ask de writer

anonymous asked:

Was there any female writer in Shakespeare's England that you know of?

There were indeed, though fewer than men. Here’s a list of the notable ones that goes from a little before Shakespeare’s time to a little after:

  • Marguerite de Navarre, 1492-1549 (French writer of poems and plays, her works were translated into English in her time)
  • Mary Queen of Scots, 1542-1587 (wrote poems)
  • Elizabeth I, 1533-1603 (also wrote poems)
  • Isabella Whitney, c.1540s-? (secular poet. Possibly the first professional female poet in England)
  • Mary Sidney, 1561-1621 (sister of Philip Sidney, respected poet and writer of closet dramas - which are grander things than they sound like)
  • Aemilia Lanyer, 1569-1645 (poet. The section on Eve in her Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum is often regarded as one of the earliest ‘feminist’ works in British literature)
  • Elizabeth Cary, 1585-1639 (poet, playwright and translator. Likely the first English woman to write a public play)
  • Anne Clifford, 1590-1676 (writer, mainly in the form of letters and diaries. A patron of the arts and very highly regarded by John Donne)
  • Mary Wroth, c.1587-c.1653 (niece of Philip Sidney. Poet, closet dramatist and writer of prose romance
  • Lucy Hutchinson, 1620-1681 (poet, translator and biographer. Her Order and Disorder is a highly religious poetic rendition of the bible which offers rich comparisons to Milton’s Paradise Lost)
  • Margaret Cavendish, 1623-1673 (philosopher, poet, and writer ofThe Blazing World, one of the earliest science fiction pieces)
  • Katherine Philips, 1632-1664 (poet, translator and political writer. Her depictions of female friendship are often regarded as lesbianic)
  • Aphra Behn, c.1640-1689 (playwright, poet, spy, political writer, translator and fiction writer. Probably the first professional female playwright. An extremely erotic and homoerotic poet who wrote a novella with a black slave protagonist. Basically too interesting to be described in parentheses… Which is probably why Virginia Woolf mentions her in A Room of One’s Own. You can see why I stretched to Restoration literature just to include her.)
2

Ah, having to redraw the friends from behind was interesting. Also there is no significance to the order on that list.

ask from: @reversalmushroom

featuring: @darksoul4248, @pyrodarknessanny, @ask-de-writer, @pendletondreadful, @askbananapie, @immortan-dan, @applejackbot, @ask-luciavampire, @ask-a-colt-and-his-fox, @falliblecrowd74, @enderstine, @sephiroth179, @ask-the-survivor-ponies

and Gald

anonymous asked:

Top six rp partners

I love everyone in the rp community btw, but the people that I’m currently rping with (since a lot of my old rp buddies are currently inactive) that I think are hella cool are as follows- in no particular order

1. @ask-hamilsin-fam (amazing writer and Philip and Ana’s relationship is A1 in all our threads)

2. @ask-sam-seabury (my friend, my fav- is amazing and has an absolutely adorable muse whom they write perfectly)

3. @ask-adrienne-de-lafayette (awesome writer and I love all their ask blogs)

4. @americantraitor (haven’t rped with them in forever but they’ve been in the hamilask fandom for awhile so I like to think of us both as veterans also they’re incredibly cool and write Ben amazingly)

5. @therexllbemorexfus (all around stellar writer and cool person ngl)

6. @wineresponsibly-taketwo (haven’t talked a lot but they’re definitely cool and I love how they write Grantaire)

I might have given the same kind of compliments to each person but fuck it because it’s all true

A note about the two stories that I posted before I left.

They are set in the delightful AU of

Thomas the Writer

who has a wonderful blog and has been my friend for a long time.  

We have been doing a long standing running gag about De Writer’s amazing(ly dangerous and/or bizarre) teas.  That got worked into both tales.

He commissioned SUPRISE PARTY for a set price.

EDUCATIONAL TOY grew out of a part that had to be trimmed to meet Thomas’ budget.  It was too much fun not to develop into its own tale, which I did.  I gave it to him as a gift for so much friendship over so many years.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

Some more TEA LEAVINGS!  We are mining our archives to find as many of the old ones as we can.  These will be added to the main TEA LEAVINGS! post.

ask-de-writer asked: Uncle: I thank you for read of A Day in the Antique Trade. I have made you reader appreciation post for do so. Sorry I spring my know of Tia and Luna on you. They was good filly. Only mess up a little. Like that Edict of Banishment on me. A few other tiny thing like Nightmare Wars but learn real well and now make their old foster dad proud!

Thomas the writer: well like my father always tell me, kids will be kids, even thought that one time when nova almost sent the entire school building to the other realm once. and trust me it took me every ounce of energy to bring the entire school back to the real world. but still I’m still surprise that Tia and Luna are your daughters and hoping that she would have told me all about this sooner.

Celestia: do we have to argue about this tommy wommy

Thomas the writer: would you please stop calling me that, it still silly

Celestia: but I like calling you my tommy wommy, your special to me * she hug him*

Thomas the writer:…………….. sigh and your my special…………… my special

Celestia: oh come on now Thomas you can still call me that special name

Thomas the writer:……………. sigh (I so gonna hit my head for this) your my specialpony princess Tia

Celestia: oh you know how to make me happy, now I be right back, I got a special gift for you

Thomas the writer: *Thomas grab a paper bag and barf right in there, then throw the bag away* now I know the reason I broke up with her, no wait the other reason was of my mother is the demon queen, but still it nice to be with Tia again, she still the same pony that I knew a long time ago and since she is de-writer daughter, at least I will try to be nice

Celestia: here is your gift Thomas

Thomas the writer:…………….. what is it?

Celestia: it a Christmas sweater and it got a good santa face on it

Thomas the writer: but Tia it the middle of November

Celestia: I know Thomas, but I can’t help it, so I want you to try it on

Thomas the writer:……………….. (help me. Again)

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

ask-de-writer asked: Uncle: For question I have, you answer please. You like See Story part 1, I saw. Did you read the rest of tale or just part one? Need know for reader post. Thanks, De Writer. PS Have found Atlantis Sea Weed Tea! not bad, but a bit salty! Have send package with Dashie for your collection.

Dashie: so dad, what you think about the sea weed tea

Thomas the writer: a little salty like de-writer said, but taste pretty good. oh and to answer your question de-writer, I was able to read the see story part one when I saw it. I know I only read part one for sure. But I do enjoy reading it thought, as always brilliant work.

The door bell rang

Thomas the writer: dashie, can you see who that at the door

dashie: sure thing dad * she went to the door and open to see who it was, then she saw a giant squid. she stay for a moment and then close the door and went back to her dad*

Thomas the writer: so who was it dashie

dashie: ……………….. trust me dad, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

Keep reading

I was down when I posted . . .

Shall I even bother with posting a tale tonight?  Would anyone notice?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                                                                                                                                                               Posted 19 hours ago                                                                                                    3 notes                                                                                    

Tagged:  What would you like me to do?

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TEA LEAVINGS! : MLP Fan Fiction : Ask-the-Chan-Family AU

Return to theMaster Story Index

Return to MLP Fan Fiction

TEA LEAVINGS!

A Collection of the Thomas the Writer and De Writer’s

Running tea tale gags

By

Thomas the Writer and De Writer

©2017

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

ask-de-writer asked: Uncle: Have give reader appreciation post for read of See Story part 4. Much Thank you for that. // Is thank you for bee sting ointment to speed recovery from failed drone strike, Bees much hard to train for such work. Have find you package of Tea from Tunguska, harvest of 1907. Due to meteor, it was last harvest. Is good tea.

Thomas the writer: I’m glade the bee sting ointment is working for you, my grandfather teach me how to make it long ago, lucky for me i have his book on medicine i could make plenty

dashie: hay dad, do you have an ointment for snapping turtle

Thomas the writer: snapping turtle, why you need an ointment for that dashie

dashie: *she came in and had a snapping turtle by her cheek* well i could say is it a long and funny story

Thomas the writer: ……………………….. *face palm*

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

ask-de-writer asked: Hi there, Uncle! De Writer been really busy and stuff. So sorry to miss Mah Jongg game! To make up, I have bring you tea of High Mountain Green. Is fine tea. Get someone fix it that not burn water when cook.

Uncle: thank you de-writer for the generous offer of high mountain green tea. uncle will enjoy this tea very much. tohru get over here

Tohru: yes sensai

Uncle: go fix tea for uncle and one more thing don’t burn tea or your in trouble

Tohru: do you mean i get a whooping *ouch*

Uncle: uncle wasn’t gona say that but thanks for reminding me now go make tea

Tohru: sigh yes sensai

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

ask-de-writer asked: Hello, Uncle: It good to see again you and fine works of your shop. Keep on make the best antique to be find anywhere except the one I make. Story tales of you so fine it hard to say. To show veneration, I offer High Mountain Green Tea. It best of all tea for Uncle. Mah Jongg off for this night. Somepony come into my place and sneaky rub all secret marks off backs of tiles and put in honest dice in set. Was most terrible thing. If set honest, how we cheat each other fairly?

Uncle: well de-writer uncle very please and happy that you offer some of your best high mountain green tea to me i’m please of the taste and smell of the tea. and uncle will do best to keep the shop with high quality antic maybe you can put some of your best antic in my store one day. and one more thing i’m sorry that our game of mah jongg is cancel for the night

*out of nowhere a magic energy burst came appear right next to uncle showing rainbow pegasi*

rainbow dash: hey uncle i got the secret mark pieces from de-writer place

Uncle: take them to uncle room and one more thing here 10 buck to keep quiet about this

rainbow dash: make it 20

Uncle: aiieeee-yeaaah kids today fine 20

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

Keep reading

AMONG THE ROM, an RP (Page 3)

Return to the Master Story Index  http://ask-de-writer.tumblr.com/post/46353594577/master-story-index

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<==First Page (page 1) http://ask-de-writer.tumblr.com/post/82599010941/among-the-rom-an-rp-with-thewhispersisters

<==Second Page (PAGE 2) http://ask-de-writer.tumblr.com/post/91368461210/among-the-rom-an-rp-page-2

<==Fourth Page (Page 4)  http://ask-de-writer.tumblr.com/post/97993839040/among-the-rom-an-rp-page-4

<==Fifth Page (Page 5)  http://ask-de-writer.tumblr.com/post/99538074755/among-the-rom-an-rp-page-5                

<==Sixth Page (Page 6)   http://ask-de-writer.tumblr.com/post/101897764840/among-the-rom-an-rp-page-6                

<==Seventh Page (Page 7)   http://ask-de-writer.tumblr.com/post/107730037195/among-the-rom-an-rp-page-7         

<==Eighth Page (Page 8)  http://ask-de-writer.tumblr.com/post/114529953785/among-the-rom-an-rp-page-8               

<==Ninth Page (Page 9)   http://ask-de-writer.tumblr.com/post/116754393585/among-the-rom-an-rp-page-9        

<==Tenth Page (Page 10)  http://ask-de-writer.tumblr.com/post/125882677225/among-the-rom-an-rp-page-10

<==Eleventh Page (Page11)  http://ask-de-writer.tumblr.com/post/129803506425/among-the-rom-an-rp-page-11

<==Twelfth Page (Page 12)   http://ask-de-writer.tumblr.com/post/142918315180/among-the-rom-an-rp-page-12          

<==Thirteenth Page(Page13)  http://ask-de-writer.tumblr.com/post/152978841630/among-the-rom-an-rp-page-13

PAGE 3!

an RP

by

Ask-De-Writer and Whispersisters

© 2014 by Ask-De-Writer and thewhispersisters

xxxx words

Cover art by The Whisper Sisters

Writing begun 04/12/14

Prologue (from the end of Page 2)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper sighed heavily. “It’s all about control, isn’t it?”

She frowned. “I grow infuriated with my lack of knowledge. No. The Spirits of my world are not evil. But they are not helpful either.

“They gave me this new body and talents. Yet they neglected to give me the skills to control it. Or even tell me I had such vast magic powers. I discovered them by accident, and ever since, I’ve been accessing more and more powerful spells.”

She looked at Celestia in puzzlement. “You say my cutie-mark saved me? I didn’t even know it could do that until today.” She shook her head again. “The fairy lights at Rose’s lake, the magic lock on that Orange unicorn, that large dragon… I did none of that myself. It was my magic working through me.” She sighed heavily. “Is there some kind of mediation you could teach me to control my magic instead of it controlling me?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Luna nodded briskly. “If my sister will allow my interference in this, yes. There is a way. Your magic stems from the same part of your mind that dreams arise in. The manifestations of it up until now have been self controlled, as in what are called effective dreams. You know, where you are half aware and steer the dream yourself but it remains a dream. That is what these manifestations of your power are. Effective dreams expressed while you are awake.”

With a little justifiable pride, Luna added, “I should know. Where it comes to dreams, I am a bit of an expert.”

Celestia nodded agreement. “That you are, Sister. Esper had some other questions too.

“First, and foremost, yes, the safe and powerful use of magic IS all about control. Some very powerful sorcerers have been brought down by far weaker opponents who had better control of their powers.

“About your Cutie-mark, we might not have found it out at all but for the observation of a very concerned and observant filly. Your new daughter, Angel, saw what we all missed. I think that it is unique in all of Equestria. That symbol of magical protection is more than a mere mark. It is now a fully active part of your magical system.

“It was the mark that removed you to safety when you were near to trying to undo Creator Magic. It does appear act like a watcher. It will let you destroy yourself but not the world or those that you love. It is a complex thing. It will try to save you if it can. It will also work to save those that you love. Beyond that? Right now, we do not know. This is a wholly new thing to us.”

Luna agreed. “That does not mean that we cannot shape HOW you dream to put that power under safer control. That is where I come in. I have a different problem in doing this.

“Father. It is very likely that you know him both as De Writer and his disguise. If I find it out, even by accident, we will lose him again. Who knows how long it will take to relocate him in a safe way?

“I have already found the source of both your intense desire to help and serve those that you love and the cause of your lack of control. Helping you through that will be violently painful in an emotional way.

“The source of both is the same. You were twice unmothered brutally and without help. What that did was cause you to become Uroloki, the Vengeful Fire. Surviving that led you to family yet again.

“That time, you gave your life to save them. That was another sort of unmothering. Now, you are here. You have family with both Marchhare and with the Chasers. You have attached to my sister Celestia as a mother figure too.

“Do you see the pattern here in YOUR behavior and your past? Still, we can deal with it. It means that, to avoid a disaster for Celestia and I, I must enter your dreams through your magic itself so that I reach the very roots of those losses without touching the present.

“You will have to LIVE THEM AGAIN. I will be there to guide you and build the dreams that can help you to rule those things that have ruled you from inside.”

Celestia nodded her approval and said, “If my sister Luna will allow, I will be there too. I have been with her before on Dream Work but nothing so difficult or complex as this.”

Luna lifted her horn in approval, “I believe that to be a very good idea, Celestia. She trusts you as a mother already and this can only deepen that bond. It will give Esper strength if she will allow us to do this thing, knowing what pain it will bring her.

“Have you the courage to do it, Esper?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper set her jaw and nodded. “Aye…” She says, copying Wind’s preferred version of agreement. “I will allow both of you to enter my dreams and guide me.” She took a slow breath. “You need me to go back to my first unmothering? When I lost my birth parents and Wind?” She whimpered slightly. “Okay. Okay. I can do this.” She closed her eyes. “I’m going to fall asleep now. Just… just be there for me. Please.”

Esper lay down on her bed, and drifted back to sleep. As she fell asleep, her memories rushed back to when she was four. The Princesses saw the young catter sleeping in her bed, safe and sound.

Suddenly, a female Siamese cat, cut and bleeding , rushed into the room. “Esper!” Shia hissed. “Esper. Wake up, Baby”

Esper waked, and looked at her mother. “Mommy? What is it?”

Shia hushed her, “Go hide in your special spot, Baby. Now.”

Esper nodded, and ran to her closet. “Mommy? Where’s Wind? Shouldn’t Wind be here too?”

Shia smiled weakly. “Wind is hiding somewhere else, Baby. Now…” The cat choked, “Hide in your closet, and be quiet, okay? M-Mommy will come and get you when it’s safe.”

The little catter nodded, and disappeared into the closet. She was was quiet. Not a peep. Not even as she heard her Mother and father’s fighting stop.

Ask-De-Writer:

It was very strange. Esper had never felt something like this before. She was held in a warm embrace of feathers on one side and fur on the other.

The softest, gentlest voice that Esper had ever heard just warned, “Silence, Esper dear. We have you safe, my Sister of the Night and I.”

The the small catter nodded into that soft nest of feather and fur.

The handle on the door of the closet rattled. The door opened. A feral beast glared in, seeing nothing but more darkness. Its nose, drawing scent, was confused by the old shoes and hanging clothes. And darkness. It turned away, frustrated.

Soon there was nothing left in the little house but silence. Dead silence.

Luna slid out of the closet, where her wings of night and midnight magic had concealed her sister. White feathers and fur were revealed. A wing stirred.

Esper, the small catter, looked silently out from under that wing. She saw the strange sight of a dark horse with wings and a long horn outside the closet.

She quietly realized that there was ANOTHER HORSE in that small closet with her. That horse had wings and a horn too. Unlike the other, the one in the closet, holding her safe, was pure white.

There was a lesson there, which the small catter sorted out at once. Light and Dark had worked TOGETHER. They had both shielded her. Light cradled her close.

She nuzzled the catter as she waited. It became daylight. Still Mommy Shia did not come. Esper remembered the blood on her Mommy. She was about to whimper. She stilled herself.

Mommy Shia had said, “Not a sound.”

She made no sound, though her little chest heaved.

Esper crawled out from the comforting safety of that white wing and started to look through the house. As she did, she saw another strange sight. The two horses, light and dark, appeared to merge.

They appeared to be a Gray Cloaked stranger but Esper had seen it happen and knew that the stranger was the same two who had shielded her earlier.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper reached up her arms to the stranger, and as soon as she felt safe, the scene shifted.

The Crystal Tower was in ruins.

A much older Esper, dressed in her olive robes, stood sobbing over the empty robes of her fallen sisters.

“Sisters… no.”

She cried, tears streaming down her face. White, yellow, green, olive, and red robes lay empty. Not a body was to be found. Not even blood.

“What… what could have caused this?!”

Esper walked through the shattered crystal, the tiny pieces cutting into her feet. The pain, however, went ignored as she searched for the Grand Sister. The woman she had come to consider her mother.

“Grand Sister?!” The catter cried out. “GRAND SISTER?!” Surely the Grand Sister, oldest and wisest of the Alchemists, couldn’t have been defeated. “MOTHER?!” She called one last time.

The she saw it. The one thing she was dreading. The light blue robe of the Grand sister lay dangling from a shard of crystal.

“No…” Esper whimpered “No. No, no, no… please. Not again.” She fell to her knees. “M-Mother…”

She was about to grow from grief to rage. She felt the fire burning in her mind. But then… she felt the same presences from her child hood.

“I feel… calm?”

Ask-De-Writer:

There, picking their way over the shattered remnants of the Crystal Tower, were the Dark and Light horses with wings and unicorn type horns. The same ones that had been there for her in her closet as a four year old kitten.

The same ones who had somehow become a gray cloaked being that had comforted her and brought her here, those many years ago.

The white horse-thing said softly, “I wish that it were possible to spare you this, Esper. We are here for you.

“Do you wonder why we cannot spare you this disaster? Why only you have survived, of all the Sisters?”

As Esper stood, holding the empty robe of the Grand Sister, her second Mother, she nodded mutely. Tears obscuring all that she saw, she stared at the White Horse - - Thing? - - No, person. Whatever her form, those Horses were people, somehow.

She desperately needed an answer.

Softly, gently, the White Horse answered her, while wrapping a big wing around her. It was as soft and caring as she remembered.

“We cannot change this, Esper. The reason is simple. The past is fixed. No matter what we wish, not one tiny part of it can be changed at all. There is ONE thing that CAN change. You.

“You can learn and see things in a different and better way. Let me ask you a simple question. You were about to give way to rage and anger for this terrible thing.

“Remember the Grand Sister. Call her up clearly in your mind and heart. Now ask, what better honors her? Rage and anger or love and goodness?

“Hold those memories of your mother Shia, who gave her life for you, of the Grand Sister, who you knew and loved close. Remember this. The Loved Dead are always with us.

“Let your life both honor them and be something that they will share with you in joy. They live in you, if you will allow them in.”

The big White Horse had carefully guided Esper out of the ruin. She set Esper on a bench in the almost untouched meditation garden.

“Where I am from, Esper, I am a Ruling Princess Known as Celestia. The lovely Dark Horse is my sister, Princess Luna. Together we rule a land on a different world than this.

“I wanted you to know that for a reason, you will see it in a moment.”

Many hued magic gathered about the horn of Princess Celestia and carefully worked every splinter and fragment out of Esper’s feet.

Midnight magic, from Luna, reached out too. In seconds, Esper’s painfully pierced feet were whole and without pangs of any sort.

Looking up at the seated Esper, Celestia added, “We are the highest nobility of our land, Esper. We have come here to do all that we can for you. I told you that we can change nothing here but you, because this is the past?

“This is all your dreams. Your memory trying to change what cannot be changed. We care enough about you, to enter these dreams that plague you, even in your waking life, to help you to change the one thing that can be changed. How you feel about these things.

“Do you understand me, Esper?” she asked, putting a large wing about Esper, in a motherly hug.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper nods. “I think I understand… thank you.”

She smiled as the scene changed again.

This time, the catter was sitting on her bed. Her arms were wrapped around her legs, and her chin was resting on her knees. It was night time, and the whole house was sleeping.

Then, ever so softly, a voice called out to her “Esper~ Esper my love~” The catter froze. She knew that voice. It was Ico. Her first lover.

She also knew that the blind goat girl had been killed with the other sisters when the Temple had been destroyed. She got up from her bed and exited out the window.

She saw the cloaked figure. She watched as it lowered her hood. She almost cried as she saw the face of her lost love before her. But she knew it was a copy. A clone.

“So…” Esper smirked while walking up to Ico. “Fear sent you to kill me, huh?”

Ico nodded and smiled evilly. “Yes. But it’s strange. You show no fear. No… remorse?” Esper shook her head. “No. I don’t. I know that when I die, I die protecting those that I love, and those that love me. Do your worst, Shadow, for I know, even in death, that I will always be with my family. The loved dead always are.”

The Shadow drew a blade, and stabbed Esper through her heart. Esper laughed. Suddenly, in her dream, she is by herself.

The whole area became dark, except for her. It was almost if a spot light shone on her. She sank to her knees, and smiled at Celestia and Luna.

“I… I understand now. The secret to my magic. To my powers. It’s peace of mind and love.” She turned into her horse form.

“I didn’t lose my mothers at all. They live within me… don’t they?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Celestia gathered her Goddaughter/pupil/friend under her wing in a hug. “That is so. You were unmothered because you separated yourself from them. Rather than cherish, you hid them away. You avoided any real contact with those memories that could have supported you and sustained you. That is how you were unmothered.

“Now, you have reclaimed them. As you have said, they live within you. That is the reality. Our Loved Dead are always with us.”

Luna stepped forward and added her hug to Celestia’s. “It is an honor to be Godmother to so courageous a horse as yourself, Esper.

“I do know how difficult it was for you to face these things. The realm of Dreams is mine. Few could have done what you have. I hope that you are a happier horse now that you know the truth of those past things. For certain, you will have far better control of your magic.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper smiled as she hugged her mothers. “Thank you Luna and Celestia. Thank you… my mothers. I had no idea I still held onto my fear and rage from my past.”

She pulled back and wagged her tail happily. “I think… I’m ready to wake up now.”

Esper closed her eyes in her dream. She opened them back in reality. As she did, she came face to face with Angel Fluff. The young filly was pressing her snout against her Mother’s.

“Are you all better, Mama Esper?” Angel asked, her eyes were crossed from trying to look into Esper’s eyes.

Esper sat up and pulled the filly into a motherly hug. “Yes, Baby…” She realized that ‘Baby’ was the same term that Shia had called her. “Mama Esper is all better now. Thanks to your Nanas.” She looked at Luna and Celestia. “They helped me get all better.”

Angel pulled back from Esper and looked at the two Princesses. “Thank you for helping Mama Esper get better, Nana’s. I was so scared when she disappeared.” She leaped/glided onto Celestia’s back.

“You brought her back to me!” She hugged the monarch around her neck.

Ask-De-Writer:

Meg, sitting guard on the caravan’s steps on her own time, heard the voices from within and opened the door. She was just in time to see Angel grabbing Celestia’s neck in a big hug.

Grinning, because she was sure, from what she was seeing, that all had gone well, she called quietly but with fake authority in her voice, “Release that Princesss at once, young assassin!”

Stepping in, which crowded the caravan a bit, Meg added her wing hug to Angel, while smiling at Luna and Esper. “Angel was not the only one to worry when you brought Esper back, unconscious, like that.”

Shifting her attention to Esper alone, she added, “I can see that the Dream working went well for you. I am glad.”

Turning to the Princesses with a deeply troubled expression, Meg asked formally, “Permission to make a request about my Service to your Highnesses?”

Luna nodded, Celestia tried, but Angel’s hug interfered a little. Somehow, Celestia did not look as if she minded the small one on her back at all.

“Speak, Your Grace, Lady Megan Blackberry IV, Duchess Camarg,” Luna replied.

Meg bit her lip as she tried to hold back tears. “I do not wish to resign from Your Service, your Highnesses. Yet, I have been greatly taken by these Rom. The more that I learn of them, the more that I wish to become one of them.

“They do not go closer to Canterlot than the Shadow of its Walls. How can I serve you, and be of them too?”

Luna grinned. “Do you know, Meg, that WE had exactly the same problem, just over 600 years ago? Our good friend Marchhare, the Ghost Who Guides, told us that the nation needed us too. He gave us let to go and be in Canterlot as much as needful. We stay in touch through our Foster Father, De Writer, placing notes into the Chronicle.

“We love the Rom, and Equestria too. In that, we are no different than you. No different than any of the Rom, either.

“You would make an excellent Free Knight, working for us as a guardian of the Rom. Would that answer your need, Meg?”

Meg’s tears had changed to ones of joy.

Celestia agreed, “That is an excellent choice that you have made, Meg. We will see you, as often as we can exercise our ability to be Rom.

“There is no great hurry in the transition. We shall summon your son to Court at Canterlot. There, you will abdicate as duchess and he will assume the mantle in an orderly way. We will install you as a Free Knight and see you equipped properly with a small, two wheel caravan of Rom make.”

She grinned as she added, “The last thing that you will need is a caravan with Pony Made Wheels! You will need something that is made to last!”

Meg bowed to the Princesses and then turned to Esper. She smiled serenely, now. “I need to thank you, especially, Esper. It was seeing how well the Rom accepted you, as different as you are, that gave me the courage to do more than merely watch and wish.

“You are an inspiration to any who get to know you. Thank you again for this great gift.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper blinked in surprise. “I inspired you? Oh my…”

Her horns sparkled in response. She giggled at the shocked faces of Angel and Meg.

“Oh. Right. As it turns out, my magic is linked to my emotions. I now have full control over my powers. Finally.”

Angel 'Oh'ed’ at Esper’s explanation. “Yay! Mama’s all fixed!” She leaped up while fluttering her wings, causing herself to hover. “Oh! Lookit! I’m flying!”

Esper gasped and caught her filly with her purple magic. “Yes, Baby… I know but…” She lowered the excited horse to the floor. “Remember what Mama Breeze said? You have to keep your hooves on solid ground until she tells you otherwise.”

Angel sulked and stopped fluttering her wings. “Awww~”

Esper rolled her eyes. “And don’t think you can win me over with your puppy-dog eyes, either.”

She got out of her bed and places Angel on her back. “Shall we all go see the others? I’m certain they must still be worried about me.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Meg nodded, “They are. There is a reason that I was sitting watch on the steps.”

Among the gathered watchers were Clestia’s Guard and the surviving members of Luna’s Guard as well. They had seen Meg on the caravan steps and sensibly concluded that their best function would be to keep back gawkers, those that they had observed as family or close friends excepted.

As they saw the caravan’s dutch door open, they made sure that the immediate area was cleared. Esper stepped down first, with Angel on her back. She was followed by Meg and both Princesses.

As the Princesses emerged, the Guards led off a pony cheer and clapping. Meg, slightly frosted at the unspoken chauvinism, leaned her head back and let out a Rom trill. The watching Rom picked up on it. To the slight embarrassment of the Guards, both Celestia and Luna joined the trill.

Gust stepped up to Esper and asked seriously, “Are you up to the magic and drumming for one last Sky Dance before the Fair closes? We wish to honor their Highnesses by dancing The Weight of the Crown. Black Lotus will be joining us in a combined performance.

“If you cannot, we understand. Marchhare has agreed to drum for us if you cannot. We have flute, violin, and lyre already arranged for.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper bowed to Gust “I would be honoured to play the final show for you.” She righted herself, and smiled brightly. “I can’t wait to play again.”

Angel giggled. “Can I play too, pweeeease?”

Esper looked back at her daughter. “Hmm. While your hooves are too small to beat a drum, or pluck a string… I do have the perfect task for you. In fact… if Meg is willing, this could be apart of your training.”

Angel gasped and leaped down. She looked excitedly at her Mother. “What?! What is it?” Her tail wagged happily.

Esper looked at Meg, and then back to Angel. “You and Meg could be watchers. Too many times has the show been troubled with hecklers. You and Meg keep a watchful eye, and deal with any, so that I and the Princesses don’t have to.”

Angel turned and faced Meg. She trilled happily. “Can we do that, Auntie Meg? Pwease? I wanna be a Watcher!”

Ask-De-Writer:

Meg cocked her head at the excited Angel and nodded. “We can do that. Being a Watcher means more than just seeing something bad happen. I am war trained. There are ways to take down a unicorn if we have to.

“For now, Angel, you will be my extra eyes. I will show you what to look for and what is harmless. We will have a good number of unicorns in the crowd.

“They are the really dangerous ones. A pegasus would have to show himself and directly interfere with some of the best fliers in all of Equestria. Too risky. Unicorns can strike from a distance but they mostly have to see their targets. That means that we can see them too.”

Meg gathered Angel from Esper’s back and they trotted off together. They were conferring quietly as Meg led Angel down the midway. Once in a while Meg pointed to something with a wing.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper sighed happily as Meg and Angel patroled the crowd. She turned to Gust.

“I shall play for you. But I am curious. Whom are my band mates this evening?”

Meanwhile, Angel was listening raptly as Meg taught her the tricks of crowd watching. To focus on groups, not just individuals. She also taught the young filly that their wings could detect ripples of magic.

When Angel asked how, Meg explained that since all horses had some rudimentary connection to magic, all species could sense it if taught how. As it turned out, pegassi wings were sensitive to magic.

Ask-De-Writer:

Gust grinned. “I think that you know them already, Esper. They are the buskers that you played with earlier, before your change.”

Esper nodded happily.

Wandering through the crowd, in a seemingly casual way, Meg explained to Angel, “Our wings can detect magic, my dear, because we ARE magic. Most do not even waste a thought on it. They just fly or move clouds or even rest on them. No other pony or any other creature at all can do that. Pegassi are imbued with magic.

“Unicorns use their horns to do things. They pick things up or move them. They even teleport, if they are skilled enough. They are proud of their magic because you can see it glow as they do things. It is obvious. Pegasus magic is pretty obvious too, but unicorns do not think about it much because WE DO NOT GLOW when we fly or push clouds around.

“Earth ponies handle things all the time. If they build, it is strong and will last. What they plant, grows if growth is possible at all. Magic too.”

Angel was looking all about her in wonder, sensing and beginning to understand the magic that surrounded her for the first time. She had her wings lifted a little to feel it better.

She was staring at her new teacher in adoration. Meg, in showing her something of being a Watcher, had opened her eyes to a whole amazing world that had lain hidden by being the commonplace.

The Whisper Sisters:

As Angel kept watch with Meg, Esper walked to her spot and adjusted her drum. She bowed to the gathered Rom and ponies. “Ladies and Gentlecolts. Fillies and colts, horses and ponies of all ages… welcome to the final show of the famous Chaser Sisters.” She used her magic to enhance her voice so everyone could hear her. “As this is the final performance at this fair, I will be accompanied by buskers. And,” she smiled “We shall be performing 'The Weight of the Crown’.”

her announcement was met with applauses and Rom trills. She bowed one final time and sat at sat down. She spoke in her normal voice to the Chasers. “Sisters. If you could take your starting positions?“ She turned to her flutist. "If you could start us off, please?”

Angel and Meg were still searching searching the crowd as the music began and the Sky Dancers took to the sky. The little filly’s wings were raised as she tried to focus on any magic that might be cast suddenly. “Do you feel anything, Commander Meg?” she asked, adopting a more official tone for her official role.

Ask-De-Writer:

The performance, both in the air and on the ground was well underway. Black Lotus and the Sky Dancers together were an unbeatable draw. Almost every eye was turned their way.

It was that ALMOST. Even Meg was stealing a glance now and again. Angel bumped her and pointed, keeping quiet, as she had been taught. Meg’s eye followed the pointing wing.

Patting Angel in silent praise, Meg slid through the crowd as if she was oiled. She was following the pointed wing of her small partner. Toward the back of the crowd, toward the many booths and stalls.

They found him, stealthily lifting a cash box out of a booth with his magic. Meg did not waste time with words. She hurled a small, sharp metal star at the off blue, green blotched, unicorn. Being occupied with the theft, he failed to notice the star until it hit the side of his neck.

Shocked, the ugly unicorn dropped the cash box in startlement, squalling in pain. While he was recovering his wits, Meg was on him literally. She landed on his back and slapped a metal cap over his horn! Reaching under his chin, she grabbed the flailing straps and whipped them back, under his neck and around where she knotted them swiftly, tangling some of his mane in the knot. He tried to rear and throw her off. Unneeded.

Meg had already bailed off of him an drawn a Guard Regulation short sword. As he went up, the sword poked him gently in the exposed belly, barely drawing any blood.

He squalled again, and fell over backward. Meg was on him in the instant. Before he quite comprehended his disaster, his right forehoof and left hind were manacled together.

Angel was standing guard over the scene of the crime and combat. A pony was about to join the fray. Angel tripped him and sat on his neck to hold him down.

She leaned forward and explained that the unicorn was caught stealing and that Meg was a Royal Guard in disguise.

The Whisper Sisters:

“We are official Knight Watchers.” Angel said with pride, as Meg read the thief his rights. She hops off the other pony’s neck, and stared him down.

“Commander Meg and I were on the look out for potential trouble-makers.” She pointed in the opposite direction. “Move along, Sir, or be fined for trying to interfere with an official arrest.”

The pony muttered a, “Sorry,” and walked away with his head hung low.

Angel turned towards Meg, and trotted over to the would-be thief. “You Trouble-maker.” She snorted, giving the unicorn her firmest look.

“How dare you steal hard-earned coin from the Rom?” She puffed out her chest. “You should be ashamed of yourself. Princess Celestia and Princess Luna will hear about this. Just you wait, you… you… meanie-pants.” She nodded her head, somewhat proud of her final insult.

Meanwhile, Esper felt the disturbance through her web of magic. However she ignored it, and kept playing, making certain not to miss a beat. “Atta girl, Angel.” She whispered quietly to herself.

Ask-De-Writer:

Meg put a wing around Angel and said seriously, “That was a really good call in catching this creep. You did just as well in stopping that pony from interfering. That took real guts. He was twice your size or more. You will make a great Knight someday.”

The pony that Angel had stopped from interfering came back, leading two Royal Guards in their armor. He pointed out Meg and Angel.

The Major nodded and trotted over to Meg. He assessed the situation at a glance, including Angel keeping stray ponies from trying to pick up the dropped coins or the whole cash box.

He said, “Excellent work, Sargent Blackberry! We will take him over from you, so that you can return to patrol.” He signed and Hawthorne gave Meg another horn cap and fetter set.

The pony watched drop jawed. “They really ARE Guards?”

Hawthorne nodded, “Meg is. Brilliant at undercover, like now. Angel is working with her under Royal permission to determine if she should become a Squire toward Knighthood. That is the buzz all over the Guard camp.”

As they were taking custody of the prisoner, Hawthorne spoke directly to Angel. “You can return those coins now. We have formally witnessed that they were dropped during the attempt to steal them.”

Angel seriously set to work returning all the coins to their proper places in the cash box. She then returned it to the booth.

Behind them, the dance was over, a fading knot of purple magic in the sky and on the ground.

The Whisper Sisters:

Angel flapped her wings happily at all the praise she was receiving. There was already talk among the guards of her becoming a squire. She was also happy that she helped with an arrest.

“I didn’t know I was so strong,” she said to Meg.

The two made their way back towards Esper and the others.

“Do you think this is my special talent?” Angel asked curiously. “Being a knight? I mean, I’ve heard of ponies joining the guard and earning their marks… I hope that happens to me.”

Esper smiled at the two as they arrived. “And what have you two been up to?” the pinto asked innocently, not wanting Angel to know that she was keeping a magical 'eye’ on her. “Anything exciting?”

Angel puffed up her chest. “Mama! Commander Meg and me stopped a bad pony trying to rob the Rom! She arrested the pony and I helped to stop other ponies from getting in Meg’s way! I was really brave!”

Esper gasped dramatically. “My Goodness. What a brave knight-squire in training you are!” She ruffled her daughter’s mane affectionately.

Ask-De-Writer:

Meg took Angel’s explanation a bit further. “First, it was Angel who spotted the criminal magic in use, not me.

“Second, Angel followed orders accurately and well, with the proper degree of initiative.

“Third, Angel, you did stop the interference with the arrest. You are not that strong. You did something far better than mere strength. You used your brains and real bravery.

“You tripped a pony four times your size and then kept him down by sitting on his neck while you informed him of the true situation.

“About marks, none can say. They are magic and happen.”

Meg scanned the passing crowd automatically, watching the dust rise from the hooves of the passing ponies and looking for signs of any problem. She turned back to Breeze and Esper.

“Angel has real potential as a Squire. She will need you to teach her to fly properly. I can think of no better teachers for that. I do not want her to join the Guards. As a Free Knight with the Rom, I will train her. In this, I have already gained Royal approval.

“The Princesses have given me a particular job to do. I am to guard the Sky Dancers. They have decided, after witnessing the risks as well as the beauty of what you do, that you need someone who has their authority no matter where in the Kingdom we may be.”

Glancing down, Meg relaxed some. Angel, wings partly spread, was scanning the crowd.

Earnestly, she went on, “I do not want to just be a guard. I would like to learn an instrument or some other thing useful to the act. May I?”

The Whisper Sisters:

Angel’s ears perked up, as she chanced a glance at Meg. “You’re gonna travel with us and train me?” She giggled, and went back to watching the crowd. “Like… to use a sword and stuff?” Her wings flickered as she felt some magic being used. She hopped up onto Meg’s head to get a better view.

“Oh. It’s just a Rom taking down her booth,” she said, somewhat dejectedly.

Esper giggled, and looked at Breeze. “We have no qualms with you wanting to travel with us. Nor do we mind if you guard the acts.”

She took time to think. “As for learning an instrument? Well… that depends on Marchhare. He was the one who taught me how to play. If you have the skill to play an instrument, then I’m certain he will be glad to teach you.”

Angel looked down from her perch on Meg’s head and smiled at her. “Well… she is pretty skilled at arresting bad guys… I’m sure she could easily play an instrument.”

Ask-De-Writer:

With a slightly wicked grin, Meg reached up and removed the filly from her head. Cradling her close, Meg reached in and tickled Angel in the pocket of her wing root.

As the filly squirmed and wriggled, Meg pronounced, “I can already play the tickle-fluff! Listen to that tune!”

More seriously, Meg said, “I will be needed in the Guard for a while yet. We have the Draytown trials to do and then, in Canterlot, We have that Major Upton’s Treason trial. After that, we have to do my abdication of Camarg’s throne in favor of my colt.

“Once that is all done, I can be installed as a Free Knight of Equestria. Then I can bring my little caravan to join you. If luck is with us, I should be able to meet up with you at the Roan-Oak Fair.”

Breeze, who was busy gathering the stakes and decorated ropes of the Sky Dance Stage space, responded, “Roan-Oak is a good choice. Since they are the only Weekly Fair in Equestria, if we miss you, we can just stay over and do the next fair.”

Gust was folding their awning as she said, “We could really use either flute or lyre to go with Esper’s wonderful work on the tone drum. Even T'ang are impressed with her skill and that is not a respect easily won.”

Puff, taking the awning frame apart, asked, “Is there truth to the rumor that the Princesses are gifting you with a small caravan?”

Happily, Meg replied, “Of Rom make! A two wheeler. Celestia herself is going to craft the wheels!”

Going to minor dejection, Meg said, “Now, I have to go and help Celestia and Luna to pack up.” Giving a wave as she left, she called, “See you in Roan-Oak!”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper nudged Angel after Meg. “Go with her, Little one. You can help your Nana’s pack up.”

Angel beamed, and ran after Meg. “Auntie Meg! Wait up!”

Esper turned back to her sisters, and noticed that most of the work was already done.

“Huh. You girls work quickly. There isn’t anything left for me.”

She turned her head towards Dark’s knife booth. “If any of you need me, I’ll be lending a hoof to dear Dark.”

She smiled, and teleported over to her blade sister. “Hello, Dark. Need a hand with your booth?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark was flapping at a hover, tongue in the corner of her mouth as she concentrated on the knot before her.

“As a matter of fact, Esper, I could use some help. Dew got at these awning ties and they are really tight!”

Esper looked up at the ties. All along the front of the booth’s awning tendrils of purple magic slithered through the knots like snakes. The knots all slid open and the awning feel free.

Dark dropped to the ground and began to break down the awning poles that had fallen flat now that they no longer had the support of the fabric.

Companionably, the two continued to work as a team. In short order, the whole booth and all of Dark’s stock was neatly packed and stored.

The grinning Dark said, “Such fine help should be rewarded!”

She produced two chocolate and nut dipped twists. “Just about the last ones that Luna made before they began to pack up!”

Looking across the way, as they shared the treats, they saw the sad look that Luna was giving as she carefully poured her used cooking oil into a grease pit. Her magic was thoroughly cleaning all of the tools and pots from her booth. Meg and Angel were neatly packing everything, nesting smaller pots into larger ones and generally making compact bundles of it all.

Soon Luna and Celestia, the Rom, would have to become Luna and Celestia, Princesses of Equestria and assume the Mantle of responsibility for a Kingdom, once again.

The Whisper Sisters:

Angel being Angel, the curious filly found a knights helmet hidden amongst the Princess’s belongings. She put it on. Alas… it was much to big for her. Thus, the little filly looked more like a turtle than the actual knight that she thought she would. Still… it didn’t bother her, as she sat proudly and announced in her best Royal Court voice, “Behold! I am Knight Angel Fluff! Free Knight of the Realm of Equestria!”

Knight Angel Fluff!

Esper trotted over, and bowed in front of Angel. “Oh fairest Knight Angel Fluff. Thou art the bravest of the knights in all the lands. The Princesses must be truly grateful to have such an honest and caring knight in their service.” She booped her filly’s nose. “Alas… tis time for bed for the fair knight. Say your fare-thee-wells to your Nanas.”

Angel turned (somewhat) haphazardly towards Celestia and Luna. “Fare thee well, My Princesses. Tis a shame that I will not see you for some time.” She placed a small hoof over her heart. “But! I shall keep you here, in my heart, until our next meeting.” She turned to Meg. “You too, Commander Meg…”

Ask-De-Writer:

Meg grinned hugely and replied, “I shall hope to see thee within the space of a week, Sir Angel Fluff!”

Plucking the helmet from Angel’s head and seating it to her own, she added, “I wondered where I had misplaced my Chanfron! Thanks for finding it, Angel.”

She gave the happily silly filly a big hug and said, “Truly, I am looking forward to having you as my squire. Now go with your mothers and get ready for bed. You will be starting the Roan-Oak Pull tomorrow. That will be your first real Pull.

“There is no truer test of being Rom than the Pull.”

She cast a sad glance about at the empty area of field that had been a busy Midway only a short time before. Now all the caravans showed, dinner fires already going in front of many of them.

The wagons of Town Ponies with their booths, games and trades were still being packed for hauling away. It was a testimony to the efficiency of the Rom that a lifetime on the roads gave them.

Turning, Meg caught Luna with a tear in the corner of her eye as she watched Angel, cuddling her mothers while nibbling a skewer of roasted vegetables before going to bed.

Luna put a hoof over Meg’s shoulders and said, ”Thank you, Meg. If it was not for your diligence in searching out records, we could never have put that family together. That is one of the best things that we have done in a long time.

“Kingdoms demand so much time that the small things can get lost. Small things like that abandoned filly.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper looked at Breeze, as Angel slept snuggled between them. “What an exciting week this has been.” She whispered.

She then looked around the fire at her family. Puff, Gust, Whisk, Marchhare, Dark, and Black Lotus.

“I got married, found a daughter, and learned how to control my magic.” She sighed, and nuzzled Breeze’s neck.

“Would you all mind if we slept out here tonight? Just like we did when I first arrived in Equstria?”

“I’m… feeling rather emotional tonight for some reason, and well, I would rather enjoy it if we were together in one group. Does that make sense?” She asked, somewhat lamely. “It feels as though I am rambling.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Looking into the fire and poking it up with a stick, Whisk spoke for the sisters, “That sounds like a fine idea, Esper. We would love to do it. There is no reason to be inside a caravan on such a night as this.”

Dark replied seriously, “It is easier for me to watch for trouble makers when I am outside.“

I just nodded and settled down where I was.

Black Lotus did a few stretching exercises, turned in place a few times, like a cat settling in, and gracefully settled to earth.

We were soon all sleeping together.

Have I mentioned that the sun rises far too early in the summer?

The Whisper Sisters:

The next morning found Angel watching the horizon. The sun was rising magnificently, and she was staring at it in awe. That, and she was feeling somewhat saddened. Her little tail flicked back and forth sadly. She suddenly turned her head as she felt Esper’s gaze upon her. “Good morning, Mama. Did I wake you up?”

Esper shook her head, “No, Little one.”

She whispered as not to disturb the others. “I was a little curious as to why there was an empty spot where a little filly should be sleeping.”

Angel smiled, and walked back to her mothers. She snuggled between them again and sighed.

“What bothers you, Baby?”

Angel whimpered and nuzzled Esper’s side. “The sun rising reminded me of how much Imma gonna miss Nana Celestia.” She looked up and met her mother’s gaze. “I just met them, and now they have to go away. I don’t even know when they’re gonna come back.”

Esper lovingly nuzzled the top of her daughter’s head. “I know how you feel, Angel. I feel the same way. Celestia and Luna are as much mothers to me as I am to you. Celestia even more so than Luna.” She turned her gaze to the rising sun. “I love them both, and will miss them greatly until I see them again. However… that doesn’t sadden me.”

She looks down at Angel. “Don’t be sad that they are gone. be happy that you got to met them. And will again.”

Esper smiled and Angel did too. “Now. Be a good girl and go wake up your Papa.” Angel giggled wildly as she hopped up, and ran over to Marchhare. She used one of her wings to tickle his nose. “Wake up, Papa! Wake up!

Ask-De-Writer:

Slightly groggy in those first awakening moments, I managed to snag that wing and pull the young miscreant close for a hug. Can’t let them get away with waking up their elders without appropriate “punishment.”

Black Lotus and Luna had the breakfast fire going already. How did they manage it so quietly that nohorse noticed? The hot Rom Black tea was ready, and the batter cakes were on the griddle. Meg, in full Guards Armor was standing beside her Liege, tending the vegetable skewers. And grinning. Almost ear to ear.

Seeing me looking at them cooking breakfast, she snorted, “Being dead for eight hundred years hasn’t weakened your appetite any! Not to mention, that experience has taught you what to look for instantly on getting up! Grab a plate and mug! Fast. The others are starting to move!”

That was the best advice I had got all day, so I took it. Angel beat me to the first plate and mug by fractions of a second. The young have to win small races often. It builds confidence.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper stood up and yawned. She nudged Breeze gently. "Wake up, Love. Breakfast is ready.”

She trotted over to the food line, and collected what she wanted. She then carried her food over to where Marchhare and Angel were sitting, and began eating.

While she ate politely, Angel gorged herself on her breakfast. “Mmm! This is so yummy!” she said, her mouth full of food. Angel used her magic to clamp the filly’s mouth shut.

“Angel!” Esper said firmly “That isn’t very polite to talk with your mouth full.”

Angel lowered her head in shame. “Imma sorry, Mama. Nopony taught me how ta eat proper.”

Esper sighed and her expression softened. “I’m sorry, Honey. I forgot.” She nudged her daughter’s side gently. “Don’t feel bad. Just eat how Mommy eats, okay?” Angel nodded happily, and copied Esper’s eating behaviours.

Angel swallowed thickly. “Are we gonna pull today? Huh? Are we? I can’t wait to pull!”

She finished her food, and hopped around excitedly. Her little wings were flapping widely. “Can I pull in front, Mama Breeze? Please?” She hopped up to Breeze, and planted her forehooves on her chest. “Please? Imma big girl! I wanna pull in the front!”

Ask-De-Writer:

Breeze fended her daughter off gently. “Yes, dear, you can. In fact, you will have to be in front. It is the only Hitch that makes sense.

“We will have a whipple tree between Esper and I, equipped with a singletree in front for you and a big doubletree in back for Esper and I. I will be on the Right, with the brake line and I will call the cadence to get us started.” She saw Angel’s blank look.

Smiling, she said, “Don’t worry, Fluffy Pants. Every horse has to learn these things. It will not take long for you, too. Let’s go over to the caravan and start sorting out the parts that we will need and setting them up. You will learn their names as we do it.”

They all three walked over to their caravan home. Breeze opened the under deck storage compartment and began to pull out long an short pieces of metal bound hardwood. She named each part as she took it out and laid it on the ground where it would go, when the Hitch was assembled.

With Angel and Esper helping, the Hitch went together smoothly, if a little slower than an experienced family would have done it. Soon, their harnesses were all attached.

Breeze ran both her wife and their daughter through drills on how to properly warn the others and drop the Hitch. She also worked with them on the starting cadence and how to make a turn.

Like any good Rom, Breeze was a perfectionist on Pulling technique and etiquette. When she was happy with the progress of her pupils/family, she let the brake line go, calling, “Pull! Pull Left! Pull right! Left! Right!”

The big caravan started to move, slowly but gathering speed to the proper steady pace that would eat the many miles between Draytown and Roan-Oak. As they were Pulling toward the Fairground Exit, they passed by the Royal Procession preparing for the many trials needed to sort out the Draytown mess.

Celestia, now in her Royal finery and crown, took the liberty of giving them a wave as they passed by. Luna stood proud but a tear leaked from the corner of her eye.

The Whisper Sisters:

Angel called to her Nana’s as she kept Pulling, “Bye Nana Luna! Bye Nana Celestia! I’ll see you later okay?!”

As they passed Meg and her guards, the little horse called her farewells to Meg as well. “Bye Auntie Meg! See you in a week or so!”

The three caravans belonging to Marchhare and his group; the Chaser Sisters, and Breeze and Esper exited the fair grounds. They separated from the other groups as they took their own road towards the Roan-Oak fair.

Esper sighed quietly. Her and Breeze’s coach was the last in the line, so it gave her and Breeze a chance to reflect, “As much as I enjoy playing, I enjoy relaxing even more.”

She watched as Angel watched two birds go fluttering by. “And I was also itching to get away from such a large crowd. I like other ponies and horses, but after a few days, well…” She knickers in frustration, “You know what I’m saying?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Breeze whickerd in amusement. “I do, Dear. We all do. It is one of the great reasons that the Rom will not settle anywhere. We like the crowds and excitement. We also like the small groups of family and friends and the constant changes that the Road brings us.”

She paused long enough to call, “Angel, sweet! The birds are fun but remember to hold your line. You have the lead and set our path! Keep it true! That is part of what you need to learn about Pulling!

“There you go! Much better!”

“We had a good time. We earned some needed coin. Now we get to relax and play the Rom way. You will see. We think that we have the best of all that Equestria has to offer.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper laughed at Angel and her serious face. “She is so strong for one so young. And our fates, it seems, are so similar.”

She sighed, and looked sideways at Breeze. “Tell me more of the Rom, my love. I wish to know more about Roan-Oak.” She smiled. “There is so little that I know about your way of life. And while I know that I cannot know all of it, I would like to try.“

Angel knickered cutely, her small ears twitching as two flies decided to play near them.

"Shoo! Begone!” She shook her head to discourage them. As it turned out, it only ENcouraged them to bother her more.

“Mama!” she whinnied, turning her head briskly to look at Esper. “Can you use your magic to clear my head of these flies? They’re distracting me!”

Ask-De-Writer:

Esper managed a smile instead of the giggle that was trying to surface. A fine pale purple magic encased Angel’s head. The flies, discouraged, went to seek easier prey.

Angel, head high, leaned into the Pull and was doing a fine job of keeping the caravan on its proper track.

Breeze thought for a moment, gathering her words. “Roan-Oak and the Rom go back a long way. About 600 years ago, Luna and Celestia discovered the Rom at the Canterlot Fair. We had been concealed from their attention by greedy nobles who were keeping our tolls and fees for themselves.

“Because of that 200 years of theft, the Princesses declared in both Edict and Proclamation that Rom need NEVER pay any toll or fee on their Royal Roads and connected Royal Lands, like fairgrounds and waysides for camping.

“But about Roan-Oak, the Squire of the tiny hamlet of Roan-Oak was one of Celestia’s Guards. Because he was among the lowest of nobles, he was able to understand some of our plight.

“Getting good supplies was a real problem for us, back then. He promised that if we could get to his hamlet on the Wednesday Market Day, that we could get the best that his ponies had.

“The road was bad but the supplies were the best. We Rom started bringing in loads of gravel and rock to make the road better a little at a time. The quality of the Roan-Oak supplies made it worth the work.

“When Luna and Celestia found out what we were already doing, they made the Roan-Oak Road one of their excellent roads. Roan-Oak prospered on the Rom trade. That made other merchants at other fairs offer us better goods and supplies too. If they did not, it only took a word to a Roan-Oak merchant and we could get whatever was needed at a fair price.

“We Rom owe Roan-Oak our best and we give it freely because they not only give us the best, they have made others do so too. We have long memories, we Rom. Especially for friends.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper nodded. “Oh, Wow. That is impressive.”

She fell into silence as she thought about what she was told. “I had some idea that the Rom were treated as second-class citizens, and in some regards, I guess we still are…” Her thoughts went back to how that shopkeeper had treated her and Breeze whilst they were shopping for Angel’s gifts. “But I had no idea that until the Princesses intervened… as well as Roan-Oak, that they had it that bad.”

Angel giggled. “Mama Esper and Me are part of a big family now, aren’t we, Mama Breeze?” the young filly asked without turning her head, or loosing focus of the road ahead. “And a long history full of memories…”

Esper was taken aback at how… well Angel seemed to summarize the Rom. “I guess we are, Baby.”

She noticed that the other two caravans were slowing down. “Oh? What’s this?” She focused her magic, and sent a mental ask to Marchhare. 'Father? It’s a little early to be stopping for lunch, isn’t it? Is there something on the road ahead?“

Ask-De-Writer:

Hearing Esper’s words, sounding ghostly, without her there, in my big donkey ears, I thoughtfully replied the same way. “Sure is, Dear. Somepony has piled up a roadblock of brush.”

Suddenly the robbers stepped into view. They were face and flank masked. They had big, impressive looking cudgels and were trying to look menacing.

As I was releasing my Hitch, I heard both Dark and Black Lotus dropping theirs too. Dark had the most delighted grin on her face that I have seen in a long time.

One called out, “Start hoofing over the bits, Rommi! We know that you just been to the fair and you is cash heavy. Lighten the load or we starts whamming that old donkey!”

I stepped forward and cocked an ear at the speaker. “Theo, Theo! That is rude of you! You and Mort have really gone down in the world since we met last.”

Uncertainly, the other said, “Don’t know what you talkin’ about! You never seen us before and we masked now.”

As Mort spoke, he lifted his big club and smashed it down on me, with the usual result. There is a reason that the Rom call me the Ghost Who Guides.

He lost his balance as the club passed through me and bounced off the rock of the road. I gave him the slightest of pushes and down he went.

I sat on his neck to keep him from getting up. Theo was just about to swing at me with his truncheon. I pointed down with an ear and reminded him, “Mort already tried that. Since he is under me, you could hurt him a lot by doing that.”

While Theo was trying to process that, I heard Black Lotus say, “I know how much you want to, Dark, but may I please have this dance? Besides me teaching Luna to dance, she has been teaching me something. I want to try it.”

Sparing a glance for them, I saw Dark with so many blades in one hoof that it looked like a flower with petals of steel. She had one already poised to throw in the other.

Curiously, she asked, “More fun than killing them?”

“I think so, Dark. If it does not work, you can still kill them.”

The conversation was not so quiet that Mort and Theo could not hear it. This was simply too good to pass up. I got off of Mort’s neck. He was scrambling to his feet and reaching for his club when Black Lotus growled like a creature out of a nightmare.

They looked up. She was stalking toward them on great clawed feet. The flesh of her face was melting like wax to reveal a scaly, bony, long jawed horror with pale red flames for eyes. Her jaws opened far too wide for any horse, showing a mouth filled with razor fangs. There were massive canines with long points.

Her voice, gone deep and menacing, said, “I am hungry.”

They dropped their clubs to run faster. There were two quick flashes of glittering steel that followed them. Yelps of pain told of hits. Dark was rolling on the ground, laughing.

She finally got out, “Bullseyes! Or should I say ass-holes! I got them in exactly the same places I did when they tried to steal our smithing tools!”

Black Lotus, very slowly changing back, was howling with glee. “Oh father! Please tell De Writer to give Luna a note that her lessons in nightmare worked!”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper, Angel, and the Chaser sisters had walked up and watched the disturbance. The pinto shook her head in amazement. "By the Spirits… those two don’t quit! They didn’t even try to change their voices!”

Angel ran over to Marchhare. She had no idea that her beloved Papa was a ghost! “Papa! You… you’re a ghost!” The little filly wasn’t scared. On the contrary. She was excited and intrigued! “Oh… this is so awesome!”

Esper scooped Angel up, using her magic, and put the filly on her back. “Leave Papa alone, Baby. We have to go back to pulling.”

Angel whinnied in protest. “But… but… I wanna talk to Ghost Papa! Can I pull with him? Please Papa?”

Ask-De-Writer:

I had to turn that one down. “Not now, Angel. You wanted to be lead horse and that was a really good idea. You will learn more about Pulling from the lead than any other place and you are doing very well. It is a responsible position and it needs a responsible horse.”

I pretended to consider but it was really forgone conclusion. “We will talk over lunch and at the evening camp. Around the fair you likely heard about the Ghost Who Guides? That is what they all call me.”

I paused in gathering up the brushwood of the roadblock. I twisted my face and muttered, “I still say that I think that I would have noticed something like dying!”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper uses her magic, and bundles the brush together. Concentrating ever so delicately, she reshaped it into a sapling. “There, little tree. You have another chance at life.” She planted it away from the road, and nodded. “Perfect.”

She noticed the shocked faces of her companions. Especially Angel. “Mama! Did… did you make a new tree from those braches?”

Esper nodded. “I… I was just testing the limits of my magic.” She explained. She looked at Marchhare. “Why? Is creating trees that uncommon amongst Magic users?”

Ask-De-Writer:

I nodded. “Actually, yes. Far as I know, this is the first one since the Nightmare Wars. What you did do was not that strange, really. The living parts of wood and leaves stay alive for quite a while after they are cut. Thing is, most cut the wood to use for something, even firewood. Nohorse or pony seems to have thought to go the other way and restore cut wood.

“No new life was needed. THAT would have been unusual and, incidentally, illegal. What you did do, and very neatly, was to re mold the wood and bark layers and see to some moisture for the leaves. It was some of the finest micro-magic that I have seen outside of Luna doing a delicate surgery.

“All that I was going to do was gather it for firewood.”

I glanced admiringly at the little tree. “That was a brilliant piece of magic, Esper. Brilliant.”

The road cleared of obstructions and thieves, we all got back to our places in the Hitches and re started the Pull.

I really love the attention that Luna put into the design of the Royal Roads. She has seen to it that there is enough shade, good waysides with access to drinking water, and solid construction that is well maintained.

They are the perfect home for my horses. My Rom. My friends.

Gravel crunched underhoof and under wheel. The trees, besides the shade, were a lovely symphony of greens that rustled in the breeze that cooled and tickled mane and tail.

A new tree from fallen? A wonder added to wonders.

The Whisper Sisters:

Marchhare and his Rom family pulled their respective caravans along the Royal road. The hours seemed to melt away as each team chatted among themselves. Soon enough, Celestia’s orb had reached mid-day, and it was time for lunch.

Well… according to a certain alabaster filly. The three caravans pulled off the road into the wide, yet snug, clearing of a wayside, just a few meters from the main-way. They formed a nice little semi-circle, with the fire in the middle.

Esper, wanting to test her magic, and cooking skills, had been busy mixing and preparing three loafs of honey nut bread while they traveled. Now that the group was stopped, she took the raw loafs out of her caravan. She put them to bake over the fire.

She giggled at the surprised faces of he family. “Mother Celestia suggested that I push myself in concentration.” She explained. “But I must say… mixing and pulling at the same time is a not a task I wish to repeat.”

Angel was curled next to Marchhare, resting her little hooves, while she waited for the food to bake. She was waiting for the right moment for her Papa to explain how he could be a ghost, and yet… pull a caravan at the same time.

“Will… lunch be ready soon, Mama?” She asked. Esper nodded “About ten minutes, or so, Baby. Eat some grass if you need to fill your tummy right away.” Angel nickered and looked at her Papa. “Want to share some grass with me, Papa?”

Ask-De-Writer:

“Sure, Angel. Bet you have about a million questions to ask, too. If you are wondering,” I swiveled my ears to point at the others, “THEY are the ones who call me a ghost and say that I died.

“Way back, before any Rom came to Equestria, I met some horses lost in a big desert to the north and east of here. They were from a place called Gyptia. The desert was so hot and dry that they still call it Celestia’s Anvil.

“I had a cart loaded with food and water that I was taking to trade for gold. Those horses were going to die if I left them there. There was not enough food or water to get them safely to any place but Equestria so that is where we headed.

“Nearly out of the desert, I was too tired to go on with the rest. I picked out a good rock ledge that gave me plenty of shade. I laid down there and went to sleep.

“When I woke up, feeling lots better, I followed after them and caught up to the nice horses from Gyptia at a spring in the mountain pass. I got a nice drink and I have stayed with my Rom ever since.

They named that spring Sha-Ja-Shehan which means the Spring of Life or Salvation. It is still a popular filly’s name among the Rom.”

The little white filly had been paying more attention than I expected. She was spellbound. Grass forgotten.

Breeze wandered over in time to hear the end of the tale. She cheerfully put a hoof between my ears and scrubbled my forelock. She told Angel, “He left something out. He always does. How long ago was that, Marchhare?”

I lowered my head to fake nibbling some grass as I muttered, “Somewhere about 800 years ago. I still say that I ought to have noticed something if I died back then!”

Breeze, showing that vast respect that most of those who know me do, pointed at me and tapped her ear with a forehoof. “He still won’t admit the truth. How many other donkeys have made it over 800 years?

“Lunch is ready! Esper’s bread rose nicely. Smells great!”

The Whisper Sisters:

Angel took her bread, and nibbled on it. Still being curious, she poked and prodded her Papa. “I don’t get it…” she frowned.

“I can poke and tickle you. I can give you little kisses…” She kissed Marchhare’s nose. “But those mean ponies… they couldn’t hurt you with their ouchy-sticks.”

Esper paused in her eating. “I was curious of that myself. Forgive me, Father… I know that asking so many questions must be bothersome, but how is it possible that we can touch you, but those brigands couldn’t?”

Ask-De-Writer:

“You might not believe this, children, but I am somewhat used to these questions. I could answer fliply that is the power of love.

“That is not as far off the mark as you might think. If it is meant to harm me, it can’t touch me, no matter what it is. Magic included. It is like I am not there to the harmful thing.

“At first, after I came back from my nap and drank from Sh-Ja-Shehan, I had to think about it and work at it to allow ANY HORSE to touch me. Later, it got easier. Those I trusted and loved could touch me easily. Like you, Angel.

“Thing is, I can touch ANY HORSE or PONY or anything else, for that matter. No limit, going that way. It was handy, back when there was only one band of Rom. I had to fight for their safety quite a lot of times.

“Now that most Rom are unicorns, I don’t have to do that near as much. They can defend themselves if necessary. It rarely is, thank the Mother of the Twins.”

Black Lotus lifted her long, straight horn proudly and filled in, “We were horses like the Saddle Arabians when father found Rom’s lost band. All those of us who have a horn trace back to father. We breed true. If we have a horn, our foals will too. If our horn is curved, we are further in blood from father but that does not change the power granted to us as the Gift of the Ghost.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Angel looked at Esper’s horns. She tilted her head in confusion. “But Mama Esper as curved horns, AND she has two!”

She looked at Black Lotus. “But Papa is her Daddy…” She frowned in thought. Esper and all the others could see the little cogs in her head working and spinning as she tried to figure out the riddle. Finally, after many seconds, and an irritated huff, she declared, “I don’t get it.”

Esper smiled. “It’s easy to figure out if one has all the answers, Angel.” She stood, and stretched. “Yes. I have curved horns. Yes. I have two. And yes, Marchhare is my father. Allow me to explain, Little one.” Her horns glowed and an image of her catter form appeared. “Before I came to this land, this was what I looked like.”

The image shifted to her squirrel/oryx form. “And this was what I looked like when I came to this land.”

“But, upon meeting your Mother Breeze, and wishing to be more horse-like to blend in with the Rom, my magic altered me. Changed me. Molded me with a magic cocoon…” Her chrysalis appeared in the image. “And when I woke up…” the projection faded “I was in the form I am now.”

Angel’s eyes were wide with wonder. “Marchhare met my sister, Wind, and the two of them adopted one another as Father and Daughter. When he learned of me, I too became his daughter.”

Angel nodded in understanding. “Oh. Just like how you and Mama Breeze adopted me.”

She smiled, and then frowned, “What’s an oryx?”

Esper laughed. “It’s a creature that looks like a deer, but has two antlers that are curved like mine.”

She looked at the bread. Only one piece remained. “Who wants the last piece?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Showing once again, the high regard that I am held in by my whole immediate family, the clomp of their hooves nailing down their claims all got there first. They pulled back, leaving only a few crumbs. Even Angel beat me to it. With a smile.

I was just about to sweep them up. At least I could get a taste. A little bird landed and made short work of the lot. He flipped his tail at me with a chirp and took off.

Giving my best aggrieved puppy look, I stared at the rest. They grinned back. Angel showed that she had been paying attention to Esper’s manner lessons. She swallowed before saying anything.

Black Lotus joined her in saying, “Ghosts don’t need the last slice!” The whole bunch of them burst out laughing.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper nuzzled her father. “Poor Marchhare. So respected among the Rom, yet not so much among your family.” This earned her giggles and chuckles from the group.

“I’ll make you your own loaf, now that I know my cooking is popular.”

Angel bounced around happily. “I loved your bread. It was so yummy!”

She ran back to hook her pulling harness into the Hitch. “Is it time to go? I wanna pull some more!”

Esper dragged Angel back to the fire with magic. “Hold your wings, Little one. You need to wait for you food to settle first. And I think Mama Breeze can take some time for a flying lesson.”

Angel gasped happily, “Can we Mama Breeze?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Breeze nodded cheerfully. “We certainly can. I know that you can do a hover flutter. That’s great, but not what we will work on right now.” Pointing with a wing to include Esper, she said, “You both need control lessons. Learn proper power strokes and how to control them before you take to the air.

“Some call it fluttering. We call it learning to fly.”

While the two were fluttering under expert guidance, I tunrned to my dear Black Lotus. With raised eyebrows and a quizzical expression, I asked, “Nightmare lessons? How did that happen?”

Black Lotus grinned in delight at the memory of Mort and Theo running in panic. “You know that I refused any money for teaching Luna to dance. Still, she is Rom. She wanted to pay somehow. We made it a skills swap.”

I nodded absently and accidentally replied in Gyptian, “I see. Makes perfect sense.”

Black Lotus gave me a fond hug and asked, “So, where is De Writer and is he teaching a Gyptian lesson?”

I sort of blinked out of the reverie and responded, “He is teaching the foals of Mariget’s Band their Gyptian language and script. Right.

“You could tell, hum?”

“I spoke Equestrian and you replied in Gyptian. You were not paying attention.”

“Thanks, Dear. I need to be reminded once in awhile.”

“I know, father. Pretend to take a nap. That always makes it easier for you.”

It was good advice, so I curled up in a shady spot and faked a light snore.

The Whisper Sisters:

Over the next hour Angel and Esper made progress by leaps and bounds. Quite literally. Breeze, Puff, Gust and Whisk were making the both Esper and Angel do leaps and bounds, using their wings to glide short distances.

Angel huffed and puffed as she finished gliding for what seemed the hundredth time. “Owwie…” she whinnied, “My wings hurt…”

Esper nodded, and used her magic to soothe Angel’s tired muscles. “There, Little one. Does that feel better?” She smiled in a motherly fashion.

“I know that learning to fly is hard work, Baby. But the only reason why your wings hurt is because you aren’t used to using them.”

Angel nodded. “I know, Mama…” She shook her back as Esper’s spell washed away the aches and pains. “Oh. That feels much better. Thank you, Mama.”

She turned to Breeze and her Aunts “How much longer before I can fly-fly?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Breeze answered, “You are doing very well on your glide landings now. Your fluttering is actually going well too. That surprised me I may add. Perhaps, if your progress holds at the evening stop, we can try SHORT straight flights.

“Tomorrow we might get to some turns.

“If all goes well, you should be able to fly with a partner by the time that we get to Roan-Oak. I hope so. That would make Meg so proud.”

While they were discussing that, Black Lotus came over and “waked me up.” Softly, she asked, “How did the lesson go?”

I looked up and grinned. “Once Mariget’s foals got the idea that Gyptian is a secret language that they can use around ponies without the ponies having a clue what is being said, they started to learn like wild fire.

“Since Luna and Celestia will take Rom tax records in written Gyptian, but no pony in Equestria reads it, the grown horses love it too. Drives the Tax Collectors nuts.”

Black Lotus flirted her tail and said with a wide grin, “How well I know it! The Rom are lucky to have somehorse who remembers their ancestral language so well.”

The new and old fliers joined us. We all took to the Hitch and started the afternoon’s Pull.

The Whisper Sisters:

The afternoon pull as fairly uneventful.

Aside from a few bathroom breaks, (little fillies can’t hold as much as a grown horse) and a few minor detours due to some pot holes, that is.

Esper was enjoying the peace and quiet. Angel was enjoying being a Big girl and leading her mothers in the right direction.

As Celestia’s orb began to lower, and Luna’s crescent began to rise, it was getting near time for the caravan to find a camp for the night. 'Father?’ Esper asked, via magic, 'See anywhere?’

Ask-De-Writer:

I replied, “Nope. I know where it is, though. Just around the S bend coming up. Remember, we Rom built this road to get at Roan-Oak’s good supplies.

“I have to wonder at the pot-holes. Those are going in my road report to Luna. It is not like Roan-Oak to allow something like that to happen to their road. The safe bet is that the Section Crew does not know of them.”

We Pulled on quietly. Day’s end is a good time to rest, eat and then do what Rom do best! Play! Some music and dancing is the perfect way to loosen up before bed!

The Whisper Sisters:

As the group settled in for the night and got a fire going, Esper stood still suddenly.

“I feel something coming…” She announced to the group. “A rift in space and time is opening up. A very familiar rift.”

Angel had stopped gathering firewood as she perked up her wings. “Oh! I feel it too!” She looked around widely. “There!” She pointed with a hoof. As she pointed, a purple and black diamond-shaped portal opened in front of all the onlookers.

Wind, Charlie, and Penny, all in their feral forms, walked through the gate, which quickly collapsed. Wind was the size of a lynx, while Charlie was the size of a house cat. Penny, being rather muscular, was the size of a stallion.

Esper gasped “Wind! Charlie! Penny!” She ran to her family, and hugged them tightly. “By the Spirits! It has been too long!” Wind sighed happily as she hugged her sister back.

“It is good to see you sister.” She released the pinto, and looked around. “Father. Black Lotus. Dark.” She smiled, and then noticed the Chaser sisters.

“Oh. These must be my new family.”

Charlie, being Charlie, ran up to Angel. “Hi. You must be my cousin!” Angel nodded “Uh-huh. Imma Angel.”

Charlie purred playfully. “Come play!” The two young-ones took off running.

“Stay close, you two!” Wind and Esper called together.

Penny, Wind and Esper moved to the fire and sat down. Esper smiled. “Everypony… this is Wind and her mate, Penny. Penny originally hails from Equestria.”

Penny adjusted her glasses. “Marchhare, my Father. Dark. Black Lotus. It’s good to see you all in good health.”

Wind’s tail flicked back and forth. “Your new form suits you sister. And I heard you know magic now.”

Esper nodded and made the fire change colours. “Oh, you might say that.”

Ask-De-Writer:

I said dryly, “I do believe that we have a LOT a catching up to do. Since this is the Roan-Oak Road and their Fair is weekly, we need not hurry.

“Not sure how much you have been told, but these two,” I gestured at Esper and Breeze with a big donkey ear, “got married. Celsetia and Luna not only officiated, they gifted the lucky couple with their own caravan.”

Black Lotus smiled across the fire and offered, “Griddle cakes, anyhorse? I am afraid that we pigged down all the new loaf bread. A certain Two Horned Horse has turned out to have a real talent at baking breads.

“We have vegetable skewers too, if you want them!”

Just then, Angel and Charley marched proudly back into camp. They were as soaked as only children playing in a creek can get. Charley was juggling three biggish water-balls, each one containing a fair-sized fish!

She cheerfully handed a fish to her mother, Wind and one to Dark. She kept the last one for herself.

Dark was first of us to recover from the surprise. Ruby eyes alight, she said, “Thank You, Charley! This will be a delightful addition to my dinner! Let’s make another fire, just over there, where it won’t bother the others, while we cook this feast.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind, Dark, and Charlie headed to the second fire, leaving Penny at the first. “So, Esper… you got married before Wind and me, eh? That’s exciting.” She nuzzled her mate’s sister.

“Well… things do work quickly here in Equestria. Look at Pen and Snow. They married rather quickly too.”

Esper blushed, and leaned against Breeze. “Well, what can I say? It was love at first sight. I saw her, and fell in love. But it’s not like I planned on getting married so quickly. That certainly was a surprise.”

Esper smiled at Breeze. “A pleasant surprise, though. I wouldn’t change anything for all the gold in the land.”

Angel’s tail flicked impatiently. “How long is Charlie going to be? I wanna play!”

Esper rolled her eyes. “Angel… it’s her dinner time. Not play time. Now… if you are a good girl and eat all your food, I’ll make my fairy-lights appear.”

Angel looks confused. “Fairy-lights?” She looks at Marchhare. “What are those, Papa?”

Ask-De-Writer:

I smiled at her, from my place across the fire. “Esper made them to entertain the foals at Rose’s lake. They are fun little lights, sort of like sprites of fairies in appearance. Everyhorse there enjoyed them.

“You were not with us yet, Angel. I think that Penny knows this but you need to learn it too. When we say that somehorse has gone to the Lake or that they had their Lake, we mean that their bodies have died. When we bury them we celebrate their lives with every good thing that we can remember and forgive all bad things. It can be quite a party!

“After that, we keep them alive in our hearts and memories. That is what we mean when we say, The Loved Dead are with us always. They make the road short and the Pull light.”

Black Lotus, the Chaser sisters and Esper all joined me in that final phrase.

“Now, Esper will show you those lights that were such fun for all the other horses at Rose’s Lake, if you eat up! Besides, you don’t want Charley to have more bounce and fun than you, do you?”

That did it. Angel fell to, happily munching her dinner vegetables.

I had quietly set aside Penny’s observation about Pen, Snow and the Equestria that they called home. It was two dimensions away from here and a very different place indeed.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper’s horns glowed as she cast her magic. Her fairy lights seemed to erupt from her horns and attach themselves to the surrounding trees.

“These are fairy-lights, Little One,” she explained.

Angel gasped. She was beside herself in excitement! Her little wings buzzed as she stood up, and ran to a nearby tree. Soon, little Charlie joined her.

“Ohhh! So pretty! The two young ones exclaimed.

Penny giggled as Wind and Dark rejoined them at the main fire. "You are most talented, Esper.” The chocolate mare commented with pride. “I know very few unicorns who could cast that spell. And even fewer still, who could cast it so well.”

Wind purred softly as she curled next to her mate. “Aye. I agree with Penny. It seems the Spirits of our world have gifted us both.”

Esper caused three lights to detach from a tree, and 'come alive’. Charlie and Angel took off jumping and leaping after them. At Wind’s comment, the pinto looked at her sister. “Whatever do you mean, Wind? The Spirits of world might have given us powers, but by no means did they gift us.”

Esper snorted. “Evil and Fear ruined our lives. Evil made you her vessel, and Fear made me his pet. Judgment punished you for being weak, and Fate? Bah! Fate is a fool whom speaks only in riddles. Life and Nature? They could have easily returned me to my original form. They decided to test me first. To see if I could stand their trials.

“Do I hate them for sending me here? Nay. But three times I have almost died due to my magic. Only by the grace of Celestia and Luna have I survived.”

Everyone fell into silence, except for Charlie and Angel, who were too busy playing. Wind looked at her sister. “Esper. I agree with you. The Spirits had no right to interfere in our lives.

“However… I find the good out weighs the bad. Due to the Source, I am whole again. Judgment gifted Penny and I with Charlie. Fate united us. When I was possessed by Evil, Penny realized how much she loved me, and saved me.” She moves and hugs her sister. “Do not let anger rule your heart, sister.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Breeze nuzzled her wife and pointed out, “You are right, sweet Esper. What those Spirits of your world did and gave you were not gifts. You had to earn them. I cannot say what happened or why. I only know this.

“If any of those things had happened differently than what they did, I would be sharing a caravan with my sisters and I would still be Sky Dancing with them. I would not even know of you or the joy that you bring me. I would not have such a wonderful daughter as Angel is proving to be.”

The firelight flickered off the many colors of her mane, tail and wings. “I cannot say that I would be miserable without you because I was happy with my sisters. I can say that I am far happier now. With you.

“One other thing to consider. Your magic. It used to control you. True that you near died three times of it. Now, thanks to learning the source of it, you control it with skill and precision.”

A wing of many colors wrapped about Esper in a pegasus hug.

Mischievously Breeze whickerd, “And you would not be a member of the Royal Family, either! Your Godmothers are lovely horses.”

I stuck in, “Esper and Dark were formally and publicly installed as Goddaughters to Celestia and Luna at the Draytown Fair. They are now legally members of the Equestrian Royal Family. Comes of being adopted daughters of mine. There is a six hundred year tradition involved.”

Dark grinned her slightly disturbing grin of small sharp fangs and, firelight reflecting red from her ruby eyes, said, “Charley told us about the battle with Fear. How she froze him into a ball of ice. That was a truly elegant solution.

“I like a good, well planned murder but what Fear did was simply stupid and cruel. Charley prevented him from re embodiment by NOT killing him!” Dark chuckled as she added, “I never thought that I would say this but that was a better assassination than any murder that I have heard of before! I would bow to the Mistress but she is off chasing fairy lights!”

Black Lotus announced, “I feel like dancing to celebrate both the wedding that just was and the one to be! Dark, dear, would you get the instruments, please?”

Dark bounded into the caravan and emerged with Esper’s T'ang tone drum, my flute and her own beloved fiddle.

Black Lotus struck a starting pose and called out, “Two Green Vines!” I blew the introductory note and the others joined in.

Black Lotus began to dance.

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind curled next to Penny as the two sat in silence and in awe. Wind had no idea that Esper could drum so well, or that Black Lotus could dance so beautifully.

Hearing the music, Angel and Charlie stopped chasing the fairy lights, and scampered back to the fireside. The two younglings laid next to each other, as though they were the oldest of friends. Their eyes were wide as they watched Black Lotus dance.

As Esper drummed, fairy lights, including the ones that Angel and Charlie had been chasing, swarmed near Black Lotus as though they were alive. The lights bobbed and weaved in time and in step with the music, almost as though they were dancing themselves.

Esper noticed the curious stares. She shook her head. “I do not control the lights. The magic of the dance and the music does. These lights act on their own.”

Ask-De-Writer:

When the dance was done, Black Lotus sat back with us. She told Wind and Penny, “The Two Green Vines is an ancient tune and dance among us. It is traditional at Rom weddings and at other times of joyous celebration.

“It was the first tune that Princess Luna actually heard When she discovered the Rom. Our whole kind had been hidden from the Princesses by greedy nobles who profited by not reporting our road tolls and fees. We doubled the income from their Fairs and they hid that money too.

“In the six hundred years since then, things have gotten much better for us. The Two Green Vines remains a song and dance of joy for us. I thought to gift it to you for your wedding.

“If we can get there, I would be honored to dance at your actual wedding itself.”

Mischievously she added, “We could visit Esper’s Lake and do the laying of stones. Esper would have the near unique experience of laying stones for her own grave.”

The Fairy Lights had quietly gathered about Esper and, one by one, slipped into the fine web of magic between her horns and vanished.

The Whisper Sisters:

Charlie and Angel yawned, and fall asleep against each other. Wind giggled. “Ah. To have someone your age to play with and be friends with.” She looked to Esper. “What an impact that can have on your life, aye, sister?”

Esper looked to Wind and nodded. “True. But despite not having many friends, I do believe we turned out well.” She snuggled against Breeze. “And I think we more than made up for that with our mates.”

Penny wickered, and laid her head on top of Wind’s side. “You may say that again, Esper.” She closed her eyes, enjoying the sound of Wind’s soft purring. Wind laid her head on top of Penny’s neck and yawned cutely. “Very true.”

She looked at the two younglings. “I do hate to move them… but I also don’t want them to be cold…” She looked at Puff. “Puff? Would you mind keeping them warm?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Puff smiled and without a word, settled by the young sleepers and stretched a wing over them. Gesturing, she got Wisp to come to her other side. She tucked her head in under her wing with Wisp.

Dark, ever practical, covered the fire to preserve embers to start the breakfast fire with. She nestled down between Black Lotus and I.

In the morning, as the light began to rise before the dawn, Dark laid tinder over the embers of last night’s fire and blew it back up to a blaze. She had arranged the wood to quickly make a good bed of hot coals for cooking.

Black Lotus was getting out the breakfast gear when she found the note. It was addressed to Angel in De Writer’s well known Hornwriting.

A crestfallen Angel had to admit that she could not yet read. Black Lotus opened the letter for her. Inside, was a different script indeed. Black Lotus read for Angel:

From the Free Knight, Dame Megan Blackberry, to her Squire Angel Fluff: Dearest Squire. I have done all that was needed for the trials and have abdicated the throne of Duchy of Camarg.

The Princesses have elevated me to the title and duties of a Knight of Justice. They have also gifted me with a small caravan and all the needful equippage. I begin my Pull to Roan-Oak with the dawn of the day that De Writer delivers this to you.

Together, we can seek to earn our Freedoms while you train at my side in the arts of Law, Justice and War.

Yours Affectionately, Meg, Dame, KoJ”

The Whisper Sisters:

Angel gasped. “Oh! How much further until we get there?”

She ran over to her mothers. “Mama Esper! Mama Esper! Meg is traveling towards Roan-Oak! Can we go get her and teleport her here?! Please?”

She nudged and pushed Esper until her mother cracked an eye lid. Instead of answering, Esper caught Angel’s tail in a web of her magic, and hoisted the little pony upside down.

“HEY!” Angel yelped. “Hey! Put me down!!”

Esper lifted her head and yawned. “Calm down, Angel.” She stood and stretched. “Now… tell me, calmly, what’s going on.”

Angel took a deep breath. “Meg sent me a letter. She said that she was done at Canterlot. She is heading towards Roan-Oak as we speak. I wanna go get her and bring her here with us.”

Esper blinked. “Nay, Little One. Meg said she will meet us at Roan-Oak. That most likely means that she wants to travel alone for the time being.”

Angel pouted as she was set down. “Aww.”

Wind, Charlie and Penny all stretched and yawned as they woke up.

“Hngh~” Wind said. “Oh my. That was restful. Up until the moment a little pony decided to wake everyhorse up.” She giggled.

“Charlie. You and Angel go play while breakfast cooks.” Angel and Charlie squealed and started chasing each other around the camp.

Wind sighed and looked at Esper. “Alas… we must leave after breakfast. I’m feeling a tug to go back home.”

Esper frowned, but nodded in understanding. “I understand. Will you come back soon?”

Wind smiled and shrugged “I don’t know. We can try.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Black Lotus fixed them (and us!) a great breakfast of batter cakes with syrup and put on a batch of eggs for Wind and Charlie. There were vegetable skewers for all who wanted them.

She had used her magic to snag three large crawdads, like smallish lobsters, from the stream. She steamed them in wet leaves buried in the coals. Dark got hers for breakfast. Wind and Charlie’s were given to them as a parting treat.

We all hugged each other farewell. I do not think that there was a dry eye in the whole wayside. Wind opened their portal and they were gone.

A quiet Angel helped to put up our breakfast things and make sure that the fire was out.

The Chaser Sisters were already Hitched and ready to go. Angel Breeze and Esper were Hitching up. Black Lotus Dark and I were just attending to the final details of our Hitch.

Gust finally spoke up. “You have a really nice family, Esper. I wonder if we can get to their wedding? If we can, we have already talked it over. We would like to Sky Dance the Two Green Vines for them.”

Black Lotus nodded agreement. “They do deserve all the best forutune that Rom tradition can offer them.

“Now! Pull! Lean Left! Lean Right! Pull Left! Pull Right! Pull!”

The day’s Pull began to the happy jingle of harness bells. Roan-Oak was only two more Pulls away. Two days to our next fair. Three to meet up with Meg, if all goes well for her.

The Whisper Sisters:

As the Sun hit midday, a sudden and unexpected storm hit the caravan. The rain came down in sheets, nearly blowing sideways.

“Ah!” Angel shouted over the downpour. “Mama Esper! Can’t you do something about the rain?”

Esper sighed. “It’s raining, Angel. And it will continue to rain until it stops.” She looked at the pewter clouds and nodded. “However…” With a spark between her horns, Esper formed a large bubble around their train.

“There.” Esper nodded, as the rain beat against her shield. She shook her head to rid it of any excess water. “I can maintain this shield but not while we’re mobile.”

She looked at the Chaser sisters and her wife. “Would you girls mind taking a look at those clouds?” She smiled sweetly. “Perhaps you could move them out of the way?”

Angel shivered, and shook her whole body. “Mama Esper… I’m f-freezing…”

Esper nodded and, with another spark of magic, she removed the water from her daughter and everyone else.

“There. All dry.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Breeze leaned over and nibbled Esper’s ear gently and said, “Before we go pushing clouds around, we need to check. If the Weather Factory in Cloudsdale has sent this, then we just need to wait it out.

“I will go up and check.”

She walked over to the downwind side of the bubble and looked expectantly at Esper. A hole appeared in the bubble and Breeze stepped through.

In moments she was aloft, though clearly working hard against the wind and wet. She was not gone long. She spiraled down to a swift but perfect landing.

Esper let her wife into the rain-free bubble and, with a flick of purple magic, dried her off.

Breeze hugged Angel and told them all, “We just have to wait it out. This weather was ordered by the Roan-Oak farmers over a month ago. I saw the order and work-up sheets that the weather ponies have on it.”

I asked, “Any clue how long it will be? Would we be better to go into the caravans and let Esper’s magic have a rest?

Breeze nodded seriously. “Esper will have to be the judge of that. It is going to last for another hour and a half.”

I nodded back and replied, “We can thank Luna for insisting on building such high quality roads. At least they won’t be mud pits from here to Roan-Oak.

“Esper, what about it? Shall we go in and wait or do you want to hold the bubble?”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper looked at the bubble and then to the caravans.

“Let’s pull the caravans off the road, and then get into them.” She nodded. “Sorry, My Dear family. I may have powerful magic, but even I am not foolish enough to hold back Mother Nature for too long.” She heaved a sigh. “I don’t suppose We could all fit into one?”

Angel looked hopefully at her Papa “Can we all fit into your caravan, Papa?” She put her hoofs up on his chest. “Pleeeeaasse?”

Ask-De-Writer:

With a grin I pointed out, “One: With the rain making the shoulders soft, it will be best if we stay on the road. There is ample room for any wagon to pass.

“Two: By no coincidence at all, my caravan was made to hold my family, usually a wife and up to two foals. AND the Princesses when they visit. They do not have a caravan of their own because they can’t be Rom often enough.

“Black Lotus, Dark and I do have room enough for this entire crowd, though it will be snug!”

Black Lotus and Dark let down our caravan stairs and everyhorse trooped in. I was right, as usual. It was snug.

The songs and word games made up for it. They were accompanied by the drumbeat of rain on the roof.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper, although it was difficult, made more of her honey and nut bread. She made certain to make enough loafs so that there was no fighting.

How did she cook it? Easy enough when you have magic!

Angel was giddy with having all the horses together in one caravan. She sat on her Papa’s lap, happily eating her warm bread, enjoying the warm lap, and enjoying the riddles that the older horses asked. When it came to her turn, she could only think of one that her Nana Celestia taught her.

“Um…” She thought, trying to remember the riddle, “30 white ponies stand on a red hill…” She stuck her tongue out in concentration, “F-first they jump, then they clop, then… they stand still?”

She looked around, and was met with bemused faces. “What am I?”

Esper was impressed. “Ooo~ that’s a tough one, Baby. I’m stumped.”

She looked at the rest of her family. “Does anyone know the answer to Angel’s riddle? I’ve never heard that one before.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dryly I said, “Wish De Writer was here. Bet he might know the answer. He tends to know just about everything. One snoopy old pony, that one is. 'Fraid I don’t know it either.

“Dark? Black Lotus?”

Both managed to look mystified, though Black Lotus had a tiny smile trying to peek out the corners of her lips.

Realizing that she had stumped us all, Angel looked about the caravan in amazement and then smiled hugely.

“Teeth! The answer is teeth!”

She was so happy that she didn’t even mind that the rain had stopped and we needed to restart the Pull.

As we hitched up, I gave Black Lotus and Dark the old steely eyeball. With no embarrassment at all, Dark replied, “A wise old donkey that I know once told me that the young need their small triumphs. It builds confidence.

“He was right. It worked on me too. I know that he has given me some. It did help, back when I was new to the world and the Rom. He gave me at least three kills that he could have done more easily.

“It was more than just a small triumph. He trusted me to do it right, and I did. I have not forgotten that trust.”

A few moments later, Black Lotus called the start and our little caravan of caravans got under way.

Just past the next wayside we found another Rom caravan. They were in trouble. They had not actually lost any wheels but all four were at crazy angles. If they had not stopped the instant that they noticed something wrong, their caravan would have crashed entirely, likely destroying most of their goods and livelihood in the process.

That was not a thing to go past. We dropped our Hitches and went to see what we could do for them.

The Whisper Sisters:

The family waved them over. There was A father, a mother, and their two colts.

“Oh! Marchhare!” The mother, Galandra greeted the old Donkey. “It is so nice to see a friendly face.” She smiles at the rest of the group.

“Oh! The Chaser sisters as well!” She sounded relieved. “Fortune, it seems, has finally decided to smile on us.”

Esper walked over and inspected the wheels. “I may not know much about caravans… but I do know you need pegs to hold the wheels on.”

Swift, the husband, nodded. “Indeed you do, friend.” He snorted. “It seems the friendliness of the Rom is very well known in this part of Equestria. Too well known, in fact.” He snorted again.

“The rain storm that just passed brought us two traveling ponies. We offered them food and shelter, as is tradition amongst the Rom. They seemed friendly enough. Too friendly, it seems. They claimed that they were heading to Roan-Oak, and once the storm cleared, they set off again.”

“Which is what we were gonna do too!” The older of the two sons piped in. “But as soon as we started pulling, Our wheels came loose. Those two strangers musta had helpers! They distracted us, and other musta came along and stole our wheel pegs!”

Esper shook her head. “Goodness! What matter of horse or pony would do that to the Rom?”

She looked around suddenly. “Has anyhorse seen Angel?”

Angel, being the Knight-Squire in training that she was, had examined the wheels more closely than her mother had. She noticed that whoever stole the pegs had got their hooves covered in wheel grease. Their greasy tracks led off into the brush in the opposite direction from the crippled caravan.

Without a sound, the little filly had crept off into the bush herself, and followed the greasey trail. Soon, she heard several voices. They were of three or four older, male, ponies. She sat out of sight, and listened.

Ask-De-Writer:

The determined little Angel, in following the peg snatchers, had climbed a steep bit of hillside before getting to where she could overhear.

“Tell you, this is the slickest gimmick in ages. All that we gotta do is watch the farm weather purchases what is public posted notices.”

Another laughed coarsely, “We gets a free meal and rain shelter! Then the fools tries to go on and, Wham! They has a wreck! Lost wheel or two! Poor things. Stuck way out here. Who know what will happen when they stuck like that. They could even get robbed on top of their wagon wreck! HAR!”

Another voice said, “It ain’t funny, but the money is good and it ain’t hard work. Only thing is, I feels bad for 'em, meself. I knows them wagons is they whole lives. Thing is, I got to get more than I been getting from field work. Apple wine ain’t cheap.”

Angel had heard enough. She began to back quietly away from the robber camp. A fly began to pester her. She flicked her ears to drive it off. It got into her nostril. The tickle of it caused a sneeze!

“What was that! Quick after it! There! I sees it!”

Earth ponies erupted from the camp, trampling in the direction that Angel had come! She cut back toward the road! She had to take an angle away from her original path to avoid the pursuing robbers!

With one close behind, Angel came to a cliff! She had no choice! She leaped and spread her wings! Instead of trying to flap, she used the gliding that she had been taught.

From the air, she could see the assembled caravans and the work going on. It was far away. Too far! She was not going to make it!

She banked for a tree, somewhat taller than the rest, hoping that the branches would help to cushion her landing. Leaves whipped about her face! She felt something spring and break! She tumbled into another! It held.

She did the only thing that she could in this predicament. She yelled at the top of her lungs! “Mama! Mama Esper! Mama Breeze! Help! I found the bad ponies! They are robbers! Help!”

There was a retreating trample of hooves as her pursuers ran for it. Silencing a filly? No problem. Facing her enraged parents and maybe others? BIG PROBLEM.

It seemed like forever before Dark landed lightly on a branch nearby. Dark called out, “I found her! She is WAY up in this tree!”

The Whisper Sisters:

Angel yelped, “Help!”

She calmed down as Dark landed beside her.

“Dark! Bad ponies were chasing me! They… huh?”

A purple bubble surrounded her and lifted her from the branch. Ever so gently, Esper placed her daughter on solid ground. She sighed and hugged her daughter. She then became upset.

“Angel! What were you thinking going off by yourself? And flying too!” She huffed. “Explain yourself, young filly!”

Angel scuffed the ground with her right forehoof. The young filly began her tale, “Umm… I noticed a trail of hoof marks going into the forest away from the broken caravan… They had wheel grease on them… so I followed them. The trail went up a steep hill to a camp.”

She huffed a sigh, “I heard three stallions talking about tricking Rom into feeding them, and then taking their wheel pegs.” She looked at Marchhare. “One of them mentioned working on a farm.”

Esper sat down in shock. “How did you end up in a tree?”

Angel looked earnestly at her Mama. “Um, I sneezed, and the bad ponies heard me. They chased me through the forest to a cliff!” she exclaimed. “I jumped off it and glided just like Mama Breeze taught me.”

Esper shook her head in amazement. “Are okay? No cuts or bruises?”

Angel shook her head. “No. Imma okay.” She pouted. “Am I in trouble?” She looked at Breeze.

Ask-De-Writer:

Breeze gave Dark a questioning look. “What do you think, Dark? You are an expert flier too, and you were up there. Should she be in trouble?”

A quick flash of small fangs showed in her grin. “Not at all. She saw the important part of the scene and followed it up. When she had to jump from that cliff, which you can see from up in the tree, she managed a really good distance glide. This tree that she picked is the only one in the area safe for an amateur landing. She did really well all around.

“She only made one mistake in the whole thing. She forgot to let us know that she was going after those robbers.” Dark followed up her analysis by hugging Angel. “That was really well done, little one.

“I am going to have to start teaching you to throw knives if you are going to go on like this!”

By that time, we were back to the damaged caravan. Black Lotus was lifting one corner gently with her magic while Swift and his colts removed the wheel and examined it for damage. As we walked up, one of the colts regreased the axle and they pushed the wheel back on properly. They had found the outer washers on the road and replaced them.

Black Lotus looked up with a grin as we returned. “Some Horses will do anything to avoid work! This is the last one. They are solid except for the pins. The thieves took those and wood just won’t do. This is not a pony made cart!

We were all muttering about the time that it was going to take to forge new wheel axle pins.

Angel looked closely and then held out four tapered iron pins. “These? I found them along the trail. I picked them up because they are iron and I thought that Dark could use them.”

Apologetically, she added, “I never really looked at a wheel before. There is a lot to one, isn’t there?”

I agreed. “There sure is, Angel. That is twice today that you have been a heroine. Of the two, for Rom, those pins are the most important. We live by those wheels.”

Black Lotus, who, as I have mentioned before, is one powerhouse of a unicorn, lifted each corner of the caravan while the wheel was properly adjusted and the pin correctly set.

When we got the Pull organized, with yet another caravan in our little caravan, we all thought it only right that Angel be the lead horse for the whole lot. It was one proud little pegasus leaning into her harness as we got underway.

The Whisper Sisters:

Angel and her mothers lead the their ever expanding train down the road towards Roan-Oak. As they progressed further, they spotted other caravans and families heading in the same direction.

The closer that they got to the fair, more and more stories reached their ears of petty thefts. Wheel pegs being taken; food supplies going missing in the middle of the night; hitches and harnesses being sabotaged. It seemed somepony, or a group of them had it in for the Rom.

As Marchhare’s group pulled over for their final night before reaching Roan-Oak, the camp was a buzz with conversation and theories.

“Somepony seems to be out to cause trouble for us, it seems.” Esper said, as she started the fire. “Or rather… a large group. I highly doubt that the three ponies that chased Angel are the only ones involved.”

Angel paused in her playing with the two colts. “What do you mean, Mama?” She asked. “You mean there are more bad guys out there?”

Swift snorted in mild anger. “Who could be doing all this?” He asked. “Or rather, why? We Rom are not rich by any means. Well… when it comes to gold.” He nuzzled his wife. “We’re certainly rich when it comes to family and friends.”

Ledger, the older son, piped up. “Yeah. We Rom don’t bother anyone.”

Joey, the younger son nodded. “Those mean ol’ ponies! And they chased Angel! If she didn’t know how to glide, she woulda got caught!”

Esper nodded in agreement. “I know. I agree.”

With a swoop of her horns, and a spark of magic, a large magic protection circle, much like her cutie-mark, flashed on the ground, and quickly faded.

“There. That should stop any potential thieves from sneaking up on us.”

She sighed and shook her head. “Father? Do you have any thoughts?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Glumly I nodded. “Sure do, and I don’t like the thoughts one bit. I don’t think that they are after us at all, except incidentally.

“Notice that what is being done to the Rom is nearly all only of nuisance value. It is stuff that happens in small amounts along almost any road. What is unusual is the amount of it happening along THIS road. The Roan-Oak road.

“They are the only WEEKLY fair in Equestria. The whole town depends on the trade from that fair. The trade for that fair is drawn by the Rom and the Rom supply purchases.

“One of two things looks likely to me. The gang doing this is probably from some town or group of towns that want to cripple Roan-Oak’s prosperity. The other major possibility is that they want to cut themselves in for a share of that prosperity by blackmail. They will drive the Rom off unless the Roan-Oak Fair pays them a substantial bribe. It is possible that they may be seeking to offer the Rom “protection” from their depredations as a part of that.

“No matter how you slice it, harm to the Rom is a key to their operation.”

Breeze and the others around the fire nodded thoughtfully. Swift knitted his brows in concentration and added, “Didn’t really think of them as threat when they tried to wreck us. They were Earth Ponies. Hardly any magic to them at all.”

I saw Angel half lift her wings like when she was feeling for magic back at the Draytown Fair. Her little brow furrowed in concentration as she remembered the feel of the magic in the crowd. She shook her head as she remembered what Meg had taught her about the kinds of magic that ALL THREE PONY KINDS possessed.

The Whisper Sisters:

Angel cleared her throat, and walked up to Swift. She sat down, and puffed out her chest.

“Excuse me, Mr. Swift… but Earth ponies and horses DO have magic. All ponies and horses do.” She ruffled her wings. “See, as part of my training as a potential free Squire of Equstria, I was taught by my Aunt Meg that while earth horses don’t use magic in the same way that unicorns do, or the way my Mama Esper does, they do use it.”

“Even pegasi?” Joey asked in disbelief.“No way!”

Angel turned her head and nodded. “Uh-huh! They do too!” She pointed to the clouds. “Pegasi can move clouds and other ponies can’t. Our wings can detect ripples in magic. Even the tiniest amounts.”

She pointed to the caravans. “See Papa’s caravan? It’s over 800 years old! Rom were all Earth horses when they built it. It is still the Earth horses of the Rom who build all the caravans and they never break.” She smoothed her wings. “And those bad ponies removed the wheel spikes without tools!”

She wickered, “Earth ponies are strong. They get tired long after other ponies do. They can even pull entire houses by themselves.” The whole camp was silent as Angel finished.

“Was I scared when those ponies chased me? You bet I was. They coulda trampled me if I didn’t fly off that cliff.”

She turned back to Swift. “See, Mista Swift? You hafta be scared, cuz those ponies can do lots more than you realize.”

Swift nodded and ruffled Angel’s mane. “I see that now, Runt.” He smiled. “Thank you for opening my eyes.”

Esper sighed happily. “I do believe the fire is hot enough to start cooking food.” She pulled out a bag from her saddle pouch. “I collected these delicious mushrooms during our morning stop. And yes, Dark has told me that they are perfectly safe to eat.”

She giggled. “Shall we get started on dinner?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Black Lotus nodded total agreement. “Dinner for sure!

“That was very well said, Angel! We all look down on most ponies for poor workmanship. We and the ponies themselves all tend to forget that just because they don’t do good work most of the time, doesn’t mean that they CAN’T. Their Earth ponies have been put down, in their own way, as badly as ponies put us down!” Thoughtfully, she added, “I wonder what things would be like, if Earth ponies really did do their best?”

“You are correct too, about Rom caravan makers. I have lived in that caravan all of my life and never thought of it. When it was made, there were NO Rom Unicorns. Father’s first foal was not yet born when the Band of Rom gifted it to him. I never questioned that.”

Dark looked up with sincere interest. “I never questioned how old Grandfather’s caravan is.” She pointed to Angel and went on, “She is right though. Among the Rom here, who is the best smith? A Unicorn? No. It is I, a pegasus.”

“Unicorns of the Rom are VERY good at many crafts. We all live by our skills. We are the best. If ponies are to buy from us, we HAVE to be the best or they will buy from a pony instead.”

She paused and lifted her snout to sniff. “Those mushrooms smell divine, Esper!”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper smiled, and served the sliced mushrooms, mixed with veggies and sage.

“Here you go, everyhorse. Enjoy.” She smiled as she started hers, pleased that her cooking was such a hit. “You know… I think I’ve become quite the cook since I came to Equestria.” She said between bites.

“Oh! I almost forgot!” She summoned over a bottle of Mama Dragon’s Elder Berry wine. “Elder Berry wine. A gift from my sister when she came to visit.” She poured cups for all the adults.

“My Mama Dragon grew it herself in her gardens. I do hope you all enjoy it.”

Angel pouted “Can we have some?” She asked, pointing to herself and the two colts with a hoof.

Esper shook her head. “Nay, Little one. Wine is not meant for little horses. However…” She summoned a second bottle. “This mead that Aunt Wind also brought would be perfect for you.”

Ledger blinked. “Mead? What’s that?”

Esper giggled, and poured the young ones each a cup of mead.

“A sweet drink made from honey. It’s very tasty. My Sister makes it herself,” Esper explained.

Swift snorted. “Since you came here? A Mama Dragon?” he blinked “I’m afraid I don’t quite understand.”

Esper turned to the large horse, and smiled. “Well…” The pinto told her story to her new Rom friends, omitting certain details as to not frighten the colts. Once she was finished, she was met with wide eyes.

“So… has anyhorse planned for dessert?”

Ask-De-Writer:

I cheerfully raised my cup and replied, “Actually, yes. I was sort of thinking about that lovely sweet cake that I saw you sneaking into the caravan before you called us to dinner!”

I raised my eyes to my lovely daughter and added, “You told that very well, Esper.”

I turned to Swift and put in my two bits worth. “I can assure you that what Esper just told you was all true. I know how it must sound, but I do know the reality of both many other worlds and Esper’s family, which is about as unique as my own!”

Dryly and undiplomatically, Ledger snorted, “And we all know how weird your family is!” Glancing about the fire meaningfully, he finished with a grin, “You have Alicorns in it!”

We all laughed.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper chuckled and summoned the sweet-roll cake from her caravan. “Nothing escapes your gaze, does it Father?”

She set it down, and smiled. “This is the last cake Celestia and Luna made before the end of fair. And if it tastes half as good as it looks, we’re in for a treat.”

Galandra went off, and came back with plates. "Here you go, everyhorse. I brought plates. And a knife…” She stopped talking as Dark quickly and expertly cut up the cake into equal pieces. “Never mind then.”

Esper giggled and served the cake. “Dark is quite the blade master. I have yet to meet a pony or horse that could match her skill.”

As they all sat and ate their cake, Joey piped up. “Was this really made by the Princesses?” he asked. “I find that hard to believe. Royalty serving sweets to the Rom.”

Angel looked at Joey, and nodded enthusiastically. “Uh-huh! They did. I helped at their booth, too!”

Ledger pouted. 'You’re so lucky, Angel! You got to meet the Princesses!“

Angel smiles. "Don’t worry, Ledger! I’m sure one day you’ll get to meet them too!”

She looked at Joey. “And you too, Joey. My Nana’s are really nice. And Sweeter than this cake!”

Swift and Galandra looked at one another, and then to Marchhare. “Marchhare?” Swift snorted. “If Angel calls the Princesses her Nana’s, does that mean that Esper has been adopted as a Grandfilly to them?”

Esper blushed, and scuffed her right forehoof on the ground.

Ask-De-Writer:

I looked up. “Close, Swift. Not quite. Technically, Black Lotus, Esper and Dark are Goddaughters to the Princesses, not Granddaughters. That means that they ARE members of the Royal Family but have no legal claim to the thrones or to any inheritance.

“Angel happily took to calling the Princesses her Nanas and they did not deny or reject it. In fact, in the presence of both nobility and their Guard, they accepted it and have treated Angel as a member of the family. That is a point not lost on some highly placed ponies.”

I paused to nibble at my cake for a few moments. With the deep reverence shown me by my family, I might not get any of my own piece if I talked too long!

After polishing off the last crumbs of Luna’s excellent cake, I pointed out, “Luna does love to cook. Especially to do baking. In Canterlot, she can’t, or only a little here and there. When they can leave Canterlot, they wear the Freedom and live with us.”

I leaned back against a wheel of my 800 year old caravan and patted it. “They Pull along side us, and live right here in this caravan. I have Luna’s Booth and cooking gear right here.”

Skeptically, Galandra asked, “How long have you been doing that, Marchhare?”

It was Black Lotus who answered. “About 450 years. They and father go back around 600 as you well know, unless you flunked De Writer’s history lessons. It took the Princesses a long time to get the courage to actually do public cooking, despite Luna having been a great cook for centuries.”

Joey said thoughtfully, “It is hard to picture either Princess being afraid of anything.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper smiled and in a gentle voice explained, “While you think fear might be a weakness, Joey, it is the wisest and oldest horses and ponies that show it the most respect.”

She shivered slightly. “To not be afraid of something is to be very foolish indeed.” She collected the empty plates with her magic and stacked them neatly. “While I use my magic freely, I am afraid of it. Do you know why?” Joey and Ledger shook their heads no.

Esper giggled at their innocence. “I was gifted with my magic by very powerful beings. I do not know the limits of my power, and thus, I am afraid of what I am capable of. Therefore, I limit myself, and use it cautiously. Do you understand now?”

Ledger nodded. “I think I do. Without fear, horses and ponies would do anything they wanted, and not worry about hurting themselves or others. Right?”

Galandra nodded and nuzzled her colt. “Exactly, Ledger.”

Angel yawned suddenly and slumped against Breeze, fast asleep, and snoring loudly.

Esper looked at her daughter. “It has been a long day for all of us. And while I normally wouldn’t suggest this, I suggest we all sleep in our caravans tonight.” She cradled Angel in a blanket of her magic. “While my circle keeps us safe, I think we’d all be safer indoors.”

Swift and his family stood up and headed to their caravan. “Heh. As you said, Esper, it is best to show fear respect, eh?”

Esper smiled as everyone else follows suit. “Aye. It is.” They all bade goodnight to one another. Soon, with the fire smoldering, the caravans were filled with snores of sleeping Rom. Their dreams peacefully being guided by Princess Luna…

Ask-De-Writer:

Celestia entered Luna’s quarters quietly. For the most part, Luna’s response to dreams was like leaves in a forest. You see the whole forest. You only pay attention to a particular leaf or tree if there is a need. She did not want to disturb her Sister of the Night. Luna was paying attention to some particular dream or dreams. That was important.

Princess of Dreams

Luna looked up without letting go the fragile appearing threads of dream. Softly she said, “In spite of all the ill, we were given priceless goodness from the Rom. I am sharing some of the good that I got back to them. They do deserve it.”

Sympathetically, Celestia observed, “That must be tricky, in Dark’s case. The dreams that should make her happiest would be nightmares to most!”

Luna nodded agreeably. “Dark is really not that difficult. You only have to think of her enjoyment of a good, well done murder and set it as defending those that she cares about. No, the really hard one is Esper. She is not truly of this world, though it seems that she will be here for the rest of her life. She has family that she loves in both worlds and those worlds are so different in their foundations.

“She is the true embodiment of my best art.”

Darkly, voice hardened, she added, there are a few ponies near them that need my attention too. I have sent out the Nightmares for them.”

Among the soft threads of Luna’s work, there were some, hard and utterly black.

The Whisper Sisters:

The next morning, Esper, Angel and Breeze woke with yawns and stretches. They climbed out of their beds, and headed outside to start breakfast.

On the way out, Esper grabbed a tray of blueberry muffins she had prepared the night before but not yet cooked. She headed to the smouldering camp fire. With Angel’s help, they re-kindled the flame. Soon the muffins were baking. Shortly after, Swift and his family came out of their caravan, and huddled around the fire.

Galandra stifled a yawn, and hung her coffee pot above the muffins. “Good morning to you three. Sleep well?”

Esper yawned and nodded, “Very. Thank you for asking.”

Angel, Joey and Ledger were running and giggling around the camp.

Swift shook his head. “Ah. To be young again. Or at least… to have that much energy so early in the morning.”

Angel came running up to her Mamas, followed by Joey and Ledger. “Mama! Mama!”

Esper shushed her. “Angel, please… the others are sleeping.”

She smiled “Now, what is it?”

Angel pointed to the edge of the circle. “I saw hoof prints on the outside of your magic circle. But they didn’t cross over! Do you think those bad ponies came back?”

Esper sighed. “I don’t know little one, but this looks like a job for Dark. Could you go get her, please?”

Angel, Joey and Ledger ran over to Marchhare’s caravan. “Dark! Dark!”

Ask-De-Writer:

The upper half of my door opened and I stuck my head out. With mock severity, I demanded, “Is fried youngster on the breakfast menu?”

They replied, “Don’t be silly! It is too early for grown-ups to be silly!” Ledger pointed with a hoof. “We, well, really it was Angel, found some pony tracks that don’t look right. Esper said to get Dark to look at them.”

The lower half of my caravan door popped open and Dark lunged out, playfully capturing Angel with a mock pounce. “Tracks, Little One? Show me!”

With Angel leading the way, they all trooped off to see the tracks. I homed on on the important thing. Sitting by the fire, I held out plate and mug. “Muffins and coffee for the starving donkey?”

The Whisper Sisters:

Angel pointed to the hoof prints. “See Dark? They go all the ways around the circle, but they don’t come in!” She looked closer at the hoof prints. “And there’s three different sizes. It must be the ponies that chased me yesterday, right?”

She looked up at Dark. “D'ya we can go look fro them? Huh? Can we? Please?”

A magic bubble caught Angel by the tail, and carefully dragged the filly back to the fire. Ledger and Joey, catching the hint, followed.

Esper started serving muffins to all the ponies, as Black Lotus and the other Chaser sisters came out to join them.

“You will be going nowhere, Missy.” The pinto said, only releasing her magic once Angel had stopped struggling. “If Dark wants to go out and look for those trouble makers, she’s free to do so. You will be staying here where your Mama Breeze and I can keep an eye on you.”

Angel pouted as she ate her muffin. “But I’m a Squire of Equestria! I have to catch the bad guys!”

Galandra poured Marchhare and the other adults, coffee. “If I’m not mistaken, Angel, I do believe it was your Aunt Meg that said you might be a squire. So you aren’t one yet. I think you should wait until you meet up with her at Roan-Oak before you do any more searching.”

Angel’s wings drooped. “Awww~”

Ledger nudged Angel. “It’s okay Angel…” he whispered. “I think adults agree with one another just so that we don’t have any fun.” Angel perked up, and giggled.

Galandra sipped her own coffee and shook her head. “How’s your coffee, Marchhare? I’m sorry we don’t have any sugar, but we ran out a week ago. It’s one of the reasons we’re heading to Roan-Oak.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Ignoring the Angel byplay for now, I sipped my coffee. “It is fine. You do make it strong enough. Black Lotus, Dark and I have plenty of both sugar and crystallized honey. Both are good in coffee. We tend to like the honey in coffee. Gives a nice flavor.

“Sugar for most baking and batter cakes, though. It works better with the yeast.

“Which would you prefer, Galandra? Happy to supply either one.”

Just then, Dark joined us. She had the crystallized honey. Sort of settled things.

After she nibbled muffin and sipped coffee, she observed, “Both of you are wrong, Galandra. You and Angel both.

“Angel, Galandra is wrong. You are a Squire. A Squire is IN TRAINING UNDER THE DIRECTION OF A KNIGHT. Meg is your Knight. Let HER teach you. Do not go off willy-nilly, like you did yesterday. You are a Squire of MEG, not of Equestria.

“In a little, I will show you something about those tracks. They are not the same ones as the ponies that chased you yesterday. We have TWO sets of bad ponies to deal with, not one, unless they are working together.

“That means that WE do not chase them. Not even I go chase them. There is too much risk for now.”

As Angel began to pout, Dark added, “What we will do is make notes for Meg to use. Between me and the old donkey there, we can get the writing and pictures done. You are the Squire. After I show you what I saw, you tell us what to write and draw. That will give Meg a good report to work with. Your first report to your Knight.”

Angel brightened right up.

Soon, Dark was pointing out the differences in pony tracks to Angel. Angel thought it over and told me what to write. She told Dark what to draw. It did make a good, factual report.

When that was done, the day’s Pull began.

The Whisper Sisters:

“Pull! Lean Left! Lean Right! Pull Left! Pull Right! Pull!” Angel called out as the lead horse in Marchhare’s caravan of caravan’s. She and her mothers set a steady pace, a little quicker this morning, towards Roan-Oak.

Why the quickened pace? Well… a certain filly was anxious to see her Aunt and Knight-Commander. She couldn’t wait to give her her first official report. Well… two reports, really.

One report was concerning the mysterious hoof prints from last night, and the second was about the group of ponies that Angel had pursued the day before. Angel was so proud of herself. And she knew that Meg would be proud of her too.

"Come on you guys!” She huffed. “We have half a day’s pull to Roan-Oak! Let’s see if we can get there faster!”

Ask-De-Writer:

I advised, from my place beside Black Lotus and behind Dark in the second caravan Hitch, “Easy there, Angel. Meg can’t get to Roan-Oak any faster than tomorrow afternoon at the earliest. She might not be there until the day after.”

I was surprised by her answer. “I know that! I want to see Roan-Oak Fair! Even as a street filly, I heard stories about it. Besides, the sooner we get there, the more good booth spots there will be!”

I nodded agreement as Black Lotus and all the others did too. Angel was indeed learning the key lessons of being a Rom. The only thing more important than getting to a Fair was getting a good spot on the Midway.

It was Dark who replied, “Right! You tell him, Angel!”

We pushed on at Angel’s chosen pace.

We got to the Fair Fork of the road well before noon. As was usual for Roan-Oak and for almost no other town of Equestria, the toll booth operator lifted the gate promptly and cheerfully called, “Welcome to Roan-Oak Fair! If you have business with the Outfitters in town, you can just go ahead! The gates of Roan-Oak are always open to the Rom!”

We followed Angel down the Fair Acess. It was cobble paved. Pure quality. Emerging on the Fairground proper, the whole midway was also cobbled because of so much use. The caravan camping area was neatly laid out and had permanent fireplaces all set up. The free firewood was neatly stacked near each fireplace. Watering tanks and troughs were all properly filled.

Roan-Oak owed its prosperity and very existence as a town to the Rom and they remember it. It is one of the few places in Equestria where we are not only welcomed, but honored. That is why somehorses like Galanda and Swift will journey a week without their sugar to buy it and other supplies here.

Other towns are jealous of Roan-Oak’s prosperity but are not willing to do the one thing that would give them the same. Welcome us and treat us with respect.

Enough of lecture. We almost raced for good parking and booth spaces! The happy industry of set up was well underway in only a few moments. Before the sun was far past noon we all were set up and Dark had sold her first, very expensive, pattern-welded steel knife.

Shortly after we were set up, a pony with a cart of carpets came around, “Only five Silver bits for cleaning,” he told us. “They are a courtesy of the Fair!”

Nice carpets under hoof? We each snagged one!

Gust took Angel away from us. Very impressed by Angel’s good glide and safe, if awkward, tree landing, the Chasers were agreed. Real flying lessons. Soon the Fair’s airspace was filled with Angel and her proud teachers. First, it was turns and figure 8s. That quickly became spirals and other maneuvers!

To our surprise, some watcher put coins into the Sky Dancer’s box.

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Among the Rom: an RP with thewhispersisters

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an RP

by

Ask-De-Writer and Whispersisters

© 2014 by Ask-De-Writer and thewhispersisters

xxxx words

Writing begun 04/12/14

Cover art by Ask Snow Dreadful-Storm

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind knocks on De Writer’s door. “Father? Are you home?”

Ask-De-Writer:

The top half of the caravan door opened out, revealing a stunning black unicorn mare with a brilliant white mane. She was dressed in Rom fashion with colorfully dyed and embroidered sashes and tooled leather harness straps.

She said, “Come in, Wind, my sister! Who is that with you? Surely little Charlie has not grown so much as that!”

Small black hooves gripped the top of the door half and a young sounding voice exclaimed, “Who is it? Can I see?” Small hooves could be heard scrabbling for purchase on the inside of the door.

The black unicorn looked down with a smile and scooped up a small black pegasus, also with a white mane. She too was in Rom sashes and leathers designed to let her wings have free play.

The young one stilled at once in the comforting grip of Black Lotus. Her almost glowing red eyes took in every detail of the ones in front of her, as Black Lotus opened the lower half of the door in welcome.

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind, holding Charlie in her arms, nodded. “It is Charlie. It’s hard to explain…” She sighs. “Is father home? I have some bad news I need to tell him.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Black Lotus gently put the little pegasus down, still holding one of her hooves, and said, “Dark, I am afraid that this may not be a good playtime. At least not yet.”

Turning back to her visitor, she held out a hoof in welcome and said formally, “However dark your news, you bring us light with your presence. Do come in.”

She stepped down the caravan’s folding stairs and took Charlie in her arms. She escorted Wind into the caravan and said, “Father is out, but only for a moment. He is posting a new page to the Chronicle in Canterlot.”

She smiled as she added, “The loved dead are always with us. Father shall return quickly and we can all hear your news together. Until then, we shall have some tea.”

Little Dark came back to the guest seats with cups and a steaming kettle. While she was pouring, she said, “I called Grandpa and asked him to hurry.”

The caravan rocked slightly and an old brown donkey, gray at the muzzle and streaks of gray in mane and tail tuft stepped forward.

Dark looked up from her “hostess duties” in delight and said, “Grandpa! I knew that you would be here so I set out a cup for you!”  She poured and handed the old donkey a steaming cup of tea.

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind sits down, holding Charlie on her lap. She looks at De Writer in his donkey form. “Father? Why are you in such an… interesting form?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark cheerfully blurted out, “'Cause Grandpa’s a ghost! He’s the Ghost Who Guides! He can change shapes all he wants but no matter what shape he is, he’s not there. Try seeing him with your magic and you will see. Not there at all! Not even Mommy Murder can see him with magic!”

Black Lotus interrupted the happy babble to say, “Here, among his horses, for we Rom are not really ponies, father is Marchhare, an old donkey. Dark is right, though. He can change forms at will.“

Black Lotus sat back into a cushion and sipped at her tea while she asked, “How much do you know of father’s past?”

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind took the time to think. "I know most of it, thanks to the stories he’s told me. But, um, if it’s not too much trouble… could we discuss as to why I came here today?”

Wind began to tear up as the memory came back to her. “Father… Sister… Esper… was lost to us. Assassinated.” Wind started crying silently. “Our Dear Sister…”

Ask-De-Writer:

Marchhare compassionately reached across the table to take Wind’s hand, a sad expression on his face.

Black Lotus lifted her teacup, looking at Dark.  The little pegasus needed only a second to lift her cup too.  Marchhare raised his cup. They all three said softly, “The Loved Dead are always with us.”

Little Dark added, “Our hearts are their caravan. Whereso the road may lead, they are with us.”

Marchhare finished the small ceremony with, “Our Daughter, our sister, our aunt, Esper Whisper, you shall join our company on the roads of this land. Knowing that you pull beside us shall make the road short and the load light.”

All three drained their cups.

Tears glistened in their eyes.

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind whimpered, but didn’t touch her tea. “Thank you for those kind words, everyone. It helps. Somewhat.” She wiped her eyes, and managed a soft, sad, smile.

“The other reason I came here, was to ask for your help with Charlie, father.” She hugged her daughter loosely. “Esper, before she passed, used a blood rune on her. As you can tell … Charlie is now physically five. Her knowledge and speech are not.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Marchhare nodded wisely before saying, “That is not truly a new problem. Ponies have done similar things with their magic. What you call Alchemy is not too different at its root to what unicorns do.

“I will need to look in the Orb of the Ages to be sure of exactly what Esper did before we interfere with it. This will not take long.”

The old looking donkey went back into the caravan a small way and removed a smallish box from a cabinet. He set the box on the table and opened it, removing a small, clear, pale green ball mounted on three ornate feet.

He set the ball on the table and quietly whispered, “The future is forbidden.” The ball began to glow with a soft green light. Scenes began to form within it. They came and went swiftly. Everyone about the table watched in fascination. Young Dark noticed the sweat on her grandfather’s brow and mopped at it with a napkin.

Marchhare looked up with a sad smile and hugged Dark close with one arm. “Thank you. That was a difficult SEEING.”

He reached across the table and took Wind by the hand. “The news is good, my dear daughter. Our Esper was truly talented at her Alchemy. That was her own heart’s blood that she used. Charlie is grown in her mind as well as her body.

“Knowledge is all that she lacks. That is easily remedied. We will give you some tomes intended for the instruction of the young. You will need to hold her while you read to her. Cuddle her and keep her close so that she will enjoy the reading and pictures.”

Black Lotus nodded and her magic, as white as her mane, reached back into the caravan. Chests opened and books came floating to the table.

As she reached for the books, Wind saw a reflection of Marchhare on the surface of the Orb of the Ages. The reflection was the old blue unicorn that she knew and loved.

As he packed the Orb back into its box, Marchhare smiled and said, “I know what you saw. The Orb cannot show any untrue thing.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind relaxed, and breathed a sigh of relief. “I thank you, Father, for your help.” She let Charlie down, and the young Patter (pony/cat/otter) walked over to De Writer, and held her arms out. “Charlie want up,” She cooed. Wind laughed. A sound she hadn’t dared to utter in days. “She knows what she wants.”

Ask-De-Writer:

As I was scooping up Charlie, Dark Chirped, “Yep. She does. Grandpa’s lap! My favorite roost too.”

With a grin, Black Lotus reached out and said with a fake pout in her voice, “I thought that your favorite roost was MY lap!” Dark promptly hopped into Black Lotus’ arms and lap. She snuggled contentedly.

Black Lotus petted Dark’s white mane. She looked over at Wind and said seriously, “Have you got a lap and arms to hold you while you mourn? We are here for you, Sister of mine.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Charlie giggled, and snuggled into De Writer’s lap. “Grandpa’s lap.” She repeats, and starts sucking her thumb.

Wind looked at Black Lotus. “Yes, Sister. My Mate, Penny, has been comforting me through this terrible ordeal. Mama, who refuses to stop treating me as a kitten, brushes my mane whenever my tears start to flow.”

She looked at De Writer. “Father. Esper… she mentioned that Charlie has to ready for what is to come. What is going to happen?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Marchhare/De Writer bit his lip, brow furrowed with worry. “I am sorry, my Dear Daughter. You have asked a question that I cannot answer. There are a few limits on what I can see in the Orb of the Ages.

“The greatest one, no matter what folklore you may have heard, is that it will not show the future at all. It sees ONLY the past. In it I can see anything that has happened, anywhere in my world. In other worlds, like yours, I can see clearly anything that may pose a threat to this realm of Equestria or my foster daughters, Celestia and Luna. It is only a little harder to see those that I love and care about in other worlds. Anything else is very difficult to impossible to see.”

The old donkey hugged Charlie closer and wept. “I wish that I could answer you. I can only say that it is a threat to you and yours. It does not threaten this realm.”

Dark quietly got down from Black Lotus’ lap and poured Grandpa Marchhare another cup of tea. She offered, “I have only been here a short while but I have seen this. You think and plan better when you have a warm drink to help you focus.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind noded. “I understand.” She siped her tea, and took a steadying breath. “I hope it doesn’t mean what I think it might.” She looked at old Marchhare/De Writer. “And by that, I mean Evil has escaped from her prison, and is planning her revenge.”

She sipped more tea. “How else would one explain the shadow clone of Ico?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Thoughtfully sipping his own tea, brow furrowed in concentration, the old donkey turned over all that he knew of the situation. Finally, he nodded and suggested, “There are several possible ways.

“I did review the murder itself. The Ico copy said that Esper’s powers belonged to her MASTER. A male gender. That could be explained several ways but Esper knew that the copy was false the moment that she set eyes on it. Esper wandered her world for four years after the disaster of the temple. This killing may be rooted in those years.

“Think of this. Esper never knew you as the embodiment of Evil. Evil, however malicious, had been imprisoned and therefore had no knowledge of Esper’s past or powers. How would she know of Ico at all?

“I am not saying that you are wrong. I am saying that these things need to be considered. If Evil is loose again, Where or from who did she learn this? You yourself slew the monster that not only killed your parents, but also killed Esper’s folks and destroyed the temple with all of her friends.”

Little Dark had listened carefully. She spoke up hesitantly, like one fearing to say the wrong thing, “Grandfather, Aunt Wind, perhaps I can help. If you will allow me to see in the Orb, as you have Mother Murder, sometimes, I may be able to see what led to Aunt Esper getting killed. I do understand murder very well. I am the daughter of the Goddess of Murder, after all.” Her blood red eyes glistened with unshed tears. “This is a matter of family.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind noded, and looked at the little Pony. “Go ahead, Little one. I’m curious to see what you find.”

Charlie, meanwhile, looked Marchhare’s tea, and caused the liquid to rise in an orb. She then sneezed, causing it to fall back into the cup.

Ask-De-Writer:

Marchhare saw the tea rise up and fall back with mild surprise. Looking across the table to Wind, he said cheerfully, “Well, we can make a pretty good guess where Esper’s powers went!”

He thoughtfully re opened the small box that housed the Orb of the Ages. Carefully setting the Orb on the table, he took Darks small hand in his. “You must not touch the Orb for any reason, Dark, my dear.” He leaned close and whispered the short incantation, “The future is forbidden.”

The orb began to glow again. Marchhare brought the murder of Esper to focus, sweating a bit with the effort.

Dark had no such problem. She was, after all, Murder’s child. By holding to her Grandfather to borrow his skill, she took control, following up scenes and images almost too fast for her watchers to see.

She looked up to Wind and said, “Esper wandered for four years. Grandpa was right about that. During that wandering, she overcame Fear.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind blinked. “I don’t think that was Alchemy.” Taking the time to think, she said, “Esper could change water. Make it into something else. Ice, steam, even wine… but she couldn’t shape it like Charlie just did.” She shook her head. “I don’t know what Charlie just did.”

Looking at Dark, she asked, “Fear? As in… she conquered her fear? Or… Fear itself?”

Charlie yawned, curled up into Marchhare’s lap, and dozed off.

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark looked a question at Marchhare. He told her, “Go ahead, dear, this was your Seeing.”

Nodding acceptance, she asked Wind, “How would Evil have reacted if someone beat her totally and just walked away without ever realizing that they had done something remarkable? That is what Esper did.

“She met the very embodied Aspect of Fear on the road and beat him totally. She was unarmed. Fear thought that she would be easy prey.

“Esper flattened him with her Alchemy. In seconds. She walked away. Turned her back on him and left him there. She never even bragged of it because she never thought that the encounter was of any importance.

“That further enraged Fear. Then, when she simply walked out to face the shadow Ico, even though it murdered her, it failed completely. It was supposed to make her afraid of death, to make Esper a minion of Fear. She died to protect her family but never for a single second was she afraid. She defeated Fear a second time.”

“What you face is Fear itself. I cannot tell you what it looks like. The Orb shows reality and Fear is not a real thing.”

She spared a glance for the sleeping Charlie in my lap.

She smiled. Facing Wind again she said, You don’t spend much time around unicorns, do you? That was the same kind of magic that unicorns use all the time. I have to wonder if there is a unicorn somewhere in Penny’s background?”

The Whisper Sisters:

“You know… I never thought to ask her,” Wind said. “It is possible that Charlie knows magic through her. But she could also have picked up a few things from the Spirits, as well. Perhaps they gifted her with the talent of manipulating water. That would be incredibly useful.”

She looked at the snoozing patter. “But if Fear has targeted me and my family… I don’t know how to defeat it. He could be anything…”

Ask-De-Writer:

Marchhare nodded agreement. “He could indeed. Esper showed the way, though.” He paused to sip at his tea and then went on, “It was not that she did not know Fear. She did indeed. It failed to paralyze her. She mastered her fear and in the process, mastered Fear itself.

“That is the secret. Not no fear but the mastery of your own fear. Both a simple direct attack and the Ico ploy failed for the same reason. Esper was the true master of herself.”

The Whisper Sisters:

“She was stronger than me,” Wind admitted. “I see that now.” She sighed deeply. “She conquered Fear. She almost conquered Evil. Me? I was consumed by Evil, and I was afraid of letting anyone love me until Penny showed me not to be.”

Wind shook her head. “Twice… my enemies almost got the best of me. Only with the help of Penny… in both situations, was I saved. If Fear has indeed come for me… Judgement’s champion, or not, I honestly believe he will win.”

Ask-De-Writer:

It was Little Dark who answered that. “I do not think so at all. You are forgetting a vital thing. What Esper did, she did on her own, without help or friends.

“At the end, if she had trusted her newfound family and friends, she would not have needed to die. She faced Fear alone, and did win. The cost was not only her own life, but the grief and loss she caused her family and friends. They were saved, yes. Were they hurt? Beyond measure. Would they have stood with her? Without question.

“You have them all beside you. You know how to both be a friend and receive the help of friends. You have done so already. You triumphed because of it.

“Judgment would not choose a weak being for a champion. Your strength lies in more than a sword arm. Your enemy is solitude. Alone, you are weaker than Esper was. With your family and friends, not at all.”

I gave the little black pegasus a hug. “That was well said, Dark. Where did you learn that?”

She looked slowly about the table and at the camp of Rom outside the door. “Here, Grandfather. Storm and I were friends beyond merely being useful to each other. What you, Black Lotus and the others, even Wind, are is a whole new thing to Mother Murder and I.

“Because it is new to both me and Mother Murder, we have been studying it closely. It goes far beyond simple usefulness. It is love.” She turned in my arms to face Wind.

“Never forget the strength that comes from love. It has allowed you to triumph over the worst of foes and will again.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind looks at Dark. “You are wise beyond your years, Little One,” she smiled. “However… Fate, as you may not know, has been in constant communication with my Sister and I.” She sighed, “Esper might have faced Fear, or an agent of Fear, by herself, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Fate had a hand in her choice. We are all Fate’s puppets, whether we like it or not. To try and go against him would be folly.” She sighed again. “Anyways… Father? You said you had some books?”

Ask-De-Writer:

“Indeed I do. Black Lotus has already got them. They are placed just over there. I already told you how to use them in teaching Charlie. Always answer her questions. Her mind will learn at a prodigious rate. Esper has seen to that.

“It is true what you said about Fate. However, you must never use that as a reason to not do your best. Fate has been known to re cast his dice from time to time. To quote, “Fortune favors the well prepared.”

I reached over to the pile of books and put them back on the table. “Here are your first books. We will see them packed properly for you.”

I chuckled and tousled Dark’s lovely white mane. “This young lady does that to us frequently. When her Mother Murder shaped her, she allowed her to keep most of the memories of her former life with our friend Snow, Duchess Dreadful-Storm. She thinks quite carefully on that life and this one. She constantly compares them and draws surprising and usually very good conclusions.”

Charlie, curled in my lap, gave a small mew and stirred a little.

The Whisper Sisters:

“We have to go home…” Wind sighed, as she placed the books into her bag of holding.

“I’d hate to wake her up. She can be very grumpy when she doesn’t get enough sleep.” Wind thought for a second. “Father? Would you mind carrying her through the portal?”

Ask-De-Writer:

“Not at all, my Dear. It has been a while since I saw your mate, your mother, or my other granddaughter Aurixa. I understand that Charlie here, is not the only one who has grown some!

“On a more serious note, I wish to pay my respects at Esper’s lake.”

As Wind was cocking an ear in question, Black Lotus filled in, “We Rom call a grave the Earthen Lake. It is a tradition that is ancient. It dates to the days when we were desert horses, before Father saved us from famine and thirst. That is why he is our Ghost Who Guides. He died in that deed but never abandoned us, his horses.”

Ask-De-Writer:

“Not at all, my Dear. It has been a while since I saw your mate, your mother, or my other granddaughter Aurixa. I understand that Charlie here, is not the only one who has grown some!

“On a more serious note, I wish to pay my respects at Esper’s lake.”

As Wind was cocking an ear in question, Black Lotus filled in, “We Rom call a grave the Earthen Lake. It is a tradition that is ancient. It dates to the days when we were desert horses, before Father saved us from famine and thirst. That is why he is our Ghost Who Guides. He died in that deed but never abandoned us, his horses.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind nodded. “Oh. I didn’t know that. But, um… well… that lake by our house… we named it after Esper in honour of her. Esper’s Lake.” She smiled softly, and touched her map of portals. “Funny coincidence, no?”

Wind gestured to her father, “After you, Father. Dark, Black. I’ll see you two again soon.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Cradling the sleeping Charlie in a safe and soft net of blue magic, we stepped out of the caravan. Due to the possibility of accidental carrying of unintended ponies or other creatures, Portaling is best done where there is a reasonable amount of room.

Wind quietly laid an arm over my withers and we stepped across the worlds. Portals always tend to mess things up about my magical disguises, so as we stepped through, I returned to my natural form as an elderly blue unicorn.

While we were opening the gate to Mama Dragon’s yard, a large white dragon’s head reared up over the roof tree of the cottage.

I cheerfully called out, “Hi, Aurixa!”

The Whisper Sisters:

Aurixa yawned widely, and walked around the cottage to the spot where De Writer and Wind were standing.

“Mother. Grandfather,” she projected her thoughts. “It is a pleasure to see you again.”

Wind smiled and took Charlie from her Father. “I’m going to go put her down. You two can catch up.” Wind walked into the small cottage.

Aurixa stuck out her tongue and gently licked De Writer’s cheek. “I’ve missed you.”

Ask-De-Writer:

“I have missed you, too, Aurixa. The last time that I saw you, you were too big for a lap but still small enough to curl up on Wind’s bed to protect her.” I grinned at her and added, “Only a little has changed, really. Now you curl up around the house to protect your family.” I reached up and gave her huge snout a hug.

“I have heard about Esper. You must not blame yourself for her death. She avoided waking you when she went to meet the one who killed her. She was trying, and successfully, to protect YOU and the others.”

I placed a comforting hoof on Aurixa’s nose and looked about at the tidy yard and snug little cottage. “Even though she was with you such a short time, she treasured you and all the others here enough to lay down her life for you.

“I could not see it well in the Orb of the Ages. It took my other granddaughter, Dark, Murder’s child, to see it and trace it. She is extremely good at anything involving murder.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Aurixa sniffles. “Does Grandfather wish to see Esper’s stone?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Gently patting my huge granddaughter, Aurixa on the top of her outstretched nose, I replied, “Yes, love, I do. I need to do a small thing first. You can help me with it.

“My ponies, the Rom, have a tradition. We watch for small stones, about the size that I can easily hold in one hoof. They should be pretty ones but not valuable. We use them to decorate the Earthen Lakes, the graves, of the ones that we love.

“I need to find Esper a stone for her Lake. Will you help me, please?”

The Whisper Sisters:

Aurixa nodded. “I can help you with that task, Grandfather,” she purred quietly. “There are many shiny stones at the bottom of the pool named after Mother’s sister. Shall I dive down to collect some?”

Ask-De-Writer:

At my nod, Aurixa turned and with both grace and silence unexpected in so large a creature as my granddaughter, the dragon, she slid into the water. Gentle ripples spread from her large white form as she waded and then swam a bit. She submerged with no splash at all, a few spreading ripples the only sign of her dive.

Shortly the waters parted as gently as when she dived. Aurixa carried two stones in her large paw. A close examination showed that they had been one larger agate, now broken into halves. The break revealed a “fortification” pattern of colored rings of white, sard browns, and the reds of carnelian.

Tears in my eyes, I took one and folded her paw about the other. “Thank you, Aurixa, better stones could not have been found to honor Esper’s Lake. Would you join me in this?”

The Whisper Sisters:

Aurixa nodded. “I shall help with whatever task you need done, Grandfather.” She attempted a smile.

Ask-De-Writer:

I looked up at my immense granddaughter and said, “This is a Rom tradition for our loved dead. You may freely choose whether you join me in this or not. If it is too hard for you to bear, there is no shame in not joining me.

“I need to be taken to Esper’s Earthen Lake now.”

Without a sound or a projected thought, Aurixa led me through the shaded ways to the simple grave marker with its touchingly simple inscription:

”Here lies Esper Whisper…

Sister, Daughter, Aunt, Friend…”

There was a large depression in the grass facing the stone. An Aurixa sized depression. I sat next to Esper’s Earthen Lake shedding a tear for the daughter who was here but no longer with us in body. I took my stone and placed it gently on the earth next to the headstone, pressing it into the ground enough for it to stay upright, showing its lovely pattern.

A large white paw reached past me and placed the other half of the stone into the earth next to mine.

I sat quietly with Esper for a few moments, then said our traditional Rom words. “The Loved Dead are always with us. Knowing that Esper is pulling alongside us makes the road short and the load light. Her body may rest in this cool Lake of Earth but Esper shares the Road of Life with us.”

Behind me I heard other, familiar, voices repeating the words.

The Whisper Sisters:

Aurixa laid down in her spot, and heaved a sigh. “Does the pain ever go away, Grandfather?” She asked. “I have never… experienced a soul leaving a body before.”

Ask-De-Writer:

I looked up to catch the eye of my granddaughter, the dragon. I shook my head slowly. “I do not think so, Aurixa. The Rom tradition for it is good one, I think. We carry our loved dead with us in our hearts. We remember all of the good things about them that we can.

“We write them songs and make them music and dances. This harness that I wear? Hoof Dancer made this for me, years ago. I wear it to help remember her. My caravan has within it eight centuries of memories. We keep the love and let the ill lie with their bones in their Earthen Lake.

“I will not say what way of handling these feelings is better than another.

“Here, remember this, Esper did not lay down her life to save you all, so that you could spend your lives in mourning. She did it so that you could live as well and happily as possible. Carry all of her good with you and be glad that you have so much of it.

“I do not know if that will help you, my dear. It is all that I have.” I leaned my back against one of Aurixa’s paws and used my magic to tickle out mud and other nuisances from between her toes.

The Whisper Sisters:

Aurixa let out a rumble as De Writer removed the mud.

“Grandfather… that tickles…” She let’s out another rumble. So, he realized, that is a draconic version of laughing.

“Grandfather…”

Ask-De-Writer:

I looked up innocently to my huge granddaughter and began to work the spaces between her toes in earnest. With a grin, I asked, “You don’t mean to tell me that my large,powerful, and clever granddaughter is ticklish?”

Relenting from the tickle game, I pointed out, “Happiness and laughter shared are better things for Esper’s Lake than tears. Share good and fun things with her. If her spirit is in your heart, she will be happy and laugh with you. That is our way among the Rom.

“Even Celestia and Luna honored my dear Hoof Dancer’s Lake with a dance and songs that they themselves made.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Aurixa started humming softly.

“I do not know how to dance… but I can hum.”

The six month old dragon hummed softly. It was a low but powerful hum, seemingly coming from within her and around her. It was joyous yet it seemed laced with tenderness and sadness. Soon it was over. Absolute silence, both from her and the forest itself, followed.

“The dragons lament…” She explained. “Nana Dragon taught me.”

Ask-De-Writer:

I got up and gave Aurixa a bow. “That was the perfect sort of thing to share with Exper.”

I teared up just a bit. “I have the most wonderful family that can be found. Aurixa, you make me proud to call you Granddaughter.”

I turned around and saw the rest of my family there. They had been standing quietly by. All of them. Mama Dragon, Wind, Penny, and Charlie. With Esper, in her Lake, we were all gathered together.

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind blinked. “Oh my… that was simply beautiful, Aurixa.”

Charlie mewed. “Bootifoo.”

Mama smiled. “You sang that quite well, young Drake.”

Ask-De-Writer:

I said, “Thank you all for sharing this. Aurixa, I have never heard Dragon song before. It is amazing. Now, do any of the rest of you have anything that you wish to share with Esper?

“She is here. The loved dead are with us always.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind shook her head. “I have already shared my goodbyes with my sister on her deathbed. I can’t think of anything else to say.”

Charlie hoped down from her mother’s arms, and walked over to Esper’s marker. “I luv yoo, Auntie Esper. I knoo yoo watching us. Yoo made Charlie stronger. Tank yoo…”

Mama snuffled “I barely knew her… but she was as much my kitten as Wind is…”

Charlie huged her legs. “Nana… Charlie hungry.”

Mama dragon looked down at her granddaughter. “De Writer? Would you care to join us for dinner?”



Ask-De-Writer:

I smiled at all of them and replied, “I would be honored, Mama Dragon. Do not worry about me. Penny and I can eat the same things and I do not mind if the rest of you eat meats.

“We will remain one family.”

As we all followed Mama Dragon back to her cottage, I walked beside Wind and said quietly, “The Rom never say good bye to our beloved dead. We carry them with us in our hearts and share our lives with them. I do not know if that will help you or not. I do hope so. Esper is a good daughter too.”

I held the door open for her and Penny.

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind, Mama, Charlie, and Penny walked into the cottage.

"Please… have a seat, De Writer,” Mama smiled. “I’ll go put the soup on.”

Wind sat on her chair, and then pulled out her pipe. “Can I tempt you in some herbs, Father?”

Penny smiled, moving into the kitchen to help Mama, while Charlie sat on the floor playing with her blocks.

Ask-De-Writer:

I smiled in return and replied, “Not really. I no longer indulge in such things. Do not let that stop you, though. My time when such things entertained me was back when I was young.

“I never cared for them as much as some of my friends. Solely a personal preference though. I have never seen any harm to them, myself. They were made by Skyglow, the Titan of Life Creation and do have many useful properties.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind lit her pipe, and took a long pull. She then blew a smoke ring. “This blend I made myself. It helps with the pain I still suffer with my arm.”

She sighed, and flexed her metal fingers. “Even though I was six at the time… I can still feel the pain of having my arm snap in six places.”

She shook her head. “I’m sorry, Father… I didn’t mean to make this evening gloomier…”

Charlie was busy stacking her blocks into a tall tower.

Ask-De-Writer:

I was busy watching the sheer skill with which Charlie was stacking her blocks. Without looking up, I replied, “I did say that it was not a problem for me. I do know about your arm and about the pain. Those herbs are good for pain management.

“If I could get an injury or feel the pain of one, I would not hesitate to use them for that purpose.”

I pointed slowly, so as to not distract Charlie from her delicate task. “Take a moment to admire what your daughter is accomplishing.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind directed her eyes, one natural, one bionic, toward her daughter. She tilted her head, a look of surprise coming to her face. “Her hand eye co-ordination is remarkable. Her skill is almost comparable to mine. How is she doing this?”

She looked at her father. “Father… is this more of Esper’s magic?”

Charlie stopped and looked at Wind. “Mommy. Lookit what Charlie makes. Chalrie makes big tower.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Judiciously, I replied, “I am not sure if it is Esper’s magic or just that Charlie is very good at balancing things. It could be either one.

“Personally, I do not feel any magic in use at all. My guess is that Charlie is a very talented little patter.”

I took a quiet moment to examine the tower closely. My eyebrows rose right into my forelock.

“Wind, my dear, check out, not just the fine balancing that you are seeing, but look at the color pattern. It is not random.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind examined the tower. “Charlie? Where did you see those colours?”

Charlie giggled. “Charlie makes a rainboo!” She looked at De Writer and asked, “Gan'pa like Charlie’s rainboo?”

Ask-De-Writer:

I leaned back in my seat and smiled widely. “I like it very much, Charlie. I am curious about how you got the colors in it. You did not have any green blocks.”

I still could not feel any sort of magic, but I was staring at two green blocks that I knew had been pink a short while ago.

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind took another puff of her pipe. She was perplexed. “Charlie? How did you change the blocks?”

Charlie looked at her blocks, and then at Wind. “Charlie wanted different colours.”

Wind frowned in concentration. “This is interesting…”

Aurixa’s eye came to the window. Thoughts projected, “Little Sister wanted new colours, so I gave her new colours.”

Ask-De-Writer:

I laughed in delight. “Dragon magic! It is very different where I come from! Now I have two new things in one day! First, Dragon song and now Dragon magic! Aurixa, I would like very much to be shown how your magic works.

“After dinner, would you please show me how to do things like that?”

The Whisper Sisters:

Aurixa projected her thoughts to her grandfather. “Dragon’s magic is not like other forms of magic. For example… me breathing fire, me being able to fly, despite my great mass… this is done through magic. Mother touching my egg, and me hatching for her. This too, was magic. I can’t really explain it. It just happens.”

Mama Dragon came in. “Dinner is ready.”

Charlie hopped up and shouted “YAY!”

Ask-De-Writer:

I agreed with Charlie! Yay indeed! It had been a long day. Dinner was something that I looked forward to.

To my large and wonderful granddaughter outside, I shared the thought, “It is a natural magic that you have, Aurixa. I understand that. I want to see some of it happen up close, and when I realize that it is being done.

“I may learn nothing but I will have some time with you. I may learn something new, and as old as I am, that is a precious thing. It is almost as precious as the time that I will spend with you.”

We all followed Mama Dragon through the door to heavenly cooking scents.

The Whisper Sisters:

Mama was pouring soup into bowls. “I hope chicken noodle is okay with everyone?”

Wind sat Charlie on her booster seat. “Of course, Mama. Um… where’s Penny?”

Mama rolled her eyes. “Apparently, she had to go see Pen. She’ll be back in a few hours.”

Wind huffs. “Oh… that mare.” She sat next to Charlie.

“De Writer?” Mama asked, “care to join me on my side?”

Ask-De-Writer:

I made a courtly bow. “Mama Dragon, the honor is mine! I shall be happy to sit with you.

“As for the soup, while ponies like me are normally considered as vegetarian, most of the chickens that I have known are not bright enough to be counted as anything but vegetables! Besides, it was nochicken that I know. It smells delicious.”

I sat cheerfully in the place next to Mama Dragon.

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind helped Charlie with her soup. “Like this, Baby. Copy Mommy.” Charlie did her best, spilling only a little.

Mama started on her soup, after handing De Writer some wine. “My own brew. Made from my own gardens. It’s tart. And I hope you don’t mind red.”

Ask-De-Writer:

I accepted the wine with a smile. “Wine that is white, Between courses is right. Wine that is Red, From the heart, tis said.”

As I sipped, I watched Charlie closely. I was remembering the tea back in my caravan and wondering what other surprises lurked in that little patter granddaughter of mine.

I saw her watch her mommy again, with a closer scrutiny than most her age. A few of the spilled drops quietly rolled up into small balls and floated back into the bowl.

The Whisper Sisters:

Mama dragon gasped, “Wind? Did Charlie control her soup back into her bowl?”

Wind nodded, “Yeah. She did something similar at father’s. I think she might be an Elemental Shaper.”

Mama looked surprised. “How could this be?”

Wind thought for a moment and then said, “Father thinks it might be a side effect of Esper’s spell.”

Ask-De-Writer:

I nodded and swallowed the noodles that I was munching. Mama Dragon did indeed make excellent soup. “I would guess that to be the case. Wind, you have no such skill in your background and we know enough of Penny to be reasonably sure that only normal unicorn magic lurks in hers.

“Pendleton’s mother is a unicorn and, since Penny is a portion of Pendleton that has taken a life of her own, her background is the same as his. Unicorn magic from her mother might have been the basis for this, but you may be certain that this is not normal unicorn magic.”

I paused thoughtfully for a moment, hit by a thought. “It is possible that Aurixa might have taught her some of her natural and very elemental magic either on purpose or as a side effect of their playing together.

“We could ask her if she recognizes this magic of Charlie’s.”

I turned to Mama Dragon and added, “Thank you, by the way. Both soup and wine are excellent.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Mama blushed some. “Thank you, De Writer. Your words are too kind.”

Charlie kept eating, humming softly as she did.

Wind nodded in approval, “Mama is the best cook in the land, in my opinion. Several lands if I may be so bold.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Sitting back from the table, replete, I had to agree. “I think that was the best soup that I can remember … And I am past three thousand years old.”

I caught something from the corner of my eye. Charlie was playing with her food. Have you ever seen SOUP heaped up on a spoon before? I hadn’t! I kept watching. She was imprisoning noodles in globs of liquid soup and bringing the noodle bearing globs to her spoon to be lifted to her mouth. Charlie was having a great time! She was doing another thing that I had never seen the young do in all of my years. Eating neatly. Not a drop going to waste!

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind blinked at Charlie’s skill with her powers. “Aurixa?” Wind asked, “Did you teach sister some magic?”

Aurixa projected her thoughts to all of them. “I helped guide her with her talents, using the knowledge of my ancestors, but no, Little sister’s powers are hers alone, just as my fire is mine.”

Mama finished her wine. “That is interesting. I wonder what caused them.”

Wind shruged. “Well, considering all the magic surrounding us, is it really that odd?”

Ask-De-Writer:

I examined the bottom of my wine glass while I focused my thoughts. Looking up, I suggested, “It is not that odd that Charley develop powers. She has a background and ancestry that is infused with power from many possible sources. There is only one problem with that. I live with magic. It surrounds and infuses a being like me. I can sense magic in action. I can sense where magic has been used and to what ends.

“Those, like me, who can sense magic, are disturbed by my presence because they cannot sense me at all. They can only see me, touch me if I allow it, hear me or smell me. The sense of me by magic is absent entirely.

“Charley is much the same. You see the manifestation of her power. Magically, there is nothing there. That is what is odd.”

I looked directly at the window where Aurixa’s large, intelligent, golden eye was watching all that was happening in the room. I addressed her directly, “Now, Aurixa, I think that you understand why I want to watch both you and Mama Dragon do your forms of magic. Your magic is not like the magic of dragons in my world. Not at all. This is something that could be very important to me.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Aurixa winked at De Writer. “Other then fire, Nana Dragon doesn’t use magic. Right, Mama?”

Mama topped off De Writer’s drink. “Indeed I don’t. I am not a dragon in the traditional sense. I might look like a dragon, and breathe fire like one, but I am more a person, like Wind, then I am a dragon, like Aurixa.”

Wind wiped Charlie’s mouth, and started collecting the empty bowls.

Ask-De-Writer:

I took some time to savor the wine. Then I looked straight at Mama Dragon. “I fear that is not entirely true, Mama. You forged the Soulblade with your fire. There is far more to that blade than mere iron and steel working.

“I will grant that you rarely do any such thing, but you do know how, and will do so at need.”

I savored the wine again before adding, “I will not press you about it. You no doubt have good reasons for not using such skills.”

I turned back to Aurixa. “Will you share with me some of your magic in action? I want to learn all that I can about this. I am only asking demonstrations, not instruction.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind smiled. “Go on outside, Father. Mama and I will clean up.”

Charlie looked at Wind, “Charlie help too?”

Wind nodded, “Yes, Baby. You can help.”

Aurixa winke again. “Come outside, Grandfather. I will show you some of what I know.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Smiling, I got up from the table where such a fine feast had been served. I went out through the front room, pausing to see Charlie’s “rainboo” of blocks. They were still standing.

I opened the front door, wondering what further wonders I was going to see. That there would be wonders, I did not doubt at all.

 

The Whisper Sisters:

Aurixa pointed her snout at a large boulder. “What colour is your favourite, Father?”

Ask-De-Writer:

I considered carefully and said, “How about a translucent red-orange, like Wind’s hair? A sort of carnelian color. Can you do that?”

The Whisper Sisters:

Aurixa touched the rock with her claw. It changed into a carnelian gemstone. “Like that, Grandfather?”

Ask-De-Writer:

“Exactly like that, my dear.” I was right. Wonders. I examined the stone carefully. I had felt only a slight ripple of any sort of magic. No trace of it remained with the stone. Like Charlie’s blocks, it now seemed to be a totally natural object. No residue of the subtle and hugely powerful magic remained.

To remind me of this, I laid some of my blue magic onto the stone, allowing my magic to seep into it. Loosening the stone particles with the magic, I withdrew a largish softened part of the big carnelian and formed it into rings of flawless glowing orange stone.

At Aurixa’s quizzical glance, I explained, “One for each of my granddaughters and daughters. This one is for you, I have in it a bit of magic that will keep it properly fitted to you.

“This one is for Esper. I will put it on her Lake beside the stone that I put there earlier.”

The Whisper Sisters:

“Why rings, Grandfather?” Aurixa asked, examining the ring De Writer had placed on the middle “finger” of her right paw.

Ask-De-Writer:

“A good question, Aurixa. It has several answers,” I replied, as I looked about for the next test of Aurixa’s type of magic.

“One is that rings are a common form of jewelry adornment. Few pay much attention to rings unless they display some obvious magic. Rings of fairly ordinary agate types of stone, like these, will not be paid much attention to.

“The other, is more subtle. These rings will always resonate to each other. Any of the wearers will be able to go directly to where any of the others are. This, like your magic, is not a common or obvious magic. It is a part of the ancient magic of the Creator Titans.”

I looked up to stare my immense granddaughter in the eye. “Nobody but the proper wearer can use that property of the rings. Esper’s ring is very important in this. Your sister will not rise like some zombie, I promise. Still, her ring will remain an important part of this set.

“You remember hearing me say that the the loved dead are always with us? It is sort of tied to that.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Aurixa looked at De Writer, and tilted her head. “You keep saying that Esper will always be with us. Do you… expect her to return someday?”

Ask-De-Writer:

I chuckled. “Not in her body, no. In that sense, she is gone.

“As you grow older, you will realize the value of remembering her. I do not mean in some nebulous idealized way. Death did not make her into a saint, or a sinner. If you carry your memories of her as a whole person, they can show you many valuable things. Her courage, for instance. Those memories can provide you with guideposts as you go through life.

“In that sense, she will be with you always, as a friend and companion. The tales and jokes that she told will lighten hard labors and liven a dull evening. That is the value of a whole memory of her. Because she is a Loved Dead, she will be with you always, as a friend and counselor in your heart and mind.

“We place pretty stones on their Lakes to remind us of them. Flowers, however lovely, fade. Stones and memories last.”

I strolled on over to where Esper’s Lake was and quietly placed the ring on the ground by my stone. With my blue magic, I softened the earth and the ring sank slowly down, out of sight.

I said, softly, “That is for you, Esper. The loved dead are always with us. While we live, you will live with us.”

Turning to Aurixa, I said, “Now, let’s go and give the others their rings.”

The Whisper Sisters:

“You go ahead, Grandfather. I’m off to hunt.” Aurixa flaired her wings. “I will see you later.”

She pounced into the sky, and soon, disappeared into the horizon.

Ask-De-Writer:

Wondering idly what game could be large enough to seriously interest a dragon like my granddaughter, I mulled over what I had learned by watching first, her boulder to gemstone transformation, then her takeoff and flight. I did recognize signatures in the magic.

Very ancient signatures. This was a form of the magic of the Creator Titans. Not the forms that I was used to, though.

I pushed open the door of Mama Dragon’s house, bearing my small treasure of jingling stone rings.

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind was sitting on the couch, holding Charlie on her lap. They were reading a large tome together.

Mama was sitting in her armchair; knitting fine metal rings together. The metal itself was a whitish silver.

Ask-De-Writer:

I watched in fascination as Mama Dragon’s busy pliers added ring after ring from her supply box to the growing fabric of metal. The ends of each ring, as she closed it, fused neatly in a perfect weld.

I could feel no heat at all from the welds but I did feel a very familiar magical signature. It was the same as Aurixa’s when she turned a plain boulder into carnelian for me.

If this was related to Dragon Fire, I could easily see that I had far underestimated its potential. I offered, “Mama Dragon, I owe you an apology for not understanding the brilliance and subtlety of the meaning of Dragon Fire. I have much to learn.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Mama looked up at him and smiles. “Our magic is subtle. But if you focus… you can feel it.” She kept on knitting.

Wind looked up from reading. “Father…” she pointed to a stack of five books. “Charlie has finished all those books.”

Charlie’s eyes where focused on the pages before her. She almost seemed to be… absorbing the information like a sponge.

Ask-De-Writer:

I gave a big smile and pointed out, “That is the one thing in this whole visit that does NOT surprise me. I told you, back in my caravan, that this would happen. I said that her mind was normal, lacking only information.

“As it happens, I do have a solution of sorts for our little book-worm.”

I proffered my carnelian rings. “These are for my daughters and granddaughters. I can fashion more if there is a need. There is a small spell common to much jewelry to make them fit properly.

“There is also a more subtle one. Each of my daughters and granddaughters will know where each other is and can go directly to them. No portal needed. I have a feeling that this family of mine may have much use of such support.

“There is one more thing that you should know. Esper has been included, sort of. If any of you are beset and you need an escape, you can go directly to Esper’s Earthen Lake.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind placed a ring on her hand and one on Charlie’s right hand. “It’s beautiful, Father.”

Charlie lookd at her ring. “This is mine?”

Mama gasped, “Oh my… Charlie! You used a full sentence?”

Charlie noded. “Yes, Nana.”

Ask-De-Writer:

I clapped my hooves in delight! “Milestone! We need to fix our little scholar a fish cake or some other treat that she wants!”

There was a slight “Whump!” of displaced air as Aurixa materialized just outside the house!

The Whisper Sisters:

Aurixa belched.

“Oh… that was quite the meal…” she thought.

Charlie looked at Mama Dragon. “A cake? I can have a cake?”

Mama nods. “I have some fresh cat-nip. How does that sound?”

Wind’s and Charlie’s ears perked up!

“Cat-nip?!”

Ask-De-Writer:

I grinned and observed, “I guess that is settled! Catnip it is! While I trust you implicitly, Mama Dragon, I would like to know just one thing.

“When the catnip hits both of those two at the same time, what is the likely radius of total destruction?”

I gave her a sideways look and added, “Where I come from, cats on catnip tend to go so totally nuts that the squirrels chase them for winter supplies! Maybe being only part cat will tame them down a bit?”

The Whisper Sisters:

Mama put her knitting down, and stood up.

“You three wait here, while I go make the cake.” She looked at Wind sternly. “I mean it, Kitten. I don’t want you finding out where I hide the catnip.”

She walked into the kitchen.

Wind huffed, “She still treats me like a kitten.”

Charlie looked at Wind, and giggled. Wind’s mood brightened, and she hugged her daughter.

“I suppose you still treat Luna and Celestia the same way, Father?”

Ask-De-Writer:

I smiled sadly at that. “Only to the limited extent that they will take being pushed around by an old Rom donkey. One that they think died over eight hundred years ago.”

My eyes teared up a bit. “I see them fairly often. They have not knowingly seen me in nearly one thousand five hundred years. We can only meet if they do not know that it is me.

“The Edict of Banishment has been rough on us all. That is why I stay as old Marchhare, the Ghost Who Guides, while I am with the Rom.”

I did brighten up a bit. “They do try to behave like good Rom when they visit. Affairs of State are about the only things that will keep them from coming to be god mothers to my foals or the marriages or funerals of my family.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind’s ears drooped slightly. “I’m sorry, Father. I didn’t mean to stir up bad memories.”

Charlie hopped off Wind’s lap, and hugged De Writer around his legs. “Don’t worry, Gan'pa. Things will get better. You’ll see.”

Ask-De-Writer:

I smiled down at Charlie and ruffled her mane, behind her ears. I spared a smile for Wind as well. “Don’t be upset, dear. I have had fifteen hundred years to get used to the situation.

“It is not wholly bad, either. It has forced my daughters to be stronger and more self-reliant. I still have direct contact with them through the Chronicle. They leave me notes and I leave them notes. They are aware that old Marchhare is known to me. We leave it at that.

“The Edict cannot be undone without the consequence of destroying every living thing on our world. It was sworn and sealed with both Celestia and Luna’s Creator Magic and connected to the paths of the sun and moon.

“To undo it would require the sun to be extinguished and the moon to fall into the sea. They meant the phrases to be mere poetic language. Unfortunately, really basic and hugely powerful magics like that, are very literal. It took the thousand year banishment of Luna to finally drive that home to them.

“Both of those disasters of misused Creator Magic were the direct result of interference by sycophantic courtiers. Ponies who had a fine grasp of poetic language that would sound impressive. The were right about that, at least.

“Both of my daughters are now very much more careful when they use any magic, especially that of Creation.”

I hugged Charlie to me and gave Wind a big smile. “Sorry for the lecture. I know that you have tried to find ways to help me and my daughters. You deserve to know why it cannot be done.

“Sometimes, you have to make do with what you have because what you want cannot be done, or in this case, undone!”

I shook my head and repeated, “You are banished from Our Sight and from all of Canterlot until the sun shall fail of light forever and the moon fall into the sea! - - - That was what they pronounced and enforced.

“The power that it took to do it, let both of them know that something had gone far amiss. It weakened both of them enough that the first Nightmare War was delayed by over a month.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Aurixa mewed slightly. “Dragon magic is more powerful than Pony magic. Is there something that I can do, Grandfather?”

Wind’s ears perked up.

Ask-De-Writer:

Quietly, I explained, “You are correct, Aurixa. Your magic is far more powerful than any pony magic.

“The magic that my daughters, Celestia and Luna, wield is not pony magic at all. It is the very magic of Creation itself. I do know that in some worlds, the Titans used dragons like yourself as helpers. That is why your magic is so powerful in its very subtle way.

“It can do many things, far more than what you usually do with it. Without ruining a whole world and bringing about the death of every living thing there, you cannot undo this one thing. The Magic of Creation given to my foster daughters is the same magic that was used to form your kind. It is focused differently, but it is the magic of Life Creation.”

I sighed, “I would forbid it in any case. The risk is too great to take for the simple happiness of three ponies. As it stands, we do get along.

“It serves one other very important function. My Daughters have lived and ruled for more than three thousand years. It is easy to lose touch with the needs of short lived ponies, to become arrogant. This is a constant reminder that they can make truly terrible mistakes and that such may not be fixable.

“As a result, they have become wise and gentle rulers who can have a hoof of steel if needed.”

I looked about the room and out the window to Aurixa as well. “Now do you understand why, though I would love to see the Edict undone in some safe way, I do not WANT it undone?

“My happiness, in this one thing, is a small price to pay to see my daughters rule a wide land wisely and well, along with carrying out their important duties in regulating the heavens.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Aurixa mewed again, “As you wish, Grandfather.”

Charlie’s ears pricked up. “Something is coming…”

Wind stood up. “Charlie. Go get Nana and go hide in our special spot, okay?

“Father. I hate to be bossy, but you must leave. Now.”

She called Soulblade to her hand. “Fear is coming. You must leave.”

Wind rushed out the door.

Ask-De-Writer:

I simply materialized in front of Wind, just past the front gate. “Easy there, daughter of mine. You forgot something about me. I am already not here. Haven’t been for a few thousand years.

“Family is about appropriate support. I can be wherever I am needed to foul this little Aspect’s parade instantly. I can touch it. It can’t touch me.

“I don’t like fighting, it is true. Doesn’t mean that I don’t do it really well when I need to.

“We really have no particular need to hurry. It is coming to US. All I am afraid of is a mouse sized dragon getting in my shorts and toasting my privates … That is a joke, Wind.

“You won’t let family down. This part of the family won’t let YOU down either.

“A unicorn, like me, does not need a weapon. I AM a weapon.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Wind looked at her Father. “Father… I…”

She nodded. “Protect Mama and Charlie. Also… if you can enhance my speed that would be perfect. But as for fighting? I must do this by myself.”

She looked at Aurixa. “Daughter. Only help me if all seems lost. Okay?”

Aurixa nodded. “As you wish, Mother.”

Ask-De-Writer:

“I disagree, but will respect your wishes. I have two pieces of advice for the coming conflict. First, believe no thing that you see presented by Fear. Second, believe no thing that Fear tells you. At it’s heart all of fear is falsehood.

“As for the speed and endurance? One huge boost coming!”

My blue magic gathered around my horn and flowed into Wind until she glowed lightly all over. It sank into her and vanished to the eye.

Wind thanked us for our promise and left us to go and meet her foe.

/////////////////////

Her battle and its outcome are on The Whisper Sisters blog. Wind’s excellent art and links to the her battle are here by her gracious permission.

The Storm

The Storm, Part 2

The Storm, part 3

The Storm Breaks

The Storm Breaks, Part 2

Dragon Rage

The Face of Fear

Prophecy Fulfilled

Contemplation

/////////////////////////////////

Ask-De-Writer:

The battle over. Fear was defeated by the unexpected aid of little Charlie, who imprisoned his body in a ball of water. She then froze it and Aurixa took it away to mountains where it would not thaw.

How did Charlie get there to help her mother? It was her ring, given only hours before. Through it, she knew that her mother was in trouble. Aurixa could not help her mother just then but Charlie knew that she could. For one with the connection of the ring, to know was to go. She went.

I did all that I knew how to do to help with healing.

There was no more to be done.

With very mixed feelings I went back across the worlds to my camp. I told my daughter Black Lotus and my granddaughter Dark all that had happened in that eventful and sad trip.

The Whisper Sisters:

“Father!” A chittering call came from outside the old pony’s caravan. “Father, come outside!”

Ask-De-Writer:

The voice was unfamiliar but the presence was one that I knew very well! I had known that unique signature of presence for too short a time.

Black Lotus noticed it too. Her head snapped up from where she was carefully tooling the design into a new harness part for Dark. As promised by her mother, the goddess of Murder, Dark was growing quickly.

I opened the caravan door and put my head out to look for the being behind the voice. There was a rustle in the branches overhead. I looked up.

The Whisper Sisters:

The strange creature, an oryx/squirrel hybrid, leaped down from the tree.

“Father.” She bows. “It’s me. It’s Esper.” She stood, and showed the three ponies her ring. “See?”

Ask-De-Writer:

As I gave her a hug, I replied, “I do see. I am curious, though. I put that ring in your Earthen Lake. How do you happen to have it here?”

Behind us, Black Lotus and Dark were looking in wonder from the ring on Esper’s hand to the ones on their own.

Thoughtfully I added, “In fact, come to think … How do YOU happen to be here at all? I know that it is you. You can’t fool this old donkey on that point.

“Last that I looked, you were dead and buried. That was WHY I put your ring into your Earthen Lake instead of on your hand, where it is now.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper sighed. “I think it’s best that we go inside, Father. What I have to tell you… is a little complicated.”

Ask-De-Writer:

I grinned and scrubbled Esper’s hair between her horns. “In this family, Kiddo, complicated is the norm. We can go in and make ourselves comfortable.”

Black Lotus held the door open by its lower half while Dark scampered up the ladder-stair, saying over her shoulder, “I’ll make the tea! Rom Black good for everyone?”

I saw Esper staring at the retreating back of my black pegasus granddaughter, Dark. She was obviously noting Black Lotus’ similar coloration, down to the white mane and tail.

I openly chuckled as I escorted Esper up the caravan’s stairs. “Yes, Black Lotus is my only living daughter. No, my granddaughter Dark is not her daughter. To make it more interesting, Dark has TWO mothers.

“Still, through your ring, you can feel the genuine kinship. I told you that complicated is the norm.”

We all found comfortable seats and put down the compact travel table between us. Dark proudly brought out the tea set and began to serve.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper scratched one of her horns.

“I’m still getting used to these…”

She cleared her throat, “Anyway. My resurrection. See… after Wind freed my soul from it’s twisted form that was thanks to Metal and Fear… the two spirits, Life and Nature took me away to their realm.

“It was Much like what Judgment did with Wind after her battle with the Shadow wolf.”

Esper took the tea that Dark gave her. “They gave me this body, and sent me here.”

Ask-De-Writer:

I took my tea and looked at the bottom of the cup. It was there.

I saw Esper’s somewhat confused look and explained, “Dark is allowed to practice her murder attempts on me because I can’t be killed.”

Black Lotus interrupted with a grin, “Being dead for 800 years already tends to do that to this old donkey! Makes it hard to kill him again!”

I enfolded Dark with a soft blue magic hug. “You did that one very well, Dark. As a reward, I have gathered some evening blooming nightshade and hung it properly to concentrate the toxin in the petals and upper leaves. You will find it on the underside of the caravan, next to the wheel-wright tool box. It will need to hang for one more day.”

Esper cautiously examined her tea cup.

Dark smiled at seeing that and placed one of her knives on her palm crossways. She offered it to Esper. “Esper, ring-sister, you will never need fear me. By the ring that we both wear, if ever you or yours need me, I will be there.”

Esper cautiously reached out her hand.

Dark extended her hand across the small table and put the knife into Esper’s palm. She curled the orryl’s fingers around the handle.

Smiling, she said, “Wear this to honor me. Grandfather taught me the steel craft and I made it. I have a wrist scabbard for it that I will give you too. This knife is the seal of my promise to you.”

Esper started to look puzzled.

Dark explained earnestly, “Like my Mother Murder, with my other mother, Lady Snow, Duchess Dreadful-Storm, I cannot shield you from dying by murder. I can be there on the instant that you need help to prevent you from being killed, if that is possible. If not, I can avenge you as necessary.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper nodded, and examined her ring. “Well… it’s very pretty. I like it.”

She scratched her horns again. “Do you know how hard it was to get dressed with these? Honestly.” She huffed and drank her tea.

“Sadly… another side affect, aside from my antlers, is that, well, I’ve lost my powers. No more alchemy.

“I do, however, have the special abilities of both species. I can climb tress with no effort, and I can run and leap with getting tired.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark looked to me for permission. At my nod, she explained, “Grandfather has crafted these rings so that no blocking spell or change of worlds can prevent our coming to each other’s aid.

“They do not teleport us with magic. They use no magic of any kind.

“The exact instant of the present is everywhere that time exists. The rings use that unique property of time itself to let us go to the owner of one of the other rings.

“As for getting dressed, unicorns and pegassi have been dealing with that for thousands of years!” Dark grinned, showing her mouthful of razor-like small fangs and added, “Horns? Try getting your wings through a shift or blouse!”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper smiled. “I could well imagine wings being difficult.” She sipped more tea.

“I wonder though… why was I sent here? Father? Have you some idea?”

Ask-De-Writer:

I smiled at the image of Esper trying to get a short top like she was wearing past her new horns.

Becoming more serious, I steepled my forehooves and furrowed my brow as I considered Esper’s question.

“I can think of several possible reasons, my dear. The Spirits of your world are capricious and controlling but they actually do care deeply about those that serve them.

“Starting with that, if they put you here, you may be sure that it was not an accident. Thus, there are things here that they want you to learn.

“First among those things is the connection of those rings and your kin. You have faced Fear and defeated it. Wind had to do so after you did. Worse, she had to face you and defeat you as a servant of Fear. Still, she did it. You both have passed the test of facing a True Aspect of negative energy alone.

“It is possible that the second battle with Fear might have been avoided entirely, had both you and Wind learned the worth of cooperation. You have both been loners. That is a great strength and a great weakness at the same time.”

I paused to sip more of Dark’s excellently brewed Rom Black Tea. That time, and looking at Esper, toying with the knife that Dark had given her as she concentrated, gave me a missing piece of the puzzle. I smiled.

“Ask Dark, here, if murders and killing are not usually best done alone. Yet, one of the things that she is learning here with us, is that very same lesson of cooperation, in its proper place.”

Almost as if she had got a cue, Dark offered, “If your Spirits took away your Alchemy, they gave you something else. Speed and precise agility are at least obvious parts of it. There may be more.

“Grandfather taught me the ways of steel working. Let me teach you, so that you can always be armed with weapons suitable to your new abilities.”

With a smile of real warmth, she held out a small hoof to Esper.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper stood and took Dark’s hoof.

“I suppose I could learn a new trade. Perhaps I will awaken a hidden skill. Spirits are tricky.

“They never tell you what you need to know. They just point, and say go that way.”

She laughed. “Should I change my clothing? I would hate to over-heat outside.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark grinned and replied, “Actually, yes. I have a spare leather apron and sleeves. Hot sparks can be a problem.

“Don’t worry just now, though. We won’t be doing anything hot today. You need to learn what the tools are first and them we will practice with the hammers on a piece of wood.”

Dark was skipping down the caravan steps as she chattered.

I saw Esper’s skeptical look at the mention of hitting wood but it was Black Lotus who spoke first. “The shape of the dents that the hammer makes in the wood will reveal the imperfections in your stroke.” She made shooing motions with a hoof.

“Now, go and learn from Dark. She really is an expert smith.”

Her lips forming an “o” of understanding, Esper simply leaped from the caravan to the ground. She went around to where Dark was opening up a tool box mounted beneath the caravan floor.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper’s bushy tail swished as she waited for Dark to get the tools out.

“So… I get to learn with wood first, to see how I hit the metal. huh? Sounds interesting.”

She examined her claws. “Where are these sleeves you wanted me to wear?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark looked up from sorting tools. She smiled happily. “You won’t need them at first. I love teaching and learning both. Grandfather says that it will not be long before I do not need a forge to make things of iron and steel.

“I know that I am a pegasus but I have a lot of magic through my Mother Snowstorm’s blood. That magic goes back through many generations to Grandfather.”

Dark looked up and a disturbed expression settled on her features. “I am babbling. I apologize for that.

“Here. These hammers are the most basic. This is a peen. This one is a cross peen. This is a ball peen. This is a small sledge. This one is not technically a hammer. It is called a flatter. It is used with a sledge.

“I will explain them more and show you the details in a little.”

Dark gave Esper the small sledge. “Here. Hold this piece of wood in the tongs and lay it flat on the small anvil block … perfect. Now, set that sledge on the wood so that it is flat and square to the wood. Feel that position. That is how you want your strike to end. Lift and strike!”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper lifted the hammer, and brought it down. However she shattered the wood, causing it to break into splinters.

“Oh!” She gasped. “Oh my… it seems I’m stronger than before,” she huffed. “I have to learn to control that.”

She looked at Dark. “Are you okay?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark, plucking a splinter from her forearm, grinned hugely. “Better than alright! That was magnificent! It was too hard for what we wanted right now, but power like that while smithing is what moves the metal!

“If you have control as fine as I think that you do, you will make wonders in steel!” Dark finished up by handing Esper another wooden plaque. “Try again. This time try for the dents that we need.”

The hammer rose and fell. The wood stayed intact. Dark took a look at the dent. Her lips curled up in her disturbing, sharp fanged grin.

“Almost perfect! I was right. You do have control to go with that strength! Here, see? Barely deeper on your side of the dent.”

She held Esper’s arm to demonstrate. “It is only a tiny difference. Here, see? This is where you ended the stroke.” She shifted Esper’s arm just a little. “This is where it was supposed to end.

“Now try the stroke again. I will bet that you do it right!”

Dark would have won her bet. Five times in a row.

The Whisper Sisters:

With each stroke, Esper learned better control over her new-found strength. After several moments, and several pieces of wood, she had finally had the hang of it.

“Whew~’ She huffed, wiping her brow. "This is really a good work out.”

She smiled at Dark. “How’s my swing? Any tips?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark, delighted at the progress of her pupil, reached over and took Esper’s arm in her hands. “Yes. These tips have nothing to do with how your hammering is. These are for control and endurance.” She flexed Esper’s wrist and elbow through a range of moves.

“The hammer is a tool. Let it do most of the work. When you start your swing, use the power of your arm. Then relax and loosen your wrist. Just guide the hammer once the swing has started. When it hits, it will bounce. Use that bounce to help you lift the hammer for the next swing.”

Taking the hammer briefly, she demonstrated what she meant. She guided Esper through several swings and said, “There, see how much easier it is that way? It is easier on your wrist, arm and the whole rest of your body too. It makes the whole exercise a nice smooth movement.”

Esper nodded as she practiced controlling the hammer.

The Whisper Sisters:

After several hours, Esper finally perfected her swing.

“Whew… I’m all sweaty…” She wiped her brow. “But worth it. This is really fun.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark gave another of her sharp toothed grins as she replied, “I know. We need to break for lunch now. I heard Auntie Lotus fixing it. She is really sweet about not stopping us from our tasks to eat. She knows that we will come if she fixes it!”

She left the tools out as she led the way back into the caravan. “We can put them away after we eat, if we must. I want to ask Grandfather if we can take out the small forge and start you on metal this afternoon.”

I had to tell them, “Not until this evening, my dear. We are already delayed a half day’s pull for this lesson. This evening, she will learn the colors of the metal heat better in the lower light of the evening and night.

“I must say that I am impressed. I have watched you both in the Orb so as to not disturb the lesson. Esper, you have real talent for smith work.”

I took the time to set out a map for Esper’s benfit. “You see? We are here right now. Draytown fair is there. It is nearly always a good fair for us. We do want to be a day early for setting up.”

Dark grumped but with a smile too, “I knew that. I am just so excited at Esper’s progress.”

We all heard the clinking of metal tools being picked up.

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark answered over her shoulder as she launched herself directly from the caravan’s door, “Tell you in a minute! Stop! Thieves!”

Before I could say anything we all heard another set of sounds. Two soft sounding thumps followed by the screams of ponies in pain.

We boiled out of the caravan to see two ponies down and yelling their lungs out. Several of our blacksmithing hammers lay scattered about them. Dark had landed next to them. She had more knives in her hands. There was already one in the rump of each of the would be robbers.

Dark herself had another knife in each hand and was looking to me, like a hound on a leash that has seen a rabbit. “I did not kill them, Grandfather. May I, please?”

Both of the wounded ponies heard her clearly. One had the sense to shut up at once. As the other began his next squall, the first one snapped, “SHUT IT, Theo! She’s serious! The knife in yer ass oughtta tell you that.”

It penetrated at last and Theo cut it back to a mere blubbering.

I strolled up. Paused and examined the whole scene carefully. Black Lotus came close but was touching nothing.

“Lotus, be a dear and roll these two over. I want to see if they have anything else.” Black Lotus’ magic reached out and both ponies were rolled over. There was nothing else.

I nodded slowly as I thought. I told the miscreants, “You two are VERY lucky. My Granddaughter was fully justified in the law to have killed you while you were still fleeing from your theft. Those knives of hers will cause you no lasting harm. Not even a scar, if your town doctor is any good at all.”

Theo looked up, still blubbering and crying as he said, “We just wanted a few more bits to spend at the fair in Draytown. It gonna be big this year. The Princess gonna come to adopt a new goddaughter and the Rom camp gonna have a famous dancer and everything.”

I heard Black Lotus trying to stifle a laugh. I gave Dark a big hug and told her, “You did very well, dear. You used fine restraint. Recover your knives and make sure that all of our tools are back and properly packed. When you are done, I have a reward for you. Death Angel mushrooms! I saw some less than an hour ago.”

Dark brightened up and gathered the fallen hammers and tongs and ran for the caravan, skipping happily. She skipped back and said, “We have everything, Grandfather!”

Then she stepped over to the fallen ponies and pulled her knives from them. She looked longingly at the blood on them but took them and put them into our dishwater.

After cleaning and drying her knives, Dark turned to Esper and said, “Sorry about the interruption. Pulls are how we do rough measures of distance. A pull is the distance that we can haul the caravan in a good day.

“Draytown is about another three pulls from here. Grandfather gave us a half day’s travel time to let you learn.

“That is how important he thinks learning is.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper looked at the horizon, and then at the caravan. Her eyes lit up, as though they burned with an inner fire. “Don’t move!” she exclaimed.

With a ‘pop!’ she teleported the caravan, the three ponies, and everything half a days travel in the right direction.

“Ohh~” She groaned as she fell to her knees. “What happened?”

Ask-De-Writer:

I looked about and got my bearings. There was a great camping spot only another hour down the road. We all gathered Esper up and tucked the still groaning Orryl into a sleeping stall with a blanket over her.

I smilingly told her, “What happened is that you teleported us a good bit over a half a pull toward Draytown. You lost your Alchemy, it seems. However, you have gained speed, agility and, apparently, the use of high-level unicorn magic. It is quite different from your Alchemy.”

Dark reassured Esper, “Do not worry about feeling the caravan underway. We have a really good camping area just up ahead. It is only about an hour’s more travel.”

We could hear the clinking and rattling of Black Lotus hitching herself up to the caravan.

I went out to join her and Dark came too. She was clearly happy as she hitched her harness into the caravan’s troika. Grinning she said, “Esper beats a hard haul any day! Still, I need to pull my share! We all three leaned into the harness and listened to its familiar creaks as it came under load and the caravan began to move.

Looking up at my lovely daughter, easily twice my size, as we hauled our way down the road, I could understand why many ponies were uneasy, at least, around the Rom. It is a common misunderstanding that, if you understand some other’s point of view, you must, somehow, agree with it. That is wrong. It is perfectly reasonable to fully understand another pony’s reasons and reasoning and still think that they not just wrong, but totally dead wrong!

Even after the Mareimont Proclamations and Edicts,*(leads to the story, INCIDENT ON THE WAY TO MAREIMONT FAIR) as the collection of laws granting my Rom equality have become known, we are still discriminated against. Quite a lot, actually. Things are better now in many ways, now that the whole nation has been put on notice that the Rom are under the protection of the Royal Wing. There are still bigots and plain fools out there.

We, a pegasus, a donkey and full horse sized unicorn pulled together in absolute amity. We found our site and did the small amount of labor needed to make camp.

We had a nice fire going and vegetable skewers roasting along with honeyed nut cakes baking when Esper came out of the caravan.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper groaned, and rubed her head. “By all that is Sacred… how did I use that magic?”

She sat next to her Father by the fire. “I mean… I know nature and Life granted me the power… but I used it by instinct. I had no control over it.”

She sighed, “I think I see why they sent me here.”

Ask-De-Writer:

I grinned as Black Lotus casually used her magic to hand Esper a honey-nut cake. “Let me guess. You mean, to gain control? Not to become the movement system for fastest Rom caravan in existence?”

I saw her looking about, so I added, “Dark is flying back to get her Death Angel mushrooms. She will return shortly. In the meantime, have some food.

“The skewers are excellent tonight.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper bit into her food. “Yeah. I guess being a conduit would be bad. If I could control it… who knows what I could be capable of.”

She smiled at some passing ponies. “Hi there.”

Ask-De-Writer:

One of them turned a surly look our way and demanded, “Who you talking to, Rommi?

“That look like some good food an’ a good camp spot. You lot kin just shove off. I’m hungry!”

The other one snarled, “You tell ’m Theo! The stupid Princesses might have a soft spot fer that sort but they ain’t here and we is!”

It was the same duo that we had the run in with earlier.

There was a flutter of wings as a small black pegasus with a white mane and tail landed between them and our camp. Dark had a grin of delight on her face that the late afternoon sun did not hide. Knives appeared in her small hooves like a magic trick for a stage show.

At her call of, “Oh goodie! Targets!” they turned to flee.

Dark’s mocking words floated after them. “Look at them go! You would never know that they have sore rumps!”

Turning to us, she exclaimed, “Nut cakes! My favorite.” Her knives were all put back away. You would never guess how many blades that little pegasus carried.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper blushed. “I was just trying to be friendly. I didn’t mean to cause trouble…”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark sat by the fire and began to nibble at her nutcake, clearly working to make it last. She looked across the fire to Esper.

“Trouble? What trouble? Those two clod brains? Umm, I should say, Earth Ponies? They did not need your greeting to try being jerks. I saw it all from up above. They were already going to try chasing us off from our camp and dinner.”

She shook her head sadly, “It is all too common among them to try treating Rom like the dirt under Earth Pony hooves.” She leaned forward and picked up a skewer of vegetables.

As she was happily chewing chunks of vegetables off the skewer, she turned to me with a smile. “The Death Angels were absolutely lovely, Grandfather. I only picked about half of them. I was thinking that it would encourage the patch to grow.”

Black Lotus nodded, “Those ponies did not even look to see if we were the same ones that they tried to rob earlier. They were blinded by prejudice.

“We Rom are horses, not ponies, at least, most of us are. We are taller and a bit lighter build. It makes it easy for the bigots to spot us.

“They want us at their fairs and markets because our exotic looks, music, dances and high quality handicrafts will draw them custom. We usually double or more the trade at any fair that we go to.

“As soon as the fair is over, though, they want us gone. It is the way of life for us. They have treated us that way and we have lived on the roads for the last 800 years.

“You, Esper, WERE being friendly. It was them who were rude. I know that the lesson is a hard one. We learn it from foalhood on. I am sorry that you had to see it this way.”

Suddenly Black Lotus smiled. Widely. She stepped back to the caravan and came back with my drumset. Turning to me, she asked, “Father, would you do the flute for me? I will bet that with her nimbleness and speed, that Esper will be a terrific drummer. Dark, would you do me the favor of playing the violin? You are so good at it!”

She was right. Esper was a very good drummer. Soon the camp was filled with the wild, happy dance music of the Rom. Black Lotus danced to it like a living shadow, far into the night.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper banged her drums in rhythm with De Writer and Dark. She didn’t know how she was playing so well. She had never touched an instrument before.

She was in awe, however, of Black Lotus’ dancing. “Oh, my~”

Ask-De-Writer:

I had to grin at Esper’s reaction. During a short break, I told her, “It still hits me like that, Dear. I raised her and I remain in awe of her talent. She is considered to be the best Exotic Dressage dancer in all of Equestria. She has been teaching Princess Luna for years.

“She comes by it honestly. Her mother, Hoof Dancer, was famous and also taught Princess Luna.”

Dark had put down her violin for the moment and joined the conversation. “Thanks, Esper. You are a natural on the drums. Grandfather is really good but you are better. I saw how you noticed that different parts of the drumhead make different tones and used that to make our tune even better.”

Black Lotus smiled, white mane and tale flashing in the dakness, and offered, “I have seen you climb trees, Esper. You have grace and precision in your movements. I would be willing to teach you Dressage.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper blushes. “Oh. Um… s-sure. I would love to learn.” She smiled toothily. “You really think me as graceful as you?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Black Lotus gave a smile, followed by a very professionally assessing look. “Now? No. In time? Yes. To be a good dancer of Dressage requires three things. They are talent, knowledge and practice. You have the talent. I can give you the knowledge and the opportunity to practice in a nurturing and assistive environment.”

I stuck in, “That was the first offer to teach that Black Lotus has made since becoming teacher to Princess Luna.” I blew a note on the flute for emphasis.

“It is not for want of those who wish to be students, either. She is very careful about who she selects. No talet, no lessons. My daughter could be quite wealthy if she were to open a studio in Canterlot, now that it is legal.”

Black Lotus simply put her front hoof down. Hard. “Father, I will no more break the Canterlot Tradition than you.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper looked confused. “Canterlot traditions?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Black Lotus’ face went from frown to smile. “The Canterlot Tradition is as old as the Rom in Equestria. Father, Our Ghost Who Guides, will not go closer to Canterlot than the shadow of its walls.

“The loved dead are with us always. None are more loved and respected than Father. He is our guide. If he will not go, neither will we.

“That is the Canterlot Tradition.”

The Whisper Sisters:

“Ohhh~” Esper nods.

“Well… since I am now a Rom, I will respect you Father, and not go any nearer to Canterlot, then you can.”

She yawns. “My, my… what an exciting day it’s been.” She pats her pockets. “Darn. It seems the Spirits have neglected to return my corn-knob pipe and herbs. Ah, well…”

Ask-De-Writer:

I suggested, “If it was similar to what your sister Wind uses, we can help a bit. We have some of her principal ingredients in our apothecary cabinet.

“They are good for shortness of breath, setting the stomach and minor pain relief among other things.

“The pipe itself? Does it need to be corn knob? We have some soft carving stones and good, easily fired clays, if those will suit. We could even make a bowl of hammered metal. That would be easy to do for us. The stem would be an easy part to make. I saw Wind’s pipe several times.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper blushed. “Having a loving family is truly a blessing.”

She smiled. “No. It doesn’t have to be corn-knob. But I do prefer a long stem.”

She looked at De Writer/Marchhare. “I actually prefer my herbs not to be mixed. I did, however, discover a leaf while I was living with Wind. she called it a silver mountain leaf. Perfect for relaxing your mind. Do you happen to have any?”

Ask-De-Writer:

I pointed out, “That name is from two worlds away. We have something similar, I think. We use it as a headache and asthma treatment.”

Black Lotus stepped out of the caravan with several small pouches of dried herbs. “If you can tell what you are looking for by scent, Esper, try these. They are the likeliest ones, from what you have described.

“We will take part of tomorrow’s pull to make you that pipe.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper sniffed each pouch and picked the third one.

“This is it. I mean… not exactly. But it’s close enough.” She sighed, “I wish I still had my alchemy. I could have made a new pipe in all of ten seconds.”

She shrugged, “Oh well… Life isn’t life without learning to adapt. At least… that’s what Mama Dragon says.”

Ask-De-Writer:

I said with quiet respect, “Mama Dragon is wise. I have seen her works and they are good.”

I took the time to point to the pouch that Esper had selected. “That will be an easy one to keep you supplied with. It is a common road-side weed in many places. Its harvest is simple and to prepare it easy. The Equetrian ponies do not use it much except as a fiber for ropes.

“Besides some medicinal uses, we Rom weave stout fabrics of it for our caravan roofs. Several layers of it painted to toughen it make for a strong and light weight roof that will not leak. It is a good plant that has many uses.”

Black Lotus suggested, “Let us sleep now. Tomorrow, we can take our noon pulling break to make you a new pipe, Esper. The day after that, around early afternoon, we should raise the Draytown Fair.”

The night being fine, we all curled up under blankets near the fire to sleep.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper, used to sleeping outside, fell asleep almost instantly. Almost.

What a day it had been, she thought to herself. Being revived. Learning that she had new powers and strength. Learning new customs. All in all, it was the opposite of boring. She only hoped that her remaining days amongst the Rom, however long that might be, wouldn’t be as exciting. A girl did need her quiet time, after all.

She yawned, and slept, waiting for the new day to come.

Ask-De-Writer:

The dawn brought a pleasant surprise. The fire was up. The scent of fresh cooked biscuits and clover top gravy greeted us. Luna was happily stirring up eggs and the hashbrowns were cooked. Our reflector oven, moved back a bit from the fire, was being used as a warmer. It is a little known fact that Princess Luna loves to cook.

She is also an excellent guest who brings gifts of food. And, give a chance, fixes it.

Black Lotus rolled out of her blankets, managing the near impossible trick of looking beautiful first thing in the morning. She homed in, not on the food, but on the harness and sashes of Luna’s outfit.

“That is beautiful tooling on your harness, Luna! Such a lovely dye enhancement of the design! And those sashes! How many tries did it take you to get the Batik work for that design of lunar phases? The gold trims set the sashes off so well against your coat!”

She paused, grinned and added, “Welcome to the Caravan of Marchhare!” Looking about at the empty sky, she added, “Gave your Guard the slip again?”

Luna just nodded. She was glowing at the praise given her outfit. She said, “I commissioned some top flight Batik workers to teach me on less important things, a few court gowns and such. That let me get the sashes right in only two tries!

“For the harness work, I have watched you in the past, between our dancing lessons. I did that all by myself!”

Then, seeing the rest of us stirring, she called out, “Omelets anyone?”

As Dark rolled out of her blankets, Luna said, “You must be Dark. I have heard so much about you! All to the good.”

Dark looked about in mock confusion and replied, “Then somebody lied!”

She managed a very good court bow and said formally, “Welcome to the Caravan of Marchhare, my Grandfather and the Ghost Who Guides.”

As she straightened up, Luna said calmly, “I count four wrist sheaths, four leg sheaths, two back sheaths, one at the collar and one at the belt. You also have the two in plain sight on your waist sash. Did I miss any?”

Dark grinned hugely and replied, “Only the two wire garottes in my harness!”

She turned and stirred blankets with her hoof and said, “Hey, Esper! Stir out! Princess Luna is here and she made us breakfast!”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper sat up, and blinked the sleep from her eyes. Once they focused, they went wide in shock.

“Oh. Princess Luna!” She bowed. “What an honour it is to meet you.” She blushed. “I’m, um, Esper Whisper.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Luna cocked her head to one side, nodded slightly and muttered, “Father was right. She is unusual.”

Straightening, she bobbed her head deeply and said, “It is a pleasure to meet you, Esper Whisper. Yesterday, just before I left the castle, I looked in the Chronicle for the latest news of our realm. Father had left a hasty note about you.”

The Princess held up a dainty hoof to forestall any speech on Esper’s part. “I am going to tell you something vital. Celestia and I were raised by an elderly blue unicorn named De Writer. It is possible that you know this unicorn. He is immortal. We love him dearly.

“You must NEVER try to make De Writer known to either my sister or I. Nearly 2000 years ago, just before the Nightmare Wars of this world, we, my sister and I, made a disastrous mistake. Misled by flattering sycophants and misusing poetic language, we lost him forever.”

Biting her lip and her eyes filled with tears, she said, “We pronounced the Edict of Banishment against him. One of our courtiers actually wrote the words. They were meant to be poetic language, and they were. Unfortunately, they became literal as well. We said, 'De Writer, Chronicler of Our rule, for your refusal to carry out our Royal Will, We, Celestia and Luna, do Banish you from our sight and the precincts of Canterlot forever. This we swear upon our powers granted by our creator, the Titan of Life Creation.’

“He vanished from our sight and we have never knowingly seen him since. The Magic of Creation cannot be undone. It builds only. It cannot be set against itself.”

Luna sat and curled into a ball, weeping. “If we do not know who it is behind the guise that we speak to, it may be that we are having words with our father. Twice, having found him in a disguise, some officious courtier, seeking to curry favor, has proved that it was father. Each time, we lost him. Once, for centuries.”

She lay there, a gorgeously dressed, beautiful Alicorn, tears flowing a river from her eyes. The wound of near 2000 years past, still bleeding from her heart.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper blushed. “I actually knew most of that story, thanks to my Sister, Wind Whisper.”

She smiled. “But thank you for reminding me.” She yawned. “So… is the reason you came to our camp to meet me? If it was, even in part, I am honoured.”

Esper spotted a piece of ivory on the ground. Examining it in her hands, it was long, curved, and thin.

“Oh my… this would make an excellent addition to my new pipe, wouldn’t you say so Father?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Surprised, I replied, “It certainly would! We could easily use it in the stem! I wonder how it got here, though. Ivory is pretty scarce in this part of Equestria.”

Pausing to peer through the grass, I saw some shavings and larger chips. Mystery solved. Lots of Rom camp here from time to time. Apparently, one was an Ivory Carver. Examining the material more closely, I realized that It was Northern Oceanic Walrus ivory.

Our minor mystery gave Luna time to regain control. She stood back up and her magic cleaned her outfit and removed any wrinkles.

She trotted over and looked at the ivory too. Gently wrapping a wing around both Esper and Dark, she said, “I did come mainly to see Dark. I did not know of you until yesterday.

“I have known about Dark for weeks now. Celestia and I had a lot of schedule juggling to do to get free for the Draytown fair. It was the quickest that we could get free to make her one of our goddaughters.

“Dear Black Lotus has been a goddaughter of ours since she was foaled. That does, technically, make her a member of the Royal Family. Dark will be too. I will need to talk to Marchhare and Celestia about you. Would you be willing to accept the honor if we offer it to you?”

Brightening, she added, “And, would you like to join me for breakfast? The omelets and biscuits are waiting!”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper gasped.

“M-me? Your goddaughter? Yes!” she exclaimed. “Oh yes. I would accept!”

She giggles as she takes the plate of food Luna offers her. “Mmm~ this smells wonderful.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark looked up, happily forking food into her mouth. “Oh, smells are deceiving! You had better give it to me for proper disposal!” She licked her lips and grinned as Esper dug in. Then she added, Darn, that never works!”

A cheerfuly grinning Luna gave Dark another biscuit swimming in gravy. She affirmed, “Never! Not with my cooking!”

Turning to me, she said, “Before I forget, can you fix a crank wheel bearing for Rose? She is all alone now that Dapple has gone to the Earthen Lake. I found her last night, about a quarter pull behind you. We had tea and I told her that I would ask.”

That required no thought at all. “For Rose? Certainly we can. We will wait for her at the noon camp. We have some other tasks to do so we won’t even have to delay our trip. I will look forward to Sharing the Pull with her. One of us could haul mate for her to make her load lighter.”

Luna nodded, happy with the result of her request. She said, “I always buy her small carved boxes for my jewelry and other small things. They are exquisite. I like Rose so much.”

All too soon, we were done with breakfast.

Everything put away in its proper place, we began to hitch up to the caravan. Black Lotus produced a pulling harness for Esper and helped her to adjust it properly.

She directed, “Father and I will take the rear double tree, Dark, you and Esper take the front one. Luna, you get the lead single tree, OK?”

Luna was practically dancing with joy. “I haven’t had a chance to pull for simply ages! Thank you, Black Lotus!”

My daughter hauled the brake line free and called, “Now! Lean in, right! Lean in, left!” Slowly the caravan got under way. Soon we were all in proper step, hauling as a team should, our caravan home rolling smoothly down the road behind us.

Esper was the real surprise of the morning. We knew that she was strong. We watched as she had to hold back to keep the double that she shared with Dark balanced.

Luna, in the lead, could feel it too, and called back, “That is perfect, Esper! Instead of pulling with all your strength, pull to balance the load with your team mate!”

The miles rolled back under our hooves, the trip lightened by cheerful banter and word games. We were coming out from under some overhanging trees that gave shade to the road. Just ahead was our noon break campsite.

We heard a voice overhead saying frantically, “No, Major!”

A War Pegasus in full Guards Battle Kit dove like a striking hawk. As he stooped past, his sword flashed in the sun as he struck through Luna’s brand new pulling harness, severing her from the single tree!

As the single tree dropped into Esper and Dark’s hooves, tangling them, Black Lotus hauled the brake line on the caravan behind us. Brakes squealing, it continued to advance!

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper’s hand flew up, as her eyes shone purple again. The caravan halted as she shouted “Stop!” She shook her head in confusion as her eyes reverted to normal. She looked around. “What is going on?”

Ask-De-Writer:

That was a darn good question. Thanking the Spirits or whatever that Esper had some really odd talents, I watched in fascination. The sudden release of her harness load had caused Princess Luna to stumble to her knees in the road.

As many times in the ancient past, she did not let that stop her. Her midnight magic, shot through with stars, seized a wing of the attacking pegasus and spun him into the ground. Hard.

There was the clatter of metal as he hit. He was wearing the ceremonial (but very functional) armor of the Royal Guard.

Four others flew down. They had seen the Princess herself crash the other one and wisely did not interfere. I recognized the armor emblems. A squad of Sargents of the Royal Guard. I recognized several of them from past visits of the Princess.

The grounded one had got to his feet. He was a Major. He grabbed up his sword and flourished it, yelling, “Run, Princess! We will take the kidnappers!”

Seeing the others simply standing to attention, he demanded, “Take the kidnappers! Save the Princess!”

Luna’s magic flattened him again.

With complete composure, Luna turned back to where Esper was helping Dark out of the damaged tangle of pulling trees and straps. Dark was rubbing at her shins.

“Thanks, Esper.” She hugged the Orryl. “You are a heroine. You saved Auntie Lotus from getting hurt. I never saw anyone jump clear so agilely. I think that all that I have are a few bruises on my shins.”

Midnight magic slithered along Dark’s legs. Luna’s gentle voice said, “You are bruised. No more pulling for at least two days. You will not be holding us back, though. I will have you scout the way for us by air.”

The Major swaggered over and stuck a hoof directly between Luna and Dark. “Back away from the Princess, you Rom scum.”

Without even flipping her horn, Luna’s magic heaved him back several feet. She did not even stop tending to Dark.

Turning her graceful head to Esper, she did request, “I have been wondering about those horns of your, Esper, dear. If they are as functional as they look, would you do me the favor of ramming that fool Major every time he opens his mouth without my leave?”

Esper, nodding assent, made sure that she was clear of the wreck.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper looked at the Major with narrowed eyes. She gave a firm nod, while moving to a ready rutting position.

“As you Wish.”

Ask-De-Writer:

The Major sneered, “Oh, how terrible. I am terrified.“

Before I could stick my usual wit in, Dark beat me to it. Her voice utterly level, she said, “You should be.”

Esper looked to the Princess, who smiled. Widely. She casually flipped a hoof in the Major’s direction.

Esper charged.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper snorted, charged, and hit the Major square in the gut. The mouthy pony flew back 10 feet.

"As my Sister said… you should be.” She crossed her arms triumphantly.

Ask-De-Writer:

The Major picked himself up and turned angrily toward Luna. She negligently lifted a forehoof. Esper lowered her head.

He finally got the message and shut up. Instead, he turned to the formation and demanded of his pegassi, “Where is Stone?”

One of them replied, “Sir. As required by standing orders signed by BOTH Princesses, Stone is providing an Honor Guard for the deceased.”

The Major snarled, “I will have him up on charges! I ordered that the corpse be left for vultures or garbage collect …”

Princess Luna’s hoof snapped angrily down.

Esper charged.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper slammed into the Major. The Major braced himself, and didn’t move. His armour, however, dented and crumpled like a paper bag. The orryl returned to Luna’s side.

“I heard his ribs crack.”

Ask-De-Writer:

The Major was in obvious pain. His eyes narrowed in calculation as he swept his gaze about us all. He came to a decision.

“Hawthorne! You have the vegetable gift packs of Luna’s Largess! Give one into her hooves that these Rom may have it from the Princess directly.”

Sargent Hawthorne stepped smartly forward, saluted the Princess, and began to rummage a package from his saddle-pack. He started to sway, sweating profusely as he brought out the package to hand to Luna.

Dark’s lunge knocked the package from his hooves. She called urgently, “Princess! Do not touch that package!”

She was using both wings and legs to drag Sargent Hawthorne to the nearest shade. She was talking urgently to Sargent Hawthorne as she did. Black Lotus’ unicorn magic was added to Dark’s dragging. Hawthorne was stretched out in the shade, breathing heavily.

Dark checked the pulse in the side of his neck and made a few other tests. Black Lotus arrived, full of concern. Dark handed her one of her wrist knives and said, “Use your magic only. Cut all of his armor free and remove it. Be especially careful not to touch the saddle-packs. Magic only.

“I will be right back.” She flew to the caravan and dashed inside. The sounds of rummaging and a very slight rocking showed that Dark was busy inside. She emerged with a stoppered bottle. Flying back to Hawthorne and Black Lotus, she said approvingly, “Well done, Auntie.”

To Hawthorne, she said, “Take this. Drink it all. You will not like the taste or the results. If we are lucky, you will live. If not, I shall let your next of kin know that the Major murdered you.”

Hawthorne looked at Dark with pain filmed eyes and asked, “How come you got this stuff handy?” Not hesitating, he drank the goo down.

Princess Luna came up, now that she would not be in the way of an obvious rescue, and repeated the question. “Yes, Dark, how did you come to have that stuff handy?”

Hawthorne was vomiting his guts out. Dark observed with satisfaction, “Good, Sargent. It is nice and thick, just like it should be.”

Turning to Luna, Dark said, “I asked the Sargent about the broken seals. The Major did it. He found some Death Angel Mushrooms. They are pretty rare. It was the same patch that I harvested some of, earlier.

“The Major told the others that the mushrooms were a treat fit for the Rom. If you want to kill a lot of horses, he is right. They are deadly.

“You know that I am the Daughter of Murder. Murder is planned, deliberate killing, not just slaughter, though that can be fun. Thing is, sometimes, a plan will miscarry. If it is reasonable to do so, having an antidote handy is a good thing.

“That is why I had it handy.”

She paused to check the Sargent again. She patted his forelock and told him, “It looks like we were in time. I think that you will live.”

Princess Luna said, “That is good. He has been a fine guard during his service. Equally important, right now, is that he will be a valuable witness.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper’s gaze snapped to the Major.

“Move or try to run away, and you will die. You will just die tired.” Her eyes narrowed. “Do not think I will hesitate to kill you. I restrain myself now out of respect for Luna.”

She growled, “Do. Not. Move.”

Ask-De-Writer:

The Major heard the threat. He could also feel his sprained wing, cracked ribs and the pressure that his caved in armor was putting on his injuries. He believed.

Shortly, the Princess and the small dark pegasus approached. The little one directing, royal magic opened the vegetable pouch and placed everything into a metal bowl. The incriminating and deadly mushroom among them.

Dark pointed out the mushroom and explained, “The gills on the underside are open. The spores of the mushroom are as dangerous as it is. These spores have got into everything including the pouch, making it all deadly poisonous.

“The Major knew about the spores. He collected the mushrooms with gloves that he left behind. The only possible reason for wanting YOU to hand us the package was to poison your Royal Highness as well as the rest of us.

“This was a premeditated assassination attempt.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Glaring at the Major, Esper asked, “Luna? May I break his other wing? Please?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Sadly Luna replied, “Not unless he speaks out of turn or tries to flee. As of this moment, he is under Royal Arrest. He is charged with the attempted assassination of My Person, two formal members of the Royal family, one planned for elevation to Royal family and one for whom an invitation has bee made, pending proper consultation.”

The Major could not contain himself. “Royal Arrest! I was counting when you made those inflated charges!

“That pegasus is understandable as your goddaughter. The others is just that thing,” he winced as his ribs reminded him that sudden movement was unwise, as he pointed at Esper, “and those two stupid Rom, who cannot be connected in any way to the Royal family. They are a WHORSE and a DONKEY, which proves my point.”

Luna spent several moments carefully studying the Major’s forehead. Finally, she observed, “Odd, I can’t find it. Your point, I mean. Maybe your hair hides it.

“In fact, the donkey is formally adopted to Us. The mare, Black Lotus, has been our goddaughter since she was foaled. The pegasus, Dark, is our new goddaughter elect.

“The Orryl is a visitor from a different world entirely. We are considering her for goddaughter adoption for Reasons of State which do not concern you at all.

She paused and called over the other guards. “Sargents, before this mess began, I overheard that Sargent Stone is doing honor guard over a deceased pony?”

They stood to sharp attention. A mare stepped forward and saluted. “Sargent Blackberry, Ma'am! We all witnessed the event. The Deceased is a sort of red color Rom mare.

“It appeared that she was stopped for tea. Major Upton ordered that we stop to give Royal Largess as required in Standing Orders.

“Sargent Hawthorne gave the mare a Largess package. She removed only the tea package and added some to her tea that was brewing. The Major required that we witness the receiving and use of the Largess. He would not allow us to share tea with the deceased, which seemed to upset her.

“She drank most of a cup, started to sweat and shake. She clutched her chest and died.

“Major Upton then ordered us all to leave, and I quote, 'that worthless carcass for vultures or garbage collectors,’ end quote. After the formation was airborn, Sargent Stone returned to stand honor guard.”

By the time that Sargent Blackberry was done, Luna had tears in her eyes. Black Lotus and I did too.

In a small, broken voice, Luna said, “Rose? She is gone to the Lake? I am sorry, Rose. If I had known your time was so short, I would have stayed with you. Forgive me.”

Dark, dry eyed and professional, asked, “Sargent, was the seal intact on the Largess package given to Rose or had Major Upton found the mushrooms yet?”

Without missing a heartbeat, Sargent Blackberry replied, “The seal of Princess Luna was broken. The Major put the mushrooms in all of the packages about an hour before we found the Rom mare … Rose, was her name? … got her package.

Dark nodded. “Luna! I have another antidote pack. It is far too late for Rose, but if Sargent Stone has accidentally touched anything, his honor may cost him his life!”

Already halfway to the caravan, Dark was going faster than one would believe of such a young looking pegasus.

Luna’s head snapped up, Royal Duty stiffening what sorrow had broken. “Two of you! Place the Major in irons! Hold him on my return.

“Esper, if he offers any form of resistance OR tries to speak, use any force that you deem necessary! He is under an order of silence.

“Black Lotus! You and Marchhare take care of Sargent Hawthorne.

“Sargent Blackberry, come with Dark and I to the scene of the crime. Now!”

Without waiting to see if her orders were being followed, Luna was airborne, on Wings as Swift as Dreams. She needed them. Dark was black and white streak headed up the road at low altitude.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper grinned wickedly at the Major.

“Do you wish to know what we did to traitors and murderers in my old world? We forgot about them.”

She paused, “Oh… we didn’t forget what they did. No. No. In fact… they were kept alive. But we banished them. Treated them as ghosts.

“Imagine, if you will, being allowed to live, but every person you speak to acting as though you are a mere shadow. Your family and friends acting as though you never lived. Think about that while we wait for Luna to return.”

Ask-De-Writer:

I ambled up and said, “Esper, my dear, I agree with every particular of what you just said. Sadly, your timing is poor. He is under an order of silence and can’t reply without Sargent Moreson striking him or you butting him again.

“We are all agreed that he is a monster. Regrettably, we have not yet got the right to maltreat him. That will come soon enough.

“As soon as I could, I stepped over to the caravan and left De Writer a note. He put an information based on Orb of the Ages observation and a personal note in the Chronicle. Celestia has already responded.

“She has made her Protocol Ponies very upset. She cleared everything from her schedule and will be here within the hour. She knows how upset Luna must be at losing a friend like Rose.

“As soon as all required legal things are taken care of, She will personally officiate along side Luna at Rose’s Lake.

“She has ordered all appointments rescheduled to after the Draytown Fair so that she can join Luna in helping us on the Draytown pull.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper stiffened.

“Another funeral…” she sighed. “How many more must I attend in my life?”

She looked at her Father. “I am so young… and already I am friends with Death. It seems… I cannot avoid him… can I?”

Ask-De-Writer:

With the deepest of compassion, I replied, “No, my dear daughter, you cannot avoid Him. Soon or late, all go to His Lake.

“There are only a few that He cannot take. We, who cannot die or die another time, see His works far more than you with a shorter span.”

I shook my head sadly. “Either these deaths mean less and less, or they weigh on us more deeply with each friend or love who goes to the Lake that that we cannot drink of.

“Luna has been struck to the heart by Rose’s murder. Thanks to honest guardsponies, we have the killer before he did more harm.

“These good guardsponies do not care for us much and are honest enough to say so. They also do their very good best to see that both the letter and the spirit of their orders are carried out. Sargent Stone, risking the displeasure of his commander to stand Honor Guard to Rose, is a perfect example.”

Shortly we saw Luna, Dark and Sargent Blackberry returning. They were flying a slow stroke and glide that I had seen too many times over the ages. Mourning flight.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper looked up. “Oh, Dear…”

As they landed, she bowed to Luna. “You have my sympathies, Princess.”

She stood and whispered to her, “I do not know what punishment you have set for the Ex-Major… but I have an idea… that is, if you are willing to hear it.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Gently enfolding Esper in one of her large wings, Luna said softly, “For us, Celestia and I, it is too soon to be thinking of penalties. We shall be judging him.

“I am perfectly willing to hear YOUR ideas on punishment.

“As this is both murder, attempted murder and treason, he must be tried in Canterlot. The Rom will come no closer than the shadow of the walls, so the trial will held at Canterlot Fair. Among the witnesses and and as part of the Panel hearing the case there will be Rom.

“Please tell me your thoughts. My Sister, Celestia, will soon be here.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper motioned Luna to follow her away from curious ears.

“My old world, the one I lost to darkness, had only one way to deal with those who killed others. Banishment.

“No… not just banishment from their home town. But banishment from everyone. Imagine, if you will, that a person, er pony, that is banished, being treated as though their presence was a mere shadow. Their every word, a gust of wind. To be completely ignored?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Luna listened carefully. As Esper finished, the Princess had some tears in her eyes. Gently she replied, “It could be done if warranted. The trial will determine that. It may be a fitting punishment.

“We did something similar, Celestia and I. It is still called the Edict of Banishment. By faults in how it was done, we have lost our dear foster father, De Writer, forever.

“If we should do this thing, we will do it with care and deliberation.

“I do thank you for your thought, which is a good one.”

Pausing, Luna looked up, back along the road. She waved and called, “Here! Celestia! We are here!”

Using the slow wing beats and gliding of Mourning Flight, Celestia and her entourage landed.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper bowed as Celestia landed. “Princess Celestia, it is an honour to finally see and meet you,” she smiles.

Ask-De-Writer:

Princess Celestia acknowledged Esper’s greeting with a gracious bow of her head. “You must be Esper Whisper, daughter to Marchhare by adoption, if my report is correct.”

Celestia’s eyes widened as she took in the damage to Major Upton’s armor.

“Oh my! You did that all by yourself? I am impressed.”

Turning to Luna, Celestia stepped close and covered her sister with a wing. She wept as she said, “I was horrified to hear that Rose had died. It was made worse by it being murder. I had only three jewelry boxes of her making. I had planned to buy more at Draytown Fair. She was a fine mare.”

Luna snuggled in under her sister’s wing and bawled for a little. “I talked with her last night, in her camp. She was done with mourning for Dapple and was going to Moot for a new husband while at the Draytown Fair.

“The stallions will be so disappointed.”

She looked over to where Dark was practicing knife throwing at a target. Sargent Hawthorne, though still weak, was trying to learn what Dark made to look so natural.

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark looked up from where she was showing Sargent Hawthorne a particular grip. She made a cheerfully twisted grin as she replied, “Yes, I will be happy to loan you a few knives to play with. No, we can’t use Major Upton as a target. I already asked. Luna told me that we have to keep him for the trial.”

With a totally false pout at the unfairness of it all, she handed Esper three of the knives that she was using for the target practice.

With a slight frown, Sargent Hawthorne said, “Such familiarity with the Princess bothers me. I do know that both of them have authorized it for you Rom but it still bothers me.”

Dark paused to think before she replied, “I understand, Sargent. We give them the only sort of relaxation of formality that they can get in Equestria. Everypony at Court is trying gain an advantage by appearing close to Royalty. They are distanced from any that they can truly relax with. We Rom are the only thing that they have that resembles a family.”

Showing that there was nothing escaping her attention, Dark said quietly, “Put your thumb about a quarter inch higher on the blade, Esper. You will get a lot better power and control.”

 

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper adjusted her grip, and threw the knife. It spun, and sank itself in the tree, just missing the edge of the target. “Darn.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark smiled at the epithet. “Actually very good. You did the spin exactly right and with an unfamiliar weapon, you got close to the target.

“Relax a little and imagine that the target is the Major’s lower ranked parts. You know, his privates!”

Esper grinned and pulled back to throw.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper shook her head at the pun. Then she tossed her second knife. It spun and hit the outer ring of the target.

“Hrm. Closer this this time…”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark grinned at Esper’s throw, having observed something else. “You broke your concentration, Esper! I meant it! Focus on his 'Target Zone!’ I saw your charges. Very focused on the damage you wanted to inflict. You did, too. Look for yourself at the result. This is no different. Choose your target and focus.”

Understanding dawned in Esper’s eyes.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper’s amethyst eyes narrowed as she studied the target.

In her mind’s eye, she pictured the Major and the murder he was responsible for. She closed her eyes, and took a focusing breath. Then she opened them, gripped the last dagger just as Dark had, and with a flick of her wrist, sent the dagger spinning. It flashed in the sun, stopping only when the tip had sunk a good inch into the middle of the target.

Esper nodded with a chuckle. “Well. There you go.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark applauded, delight on her face. “There! That was exactly right for starting out. That is how you throw a knife well. Work with it. We will vary the ranges and target heights After a bit it will become an instinct.”

Dark hugged Esper and handed her three more knives. All different.

A sort of prickling at the back of her neck made Esper realize that she was being watched. Both Luna and Celestia, while taking care of details for Rose’s Lake were taking the time to watch.

Dark, red eyes twinkling, muttered, “Don’t mind them. They are family.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper looked at the daggers. “Why are they curved daggers? I’ve never seen this type of blade before.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark smiled with the delight of a true craftsman who enjoys sharing the types and uses of her tools. “Straight blades are great for penetration and deep piercing. These will do that if properly thrown. Kept in the hand, they do a superior job of slicing! For these, throw so that the point leads the curve, like so.”

Another curved blade appeared in small black hoof. Dark made a point of slow motion demonstration and then casually flipped the blade at the target. The sun sparkled off the polished steel as the blade flew. With a very audible thump it hit next to Esper’s blade in the center. The point was straight in, the curve of still quivering blade causing the handle to point down some.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper nodded at Dark’s skill. “Impressive.”

She held the dagger just as her sister did.

“I can do this…” she muttered to herself.

She flicks her wrist, sending the blade end over end towards the tree. With a “thunk” it hit the outer circle.

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark nodded, a smile on her lips.

“That was very good for your first use of the weapon. Mainly, you were focusing on doing the throw, rather than the target. You need just a little forearm in the throw, too. It will make it easier to POINT the knife correctly.”

With a mischievous smile, she added, “At the target!”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper nods, smiling at her niece. “Ah. Use my forearm to aim… at the target.”

She grins wickedly. “Alright…” She focuses. Her arm snapped forward as she threw her second blade. It twirled quickly, hitting the second ring. It sank to the hilt in the target.

“Oops! Threw too hard.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark clapped in glee! “No! Not too hard at all! Exactly the kind of power that you are trying for!

“Never forget that you might hit bone or a tough leather garment. Except at very precise places, the knife does little harm unless it penetrates!”

Sargent Hawthorne was staring wide eyed at the little black filly with the white mane and tail. “That, Dark, is pretty horrifying to hear from one so young.”

Dark glance at him in surprise. “Didn’t your mission briefing and profiles tell you whose child I am?”

“Hope that you will forgive me, Dark. It is pretty hard to swallow that Murder could have a child or that the child of Murder could be such a sweet looking little filly.

“What I have been seeing and hearing has more than halfway changed my mind, though.”

“That is good, Sargent Hawthorne. It is true. I am Murder’s child. My other mother is Lady Snow, Duchess Dreadful-Storm. I was not born in the usual way and do remember my creation and some things from before it.”

Turning back to Esper, Dark again smiled in delight. “Throw that last one! I want it in to the hilt as well!” Dark’s wings were quivering with excitement.

Esper felt the balance of her last knife.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper contemplated Dark’s words. “Harder is better, hm?” She thought to herself.

“Okay. Let’s see how hard I can throw…”

She drew her arm back, and snapped it forward in a blur. One second the blade was in her hand. Almost instantly, is was embedded in the centre of the target. Driven right to the hilt, next to the previous dagger.

Esper gasped. “Right. Throwing daggers faster than one can blink. Okay then.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark was beside herself with sheer delight. Dancing with excitement, she excliamed, “Wonderful, Aunt Esper! Better accuracy will come with practice! Power is so hard to teach!”

She grabbed Esper in a spontaneous hug, her eyes glistening with tears of joy.

“Grandfather has been teaching me so much about how to do things like this without magic. Finding someone that I can share knowledge and skills with … I … I don’t know how to say it. It feels so good!”

Sargent Hawthorne was staring at the tableau in horror. His gaze took in the old donkey chatting familiarly with both Princesses.

Duty came directly to the fore. To Dark, he asked, “Old Marchhare taught you this?”

Casually, Dark replied, “And far more. You are alive because of what he taught me. If he teaches of poison, he teaches of antidotes, where they exist. Besides how to kill, how to heal. More important than that, WHEN to kill or heal.”

The Sargent thought that bombshell over for some time before asking, “Do the Princesses know how dangerous he is?”

Dark was taken aback. “Of course they do! They have known from the first day that they met, at Canterlot Fair, six hundred years ago! Grandfather has helped them many times since.”

Sargent Hawthorne mulled that over. Cautiously, he ventured, “So, not every threat to the Realm is a military force?”

Dark smiled while replying,  “Exactly, Sargent. Now, throw that knife that you have been holding.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper wiped her brow and walked over to her Father. “Father… may I have some water? It seems the mid-day sun is getting to me.”

Ask-De-Writer:

I turned from my minor problem with Celestia and Luna to face Esper, as I said, “Sure. It is warm. We have some nice chill water in the cooling bag. I will get you some.”

I was just about to trot away on the errand when Luna looked closely at her goddaughter candidate. “Esper dear, step over here more closely.” She examined Esper’s horns in detail.

She also moved a hoof in front of Esper’s eyes. “Please watch my hoof, Esper. It may be important.” Esper’s eyes followed the hoof with no trouble.

Luna smiled. “Good, I do not see any sign, other than a crack in your left horn, that you hurt yourself in butting the Major. I can fix your horn if you want me to. It is an art that we learned while building the original Fortress Canterlot.” Sadness settled into her eyes as she finished, “We learned it from our Father, De Writer.”

Brightening, she went on, “I saw your knife throwing. Truly excellent.” Luna sort of frosted about the edges as she finished, “There are few indeed that Dark will so openly praise. She is very particular about that.”

Before Luna’s minor distaste could further show itself, Celestia put in brightly, “So, do you want us to heal up that horn? Really, it is no trouble at all.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper touched her left horn delicately.

“Oh. That is a sizable crack. It’s nearly in half.” She smiled warmly at Luna. “I think I’ll just plaster it. Naturally. If you don’t mind, Luna?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Luna’s brow wrinkled in puzzlement. “Why would I object? You were honorably injured in Our Service. I have offered you a choice. You may freely do as you prefer.

“We, Celestia and I, often visit hospitals after a disaster or a battle. Those who will it, we do our best to heal. The others are up to their fates.

“It is simply this. Fealty, the bonds of loyalty that bind a kingdom together, goes two ways. The so-called lower in society serve those of higher station. Those of higher station must return that service.”

She smiled softly. “I like you, Esper. I want you to be whole. As you will not have our magic of healing, will you allow us to bind the plaster? We can bind the parts tightly together while they heal.”

I wandered back up to Esper with the cool water.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper nodded. She took the mug of water from her Father.

“I would be honoured to have you to plaster my horn.” She smiled to Princess Luna.

“Father? Would you happen to have some bandages and plaster? It seems that I cracked my horn.” She pointed to the fracture mid way up her left horn.

“While I do trust magic, I find allowing injuries to heal naturally to be, well… to be a badge of honour. After all, how many can claim they head-butted a fully armoured war stallion, and lived?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Grinning, I lifted a hoof to point. “I can think of ONE. You. As for the rest, yes, we have them. I will have Dark bring up the medical chest.”

Princess Luna said icily, “I would prefer another. Her Mother …”

I cut her off, “Is NOT Dark. I know that you and Celestia have turned your backs on Murder. For millennia. De Writer has not. He is Murder’s only friend. He visits her when he has no need or reason. Even takes her small gifts.

“The safety of your whole realm has depended on that friendship. Many times.

“Dark is Murder’s child but before she was made separate, she was tempered by the interlocked life with De Writer’s many greats granddaughter, Lady Snow, Duchess Dreadful-Storm. All of the living plasm that formed Dark came from Snow, who has been De Writer’s friend for many years.”

Celestia gently put a hoof into the argument. “Luna, just this day, Dark has saved the lives of many. She saved you, who are immortal but not invulnerable, from a long and painful recovery from a deadly poison. She conducted the autopsy on Rose without having to cut open her body.

“You just spoke of the depth of Fealty. She has given it to you. Will you not give it in return? Yes, she is a killer. You need only look at her pleasure and excitement at such things. Yet, by an Oath that she knows but as not yet given, she saved us all from a grievous loss.”

Luna hung her head. “Thank you, Marchhare. You have saved me from treating Dark as so many others treat the Rom. I was thinking and feeling from old things that are in no way Dark’s fault or doing. It should have been enough that Father brought her here to you or that you adopted her as a Granddaughter.

“I will do better. I hope that Father will understand.”

Gently I replied, “I am sure that he does. As many of my foals, both born and adopted, that you and Celestia have been godmother to, this may have been De Writer’s plan in bringing Dark here. He is a pretty sharp old unicorn.”

Luna sat quietly where it would be convenient to work and motioned Esper to her.

To me, she said, “Have Dark bring the medicine chest, please, Marchhare. I owe her an apology.”

Soon both Black Lotus and Dark were observing while Luna, with Celestia’s help, started to bind up Esper’s horn.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper sat still as best she could. She giggled as Luna and Celestia bound her horn.

“T-that tickles…” she giggle/snorted some more. “Hngh~ my… horns are r-really sensative it seems…”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark instanly grinned widely and offered, “Sale! Today only! Tickle Feathers on a wand!”

Luna giggled just a bit but held to her task. Celestia’s magic continued to secure things at Luna’s direction. She said, “Luna has always been the better of us at healing. She helped Father to heal me when I took an arrow in the side during the first battle of Fortress Canterlot.”

Black Lotus, watching closely, said, “I really like the way that you get the bandage to seal to itself. That is far neater and stronger than tying. How do you do that?”

Luna, without pausing her careful work, replied, “Besides pulling the bandage tight with your magic, you need to let your magic seep right into the cloth. Where parts of the cloth touch, you sort of soften the fibers in contact and meld them together. It is not really easy. It takes practice.

“Father taught us how to do it when we were building Fortress Canterlot.”

She finished the last of the bandages and plaster. Her dark wing enfolded Esper. “You did very well, dear Esper.”

Her other large, midnight wing reached out and gathered in the somewhat surprised Dark. It took a second for Dark to relax and snuggle close.

Luna said softly, “Thank you, Dark. You were the day’s true heroine and I do not know if anypony here thanked you for their lives or your other services.”

The Whisper Sisters:

“I gave her a hug,” Esper said as she waited for Luna and Celestia to finish. “And my hugs are pretty special. So I think that counts as a thank-you.” She grinned.

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark said softly, “Thank you both. Grandfather thanked me and gave me a hug too. Esper, I did take your hug as thanks.” She reached up from under the shadow of Luna’s wing and stroked Luna’s fur at the shoulder close to her Royal Insignia pectoral necklace.

Dark reached around Luna and took Esper’s hand. She said, “What you did to the Major was courageous, Esper. Without it, His plot might not have been exposed in time. He could have killed both you and Auntie Lotus. He would have made me and Princess Luna very ill. Only Grandfather would have been safe.

“He could have killed or injured many others before he was caught.”

Luna bent her Royal head down and nuzzled Dark. Then she repeated the performance with Esper. She said, “I think that the normal consultations and discussions will not be needed. My sister and I have ordered that the Draytown Fair be delayed until we can all be there.

“First, we must attend to the Earthen Lake of my treasured friend, Rose. Then we shall finish the pull to the Fair and we will formally and publicly adopt both you and Esper as Royal Goddaughters. You are both worthy of the honor and you are both family of Marchhare, the Ghost Who Guides. More need not be said.”

They both snuggled into the warm safety of Luna’s enfolding wings, hugging them close.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper broke the hug, and tapped her chin thoughtfully. “You know… I could do the pull with some help, if time is of the essence.”

She smiled. “Allow me to explain. Or rather, the abridged version.

"I was not always the creature you see before you. I died for a noble cause, and my worlds Spirits brought me back. They gifted me with some powers. One of which, as Father has said, is high-level teleportation magic.

“With some guidance, I could take us all the way to the fair.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Celestia smiled but said, “Accepted conditionally. We are familiar with some of the power and limitations of such magics. Who all has seen or experienced it?”

Black Lotus raised a hoof. Respectfully, she said, “We all experienced it first hoof. She moved us, caravan and all, a half a day’s pull to make up for time lost to giving her a smithing lesson. It was impressive.

“The real limitation is that it appears to cause some disorientation in Esper when she uses that power. It does not last too long, though.”

 

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper nodded. “Black Lotus is correct. However… If I had help from another magic user, say you, Princess Celestia, I won’t get so tired.”

She smiled. “I have enough power, I’m sure Father would agree. I just need you to make sure I don’t get dizzy.”

Ask-De-Writer:

I ambled up to them in time to overhear what Esper said. I grinned and pointed out, “I agree, all right. What I said earlier. Fastest Caravan in all of Equestrisa!

“Actually, that is not a bad idea. It will give us the time to do a proper Lake for poor Rose. We were going to buy a clothes press for Esper from her. Best box and cabinet maker in the kingdom.

“On the practical side, the two of you probably should try a few teleports working together to see how it goes and what support Esper needs, exactly. Also, will it help if she sees the target areas before hoof? Test. Find out.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper offered her fluffy paw to Princess Celestia. “Princess? Will you do me the honour of helping me with my teleportation?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Celestia gazed thoughtfully about the camp and suggested with a bit of a smile, “I will, yet there is wisdom in a certain old dead donkey. First, let us try something short, like just across the camping area. Say, to the shade of those trees over there.

“We can easily walk over there and examine the target space. You have done this before so we have something to gage the effect on you.”

Companionably, hand in hoof, they walked over to the shady space. Esper examined the ground and leaves. The way that the assorted tree trunks leaned, even though they looked straight at fist glance. Celestia watched closely, nodding quietly to herself.

They walked back to the camp itself. The Major, standing in his chains, watched them with a sneer on his lips.

They came back to the fire, where Luna was happily putting together a lunch for everyone, pony and not. Her guards watched with resigned disapproval as their Princess did a menial task.

Celestia turned back to face the chosen spot. Interest on her face, she asked, “Now, Esper, when you are ready. How do you want to do this?”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper pondered the task laid before her.

“Well, truth be told… the last time I did this, I don’t know how I did it. My eyes shone brightly. The next thing I knew, I had teleported the caravan.”

She shrugged. “When a unicorn teleports, how do they, well, focus on their power in order to use it consciously?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Large compassionate eyes studied Esper carefully. “That is not easily explained, my dear. It is most easily taught by sharing of the mind. That is a very delicate thing and requires absolute trust between teacher and pupil.

“There is another way. As you begin to gather your power to do it, I can see if I can help you to feel the form and the force of it.

“I think that it may be the best way for us to try first. I can add more power to you by any means that you see fit.”

Celestia looked down at her feet and fidgeted a bit. “There is a serious reason not to try sharing minds just now. I have seen your reaction several times when we have mentioned Father. It is possible, even likely, that you know for certain who he is and what guise he is wearing.”

She looked beseechingly into Esper’s eyes. “Please understand. I do not want to risk losing Father again. It took us near two and a half centuries to find Marchhare, who knows Father. This is as close as we can get to him in this life. And our lives will not end.”

Pale, many hued magic gently enveloped Esper’s head. “Now, Esper, see if you can build the magic slowly, a little at a time.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper nodded, and closed her eyes. After a few moments she found the source of her power in her mind.

“Oh. I found it. It’s… like a pulsating… tendril of light.” She looked at Celestia. “It feels warm…”

Ask-De-Writer:

The wind was gently wafting Celestia’s glorious mane as the Princess of the Sun, Celestia, nodded in her turn. “I can see the power from here. Marchhare was right. It is like a high-level unicorn’s, though there are some differences.

“Considering that you are a different species and from a different world altogether, that is to be expected.

She wrapped Esper in a wing.

“You are doing very well now.” She dropped the hug and went on, now try to build the magic slowly, so that you can sense exactly what it is doing. Try to include only you and I. I will watch and tell you when it is safe to release it.”

As Esper’s magic began to manifest, her eyes lit up with their now almost familiar inner fire. What we had missed before, due to the quickness of its coming and going, was a delicate seeming web of glowing light between Esper’s horns. It was similar to the light that happens when a unicorn gathers magic.

Celestia’s own magic was gently probing Esper’s web of light. With a calm certainty, she said, “Any time, now Esper. Transport us.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper focused on the shady spot as intently as she had focused during her knife throwing lesson.

With a burst of purple light, and a quiet 'pop!’ She teleported herself and Celestia.

“Huh,” Esper said as they reappeared. “I don’t feel lightheaded.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Celestia smiled gently and replied, “I did not really expect it to happen. This time, you were fully prepared. You knew exactly where you were going. You took the time to organize your magic before you teleported. That last was really vital. Before, going by instinct, you did it as swiftly as you had power to do it.

“With the raw power that you have, that was very fast indeed. The power was not organized and it recoiled on you. That was what caused the disorientation. Organized power is safe. Disorganized power can cause a good deal of harm.”

She stroked Esper with her magic, softly and reassuringly.

“Now dear, take us back to where we started. On your own, this time.”

Esper began to concentrate. The softly glowing web between her horns grew.

The Whisper Sisters:

Once again, Esper demonstrated her absolute concentration.

With the same 'pop!’ as before, she brought herself and Celestia back to their original spot. Along with some of the fallen leaves.

“Oh. Oops.” The orryl blushed.

With another quick pop, Esper returned the leaves. “I guess I used a little too much power that time.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Celestia giggled. “No, dear. Not power. Feeling. You felt the leaves underfoot as a natural part of you and your environment. Think back on moving the leaves. That actually took the same degree of power as moving both of us.

“There is a bit of a mystery involved. Philosophers have debated it for centuries. It can be very precisely calculated but the reason that the calculations work is baffling.”

Suddenly she pointed over to the knife target. “Look!”

Princess Luna, with a delighted Dark beside her, was drawing back for a throw.

They were all interrupted by by the beat of slow drums from down the road. Soon a flat bedded cart with low, open side rails appeared, pulled by two ponies in the uniform of Royal Guards. They were led by a third who was beating the drum.

It was a military tumbrel. The drummer saluted. “Major Crafton, my Princesses. The tumbrel and irons kit ordered has been brought. I have not a specification of charges for so extreme a measure as this.”

Celestia raised her eyebrows at that. She turned to Sargent Blackberry. The Sargent saluted briskly and replied without being asked, “Ma'am! I was ordered to call the tumbrel for the prisoner, Major Upton. Though aware of many of the possible charges, I was not presented a formal list. Therefore, rather than make an error on so important a matter, I omitted the charges list until one of you could provide it formally.”

Luna, a throwing knife balanced neatly in hoof, said familiarly, “Well done, Meg. Now to the charges. These are to be written. Charge: Conspiring to undermine confidence in Our rule by the poisoning of Royal Largess. Charge: The murder of a loyal subject of Our rule. Charge: Abuse of the corpse of the same subject. Charge: Treason by attempting to poison Princess Luna and two formally declared members of Our Royal House. Charge: The attempted murder of two civilians under formal consideration for Elevation. Charge: The poisoning of Sargent Hawthorne, of our Guard, as a result of his plot to commit Treason as priorly specified. That should do it.

“Please see to his removal. There are written instructions for his incarceration until trial and his handling en-route.”

It was not long until the Major was on his way, chained to the tumbrel, a slow drum setting the pace.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper’s eyes went wide. “By the Spirits… that is a lot of charges.”

She looked over to De Writer. “I suppose it is time for the funeral. And I am brightly dressed. May I borrow something more… sombre to wear?”

Ask-De-Writer:

A cheerful, “No!” came from both Princesses, Black Lotus, me, and Dark, all at once.

Luna took Esper aside to explain, “Dear, we do mourn the passing of their bodies, but saying, 'The Loved Dead are with us always,’ is not a slogan to us. I am as Rom as I know how to be and my Royal Duties and Obligations allow.

“We will bury Rose but it will be with dances, songs, poems, a feast and the setting of the stones upon her resting place. We will all share everything that we can remember of her so that we will come away with her in our hearts, where she will pull beside us and make the road shorter and the pull lighter.

“What we really need for you is some bright sashes with fringes. Perhaps a few bells …”

Dark interrupted with a snicker, “Fringes I will take! No bells for me!”

At which both Luna and Celestia grinned and said at once, “Bell that pegasus! Luna went on, with giggles, “No bells for you, Dark. Rose did want to see your knife throwing act using the T'ang pony slight of hoof. Would you perform it for her?”

Dark settled at once and said, “It would be an honor to show Rose my act.”

Luna nodded gratefully. Then she turned to me, “Marchhare, do you have enough leather strapping and malachite dye to replace my pulling straps that the Major ruined?”

After examining all the pieces, I told her, “Yes, barely. You will need to be careful with the dye if you want to replace these pulling straps. I will set the tools and all out on the worktable for you. You want me to shut the caravan door for privacy while you work?”

Smiling happily, Luna replied, “Don’t bother! I want to keep an eye on Dark’s throwing. It is lovely!” With that we went into the caravan and I got out the needful kits of tools and and the scarce malachite dye.

I came out to find Black Lotus helping Esper with getting as close to a traditional Rom outfit and harness as her anatomy allowed.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper was standing still with her arms out as Black Lotus fitted the Sashes and belts.

“Oh my… I feel and look like a Gypsy…” She scratched her damaged horn. “Perhaps I could place a sash around my cast? I think it would spruce it up a bit.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Surprised, Black Lotus asked, “Did you know that we first came from a land calld Gyptia? It is long gone now. Conquered by Saddle Arabia.

“About your horn, it might indeed spruce it up to put a sash over it. I have another idea, if you will listen to it. When our foals are properly grown, we give them one of these.”

She held out a richly tooled head-stall of leather straps. “As in so much that the Rom do, there is an ancient symbolism in this thing. It signifies freedom from servitude.

“In the most ancient days, before we were Rom, we were made to wear such head-stalls with bridles in our mouths. By these devices, we were guided by others in such tasks as hauling loads, plowing or simply carrying our masters from place to place. We were serfs or slaves.

“When the drought and famine came, we were cast out to starve on our own. Marchhare found the band of us who grew to be the Rom. We were far into a deadly desert still marked on maps as Celestia’s Anvil.

“The tale of it is long but he guided us to safety. His guidance had only a small cost. Marchhare himself. He died only a day’s travel from safety.

“When he came to us, days later and asked for water, we were both overjoyed and afraid. The only thing that has changed is that we are no longer afraid of the Ghost Who Guides.

“We still wore the bridles of servitude out of habit. It was his suggestion that we keep them to remind us of what we were. We changed them though, so that they could never again be used to bind us to the will of another.

“I made this one for you, if you will have the gift. A large plume will hide each of your horns.” Black Lotus grinned almost ferally. “It will in no way stop you from using your horns when you feel a need!”

Luna stepped out of the caravan to stretch. Her dark wings snapped up in delight and she hopped down the last steps at a jump. Her eyes alight, she circled Esper, taking in every detail of the outfit and how cleverly Black Lotus had made it fit to such a different body as Esper’s.

She made a long indrawn breath of admiration. “This is perfect. You are truly be a Rom that Rose will love to meet!”

Changing moods mercurially, Luna called, “Marchhare! I am done! The straps came out beautifully! Thank you so much.

“When the tool kits are put away, would you please bring out your drums and flute?”

Dark flashed past them, into the caravan. She hopped out with her violin. And a huge smile.

I came out and handed my drums to the now beautifully dressed Esper. With a smile, I said, “Here you are Esper. Price of being a daughter to this old donkey. You get to play.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper was touched from all the attention and gifts she had received.

“Thank you, Black Lotus, Dark and Father. When I was sent here to live with you, I had no idea I would be, well, gifted with such treasures.”

She gently stroked her new head piece.

Ask-De-Writer:

It was little Dark, usually so happily filled with restrained violence, who replied, “It is we, Esper, who are honored. That you would consider our ways and the things that go with them to be treasures is an honor to us.”

Pausing she swung her violin to her shoulder and slid the bow across the strings in sweet wail of sound. Her face lit with a sort of inner and joyous fire. “You think that Auntie Lotus is a great dancer, and you are right! Now see what real wings can add to Dressage! This is going to be a night to remember!”

I handed my drums to Esper. The Princesses have heard of your skill on the drums. They both want to hear it with their own ears. Luna wants to dance! Celestia will be watching and listening. Dark is right. This will be a night to remember!

One of the Royal Guards that had come with Celestia muttered disapprovingly, “The Princesses forget their proper station!”

Celestia overheard. Pausing in strapping on her headstall of freedom, she stepped over to him, stiff with anger. “Sargent. YOU forget YOUR place. You are to guard Our Royal Persons. What we choose to do, we will do. If you grudge us a few hours or days of freedom from the locked armor of court, I can find another assignment for you. Am I clear?”

The Sargent remembered himself enough to salute and say,
“Yes, Ma'am! You are very clear! I apologize for my outburst, Celestia, Ma'am!”

“Good, Sargent. Now, I am going to enviously watch my sister dance.”

She joined us, finishing up her freedom headstall.

I led with a softly blown passage of notes on the flute. The drums and violin picked it up. Black Lotus and Luna began to move like fluid smoke.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper sat and joined in, drumming a soft tempo following her Father’s lead. She didn’t want to disappoint Celestia and Luna by going off rhythm, so she listened carefully for any changes made by Dark or De Writer.

After all, her skills were good, and Celestia and Luna were, well, family. But they were also Royalty. And it isn’t everyday you get to preform for Royalty.

Ask-De-Writer:

Black Lotus’ dance floated around Luna as she executed her steps, not out of some deference, but to allow Luna’s amazing wings to be the showcase piece of the performance.

They swept up, edge on like knives, and swooped down around, sometimes fan like, sometimes more like a swirling veil.

At times they framed the dancers and at others, concealed. Her moves, in spite of no Rom dressage being designed for wings, had the unique combination of precision and wild freedom that proclaimed that this was a dance of Rom and no other at all.

The first of our tunes was just ended, Luna peeking mischievously over the tops of concealing dark wings, wrapped about both she and Black Lotus like a cocoon.

Celestia was just beginning to give a Rom trill of admiration and applause. The same guard pony that had been outspoken earlier, tapped her firmly on the shoulder and interrupted, “Princess! This is unseemly! You are unguarded! You must stop this mingling with the lowest of the baseborn immediately!”

His tirade was cut off by a strangled, “Arragh!”

Dark’s treasured violin and bow sat neatly but untended. Dark herself was up the Sargent’s back, straddling him and rendering his wings useless. She had lifted his head sharply back and up, twisting his neck. A large curved dagger, one of her many knives was laying, edge tight against his jugular vein. She was staring intently, pleadingly, at Celestia.

“He interrupted you! He hit you! Can I kill him? Please?”

While Dark quivered with an eagerness that the effectively paralyzed Sargent could feel through his armor, Celestia allowed the moment to stretch out. At last, she said sadly, “Not this time, my dear Dark. Draw blood over the vein to remind him that he has utterly forgotten his place.”

Dark was actually looking sad as she sliced precisely and jumped free. Completely careless of the knife in Dark’s hooves, Celestia swept her close, hugging her with a wing.

Glancing up at the stunned Sargent, Celestia said mildly, “When I am among my horses, I am far better guarded than what you could ever think to do. Poor Dark, you have been deprived of four kills in only two days. I am sorry, my dear, but Luna and I have something for you after your adoption as our goddaughter. We think that you will enjoy it a lot. It is improper to speak of it before then because it is a Matter of State.”

Luna had approached unnoticed and said bluntly, “Dark, watch him. If he tries to leave or speak up again before I return, kill him.”

Celestia’s eyes widened at that. She knew Luna to normally be the most lenient of them both. She held her peace, trusting her sister’s reasons. She withdrew her wing and whispered, “The number 2 crescent?”

Dark considered and replied, “A good choice. Here, because of his size, I personally prefer the number 3.” He eyes never left the Sargent and she shivered in eager anticipation.

Luna returned quickly. The Major of the Guard, his rest interrupted, was with her. Silently she pointed at the Sargent.

The major snapped, “Three Leaf! What the Discord are you doing over here? You were assigned to watch the caravan.”

Sneering, Three Leaf retorted, “Just a wagon of Rom junk. Didn’t need no guard for that! They even left out a damn bracelet. I took it teach them to be more careful with their trash.”

The Major froze. In a voice like a glacier scraping over stone, he demanded, “You took something from a guard assignment?”

“Just this. Ain’t nothing worth anything.” Three Leaf held up a thin golden bangle.

Sadly, gently, the Major took the bangle from him. “It was worth more than you could easily imagine, Three Leaf. You will be sent home to Canterlot in irons for theft, not only from that which you were responsible for the security of, but Princess Luna herself. You also abandoned your post and interfered with a rehearsal for a funeral.

“Three years, you maneuvered for a post in the Royal Personal Guard. On your first day of actual duty, you threw it all away. You are relived of all duty.”

Kind of stunned by the nature of the interruption, we returned to the dances. Esper’s drumming was, once again, inspired.

The Whisper Sisters:

Whilst Esper continued her drumming, she leaned over to whisper to Dark. “By the Spirits, what was that all about? In my world, no one would ever consider touching a person of a higher station in that manner.”

She sighed, “Or interrupt a funeral practice for that matter. Is he insane?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Celestia’s very sharp ears overheard. She whispered, “I will tell you later. For now, carry on.”

Esper nodded and continued to drum the wild seeming but very precise tune of the dance. Her fingers continued to seek and find those spots where the drum-head gave different tones, making her drumming not only rhythm but tune as well.

As I fluted the tune, I was watching Luna’s Wing Work. I knew that Black Lotus was too. If there was one thing that Luna wanted, and could not get from her flattering courtiers, it was honest criticism.

At the end of the set, Luna dramatically crouched, her wings spread out in a flat circle, tilted to the audience, she turned to Black Lotus and exclaimed, “I came really close, that time! I think that I nailed the finale.”

Black Lotus agreed, “Your finales were both great. You have a small placement issue in …”

We let the pros discuss the dance. Esper’s question was a good one. Celestia smiled a bit sadly and explained, “Insanity cannot be a defense in a case such as Sargent Three Leaf.

“He is the son of a Count in Canterlot. As such, in informal situations at court, he has the right to touch us. He has no right to interfere in what either my sister or I do.

“His sort fail to grasp that any rulers, to be effective, must understand their followers. They try to build walls between the higher placed and the so called “common ponies” that are the foundation of their wealth and privilige.

“The whole court knows of our pride in being welcomed among the Rom. They do not understand it. The Major and most of my Guard have seen it and DO understand that WE treasure these brief times of freedom from the restrictions of court.

“Three Leaf was new. He might have survived his first outburst if he had held to his duty. He was so full of himself and his “station” in life that he ignored orders from the Major. The Major was base-born and has risen in rank by merit alone. Some of the worst among the nobility seem to think that they are entitled to anything that those of lower station have.

“When Luna or I find that happening, we see to it that the criminals are punished severely.”

Dark asked, “What about interrupting the funeral rehearsal?”

Celestia shrugged expressively with both shoulders and wings. “There are many who do not understand the customs of the Lake. It is simple, really. When one of us dies in the body, as we see it, they simply move to our hearts.

“The Loved Dead are always with us because they are in our hearts. We not only remember them with love, we share our lives with them. We place the body in the grave, the Earthen Lake, with due respect and welcome the horse to our hearts for all time to come. That is why we celebrate.

“Frankly, I doubt that Three Leaf either understands or cares about any funeral that is not someone 'important’ and not done by Canterlot custom.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper bit her bottom lip in thought. “Anyone who thinks they are better than anyone else because of their birthright or class is a fool, in my opinion.”

She stood and stretched. “Honestly. To think someone lower than you for the reason of class alone is ridiculous. You judge them based on how they treat others, not their station.

“That’s what my Mama Dragon taught me, anyway.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Celestia smiled at that and replied, “You are talking and freely, without fear, to an Absolute Ruler. Why can you do so? It is simple, really.

“We treasure open honesty above most things. It is the single most difficult thing for a ruler to get. Your Mama Dragon is wise. She has given you a great gift.

“This was the first time that I have seen Luna’s Dressage in its proper setting. It is far more effective than you can tell from seeing it in a mirror lined studio.”

Celestia twisted a lip in humor and added, “The music is both better played and better done, too.”

She gestured with a wing, “Would you come with me, Esper? I want to have a short walk before I sleep.” Glancing about, she called, “Dark, dear! Would you please accompany us? We are going for a walk before we sleep.”

Dark came to them openly, a happy grin on her face. Celestia smiled at her. “I am not going to ask why you are so happy, my dear Dark. I know what you have been up to.

“I want to know how to apologize to your mother Murder for the many centuries that we were rude to her.

“From you, Esper, I want to know as much as you remember of your lives.”

They began to walk and talk quietly. There was a lot to discuss. And to bring happy, relaxed laughter. All too soon it was time to sleep. Tomorrow’s sun would shine on Rose’s Lake.

The Whisper Sisters:

As they walked, Esper thought for a second.

“You wish to know about my past life?”

She smiled as the three of them walked through the woods.

“Well, my story begins when I was four. My parents and sister were killed by a shadow creature sent by the aspect of Fear. I was saved by a Hunter. He brought me to a Monastery for young girls gifted in Alchemy.”

She took a deep breath and exhaled. “I spent 12 years there… until disaster struck again…”

Esper teared up slightly. "I returned from a trip to the local village. I found the Monastery burnt down, and the empty robes of my 50 sisters, and the Grand sister scattered everywhere.”

She wiped her eye of moisture. “I… was distraught, and I let my anger consume me.

“Urulóki… the Vengeful Fire… is what I was called. I traveled the lands for three years, burning and killing every evil thing that I came across.”

She suddenly fell to her knees, sobbing. “I’m sorry… I can’t continue…”

Ask-De-Writer:

Celestia, careless of “Royal Dignity” knelt beside Esper. She softly enfolded Esper in a cocoon of pale, many hued magic and wrapped a wing about her as well.

Smiling softly, she said, “There is no need to say more, Esper. You have told me what I needed to know already. In spite of the short time that you have been among us, I have had reports of you, including your time as Urulóki.

“What reports, however well done cannot do, is tell me how you feel inside. What you are like.

“Now I know that. You are the most admirable sort of being. I am very happy to have the privilege of meeting you.”

To Dark, she said, “It has been wonderful to meet you, too, Dark. In many ways, you remind me of Swift Feather, the first pegasus to follow us, even before we had finished Fortress Canterlot. She was a true warrior, a wonderful friend and never failed to give us her best.

“Thank you also for your suggestions to help mend fences with your mother, Murder.”

Gathering up both of her companions in her magic, Celestia walked sedately back to camp.

The Whisper Sisters:

By the time that they returned to camp, Esper had calmed down somewhat and had composed herself. Her blood-shot eyes still showed that she had been crying. However, she put on a happy face at the sight of the others.

“Have we missed anything exciting while we were on our walk?” She asked the crowd in general.

Ask-De-Writer:

Black Lotus grinned and retorted, “Only dessert! Dancing is hungry work! We made some vegetable skewers and chocolate dipped nut cakes!” She held up the small feast.

Celestia dropped her burden and sprinted for the fire. In spite of that, Esper was faster. Dark simply strolled up, knowing that hers would be waiting for her.

They all nibbled down the assortment of goodies. Black Lotus said, “I made some for all of your guard ponies too, your Highnesses. They seemed to enjoy them.”

An angry and plaintive voice out of the darkness squalled, “I didn’t get any!”

That was followed by the voice of Sargent Blackberry. “She said GUARDS, Three Leaf. You are already dismissed and in irons. It is Canterlot and jail for you!”

In the silence that followed, I suggested, “It is time to turn in. We want to be at Rose’s Last Encampment early tomorrow. It is not a long pull but we need to do it. We shall give her to the Lake with a proper celebration.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper yawned and leaned against Celestia’s shoulder.

“But I’m n-not tired,” she stuttered. “Can’t we t-talk a little longer…” Her bright purple eyes drifted shut and soon the camp was filled with the orryl’s soft snores.

Ask-De-Writer:

Both Dark and Luna stepped forward and carried the snoring Esper away. Luna found a soft patch of grasses. They laid Esper down first. Luna settled beside her and covered her sleeping friend with a large dark wing. She lifted the other wing and softly said, “You are welcome here, my little heroine.”

Dark looked puzzled at first. Luna explained, “Anyone, especially with skills like yours, can kill. You have restrained yourself in spite of your clear desire. Along the way, you have defended my sister, your tools and your friends. I have no doubt at all that you can and will kill when the time is proper for it.

“More to the point, I know that you have helped your grandfather on at least two occasions in defending the realm by careful, well planned and executed murders.

“I both like and admire you.

“Besides, I have yeast started for the breakfast batter cakes and I would like you to help me with breakfast. We have many more to feed now, than we did. Will you please assist me?”

With a smile of simple contentment, Dark snuggled under Luna’s midnight wing with a simple, “Sure. I would love to help with breakfast. Bet Esper would too.”

Soon the whole camp, except for some of Celestia’s and Luna’s ever vigilant guards, was snoring.

The Whisper Sisters:

The next morning, Esper stirred under her soft, sapphire, feathery blanket. She blinked a few times, allowing her eyes to adjust. She was slightly shocked as she realized that Luna was using her wing to keep the orryl warm.

“Oh my…” she whispered. Ever so gently, she crept out from underneath and walked over to a patch of flowers.

She thought, “A crown of flowers would be a worthy gift, methinks.” She gathered up some flowers, carried them to the fire side, and began to knit them into a crown.

Ask-De-Writer:

Surreptitiously she began to place the woven flowers over Luna’s horn. Her lips spread in a huge grin, Luna’s eyes snapped open! A slight toss of her head settled the flowers neatly. She grabbed Esper’s hand in her magic and pulled her close enough to kiss the hand that had crowned her.

She hopped eagerly to her feet exclaiming softly, “Thank you, Esper, for the only crown that I will wear while I am Rom!”

She made a beeline for the caravan, where Dark had opened one of the under-deck storage chambers. Working in the silence that she so often did, Dark was happily pulling out the Fairground cooking gear.

Luna began transporting it all to the fire. The fire she uncovered and added kindling. As soon as the blaze was going, she raked it out to a long, narrow fire, adding wood along its length that would make good coals. She happily bridged the firer with the big iron griddles and grilles.

She pointed out ingredients and showed Esper how full to make a big bowl. “Not more than that. As the yeast takes hold, the batter will swell to fill the bowl.”

Dark was industriously making up a thick syrup.

Luna poured the first set of griddle cakes and had skewers on the grills to roast. She clanged a meal bell and the three of them suddenly became busy with the serving line.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper held her plate ready, standing just behind her Father in line. Her stomach growled as the smell passed her nose.

“It smells wonderful.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Luna looked up at Esper with a grin as she flipped an extra batter cake onto her plate along with two skewers. “Go get your syrup and pick of three drinks from Dark! Eat fast. I will want you back to build up the batter as we serve.”

Turning to Dark, she said, “Hate to spoil your morning game with Grandpa, Sweetie. After yesterday it would make our guards nervous. I have a different game instead! Let you know after breakfast is put away!”

Instead of Dark, it was me who responded. I said petulantly, “Aw, I was wondering how she was going to do it with all of them around!”

Several royal guards did look at each other nervously. The older ones who had been with the princesses during Rom visits, were relaxed. One spoke to a junior guard. “Never be surprised at anything in one of these camps. The Princesses are actually safer than at court. We are along because Court fatheads want it.”

Dark poured syrup on the batter cakes and had a big mug sized ladle at the ready. She said happily, “As soon as you are done eating, I get breakfast! You will need to build up the batter and then pour like mad! It’s almost as much fun as doing meals at a fair!”

Luna observed her happy breakfast madhouse. Celestia had been slow to respond to the bell and was well back in the line, among her guards. They were as nervous as mice at a cat convention because she would not let them put her ahead of them.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper nodded and smiled. “As you wish, Dark. I’ll be back quickly.”

After preparing her meal, she sat down on a old, fallen, moss-covered log. She ate her meal swiftly, yet at the same time, enjoying it immensely.

Once she was finished, she placed her plates in the wash tub, and replaced Dark in the serving line. “Just show me what to do, Hun.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark held on to the ladle for the moment. “You built up the batter for the cakes earlier. Just start with that, as soon as Luna has the batter, come back.”

It only took moments to stir in the needed flour, warm water, honey and a few eggs.

Dark smiled approval. “We have Rom Black tea, Canterlot tea, and coffee. Most of the guards like coffee. The syrup is dead easy. I have a big pot of plain thickened honey water here. There are mashed blackberries here and strong maple flavor here. One spoon in the serving pot, add the base and stir! Instant syrup!

“Happy pouring!” Dark skipped around to go to the end of the line with her plate. Celestia would not hear of it. “Dark! You have been working all morning to make and serve this. You come here, with me! We will get our breakfast together. That shady spot over there looks like a nice place to eat.”

Esper was working her bushy tail off in the serving line but kept up with everything.

Breakfast over, she was joined by both Dark and Celestia. Under Luna’s direction they changed recipes on leftovers and made flavored and filled pastries out of the batter and other things from breakfast.

They all pitched in to clean everything and put it away.

Dark confided to Esper, “They are both wonderful, but I think that I like Luna the best. She trusts me, lets me help her and she kept me under her wing all night.

“If I could die, I would give my life for her if it was needed.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper looked over at the two Princesses.

“If I had to pick? I guess… Celestia. She reminds me of the Grandsister and my Mother.” She smiled. “For that reason alone, I feel closer to her.”

She sighed, and started carving her ivory.

“Is it selfish of me to say that I don’t want to be away from her? That if I go but one day without her presence… I would feel an empty place in my heart?”

She spoted a large acorn. “Ah. A perfect bowl for my pipe.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark let her gaze join Esper’s in watching the Royalty of Equestria, crownless and happy as they finished packing everything way to old Marchhare’s satisfaction.

They were frisking like fillies as they got out the singletrees, double trees and the center tree to tie the whole hitch together and connect it to the caravan. It was obvious that the guards had mostly seen this happen before. The older, wiser heads, stopping the newer ones from interfering.

Dark nodded soberly at Esper’s revelation. “It does not surprise me at all, Esper. She fills the hole in your heart where your loved dead mother should be.

“My Mothers both live and I do love them. I adore Luna for her trust and acceptance of what and who I am and her willingness to share with me. She is another sister to me.”

Just then the caravan’s hitch call bell sounded. Dark and Esper carefully wrapped Esper’s prettily carved pipe workings and her tools. They strolled over to the caravan.

Dark’s face fell. There was no place in the hitch for her.

Luna wrapped Dark into the tent of her wing and nuzzled her. “I cannot let you pull yet, Dark. Your bruises from Major Upton’s attack on us are not properly healed. Tomorrow or the day after is the first that I can allow it.

“Do not fear what Rose will think of you not pulling. With all that has happened, including her murder, she will understand our need for a safety scout. You fly ahead and help us to be sure of a safe road to Rose’s Lake.”

One of the new Guards muttered, “Did you hear that? I swear, the Princess is nuts. The old mare is dead. End of story.”

From just behind him, he heard a voice, as soft as midnight silk covering a bar of iron. “If I hear another such outburst, Sargent Corven, there will be an opening in My Personal Guard. You were required to study and memorize the burial and personal survival beliefs of the Rom to get this post. It is sad that you have forgotten it so soon.

“Major! I need you now! Sargent Corven is to be retested on all of the Rom Customs Manual. He is not to be allowed access to the manual before testing. If he fails, he is in my Guard under false pretenses. Am I clear?”

The Major saluted. “Yes, Ma'am! You are clear, my Princess. Shall I relieve him?”

“Not for now, Major. Just see to it that he makes no further disrespectful remarks about my friends the Rom OR, most especially, my dear friend Rose or the ceremonies of her Lake.”

She turned her head, looking down and back. “No, Dark, you can’t kill him. This is just stupidity and incompetence. If you killed everypony for that, you would kill everypony.”

Dark hugged Luna around the neck and kissed her cheek. “I knew that I couldn’t, Luna. It didn’t hurt to ask, did it?”

“No, dear, it did not hurt to ask. Now, I am holding up the Hitch. Go and give us a good low and high level safety assessment. Until those leg bruises heal, your job is air scouting.”

Dark nodded understanding and lifted off with what she called “Owl Flapping.” The guards saw it happen in surprise. Dark’s flight was utterly silent. It was also fast.

Esper was in the hitch next to Celestia. Black Lotus was paired to her father Marchhare and Luna had the lead singletree.

Solemnly she began, “Lean right! Lean left! Right! Left!”

The caravan began to roll smoothly forward toward Rose’s Earthern Lake.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper stayed silent as she pulled alongside Celestia. She sensed a warm, caring, almost… motherly glow radiating from the Matriarch. It was pleasant and comforting, and almost overwhelming. Much like the scent of a field of spring wild flowers.

“Lilac…” Esper’s eyes closed half-way as see recognized the scent. The same scent The Grand-sister wore. The orryl glanced sideways at the tall white pony.

“Princess?” She asked shyly, a heavy pink blush tinging her cheeks. “I wish to discuss something with you. However… I am wrestling with my conscience to decide wheather or not this topic is appropriate at this time.”

She sighed heavily, and fell silent for a moment as she turned her gaze to the road. She felt the Princess’s eyes upon her, as though she was giving her silent permission to continue.

Esper didn’t look at her pull mate as she asked, “Would it be too bold of me to ask permission to be your student?”

She chanced a glance at the Royal pony. A flick of De Writer’s ears ahead of her caught her attention. She silently berated herself, “Stupid fool. Must you ask this now?”

Ask-De-Writer:

To her surprise, Celestia answered, “This is not the time to discuss this but not because we are on our way to Rose’s Lake.”

She brought her head about enough to lightly nuzzle Exper’s ear. We do not know each other well enough for that. For now, stay with the Rom. We visit as often as we can, Luna and I.

“We take being Godparents seriously. What you will receive at the fair is something that many of our highest courtiers have tried and failed to get for many years.

“I have studied reports of you, both before you died and after.” A tear formed at the corner of her luminous eye. “Both our father, De Writer, and Marchhare think highly of you.

“So do your Spirits. I have not had reports from them. Your very existence is that report. They do not bring many back at all. Even rarer do they bring someone back to a different world and form. There is something here that they want you to learn.”

She leaned into the harness, leather creaking, bells jingling and fringes flipping to their movement. Her royal hooves plopping into the dust and gravel of the road the same as Esper’s or any of the others. She seemed lost in thought.

Quietly, she spoke again. “Conditionally, Esper, yes. We all need time to grow together. So, not yet. We will see what the future holds. One thing is certain. You will not be my student in Canterlot. Your Spirits placed you among the Rom.

“The Rom do not go closer to Canterlot than the shadow of its walls. There is ancient tradition behind that. A few have tried to force Rom, whether as prisoners for trial or as “Entertainers” at noble parties.

“In both sorts of cases, my sister and I have been extremely harsh on those who broke our Proclaimed Law and Edicts. We have taken the legal protection of our friends VERY seriously.

“As a student of mine, we will make some means of being together outside of the Royal City.”

Whisper Sisters:

Esper nodded. “I understand, Princess. I did not mean to be crass. I know of the Rom and the Shadow of Canterlot. I never considered that it would apply to me, since I am not of this world.”

“Be that as it may, I will not break that tradition.” She smiled and placed a hand on Celestia’s back.

“Being your Goddaughter will be an honour.” She blushed.

“Princess… I have a confession to make. For some reason, even though we have just met, I feel very close to you.” Esper looked at her “Is that odd?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Celestia replied gently, almost hard to hear over the steady small symphony of little sound that always accompanies a caravan on the move, “It was not crass, Esper. I am going to touch the last thing that you asked first. Doing so may answer all the rest.

“It is not odd, my dear child. Not odd at all. I heard Dark put a small hoof right on the issue, earlier. The Rom have a name for it. You were unmotherd. That our loved dead are always with us is not simply an expression to us. They live on in our hearts, just as Marchhare lives on for all the Rom.

“Your mother was brutally ripped from you at an early age. By fortune alone, you met the Grand-sister and the others to be family. They too were ripped from you. Sadly, you did not know how to hold them to be always with you. You became the Vengeful Fire, Urulóki. That sealed both of them away from your Loving Heart.

“You do feel the emptiness where your loved dead should be. I am honored that you feel so about me. Many flatterers say empty words about how I fill their hearts and so on. What you are feeling is genuine. I can tell.

“We will spend some time, a few months or a year, growing together as Goddaughter and Godmother first. There is little hurry in this.

“One other thing that you may want to know. I have left a note for De Writer. I have asked him to let your family know that you have returned but have business set by your Spirits to do before you return.”

She smiled gently at Esper. “I have asked that the invitation be sent for them to come visit from time to time. Family are important.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper fell silent. “Oh…” She blinked a few times.

“They must have been shocked to find out that I was alive. I hope they took the news well.”

She inhaled deeply. “You are so wise, Godmother. My only hope is that, one day, I’ll be as wise as you.” She tapped her chin in thought for a second, “And be able to make my hair wave and flicker like yours. Is that a spell?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Celestia grinned widely. She did a small skip-hop, out of step, but quickly evened the pull. “Do you know that you are the FIRST being in three thousand years to ASK that?”

She tossed her head happily to set her mane drifting on the breeze. “No, my dear Esper, it is not a spell. Neither is Luna’s. We were made this way. Others have tried to copy it to flatter us and a few have tried to imitate it for bad reasons.

“I know that you simply admire my mane but it would make no difference to your heart if I had a plain one or even none at all. You are not deceived by appearances.”

They were interrupted by the roar of black wings being driven for speed alone. Dark circled once and landed trotting beside Luna, panting slightly from her hard flight. “Robbers! Luna! They are attacking Sargent Stone, Rose’s Honor Guard. They are going to steal her whole caravan! Two unicorns are leading them and they have four earth ponies as well.”

Luna called out in her famous Canterlot Voice, “Guards! Go the aid of Sargent Stone. If Dark returns to the scene before we do, do no thing to interfere with her! That is the order! Go!”

The Guard simply replied, “Yes, Princess!” They took to the air in a thunder of wings. Dark watched them go with a sad expression.

Turning her head back, Luna asked Celestia, “Shall we do it?”

“Yes, Sister, this must not go unpunished. Let the punishment come with the deed itself!”

Luna looked down at the disappointed Dark. Her smile would have caused hungry wolves to go look for a quiet place to starve.

“Dark, this is a Royal Authorization. Go. Try to keep the leaders alive for trial. Do as you wish with the others.”

Dark’s red eyes lit like flames, she was so happy. She took to the air with the same uncannily quiet “Owl Flight” that she had use before. She disappeared up the road, a streak of black and white.

The Whisper Sisters:

“Mother!” Esper shouted, as she removed her harness from the hitch to catch Celestia’s attention. “I can takes us to Rose’s Lake. I need your help.”

“I have never been there before so I need you to guide my teleportation.”

She gathered her energy between her horns. “Please. I want to help.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Luna, in the lead of the Pull, felt the change in the hitch and called, “Whoa!” Black Lotus set the caravan’s brake gently.

Celestia gave Esper an appraising stare. She nodded slowly. Then she called gently, “Luna, I know that Rose is your friend and tradition requires that we Pull to her Lake. Circumstance needs us at her Lake, NOW. Esper can take us there near instantly.

“I have only flown above the place. You have been there. Esper needs a guide for the teleportation. Will you do it?”

Luna took the time to consider carefully. Finally, she said, “Yes, with one provision. What Dark does or will do must not be interfered with. Dark needs her kills as much as the thieves need to be punished. The poor filly has had to forgo four just kills in only two days.”

Celestia nodded briskly. “Agreed. Esper, go and get your guidance from Luna. For this, she will be better than I.”

Esper, power glowing in a delicate seeming web between her horns, ran to Luna’s side. Luna spread a large midnight wing over her to help with the contact.

The Whisper Sisters:

As Luna touched Esper with her wing, the image of Rose’s Lake swam into her mind’s eye.

“There. I see it.” She looked around at the gathered party. “No one move, please.”

Her magic expanded out in a bubble from her horns. It enveloped the entire party, caravan and all. In an instant, they appeared in a clearing just a few meters from where Dark was dealing with the looters.

“It is done.” Esper said as she slumped against Luna, completely spent.

Ask-De-Writer:

The scene was one of carnage. Both of the earth ponies that had been in the process of hitching to Rose’s caravan were dead in the traces. One of the four had tried to flee. One of Dark’s long straight throwing daggers was in the back of his neck at a steep angle. It had gone through his spine.

The other had tried to fight. In rearing to strike, he had been stabbed in the gut first. When he fell, his throat had been cut.

A blade had driven full depth in the hind quarters of one unicorn he was down, struggling. His horn had been cut free.

Dark had cut a hamstring of the remaining unicorn with a thrown knife, dropping him. Pain and surprise had allowed her to straddle his neck, holding him down. She had a metal cap over his horn to prevent any magic use. A few quick strokes from the serrated back edge of a longish curved knife, sawed through the horn at the base.

The guards had arrived apparently only a few moments before the we got there by teleportation. Following their orders, they were ignoring Dark’s activities. They were rendering aid to the fallen Sargent Stone. There was an arrow driven into his flank.

Luna dropped her hitch and sprinted for the wounded Guard. Celestia was only fractions of a second behind her.

Black Lotus and I gathered the exhausted Esper to lay her in the caravan but she struggled against it, still wanting to help Celestia. I knew better than to try stopping that sort of loyalty. We carried her over to where Celestia was assisting Luna in her field surgery.

The wounded unicorns were squalling their pain from wounds and horror at being de horned in the background.

Dark came across the battle trampled turf, practically bouncing with the joy of a job well done. “Princess Luna! I got them for you, just like you asked!

“Can I help you to heal Sargent Stone? He was heroic! He was still trying to stop the robbers even after he was wounded. He saved Rose and her things.”

The tired Esper spoke to Celestia.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper looked at scene in front of her and shuddered. “So much death…” She turned to Celestia, “I don’t know any healing magic, but I wish to help. Is there a spell you can teach me?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Celestia turned a compassionate gaze to Esper and replied, “This sort of healing is not a single spell, like your Alchemy might have done it.

“I will be assisting Luna, who is the best surgeon of the two of us. What I want you to do is see if your new magic is adaptable to this sort of work.

“Let your magic meld with mine. First, we will put the Sargent to sleep so that he will be still while Luna works the arrow out of the wound.

“We will be working inside Sargent Stone’s body by feel alone. Our magic will be used to find and pull together the parts cut by the sharp arrowhead. Luna will make final adjustments while we hold things. She will then seal the parts together by a technique similar to the way that she sealed your horn bandage.

“This will be tricky to do because the arrow came close to a great artery for the leg and to the main nerve to the leg as will. I envy her the skill that she has in this work.”

Luna gently took Sargent Stone’s head in her magic so that she could look him in the eyes as she told him, “You have seen me put others to sleep while healing their wounds. I am going to do it for you now. I will not gloss it over, Sargent. The wound was nearly deadly. It will be straightforward but tricky work to fix.

“I will put you on the invalid list for two weeks after we are done here.

“Dark, of whom you have had reports, says that you were heroic in this action. I know her well enough to be sure that she would not exaggerate on the point. She has given me specific details of your duty here.

“There will be a reward for you after you recover from our surgical sleep.”

Sargent Stone rolled his eyes to where he could see Dark clearly. He replied, “That little filly is the real heroine. She stopped them cold.

“Princess, go ahead with the surgery. I trust you.”

His eyes closed.

Magics from all three, Luna, Celestia and Esper flowed to the wound and seeped into the flesh itself. Luna was directing.

She told Dark, “Lift the Sargent’s leg up and pull back a little, dear. Thank you, that is just right.”

Her midnight magic gently worked the dangerously edged point back out, away from the nerve and blood vessel. Soon it was free of the wound.

Celestia, with Esper’s magic alongside her own, began pulling the cut and severed muscles back together. Luna made some adjustments and the cuts simply seemed to meld back together.

That it was more difficult than it appeared showed as Dark mopped sweat from Luna’s forehead.

The rest of the guard were examining the damage to Sargent Stone’s armor. As Luna finished the last of the sealing of his skin, the Major reported, “Princess, besides the arrow that penetrated, Sargent Stone was hit glancing blows to the breast plate, the helmet-chanfron, and the right wing pauldron.”

Dark said softly, “I told you that he put up a heroic battle.” She turned a distasteful look to the injured and de-horned unicorns. “I was a direct witness to part of this assault.”

Turning to Esper, Dark asked eagerly, “Did you learn some of that? I have a lot of magic from both of my mothers but I really can’t do that very well. That is why I stayed out of the work and just held the leg the way that Princess Luna wanted it.

“I wish that I was better at it. It looked to me like you were right in there.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper, looking pale, nodded in response.

“In-indeed I was…”

She wobbled on her feet, and then fell to her tush.

“Oh… I don’t feel so well.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Celestia’s gentle, multi-hued magic enfolded Esper and she began to trot with her back toward the caravan of Marchhare. With a gentle smile, she said, “You have over-extended yourself again.

“Between that massive teleport, the shock of seeing the battlefield and then helping with that surgery, you are going to need both sleep and …”

Dark, trotting past, cut in, “Strong Rom Black tea with double honey and fresh crushed berries! I am just going to make it up!”

She popped into the caravan and a cheerful bustle of sound announced her activities inside. Dark hopped back out and handed Esper a cup and spoon. “Eat up, Blade Sister. I promised and that leaves YOU no choice. I will take care of you!

“The water is hot but tea has to steep. As swiftly as I can get it strong enough, you need at least two cups. Way sweeter than you like but right now, it is what you need.”

Celestia stood by with a smile. Luna ambled up. “I heard that about sweet tea and crushed berries? Got enough for me?”

Dark grinned widely, showing her many small razor-like teeth. “I thought that you would ask! Your cup and Celestia’s are both inside. I put your berries on toast slabs.”

In moments, both Princesses were sipping tea and nibbling toast smothered in crushed berries.

Dark brought out the kettle and kept everyone’s cups topped up.

As Esper sipped and spooned in her crushed berries she began to sit up straighter.

When Dark told her, “It was amazing, seeing you bring the whole caravan and party here like that! See, Grandpa explained to me about teleportations like that. The Power that they use is just about the same, no matter what, or within reason, how far it is. What changes is how much your magic has to keep track of. That focus takes the kind of energy that makes you tired. Sweets help to fix that.”

Esper smiled her thanks for the explanation while holding out her cup for more tea.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper smiles weakly as she sips her tea. “Is… there a away I can increase my stamina? So that I don’t use so much power when I perform my magic?”

Ask-De-Writer:

I had wandered over to the conclave. Free tea (even if it is my own) is a great draw. I had my portable folding cup along. Dark grinned her disturbing grin and poured.

“I overheard you, Esper. Answer is yes. Trick is to take your time. Let your magic infiltrate everything that you want to go.

“You saw Luna working in Sargent Stone’s wound? How her magic sort of soaked into the parts before joining them? It is like that, sort of. If you just move what you can see, your magic has to work far harder. The more you get into the things to be moved, the less mental energy it takes.

“It is sort of like pulling. On flat ground, it makes little difference as long as everypony leans into it the same. Hit a grade, and it is a lot harder pull. If everypony is in step for the grade, it is about half the effort. Same with the teleport.

“The better your magic infiltrates the things to be moved, the less the effort.”

I paused to sip more of Dark’s excellently brewed tea.

I saw both Luna and Celestia looking at me with care.

Time for a diversion. As much as they don’t want to lose their contact with their foster father, De Writer, I don’t want to lose them again, either.

I pointed a hoof at the two de-horned unicorns, both down with what at a glance, appeared to be pretty bad injuries. I suggested, “They don’t seem to have been paying much attention to us. Might be amusing to hear what they have to say for themselves.”

Luna bobbed her horn in acquiescence. “An excellent notion, Marchhare. So far, they have assaulted a Royal Guard and attempted to steal a caravan that was technically, Royal property. It was on a road belonging to us …”

Dark pointed out, “They came prepared to commit the murder of a Royal Guard. They had an infantry heavy crossbow, two pikes, a war spear and the unicorns had swords.

“They knew what they were doing.”

A slow smile spread across her face.

“If you hear them, they have no appeals.” Her red eyes became glowing rubies as she asked, “May I kill them if you find them guilty?”

Esper, knowing that Dark was on her side and would defend her absolutely, was still appalled at this side of one of her best friends.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper’s shivers stopped as she sipped her tea, and ate her berries.

“If you all don’t mind, I would rather get some sleep while you interrogate the prisoners.” She smiled sweetly. “I am utterly exhausted, and, well…” She scratched her broken horn. “My head still hurts from the last interrogation.”

Ask-De-Writer:

We all got a good laugh. Dark got serious enough to check Esper’s pulse and ask, “Not dizzy or disoriented any more?”

At Esper’s nod, Dark led her into the caravan. Emerging in a few moments, she reported, “I got her all tucked in. She went to sleep almost instantly. She was exhausted.”

Celestia nodded and added, “And all heart. As tired out as she was by that teleportation she still wanted to help Sargent Stone.”

Luna gave a sad smile and said, “She did too. I could feel her working with you in the wound, sister.”

She took a deep breath and her face twisted in distaste as she said, “This will be unpleasant. Marchhare, I know how well and fast you write. I wish you to keep a verbatim record of all that is said. Black Lotus, I need you for a witness to what Dark reported that forced us to teleport to Rose’s Lake instead of Pulling as tradition dictates. Dark, my dear, I will need you to tell us exactly what you saw and did. My personal Guard and Celestia’s Guard are going to give testimony too.

“I can hear the prisoners from here. They are upset but coherent. If, under questioning, they prove not fit for trial, we shall still all give our evidences while they are fresh in our minds.”

Celestia said sympathetically, “I hate this. It was going to be such a merry outing. The moot and wedding of a friend, a fair with all of its fun and silliness, adopting two new goddaughters of Marchhare’s line.

“Now, instead of moot and wedding, we have a Lake. Even that marred by treason, and the attempted murder of our Guards and family.”

Grimly, Luna replied, “After the hearing, we shall do our best to return to the lighter purposes of this outing among our friends.”

She and her sister got up and led the way over to where the pair of severely injured unicorns lay. The dead earth ponies had masks over their faces. The rags of a mask hung from one of the unicorns’ face. The other’s was on the blood-soaked ground next to him.

The Whisper Sisters:

After a few hours Esper awoke. She was a little disoriented, but it quickly passed. She tossed the blankets off, stretched, and walked outside.

She looked around, noticing the empty camp. “Oh?”

Ask-De-Writer:

It was Dark who found Esper. She was cheerfully rummaging the food lockers as she explained, “This has been more fun than it should be, considering that it is charges of murder and attempted murder and may result in the downgrading of Draytown to a village. That will end their fair. They will still be allowed a Market.”

At Esper’s quizzically tilted head, Dark grinned, ear to ear and said, “They still think that they are talking to some idiot Rom! In spite of everything, they have not figured out that they are being heard by both Princesses.

“This is not the first caravan that they have stolen. They dispossessed a family a few months ago. The Princesses knew about the robbery but not who did it. We have a confession now.

“They even have a “Damage Deposit” that has to by paid by Rom only, to enter the town hall. You have to go in to make a complaint. You can’t collect the deposit back without having to pay another one in order to get it.

“The Princesses are being very thorough and getting all of the information that they can before charging them with this robbery and attempted murder of a Royal Guard.”

Dark gathered up her booty of snacks and another handful of writing paper.

“Would you help me with the Ink bottle, Esper? We have gone through three already! We get to sit quietly on the sidelines and watch. They are sinking themselves deeper than a stone in the ocean.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper followed Dark silently. She sat next to Dark as she watched the interrogation. She pulled out the pieces of her pipe and worked on it as Celestia and Luna questioned the murderers and thieves.

Ask-De-Writer:

Marchhare accepted the ink and papers with a nod of thanks. Black Lotus was sitting next to him loaning him her blue magic as he guided the pen across the pages.

Celestia had heard enough. She put a hoof down. “Let me summarize. Marcus there, saw the caravan last night and was ordered off by Sargent Stone, the Honor Guard of Rose’s body and goods.

“He then he went to the Draytown Town Hall and filed for possession on the grounds of abandoned goods or property.

“You, Sheriff, and four constables came to assist Marcus in the recovery of the court granted goods. A simple hook up and pull to Marcus’ place.

“You were attacked while attempting the removal and fought back with the spear and pikes until your attacker pulled his sword. One of your party then shot your attacker in the leg with a crossbow. He was preparing a final and fatal shot when he was killed by a knife thrown by a small black pegasus in mid flight.

“The so-called little monster then killed all three of your remaining constables. She tricked your magic by throwing multiple weapons at once, wounding you in the hindquarters with one. She landed on you, took off your horn and hamstrung you.

“She attacked Marcus in much the same way with the same result.

“This was completely unfair because it was so easy to snatch that Rom wagon from that fool family headed for the fair last year.

“You only had to encourage them a bit to abandon the wagon. Not your fault if that mare you poked died because the Rom was stupid enough to waste time trying to get her seen at the Draytown Horsepital. They should have taken care of her themselves.”

She gave the Sheriff and Marcus a hard stare. “Is that ALL?”

The Sheriff sort of squirmed and snapped, “ALL THAT YOU NEED, YOU STUPID ROM! You shoulda’ never writ all this down. You going to jail for life if you ain’t executed!

Luna replied, “Do have a few questions that seem to have slipped your mind. Do you always need four constables to recover unclaimed property? Seems a little excessive. Two for the traces to pull the load and Marcus to identify it should have done it.”

“Oh yeh? Take a look at how we was murderously assaulted!”

In her sweet voice, Luna said, “Yes, look. You came here with two pikes, a war spear, an infantry heavy crossbow and two swords! You knew that there was only one guard here.

“Why so many weapons if your errand was lawful? More to the point, MILITARY weapons, marked with the Draytown Armory marks. One bolt or crossbow arrow in Sargent Stone’s leg. A pike hit on his chanfron helmet. A pike hit to the Wing pauldron, a spear hit to the breastplate. Rather looks as though the murderous assault was planned to be on the other hoof, doesn’t it?”

“It is YOU what’s harboring the murderer! She kill my constables!”

“To defend the Sargent.

“One last question to complete your account. Is it usual in Sheriff’s property recovery expeditions to wear masks and flank mark covers like a common robber?”

The Sheriff curled a lip but remained silent.

Luna said quietly, “Long flowing tails and manes are such a nuisance when you are pulling.” She stretched like a cat, rear high, forelegs straight out in front. Her midnight magic freed her flowing tail of more midnight shot through with stars. Her mane came free of its thick braids and flowed a midnight flag to match her tail. She completed the stretch by lifting her wings up, high and free of the harness and sashes that had hidden them.

Celestia repeated Luna’s stretch, freeing her many hued mane and tail. Her white wings slid up, seeming to slice the sky.

It slowly dawned on the Sheriff, exactly Who he had been calling Stupid Rom and threatening. Watching his face was a lovely study in the delayed development of horror.

Esper actually paused in her pipe carving to watch. A smile on her face.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper leaned over and whispered to Dark, “That fool of a Sheriff didn’t know they were the princesses.”

She giggled and snapped the two pieces of her pipe together. “He’s going to hang for this.”

She took out her pouch of herb and stuffed her pipe. Then she lit it, using her magic. Took a long draw. She puffed out two rings with a satisfied sigh.

“Nice work on those others. Very clean. No excessive cuts. I’m impressed.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark looked about the camping area with the gaze of craftsman pleased with a piece of work. She smiled and replied, “Thank you, Esper. I know that you were bothered by it earlier, when you were tired out. That was a very polite critique. I appreciate it.

“I hope that they do hang. I have never had the chance to hang anypony before.”

Celestia put in, “We were very pleased with the skill that you carried out your task, Dark. That is already in the case notes. It is a part of the official record of this sorry event.”

She turned to the assembled Guardsponies. “We are soon to have company here. Two full bands of Rom, totaling nine more caravans will be here. There will be fillies and colts among them. Can you please see to the removal of these corpses and the jailing of the two survivors, the Sheriff and Marcus?

“They are to be denied any form of medical treatment. They murdered a mare of the Rom by denial of treatment last year. Let them experience what they did, first hoof.

“One other thing; say only that these are robbers caught trying

to steal from the Royal advance party of which you are part. Say that We, Celestia and Luna shall arrive in Draytown sometime in the afternoon of tomorrow.”

The Guards set promptly to work. It only took a little time before the weapons, bodies and the prisoners were removed.

Esper helped the Princesses with tidying up the site for the arrival of the Rom bands. They were barely finished when they heard the jingle of harness bells and the playing of bright music from the approaching bands.

The Whisper Sisters:

At the sounds and commotion, Esper looked up from washing her hands in the brook. She gasped and stood up.

“Oh my… so many ponies.”

She walked back to her camp and sat next to her father.

“Have any of these ponies seen a biped like me before?” she asked nervously, as she took a calming puff of her pipe.

Ask-De-Writer:

“A biped? Some have. Like you? No. Not to worry. This is a very accepting group.”

Luna strolled over and added, “Especially if you are a good drummer! You are the best! Never fear about being accepted around Rom.”

She turned her head to look at the gaily painted caravans arriving. “I heard that part about so many ponies, too. This is a small gathering. A fair will be much bigger.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper nodded and silently watched the caravans roll by.

“Oh my…” she blushed, as some of the young colts winked at her.

“They are very accepting.” She kept puffing, letting the aromatic smoke drift out around the pipe stem. “A shame for them. I prefer females.”

She giggles. “Wind and I are the same, though. It seems we attract ponies when it comes to mates.” She shrugs. “Or lack thereof for me.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Black Lotus smiled archly. “If you look closely, there are a fair number of female pairs among the bands. Because it costs so much to get and equip a caravan properly, we do restrict our numbers.

“Another good reason to do so is simple income. We need enough of us to present a wide variety of goods, dance and music to draw the Townies and countryside ponies to the fair. If there are too many of us, we all make less.

“Most outsiders focus on the “moral issues” rather than the economic ones. We Rom are very practical in that way. When our free mares find out how well you can pull and how skilled you are with your handicrafts you will have to moot to choose a mate!”

I nodded agreement. “On top of those things you will be a Royal Goddaughter and an adopted daughter of the Ghost Who Guides. I expect that after an annual circuit of fairs, your potential mates will want to arrange a Canterlot Fair moot.

“If you want a mate, you will have plenty to choose from.”

A passing caravan caught my attention. It was being Pulled by Golden Palomino unicorn and brown Gryphon with a white neck, head and yellow crest. Her harness was arranged so that her wings were slightly lifted to emphasize her origins.

I paused to point, “Look, Black Lotus! There is Grenda, the Gryphon! I didn’t think that she would be able to make it! She and Rhoda love Rose. I am glad that they could make it to her Lake!”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper fell silent as her cheeks turned pink again with blushing. Was she really that desirable as a potential mate? She hoped so. It had been some years since she had a special someone.

She watched as a band of four female pegasi trotted by. “Oh.” Her eyes were caught by the lead mare. Her mane and wings seem to be made of every colour that there was. In a word… she was, well, beautiful.

“By my Goddess… the ponies seem to be more and more… unique as they come…”

She looked to her father, unaware of the slight drool coming from her mouth. “Do you happen to know that band of mare’s names?”

Ask-De-Writer:

As I was about to say that I did indeed, Black Lotus, with her usual deep respect for me, put a hoof on my head, scrubbling my forelock between the ears as she said cheerfully, “There is only one Rom that Marchhare does not know the name of, date of birth, which band they are in, and if they have gone to the Lake, when and how it happened.

“Himself. Back 800 years ago, Equestria did not keep track of donkey births. So he does not know when he was born. He keeps insisting that he would have noticed it if he had died, so he does not know when he went to the Lake either.”

She sobered a bit and added, “Early on, when there were only a few bands, the Rom sent a few strong stallions out onto Celestia’s Anvil. They found the shaded ledge of stone where he went to rest. They also found the bones of an old donkey. In an early design harness.”

I looked tolerantly and affectionately at my big, lovely daughter, so different from me.

I pointed at the Pegasus team, a wild rainbow of manes, tails and displayed wings, proudly pulling their caravan by themselves.

Breeze Chaser  (the second youngest of her Rom family). Her and her sisters, Gust (the oldest), Puff, (the second oldest,) and Whisk (The youngest), are all “Sky dancers”. They perform aerial acrobatics  in tune with whatever music they hear. Breeze Chaser’s talent is performing corkscrews and helix’s, making use of her vibrant colours to dazzle her audience.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“The pair in the rear, on the brake line, are Gust and Puff. The two in the lead are Breeze Chaser and Whisk. They are the only aerial dressage team among the Rom. We really have very few pegassi.

“They always need to recruit musicians. They are all fliers and don’t have any musicians of their own. In spite of that, they are a very popular and well paid act.

“Rose was very popular among the odder members of the Rom. You will be seeing others that are different, too.”

Almost like it was a prophecy, five caravans came jingling up the road, gravel crunching under the wider than normal wheels needed for caravans so large. Each one was pulled by a team of seven. Six were Pulling in teams of two. A singletreed leader guided them with strange words in the ancient tongue of T'ang. Fantastical plumes decorated them all, emphasizing their oriental earth pony origins.

Black Lotus was practically dancing with delight. “Cherry Mystic and the T'ang ponies are here! We are going to have a magic show! (*for the curious, read the narative poem ON EQUESRIA’S ROADS*)

”Oh, this will be a wonderful Lake! Rose will be so happy.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper had to remind herself to keep breathing. The sight of all the caravans, the ponies so beautifully dressed, were certainly a wonder to see.

She looked at Cherry and her Rom. “Oh my. Those … certainly are unique caravans. What language is that?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Black Lotus answered with pride, “That is T'ang. Cherry Mystic and her band are the last speakers of it anywhere. They were an ancient culture that grew up on the Plains of T'ang. She came through the Hidden Ways of the Everfree forest looking for a safe place for the survivors of her ponies.

“They were being devastated by natural disasters and an invasion of predators.

“I met her and the invitation to join us on Equestria’s Roads was MINE. By the time that she got back to her ponies there were only these few left. She brought them all here and we have never been happier with a new band than Cherry Mystic’s.”

Princess Luna came up to us, skipping happily on all four feet. “Look, Marchhare! At last, I am going to get to see Cherry Mystic and the T'ang Magicians! I have heard so much about them!

“And the Sky Dancers too! They are wonderful! How could Rose be anything but happy with a Lake like this one!” She was as excited as a filly at her first fair.

“I am so nervous. This will be the first public performance of my dressage too.”

Have to admit that I was excited too, sort of. I have seen the T'ang Mystics in action before. No matter how often you see them, you still remain mystified by how they do the effects that they do.

The big caravans pulled up to a chosen spot and, with surprisingly little backing and filling, made precise open square, with one across the center back, two at an angle to it and the remaining two forming straight sides, defining their performance space and the placement of their audience.

The open side faced the place chosen to send Rose’s mortal body to the Earthen Lake.

Breeze Chaser, of the Sky Dancers, came trotting up to us. She gave Princess Luna a small bow and said, “I have heard that you plan to perform your dressage for Rose. We are looking forward to seeing it”

Turning to me, she asked, “I have heard that you have a really excellent drummer with you, Marchhare. Would it be possible for her to be part of our music for the Sky Dance?”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper blushed and raised her paw. “That’s me.”

She cleared her throat. “I mean… I’m Marchhare’s drummer.” She stood up and bowed. “Esper Whisper is my name. I am curious, how did you know of my skill?”

She blushed. "I mean… well… I’ve only been playing a few days. Surely word hasn’t spread so far as to gain attention from such a beautiful and famous pony such as yourself?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark poked me with a hoof. “Blame Grandpa. He watches over all the Rom, not just us. He told De Writer about you after your first drumming session. De Writer has heard you at every session since. I bet that he left notes with any Rom that might need a drummer.

“Am I right, Breeze Chaser?”

The brightly colored pegasus nodded with an affectionate smile. “The note was written by Marchhare but it had another few words in De Writer’s hoof. We are glad that we are so well watched over.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper bit her lip and sat down, blushing so brightly her cheeks matched her hair. She felt foolish for being so forward. Was she that desperate for affection? She busied herself with refilling her pipe.

Once it was full, she lit it with her magic. “So… you and your sisters dance in the sky?” she asked quickly, as she took several puffs, hoping to change the subject.

Ask-De-Writer:

Breeze Chaser replied, “That is why we are called the Sky Dancers. We are the ONLY aerial dressage team in Equestria. Other pegassi only do circle dances, simple weaves and spirals. They look like Earth Pony folk dances done on the clouds.

“WE dance in the air and our work is nearly as beautiful as hers!” Breeze Chaser pointed to Black Lotus.

Black Lotus calmly nodded, “We will continue to work together at every opportunity. One day, perhaps, you will be better than the teacher. I can think of no greater compliment to a teacher than having students who excel.”

I put my hoof into it by saying, “You have your drummer. Give Black Lotus your playlist so that we can run them through once each with Esper. She will have them down, never fear.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper exhaled a heart ring as she started to speak. She eeped, and waved it away.

“Oh. Yes. Certainly.” She took the song papers from Black Lotus. “I will need some time to study these.”

She then buried her nose, effectively hiding her face from view, as she “read” the music.

Ask-De-Writer:

Black Lotus, giving Esper as much respect as she does me, poked her gently on one of her ears. With a grin, she asked, “You play by these! When did you learn Rom musical notation? Not even the Musician’s Guild can read our music.

“Our notation goes back to ancient Gyptia.”

Giving Esper a hug, she said, “Quit hiding from such lovely ponies!”

Dark came hopping out of the caravan with my drum kit under one arm and my flute in the other hoof.

“I saw those songs! Esper, you played Circle of Darkness for Luna last night. It was her second tune. Don’t talk, listen to Grandpa’s flute lead and drum.”

I caught the flute and blew a soft, plaintive intro.

Esper, frowning in concentration, tested the drum heads and tightened a few stays, tried again and loosened another.

She nodded. I blew the full soft intro to Circle of Darkness and segued into the almost fierce dance tune.

Esper started to follow on the drums. He eyes closed and she lost herself in the wild and wonderful tune. I quietly stopped the flute. Esper failed to notice.

Luna was lost to us too, floating like a dark ghost to the wild notes. I had never seen wing work like hers before. It was almost as if she and Esper were in perfect communication.

The tune and dance ended exactly, Luna facing Rose’s bier. Her wings were spread in that perfect circle that ended last night’s dance. The space between them pointed exactly to her friend Rose.

The tune ended, Esper’s eyes opened and she saw it.

All around us arose the loud, slightly high pitched trills of Rom applause. A large crowd had gathered, every Rom present, in fact. The crowd was open on the side between Rose and Luna. Simple courtesy. It was Rose’s Lake. She should have the best possible view.

Esper noticed several of the Rom horses had out paper or parchment and were making frantic notes. Awe was on almost every face present.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper timidly waved to the gathered crowd. She then stood and gave them a curtsy, spreading her Rom dress.

“I’m glad you all liked my playing.” She stood straight, blushing and scratching the back of her neck nervously. (½)

She sat back down, folding her hands in her lap, not really knowing what to do next.

Ask-De-Writer:

The answer presented itself. Me, Black Lotus and Dark just got out of the way and let the crowd do the rest, politely but insistently, as is normal for Rom who want something.

The T'ang ponies had brought one of their infamous (among Rom musicians) tone drums. They also had their unique double flute and that a three stringed banjo sort of thing.

Cherry Mystic herself gave Esper the best lost puppy look that I have had the pleasure of seeing done as she asked, “If we lead you, would you please try our drum? You seem to be most talented.”

Esper looked down at the drum that was being quietly put into her paws. As she felt the head, she began to tap lightly about on it, mostly closer to the sides than at the center.

Cherry Mystic nodded and the T'ang ponies with her began to play. Almost instinctively, Esper’s paws found the right places and the drum became a living instrument in her lap.

The music followed no scale that Esper was familiar with but it flowed flawlessly from the drum under her paws. A fine, almost invisible web of magic had formed between her horns as she played.

Ask-De-Writer:

All four Sky Dancers quietly converged on Cherry Mystic.

A whispered conversation ensued. Cherry nodded in apparent delight. As the almost alien strains of the T'ang music continued, the Sky Dancers took to the air. Even something normally so prosaic as pegassi taking off was fully coordinated. It became a part of the dance that followed.

Even Celestia and Luna’s Guards, being pegassi themselves, were impressed. I happened to know that none of this batch of Guards had ever seen the Sky Dancers before today. It made their jaw dropped astonishment all the more fun to watch.

Even their Major was floored. Most of them had been pretty nose in the air about Rom and Rom customs, even as they did keep their mouths shut about their opinions. They had learned fast and hard in the last few days. I was personally delighted. Sometimes the best show is not the one that the players are putting on, spectacular as this one was.

They were managing to use traditional Rom dressage moves combined with wing work similar to Luna’s. All while airborne and in utterly precise formations that showcased the brilliant colors and fantastical moves of Breeze Chaser, their third of four sisters. She was the group’s prodigy in a setting of brilliant dancers.

As the unique T'ang music drew to a close, the Sky Dancers swept in a spiral to earth. They landed lightly, Breeze Chaser in front, flanked by her sisters behind her, facing Rose. As the last notes sounded, they all swept into a formal bow to her, wings half raised.

The trilling applause of the Rom was nearly deafening. The icing on the cake to me, was Sargents Blackberry and Stone leading the Guards into trilling a proper applause.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper stood and bowed.

“Thank you one and all.” She set her drums aside and ever so slowly, walked up to Breeze Chaser.

“Your dancing is beautiful, My friend. I wonder…”

She took a deep breath to quell her rapidly beating heart. “Would you care to join me on a walk? The din of noise is bothering my ears.” She pointed to an open grassy glade. “If you’re not too busy?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Breeze Chaser smiled back and offered, “I would be honored, Esper. For now, this is Rose’s Lake. Her special time. There are more who wish for the use of your talents.”

She put a hoof in Esper’s paw and said, “First, let us all share our finest works with Rose. After she is in the Lake and we have done the Placing of the Stones, would be the best time for us to take that walk.

“Truly, I was afraid to approach you about something like this. With both Marchhare and De Writer recommending you to so many, I thought that a pegasus would have little chance to attract you. There are so many lovely Rom unicorns who will all want you too.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper’s eyes darted to her father, 'I should have figured you would have a hoof in this…’

She turned back to Breeze Chaser. “Marchhare may have… recommended me to the Rom, but I am more than capable of letting my heart decide.” She smiled, and placed a soft paw on the pony’s cheek. “You wish to know what makes you stand out? Your courage. All the other Rom seemed content with simply worshiping me from afar.” She took a deep breath.

“You, my Dear Breeze Chaser, were the first pony to actually come up to me, and say hello.” She smiled brightly. “You might have hidden you intentions by asking me to play for you, just as I hid my face in the music, but I could tell.“

She stooped down suddenly, and gathered five small seeds from the ground.

"You also showed me something else.” She smiled and sang to the seeds, “Otanx ihk ve moxt seeds, show udoka dout vis vor…”

The seeds grew and expand until Esper was holding five star lilies. “My magic works better with music.”

She bowed and offered the flowers to the multi-hued pegasus. “For you, My Dear Breeze Chaser.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Breeze Chaser quietly accepted the bouquet. She suggested, “Though we do not send our Loved Dead to the Earthen Lake with flowers, this would be a lovely thing to show Rose, as well. She is one of our best friends.”

She then took two of the flowers and put them into her mane, just in front of each ear. She turned Esper’s head and studied her hair for a moment. She entwined two more of the flowers into Esper’s hair, just at the roots of her horns.

Leading the way, she led Esper to Rose’s bier. Smiling, she said, “Rose, we have a gift for you. A few moments ago, these flowers were seeds. Esper made this one to bloom for you.

She entwined the last flower into Rose’s forelock. She smiled at Rose, then turned to Esper and, in front of the whole assembly, she kissed Esper.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper’s widened in shock at the kiss. Slowly she wrapped her arms around Breeze’s neck. Her eyes drifted close as she returned the kiss.

The pony’s mouth tasted of grass and mint. A truly wonderful taste. After mere seconds, or an eternity to the Orryl, she pulled away, panting slowly. She knew her face must have been glowing bright red at this point.

“I…” She stuttered “W-would you like… to spend the night by my fire?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Breeze Chaser said quietly, “I think that I would like that very much. Now, let us help everyhorse here to give Rose the best Lake that we can possibly do.”

She shifted Esper’s hug to a side by side one and they walked back to the rest of the waiting Rom.

The other three Sky Dancers greeted Esper with smiles. Gust, the oldest sister, said, “Well, it looks like our Breeze Chaser has made a conquest. She is the first of us to do so, since mother and father went to the Lake.”

Gust looked a bit sad at the memory, but the others all said, “Our loved dead are with us always. None more loved than Mother and Father. They make the Pull easy and the load light.”

Several dancers crowded around, none trying to interfere with Esper and Breeze Chaser. They simply wanted the best drumming for their acts. They had seen Princess Luna’s dance and the Sky Dancers lovely work to the notoriously difficult T'ang Tone Drum. They knew the best when they saw it.

It was Breeze Chaser who freed herself from Esper’s arm and said, “Go, Sweet Esper, and give Rose the best that you have. Drum for all of these fine horses. I will wait, I promise.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper touched her forehead to Breeze’s and nodded.

"I will do my best to honour Rose by helping the Rom say their goodbyes.”

She let her mate go. Picking up her T'ang drum, she then walked back to Rose’s Lake. Sitting down on a log, she started drumming an uplifting and cheerful beat.

She closed her eyes and let her purple magic flow from her horns as she drumed. Shapes of butterflies and birds formed around her and danced with her music.

Ask-De-Writer:

Whisk, the youngest of the Sky Dancers, gave Breeze Chaser a confused look. “What does she mean, Breeze? Why would we say goodbye to Rose? She is one of our Loved Dead. She will be with us always. She is going to the Pure Lake in the Land of Other Life but she will be here for us. Just like mother and father. Like Marchhare. Like all of the rest.

“Why would we say goodbye to Rose?”

Gust, the eldest of the sisters, replied, “Whisk, what are you?”

“What? I am a Rom. What else could I be?”

“And what are the Rom?”

“Horses. Everyhorse knows that.”

“What about ponies? Are we ponies?”

Utterly shocked, Whisk said, “No! We can’t be ponies! We Pull. We live on the Roads. We are ROM! We are Rom born and Rom raised …” She began to whimper, “We can’t be ponies. Ponies are cruel. They steal from us. Sometimes they send us to the Lake like they did with Rose. We can’t be ponies …”

Gust put a wing over Whisk and comforted her, “You are right, Whisk. We may look like ponies to some but we are Rom. We are horses.

“Few ponies or others, for that matter, understand what we do about the Lake. Life does not stop with a body. With some ceremonies, we send the body back to the world for the world to shape and use as it will. The life goes on. Our Loved Dead are Always With Us.”

The Whisper Sisters:

As Esper drumed, she noticed that the Rom weren’t saying goodbye. In fact… they seemed to be celebrating Rose’s life, Not mourning her death. They even spoke to her Lake as though she was still alive. As if she could hear them. Esper blushed, and shook her head as she realized that her knowledge about the Rom and their customs was still lacking. She sighed and changed the beat to a slightly quicker tempo.

The magic animals around Esper’s head changed to ponies of all kinds, running and playing.

“Oh my…”, She smiled. A few squirrels joined the ponies, and played with them as well.

Ask-De-Writer:

I watched from a distance and smiled some. Black Lotus observed, “I think that she is getting it about the Lake. Hear her tempo change-up? See the critters around her head? That is a cute effect.

“The others are letting her have her act for Rose. I wonder if she realizes that?”

I saw Dark carefully setting up her many knives and the targets for her act. When all was in readiness, she trotted over and waited quietly for Esper to notice her. She was holding my regular dancing drum set.

When Esper did look up, Dark held out the drums and smiled. “Esper, it is time for me to show Rose my act. I have it all set up. You played it for me twice before, so I know that you will do it perfectly.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper nodded and stopped playing. Her animals went away as well. She smiled and took her other drum. “I would be honoured to play for you.”

She started playing Dark’s song.

Ask-De-Writer:

The slow introduction let Dark make her entrance. As she reached for the glittering steel, the tempo increased and notes hidden in the beats began to make a true song of a simple seeming drum solo.

Dark expertly began to juggle a river of razor sharp things that threw brilliant flashes of light to all of the watchers.

Luna and Celestia sat themselves in the front row to watch. They were happily munching a shared tub of fried clover snacks that Luna had fixed earlier. A Sargent of the Guard interposed himself to protect the Princesses from “possible assassination,” blocking their view.

Before the two could flatten him, the Guard Major had him by the ear, literally. He dragged the hapless Sargent away.

Celestia whispered, “Thank you, Major.” She returned her attention to the flying knives and hatchets just in time to see the first hatchet sparkle through the air and cleave the center of the target. Two long knives followed it. One bracketed the hatchet on either side.

More knives followed, striking in a careful pattern. Hatchets formed a stem to the rose of sunlit steel in the target.

You could hear breath drawn in admiration as the audience realized the tribute that Dark had done.

Dark bowed to Rose on her bier first, then to the audience. Exactly on cue, Esper’s drums fell silent.

The brilliant trills of Rom applause, led by the Princesses, greeted Dark, as she faced her first public audience.

She stepped over and dragged her Blade Sister to the center stage space. “Thank you so much, Esper! It is much easier to manage the knives with such fine drumming to help keep the tempo!

“You deserve this as much as I!” The gale of trills agreed.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper stood and and bowed. She then blushed.

“My paws hurt…” She whispered. “I need a bit of a break.”

Ask-De-Writer:

After the applause of trills died down, Dark took Esper back to the Sky Dancers. As promised, Breeze Chaser was there.

Delight on her face, she called out, we watched from the big tree! Dark, that was simply amazing. We never saw an act like that one!

“Esper, how did manage to drum that so perfectly? You have been drumming since the Lake began. You drummed for Princess Luna’s Gift to Rose. You drummed for our Gift to Rose. You drummed your own Gift to Rose and you drummed for Dark’s Gift to Rose.

“Your poor paws must be terribly sore. I know just the way to take care of that. They need warmth and soft feathers. We can watch the rest of the Lake while I help your paws to recover.”

She led the almost amazed Esper to a place of good vantage for watching. She sat Esper on soft grass, sat beside her and wrapped a wing around her.

“Now, tuck your sore little paws into my feathers and fur to warm and rest them.” She softly nuzzled Esper on the side of her neck.

The Whisper Sisters:

Blushing ever so slightly at the close contact of her, well, close friend?, Esper buried her hands into the joint of Breeze’s wings.

She sighed happily at the warmth and texture. “Thank you, Breeze. This feels wonderful.”

She relaxed, and leaned ever so slightly closer to the multi-hued pony. “Breeze? Um… a few things have been going through my mind… and now that we have a chance to talk… I was wondering if we could discuss them?”

She took a deep breath, and exhaled it slowly. “I don’t know how the courting rituals in this world go. In my world, well… a kiss like the one you gave me means that you wish to be my mate.”

She smiled, “While I have no quarrel with that idea… one problem does remain. How can we be mates if we go our separate ways after the fair?” She frowned now. “I can’t ask you to leave your sisters, and I can’t assume that they would let me travel with you instead of Marchhare.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Breeze laughed gently. “Dear Esper, that was exactly what my kiss meant. What you are worried about is quite common among Horses of the Road.

“After I kissed you publicly like that, in front of our friend Rose and all the rest, Gust went to Marchhare to talk. If you agree to it, we can try things without disrupting anything.

“Our planned routes differed only on having a stop in Trottingham Fair. We are told that you Pull willingly and well.

“If you wish it, Gust will take the lead Singletree. Puff will have the brake line and Pull with Whisk. You and I will Pull together. We can learn how well we can get along while both caravans share the roads, waysides and fairs.

“Rom often do this. For now, we will become a part of Marchhare’s Band. We will share fire and food. If we get along, you can come with us or the band can stay together.

“Perhaps we can begin to save for a caravan of our own but that is likely far down many roads. Even small caravans cost a lot if they are properly set up.”

Esper distracted herself from further blushing by watching the latest thing that was being showed to Rose. A Rom box maker was showing her how he was doing the corners of boxes.

“Just like you showed me before, Rose. I have mastered it now. Thank you.”

A few more smaller things like that one and it would be time for the T'ang Magicians to do their show.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper watched as the ponies came up and either preformed musical numbers or showed Rose gifts and crafts they had worked on.

As the orryl watched, her eyelids grew heavy. It had been a busy and emotionally overwhelming day. The heat from the mare next to her overwhelmed her.

She drifted off to sleep, slumping her head against Breeze’s neck.

Ask-De-Writer:

Esper was gently awakened by Breeze Chaser giving her a light kiss-nibble in the hair between her horns.

She was about to respond in kind, when Breeze pointed her attention to the T'ang main stage. “Sleepy or not, Esper, my dear, this is something that you do not want to miss.

“The T'ang have been with the Rom for over four years and they have never done the same show twice. You may have seen many magicians in your time. They all rely on some form of unicorn magic.

“The T'ang NEVER use any form of unicorn magic. What you will see is all skill in manipulation or in some way tricking your senses. That is Celestia and Luna up there in the front, near the stage. Celestia has seen the T'ang twice. This will be Luna’s first time. Yours, too.”

The sounding of an unseen gong announced the beginning of the show. A young colt and two small fillies came out and took positions on the stage. The colt had on a black robe of heavy silk. The fillies had white robes of the same. Each had necklace with a large, glowing stone center piece.

There was a flash of light. Three columns of smoke. Where the young ones had been were a black robed stallion and two white robed mares. The show grew from there. Nothing was as it seemed. Fans became cards or scarves.

There were acrobats. They bounced and spun about the stage. They jumped an twirled. And, one by one, as they leaped, seemingly in plain sight, they vanished.

It was all directed in silence by the black robed stallion and the white robed mares. They flourished long folding fans as they imperiously directed the others. Those fans became scarves of sheer silk or big scrolls or even bouquets of flowers as the act grew.

At the end, they all pointed their fans at the empty center of the stage. A column of smoke flashed up. As it blew away, the colt and two fillies from the opening of the act looked about in surprise and scampered off stage.

The trills were so loud that they echoed about the wayside.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper watched with baited breath. She gasped and ohh’d at the appropriate times and remained silent when emotions couldn’t be described. At the end of the number, she had to wipe her eyes. Apparently, the beauty of the act had brought her to tears.

“Oh My…” She giggled. “What was amazing. Thank you for waking me up, My Sweet. I would never had forgiven myself if I had missed that performance.”

She looked around from her vantage point, and pondered aloud. “I wonder what’s next?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Breeze Chaser replied, “Next will be the feast and Sharing. As we eat, we will tell each other all that we can remember of Rose. Those few here who did not know her, like you, my Dear, will listen and take into their heart the joys of Rose. The rest of us will be adding more to what we already have in our hearts. In this way, Rose will move from the one heart that she had, into many hearts. She will be among the loved dead who are with us always.”

She paused to nuzzle Esper’s neck a moment and went on, when we have finished the Sharing, we will lay her empty body in the Earthen Lake. She will take with her only a pot with pure water for the Lake of Paradise, some fine feed and sweet fruit, things of that sort, for the fine eternal browse of Paradise, her sashes and harness, and a cloth to stand for the soft shade of the trees of Paradise.”

She paused again, and watched as trestle tables were being set up for the feast and Sharing. “The last thing that we will do is the laying of the stones. We have chosen pretty stones from the wayside. Flowers fade but since Rose will be with us always, we use stones. They will last for all the ages to come.”

Breeze Chaser got up and encouraged Esper to come. “We really should go and help with setting this up, Darling.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper hopped down from the the tree easily, and landed on her feet. She watched as Breeze glided down. Together, the two new lovers headed towards the group to help with the tables and food.

For the meanwhile, they split up to help with their separate groups. Esper helped Marchhare and his Rom, while Breeze helped her sisters. Eventually, the food and tables where set, and the orryl and pegasus reunited.

Esper sat on a chair next to Breeze Chaser, and wined and dined while the other Rom regaled the whole group with stories about the Loved Dead, Rose.

Esper was impressed. She had gathered that Rose was popular amongst the Rom. She had no idea that in her life Rose had touched so many hearts. Even the ponies that hadn’t known her personally, spoke as though they had. It made Esper question her own mortality.

She had already died once. She knew that Marchhare and his Rom, along with Wind and hers, had mourned her. However… if she were to die again… how would she be remembered amongst the Rom? As a great drummer? Celestia’s student? Or… was there some way she could touch as many hearts as Rose had?

Ask-De-Writer:

Breeze Chaser and her sisters had Shared how Rose and her mate Dapple had helped them in the difficult time after their parents died. Her generosity had kept them and the Sky Dancing act together.

Luna told of how Rose willingly shared her craft and how a Princess sat a booth and did sales to let a dear friend have the time to visit others. Many had similar tales.

The Sharing was finally over. It had not seemed all that long a time but the shadows were spreading long across the wayside.

With love, a group of Rom Unicorns that included both Princesses gently picked Rose up from the bier and laid her gently into the grave, the Earthen Lake, lined with a plain canvas at the bottom. As Breeze had told Esper, a pot of clear water was laid there with her. Sweet hay, favorite treats, fruits, nuts and other small bits of favorite foods went with her. They laid over her a prettily patterned soft cloth with fringes.

After all was done, they filled the Earthen Lake. Beginning with Luna, each horse there added a simple but pretty stone chosen from along the roadside. Bits of jaspers, agates a few crystals, some simple colored stones, nothing valuable, but all chosen for appearance were laid on top of the resting place for Rose’s body, now that she was moved from it to so many hearts.

The Rom, finished with the Lake, carefully packed everything away except what was needed for a light snack before turning in for the night. In the morning it would be breakfast and the Pull for Draytown and the fair.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper noticed how dark it was getting. She paused in her cleaning, and, using her magic, conjured purple fairy lights, twinkling and glittering, onto the nearby trees. The camp area was suddenly awash in a magenta glow. She giggled as some of the younger fillies and colts gasped at the sight. Feeling a desire to play with them, she caused a few of the lights to float off the trees.

The twinkling lights, looking like actual fairies, floated around the heads of the young ponies. They giggled and gave chase, frolicking through the glade as the lights bobbed and weaved just out of their reach.

Esper sighed happily. At this point, she realized, she might not be able to touch as many Hearts as Rose had, but she could touch the hearts of these young Rom. To her, well, that would be enough for now.

Ask-De-Writer:

Breeze Chaser watched Whisk, frisking among the other Rom fillies and colts, trying to catch the illusive glows of Esper’s magic. She giggled and gently laid a hoof in Esper’s paw, so as not to disturb what was happening.

Nuzzling gently at her love’s neck she whispered, “This is exactly the right note for ending Rose’s Lake. They will take away only happy memories. A few of them were students of Rose’s. A few were deeply sad. Now they are playing and happy again, just as Rose wants them to be.”

She wrapped a soft wing about Esper and suggested, “When you finish playing with the foals, there is a nice soft place by a night fire that I have chosen for us.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper turned her attention to Breeze. “I don’t know how, but, this is a self-contained spell.”

She pointed to the lights on the trees and to the ones floating around the glade. “I cast the spell, but I am not maintaining it.” She smiles. “I think the lights are drawing upon the energy from the life force of the trees, almost as though… the lights are now apart of the natural habitat.” She shakes her head.

“Magic is a tricky business.” Esper said as the two headed to Marchhare’s fire. “Perhaps Father could explain what I have done.”

Ask-De-Writer:

I was sitting at my fire and watching the lights too. Luna and Celestia were looking at them with a combination of worry and compassion.

As the two approached the fire, Celestia offered, “Sit here by me, both of you. Esper, you have done a lovely thing. Not only is it beautiful in its own right, it has given our foals a toy at just the right time.”

While the Esper and Breeze were sitting, Luna said, “I would never have expected something so delightful and harmless to be done with that kind of magic.”

I steepled my forehooves and added, “This is called Parasitic Magic. You cast it. The power to maintain the spell is drawn from some other thing. You have heard legends of ponies who suddenly died of age in hours or even seconds?”

I nodded confirmation of Esper’s obviously developing suspicions. “You were right. The power of the spell is drawn from the trees. You did it very well and the spell will dissipate harmlessly in an hour or so. The trees will recover their loss in only a few moments.”

Celestia smiled at Esper’s expression. “Never fear, Esper. As Marchhare said, this was utterly harmless. May I touch my horn to the web between your horns? I will show you how to do this so that its power is drawn from yourself and will, thus, harm none. Not even yourself.

“It has done one thing that you wanted, though. You wished to become my student in magic. That will now happen. You will stay here, among the Rom. I will FORCE my protocol ponies to make the space for us to work together.

“Dark, dear, will you step here over here too?”

It was like a T'ang magic trick. One moment she was nowhere to be seen, suddenly she was there. She bowed to both Princesses, a smile on her face.

Celestia nodded to Luna who said, “You are already knife sister to Esper. We wish to know if that protection extends to Breeze Chaser, here.”

Dark turned her ruby gaze to Esper, who nodded. Dark replied, “Princess, it does.

“Breeze Chaser, please accept this from me.” She held out a small dagger, hilt first, to Breeze Chaser. Without hesitation, Breeze took the knife. Dark smiled and held out a small sheath for it that could strap into place inconspicuously.

Breeze Chaser took that too. She said softly, “Esper told me about this earlier, when we were talking. I thank you, Dark. If you are in need, I shall defend you, if I can, also.”

Dark knelt in front of Breeze and said earnestly, “Do take good care of my friend and blade sister, Esper, Breeze.”

“I hope to, Dark. I hope to.”

Luna interrupted, “Dark would you be willing to sleep under my wing tonight? Let us leave them to their own devices now that the important issues have been taken care of.”

Dark immediately snuggled next to Luna.

The Whisper Sisters:

Catching the hint, Esper curled up in ball next to Breeze. She sighed happily, “Goodnight, my Beautiful Rainbow.” Her eyes drifted shut, and once again, the camp soon filled with her soft snoring.

The lights continued to blink and twinkle long after the young Rom were called to their own fires. But soon, just as Celestia said, they winked out one by one, leaving the glade bathed only in the glow of the fires.

Ask-De-Writer:

The morning brought the normal, orderly, near riot of camp with many Rom from many bands making breakfast. The smells of the T'ang’s exotic breakfast dragged horses from all over to their serving line. Even Luna.

But she was behind the line, serving and learning how to cook the T'ang delicacies. They tolerated her with grace and good humor.

We all had our own things too. Altogether it was a fulsome breakfast. We settled up with the T'ang for the huge dent in their supplies by giving them some of ours. All the others did too. I am not sure, but I think that they came out ahead on the supplies.

The camp devolved into setting up caravans for the Pull.

As the most senior of Rom, (by 800 years!) my caravan lead off. We had Celestia and Luna on a leading doubletree with me and Black Lotus on the rear doubletree. Black Lotus had our brake line, as usual.

Dark wanted to pull but Luna was adamant about letting her bruises heal first. She also had all of the Guard cover themselves with sashes. It was a slapdash job but good enough for a casual glance.

As we Pulled out of the wayside we made quite a parade of caravans and foot. Celestia and Luna relented with the Guard to the extent that the Guard were foot just behind my caravan. We were less than a half hour on the road when we came to the Draytown District Toll Booth.

As they saw us coming, they contemptuously lowered the gate and obviously locked it.

The Whisper Sisters:

All down the line, the caravans came to a halt. The Chaser sisters, third in line behind Marchhare’s caravan, along with Esper, stopped walking along with the rest.

Esper frowned. “Uh-oh…” She sighed, releasing her harness. “Forgive me, My Love. But I have a feeling something very wrong is afoot.”

She walked to the front of the line, and over heard raised voices. The orryl shook her head. “I hate it when I’m right…”

She hid in the shadow of Marcchare’s Caravan, not wanting to cause alarm to whoever was causing the trouble. However, she sent a quick spark of magic to Celestia to let the Monarch know that should anything happen, she was in position to assist.

Ask-De-Writer:

I had quietly released my harness from the hitch. Between Their Royal Highnesses on my Pull’s lead, the Orryl sneaking up the line and Dark gliding in silent circles overhead, like big black hawk, this toll stop was promising to be the most fun I have had in simply AGES. That was not taking into account the sea of straight and curved horn unicorn horses that were Pulling most of the caravans. OR, for that matter, the Major and Two contingents of the Royal Guard!

I wondered whether I ought to provoke them a little or just let nature take its course. Before I could step around their Hignesses, the Toll booth pony solved that one. He pulled a truncheon and demanded, “500 bits toll, now! You got only ten minutes to gather the coin 'fore I starts whaling on these here mares!”

Helpful magic from at least a dozen nearby unicorns lifted and neatly folded the sashes of the Royal Guard. They stepped out of line smartly. They were formed up into battle formation. The forward rank was crouched with drawn swords so that the crossbowmen behind them had clear shots.

As that was happening, Luna’s dark wings and Celestia’s white ones lifted, letting the oafs know just how deep the cesspool that they were trying to wade in was.

Dark swooped past. Both ponies fell, darts in their backs.

She banked tightly about and landed lightly in front of their Highnesses. She reported, “Princesses, I have acted on my initiative to protect you. Having no order to kill or maim, I have drugged your attackers. As soon as they are secure, I can revive them for questioning.”

The Major, seeing the situation, moved the Guard in and secured the prisoners. Celestia addressed the Major, “An excellent and non lethal response, Major. You and the Guard are to be commended.”

At the same time, Luna was giving Dark a hug. “You did that as nearly perfectly as it could be done, Dark. It will be a delight to have you as Goddaughter. We let the Guard have the credit, though. Our plans for you require some secrecy. Trust me, dear, you will enjoy them.”

Celestia called softly, “Esper, come out please. I want to see if you can learn a thing.”

Esper came forward and sat before her mentor. “Our very first follower, Esper, was named Justice Truthkeeper. We both remember his talent and its magic, but do it only imperfectly.

“We have tried a number of times through the ages to see if any other could use it better than we. Because your magic works like a web between your horns, it may be that you can master the talent.”

A small spark of delicate multi-hued magic touched the fragile seeming web between Esper’s horns. A second spark of midnight magic added its touch. The web between Esper’s horns changed. It settled into a new pattern entirely.

Dark had removed her darts from the earth ponies. She was having a small and polite conversation with the Major. The prisoners woke up.

Celestia said, “Just listen to what they say, dear. Let us know if they lie, shade the truth or evade. Justice could also tell if somepony believed what they were saying but it was not true.”

The Princesses began to question the prisoners.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper gasped as the two two magics combined with hers. It was… odd, yet pleasant. As ponies talked… she could hear the truth in their words. It was an eerie situation.

Even as Celestia explained her new gift, she could tell that it was the truth. Esper sat in silence, and waited for the interrogation to begin.

Ask-De-Writer:

Celestia leaned over and asked quietly, “Is it working for you, Esper?”

The orryl simply nodded. Accepting that, Celestia sat and placed a hoof next to Esper. She whispered, “Just tap my hoof if they lie at all. If a half truth, slide your paw just above the hoof. We will be able to get all that they know very quickly that way.”

She turned her attention to the miscreants before her.

Esper’s taps and sliding touches allowed the Twin Princesses to home in rapidly on the conspiracy.

Meeting in secret (a violation of the laws for a town’s meetings), the Draytown Council had annexed the Royal Roads, Shoulders, waysides and fairgrounds as Commons (land held for the use of all by the town.)

The excuse given was that the ponies of Draytown did all of the upkeep work and that, therefore, the roads should be held in Common. The flaw, (which they knew and discussed) was that the land of the Royal Roads belonged to the Princesses. All of the work was PAID for by the Princesses out of the Royal Largess Purse.

Worse, they had been taking the Royal Largess for Roads and had been cutting corners. That happened to really incense Luna. “These roads in Draytown are far substandard! This is surfaced with sieve 3 gravel over a layer of sieve 1!

“There are supposed to be three layers, packed and rolled above a prepared base! First, sieve 1, followed by a locking layer of sieve 3 and a finish layer of sieve 5 gravel packed and rolled.

“This road is surfaced by sieve 3 only! That is why it is rutting badly!”

The pony truculently demanded, “What could you know about roads, yer Highness? We works roads all our lives! You just spout some manual! We gets our hooves dirty!”

Icily, Luna replied, “The whole economy of Equestria depends on these roads! I designed them and tested all of the different ways to build a road for different conditions. I spent two centuries of “getting my hooves dirty” to make the best possible roads for my land and ponies!

“You have robbed not only us, but your own town and the kingdom as a whole.”

By the time that it was over, much had come to light. Luna and Celestia spent some time with Marchhare, creating Warrants, Writs of Seizure and some other documents for the discomfort of the Draytown Council.

Celestia and Luna got back into harness, foals that had run to play were rounded up, and the Toll gate was locked open.

The hapless gate ponies were being marched in irons with the Guard. Celestia and Luna both pulled Dark and Esper into big hugs before saying, “You two together are amazing. It could have taken us months of study of records to get this case together. Dark, your timely use of those darts saved their lives and gave us the information that we needed. Esper, you managed to guide our inquiry unerringly to the heart of the matters. We, the Kingdom, owe you both a large debit.

“You both will be among the best of our Goddaughters ever.”

Dark took to the air on joyous wings.

Esper rejoined her love, Breeze at the Hitch.

“PULL! Pull Right! Pull Left! Pull!” Luna’s Royal Canterlot Voice got the whole line to moving smoothly toward Draytown.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper looked at Breeze as they began Pulling again.

“I guess the proverbial cat is out of the bag, huh?” she sighed. “That I’m Celestia’s apprentice, and… um… I’m going to be her Goddaughter.”

“Will these facts change how you see me, Breeze?” The orryl asked nervously.

Ask-De-Writer:

Breeze giggled and leaned her head across the whipple tree to nuzzle Esper’s ear.

“No, silly. You have not been with the Rom long enough to know some things, that is all.

“Marchhare adopted you. Celestia and Luna both adopt ALL of his foals as Godfoals, even non-horse ones, like you. It has happened before. The tradition is 600 years old. Everyone knew that you were going to be their Goddaughter - - except, perhaps, you.

“As for being her apprentice, I was right there beside you, when she said so, wasn’t I? We all talked it over this morning, my sisters and I. We think that it is wonderful. We have needed magic like yours, both the drumming and your raw power, as a safety for our act.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper frowned,

“Every foal? As in… all the youth of the Rom?” She looked ahead, lost in thought.

“Then what makes me being adopted so so special?” She didn’t mean to sound ungrateful. She just sounded, well, confused.

Ask-De-Writer:

Breeze whickerd in amusement. “No, silly dear. Just Marchhare’s direct family. Right now, that is Black Lotus, Dark and you. That is part of what makes you special.”

They all winced a little as the caravan bounced in one of the road’s many ruts. After the usual state of the Roads, it was really clear how badly the the Draytown roads were maintained.

As they got past the bad spot, Breeze added, “Celestia has not has an apprentice in magic for nearly fifty years. The last one was Twilight Sparkle. THAT makes you even more unusual in an unusual lot.”

They were getting the hang of adjusting their Pull to the roughness of the road. It made a jangle out of the usual merry jingling of the harness bells.

The Whisper Sisters:

“Oh. I do feel rather silly. I thought you meant every foal in the entire Rom.” She shook her head and winced along as the road jarred her in her harness.

“You know… someone should do something about this road. With all the pits and potholes, I’d say we’re losing a days Pull. Her horns glowed suddenly, but she stopped the flow immediately.

"Oh no.” She winced in pain.

Catching Breeze’s look of concern, she explained, “It seems that my magic acts on my wishes. I still don’t have full control over it. The fairy lights, the animal illusions during Rose’s Lake… my magic acted on its own almost.”

She sighed, “And, it seems, it wanted to smooth the entire road.” She held her head as a sharp pain hit. “I’m trying to stop it… but I - OW!”

She called out, “Celestia! I-I need her help!”

Ask-De-Writer:

It was Luna’s ears and, I suspect, magic that heard the call. Her Royal Canterlot Voice blasted out, “Stopping by the Numbers, from the rear, Halt 1!, Halt 2!, Halt 3! - - and on, until she reached us. Black Lotus had the brake line and we came to a smooth halt. The instant that we were at rest, both Celestia and Luna hit their hitch releases and sprinted back for Esper, being supported by the near panicked Breeze.

Luna’s dark magic got to Esper before she did. It seemed to simply soak into the orryl.

As the Princesses arrived, Luna took Esper’s hitch release and pulled. Celestia provided a cushion of her magic to catch Esper as she lost the support of the harness and hitch.

To Breeze Chaser, Celestia said gently, “Do not fear, Sky Dancer. We are in time. We need to take her up to Marchhare’s caravan for treatment. He has a special table for work of this sort when there is time to use it.

In a small, little filly voice, Breeze asked, “What happened? Why is Esper hurting?”

I came trotting up and reported, “Luna, Black Lotus is getting the operating table set up. What is the situation here?

Luna filled me in on what her magic had discovered. I turned to the Sky Dancers as Luna and Celestia ran up the line with their burden.

“I am sorry, Breeze. Esper has had a magic overload. Lucky that she has two horns or she would be dead. As it is, she needs a pretty simple surgery on both horns. She cracked the second horn during the overload.

“Luna is going to fuse the damaged horns back together and repair the magic flow patterns in them. That last will take her longer than the actual fusing of the horns.

“Esper is not in danger now. She will recover fully.” I patted the side of Breeze’s neck in reassurance.

“Now, I have to go and see to moving all of these caravans to the shoulder. We don’t want to be road blocking. Please wait your turn, I will be back shortly.”

I trotted on down the line, getting it all organized and everyhorse off the road.

Along with Breeze, Black Lotus and a fair sized crowd, we waited for Luna or Celestia to tell us what was happening.

It seemed like it was longer than it really was.

They came out, opening both the upper and lower halves of the door. They smiled. Esper was still holding her head.

Celestia announced, “Esper will be fine. Headachy for a few days from the overload is all. She needs to walk beside you, Breeze Chaser. See that she does not Pull for at least a whole day.” She smiled widely and said, “Take good care of my apprentice, please.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper groaned as she sat next to Breeze. “My head felt as though it was going to split in half.” She looked at Celestia. “What… what happened to me, Maestro?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Celestia sat in the shade with us and wrapped Esper in a wing. She pursed her lips in thought for a moment before answering, “That was almost exactly what did happen, Esper. If you had not had two horns, you would be dead, with your brain literally blasted out of your skull. It is called magic overload.

“If it helps at all, it is usually harmless. You get a headache if your magic does not find its proper outlet. Where there are large loads, faulty pathways in the horn, or deliberate interference with the release it can be deadly.

“Your horn was broken, resulting in faulty pathways for the magic to flow through. The effort nearly broke it off. The other horn took the load but had a natural quirk that interfered with the flow of the magic. It cracked as a result.

“Luna is an excellent Mage-Surgeon. She not only reunited your horns properly, she went through all of your magical pathways very carefully. You are now whole, as you should have been. It will still be a few days before the headache goes away.”

She gave a very un-princess like nibble to Esper’s ear and let her out of the wing hug.

Luna, seeing the situation called in her Royal Canterlot Voice, “OK! Rest is over! Let us get this show on the road!”

Some horse from far back in the group called back, “The shoulder is better! Can we stay on it?”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper stood up with Breeze’s assistance. “What shall I do to help? I know I can’t pull… but I still want to do something.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Cheerfully I handed the orryl a middle sized drum and a glove. “Spoken like a true Rom, Esper! Lead us off with some of your fine drumming while we Pull. Let Luna get us started and she will give you the cue to begin.”

All up and down the line, horses were getting into their hitches. The Chaser sisters took the short time needed to re organize their hitch back to their old pattern.

With a jingling of harness bells and the crunch of gravel under hoof and wheel, we got underway.

Shortly the happy drumming of Esper was accompanying us.

It was not long before the Town of Draytown came into view through the roadside trees. The Fairground bypass was shut.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper stopped her drumming. She sighed as she approached Celestia.

"By the Spirits… what is the meaning of this?” Her horns sparked in anger. “What fool would close the road to the fair?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Celestia, almost grinning, pointed with a hoof. “That kind of fool!”

The gate guard sneered, “Fairground fees just doubled! Twenty bits per wagon and five for foot, including them as pulls the wagons! What do you think of them apples!?”

From my spot, just behind Celestia, I retorted, “I think that you have just put your hoof in your mouth so far that we can see it sticking out your ass!”

He pursed his lips and blew a raspberry. “What you gonna do about it, Rommi? Hell, you’re a donkey! Don’t get lower than Rom, 'cept Rom and a Donkey!”

Dark was circling overhead, a delighted grin on her face. She had knives in hoof and was watching Luna for permission like a hawk watching a mouse!

Esper’s face had clouded with anger too. The usual delicate web of magic between her horns had thickened and grown to an orb of nearly solid, blazingly bright, purple magic. It began to change from an orb, almost like an egg hatching.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper unleashed her full power. Her body erupted in purple flame and the egg flew up to the sky. It exploded in a mighty shock wave, releasing a monstrous purple skeletal dragon. towards the gate guard. “Flee while you still can, foolish mortal!” the dragon said in Esper’s distorted voice.

The dragon swooped down and landed with a thud. It’s snout a mere inch from the fool’s snout.

Ask-De-Writer:

He stood his ground, lip curled in contempt. He made a swatting gesture at the dragon as he pronounced, “You ain’t fooling me with no silly illusion! That cost you another 10 bit …”

The shock that grew on his face as his hoof connected with a solid dragon, an inch from his nose was sheer poetry of the absurd!

Up in the air, Dark was laughing so hard that she actually dropped a knife! Whether that was an accident or deliberate can be debated. That the falling knife just nicked his ear and buried itself to the hilt in the ground a half inch from his front hoof is not open to debate.

Faced with an apparently pissed off dragon and a knife from the sky, there was a hole in the air where the gate watcher was! He should have had a small roll of thunder follow him toward town.

The dragon reared up to watch him go and then gently dissipated, the magic that it was formed from curling gently back into Esper’s waiting horns.

Eyes sparkling purple, only the usual thin, delicate web of magic between her horns, Esper smiled a feral smile. It transformed to one of of admiration for Princess Luna.

Bowing to her Princesses, Esper said, “That was amazing. I am not even tired. Princess Luna, you did an amazing thing in fixing my horns.”

Turning, Esper showed another small talent. A thin curl of purple flowed from her horn-web. The gate lock clicked open and the gate lifted out of the way.

She called, “Forward! The way is Toll Free!”

The line of caravans started forward, rolling to a merry drum tune.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper sat on Breeze’s back as she beat her drum, playing a cheerful tune.

“I hope I didn’t frighten any of the younger ponies with my dragon,” she said. “It is a curious thing, though. I cast that spell without knowing how to cast it. All my spells just… pop into my head and manifest themselves. It’s as though… I am merely a conduit, and my magic controls me, not the other way around.”

Esper sighed heavily, her music dying down as the nine caravans slowed down. They formed a semi-circle in preparation for the fair.

“I do believe I need to have a long chat with Celestia on how to control my magic. For a moment… it felt as though… Ur-” She caught her self before she finished speaking the dreadful name of Uroloki “As though… I was merely a passenger in my own body.”

Ask-De-Writer:

As Esper dismounted from her friend and lover, Breeze nipped her gently on the ear. “Dear, you could not frighten any PONIES among the Rom. We are HORSES. Even me, my sisters and the T'ang. We odd ones may be ponies in appearance but we are born and raised Rom, HORSES, not ponies.

“As for your magic, I cannot say. I and my sisters only have the sky magic of pegassi. If you feel that you need to control your magic better, you could not do better than speak to our Celestia.

“I have heard of some young unicorns with similar feelings about their magic. Most grow out of it. You, due to your development already, might need some help.

“Now, quit fretting and help us to stow the hitch. Then we have a camp to get set up. Do the important things first. Life and the things of life are important. For the Rom, those things are caravan, camp and, at a fair, booth set up.”

She was already helping to break down the hitch and stow the parts in the locker under the deck of the caravan. All around them, the others were doing the same.

The T'ang had theirs stowed already and were getting a large pavilion set up on the Rom end of the Fair’s midway.

A pony wearing the star of a constable came trotting down the midway from the direction of town. He was waving a paper and yelling, “You is all under arrest for forcing entry to and unlawful use of the Draytown Commons!”

Luna and Celestia looked at each other with huge grins as their magic unbound their manes and tails from the tight pulling braids. Luna’s midnight magic, shot with stars, plucked the warrant of arrest from the nerveless hooves of the horrified constable.

Celestia called cheerfully, “Esper, Dear, do you know the Royal Equestrian Processional? We would love for you to drum it for us as we go into town as arrested criminals!

“Major! Summon the Guard! Full battle kit!

“All Rom! Please form up for parade!

“Black Lotus, would you please assist us with the regalia chest? We will wear our crowns and other symbols of Office – over our Rom Harness and Sashes!”

Esper got a far-away look and began to tap and stroke her T'ang tone drum.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper beat her drum, walking in front of the Royal procession. she felt as though she were a Drummer for a battalion of warriors, crossing a field of battle to face a mighty opposing force.

That was foolish thinking, of course. It was merely Celestia and Luna letting the foolish Sheriff and his minions know that the true law makers of Equestria traveled with the Rom.

She kept beating as she heard the hooves behind her match the rhythm she set. She had no idea what was to happen next, but she had a feeling that something big was about to happen.

Ask-De-Writer:

Fireworks just about covered it. We came up to Draytown’s main street, which was also the Royal Road, marching to the Equestrian Royal Processional March. We turned and came to the parade reviewing stand full of town dignitaries.

Celestia and Luna knelt before them in their royal regalia placed over their Rom harness and sashes. Celestia set off the first bombshell by saying, “We are here under the arrest of Constable Nocount. He has served us, Celesta and Luna along with our Royal Entourage with a warrant of arrest for violating the Draytown Commons through the use of roads and fairground without the payment of fees.”

“We would plead guilty, except for a few tiny details. Have you ANY IDEA AT ALL, how many laws of this realm you have broken? I suspect that you do.

“You declared the roads and fairground to be Draytown Commons by secret sessions of the Council. We have the testimony of your Sheriff while he was being interrogated for the attempted theft of Crown property. Mister Marcus backed him up.

“There is far more, but you will have plenty of time to read the full list of charges while you are in jail.”

Luna said in her clear and loud Royal Canterlot voice, “Guards! Take them! Serve the Warrants and Seizures! Move!”

It was amazing how efficient the Guards were. Not one even came close to getting away.

As they were herded together in front of the Princesses, Luna informed them sadly, “If you had bothered to check precedent, you might have found that all the you needed to do to make the road and fairground a Commons was apply to the Royal Roads and Commons Committee, which I head.

“The administration of a road and fairground district Commons is regulated by Crown Laws but they are no more onerous than the maintaining of a Royal Road.

“This sorry mess was born of greed and it shows. You took Crown property for gain, declaring it a Commons to keep the tolls for yourselves. Worse, in a way, you kept on taking the Royal Largess Purse money for Royal Road maintenance and repair which you did not do to standard.”

Celestia almost cheerfully asked, “Major, is there room enough for them all in the Draytown jail?”

“Ma'am, there is.”

“Thank you, Major. Please see to their incarceration. We will hear the case after the fair is over.”

Turning with a dramatic rearing and spreading of their wings the Princesses declared, “Back to the Fairground and setting up! We are now free to play!”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper was relieved that there was no fighting. She was, however, stumped.

The orryl looked around at the happy hive of Rom activity. “Princess Celestia? What can I do to help?” She blushed. “I’ve never set up a fair before.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Tolerantly, Celestia pointed, “Your strength can be used in many places. The T'ang performance tent, Marchhare’s Jewelry booth, or Dark’s new ironwork booth. I am going to help Luna with her cooking booth.”

As Esper was looking about, she saw that while most booths were going up easily, Dark was struggling with the fabric of hers.

The Chaser sisters had a Sky Dance area roped off already and a sunshade going up smoothly.

Nodding to herself, Esper went to assist Dark.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper walked over to Dark, and smiled brightly. “Can I lend a paw?”

Her horns sparked, and a purple glow surrounded the tent. Focusing intently, Esper opened the tent fully, and at the same time, made the ropes taut.

She then took the pegs, sank them into the ground, and tied the ropes to them. Satisfied, she released her magic. “There. All set up.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark looked up gratefully. “Thank you, Blade Sister. Would you help me to set up my table and sales stock?”

The table almost looked like a single board but there were hidden legs folded into it. It only took folding them down and setting a few braces and pegs to get it up. It was easy for two but could have been awkward for one. Dark set it up well back under her awning. She dressed the table with a dark red velvet cloth and a pleated skirt of yellow satin.

Beautifully glittering knives of Damascus layered steel followed. They were decorated with filigrees of twisted bronze wire between stout engraved pattern bars of polished steel.

There were also, equally beautifully executed kitchen ware knives from heavy cleavers to small paring knives. There was even a clover burger press, as well executed as the knives.

It was a breathtaking display. Just behind it, Dark, with the assistance of a little purple magic, hung a banner from the pavilion’s wall. It said, “Works by DARK, Master Smith of the Rom. Weapons Smith by appointment to her Royal Highness Princess Luna.” It bore the badge of the Princess’s crescent crossed by a dagger.

An early town pony swaggered into the booth and said disparagingly, “The Princess gonna be here. She see that sign she gonna have your ass.”

He made a sweeping gesture at the banner with one hoof and made a grab at Dark’s stock with the other. As he turned to run, a flash of purple magic dropped him fractions of a second before Dark aborted her throw.

Both disappointed and grateful, Dark said, “Thank you, Esper. Somepony getting killed while shoplifting would have marred the opening of the fair.”

Ask-De-Writer:

Judging by the look on his face it was. Dark was circling him, licking her lips in anticipation. Her wings were quivering with eagerness. She reached out and, in spite of his attempts to dodge, felt each of his ears carefully.

While she was doing that, a soft voice that both knew quite well said, “My dear Godfillies, what are you doing with this?”

Dark did not even stop checking the miscreant’s ears. She replied, “Trying to decided whether to remove his right or left ear. He tried to shoplift from me, Godmother Luna. He was outside of my pavilion and running with four of my most expensive etched, engraved and filigreed Damascus pattern steel daggers. Esper caught him in time to stop my lethal throw.”

Luna nodded at the clear and simple explanation. “Both Celestia and I saw the event from my sweet baked and fried goods booth across the way. You both acted with excellent speed, precision and restraint. Celestia has put her judgment into my hooves. The case is now under the Royal Wing.”

Pausing to glare at the thief, Luna asked, “Do you understand what that means? Under the Royal Wing means no possible appeals. Whatever I decide here is final.

“There is NO question of your guilt. I saw the crime. Celestia saw the crime. These two sisters saw the crime. One of them is the one that you robbed.

“What I need to decide is how you will pay for your criminal act. And, make no mistake, you will.”

He was shivering. Luna looked at his situation and nodded to Esper. “Set him down Goddaughter. If he tries to flee, I will swat him like a bug.”

Esper, smiled and let the pony down, headfirst, in a heap. He had an undignified scramble to get up. What he had heard slowly penetrated. Head hanging, he asked, “What you gonna do to me? It was just a couple of knives. I was needing some bits to buy my mum some food. That’s all.”

Dark saw Luna’s face and suggested, “Check his story. The local Largess Fund should have taken care of them if they are poor. If it did not, why not?”

Luna nodded. “A very fair suggestion, Dark. I will do that.”

Shortly Sargent Blackberry literally flew to town. Dark, seeing her go, offered, “We can watch the prisoner here at my booth until Sargent Blackberry returns.” She turned to the prisoner and asked, if we have you in my booth, you won’t do anything stupid like try leaving will you?”

He shook his head.

“Then come with me. I have knives to sell.”

Esper following, they went back to the sales booth.

The Whisper Sisters:

“If I may, Dark…” Esper glared at the disgruntled pony.

“ I say you put him to work. I have other work to do, and he seems desperate for coin.” She narrowed her eyes. “Can you be trusted not steal?”

The orryl crossed her arms. “I am putting my faith in you. Consider this a chance for redemption. And a chance not to land yourself in jail.”

Ask-De-Writer:

The pony nodded glumly. “The Princess already say I am guilty.” His eyes pulled down at the corners to match his mouth, already down. “Do you know what will happen? I really was just trying to put some food on my mum’s table. Nothing fancy, just some decent hay. We’s hungry.

“I won’t steal again, promise.”

Dark actually smiled at Esper. She made shooing gestures as she said, “Go! I know that you are needed to drum for the Sky Dancers. Play for and with your lover between your other drumming work.

“Black Lotus wants you. Luna wants you for her first dressage at a fair. The T'ang want you as music for their acts. I will want you as a musical backdrop to my throwing act.

“See those other caravans coming down the bypass roads? More acts. Many of them are going to want you. You will be loaded with coins by the end of this fair!”

Shortly after Esper left, Sargent Blackberry returned, landing in the midway, in front of Luna’s bakery stand. Luna’s face fell as she saw the bulging dispatch pouch on the Sargent’s belt. Luna and Sargent Blackberry went to the back. Celestia took over watching the twists, rings and fruit claws as they cooked.

Shortly Luna came over to Dark’s booth. She gave the pony a thoughtful gaze for a few moments. Then she spoke.

“Tharfil, good has come of your crime. When my Guard Sargent Blackberry checked your story, she found it true. She attempted to set your mother up with the local Royal Largess for Those in Need. The office was closed for lack of funding.

“It was already replenished once this year. She acted under warrants already served on the town. We still have auditors examining the records. It is not disputable that the funds were stolen by the same ones responsible for the theft and substandard maintenance of our road and fairground.

“You are due a reward for this discovery which might have escaped our notice. Do you read?”

Tharfil nodded, “I reads pretty good, Ma'am … um, Princess.”

Her magic passed him a book. “While the fair is on, you shall stay here and watch Dark’s booth. For that I shall pay you properly. You are to read this book carefully. It is the standards for Equestrian Roads, their maintenance and repair along with small bridge maintenance. There is also a section on fairgrounds.

“The sentence for your crime is this. You will work on the repair of the Draytown road section. Before you begin, before the fair is over, I will test you on what is in this book.

“If you pass, you will be a supervisor of the rest. You will be fed and housed with the other prisoners doing the labor. They, for stealing the road and its Royal funds while not keeping it up, will work for free. You will be paid a supervisor’s wage which will be given to your mother until the road is back to standard.

“When the road is fixed, you may choose to stay in charge of the Draytown section or seek other work. I would hope that you will continue to work for us.

“That is your sentence for trying to steal these knives. It is also why we so often hear smaller cases like yours. We try to temper justice which must be served with such mercy as is possible.”

Dark simply set up a work table about half way back in her booth and got out a knife that she was still working on. As Tharfil sat behind her sales table, she began carefully cutting the steel of the guard in a delicate pattern of engraving.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper walked over to the Chaser Sister’s stage.

“Greetings, My Love.” She gave Breeze a kiss to her cheek. “I see that you are all set up. What tune shall I play for you and your sisters?”

She summoned her drum from Marchhare’s caravan, using her teleport spell. “How about I play that piece I preformed for Rose at her lake? Will that be okay?”

Ask-De-Writer:

The Sky Dancers cheerfully agreed. Breeze said with a playful grin, “Listen to all the music around here, especially after the fair closes at night and we all cut loose! We will need lots more than a few tunes!”

Luna approached diffidently. “Esper, dear. I will need some tunes for my dressage sets. You have a few of them. I can give you more if you let me share your web of magic for a moment.

“They will need fixing. They were “Properly Arranged” by the Royal Conservatory for a ten piece chamber set.”

At Esper’s nod, a small midnight spark leaped from Luna’s horn into the delicate web of magic between Esper’s horns.

She began to tap her tone drum uncertainly at first.

There was a call from some young throats, “The Wild Flower!”

A flute, another drum and a fiddle joined in. Suddenly the tune made sense and the music flowed from her beating and stroking fingers, finding notes and mutes in the fluid beat.

The tune ended to a large crowd gathered about. Coins rained into the box the youngsters had set out, though a few were cast contemptuously into the dirt. The crowd spred out through the nearby booths, and the increase in custom was obvious.

As they moved to a new spot, the young buskers asked, “What tune do you need to do next?”

The whole group of them worked their way about the fair, playing and dancing. They earned coins too. Lots of them.

They returned to the Sky Dancers regularly. Besides playing, they got to watch the amazing precision flight of the Sky Dances.

Other booths and groups of booths asked, or in some cases paid them to play and dance in front of their businesses. It was a merry day, made merrier when it grew too dusk for the Sky Dancers to fly and they joined in to the busking group.

Which gave Esper and Breeze a bit of cuddle time between sets. One watching filly said with slight envy, “You are so lucky, Breeze.”

Planting a kiss on Esper’s cheek, she replied, “I know.”

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper giggled and stroked Breeze’s wings. “You might feel lucky to have me, Breeze. But I feel even luckier. You came into my life at the right moment.”

She sighed. “Have you heard my tale? Or shall I explain what I mean?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Breeze said softly, “We know that you were an adopted daughter of De Writer in another world. You came here and Marchhare took you in.

“It is pretty clear that there is more. If you want to tell it, we will listen.”

Esper, looking about, saw a sea of honestly sympathetic faces. This, she realized, was the true heart of Rom. Horses, even horses who were not technically horses, who cared. Who supported each other. The many bands here were still a family. A safe refuge for a homeless, unmothered catter/orryl/Rom.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper cleared her throat. “Once… a small kitten/otter knew nothing but love and happiness. She had her family, and she had their love. Until one night, they were ripped from her by a shadow monster.”

She sighed, “Her life was spared.”

“She found another family. A group of sisters that treated her well. And for a time, she was happy. She even found love.” She choked up. “Until, again, her family was ripped from her.”

“Not being able to send them to the lake, her emotions overtook her. She became Uroloki. The Vengeful fire. She traveled the land burning all that was evil.” She looked at the faces of the crowd.

“Hope, however, came to her one day. She discovered that she still had family. Her fire was quelled. She was happy once again.”

She nodded, “Up until the moment she was killed.” The crowd gasped.

Esper keeps going. “Fate, it seems, had other plans. She was resurrected. She was given a new life. She… is sitting before you.” She smiled, “My heart was empty. A void.” She looked fondly at Breeze.

“See? You feel lucky to have me. But before I met you… my heart was missing a piece. My Rom family was rebuilding it. But you, Dear Breeze, completed it.”

She felt faint suddenly. “I’m sorry. I’m suddenly… very tired. Excuse me…” She tried to stand, but passed out, and slumped against Breeze.

Ask-De-Writer:

One of the crowd ran to get me. I came trotting back to see what the commotion was about. The youngster was not real clear. They often are not. That is frequently mistaken for being foolish or wrong. Usually it means that it is outside of the youngster’s experience.

As I saw Esper, I knew that last option was definitely the one. Esper was rooted to the spot in the most literal sense. Her own purple magic, no longer a web, had encased her in a crystalline appearing shell. Supported by the magic inside, Esper was floating, unconscious but serene.

Breeze, sensibly not trying to interfere with a thing that she did not understand, was beside herself with fear, nearly to a panic. She turned a tear streaked face to me and asked, “Ghost, what has happened to my love? What is the matter with Esper? She was telling us about her past.

“She said that she was tired. Then she just fell over! Her magic spread out and … and this happened!”

I gave her a reassuring hug and replied, “I have heard of this before, Breeze. I do not think that I have ever seen it before. We need someone with a really long memory to be sure. What we can see is that Esper is all right in there. She breathes. She has no sign of distress.”

When I mentioned “someone with a really long memory” the crowd drew an audible breath. They knew that mine goes back at least 800 years. Goes with being with the Rom that long. They will not shake their belief that I am a Ghost. The Ghost Who Guides. That has been their title for me that whole time.

There were only two who might fill the bill. Somehorse ran to get Celestia and Luna. They left off the clean up of their cooking area and came at a canter.

As soon as they saw Esper, their faces took on a look of almost reverence. Their magics reached out in gossamer webs to touch the crystalline magic.

I pointed at Esper in her magic crystal with my left ear and said, “Transformative Cocoon, right? I heard of something like this back in the days of the old Crystal Empire. Wasn’t sure though.

Celestia nodded slow agreement. “A Transormative Cocoon. They were rare back then. There has not been one since the Empire fell. That is over two thousand years ago.

“She will emerge in a day or two at the most.”

Well, Rom are Rom. We make our living by crafts, acts, displays or services at fairs. Not even foals get out of it. They police up trash that gets dumped by careless ponies and generally spruce up the area.

We had a display that wouldn’t quit! Or, more precisely, it would. It would be short lived but bits are bits.

We began by throwing up a tent to keep the gawkers from peeking without paying. We roped off Esper’s cocoon and Breeze, who would not leave her lover’s side. We did not mind that angle at all! Not only a unique draw, but a Romance into the bargain!

Even with the late hour, we got over a hundred bits in less than twenty minutes! A couple of enterprising colts with an artistic bent, painted up a fast banner to increase the draw.

When morning came, every Rom booth, besides selling their wares, was offering some sort of breakfast treat. Even Black Lotus and I were trying to keep up with demand for our chocolate coated clover-nut bars. One booth was offering only coffee and tea. They were being watched by the rest of us because they were doing an astounding amount of business.

Black Lotus wandered back to our dance pavilion with a bemused expression on her face. She broke into giggles as she told me, “I took Breeze a Clover-nut bar to eat. I wasn’t the only one! There is enough food piled on her blanket to feed both of them for a month at least!”

All day the business boomed down at the Amazing Transformative Cocoon! Tent. Esper’s busking friends helped out the Sky Dancers. Breeze anxiously pried herself loose from Esper’s side for performances but sprinted back the moment that she was done with any dance.

Changes were happening inside the cocoon. Slow but visible alterations of Esper’s form were happening. She was developing a color pattern and a flank mark was vaguely visible. Her horns were altering.

That late afternoon, the cocoon began to show signs of breaking up. Black Lotus and I ran for the tent. Celestia and Luna both did the same. Dark came flying down the midway to a dramatic landing and sprinted in.

The cocoon, instead of actually breaking apart was shifting and shrinking. It reached Esper’s skin and sank in. The odd root withered and died.

Esper stood before us on all fours, shaking her head to clear it. She said, “I feel great!”

She took about two steps and fell down. Looking up with a sheepish grin, she said, “Trickier to walk this way than it looks, isn’t it!”

While Breeze and Dark were helping Esper up we all giggled. We had never thought of if before. A foal walks from minutes after being born.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper stood on her wobbly legs, and tried to walk again. She made it all of three feet out of the tent, falling onto her stomach.

“Oof~” She sighed. “It’s not so much the walking part I’m having difficulty with… it’s the managing four legs at once.”

She stood again, but remained still. She looked up, yes, up, at Breeze. “Have you gotten taller? Or have I gotten shorter?” she asked, raising her right forehoof to make a height comparison. 

“Ah!” she gasped in shock. “I’m a head shorter than you! I’m… I’m short?”

Then she looked at her coat. “Wait… I’m also two different colours? By the Spirits… what kinda pony am I?”

She whinnied in protest. Then eeped! “I can whinny now?” She looked to Marchhare. “Father… what has happened? I’m… I’m so confused…”

Her much larger, purple eyes dewed up in confusion and shock. They seemed to be filled with so many questions she was to be unable to ask.

Ask-De-Writer:

I did gaze at her with compassion. “It would appear that your magic made a few basic changes in you. You are now a pinto filly with horns and a mark of Magical Protection.

“You were an Oryx Squirrel hybrid. I would venture that you are still part oryx. The other part would seem to be …”

“Horse!” Breeze interrupted firmly. “Rom like us,” she put a hoof gently between Esper’s horns, “are HORSES. Appearance does not matter. You, my love are still a horse. Just like I am.” She wrapped a wing about Esper in a gentle hug.

The Whisper Sisters:

Esper, mindful of her horns, nuzzled Breeze’s chin with her nose. “Thank you, Love. This is all… overwhelming.”

She blinked a few times. “Oh… my eyes are so much larger. I can see so many things in greater detail.” She sneezed, causing her her horns to spark briefly. “And my nose is more sensitive.”

She sniffed the air again. “Do I smell food?” She looked around, and spotted the gifted pastries. Back inside the tent.

She licked her lips, and drooled slightly. “Are those for me?”

She whimpered hungrily, “I mean… can I have some of that food?”

Ask-De-Writer:

Dark grinned her reassuring little razor toothed grin and replied, “Of course. Those are your share. Everyhorse brought something for Breeze. She would not leave your side except for Sky Dances. She flew right back here to your side as soon as each performance was over.”

“Sorry to be rude,” Esper’s voice floated out of the tent. “I am ravenous after that change.”

Celestia smiled indulgently and said, “Well, that is solved. All that she has to do is think of food and she is there! Nothing important about our Esper has changed!”

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Hope, an RP with Nayomi Hataki

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~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

                                                an RP

                                                   by

                              De Writer and Nayomi Hataki

                            Cover art by theartofscarecrows

                       © 2014 by De Writer and Nayomi Hataki

                                 Writing begun 07/26/14



///////////////////////



The New Queen

It was time. The Queen had pumped nearly all of her energy into this one egg, to the point where it was only days from hatching.

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NO FAN MAIL, Please.

!! ~~ !! ~~ !! ~~ !!

This is a benefit for ARANEL THE CYBORG, who has fallen on hard times!

She is a long time friend, art contributor and RP partner.

She has a Paypal donation button or, if you wish to donate through mine, All Funds Raised Will Go To Aranel.