main index

syauska  asked:

As someone who's only familiar with your more plaguelike alter ego novels, where would a good place be to start the REAL McGuire's books? I saw that there are two good-length series and a smattering of trilogies and duologies, but... I wouldn't want to start a sequel or spinoff series instead of a root, or something. you know?

Well!

Rosemary and Rue was my first book, and is the start of my longest series, the October Daye novels (to give you an idea of “how long,” #11 comes out in September).  They’re urban fantasy about a half-fae private investigator who is very tenacious and very bad at her job.  If you like this book, it unlocks a long and ongoing series.  If you don’t like it, you know that I only improve from here.

Discount Armageddon is the start of my second longest series, InCryptid, about cryptozoologists trying to keep the monsters of the world safe from humanity.  It’s sort of Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Sanctuary by way of Xena Warrior Princess, and I love them so much, I can’t even.  They change narrators every few volumes, as different members of the family get their turns at center stage.

Sparrow Hill Road is InCryptid-adjacent, but doesn’t require reading the main series.

Indexing and Indexing: Reflections are their own thing, as are the Wayward Children books.

Hope this helps!

Grimoirè/Book of Shadows Seal of Protection

Items:
-Your Grimoirè/Book of Shadows
-Oak Bark Dust
-Your wand ( Optional )

Instruction Level: Basic
Instructions:

-Draw a pentagram on the first page of your book

-Put enough Oak Bark Dust in the, exact, middle of the pentagram-the dust must cover the centre entirely

-Hold your main hand’s index finger, or wand, 2-3 centimetres above the dust, and recite the following incantation,

Incantation:

I ask those who want to know my secrets to stay away.
I ask those who want to know my spells to keep their distance.

I ask the dust of the mighty tree to protect my book, till the day I remove this pentagram.

I ask this, so please make this be.

My stories, Index.

OTHERWORLD. (Main series)

Prologue - Six ancient heroes

Chapter 1 - Chi greediness

Chapter 2 - Love with hate

Chapter 3 - Pride of Lions

Chapter 4 - Memories never die

Chapter 5 - The QCT, part one

SPIN-OFFS

Oogway’s adventure

Otherworld - Specials\Oneshots

Forgotten Souls (It will start with the end of Oogway’s adventure)

  • […]

The cursed mansion

You can read\review\like every story I wrote so far on FanFiction too [Link] <– My profile with all the stories.

Don’t read the thing with this they are bad\incomplete\messy. I’m reworking them :)

fyeahcullrian.tumblr.com
Cullrian Mini-Bang Index

Alright, so here it finally is: The Masterpost of all Submissions for the CullrIan Mini-Bang 2015.

We know, that a few teams have not yet handed in their submission and some posted submissions are not yet finished. But in order to give our followers- especially the new ones- a good overview already, we set up the Index and linked it onto our main-page.

You can access the Index via the link on this post, or via direct-link on our main-page:

The Index is a tabel with 5 columns: Team-Number, Prompt, Artist, Writer and Link.

The columns Artist and Writer contain a direct link to the respective blogs of the Artist and Writer, in case you want to see what other stuff they have made. The column Link links you directly to the original submission-post on our blog. If one of the links is broken, please let us know and we’ll fix it as soon as possible.

Feel free to check out the index and enjoy all the wonderful artworks and stories that have been gathered for the mini-bang and don’t forget, to leave a comment in the ask-boxes of the artists and writers, if you liked their work.

A Like is a nice gesture of appreciation of course, but since the submissions are all directly on our blog neither the artist, nor the writer get notificated of the notes on these posts. So the best way to show them you liked what they did, is to tell them directly.

And here a note for the teams:

Those of you, who haven’t handed in their submission, will be added to the index as soon, as they hand in the submission and we have posted it on our blog.

- The Mods

7

FOR SALE — $200 SOLD

Since we have a bit of an emergency, we’re offering this skin at lower the price than expected. The only stipulation to purchasing it is the money is required up front, but we will have the skin done by September 25th, 2017 for your use.

Features:

  • Full custom HTML templates
  • Skin changes colors per usergroup (main profile, sidebar, index view, post view)
  • Fully coded modals (staff, start guide, navigation, lorebook, user controls, login)
  • Custom footer, including affiliate buttons and recent topic activity
  • Toggle sidebar with custom userlinks
  • Board thread templates/face claim/member directory included
  • Full installation and support

If there are other features the purchaser would like to see, they can be requested during the time after payment.

Paypal payment accepted, USD ($) only; send an ask with a contact email address for discussion. You can also approach me (Anna) on Discord @ Anna#9407.

pinkcowie asked: What are your views on communism?

——

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AMONG THE ROM, an RP (Page 3)

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

Return to RPs  http://ask-de-writer.tumblr.com/post/83112908135/rp-role-play-with-de-writer-main-index-page

<==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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