Herd Life

Celestia is a growing filly within the herd, as she and many ponies struggle to just survive in their primitive times. Upheaval is soon to come, as new ideas clash with the old, when Celestia's parents join together in their struggle to move ponies into a new and unknown future, amid the dawning of the pony nation.
Contains: Stallion on Mare mating and impregnation. With lovemaking and experimentation later.
Online reading by: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9RpH3CFcO8&feature=youtu.be
I do not claim ownership of the cover art. It is publicly posted art. Artist for Celestia: alasou

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12. Chapter 12

Dusty Stride wiped the back of his foreleg across his sweaty brow, before lowering his head back down, to nip the stock of the bulbous root that he had just dug out of the rich soil, and tossed it over his shoulder into his heavily loaded pack.

Today he was out with a foraging group gathering something he was told was called a radish. The root plant had been found growing copiously within a shallow valley in the distant eastern hills just a few days ago. Despite one of the mares within the forager group telling him that they were quite delicious, he hadn't tried one of the red hued roots yet. Opting instead to save that for when he meets with Sky again, Dusty moved over to the next radish and began to dig at it with his hoof.

It had been six days since he had met Sky, and he still couldn't think of how to bring her into the settlement. He was scared of what would happen when his mother finds out about her. Would she accept Sky, or drive her away for being some strange freak-pony with wings? His imaginings about the meeting often ended in disaster, with Sky being driven off by his mother or by a mob of ponies lead by his mother.

A new idea came to him. Perhaps living out in the wilds with Sky was his answer. He knew that there was no way he could live up in a tree with her, but he had learned enough that he would be able to build a home out there for them. A home he could snuggle with Sky in.

Dusty paused, with a radish still dangling from his teeth, and smiled. The memory of their time together, of her soft body moving under his, sent warm, pleasing tingles throughout his body. He had found the snuggling she liked to do after they were done was also highly pleasurable. He suddenly found he really wanted to be with her.

"What are you smiling about?" Sky suddenly asked, snapping him from his daydream as her head appeared next to his with a mischievous smile on her lips.

Dusty spat the radish out with a loud exclamation, as he whirled about in surprise to look at Sky, who was looking back at him with a amused look in her eyes. What was she doing here!? “How did you…?” Dusty started to ask, before giving his head a shake. Of course she would be able to find him. She could fly.

Holding his hoof to his hammering heart, Dusty stared at Sky in disbelief. She was standing next to him in the open, where everypony would be able to see her! Dusty’s eyes quickly scanned around the area where he saw that, due to his loud exclamation, many of the nearby foragers were curiously looking over at them, as well as some of their spear-wielding lookouts.

Disaster! Now he had no choice! He was going to have to run off and live somewhere in exile, and never again see his own kind ever again. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad. Sky would be there with him.

After a short moment, Dusty became aware that none of the ponies around him had made any excited exclamations, nor did any of them come running over to look at Sky and her wings. In fact, many of them were going back to work digging out radishes. Why was no pony reacting to Sky!? Looking closer, he saw the reason slung across her back.

She was wearing a willow-woven gatherers pack, and they were doing a wonderful job of covering her wings from view. Relief flooded Dusty. He wasn't going to have to exile himself. At least not yet.

“Where did you get that pack!?" Dusty asked, while struggling to keep his voice down. He knew the moment he asked the question, he wasn’t going to like the answer.

Sky blinked at him, wondering why he was sounding angry. "I found it," she answered simply.

"You found it?" Dusty growled at her. "You stole it, didn't you!?" He knew it! He was going to have to exile himself.

"It was just sitting there. Nopony was using it," Sky said in her defense. She didn't understand why he was so troubled by her using it. In fact, she thought he would be happy that she found a way to hide her wings.

Dusty let out a sigh, and ran his hoof through his disheveled mane. Perhaps if he returned it before it was noticed, everything would be okay, and he wouldn't have to send himself into exile.

"Hey! You, there!" a voice called out to them.

Sky gave a little eep, and dove behind Dusty, where she then guardedly peeked out over his back at the approaching mare that had just called out to her.

Milkweed, the lead mare of the foragers, paused in her approach for a moment to consider Sky's strange behavior, but quickly resumed while giving her head a slight shake. "We're here to work, young mare, not to play around. I have something I want you to do. So come on out here and follow me." Milkweed started away but paused to wait for Sky to follow.

Seeing that Sky was nervously frozen in place, Dusty quickly nudged Sky and urgently gestured for her to follow Milkweed, who was now scowling with impatience at the pair.

Dusty gave Milkweed a awkward smile. "Sorry, she’s a bit shy," he assured her, before he gave Sky an even more forceful nudge. Why was she being so bashful now? She wasn't like that when they first met. Letting out a sigh, Dusty stepped forward, and was relieved when Sky followed closely after him.

Sky nervously looked around as they moved through the foragers. She quickly trotted up, next to Dusty and leaned in close. "What are they doing?" She asked, keeping her voice low, as she gestured with her head to the foraging ponies that were digging out radishes.

"Gathering radishes," Dusty whispered back.

"Ohh..." Sky said, giving a knowing nod, despite her still confused look. Suddenly she gave him a jab, and pointed over to Milkweed, "What’s  that on her butt!?"

Dusty glanced over at Milkweed, as he wondered what she meant, and saw the budding milkweed blossom on the mare's flank. "That's her cutie mark."

"Ohh..." Sky said, nodding thoughtfully. "What's a cutie mark?"

"It's a mark you get when you discover your special talent." Dusty whispered back.

"Ohh..." Sky then glanced at his flank, "So where's yours?"

Her question caught Dusty off guard, and he stumbled over a misplaced hoof. His lack of a cutie mark as a bit of a sore point with him. He had been trying to get one, but despite trying as many things as he could get away with from his mother, his flank was still blank.

Luckily, he was saved from answering her when Milkweed stopped just before a set of small dirt filled gourds that had some young shoots planted in it.

"Since your bins are empty, you can carry these back to Greenhoof. She'll be very interested in getting some radish sprouts so she can try her hoof at cultivating them.

Sky lifted her head and looked over Dusty's back. "You want me to carry some weeds?" She asked with distaste.

Milkweed's ears suddenly folded back as her eyes hardened. Dusty knew he needed to do something before anything unfortunate happened, and he really would have to go into exile.

Letting out a loud, boisterous laugh, Dusty spun around and shoved Sky toward the gourds. "Of course she would be happy to carry the sprouts back! Here let me help you put them into your packs!" Dusty gathered some of the young shoots and carefully began loading them into Sky's packs.

Milkweed seemed satisfied that her instruction was being followed, and started calling out to the others that it was time to go back to the settlement.

"Why am I carrying a bunch of weeds?" Sky asked, as she watched Dusty load the last few into her pack.

"They are not weeds, they are food." Dusty replied. "Food we hope we can grow ourselves so we won't have to search for them."

"Grow your own food? I’ve never heard of such a thing," Sky said with a befuddled look. "Nature grows food, not ponies."

"Well, things are changing. We are beginning to learn the secrets of nature, and we plan to grow entire fields of food, enough to feed us all for many seasons," Dusty explained with a note of pride, as he settle the last seedling into her bin. "Hunger will soon become a distant memory. The Herd Mother and Herd Father have opened our eyes to these new possibilities, and at last we can feel the power in our hooves to shape the very world."

"The magic of nature!" Sky said in awe, her eyes going wide as she looked at him with new eyes. "You are learning to control the magic of nature! Ponies that can wield earth magic, are no mere ground ponies. No, no, no. They would be something more akin to the Earth. Such ponies would be Earth Ponies!"  

Dusty blinked at her in astonishment. Sure, what they were learning to do was pretty amazing, but he didn't think it was all that magical.

"Hey, are you two finished  yet, or are we going to have to leave you both behind?" Milkweed called out to them.

Gathered not far from them, the rest of the foragers stood waiting as they prepared to head back to the settlement.

Dusty waved his hoof, signaling that they were ready. With Sky walking close by his side, Dusty felt his gut twist in worry that Sky's wings would be discovered. The packs she wore did a wonderful job of covering them, but it wasn't perfect. In several spots from behind, you could see some feathers poking out from the back of the pack, and occasionally, Sky would adjust her wings, causing the packs to shift around strangely, but luckily no pony seemed to have noticed yet.  

With Sky staying by his side, Dusty followed just to the rear of the group, as they walked back. How was he going to get Sky out of this, without being found out!? He started to concoct some exotic and detailed plans on how to get her out of the settlement without being noticed, when he began to feel like it just wasn't right to do that to her. She wasn't some monster, she was a beautiful young mare who was all alone.

He needed to tell the Herd Mother and Father about her. They would know what to do.

The whole way back, Dusty felt sick with worry for how things would end up. He knew for sure that his mother would freak out in some way, and all the other ponies would most definitely be excited, mobbing around her to have a look at her wings. Sky was a bit timid. Dusty knew that such attention would frighten her, and he didn't want Sky to run away.

Finally, they crested the last rise and the settlement came into view. The sickening, anxious feeling in his gut suddenly worsened as they approached. Sky, on the other hoof, had a kind of nervous excitement about her, as she constantly swiveled her head about in an attempt to look at everything and everypony at once.

South of the settlement, just outside the now newly finished walls, sat a small cultivated area with a short stacked stone wall surrounding it. A dirty brown mare with green mane and tail, stood on a patch of newly cleared  ground, and was dragging some new tool, like a spear with it's stone point bent down, through the soil.

"You, ah... I'm sorry I don't remember your name," Milkweed said to Sky.

Sky looked around nervously as she was suddenly addressed, but after a short breath, she gathered her courage. "My... my name's Sky Twirl."

"Sky Twirl, come with me," Milkweed said, turning into the cultivated area.

Dusty and Sky followed after her. Inside, they saw neat rows of new sprouts growing on either side of the path as they approached the dirty brown mare. Stepping carefully, Sky looked around at what was being grown here by ponies with obvious awe. To her, what was being done here was magic.

"It's strange. I don't remember that young mare coming with us when we set out," Milkweed mused out loud, as she glanced back at the pair.

"She, ah... was in the back, and her smaller size keeps her from being noticed," Dusty quickly answered. That was one of the things he had noticed about Sky. Her body was more lean and delicate looking than was normal for—what was that name she used? Earth Ponies?—who were more stocky and sturdy looking in comparison to her.

"Hmm, that's probably why," Milkweed said with a thoughtful nod. "Greenhoof! Come and look at what we brought for you!" she then called out to the mare ahead of them.

Greenhoof paused and lifted her tool, to plant it butt-down into the soft soil next to her. Looking more closely at the strange new tool, Dusty saw that it had once been a spear, but the stone spearhead had been reattached at a sharp angle to allow it to be dug through the soil.

For a mare, Greenhoof was very large, standing just as tall as most stallions. As she stepped closer, Dusty saw a fine cloud of dust drift off her coat with each of her heavy steps. As well, her legs appeared to be completely caked in dirt, all the way up to her barrel. On her flank was a cutie mark of a little green sprout.

Sky stared wide-eyed at the mare as she approached. "An Earth Spirit," she murmured in reverence.

Greenhoof heard this and let out a boisterous laugh. "Earth Spirit! I like that! What's your name little one?" Despite her size, her voice held a firm gentleness that was surprising.

"I... I'm Sky Twirl." Sky answered with a timid smile.

"Well that's a pretty name, for such a pretty, little mare" Greenhoof commented, as she stepped up to Sky to look into her pack. "So what did you bring me, eh?"

"I h-have radish sprouts." Sky answered, as her wide eyes gazed up at the large mare.

"Radish sprouts! That's great!" Greenhoof exclaimed happily, as she stuck her muzzle into Sky's pack. "These will be wonderful! I've always loved radishes," she said, while taking one out to look it over.

It only took a few moments of work for Greenhoof, Milkweed, and Dusty to unload all the radishes from Sky's pack. Greenhoof stood over the sprouts and smiled down at them. "Milk, you always bring me the best things."

"What are sisters for?" Milkweed answered with a smile.

"And now for our helpful young little mare." Greenhoof said as she walked over to the short stone wall and picked up a gourd with a large leaf tied over its top. Bringing it back, she set it into Sky's pack with a smile. "There you go, thank you for your help."

Sky looked back at her pack in confusion, wondering why Greenhoof put something inside. Dusty saw this and knew she didn't understand that Greenhoof was giving her something in return for her help.

Stepping up next to Sky, Dusty smiled at Greenhoof, and gave Sky a nudge. "Thank you. We'll go now and unload my pack at the storehouse." Turning, Dusty began to lead Sky out.

"Excuse me, but did you know you have feathers under your pack?" Greenhoof commented.

Dusty paused with his heart hammering in his chest. Was Sky just discovered!? Turning his head, he saw that Greenhoof and Milkweed, didn't seem alarmed or disturbed about it. Perhaps they just thought they were feathers, Dusty desperately hoped.

"Oh, yes. The feathers help to stop the packs from rubbing her sides." Dusty said as he put on his most convincing smile. "Come on Sky, let's get to the storehouse." Dusty practically held his breath the entire time it took to leave the enclosure and walk over to the settlement gate.

During the day, the gate was left open, but as the sun set, a series of large logs were slid across the opening, and secured into place with a pair of posts on each side. Stepping through, Dusty let out a long relieved sigh. At last, they were inside. Now all they had to do was drop off his load of radishes and go see the Herd Mother and Father. Easy.

"Dusty Stride!" a voice furiously shouted at him, and Dusty felt a chill rush down to his gut. Turning, Dusty's ears wilted down as his livid looking mother marched up to him. "What did I say about going out with the foragers!?"

"But, Mama, they needed some help, and I'm old enough to choose for myself," Dusty retorted weakly.

"I don't want to hear it!" his mother shouted back. "You knew I didn't want you going out there and you disobeyed me! I knew I should have had you return that pack when you got it! It's only caused trouble the moment you got it!" Reaching out, she nipped his ear in her teeth, and started pulling him. "Now come along. You're going to sit at home and think about what you did!" She said around his ear.

As he was dragged along by his mother, Dusty desperately told her that he needed to go and unload his pack at the storehouse, but she ignored him as she continued to usher him back home.

Suddenly, the light grey form of Sky, appeared in front of Dusty's mother, and barred her way. Her sky blue eyes glared up at his mother with a fury that Dusty had never seen from her before.

Releasing her son's ear, Pebble Stream blinked down at the smaller mare, who was blocking her way, "Who are you!? Dusty who is this filly!?" Her tone was mystified, but also irritated that she was being interfered with.

Dusty rubbed his hoof over his aching ear as he blinked in amazement, as Sky moved forward to shove herself in between Dusty and his mother, and planted her hooves to glare up at the larger mare, with her ears folded back.

"What do you think you're doing!?" Dusty's mother exclaimed in outrage.

"I will not allow you to take him!" Sky declared, pawing her hoof across the ground. "He's my stallion, now!"

"What are you talking about!?" Pebble Stream snapped back. "I'm his mother!"

"And I am his mate!" Sky roared, almost touching her nose to Pebble's.

Dusty's mother reared back a few steps and clutched her chest in shock, as her eyes snapped back and forth between the pair. "Don't be absurd! Dusty's still much too young to have a mate! He's still just a little colt!"

Dusty watched the two as they confronted each other, his chest feeling like he had been bucked by an angry stallion. He loved his mother, but as he watched Sky standing up to his mother to claim him with such ferocity as hers, he finally felt something snap inside.

Stepping forward, Dusty stood next to Sky and met his mother's angry gaze. "I am not a little colt anymore Mama, and I will not allow you to talk to Sky like this!"

His mother looked like he had just slapped his hoof across her muzzle. Her eyes were wide in shock, as she looked at the couple. "Don't tell me you two have...?"

"Dusty has claimed me, and filled my womb with his seed many times now," Sky answered back, with a very pleased look as she touched her hoof to her belly.

Dusty's mother's face suddenly twisted in anguish, as she looked over at her son. "How could you!? I'm your mother! I birthed you, and nursed you. Don't you love me!? How can you betray me for the first filly to flick her tail at you!?"

"Mama!" Dusty said pleadingly. "I’m not a foal anymore! I’m my own stallion now!"

"But I love you, and I don't want to lose you!" his mother reached out to touch his cheek, but Dusty stepped back. And as he felt his heart twist in his chest, he turned away from her.

With Sky following along by his side, Dusty walked away with deliberate measured steps, as he felt tears flood into his eyes. It hurt. It hurt so much to do this to his mother, but with Sky's comforting presence by his side, he managed to keep his steps going. Behind him, the sounds of his mother's agonized wails broke his heart.

 

****

 

Standing at the edge of the west woods, Dark watched as Happy trotted over to him. It had been several days since they last saw any signs of the wolves, and many ponies were sure that they had been driven off for good, but Dark wasn’t certain. Their sudden and strange absence left Dark with a bad feeling.

Their bitches would be whelping around now, and the need for food would be great. Driving them off during the eclipse would certainly have made them more wary of ponies, and sure enough, whenever the pack saw any pony they quickly moved off the other way, but that didn’t explain the total lack of any wolf sightings over the last couple of nights.  

Happy, a grisled silvery blue stallion who never smiled, slowed to a stop just before Dark, and shook his head. “The freshest tracks I was able to find was about two days old.”

“Perhaps they all left,” Birch Bark offered.

Dark wasn’t convinced that that was the case. Something about this wasn’t sitting right with him. Turning, Dark looked at Hoof Strike. ”Put the word out that I am looking for volunteers. Tomorrow I want to find their den, and see if they have truly left, or if something else has happened to them.”

 
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