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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14. Chapter 14

Author's Note:

 

 

Eight pallbearers carry,

death across the floor.

He weaves his shroud for those that move,

to make sure they move no more.

 

 

Thanks Peerlmagination for all your hard work.

Bell lifted her water filled gourd and took a long drink out of it. It had been a long, tiring morning of searching through the western woods, and they still haven't discovered where the wolves’ den was.

This was the first time she'd been back in the western woods since the terrible attack that she, Dove, and Strongbuck had just barely managed to survive. Bell's ear was still notched from the snapping jaws of a wolf that had recklessly jumped onto her back, and would likely stay that way for the rest of her life. The moment she felt the wolf's fangs snap onto her ear, Bell's rage had surged over the terror she’d felt at the time, and she wildly bucked the wolf off before savagely stomping her hoof down onto its back.The sickening sound of bones being crushed under her hoof still haunted her. It was a sound she wished she could forget.

The gouge that Dove received on the side of her beautiful muzzle on that horrid day had healed into a scar. Dove assured them that it didn't bother her and continued on like nothing happened, but one day, Bell found her sitting alone, weeping, as she gazed at her reflection in a bowl of water.

Strongbuck was healing, but slowly. He wanted to come with Bell today to help find the den, but his back leg still wasn't fully healed and he had trouble walking on it for extended periods. Fortunately, Meadowlark thought of a job for him to do this morning, to keep him busy.

Bell let out a sigh as she put her water gourd back into her pack. So many scars now marred them from that day, both on the outside and on the inside.

Ahead of her, she saw Happy pointing his hoof in several directions as he talked with Dark and Hoof Strike. He had been scouting around looking for tracks, and it looked like he might have found something. Sure enough, when he finished, Dark waved at the gathered ponies and pointed in the direction he wanted them to go.

Pulling her spear free, Bell shook out her tired hooves before moving off with the rest of the ponies following after Dark. With Happy scouting around ahead of them, they moved in a north westerly direction until Happy returned to speak to Dark, who suddenly called a halt. After speaking quietly with Happy for a time, Dark had them all gather around him.

"Happy says that the wolves tracks are converging in this area," Dark said, keeping his voice low, "but they are all days old. I want you all to pair up into groups of three and search the area. If any of you find the den, come get either me or Hoof Strike."

"What should we do if we find a wolf, or any of those tree climbing things you mentioned?" Mustard Seed asked nervously.

"If you encounter either of them, just back away without turning your back, and call out for help. Do not attack them or try to face them alone," Dark answered sternly, looking around the group to see if they were all listening. Satisfied that they all knew what to do, Dark split them up and sent them out to search the area.

Bell ended up pairing up with Mustard Seed and Morning Sky, both of whom glowered at each other in annoyance at finding themselves in the same group with each other. Moving off with the two to start their search, Bell let out a annoyed sigh. Those two never seemed to ever get along with each other, and constantly bickered about the littlest and stupidest of things. It was strange how often they got paired up together.

"Hey, stupid. You think you'll find the wolves in a log?" Mustard Seed snidely remarked to Morning Sky when he noticed she was looking into a hollowed out log.

"I'm just looking for whatever remains of that shriveled up thing you call a stallionhood." Morning Sky quickly quipped back with a sneer.

For a moment, Mustard Seed laid his ears back with an angry snort. "It would be best if you didn't go looking for something you can't even fit into that tiny, puckered, moss-filled crevice that you enjoy sitting on so much."

Morning Sky's eyes flashed angrily, and she snatched up a chunk of moss from the nearby log and hurled it at Mustard Seed's head. Sniggering uproariously, Mustard Seed ducked under the errant throw before turning himself around and bending over. Flipping his tail back, Mustard Seed waved his posterior at Morning Sky, as he made rude sounds at her.

Scooping up some more moss, Morning marched towards the taunting stallion with her teeth bared. "Hold still a moment, and I'll show you a puckered, moss-filled crevice!" she growled as she closed in with a menacing smile.

Bell shook her head and let out another sigh. Why did she have to get paired up with these two idiots? Mustard Seed was hooting with laughter as he danced around Morning Sky. They were putting up such a racket that if there were any wolves or shadow creatures around, they certainly knew they were here by now.

Turning away from the juvenile antics of Mustard Seed and Morning Sky, Bell pushed her way through a bush that was in her way. As she stepped through  Bell's hoof suddenly stepped onto nothing, and with a panicked cry, Bell tumbled into a black hole she hadn’t seen, and vanished into its dark depths.

 

 

* ** *

 

 

Celestia idly watched as Sky played with Luna. They were in Celestia's family hut, waiting to be summoned to the longhouse so Sky could be introduced to the Mares’ Circle. Celestia's mother called the circle together that morning to tell them about Sky and the existence of the pegasi and unicorns, as well as some of what befell Sky's herd last season.

It would be up to the Mares’ Circle to decide to accept Sky into their herd, or to be turned away, which Celestia fervently hoped wouldn't happen. She really liked Sky, and she wanted her to stay.

Nearby, Dove sat with a bundle of cut willow branches as she attempted to make a simple basket. She scowled and muttered to herself as she angrily undid a part she had been working on for quite some time only to start over again. She said she was going to learn how to weave one of the simple baskets that Dandelion Fluff and Dew Sparkle make so easily, but so far she was not showing any skill in the craft.

The well-made basket that Luna was laying in was set between Sky's front hooves so she could reach in to tickle Luna. She was still too young to really laugh yet, but whenever Sky blew or nibbled at her belly or neck, Luna would squirm and let out some excited huffing breaths that was close to a laugh.

"What is a Mares’ Circle?" Sky asked curiously, glancing over at Dove.

Dove paused, and looked up from her tangled mess of a basket. "Um, well let’s see," she said thoughtfully. "The Mares’ Circle is a group of mares that the Herd Mother formed to help decide how things within the herd should be handled."

Sky pursed her lips as she thought it over. "So they decide everything?"

Dove shook her head. "No, not everything. They only consider important things that affect the herd."

"Like taking a pegasus into the herd?" Sky surmised.

Smiling at Sky, Dove nodded. "That would be one of the things, yes."

Glancing down at Luna, Sky saw the filly was starting to nod off. With a yawn that left her tongue draped out her open mouth, her eyes slowly drooped closed. "So the mares control everything in the herd then?" she asked, lowering her voice so she wouldn't disturb Luna.

Again, Dove shook her head. "When the Herd Mother and Father formed the herd, they divided their responsibilities. The Herd Mother and the Mares Circle keep order within the herd, and the Herd Father looks after the well-being of the herd." Dove explained.

"Are you in the Mares’ Circle?" Sky asked, looking back to Dove.

"No." Dove answered. "Only mares with foals that have grown up to have foals of their own are in the Mares’ Circle."

As Celestia listened, she remembered when her parents had debated about what they felt was best for the herd a little while after it was formed. "Mama and papa talked about how they wanted to organize their responsibilities for several days, and in the end, they decided to divide their duties. Mama would look after what happens within the herd and settle any strife that may crop up, while Papa would oversee the protection and provisions for the herd." Celestia said cutting in.

"Mama quickly discovered that she needed help with keeping order within the herd, and when she spoke to Melodious about it, Melodious suggested the idea of organizing the older mares into a group that would be able to assist her in this." Celestia continued to explain, "not long after the group was formed, ponies started calling it the Mares’ Circle, because when they all gathered together, they all stood in a circle."  

"Papa didn't form a group like what mama did with the Mare's Circle. Instead, he put certain ponies in charge of things. Bright Star was put in charge of construction and designs, while Birch Bark was to oversee provisions and distribution, as well as filing the storehouse before winter came. Greenhoof was quickly put in charge of farming when she showed a clever skill at learning how to make things grow." Celestia listed out as she made marks in the ground before her, "and lastly, Hoof Strike was put in charge of the Spear Bearers and he now oversaw the defense of the herd."

Staring down at the now slumbering Luna, Sky seemed to be deep in thought. "You Earth Ponies are a remarkable race. Strong, resilient, and so in-tune with the earth, you bring the balance of nature into your very way of life."

Celestia moved over and laid down near Sky. "What are the pegasi like?" she asked curiously.

Sky ruffled her wings for a moment as she adjusted them, and settled them back into place as she thought about her answer. "Well, we lived... free," Sky answered simply. "You see, Pegasi live without any plans or preparations for the future, not like you earth ponies, and just did whatever we wanted, or seemed fun at the time. We moved about, living wherever we found new fruit trees growing, and just ate and played to our heart's content.”

“When winter came, we would go south where it was warm and food was easier to find." Sky paused and looked down at Luna, her gaze becoming distant. "I remember my mommy would carry me on her back when my wings grew tired during our migration south. She always somehow knew where to find the perfect spot on a cloud to make our nest so we could snuggle together up at night...  I miss her so much."  

Seeing a slow tear work its way down Sky's cheek, Celestia moved closer and pressed her side to Sky's, offering her what comfort she could. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you."

Sky looked down at Celestia, and smiled as she blinked the tears from her eyes. "It's okay. It hurts to remember, but I also don't want to forget about those special moments either." Opening her wing, she draped it around Celestia. "I learned a lot after... I lost them. For the first time in my life, I was all alone and I didn't know what to do. I was completely unprepared for living on my own. I moved down here closer to the river so I could be safe from whatever those... creatures were, and ate from the plentiful fruit trees that grew throughout this area.

"Despite being alone, I was doing well," Sky continued. "When summer closed in, I watched as you earth ponies moved in and settled nearby. I was unsure of you, and I hid so I could watch you. I didn't know if the earth ponies would be as grumpy and unfriendly as what I heard the unicorns were like.

“When winter suddenly closed in, I was left with few choices. I could try flying south and risk being picked off by a roving band of hungry griffons, or stay here and likely starve. There was something about how all you earth ponies steadfastly faced the coming winter that gave me heart to do the same."

Celestia felt Sky's wing tighten around her. "It was hard. Much harder than I thought it would be. I survived for a time by eating nuts a squirrel had hidden lower down in my tree. When that ran out, I was forced to venture out to find more food. It was at this point that I watched you earth ponies, and learned how to survive by eating roots and bark. What I learned from you earth ponies let me survive until spring came.

"It had been a whole season since I lost my flock, and I was growing tired of being alone." Sky explained. "I watched as some of the earth ponies left to go off by themselves, and the rest of you settled down and started building strange things, like these huts. You were all so interesting to watch, everywhere I looked, ponies were busy doing strange and intriguing things. When danger came, you all gathered together and faced it as a strong, unified front to protect the vulnerable.

"Then one day, Dusty suddenly appeared under my tree." Sky said with a smile. "I was so lonely, and I was in my first full heat. I couldn't help myself, I just had to go to him." Sky gave a little laugh, "I teased him at first, and found him to be absolutely adorable, so I decided to say hi. Things progressed pretty quickly after that," she said with a little smile.

The sound of the door opening drew their attention to Strongbuck and Ash as they both walked in. Strongbuck had been asked by Meadowlark that morning to ward the Mares’ Circle and to keep any curious ponies away while they deliberated over Sky.

Before he left that morning, Strongbuck snatched Ash up and recruited him to help him out, which the colt was overjoyed to do. He really looked up to Strongbuck, which Celestia thought was strange since she thought the stallion was just a big goof.

From they way Ash stood next to Strongbuck with a rather firm expression on his face, Celestia could see that he was taking his new duties very seriously. She thought his new stiff demeanor looked positively adorable on him.

"The Mares’ Circle is ready to see you now," Strongbuck said, looking at Sky and giving her a friendly smile.

Celestia felt Sky's body stiffen up at his words, but after a deep, calming breath, Sky gave a quick nod and stood. She walked to the door, while Celestia quickly moved to join her.

Sky paused for a moment at the door to let Strongbuck set a gatherer's pack onto her back to cover her wings. Once she had it settled properly, she followed Strongbuck out, Celestia staying close by her side.

The walk over to the longhouse wasn't far, and, in a short few moments, they were approaching the large set of doors where Dusty sat waiting. When he saw Sky approaching, a smile suddenly came to his face as he rushed over to greet her.

"Sky! I'm glad I was able to see you before you went in," Dusty said, in obvious relief as he gave Sky a quick nuzzle. "I just want you to know that no matter what they decide, I will be there for you," Dusty said in a rush, stepping in close to Sky.

Celestia couldn't help but smile at the pair; They were so adorable together. She just wanted to hug them both.

"Ah, there you are my dear," Melodious said, stepping out of the longhouse. "Come, come, they're absolutely dying to meet you!" she said to Sky, as she gently began to usher her inside. Celestia quickly followed with her as she moved towards the doors.

Dusty also moved to come with them, but Strongbuck suddenly blocked his way.

"Sorry Dusty, but you'll have to wait out here until they're done." Strongbuck said with a firm voice.

Dusty looked like he was about to argue, but after seeing Strongbuck stern expression, he realized Strongbuck wasn't going to back down, and decided not to push it. Turning, Dusty looked over at Sky and met her nervous gaze. "Don't worry, I'll be right here waiting for you. I promise," he said giving her a reassuring smile.

Sky, swallowed and nodded as she gave him a brave smile. Turning back to Melodious, she started for the door.

Celestia followed along until, suddenly, Ash stepped into her way and shook his head. "I'm sorry, but you’re going to have to stay here too."

Lowing her ears back, Celestia narrowed her eyes as she lifted her hoof and jabbed the colt in his chest. "You will step out of my way, or I will walk over you. I am going in with her and neither you, nor Strongbuck, will stop me," Celestia said in a commanding voice that expected to be obeyed. "Now step aside."

Ash’s ears flopped down and took a hesitant step back at the glare Celestia was giving him. "What should I do?" Ash desperately asked Strongbuck, giving the stallion a uncertain look.

"You'd better listen to her and get out of her way, before she stomps you into the ground," Strongbuck quickly answered the frightened colt.

Celestia watched as Ash hastily scrambled to the side to let her pass. Lifting her ears back up, Celestia smiled brightly at Ash as she passed by. "Thank you," she said cheerfully.

The colt watched as Celestia disappear into the longhouse with Sky and Melodious. His knees felt a little shaky as he looked back at Strongbuck. "She’s scary."

Strongbuck looked down at the colt and shook his head. "No, that filly is terrifying."

 

 

****

 

 

Bell's head was killing her. Blinking her eyes open, she slowly sat up with a groan. What happened? Turning her head slowly, she looked around and found she was laying in a dark cavern. Well above her, she could see the opening she had fallen in through. From the height of the opening, it was a wonder she didn't break her neck from the fall.

Standing up, she was surprised she hadn’t broken any bones, though she did feel a twinge in her ankle that told her she twisted it a bit in the fall. Looking around, she found her pack laying a few steps away next to her broken spear. Checking her pack, she discovered one side looked a bit crushed with her water gourd being completely destroyed inside. She figured she had probably landed on it. Picking up what remained of her spear, she saw that it was broken right in half, but luckily the tip was intact and still  firmly attached, so she could at least use it in its shortened form.

Looking up at the opening above her, Bell felt a wave of vertigo that nearly made her fall down. Steadying herself, she waited until the dizziness passed, and she let out a relieved breath. Reaching her hoof up, she touched the side of her head and felt a stab of pain, which caused another short bout of dizziness. Once it passed, she looked at her hoof and saw that there was blood smeared onto it. She must have banged her head pretty good falling down into the cavern. Dove was going to kill her for being so clumsy and getting hurt when she got back home.

She wondered how long she had been laying down here. Looking back up at the opening she could see that it was still light out, and since her head hadn't stopped bleeding yet, she figured it had only been a short while since she fell in. Perhaps those two idiots were still around.

"Hello!" Bell flinched as pain shot through her head at her shout. "Mustard Seed! Morning Sky! Can you hear me?! I need help!" she called up at the opening above her.

She waited, looking up, hoping a head would appear or a voice would respond to her desperate call, but after waiting a long moment, nopony came. She tried again several more times, but got the same disappointing results. Even if Morning and Mustard failed to realize she was missing, she was sure Dark would notice she was gone and start a search for her.

Seeing no way to climb up to the hole she came in through, Bell looked around to see if there was another way out. The cavern air smelled dank and the sound of water slowly dripping into dark pools echoed throughout the chamber she was in. Seeing a cleft running down the far wall, Bell gathered up her pack and settled it onto her back. Grabbing her half-spear in her teeth, she tucked it under her pack's back strap and went to investigate the crack to see if it lead somewhere.

It was smaller that she thought and she had to get down on her knees to look in. It was dark, but surprisingly she could see a dim light further in. Looking back at the opening in the ceiling, Bell wondered if she should stay here and wait for Dark or the others to find her, or see if the tunnel would lead her out of the cavern.

Nibbling her lips, Bell mulled it over options and decided to go a short ways in to look around, if she didn't see anything she would just come back. Crawling forwards, she squeezed into the tight-fitting tunnel, and worked her way deeper. Her bags scrapped along the stone sides as she slowly moved forward, the soft light ahead of her grew brighter the closer she advanced towards it.

There were spots where the tunnel opened up a little and she had an easier time making headway, but about midway, she came to a choke point where it grew so tight, she had to take her pack off and shove it ahead of her as she crawled on her belly. She was huffing with exertion, but with one final wiggle she made it through the tightest portion and she was able to crawl more easily. Snatching up her pack in her teeth, she moved forward until she came out into a much larger chamber.

The light shone through a tunnel on the far side of the chamber. It was dim, but she was able to make out a bit of the room. Sniffing the air she could smell the musky scent of wolves all around her. Quickly, Bell snatched up her spear and held it ready as she scanned the chamber. It was large, and the ground was uneven, but after a hasty search, she failed to spot any wolves.

Letting out a relieved breath, Bell carefully moved around to more closely examine the chamber. She could see wolf prints everywhere, and numerous spots where one had scratched at the ground to make a bed for itself. It looked like she found the wolves den, but without any wolves in it, thankfully.

As Bell made her way around a large stone, her hind leg touched something that suddenly stuck to her and held her leg in place. Pausing, Bell looked back as she tugged at her leg, she could see a large gooey translucent strand stuck to her leg. Tugging harder, Bell struggled to free her leg, and after a good yank, her leg jerked free of the strange strands, and she stumbled back. When she tried to catch herself, Bell felt a painful twinge in her ankle and, suddenly, her leg gave out.

With a muted exclamation, Bell fell onto something surprisingly soft and fuzzy, and rolled off. Leaning up, Bell rubbed at her ankle, while she looked over at what she had fallen on. Laying next to her she found the still body of the large wolf she faced against, on the night of the eclipse.

Letting out a squeal of surprised terror, Bell scrambled back against a loose rock and held her spear out towards the large wolf. When he didn't move to attack her, Bell lowered her spear and took a closer look, and saw that he was clearly dead. Part of his neck had been slashed open, and there was some strange, bloodied puncture marks along his back and side. In his jaws he held a strange stick-like object.

Why would he be holding a stick? Reaching out, Bell tried to pry the stick like object from his jaw, but even in death, he wouldn't relinquish his prize. Giving up, Bell stood and looked around for any clues as to what had killed him. Turning, she looked back at the loose rock she had been leaning against and her heart froze.

Bell's spear fell from her petrified mouth and dropped to the ground as her body became paralyzed in terror. What she thought had been a loose stone was in fact a spider almost as large as she was. It was laying on its belly with seven of its legs splayed out, with the eighth leg looking like it had been viciously torn out.

Bell was struggling to draw breath as she stared at her nightmare. She hated spiders. Everything about them sent shivers down her spine. It was obviously dead. It's head had been partially ripped off, and was now bent at an odd angle. Taking some steps back, Bell began to breath as she gained some distance from it. Glancing down at the large wolf's body, she now knew what it was he held in his mouth: the spiders missing leg. The two must have killed each other.

Why didn't the wolf just run away? Bell wondered. Was he fighting to defend something? Moving around behind the large wolf's body, Bell searched around near the wall and found a dug-out spot. Not seeing anything there, Bell was about to turn away when she suddenly heard a yowling squeak that made her ears shoot up.

Looking down into the dug-out area, Bell saw something move. She almost leaped back, afraid it was another spider, but another plaintive yowl came from it, making Bell pause. Carefully, she reached her hoof down and brushed at the moving mound and dislodged a partially buried soft lump that let out a series of yowling whines as she moved it out. It was a newborn wolf pup. Another mound next to the first one started to move, and with a careful scoop of her hoof, Bell pulled out another one.

Two newborn wolf pups were now squirming around on the ground at her hooves as they whined out hungrily. Glancing back at the large wolf's body, she now knew what he was fighting to defend: his pups.

Looking down at the two pups Bell wondered what she should do with them. There was no way they would survive without their mother. In fact, it was a wonder they were even still alive. They must be absolutely starving! If nothing was done, they would likely be dead by nightfall, if not soon after.

Letting out a sad sigh at the sad fate of the two newborn wolf pups, Bell retrieved her spear and moved to go out through the tunnel with the light. The hungry sounds of the wolf pups diminished behind her as she stepped down the tunnel toward the daylight she could see in front of her. Just as the stepped out into the sunlight, Bell paused and stared down at the ground. She felt horrible for those pups. She wondered if perhaps she should go back and end their suffering.

She stood there with indecision. The thought of leaving the pups to slowly die twisted at her. Lifting her hoof, Bell began to take a step away from the den, but found she couldn't get her hoof to move forwards. Why did it bother her so much? They were just wolves. Her body and those she loved were now scared because of them.

With an angry shake of her head, Bell turned back and re-entered the den. Making her way back she found the pups just where she left them. She looked down at them not sure what she was going to do. Lifting her hoof, she prepared to stomp it down on them to quickly end their suffering. Holding her hoof up, she stared down at them, with her heart pounding  in her chest. For a long moment she stayed like this, as she struggled to bring herself to do it.

Finally, she let out a breath and lowered her hoof back down. She couldn’t do it. They were just puppies. She couldn’t bring herself to kill a newborn, even if it was a wolf. Reaching down, she picked them up and dropped them both into her pack. Turning, she left the den.

Walking out into the daylight, Bell moved over to a tree. Taking her pack off and setting it onto the ground.Reaching in, she took out one of the pups and set it down, before doing the same with the other.

"What am I going to do with you two?" she asked as the two pups cried out in hunger. She moved, not thinking about what she was doing. Laying down on her side, Bell reached out and nipped one of the pups in her teeth, bringing it to her teat. As she held the pup up to her, she saw milk slowly starting to drip from the end of her teat. The scent of her milk alerted the pup to food, and it hungrily latched onto her. Taking the second pup, Bell brought it to her second teat and let it latch on as well.

Leaning back, Bell looked down at the two pups as they nursed together and she let out a sigh. "What am I doing?”

 
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