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/pj2023/ Last Flame

By NHanon
Created: 2023-02-07 20:25:44
Updated: 2023-02-22 12:25:41
Expiry: Never

  1. >She set it ablaze…
  2. >A yellow glow washed over the area within seconds.
  3. >Warm, birthed by flames, fights against the cold around her.
  4. >What once was a collection of the past, is now coalesced into its present state – a pyre.
  5. >Little by little, it burns away, going off to a better place; a better future.
  6. >Since the very beginning of time, this ritual has been performed.
  7. >However, in every other previous instance, it was done by those who were older, more knowledgeable, wiser, and greater than she could ever be.
  8. >A random pop, and/or crackle will reverberate throughout the air every now and then.
  9. >Smoke wafts about, though not unpleasantly, but instead, as more akin to incense that soothes ones self.
  10. >Despite that, there is no calm whatsoever here.
  11. >But that is how it is supposed to be, because it is all done for a simple reason – to let go, and to free one.
  12. >For everything – great and small – must be let go at some point or another.
  13. >When watching this ritual take place in a time before, it had a strange sort of beauty.
  14. >Again, there is none of that here.
  15. >Change was thrust upon her, much like this duty has been.
  16. >What lies here now is something else entirely; a far more primordial type.
  17. >To put simply: loss itself.
  18. >A warm, wet bit of essence makes its way down her cheek, then falls freely to be swallowed by the snowy earth below.
  19. >As much as she yearns to turn away, or to express /particular/ feelings, she cannot.
  20. >To turn away would be wrong.
  21. >To express would sap what little is left.
  22. >All that can be done is to accept what is – to hold onto it, remember it – in its entirety.
  23. >Once the fire dies, the embers will begin to cool.
  24. >Once the embers fade away, only cold ash shall remain.
  25. >Then, and only then, can she do all else she needs, or wants, to do.
  26. >Those who have done this ritual before did it, so shall she.
  27. >It is her duty, it is in her blood, forever eternal as the stars themselves.
  28.  
  29. >Standing here, waiting, watching as the pyre burns, Crystal Rose can only let her mind float like a feather on the wind.
  30. >Despite the warm clothes worn, cold air still manages to nip at her amber coat.
  31. >Perhaps it is not the cold that bites, but the spirits themselves who bite.
  32. >She would not doubt it, not even for a second.
  33. >After all, the spirits can be cruel, especially to those who deserve it.
  34. >Being apart of all things – this world and the next – they do whatever/whenever they will.
  35. >In the paleness of winter however, among the greatest spirits stands strong, absolute – death.
  36. >Young ones fear it the most out of all other spirits.
  37. >And why wouldn’t they? It takes, and takes, and never gives backs, or stops.
  38. >No amount of pleas, nor any kind of bargaining can convince it otherwise.
  39. >As such, it is taught to not fear death, but to instead, welcome it as an old friend when it arrives to claim any.
  40. >That lesson (like many others) is supposed to be ingrained.
  41. >In her however, it failed to take root.
  42. >Because in truth, she knew that all within her tribe feared death just as much as the youngest do.
  43. >So they too, failed.
  44. >That fact always remained hidden somewhere behind their eyes, away from all others.
  45. >Not her, though.
  46. >The mark adorning her flank ensured that.
  47. >A rose represents a tie between others – love and friendship.
  48. >But unlike other flowers, hers is crystalline in appearance.
  49. >So although she could make ties with another easier than most, she also possessed insight to what lay within.
  50. >To the tribe, this was a blessing.
  51. >It meant that she could help out in certain matters, and even possibly become a leader in time.
  52. >To her however, this is a curse.
  53. >For it lead to knowing far more than she ever wanted to know.
  54. >Certain… truths, should remain unknown, always.
  55. >Such memories are thankfully locked away at this time.
  56. >That does little in the way of their mere presence, though.
  57. >Another bit of essence departs from her once more.
  58.  
  59. >All she needed to know – everything – is laid out here before her now.
  60. >She lacks the intensity of the flame that burns.
  61. >She lacks the wisdom of the wood that fuels it.
  62. >She lacks the grace of the wind that strengthens it.
  63. >What she lacks most of all, is company.
  64. >There on the pyre, becoming one with the ancestors, is the only other member of her tribe.
  65. >Crystal Rose is alone.
  66. >Everything happened so fast, without mercy, but, with reason.
  67. >Long, long ago, before her time, when the tribe was young, they made a grave choice: casting aside the great earth mother.
  68. >While half agreed, the other half, did not.
  69. >Disagreements lead to conflict, a great bloody one.
  70. >From the first stone cast, to the last body to fall, the great earth mother watched, and wept.
  71. >The battle came to an abrupt end after some time.
  72. >Those who survived, splintered into two groups, and went their separate ways.
  73. >Neither side cared to learn from what had happened.
  74. >Ignorance, arrogance, both festered.
  75. >Thusly, a curse was placed upon them, at least, that’s what happened to her tribe.
  76. >Many moons passed, with the curse never coming to pass, which reinforced their beliefs that they were in the right.
  77. >But all things are paid for, in time.
  78. >Within this very year, that payment finally came in the form of four spirits.
  79. >The first, war, beat its mighty dreams; calling upon all those to bring conflict from inside her tribe, and from the outside.
  80. >The second, illness, brought forth a great plague upon the land – spreading like wildfire from the plants, to the animals, and of course, to the ponies of her tribe.
  81. >The third, winter, conjured the fiercest blizzard imaginable to strip them bare.
  82. >The fourth and final was there all along, death, who claimed any and all.
  83. >Young and old; strong and weak alike perished the same.
  84. >Except for her.
  85. >No cost seemed worth this.
  86. >Yet, despite the cruelty of this calamity, it was entirely deserved.
  87. >To deny one’s own parent, and to slay one’s own kin; to never learn from one’s own mistakes, that is a crime to be paid.
  88. >It is a lesson that the tribe taught, but never learned from.
  89. >Again, except for her.
  90.  
  91. >The fire has died down a great deal since she let her mind float on.
  92. >In addition to what little remained of the pyre, only a little remained of the flame within herself.
  93. >From happiness, to sadness, all of those emotions and more, have become duller, like a worn out blade.
  94. >Although such a tool can be sharpened to be relied upon once more, there is no point.
  95. >This blade (her), is brittle and tired.
  96. >It should be allowed to rust away, and to finally let go at long last.
  97. >In spite of that desire, it cannot be granted.
  98. >Death will not claim her, for the great earth mother has deemed Crystal to remain living.
  99. >Here in the twilight hours, her magenta eyes glitter as the same as the few seen stars within the heavens high above.
  100. >Light, in almost all forms, is nearly gone.
  101. >Small puffs of warm air escape from her nostrils in short bursts.
  102. >Sounds that come from all around still make her ears swivel and twitch about.
  103. >Her silvery mane and tail gently move in the invisible wind that gently billows occasionally.
  104. >Somewhere, deep within herself, questions bubble to the surface.
  105. >Why was she chosen out of all other members of her tribe?
  106. >Was there not some pony more worthy?
  107. >Why does she live?
  108. >Why her?
  109. >Why?
  110. >Silence is the only answer that comes about.
  111. >In the lingering void, the embers have vanished entirely, leaving only a pile of frozen ash where the pyre once stood.
  112. >With no more heat left to resist it, the frigid air begins gnawing away at her very being.
  113. >Even if she were to let it tear her apart, death still would not claim her.
  114. >She would survive, suffer, and live on.
  115. >No matter what may happen today, tomorrow, or so on, she will not fall so easily.
  116. >But staying here in sorrow will do her no good, because in doing so, it would dishonor those who have fallen.
  117. >Although she may be young, lesser, and without the wisdom of those older, she must move.
  118. >Very slowly, she shifts in place.
  119. >Some snow, or perhaps ash, falls from the clothes that cling to her small frame.
  120.  
  121. >Some noise from elsewhere shatters the silence in an instant, giving her some pause.
  122. >It sounded so close, yet, so distant.
  123. >As she listens carefully with her complete attention, it becomes more familiar.
  124. >A voice.
  125. >The one who it belongs to is gone, though.
  126. >It doesn’t stop speaking, and several more familiar voices echo along with the first.
  127. >The words themselves are incoherent, but, hold a meaning.
  128. >None of it is malice however, it is something else entirely.
  129. >Understanding settles in, and with it, she knows now what she must do, for things are clear – crystal clear.
  130. >So with one last look to what once was, she says a silent prayer, then begins to depart away.
  131. >Many other snowy, ashen mounds are passed by as she solemnly treads along.
  132. >What few remaining homes still stand among the wreckage that was once the village, her village, her tribe, her home.
  133. >She does not dwell upon them currently, for the time for that has long since passed.
  134. >Looming over all, atop the hill, is her destination.
  135. >The great hall.
  136. >Unlike everything else here, it remains completely untouched.
  137. >Whatever the reasoning for its unspoiled nature is unknown, but then again, many things are unknown.
  138. >Snow softly crunches under her hooves with every step towards the building.
  139. >Upon reaching the door, she pushes hard against it; letting out a small grunt in the process.
  140. >Just as it seems as though it won’t move, it finally opens inward with a loud creak.
  141. >Some light from within briefly blinds her, but as it settles, her eyes linger on the space before her.
  142. >Several candles are still alight from the last time she was here.
  143. >A small fire gathered at the pit within the center of the room still burns as well.
  144. >The tables and shelves still hold various items.
  145. >This place feels frozen in time, like nothing were wrong.
  146. >If only that were true.
  147. >There, towards the back of the hall, is where the elders once sat, and would deliver wisdom.
  148. >Along the wall behind there, is the history of the tribe itself.
  149. >When she was younger, this place was so much more massive, more mysterious, than anywhere else around.
  150. >Now here as a young mare however, the hall is smaller, simpler overall.
  151.  
  152. >An uncomfortable feeling wells up from within.
  153. >Without another with her, it felt… wrong to be in here.
  154. >But after all that has happened, there is no reason to deny her further entry.
  155. >So in spite of whatever is felt, she must pass, she must.
  156. >Summoning everything that she is, Crystal carries one leg forward for a first step.
  157. >Once it is taken, the second comes easier, then the third, and so does the forth, too.
  158. >The door shuts quietly behind her, and a sudden burst of warmth surges throughout, pushing her further onward.
  159. >All of her being is drawn towards the wall at the back.
  160. >It takes her mere seconds to reach it, though once she does, the sheer size is incredibly humbling to behold.
  161. >Many times before in the past she has seen it, but now? It is much more different.
  162. >Ancient, arcane writings, and many, many pictures cover it from one end, to nearly the other.
  163. >Much time was spent carefully crafting this work of wonder, in fact, many lifetimes.
  164. >Starting from the very beginning, is where her tribe was birthed forth from the great earth mother.
  165. >She bestowed them with ties to the land; granting them the might and ability to tame it.
  166. >Harmony was had for a time, where they multiplied, became fruitful, and prosperous.
  167. >Everything was well, good, and just in the world.
  168. >Then came the great fall – casting aside the great earth mother, which lead to the battle, which lead to the splintering…
  169. >Her tribe lived on, traveling southward to where they are now.
  170. >Well, where she is.
  171. >Attempting to ignore that darkness, she turns to the final entry within the history – to what happened recently.
  172. >Unfortunately, nothing of what has occurred can be ignored.
  173. >So much loss.
  174. >So much pain.
  175. >It’s so…
  176. >She closes her eyes to shield them from the waters that threaten to escape from within.
  177. >Enough has been shed already – both and tears – so nothing more should be shed again.
  178.  
  179. >Her resolve strengthened, she refocuses her attention back to the history.
  180. >Many moons have passed since the split, but the other half of the tribe must still remain back in the northern lands.
  181. >Are they even alive, or have they, too, fallen like hers has?
  182. >Even if they still exist, would they accept her?
  183. >It is taught that grievances can be forgiven in time.
  184. >It is also taught that they can be paid for as well.
  185. >So to be the very last, is that not payment enough?
  186. >Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t.
  187. >The past itself cannot be changed, only learned from.
  188. >The present is one exists currently, living in the moment.
  189. >The future is sought after, and is what one wishes to persist through.
  190. >She swallows down a hard gulp of air, then nods slowly.
  191. >Certainty now reigns true inside.
  192. >Crystal is the last, she was chosen to bear the burden of her tribe, and thusly, to reconnect with the other half of the tribe.
  193. >The great earth mother has deemed it so.
  194. >Because that is why she lives – to tie the two halves together once more, just as a rose symbolizes the ties that bind one another.
  195. >Going around the village, she begins gathering what little is left: food, tools, clothes, and the such, all for the journey.
  196. >Among the last places to visit, is her home.
  197. >No flame burns within here, nor does a sound occur when entered.
  198. >Coldness, not just the physical kind, but the spiritual kind, dwells in this small space.
  199. >Despite the certainty she possesses, she does not linger here.
  200. >Fear, or something else, hastens her gathering.
  201. >Not a further thought is spared to her former home as she promptly leaves it, nor is any other for the rest of the homes.
  202. >A few tasks still remain to be dealt with before the journey can begin.
  203. >The first, a message is carved out in the large ancient oak tree at the heart of the village.
  204. >Whomever else arrives here needs to know of what once was this place.
  205. >The second, and third task lay within the great hall itself.
  206. >Unlike before, the door opens far easier this time.
  207.  
  208. >Yet now, no longer does the fire burn in the pit; only a smoldering pile remain.
  209. >Almost all of this place is dark, quiet even.
  210. >But there, a last flame still burns – a single solitary candle.
  211. >With its aid, and with a piece of bark, she makes a rough map for where the other tribe may be.
  212. >Almost everything is ready, save for one minor thing.
  213. >Crystal’s gaze falls upon the candle again, though now, this small light holds her attention captive.
  214. >Much like her, this is the last of its kind here.
  215. >And just the same, it too, must go.
  216. >Closing her eyes, one final set of prayers are uttered – one of thanks, protection, guidance, and lastly, what she needs most of all.
  217. >Hope.
  218. >May whatever follows after this, bring about a peace.
  219. >Her vision is set upon the last small flickering flame once more.
  220. “Farewell.”
  221. >She blew out the candle.

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