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A long road to forgiveness - Dusty Trails

By Anonymouss
Created: 22nd February 2021 04:47:35 PM
Modified: 14th April 2021 11:24:26 AM
Dusty Trails Anon RGRE

  1. >The road had been long and arduous, filled with too many trials and tribulations.
  2. >But finally you had made it.
  3. >The small village hung tightly to the edge of the cliff almost teetering on the brink.
  4. >You sit your backpack down and take perch on a small rock taking in the lush green forests that surround you.
  5. >Wind sways the trees and breezes across your sweat covered face.
  6. >You had been in these lands for a few years now, never truly being able to settle down.
  7. >Sure these Equines had been kind, some would even say un-rightly so.
  8. >They had all begged you not to go off traveling Equestria.
  9. >"A good colt like you should be finding a mare to settle down with Anon." they'd say.
  10. >But it was something you couldn't quite explain, an inability to find peace.
  11. >The fact that your sins would follow you, and if you slowed down that they would eventually catch up to you.
  12. >Perhaps this is as it was meant to be, that you had been cast out of God's kingdom for your many crimes, left to wander, never knowing true peace.
  13. >You reach down into your bag and pull out a small flask, taking a large swig you can feel the cool water wetting your dry tongue.
  14. >Looking off into the sky you can see that the sun was beginning to fall and you brought your bag onto your back once more and set off.
  15.  
  16. >By the time you broached the tips of the mountain the moon had already taken its perch in the sky.
  17. >There weren't many houses and those that were seemed to have their lights shut off for the night.
  18. >But one, the one closest to the edge still beamed brightly and you could see the feint shadow of a small pony in the window.
  19. >You walk over to the home and knock on the small wooden door.
  20. >A crash comes from upstairs and soon after you see the door creak open slightly.
  21. >"Who's there. I wasn't expecting any guest-" the small mare says through the crack before pausing.
  22. >The mare lets loose a small eep and quickly shuts the door.
  23. >You hear another crash and the mare calls out to you.
  24. >"Don't come any closer beast! I'll blast you away if you try to get in!" she says her voice quaking.
  25. "I apologise for bothering you miss. Especially so late at night, but do you happen to know where I may spend the night, I'm a traveller you see..."
  26. >The door creaks open again slightly.
  27. >"I can't say I've seen a colt like you before." she says one of her eyes appearing through the small gap.
  28. "I'm from out of town ma'am, I apologise for giving you a fright there, but as I said before I'm looking for a place to spend the night."
  29. >She lets out a ponderous hum and the air is thick with a heavy silence for moments after.
  30. >"How many bits do you have? And do you mind sleeping in the same room as a mare?" she asks in quick succession.
  31. "Enough to pay for board, and as for my room mates I have no care."
  32. >She seems to accept this and opens the door fully revealing a slightly aged mare.
  33. >"I'll show you the room, then the bits." she says walking off into the next room and out of sight.
  34. >After a few moments you find yourself in a small but comfortable room with two beds already set up.
  35. >Once you have checked out the room the old mare looks at you expectantly and you pull out a small bag of bits.
  36. "I assume this should cover the costs?" you say handing it to the elderly mare.
  37. >She takes a moment to count how many bits are in the bag, nods her head and returns upstairs.
  38. >You place your bag at the end of your bed and lie down noticing the presence of another in the room.
  39. >"She treat you the same she did me?" the voice says with a hint of humour.
  40. "As well as you could expect to be treated as a stranger." you reply, the voice only giving a husky laugh in response.
  41. >The small mare in the other cot had a Golden mane and brownish red coat.
  42. >"Name's Dusty Trails. Nice to meet you stranger, can't say I've seen anything like you before, what are you, if you don't mind me askin'." she says with a tone of curiosity lining her voice.
  43. "My name is Anonymous, its nice to meet you too miss Trails. As for the question of what I am, I'm a human, and I believe I'm the only one of my kind in these beautiful lands."
  44. >"Can't say I expected quite a polite stallion out on these roads. You sure you ain't one of 'em changeling things in disguise?" she says with a small chuckle.
  45. "No miss, just a wandering soul looking to find peace."
  46. >She doesn't respond to that and the silence in between you two is thick.
  47. >"I see, we all 'ave our own demons. Goodnight then 'mister Anon'." she says as she rolls over in her cot
  48. >You shut your eyes and you find that sleep comes quickly.
  49.  
  50. >The thin rays of light which pierce the small sheet covering break into the room causing you to open your eyes slowly.
  51. >You sit up in your bed and look around the room.
  52. >"Mornin' Mister Anon." you hear Dusty say as she stretches and slips out of her cot.
  53. >She meanders towards the door and disappears beyond the precipice leaving you alone in the room.
  54. >You reach into the small bag of yours and pull out a small scrap of paper.
  55. >The only thing aside from your clothes that you ended up taking into this world.
  56. >A small note, written to those who might care for it, explaining why you did what you did.
  57. >You see Dusty's golden mane peaking from out of the corner of the door frame and you quickly stash away your note.
  58. >"The old mare's cookin' us some grub, if you ain't quick I don't have qualms with eatin' a stallions food." She says in a semi-joking tone.
  59. >You put your bag onto your back once more and follow the smell of fresh food.
  60. >The old mare and Dusty both sit at a rickety looking table with small bowls of cooked vegetables and oats and you can see a bowl placed out for you.
  61. >Taking your seat the old mare looks up from her food for a moment and nods as though to acknowledge your presence at the table.
  62. >"Morning sonny." she says then goes back to eating her food.
  63. "Good morning ma'am, and thank you for the food." you say as you sit down to eat.
  64. >You all eat in silence and you begin to think about the trails ahead, you were going to need to stock up on supplies soon.
  65. "Ma'am, do you happen to know where I could stock up on food supplies and the like?"
  66. >She seems to think for a moment and softly shakes her head.
  67. >"Not around here sonny, no-pony has much food to spare. Hay I wouldn't have even cooked you up a meal like this if she hadn't gotten the food for it." the old mare says whilst nodding her head in the direction of Dusty.
  68. >"Ah what can ah say, I thought a stallion like you deserved a good meal." Dusty says with a small smirk.
  69. >The generosity of these ponies was astounding, especially when it came to strangers that they had just met less then a day ago. It almost makes you suspicious.
  70. "I see, thank you Miss Trails for this meal, and miss...?" you say turning your attention back to the old mare.
  71. >"It's Star Gazer sonny." she says between bites of her meal.
  72. "Thank you miss Trails and miss Star Gazer for this beautiful meal." Star Gazer only nods in response but Dusty gives you a warm hearted smile in reply.
  73. >You push forward your empty bowl and stand up from your chair.
  74. "I must be off then, thank you for your hospitality miss Star Gazer." You say walking towards the entrance.
  75. >When you breach the outside you have to cover your eyes as the sun shines into your eyes.
  76. >You hear the sound of hooves clopping on wood behind you and you turn to see Dusty Trails behind you.
  77. >"You care to have a travelling companion 'Mister Anon'?" she says with a hopeful smile.
  78. >You frown slightly and the mares smile dampens a bit.
  79. >"I won't get in your way, its just better that you have a mare with you on these trails 'Mister Anon'."
  80. "Fine, as long as you can keep up." you say begrudgingly
  81. >Its too damn hard to deny this cute little Equines.
  82. >Her smile bounces back and she quickly rushes to your side.
  83. >"You won't regret it 'Mister Anon'."
  84. >As the two of you are walking down the trail you see ponies out and about making their business.
  85. >They see you with Dusty and give you a cautious wave and you give them a small nod in response.
  86. "So why do you want to travel with me Miss Trails. I'm not the best travel companion not to mention we're strangers." you inquire.
  87. >She pauses for a moment and puts her hoof to her chin.
  88. >"It seemed like you needed a friend."
  89. "Hmmm... I suppose you ponies are like that."
  90. >Soon enough the two of you found your way out of town and the buildings are replaced with large trees and the chirping of birds.
  91. >"So, do you have a destination in mind?"
  92. "No, nowhere in particular, just following the roads."
  93. >She nods in response and looks off into the bushes on the sides of the trail.
  94. >"If you see any white berries out here let me know, they're the only non-poisonous berries 'round these forests."
  95. "You've walked these paths before then?"
  96. >"More or less, I've been travelling ever since I was a little filly y'see." she says looking into the deep forests.
  97. >You nod and the two of you continue onwards until you hear a the sounds of a rushing stream.
  98. >It's a good enough time as any to get some rest, the two of you have been walking for hours.
  99. "Lets go fill our bottles and wash ourselves off. I'm starting to run low on water." you say while drinking the last drops from your flask.
  100. >"Hadn't realised my marely wiles were so strong." she says with a joking tone and a large grin causing you to laugh with her.
  101. "Don't think I'll be that easy missy."
  102. >The two of you head towards the sound of the rushing stream and as it gets closer you catch a glimpse of it through the trees.
  103. >Once you reach the river you go to take off your clothes almost forgetting about your newfound companion.
  104. >She seems to be watching you quite intently and you just shake your head.
  105. >"What? Can't a filly get some eye candy from a good looking stallion?" she says with a small chuckle
  106. "There isn't much to be seen miss, this old body has seen its fair share of rust." you say taking off your shirt and walking into the knee-deep stream.
  107. >Soon enough Dusty tosses her saddle bags to the side and follows you into the stream.
  108. >"If you need some pony to wash your back Anon, well I'm right here." she says before dipping her head into the water soaking her mane and coat.
  109. "I'll manage for the moment miss."
  110. >"Ah well it was worth a shot 'eh?"
  111. >The two of you wash yourselves in relative silence, aside from a few remarks from miss Trails.
  112. "Are there any towns nearby miss Trails? Aside from the one we just visited of course." you ask idly
  113. >"Not that I know of, these parts of Equestria are rougher, part of the reason why I wanted to come along with you y'see. Too many bandits and monsters out here for a good stallion to be walkin' into without protection."
  114. "I see. Thank you miss Trails."
  115. >"Just call me Trails, no need to add the 'miss' anymore. We're friends now, no need to be so formal around me."
  116. >You nod and continue to enjoy the cool water flowing against your skin.
  117.  
  118. >After some time you decided that you were clean enough and made for the edge of the stream.
  119. "Its going to get dark soon, we should make camp mi- Trails." you say while putting on your clothes.
  120. >She looks up into the afternoon sky and sighs.
  121. >"Yeah I suppose we do, i'll get to gathering the firewood."
  122. "Don't worry, i've got the firewood, just work on getting us some dinner tonight."
  123. >You pick up your small bag and head into the forest looking for any dry wood to burn.
  124. >The forest was mostly damp and the thick air weighed down on you.
  125. >Other then the sound of your own footsteps squelching into the mud the woods were mostly silent.
  126. >A peaceful serene silence, not one riddled with fear and tension.
  127. >As you went deeper your arms grew heavier with various logs and branches listening to the birds chirping.
  128. >It was almost like, if for but a moment, you were home.
  129. >That you could forget about these lands, that you could see your family again.
  130. >But you knew even in your distant dreams that it was not to be.
  131. >A tear slips from your eye only for you to wipe it away with your sleeve.
  132. >Now was not the time to grieve for your loss.
  133. >You retrace your steps and head back to the stream that you left Trails at and decide to make the makeshift firepit when you return.
  134.  
  135. >When you do finally make it back you see Trails has already returned, you must have taken longer then you realised.
  136. >"Did you manage to find anything out there Anon?" she says more of a gesture of conversation seeing as she knows you've brought back the fire wood.
  137. "Except from this firewood, nothing. Forest was awfully silent though, which is concerning in itself." at your words her brow furrows.
  138. >"I see, we'll have to watch out for the Scars." she says with a concerned look on her face.
  139. "The scars? Is that a bandit gang? I can't say i've heard of them before."
  140. >She nods solemnly and watches the treeline carefully.
  141. >"The Blazing Scars. Real notorious 'round these parts, they're a mean bunch of mares." she quickly changes back to her cheery attitude and says "Nothing you have to worry 'bout, what with a mare like me around."
  142. >You shake your head and laugh at her antics.
  143. "Did you manage to find any food out there? I must say I'm a bit famished." you say with an embarrassed tone.
  144. >"Hah, with your size I bet you could eat three times a pony. Yeah I got a bit of food." She says while opening the saddlebag and producing some berries and fruits.
  145. >You walk over to Trails and reach for the fruit and take a few from her hoof.
  146. >Quickly you chomp them down and despite their size they satiate your hunger as though it were a full meal.
  147. "What are these? I've only had a few and I'm full already." you say slightly shocked.
  148. >Trails lets loose a small laugh and shakes her head.
  149. >"I'm not surprised that you don't know about these little gems, takes an earth ponies magic to find 'em you see." she says while tapping her head with her hoof.
  150. >An interesting development, you've heard that earth ponies could grow plants and the like but never find hidden fruits. Perhaps it's something to do with her special talent.
  151. "I'm glad I brought you along then, shall we get the fire started?"
  152. >"I'll get it done, you've done enough hard work for today. Celestia knows not to overwork a stallion." she says with some cheek and a wink.
  153. >This mare has already done so much and wants to do even more. It shouldn't come as a shock to you now but still, it rubs you the wrong way.
  154. "There must be something I can do?" causing her to shake her head and laugh.
  155. >"Alright, alright. Keep an eye on the treeline eh? Those Scars may be sneaking up on us already." she says with an unusual seriousness.
  156. >Nodding you look off into the distance at the trees, nothing seems out of the ordinary as of yet.
  157. >The trees still sway, the water still rushes in the stream and brushes keep moving.
  158. >Wait. You could have sworn that brush was over there just a minute ago.
  159. "TRAILS-" you're cut off by a magical force closing your lips but Trails is already alerted and she rushes to your side.
  160. >"What's going o-" she begins before two ponies jump out of the brush, one a grey mane with purple streaks woven in and shadowy black coat the other a pale yellow coat with a earthy green mane.
  161. >"Put your hooves up we're the-" the black coated mare stops mid sentence her face alight with shock and disbelief.
  162. >"Boss? That you?!" at those words the other mare drops her angry gaze replacing it with a wide smile.
  163. >"Boss we thought you'd never come back!"
  164. >"Yeah! We missed you boss!" the second mare finally says after coming to her senses.
  165. >You look over at trails and you can see she has her head in her hoof in a look of utter disappointment.
  166. "Trails? What do they mean, boss?" you say unsure as to her allegiances.
  167. >She shakes her head and looks over at the two mares.
  168. >"Anon, meet Black Powder and Quick Wits, Black Power and Quick Wits meet Anon." after she finishes she breathes a heavy sigh.
  169. >"Oooh, Boss not only did you come back but you brought a stallion with 'ya!" Black powder says circling around you as though a shark.
  170. >"I'm not coming back Powder, I'm just taking this kind stallion through the forest and moving on my way from there." at this both the mares sink in disappointment.
  171. >"But the girls miss you so much boss! Please can you at least stop in for a bit?" Quick Wits pleads.
  172. >Trails looks over to you for your input for a moment causing you to shrug.
  173. "I mean, it couldn't hurt right?"
  174. >"Yeah the stallion's right! Didn't you always say to listen to stallions an' all that?" Black powder says with a toothy grin.
  175. >Trails lets loose another deep sigh but begrudgingly nods.
  176. >"Lets get a move on then, suns fallin'." she says motioning you all to follow her.
  177.  
  178. >The two mares bounce about in excitement asking questions rapid fire to the both of you.
  179. >"So 'ave you two kissed yet?" Powder asks you.
  180. >You merely shake your head to which her eyes light up.
  181. >"For shame Dust, I thought you'd make a move on 'im straight away." she says with a laugh looking at Trails.
  182. >"Unlike you mares I got respect for a stallion." Trails retorts
  183. >"Hey I have plenty of respect for stallions! I ask 'em before I cuddle 'em."
  184. >"But they don't always say yes first do they." Quick Wits says with a chuckle under her breath.
  185. >"Well, 'ats another story..." she says trailing off.
  186. >Trails shakes her head and she continues forward.
  187. >"Should be right around the corner Anon." Trails says looking back at you giving you a reassuring smile.
  188. >"I'm suprised 'ya haven't started complainin', Anon was it?" Powder says earning a glare from Trails.
  189. >"What? I thought it was a compliment!" Powder says defensively.
  190.  
  191. ++++
  192.  
  193. >Quick Wits laughs at the groups antics and poses another question.
  194. >"So where are you from? You don't look like you're Equestrian. At least not from this neck of the woods." Quick Wits asks, the burning embers of confusion lining her voice.
  195. >You scratch at your beard that had been forming for a few weeks now and nod.
  196. "I'm not from around here that's for sure. From what the ponies first told me when I got here, I've seemed to have been transported from a different dimension." you say with a sombre tone.
  197. >The mares look on at you with varying degrees of sympathy, Trails stopping to put her hoof on your back.
  198. >"So are what was it like? Back where you came from I mean."
  199. "Well I couldn't complain 'bout things back home, I had a good life, a good family and I..." you cut yourself off and shake your head.
  200. "It's safe to say I screwed it all up. I did a lot of bad things to the people I loved..." you pause as you hear the rustling of bushes ahead and your heart freezes.
  201. >"Get behind me Anon." Trails says shielding you with her body.
  202. >All of a sudden the shuffling stops and Black Powders head appears from the bushes.
  203. >"C'mon you fillies are too slow!" she says causing your heart to begin beating once more and Trails to roll her eyes at the mare.
  204. >Trails and Wits push past her and head off into a clearing up ahead with you following close behind.
  205. >Once you got into the clearing and your vision is free of the branches and trees that line the forest, you could see a impressive yet crumbling fortress in the middle.
  206. >A feint glimmer of gold partly hidden behind a crumbling stone wall on the roof caught you attention.
  207. >Soon that glimmer became a whole pony, their mane a gleaming gold and their coat a pure crème.
  208. >"W-who's there!" the mare on the rooftop stutters her voice barely above a whisper.
  209. >Trails gives a quick curious glance towards Quick Wit but before she can say anything Black Powder calls out to the mare.
  210. >"Oi Shaky Stab, I told ya a hundred times already, yo've gotta be intimidatin'." Black Powder says as the mare  slinks back behind the stone wall.
  211. >Black Powder turns back to Trails and sighs deeply.
  212. >"Sorry boss. That one's as scared as a new born colt in a den of shalkers. I'm sure you can shape her up though." Black Powder says with a grin causing trails to shake her head.
  213. >"Let's just get inside, does the trick with the gate still work?"
  214. >Quick Wits nods and taps on the stone beside the gate itself causing it to shudder open.
  215. >Once the door is fully open it reveals a mare with a large ugly scar covering her eye, her mane a raging crimson and her coat a radiant yellow.
  216. >The mare holds forth a sharply tipped spear towards the entrance and only lowers it when she sees the mare flanking you.
  217. >"B-Boss? That you boss?" her expression changes to one of disbelief and shock and Trails nods.
  218. >"It's me Lucky. I'm not staying lo-" Trails is cut off by the mare quickly hugging her.
  219. >"Boss thank Celestia you're back. I don't know what you were thinking leaving me in charge." Trails looks over to you with an embarrassed look on her face and pushes Lucky off of herself.
  220. >Lucky follows her gaze and a shade of crimson fills her face and you swear you can hear something about 'no ho-mare' causing you to chuckle softly.
  221. >Lucky seems to quickly rebound from her embarrassment and eyes you up and down.
  222. >"And who's the fine piece of meat that you've brought along with you?" she says as her grin becomes a wolfish smile.
  223. "I uh... What?"
  224. >"Back off Lucky. Sorry Anon, she's likely not had a stallion in a few moons so bare with her." she says half-jokingly causing Lucky to laugh heartily.
  225. "Right... I'm Anonymous, its nice to meet you miss Lucky."
  226. >"We'll get out of your mane soon Lucky, we're just here for a quick chat and we're gone." Trails says causing Lucky to laugh bitterly.
  227. >"I had expected you'd want to get back out on the road, but I wanted to believe that you'd lead us back into the golden ages. Bah."
  228. >Trails shakes her head slowly and attempts to change the topic.
  229. >"Why don't we talk a while first? Do we- I mean you guys still have that office upstairs?"
  230. >Lucky takes a moment to think putting a hoof to her mouth and finally nods.
  231. >"We should, but it's not in the best of conditions, c'mon I'll take you two up." Lucky turns her attention to Black Powder and Wits and says "As for you two, you've got plenty of work to do around here."
  232.  
  233. >The three of you rounded the spiralling stairs dimly lit aside from scant torches and cracks where the stone walls had crumbled away to reveal the afternoon sun.
  234. >"You remember when I held back four wilder beasts back on these stairs with my hooves alone?" Lucky says with beaming pride.
  235. >"You mean when I had to come in and save your flank? Yeah I remember that one Lucky." Trails says causing the two of them to laugh as the three of you continue up the stairs.
  236. >"So Anonymous, how'd you end up meeting Trails? I bet it was a hot and steamy night between you two 'eh?" she says with a sly grin on her face.
  237. >You shake your head politely despite her implications.
  238. "No ma'am. We were both sleeping at a kind ponies home. The next morn Trails gave me a warm meal and offered her protection though these dangerous woods." you say and her grin falters slightly into a sweeter smile.
  239. >"That's good Anonymous, you seem like a good stallion. Good enough for the boss though? We'll see."
  240. >"It's just down this hall." Lucky says as the group brings up the long undisturbed dust causing you to cough.
  241. >"Sorry bout all the dust Anon, been a while since any pony walked these halls." she says looking at you with slight concern. "Good thing we'll have a stallion in these walls." Lucky says with a good natured laugh.
  242. "Perhaps, if you can get me a mug of alcohol I could be persuaded." you say with a smile on your lips.
  243. >"A stallion that's easy to bribe, first time I've heard of that, you've caught yourself one hell of a fish Trails!" the empty corridors are filled with laughter as Lucky opens the door leading into the office.
  244. >Lucky peers inside and quickly reels her head back out into the hall.
  245. >"Hold up for a second you two, I'll get the lights on in here." she says as she disappears into the darkness closing the door behind her.
  246. >Trails looks down the halls with a longing look, perhaps thinking of better times.
  247. >"This place has changed so much in so little time. I can hardly recognise this castle, the halls are all empty and full of dust." her tone filled with a bitter and sombre tone.
  248. >The pain in her voice was readily apparent and left a longing in you to make this cute pony happy once more.
  249. "What did it look like, before you left?" you ask softly trying not to break the mood.
  250. >Trails shakes her head slowly and smiles bitterly.
  251. >"We used to have Scars lining these halls, they were full of drinking and laughter, but now it seems our numbers are dwindling. Perhaps.. Perhaps it's the end for the Scars."
  252. >You place a comforting hand on Trails wither and lean down to look her in the eyes.
  253. "Hey, hey. Look how about we stay a few weeks, try to get things into order here. Get things back on track?"
  254. >She looks up at you with saddened eyes but says nothing.
  255. "I'm sure the girls need help around here and would love to have you stay for a bit. As for myself and I'm sure you mares will need a 'stallions touch' around these parts anyway." you say with a warm smile hoping to lift Trails spirits as well.
  256. >"I-I don't think we could- I mean I don't think we should."
  257. >"Well boss, I'm sure the girls would appreciate the help. There's a lot of work that needs to be done and Celestia knows I can't manage this place by myself." you hear Lucky say from behind the closed door.
  258. >A few moments pass and conflicting emotions pass Trails face before she finally breathes a heavy sigh.
  259. >"Okay... Just for a few weeks, enough to get this place back on track." Trails says with a defeated tone.
  260.  
  261. ++++
  262.  
  263. >After a while both Trails and Lucky got into reminiscing about their exploits and you not wanting to be the third wheel went off to explore.
  264. >Ambling up the dusty stairs once again you head towards the rooftop.
  265. >Your footsteps echoed throughout the stairwell as you passed by the unlit torches, only the sunlight shone through stones that had long since fallen away.
  266. >When you finally reached the top of the staircase and step out onto the rooftop, there wasn't any sign of anypony here.
  267. >Suddenly you heard a small squeak from behind you and you quickly turn to greet it.
  268. >Shaky was flying mid air behind you looking quite flustered.
  269. "Hey there, Shaky Stab was it?" you say extending a hand causing her to flinch.
  270. >After a few moments she flies closer her golden mane shimmering in the light of the sun and she responds to your handshake in kind.
  271. >"N-nicetomeetyou." she says stuttering and barely audible.
  272. >How rude of you.
  273. "Sorry I forgot to introduce myself, I'm Anonymous though I'm sure you've seen me coming from a mile away with this position."
  274. >She nervously scratches the back of her head and nods.
  275. >You walk towards one of the ruined pillars and take a seat.
  276. >Hardly the most comfortable position but you'd just have to make do.
  277. >Shaky is still hovering in the air and avoiding your gaze however you could tell that she was looking at you when you turned away.
  278. >You pat the rough stone next to you and wave her over.
  279. "Don't be a stranger, come over and take a seat."
  280. >Nervously she looks around as though to check if this is a joke at her expense but eventually she trepidatiously floats over.
  281. >You look off into the ever winding forests as the sun sets on the horizon and breathe a deep sigh.
  282. "Beautiful view up here, I'd almost say I'm envious of your wings there." you say causing her to flinch for but a moment.
  283. "I mean you get to see this view everyday, quite lucky I'd say."
  284. >Shaky merely nods with a small nervous smile on her face.
  285. >"W-why'sacoltlikeyououtinthesewoods?"she nervously stutters and fumbles her way through the sentence.
  286. >You look off towards the forests for but a moment to take in the fleeting beauty.
  287. "It's a long story, but Trails-er have you met miss Trails yet?" you ask and she shakes her head in response.
  288. >"I'veheardsomethingsabouther"
  289. "Ah, I think you'll like her. She's a real kind mare, offered to guide me through these woods herself before Miss Powder and Miss Wits showed up out of the blue."
  290. >Shaky nods and shuffles in place, unsure of what to say next.
  291. "It's alright, we don't need to talk. Just enjoy the moment." you say as you return your gaze to the setting sun, the two of you just enjoying the peace and quiet.
  292.  
  293. ++++
  294.  
  295. >Your pleasant afternoon with Miss Stab was interrupted by the sound of a ringing bell.
  296. >Shaky was jolted awake and flew into the air, suspended for but a moment by her own wings.
  297. "I guess they're calling us down for dinner." you say as you brush the dirt from you pants.
  298. >Shaky nods and lowers herself to the ground once more.
  299. "I'll meet you down there then I guess?"
  300. >She pauses for a moment and looks like she wants to say something.
  301. >"I-I'd like to walk down with you. F-flying after a nap tends not to go well." she says causing a small smile to creep its way onto your lips.
  302. >You nod and the two of you head down the dusty stairwell once more.
  303. >The stairwell rings out once more with the sounds of your footsteps now accompanied by soft clopping as the two of you make your way down.
  304. >"H-have you been here long? I-In Equestria I mean." Shaky's voice barely heard above your echoing footsteps.
  305. >How long have you been here? It's quite hard to keep track of time considering you don't live in any type of civilization.
  306. >You scratch your beard as you ponder.
  307. "I would think around say... 2 years at minimum."
  308. >She seems to be slightly shocked at your answer and stutters a reply.
  309. >"Y-you don't seem very c-colt like. I-I mean not t-that there's anything w-wrong with that." she stutters out causing you to let out a hearty laugh and you shake your head.
  310. "Perhaps to the average Equestrian but I've know picked up on a few things in my time here. Albeit most of it was tavern manners." you say with a smile and Shaky smiles nervously with you.
  311. >As you round the staircase once more you can hear the feint voices of the Scars downstairs.
  312. >When the two of you finally reach the bottom of the staircase you see the girls laughing and telling stories around the fire.
  313. >"Look 'at these two lover birds, you two havin' fun up there?" Black Powder says with a cheeky grin which earns a slap over the head from Lucky.
  314. >Trails also seems to give Shaky a dangerous glare which causes her to squeal slightly and Trail only stops when she notices you looking at her.
  315. >Trails gets up from her seat at the fire and quickly makes her way towards you, Shaky quickly vacating the vicinity, and Trails quickly joins your side.
  316. "Hey, there's no need to be rude Trails, she wasn't anything but polite. Just try to be polite at least yeah?" you say as you lean down to whisper in her ear.
  317. >She sighs softly and nods.
  318. >"Come on you three, have a seat by the fire. We're making some soup, I can't say I'm a first class chef but I did my best." Lucky says as she stirs the pot on the fire.
  319. >Trails gently nibbles on your hand and drags you to where she was sitting before.
  320. >"Comsh sit wyth me." her voice muffled by your hand in her mouth.
  321. >As you take your seat you feel the gentle lick of heat that comes from the flame and the warmth of Trails sitting beside you.
  322. >"So Shaky you see anything while you were on post?" Lucky says as though to draw attention away from the boiling tension between the two mares.
  323. >"N-no. N-Nothing out of the ordinary."
  324. >Lucky nods and goes back to stirring the pot leaving the room in an odd silence.
  325. >Seems like you've caused a fair few problems here already.
  326. "So uh, what's in the soup?" you say trying to break the silence.
  327. >Chuckles come from all around and Lucky is the one to give you an answer first.
  328. >"Even if you are a hardened colt you won't want to hear about our special ingredients." Lucky says in between chuckles and causes Black Powder to break out in a devilish grin.
  329. >"Aw come on girls, he's goin' to be eatin' it. So we should probably tell 'im eh?" her grin only grows as she continues "You ever heard of Shalkers colt? No? Well they're big mean forest rats. They'll gnaw your bones after they're done eatin' your flesh."
  330. >How ominous. You've dealt with a few nasty beasts in your time on Equestria but these seem to be a horrifying beast even for the stalwart.
  331. >Black Powder is about to continue but Lucky reaches over once more and gives her a smack on the head.
  332. >"Gah, 'ow many times are ya goin' to hit me tonight?" Black Powder says as she rubs the back of her head.
  333. >"Well if you stopped tryin' to scare the poor colt, then I wouldn't have to hit you." Lucky says half jokingly causing the group to let out a slight laugh.
  334. >Trails shakes her head and gives you a soft smile.
  335. >"Don't worry Anon, there's just a few vegetables and a few spices for flavour. Nothing for you to worry your poor little head about."
  336. "I'm not entirely convinced to be honest, but I'll take your word for it Trails." you say as you settle into the comfortable chatter beside the campfire.
  337.  
  338. ++++
  339.  
  340. >You're softly nudged awake by something and the light from the fire still flickers on your eyelids.
  341. >When you finally open your eyes you're greeted by an empty room aside from you and Trails.
  342. >"Mornin' Anon. You have a good nap?" she says as you rub the sleep from your eyes and yawn.
  343. "As well as you could expect from sleep on a stone bed." you grumble and she responds with a laugh.
  344. >She trots her way over to the table and takes a bowl of stew from it.
  345. >"The girls had to go do a few things but that just leaves more room for you and me." she says with a sly grin.
  346. >W-wew
  347. >She returns with the bowl of stew on her withers and you gently pick it up from her back.
  348. "Thanks Trails."
  349. >And nary a spoon in sight. Ah well you can make do.
  350. >You bring the bowl to your lips and take a taste of the stew, the mossy and frankly rank flavours wafting over you causing you to splutter and cough.
  351. >Trails can only look on and laugh only after putting on a look of feigned remorse.
  352. "Eugh. What was in that?" you say in-between coughs.
  353. >"It's a Black Scar special, Shalker surprise. The surprise is that it tastes horrible but it has the added benefit of filling your belly up for the night."
  354. >Staring down at the stew you swear you could see a small black eyeball raise to the top of the mix.
  355. >"Hah, you'd better get used to food like that. It's all these mares know how to cook." she says with a laugh.
  356. "I-I think I'll cook next time." you say as you place the bowl down.
  357. >Oh Celestia these mares really do need some cooking lessons, luckily you've been known to make any bad stew into a semi decent one.
  358. >You pull from your backpack a few Mintwarts and a healthy dose of Pale spice and sprinkle them into your meal without hesitation.
  359. >They may be rare but you sure as hell aren't eating this without fixing this horrible crime against your taste buds.
  360. >Trails looks at you slightly amused but doesn't say a word.
  361. >Once the stew has been flavoured you take another taste, the stew's previous flavours have mostly disappeared now giving way to a heated mint and a feint hint of lavender.
  362. >Certainly more suitable then whatever ingredients they put into the stew to reveal those flavours.
  363. >Trails looks at you expectantly, looking to find any reaction in your face to betray your failure but finds none.
  364. "I think I might have solved the flavour problem, have a try and tell me what you think." you say as you place the bowl in front of trails.
  365. >After a small pause she takes a small taste of the meal and her eyes light up.
  366. >"This is pretty good, compared to the ol' Shalker surprise! Hah Momma always said a Stallions a good cook no matter how he acts." she says with a hearty laugh causing you to smile.
  367. "Glad I could meet your expectations Trails." as you say this she goes to slide the bowl back to you but you refuse.
  368. "I've had enough Shalker surprise for one day, even if it has a new recipe."
  369. >Trails just shakes her head and once again passes the bowl to you.
  370. >"You never know when you'll get another meal Anon, and a stallion like you should never go hungry so please." she says with a forced smile belying a deep saddness that welled behind her eyes.
  371. >Lifting up the bowl to your lips you quickly drink it all down the mix of flavours passing through without being savoured.
  372. >"Thank you Anon. I'll be sure to let the girls know that you're our designated cook from now on." she says with a genuine laugh.
  373. >Now that you're thinking about it, how did such a sweet mare become head of an apparently once horrifying bandit hideout?
  374. "So how did the Black Scars get started anyway?" you say idly placing the bowl to the side but as you look up to see trails face you can see you've touched sensitive spot.
  375. >"Its quite the story, although I don't think it's a happy story, but I suppose if you still want to hear it..." she pauses for a moment seeking to gauge your reaction and lets out a deep sigh.
  376. >"Way back when I used to be a rebellious filly, y'see my ma was a sheriff back all the way in Mareintine, a small town far aways from here. I always had a penchant for crime, s'how I got my mark after all, of course the old mare didn't appreciate this but that just made my rebellious streak grow until it all came to a head when I mugged a stallion outside of town." she stops for a moment to compose herself, taking deep breaths before continuing...
  377. >"They wanted to lock me up but my mother gave me a choice, run and never show my face again or rot in jail for my crimes." The air stings with silence as she pauses once more. "I travelled for a while then, going from town to town trying to make a living eventually leading me to the town where I met you. An empty stomach and cold nights led me to pick up the life of crime once more and eventually shady ponies gathered around my banner."
  378. >Shit man, that must be pretty messed up by pony standards.
  379. "I'm sorry Trails If I kn-" she cuts you off with a soft voice.
  380. >"It's alright Anon. I've done bad things and I'm a bad pony I understand that, but I hope that I can find forgiveness for that."
  381. >You've done much worse things considering and you won't let this cute mare continue to beat herself up.
  382. >You swiftly bring her into a hug and she tenses for a moment but quickly settles into your arms her breathing slowing.
  383. "Don't talk like that, you offered to guide me through this dangerous forest didn't you? That doesn't sound like something a bad pony would do now is it?"
  384. >She opens her mouth as though to respond but stays silent instead electing to bury her head into your chest.
  385. >The two of you sit like that for a while basking in the diminishing glow of the fire until it was reduced to smouldering embers
  386. >"Let's get you into bed, it's getting late isn't it?" Trails says as she breaks the hug and stands up, beckoning you to follow her.
  387. >The two of you walk without saying a word, the air thick with silence and only the sound of footsteps on the hard stone threaten to break it.
  388. >You finally reach a small room, a cot and a small table and desk sitting in the corner.
  389. >"Get some rest Anon, I've got some duties to attend to. I'll see you in the morning." Trails says as she stands in the doorway.
  390. >"Sweet Dreams." she whispers as her hoof steps draw further from the door.
  391. >Your eyes stung with a much too familiar feeling, the many hours that you had spent awake were taking their toll you could tell.
  392. >You shuffle towards you small cot and lie down, closing your eyes and drifting off to sleep.
  393.  
  394. ++++
  395.  
  396. >You had the same dream again.
  397. >The shouting followed by screaming and finally one loud bang. Then silence. That awful silence, deafening and all consuming.
  398. >You sit up in a panic your sweat ridden sheets clinging to your body, only after a moment you finally settle down.
  399. >Not even the sun had risen yet, the moon still hung high in its perch and the forest life lie still.
  400. >Wiping the newfound sweat from your brow you stand up out of your small cot and head closer to the window.
  401. >Naught but the swaying of trees in the moonlit wind.
  402. >Perhaps Trails was still awake?
  403. >A little bit of company at a time like this could go a long way.
  404. >With sleep still addling your mind you stumble towards the door in the dark.
  405. >Your footsteps were uncannily loud when compared to deathly silence that had seemingly enveloped the halls.
  406. >Just before you had reached the main hall you heard the feint pacing of hooves against the stone floors.
  407. "Who's there?" you call out fear slightly encroaching your voice.
  408. >The hoof steps stop suddenly and you hear a voice call back out to you.
  409. >"It's just me Anonymous." you hear Lucky call back to you.
  410. >Shortly after you see her rounding the corner and giving you a warm, if tired, smile.
  411. >"What's got you roaming these halls so early?"
  412. >You attempt to suppress a yawn but fail causing the mare to laugh.
  413. >"Past your bedtime 'eh?" she says with a joking tone causing you to laugh along with her.
  414. "Just had a few bad dreams is all. Say, have you seen Trails recently?" you say shaking your head.
  415. >She pauses for a moment and puts her hoof to her chin in a thoughtful gesture.
  416. >"If my old age ain't getting to me yet... She should be in the main office I can lead you there if you'd like."
  417. "I should be alright on my own, thanks Lucky."
  418. >She merely nods and continues walking down the hall her hoof steps eventually trailing off once more.
  419. >You slowly ambled your way towards the office just enjoying the thick silence.
  420. >Once you reached the old wooden door you gave a light knock and waited a moment.
  421. >"That you Powder? I already told you to go check the perimeter. And no you can't swap jobs with Quick Wits." you hear Trails speak through the door.
  422. >Creaking open the door you stuck your head in and Trails looked up from the notes that she had been writing, seemingly surprised by your presence.
  423. >"Anon? What are you doing awake?"
  424. "Hah, would you believe that a big lug like me had some bad dreams and couldn't sleep?" you say eliciting a warm smile from Trails despite your own emotions.
  425. >"A stallions still a stallion, not even an adventurous type like you can escape it."
  426. >She laughs warmly and motions towards a chair that would seem larger for most ponies but barely fits you.
  427. >"You're definitely a sight for sore eyes, writing up all these patrols is definitely doing its toll on me."

Missing Letters - NMP Short

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