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Dreams to Dream Pt. III

By StabbyTheSnowman
Created: 21st August 2021 06:45:00 PM
23rd September 2022 05:12:14 PM

  1. If you haven't yet I suggest reading parts 1 and 2, or you're going to have no clue what's going on.
  2.  
  3. >Celestia sat in her chair, calmly sipping from the glass of water that sat on the conference table in front of her.
  4. >Mere minutes after Anonymous and Nýrmáni had departed from the conference room, Cadence had come to her and had demanded the Equestrian Council of Economics be gathered for a meeting immediately
  5. >She’d had an idea of what her young adopted niece was planning but had relented, sending couriers to each member with the message to gather in this room as quickly as possible for a meeting of the utmost importance.
  6. >Her eyes wandered over the other ponies seated around the large table, at which she sat at the head of, finding horror and complete shock reflected in most of their expressions at the words that had just left Princess Cadence.
  7. >Princess Cadence sat at the far end of the table directly opposite her, an expression of quiet anger and cunning written on her muzzle.
  8. >One of the shocked economic ministers finally found his voice. “So you… you’re going to do what?”
  9. >”You heard me the first time, you all did.” Cadence’s voice was low and deadly serious.
  10. >“As of this moment, I have sent notices of withdrawal to all of the Crystal Shapers in Canterlot and Equestria proper for them to return to the Crystal Empire, and for all exports of raw magical crystals and other goods to be halted immediately.”
  11. >”B-but you can’t do that!” Another mare cried, this one Celestia recognized from the joke of a ‘Special Session of Congress’ that had occurred only two hours earlier.
  12. >Cadence’s glare shifted to the mare, and the smaller unicorn wilted back in her seat from the intensity of it.
  13. >”I can’t? I can, and I will. While Celestia, Luna, and Twilight are the Princess of Equestria, I am the Princess of the Crystal Empire. While our two countries share very close diplomatic and economic ties, myself and my subjects are not yours to control or pass rules over, that is up to me alone.”
  14. >”And before you ask,” Cadence held up a hoof as several of the Ministers opened their mouths to speak, “Equestria is not our only customer for our goods. The Dragon Lord Ember, her subjects, and the Griffon Empire love their bits, but they love our crystals more.”
  15. >”I know for a fact that they’ll all be delighted to purchase the surplus of crystals that Equestria has just lost due to the stupidity and arrogance of their Congress, and I know that the common ponies of Equestria will be sure to let them know of this in the upcoming elections.”
  16. >The silence following Cadence’s quiet yet impassioned words was damning, and the rest of the ministers glanced worriedly at each other with wide eyes.
  17. >”What about your Initiative?” Another pony asked, his voice quiet, almost fearful.
  18. >”It will continue, and if a match for a mare in Equestria is found they will be allowed to emigrate to the Crystal Empire and be given full citizenship and employment if they wish, our economy is growing after all.”
  19. >”What if we, the Congress, prevent these ‘matched’ mares from immigrating?” Another asked, his fur ruffled and his face red with rage.
  20. >”I believe,” Celestia spoke for the first time since the meeting had started, setting her glass of water down on the immaculately polished table. “That my sister and I still control immigration rules, policies, and standards; no mare will be barred from immigrating if they wish to do so.”
  21. >The stallion turned his head towards her, a look of surprise replacing his anger.
  22. >Cadence smiled at Celestia for a brief moment, before returning her look of indignation to the ponies assembled before her.
  23. >”Whine and complain all you want but Equestria will not be receiving a single magical crystal, any ponies who can make them, or any other of our other luxury goods until the Congress reaffirms the legitimacy of the Human Immigration Initiative, and gives a complete and formal apology for their… cowardly and abhorrent attempts to punish an innocent mare for crimes she has already paid for.”
  24. >Celestia had to hold in the chuckle she wanted so much to give, seeing the ponies who thought so highly of themselves completely and hopelessly out of their depth.
  25. >It was very refreshing after the stress the morning had given her.
  26. >Cadence stood, and the four Crystal Pony guards that had been sitting behind her stood as well.
  27. >”With that, I will be taking my leave. If the Congress wishes to contact me, the Crystal Empire’s embassy here in Canterlot will gladly send any messages to me as quickly as possible. Good day.”
  28. >With that, the pink alicorn and her guards turned and left, the large, stained-oak doors shutting behind them with a resounding bang.
  29. >Almost instantly, as if Cadence’s departure had broken some kind of spell, the Economic Ministers went into a chaotic uproar, shouting questions at each other, to Celestia, or simply trying to coordinate with the calmer ponies on what to do next.
  30. >Celestia sat back in her chair even more, taking another sip of her water to hide the small smile she could no longer hide.
  31. >”Princess Celestia, is there nothing you can do?”
  32. >The pony who asked her the question looked at her, eyes wide with terror with the realization of what had just occurred.
  33. >Celestia gave all of the ponies her trademark, motherly smile and gentle tone.
  34. >”Well there is nothing I can do directly to correct this; the Congress has created this issue and it is out of my jurisdiction and authority to directly fix it.”
  35. >”I will try to talk to her of course, leader to leader, but I do not believe I can convince her to do anything now, the Congress must fix this problem on their own.” She hid her chuckle behind a quiet cough.
  36. >Thankfully the other ponies around the table were too busy panicking to notice.
  37. >”W-well, what do we do then?” Another asked her, seemingly near tears.
  38. >”I believe that Princess Cadence has already told you what must occur for these economic ties to be mended and I do not doubt her honor, she does keep her word after all.”
  39. >None of the ponies caught this subtle jab as they hurriedly and apprehensively began to talk amongst themselves.
  40. >”I would take this news to the Congress as quickly as possible.” Celestia stood, stretching her wings as she let out a small yawn. “It would not surprise me to find out that Princess Cadence will have all of her ponies out of Equestria by the time I sit down for lunch, she is nothing if not determined and efficient.”
  41. >”I-i-it won’t matter if we tell them all now, the Congress won’t be convening for another three weeks!” A stallion yelled out as Celestia slowly trotted to the doors.
  42. >Looking over her shoulder, Celestia gave them all a look of stony neutrality for the first time.
  43. >“Equestria survived without the Crystal Empire’s exports for centuries. I’m sure it will survive for three weeks or a little longer without them. It is up to the Congress to fix the mess they have made.”
  44. >As the Congress ponies sat and stood silently in shock and horror, Celestia exited the room and softly closed the doors behind her.
  45. >She stood alone in the hallway. Cadence and her guards were nowhere to be found.
  46. >Smiling openly for the first time since the meeting had started, Celestia trotted down the hall, listening to the panic erupting from inside the conference room she had just left.
  47. >The Equestrian Congress would fall into absolute chaos when they heard the news of the Crystal Empire’s economic withdrawal from Equestria.
  48. >More importantly, the local businesses throughout Equestria that had grown around and depended on these imports would raise absolute Tartarus with them when Celestia announced Cadence’s decision in the Court later in the day.
  49. >Celestia’s smile grew brighter when she saw Twilight Sparkle trotting around the corner, the younger mare smiling as she saw her.
  50. >”How did the meeting go?” Twilight asked, raising an eyebrow as the doors to the conference room flew open and ponies began to gallop down the halls in their panic.
  51. >”Oh, the usual for the Congressional Economic Committee, but I believe that Cadence’s actions might actually make them do something useful for a change.” In a few moments the two of them were once again alone.
  52. >Twilight shook her head. “She, Shining Armor, and Spike went to go pick up Flurry Heart from mom and dad’s house and then they’re leaving. Spike went with them to spend the weekend with mom and dad and I’m sure they’ll spoil him even more.”
  53. >The young alicorn sighed as they entered the main foyer. ”Cadence told me what she’s doing and I can’t rightly blame her honestly, the Congress has had this coming for a long while.”
  54. >Celestia opened her mouth to reply but suddenly a chill went down her spine, and a folded piece of paper popped into existence in front of her muzzle in a flash of orange fire.
  55. >”What is it?” Twilight asked after overcoming her momentary shock as Celestia caught the folded paper, opened it, and began to read the message it carried.
  56. >Celestia smiled down at her former student. ”Thankfully good news, Anon and Nýrmáni are getting their care package. A little later than I said it would arrive but she apparently has more to deliver than she originally thought she would.”
  57. >”Who is delivering it to them?” Twilight asked as the two of them made their back down the hall to where the exits were.
  58. >”Oh Twilight, isn’t an old mare like me entitled to a few secrets?” Celestia chuckled as Twilight sputtered and went red slightly.
  59. >”Suffice to say that the two of them are in capable hooves. I would trust my life to this mare, she won’t let them down.”
  60. >As the two of them exited the large marble corridors of the Hall of Congress and into the bright late-morning sunshine, Celestia’s private carriage awaited them.
  61. >”Also, about what I wanted to tell you when we first arrived this morning, well…” Twilight suddenly looked almost afraid to speak.
  62. >”What happened?” Celestia asked, concern filling her voice as the two of them entered and got settled in their seats.
  63. >”Well, I think I have a suspicion about some of the guards who were working crowd control in the main plaza.”
  64. >Celestia’s eyes narrowed dangerously as the carriage doors shut and it began to lift off the ground as the pegasi pulling it began their trip to Canterlot Castle.
  65. >”Tell me more, Twilight.”
  66. <>
  67. >The landscape was beautiful, in a completely uninhabited snowy northern mountains semi-tundra wasteland kind of way.
  68. >Anon shivered involuntarily as he looked around him again, the snow still silently falling from the gray, cloudy sky as he and Nýrmáni made their way down from the peak they had appeared on.
  69. >Thankfully the slope wasn’t steep enough to accidentally slide on, and there didn’t seem to be any ice on the rocks under the layer of featureless snow so he wasn’t worried about slipping and falling too much.
  70. >Nýrmáni was faring better than him, thanks to her quadruple nature and the fact that she was seemingly immune to the cold that was currently cutting its way through his light jacket and pants like a hot knife through butter.
  71. “W-where is the ‘old friend’ who Celestia said w-was supposed to show up? It’s been over an hour since we started hiking down h-here.”
  72. >Nýrmáni stopped and turned to look at him, her expression growing worrisome at his shivering body and rosy cheeks.
  73. >”I am sorry, I should have remembered sooner that you are more susceptible to temperatures than I, but your words are true, perhaps there has been some delay? But no matter, let’s go to that copse of trees over yonder, it looks like it may provide some respite from the falling snow, yes?
  74. >Trotting back to his side, she wrapped one wing firmly around him and with a small crack and a flash of bright cyan light, the two of them appeared amidst the tall pines in a flurry of displaced snow.
  75. >Anon coughed several times and nearly fell over from the shock. He’d never experienced teleportation before and the sensation nearly made him pass out.
  76. >As his vision went blurry, a strong pair of forehooves and wings caught him, pulling him close to Nýrmáni’s chest
  77. >Nýrmáni sat and held Anon close, wrapped in the warm embrace of her wings with only his head peeking out under her own.
  78. >”I did not realize that you would react to teleportation so. We… I am not being the best communicator am I?” He could almost feel the remorse flowing off of her.
  79. “You could work on it some…”
  80. >Anon’s grumpy tone faded with his dizziness at the warmth that Nýrmáni gave off, the chill that had been seeping into his flesh for the past hour or so fading with every second that passed.
  81. “Give me more warm hugs like this and you’re forgiven, and at least the snow isn’t really falling under here.” He said as he looked from within his feathery blanket as he sat and leaned back further in Nýrmáni’s chest.
  82. >Nýrmáni hummed in agreement, the feeling of it vibrating against his back further warming him up.
  83. >”It is… different here, from Luna’s memories at least.” She said quietly, her chin resting on top of his hood-covered head.
  84. “It’s been like three or four thousand years since they’ve been here, right? A lot of things can change in that amount of time.”
  85. >”So it would seem…” Nýrmáni let her thought trail off as the two of them sat in the shade of the snow covered pines, with only the occasional snowflake drifting through the trees to fall in around them.
  86. >Nýrmáni twitched behind him as one of the bags she held suddenly began to glow with a bright yellow light, and Anon stumbled out of her wings and hooves as the alicorn quickly held the bag out in front of her.
  87. “I bet it’s the teleportation charm, get it out of the bag!” Anon yelled as Nýrmáni unzipped and removed the glowing charm, holding it with her magic.
  88. >”What should we do with it?” She squeaked out, her body leaning away from the charm as it began to emit bright sparks, which fell to the ground and sizzled through the snow.
  89. “Toss it over there or something.” He pointed a short distance away, and the charm went flipping through the air to land in a small cloud of steam amongst the snow.
  90. >There was a flash and crack like a lightning strike, and Anon wasn’t quick enough to cover his eyes.
  91. >Vision temporarily shot, he could feel one of Nýrmáni’s wings pull him close again as his vision slowly began to clear, and heard her shout out a challenge.
  92. >”Who are you? Are you the one Celestia spoke of?”
  93. >As the last of the stars left his vision, he could see a light tannish-grey mare in a winter jacket and a wool hat standing where the teleportation charm had landed, the snow around her had been blasted away and she stood on dried, tan grass.
  94. >She was hitched to a small wagon, which seemed full to bursting, only the straps and a single grey tarp kept whatever was inside of it from overflowing completely.
  95. >The mare shivered for a moment from the cold, then turned her head to look at him and Nýrmáni with a smile.
  96. >”Yup, that’s me, sorry for the delay, but I ended up bringing more than I initially thought.”
  97. “Wait, Bon Bon? You’re the one Celestia said was an ‘old friend’? Hahaha!” He couldn’t help but laugh as Nýrmáni and Bon Bon looked at him strangely.
  98. >”I don’t even want to know.” The Earth Pony muttered under her breath as she unhitched herself from the cart and trotted towards them.
  99. >”Again, sorry about the longer wait, but once Starlight got everypony back to Ponyville, most of them wanted to help you somehow but didn’t know how they could.”
  100. >”Princess Luna stopped in directly afterwards to thank us for our support, and told them all that a pony would be going to give you some supplies and well…” She gestured to the absolutely stuffed wagon behind her, “It kinda got out of hoof. A lot of ponies pitched in stuff.”
  101. >”That… that is…” Nýrmáni’s eyes went wide at Bon Bon’s words and to Anon it looked like she might start crying, but then she coughed softly into one hoof and held her head high.
  102. >”That is indeed a wonderful thing that the ponies have done, what is all in there?”
  103. >”A bunch of stuff, honestly, they were all very enthusiastic about helping you two.”
  104. “So,” Anon said, asking the question that had been building in his mind. “Who all knows where we are?”
  105. >Bon Bon rolled her eyes upwards in thought. “The Princesses, Shining Armor, that nurse who was helping you apparently, and one or two other ponies as far as I know.”
  106. >”They don’t want word of your location spreading apparently. Kinda an out of sight, out of mind kind of thing I guess.”
  107. >Anon nodded to himself, then tapped his backpack, right where the journal that Celestia and Luna had given him sat safe from the snow.
  108. “And what if we need help? Or if there is an emergency of some kind?”
  109. >”Oh that journal thingy? They gave their matching book to me. They’re trying to project the image that they ‘banished’,” She made quotation marks with her hooves, “You to be alone with no communication whatsoever.”
  110. >The mare smirked at the two of them.
  111. >”Privately, however, if you need anything, just write in it and I’ll get the word to them, they don’t want a direct connection to you two in case the Congress tries to do anything else stupid or if they’re questioned about it.”
  112. >”Though after what just happened, I doubt they will.” She chucked sinisterly.
  113. >”What happened to them?” Nýrmáni asked, shaking her head slightly to dislodge some errant flakes of snow from her head and neck.
  114. >”Well, Princess Cadence, as Princess of the Crystal Empire, just withdrew all economic ties to Equestria because of the stunt they tried to pull on her, until such time they formally apologize and recognize the Human Immigration Initiative.”
  115. >Bon Bon failed to suppress another chuckle. ”So yeah, they screwed themselves big time, and a lot of businesses are definitely going to be super mad with them so we’ll see how many of them stay in office because of their oopsie.”
  116. >”But back to the import stuff at hoof,” She sat, pulling the sleeve of her jacket up with one hoof to look at a watch strapped to her cannon. “I’ve got about three hours or so before the teleport charm I used sends me back, so I have some time to help both of you sort all of your new stuff out.”
  117. “Awesome, what are we waiting for then? Let's get to it.”
  118. >And so Anon, Nýrmáni, and Bon Bon undid all the straps and the tarp on the small wagon and began to unload it, one box and parcel at a time, and thirty minutes of unloading later Anon was still surprised by how much stuff was packed in there.
  119. >”I think that Starlight Glimmer mare used a spell to increase the wagon’s internal space.” Bon Bon replied to his curiosity as she hoofed out a wooden box that had the seal of Sweet Apple Acres on it. “Several ponies sent a lot of preserved food as well, so you two should be set for a good long while.”
  120. “Are you sure?” Anon asked as he placed the crate in the snow next to the pile they had made for all of their food and other perishable provisions.
  121. >”Yup, I know there’s also a bunch of fishing tackle and rods in here somewhere, Celestia’s instructions insisted on it, she said you loved doing it. Ah, here they are.” She pulled out a large, rectangular soft case which Anon took in his hands.
  122. “Damn, this looks expensive.” He said, running the light case up and down in his hands as he examined it.
  123. >”I wouldn’t worry about it. All of this stuff? They’re gifts to you two.” She pointed one hoof towards Nýrmáni, who was currently setting up the large tent that they had pulled out of the wagon first.
  124. >”So don’t worry over owing anypony anything. All this stuff is yours.”
  125. >Anon was silent for several minutes as he thought about what Bon Bon had told him, even as he finished unloading all the supplies from the wagon.
  126. >In two piles in front of him he had pretty much everything he would ever need to homestead and survive: axes, saws, four crates of magically-treated nails that would never rust, blankets, sheets, extra clothing, seeds for dozens of different kinds of plants, light farming equipment, preserved food, fire-starting materials, the list went on and on.
  127. >Another shelter, apparently for the supplies that wouldn’t fit in the tent, sat next to the pile, ready to be opened and set up as well.
  128. >”Anonymous come look! I have set up our ’tent’, I believe it is called? I know you will revel in the glory of it!”
  129. >Nýrmáni’s excited squeal broke him from his thoughts, and he started over towards where the large tent stood, snowflakes already settling on its grey surface.
  130. >”This model is supposedly pretty much everything proof; Princess Celestia demands nothing but the best equipment for her Royal Guard.” Bon Bon said as she trotted up next to him.
  131. >While it did look quite impressive on the exterior, he was still somewhat apprehensive about the size of it on the inside.
  132. >”Are you sure it will be big enough for me and her?” He muttered to the Earth Pony as they stepped through the snow, their breath fogging in front of them.
  133. >”Hehe, will it be big enough...” Bon Bon giggled. “Just you wait and see, silly human.”
  134. >Nýrmáni stood directly outside the tent’s main entrance flap, trotting in place with excitement, one wing holding the entrance to the tent open.
  135. >”Come, Come! Do not make Us...me wait anymore!” With a cheerful whinny she slipped inside the tent.
  136. >”For an alicorn who’s supposed to be ‘evil’ and ‘nightmarish’, she’s pretty cute.” Bon Bon smirked, slapping Anon’s leg with one hoof as they reached the entrance flap.
  137. “You don’t have to inform me or convince me of that.” He chucked in reply, opening the flap and stepping inside for the first time.
  138. >Anon couldn’t help but let out a gasp of surprise as he saw the interior of the tent..
  139. >The inside of the tent was higher than it looked from the outside, with only a few inches between his head and the tallest section, but the total inside space was easily three times what it should logically have been.
  140. >Nýrmáni hung an unlit lantern from the central support rod and turned back to look at him, smiling a cheerful, bright smile.
  141. “Let me guess: magic?” He asked as Bon Bon stepped in beside him, the two of them examining the inside of the relatively spacious tent.
  142. >”Yup.”
  143. >Almost bouncing on her hooves, Nýrmáni went to Anon and nuzzled his cheek excitedly with hers. “I did it myself! And we have room to stand in most of it! I did not believe it was possible at first.”
  144. >Anon chuckled as he scratched her back between her wings and kissed Nýrmáni on the cheek, the alicorn squeaking with joy as she quickly brushed past him and exited the tent as her whole body quivered with excitement.
  145. >”We must set up the other shelter for our supplies, help us Beloved! We shall make quick work of it together!”
  146. >Anon and Bon Bon stood there for a moment, looking back to where Nýrmáni had unwrapped the larger canopy covering and was trying to figure out how to set it up, giggling and smiling all the while as her mane and tail writhed happily in the air and batted at the falling snowflakes that came close enough.
  147. >”She’s a little weird too.” Bon Bon stated, watching as the alicorn began to juggle the shelter’s stakes in her bright cyan magic.
  148. “Yeah, but who doesn’t have a weird side? Come on, let’s help her get it set up and our new stuff organized, I don’t want any of it ruined before we get the chance to use it.”
  149. <>
  150. >The wind had picked up as soon as the sun went down, and the snow flurries that had fallen on them all day had increased to a full on blizzard by the time the sun had fallen below the horizon.
  151. >It wasn’t super late in the day time wise, but since they had gone north by a considerable margin the sun had set much sooner than it had in Ponyville.
  152. >Nýrmáni and her beloved Anonymous couldn’t care less though, as deeply buried in blankets as they were.
  153. >Her excitement from the day had diminished somewhat, and now she lay in a pile of blankets, her wings and hooves wrapped around her human to keep him warm as she tried to fall asleep.
  154. >It was completely unnecessary to wrap Anonymous in her wings and hooves since she could sense the spells built into the tent to ward off much of the chill and cold from the outside, but she loved holding him close regardless.
  155. >She loved smelling his scent and nuzzling his hair as he gently ran a hand down her back.
  156. >It made her feel alive, even in moments like this, where they didn’t have to say a word to each other to show how much they cared for each other.
  157. >In the relative darkness that enveloped them, only the wind, the occasional ruffling of the tent, and the soft breathing of her lover reached her ears.
  158. >Nýrmáni sighed softly through her nostrils as she held Anonymous just a bit closer to her.
  159. >She was content.
  160. “You don’t have to squeeze me so tight.”
  161. >His soft and quiet words made her blush slightly as she let up slightly on her hold of him.
  162. >”I am sorry, Beloved, but I do not want you to get cold.”
  163. “I don’t think I will be, it’s really comfy under these blankets.”
  164. >”That it is, Anonymous. It was very kind of Rarity to give them to us.”
  165. “She is the Element of Generosity.”
  166. >”That is true, but she seems very nice besides that fact. I am still surprised by how much was given to us.”
  167. >She felt him adjust himself under her wings, one hand going to her neck to rub it softly.
  168. “A lot of ponies care, but are too afraid to speak out, but if what Bon Bon said is true then things are being shaken up pretty good back in Equestria.”
  169. >She hummed in agreement, one ear flicking as his hand found a spot on her neck that seemed to make her whole body melt into a puddle of warmth.
  170. >”True, but we are in Equestria no longer, we can play by our own rules now, and do whatever we want.”
  171. “True…” He leaned back from her, his eyes rising to her muzzle in darkness.
  172. “I do have one question, and please don’t take it the wrong way, but why were you so cheerful when we got here, even though we just left everything both of us have known behind? Me doubly so.”
  173. >Nýrmáni was silent for a moment, her eyes wandering in thought for several moments before looking into Anonymous’ bright blue ones.
  174. >”We… I was just… I felt free for the first time in my life. Nopony to tell me what to do, no gilded walls holding me in, no slavering politicians trying to condemn me for just existing. I was able to trot freely without being judged, free to laugh and enjoy the world around me.”
  175. >She sighed again, her eyes falling away from his as shame welled up inside of her.
  176. >”But I should have taken your feelings into account…” She softly nuzzled the top of his head.
  177. >”I did not mean to... to make your plight worse, if that is what I have done…”
  178. “You didn’t.” His response seemed a little too quick to be honest.
  179. >”If I have hurt you in any way please tell me, please do not hold the truth from me in the hope that it makes me feel better.”
  180. >It was quiet for a time, Nýrmáni could almost imagine the young human’s mind contemplating his response, even as his hand ceased it’s scratching and lay limp on her neck.
  181. “It did hurt a bit, knowing that I may never see Twilight or the others again, especially Tea Leaf and Thunder after how nice they were.”
  182. >His voice was quiet, and his words were spoken slowly.
  183. >”The letter they sent with Bon Bon was very nice an-eep!” Nýrmáni let out a quiet squeak as her beloved human flicked the tip of her nose with one finger.
  184. “Let me finish please.” His tone gave her no room for debate, so Nýrmáni simply nodded, her muzzle once again turning slightly red with shame.
  185. >She was glad it was so dark that his human eyes couldn’t see it.
  186. “Like I said, who knows if we’ll be able to see them again. After everything they did for you, and for me, I may never get the chance to shake their hooves and thank them for their kindness.”
  187. >He sighed into her chest, his hand resuming it’s rubbing of her neck.
  188. “It was just kinda jarring for me, seeing you so happy and carefree after everything that had just happened, and it just… came off wrong to me, I guess.”
  189. “It’s like you didn’t care about possibly never seeing them again. I know,” His hand cupped her cheek as she opened her mouth to protest. “I know that you do care, and you were probably caught up in the excitement of the moment and all, but it didn’t seem like it on the outside to me.”
  190. >Nýrmáni felt him shake his head against her fluffy chest as he sighed again.
  191. “Look, I’m not the best at talking about this kind of stuff, so I’m sorry if I’m rambling or didn’t make any sense or-”
  192. >”No, you are more than alright in voicing your thoughts, Anonymous.” She let out her own sigh. “I am sorry as well, and this shows that I am not the best communicator myself. I guess that is something we can work on improving together, perhaps?”
  193. >Her hopeful half-question was answered as Anonymous pulled her head down for a quick, chaste kiss.
  194. “To that, I can agree.” He said, and her heart swelled when she saw the small smile on his face.
  195. >Then his expression changed slightly, from one of simple happiness to… something else, his eyes narrowing a bit and his smile getting a touch wider.
  196. “But, on the subject of improving things together, there is something else we can work on getting better at now that we’re alone.”
  197. >”What would tha-'' Nýrmáni's words turned into a gasp of surprise as Anonymous’ other hand, which had been wrapped around her back, fell from its spot and lightly gripped her exposed flank.
  198. “Look at me.”
  199. >There was something about his voice that some forgotten, instinctual part of her mind latched onto, one that told her that she couldn’t disobey, and when she looked down at him her lips met his, his other hand going from her neck to the back of her head, pulling her softly against him.
  200. >She moaned softly into his mouth as their lips parted momentarily with a soft smack, before he tilted his head slightly and kissed her again.
  201. >”Mmmmmm…” Her body began to heat up, her senses focusing solely on her Anonymous and the rapidly hardening length of manhood pressing against her belly through his underclothing.
  202. “I want to try something.” He whispered as he pulled his lips from hers, his breathing beginning to quicken from his arousal.
  203. >”What do you wish to tr-mmmph…” her question faded as the hand holding her flank left her cutie mark and gently stroked down her marehood, several droplets of her arousal leaving with his fingers, her ethereal tail flowing over his hand like water.
  204. >He moved away from her slightly as he wriggled about under the blanket, removing his only article of clothing, his eyes never leaving hers.
  205. “Roll over on your back.” He asked, his voice a husky, needy whisper.
  206. >She did so slowly, smiling all the while as Anonymous kneeled on the floor of their tent, his hands going to her long yet strong hind legs, her wings ruffling as she got herself comfortable.
  207. >Anonymous kneeled behind her, the blankets that covered him shrouding him in shadows that only her eyes could pierce.
  208. >He pressed his dick forwards, letting the tip of it run the length of her pussy, her clit winking out as she bit her lip to suppress another lustful moan.
  209. “You don’t have to hide it, who’s going to hear us? I want to hear your voice…”
  210. >He pressed the tip inside of her, and this time she didn’t hold back, a shameless, low moan of pure arousal escaping her muzzle.
  211. >”P-please…”
  212. >He pushed himself in as he lay on top of her, his belly resting on her tender teats and belly, his hands going to her neck once again Nýrmáni leaned her head forwards to kiss him again.
  213. >She squeaked and mewled into his mouth as he hilted himself fully inside of her, her muscles clenching around his shaft as it kissed her depths.
  214. “I want to look at your beautiful face.” He murmured to her as they separated for air again, one hand cupping her cheek softly, the other rubbing circles on her withers, her mane flowing over both of them in slightly glowing, sparkling stars.
  215. >She felt herself wink against his shaft again, her hot feminine juices leaking out around the tight fit to cling to his hips and her inner thighs.
  216. >He began to thrust into her, his movements slow yet firm, and her body fell into a deeper state of euphoria at the feeling of it, her forehooves wrapped around his back and pulled his chest to hers as they deepened their kiss.
  217. >It was very much different from the first time they had mated together, she thought to herself through the haze of lust that now clouded her mind
  218. >Whereas before their sex had been almost all instinctual, bestial rutting, this experience was less intense, but somehow more than fulfilling.
  219. >She could feel the heart of her beloved pounding rapidly in his chest, and every time their lips separated he could see his bright blue eyes shining with love and care into hers.
  220. >This wasn’t ‘fucking’ as Anonymous had called it to her. This was making love.
  221. >And Nýrmáni loved it.
  222. >Anonymous began to slowly trail kisses across her cheeks, and then elicited a giggle from her as he gently began to smooch and nibble parts of her neck.
  223. >”Beloved…”
  224. >Her hooves trailed down his back and sides as her body heated up even more, her clit winked rapidly as she felt herself approaching the edge, her beloved taking a deep sniff into her neck.
  225. >”I...W-We are…” Her words failed her as her orgasm overcame her, her hooves tightening around Anonymous as she groaned in satisfaction, her pussy flexing and clenching rhythmically, trying to milk him as much as it possibly could.
  226. >Her hind legs crossed and locked behind him, pulling his hips forwards until his dick had hilted completely in her, her clit and diamond-hard teats kissing his pelvis as he bit down onto the skin of her neck.
  227. >It seemed Anonymous wasn’t far behind her though.
  228. >”I’m… I’m...” She could feel his heart racing even faster, his formerly slow and gentle thrusts becoming faster, more shaky as she pulled him even closer with all of her hooves, her wings spread out under the blankets that still covered them.
  229. >Her spectral, star-filled mane and tail fell to the ground around her, twitching and writhing as she felt herself approaching the limit once again.
  230. >”Please... I love you…” Nýrmáni mumbled into his ear, licking his cheek with her broad, pointed tongue.
  231. >That was apparently his limit, and with one final, soft slap of flesh on fur he came, moaning in love-filled pleasure as he held her close with surprising strength.
  232. >Her hind legs held him tighter, keeping his dick hilted deep inside her where it belonged.
  233. >She could feel each shot of his cum enter her as she milked him dry, another orgasm overtaking her as her marehood convulsed and leaked hot marecum over the both of them.
  234. >Trembling slightly, she held him close, his forehead pressed against hers directly under her horn as she rode out the last tremors of pleasure.
  235. >Nýrmáni could see Anonymous’ breath wafting from him and from herself as they both panted, their eyes still locked together as they met in another, softer kiss.
  236. >She didn’t know how much time had passed since they had kissed and cuddled together, but she found her head and one hoof resting on his chest, the blankets and her wings once again covering them both.
  237. >Anonymous was already asleep, his head tilted on his pillow, facing her as he peacefully breathed in and out, the rhythmic, slow beating of her human’s heart lulling her to sleep.
  238. >Perfectly at peace, much like she now was.
  239. >Nýrmáni nuzzled herself deeper into his chest with a quiet hum of content and, moments later, drifted off as well, the quietly whistling wind and the snow still pattering on their shelter a soothing lullaby.
  240. <>
  241. >Nýrmáni slowly opened her eyes, yawning as she woke from her deep, peaceful slumber.
  242. >It took a moment for her to realize where she was and what had happened since the last time she had slept.
  243. >So much had changed for her and for Anonymous in the last day it seemed almost like a dream to her.
  244. >Speaking of the young human, she noticed that he wasn’t under the pile of blankets with her, but crouched next to the wood burning stove that they had been given, coaxing a small fire to life within it, his figure lit by the lantern she had hung up the previous day.
  245. >He gently blew into the pile of twigs and shavings that he had apparently collected from branches outside, and within seconds the smell of burning pine and the cheerful crackling of burning wood filled the tent.
  246. >He apparently heard her yawn, and the young human turned to her with a bright, cheerful smile.
  247. “‘Morning Nýrmáni, I’m just glad this tent has a built-in chimney for the stove, it’s still really cold out there and I didn’t fancy digging through all that snow to build a fire on the bedrock.”
  248. >”What are you going to cook?” Nýrmáni mumbled as she stretched again, her wings and neck extending as she lifted the blankets off of her.
  249. “Just some soup, I want to get out and explore some, the clouds are gone, the sun is starting to rise, and it looks like it’s going to be a bright day, I’m just glad I got these,” He pointed to a pair of dark-tinted goggles that sat on his bags. “Or my eyes would be melted from the glare.”
  250. >He added some more wood to the fire to build it up, and then walked to the corner where they had stored all of the cooking equipment the day before.
  251. “Will the glare be a problem for you? Or do your alicorn abilities prevent snow blindness?”
  252. >Nýrmáni smiled back at him. “It will take a moment or two for my eyes to adjust, but I do not believe that it will be a problem for me.”
  253. “Cool, I want to go look around our new home, since it looks like we’re going to be here for a while.”
  254. >Nýrmáni said nothing in reply as she stood, the memory of their conversation the night before coming back to her.
  255. >”Anonymous…” Her voice was low and soft as she took several trots towards where he now poured several cups of snow into a pot to melt over the now sizable fire.
  256. >”I… I just want to say I’m sorry about-”
  257. “Look, you don’t have to keep apologizing.” He put a metal grill over the fire and placed the pot on it. “If we get stuck in this circle of self-blame it’s going to be really hard to get out of it. I’ve forgiven you, that’s that.”
  258. >”Are… Are you sure?” She could help but whisper the question out as she finally reached him and sat next to him, softly resting her head on his clothed shoulder.
  259. >He sighed, reaching up with one hand to gently rub her ears, the alicorn cooing softly at the pleasant sensation.
  260. “I have, but most importantly, have you forgiven yourself?”
  261. >Nýrmáni didn’t know how long she sat there, thinking about her answer.
  262. >Anon simply sat, watching the snow melt and begin to slowly boil, steam rising from the water that now filled the pot.
  263. >”We talked the night before, and found where the problems came from. We said that we would fix them together, yes?”
  264. “We did.”
  265. >”Then… I guess I have, if we decided what to do to avoid having this problem again.”
  266. “Yup, you’re right. Sorry baby, gotta get the soup.”
  267. >Nýrmáni found her head gently lifted up by Anonymous as he stood and went back to the food he must have brought in with him when we went foraging for firewood, coming back with two large jars.
  268. >”What did you call me?” she asked as she looked at him, head tilted in half-faked irritation, but she couldn’t hide the smile that began to grow on her muzzle.
  269. >For some reason, he began to blush as he opened and emptied the two jars into the now boiling water.
  270. “Do you have a problem with it?” He asked in a slightly smug tone, grinning right back at her despite his growing blush, one hand already stirring the contents of the pot.
  271. >”No.” She said, her own cheeks beginning to flush with heat. “In fact, I very much enjoy it, especially after what you ‘showed’ me the previous night.”
  272. >His face went an even brighter shade of pink at her words, much to her satisfaction.
  273. “Yeah, that’s also something else that we’re going to have to figure out; we have no shower or bath, so we’re going to have to improvise something so we can clean up after ourselves.”
  274. >”True…” Nýrmáni nodded, nostrils flaring as the smell of whatever was cooking in the pot began to fill the tent with it’s wonderful aroma. “I think that we can come up with a solution easily enough.”
  275. “This shouldn’t take much longer, and there should be enough for each of us to have a couple bowls worth.” Anonymous replied, his eyes locked onto the contents of the pot that sat before him. “We can eat and then go look around for a bit.”
  276. >By the time that Anonymous had declared the soup finished, the light from outside had grown significantly, the early-morning sunlight piercing the material of the tent to fill it with a warm, cheerful yellow glow.
  277. >Nýrmáni extinguished the lantern with a breath, then turned to where Anonymous was filling two bowls with the steaming soup.
  278. >She couldn’t help but sniff again, the smell making her mouth water as she licked her lips.
  279. >It smelled absolutely delectable.
  280. >In no time at all, the two of them sat side by side as they consumed their bowls of soup.
  281. >Nýrmáni had one wing wrapped around her beloved, and he leaned against her and wrapped himself in her ethereal mane in a way that made her heart soar with happiness.
  282. >The soup was as delicious as her nose had indicated it would be, and soon enough both of them had drained the pot dry.
  283. >After helping Anonymous quickly clean their bowls and the pot, she stood by the tent’s entrance as the young man dressed himself in thick, winter clothing.
  284. >”Are you done yet, Anonymous?” She couldn’t help but sound impatient. She was honestly excited to see this new land.
  285. “I’m working on it, I’m not immune to the cold like you are, and when I went out there for a few minutes to get some wood I couldn’t stop shivering till I got the fire started.”
  286. >”That is true, I do not know a spell to repel the cold that can be cast onto your clothing, but perhaps one of those books may hold the answer.”
  287. >She pointed with one hoof to the two wooden boxes that contained all manner of guides and manuals, for everyday housekeeping spells to farming methods to everything between.
  288. >Bon Bon had said that Twilight Sparkle had lost them from her castle’s library in a ‘tragic boating accident’ and thus didn’t care if they had them.
  289. >Anonymous had burst into giggles at this statement, but Nýrmáni did not know what he could find so funny about such a sad occurrence.
  290. “Maybe,” He finished lacing up his boots and put a cap on his head, retrieving the goggles he’d left on his bags. “Alright, let’s go take a look around. I’m so glad I decided to keep these before I left home.”
  291. >Resisting the urge to prance in place, she unzipped the tent flap as he reached her side and stepped out into the bright, early morning sunlight.
  292. >Nýrmáni instinctively covered her muzzle and eyes with one large wing as she took several trots forward, the brightness of the sun and reflecting snow seemed to hit her like a physical blow.
  293. >She heard soft crunching beside her, and as the bright spots left her eyes she turned her head to see Anonymous standing there, half his face hidden by a pair of reflective goggles that covered his eyes.
  294. “You good?” He asked, steam escaping his mouth along with his words.
  295. >”Yes, just a moment or two more and my vision shall be… oh my…”
  296. >Her words vanished from her mind as she gazed upon the vista before them.
  297. >Nýrmáni had set up their tent just inside of the small copse of trees they both had taken shelter in the day before, and snow had apparently fallen considerably during the night, it seemed to come almost up to Anonymous’ knees.
  298. >The sky was a crystal clear bright blue with not a cloud in sight; the sun peeked over the mountains, bathing the massive valley, which Anonymous had told her was called a ‘fjord’ that the two of them were currently in with a myriad of colors.
  299. >The glare off of the snow and ice would have almost certainly harmed any other pony not wearing eye protection, but Nýrmáni was no ordinary pony.
  300. >It took only moments for her eyes to adjust to the harsh yet pleasant sunlight.
  301. >There was a slight wind still in the air, and the trees around them occasionally creaked in the wind as occasional flakes of snow raced along the ground, born on the cold breeze.
  302. >She heard Anon whistle in awe at her side.
  303. “It was hard to see around earlier in the dark, but this is pretty incredible.”
  304. >”Aye, it is indeed incredible.” She turned to look at him, a smile gracing her muzzle. “So, what do you think we should go look at first?”
  305. “Well,” He folded his arms in thought. “We have snow right now for fresh water if we melt it, but knowing if there are any streams or rivers, even if they’re frozen, would help us later.”
  306. “We’ve got plenty of wood for fires here, and over there.” Nýrmáni followed his pointing finger to their left, where most of the mountainside was covered with innumerable, large, snow blanketed evergreens.
  307. >”True; do you wish to see what is down there by the ocean?” She pointed one hoof towards the ice-choked stretch of water at the base of the long fjord. “I know that Celestia sent all that fishing equipment for you.”
  308. “True… but I have no idea if there are even any fish up here during this time of year, or even what kind of fish there may be even if there are any.” He looked at her, his expression unreadable because of his goggles.
  309. >”Well,” Nýrmáni spread her wings and gave them an experimental flap, sending loose, dry snow flurrying about before them both. “There is no time like the present to find out, yes?”
  310. >She heard him laugh, a sound that never ceased to send thrills of joy through her veins.
  311. “Sure, why not, but I’d rather not hike all the way down there in this deep snow, that’s a mile or two at least.”
  312. >She smiled even more at his trivial excuse.
  313. >”It is good then that I can fly, dear Beloved.” She bent her legs slightly as Anonymous went to her side.
  314. “Are you sure, You haven’t flown outside of our dreams, and neither have I.”
  315. >”Do not fret, dear Anonymous, I promise I will not drop you. I didn’t last time, remember?”
  316. “I also remember you breaking the sound barrier and nearly knocking me unconscious.”
  317. >She laughed cheerfully, her wings fluttering as Anonymous threw one leg over her side and settled himself on her back, just behind her wings.
  318. >She took several hoofsteps forwards, getting used to the weight that now rested on her back.
  319. >It felt good to be carrying him so; it brought them closer, at least from her perspective.”
  320. >”I promise that I will do no such thing now but maybe in time, once we have ‘settled in’ I believe the term is?”
  321. “Yeah that’s it.”
  322. >”Good.”
  323. >With a few gentle pumps of her wings to prepare herself and her passenger, she gave one large pump downwards and she was off, slowly and steadily soaring over the fjord, with the cold wind whistling through her fur and feathers.
  324. >She could feel Anonymous’ knees gripping tightly against her barrel, and his hands firmly held swaths of her star-studded mane but she could do nothing but smile.
  325. >She was truly free. Both of them were.
  326. >With a whinny of joy she gently swooped and turned through the clear, sunny sky, and if the excited cheers coming from behind her neck, where Anonymous had hidden his head from the wind were anything to go by, he was greatly enjoying himself as well.
  327. >For several minutes Nýrmáni spread her wings and rode the updrafts, giving the both of them time to examine their new home from up on high.
  328. >Surrounded by mountains and other fjords further up and down the coast, and more mountains and snow-topped forests further inland, they truly were completely and utterly alone here.
  329. >Eventually, she slowly made her way downward towards the shore in large, gently falling circles, until finally her hooves touched down just a couple trots away from where the snow covered ocean ice met the rock and dirt of the shore.
  330. >She shook herself slightly as Anonymous threw himself off of her back, quiet giggles still coming from him, his exposed cheeks bright pink from the freezing wind.
  331. >”Was that more to your liking Anonymous?” She asked, sidling up to him and rubbing a cheek against his.
  332. >It was quite cold to her touch, but she could feel the blood rushing to his face at the gentle physical contact.
  333. “Y-yeah, it was. Now,” He looked out at the expanse of shifting ice that lay before them. “How are we going to tell what's down there?”
  334. >”Simple, I shall get rid of the ice.” Nýrmáni felt the magic flow through her horn, and much like how the warm soup she had eaten just a half-hour earlier had filled her body with warmth, her magic did so as well.
  335. >With a soothing, calming warmness her magic filled her, cleared her mind and focused it on her task.
  336. >It was surprisingly easy. Nýrmáni was honestly surprised.
  337. >With a loud crack and a deep boom, a section of ice as thick as she was tall and as big around as the base of Twilight’s castle simply ripped itself free from the surrounding ice and rose above the water, suspended in her brilliant cyan magic.
  338. >Loose snow fell from it and was carried off in the breeze, colors of all kinds appearing as they sparkled in the sunlight.
  339. >She heard a gasp of surprise from Anonymous as she moved the large, circular shaped section of ice off to the side and further away from them where it would be out of their way, and simply let it go.
  340. >The massive sheet of ice hit the ice that she had not moved and a small part of the rocky shore with a thundering crack, like a million plates of glass shattering.
  341. >Even from where they stood, several hundred trots away, it still caused the ground beneath her hooves to tremble slightly.
  342. >”There, now we may see what kind of fishes lurk in the waters below.”
  343. “Um…” She turned excitedly to look at him, and could see him slowly shaking his head as he tried and failed to repress a smile.
  344. >“You probably just scared them all away with that little stunt. Fish are scared of noises like that, remember? I told you that when I was teaching you how to fish.”
  345. >”Oh.” Suddenly Nýrmáni felt rather sheepish as she felt her cheeks heat up. “Um… oops?”
  346. >Apparently Anonymous could not hold in his mirth anymore, and he began to laugh cheerfully as Nýrmáni sat down in the snow and blew him a raspberry, her cheeks now as pink as his were.
  347. “It seems like that one dream fishing trip wasn’t enough to teach you the methods and tactics of being a successful fisherman, you ready to learn some more?”
  348. >Though he had been laughing at her, she knew he meant nothing by it, and his words were honest and forgiving and his smile, along with the gloved hand that rubbed behind one ear, caused her to chuckle happily herself.
  349. >This silly human and his ability to always make her happy.
  350. >”I believe the term, when applied to me, would be fisherpony, but yes,” She nuzzled further into the hand that was scratching her neck. “ I would love to, beloved.”
  351. <>
  352. >In the end, the two of them did get to see a couple curious fish come to the surface.
  353. >They were pretty large , but to Anon it didn’t look like they would tear him apart if he accidentally fell in the water, so he was happy with this discovery.
  354. >Even though Nýrmáni could have been more subtle and a lot less noisy with how she had gotten rid of the ice layer, her solution to his request got more funny the more he thought about it.
  355. >She had apologized to him several times since then and each time he calmly told her it was no big deal.
  356. >The fish would come back, and no harm had been done.
  357. >On the inside though, he was still reeling somewhat by the fact that she had casually lifted what had to be over one thousand tons of ice and hadn’t seemed in the least bit strained by the effort.
  358. >She hadn’t even flinched.
  359. >Anon was beginning to realize that he honestly had no idea how powerful his girlfriend was or what she could do with her magic.
  360. >The dream that the two of them had shared with Luna and Celestia the night before that absolute joke of a trial had given him a hint at her abilities, but to see such a demonstration done in such a casual way by her was still mind boggling to him.
  361. >He rubbed his chin thoughtfully as he stirred their dinner around in the pot, the pleasant smell filling their tent with an air of homeliness.
  362. “Home…” He muttered.
  363. >“What was that?” Nýrmáni looked up from the spellbook that had consumed her for the last couple hours of sunlight, before the forming clouds and setting sun had forced her inside and into the lanternlight.
  364. >”Did you say something, Beloved?”
  365. “It’s nothing, I just… Well…” He sat down, his eyes still watching the food cooking in front of him.
  366. “If we’re going to be here for… a long time, we’re going to need a different shelter other than this tent, nice as it is. I can’t imagine that it will last a long time of constant use in these conditions without it starting to fail.”
  367. >Nýrmáni marked her page, closing the book and standing from the pill of blankets that was their bed.
  368. >”Are you saying that you wish to… build a home, perhaps?”
  369. >To his ears it almost sounded like she was asking herself that question as much as she was asking him.
  370. “Maybe…” He said, his mind still swirling in thought.
  371. >”It is like you said earlier in the day, there is plenty for the both of us to use here.” Nýrmáni said as she approached him, her sound of her hooves hidden by the soft bubbling of their cooking dinner.
  372. >The large pony lay down next to him, wrapping a soft, warm wing around his back, her cheek resting softly against his.
  373. >He could feel the fine, soft hairs of her cheek on his, and he leaned further into her out of reflex.
  374. >Nýrmáni hummed softly in response to his affection, her ethereal mane falling down around his shoulders and back like a cape of the softest silk, the stars within it twinkling cheerfully.
  375. >”Perhaps we could build a house of some kind for ourselves? There is timber abounding, and plenty of solid stone as well. It would not be so hard, especially with my power and all of the other materials that the ponies have graciously given us to construct something.”
  376. >He felt himself smiling at her words as he thought over what she had suggested.
  377. >Anon went to stir the food again but as he raised his hand to grab the ladle a gentle cyan glow surrounded it and levitated it out of reach.
  378. >”You have cooked for me enough, I have enough knowledge of food to prepare this.”
  379. >He could hear the repressed chuckle in her quiet voice, even as her wing pulled him tighter against her side and neck.
  380. >”So, what do you think of my proposal, do you wish to build a house with Us-me?”
  381. >For a moment he watched the ladle, held in the cyan glow of Nýrmáni’s magic, gently stir their dinner, which was smelling better to him with every passing moment.
  382. “It would probably take a while, and the weather will only be getting worse as winter actually rolls in, and we’d have to find a good spot with a solid foundation.” He said.
  383. >”I was looking for such a spot earlier, just before the sun set and found several that may work. I shall show them to you tomorrow.”
  384. >She lifted a hoof and gently held one of Anon’s hands in it, guiding it to her fluffy, warm chest.
  385. >”Is this something that you would want?’
  386. >Anon draped his free arm around Nýrmáni’s back and pulled her closer to him, the alicorn quietly nickering in pleasure at the embrace.
  387. “Back in my world, it was the dream of most people my age to have a house that they can call their own, and not live in a rented apartment or something else like that.”
  388. >His hand began to gently scratch just above where her wing connected to her body, earning a hum of pleasure from the alicorn
  389. “We can go check out those spots early tomorrow, so we can choose and get started as soon as possible.”
  390. >”That is an agreeable plan, Anonymous.”
  391. >He turned his head to face hers and found her softly glowing, slitted eyes filled with happiness at his words.
  392. >Anon couldn't help but smile and chuckle at the sight, Nýrmáni began smiling as well, apparently touched off by his smile as well.
  393. >Though he could also see the tip of one fang sprouting from her top lip as she giggled.
  394. >His heart jumped at the adorable sight.
  395. “I’m so happy to have someone like you with me, someone to love...” He couldn’t help but almost choke up as the words left him.
  396. >As if sensing his impending sadness, the large alicorn pulled Anon into her chest with the hoof holding his hand and the wing around his back and held him there, as if he was the most precious thing in the world to her.
  397. >Anon gently breathed in Nýrmáni’s scent as his face was pressed into the unbelievably soft and warm fluff of her chest.
  398. >He could feel himself relaxing in her embrace as she rubbed his back with one impossibly soft hoof and nuzzled his hair with her muzzle.
  399. >This pony and her magical calming nuzzling.
  400. >He was a hopeless addict.
  401. >After what felt like an eternity but was certainly only a minute or two Nýrmáni released her hold on him and pulled him away from her chest.
  402. >He noticed that he’d left a bit of drool on her floof, and as she looked down at him he realized that she must have seen it as well as her eyes narrowed playfully.
  403. >”Do you drool on me? Are you that attracted to me that you cannot restrain yourself for even but a moment?”
  404. >Anon blushed furiously as Nýrmáni began to quietly laugh, her wings ruffling and spreading slightly as she puffed her chest out even more with pride, her eyes sparkling down at him.
  405. >”You cannot hide your desires from me; I can smell your arousal and see the lust in your eyes. I can hear your breath ris-eep!”
  406. >Anon booped her softly right on the tip of her nose with a single finger, sending the proud, stately alicorn reeling back so hard that she almost fell over backwards in her surprise.
  407. >Recovering herself with a squeal Nýrmáni sat down, her hind legs splayed outward towards him in a shameless display of her privates, her glowing eyes boring into him with pure lust and desire.
  408. “Before we get started though,” He lifted a bowl from the ground, poured some of the now finished soup and a spoon into it and held it out to her with a cheeky smile. “Foods ready.”
  409. >For several moments she simply sat there, completely dumbfounded, her look of seduction having vanished in an instant as Anon held the bowl out to her.
  410. >Then the bowl was lifted out of his hand to Nýrmáni, who simply shook her head at him, her smile and playful eyes returning.
  411. >”Oh my beloved Anonymous, you said you wished to get an early morning start tomorrow, yes?”
  412. >He suddenly felt a bead of sweat run down his cheek at her downright ravenous tone.
  413. “Umm, yeah?”
  414. >In a single, fluid motion, Nýrmáni discarded her provided spoon and simply gulped down the entire bowl of soup in a single go.
  415. >Anon’s eyes went wide and he didn’t know if he should be scared or aroused at the sight.
  416. >Could she do that with his dick?
  417. >She lowered the empty bowl and met his gaze once again, her eyes literally glowing with desire as she licked her lips slowly, sensually.
  418. >“I am afraid that your early morning has been cancelled. You have five minutes to eat, then you are mine.”
  419. “Okay.” He squeaked, gulping down his own bowl as he tried to ignore the raging erection that his pants now contained.
  420. >He wouldn’t have to worry about it being contained for long.
  421. <>
  422. >Sleep eluded her.
  423. >It was the first time since she had awoken in this world that it had done so for any real length of time, but Nýrmáni had a lot more on her mind now than she had before.
  424. >A soft shuffling of blankets and a sigh jerked her from her thoughts as Anonymous adjusted his head against her chest.
  425. >Nýrmáni felt a smile forming on her muzzle at the sight of the human pressed up against her.
  426. >Oh she had given him his five minutes and his meal, then she had taken her just compensation for Anonymous so casually drooling on her chest.
  427. >Her hips and hind legs were sticky with the remains of their frenzied rutting and she was pleasantly sore, but Anonymous had been beneath her the whole time as he tried to keep up.
  428. >He was getting better at this whole ‘physical relationship’ thing, as was she.
  429. >But he was still not quite up to the task of completely wearing her out.
  430. >The young man was trying though, and Nýrmáni loved him for it.
  431. >Nýrmáni gently nuzzled the back of his head, even as her thoughts wandered back to the book that she had been reading before dinner.
  432. >The book was full of advanced spellcraft and magical theory, and it was a fascinating read and full of useful spells that Nýrmáni could already see herself using to better their situation.
  433. >But the main thing that had been bothering her somewhat since she had begun reading it was the chapter on the theory of cutie marks and their meanings.
  434. >She needed room to think.
  435. >With a soft sigh through her nostrils she gently edged herself away from Anonymous while trying her hardest to make sure he didn’t wake up.
  436. >He lethargically grabbed two handfuls of blankets as she slipped her way from underneath them and pulled them close to himself.
  437. >Filling the void that she had occupied.
  438. >She righted herself then leaned her muzzle down and kissed him softly on his one exposed cheek.
  439. >Anonymous didn’t respond, other than to move himself deeper into the blankets.
  440. >With a small smile Nýrmáni raised her head and stood fully.
  441. >Despite a tiny bit of the moon’s light seeping through the tent, it would have been virtually pitch black for almost anypony else.
  442. >But not for her, she could see everything almost as clearly as if it was a sunny afternoon.
  443. >Looking around the tent, she spotted the spell book sitting on one of their travel trunks but ignored it.
  444. >Perfect, for a being of the night like herself.
  445. >Moving to the tent’s entrance flap, she exited quietly and shut it behind her, before placing a sound muffling charm over the entire shelter.
  446. >She wasn’t sure if she was going to yell or talk to herself but the one thing she didn’t want to do was wake her beloved from his slumber.
  447. >Her horn lit up again, but this time the spell washed over her, scouring any remnants of sex and fluids off of her body, leaving her as clean as she had been before their passionate tumble in the blankets.
  448. >Who knew a spell created to clean dishes and cutlery could work so well for this?
  449. >Chuckling to herself, Nýrmáni looked out over the fjord and night sky before her.
  450. >There were no clouds, and the moon shone brightly above her in a field of stars that shone more clearly and brightly than she had ever believed possible.
  451. >Even in Ponyville the stars were somewhat dimmed from light pollution from the city of Canterlot and the firefly lanterns of the small town, but not here.
  452. >Out here, it was completely devoid of any sign of civilization.
  453. >Nýrmáni’s eyes wandered across the night sky. It was truly beautiful, what Luna did with the stars and moon every night.
  454. >Which brought her back to the thoughts that had been troubling her the entire evening.
  455. >Trotting slowly through the snow and past the tree line, with the whispering wind blowing away the flakes her bare hooves disturbed, Nýrmáni’s mind went back to the words of the passage that had sent her mind racing.
  456.  
  457. >--Cutie Marks are unique to each pony that acquires them. Most often, the physical symbolism of the cutie mark is rather straightforward in terms of what it helps a pony to do, but sometimes there are outliers that are not as obvious. There have also never been two ponies who’s cutie marks have been identical. There have been some that very closely resemble each other, but in each there have been fundamental differences in the magics that differentiate them.
  458.  
  459. >”What is mine, then?” Nýrmáni whispered to the wind as she looked at her flank, and the cutie mark that sat on it.
  460. >It was shaped slightly differently than Luna’s, the moon was a lighter shade of cyan instead of the purest white, was purple instead of black, and had little splashes of purple that sent over half of her legs and lower belly.
  461. >Anonymous loved them, he said they were similar to freckles.
  462. >She didn’t understand what he found so attractive about them but she would never say that to his face.
  463. >But the most pressing part was the magic that she possessed.
  464. >It was the exact same as Luna’s.
  465. >During the several visits that Luna had made to the two of them while they had been in Twilight’s castle Nýrmáni had compared their two magics together closely.
  466. >Luna had certainly felt Nýrmáni’s magical inspections, but had not raised any mention of it, Nýrmáni had seen the curiosity in the other alicorn’s eyes.
  467. >What was her purpose in this world, if a being exactly the same as her already existed here first?
  468. >Nýrmáni wanted something for herself to strive for, a dream to achieve for herself besides being known as a shadow, a mere imitation of Luna.
  469. >Snorting heavily, she batted the snow beneath her front hoof, sending a small cloud of snowflakes into the air, where they were quickly dispersed by the wind.
  470. >She stood there for what felt like hours, her mind racing as she looked around at the moonlight reflecting off of the snow.
  471. >”Maybe it is like what Celestia said when We first awoke. I make my own path, and create my own destiny…” Nýrmáni finally whispered.
  472. >The night didn’t respond, other than the wind that whistled through her ethereal mane and tail and made the trees behind her creak and groan as they swayed.
  473. >She would choose what she wanted for herself, and she would be the best partner to Anonymous that she could possibly be.
  474. >Nýrmáni clenched her jaw and looked up at the moon, shining brightly above her in a black sea full of bright, sparkling stars.
  475. >”But just once… I will do what Luna has not…”
  476. >The tension left her body as she sighed, and closed her eyes.
  477. >Her horn began to glow, softly at first, then brighter and brighter as light violet sparks flew off of it like water from a fountain.
  478. >She felt her body rise slightly from the snow, her wings spreading slightly but not beating.
  479. >The snow beneath her hooves whirled and twisted about as if in a tornado, swirling all around her and out over the fjord as Nýrmáni‘s horn grew brighter still, the cyan glow lighting up the trees and the ground all around her.
  480. >Finally opening her now solid cyan eyes, she looked at the moon and reached out with her mind and magic.
  481. >A pale, cyan glow slowly surrounded the large white orb, enveloping it in a gentle embrace.
  482. >Nýrmáni slowly raised her right foreleg and held out her hoof towards the moon.
  483. >Her body began to shake from the strain, she slowly, bit by bit, rotated her hoof clockwise.
  484. >The moon answered her call, and as Nýrmáni watched with widening eyes, the moon began to turn on its axis.
  485. >It was slow enough to make her think it wasn’t actually happening, but there was no denying that it was.
  486. >In the span of less than a minute, the moon had rotated almost a half turn before Nýrmáni could no longer bear the strain and cut off her magic.
  487. >She fell limply to the ground, snow flurrying up from the impact.
  488. >Breathing heavily, she looked up at the moon, and the new terrane features that the rotation had revealed to anypony that simply glanced upward into the night.
  489. >And she had done it herself.
  490. >Nýrmáni felt tears come to her eyes even as throbbing pain erupted in her horn and throughout her whole body.
  491. >”I-I am not m-meant to raise and lower the moon.” Her voice was shaky, but she could feel herself smiling despite the fact that her whole body now ached severely. “But turning it? I a-am happy with that.”
  492. >Standing on her now weak and trembling legs, she made her way back to the tent, shaking the snow off of her as she went.
  493. >She entered it and found Anonymous resting just as he had before, thankfully he had slept through the whole thing.
  494. >Smiling down at him, Nýrmáni lifted the blankets and crawled under them with a moan of pleasure at their warmth, courtesy of Anonymous’s body.
  495. >As silently as a mouse, she snuck under them, snuggling up next to Anon, she gently removed the blankets from his grasp and pulled him to her chest.
  496. >With an unintelligible mumble he put a hand on her withers and pulled himself as close as he could be to her.
  497. >Nýrmáni kissed the top of his head again, and as soon as she lay her head down, sleep finally welcomed her.
  498. <>
  499. >The sky above Canterlot was perfectly clear as the glow of the still hidden morning sun began to replace the dark and stars of the night.
  500. >Luna sat at the table, calmly eating a plate stacked with pancakes that she had just finished cooking herself.
  501. >One of her sister’s favorite foods, Celestia had been kindly teaching her how to cook them for herself and thankfully she had quickly mastered the simple food.
  502. >Luna hummed with her mouth full, savoring the texture that was so fluffy it seemed to almost melt in her mouth, filling her with warmth and flavor.
  503. >She patiently waited, eating her fill till Celestia came for her own breakfast and eventually saw what had happened during the night.
  504. >Luna wanted her sister’s reaction to what Nýrmáni had done to the moon.
  505. >Submersed deep within the Dream Realm, the tentative connection Nýrmáni had made with the moon in the night had caused Luna to wake immediately.
  506. >The feeling of Nýrmáni reaching out to the moon with her magic had been like a static buzz on her wingtips and horn, and instantly Luna knew what the other alicorn was attempting to do.
  507. >Luna had thought about blocking her from touching her moon; it was well within her power to do so, but she had waited, curious to see what would happen.
  508. >Nýrmáni might make a mistake or two while moving it, but Luna decided that she would stand ready to instantly fix any errant movement Nýrmáni may make.
  509. >But to her immense surprise, Nýrmáni didn’t try to lower or raise the moon.
  510. >She began to turn it instead.
  511. >Luna had watched silently as her moon rotated almost a full half-turn before Nýrmáni’s aura faded from it and the other alicorn’s connection tapered and disappeared.
  512. >After spending several minutes studying the new topography that the rotation had revealed, Luna had smiled despite herself.
  513. >Why hadn’t she thought of doing that?
  514. >After deliberating on what had occurred, Luna decided not to rotate the moon back.
  515. >It would certainly give the astronomers something to talk about, and since her once-a-week Night Court was happening in the pre-dawn early morning, she knew that ponies would inevitably come seeking answers.
  516. >There wouldn’t be many ponies showing up most likely, but it would give her an excuse to hold a larger Night Court than normal.
  517. >A greater portion of ponies cared about her night full of stars now, and they were nothing if not vocal about it to her.
  518. >They had even made her put her changes on a planned schedule, something that irked her to a degree.
  519. >The movements of the moon were ‘supposed’ to stay rigid and unchanging, at least according to her ‘schedule’, and this stunt just threw every moon chart that she knew of out the window.
  520. >Thankfully her Night Court had ended an hour ago, and Luna had spent all of it calming down irrationally panicked astronomers and other similarly concerned ponies.
  521. >Now she had breakfast, and she’d remembered that pancakes solved lots of problems.
  522. >”Sister, something about your night sky looks… different I think?”
  523. >Luna lowered her cutlery and smiled at her half-asleep sister, who was trotting through the open door and to the table, her flowing hair still askew, a large cup of coffee and all of her royal finery held in her golden magic.
  524. >Celestia’s eyes were slightly red and unfocused as she looked slowly around the dining room.
  525. >With a tired gesture of her horn and a large yawn, the gold articles fell unceremoniously onto the table as she pulled a seat out for herself.
  526. >”You noticed?” Luna tried to hide a chuckle.
  527. >”Maybe? But I think it may be because I’m not completely awake yet.” Celestia yawned, rubbing her eyes with one hoof and looking out the large, open window to her left and out into the early morning sky, where the moon hung low on the horizon.
  528. >Luna kept smiling innocently. ”Oh there is a difference, but I did not cause it.”
  529. >Celestia took a large gulp of her coffee and looked outside again, then back to Luna, her eyes a bit more focused and filled with surprise.
  530. >”It was her, wasn’t it? What did she do?” Her tone was somewhat cheerful, but her eyes were serious.
  531. >Luna waved a hoof at her sister casually, a plate of fresh pancakes appearing in front of the white alicorn.
  532. >”Oh, she turned the moon a bit is all. Don’t worry,” Luna said as Celestia’s eyes went much larger with surprise. “She didn’t do anything more than that, and I was monitoring her the whole time. I felt her the instant she reached out to it.”
  533. >Celestia sighed in what seemed to Luna like relief, a smile forming on her muzzle at the fresh pancakes before her.
  534. >”Well, I guess we never said she couldn’t do it…”
  535. >”No, we didn’t.” Luna watched, suppressing a giggle as Celestia tore into her pancakes with an almost religious zeal.
  536. >“I will be sending her a letter asking her not to do so again though, I spent much of the morning trying to calm half of the astronomers and weather ponies in Canterlot, since such a movement was not planned.”
  537. >Celestia didn’t respond, other than a sympathetic nod as Luna teleported another plate of fresh pancakes in front of her.
  538. >Luna sighed as she stood, walking to the window to finish lowering the moon. ”I’ve noticed that ponies overreact to the smallest things these days, don’t they sisters?”
  539. >”Mmmmhmmm.”
  540. >Luna shook her head even as she began to smile.
  541. >It seemed that her sister enjoyed the pancakes.
  542. >Resisting the urge to dance on her hoof tips with joy, Luna gathered her magic and began to guide the moon slowly downward., the heavenly body responding to her touch with ease and grace.
  543. >”Well, I’m sure that some similar questions will come up in the day court today, so I prepared a statement that you may give on my behalf to those who ask.”
  544. >Luna finished pulling the moon slowly below the distant horizon just as Celestia trotted to her side, her hunger apparently finally satisfied.
  545. >”Those were very good pancakes, Lulu.” Celesta lay one large wing over her sister's back as the sun began to rise, the golden hues of dawn growing brighter with each passing moment.
  546. >Luna chuckled, leaning into her larger, warmer older sister. “I learned from the best.”
  547. >”You’re right about that.” Celestia nuzzled her little sister in response, the younger alicorn giggling like a young filly as Celestia tickled her behind her ears.
  548. >”What is in your prepared statement by the way? I would rather not have to surprise myself by reading it for the first time in front of the entire Day Court if I’m asked about your moon.”
  549. >Luna giggled again, a small sheet of parchment appearing before Celestia with a pop of blue magic.
  550. >She watched as Celestia’s eyes scanned the very short paragraph, trying and failing to suppress her continued snickering as her older sister sighed, folding the parchment into a neat rectangle.
  551. >”Is that really your official statement, Luna?”
  552. >”Yes, and I shall not change it.”
  553. >”So your excuse for such a change to the moon is...” Celestia opened the parchment again to read her exact words before looking down at Luna again. “...because you were bored?”
  554. >”Indeed, sister.” Luna grinned up at Celestia, who, despite her downtrodden tone and thin lips, was smiling with her eyes. “That is our official, royal proclamation on the matter, and if anypony has a problem with it, tell them to come to the next Night Court and bring it up with me directly.”
  555. >Celestia sighed again, her smile finally escaping her eyes and spreading across her muzzle. “You know they won’t do that.”
  556. >”Exactly sister, that is the plan! They shall simply have to… what is the phrase used these days? ‘Deal with it’?” Luna tilted her head at her older sibling questioningly.
  557. >”Yes Lulu, that is what they say.”
  558. >”Well then deal with it they shall, I’m sure there will be much discussion around the new view of the moon within the astronomy and stargazing communities. I heard enough panicked questions and complaints about it in the Night Court this morning.”
  559. >Celestia chucked as the first rays of morning sunlight lit the mountaintops and towers of Canterlot with a peaceful orange and yellow glow.
  560. >”You weren’t too blunt with them were you?”
  561. >”Of course not.” Luna playfully nudged her sister’s side with one wing. “You know that I have been practicing to be as polite and respectful as possible to my subjects, especially the ones who study and appreciate my night.”
  562. >Celestia nodded sagely. “I have heard good things from several ponies I trust.”
  563. >Luna opened her mouth to respond but yawned instead as the sun hit her, and suddenly she realized how tired she was and how the food in her belly demanded she rest.
  564. >”I believe that this is my cue to retire for the day, Celly.” Luna yawned again, her wings spreading slightly as she stretched. “The mare Bon Bon is the one who can get this message to Nýrmáni for me, correct?”
  565. >Celestia laughed at the sight. ”That is correct, she will relay it to Nýrmáni for you.”
  566. >Bending down, Celestia encircled her little sister into a warm, loving hug. “Sleep well sister, and thanks again for the pancakes, they were truly wonderful.”
  567. >With a nicker of joy Luna leaned into the happy snuggle with her older sister for several moments before separating and teleporting to her bedroom.
  568. >After taking a quick shower, Luna dried herself, brushed her teeth, plopped down onto her comfortable bed.
  569. >Laying in her cloud bed and the sea of soft, warm blankets, Luna’s mind began to drift off, but then she groaned and sat back up, her mane and tail blowing in agitation, the stars scattered throughout them twinkling dejectedly.
  570. >She still had a letter to write.
  571. <>
  572. >The smell of eggs frying in a pan and Nýrmáni humming cheerfully to herself drew Anon from his sleep.
  573. >Slowly opening his eyes, he could see her sitting with her back to him, cheerfully mixing scrambled eggs in a pan over the fire, her mane and tail lazily waving about.
  574. >Trying to ignore the soreness in his hips he sat up, causing Nýrmáni to turn at the sound of shifting blankets.
  575. >She gave him a warm smile. ”Good morning Beloved, I hope you slept well?”
  576. “Yeah, other than my pelvis feels like it got run over by a car.” Anon tried to rub the remaining sleep out of his eyes with one hand, while searching for his pants with the other.
  577. >”What is a ‘car’, and is that bad?” She sounded almost afraid of the answer as she turned to face him fully, her ethereal tail grabbing the spatula from her magic to continue stirring the eggs behind her back.
  578. “Think of a carriage, but self-propelled and made of metal and glass that can go really fast.”
  579. >”Fascinating.” Nýrmáni’s smile returned somewhat as she tilted her head at him. “But you did not fully answer me; is that bad that you feel this way?”
  580. >Anon stretched and yawned, twisting at his waist and trying not to wince from the small jolts of pain that it caused.
  581. “It’s a good kind of hurt, mostly.” He chuckled, looking down at himself. “You look clean at least, did that spell you find work?”
  582. >Her smile brightened considerably. “Yes it did. Allow me to clean you as well.”
  583. >With a cyan flash from Nýrmáni’s horn and with a sensation similar to a lukewarm bath Anon’s body glowed for a moment.
  584. >When the glow had faded, the remnants of their sexual exploits went with it.
  585. “Wow, that’s pretty neat.” He looked down at himself and how his naked body had been completely cleansed of any remnants from the last nights ‘activities’.
  586. >Too bad that it didn’t really get rid of the smell though, just the physical remnants.
  587. >”So, shall you partake of the breakfast that I have prepared for us both? The sun has already been up for several hours and I know that you want to get started soonest.”
  588. >He wanted to poke a joke at her that this was all her fault for him sleeping in for so long, but seeing her earnest smile as she loaded a plate of still-steaming eggs for him, he couldn't bring himself to.
  589. “Sure, let me get dressed and we’ll eat and then go look at those spots and pick one.”
  590. >Anon stood, removing the blankets that still covered him while reaching for his remaining clothes, his body still lethargic with remaining sleep.
  591. >As he slipped his boxes and pants on he looked up for a moment, and found Nýrmáni staring at him, even as her mane filled another plate with eggs
  592. “You enjoy what you’re seeing?”
  593. >She licked her lips, her fangs visible for a brief moment. “Very much so.”
  594. “Well, be a good girl today and maybe I’ll give you a surprise tonight.” He winked at her.
  595. >Nýrmáni froze, her eyes went wide at his provocative statement, and for a moment he wondered if he’d gone too far.
  596. >Then her slitted eyes narrowed, a deep chuckle rumbling from her chest. ”I have prepared you breakfast while you have been slumbering, and this is how you repay me?”
  597. >Anon barked out a laugh as he threw his long sleeved shirt on and walked over to her, giving her neck a soft hug which the alicorn returned with a happy sigh.
  598. “Thanks for making this, it smells delicious.” He said quietly into her ear as he rubbed his cheek against hers.
  599. >She returned the gesture, tightening the hoof she had wrapped around his back. “It is no trouble, Anonymous. I find I rather enjoy cooking, and I see now why you talk so much of it’s joys.”
  600. “That’s great to hear. I often wanted lots of food that wasn’t available, so I had to make it myself if I wanted it, and it just kinda grew from there. It’s a useful skill to have regardless.”
  601. >He separated himself from the large, warm alicorn and sat cross legged next to her as she wrapped a wing around him, a plate of eggs appearing in his hands with a flourish of cyan magic.
  602. >Anon raised his silverware, scooped some of the delectable looking meal onto his fork, and took his first bite.
  603. >He felt Nýrmáni’s curious eyes on him as he nodded several times in content as the taste hit his tongue.
  604. >She was going to be good at cooking if she kept it up like this, like pretty much everything else she put her mind towards.
  605. “It’s good, really good.” He looked up at her with an honest smile.
  606. >The look of joy spreading over her muzzle was almost palpable as she gave a suppressed squee of excitement before turning to her own plate.
  607. >As Anon lifted his plate and began to eat, he felt Nýrmáni shift next to him as she suddenly cleared her throat. “I, um, may have messed up.”
  608. >He looked up at her curiously.
  609. “What do you mean?”
  610. >”Well…” With a cyan glow, Anon’s magical journal levitated from his bag and in front of his plate, opening it to what looked like the most recent entry.
  611. >He set his plate off to the side, picking up the book and setting it into his lap.
  612. >”I received a message in it this morning from Luna, and she… Well, you read it.”
  613. >She seemed almost embarrassed, what could she have-.
  614. >Then he started reading what the Princess of the Night had written.
  615. >He could feel Nýrmáni’s body tense up against his as he read the words.
  616. >Anon sighed, closing the journal, picking his plate back up.
  617. “You know what, I’m honestly not surprised anymore. You didn’t hurt yourself did you?”
  618. >He could see her trying to hide her blush out of the corner of his eyes.
  619. >”N-no, I did not.”
  620. “That’s all I care about.”
  621. >There was silence for several minutes as they ate, and Anon could feel Nýrmáni’s body relaxing as they shared warmth.
  622. “So, where are these potential house spots you picked out?” he finally asked between mouthfuls of eggs.
  623. >”There are some on the shore opposite our current spot, and a few more scattered up and down through this fjord.” Nýrmáni looked over to Anon. “That is the correct word, yes?”
  624. “Fjord? Yeah, pretty sure it is, considering where we are and the general landscape and terrain.” He finished the last few bites of food on his plate and then stood.
  625. “Let me get the rest of my stuff on and we can go.” He leaned towards her muzzle, their eyes nearly even despite the fact that she was still sitting down.
  626. >He cupped her left cheek with one hand and gave her a soft, quick kiss.
  627. >As Anon pulled away after only a second or two, Nýrmáni emitted an almost desperate whine, desperately trying to lure him back with her suddenly wide, puppy-like eyes.
  628. “Those eyes won’t work on me, I’ve owned several dogs and I’m immune to it from overexposure.”
  629. “However,” He raised his hand as her slitted eyes narrowed in a dangerously playful way, “Since that food was so good, you’re getting closer to earning that surprise.”
  630. >Nýrmáni didn’t even bother with narrowing her eyes, simply snorting out a laugh and shaking her head as she began to clean their empty plates and the cooking pan.
  631. >”I do not suppose that you will tell me what this surprise entails, Beloved?”
  632. >Anon finished throwing on his winter jacket and walked over to her, cupping her muzzle gently as he leaned in and whispered into one large, twitching ear.
  633. “That would ruin the surprise, but you’ll love it, I promise.”
  634. >He kissed her cheek and pulled back from her now madly-blushing muzzle, shooting her a sly smile as he went back to putting on the rest of his winter gear.
  635. <>
  636. >Flying was such a simple, pure joy that Nýrmáni had to restrain herself from going faster and faster with each beat of her wings.
  637. >She didn’t want to knock Anonymous off of her back by accident, despite several spells she had cast that helped keep him from failing.
  638. >The sun was shining brightly above them both in a shockingly clear and blue sky, and the wind was minimal, so flying with Anonymous on her back was an easy and worry-free affair.
  639. >But one could never be too careful, especially with the love of your life.
  640. >Staying within the confines of Twilight Sparkle’s castle had prevented her from doing anything more than stretching and flapping her wings a bit to keep them from getting stiff, but out here there were no limits, no rules.
  641. >With the wind whistling through ears and ruffling her coat as she soared through the sky, she found the first spot she had seen that had interested her, slowly descending as she did wide circles around it.
  642. >”What do you think, Anonymous?” She called out, slowing down so that they did not need to shout to each other, still slowly descending towards the snow covered ground below.
  643. “I don’t know, those cliffs right there don’t look super stable, look at the cracks going through them, I’d rather not get crushed by half a mountain in my sleep.”
  644. >Nýrmáni looked to where he was pointing, stopping her descending to hover in place beside the cliffside he was pointing at.
  645. >”True. There are certain spells that can repair such things, but only for so long, and those can be harmful themselves in some situations, and I am not adept at such magics.”
  646. >She nodded, then looked over her shoulder at Anonymous, who sat on her back, holding handfuls of her start-studded mane in his gloved hands.
  647. >”Would you like to see the next spot then?”
  648. “Yup, let’s go.”
  649. >And so it went for several hours, location after location.
  650. >The two of them took their time as the sun went through the sky, and Nýrmáni and Anonymous enjoyed themselves while going to each potential spot she had seen the previous day.
  651. >Several times the two of them had simply stopped for what felt like hours, perching on mountains or hovering on updrafts, simply staring out over the wonderful view that they now shared together.
  652. >Several times she thought back to Anonymous’s words that morning, and his promise to make tonight special.
  653. >And the fact that he had only promised such things if she was a ’good girl’.
  654. >Nýrmáni didn’t know why, but hearing him refer to her in such a way had sent tremors of excitement throughout her body.
  655. >Every time she thought of that moment, she was shocked that he hadn’t noticed how her hind legs had quivered.
  656. >But had she decided that she would play his little game and be his ‘good girl’ for the day, just to see what his surprise would be.
  657. >If she enjoyed it she would have to do it again for him, not that she would need much more encouragement.
  658. >Seeing his smile and hearing him laugh meant everything to her.
  659. “Hello? You there Nýrmáni ?”
  660. >Nýrmáni jerked in the air, coming to a sudden hover as Anonymous finished knocking on the back of her head.
  661. >”What is it? Are you alright Beloved?” She felt her heart begin to beat faster as worry began to set in.
  662. >Was he hurt? Was he having trouble breathing? Was he cold?
  663. >She could fix those problems. With hugs and snuggles.
  664. “I’m fine, but you’ve been flying in a straight line for like twenty minutes and haven’t said a word. We flew outside of your fjord at least ten minutes ago and I was getting worried, something on your mine?”
  665. >”It is nothing, Beloved, I was just… thinking, I suppose…”
  666. “...Do you mind if I ask what about?”
  667. >Nýrmáni could hear the hesitation in his voice, even as she hovered in silence.
  668. >She did feel one of his hands release her mane and begin stroking down her withers though.
  669. >With a sigh, she turned and began flying back the way that had come.
  670. >”I just… was thinking about what you told me this morning before we left is all.”
  671. “What specifically?”
  672. >”The term you called me. I was just surprised by it is all; I did not take you for one to use such language.”
  673. “Well, I kinda surprised myself actually. It just came out of my mouth without me thinking and I thought you were going to knock me in the head for saying it.” She heard him laugh nervously, his hold on her tightening slightly.
  674. >Nýrmáni snorted half heartedly, shaking her head as she flew on. “I would never do such a thing.”
  675. “Why not? Do you-” He stopped talking, then burst out laughing. “You actually liked it when I called you a good girl, didn’t you?”
  676. >Even with the cold and the wind and all the clothes he wore there was no possible way that Anonymous couldn’t feel the blush that seemed to radiate from her cheeks.
  677. >”We-I… I do not find the term unacceptable… I suppose…” She was surprised that the cold wind hitting her cheeks didn’t burst into steam.
  678. “Hey, no need to be embarrassed. I won’t judge, and who else will? There isn’t anyone around who could.” He patted her on the neck several times in a reassuring manner.
  679. >By the stars above that felt nice.
  680. >She spotted the cluster of trees that hid their tent and supplies and began to descend. “And I suppose that you have decided on one of the spots perhaps?”
  681. >Anonymous either took her bait to change the subject or he simply did not want to press the issue on her.
  682. “Yeah, I actually did decide on a spot, I’ll tell you once we land. I need to stretch my legs.”
  683. >”Wonderful. When do you believe we can start building the… our house?”
  684. >With a small flurry of snow blown up by her wings Nýrmáni’s hooves impacted the snow, her body taking the soft but still jarring impact to spare her precious passenger any pain.
  685. >Anonymous threw his leg over her back and slid off, stretching his arms over his head and twisting his upper body several times, getting several satisfying-sounding pops.
  686. >Nýrmáni did the same, trotting in place several times and fluttering her wings several times to clear them of any flying snow before folding them to her sides and shaking her head and neck.
  687. >”So, Anonymous, what spot did you decide on?”
  688. >He wrapped an arm around her neck and shoulders and leaned against her as they faced the expansive valley before them.
  689. “I think, if you agree, that this spot, right here...” He gestured to where their tent stood just inside the tree line and the area all around them, “...would be the perfect spot. What do you think?”
  690. >Nýrmáni looked around a bit as she considered his logic.
  691. >Plenty of trees for wood.
  692. >A solid building foundation, she could sense the solid rock beneath her hooves.
  693. >They had not found a frozen-over river yet but there had to be one close.
  694. >In fact, while looking through the chest full of spellbooks that Twilight Sparkle had ‘lost’, she had seen one about locating and using natural environmental resources
  695. >There had to be a spell in there that could help them out with that problem.
  696. >She felt herself smiling, and she turned to face Anonymous as she tittered quietly.
  697. >”You make me fly you around as if I am your personal servant, when you had decided to use this place the whole time?”
  698. >To her amusement his cheeks went as red as hers had been minutes before.
  699. “Well, I only thought of it a couple minutes ago, and it seemed right is all. The funny thing is…” He pulled her closer, until their lips were barely apart, “...you chose to come to this spot in the first place.”
  700. >Nýrmáni opened her mouth to replay but stopped, her mind racing back to their first day in this place.
  701. >He was right.
  702. >She smiled as she looked deep into his eyes, her blush returning as she swallowed the last of her nerves.
  703. >”So does that mean… that I’m a ‘good girl’ as you say?”
  704. >Anonymous bent backwards and began roaring with laughter, and after a few moments Nýrmáni joined in.
  705. >Recovering himself, he gently cupped her muzzle in his hands, bringing her lips to his.
  706. >Her right front hoof pawed at the snow as she moaned into his kiss, her whole body growing hot.
  707. >She’d take that as a yes.
  708. <>
  709. >By the time the sun had begun to set, the clouds had rolled in from the mountains and snow had once again begun to fall from the darkening sky.
  710. >Anon stood and watched as Nýrmáni lit up her horn, the cyan magic steaming from it clashing brightly against the orange and pink setting sun behind her.
  711. “What are you doing?” He asked her as the snowfall began to intensify around them, the wind whistling around him.
  712. >”I am casting a shield barrier, Beloved. At the current amount of power I am putting in it-” The light from her horn expanded upwards and out, like a time-lapse video of a plant growing and spreading its branches, “It should ward off the snow and the worst of the wind.”
  713. >Within seconds, a shimmering, transparent cyan dome surrounded them both, covering the entire copse of trees that hid their tent and everything that they currently had with them.
  714. >”It shall hold for some time without needing to be reinforced.” She finally said, her horn steaming in the growing chill as she finished casting the spell. “I suspect I shall have to recharge it every couple of days, but otherwise it shall do nicely for us.”
  715. >Anon shrugged at her words, patting her behind her ears and ruffling her constantly flowing, semi-translucent mane.
  716. “If you say so, you’re the magic expert.”
  717. >He noticed a small blush appear on her one visible cheek at his comment.
  718. >’Well, um, I guess that is true.” She stood there for a moment, seemingly observing the glowing dome, her slitted eyes quickly scanning over its interior.
  719. >She nodded to herself, steam leaving her muzzle as she exhaled.
  720. >”It is stable; What were you thinking about cooking for dinner Anonymous? I am famished from all of the flying that we did this morning.”
  721. >Anon laughed, the hand behind Nýrmáni’s ears falling to her neck as he passed her on the way to their tent.
  722. >The proud and stately alicorn hummed happily at the contact as she turned to trot alongside him.
  723. “Well, I can throw something together, we’ve got plenty of potatoes and apples, and maybe some fish for myself since I saw that Fluttershy put some fillets in with the rest of the food we got.”
  724. >”Fish? Really?”
  725. >He could almost feel her curious eyes on him as he opened the tent up and let them both inside, the warmer air inside hitting him pleasantly.
  726. “Yeah, I really need to catch some soon before it starts getting too cold. I can take the cold but I’ve got my limits.”
  727. >”No, not about the cold, but you eat fish? And other meats?”
  728. >Anon took off his jacket and turned to Nýrmáni, finding her looking at him, her head tilted slightly and eyes furrowed in curiosity.
  729. “Yeah, I thought you knew? Or did I never tell you that humans like me are omnivores? “
  730. >Nýrmáni stood motionless for several seconds, as if she was having trouble absorbing what she had just heard, and Anon wondered if he should start sweating.
  731. “Is… There a problem?” He ventured quietly.
  732. >Nýrmáni shook her head quickly, seemingly coming out of her strange stupor. “No no, it is no problem at all, We... I was just surprised is all, I do not recall you ever saying that you could eat meat.”
  733. >Anon squinted in thought as he began to pull out their pot and a skillet, even as Nýrmáni began to place more wood on their fire, which had burned down to glowing, orange coals in their absence.
  734. “Now that you mention it, I don’t think I ever did. Strange. But yeah, I can eat meat.” He looked back up to her as she sat down next to the slowly growing fire as flames began to rise. “Do you want some, or can you even eat meat?”
  735. >He swore he saw her cheeks flush for just a moment before she smiled down at him, her fangs bared in an over-exaggerated smile.
  736. >”These teeth are not just for show, Beloved. Yes, I can eat meat, it is yet another thing that differentiates Alicorns such as myself from the rest of ponykind. From what I know from Luna’s memories, ponies have only consumed the meat of other animals on very, very rare occasions.”
  737. >She shifted her weight and lay down next to him, resting her head on his shoulder with a quiet sigh.
  738. >”It is something that she and her Celestia struggled with, since, as Alicorns, they were omnivores, and thus outsiders to the ponies they came to call their own. As far as I can recall from her memories, the two of them never told anypony, preferring to keep this knowledge to themselves to prevent rumors and hysteria among the populace.”
  739. “I can imagine, being a budding nation of herbivores, that having two omnivore demigods in charge might be a bit disturbing, if any of the history books I read while in Twilight’s castle were right about the ponies' superstitions in those times.”
  740. >Anon felt Nýrmáni nod on his shoulder, then nuzzle the side of his neck; her soft, warm fur causing him to chuckle as it rubbed pleasantly against his skin.
  741. “While that was interesting to learn, you didn’t really answer my question; would you like some if I cook it?”
  742. >One of her wings wrapped around him in a soft, feathery embrace.
  743. >”Yes, I would very much like some. I thought of asking about getting some kind of meats to eat while under Twilight Sparkle’s care, but seeing that ponies' dietary habits had not changed, decided against it. They already were nervous of me enough as it was…”
  744. >He could practically feel her mood falling as the words left her, but thankfully he had the perfect comeback.
  745. “Admit it, you were too busy eating all those pancakes and other things I cooked for you.”
  746. >To his immense relief Nýrmáni began to laugh, and the wing wrapped around him tightened just a hair.
  747. >”Yes, that is true, your cooking was very distracting from the lack of meat in my diet, but now I can have the best of both since we are here.”
  748. >Anon reached up with his free hand and rubbed her cheek, the alicorn humming happily at the contact. “Yup, you sure can.”
  749. >A short time later the two of them sat side by side, their plates filled with still steaming fish and potatoes.
  750. >Nýrmáni looked especially excited at hers, even as she lifted a fork and knife in her magic.
  751. “This is the first time you’ve eaten meat, isn’t it, other than Luna’s memories?”
  752. >She simply nodded in response, her nostrils flaring as she inhaled the scent of the food she held in front of her with an almost revenant grace.
  753. >To Anon she seemed almost scared of what might happen if she actually ate it, even as she raised her fork, took a small piece, and moved it slowly to her muzzle.
  754. >Her eyes went wide for a moment as she slowly chewed and swallowed, then she smiled, and began to tear into her plate with an almost maniac intensity.
  755. >Anon smiled, savoring his own mouthful of fish, the first meat he’d had since coming to Equestria.
  756. >He didn’t even really like fish, but he’d gladly eat this all day if he could.
  757. >”Oh my Beloved, it was so good! I must have more!”
  758. “Go ahead.”
  759. >Nýrmáni squealed softly in joy as she finished refilling her plate and immediately tore into it like an insane lumberjack in a cedar forest, Anon set his now empty plate to the side and leaned backwards, stretching his back with several satisfying pops.
  760. >This was the life.
  761. >Within the span of just a few minutes, the two of them had cleaned every trace of food from the pot, and every piece of fish had been consumed with zeal by them both.
  762. >”Oh, I just remembered.” Nýrmáni said as she finished putting the last of their cookware away. “What about that surprise you said you had for me? Since, well... “
  763. >She sat and began pawing the floor of their tent awkwardly with one front hoof as her muzzle went rosy pink, her eyes leaving him and falling to the ground in her bashfulness.
  764. >”...Since you said I’magoodgirlandallthatstuff...”
  765. >Anon burst into laughter, crossing his arms as Nýrmáni snorted, her chest puffing out and her wings ruffling at her sides at his open indignity towards her.
  766. >”D-do not laugh at Us!”
  767. “I-I’m sorry, but you’re just to cute, anyways, since you brought up that supr-”
  768. >Anon didn’t get to finish his sentence as Nýrmáni leapt at him, looking more like a tiger than a pony as she tackled him back onto the pile of blankets and pillows that served as their bed.
  769. >”You will regret m-making me blush so.” She panted down at him, her slitted eyes bored into his as she lay on top of him, her body pinning him completely with no hope of escape.
  770. ”Um, how?” He couldn’t help but be the tiniest bit scared, what with the grinning and the sharp teeth and the alien yet beautiful slitted eyes.
  771. >And also aroused. Damn fearboner.
  772. >He could feel her heart pounding in her chest, the tempo going up as the alicorn got more excited herself, her fur tickling his exposed skin in a pleasant way as she shifted subtly atop him.
  773. >Nýrmáni apparently noticed his growing excitement as well, and she began to chuckle down at him, her eyes narrowing slightly in arousal as one front hoof came to his right cheek.
  774. >”Oh how your body betrays your thoughts and desires. It is lucky for you that I wholeheartedly agree with them.”
  775. “Wait just a sec.” Anon’s voice came from under her, muffled slightly from the weight that constricted his chest.
  776. >Nýrmáni’s eyes went wide with surprise and she quickly rose off him, sitting back on her haunches as she seemed to fold in on herself slightly as he sat up.
  777. >”Are you alright? Did I h-hurt you?”
  778. >Anon’s heart throbbed at the pain and apprehension in her voice as she looked at him, all traces of her arousal replaced with worry and doubt.
  779. “No no, you’re fine, but I do want to give you your surprise. It’s nothing big or anything, but I thought you might like it.”
  780. >He leaned over to where his new, thick winter pants lay where he had left them after undressing before dinner and unzipped one of the pockets on it, even as Nýrmáni looked on in curiosity.
  781. >Anon found what he was looking for and pulled it out and, with a quick, hopeful breath, held out for the alicorn to see.
  782. >In his outstretched hand he held a small rock, about the size of a wallet, but the quiet intake of breath from Nýrmáni told him that he’d chosen well.
  783. >The rock was a piece of granite, and sparkled faintly as the light from their fire shone off the quartz crystals embedded in it.
  784. >But the most striking feature of it were the large veins of bright cyan crystal running throughout it, which reflected small dots of light throughout their tent.
  785. “I don’t know what kind of crystal it is. My dad would, he had the geology major, but I thought it looked pretty, and the color matches your eyes…”
  786. >Anon’s voice trailed off as he looked back to Nýrmáni, only to see her looking between him and the rock with surprise and wonder, tears beginning to form in her wide eyes.
  787. >His chest went tight in panic at her reaction, but before he could voice his concerns her horn lit up and the stone left his hand, coming to rest in both her front hooves.
  788. >He sat there, resisting the urge to bite his lower lip in worry as she held the sparkling rock closer to her eyes, studying it closely.
  789. >”This… this is…” She looked back up at him, tears falling from her eyes as she began to smile at him, the kind of smile that radiated a simple, childish joy that made all of Anon’s worries vanish in an instant.
  790. >He chuckled, rubbing the back of his head with one hand.
  791. “I found it peeking out of the snow at one of the spots you had tentatively picked for a house, and I thought that you might like it. I know it’s nothing special bu-mmph!”
  792. >Anon once again found his words cut off as Nýrmáni threw herself against him, kissing him passionately as she wrapped her wings and hooves around him tightly, her mane and tail surrounding him as well.
  793. >She pulled her lips back for a moment, her eyes looking at him with love and desire. “It is special to me, because you gave it to me.”
  794. >She pushed herself against him aggressively again as she stuck her longer, pointed tongue into his mouth in her desperation to be closer to him.
  795. >Despite nearly being knocked over by her enthusiasm and barely being able to keep her tongue under control with his, Anon had no intention of giving up as easily as he had the night before.
  796. >He pushed himself against her, wrapping his arms around her back and rubbing her back and her sides around her wings. Nýrmáni moaned into his mouth in response as she deepened their kiss, her hooves wandering all over his back and neck.
  797. >Deciding to push his advantage he grabbed her by the shoulders and shoved her back, away from him and onto the blankets.
  798. >She landed with a soft whoomph and a squeal of surprise and glee, her wings spreading out around her as she opened her hind legs to display her soaked nethers to him.
  799. >”It is beautiful, my Beloved… I… I will treasure it always…” Nýrmáni’s voice was low and thick with lust and arousal, and her chest heaved with each breath she took.
  800. >Her horn glowed again and with a pop, Anon suddenly found himself completely naked as he knelt over her prone form, her ethereal tail flowing around his legs and hips.
  801. >Anon grinned and lay on top of her, holding her cheeks as he kissed her again, Nýrmáni squirmed under him as she giggled through their kiss.
  802. >It was a good thing they hadn’t planned on getting up early tomorrow.
  803. <>
  804. >The infinite white expanse of the Dreamscape greeted her when she opened her eyes.
  805. >Sitting up to her haunches, Nýrmáni looked about in curiosity.
  806. >”Hello? Anonymous, are you here?”
  807. >There was no reply, but just as she prepared to speak again, green trees and rocky hills began to sprout from the white nothingness around her, and above her the afternoon sun appeared, shining cheerfully down on her.
  808. >In the span of a few seconds, the familiar landscape of her current ‘banishment’ appeared before her just as she felt a tickling sensation at the back of her head and throughout her horn.
  809. >Curious, she summoned her magic to identify it in curiosity for a moment then stopped. The feeling of the interloper was familiar to her.
  810. “I guess you just woke up here too?”
  811. >”It took you long enough, Anonymous.” Nýrmáni turned to face him, smiling widely as she tilted her head slightly and gave him a cheeky smile. “I was beginning to worry that I would have to come and get you myself.”
  812. >He chuckled as well and raised his hands in defense.
  813. “Hey, I don’t really have control over this kind of thing, it just sorta happens with me. You’re the one with the dream powers. Also,” He smirked at her. “I recall you passing out first this time.”
  814. >”True.” Nýrmáni blushed furiously and turned her gaze away from the chuckling human to gaze around the mountainous landscape that surrounded them both. “Well, now that we are both here, what do you wish to do?”
  815. “Not sure.” Anon sat down on a stump which appeared beneath him, and he too joined her in looking out over the fjord that was now their home.
  816. “I see you didn’t include the snow and the sub-freezing temperatures.”
  817. >”Correct. I do know that we are most likely not high enough to have snow all year round, so I simply imagined what it might look like here in the height of summer.”
  818. >Anonymous nodded.
  819. “Well it certainly looks pretty, what with the grass being green and no ice in the water.
  820. >Nýrmáni sat down next to Anonymous and softly pressed her side into his.
  821. >She heard him chuckle before an arm gently went over her back, wings, and pulled her closer.
  822. >For a while the two of them simply sat and enjoyed the view, content in the silence and the wind that rustled the trees.
  823. >”The rock that you gave me, I will keep it forever.” She finally said, her head coming to rest on his shoulder, their cheeks pressed together.
  824. “It’s nothing special though as far as I know.”
  825. >”It is special, my Beloved, because you gave it to me. That alone makes it more valuable than a castle full of the purest gold in my eyes.”
  826. “I… Thank you.”
  827. >She felt his arm tighten around her as he spoke, and she nickered quietly as she nuzzled his neck.
  828. “Hey, Nýrmáni?”
  829. >”Yes?”
  830. “I just had a crazy idea, but I have no idea if it will actually work here, so I wanna ask you if it’s even possible before I embarrass myself trying to do something that I can’t.”
  831. >She pulled away from him and went to stand in front of him, looking at him with another cheerful smile.
  832. >”Oh, and what is it that you were thinking of trying?”
  833. “Well…” He narrowed his eyes and drummed the fingers of one hand on his chin as he thought. It looked absolutely adorable to her.
  834. “I thought that maybe I could show you some music from my world that isn’t for my violin, but I have no idea how that would actually work here.
  835. >”Hmm… Music from your world? Now that would be interesting to hear. What sort of music do humans such as yourself listen to?”
  836. “A lot more kinds than you’ve probably heard.” He chuckled as he stood up and stretched his arms.
  837. >”I do not doubt it. I have only existed for a short time and Luna did not listen to much music if her remaining memories are anything to go by.”
  838. >”But, I think that your idea is possible.” She sat down and stretched her own wings out, flapping them several times to straighten out a few errant feathers.
  839. “So, how would it work?”
  840. >”If you have listened to the song, even though you may not know every note and instrument used, you subconsciously have taken in the information as you listened to it, the same with anything else you have created thus far in the Dreamscape. All that you need to do is simply bring it forth.”
  841. “Fascinating.” Anonymous stood in thought, a smile growing on his face as he appeared to think about what to do.
  842. >Nýrmáni tried not to show her own excitement at Anonymous’s idea, but the thought of hearing music that was completely new to this world nearly made her quiver with excitement.
  843. >With a pop of displaced air a strange, rectangular black box the size of a small clothes chest appeared on the ground in front of them both, startling her as she backpedaled a hoofstep or two.
  844. >”What is that?” She asked, ears pinned backwards in surprise.
  845. “It’s a speaker. I need to play the music and I figured this would do the job.”
  846. >”Fascinating…” She slowly trotted around the ‘speaker’ examining it with wide, curious eyes.
  847. >It was indeed strange, with it’s metal mesh-like front and white letters on a red background that spelled ’JBL’ on the front.
  848. >This ‘speaker’ was completely different from anything she’d ever seen before and she loved it.
  849. >”Well, how does it work?” She could no longer hide the eagerness in her voice and to her horror Anonymous picked up on her emotional slip.
  850. “Getting eager eh?” He chuckled again, causing her muzzle to go pink. “Don’t worry, my uncle had one of these and I used it a couple of times so all I should have to do is this-” He pressed something on top of the speaker and suddenly a strange hissing sound came from it, and lights suddenly came on in it’s center.
  851. >Nýrmáni squeaked despite her best efforts as she leapt away from the strange box, her wings half raised at her sides and her ears fully forwards.
  852. >Anonymous laughed as he messed with the strange box again, and the hissing dropped to an almost imperceptible level.
  853. “It’s not going to hurt you, you silly pony. Now, let’s start off with something simple to see if this whole idea works the way I think it will.”
  854. >Fluffing herself up at his words she trotted back to his side, her head held high. “I am not silly.”
  855. “Not all the time, but only when it counts.” His eyes were closed in thought.” Oh, I know just the song.”
  856. >In an instant the faint hissing went away, and were replaced with the soft notes of what she recognized as a piano, the melody seeming to emerge from the strange human contraption.
  857. >Her eyes went wide and her jaw fell as her horn lit up, determined to find out what sorcery could make such a device function, even as the rings of color within it began to subtly shift and change.
  858. >After several moments and several spells, her shock grew as she realized that she could detect no spell, no enchantment, nor any alchemical machinations within the speaker.
  859. >She glanced at Anonymous, but he was simply standing next to the device he had created, eyes closed, head bobbing slowly.
  860. >”How does such a device function…”
  861. >Her words died as the notes began a strangely familiar rhythm, and it was with another moment of shock that she recognized the melody as the same song that he had first played for her on his violin in one of their shared dreams, what felt like her an eternity ago.
  862. >Deprived of any words, Nýrmáni simply sat and listened, until the calm melody had seemingly finished.
  863. “Well, what do you think?”
  864. >She looked up, shaken from her stupor by his words, only to find him giving her a brash grin as he leaned towards her, his arms crossed on top of his wondrous contraption.
  865. >The words came to her in an instant. ”I want more.”
  866. <>
  867. >Luna floated within the Dream Realm, watching the dreams of her subjects with care.
  868. >Other than a few small scares some foals had about the upcoming winter that she’d had to quell there had been nothing else that required her immediate attention.
  869. >She pointedly ignored the terrified nightmares of the ones who were the cause of the current economic slump that now held Equestria.
  870. >While most of the politicians and nobles who had been foolish enough to try and trick Cadence had immediately sent official apologies to her through the Crystal Empire’s embassy in Canterlot, a few stubborn holdouts remained.
  871. >If they thought that the pink princess would break before them they had a whole world of hurt coming.
  872. >But Cadence had been clear: until every last one apologized she would give them nothing and she had been true to her word.
  873. >Luna snorted and shook herself from her thoughts, spreading her wings to soar between the countless white bubbles that were the dreams of her ponies.
  874. >”I wonder how they have been doing?”
  875. >With a downward jerk of her wings she changed directions, heading upwards to where her gut told her the dreams of the pony Nýrmáni and Anonymous the human would be.
  876. >It didn’t take her long to reach them, and soon she silently floated in front of the larger white sphere.
  877. >While any other dream would be like looking into an open window for her, the surface of Nýrmáni and Anonymous’s shared dream was cloudy and completely covered in mist.
  878. >Luna pursed her lips. Of course Nýrmáni would figure out how to hide her dreams from prying eyes.
  879. >Despite this vision clouding though, she could see lights flashing within the cloudy sphere, and feel the emotions emanating from the two of them.
  880. >Whatever the two of them were doing they certainly were having fun and must have been going on for some time, since the nature of the dream had stabilized completely.
  881. >Luna glanced around quickly in every direction, despite the fact that she was completely alone.
  882. >She couldn’t take it anymore, and she’d write them another apology in the morning.
  883. >”Just a quick peek, and then I won’t do it ever again. Just a quick peek…”
  884. >With surgical precision her magic cut a section of the mist out like a slice of cake, and with a small white tendril of magic Luna connected her mind to their dream.
  885. >An explosion of sound unlike anything she’d heard greeted her, nearly knocking her mind out of the dream as she desperately looked about in what few seconds she knew she had.
  886. >She could see Nýrmáni and Anonymous standing on a mountainous hillside, and behind them was what looked to be audio equipment similar to what she had seen at the last Sapphire Shores concert that she and her sister had gone to.
  887. >But the wall of speakers behind the duo was twice as tall as both of them, and playing music at such absurd levels that it would have blown out the young human's ears if it were in the real world.
  888. >Both of them were bobbing their heads absurdly to the rhythm and singing loudly, the kind of singing that one does when they love what they’re hearing and don’t care what other ponies think of them.
  889. >While Anonymous’s voice was off tune quite a bit, he seemed to be having the time of his life, if the massive smile was anything to go by, as he seemed to energetically strum an invisible guitar.
  890. >The same went for Nýrmáni, who, Luna now knew, possessed a very good singing voice, even with her accent.
  891. >After a few moments Luna could take the barrage of sound no more and disconnected herself from the dream, and with a sudden rush the world around her was silent once more.
  892. >She blinked the stars out of her eyes and rubbed her ears to get the residual ringing out of them.
  893. >Due to the fact that she’d never heard any song like it before, it must have been one from Anon’s home reality.
  894. >While she didn’t know why the singer was yelling about how they were ‘’a slave to all these voices in my head”, she was happy knowing that Nýrmáni and Anonymous were happy together.
  895. >Shaking the last of the ringing from her head, Luna folded her wings and dropped down amongst the countless other dreams and continued her watch.
  896. >Protecting the dreams of ponies was no easy matter.
  897. >Despite herself, Luna found herself bobbing her head softly to the memory of her and Celestia at that concert.
  898. >She needed to do something like that again soon, she’d ask Celestia in the morning if she was interested.
  899. >It had been some time since they had done something together as just sisters, not rules of Equestria.
  900. >Luna sighed to herself as she glanced at Twilight Sparkle’s dream, the purple alicorn was currently organizing a library larger than the entirety of Ponyville as she hummed about mathematics.
  901. >”I need to get out more.” Luna grumbled as she turned away, hoping to find nice, normal dreams to finish of her night’s work
  902. <>
  903. >”So this is what you wish it to look like?”
  904. “Roughly, yeah.”
  905. >”Hmmm… Your drawing skills are severely lacking, Anonymous.”
  906. “You don’t have to tell me that, Máni.”
  907. >”Did… Did you just shorten my name?”
  908. “Yup.”
  909. >After several moments of silence Anon finally looked up from the sheet of parchment that he had been drawing on for the last hour or so, only to find Nýrmáni looking down on him, slitted eyes glowing in a mixture of mirth and annoyance.
  910. “You’re not offended are you?” He asked, a pit beginning to form in his stomach.
  911. >”No, not really.” Her lips upturned in a small smile as he reached an apologetic hand up and began to scratch under her chin.
  912. “So I can’t give my sexy girlfriend a cute nickname? Or is it something else?”
  913. >”No, you just surprised me with it is all. But these wondrous scratches will not change the fact that your drawing is abysmal.”
  914. “Well, it's a good thing floor and wall plans don’t have to look ‘pretty’ to get the job done.” He set his pen down and drummed the fingers of his now free hand on his chin.
  915. “I figured that before we do anything we actually make a plan like responsible adults and figure out what kind of house we want: rooms, size, direction it will be facing, that sort of thing.”
  916. >Nýrmáni sat down next to him, chuckling as she quickly skimmed over his simple design drawing.
  917. >”Your drawing skills aside, I see no problem with this design as it is now, I think it shall do nicely for us”
  918. “Nice.” Anon stood, popping his back as he glanced around for his jacket and gloves.
  919. >Finding his gloves on the pile of blankets that served as their bed, he turned to find his jacket, only to find Nýrmáni standing there, his jacket held in her magic just in front of him.
  920. >She was also wearing another parting gift from Rarity: a simple scarf the same color of her eyes, which was loosely wrapped around her neck.
  921. >Anon silently wished Rarity a happy and productive day for making something so simple look so adorable on the smiling alicorn.
  922. >He took the offered jacket and zipped it up.
  923. “Thanks. Are you ready to get this thing started?”
  924. >Nýrmáni stepped up next to him, nuzzling him softly with a warm, furry cheek
  925. >He had already decided that he would never, as long as he lived, ever get tired of those.
  926. >”I am ready, Beloved. We must clear the area of snow and make the foundation first, yes?”
  927. >Anon opened the tent’s main flap door and the two of them stepped out into the bright, late morning sunshine.
  928. >The wind rustled around them both, snow gusting across the deep snow that they stood in, sparkling in the air around them like thousands of tiny stars.
  929. >The two of them made their way to the spot that they had picked, which was less than a hundred feet from where their current tent stood, and passed through the nearly-clear shield bubble that Nýrmáni had erected the previous evening.
  930. “We’ll have to get all of this snow out of here so we can get down to the bare ground and see what we’re working with.”
  931. >”Leave that to me.” Nýrmáni said cheerfully as her horn began to glow.
  932. >With a whooshing and with a gale-force howl, Nýrmáni pointed her horn at the rough center of the shield dome and unleashed the wind that she had created.
  933. >Not for the first time, Anon was happy he had his snow goggles as clouds of snow billowed outwards from where Nýrmáni was pointing her horn, the snow impacted his exposed face before he even had a chance to raise his hands.
  934. >After several seconds of him struggling to remain standing in the howling gale Nýrmáni cut off her magic, shaking small bits of snow and ice off of her back and neck as her mane and tail writhed happily through the suddenly still air.
  935. >”There! That should be good enough for us to manage with. What do you think, Anonymous?”
  936. “Well,” He brushed the snow off of his head, careful to not let any get inside his clothes. “As soon as I get this snow off my goggles I’ll be able to tell you.”
  937. >”Oh, opps.”
  938. >He could hear her giggle slightly as he finished wiping the snow off his goggles, and then let out a nervous breath he didn’t know he had been holding.
  939. >The ground around them both had cleared of any trace of snow, leaving just brown grass and flat, exposed grey rock.
  940. “Well, that looked like it worked pretty good.”
  941. >”Excellent! Now, what shall we do next?”
  942. “Well, I’d say we should get everything off the bedrock, like the grass, loose dirt, and everything else.”
  943. >”Oh, shall I do the wind again? It appears to have gotten some of that stuff. I shall put more power into it this time!”
  944. >With a large smile Nýrmáni once again lit up her horn.
  945. “Wait wait! What about me?” Anon cried out as the magically enhanced wind once again began to rise.
  946. >”Fear not, Beloved, I have the solution for that.”
  947. >With two trots of her hooves Anon suddenly found himself encircled completely by Nýrmáni’s wings as she sat down, pulling him against her chest as she began to once again scour the ground around them.
  948. >The warmth and softness of her fur seemed to fill Anon’s every sense, even as he heard the whipping wind and the clatter of rocks and other objects through Nýrmáni’s ruffling feathers.
  949. >It only lasted for a couple seconds and then once again everything was still, other than the small, almost constant breeze that filled the air around them.
  950. >”There, that is much better I would say.”
  951. >The wings that held Anon close to the alicorn's chest withdrew from around him, allowing him to stand and look around again.
  952. >There wasn’t so much as a loose grain of sand to be found within fifty feet of them both, and it was with another small sigh of relief he saw that the closest trees hadn’t been shaken too badly by the sudden winds.
  953. “Well, other than the danger of flying rocks it looks great.” Anon patted Nýrmáni just between her ears. “Good job.”
  954. >Nýrmáni’s cheeks went pink at the complement, and her mane eagerly wrapped around Anon's arm, hugging it close so that he could continue to pat her.
  955. >”Thank you, Beloved, but since you decided to design our new home all by yourself, what is the next thing to do?”
  956. “I thought you looked it over just a few minutes ago?” He said, looking at her.
  957. >The black alicorn’s cheeks went an even brighter shade of pink. ‘Well, um, I did, but I forgot.”
  958. “Well,” Anon scratched one of her ears as he pulled out his simple drawing and held it up so that they could both see it. “I thought that we could have it built partially into the mountainside, so that we can avoid problems with high winds; the tent has been shaking a lot the last couple nights even with those spells you say are built into it.”
  959. >Nýrmáni nodded in agreement, her blush slowly fading from her cheeks. ”True, and I do not wish to constantly have a shield over our new dwelling when we can avoid most of the problem entirely.”
  960. >”So, shall I blast the rock apart? It is a simple spell, and I shall shield you again as-”
  961. “I’d rather not try to build this thing from the inside of a crater. Can you cut it apart precisely?”
  962. >”Well, um… actually yes, I can. Wait here, I shall return in nary a second.”
  963. >With a quick kiss to his exposed cheek Nýrmáni turned around and began to happily canter back to their tent, humming a tune under her breath.
  964. >Surprised, Anon stared at her retreating form.
  965. >Was it his imagination or was her flank bouncing more than normal as she trotted?
  966. >He grinned to himself as he turned and went down on one knee to examine the completely clean rock around him.
  967. >Perfect.
  968. >”Here is the solution. I am excited to see how well it performs this task.”
  969. >Anon turned and his eyes went wide at what he saw.
  970. >Nýrmáni was trotting towards him, even as she finished strapping the fitted sheath for her massive sword under her left wing.
  971. “You’re going to use that? To cut some rock?” He couldn’t help but sound skeptical.
  972. >The alicorn nodded excitedly as she reached his side, the last few straps glowing cyan as she tightened them against her body.
  973. >”Why shouldn’t I? A sword like this is as much a tool as it is a weapon, and since I am not sure in my skill with cutting magic enough yet for the kind of precise cuts that you want, I shall use this instead.”
  974. “So you’re worried that instead of cutting tiny lines through the rock with your magic you’ll just bore huge holes in it?”
  975. >She nodded.
  976. “Well that’s… nice, I guess.” Anon nodded at the logic in her words.
  977. >Nýrmáni nodded, then suddenly leaned her head in close to his until her lips were barely an inch from his right ear.
  978. >He could practically feel the smug smile on her muzzle as she spoke softly and sensually, the steam from her breath making the exposed neck on his hair stand up.
  979. >”Did you enjoy watching my flank a moment ago? Did you enjoy how it moved?”
  980. >Anon felt his face heat up as he turned from her in a vain attempt to hide his furious blush.
  981. >Nýrmáni laughed cheerfully, her mane patting him on his covered head playfully. “There is no need to be ashamed, I did it for you after all, I knew you would watch. As I have told you before, your body cannot lie to me, and I know what you want.”
  982. “Okay okay you win.” He could help but chuckle himself as he looked around into her eyes and found a large smile greeting him. “You caught my hand in the cookie jar.”
  983. >Nýrmáni looked around him, seeming confused. “I do not recall us being given a cookie jar.”
  984. “It was a joke, never mind it.” He had to restrain another chuckle as the proud, stately alicorn tilted her head like a confused puppy, one ear flicking several times.
  985. “But your amazing flank aside, I kinda want to see that sword again, you haven’t touched it since we got here as far as I’ve seen have you?”
  986. >”I have not, and that is something that I am going to change from this day onwards.”
  987. <>
  988. >Slowly, and with a soft, almost quiet metallic ringing, the sword left it’s sheath.
  989. >Much like the first time she had seen it, Nýrmáni found herself almost entranced by it as she looked it over again.
  990. >Even as she held it in her magic, the hidden runes and lines of power across its entire surface began to glow slightly.
  991. >It was a work of art, but somehow it still retained a look of simplicity.
  992. >Most of the weapons that rulers or nobles had possessed were fancy and extravagant to an almost unwieldy degree from what few scraps of Luna’s memories Nýrmáni could recall.
  993. >But the weapon that Nýrmáni was holding now was on a completely different level from those.
  994. >Slowly letting go of her power, the cyan glow around the sword faded as it came to rest in Nýrmáni’s front hooves.
  995. “That sword really is something, isn’t it?” She could hear the awe in his voice as he took a step closer to her, his eyes wide with interest.
  996. >”It is.” Her voice was low as she took the time to study the double-edged blade in detail, one hoof running the length of one flat of the long, dark grey blade. “It is about as long as you are tall I would say.”
  997. “Yeah I don’t even know if I could swing that thing right, or if I can even touch it.” He looked up to her. “When Princess Luna said that ‘you alone were it’s master’, does that mean there is some kind of spell built into it that won’t let me touch it?”
  998. >Nýrmáni hummed in thought and closed her eyes, her horn lighting up again as she looked over the blade with her magic for several moments.
  999. >”There is one, yes. but since this blade is mine, I believe that if I give you permission to wield it it will serve you just as faithfully as it would serve me.”
  1000. “That’s pretty neat actually.” The young human looked almost excited at the prospect before clearing his throat and looking back to the clean bedrock that sat before them.
  1001. “Well, we’re burning daylight here, I want to see how this thing works against rock.”
  1002. >”Well, if it is made of what I think it is, it should do fine.” Nýrmáni lifted the sword upward, rearing back onto her hind legs and pointing the blade downwards, directly into the very hard looking granite bedrock.
  1003. >Then she plunged it downwards, using only a tiny fraction of her strength and instead trusting Luna’s hoofmanship to do the work for her.
  1004. >Almost like boiling water meeting ice, the blade plunged all the way to the hilt in the bedrock, and Nýrmáni’s eyes went wide in surprise.
  1005. >She could still see glowing cyan light escaping from where the ground met the blade, rising like thin wisps of colored smoke to disappear in the breeze.
  1006. >”Well… that was simple.” She looked up to find Anonymous simply staring at the exposed sword hilt with wide eyes.
  1007. >”So, what are the dimensions that you wished for again? I will cut out the outline then I shall lift it free.”
  1008. “Um….” it was as if he was having trouble processing what he had just seen, almost like her lifting that chunk of ice several days ago.
  1009. >”Are you alright?” She asked, letting go of her sword to trot next to him as worry began to fill her.
  1010. “I’m fine, I just… I’ve never seen anything like that before. How easy was it?” He ran one hand down her neck while holding up his drawing again in the other.
  1011. >”Surprisingly, even for me. I barely even used my strength, gravity did much of the work to tell the truth.”
  1012. “Wow,” Anonymous stepped closer to look at her handiwork.
  1013. >”So, shall we continue?”
  1014. >After that, things went quite smoothly, which pleased Nýrmáni greatly. The sword was so ridiculously sharp that she could simply walk with it while it was in the ground and it would slice through the bedrock without any real effort on her part.
  1015. >Once again, Nýrmáni was astonished that Luna had gone to such great lengths to make it, just to give it away.
  1016. “Alright, that last cut should be good as a guide, and the depth should be close enough for you to just use a flat magical blast to cut through the bottom from this angle, right?”
  1017. >”I… I believe so.” “Nýrmáni withdrew her sword from her final cut and returned it carefully to its sheath.
  1018. “Is that a bit of hesitation I heard just now?”
  1019. >”No, I just do not want to carve up this entire massive black then break it apart piece by piece and waste more time…”
  1020. >There was silence between them for a moment.
  1021. “Are you sure you can do this?” Anonymous’s voice was gentle, but something about his question struck a nerve that Nýrmáni didn’t even know she had.
  1022. >”Of course I can, do you believe me to be weak?” The words came out much louder and more harshly than she meant, her body going hot with aggravation.
  1023. >In an instant she realized what she had done, and she quickly turned her head towards Anonymous, her eyes going wide in sudden panic and regret.
  1024. >He had taken a step back from her, and with his strange goggles perched on his forehead she could see that his own eyes were slightly wide in surprise.
  1025. >And fear.
  1026. >He had been afraid of her.
  1027. >”Anonymous…”
  1028. >Suddenly the hot aggression that had filled her vanished, replaced with a cold that chilled her to the bone as her wings dropped and her head fell and turned away.
  1029. >She couldn’t bring herself to meet his gaze now, not after what she had seen what she’d done.
  1030. >Tears began to form in her eyes as she turned away from him completely, falling to her flank on the bare rock as her body began to tremble in dejection.
  1031. >Nýrmáni could hear the soft impacts of Anonymous’s boots as he approached her, but she still couldn’t raise her head, even as the first of her tears splashed on the rocks below her.
  1032. >A hand gently held her chin and slowly, but firmly brought her up to meet his gaze.
  1033. >Through the haze of tears she could see that he didn’t look angry or anything. The only expression that she could see was concern.
  1034. >Specifically, concern for her.
  1035. “You’re afraid, aren’t you? Of your magic?”
  1036. >His voice was so soft that she could barely hear him.
  1037. >Letting out a muffled, choked sob she buried her head into his chest.
  1038. >Instantly his arms were around her head and neck as she quietly cried into his jacket.
  1039. >”W-we are s-sorry…” She could barely even talk through her whimpers, even as his hands gently caressed her, his kindness making her feel even worse for her shameful action just seconds before.
  1040. >”We have n-not done anything like this b-before, and O-our power is still not fully u-under Our control, and then We y-yelled at you an-”
  1041. “I forgive you.” His response was immediate and his tone indicated that he would defend those three simple words with everything.
  1042. >”But-”
  1043. “No buts about it.” He sighed, his voice going somber. “I was honestly wondering how long it would take for this to happen, really.”
  1044. >”F-for what to happen?”
  1045. >Finally, Nýrmáni attempted to raise her head to look at him, and her Beloved’s arms let her free, though they still stayed on her crest, where her mane slowly wrapped around his fingers, as if begging him to stay close.
  1046. >His eyes met hers without hesitation, even as one hand left her mane to cup her cheek and wipe the remnants of tears from her left eye.
  1047. “For our first little spat, argument, debate, quarrel, whatever you want to call it. It’s only been a matter of time. Every couple has them.”
  1048. >Nýrmáni tilted her head slightly, blinking the last remnants of tears from her eyes. “They do?”
  1049. “Yup. Thankfully I think we can work through this one with some good old communication.”
  1050. >The warm smile that he gave her filled her with warmth once again, the warmth of comfort and safety.
  1051. >And love.
  1052. >”We… I have not done a spell like this before, that is true. I have not used this much magic in such a precise method before. The only times I have used this much magic at once, there is only pure… destruction.”
  1053. >Anonymous nodded in understanding.
  1054. “So, you’re worried that you’ll break or destroy something by accident?”
  1055. >”Yes…”
  1056. “Well…” He broke from his gaze and looked at the cuts in the ground in thought. “There’s not much that I can do to help you with that, other than being here for moral and mental support, if you think that might help.”
  1057. “Unless of course you want to put this off for a day or so and read some of those spellbooks that Twilight sent with us, one of them might be able to help.”
  1058. >”That is a good thought, but no, I agree with you when you said we should get this done as soon as possible.”
  1059. “We can afford to wait a couple days more if we want.”
  1060. >”I can… I can do this, I just need focus, calm, peace…”
  1061. >He was silent for a moment
  1062. “Now that, I think that’s something I think I can help with.” He scratched her behind one ear, earning a soft giggle from her despite her recent tears.
  1063. >Nýrmáni sniffled, and then gave him a small smile as she raised her head fully from Anonymous’s hands and stood tall on her four hooves.
  1064. >”I would love for your help.”
  1065. >She looked over the cuts in the ground again, and began to take slow, deep breaths.
  1066. >Precision and a delicate touch were what she needed
  1067. >The cuts she had made in the mountainside were on a slight incline, so that the rear of their new home would be mostly within the bedrock, while the front would be freestanding and level with the surrounding area
  1068. >All she had to do was do one large, flat magical slice and hopefully not cut half the mountain apart by accident.
  1069. “I believe in you; just concentrate, and don’t rush. I know you can do it.”
  1070. >She felt one of her Beloved’s hands slowly run up and down her neck, and she realized that her heart was still racing inside her chest, and her whole body continued to tremble slightly.
  1071. >But as she focused on the gloved hand on her neck she could feel her racing heart slowing, and her breathing becoming more steady.
  1072. >Nýrmáni took several deep, slow breaths, relaxing her whole body, then lowered her head and charged her horn.
  1073. >She could feel the depth of the power within her, a massive, constantly flowing storm of energy that she herself could still barely comprehend, and slowly but in a controlled manner began to release it.
  1074. >It was hard keeping in control.
  1075. >Every time she had used this much magic before she had just simply withdrawn power and thrown it casually about, uncaring of the mana bleed off or excess power not needed.
  1076. >Even though her eyes were closed, she could see the cyan glow as her horn began to pulse with built up magic, waiting to be released and guided.
  1077. >Anonymous stood next to her the whole time, his hand still running gently down her neck.
  1078. >With one final breath, Nýrmáni opened her eyes and released her magic.
  1079. >Like a scythe cutting wheat for harvest, the flat, rectangular blade of magic went into the bottom cut that she had marked for herself and went straight in with a sound like a thousand knives being sharpened on steel.
  1080. >She gritted her teeth but didn’t waver.
  1081. >There was a deep, ground shaking thump and she saw the massive rectangular block of bedrock shift and fall the smallest amount.
  1082. “That’s it! I told you that you could do it!”
  1083. >She let go of her magic, her horn steaming slightly in the cold air as the cyan glow around it faded.
  1084. >For some reason, found herself chuckling.
  1085. >”I… I did it.”
  1086. “You sure did.” He leaned over, hugged her around her neck, and kissed her cheek softly. “Good girl.”
  1087. >Nýrmáni went stiff, her wings twitching at her sides as she tried to keep them from rising, a squeak erupting from her muzzle at his words.
  1088. >Those two blasted words.
  1089. >”Anonymous?”
  1090. “Yes?” She could hear the playfulness in his voice.
  1091. >”Do you care if I get rid of this chunk of rock now?”
  1092. “Be my guest, we have plenty of other materials here to build with.”
  1093. >Muzzle splitting into a large smile, Nýrmáni reached out, encased the massive chunk of rock in her magic, took several steps from the young man as she flung her head outward, and hurled it away.
  1094. >It sailed completely across the stretch of ground that was their side of the fjord, all the way across the large stretch of water, and slammed into the opposing mountainside with a concussive crash and a shower of snow, rock, and several unfortunate trees caught in the blast radius.
  1095. >She sat, smiling at the distant speck where the rock she had hurled now stuck into the mountainside.
  1096. >Anonymous gave an impressed whistle from behind her.
  1097. “That must have been a couple miles at least. Do you feel better now?”
  1098. >”Actually yes, my beloved Anonymous, I do.” Nýrmáni said cheerfully.
  1099. “I do have one request from now on though.”
  1100. >She turned to look at him, and found him trying to hide a smile behind one gloved hand.
  1101. “If you want to throw rocks around and smash stuff or practice destroying things with that sword of yours, just make sure you don’t hurt yourself or blow up any nearby mountains. Alright? I like this spot and don’t want to leave.”
  1102. >She stepped up next to him, slapping him with her star-filled tail, which curled around his legs like a happy, contented cat’s.
  1103. >”I am happy here as well. But, what must be done next? There is much work left to do I assume, and I do not want to spend the rest of this beautiful day moping about.”
  1104. <>
  1105.  
  1106. <<<< short author's note: from this point on in the story, any speaking contained within these [ ] is done in the ancient alicorn language, just so that you can distinguish it from normal dialogue.
  1107.  
  1108. >The gentle rising and falling of Nýrmáni’s chest woke him from his slumber.
  1109. >He couldn’t see anything for a moment, but then he realized that his head was completely buried in the alicorn’s chest fur.
  1110. >The slow, soothing rhythm of her heartbeat and the warmth of her impossibly soft fur almost carried him back to sleep.
  1111. >Sadly though, when he turned his head upward he could see faint light shining through the walls of their tent, and as much as he’d like to lay there and snuggle with her forever, it was time to get up.
  1112. >The two of them had some sightseeing to do today.
  1113. >Blinking his eyes several times, Anon slowly wiped his face with one hand while gently removing the hoof that was laying over him with the other.
  1114. >As he slipped out from underneath the possessive foreleg Nýrmáni mumbled softly, her empty hoof retracting to her chest as she adjusted her position, pulling the blankets where he had been closer to herself.
  1115. >Anon smiled, running a hand softly down her exposed neck, tendrils of her ethereal mane slowly caressing his hand in return.
  1116. >She was such a sweetheart when she was sleeping.
  1117. >Using the fragments of dawn light that managed to seep through the thick fabric of the tent’s wall, he dressed and began to get out the ingredients necessary for a quick breakfast.
  1118. >They had decided yesterday that they would go do some more exploring of the nearby areas before the snow got too deep.
  1119. >After all, they’d been working on their new, permanent home for a week now, and a break would do them both some good.
  1120. >Trying and failing to rub the soreness from his arms, he gathered some of the small kindling they had collected from the trees they had cut down and carefully placed them in the still-glowing coals of last night's fire.
  1121. >With some careful breaths and skill a small fire was soon crackling away, the cheerful light and sound it gave off making him smile.
  1122. >It also woke up Nýrmáni.
  1123. >Anon looked up from the eggs he was currently mixing as the pile of blankets and feathers began to shift, and a sleepy voice emanated from where she had buried her head in the fluffy comforter.
  1124. >“...Whereyougo...?”
  1125. “I’m cooking us breakfast, Sweetie.”
  1126. >”...Don’ call me that...”
  1127. “I can’t help it, you know. You’re just too cute and sweet.”
  1128. >As he poured the eggs into the skillet he had prepared, the bundle of blankets shifted again, and the tip of Nýrmáni’s horn and ebony muzzle peeked out from underneath the quilt comforter.
  1129. >”M’not cute.”
  1130. “I’m afraid that’s not up for debate.”
  1131. >Her barely-exposed nose dilated as she sniffed several times, and one glowing, sleep-filled cyan eye made its appearance from within the black bowels of the blanket pile.
  1132. >”Tha’ smellsgood.”
  1133. >Anon chuckled at the sight as he stirred the eggs in question to keep them from burning in the pan.
  1134. “Then you’re going to have to come over here and get them if you want them, these eggs are self-serve only.”
  1135. >With a final rustling Nýrmáni pulled the blanket off of herself with one wing as she slowly sat up on her haunches, stretched her wings, and yawned.
  1136. >Anon couldn’t help but stare as her long tongue flopped out of her fanged jaws and curled cutely.
  1137. >Trying to repress any naughty thoughts of what that tongue could do and already had done he went back to stirring the eggs, hoping that the blush he felt on his face faded before she woke up completely and noticed it.
  1138. >The alicorn shook herself for a moment, then slowly trotted to Anon’s side, nuzzling his cheek softly with her own. “Good morning, Anon.”
  1139. >He turned and looked up at her as she sat down next to him, bringing one wing in front of her as she began to preen herself.
  1140. “You just shortened my name.”
  1141. >She spat out a loose feather and turned a smug eye on him. “Yes I did, as you have done with mine before.”
  1142. “You got me there.” He stirred the eggs for a moment before standing to grab the two plates that sat on the small folding table. “Are you ready to do some exploring today?”
  1143. >Apparently satisfied with herself, Nýrmáni folded her freshly-preened wing to her side as she brought her other one to her muzzle as she looked it over.
  1144. >”Yes I am. I am curious to see what lies outside of this particular fjord of ours. Where should we start?”
  1145. “Not sure, we could just fly around and stop at the first place that looks interesting.”
  1146. >”Ha, that works well enough for me, but…” She looked at him and smiled innocently. “What is the word for ‘rock’?”
  1147. >Dammit.
  1148. >Anon hissed through his teeth as the giggling alicorn began to preen her remaining wing.
  1149. “Umm… well, that would, no… It was ‘ᛊᚾᛟᚹ’, right? I’m pretty sure I’m right... Right?”
  1150. >Nýrmáni folded her now-clean wing to her side, ruffling them both as she gave him a genuine smile.
  1151. >”You are correct. While your pronunciation is still not completely correct it is pleasing to see that my less-than professional language lessons are starting to stick.”
  1152. >”I cannot wait to start conversing with you in the language of my kind.”
  1153. >Anon smiled at her and huffed out a laugh as he began to empty the skillet’s contents onto the two plates.
  1154. “Well it might be a while before we get there; It’s been four days and I only know like ten words, and I know I’ve told you that I’m not the best at learning languages.”
  1155. >”Do not fret, I will wait and teach as long as necessary for you to learn.”
  1156. >As Anon finished scraping the eggs onto the two plates, one of them immediately left his hand, enveloped in a cyan aura as Nýrmáni licked her lips eagerly, her fork already hovering in front of her, ready.
  1157. >A quick meal and one rucksack packing later the two of them exited their tent just as the early morning light began to fully crest the distant mountaintops.
  1158. ”At least it looks like it’ll be mostly sunny today.” Anon said as he looked up at the blue sky, which was streaked with lines of grey/white clouds.
  1159. >”True, but how long do you wish to be out exploring?”
  1160. “I’d like to be back before it gets dark, I’d rather not try to find our way back here at night, considering how cold it probably will be.”
  1161. >Nýrmáni nodded in agreement as she adjusted the straps for her sheathed sword, the wind ruffling her fur and causing her mane and tail to writhe cheerfully in the air.
  1162. >She rarely went anywhere without it now, it was much too useful a tool, they had both found out.
  1163. >”That is sensible, but just in case something happens and we are out longer than anticipated, I shall prepare a spell that I read from one of Twilight Sparkle’s books just the other day.”
  1164. >Anon watched as Nýrmáni’s horn glowed brightly for a moment, just before bright tendrils of her magic shot from it to hit the ground just in front of their tent.
  1165. >He watched as the magic cut through the snow in a small burst of steam and hit the ground below, where a large, simple circle soon was outlined through the snow, still glowing a subdued cyan in the growing sunlight.
  1166. “So, what is it?” He asked, kneeling down to examine the glowing circle, which he guessed could comfortably hold the two of them within its confines.
  1167. >”That, Anonymous, is a one-time use portal. Simple, but effective. It is connected to my magical signature; all I need to do is cast the activation spell and it will return me to this spot instantly, within a certain range of course.”
  1168. “Well that sounds good and all,” He said, looking back at the smug alicorn as he stood up and readjusted the daypack he was wearing. “But what about me?”
  1169. >Nýrmáni laughed as she trotted away from the tent and out into the snow. “Simply being on my back or in physical contact with me will be enough if I have to use it. But do not worry yourself, there is exploring to be done!”
  1170. >Anon chuckled as well, walking over to where the alicorn stood, looking at their incomplete home.
  1171. >Most of the timber walls were up, sealed, and insulated already, and the timber necessary to finish them sat piled next to the half-sunken structure.
  1172. >While Nýrmáni had admitted that she could have simply magicked everything together in a day or so, she had explained to him that this process would not have worked in the long term.
  1173. >It had something to do with the physical, hands (or hooves)-on aspect of the construction making the whole structure more stable long term as well as more “real”, she had claimed, she had gone into great detail about it as the two of them had worked.
  1174. >Apparently she had read about the magical vs physical construction and creation, as well as the relevant theories and debates about them in one of the books that Twilight had lent them, and had been worried about using only magic to build it since then.
  1175. >He could tell that Nýrmáni was, to some extent, still nervous about overdoing something magically by accident and doing more harm than good.
  1176. >She was slowly getting better though, and he had seen over the last week that she was trying hard to improve.
  1177. “Well, I say we head out now, and if we get back by early evening we can get the last few trees we need for the roof cut down and stripped before it gets dark.”
  1178. >”Hehe, you just want to watch me cut them down with my sword, don’t you?”
  1179. “Kinda, I’ve never seen something cut through a tree that fast, or solid rock for that matter. It’s pretty cool.”
  1180. >Nýrmáni smiled, then bent her legs slightly so that Anon could throw a leg over her and sit properly on her back.
  1181. >As the alicorn stood up and rolled her shoulders to get used to his presence there, he ran a hand down her neck.
  1182. >Even though he had done it several times already, Anon still was awed by how well he fit on her back, despite the fact that she was slightly smaller and proportionally different than a horse back on Earth.
  1183. >Having an alicorn as a girlfriend certainly had its benefits.
  1184. >”Are you ready, Beloved?”
  1185. “When you are.” He gripped her mane tightly, and it curled protectively around his wrists and arms in response.
  1186. >”Alright, off we go then.”
  1187. >With several powerful flaps of her wings and a flurry of loose snow the two of them were free of the ground and were embraced by the whistling wind and frigid sky.
  1188. >Rising into the clear and sunny sky, Nýrmáni turned into the wind and began to slowly glide upwards, apparently happy to take her time.
  1189. >Anon was thankful, he was still trying to get over the fear of flying with no restraints other than Nýrmáni’s mane.
  1190. >Several minutes later, the two of them were above the mountains that formed their little valley and with an incredible view of the area that surrounded them, the ocean on one side, and mountainous coastline on the other.
  1191. >”Where do you wish to go first?” She had to shout to make herself heard over the wind.
  1192. >Anon thought for a moment, raising his head from the comfort of Nýrmáni’s mane to look at the world around him.
  1193. >He did love mountains...
  1194. “How about that way?” He pointed further up the coast and slightly inland, where towering, endless mountain ranges and partially-visible forests sat under a white blanket of snow. “And we’ll just stop when we see something interesting.”
  1195. >Nýrmáni lowered her head and began to make her way in the direction he had pointed, wings flapping slowly as she rode the wind.
  1196. >As the minutes passed into over an hour of gentle flight, the once-distant snow-covered trees and mountains grew closer and closer, their jagged edges grew rougher as he got a clearer view of them
  1197. >Suddenly, only a couple miles or so from the closest peak, Nýrmáni came to a dead stop, wings billowing forward as she nearly threw Anon off of her back.
  1198. “Whoa whoa what the heck was that?” He squeaked as he held onto her mane for dear life, his arms and legs shaking with fear. “Are you alright?”
  1199. >She didn’t respond.
  1200. “Nýrmáni, are you okay?” He was starting to get worried. They were still pretty high up, at least several thousand feet.
  1201. >She simply hovered there, wings beating as she remained motionless in the sky.
  1202. >He couldn’t see her muzzle to even guess what was going on in her head.
  1203. >Then her wings folded and she began to circle, descending downward, towards the closest mountain peak, which was ringed by what looked to be an impenetrable layer of thick, snow covered trees..
  1204. >Anon felt chills run up and down his arms, chills that had nothing to do with the cold.
  1205. “Are… Are you alright?” He ventured as the ground grew closer and closer.
  1206. >”I… I am.” Nýrmáni replied after several moments, her voice sounding strangely subdued, even with it being raised so he could hear it over the rushing wind.
  1207. “Then what was that back there? Where you stopped and nearly threw me off?”
  1208. >”Something caught… I do not know... but....”
  1209. >Moments later her hooves gently hit the snow as she landed in a tiny clearing, the last beat of her wings throwing up a small cloud of loose snow which fell quickly back to the ground, sparkling in the sunlight that came through the gap in the trees.
  1210. >Anon slid from her back and stood, legs still shaky from his brief moment of terror in the sky just a few minutes earlier.
  1211. >He looked at Nýrmáni and felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck.
  1212. >She stood there, looking around with an expression he had never seen on her before, even when she had still been trapped in her own mind.
  1213. >She looked almost… lost, in a way.
  1214. >Her eyes roamed the small clearing as she began to trot, slowly and hesitantly forwards into the trees and towards the mountain that rose above them like a misshapen skyscraper. ”This... place....”
  1215. >Following just behind her, they only took a handful of steps into the forest before Nýrmáni apparently found what she was looking for.
  1216. “What about it? Are you…” His words died in his mouth as he saw her stop before a jagged slab of grey stone, partially covered in snow, which rose from the snow at her hooves to halt just beneath her chin like a broken, twisted tombstone
  1217. >He approached her and the stone, but Nýrmáni remained motionless, staring unwaveringly at the stone.
  1218. >”We… We know this place…”
  1219. >He went down on one knee next to her, his mind racing as he dusted off the snow resting on the stone’s surface with one gloved hand.
  1220. >They were so faint, so worn by the ravages of time and the elements that they were barely visible, but he could just barely make out the faint outline of symbols, familiar runes etched onto the stone’s surface.
  1221. >Out of the corner of his eye he could see the glow of cyan light as Nýrmáni lit up her horn, and suddenly the runes began to glow slightly, the magical highlighting making them completely visible.
  1222. “Is this what I thin-”
  1223. >[“After the dragon’s death, I laid my brother to rest.”]
  1224. >He looked up to her in surprise as she finished speaking.
  1225. “Is… that what it says?”
  1226. >She simply nodded, her expression still one of shock, her eyes wide, her posture limp.
  1227. >”This… this is their home… I can feel it....”
  1228. >Anon could almost feel something too; a presence, something shifting, even though he couldn’t see far through the thick, snow covered evergreens.
  1229. >He could feel his arms erupting into goosebumps beneath his jacket as the breeze wafted around them through the trees, and suddenly the bright sunlight, which had been shining clearly and brightly all morning, began to fade.
  1230. >Looking over his shoulder, towards the clearing in the trees they had arrived in, he saw the last sliver of the sunlight disappear behind a massive bank of large, dark storm clouds.
  1231. >It was like flicking off a light switch; the forest went even darker than before, and what little warmth the sunlight had provided vanished.
  1232. “Their home, you mean-”
  1233. >”Yes…”
  1234. >The conversation he’d had with Nýrmáni back in the Dreamscape, on that cold, desolate rocky shoreline where she had shared what scattered, torn remnants of memories of Luna’s ancient past came back to him.
  1235. >Of how Luna and Celestia had fled the self-destruction of their own species at a very young age, all alone in the world.
  1236. >”I could feel traces, tiny remnants of magic here, so old that I thought I must be mistaken at first, but now I know I was not wrong.”
  1237. >Nýrmáni looked over at him, the gloom that surrounded them growing ever darker as more clouds began to roll in, unseen through the nearly impenetrable canopy over their heads.
  1238. >”This place feels… different... I cannot find the words to describe it.”
  1239. >He was about to reply, but for some reason his hearing seemed off; a sudden high-pitch ringing began to fill his head, as if he had just changed altitude really quickly.
  1240. >His eyes blinked as his eyes lost their focus, his vision going blurry as he shook his head for a moment, a dull pain throbbing in his forehead.
  1241. >Looking up, he could see, through still blurry eyes, Nýrmáni disappearing further on through the trees.
  1242. “W-wait up!” He called out as he began to go after her, one hand holding the strap of his daypack as he moved as fast as he could through the foot-deep snow.
  1243. >The dark form of Nýrmáni moved through the trees like a ghost, and didn’t stop no matter how many times Anon called out for her to.
  1244. >Over the muffled impacts of his boots working through the snow and his pants for breath, he could have sworn he heard whispers, voices floating through the dark and into his head that he couldn’t understand; it was probably that damned ringing in his ears.
  1245. >Finally, after what felt like hours, he caught up to her.
  1246. >Anon saw through still blurry eyes Nýrmáni’s dark tail disappear around the trunk of a tree that was wider than he was tall, and as he rounded it himself several seconds later he tripped on something buried in the snow, and his momentum sent him face first into the snow.
  1247. >Spluttering and shaking from the bitter cold that suddenly permeated his face he went to his hands and knees, wiping the snow that had stuck to his face off with one gloved hand.
  1248. >It took a moment for him to realize that the strange ringing in his ears was gone, and that his vision had returned to normal, despite the lances of cold that shot through his face.
  1249. >He also had no idea where he was or how he’d gotten there, his memories were a blur when he tried to recall how.
  1250. >Something about following Nýrmáni through the woods...
  1251. “W-what the hell was that?” Anon rubbed his face as he slowly stood.
  1252. >Then he looked up, and his breath hitched in his chest.
  1253. >Standing before him, amongst the trees and beginnings of the mountain, was what looked like the remains of a structure.
  1254. >It had fallen apart countless years ago, but he could see what was left of stone walls and beams lying scattered, half buried beneath snow and trees that had grown around them.
  1255. >Then there was Nýrmáni, or the figure that he had thought was Nýrmáni.
  1256. >A black, semi-translucent figure stood amidst the ruins, facing away from him.
  1257. >It was alicorn shaped, and looked more like an outline with no details, no eyes, nothing.
  1258. >A shadow.
  1259. >He only had a moment to take it in with growing terror before he wiped freezing water from his eyes, and when his hand left his face and he looked again, it had vanished completely.
  1260. >His heart pounding wildly in his chest, Anon managed to tear his eyes away from the chilling sight and look at his surroundings.
  1261. >He was alone.
  1262. “Nýrmáni? Nýrmáni!”
  1263. >His words echoed off of the trees and the growing dark as snow began to fall through what cracks in the branches there were.
  1264. >He thought he could see other ruins amongst the thick trees but he paid little attention to them.
  1265. >It was getting noticeably colder since he had regained his senses, his foggy breath came out in panicked gulps as he spun around, looking for any sign of Nýrmáni.
  1266. >There was nothing but shadowy, endless trees and the now terrifying gloom.
  1267. >Anon took a cautious step forward.
  1268. >His boot sank into the snow and kept going, and before he could even react he had fallen through the snow and into the indescribably black pit that had opened up beneath him.
  1269. >He barely had time to scream out in terror before he hit the ground, and instantly darkness and pain swallowed him.
  1270. <>
  1271. >Something was happening to her.
  1272. >Ever since she had read the ancient runes that had been carved onto that stone an eternity ago, everything around her and every one of her senses felt… off.
  1273. >Her ears and head were filled with a high-pitched ringing, and she felt almost dizzy, her body light, and then suddenly heavy.
  1274. >”Anonymous…” She mumbled, shaking her head and closing her eyes, her mane and tail billowed slowly in an almost confused way.
  1275. >Then she heard it, through the growing ringing in her ears, she could hear them whispering.
  1276. >Her eyes snapped open, and she stared in shock and surprise around her.
  1277. >The snow and all the trees were gone, replaced with fields of green and gold, and the sun shone above her brightly once again.
  1278. >Looking around slowly, she could see ponies around her, laughing, talking, playing, working.
  1279. >But it was all strange; colors seemed correct in some places, but then too bright or dark in others, everything seemed blurry to some extent, and her own movements slow, as though she were underwater.
  1280. >The words of the ponies around here seemed to fade in and out, almost like distant echoes heard from far away.
  1281. >Nýrmáni shook her head
  1282. >”W-what is this?” She tried to say, only she couldn’t, her words dying in her mouth as she finally looked closer at the ponies around her.
  1283. >They were alicorns, all of them.
  1284. >A distorted burst of foalish laughter behind her caused her to sluggishly turn, and she gasped in shock.
  1285. >Two alicorn fillies, one white with pink hair and one dark blue with lighter blue hair galloped directly past her, passing a small ball to each other as they raced along on their tiny hooves.
  1286. >Their movements were blurry and jerky, their features unseeable as they seemed to skip along the ground, randomly vanishing and reappearing further away as they passed by her.
  1287. >Nýrmáni’s heart froze in her chest.
  1288. >”[Wait, come back!]” Nýrmáni cried out instinctively in the Old Tongue, her voice slow and echoing strangely as she reached out with one hoof, desperately turning to try and follow the two ponies that she knew in her heart were Celestia and Luna.
  1289. >But she moved as if she was submerged in mud; everything was slow, even as she pushed herself hard enough to cause tears to form in her eyes.
  1290. >Then suddenly everything ended.
  1291. >With a burst of white light and a lurching sensation throughout her whole body Nýrmáni suddenly found herself flying through the air and into the snow, where she tumbled for several body lengths before managing to get her hooves beneath her to stop her slide.
  1292. >Mane and tail blowing wildly in her fear and confusion she snapped her head upwards, quickly taking stock of her situation as she panted heavily.
  1293. >Her body felt drained, her hooves and wings heavy.
  1294. >It was much darker than it had been moments ago, at least what she thought had been moments ago, and the temperature had fallen dramatically, her breath exhaling as freezing fog that drifted away before disappearing into the darkness.
  1295. >Snow was falling, thick and heavy.
  1296. >For all she knew, those few moments had been hours.
  1297. >As her vision and her hearing slowly returned to normal, she realized something else was terribly wrong.
  1298. >”Anonymous? Anonymous!”
  1299. >Nýrmáni’s heart sped up as she wildly turned around in circles, her horn glowing with magic as light shone from it, lighting up the area around her, the cyan light reflecting off the snow in sparkling arrays of colors.
  1300. >He was nowhere in sight.
  1301. >The rock with the inscription was some distance away, further than her leap had taken her.
  1302. >She must have stumbled some distance in her delirious state.
  1303. >”What was that… vision? It was no spell, nor any magic I know…”
  1304. >As she galloped over to where the rock jutted from the snow Nýrmáni attempted to regather herself.
  1305. >Something was horribly, horribly wrong in this place; the hair on her withers stood in apprehension of the thick trees, snow, and darkness that surrounded her even though she could see in it.
  1306. >Several hours had to have gone by for it to have gotten this dark, even with the cloud cover and falling snow.
  1307. >”Anonymous! Beloved!” She yelled out, her voice echoing through the trees and the stiff breeze that rustled and whistled through the snow-covered branches around her. “Where are you?”
  1308. >There was no response.
  1309. >Panic began to fill her whole body worse than any cold chill as she looked around desperately, her glowing, slitted eyes wide with fear.
  1310. >Then she saw the faint boot tracks, leading deeper into the forest and towards the mountain that she knew rose above her, and her heart sank further.
  1311. >It must have snowed a lot for them to have been filled in so much so quickly.
  1312. >If he was stuck out in this kind of weather for too long….
  1313. >She dropped her head down and inhaled deeply through her nose several times, directly above the closest bootprint.
  1314. >If she could only just-
  1315. >”Yes!” She couldn’t help but shout for joy. She could still smell his lingering scent, though it had grown faint.
  1316. >Gritting her teeth and narrowing her eyes in an attempt to fight back building tears, Nýrmáni swallowed the fear and dread that had risen into her throat and galloped as quickly as she could into the darkness.
  1317. <>
  1318. >An agonizing mix of dull aches and sharp pains woke him.
  1319. >Groaning in pain, Anon tried to sit up as his brain slowly rebooted from being unconscious.
  1320. >Everything hurt.
  1321. >As he sat up, a fine layer of snow fell off of him, and his clothing was damp and freezing against his skin.
  1322. >That wasn’t good.
  1323. >He slowly looked upward from where he had remembered falling, and found a faint, black hole above him.
  1324. >Snow drifted down through it to settle on the stone floor of what looked to be a cave of some sort; grey, cracked stalactites hung from the ceiling
  1325. >Other than the small cone of faint light that came through his entry hole, impenetrable blackness surrounded him.
  1326. >Rolling on his side he tried to stand, only to yelp in pain and fall flat on his butt once again as agonizing pain shot through his left leg.
  1327. “Fuck!” he shouted, gritting his teeth as he reluctantly looked down at it.
  1328. >He felt some measure of relief that his foot appeared to be pointing in the right direction, and his leg as a whole wasn’t bent in a direction it wasn’t supposed to.
  1329. >Hopefully.
  1330. >It sure hurt though.
  1331. >Then he remembered how he had gotten into this shitty situation in the first place.
  1332. >Suddenly the pain in his leg wasn’t his main concern.
  1333. >As his heart began to race again, he looked around himself once again, the darkness of the unknown space suddenly felt much more foreboding than it had moments ago.
  1334. “Light, I n-need light.” Reaching around his back, he pulled his daypack off, set it down next to him. and opened it up, digging through it desperately.
  1335. >It was hard, since his hands were shaking from the cold that seemed to seep into his bones.
  1336. “Where, w-where, where did I put-ah, there you are.”
  1337. >Bright blue-white light suddenly filled the cave as he turned on his LED headlamp, one of the few pieces of modern technology that he had been allowed to bring with him to Equestria.
  1338. >It was nice being prepared.
  1339. >Clicking the button on it several times to lower the brightness and conserve the battery he turned the beam upwards, towards the hole he had fallen through, and winced.
  1340. >No wonder his leg hurt, he’d fallen what looked like fifteen feet or so. He was lucky he hadn’t broken his neck when he’d hit the ground.
  1341. >Speaking of the ground…
  1342. >Anon ran his headlamp slowly across the floor of what was definitely not a cave, but a room of some kind.
  1343. >The floor beneath him was unnaturally flat, and the objects he had thought at first to be stalactites were wooden pillars, ancient and cracked. Several lay on the floor, broken and rotted among dust and dirt that must have entered through the same hole he had.
  1344. >He shivered through his coat and pants as a whistling breeze came from the hole above him, and more snow floated and settled around in the enclosed space.
  1345. >It was cold, way colder than it had been before.
  1346. >He couldn’t stay here, exposed as the encroaching cold ate through his winter clothing like a starving animal.
  1347. >Gazing back to the room he was in, he shone his light slowly across the walls. There had to be something…
  1348. >A doorway appeared in the cone of bluish-white light, framed by more ancient stonework.
  1349. >This was going to suck.
  1350. >Slipping his headlamp onto his head, he zipped up his daypack, threw it over his shoulder, and began to pull himself along the dusty floor by his hands, careful to move his left leg as little as possible.
  1351. >It took longer than he wanted, but getting away from the cold and the snow and not messing up his probably broken leg was much more important.
  1352. >Grabbing onto the side of the doorway with one hand and pushing on the ground with the other he managed to pull himself through and into the unknown space.
  1353. >This area was large, much larger than the area he previously had been in.
  1354. >It looked like it may have been a grand dining hall at one point; graceful arches of carved stone went overhead, supporting the roof above him, and the ruins of what must have once been stone tables and chairs lay scattered about the room in shattered pieces.
  1355. >One section of the room appeared to have collapsed at some point directly opposite him, not far from the doorway he had entered though; mixed stone masonry and frozen earth lay scattered all over the flat stone floor.
  1356. >Oddly, as he shone his light around the room he could see what looked like scorch marks, web-like craters, and slices taken out of pillars, the walls, and the roof.
  1357. >A fight had happened here. A very nasty one.
  1358. >It was surreal, in a way, as he glanced around, his curiosity overriding his fear.
  1359. “How old is a-all this?” He quietly whispered, his voice echoing in the empty blackness where his light didn’t shine.
  1360. >He could see several other doorways leading to who knew where, but in his current condition wasn’t in a hurry to find out.
  1361. >Suddenly, something seemed to shine out of the corner of his vision by the collapsed roof section, which had probably been caused by whatever fight happened here.
  1362. >He turned to look at it, as he did so the full beam of his headlamp hit it, and the tiny twinkling in the dark turned into a golden glow.
  1363. >It looked like a bracelet of some kind, obviously made of gold, stamped with symbols he couldn’t see completely at his distance.
  1364. >Anon’s heart froze when his light also shone off of the bones that the necklace was still surrounding, and the ancient, pale skeleton that stuck halfway out of the dirt and rubble.
  1365. >Biting back a scream of terror he shuffled backwards frantically for a moment before his left leg hit another lump in the floor, he stopped with a hiss of pain as he clenched his teeth in pain and fear; his heart felt like it was in his throat.
  1366. >It was clearly the skeleton of an alicorn; he could see the horn, snapped off close to the base of the empty skull, part of which appeared to have been almost surgically sliced off, and the scattered bones of one wing that lay on the floor close by.
  1367. >Then his sudden terror began to fade to sadness as his slightly shaking light also revealed the much, much smaller skull of a foal, just barely sticking out of the rubble beside the adult skeleton’s other front hoof.
  1368. >He sat there, silent, simply looking at the remains, with his quiet breathing and the wind from the room he had left the only sound.
  1369. >He could still feel the bitter cold, gnawing its way through his wet, freezing clothing.
  1370. >Then he heard the silent, whispered crying.
  1371. >Anon’s eyes went wide again as, out of the corner of his light, a soft, dark shadow began to form. He had no idea if it had been there the whole time or not.
  1372. >Leaning forwards despite every instinct screaming at him to run away as fast as he could, he looked closer, even as the growing cold began to make his body shiver even harder.
  1373. >It was similar to the same thing he had followed here; almost more of a semi-transparent outline, like a shadow on a wall, but freestanding and alone.
  1374. >Slightly larger than the size of Twilight Sparkle, it sat on its haunches just feet from the adult skeleton’s skull, holding its head in its hooves, slowly rocking back and forth as the muffled crying he heard rose and fell in volume.
  1375. >It sounded female.
  1376. >He shone his light on it fully, but as he did so it vanished, despite the continued crying.
  1377. >Slowly and shakily, Anon removed his headlamp and set it on the cold stone floor, pointing just far enough away so that the shadow was completely visible again.
  1378. >He regretted it instantly, because the instant he set his headlamp down, he could see that another shadow had appeared.
  1379. >The shadow of the small foal stood by its own skull, moving it’s forelegs around the rock and stone as if trying to free it’s buried skeleton.
  1380. >Despite his fear, Anon felt a tear make it’s way down his cheek at the heartbreaking and pitiful sight.
  1381. >It was getting so cold… He could barely feel his fingers and toes, his left leg rhythmically pounded with cold, dull pain.
  1382. >”Anonymous? Are you there?”
  1383. >He jumped slightly in surprise at the sudden voice, then his heart soared as his shaking grew worse.
  1384. >It was Nýrmáni’s voice.
  1385. <>
  1386. >She had followed the faint tracks and his scent for at least a mile, through the blizzard and freezing winds that had come. How he had made it this far was a mystery to her.
  1387. >Nýrmáni stood above the jagged hole in the snow-covered earth where his faint tracks had ended. She had looked down but not seen his body, so he must be alive and had moved.
  1388. >She refused to think that something had taken his body. She couldn’t think that.
  1389. >Her mind was racing, even as her magic shone a faint light downwards into the cave, her mane and tail blowing wildly in the wind and falling snow.
  1390. >The whole time she had followed his tracks here she had felt something, some presence on the edge of her mind.
  1391. >It was as if she was being watched, but she couldn’t see anypony or anything, with her eyes or her magical senses.
  1392. >A distorted flash of light lit up the blowing snow around her, and a deep peal of thunder rumbled through the air a second later, making her whole body vibrate from the force of it.
  1393. >This sudden storm was also wrong; she could feel strange, but somehow familiar magic inside of it.
  1394. >It was very, very old remnants of some kind of ancient sorcery, but Nýrmáni couldn’t imagine a spell so powerful, so cataclysmic that it could linger for this long and still have these kinds of effects.
  1395. >It was enough to put her deeply on edge.
  1396. >That, and the renewed, unknown whispering that touched the edges of her mind.
  1397. >”A-are you there?” Her voice cracked slightly despite her best efforts to remain calm.
  1398. >For several moments she could only hear the blowing snow and the howling wind.
  1399. “I’m down here! In the hole!”
  1400. >Every fear, every worry instantly vanished from her mind as the faint sound of her Beloved’s voice came from the black hole beneath her.
  1401. >”I am coming down!”
  1402. >With a crack of magic she teleported onto the stone floor beneath her, her horn casting a bright light that lit up the cave...no, room completely.
  1403. >Taking only a moment to examine her strange surroundings, Nýrmáni could see a bright bluish/white light from an open doorway directly in front of her.
  1404. >Carefully treading around the debris that littered the ground, she could also scuff marks through the fine layer of snow on the floor where Anon must have dragged himself.
  1405. >Are you alright?” She called out as she neared the doorway.
  1406. “I think so, but my left leg is broken or something, it hurts like hell.”
  1407. >Increasing her pace, she passed through the doorway and looked towards the bright light, only for it to vanish instantly.
  1408. >With only the glow of her horn and her eyes, she could see Anonymous, sitting upright, legs stretched out on the ground, scarce hooflengths from her.
  1409. >”Beloved!”
  1410. >Nearly throwing herself on top of him, she buried him in an avalanche of wings and hooves as she nuzzled his hat-covered head with her muzzle and wrapped her front hooves around his back to hug him tightly.
  1411. “Owe owe owe that’s my leg…”
  1412. >Pulling back and silently cursing her foolishness, Nýrmáni increased the glow of her horn to get a proper look at him.
  1413. >His clothes were wet and freezing, he was shivering badly, and his face was pale and lined with pain with every foggy breath he exhaled.
  1414. >”We need to get out of here. You need warmth…”
  1415. >Then she heard warbling sounds behind her.
  1416. >Nýrmáni spun around faster than even she thought possible, standing protectively in front of Anonymous on her rear legs as her sword practically materialized in her front hooves, the runes emblazoned on the blade shone with cyan light as she narrowed her eyes into the gloom.
  1417. “Wait!”
  1418. >She froze at his sudden, panicked shout.
  1419. “Turn t-the light from your horn d-down.”
  1420. >”Why would I do-”
  1421. “Just d-do it.” His tone was low but deathly serious, almost melancholy, even through his rapidly chattering teeth.
  1422. >Confused and curious, Nýrmáni relaxed her stance slightly and toned down her magic, the glow from her horn fading to barely that of the light from a candle.
  1423. >With the anticipation and energy rush of a potential fight gone, she could again hear the sounds that had alerted her originally.
  1424. >Crying.
  1425. >She looked around, and for the first time noticed the condition of the large room she had entered.
  1426. >The pockmarked and fire-stained walls, the smashed stone tables, the shattered, rotted wooden pillars...
  1427. >Then she looked closely at the wall she had been facing, and the rubble from an apparent roof collapse that filled that corner.
  1428. >And the two worn, pale skeletons that stuck out from the base of it.
  1429. >Her mouth fell open slightly in shock, and her breath hitched in her throat at the two, black, translucent shadows that stood just a few hoofsteps from her.
  1430. >Now she knew why Anonymous had wanted her to stop.
  1431. >Chills went down her spine as she looked at them; one adult shadow that sat, head in it’s hooves. Grieving, crying.
  1432. >The other of a young foal attempting to unbury it’s own skeleton.
  1433. >She slowly slid her sword back into its sheath, dropped down to all four of her hooves, and carefully backed up several hoofsteps to stand next to Anonymous.
  1434. “D-do… Do you know w-what they a-are?”
  1435. >Nýrmáni simply stared, dazed by what she was witnessing.
  1436. >”We… I do not. This is… this...”
  1437. >The hair on her spine stood up, and she couldn’t hide the full body shiver that had nothing to do with the cold.
  1438. >Tearing her eyes away from the two shadows in front of her she bent down to look at Anonymous again, nosing his cheek gently.
  1439. >He was cold, far too cold, and likely in shock from his injury.
  1440. >”We must go. Now. You are freezing.”
  1441. >He attempted to say something else, but his chattering teeth prevented it as he folded his arms around his chest, his body trembling badly.
  1442. >Lifting him gently with her magic, careful to keep his left leg as still as possible, Nýrmáni moved to exit the room.
  1443. >She took one last look at the two unfortunate shadows, then turned and left the room fully.
  1444. >One burst of magic later and the two of them were topside, where the wind was howling and the snow was nearly blinding.
  1445. >It had somehow gotten colder since she’d left, so cold that even she felt the sudden need for something warm to wear.
  1446. >If she didn’t get Anonymous back to their tent soon...
  1447. >Wrapping him in her wings, she cast a shield bubble to keep out the dense, blowing snow as she concentrated.
  1448. >There was another flash of lightning, and Nýrmáni’s eyes went wide as it illuminated, through the blinding snow, dozens of shadows like the two she had just seen moments ago.
  1449. >They were frozen for a moment, in the flash of lighting, facing her with featureless gazes.
  1450. >Just as quickly as it had come the flash of light vanished, thunder shook the mountains, and the ghostly figures disappeared.
  1451. >The whispering in her mind grew louder, and her vision once again began to go blurry.
  1452. >Muttering the counterspell for the teleportation circle she had cast before they left, Nýrmáni’s horn grew brighter and brighter before the two of them vanished in a burst of cyan light.
  1453. >In an instant they reappeared in front of their tent in a cloud of displaced snow and streams of glowing cyan power.
  1454. >Moving as quickly as possible while not jarring Anonymous, Nýrmáni pushed through the raging blizzard, opened and entered their tent, and quickly shut the door behind them.
  1455. >It was strange, going from howling wind and stinging snow to relative silence, other than the canvas of their tent occasionally flapping and snapping as the wind buffeted it like ocean waves on a rocky shore.
  1456. >Anonymous was still shaking terribly.
  1457. >Thankfully, one of the books she had been glancing through over the last week was a book of alchemical, magical, and natural first aid treatments.
  1458. >Even though the book had been by ponies, and about ponies, she figured the same treatments would be effective for the young human as well.
  1459. >Lifting the freezing young man onto a blanket and wrapping him in it, Nýrmáni quickly brought the coals of their breakfast fire to life with a quick spell and several pieces of fresh, dry wood, and within seconds a bright, crackling fire sat before the two of them.
  1460. >”Beloved…”
  1461. >Her eyes went wide as she fully took in his shaking figure, pale face, and unfocused eyes in the dancing firelight.
  1462. >Quickly removing the blanket and stripping him of all his clothing, she unstrapped the sword at her side and looked at his left leg.
  1463. >The lower half of it was a patchwork of ugly black and yellow bruises, and she quietly swore.
  1464. >She looked over to their woodpile and found two, straight and firm sticks that would work for a temporary splint.
  1465. >Her horn glowing brightly, she quickly tore a spare sheet into strips and carefully bound the sticks to his leg so that it wouldn't move, while also putting a small pot with some water on the fire to heat up.
  1466. >Nýrmáni could feel tears forming when he shakily moaned in pain as she tightened the improvised splint against his leg.
  1467. >Lifting Anonymous with her magic, she gently wrapped the naked man the thickest and fluffiest comforter they possessed, laying him down as close to the fire as she could without catching him aflame.
  1468. >Then she lay down next to him, covering him with one wing and several other blankets
  1469. >Carefully and softly laying a foreleg over his chest, she pulled herself as closely to his blanket-wrapped body as she could.
  1470. >With her own heart pounding in her chest and her mind spinning with worry she nuzzled his head and neck softly, humming calmly as she tried to warm him up.
  1471. >Tears finally began to fall from her eyes as his trembling began to slow, and the cold, pale skin of his face began to warm up and gain color.
  1472. >His unfocused eyes turned slowly to face hers, and she gently nuzzled the tip of his nose with hers, a single tear falling onto his cheek.
  1473. >For what felt like hours she sat there, holding her beloved close to her as she slowly brought him back from the edge of something she didn’t want to consider.
  1474. >The water in the pot had begun to simmer, steam wafting from its surface to mix with the smoke rising from the fire beneath it.
  1475. >Without bothering to find a cup Nýrmáni gathered some of the warm liquid with her magic and bright the hovering ball of liquid to Anonymous, who slowly drank it as she brought it to his lips.
  1476. >He finished it, and weakly coughed once, twice.
  1477. “W-what w-wer-” His voice was barely audible, frail, small...
  1478. >”Shhhhhhh....” Nýrmáni whispered into his ear, softly kissing his forehead as she tightened her hold on him ever so slightly. “You must rest.”
  1479. >Anonymous’s one attempt at words must have cost him the last of his strength, barely moments later she felt his breathing even out, and his eyes shut.
  1480. >His shaking had stopped.
  1481. >Levitating over a pillow for herself Nýrmáni rested her head down on it, and continued to watch her Beloved.
  1482. >Nýrmáni lay there, her eyes watching, even as her mind went back to the place they had just left.
  1483. >What in the name of the stars above had she witnessed there. Simply thinking about it sent an involuntary tremor down her spine.
  1484. >Choosing to ignore those chilling thoughts till morning, she gently nuzzled Anonymous’s hair and inhaled deeply to calm herself.
  1485. >Sighing quietly, Nýrmáni softly kissed his forehead and resumed her vigil.
  1486. >Sleep could wait for her.
  1487. <>
  1488. >Waking up for Anon was almost like mist slowly disappearing in the light of a rising sun.
  1489. >The first thing he could feel was a dull, thumping pain from his left leg.
  1490. >Gradually, as the time began to pass, his other senses began to return to him.
  1491. >It was almost like he had forgotten how to move; his limbs simply refused to respond to the weak signals his brain feebly sent them.
  1492. >He was lying down on his back, and could feel the warmth of blankets over his naked body.
  1493. >Finally, slowly, he managed to open his eyes.
  1494. >The fabric roof of their tent greeted him, moving slightly from the wind outside.
  1495. >A gentle, dancing yellow light originated from his left side, most likely from their fireplace/stove, filling the inside of their tent home with warm light and a soothing heat that radiated through the layers of blankets that covered him.
  1496. >He tried to open his mouth, but found it hard to even blink his eyes, much less trying to attempt to speak.
  1497. >The quiet crackling of wood on the fire graced his ears, and an impossibly soft voice humming what almost sounded like a lullaby, the unknown words and strange yet calming melody made his body relax even further.
  1498. >Vaguely, Anon tried to recall what had happened that had caused him to end up like this, but the memories danced out of his reach. The last thing he could recall was a dark, snowy forest, then a cave…
  1499. >”You are awake?”
  1500. >A very soft voice came from his right side, along with several soft hoofsteps, then a face appeared over his; large, slitted cyan eyes filled with both concern and joy met his.
  1501. >The sight of Nýrmáni, and the concern and love that radiated from her made his heart leap in his chest; his eyes opened wider, his limbs grew more responsive underneath the warm sea of cloth.
  1502. >The alicorn bent her head down to him, her lips grazing his cheek, the fur on her muzzle tickling him slightly.
  1503. >”How are you feeling?”
  1504. “W-water.” He managed to whisper, his mouth and throat felt dry and rough as desert sand as the words passed through his barely opened lips.
  1505. >Nýrmáni’s horn began to glow, and without her eyes leaving his a cup floated in from out of his sight and to his lips.
  1506. >He drank carefully, slowly, the cold water sending small chills down his body as it went down his throat.
  1507. >Slowly licking his lips, he looked around, slowly turning his head as his awareness began to come back to him.
  1508. >The fire from their stove was directly to his left, and Nýrmáni lay directly opposite him on his right, one wing resting over the sea of blankets that he was wrapped in.
  1509. >Judging from the lack of light coming through the tent fabric, it was either early morning or late evening, the whistling wind outside barely audible over the crackling fire.
  1510. “What happened?” He tried to sit up, but his back was so stiff he barely made it an inch off the ground before giving up.
  1511. >Nýrmáni’s wing also applied a gentle, yet firm downward pressure on his chest as she nuzzled his cheek again.
  1512. >”You need to rest, Beloved.”
  1513. >He blinked his eyes several times, one arm sluggish making its way to rub his exhausted face.
  1514. “How… How long have I been asleep?”
  1515. >Nýrmáni’s cheeks went slightly pink, and for the first time Anon saw the worry lines across her cheeks, the bags under her softly glowing eyes, and how absolutely exhausted the alicorn looked.
  1516. >”Um, well, you see-”
  1517. >”It’s been three days. Congratulations on pulling through, you’re tougher than you look.”
  1518. >The voice was female, familiar, and one he had not expected to hear at all.
  1519. >There was the sound of what sounded like a pot or pan being rattled, then hoofsteps, and seconds later another, slightly smaller equine appeared in his vision.
  1520. >Light brown coat, dull blond mane and tail, dark blue eyes, wings folded primly at her sides…
  1521. “Tea Leaf?”
  1522. >The pegasus mare nodded, a small grin spreading on her muzzle as she sat down next to him and began to check his temperature.
  1523. >”The one and only. After your condition worsened on the first day your marefriend finally pulled her head out of her flank and messaged the Princesses for some professional help.”
  1524. >Nýrmáni squeaked in half-hearted outrage as Tea Leaf looked at the reading, nodded to herself, and pulled out a stethoscope from under one wing.
  1525. >”Since I’ve had the most experience with Nýrmáni, and a decent bit with humans thanks to your time at Princess Twilight’s castle, here I am.” She gave him a big smile as she gently pulled the sheets back from his upper body and placed the device on his chest.
  1526. >She suddenly laughed. ”Another reason I came is because I treated her, and now I’ve treated you, I decided that I might as well go for the full coltfriend-marefriend medical treatment package.”
  1527. >She paused for a moment and looked Anon in the eyes, smiling warmly.
  1528. >“The Princesses are letting me use the spare teleportation charm, that’s how I got here in case you’re curious.
  1529. “Three days?” He asked, the meaning of her first words finally registering to him as his eyes grew wider.
  1530. >”Yup, you had severe hypothermia, compounded with that nasty break in your leg, plus the fever and the cold you got from being freezing and wet. Good thing that Nýrmáni had done some basic reading and managed to get on top of your symptoms early or we wouldn’t be talking right now.”
  1531. >Anon looked away from Tea Leaf and to Nýrmáni, who was still laying next to him, her face just inches from his.
  1532. >The beginnings of tears were forming in her wide, teal eyes, and her head fell at his gaze.
  1533. >”We… We were so afraid… You were so… W-We couldn’t help…”
  1534. >That wouldn’t do at all.
  1535. >Slowly, calmly he reached his right hand up and cupped her chin, gently scratching the fur there as Nýrmáni closed her eyes, sighing as she finally lowered her head to the blankets at his side with a soft whimper, rolling her head slightly to allow him more space to scratch.
  1536. >A tear still slid from underneath her one exposed and closed eye.
  1537. >Tea Leaf’s smug expression faded at Nýrmáni’s silent grief, and her voice became much softer.
  1538. >”She did good considering her lack of medical experience, and refused to sleep until she knew that you would wake up alright, despite how much I pleaded or threatened.”
  1539. >Anon let out a soft chuckle at the thought of the average-sized pegasus trying to threaten the large, intimidating, godlike alicorn.
  1540. “I’m okay Sweetie, you can rest now, I’m okay...”
  1541. >The large alicorn didn’t even respond to his snark as her body seemed to lose all its tension, her wings and legs relaxing as she seemed to instantly fall asleep, head still resting on his hand as it messaged her grief away.
  1542. >He could see Tea Leaf smiling at the adorable sight before she sat up and walked to the other side of the tent, apparently to retrieve another medical instrument.
  1543. >”She pretty much refused to leave your side, you know?” Tea Leaf told him quietly as she rummaged around in a large brown canvas bag, which looked much more worn and traveled than it had any right to be.
  1544. >Her cutie mark, along with an equally worn white and red medic cross were sewn on its side.
  1545. >He could hear the pegasus sigh softly. “Luckily she quickly realized she was out of her depth, medically speaking at least, when your condition got worse. Magic can only fix so much before it does more harm than good, not that it stopped her worrying.”
  1546. >”I haven’t seen her eat, She only drank when I forced her to; she’d lost enough water from all her crying that I was starting to grow worried. That mare has it bad for you, really bad. The mere thought of you potentially dying was enough to almost send her into a panic attack.”
  1547. “She is a little clingy.” Anon whispered as he gently freed his hand and continued stroking the sleeping alicorn’s cheek softly.
  1548. >Tea Leaf snorted out a laugh, returning to him with some kind of magic device that she strapped around his wrist.
  1549. >”Yeah, I can smell it. On you, on her, on these sheets, and most of your clothes.”
  1550. “Oh.” He could feel the heat blooming on his face as the pegasus snickered again at his plight, the device on his wrist tightening as Tea Leaf looked at the reading on the device’s face and compared it to the watch he could see strapped to her left fetlock.
  1551. >”Yeah, whatever spell she uses to clean the sheets gets them physically clean, but you’re going to have to figure something out for the smell. Sorry Anon, somepony had to tell you.”
  1552. >Eager to change topics and stop the pegasus from giggling any further, he decided he’d ask about the worst of it.
  1553. “How’s my leg?”
  1554. >Tea Leaf disconnected the device from his wrist, then pulled the sheet off of his left leg.
  1555. >”Well, to quote a griffon I used to serve with in the Foreign Legion, you broke the shit out of it. Luckily it was a clean break and Nýrmáni set it pretty good until I got here. I’ve got a real hospital splint and a couple of pre-charged healing charms on it.”
  1556. >”Give it a week or so to give those charms time to work and you’ll be right as spring rain, as long as you don’t move it, hit it, strain it, or do anything to it other than letting it heal, got it?”
  1557. >Each of her directives was followed by a gentle yet firm hoof-poke into his side. “I’m being serious about that. If I have to come back up here because you messed yourself up by not following doctor's orders I’m going to be mad.”
  1558. “I won’t, I promise.” Carefully, and as slow as a sloth he sat up, groaning slightly as his back popped several times.
  1559. >His right hand went immediately back to Nýrmáni’s side as the alicorn shifted slightly, humming in her sleep as her source of scratches vanished.
  1560. >After asking for and receiving more water, he quietly drank as Tea Leaf did several other tests on him.
  1561. >Thankfully the blankets stayed covering his privates, so he didn’t have to worry about that kind of inspection.
  1562. “How is Thunder doing?” He asked after finishing his second cup.
  1563. >Tea Leaf smiled and actually blushed a small bit at the question. “He’s perfectly fine now. In fact, we’ve been on a couple of actual dates together. It’s been nice, really nice.”
  1564. “Good for you both, I think you’d be a cute couple.”
  1565. >Tea Leaf hid her tomato-red muzzle behind one hoof as she pretended to straighten out her mane, mumbling all the while.
  1566. >”Well, we’d be doing more stuff together, but since the arrests last week things have been hectic in Canterlot for the Royal Guard an-”
  1567. “Wait, what arrests?” Anon interrupted, eyes narrowing in surprise.
  1568. >”That’s right, you wouldn’t know out here. Apparently there was some kind of corruption probe conducted by Celestia the day after Nýrmáni’s ‘trial’.” Tea Leaf snorted angrily at the word ‘trial’ as she went back to her bag.
  1569. >”A bunch of Royal Guard regulars and several high ranking officers apparently had ordered lax security on purpose during the escort you both had that day and for the crowds, because of bribes they also took from several as of yet unnamed ponies.”
  1570. “Really?” Anon’s curiosity grew as he accepted another glass of water from the pegasus.
  1571. >”Yeah, apparently it wasn’t just for you two though. They’ve been providing the same security ‘gaps’ for other individuals that they apparently disagreed with over the last couple of years. So most of them got arrested by the Night Guard and there has been some major restructuring of the Royal Guard since then.”
  1572. >”So basically, it’s been a complete rollercoaster ride for the Royal Guard since you both have left, and Thunder got a promotion from it apparently so he’s been swamped with stuff to do…”
  1573. >Tea Leaf sighed, shaking her head as she zipped her bag shut.
  1574. >”Suffice to say that I’ve been busy too, but nothing is more important than helping my friends, especially you two.”
  1575. >Anon opened his mouth, then shut it again.
  1576. “Well, I don’t really know what to say.”
  1577. >”There’s nothing you really need to say, other than ‘thanks for patching me up so I didn’t die and leave my marefriend a sobbing wreck’.”
  1578. >Anon finally chuckled, his chest hurting slightly at the movements.
  1579. “I’ll try to avoid nearly dying from now on.”
  1580. >Tea Leaf laughed, a cheerful sound that made Anon smile. ”Good, cause if you don’t I’m going to start charging you every time I have to fix you or her; At the rate you’re both going I could retire in a year or two.”
  1581. “Maybe.” He responded, looking over to Nýrmáni again.
  1582. >He hadn’t noticed it at first because it was almost the same shade of black as her fur, but the alicorn had somehow fit one of his t-shirts over her body and the arm holes onto her forelegs.
  1583. >It was bunched up a bit on her back where her wings prevented it from going any further down her barrel, otherwise it fit decently well on her.
  1584. >”Yeah, I don't know what a ‘Metallica’ is, but she somehow got it on herself the day before yesterday and refused to talk about it to me. When I finally asked about it she threatened to pull all of the blood vessels out of my body one by one.”
  1585. >Anon shook his head at the ridiculous thought.
  1586. “Was she being serious?”
  1587. >”Nah, she was teetering on the edge of complete panic at that point, I think she was desperate to have your scent close to her since I wouldn’t let her near you while I was putting you back together. I’ve heard of that happening sometimes between very close couples.”
  1588. >Anon swallowed the last bit of water and hummed in thought, his free hand still running down Nýrmáni’s cheek and neck as she soundly slept.
  1589. “She really didn’t sleep?”
  1590. >Tea Leaf shook her head, trotting up to him and sitting down.
  1591. >”Not that I saw, I’ve only gotten a couple hours of sleep myself since I got here but I’m used to that sort of thing. She’d always still be awake whenever I woke up, watching you like you were the only thing left in the world.”
  1592. >Anon was quiet for several moments, lost in thought.
  1593. “I honestly thought that she’d at least get some sleep, once you got here.”
  1594. >”So did I, but apparently you’re more important to her than she is to herself. I had her help me a bit just to give her something to do other than watch me patch you up and sniffle.”
  1595. >”Like I said, she loves you more than anything, maybe even herself, neglecting her own wellbeing and putting you before herself.”
  1596. >”That’s a rare thing, to love so completely, so selflessly that she would disregard her own health and safety to ensure yours. I’d treasure that over any boon, any material gift that I could be offered.”
  1597. “I already do.” His words were barely audible as he gazed at Nýrmáni’s sleeping face.
  1598. >She looked so peaceful now, compared to the nervous and scared alicorn of just minutes ago.
  1599. >Pledge to protect, indeed.
  1600. >”Good, because that’s all the philosophical relationship advice I’ve got for you. I’ll have to ask Princess Celestia for some more for when I inevitably end up coming back here to fix you or her again.”
  1601. >Anon laughed quietly in an effort to not wake his sleeping lover up.
  1602. >Not that he thought he could; she looked like she’d sleep through an artillery bombardment.
  1603. >Tea Leaf sighed again, looking around the tent. “You want me to cook you some food? I don’t know a lot but I can whip something simple up quick, I bet you’re famished.”
  1604. >At the mention of food, Anon’s stomach rumbled like thunder inside his belly, making him turn pink in embarrassment.
  1605. “That would be nice, now that you mention it.”
  1606. >Minutes later, Anon and Tea Leaf were sitting down with scrambled eggs filling their respective plates, discussing what had happened since he and Nýrmáni had left between mouthfuls.
  1607. >He listened attentively as Tea Leaf talked about Thunder’s new promotion and how it put him in Canterlot closer to her, and their budding relationship.
  1608. >It was nice to see that Tea Leaf was getting new love in her life after everything she had been through.
  1609. >”-and other than Princess Cadence still telling the Equestrian Economic Committee to, err, buzz off, since they haven’t come up with an acceptable apology yet, nothing else has been happening that you would find interesting.”
  1610. >Tea Leaf set her plate on the ground off to the side and looked at Anon expectantly.
  1611. >”So, what have you two troublemakers been up to up here? Nýrmáni wasn’t really in a talkative mood.”
  1612. >Anon stretched his arms over his head, yawning as he looked down at the last bit of food on his plate.
  1613. “Well, not much to be honest. We’ve been working on a permanent home for about a week, that’s the main thing.”
  1614. >”Yeah I saw it for a couple seconds when I first teleported in. How close are you two to finishing it?”
  1615. “Give or take a couple weeks, at least, that was before this happened.” He looked down at his left leg, which was completely wrapped in white medical tape and held unmovable with metal splints fitted to his leg.
  1616. >”So,” Tea Leaf glanced at the softly snoring Nýrmáni, then quickly back to Anon, “She didn’t tell me much, between her babbling, but how did you actually break your leg?”
  1617. >Anon sighed, laying back down on the ground next to Nýrmáni, who snorted in her sleep and pulled herself to his side once again.
  1618. “Well, I don’t remember much myself. What did she tell you?”
  1619. >”She said something about you falling into a cave through some snow, then she just kept repeating ‘it’s my fault’, until she started crying.”
  1620. >Anon rubbed his head with one hand, struggling to remember the specifics, his heart heavy at Tea Leaf’s admission.
  1621. “We had decided to take a break from the construction, it was going well. We decided to go explore the local area.”
  1622. >”Exploring?”
  1623. “Yeah, we hadn’t really looked outside of this fjord here until then, we were still getting settled in. So we just decided to go further inland and look around until we found something interesting.”
  1624. >”Well, did you?” Tea Leaf leaned forward, seemingly hanging on his every word.
  1625. “We… She sensed something. We went down to this clearing in this forest by a mountain… There was a stone with writing on it…”
  1626. >Anon rubbed his face again, struggling to remember what had happened.
  1627. >But it was all a blur, filled with cold and darkness and shadow...
  1628. “I think there was a shadow, but a pony, and then the room I fell into.”
  1629. >”Room?”
  1630. “I think it was a ruin. After that I don’t remember anything until I woke up here. It’s all blurry.”
  1631. >Tea Leaf sat back, her expression one of puzzlement and concern.
  1632. >”That’s strange, your memory loss could be a combination of your hypothermia and the trauma of your leg breaking. Traumatic accidents can rattle ponies, and there are cases of memory loss relating to the incident, especially if there is a head injury.”
  1633. “Do I have one?”
  1634. >”Not that I could tell. You conked yourself pretty good when you fell apparently but you didn’t break anything up there, in case you’re wondering.” She said, smiling innocently at him despite the sarcasm in her tone.
  1635. “Thanks for the reassurance, Tea Leaf.” Anon wisecracked back.
  1636. >”You should be, I checked your noggin out of the kindness of my heart.”
  1637. >The two of them laughed for a moment.
  1638. “But yeah, that’s all I can really remember. If you want the whole story you’ll have to ask Nýrmáni when she wakes up, whenever that is.”
  1639. >Tea Leaf raised her hoof and looked at her watch. “I technically have another two days to help before I have to use the charm to teleport back, I’m sure she’ll be awake before I have to go.”
  1640. “What time is it anyway?” Anon could feel sleep coming, especially after all the talking, the warm eggs currently settling in his stomach, and the fire-heated blankets resting over half his body.
  1641. >Not to mention the alicorn currently trying to slide under those warm blankets in her sleep to cuddle closer to him.
  1642. >”Right now it’s about 5:20 in the evening, kinda weird that it looks like midnight outside already, it must be because we’re so much closer to the top of the world here.”
  1643. >Anon hummed in acknowledgement as Nýrmáni finally found him, mumbling nonsense as she rested her head and one hoof on his chest.
  1644. >Tea Leaf chuckled again at the sight, then stood and trotted over.
  1645. >”I’ll get things cleaned up a bit while you two sleep it off, Celestia knows you both need it.”
  1646. >Using one wing, she gently pulled the blankets up over them both before trotting to the fire and adding several logs to it in a small burst of sparks.
  1647. >”Don’t you worry, you’ll be awake before you know it.”
  1648. >But Anon didn’t even hear Tea Leaf’s final cheerful words, he was already asleep.
  1649. <>
  1650. >The darkness stretched out before her, a tunnel of pure blackness with a single point of faint, shining white light at its unknown end.
  1651. >Snow swirled and writhed around her, buffeting her folded wings, fur, and flitting through her star-filled ethereal mane and tail.
  1652. >The cold bit deep, her fur and body doing little to protect against the freezing air and howling wind.
  1653. >Nýrmáni could barely see him, even with her superior vision, lying in the distant, twinkling light, unmoving in the snow.
  1654. >Her heart lurched at the sight, and she gasped in fear and dread.
  1655. >She had to get to him. She had to save him
  1656. >Leaning forwards, Nýrmáni fought her way through the winds and the snow and the darkness, to Anonymous.
  1657. >With every hoofstep the winds blew harder, the snow became blinding even for her, and when she tried to blast it away with her magic nothing would come, no matter how hard she concentrated.
  1658. >”Anonymous!” Her cry was barely audible through the snowy gale, and she increasingly stumbled through the thicker snow towards the human’s motionless body.
  1659. >Her heart was pounding in her chest, and the tears that freely ran from her eyes instantly froze to ice against her cheeks.
  1660. >She finally reached him, the force of the wind and lashing snow finally driving her to the ground.
  1661. >Nýrmáni pulled her Beloved’s body close to her chest, his form blurry from the snow and her own tears.
  1662. >”Anonymous! Wake up!”
  1663. >He didn’t move.
  1664. >”No! No no no no please!”
  1665. >She could feel anything at all from him. His dull eyes stared blindly upwards, past her and upwards into black infinity.
  1666. >The white light that had surrounded his body previously began to fade, and the impenetrable blackness that encircled them both began to close in.
  1667. >Anonymous! You can’t be! D-don’t leave m-me here! Beloved!”
  1668. >Her screams descended into incoherent wails of despair as she cradled his cold, lifeless body, her tears squeezing past her shut eyes to fall as ice.
  1669. >The blackness enveloped her.
  1670. >Time went by, she did not know or care how much. It could have been ten seconds or ten thousand years.
  1671. >Every feeling seemed to leave her; the cold faded as her body went numb, and she could no longer feel the wind slicing at her fur and the feathers of her wings.
  1672. >She felt as if her heart was trying to tear itself apart.
  1673. >The only thing she could hear were her own quiet sobs of grief.
  1674. >Even those slowly faded after a while, leaving her in complete blackness and utter silence.
  1675. >The impacts of hooves on soft ground slowly made themselves known.
  1676. >Then a blue light, faint but growing brighter, appeared in front of her, the glow piercing Nýrmáni’s closed eyes.
  1677. >There was a slow, sad sigh, then a voice, calm and gentle despite the thunder of authority that filled it.
  1678. >”I promised that I would not interfere with your mind, nor your dreams, but I cannot stand idle and let you be consumed with grief.”
  1679. >Nýrmáni slowly opened her eyes and looked up, tears still blurring her vision.
  1680. >Luna stood before her, her royal regalia absent, a melancholy expression graced her elegant features as she studied the other, darker alicorn.
  1681. >Slowly, Nýrmáni looked downwards to her forehooves, only to find them empty, the body of Anonymous gone, and the cold, unforgiving snow beneath her replaced with warm, comforting autumn grass.
  1682. >A soft light appeared, the moon shone above her amidst a sea of endless stars that twinkled cheerfully.
  1683. >”When my sister and I received the message that young Anonymous was hurt and needed help we sent Tea Leaf, and when you finally slept she messaged us, and told us of both your and Anonymous’s conditions.”
  1684. >Nýrmáni remained silent, her mind still filled with the image of her lover’s cold, unresponsive body.
  1685. >”When she wrote of your lack of sleep and single-minded actions and thoughts towards his safety and care, I wondered how long it would be till you dreamt of him, and I was not really surprised to see what I did.”
  1686. >”Then why did you let me dream it in the first place?” Nýrmáni could help but growl the words out with the last of her tears.
  1687. >”Because of my promise not to interfere, but… I could not simply stand idle this time.”
  1688. >”Why?”
  1689. >”Because I felt sorry for you, nopony should have to experience what you did, especially one who has only just found love.”
  1690. >There was silence between them. Nýrmáni did not know how long it was.
  1691. >”How long?”
  1692. >Luna looked confused and slightly surprised by the sudden, quiet question. “What do you mean?”
  1693. >With one last sniffle, Nýrmáni wiped her eyes with her right fetlock and slowly stood, her legs still weak, and looked at her lighter counterpart with red, puffy eyes.
  1694. >”Do you know how long humans like Anonymous live?”
  1695. >Luna was silent for several moments, before once again sighing. “Come with me, there are things I must show you in order for you to understand.”
  1696. >The alicorn’s horn began to glow, and the remaining darkness and cold of Nýrmáni’s dream was instantly blasted away, the gentle moonlight shining down on both of them as they stood in rolling fields of green.
  1697. >”When Princess Cadence first came to my sister and I about the idea of her Human Immigration Initiative, and the lonely inhabitants of that world we were hesitant at first. My sister more than I, because although we had not thought of it for millennia, we knew of their reality.”
  1698. >Nýrmáni took a step closer to Luna. “You… knew of Anonymous’s world?”
  1699. >”Yes. I was too young to remember, but Celestia has retold them to me, our… father’s stories of the other world, and the two-legged inhabitants of it. Primitive, violent, but learning. Growing.”
  1700. >Images began to appear around them both, and Nýrmáni could somehow recognize them as memories, Luna’s recent memories; conversations with both Celestia and the pink alicorn she remembered as Cadence, and a swirling, glowing ring of blue light that opened like a door.
  1701. >”Before she began her project, my sister and I decided that we must investigate this changed world for ourselves first. It had been thousands of years since we had peered into the other plane, time flows differently sometimes, while at others our realities match, and we did not want to unwittingly bring something terrible into our realm. ”
  1702. >With a sound like sucking air the surroundings around both of them changed, the green, gently rolling hills intently replaced with impossible buildings of glass, stone, and metal and a grey, cloudy sky.
  1703. >A cacophony of sound hit Nýrmáni, and she covered her ears at the multitude of different noises and conversations.
  1704. >Then her eyes widened as she looked down from the buildings that looked like they scraped the sky themselves.
  1705. >There were humans everywhere; hundreds, thousands, all moving down narrow lanes of grey rock while large things that she thought at first were wagons moved between them all on black roads.
  1706. >”What, what is this?” She managed to squeak as her brain began to adjust to the utter strangeness of her new surroundings.
  1707. >”This is the human city of New York. When we left the realm of Equestria the times between our two realities was at a fluctuating point; one day in this reality was only one hour in Equestria, so the two of us decided that we would spend several weeks here in this world, traveling, learning, seeing how were were different and how we were similar.”
  1708. >Two human females suddenly came walking out of a dark, narrow alleyway. They were both of pale skin, appeared to be slightly taller than the average humans and wore what appeared to be common human clothing. The taller of the two had pink hair, the other light blue.
  1709. >They looked around in amazement for a moment before looking at each other. They wordlessly nodded in agreement, then joined the crowd.
  1710. >”We blended in with them, studying them, learning their history to see where their hearts and minds had brought them since the times gone and forgotten.
  1711. >The scene changed again, this time the two disguised alicorns were in a massive exhibition hall of some kind, objects in cases and behind glass stood all around them and the other humans with them.
  1712. >”We went to their museums, their libraries, watched their moving pictures, and learned the history of not only that country but dozens of others as well. One of the main things we learned was that humanity as a whole can achieve both great and terrible things in equal measure.”
  1713. >More images surrounded them, snapshots from the two sister’s time of learning, of them looking at books, watching massive pictures that moved of their own accord.
  1714. >It was almost overwhelming for her.
  1715. >”We showed you the fight against Tirek, one of the most destructive battles our world has ever seen. What the humans have done to each other in their own wars is… mind boggling; death, slaughter, and suffering beyond even our comprehension and understanding. Yet despite this, they constantly seek new and more imaginative means of self-destruction.”
  1716. >The scene changed again, and this time the human Celestia and Luna stood before a strangely shaped yet beautiful building, its exterior a dark red, with several spiraling domes of green, red, blue, and white decorating it’s surface.
  1717. >Snow gently drifted down from the sun-filtered clouds to land amongst the humans milling about the great square the building sat in.
  1718. >”We traveled their world to find the beauty among them, of both their own creation and the natural wonders their world offered.”
  1719. >This time, the two sisters were on what appeared to be a train, which was slowly winding its way through green, snow-covered mountains that towered to a perfectly clear blue sky.
  1720. >The scene changed again, and this time the two sisters stood side by side, hugging each other and smiling as they posed for what appeared to be a photograph in another city, pink-leaved poppy trees surrounded them as a large snow-covered mountain rose up in the distance behind them.
  1721. >”Their world has many natural and created wonders, and humanity's endless curiosity and urge to explore is something to be admired and cultured, but unfortunately they are also their own worst enemy.”
  1722. >”What do you mean?” Nýrmáni asked as the world around her once again shifted, the memory Celestia and Luna now walking alongside the street of what looked to be a small town, the narrow streets surrounded by weathered buildings of red brick.
  1723. >Luna sighed again as she looked around the specter of her own memory. ”Their overall culture, from what we could see and had learned through observations and reading, was in decline. The power and freedom of the individual was being disregarded, stolen away.”
  1724. >Thousands of snippets of memory now appeared, swirling around them both like a tornado, of newspaper clippings and other lines of text, so numerous and so fast that Nýrmáni could barely read one before it had been replaced by another.
  1725. >”Bombarded endlessly by propaganda that insulted and shamed them, blamed them for the mistakes of their distant ancestors, the males of most of the modern nations were told that they were the cause behind any societal problem, any ethnic conflict or economic downturn.”
  1726. >”Many fought it, and most likely still do, but despite this, despite the multitude of languages this world has and the differences in their countries the message was the same; it is your fault.”
  1727. >”Why?” Nýrmáni asked quietly, her mind still trying to wrap around the snippets she had managed to read, “Why would they do this?”
  1728. >”Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, but that is neither here nor there, we could discuss the political and societal corruption of their world for years if we wished.”
  1729. >”But we could see their end coming. Their weapons are destructive and terrible, the top rivals of their world constantly looking for an excuse to attack the other. It sadly is only a matter of time before they destroy each other completely.”
  1730. >Moving pictures of these weapons and others appeared before Nýrmáni, showing her destruction and chaos beyond her imagination.
  1731. >”So… you are helping Cadence, but also saving some of them, just in case of their… self-annihilation?”
  1732. >Luna looked down, her expression one of sadness. “In case the worst comes to pass on their world, yes.”
  1733. >Looking at Nýrmáni as the images faded, Luna returned them both back to the rolling fields of green and the bright, full moon.
  1734. >”How we ended up choosing to allow Cadence’s program to continue was the most important part though. We found a psychic connection, or leakage rather, from our world into theirs.” Luna shook her head and chuckled quietly for a moment.
  1735. >”What was it?” Nýrmáni asked, genuinely curious and wanting to forget the terrible images of war and death she had just witnessed.
  1736. >”Our world, at least one version of it, is known in theirs not as truth or proof of the existence of another reality, but as fiction, stories for young children.”
  1737. >Nýrmáni was silent for what felt like an eternity.
  1738. >”You are joking to me, aren't you.”
  1739. >Luna brought a hoof to her chest. “I swear on my power and title as Princess that I am not.”
  1740. >”So… Could Anonymous have known about me, then?” Nýrmáni’s voice was barely over a whisper.
  1741. >Luna’s expression changed, she looked almost… ashamed?
  1742. >”He did. All of the humans who have come to Equestria were familiar with their version of our world, that is one of the reasons they were picked by the Crystal Heart. Their integration into Equestrian society and culture would be much eas-”
  1743. >”Why would he not have told me?” Nýrmáni whispered, more to herself than to Luna.
  1744. >She could feel fresh tears beginning to form in her eyes as her head fell, her eyes leaving Luna’s and meeting the soft, waving grass.
  1745. >”You would have to ask him that yourself, but he told us one of his reasons: when you first appeared, and when Anonymous was chosen by the Heart to be with you, he told us in his journal that he would not judge you by what he knew of you already.”
  1746. >Nýrmáni looked back up to Luna as the first tears fell from her cheek.
  1747. >”He said that you were not evil, but scared, lost, broken. He did not want his past perceptions of you to taint his ability to help you, the mare that sat before him, become more than she ever thought possible. The rest you know.”
  1748. >”But, but… does he really love me then…” Nýrmáni’s voice was barely a whisper among the moonlight.
  1749. >She heard Luna approach her, then a wing wrapped softly around her back.
  1750. >”What does your heart say?”
  1751. >When Nýrmáni thought of his face, of his smile, his tender caress and soft words to her, her heart ached with longing. ”That… that he does.”
  1752. >”Then listen to your heart. I have read his words and seen his courage as he stood up for you and helped you. I do not doubt his feelings for you are true.”
  1753. >Nýrmáni gave a sad, quiet laugh. “Thank you Luna.”
  1754. >The wing pulled her to Luna’s side a tiny bit tighter. “I am always happy to help.”
  1755. >”If… If you could, please answer me; how long?”
  1756. >Luna was silent, the wind that rustled the grass around them the only sound.
  1757. >”In their home reality, humans lived an average of sixty to one hundred years.”
  1758. >Nýrmáni’s heart sank, her temporarily quelled fears rising back to the surface of her turbulent mind.
  1759. >”Then, I do not have long with him then, do I?” More tears hit the grass, shining in the bright light of the moon.
  1760. >”Don’t be so sure, Nýrmáni. The rules here are different.”
  1761. >Despite her tears, Nýrmáni tilted her head slightly in confusion. ”The rules?”
  1762. >Luna nodded. “Their world had virtually no magic in it. In terms of magic, their reality is a small puddle of water, ours is a vast, deep ocean. Humans have been here in Equestria for such a short period of time that we don’t know what long term effects our magic will have on them.”
  1763. >”You… You mean…” An impossibly small flicker of bright hope rose in Nýrmáni’s chest, the cold grip of despair growing slightly weaker on her heart.
  1764. >Luna gave her a small smile. “The answer as of yet is unclear. Humans have just not been here long enough to see how much they will be affected by this reality. But I will say this: Humans are very, very adaptable to their environments. Equestria is no different.”
  1765. >The tiny spark of hope grew, then wavered
  1766. >”But, what if that is not the case?”
  1767. >”Then I will say this from my own experience, and since you ask me this I know you do not have these memories of mine.”
  1768. >Luna retracted her wing and stood, moving directly in front of Nýrmáni and placing a hoof on one dark shoulder.
  1769. >Nýrmáni finally looked up to Luna, and was shocked to see tears forming in the blue alicorn’s eyes.
  1770. >”Many years before I became overshadowed by my sister, before my hatred and self-loathing consumed me, before I… created you and we were both banished to the Moon, I had many friends, some close, some not so much. I saw them all pass on, either through battle, sickness, old age… but I can still see them and hear their voices.”
  1771. >Nýrmáni’s eyes grew wide. “You can?"
  1772. >Luna's slightly cheerful tone caused that small ember of hope in her to blossom even more.
  1773. >”Of course. Even when they left me, a small part of them lives on within me, within anypony they influenced, ones they cherished or loved. While I wish that they were still here with me, I look back on my times with them with joy and happiness, so this is my advice.”
  1774. >Luna blinked rapidly to dispel her tears, her eyes warm but full of righteous and honest conviction.
  1775. >”Cherish your time with Anonymous, be it one year or one thousand. Be with him, love him with all your heart, do not waste the time you have with him, and treat every new day like an adventure that is made for you both. Do this, and when that time comes, you will find it easier, and you will know that he will live on in your heart.”
  1776. >Nýrmáni was speechless as Luna’s eyes bored into hers.
  1777. >She felt herself begin to shake, and found that she could hold it back no longer.
  1778. >Nýrmáni collapsed, her head meeting Luna’s chest as she began to cry in earnest.
  1779. >Luna’s hooves encircled her without hesitation, slowly rocking her back and forth like a small foal.
  1780. >”T-thank you…” Nýrmáni managed to choke out between quiet sobs, even as her tears stained Luna’s fur.
  1781. >”I hope that I have helped you, Nýrmáni.”
  1782. >The two alicorns sat there under the moonlight in each other’s embrace. Time passed, and a red glow began to appear on the horizon of the Dreamscape.
  1783. >Luna gently held the sniffling alicorn at hooves length, and gave her a sad smile.
  1784. >Nýrmáni couldn’t help but notice the lines of tears on Luna’s cheeks as well.
  1785. >”If you ever need me, for anything, please contact me. I will drop everything to help you, need be. Now,” Luna lifted one hoof and softly tapped Nýrmáni directly below her horn, “wake up.”
  1786. <>
  1787. >Nýrmáni’s eyes flew open, her heart racing as her body adjusted to the waking world.
  1788. >Lifting her head slightly, she could see the red, glowing remains of the fire in their stove, the only light in their current home.
  1789. >Slitted, glowing eyes darting about, she saw Tea Leaf sleeping on the ground under a blanket and using her medical bag as a pillow, her covered chest rising and falling gently.
  1790. >Looking down, she could see that her head had been resting on her Beloved’s chest, along with one foreleg and most of her slowly undulating, star-filled mane.
  1791. >She could still feel the remnants of tears from her sleep on her cheeks, and quickly dried them off with a part of the blanket as she thought about Luna’s words and advice again.
  1792. >That small spark of hope and happiness was now a blazing inferno, filling not only her heart but her whole body with a joy and excitement that she hadn’t felt since the first time Anonymous had shown her kindness in her magical coma, which felt so long ago…
  1793. >Nýrmáni bent down to the quietly sleeping Anonymous and softly kissed him.
  1794. >The young man shifted slightly and sighed, the smallest of smiles appearing on his face.
  1795. >Her heart soared in her chest at the sight of it.
  1796. >Carefully laying her head back down onto his chest she nuzzled him, taking in his scent as her mind began to calm, her right foreleg holding him close.
  1797. >He mumbled softly in his sleep as one of his arms slowly found her neck
  1798. >At that moment, Nýrmáni swore to herself that she would not think about the lifespan of her beloved Anonymous, but would instead strive to make every day with him the happiest, most precious day of her life.
  1799. >As she thought about it, a small smile of her own grew on her muzzle, her eyes slowly closed once again, and she drifted off into a dreamless, peaceful sleep.
  1800. <>
  1801. >Anon knew he was dreaming, because it was warm and the grass he was currently standing on was green and healthy.
  1802. >The familiar hillside that had been their snowy home these last few weeks looked to be in the height of summer, with trees all green and the grass warm under his bare feet.
  1803. >There was no snow and ice either, that was another fact.
  1804. >In fact, as he swung his eyes around his surroundings, it looked like it had been the last time he and Nýrmáni had messed around together in the Dreamscape and listened to music for four hours straight..
  1805. >”Beloved, I require your assistance in besting Miss Tea Leaf in this contest of mental will!”
  1806. >”I don’t think he can save you from this beating Nýrmáni.”
  1807. >Turning around, he finally saw Nýrmáni and Tea Leaf sitting at a small table with a checkerboard separating them.
  1808. >And if the sweat running down Nýrmáni’s cheek and the smug grin on Tea Leaf’s lips were anything to go by, his lover was being beaten soundly.
  1809. >Tea Leaf smiled and waved cheerfully at him with one hoof, her head resting on the other.
  1810. >“Glad to see you’re getting better Anon, but are you ready to see this? I’m about to end this mare’s whole career.”
  1811. >”That is n-nonsense! I will n-not be beaten this time!”
  1812. >”We’ll see.”
  1813. >Anon walked over, trying and failing to hide his smile at Nýrmáni’s wide eyes, near-panicked demeanor, and silently thrashing mane and tail
  1814. >When he reached the tableside he could see why: Tea Leaf had almost all of her pieces remaining, Nýrmáni just had two.
  1815. >He reached out a hand to pat the back of her head.
  1816. “Are you okay there Sweetie?”
  1817. >All he received in reply was an irritated, horsy snort and a light slap from one ethereal mane tendril as the alicorn quickly lifted up one of her remaining pieces in her magic and captured one of Tea Leaf’s.
  1818. >It was her downfall.
  1819. >Her smug expression not changing in the slightest and not even looking at the board, Tea Leaf lifted one of her pieces with a wingtip and captured Nýrmáni’s remaining two pieces.
  1820. >”Told yah.”
  1821. >Nýrmáni groaned in dismay and simply fell out of her chair and onto the grass below with a sad squeak.
  1822. >Tea Leaf apparently could no longer contain herself. ”So remind me, that's…?”
  1823. >”That is four in a row.” The prone alicorn groaned out, still unmoving. Even her mane and tail lay on the ground, appeared lifeless.
  1824. >Anon raised a single eyebrow at the pegasus mare as he bent down to scratch Nýrmáni’s neck in an effort to comfort his defeated alicorn lover.
  1825. “How did you end up giving her such a thrashing?”
  1826. >”When I was in recovery, all I had time to do was play checkers with the other poor sobs who were hurt, I got good at it really quick.” Tea Leaf’s smile went a bit sad. “It was good though, it kept me focused, grounded.”
  1827. >”I just don’t know what went wrong.” Nýrmáni mumbled, even as she began to hum as Anon’s fingers ran up and down her neck and shoulders.
  1828. >”It’s okay, you’ve never played the game before till now, don’t take it too hard.”
  1829. >Nýrmáni sighed at Tea Leaf’s gentle tone and pulled herself off of the ground, sitting in her chair once more, still looking slightly dejected.
  1830. “So what made you decide to take a go at Tea Leaf?” Anon asked as a chair appeared beneath him as well.
  1831. >”I… Conversed with Luna earlier about several things, and I have decided to be more outgoing with myself and find more enjoyment from life, is this not a way to be outgoing?” She gestured at the now reset checkerboard.
  1832. “It is nice to see you playing well with someone else, but do you think Luna will mind if you reach out?”
  1833. >”Well, err, I may have forgotten to bring up that particular topic to her moment, I was… distracted by other thoughts at the time.” Nýrmáni tapped her chin with one front hoof, her expression going thoughtful, then excited in a heartbeat.
  1834. >”But I shall write to her first thing in the morning and ask if I may approach select ponies in the dreamscape, once who will not reveal they have spoken with me, we do not want the illusion of our ‘banishment’ to be broken by loose lips.”
  1835. >Anon nodded and smiled, patting her on the side with his left hand.
  1836. “I think that’s a wonderful idea, go for it.”
  1837. >Ignoring Tea Leaf’s squee of joy Anon allowed himself to be enveloped in a full body hug by Nýrmáni, who had instantly left her chair to sit in his, cradling the human in her lap, and nuzzling his head with her chin
  1838. >”Oh my Beloved, We are so happy to have you as Ours and to be together, inseparable by anypony.”
  1839. >Anon opened his mouth to object then closed it as he relaxed back into Nýrmáni’s warm, furry chest.
  1840. “Is your fur getting longer or am I going crazy?” He mumbled out as he snuggled himself further into her chest, melting into her as he felt her strong forehooves wrap around him.
  1841. >”You are not mistaken, Anonymous. It started to grow after our… trip into the mountains, and that magical storm, I do not know how but my body did not like it at all.”
  1842. >Now that he thought about it, he guessed that her fur was a tad bit longer than he remembered it being before their little ‘adventure’.
  1843. >He was suddenly brought back to the dreaming world by the continued nuzzling of Nýrmáni, and the giggling of Tea Leaf, who was looking at them both with a large smile and slightly flushed cheeks.
  1844. >”Are you two going to need a room or something?”
  1845. >Apparently Nýrmáni thought they did, with a wave of her hoof and a squeak of embarrassment she did some kind of spell and Tea Leaf vanished with one last wave and a parting laugh.
  1846. “Where did she go?”
  1847. >”I simply woke her up. As pleasant as it was to have her for company here, there are some things that you and I must discuss privately.”
  1848. >A pang of worry went through him as Nýrmáni’s blush faded and was replaced with an expression much more serious.
  1849. “Nothing's wrong is it?”
  1850. >With a wave of her horn the table and the chairs vanished, and the two of them found themselves laying down on the warm grass, the sun shining cheerfully from the horizon in a clear, endless sky.
  1851. >”No, nothing is… wrong, but when Luna I met and conversed as a dreamt, she informed me of several things, things that I would like to discuss with you.”
  1852. >Anon listened with growing trepidation as Nýrmáni explained the nightmare she’d had, how Princess Luna had come to help her, and what they had discussed together afterwards.
  1853. >Despite the momentary panic he felt when Nýrmáni explained that she now knew that he had known about an alternate version of her from a fictional version of their world, she didn’t look angry.
  1854. >Just confused, and maybe a touch sad.
  1855. “...And then I fell asleep again and decided to talk with Tea Leaf in her own dream, that is basically what occurred.”
  1856. >Anon looked into her eyes for a moment after she had finished speaking, then looked away.
  1857. >”I just want to know why, why did you not tell me?”
  1858. >Despite her effort to sound neutral, he could hear the hurt in her quiet voice, and it tore through his heart.
  1859. >Anon closed his eyes and sighed, long and low, before turning back to face Nýrmáni.
  1860. >He could see the tears starting to form in the corners of her eyes as she looked downward.
  1861. >Instantly he shuffled next to her, wrapping his arms around her.
  1862. >She melted into his embrace. It hurt him to see a being so powerful yet so vulnerable.
  1863. >Stuffing her nose and muzzle down to his neck she sat there in his arms, Anon could tell she was trying not to cry.
  1864. “The first reason I never told you was because I swore not to, it was one of the conditions I agreed to when I came here.” His quiet words garnered him a flick of one ear but nothing else.
  1865. >Sighing quietly he began to stroke the back of her neck with one hand.
  1866. “Secondly, the first time we met in your mind I learned more about you, as a pony, than I ever knew about the Nightmare Moon that I had known before coming here.”
  1867. >Nýrmáni tilted her head just enough to meet his gaze with one eye. “Really?”
  1868. “Yup,” He smiled down at her, “And the final reason; would you have believed me back then if I’d told you the truth?”
  1869. >”Well… No, I probably would not have.”
  1870. >Silence reigned between them for a few minutes as Anon continued to stroke Nýrmáni’s neck, the alicorn almost looked asleep as she lay against him.
  1871. “That’s why I didn’t tell you, honestly. Do you think you can forgive me?” He couldn’t hide the uncertainty in his voice.
  1872. >Nýrmáni began to giggle, shaking slightly against his chest.
  1873. >That was not what he had been expecting.
  1874. >In an instant their positions were reversed, and Anon found himself completely enveloped in Nýrmáni’s wings, hooves, and mane.
  1875. >”Oh my Beloved, you simply did what you thought was right in order to help me, how could I not forgive you?”
  1876. >He happily sank into her warm, fluffy chest in relief.
  1877. >”But, when you are finished healing, and Miss Tea Leaf has returned to Equestria proper, there is something you must do for me…”
  1878. >He felt one wing retract from his back, and suddenly he heard her giggling right against his now exposed ear, which she licked.
  1879. >Nýrmáni’s sensually whispered request made Anon blush so hard his ears felt as if they were on fire, and he closed his eyes despite his face currently being buried in the alicorn’s chest.
  1880. >”I have physical desires as well, Anonymous, I know that you know this.” She continued to giggle at him, probably because she could see his blush.
  1881. “Yeah but did you have to be so descriptive about them?” He managed to squeak. “You got all squeaky when Tea Leaf said we shou-”
  1882. >”Hush you.” Anon’s words disappeared as he was once again squeezed against Nýrmáni’s chest.
  1883. >Despite her bravado, he could feel her heart beating slightly faster against his head.
  1884. >It was almost soothing enough to fall asleep too.
  1885. <>
  1886. >Nýrmáni opened her eyes, finding herself against Anonymous much as she had in their dream.
  1887. >The young human was still asleep, resting dreamlessly and peacefully.
  1888. >He needed to heal up quickly after all, the two of them had much to do together.
  1889. >Raising her head, she could sense the faint pre-dawn sunlight hitting their tent, and Tea Leaf sitting at the glowing fireplace, still wearing the same smirk that she had worn in the Dreamrealm.
  1890. >”Don’t worry, I’ll be out of your fur soon enough, now that Anon is stable I’ll probably use that charm and teleport out this afternoon. Then you two can have your fun.”
  1891. >Nýrmáni simply gave the smug pegasus the best raspberry her still tired body could.
  1892. >Tea Leaf snickered as she stirred what looked to be a small cup of coffee coming to boil over the fire. “I understand, but I only have both your and his best interests at heart here. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be here would I?”
  1893. >”True…” Nýrmáni yawned quietly and stretched her neck out with several satisfying pops.
  1894. >”What are you going to do for now while he’s hurt?”
  1895. >”I shall resume work on our new home. I know that he would not want me to delay it just for his sake, he is independently minded like that.”
  1896. >”So I’ve noticed.” Tea Leaf chuckled as she took a small cup from the ground beside her and poured a small cup of steaming liquid for herself.
  1897. >”So… how did he hurt himself? For real this time, I never heard the full story. If you want to share, of course.”
  1898. >Nýrmáni sighed through her nostrils, looking back down at the sleeping face of her Beloved.
  1899. >So peaceful, so calm.
  1900. >”It started when we decided to go on an adventure into the mountains…”
  1901. <>
  1902. >”Did you hear anything I just said, Anon?”
  1903. >Looking up from his plate of food Anon glanced at Tea Leaf, who was sitting across from him and tapping one forehoof, her expression a mix of irritation and exasperation.
  1904. “O-of course I did.” He mumbled through a mouthful of eggs and hashbrowns.
  1905. >Tea Leaf barked out a short laugh, then her expression once again went serious.
  1906. >”I’m serious, If you move that thing too much, and by ‘too much’ I mean pretty much anything other than a teeny-tiny twitch, you’re going to hurt yourself again. If you had a cast on it moving wouldn’t be an issue, but you don’t. Be. Careful.”
  1907. >The last two words were accompanied by two pokes into his shoulder by the pegasus, who’s eyes didn’t once leave his.
  1908. “I will, I will, calm down.”
  1909. >”If he cannot control himself then I shall make sure that his leg is given the appropriate time to heal.”
  1910. >A large black wing fell over his back, pulling him closer to the large alicorn currently laying down next to him.
  1911. >He looked over at Nýrmáni just in time to see her smile at Tea Leaf. “Have no fear, Miss Tea Leaf. His leg will mend under my careful and tender care, and you shall not have to come and fix him again due to his own recklessness.”
  1912. “Hey” He elbowed her lightly in the neck, but she didn’t seem to notice as she giggled at his rapidly growing blush.
  1913. >Tea Leaf chuckled too, a wingtip rising to try and hide her smile. “Alright, do you think you can handle him, or am I going to have to stay until he’s better?”
  1914. >Nýrmáni rubbed her cheek against Anon’s and he returned the gesture even as he continued to finish his breakfast.
  1915. >”I believe that I can keep him from hurting himself for… how long did you say? A week or so? Yes, I can accomplish this.”
  1916. >”Nice.” Tea Leaf looked around the tent before smiling at the two of them. “If that’s everything, then I’ll be heading back to Canterlot now, I am still the Princesses’ personal nurse after all.”
  1917. >Nýrmáni levitated away her plate, which was already picked clean and stood up, stretching her wings and neck out as she yawned cutely.
  1918. >”The teleportation charm must be used outside, yes? I shall send you off then.”
  1919. >Tea Leaf stood up as well and threw her large medical bag on her back, before trotting over to give Anon a short hug and a playful smile. “Be safe out here buddy, and try not to get hurt again.”
  1920. >He gave her an honest smile as he set down his plate and returned her hug, patting the back of her straw-colored mane.
  1921. “I’ll try not to, promise.”
  1922. >”Good, because if your marefriend sees you get hurt again she’s liable to have a heart attack, and I can’t treat you both at the same time. I’m good, but not that good.”
  1923. >This time it was Anon who chuckled as Nýrmáni puffed up and squinted in outrage down at the smaller pegasus, who didn’t seem to be intimidated in the least by the display.
  1924. >”Well, with that out of the way, I’ll get out of your fur and back home, where it isn’t this cold and the wind isn’t blowing constantly.”
  1925. >Recovering from her pouting, Nýrmáni shook her head, smiled, opened the door of their tent home, and exited with Tea Leaf.
  1926. >Bright morning sunlight came through the opening, with a clear blue sky visible past the few snow-covered trees that were in view.
  1927. >The pegasus turned and waved at Anon one last time before the tent flap closed, leaving him alone.
  1928. >He sat there for several seconds before sighing and finishing off his plate, his mind thinking about his immediate future.
  1929. >This was going to suck and he knew it.
  1930. >He’d known guys who’d broken bones in the past and every single one of them had said that the recovery part of it sucked, now he could see why.
  1931. >At least it would only be for a week or so. Hopefully. If he didn’t hurt himself again.
  1932. >The young man sighed again, running a hand through his hair. He was going to go crazy with nothing to do for that long.
  1933. >It was almost like being a neet.
  1934. >Anon’s silent musing was interrupted by the return of Nýrmáni, who shook flakes of loose snow off of herself as she closed the tent flap behind her.
  1935. >She looked at him, her cheerful expression almost infectious. ”Well, it was nice to see somepony else for a change, but, what was the saying? ‘The show must go on’? That was it, wasn’t it, Beloved?”
  1936. >Smiling despite his previous gloomy thoughts he nodded back at her.
  1937. “Yup, that’s one way to put it. So, what do you want to do?”
  1938. >Her slitted eyes met his, and her head tilted slightly as she flicked one ear in apparent confusion.
  1939. >She looked so cute when she did that.
  1940. >”What do you mean ‘want to do’? Our new home must be built, we cannot simply abandon it because you are hurt.”
  1941. “But I can’t really help…”
  1942. >”Not physically, no, but your very presence will bring me joy and encouragement while I continue our work.”
  1943. >She happily hopped the short distance to him and nuzzled the top of his head with her muzzle, her twinkling mane flowing around him as if giving him a hug as well.
  1944. “I’m glad I can help.” He said, trying not to laugh as she rose up to her full height once again, but not without a final parting kiss on his lips.
  1945. >Worth it.
  1946. “So, were you going to start now?”
  1947. >Her massive sword levitated into view as well, the straps for the sheath clinching themselves tight against her fur.
  1948. >”I was planning on doing so, yes. There is no need to waste sunlight, after all.”
  1949. >Anon glanced down at his leg, which was still wrapped in its medical splint, then back up to the still-smiling Nýrmáni.
  1950. “And how am I supposed to go outside with my leg like this without freezing again? I didn’t really enjoy it the first time, and since I’m only wearing shorts and can’t put any long pants on I don’t think it’s going to work out.”
  1951. >The alicorn blinked several times, then her cheeks flushed furiously as she remembered the human’s predicament.
  1952. >”Oh, oh my goodness, I am sorry I was just so excited to resume construction on our new home and We forgot about your leg and your inability to move yourself but We can fix that problem in nary a moment with Our magic, behold!”
  1953. >Nýrmáni’s horn began to glow, and Anon watched as his thicker winter pants levitated into view.
  1954. >”Do not move, Anonymous, We shall simply teleport them onto your body so that you do not have to move to put them on, We shall do it for you.”
  1955. “Are you sure you can do that without teleporting them halfway into my legs first?” He raised a single eyebrow at the alicorn.
  1956. >That did it. Nýrmáni looked down her nose at him and gave a very horsey snort, with a small flick of her head and a muted crack, his pants vanished from the air beside her head and reappeared on him.
  1957. >He couldn’t help but flinch a tiny bit as it happened, but the absence of any pain and the comforting warmth of the insulated fabric around his legs told him that her plan had worked.
  1958. >”Ha! Do not doubt me again Beloved, or I shall withhold the thing you love most.”
  1959. “What’s that?” He laughed as he leaned over to his left, reaching for his jacket which was unfortunately just out of reach.
  1960. >”Snuggles.”
  1961. >He jerked his head back to her, finding her wearing a look of complete smugness as her front fangs showed through her smile.
  1962. “You wouldn’t dare.”
  1963. >”Are you so sure?”
  1964. “Yes I am, you love them just as much as I do. You’d be like a sad puppy after one day without them, tops.”
  1965. >Nýrmáni let out a laugh so genuine, so cheerful and carefree that Anon couldn’t help but smile and laugh himself, even as his thick wool socks and boots appeared on his feet with another flash of her magic.
  1966. >Since the sleeping blocked the boot from fitting on his immobilized foot, Nýrmáni simply softly and carefully wrapped it up in a warm blanket after putting just a sock onto it.
  1967. >Clever girl.
  1968. >The cyan scarf, the one that Rarity had made as a parting surprise gift, levitated past his head and wrapped itself loosely around Nýrmáni’s neck just above her furry chest.
  1969. >His jacket also fell into his lap with another small laugh from the cheerful alicorn.
  1970. >”You are correct on that, my Beloved. Put on your jacket and I shall carry you outside, it is nowhere near as cold as it was last time the two of us ventured forth, from what I recall there is still much to be done.”
  1971. <>
  1972. >As her hooves once again met the snow and the warm sun shone down on her from the cloudless, impossibly blue sky Nýrmáni couldn’t help but smile again.
  1973. >Everything was once again alright.
  1974. >Even though Anonymous could not walk for another week or two and seemed greatly upset by this fact, she, as a responsible mare and mate, would do everything in her power to make him as comfortable as possible during his recovery.
  1975. >The human in question hovered beside her in a cloud of cyan magic, all wrapped up in his thick clothing, looking around and squinting in the sunlight as he fought with those large, reflective goggles of his in one hand and the hand-drawn home plans that he had sketched out in the other
  1976. >As they passed through the thin shield that covered the site of their future home Nýrmáni concentrated again, this time on the snow close to where the walls rose partially into the air.
  1977. >With a few spells here and some magical shaping there, she set Anonymous down on the large, reclining chair that she had built for him in a matter of seconds.
  1978. “I’m supervising in style, eh?” He chuckled as he gingerly scooted himself up to an upright, seated position. “Where did you get the idea for it?”
  1979. >”I saw some sort of advertisement for them in one of those newspapers one morning while we were still within Twilight Sparkle’s castle, they looked very comfortable.”
  1980. “This one is a little chilly,” He said, looking over at her as he finally got his goggles on his face correctly. “But at least the sun is warm.”
  1981. >”That is true, Beloved, and since the shield I projected around this place has kept most of the new snowfall away, I can begin working immediately.”
  1982. >Glancing over to the side where they had piled the remaining logs needed for the walls as well as the flat stones they had picked out for the chimney, Nýrmáni inhaled and exhaled deeply.
  1983. >She could do this.
  1984. >All she had to do was do what the two of them had done for a week previously, and all would be good.
  1985. >”Um, Anonymous?”
  1986. “Yeah, what’s up?”
  1987. >”Could I please look at those plans? I am lost on where to resume construction.”
  1988. “Sure, come on over here.”
  1989. >Trotting over to his side while trying to hide the pink rising in her cheeks, Nýrmáni looked over his shoulder as he spread out the two sheets of parchment.
  1990. “We just have to get the rest of the West and North walls up as well as the chimney, then the roof trusses and supports solid, then we can get the interior done. Shouldn’t be too hard.”
  1991. >It certainly wasn’t. She could feel her confidence rising as she began to remember the specifics of what the two of them had planned previously.
  1992. >She’d been so stressed and sleep-deprived after Anonymous had hurt himself then fallen ill after their trek into the mountains…
  1993. >Darkness, whispers, and cold…
  1994. “Are you okay?”
  1995. >The impossibly soft words barely reached her through the rustling of blowing snow, and Nýrmáni shook her head several times to clear the dark thoughts that had been thrown to the forefront of her mind.
  1996. >”I… I am fine, Anonymous.”
  1997. >He sighed, pursing his lips as if deciding on whether or not he should speak.
  1998. “Then why were you crying?”
  1999. >It was only when she brought the backside of one hoof up to her left cheek did she feel the tears slowly running from her eyes.
  2000. >”...My mind wandered back to where… where you were hurt.”
  2001. >Anonymous sighed and gestured with one hand for her to come closer, which she did.
  2002. “You can’t keep thinking about it. It wasn’t your fault.”
  2003. >”I know, but-”
  2004. “Then let it go, don’t let something you had no control over eat away at you.”
  2005. >Nýrmáni felt one gloved hand slowly caress her cheek and she instinctively leaned into it, a small portion of her mane flowing up to cover the comforting hand in a gentle embrace.
  2006. >At his simple touch the sun itself seemed to shine a bit brighter, and the darkness of her worries seemed to wilt and shrivel away.
  2007. >She couldn’t help but smile a bit. ”Alright, I will try.”
  2008. >She heard him chuckle as he withdrew his hand after one final scratch.
  2009. “That’s all I’m asking. Now…” He gestured towards the assorted materials that would hopefully soon be their new home. “Build away.”
  2010. >Giggling at his over-dramatic visage and stance she trotted away from him, popping her neck as she had seen him do before physical tasks.
  2011. >As the sun moved further and further across the sky, the remaining walls slowly grew higher and higher as Nýrmáni moved logs and rock by hoof.
  2012. >Using magic, she could have assembled the home in minutes, but a home built using just magic would lack the ‘solidness and cornerstone strength’ of one built by hoof.
  2013. >At least that’s what the book she had been reading had said.
  2014. >The Earth Pony Applejack had also slipped several notes into those pages as well, and while the apple farmer’s scrawl was sometimes hard to read, it had been filled with very good advice and instruction.
  2015. >Apparently the Apple family had previous situations with magically built structures failing because they lacked the ‘connection’ to the earth and the ponies who lived and worked in them, and ever since then they had always built everything themselves.
  2016. >Her home falling down around her and her Beloved was something Nýrmáni would absolutely not stand for.
  2017. >”This is the last layer for the walls, yes?” She called out over her shoulder to Anonymous.
  2018. “Y-yeah, the last layer, then I guess w-you can work on getting the chimney started.”
  2019. >Her back still to him, Nýrmáni narrowed her eyes in thought, turning to the pile of stones that she had found to be suitable for the construction of the chimney.
  2020. >Something about his voice sounded… strange, almost nervous.
  2021. >Casting a casual glance in his direction as she trotted to the pile, she could see his goggled gaze locked on her.
  2022. >But not on her face, no…
  2023. >She looked away to hide her growing, sinister smile.
  2024. >His gaze had been solely focused on her flank.
  2025. >The poor young human must not be able to control himself, with her standing on her rear hooves while lifting logs and rock, watching her muscles flex as she moved and stretched…
  2026. >This would play to her gain.
  2027. >Barely containing a fit of mischievous giggles she picked up the entire pile of rocks in her magic and went to the spot where they had planned to put the chimney.
  2028. >Standing with her flanks facing him on purpose she turned her head to look at him, her expression the perfect painting of innocence, ass she flicked her ethereal tail casually from side to side
  2029. >”This is where the chimney will go, yes?”
  2030. >Nýrmáni saw him gulp down a breath and shift the smallest amount as his cheeks went an ever darker shade of pink. A normal pony would have noticed nothing but she was anything but normal.
  2031. “Yeah, r-right there.”
  2032. >Oh by the stars in the sky above she had him good.
  2033. >Smiling back at him she began to work, ensuring that her rear end faced him as much as possible.
  2034. >She could feel herself growing hot as she continued to tease her human lover, flaunting her body before him. She could feel herself becoming more aroused than she had in a long time.
  2035. >Unbuckling her sword sheath from her body she gently levitated it off the side and stretched, gently fluttering her fully extended wings as she stretched her legs and neck, her tail flagging upward shamelessly.
  2036. “Holy shit…”
  2037. >Even with her enhanced hearing the words barely reached her, a cheerful laugh finally escaping her as she turned towards him fully for the first time in what she finally realized had been several hours.
  2038. >His face was almost the same shade as a ripe tomato, and as she trotted closer to him she could smell the sweat that was running down his face even at this cold temperature.
  2039. >”Did you see something that you liked, Beloved?”
  2040. >Nýrmáni’s voice was low as she licked her lips slowly, and she could see him swallow again as she finally reached his side.
  2041. >”Were you entranced by my figure? My body? I know that I am more fit than Twilight, or the pink Princess Cadence, does that fact excite you?”
  2042. >Her smile grew wider as she watched him tug at the collar of his jacket, and pitifully try to hide the erection that was currently pulsing against the confines of his pants.
  2043. “Maybe?” His reply was a squeak as he tried to adjust his one good leg to contain his manhood.
  2044. >Inhaling deeply through her nostrils, she could smell his arousal, his lust and desire for her...
  2045. >Just as planned.
  2046. >”Oh I think you were, love mine. Though your strange goggles hid them from me, I know you could not keep your eyes off of my flanks and body. As I have told you before, you cannot hide your desires from me.”
  2047. >She circled him as she talked, like a wolf stalking a wounded rabbit, until she was behind his snow chair and he was turning his head desperately to keep her in eyesight.
  2048. >Her marehood winked open once, liquid arousal falling to the snow below her hind legs, but she couldn't bring herself to care at all.
  2049. >She couldn’t help but giggle again, Anonymous was just too adorable and excited her in every way imaginable.
  2050. >”You want me, don’t you? To ravish me, to love me…” Her voice was barely audible, a sensual whisper into his ear.
  2051. “W-well, you s-see-”
  2052. >”Be a good boy, give me more encouragement, and I will reward you tonight when we retire for the evening.” Nýrmáni licked his ear with her long, pointed tongue, then planted a soft, wet kiss on his cheek.
  2053. >His entire body went as stiff as the leg he was forbidden to move, and she could almost hear his heart beating rapidly inside his chest.
  2054. >With a parting giggle she half trotted, half bounced back over to the half-assembled chimney, her mind already thinking of how she would reward her beloved Anonymous.
  2055. >It didn’t take her long.
  2056. >Even when she brought them both back inside their tent for a short lunch she did not relent on her teasing, continuing to kiss him, lick him, anything she could do to keep him on edge.
  2057. >Like aging wine for a better taste.
  2058. >The sun continued to flow across the sky and toward the distant horizon, the warm yellow light turning orange as it hit the edge of the far away, snow white mountains.
  2059. >The time had flown for Nýrmáni as she had worked and daydreamed of her Beloved.
  2060. >But she could stand it no longer.
  2061. >Suddenly standing from the roof support she had been nailing together, she turned and trotted to Anonymous, who sat upward, removing his goggles, his now visible eyes slightly wide with concern.
  2062. “Is something wrong?”
  2063. >She didn’t even slow as she scooped him up in her cyan magic and began to make their way towards their tent.
  2064. >”No, nothing is wrong at all, Anonymous. In fact…”
  2065. >She opened the flap door and quickly brought herself and her hovering companion inside.
  2066. >”Everything is more than fine. You were so helpful to me today; so helpful in fact, that I think you deserve a reward…”
  2067. >His pale face turned red instantly, surely remembering her earlier promise to him.
  2068. >With the ease one would handle a newborn foal Nýrmáni lowered him to their shared blanket/bed pile, even as she lit the fire in their stove, the dancing light of open flames bathing them both in a warm, rosy glow.
  2069. >Then she grinned, and with another pop of magic all of his clothing vanished.
  2070. >Squeaking in surprise, Anon glanced over to where his clothing had gone, neatly folded across the tent from him and sadly out of reach.
  2071. “What about dinner?”
  2072. >”I have something else I would like to eat instead…”
  2073. >Her body was hot, both from the manual labor but more so from her returning arousal.
  2074. >Heart pounding in her chest she looked over at him as she took off her sword and set it aside.
  2075. >She would not need it for this.
  2076. >The young man’s eyes went wide, even as he began to grin himself.
  2077. >Every step she took she could feel her body growing hotter, her loins growing wetter.
  2078. >She stopped at his side and looked downward, to where his manhood stood completely erect.
  2079. >Inhaling it’s scent she could help the lewd squelching her marehood made as it winked, arousal dropping freely from it to hit the ground and cling to her legs.
  2080. >Nýrmáni licked her lips again as she huffed with her nose, taking in more of his intoxicating scent. There was no way he couldn’t have seen or heard that.
  2081. >”I promised you a reward, and I am a mare of my word. You were looking at this all day.” She turned away from him, flagging her tail and presenting herself to him shamelessly.
  2082. >Stepping over him she turned, until the only thing he could possibly see was her flanks and her dripping, needy hole.
  2083. >”Now, love me.”
  2084. >Gently folding and resting her weight on her hind legs, she propped herself up on her forelegs as she pressed her winking tunnel against Anonymous’s face, even as she bent her head down to give the tip of his dick a kiss.
  2085. >It twitched at her touch, and a small drop of his pre stuck to the tip of her nose.
  2086. >She licked it off.
  2087. >It was Anonymous condensed into a single, addictive substance.
  2088. >Nýrmáni craved more. She needed more.
  2089. >A pair of hands clapped against her flanks, slowly massaging her cutie marks, and Nýrmáni let out a guttural moan of pure arousal as his tongue began to lap at her folds.
  2090. >Slowly, gently, she took him in her mouth for the first time.
  2091. >She heard him moan out against her nethers, which caused her to hum contentedly herself as she began to work herself up and down on his twitching, pulsing rod.
  2092. >Closing her eyes, she wrapped her tongue around it as well, slathering it in affection.
  2093. >As much as she wished she could lay down on him fully, his leg was not healed and she didn’t want to hurt him, add to the fact that she was simply too large a pony to make it work right.
  2094. >Nýrmáni’s eyes opened as her pussy winked against Anonymous’s face and he licked her exposed nub.
  2095. >She shivered in pleasure at the sensation
  2096. >Releasing his manhood for a moment she looked over her shoulder at him, and what little of his head was visible between her flanks and her flowing, sparkling tail.
  2097. >”Again.” She panted lustfully.
  2098. >A confused sounding mumble came from the human.
  2099. >She moved herself back and forth, panting as she ground her pussy across his face as she winked again, more arousal spilling over the human’s face.
  2100. >This time he took her winking clit in his lips and sucked on it like it was a teat.
  2101. >”YES! Do that again!” Nýrmáni squealed as his hands tightened on her flanks, and his tongue went deeper into her hot tunnel.
  2102. >Moaning, she bent down and took his dick into her mouth again, tasting his pre again.
  2103. >She had to have it.
  2104. >Her wings began to unfurl from her sides and rise as sweat began to form on her body.
  2105. >Every step she took she could feel her body growing hotter, her loins growing wetter.
  2106. >She stopped at his side and looked downward, to where his manhood stood completely erect.
  2107. >Inhaling it’s scent she could help the lewd squelching her marehood made as it winked, arousal dropping freely from it to hit the ground and cling to her legs.
  2108. >Nýrmáni licked her lips again as she huffed with her nose, taking in more of his intoxicating scent. There was no way he couldn’t have seen or heard that.
  2109. >”I promised you a reward, and I am a mare of my word. You were looking at this all day.” She turned away from him, flagging her tail and presenting herself to him shamelessly.
  2110. >Stepping over him she turned, until the only thing he could possibly see was her flanks and her dripping, needy hole.
  2111. >”Now, love me.”
  2112. >Gently folding and resting her weight on her hind legs, she propped herself up on her forelegs as she pressed her winking tunnel against Anonymous’s face, even as she bent her head down to give the tip of his dick a kiss.
  2113. >It twitched at her touch, and a small drop of his pre stuck to the tip of her nose.
  2114. >She licked it off.
  2115. >It was Anonymous condensed into a single, addictive substance.
  2116. >Nýrmáni craved more. She needed more.
  2117. >A pair of hands clapped against her flanks, slowly massaging her cutie marks, and Nýrmáni let out a guttural moan of pure arousal as his tongue began to lap at her folds.
  2118. >Slowly, gently, she took him in her mouth for the first time.
  2119. >She heard him moan out against her nethers, which caused her to hum contentedly herself as she began to work herself up and down on his twitching, pulsing rod.
  2120. >Closing her eyes, she wrapped her tongue around it as well, slathering it in affection.
  2121. >As much as she wished she could lay down on him fully, his leg was not healed and she didn’t want to hurt him, add to the fact that she was simply too large a pony to make it work right.
  2122. >Nýrmáni’s eyes opened as her pussy winked against Anonymous’s face and he licked her exposed nub.
  2123. >She shivered in pleasure at the sensation
  2124. >Releasing his manhood for a moment she looked over her shoulder at him, and what little of his head was visible between her flanks and her flowing, sparkling tail.
  2125. >”Again.” She panted lustfully.
  2126. >A confused sounding mumble came from the human.
  2127. >She moved herself back and forth, panting as she ground her pussy across his face as she winked again, more arousal spilling over the human’s face.
  2128. >This time he took her winking clit in his lips and sucked on it like it was a teat.
  2129. >”YES! Do that again!” Nýrmáni squealed as his hands tightened on her flanks, and his tongue went deeper into her hot tunnel.
  2130. >Moaning, she bent down and took his dick into her mouth again, tasting his pre again.
  2131. >She had to have it.
  2132. >Her wings began to unfurl from her sides and rise as sweat began to form on her body.
  2133. >With her mane flowing around her head and neck she sucked on him harder, even as more of his delicious liquid leaked into her mouth.
  2134. >It seemed he wasn’t far from releasing as well.
  2135. >Her hips sped up their grinding, and she could feel herself winking almost constantly against Anonymous’s chin and face as fluids trickled down his face and soaked the fur on her hind legs.
  2136. >She could feel his hips thrusting upward against her muzzle as his hold on her cutie marks tightened.
  2137. >This time he bit down on her clit, and the dam broke for her.
  2138. >She purred contentedly as she felt her orgasm rip through her body, her hips falling almost completely against her lover’s face as she thrust herself down on him, jerking occasionally as her pussy clenched rhythmically against a dick that wasn’t there.
  2139. >A muffled cry came from him as he came as well.
  2140. >She could feel the load travel up his dick and into her waiting mouth, her eyes going wide at the size of his first shot.
  2141. >Nýrmáni felt her entire body lock up at the taste of his cum, her eyes drifted shut, and she began to slowly and steadily swallow each shot as it came, his dick thrusting into her mouth with each spurt of cum..
  2142. >After what felt like an eternity but was most likely only thirty seconds or so he was finished, hips falling limply back to the blankets below.
  2143. >Standing on shaking legs, careful of his broken one, she turned to face the best thing that had ever happened to her.
  2144. >His face and parts of his chest were soaked in her cum, and he shakily raised one hand in a ‘thumbs up’ as their eyes met.
  2145. “Best… Reward… Ever…”
  2146. >She chuckled and licked the remnants of his cum from her lips as she collapsed next to him, the blankets were lifted with one wing and covered them both as she carefully laid one hoof on his chest.
  2147. >”Indeed, my Beloved, I agree...”
  2148. >Nuzzling his still damp hair and kissing his cheek, it took only moments for her exhaustion to catch up with her, and soon she was sleeping peacefully, her human still held in her hooves.
  2149. <>
  2150. >”So, they were both okay when you left?”
  2151. >”Yup, they seemed fine to me, Princess. Broken leg notwithstanding.”
  2152. >Celestia sat at the small table in her private lounge, cheese and crackers on a plate in front of her, and on the plate that sat in front of Tea Leaf, who sat directly opposite her.
  2153. >Golden evening sunlight came through the window to her left, along with a hint of autumn chill.
  2154. >The sun would need to be lowered soon, so that Luna could raise the moon for the coming night.
  2155. >She would make sure to watch tonight, it was always so pretty this time of year.
  2156. >”Good, good, though I do hope Anon recovers quickly.”
  2157. >Tea Leaf chuckled as she swallowed. “Yeah, me too, as long as he doesn’t do anything stupid to it he’ll be fine.”
  2158. >”I was surprised when I went looking through the three days of mail I missed and saw the news that the Congress finally folded to Princess Cadence’s demands.”
  2159. >Celestia couldn't hide the smile that formed on her muzzle. “Yes, it seems that the overwhelmingly negative polling and the protests from all of the affected businesses finally got to them. Now, everything is on Cadence’s terms.”
  2160. >The two of them chuckled for a moment as Tea Leaf nibbled on more of the delicious spread.
  2161. >The pegasus looked up to Celestia. “So, I’m assuming you didn’t request me up here for just cheese and crackers and to talk about the economy, right?”
  2162. >To the point already, Tea Leaf never could mince words.
  2163. >”Yes, in her panicked message through the book, Nýrmáni didn’t say how Anon ended up breaking his leg, but did she say anything to you about it?”
  2164. >Tea Leaf’s expression lost some of it’s cheer.
  2165. >”Until I got Anon all patched up and he woke up I couldn’t get anything out of her; she was a complete emotional wreck, the only words I heard her say were ‘it is my fault. She didn’t even sleep till he woke up.”
  2166. >Celestia sighed. That was very sad to hear. The bond that the two of them shared was very strong indeed.
  2167. >”However, after he woke up and she finally got some sleep, she did tell me the basic gist of how he broke his leg.”
  2168. >One of Celestia’s eyebrows went up as she picked up a glass of water in her magic. “Really, what happened?”
  2169. >”Well,” Tea Leaf tapped her chin with one hoof. “She said that the two of them went exploring into the mountains, and they got separated because of a… vision or hallucination or something? And then they found ruins of some kind with moving shadows I think she said? Then there was a-”
  2170. >The glass of water in Celestia’s magical grasp shattered, sending what was left of its contents across the table and the two mares.
  2171. >Tea Leaf shouted in surprise and leapt backward, while Celestia simply stared at the back wall, her heart felt as if it were frozen solid.
  2172. >”[I-impossible, what else did she say?]” Celestia sputtered in the Old Tongue. She suddenly felt as if she might pass out.
  2173. >”What? What did you say? Are you alright?” Tea Leaf was at her side in an instant, one hoof on her shoulder, her dark blue eyes filled with concern.
  2174. >”I… I don’t know.” Celestia took several deep breaths to calm herself and compose her expression, even as her mind began to race. “Did she tell you anything else?”
  2175. >Tea Leaf backed up and went down to all four hooves again, her hooves ringing out against the polished stone floor.
  2176. >”No, she didn’t really talk about it, she seemed really hesitant to, and I didn’t want to push her, it was clear that whatever happened combined with Anon hurting himself traumatized her very badly.
  2177. >”I see....” Celestia looked out the large bay window to her left, and to where the sun was just meeting the horizon.
  2178. >”Thank you for your continued service, Tea Leaf, you are free to leave, it is time for me to lower the sun and retire for the night.”
  2179. >”Of course, Princess.” Tea Leaf gave a short curtsy. “If you ever need me, you know where to find me.”
  2180. >The pegasus turned and left, quietly closing the door behind her.
  2181. >Only when the door was shut did Celestia begin to shake like a leaf in an autumn wind.
  2182. >Shadows
  2183. >Ruins
  2184. >It couldn’t be possible. It just couldn't be…
  2185. >But her short time with Nýrmáni had shown her one thing, the mare was no liar.
  2186. >She had to tell Luna.
  2187. >Lowering the sun with far less regality than normal, Celestia immediately left the room and quickly made her way to her sister’s observatory.
  2188. >This changed everything.
  2189. <>
  2190. >Nýrmáni’s eyes flew open as she jolted awake, breathing heavily through her nostrils as a drop of sweat fell from the tip of her nose.
  2191. >It took a moment for her mind to realize that she was no longer asleep.
  2192. >The dream had come back again, just as it had the night before
  2193. >Looking down, she could see that she had been using Anonymous’s chest as a pillow, his gentle breathing told her that he was still sleeping peacefully.
  2194. >Having the power to give other’s peaceful and restful sleep was good, but she could not give herself the same peace.
  2195. >Sighing quietly, she kissed his one exposed cheek and then rose, keeping the blankets covering his sleeping form.
  2196. >It was still dark, and the comforting light of the moon shone through the fabric of their tent.
  2197. >A far cry from what her nightmare had entailed.
  2198. >They had not been as terrible as the one Luna had interfered in, just flashes and still images in her mind.
  2199. >Darkness, cold, and shadows, always staring…
  2200. >Shaking her head in an effort to get the remnants of her recurring dream from her mind she stepped from the tent and closed the entry flap behind her.
  2201. >The moonlight shone off of the snow covered surroundings, sending pale sparkles off of almost every surface, as if the stars themselves had fallen from the dark sky above.
  2202. >”Why can I not stop dreaming of that place? Why will it not leave my mind…”
  2203. >Sitting down, she looked at the moon above her, a beautiful, pale crescent hanging just where Luna had placed it the evening before.
  2204. >Not that she or her Beloved had been watching.
  2205. >Now that she thought of it, the two of them had not had a proper bath or shower since they had come to this place.
  2206. >Spells could only do so much to hide or contain odors before things simply went too far.
  2207. >And as satisfying as it was to lick the remains of their sexual exploits off of him, a real bath sounded very appealing to her at the moment.
  2208. >Nýrmáni looked downward to the snow that she sat on. A gentle breeze blew small flurries of snow through the sky, ruffling her fur and sending her ethereal mane and tail squirming about.
  2209. >”I just wish the dreams to end, and I do not want to lean on Luna to help, she has her own little ponies to care for, but what can I do?”
  2210. >Frustration began to build in her, and she stood again and began to walk through the softly whistling wind, away from both the tent and the half completed cabin.
  2211. >Stretching her wings, she gave them a powerful pump downwards and launched herself into the night sky.
  2212. >As her wings continued to flap and she rose higher and higher, Nýrmáni realized that she had not flown since the incident as well.
  2213. >She grit her teeth and snarled, her wings flapping harder with each passing second.
  2214. >Why must everything remind her of that terrible day?
  2215. >Her mind embroiled in her own thoughts, Nýrmáni didn’t even realize she was crying until the tears began to freeze against her cheeks as she crossed the last vestiges of land and ice and began to fly over the open, dark ocean.
  2216. >Turning her head, she could barely see the small speck that was their tent, now miles behind her.
  2217. >In the past, she had lashed out in her anger and self- doubt, but she was past that now.
  2218. >Instead, she looked upward to the sea of sparkling stars above her, then to her wings as the most crazy idea ever came to her.
  2219. >It was time to test the limits.
  2220. >Coming to a stop and closing her eyes, Nýrmáni took several deep breaths, calming herself.
  2221. >She could do this, she could do this…
  2222. >With a surge of power and with a beat of her wings Nýrmáni shot straight upwards, faster than she had ever flown outside of the Dream Realm.
  2223. >She grit her teeth again and pushed harder, throwing her forelegs out in front of her, streamlining her body as she flapped her wings harder than she ever had before.
  2224. >Only seconds later she could feel herself reaching the barrier, the one she had broken in her dream with Anonymous, which had felt so long ago…
  2225. >With a scream of effort she pushed harder and broke through it, a cone of white air surrounding her for a moment as her body accelerated faster and faster.
  2226. >The only thing she could hear was a high-pitched whistling in her ears as she pushed her magic and her body further, even as the pain began to grow worse and worse.
  2227. >Still Nýrmáni went upward.
  2228. >It was getting colder and colder.
  2229. >She closed her eyes, screaming through gritted teeth as the pain grew almost unbearable, but still she continued to pump her wings up and down, up and down.
  2230. >Then, suddenly, the whistling in her ears stopped.
  2231. >Cold surrounded her, no sound reached her at all.
  2232. >Nýrmáni opened her eyes and let go of the breath that she didn’t know she had been holding, only to find no air coming back in when she tried to inhale.
  2233. >Opening her eyes in shock, Nýrmáni glanced around as she struggled momentarily without air.
  2234. >Then she stopped struggling, her eyes going wide as the most spectacular thing she had ever seen in her life.
  2235. >She could see the ocean, the mountains, the clouds, everything.
  2236. >Even the curvature of the planet’s surface, and the bright, glowing edge of the sun which would soon rise…
  2237. >It took her a moment to realize that she wasn’t breathing, nor that she needed to apparently.
  2238. >She hovered there in the weightlessness of space, wings slightly open, legs hanging below her, simply watching the stars twinkle around her as they hung in the infinite sea of black.
  2239. >It was peaceful here, and Nýrmáni couldn’t help but smile as she looked behind her at the large, gently glowing crescent moon.
  2240. >The glowing white orb was so close she felt as if she could simply reach out a hoof and touch it’s dry surface…
  2241. >But no, she would never return there, not now, not ev-.
  2242. >Her eyes grew wide once again, and Nýrmáni looked away from the moon, back down towards the distant surface of the planet, her mane and tail billowing around her as her mind began to race.
  2243. >A solution to her problems and her curiosities had just come to her.
  2244. >The only problem was that the more she thought about it, the more she knew that Anonymous would not be pleased with her idea.
  2245. >In a soft yellow glare, the first rays of sunlight hit her, and with a smile took one final glance at her surroundings.
  2246. >Channeling magic into her wings, she flapped them once, and she moved, the magic interlacing with her feathers replacing the air that they would normally be required to have for her to fly.
  2247. >Nýrmáni looked downward again, her head tilting to the side slightly as she studied the white landmass spread out before her as another, more important thought came to her.
  2248. >’Where was our home down there again?’
  2249. <>
  2250. >”Anonymous, I have returned!”
  2251. >With a flourish and a cheerful cry Nýrmáni stepped back into the tent, still shaking small bits of snow off of her back and neck.
  2252. >Anon looked up from the Daring Doo book he was reading (Rainbow Dash had included the entire collection in their wagon of supplies) and glanced at the smiling alicorn, the light of the newly risen sun filling the tent with a cheerful, yellow glow.
  2253. “I see that, you go for a walk or something?”
  2254. >Nýrmáni ruffled her feathers, chuckling quietly to herself as she trotted over to their stove and began to place fresh wood in it.
  2255. >”Yes, something like that. I just needed some space to think over some things, to be honest.”
  2256. “You didn’t happen to have anything to do with the sonic boom that woke me up a couple of hours ago did you?”
  2257. >Her mane and tail, which had been lazily floating about in the air, froze as solid as ice as she turned to look at him, her cheeks growing pink.
  2258. >”O-of course not, why do you ask? I was wondering where that sound came from as well.” Nýrmáni’s voice cracked as she lit the fire with a flick of her horn and a single orange spark of magic.
  2259. >Anon raised a single eyebrow.
  2260. “And that meteor that lit up the sky few minutes before the sun went up?”
  2261. >”Well, hehe, you see, I...” Her face fell and she sighed, laying down beside the now cheerfully crackling fire, which bathed her in a myriad of orange and yellows.
  2262. >She looked away from him in what he could now see was shame as she stared at the far wall of their tent.
  2263. >”I was woken by a nightmare, filled with cold, darkness, and shadows. That… that place will not leave my mind.”
  2264. >Anon’s cheerful and teasing mood instantly vanished at her words. He marked the page in his book and set it off to the side.
  2265. “So, what did you do?”
  2266. >”I was frustrated, I do not know why my mind has been straying so often to that place, so I flew, faster than even I thought possible.”
  2267. ”So what you’re saying is that you pulled a Superman.”
  2268. >Nýrmáni tilted her head at him. “Superman?”
  2269. “Nevermind,” He waved her over and the large, nearly black alicorn rose and collapsed next to him, nuzzling his cheek softly. “But you flew all the way up to space?”
  2270. >She nodded, laying her head across his lap with another sigh, her glittering mane flowing across this blanket covered lower body.
  2271. >Smiling again, he took this opportunity to gently scratch her ears, and if her quiet hum was anything to go by she was enjoying it greatly.
  2272. >It was true, what she’d said about her fur getting thicker.
  2273. >Apparently even alicorns grow winter coats if it gets cold enough.
  2274. >”You’re getting more fluffy.” Anon chuckled, running a hand down her neck and through her ethereal mane, which clung to him several times in apparent bliss.
  2275. >At least as blissful as her mane could be, he guessed.
  2276. >”Mmmhhhmmm.” Was his only answer as Nýrmáni melted under his nimble fingers and soft caresses.
  2277. >It was a while before she spoke again. She must have either dozed off or was simply happy to listen to the crackling fire while receiving scratches as the sun rose further into the sky.
  2278. >”Anonymous?”
  2279. “I’m here.” His voice was quiet, calm.
  2280. >”I have something to ask of you, but I am not sure that you will like my request.”
  2281. >He switched one hand to scratch her barrel, and Nýrmáni rolled over onto her left side with a contented sigh to grant him full access.
  2282. “What is it?”
  2283. >”A thought, an idea came to me while I floated amongst the stars. I think that going through with it will put my mind and spirit at ease.”
  2284. “I’m listening.”
  2285. >Nýrmáni took several seconds to speak, apparently gathering the courage to voice her ’idea’ to him.
  2286. >”I think that returning to that place to confront my fears will bring me ease and peace, peace that I have not fully possessed since we both fled that place.”
  2287. >Anon pondered her question and her reasoning, one hand leaving the alicorn’s body to rub his chin.
  2288. “The last time we were there I broke my leg and nearly froze to death.”
  2289. >”I will go alone.”
  2290. >Anon narrowed his eyes.
  2291. “What happens if that… thing happens again, where you drift off into la-la land and something bad happens to you?”
  2292. >”Twilight Sparkle gifted me many books on magic, most of which I have already read and learned since we arrived here. I will cast as many spells of protection and warding on myself as I can. We did not know the dangers before; I will be prepared this time.”
  2293. >His hand left his chin and brushed through the fur of her neck with his fingers.
  2294. >She was so unbelievably soft.
  2295. >Anon really didn’t want to let her go, but he couldn’t help but admit to himself that he was curious about that place as well.
  2296. >He always was a sucker for historical mysteries.
  2297. “One condition.”
  2298. >Since her head was resting on his lap, only one of Nýrmáni’s ears was able to flick in his direction.
  2299. >”Which are, Beloved?”
  2300. “You have that spell that we used last time on some kind of timer, so if you can’t activate it yourself it brings you back here automatically at a specific time.”
  2301. >He cupped one cheek and gently turned her head so that they could gaze into each other’s eyes.
  2302. >Those slitted cyan pupils were so easy to get lost into. When he had first met her they had been so strange, so alien that they had been hard to look into, but now there was nothing else he would rather get lost in.
  2303. “I don’t want to lose you.”
  2304. >He hated how weak he sounded as the words passed his lips.
  2305. >”I will never leave you, Anonymous.”
  2306. >Nýrmáni picked her head up off of his lap and gently kissed him, her smooth, velvety lips gently meeting his.
  2307. >After a couple seconds she pulled away, her large eyes filled with love and concern.
  2308. >”I believe that I can modify the teleportation spell to bring me here, it will not be a problem. I will begin preparing tonight once I have finished the roof of our new home.”
  2309. >She sat up on her haunches, wrapping her forelegs around his back and laying her head on his shoulder in one of the softest, fluffiest hugs he’d ever gotten.
  2310. >He returned the hug, wrapping his arms around her to rub the fur directly under her wings.
  2311. >”I will not go if you do not want me to, your happiness is much more important to me than anything.”
  2312. >Anon was silent as he softly breathed in Nýrmáni’s scent through her fluffy chest fur.
  2313. >She always smelled so clean, so natural, like the untamed wilderness that surrounded them.
  2314. “Just be careful, please.”
  2315. >Nýrmáni tenderly nuzzled the back of his head with her nose. “I will, I promise.”
  2316. <>
  2317. >Celestia sat with her sister Luna, the mountain wind blowing through their manes, watching the lights of Canterlot begin to appear, one by one, as the darkness of night swept over Equestria.
  2318. >The fall evening was beautiful, and the fresh snow that had fallen on the city that day reflected the light of Luna’s moon and the twinkling stars, leaving everything in a pale, white glow.
  2319. >To them, the ponies down below, it was just the finish of an ordinary day of business, work, recreation, and education.
  2320. >Even now, she herself would normally have been in the midst of beginning her preparations for bed and the assignments for her staff for the next days worth of work.
  2321. >But the heartrending information that Celestia had received from Tea Leaf just an hour ago had shattered any sense of normal rituality for her.
  2322. >She knew she would not be able to focus on court duties. The bills and city codes that needed her appraisal and approval, even the pitiful attempts of the Equestrian Congress’s economic re-negotiations with the Crystal Empire had fled her mind.
  2323. >So she canceled Day Court for the next two days and had given all of her support staff paid leave.
  2324. >What Tea Leaf had even hinted at had awoken emotions and memories within her that even she didn’t know she still possessed.
  2325. >And a mask worn so long that Celestia herself had forgotten it.
  2326. >Even Canterlot Castle had been too much for her, so here she sat on the high slopes of Camelot Mountain, watching the city and castle beneath her fall into slumber in another normal, peaceful autumn night.
  2327. >At least for them.
  2328. >”You are troubled, sister.”
  2329. >Luna’s soft voice cut through the white noise and memories flashing through her mind, and she turned her head towards her little sister, who sat directly next to her in the snow.
  2330. >”Yes, I am, Luna.”
  2331. >Once her little sister had finished raising the moon, Celestia had teleported them both away from everything in her rising hysteria, and only after crying into her little sister’s shoulder for a time had she finally regained most of her senses.
  2332. >Then she had told Luna everything that Tea Leaf had told her.
  2333. >Her little sister, while stunned by the news, was not not as out of sorts as Celestia was.
  2334. >”Sometimes, I wish I could understand, remember…” Luna whispered, her voice barely audible over the gently whistling wind. “But I do not remember much at all.”
  2335. >Celestia chuckled sadly, and Luna leaned into her side, providing a stable platform onto which she could let her emotion out completely, something no other pony currently alive had ever witnessed before.
  2336. >Her vision was growing blurry.
  2337. >”So, there are still ruins, then?”
  2338. >”According to Tea Leaf, that is what Nýrmáni claimed.” Celestia couldn’t stop the first tear from sliding off of her cheek.
  2339. >”And the… shadows?” Luna asked, tone hesitant.
  2340. >Celestia was quiet for what felt like an eternity, even as the tears silently continued to flow.
  2341. >”I don’t know.”
  2342. >A blue wing came up and gently wiped several tears away.
  2343. >”Should we tell them to stay away from that place?”
  2344. >”It will do no good, Nýrmáni will venture there eventually. Even from the hoof-full of times I met her, I could tell she was as curious of the world around her as you are.”
  2345. >Celestia sighed, not for the first time that evening, and wiped her eyes with the back of one fetlock.
  2346. >”Telling her to stay away will just make her more curious than she most likely already is. If she goes, she goes.”
  2347. >”While I was… on the moon, did you ever go ba-”
  2348. >”No.” Celestia’s voice was a choked sob, her shoulders heaved once as she futilely tried to hold herself together. “I couldn’t, I can’t…”
  2349. >Out of the corner of her eye she could see Luna’s head lowering in sadness, tears beginning to form in her own eyes.
  2350. >”I just wish I remembered more… it is all a blur for me.”
  2351. >Celestia turned completely and hugged Luna hard, as hard as she had when she had been freed from Nightmare Moon those past years ago, tears falling on Luna’s back and folded wings.
  2352. >The younger alicorn immediately returned the hug, a quiet whimper escaping her muzzle.
  2353. >”Sometimes… Sometimes I wish I remembered nothing of it at all.”
  2354. <>
  2355. >The winds were bringing her closer to her destination. She could almost feel it drawing nearer, even from such a distance and her relative altitude.
  2356. >Nýrmáni looked downwards and away as she soared above the mountains and snow, the midmorning sunlight filtered by a gray, overcast sky that reflected her mood.
  2357. >She had finished building and installing the room by early afternoon the previous day without taking a single break, her mind focused solely on her trip back to that dark, haunted place.
  2358. >Anonymous and herself had spent the rest of the day and part of the night pouring over several of the books that Twilight Sparkle had lent her, looking for any spells that may help her, no matter how small that help may be.
  2359. >They had found many, enough to cover the entire surface of the traveling cloak that now rested, folded inside one of the compartments of the saddlebags she currently wore.
  2360. >They tried to think of everything that had happened to them, and what new things may happen and had tried to plan and prepare accordingly, but Nýrmáni was still nervous.
  2361. >She herself had not slept well, her mind turbulent as memories from that horrifying day danced through her mind.
  2362. >Only after her Beloved had demanded it of her had she eaten something for breakfast.
  2363. >The goodbye kiss he had given her had nearly caused her heart to explode.
  2364. >When he had hugged her and told her that he loved her, Nýrmáni had barely been able to contain her tears.
  2365. >She would not lose herself in that place again.
  2366. >Around her neck she had hung several talismans, carved with the symbols that had not been able to fit onto the cloak. Nýrmáni just hoped that it would be enough.
  2367. >She didn’t even know if any of it would work in the first place, but it was better than doing nothing at all.
  2368. >There.
  2369. >Though the landscape below her was mostly covered with gray clouds, she could suddenly see the mountain, looming ominously before her through a gap in the clouds.
  2370. >And below her was the same clearing that they had landed in previously.
  2371. >The feeling was back again, an almost imperceptible tingling on the edge of her magical senses that hadn’t been there just seconds before.
  2372. >Tilting herself downwards Nýrmáni descended towards the clearing, the nervous energy that had been building in her since the day before growing with every passing moment.
  2373. >Her hooves touched the snow and kept going, the alicorn sinking all the way to her knees in the deep snow, loose flakes flying away in clouds from the beating of her wings.
  2374. >Quickly, Nýrmáni opened her saddlebags and withdrew the dark blue traveling cloak, another parting gift from the unicorn Rarity, and threw it over herself.
  2375. >Roughly and quickly sewn onto the outside of it were the markings for wards, runes of protection against magical scrying, mental influence, possession, and many other types of defensive spells.
  2376. >They glowed with the cyan of her magic as the cloth came into contact with her fur, the edges of the cloak settling down onto the snow below her.
  2377. >The cloak was a perfect fit, even with the saddlebags and her sword concealed under it.
  2378. >The strange feeling at the edge of her magical senses vanished, along with a deep chill that she hadn’t even known was there until it was gone.
  2379. >Nýrmáni looked around, trying to orient herself again.
  2380. >The runestone was still there, mostly buried in the snow and shadows from the surrounding trees.
  2381. >A light breeze ruffled the cloak and her mane, which writhed nervously through the air.
  2382. >The dim sunlight and the thick, snow covered trees would make for a dark, forlorn journey.
  2383. >”Here goes nothing.”
  2384. >Nýrmáni took a deep breath, fog leaving her muzzle in a cloud, and began to trot through the snow, directly into the dark forest and towards the mountain.
  2385. >She had thought about landing closer, but had wanted time to see if the cloak idea would work, and to her growing cheer it seemed to be.
  2386. >For now at least.
  2387. >With the faint, cloudy sunlight helping her and the fact that she was taking her time, she looked through the trees, her magic shining where the sun did not reach.
  2388. >Several times she could see unusually large mounds of snow jutting up from the somewhat flat ground, surly the remains of structures, long since buried by the roots of trees and the ever present snow.
  2389. >It was enough to make chills run down Nýrmáni’s spine, even with her cloak warding off any supernatural magical influence.
  2390. >She passed them by.
  2391. >Whatever malignant magic had created the sudden storm before seemed to be absent at the moment, something Nýrmáni was thankful for, she didn’t ever want to feel that cold ever again.
  2392. >Even the emptiness of space was warm compared to it.
  2393. >Retracing her previous steps wasn’t hard, and with the benefit of sunlight and the fact that there was no snowstorm hampering her vision, she could examine her surroundings with much more scrutiny as she slowly made her way through the deep snow.
  2394. >Though trees had grown up over almost all of it, she could see the occasional stone pillar, and even parts of walls scattered throughout the hillside.
  2395. >But her destination was now in sight.
  2396. >She could see a collection of tangled, destroyed stone pillars and walls before her.
  2397. >The hole that her Beloved had fallen through was covered, but that place was burned into her memory.
  2398. >Nýrmáni hesitated for a moment, then brought her magic forth, sweeping snow aside slowly, carefully.
  2399. >With a soft impact a circle opened up just a hooves length in front of her, exposing that same black, cavernous hole.
  2400. >As the cyan light of her magic faded Nýrmáni looked around one last time.
  2401. >This place, despite the current oppressiveness of it, did have a wonderful view of the surrounding mountains and valleys, decorated with green and white.
  2402. >She sighed, then spread her wings, gently falling into the hole and into the place that had been tormenting her thoughts ever since that dark night.
  2403. >Horn now glowing and giving off a bright light, Nýrmáni looked at the sunken room she had landed in.
  2404. >Nothing had changed. The rotten wood beams and stone pillars remained.
  2405. >Except for the marks in the dust on the floor, where Anonymous had dragged himself further inside to escape the cold of the storm.
  2406. >Gritting her teeth to contain her emotions, Nýrmáni slowly made her way inside, the light from her horn showing her the way, breath fogging in front of her.
  2407. >While the doorways in every place she had been were almost always too short for her, this place, having been built by alicorns, was just the right height for her.
  2408. >Hooves clopping quietly on the ancient stone beneath her, Nýrmáni entered the large, partially collapsed chamber.
  2409. >This time, the light emanating from her horn showed her everything that had been hidden from her that night.
  2410. >It wasn’t so much a chamber as it looked to be some kind of grand hall, with graceful stone arches stretching far overhead and the large, open space underneath it all.
  2411. >She guessed that it must have been able to hold several hundred individuals at the carved stone tables that had once lined it’s length.
  2412. >These tables were now mostly destroyed, smashed, flipped on their sides, cracked by either their destruction long ago or from age.
  2413. >The chairs were also in a similar state of disarray, but what caused her to take an unconscious step backward and utter a small gasp of surprise was the large dragon’s skull hanging at the far end of the great hall, above where a small raised dais sat.
  2414. >It would have been at the head of where all the tables led.
  2415. >”A seat of importance perhaps?” Nýrmáni whispered quietly.
  2416. >The muted crying nearly scared her out of her skin as she whirled around to her left, uttering a muffled shriek of terror.
  2417. >The two skeletons, one adult, one foal, came into her view, and instantly her fear turned to sadness.
  2418. >Lowering the light from her horn until it was barely brighter than that of a torch, the two shadows came into view.
  2419. >In the same place, doing the same thing. As Nýrmáni watched, she noticed that they seemed stuck in time, repeating the same movements over and over again.
  2420. >”I… I want to help you.” Nýrmáni breathed softly, despite her heart pounding inside her chest.
  2421. >They did not respond. Nor acknowledge that they had even heard her.
  2422. >For all she knew that might not even know she was there.
  2423. >”I will help you, I promise.”
  2424. >She did not know if she could keep this promise, but she had nothing else to offer.
  2425. >Trotting slowly into the grand hall, she examined the destroyed tables, chairs, looking for anything.
  2426. >The ancient scorch marks, gashes, and craters in the floor, walls, and ceiling had nothing to offer to her.
  2427. >But suddenly, another question came to Nýrmáni.
  2428. >”Where are the bodies?” Whatever fight that caused this much damage would have left more than two corpses, but other than the tables and chairs there was nothing else in the room.
  2429. >Something must have taken them, though what that something happened to be was a mystery to her.
  2430. >Looking again towards the walls, she could see several doorways, all of which led into black nothingness, further underground.
  2431. >After carefully trotting close to the first doorway, she could see that it was blocked off barely a body length from the doorway, an ancient collapse that she had no desire to remove.
  2432. >The same went for the next two, until she found herself at the raised dais that she had noticed before, and the dragon's skull which still hung from the wall above her head.
  2433. >It was big enough that, had the dragon still lived, it could have easily swallowed her in one bite.
  2434. >Nýrmáni remembered, from the fragments of Luna’s memories left in her, that the drawings and alicorns had fought, though the scale of such conflict and the outcomes were not there.
  2435. >Luna apparently had not remembered anything at all of her childhood here, and only knew of these events because Celestia had told her; it was very much relying on a second hoof report to rebuild a possible life story.
  2436. >It was at times very confusing.
  2437. >This skull must have been a trophy of some kind.
  2438. >Nýrmáni’s gaze fell from the skull to the floor, then upward, and her eyes went wide.
  2439. >From her vantage point, the destruction of the entire room, which had at first seemed random, now showed a pattern.
  2440. >The path of destruction resembled an oval, expanding from the dais outward.
  2441. >Whatever had destroyed the grand hall and started whatever fight that had occurred had been standing almost exactly where she now stood herself.
  2442. >A shiver went through Nýrmáni.
  2443. >There was only one more doorway left.
  2444. >As she approached it, Nýrmáni could see that it was a hallway of some kind.
  2445. >From its position in relation to the grand hall, Nýrmáni judged that it went deeper underground and further into the mountain above.
  2446. >She stopped, and checked her cloak and the necklace around her neck.
  2447. >Everything was as it should be.
  2448. >Other than the cold temperature and the distant, quiet crying from the shadows in the far corner from where she had entered, she could feel, see, or hear nothing out of the ordinary.
  2449. >But she could not shake the feeling that something else lingered here, that something was watching her.
  2450. >Breathing in and out through her nostrils, Nýrmáni slowly stepped into the darkness, her horn lighting the way.
  2451. >There were no diverging paths, and the hallway led her downward slightly, and further into the mountain
  2452. >Decorative carvings and swirls adorned the walls and the ceiling just above her horn, their meaning long ago lost to the ravages of time.
  2453. >Nýrmáni had only been in the hallway for a minute or two when suddenly the light from her horn fizzled and went out, leaving her in a blackness so complete that even her eyes could not penetrate it.
  2454. >Suddenly whispers surrounded her, and wordless mumbling began to trickle into her mind as a deep sense of dread filled her heart with icy cold.
  2455. >Stumbling backward in panic and breathing heavily, Nýrmáni suddenly found her horn once again alight, the whispers and dread leaving her just as quickly as they had come.
  2456. >”What is this?” She gasped, looking down the hallway, which now seemed much more threatening than it had before even with the renewed light from her horn.
  2457. >Cautiously she took two steps forward.
  2458. >Again, as if crossing an invisible threshold her magic left her, and the quiet whispers returned, the tingling on the edge of her magical senses flaring into something that once again sent chills down her spine.
  2459. >This time Nýrmáni calmly stepped back, and the strange feelings and whispers once again vanished.
  2460. >It was as if her magic was being nullified by something.
  2461. >Using a hoof, she drew a line in the dirty stone, marking where she thought the invisible anti-magic field started, and started to think.
  2462. >She had no desire to wander around in the dark, it was good that she came prepared.
  2463. >Mind racing, Nýrmáni used her mane to poke around in her saddlebags for her backup light source.
  2464. >Holding Anonymous’s ‘flashlight’ in one hoof she turned it on just how he had shown her, and a bright cone of bluish-white light spilled down the hallway.
  2465. >Smiling confidently, she took another step forward, holding the light forward of the line.
  2466. >The light winked several times, then flickered out.
  2467. >Nýrmáni’s eyes grew in shock. She had not expected her Beloved’s human technology to fail.
  2468. >Pulling her hoof back past the line, it came back on, shining brightly, as if nothing had happened to it.
  2469. >Sitting down, Nýrmáni thought hard. What would Anonymous suggest she do?
  2470. >If she crossed the line and continued onward, she would be magically helpless against any magical or mental assault that may happen.
  2471. >But the answers to all her questions were at the end of this path. She did not know how, but she could feel it.
  2472. >She had to know.
  2473. >”Dammit all.” Nýrmáni muttered, once again opening her saddlebags and bringing out her last light source.
  2474. >No magic spells or strange alien technology, just a simple torch.
  2475. >Lighting the end of it, the flames cast warm orange light around her, the dancing flame giving the ancient carved walls a life of their own.
  2476. >Closing her eyes, Nýrmáni calmed herself, breathing slowly for several moments.
  2477. >Then she stepped over the line and into the oppressive darkness.
  2478. >The wordless whispers began, and the sudden cold bit at her fur, but she pressed on, holding the torch in one foreleg.
  2479. >Her mane fell flat against her neck, and she could feel her ethereal tail fall to the ground underneath her cloak.
  2480. >The hallway seemed almost endless, and the further she went, the louder the whispers grew.
  2481. >Nýrmáni began to hear other sounds as well; crying, coughing, pleading, begging.
  2482. >Everything was going dim, the blackness seemed to grow closer to her despite the flames of her torch.
  2483. >She shook her head, unsure if her torch was going out or if her vision was fading.
  2484. >Then, impossibly, she saw it.
  2485. >In the distance, a faint, gray light, coming from the end of the tunnel.
  2486. >Her heart began to race in her chest, and Nýrmáni quickly made her way towards it, hooves ringing on the ancient carved stone below.
  2487. >The whispers grew into actual voices, louder and louder as her ears began to ring and her vision once again went blurry.
  2488. >Then just as quickly as they had come, they left, leaving Nýrmáni in total silence.
  2489. >Gasping, she looked around herself, and her heart froze in her chest.
  2490. >The carved tunnel had ended, and she had found the missing bodies.
  2491. >As large as the destroyed grand hall she had earlier explored, the chamber she had entered was instead a perfect circle, the room arching gracefully above her head, extending into blackness that the light from her torch could not reach.
  2492. >A set of stairs carved into the ground extended downwards from her front hooves, into a depressed area.
  2493. >The source of the mysterious gray light was a hole in the roof, perfectly square. It appeared to her to be actual sunlight from the surface, shining down into this cursed place. An occasional snowflake drifted down from it and disappeared into the darkness.
  2494. >It was only through the faint glow of this light that she could see the skeletons.
  2495. >They lined the walls, piled up like firewood, the ancient alicorn remains lay shattered and broken, discarded like trash.
  2496. >Bones were everywhere, littering the ground by the walls like leaves in the fall.
  2497. >Nýrmáni had to hold in the urge to vomit at the sight of it.
  2498. >Curious, Nýrmáni tried to once again call forth her magic.
  2499. >Nothing. Not that she had expected it.
  2500. >She carefully made her way down the steps, avoiding small pieces of broken stone that must have fallen from the ceiling long ago.
  2501. >She was so busy examining her surroundings that she nearly stepped on the skeleton that lay on it’s back at the base of the steps.
  2502. >Squeaking in surprise and fear, Nýrmáni stepped off to the side, eyes wide.
  2503. >Then the shadow appeared, just on the edge of the torch light, standing over the skeleton Nýrmáni had nearly stepped on.
  2504. >Larger than the last two, it would have been almost the size of Princess Cadence.
  2505. >It was the first one she had seen since the entryway to the grand hall, and Nýrmáni backed up slightly, looking at the shadow and the skeleton.
  2506. >The skeleton was severely damaged; the horn was violently snapped off near the base of the skull, the spine was broken in several places, and the hooves and wing bones lay in disjointed, broken piles
  2507. >Nýrmáni looked closer, and realized that the stone beneath the skeleton had been smashed. The skeleton had impacted the stone steps so hard that it had shattered them like rotten wood.
  2508. >The skull lay on it’s side, and aside from the broken horn appeared to be intact.
  2509. >Still the shadow stood there, as if observing it’s own body.
  2510. >The featureless head turned and looked Nýrmáni directly in the eyes, despite it not having any.
  2511. >Chills went throughout Nýrmáni’s body, and she was suddenly struck by a deep feeling of sadness and regret.
  2512. >She could see from the ancient remains that this alicorn had been female.
  2513. >Slowly, the shadow lifted one semi-transparent hoof and held it out towards Nýrmáni.
  2514. >Nýrmáni froze. The previous shadows had not interacted with her at all, or had even acknowledged her presence.
  2515. >”H-hello?” She asked, her voice echoing softly around the chamber.
  2516. >The shadow did nothing, and did not move it’s outstretched hoof.
  2517. >”I want to help you, to understand what happened…”
  2518. >Still it did not move.
  2519. >Suddenly, Nýrmáni understood what the shadow was doing.
  2520. >Once again, she checked to see if her magic could come, and again it would not.
  2521. >Fear rose in her at the thought of the automatic-recall spell failing.
  2522. >But she had to know.
  2523. >”Anonymous will kill me for this.”
  2524. >Nýrmáni lowered the torch to the ground, and raised her own hoof slowly towards the unmoving shadow.
  2525. >Her hoof touched the edge of the shadow’s, and lines of blackness consumed her vision.
  2526. <>
  2527. >”Mama, what is happening?”
  2528. >Nýrævi glanced down at the cowering, white coated, pink-haired filly as she hurriedly filled a small saddlebag with all of the loaves of bread that were left, casting sustainment charms on them as she did so.
  2529. >”It does not matter, not anymore; you must take your sister and flee this place.” Her voice was low and desperate, panicked.
  2530. >Gathering two books in her white colored magic, one her diary and the other of spells and metal working, she placed them into the other side of the saddlebags, along with the wrapped flintstones for fire starting and small pieces of kindling.
  2531. >She winced in pain as she moved, blood slowly wept from cloth wrapped around her left foreleg
  2532. >Nýrævi was lucky it wasn’t worse, but she knew that a simple gash would soon be the last thing on her mind.
  2533. >Taking a quick glance out of the small window of the simple rock hut, Nýrævi, she could see the last of the failed wheat harvest burning, dark gray smoke rising to the cold evening sky above.
  2534. >No sign of him yet. He must still be in the Hall of Feasts.
  2535. >”Mama, I am scared.”
  2536. >The utter weakness and fear in her foal's voice finally broke the dam of roaring emotions she had been trying to hold back, and tears fell from Nýrævi’s eyes as she bent down to hug her eldest daughter close with her forehooves.
  2537. >”Sólrísa, my eldest daughter, you must be brave for me, your life and the life of your younger sister depends on it. Can you do that for me?”
  2538. >The alicorn filly slowly nodded even as tears fell from her cheeks.
  2539. >She was barely thirteen years of age, far too young to undergo such hardship and loss.
  2540. >But there was no other choice now.
  2541. >”Mama, where are you going?”
  2542. >This voice was much younger, less sure of itself, and a blue and black dappled muzzle appeared from underneath the bed in the hut’s far corner.
  2543. >The blue maned filly fully appeared, pulling herself out from under the bed with her older sister’s help, her young eyes full of confusion.
  2544. >Sólrísa had hidden her younger sister just as she had been taught, and the pride that filled Nýrævi made the tears come even faster.
  2545. >”Nóttglóa, Sólrísa, come here.” She could not keep her voice from choking from her tears.
  2546. >Both of her little fillies came to her, hugging her tightly.
  2547. >”Mama?” Nóttglóa asked as she looked up at her mother, tears filling her cyan eyes. She most likely did not know why she was crying.
  2548. >”Why can’t you come with us, Mama?” Sólrísa asked, but Nýrævi could see in the young filly's eyes that she already knew the answer.
  2549. >”There is only food for you two. Now listen, you must go to the unexplored South, as far as you can from this place, there is no more time.”
  2550. >”Mama, please…” Nóttglóa began to cry, the six year old filly softly sobbing into her mother’s side.
  2551. >Tears clouded Nýrævi’s eyes as she buckled the small saddlebags to Sólrísa’s lanky form and wrapped small traveling cloaks around them both, even as she held them both close with her hooves and wings.
  2552. >If the alicorn filly felt the saddlebags being placed on her body she did not complain.
  2553. >Breaking her hug, she held her two daughters at hooves length as she furiously blinked away her tears.
  2554. >”Listen to me; I love you both more than anything else, and you two will grow into the kind of mares the drasill have only dreamed of, I know this to be true.”
  2555. >Nýrævi pulled the two sobbing fillies close once again, nuzzling both their heads through her own tears, reaching for her magic, her horn beginning to glow a blinding white.
  2556. >”I love you both.”
  2557. >There was a flash and a crack like lightning, and Nýrævi was alone.
  2558. >She would never see her precious foals again and she knew it with every fiber of her being.
  2559. >But she didn’t even have time to weep.
  2560. >He had to be stopped.
  2561. >Tears still falling from her eyes, Nýrævi stepped from the simple stone hut that had been her home for nearly one century and deliberately made her way back to where this nightmare had begun.
  2562. >The smoke obscured her vision somewhat, but she could see what remained of the entryway to the underground hall, rage beginning to fill her.
  2563. >He would pay for this if it was the last thing she did.
  2564. >It had all been perfect.
  2565. >The dragons had finally been defeated, barely one week past.
  2566. >Every male and female of fighting age had been sent on one last, final gamble against their far away mountain stronghold.
  2567. >Only Nýrævi and one other female had not been sent because they were special.
  2568. >They were the only two remaining drasill that could conceive.
  2569. >The doors to the Hall of Feasts lay outside, bent and shattered from the explosion and violence that had happened only minutes before.
  2570. >Horn glowing with violent energy Nýrævi jumped inside, ready to do battle.
  2571. >But all she found was death.
  2572. >Blood coated almost every surface imaginable, the debris of the once roaring cooking fires lay scattered about the broken tables and chairs, the wild light of the remaining embers cast told of the horror that she herself had barely escaped from.
  2573. >The feast had been wonderful, despite the last wheat crop suddenly failing several days before.
  2574. >Thanks had been given to those who had gone to fight, and to those few who had returned.
  2575. >The warriors told of how their plea to the Chosen from the other world had been received, and how he and a longship of his strongest warriors had come to aid them in their time of need.
  2576. >Despite lacking in magic, the two-legged beings made up for it in their bravery and ferocity in battle.
  2577. >The Chosen, the one who had pulled the drasill’s gift from the trunk of the great tree in their king’s hall had been their savior.
  2578. >With the stál sword Gramr, the Chosen, the man known as Sigurd to his own kind, had dealt the final blow to the king of dragons, Fafnir, who’s skull now hung in the Hall of Feasts.
  2579. >They had taken their share of the dragon's gold in the end, and had departed for their own world to feast and celebrate their victory themselves.
  2580. >If they ever did return, there would be nothing to return to now.
  2581. >Nýrævi looked around the nightmarish scene before her, and her heart sank as her body went cold with dread.
  2582. >He had taken the bodies to the Council Chamber.
  2583. >All of the drasill left had been here at this feast.
  2584. >A glance to her left told her that part of the room had collapsed from his furious, unsuspecting assault.
  2585. >The bodies of Ský and her young colt stuck partially from the wreckage, torn and dead.
  2586. >Nýrævi grit her teeth so hard her jaws hurt, her vision going red with rage and tears.
  2587. >Still limping because of the wound on her leg, the white-coated alicorn stepped through the blood and viscera that coated the floor, her eyes locked on the torch lit hall to the Council Chamber.
  2588. >He had gone mad. Their kind was done.
  2589. >Hooves ringing on the stone floor, she could see an alien, red light glowing at the end of the tunnel from the Chamber.
  2590. >The closer she got, she could hear a male voice chanting, rhythmic and low.
  2591. >Nýrævi entered the Council Chamber and immediately recoiled in horror.
  2592. >The bodies of her companions, her friends, the last of the brave warriors, had been cast aside and discarded, their broken bodies not yet even cold as blood flowed and pooled from their corpses.
  2593. >In the center of it all Myrkr-Nátta floated, his wings extended but not flapping, his forehooves outstretched, and his horn glowing with red and purple lightning.
  2594. >His body had been a deep, dark blue once, but now veins of deep, malevolent crimson pulsed along the length of his body, sinking into his head, his wings, his horn…
  2595. >The floor, just a hooves length below him, had been decorated with a design so wrong, so alien that it made Nýrævi’s sanity hurt just looking at it.
  2596. >It glowed with the same energy that now coursed through the stallion she thought she had loved.
  2597. >”What have you done?” She screamed, her rage fueling her voice.
  2598. >”WHAT I HAVE DONE IS BEYOND YOUR UNDERSTANDING.”
  2599. >The words pounded into her brain like a warhammer, and she couldn’t help but scream from the sudden pain of the mental assault.
  2600. >It was as if a whole chorus of voices spoke along with him, even though he had not physically uttered a single word.
  2601. >Nýrævi looked at the symbol again; it was horrifyingly familiar, so was the sheet of parchment hovering beside his head…
  2602. >”You cannot bargain with The Between again! We are doomed as it is from the last attempt!” She screamed, tears still falling from her eyes.
  2603. >”THEY WILL SEE MY STRENGTH AND LISTEN THIS TIME.”
  2604. >”We lost half our number and the other colony! The fertility of our children! There is nothing left now, you cannot deal with them, just as the last Elder could not!”
  2605. >Myrkr-Nátta’s pure red eyes narrowed. “THE LAST ELDER WAS WEAK, HE WAS NOT FED AS I HAVE BEEN.”
  2606. >Nýrævi was confused for a moment, but then her eyes went wide and her spirit felt true terror. “No, NO! You too-”
  2607. >”I TOOK THE ESSENCE OF THE OTHERS. IT IS ALL NOW MINE TO COMMAND.”
  2608. >Tears once again began to fall from Nýrævi’s eyes. “You are a bastard, our species is doomed!”
  2609. >”I AM THE ONLY DRASILL THAT IS NEED NOW.”
  2610. >Nýrævi launched a beam of white, violent energy at the monster of a stallion, but it simply stopped before hitting him, the spell dribbling like melted wax to the runic circle carved into the stone below.
  2611. >”YOU SERVED YOUR PURPOSE.”
  2612. >He pointed a single hoof at her, and Nýrævi found herself lifted into the air and pulled towards the demented stallion.
  2613. >”YOUR LIFE, AND THAT OF THE LAST TWO WILL BE ENOUGH.”
  2614. >Nýrævi knew who the last two were…
  2615. >”You will not touch them!” She screamed in rage, horn blazing white as she swung her hooves and wings in a desperate attempt to hit him, to wound him, do do anything to him.
  2616. >Nýrævi shrieked in pain as a single black hoof came up and snapped her horn off as easily as she would break a twig, her horn flying off into a pile of tangled bodies.
  2617. >”WEAK.”
  2618. >A tendril of red energy wrapped itself around her throat, choking her, and pulling her close enough to Myrkr-Nátta to smell the blood on his breath.
  2619. >”Not… Hurt… Them…” Nýrævi managed to force out as she glared into those emotionless, solid red eyes, even as blood from her broken horn seeped down the front of her muzzle.
  2620. >”WHAT WILL YOU DO?”
  2621. >Nýrævi did not respond, other than to lean her head forwards and stab the stallion in the face with the jagged remains of her broken horn.
  2622. >The same stallion that had lain with her and had given her both her little fillies.
  2623. >Myrkr-Nátta roared with pain as the horn went into and through the side of his cheek, and with one hoof and a wing hit her.
  2624. >Nýrævi did not remember being hit, or the impact she made against the stone steps behind her.
  2625. >In fact she couldn’t feel anything at all, and as she rolled her eyes to look at herself she understood why.
  2626. >She was broken, in every conceivable way.
  2627. >It was a small mercy she could not feel the agony her body certainly was going through.
  2628. >Nýrævi could still see Myrkr-Nátta, hovering and bleeding, blood falling from his wounded face to hit the ground and the active spell below.
  2629. >There was a flash of black light as the blood contacted the spell, and with a sucking pop an impossibly black circle opened up underneath the stallion.
  2630. >A column of black light shot upward, extinguishing the torches in the walls that remained lit, leaving the only glowing red energy and the lone column of sunlight as the only light.
  2631. >He fell, and the instant his rear hooves hit the blackness he wordlessly began shrieking and wailing in terror and agony,
  2632. >Something pale and slimy reached out of the blackness and grabbed his rear legs.
  2633. >Instantly two different limbs, one a toothed tentacle filled with eyes, another a scaled claw, grabbed a forehoof.
  2634. >Nýrævi watched, her vision going dim, as Myrkr-Nátta began to disintegrate, the flesh and muscle melting from his bones, the red energy that once cursed over his body now stripping his flesh away.
  2635. >Though her senses were fading by the second, she could feel everything leaving him; his power, the essence of all the others he had senselessly murdered…
  2636. >Still he screamed and jerked, until he lacked the muscles to do so.
  2637. >Then, as if finally realizing he was there, the limbs pulled what remained of Myrkr-Nátta into the absolute blackness below, and with a rush of air and roar like countless lightning strikes, he and the black circle were gone.
  2638. >The sheet of parchment fell slowly, lazily, landing amidst the ruins of the disastrous spell.
  2639. >It was cold, Nýrævi realized.
  2640. >She could feel her heart slowing, her vision going black,
  2641. >The faces of her two foals came to her mind, of simpler times where they would play in the forests and the fields, laughing in the sunshine and pointing in awe at the stars in the night…
  2642. >Nýrævi smiled, closing her eyes.
  2643. <>
  2644. >With a lurch in her gut and a gasp of pain and surprise Nýrmáni stumbled backward and nearly fell over, suddenly aware of herself and her body,
  2645. >The shadow that had been standing in front of her was gone.
  2646. >Breathing heavily, Nýrmáni slowly stood, collecting her thoughts.
  2647. >She had lived Nýrævi’s last moments as if they were her own, had felt everything, had felt the other mare’s thoughts.
  2648. >Had seen her say goodbye to Celestia and Luna.
  2649. >Nýrmáni now knew what had happened here, and why it was cursed to this day.
  2650. >Wiping her cheeks, she realized that she was crying, and in the light from the torch still laying on the ground she saw the shadow pony reappear, still standing there, still watching her unflinchingly.
  2651. >Legs still shaking from the experience and tears still running from her eyes, Nýrmáni nodded at the shadow. “Thank you.”
  2652. >It faded from view, like dew on a cloudless summer morning.
  2653. >Eyes roaming about, Nýrmáni suddenly saw something she had missed before.
  2654. >An ancient sheet of parchment lay on the floor, just outside the beam of sunlight, as if waiting for somepony.
  2655. >The ground around it was a perfect, small circle, clear of dust and what little snow had fallen down here from the hole in the ceiling.
  2656. >Still reeling from the foreign memories occupying her head, Nýrmáni approached it, sat, and gently lifted it up with her other front hoof.
  2657. >She could read the runic inscription for summoning and control on it, and see the single drop of blood that served as a signature.
  2658. >Nýrmáni blinked once, and heard the faintest noise, a barely audible sigh.
  2659. >She looked up, and where before there had been darkness beyond the torchlight stood the host of shadows from that dark, stormy night; watching, staring, their silent whispers touching the edges of her mind.
  2660. >Looking at them filled her with sorrow. These unfortunate souls damned for an eternity, she would do what she could for them.
  2661. >Wordlessly and with her mouth a grim, sad line, Nýrmáni lifted her torch and held it against the ancient, dried parchment.
  2662. >For a moment nothing happened.
  2663. >Then there was a tiny rustling of wind, a murmur, then the ancient paper caught fire.
  2664. >Lowering it back to the ground, Nýrmáni stood there, staring at it until it was naught but ash and dust.
  2665. >Looking up again, the shadows had vanished, and the silence that filled the room was absolute.
  2666. >Nýrmáni tried to access her magic, but it would still not come to her.
  2667. >But she had found her answers.
  2668. >It was time for her to return home.
  2669. <>
  2670. >There was a flash of white light, and the two fillies tumbled to the thin grass below.
  2671. >”Mama!”
  2672. >Sólrísa was the first to stand, looking around in panic, her small heart racing.
  2673. >They had appeared at the abandoned, southmost watchtower, far, far from their home. >She had been here once, several moons ago with her mother to inspect the ruins of it.
  2674. >Squinting her eyes, she could barely see the mountain that marked their home. It was so far away…
  2675. >”Sól, where is Mama?” The quiet, choked voice made her gaze down at her younger sister Nóttglóa, who sat shivering in the thin, tan grass under her oversized cloak in the same spot they had landed.
  2676. >”I… I do not know.”
  2677. >Tears fell from her cheeks as she held her younger sister close as the younger filly once began to cry.
  2678. >A flash of light from behind them forced them apart as they turned to look in panic at the column of pure blackness that seemed to erupt like a geyser from the distant mountain.
  2679. >”MAMA!” Sólrísa screamed as distant rumbles reverberated through the mountains and valleys, clouds forming in an instant, billowing outward from where her home used to be, covering the warm evening sky in an endless, thick gray sea
  2680. >Just as suddenly as it came it vanished, leaving only broiling, dark storm clouds in its wake.
  2681. >Nóttglóa could not have understood what exactly happened but she knew, just as Sólrísa now knew, that they would never see their mother again.
  2682. >Both of them began to cry softly, but the words of her mother filled Sólrísa’s mind.
  2683. >”Go South, be brave for you little sister.”
  2684. >”I love you both.”
  2685. >Choking down her tears Sólrísa stood up, pulling her cloak close with her faint, golden magic as she ruffled her wings.
  2686. >”We must leave here, Nótt, we cannot go home.”
  2687. >”B-but w-where?” The blue alicorn filly sobbed as she also stood, strapping her cloak closer against the cold wind that had suddenly appeared.
  2688. >Sólrísa looked away from the mountain and everything she had ever known and towards the distant, Unexplored South, where endless unnamed, wild mountains and forests lay.
  2689. >”South. But don’t be afraid, I’ll be here for you, what are older sisters for?” Sólrísa forced herself to smile down at her precious little sister.
  2690. >Nóttglóa hiccupped several times, tears still silently falling down her cheeks as she leaned against her older sister.
  2691. >The two of them slowly made their way into the unknown as snow began to fall around them.
  2692. <>
  2693. >This day had been the longest of his life.
  2694. >He couldn’t focus on anything. Not books, not even food.
  2695. >Anon could only think of what horrors Nýrmáni was going through, possibly at that moment.
  2696. >For all he knew she was unconscious, lost in the dark and the cold…
  2697. “Stop thinking like that.” He muttered to himself, letting the book he had spent the last several hours trying to read fall from his lap and to the ground beside the blankets that served as his bed.
  2698. “She’s a big girl and she can handle herself. Hopefully.”
  2699. >He sighed, laying his head back down, and trying to ignore the rapidly fading sunlight that weakly filtered through the walls of their temporary home.
  2700. >The spell that would automatically bring her back would activate once the sun passed the horizon, so it wouldn’t be that much longer.
  2701. >He halfheartedly reached for his book again, then folded his hands in his lap with a sigh.
  2702. >There was a whooshing, flapping sound, very different from the constantly whistling wind, and a corresponding thump from just outside the tent.
  2703. >Anon sat upright quicker than he thought possible, his heart suddenly pounding in his ears.
  2704. “Nýrmáni, is that you?”
  2705. >He could hear hooves wading through snow, then to his joy Nýrmáni’s familiar teal magic moved the entrance to the tent aside, and the alicorn entered.
  2706. “I’m glad you’re back, what did you…” His voice trailed off when he got a proper look at her.
  2707. >She looked horrible, her ethereal mane and tail, normally writhing and waving happily in the air, drooped down, lying lifelessly along the ground.
  2708. >In fact her whole body seemed to sag downward; her wings were hanging loosely at her sides, and her head hung low. She wasn’t even looking at him.
  2709. “Are you okay?” His joy at her return had almost vanished at the sight of her in such a state.
  2710. >The alicorn looked up at him, and his eyes grew wide.
  2711. >Nýrmáni’s eyes were red and puffy, and despite the cold outside, tears were slowly making their way down from the corners of her softly glowing eyes.
  2712. >She sniffled quietly, her magic quickly unbuckling her sword and the saddlebags hanging from her sides.
  2713. >”No... I…” Her words trailed off as the first tear fell.
  2714. >The alicorn stumbled to his side and fell with a soft impact onto the blankets. She looked more tired than he had ever seen her.
  2715. >Nýrmáni’s breath hitched several times as she gently pushed her head into his chest, then the tears began to come in a rush.
  2716. >Anon wrapped his arms around her head, and shoulders, pulling her as close to him as he could as the alicorn began to softly cry, her shoulders shaking.
  2717. >Her front hooves shakily found their way around his waist, hugging him as well.
  2718. >He didn’t know what to say, so he gently held her as the faint sunlight began to fade.
  2719. >Eventually the muffled sobbing stopped, but he could still feel fresh tears soaking into the shirt he was wearing.
  2720. “Do you want to talk about it?” He whispered cautiously as he began to stroke Nýrmáni’s neck slowly, gently, his fingers flowing through the twinkling stars of her magical mane.
  2721. >She shook her head ever so slightly, but said nothing.
  2722. “I’ll be here for you, when you’re ready.”
  2723. >He got a small nod this time, and the hooves wrapped around his waist squeezed him tighter.
  2724. >Anon’s heart felt like it was tearing in two, seeing Nýrmáni, normally so composed and confident, reduced to a crying, emotional mess.
  2725. >What the hell had happened to her there.
  2726. >It didn’t matter at the moment though, he would be her rock, if she wanted to cry on him and seek comfort in him then that’s exactly what she would get.
  2727. >Whatever she had gone through, that story could wait a bit longer.
  2728. >He didn’t know how long they lay like this, but when Nýrmáni finally lifted her head the only light came from the sparkles in her mane, and the soft glow of her slitted cyan eyes.
  2729. >They were still blurry from remaining tears, even as she raised a hoof to wipe them away.
  2730. >Her head tilted to the side, away from Anon’s gentle gaze.
  2731. >”T-thank you, my Beloved.” He could barely hear her whispered voice.
  2732. >His hands cupped her cheeks, gently guiding her head so that he could look into those entrancing eyes.
  2733. “I won’t ask what happened. You tell me when you’re ready, okay?”
  2734. >Her eyes fell for a moment, then met his gaze once again.
  2735. >”I will, but it is too soon…”
  2736. “Like I said; when you’re ready.” He gave her an encouraging smile, and his heart leapt when she returned it.
  2737. >Nýrmáni sighed, closing her eyes and leaning into his hands.
  2738. >Smiling, he began to gently scratch her cheeks, eliciting a contented hum from the alicorn.
  2739. >”I like it when you hold me so.”
  2740. “I’ll do it as long as you need.”
  2741. >Nýrmáni opened her eyes and appeared like she was going to respond, but a growl from her midsection caused her to blush.
  2742. >”I, um, did not eat. I did not have the appetite after, well…”
  2743. “Say no more.” Anon said, his hands leaving her chin to scratch the blushing alicorn behind the ears. “What do you want to eat? I really haven’t eaten much either, I was too busy stressing about you.”
  2744. >It took Nýrmáni a moment to compose herself. “Something simple, I am rather tired.”
  2745. “I can do that, just move me over to the food and I’ll get it done.”
  2746. >Despite how absurd it felt to be manhandled by Nýrmáni’s magic because of his healing leg, Anon found himself floating over to where their boxes of food were stored, and within minutes a fire was shining merrily from underneath a boiling pot of stew.
  2747. >The two of them sat, with Nýrmáni resting her head on his right shoulder as she curled around his back like a giant cat.
  2748. >Her mood, thankfully, had greatly improved; her ethereal mane and tail, which had been almost lifeless since her arrival, now swirled and writhed about excitedly, as if it had finally woken from a deep, restful sleep.
  2749. >He smiled as she repeatedly sniffed the air, and chuckled as he watched her ears twitch in anticipation.
  2750. Hey.”
  2751. >”Yes, Anon?”
  2752. “Random question; how does this soup smell to you? It smells good to me but humans don’t have the best sense of smell and you’ve got that big schnoz of yours-”
  2753. >Nýrmáni snorted directly into his ear, then burst into giggles as he flailed away from her, windmilling his arms to keep himself from falling over in his surprise.
  2754. “Hey, it’s an honest question.” He whined, shooting her a half-hearted dirty look as he reached over to stir the bubbling, steaming pot.
  2755. >Still smiling, Nýrmáni simply stuck her tongue out in response, eyes literally glowing with mirth as they reflected the warm firelight.
  2756. >Sometimes Anon realized how lucky he really was.
  2757. >”Well, my dear Anonymous, it smells like a wondrous mix of various spices and other ingredients, and it makes my belly rumble with hunger and my mouth water in need.”
  2758. >”Also, it means much more to me since you, my chosen mate, made it for me.”
  2759. “Well, I’m flattered.”
  2760. >”I am sure that you are.” A single twinkling piece of her tail brought him to her shoulder again, and Nýrmáni laid her head back on his shoulder and rubbed his cheek with hers, sighing happily.
  2761. >”I love you, my Beloved.”
  2762. >Anon had already opened his mouth to give her another snarky reply, but the raw, vulnerable emotion in her voice made him pause.
  2763. >He turned his head and kissed her soft, furry cheek, then her lips when she turned her head to look at him.
  2764. “Love you too, sweetheart.”
  2765. >For the first time that he could remember, Nýrmáni did not look flustered at a nickname, but instead her cheeks grew red, and she again kissed him.
  2766. >”You silly, adorable creature. I don’t know how I can live without you.”
  2767. >She kissed him again, then licked his cheek with her long, pointed tongue.
  2768. “That’s good, because until my leg heals I can’t live without you either.”
  2769. >She was silent for a moment, then burst into quiet laughter.
  2770. >”That is indeed true, where would you be without me?” Sections of her glittering mane came up and tickled him on the neck, until he gently slapped them away
  2771. “Hopelessly lost and lonely, most likely.” Anon replied, stirred the soup again, then he raised the ladle to his lips and gave the soup sample a small sip.
  2772. “It’s done, you want some?” He asked, grinning at Nýrmáni as she leaned towards the pot eagerly, licking her lips and lifting two bowls in front of herself.
  2773. >”Oh, you had better believe it.”
  2774. >What followed was a food slaughter, and with full bellies and better moods Anon and Nýrmáni held each other under the blankets, waiting for sleep to take them away.
  2775. “Nýrmáni?”
  2776. >”Yes, Anon?” She rubbed her chin into his hair as she tenderly held him in her hooves and wings.
    <