader told me that after mom died Blizzard had a drunken affair with the woman those hunters killed.”
“It’s not really an affair,” Aurora began but White Fang put a wing around her and shook his head.
“So why did you bring the colt here?” White Fang asked. “You know how the others will treat him if they find out.”
Fauna was grateful that White Fang had changed the subject, “Because he had a magic surge when he was at Take Care’s; he knocked me back into a wall and it still hurts.”
“Oy vey, that’s a lot of power for a foal,” White Fang said.
Aurora tilted her head to one side, “I don’t understand. If he’s half human his magic should be weaker.” Aurora shuffled White Fang’s wing off her back and stood up, “I’d like to check Renegade, Fauna, if I may.”
Fauna looked over her shoulder at the entrance flap, “As long as you promise not to hurt him.”
“I promise. Excuse me,” Aurora trotted past Fauna and out of the igloo.
Fauna watched her go then turned back to White Fang with a grin. “So when are you two going to become mates?”
White Fang glowered at her. “Last season.”
“Oh… Well congratulations!” Fauna smiled.
“Thank you. Now what is it you wanted us to help Renegade with?” White Fang knew what she was going to ask but he needed to hear it.
“I want you to help Renegade get a handle on his magic, train him enough so he can live here without being seen as a freak or an outcast,” Fauna said. She saw the look on White Fang’s face, “What?”
“Oy vey,” White Fang muttered. “Me training him might not help that. I know you don’t want to hear this but word will get out about who his parents are. Aurora and I won’t tell anyone but Nova and Renegade are too young to know what it means and sooner or later one of them will tell and then the words will spread and the poor kinderlach will find himself looked down on by every pegasus in the falls.”
Fauna bristled, “Not if I have anything to say about it! I don’t care what Blizzard did, it’s not Renegade’s fault and I won’t let anyone hurt him! He’s my brother and I’ll always be there for him.”
“Mazel tov,” White Fang stood up and trotted over to Fauna, “Queendame, if you have that kind of commitment to help your brother then I will train him, if you promise to come and visit him regularly. Don’t make him feel abandoned by his family.”
“I promise, I’ll come to visit Renegade every week,” Fauna drew a fore hoof over his chest in the ‘cross my heart’ motion.
Renegade and Nova were both panting, covered in snow and sweat as they lay in a snow bank to cool off. Renegade heard someone shuffling through the snow and looked up to see a white wolf with red eyes approaching them. He froze as the predator got close.
“Nova!” he let out a harsh whisper. “There’s a wolf coming!”
“Huh?” Nova sat up and looked around, then grinned as the wolf approached.
Renegade let out a cry of dismay as the wolf pounced on Nova and was going to run for help, until he saw the wolf licking Nova’s face and heard her laughing.
“Stop it, Frosty! I yield I yield!” Nova said in between laughs.
“Say the magic words,” the wolf, Frosty, retorted.
“OK, uncle!” Nova sputtered out. Frost stepped off her and Nova stood up, shaking the snow from her coat, “One day you won’t be able to knock me down.”
Frosty gave a wolfish grin, “Not for a long time, Supernova.” Only then did he notice the black and yellow pegasus colt standing nearby. “Hello. Who are you?”
“I-I’m Renegade.” While he knew there was nothing to fear, Renegade was still nervous around the wolf. Seeing this, Frosty shook himself then changed back to his pegasus form, a white pegasus with red eyes. Renegade gaped, “How did you do that?”
“That’s my guardian form. Don’t you know about that?” Frosty asked, cocking his head to one side.
Renegade shook his head, “I’m from earth, I don’t know anything about Pegasus.”
“Ah, a lost one,” Frosty nodded, “Well let me give you a little primer on Pegasus then. You’re probably too young but when you get old enough you’ll have a dream about an animal that protects you and then you can change into it, it’s called your guardian form and that’s where you get your last name from. My full name is Frosty Whitewolf.”
“OK,” Renegade didn’t quite understand but he nodded all the same.
“Nova! Renegade! There you are,” Aurora trotted up to them. “And Frosty, good to see you as well.”
“Hi Aurora,” Frosty waved a wing at her.
Renegade looked up at Aurora as she walked over to him and lowered her face to his eye level. “Renegade, please hold still. This may tickle or sting a bit but I promise I’m not going to hurt you.”
“O-OK,” Renegade stood stock still as Aurora’s horn lit up and she swept her magic over him. She was right, it did sting, like he was walking across the street barefoot but all over his body.
Aurora’s magic scan didn’t last long and she pulled back, her eyes wide, “Oh my. Excuse me I need to talk to White Fang. Can you keep and eye on them, Frosty?”
“No problem.” Frosty gave a salute with his wing and a gave a goofy grin as Aurora trotted back to the igloo. He turned back to the two foal and looked at the still stunned Renegade. “What’s the matter, Ren?”
It took a moment for Renegade to realize that Frosty was talking to him. “That stung, what was she doing?” he looked up at Frosty.
Frosty shrugged, “I dunno.”
“Oh…” Renegade turned to look as Nova, who had stood watching the whole process withouy comment. “Do you know what your mom was doing?”
“No, and Aurora not my mom she’s my teacher and guardian… I lost my parents…” Nova’s eyes teared up but she shook it off.
“I’m sorry…” Renegade walked over to her and tried to give her a hug, only to fall flat on his face because he still wasn’t used to this new form yet. Nova giggled slightly as Renegade stood up, then stopped when she saw he was crying too. “I lost my mom today, I never knew my dad.”
“Awwww!” Frosty was tearing up, “What happened.”
“Scary men came to my house, they said mom did something bad and they had to take me. Then… they shot her!” Tears were flowing from his eyes as the memories came flooding back, “Then a scary thing dropped on them and… and…” Renegade dropped his face into the snow and covered his eyes with his forelegs.
Nova walked around to Renegade’s front and nudged him with her snout, “It’s alright, we’re here.”
“That’s right. I lost my dad too, to the same people who took your mom,” Frosty knelt down and lifted Renegade’s nose up with his own so they could see each other. “What happened next?”
Renegade sniffed, “I changed into a pegasus and then my big sister can to rescue me.”
“Your big sister?” Frosty was confused and shook his head to try and clear his thoughts, “Who’s your big sister.”
“Queendame Fauna,” Renegade managed a smile. “She said she could take me to a place where I would be safe then she brought me here.”
“Wait… how can she… unless? Wait you weren’t a pegasus at the time, how?” Frosty’s eyes spun in his head as he tried to sort out the conflicting information.
“Well, what’s with Renegade?” Fauna asked as Aurora re-entered the tent.
White Fang instantly saw the look on her face and walked over to his mate, “Aura, is everything alright?”
“He has… an enormous amount of magical energy, especially for his age.” Aurora shook her head, “I’m trying to figure out how that’s possible and how he didn’t know until now.”
White Fang touched a wing to her back, then leant forwards. Knowing what he meant, Aurora touched her horn to White Fang’s forehead and transferred the sensations she’d felt to White Fang, who shuddered and pulled away. “It’s Blizzard’s.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Fauna deadpanned.
“I recognise the magic from years ago. It’s partly Renegade’s own but the majority of the magic is Blizzard’s, for now at least.” White Fang sat down. “I only have a guess but the most likely thing that happened is that when Renegade was conceived Blizzard’s magic decided to depart his body and settle in the unborn foal since it was locked off inside his body.”
“Slow down! What?!” Fauna was staring at the Shaman. “I thought he was stripped of his power when he was exiled.
Aurora shook her head, “Stripping magic away is very difficult and for creatures like us possibly deadly. From what I’ve heard the council simply put a lock on your fathers without actually removing their magic, to keep them alive. But magic is alive, not like us but alive enough to not want to be trapped, so when it sensed an exit point it flowed into a vessel that was open to magic but not sealed like he was.”
“OK,” Fauna wasn’t quite sure she understood but she took a stab at it, “So he has one and half times as much magic as a normal pegasus then?”
White Fang shook his head, “Oy gevalt! The magic he absorbed was still the magic of an adult pegasus, added to a young body like his and he has about four or five times the magic his body should be able to handle.”
“And it’s becoming more active now that he’s in a magic rich environment.” Aurora gave Fauna a rare severe expression. “Other than shifting, did you use any magic near him on earth?”
“I used some to clean the blood off after my revenge, why?” Fauna asked.
“I was afraid of that. His magic would have been inert growing up on earth, but by being near him, especially since you have the same father, it made his magic start growing volatile,” Aurora’s face had become a mask of worry.
“Like throwing a match in a pool of gasoline,” Fauna surmised.
“Gasoline?” Aurora came down from her worry for a moment to puzzle over the word.
“Flammble liquid humans use for their vehicles, but not important,” Fauna shook her head, “Can you help him?” She looked between White Fang and Aurora.”
“I can, but it won’t be easy,” White Fang moved towards the tent flap, “I need to help him or that schlemiel might cause a disaster here!” He exited the tent and Aurora and Fauna followed shortly after.
Frosty was still trying figure out what Renegade had told him when White Fang, Aurora, and Fauna approached the three of them. Renegade turned to face them only to find White Fang’s face distressingly close to his own. He gulped.
“Don’t be nervous, kinderlach.” White Fang stood up to try and be less intimidating, “My name is White Fang Polar Bear, and you’re going to be living with me for a while.”
“I am? But why? Did I do something wrong?” Renegade started breathing heavily, “I thought was I going to live with Fauna.”
White Fang shook his head, “Nay, you didn’t do anything wrong. You have a gift and I want to help you learn to use it.”
“You have a lot of magical power inside of you, Renegade, that’s why you changed into a pegasus earlier. You can learn alongside Nova too, would you like that?” Aurora asked, leaning down close to Renegade’s face.
Renegade looked to Nova, then back to the two elder equines. “OK, I’d like that.” He looked up at Fauna, who had spoken to Frosty who was now walking away. “Will you still come to visit, big sister?”
“Huh?” Fauna shook her head and looked down into Renegade’s pleading eyes, “Of course. I’ll visit every week,” she bent down to nuzzle her brother, “Don’t worry. White Fang’s the best shaman in the falls. Before you know it you’ll be flying and using magic like every other pegasus.”
“OK.” Renegade turned to White Fang again. “Thank you, Mister White Fang.”
“Feh! No mister, just White Fang,” White Fang bristled slightly, but relaxed and reminded himself he was just a colt. “Now then come with me, I’ll show you where you’ll be sleeping.”
Nearby, Frosty had retreated to the shade of the winter forest nearby to get out of the sun. He rolled around for a while until he spotted an old friend nearby, a red roan pegasus. He grinned and called out, “Hey Red Snout! Did you know Fauna has a little brother?!”
Oblivious to all this drama, Alex had returned to the Kingdom of Caring in time to grab some cold soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, which he wolfed down as he sat with Germaine, who sat listening to him describe his time at the bank.
“So Bright Heart finally got them to accept that I wasn’t dead and I got control of my grandparents’ money back. At least I still can afford to do stuff on earth if they let me down there again.” He swallowed, “How was your day?”
“I met a pegasus called Fauna. She had to leave though, she had something important to do.” Germaine smiled a bit sheepishly.
“A Pegasus, like a care bear pegasus?” Alex asked before drinking the last of his soup.
“Nope, Fauna’s not a care bear like us, sort of… she has a symbol she can use to stare,” Bright Heart scratched his head, “It’s complicated.”
“Don’t think about it too much, now come on we’re on dish duty today,” Soulful Heart motioned for them to come to the kitchen, “You too,” he added to Alex and Germaine.
Alex groaned but didn’t say anything as he grabbed his place and bowl and headed towards the kitchen.
Neither of them were particularly happy to be on dish duty. Alex and Germaine were just short enough to need to stand on their toes to see into the sink as they washed while Bright Heart and Soulful dried the dishes. Alex kept muttering under his breath as they worked, Germaine nodded sadly as she picked up what he was saying.
Soulful Heart’s ear twitched as he heard Alex muttering. At first he ignored it until Bright Heart picked up on it too. “What was that, Alex?”
Alex bared his teeth for a moment, “Why are we even here?!”
“What?!” Bright Heart started.
“Why are we even here? We aren’t Care Bears!” Alex rounded on the two of them, staring daggers up into their own gaze.
Bright Heart was about to say something when Soulful Heart cut him off, “That’s enough, Alex! It doesn’t matter what you are. You’re part of this family now. I wasn’t even born like the rest of the Care Bears, and I’m terrible at most of the things people up here enjoy, but I stuck around.”
“At least you have a tummy symbol.” Germaine’s soft voice caught all three of them by surprise and they turned to face her. Germaine was trembling and holding a plate in both her hands, “All my life I’ve been different, a freak and I thought here I could at least be normal but… every day I look in the mirror and I see how I look, what I’m missing, and I feel empty!” the plate slipped from her hands and shattered on the floor and Germaine started crying and hugging herself.
“She’s right, you have one and we don’t. We’re not Care Bears, we’re some sort of animal freaks that look like the rest of you! We’re not good for anythi-Yow!” Alex had stepped on a shard of broken plate as he tried to approach Germaine.
An hour later Alex had his foot bandaged by Take Care and he and Germaine had retreated to their room in the Hall of Hearts. Soulful and Bright Heart had cleaned up the mess in the kitchen and were now walking towards Bright Heart’s home.
“What should we do?” Bright Heart asked.
“You’re asking me?” Soulful turned his head to look at Bright Heart. The raccoon nodded. “Well I’d say we focus on what Alex said: ‘we’re not good for anything’. The best thing for the two of them would be to find something not Care Bear related for them to do.”
Bright Heart brightened up, “That’s a great idea! But who should talk to them?”
“Talk to who?” the soft voice came from Gentle Heart Lamb, who had spotted the pair walking along the path.
“Alex and Germaine. They’re depressed because they think they’re useless and that they aren’t real Care Bears,” Soulful Heart stopped alongside Bright Heart as Gentle approached.
“Oh,” Gentle Heart’s ears drooped, “But why would they think that?”
“They said it’s because they don’t have tummy symbols and can’t go on caring missions,” Bright Heart said.
“They don’t need to go on caring missions to be real Care Bears. They must have other things they’re good at,” Gentle Heart said.
Soulful Heart gave a wry smile, “Why don’t you talk to them, Gentle Heart? They might listen to you.”
“They kind of had a break down when we spoke to them earlier,” Bright Heart added.
Gentle Heart’s eyes widened in astonishment, “Oh my! Where are they?”
Soulful Heart pointed back to the Hall of Hearts, “Back there, in their bedrooms. Want us to come with you?”
Gentle Heart nodded, “Please. Just having you two nearby will help.”
Bright Heart smiled and gave Gentle Heart a soft kiss, “We’ll be there for you.” Gentle Heart blushed and nodded.
Germaine had spent most the hour sobbing into her pillow while Alex went to get his foot bandaged, now she just lay on her bed and stared at the ceiling. She turned her head when she heard her door opening to see Alex enter. He wasn’t wearing any clothes but by now the two of them were at least comfortable around each other like that. Germaine’s eyes were puffy and red rimmed as she dried them with the back of her hands. “Are you OK?”
“Take Care said I’ll be fine. Just gotta keep it wrapped up.” Alex winced slightly as he walked on his bandaged foot but managed to maintain a steady walk over to the bed. He put a hand on Germaine’s shoulder, “Are you alright?”
Germaine shook her head, “No. I feel empty and pointless.” Her eyes started tearing up again as she looked Alex in the eyes. “What are we doing here? Why do they let us stay and sponge off their kindness?”
“I guess because they’re just that nice,” Alex sighed and sat down next to her, “Or maybe they pity us and think we can’t survive out here. Daniel probably could, I bet he’d reject them just to be different.”
A soft bleat at the door drew their attention to a green lab with a heart shaped pillow for a tummy symbol standing at the door. If they remembered correctly she was called Gentle Heart Lamb. “S-sorry, I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but I came to talk to you.”
Germaine looked up, “OK. Come in.”
Gentle Heart stepped in and shut the door behind her. “Bright Heart and Soulful Heart told me what happened. Do you really think you’re useless?”
“Aren’t we?” Alex gave Gentle Heart a fierce look that made the lamb take a step back. “We don’t have tummy symbols so we’re not Care Bears. We can’t do anything you can do so how do we even belong here?”
“You don’t need a tummy symbol to be a Care Bear.” Gentle Heart approached the two but gave them a soft smile. “You don’t have to go on caring missions either. Take Care rarely does, she’s our doctor and a mother and she’s happy doing that. We all have things we love doing on our own time: Bright Heart’s an inventor, Soulful Heart likes to read, Grumpy Bear can fix almost anything, Champ and Cheer love sports and I have my vegetable garden. You two must have something you enjoy doing.”
“Maybe…” Alex averted his gaze, thankful that his red fur hid when he was blushing.
“I do like to read,” Germaine said, looking up at the lamb.
“There you go. I’m not asking the two of you to think of something right away but think about it for a while and I’m sure you’ll come up with something.” Gentle Heart stepped away, “Would you like me to go now?”
“Yes, please,” Alex gave her another look, this one much less severe. Gentle Heart nodded and carefully exited the room.
“How did it go?” Bright Heart asked as Gentle Heart came down the stairs.
Gentle Heart was smiling, “I think I got through to them. Let’s give them some time.”
“Fine by me.” Soulful Heart nodded then turned and headed out the front door, followed by Bright Heart and Gentle Heart.
Treat Heart Pig (a yellow pig whose tummy symbol was an ice cream cone with a red heart shaped scoop on the top) had volunteered for breakfast duty along with Birthday Bear (A yellow bear who had a birthday cupcake with candles on it for a tummy symbol) so she met up with him at his house before they headed for the Hall of Hearts. As they approached they both caught a whiff of delicious breakfast food on the air: eggs, turkey bacon, roasted potatoes and waffles. Despite being uncomfortable for the two of them, who were both a little overweight even by Care Bear standards, they jogged the rest of the way into the kitchen to find Alex and Germaine hard at work.
Germaine opened the waffle iron and pulled four square waffles out to add to a stack she had set in a large bin, then poured more batter into the iron and closed the lid before going to the stove where she was looking after a large pan of hashbrowns. Alex was a short distance away at another stove (there were three stove/ovens to handle large feast-sized meals on special occasions) frying the bacon and scrambled eggs. As he turned to add them to a heating pan he spotted the two newcomers at the door.
“Great, can you take this stuff out to the buffet please?” He pointed to the four trays full of food.
Treat Heart nodded “OK.” Both she and Birthday Bear were too stunned to object and they each took one of the full trays out to the breakfast buffet trays then went back for the others, leaving an empty space between each full tray for the four empty ones they had spotted on the counter.
“Why are you doing this?” Treat Heart asked as she approached Alex as he added more mixed eggs to the pan.
“Grandma taught me how to cook and since you let us live here I figured I should do something to thank you.” Alex was smiling, something neither Treat Heart nor Birthday Bear had seen him do before.
“Can we help?” Birthday Bear asked.
“You can mix more batter, I’m almost out,” Germaine motioned for Birthday Bear to come closer. The bear nodded, rinsed out the mixing bowl, then started measuring ingredients into it again.
The buffet trays were filled to overflowing by the time anyone else arrived for breakfast, so Alex and Germaine sat down with Birthday Bear and Treat Heart Pig to eat.
“So, what are you going to do now?” Treat Heart asked between mouthfuls of syrup covered waffles, “Heehee this is really good!”
Germaine wiped her mouth then smiled, “Thank you. I think we’re going to try to find a place to live up here.”
“That’s… no…problem.” Birthday Bear swallowed his mouthful of eggs, “We’ve got a bunch of vacant houses, but I think you’ll have trouble finding a place in the Forest of Feelings, everyone there kinda has their own space over there.”
“So I’ll help build one then,” Alex took a bite of eggs but kept talking, “My grandpa taught me how to build so I can help build a house for the two of us.” He swallowed, “Might be nice to live in the rainbow puke wilderness instead of a city.” All three of his tablemates winced at his description but let it slide for now.
“I can help too with design at least.” Germaine’s eyes lit up as she began talking, “I’ve always wanted to do the layouts for my dream house, as long as I have a drafting table and paper, I could make a media room and…” Treat Heart and Birthday Bear got lost in her words as Germaine continued rattle off her designs. When she saw their bewildered faces she stopped and chuckled, “heheh, sorry I was rambling again.”
“She as a real passion for architecture. Used to draw out how all her favorite anime characters’ homes looked.” Alex said.
“That’s great, good for both of you!” Treat Heart said.
A week later, Alex and Germaine were at the foundation of what would become their new house along with Grumpy Bear. Germaine was standing at a drafting table, adding some details to the layout now that the base has been set while Grumpy Bear held up a wall frame as Alex took a power hammer to anchor it to the foundation.
“Alright that’s one secure, let’s start on the next one.” Alex stood up and tested the frame to make sure it was secure.
“That’s sturdy alright.” Grumpy tapped the wall and flinched, expecting it to fall.
Alex glared at Grumpy, “What? You don’t trust my carpentry.”
“I’m just used to other people’s work collapsing on me.” Grumpy sighed in relief, “It’ll be nice to have someone around here who’s good with their hands.”
Alex rolled his eyes then both he and Grumpy went over to look at Germaine’s layout.
Grumpy gave it a once over, “That’s pretty elaborate.”
“Thank you,” Germaine looked up. “When is more wood getting here?”
A sudden whoosh of wind blew past them, forcing Germaine to hold her paper down as it calmed down as Swift Heart Rabbit skipped to a stop in a cloud vehicle shaped like a pick up truck loaded with lumber. “Right now. Looking good so far Grumpy.”
“Don’t just thank me, this is their project,” Grumpy nodded to Alex and Germaine.
“Yeah. I wonder if Daniel would have liked this,” Germaine got a far-away look in her eyes.
“Who?” Swift Heart dropped out of the truck’s cab and moved to start unloading the lumber.
Germaine looked up, taking a moment to realize that she had said that out loud. “He was someone we knew back on earth. He was a badger, like us, black and white striped.”
“He was a jerk,” Alex grumbled, arms folded, “treated me like crap for no reason.” he sighed, “But other than Germaine he was the closest thing to a friend I had.”
“He was, he just liked to break from the norm,” Germaine said.
“Well why don’t we go down and get him? I mean I’m sure he’d love it up here.” Swift Heart was about to take off when Alex spoke up.
“He disappeared last year, just stopped showing up to school. His parents didn’t know what happened to him.”
“Wait, what?” Grumpy stared at Alex, “Why wouldn’t his parents know.”
“Well… his parents were well off…” Germaine stumbled over her words.
“They were loaded,” Alex rolled his eyes, “they adopted the ‘poor freak orphan child’ for media attention then just let him run around free.”
“Hmph, sounds like he was just looking for any kind of attention,” Grumpy said. “Some parents just don’t know how to raise kids.”
“I’m sure we’ll find him some day. Maybe he just ran away,” Swift Heart said as she went back to unloading the lumber.
Alex joined her, “Maybe…” He looked up, “When we have some spare time, I’d like to take up music again.”
Germaine brightened up, “Me too!”
“I’ll take you to Harmony’s when we’re done for the day,” Swift Heart offered.
It was under the light of a full moon that Daniel the badger ran through the woods. He gasped desperately for air and stumbled over his own feet. He could hear the hollow wispy air behind him that drove him ever onwards, trying to escape the darkness. He chanced a look back over his shoulder, then stepped on some mud, slip, stumbled and felt sideways to the ground. He shot out his hand to stop his fall only to receive a sharp painful thud as his arm hit the ground, utterly failing to break his fall.
Daniel struggled to his feet as the darkness closed in around him. He turned and stared at the nightmarish visage of his pursuer. It was human, or at least it was once, its eyes blood red and its body wreathed in pitch black smoke that moved more like sludge as tendrils reached out for the badger. Then they stopped.
It spoke in a raspy saddened voice. “You’re not the one I’m hunting.”
Daniel didn’t even have time to breathe a sigh of relief as the man smiled, giving a Cheshire cat grin, “But you are like them. DIE!”
Daniel let out a scream for a moment as he was pierced by innumerable black spears. The man left Daniel’s body to rot out as he turned and left to continue his hunt.