Chapter 13: Fall and Rise
“Now focus and let it out.” Aurora watched at the star on Love Heart’s forehead glowed more intensely then four motes of glowing green light emerged and floated up and around them. Love Heart looked up at the four floating lights.
Aurora nodded, “Very good. I believe that will do for today. Do you have any questions before you leave?”
Love Heart stood up from where he had been kneeling, “Does it matter if I practise on my own?”
Aurora smiled, “Not at all, practise as you see fit as long as you don’t harm anyone.”
Love Heart nodded, “Thank you, Aurora.” He turned and walked away from the igloo. Aurora watched him walk away then sighed and re-entered her home.
Love Heart trudged through the snow in the vague direction of the royal caves. Few pegasus stopped to give him a glance let alone talk to him. He waved to a couple that were grazing as he passed then stopped to pick some berries off a bush and much on them. They tasted sweet. Grazing like this was going to be how he ate for the foreseeable future.
After a couple hours of walking Love Heart finally reached the base of the mountain where they royal caves were and looked up at the imposing ascent. There was no easy way to walk up to the royal caves, why would there be? Every inhabitant and visitor could fly by some means or other so it just made sense to protect the home of the royal family with this kind of terrain. Love Heart took a deep breath then tried to conjure a cloud car with his tummy symbol, which glowed briefly then faded.
Love Heart sighed and slumped against the side of the mountain. He barely noticed a red roan pegasus that snorted and gave him a death glare before he flew up to the royal caves himself.
Red Snout landed at the entrance to the royal caves and nodded to the two guards on duty; they knew he was friends with the Kingsire and Queendame so they let him pass without incident. He found Fauna and Blue in their human forms sitting on the couch in their living room. Despite himself Red couldn’t help but enjoy the human amenities that Fauna had brought with her that were powered by a magic generator that Bright Heart and Grumpy had built for her, though he still found the television to be an awkward addition at best.
Fauna heard the trotting and looked over her shoulder from the couch. “Hey Red Snout. Come to join us?”
Red Snout trotted over to the side of the couch, “Watch what?” He peered at the Television and scrunched up his face, “Are those fish talking?”
“Finding Nemo,” Blue took a piece of popcorn from the bowl between him and Fauna and popped it into his mouth.
Red Snout just rolled his eyes, “I’ll try but it makes my eyes hurt to try and watch that box.” Red Snout shifted into his Red Wolf form and lay down on the floor, “By the way, that green Care Bear is sitting at the base of the mountain.”
“Hmm?” Fauna swallowed her mouthful of popcorn, “Why doesn’t he just fly up.”
“He can fly?” Red Snout’s gaze snapped to Fauna.
Fauna stood up, “Sort of, they can create cars made of clouds that they can drive up here. I’m gonna go see what’s wrong.” She shifted into her true form then trotted out of the caves.
Red Snout watched her go for a moment then turned back to the TV, only to find the movie paused. “Why is he still here?”
“Love Heart? He’s here to learn magic from Aurora,” Blue got up to wash his hands.
“And how long is he going to be here?” Red Snout’s voice was becoming more agitated.
“No idea.” Blue returned from the kitchen (another renovation Fauna had brought from the human world) with a drink can in his hand and gave Red Snout a severe look, “What’s wrong?”
“This isn’t his world, it’s ours. We were given this place to keep us safe and now we’re just letting him live here!” Red Snout growled as he spoke.
“He asked to live here and we don’t see any problem with it,” Blue took a long drink.
Red Snout glared at the can in Blue’s hand then stood up and shifted back to his pegasus form snorted and trotted out of the cave.
“Hey Love Heart, why are you just standing there?” Fauna dropped out of the sky and landed next to Love Heart who was still slumped against the side of the mountain.
Love Heart looked up at her and gave a weak smile that faded in an instant, “I wanted to come visit, but I can’t.”
Fauna snorted and rolled her eyes, “Why, afraid it’ll remind you of home?”
Love Heart looked down at and touched his tummy symbol, “No, I mean I can’t. My tummy symbol isn’t working.”
Fauna blinked then stared, “Wait, that can happen?” She crossed her eyes trying to look at the symbol on her forehead.
Love Heart nodded, “When I was a kid my dad couldn’t use his symbol either, he never said why but… I think it was because he couldn’t save my mom.” Love Heart slid down rather painfully against the cliff face, “I can still see it…the cut that killed Flash Heart,” Love Heart grabbed the sides of his head, “It’s all my fault.”
Fauna was about to speak up, then stopped. She just stared at him then leaned down and nuzzled him, “Want to talk about it?”
“No… but thank you, Fauna.”
Red Snout jumped off the cliff then glided down to a lower ledge. He spotted Fauna as she spoke with Love Heart and he snorted again.
“I see you disapprove of his presence as well.”
Red Snout whirled around to see Tonar standing behind him. The elder Pegasus was not smiling, “What do you want?”
“Just to talk.” Tonar trotted over to look down at the conversation below, “Does that presence of that bear disgust you as it does myself? He sits there as if our right to seclusion does not matter.”
Red Snout tensed, “Why does she let him walk all over her? He didn’t help raise him, she barely knows him!”
Tonar smiled, “Precisely, I see the influence those animals are having on her, the ostentatious amenities she has brought into the once regal royal caves, her frequent and dangerous trips to the human world, polluting our paradise with human garbage. But by her decree he is a guest in these falls so we can’t force him to leave. However, he could fall victim to something…”
Red Snout turned to Tonar, his eyes hooded, “You want to kill him? Why don’t you try?”
Tonar looked from Red Snout down to the conversation below, “Because she watches me like a hawk, sometimes literally, and would know if I were to make an attempt on his life. But she trusts you and you have the motivation to do this. Remove this toxic influence from the falls so we may remain the race we are supposed to be.” He stepped back before anyone could see his conversation and left Red Snout to stand on the cliff alone.
Fauna wasn’t sure what else to tell Love Heart so she just stayed with him until he stood up and left, back in the direction of the arctic region, then she flew back up to the royal caves. Fauna didn’t even notice Red Snout as he glided down from the ledge and shifted into his wolf form, after which he began to stalk Love Heart.
Love Heart was too distracted to notice that he was being followed. He kept his gaze towards the ground as he trudged forwards. It wasn’t until he reached a clearing that he heard a growl. Love Hear turned just in time to see Red Snout pounce on him. Love Heart was knocked to the ground and pinned under the wolf as he snarled and opened his jaws, going straight for Love Heart’s neck.
On reflex, Love Heart managed to free his right arm and caught Red Snout’s muzzle in his right hand which slowed his attempt to snap at his neck. Red Snout grunted and tried to force Love Heart’s hand aside while inching closer to the death snap.
‘Do I want to die?’ Love Heart’s arm was going limp and letting the jaws get closer to his neck. Something in Love Heart snapped, and he bared his teeth and wrenched his left arm from under Red’s paw, “NO!” He grabbed Red Snout’s lower jaw and used all his strength to force his teeth away from him and then kicked out at him which knocked him to his side.
Love Heart rolled away and stood up. His left forearm was bleeding but he ignored the pain as his tummy symbol flashed. Love Heart concentrated and a single sword formed in his right hand. He gripped the hilt in both hands as Red Snout rounded on him and charged again. Love Heart stood his ground and managed to catch Red’s teeth on his sword but was forced back several steps before he kicked at Red Snout’s paw and knocked him off balance. Love Heart tried to swing down at Red but hesitated for a moment which let Red Snout bite into his left leg.
Love Heart roared in pain and stabbed into Red Snout’s right foreleg. The pain caused Red Snout to let go and check to see if his limb was still attached, and it was though it was completely numb. Love Heart winced from the pain in his leg but he didn’t chance a look. He put his all weight on his good right leg and watched as Red Snout readied for one last attack. Red Snout put all his effort into a jump and pounced with his jaws heading right for Love Heart’s throat. Love Heart let himself collapse sideways and swung at Red Snout’s side, the blade slicing into his side but leaving no mark, only pain.
Red Snout hit the ground hard with pain searing through his right side. Once again he checked but didn’t see any blood, nor any indication that he’d been injured save for the intense pain. He saw that Love Heart was supporting himself on his left arm, with the sword hilt still under his hand, with his right hand pointed at him. A crackle of blue lightning danced in Love Heart’s palm and Red’s eyes widened. Afraid he might be caught in a forest fire, Red Snout limped away as best he could, leaving Love Heart to hopefully bleed out in the clearing.
Love Heart didn’t lower his arm until the sounds of Red Snout retreating stopped then he finally collapsed back to the ground, his sword dissipating as he landed. He hurt, his left arm and leg were bleeding, his heart was pounding, he was panting, and he felt alive! Despite the danger he had been in, Love Heart managed to smile to himself, for the first time since Flash Heart’s death he could feel some of his spark come back, enough that he was able to muster of the energy to keep going but he still needed medical treatment.
The royal caves were the closest place he knew he could get some help so he focused on his tummy symbol and conjured up a cloud car. He forced himself to get up and into the car before he drove off up to the royal caves.
At least it wasn’t stick shift.
Pegasus Falls was a land filled with as any biomes as could be imagined on earth, each suited to wherever anyone wished to live; the pegasus were divided up into herds based on the species of their guardian forms but these were just nesting grounds based on where each guardian form felt the most comfortable, though some were more territorial than others. Red Snout shifted back into his true pegasus form and took to the sky to give his limb leg a rest as he approached the valley the Red Wolves nested in. He was just grateful that no one had seen the fight or there would be hell to pay.
Red Snout landed in his nest and lay down, waiting for the pain to cease. It hurt like hell and yet there was no wound and by all rights his leg should have been severed but it was still there, limp but there. With no wounds to lick all he could do was wait.
Eventually feeling returned to his leg and the pain subsided. He rolled over to sit properly and glared forwards. “Next time!”
Love Heart crash landed at the entrance to the royal caves and fell in a heap as his cloud car disintegrated around him. He barely registered as one of the guards came to investigate while the other ran to get Fauna and Blue but he still caught sight of them before he passed out.
Love Heart woke up some time later by a sting in his left arm. He lifted his head from the pillow and looked up to see a golden eagle spreading some sort of green gel on his arm with a wing before she bandaged it and moved on to his leg.
“Who are you?”
The golden eagle didn’t look up from her work, “Kyrios, I’m one of the best healers in the falls, though I don’t know why Queendame Fauna summoned me for this, she should be able to take care of it herself.” She finished up and bandaged Love Heart’s leg. She shifted into her pegasus form and retrieved some saddlebags full of her medicines then bowed to Fauna and Blue, who were sanding nearby in their pegasus forms, “He should be fine in a few hours, if you would excuse me.”
Blue nodded, “You may go, Kyrios.”
Fauna waited until the healer had left before she trotted over to Love Heart’s side. “Alright, what happened out there?”
Love Heart sat up, surprised at how little it hurt, “I was attacked by a wolf.”
Fauna narrowed her eyes, “What kind of wolf, never mind I think I know who would try this.” Fauna growled, sounding very much like a wolf despite still being in her pegasus form, “I’ll be back after I pay Red Snout a visit.”
“Wait!” Love Heart held up a hand as Fauna turned away, “Don’t, it’s fine.”
“Fine!?” Confidence rounded on Love Heart, “How is this ‘fine’ in any way?”
Blue nodded, “She’s right, if we don’t talk to him then he might try this again.”
Love Heart’s face hardened, “Good.”
“Good?” Fauna stared aghast at Love Heart, “Last I checked your head wasn’t one of the places he hurt you. I’m not going to let him, or anyone, attack my friend and guest.”
“No, I need this, Fauna.” Love Heart stood up, wincing slightly at his injured leg but still managing to stay upright. “Until he attacked me I felt…” Love Heart placed a hand on his chest, “I didn’t know how I felt, despondent I guess. Could barely convince myself to go on even with the thought of how I’d be letting everyone down I couldn’t muster the desire to keep going,” Love Heart’s hand moved down to his tummy symbol, “I guess that’s why I couldn’t use my tummy symbol. When he attacked me I honestly felt like I should just give up and let him kill me, but then I realized that I didn’t want to die, or to let anyone else down and I felt that spark of life return to me.” Love Heart raised both his hands and balled them into fists, “I need this! I need a reason to keep trying, to fight, to get stronger and keep living! Fauna, please let him be and if he attacks me again then I’ll handle it, I know I will!”
Fauna was still staring at Love Heart and seemed at a loss for words, so Blue stepped in. “If that’s what you want, Love Heart, then we’ll leave him be for now. But what happens if you hurt him?”
Love Heart smiled and conjured one of his swords. He gave it a couple of experiment swings, “My swords can’t injure anyone unless I want them too, if I really want to kill them, otherwise they just hurt like you were actually cut by them, leave limbs limp or knock you unconscious if I inflict what would be a fatal blow,” he dissipated his sword, “Besides, I thought only gold could kill you.”
“Not entirely, simply our most potent weakness. Just being near it can paralyse us and shut off our magic, even more so if it comes in direct contact with us and then it can burn us and leave scars, we can still succumb to disease or injury from other sources but we heal fast and it takes a lot to injure us without that weakness.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Love Heart looked confused.
Blue smiled then pointed to the eight-pointed star on Love Heart’s forehead, “Because I trust you, and despite what others might think I recognise your right to be here not just as a guest but as an equine.”
Fauna finally shook her head to dispel the confusion from her head. “If you really want to let Red Snout keep this up then that’s your call. Just stay safe, OK?”
Love Heart nodded, “I will, but there’s more. Blue can you help me be a better leader.”
“What?” Blue asked.
Love Heart clenched his fists at his sides, “Learning unicorn magic isn’t going to magically solve everything, nether is getting stronger. I need to learn how to be a better leader, a better person, so that when I go back I don’t make the same mistakes I did before.”
“Hey, I’m right here too. There’s two leaders in the room.” Fauna stamped her hoof indignantly.
“We can both help you to the best of our ability, but we’re both still learning how to be good leaders. I had to take over the position of Kingsire at a relatively young age,” Blue smiled, “But we will do our best to help you.”
“Thanks, now I need to give my tummy symbol a workout, it’s been too long.”
Once Love Heart had left the guest room, Blue turned to Fauna, “Are you sure it’s Red Snout?”
Fauna snorted, “Who else? No one else would risk pissing me off by attacking him, Red Snout probably thinks we’ll go easy on him if we catch him.”
Blue sighed, “He’s probably right, that or he’s letting his temper get to him, probably both. Do you think someone put him up to this?”
Fauna narrowed her eyes, “Only one person would try to get under my skin like this.”
“It could be any member of the council, they all had a problem…” Blue caught Fauna’s glare then relented, “But yes, it’s probably Tonar.”
Fauna spread her wings and started flapping angrily, “Oohh, that does it I’m-”
Blue put a wing on one of hers to catch her attention, “Don’t just go storming off to the council’s chambers in a huff. None of them will admit to anything and they would love to see you going off on a tirade with no proof.”
Fauna groaned and sat down, “Just great, so now what?”
Blue leaned down and lifted Fauna’s nose up with his own, “If it’ll make you feel any better I’ll get two of the golden eagles to keep an eye on Love Heart and Red Snout to make sure they don’t kill each other, OK?”
Fauna sighed somewhat dejectedly, “OK.” She stood up and stretched slightly, “I’m heading to Care-a-Lot. I promised Swift Heart and Grumpy that I’d be in their wedding party.”
“Oh, are you going to be their flower girl?” Blue teased.
Fauna smacked him lightly with her wing, “No!...yes… well flower wolf at least since Cozy’s the maid of honor.”
Blue chuckled, “Sounds like fun. Save me some wedding cake.”
“You’re not coming?” Fauna’s ears drooped.
Blue sighed, “I’d like to, but I need to keep an eye on the council, and make some other arrangements.”
Fauna nuzzled Blue, “OK. Good luck.”
“Have fun,” Blue nuzzled back.
“…And then we all heard this scream from outside and Indy ran off to see what it was. Sounds like No-Heart has an annoying loudmouth niece now.” Fauna lay on the couch in the royal caves with her head in Blue’s lap, both in human form.
Blue paused the movie they were watching, “Are you worried?”
“Sort of, I mean she’s a grade-A lunatic but she’s only just above Beastly on the threat scale, Babe.” She paused for a moment before she spoke again, “I don’t think we should tell Love Heart about this.”
“Because it’ll just make him worry about things back home and they’re doing fine, they just have one more thorn in their side to worry about.” Fauna folded her arms, “So who do you have watching Red Snout and Love Heart?”
“Pallas and Widgeon, they mostly keep an eye on Love Heart and promised they’d jump in if either of their lives were in danger.” Blue smiled, “Don’t worry, they’re reliable, though Pallas is a bit dense at times they keep each other in check.”
Fauna chuckled, “I remember, that’s good at least”
“Don’t worry, Love Heart and Red Snout are in good hands.” Blue finally turned the movie back on, “Now are we going to spend all our time worrying?”
Fauna grinned and reached up around Blue’s neck, “Nope!”
Two golden eagles sat in the high boughs of a tree and watched the fight below. One of the briefly covered his eyes, “How many times is it now, Pallas?”
“217 times since Love Heart came here last year, Widgeon,” Pallas’ eyes darted back and forth as Red Snout pounced on Love Heart only for the bear to dodge aside and swing at him, just nicking his side. Love Heart was bleeding from several small cuts but he was grinning as he charged at Red Snout and aimed a pair of slashes at his neck, only for Red to roll aside and bite at his leg, just missing.
Widgeon lowered his wing, “How much longer do you think they’ll be at this?”
“A little while longer…how long have they been at it?” Pallas turned his head to face Widgeon.
“About half-an-hour, longest so far. Wait…” Widgeon narrowed his eyes to focus on the scene below. Curious, Pallas turned to watch as well.
Red Snout was panting, his tongue hanging out and feeling the pain of several invisible cuts across his body. Love Heart was breathing hard but he kept his swords up and ready to defend himself. His heart was hammering in his chest as he waited for the wolf’s next move.
Red Snout watched Love Heart for a minute then relaxed, “I’m done.” It was the first time he had spoken during one of their fights.
Love Heart blinked, “What?”
“I said I’m done.” Red Snout turned away, “Now if you don’t mind, I’m going home.”
Love Heart sheathed his swords in the scabbards on his back, “Red Snout, wait!”
Red Snout stopped, “How do you know my name?”
“Fauna told me after our first fight, at least I figured it was you, now I’m sure,” Love Heart approached the wolf.
“You told Fauna?” Red Snout turned around, his face twisted into an almost comical display of shock, especially for a wolf’s face, “Then why didn’t she stop me?!”
“Because I asked her not to.” Love Heart stopped in front of him.
Red Snout shook his head then glared at Love Heart, “Why, because you wanted to keep fighting me?”
Love Heart nodded, “I needed to toughen up and you’re a tough fighter. That and I needed the motivation to keep living, to have a reason to fight.”
Red Snout’s head drooped, “I… don’t believe it.”
Love Heart blinked, “What?”
“Just irony is all.” Red Snout looked up at Love Heart, “So now what?”
“Want to keep going?” Love Heart right hand went up to his sword hilt.
“Are you serious?” Red Snout, quirked an eyebrow.
Red Snout couldn’t help but smile, then shifted back to his pegasus form, “I’m Red Snout Redwolf.”
“Love Heart Bear. Shall we?” Love Heart drew his sword.
Red Snout shook his head, “Later. Want to get something to eat?”
Love Heart let his swords dissipate, “Sure. Sounds good.”
“How do you do that?” Red Snout looked at where the swords and scabbards had been a moment ago.
“It’s a Care Bear thing.”