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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24. Chapter 24

"Something's wrong."

Ash woke up. Sitting up, he rubbed at his crusty eyes before he looked around, blinking. He saw that it was still night. The fire was freshly filled with wood so it was burning brightly, casting its light in wide circle around their camp. Not far from where he lay, he saw Dark standing with Happy, who kept pointing up at the sky and waving his hoof about as he muttered about something not being right. Dark gazed about at the star filled sky with a look of concern on his face.

Nearby, Mirage was still sleeping soundly as she snored loudly through her gaping mouth, drool dripping down the side of her face. Wondering what had Dark so worried, Ash got up and quietly walked over to him.

"I see what you mean, but I don't understand how this can be," Dark said to the perpetually surly stallion next to him.

"What's wrong?" Ash asked, looking up at the night sky, trying to see what had their attention.

Dark shook his head as he stared up in confusion. "I'm not sure." Bending himself down to Ash's level, Dark pointed his hoof up at a cluster of stars. "Do you remember what that constellation right there is called?"

Gazing up at the stars that Dark was pointing out, Ash nibbled on his lip as he searched his memory. Dark had him and Celestia stay up with him a few nights as he taught them both what he knew about the stars and their shapes. The constellation that Dark was pointing at was about the size of his hoof held out, and it formed a curved line with a cluster of four bright stars at one end. "I... think it's the Turtle," he answered finally when he thought he had it. "Am I right?"

Dark gave him an impressed smile as he nodded. "Yes, indeed you are correct. That is the Turtle."

Ash smiled at having gotten it right but then he frowned in thought as he looked back up at the constellation. Why was Dark and Happy so worried about the Turtle constellation? Squinting his eyes up at the stars, Ash carefully examined the constellation. "Is there something wrong with it?"

"Aye, lad. It shouldn't be there" Happy cut in gruffly.

Shouldn't be there? Ash was confused. Examining the area around it he saw nothing unusual. The Hare was just ahead of it, and the Snowy River that flowed across the night sky, cut through just behind it. "What do you mean? I don't see anything wrong with where it's at."

Dark shook his head. "Look again. It's the mere fact you can even see the Turtle is what is wrong. The morning was supposed to have broken before it was due to rise."

Ash blinked in befuddlement, not sure what he meant. How could they have missed the morning? "Did the sun forget to wake up?"

Both stallions turned their heads to look down at the colt. Ash glanced between the two as he wondered if he had somehow said something wrong.

"Well," Happy said, breaking the silence, "that's probably the best explanation I’ve heard so far." Strangely, Ash noticed that he had an unusual curl to his lip that looked strangely like a smile. Surely he was just seeing things. There was no way he had just seen Happy smile.

Dark blinked at Happy with a surprised look. Giving his head a little shake to clear it, he turned his attention back to Ash and playfully mussed his mane. "Okay, smarty colt, how about you think of a way to wake it up while I get everypony up, okay?"

 

 

☽☽☽☽

 

 

"What are we going to do!?"

"Will the sun ever return!?"

"What will happen if it doesn't come back!?"

"Something should be done!"

“Somepony do something!”

"This is the end! We're all going to die!" a mare with a tiger lily cutie mark shouted out before she fainted.

Celestia watched as her mother desperately tried to calm the panicked ponies. They had all started to gather in the longhouse when it was discovered that the sun had failed to rise that morning, and now ponies were milling about in a panicked mob. The fire that had been put out late during the previous night had quickly been restarted so ponies could huddle under its warm light.

Celestia held Luna close to herself. She wished that Papa and Ash was there with them. Papa always had a way of making everything alright again, and Ash was always good to lean against when she was scared, to make her feel safe. She missed them both.

An anxious looking Strawberry Zest wandered over and sat down next to her. Her eyes kept glancing around the room at all the worried ponies that filled it. "Celestia?” she asked breaking the silence between them. “Do you... think the sun will ever come back?" Her voice quaked with barely suppressed terror.

Celestia had been avoiding Strawberry ever since she saw her kiss Ash on his cheek, but hearing the quiver in her friend's voice just now caused her to suddenly realize how much she needed to hear a comforting word from a friend. The cold anger that she felt for her suddenly evaporated as she reached out and laid a comforting hoof over Strawberry's.

"Strawberry, I’m positive that it will come back soon. Just you wait. Before you know it, its light will break over the horizon just like it's always done before," Celestia assured her, giving her her most confident smile.

"You really think so?" A voice suddenly asked from behind them. Looking back, Celestia saw Tulip walking up with Misty Glen, Pine Blossom, Soft Step and Bumblebee, all following along with her.

Celestia glanced around at all her friends and noticed that they were all looking back at her with hopeful expressions. She had only been trying to comfort Strawberry and make her feel better, but suddenly seeing all her friends looking to her for hope caught her by surprise. Glancing around the room, she saw saw how much turmoil filled the room. Her mother was surrounded by members of the Mares’ Circle as they all spoke with her about what to do to calm the panicking ponies.

By the fire, Bell sat with Dove, who was holding her new filly close to herself. Strongbuck stood protectively over them as he glared about the room with menace in his eyes. Celestia had never seen him looking so scary before.

Earlier, some of the ponies suggested that the cause of the long night was because Dove took in the abandoned Unicorn filly, saying she must have angered the Unicorns, who Sky had described as having control over the heavens. A small group lead by a stallion named Nettle Bush tried to take Aurora, but Strongbuck quickly jumped in and viciously attacked the group and forced them to retreat back.

Hoof Strike, with several of his more trusted spears, were now stationed around the room to suppress any more attempts that might crop up as well as to keep an eye on the surly looking group of bloody-nosed and swollen-eyed ponies, that just learned how fierce a stallion can become to protect his family. More than a couple of them had earned their wounds from Bell, with the stallion, Nettle Bush, now having trouble sitting comfortably due to a well placed buck from the usually peaceful Dove to his more sensitive region.

Seeing all the anxiety, fear, anger, and worry around the room, Celestia felt that something needed to be done. Hugging Luna close to herself, Celestia closed her eyes and took a breath. She let the words flow out from her as she began to sing

Everypony stopped what they were doing to turn and listen to her. Unnoticed, Aurora's horn began to glow with magic.

 

 

 

 

~✹✹~

 

 

 

 

 

Gaze at the night

 

And stand close to me

Hold your head up

And have courage to see

The evening is glittering

With moonlight tonight.

That's what you'll see if you try

I know you have strength

Hidden deep inside.

You just have to have faith

And trust in your heart

Giving you guidance

From your fear of the dark.

That's what I know resides,

The courage you keep inside

Deep in the night,

Our hearts will be strong.

Deep in the dark,

We'll all stand as one.

Together we face out

To protect those we hold dear

And with hope and love to cherish this night,

Dawn will shine forth and bring us its light.

I see the starlight shining down from the heavens.

I know there are those with the courage to stand with me

And I can feel the love of those that surrounds me

Breaking every boundary

And show us the strength

To be warriors of the night.

Gaze at the sky,

You'll see the light.

With all of our courage,

We'll withstand the night,

And we'll finally see clear,

The coming of the morning sunrise.

 

 

 

 

 

~☽☽~

 

 

 

 

As Celestia's clear voice rang out across the longhouse with her hope inspiring song to all the ponies gathered there, Twilight Aurora's horn continued to grow steadily brighter. Concerned, Dove met Bell’s gaze as they both wondered what was happening with her.

Ponies were absolutely still as they all listed to Celestia’s beautiful voice singing out to the packed room. Many ponies moved closer to their loved ones, where they then nuzzled with them or put their hooves around each other as they cuddled close to one another. The palpable sense of fear and worry that filled the room just moments earlier was now gone, replaced by a warm sense of hope.

Little Aurora’s horn had grown so bright now, it nearly filled the entire room, and as Celestia reached the conclusion of her song, her horn suddenly burst out with with a radiant light that momentarily dazzled all the ponies with its intensity, lasting only moments before fading back down. Finished with whatever she did, Aurora yawned and snuggled her head into Dove before falling back to sleep.

The longhouse was now completely silent as every pony stared over at the Unicorn filly in amazement. "Dove?" Meadowlark called out as she blinked her dazzled eyes clear. "What did…? What did she just do?"

"I don't really know," Dove answered, giving her head a mystified shake. "She sometimes lifts things up, or throw things with her magic, but this is the first time I’ve seen her do something like this."

"I think she really liked Celestia's singing," Bell added thoughtfully with a nod towards Celestia.

Celestia blinked in surprise as everypony suddenly turned their gaze to her. Throwing out a sheepish smile, she shrugged her shoulders.

"Fire!" a pony screamed, bolting into the longhouse in a panic. Seeing Meadowlark, he raced over to her and skidded to a stop. "The sky! It's… it's on fire!" he shouted out breathlessly.

At his shouted words, the room suddenly erupted in pandemonium. Meadowlark desperately waved her hoof and called out for ponies to calm down, but she was having little effect on the panicked ponies.

Melodious, seeing that Meadowlark needed help, stepped up next to her and let out the loudest, and most shrill whistle Celestia had ever heard before. It was likely ponies heard her on the far side of the settlement, if not in the western woods. Luna, as well as almost every other foal in the room, started bawling. The ponies quickly quieted down as they all rubbed at their pained ears.

Rubbing and patting Luna’s back, Celestia shushed at her in comforting tones, working to quiet her back down. By the time she had Luna settled, most of the ponies, including her mother, had gone outside to look up at the sky.

Holding Luna as best as she could with one hoof, Celestia hobbled to the door and stepped out. Everywhere she looked she saw ponies staring up in the sky. Looking up, Celestia gasped. The sky really was on fire! A red glow swirled and shimmered across the sky.

"It's been a long while since I last seen one of those," Sage Brush commented over to her, as he sat nearby with both of his colts, Summer and Winter, sitting on his back.

"Last seen one?" Celestia repeated out loud as she tried to puzzle out what he meant. Suddenly, it hit her. "You've seen the sky do this before!?"

Sage continued to gaze up at the heavens as he smiled and nodded. "Aye, that I have."

"What is it!?" Celestia quickly asked. "Is the sky really on fire!?"

Sage Brush let out a chuckle and shook his head. "No, the sky’s not on fire." Turning, Sage nodded towards Dove, Bell and Strongbuck, who were all sitting together looking up at the sky. "She did well naming that filly what she did."

Celestia was confused. "Aurora? What do you mean naming her well?"

"Aurora, in the old days, meant the dawn," Sage explained. "Later, ponies started to use it to describe the lights that would sometimes appear in the night sky, especially up north where it was cold."

Celestia looked back up at the sky. "Is that what this is then? An aurora?"

"That's right" Sage answered with a smile. "Beautiful, isn't it?"

Celestia nodded as she continued to gaze up. "Yes it is, but also... a bit scary."

Suddenly, streamers of green rippled across the sky. Everypony gasped, watching the red fade down as the new color took over. Staring up at the beautiful lights that played across the sky, Celestia dropped her eyes down to look over at Twilight Aurora. Did she do this? Is that what she did inside with her burst of magic?

 

 

 

 

✹✹✹✹

 

 

 

 

"Which one of you did it!? Who? Tell me!" Astral screamed in a fury, spittle flying from her mouth. Above her the aurora shimmered brightly in the dark sky. She tried to dispel it several times now, but every time she tried, her spell was repulsed back from it,  which was impossible. It would mean the caster was stronger than she was! It had to be several Unicorns working together!

Arrayed out on top of the Pillar of the Heavens was every Patron and High Blood Unicorn who was capable of accomplishing such a desecration that was happening currently in the sky above them. Astral marched along the gathered ponies, glaring into their midst, trying to deduce who would have the audacity to touch her beautiful heavens with their dirty, foul magic!

Spying a young mare with a rare destiny mark on her flank, Astral came to a stop. Astral had always been proud to have her own destiny mark of a moon eclipsing the sun, having received it when she first acted as a Focus for her own mother. "You!" Astral exclaimed, yanking a young mare with a constellation mark forward with her magic. "You did this, didn't you!? Admit it!"


The young mare huddled herself up in fear and quickly shook her head in denial as a puddle of urine spread out from under her when she lost control of her bladder.

With a sneer of distaste, Astral released the terrified mare and resumed her search. Who? Who? Who would have done it? So many unicorns with strong talents, it could have been any of them, or... perhaps all of them. The thought of all of them working against her, possibly to replace her with one of their own ran through her mind. She wouldn't put that past them. Many of the Patrons came from powerful bloodlines that would just love to get their hooves on what was hers.

Her eyes traveled over Twinkle Night, who had taken over her daughter, Brilliant Dawn's, duty as Focus. She was quiet and efficient, though not as efficient as Brilliant Dawn of course, and she came from probably the most talented bloodlines outside of her own. It was no secret that Twinkle Night's family had high aspirations, and had been extremely pleased that Twinkle had been chosen to be the new Focus. Doing something like this would almost be expected of them.

She let her gaze settle on the young mare for a lengthy time as she considered what to do about her. She could be a danger to her and her plans and there were others that could replace her. In fact, her daughter, Dazzling Evening, looked like she had enough talent to become a rather skilled Focus someday. Perhaps in a year or two she could take her rightful place by her side.

Finally, Astral turned away and moved on. Behind her she could hear Twinkle Night let out a sigh of relief as she moved off from her. They were all working against her. There is no doubt in her mind that they were obviously jealous of her.

Standing stiffly before the gathered ponies, Starburst stared out over them with a cold hard eye while Astral's daughter, Radiant, stood attentive behind her. Starburst came from a branching family that still had close ties with hers, so Astral felt confident that her loyalty would stay with her blood.

Coming to a stop next to Starburst, Astral met her unflinching gaze. "Starburst, I want you to remain here and question each and every one of them for who is responsible. I don't care what you have to do, just find who it is." Without waiting for a response, Astral focused on her quarters in the mountain and Teleported herself away.

The biting cold of the neither sank into her skin as she waited for her transport to finish. Around her was absolutely nothing, no light, no sound, nothing, just an intense cold that froze any traveler that passed through the neither when they teleported long distances. The only sound she could hear in this realm of nothing was the sound of her heartbeat as it pounded loudly in her ears.

With a sudden pop, Astral appeared in her spacious and will lit quarters. Glittering Crystal had always made sure to have all the light crystals in the chamber fully charged with magic for whenever Astral teleported home.

“Welcome back,” she said in greeting. “I have your meal set out for you in case you're hungry.” Sitting out on a raised slab of stone that stuck up out of the floor, were three discolored pears, some nuts and a small pile of dried grass.

Ignoring the distasteful excuse for food, Astral marched past it as she headed for the door. “Come with me,” she ordered.

With her horn lit up brightly, Astral lead the way through the maze of corridors that lead through the mountain, Glittering Crystal staying close behind her. Deep into the core of the old volcano they traveled, right to the very heart of the mountain.

Walking down a long winding corridor, Astral came to an arched opening with two Casters set guarding it. Seeing Astral, the two guards bowed their heads down and let her pass. Glittering Crystal paused as she came to the opening, unsure as to whether to follow her in.

“Don’t dally Glitter,” Astral snapped over her shoulder causing the  mare to jump and quickly follow her in.

The chamber they entered was enormous. With a flick of her horn, Astral sent magic to the mass of light crystals that surrounded the large chamber, quickly illuminating the large space with their soft light. Stepping out onto a large, thick plug of cooled magma that made up the floor of the chamber, Astral approached a massive crystal set in the center of the chamber.

Their hoofsteps echoed out into the huge chamber as they walked over to the large crystal. Strange flickers of motion seemed to play within its clear depths as the drew near. Glittering Crystal swallowed nervously. She didn’t know what it was that they were approaching, but the sight of it made her shudder for some reason.

Stepping up to the crystal, Astral stopped and looked up at it as she appeared to be waiting for something to happen. Glitter stood shivering behind her as she gazed into the large crystal. There was something about it she didn’t like and she had to fight the urge to run away. Suddenly something within it caught her eyes. Deep in the crystal something moved. Something large. Glitter blinked in amazement as a figure moved closer from within the crystal’s depths. Like a fish swimming to the surface of a clear pool, a form flowed right up to the surface of the crystal and looked out at them.

“My, my. What a surprise to see you here,” said a distinctly feminine voice. “From how you left the last time you visited my lovely confinement so many years ago, I thought I would never see you again.”

Glittering had never seen a creature like it before and grimaced from the horrid hodgepodge of parts that comprised it.

The creatures had what looked like a donkey left leg and a deer right. Her left arm appeared to be that of an owl with her right being that of a leopard paw. Her head was at least that of a pony, but with a moose antler sticking out of the top of the left side of her head, with an antelope antler on her right. Her long neck and body had stripes like a zebra with the short black mane that stood upright along the crest of her neck. On her long sinuous back, she had a large butterfly wing on her left side and a month wing on her right. Her tail was that of a porcupine.  

“The last time you were here, you called me a foul, grotesque monstrosity that never should have been allowed to exist.” The creature held up her leopard paw and examined her claws with a raised eyebrow. “You know, I’ve never been much for flattery, but that kind of made me blush.”

“I am not here to reminisce about the past,” Astral growled with a distaste. “I am here to make a bargain with you, Avarice.”

The creature who Astral had called Avarice, looked up with sudden interest as she reached out and pressed her owl talon to the inside surface of the crystal. “Oh really? A bargain you say? Oh how I do so enjoy a good bargain,” her voice purred at the end as she eagerly licked her lips. “What is it that you desire?”

Astral gazed up at the grinning monstrosity without flinching or looking away. “I want the Gemstone.”

The strange creature lifted one of her eyebrows as she gave a sneering smile. “Oh… so she told you of that before she died, did she? How very surprising.” lifting up her paw, a blood red faceted gemstone the size of a sparrow egg appeared over it, “did your grand-dam also tell you why she gave this up to me?”

Astral looked like she wasn’t going to answer but then she let out an irritated sigh when she saw that Avarice was waiting for her to answer while she held the gem up. “She told me she traded it to you so she could have a foal.” Astral answered.

Avarice smiled a toothy smile. “Indeed she did. If it wasn’t for me, she would never had had your mother, and in turn, you.” she pointed a claw at Astral.

“If you are wanting a thank you, you won’t get it from me.” Astral growled irritably.

Avarice floated back from the edge of the crystal with a hurt expression on her face. “I never get any gratitude for all I have done for you ponies. The sun and moon are yours because of me! And do I get one thank you? No! I get locked away in here all alone, away from my family. My little Discord must be driving Strife crazy by now.” Avarice turned and crossed her arms as the red gemstone floated over her shoulder.

Astral let out a snort. “You stole the sun and moon for your greedy self and broke the magic that controlled the heavens motions! Your actions created so much havoc to nature and time, the Great Spirits had to step in and seal you inside that crystal to keep you from causing any more harm to the world!” she exclaimed in irritation. “Do you even know how many unicorns died learning the magic to fix what you had wrought!? And you want a thank you for that!?"

Avarice turned and smiled brightly as she bowed her head. “Your welcome.”

Glitter wavered on her hooves as her mind rocked with the astonishment of what she had just discovered. Unicorns were not always controlling the sun and moon? And this grotesque creature was the one responsible for disrupting its natural order in the first place? Why was this not openly known?

Astral didn’t look amused at the creature's mocking antics and she scowled. “Enough of this. I told you I want the gemstone, give me your price.”

“I see your tact has improved over the years.” Avarice commented with amusement in her voice. Moving closer to the inner surface of the crystal, she brought the red gemstone to rest just above her paw again, “are you sure you want this? Do you remember what nearly happened to your grand-dam during the time she used it?”

“I know of the danger, so save me you're overly concerned warnings,” Astral snapped. “State the price!”

“Very well then.” Avarice pursed her lips as she considered Astral thoughtfully. “I want you to bring me the one who was responsible for coloring the sky.” She finally answered pointing a claw upwards at the chamber's ceiling, to the aurora that still played in the sky above the mountain.

Astral blinked in surprise before her eyes narrowed in anger. “How do you know of that!? There’s no way you could have known, unless…?” Astral suddenly looked angry enough to chew stone. “Somepony told you! Who!? Who’s been talking to you!?”

Avarice reared herself up with a gasp and placed her paw to her chest. “How dare you accuse me of seeing other ponies! I assure you I am not that kind of draconequus!” She then bent down and smiled smugly at Astral, “and besides, what would be the fun in telling?”

Astral glared mutely at the draconequus, looking like she wanted to bit her. “Why do you want this mysterious caster?”

“That,” Avarice stated with a toothy grin, “is for me to know, and for you to never find out.” She then reached her paw out and pressed her pad against the inside surface of the crystal. “So, do we have a deal? I give you the gemstone you want, and you bring me the mysterious caster that I want.”

Astral considered the draconequus for a time, her eyes never leaving her. Finally she slowly stepped forward right up to the side of the crystal. Lifting her hoof, Astral placed it against the crystal, right over Avarice’s paw. “I agree to the deal.”

“It is done! The bargain is made.” Avarice declared in open glee.

Astral gasped when she suddenly found she couldn’t pull her hoof from the crystal. “What are you doing? Release me at once!” She ordered.

Avarice’s bent her head down so it was level with Astral’s, her gleeful smile becoming menacing. “Not before I collect something first.” Extending one of her owl talons she slowly slid the sharp tip along the inner-surface of the crystal, as she did so, a thin red cut appeared on Astral’s leg just above where her hoof was stuck against the side of the crystal.

Astral grimaced in pain as she struggled to pull her hoof away from the crystal. “How dare you! This was not part of our deal,” she shouted in outrage.

Avarice ignored her complaints as she lifted her talon from the crystal and held it out towards Astral’s cut. The blood that now seeped from her injury flowed along her leg and dripped not down onto the stone ground, but instead, dripped forward right onto the crystal surface! Holding her clawed talons over the pool of blood, Avarice drew the blood into the crystal and formed it into a ball right over her open claws. When she was satisfied that she had enough, she took her leopard paw off the crystal, releasing Astral, who stumbled back in surprise at having been let go.

Smiling at the floating ball of Astral’s blood, Avarice cupped her paw and talons around it. With sudden flash of light, the ball of blood suddenly turned into a shiny black orb that looked like it was made of polished stone.

Astral lifted her injured leg and cast a spell onto it to stop the bleeding. “I demand to know what you just did!”

Closing her paw around the orb, Avarice smiled out at a infuriated Astral. “Oh, I just needed a little collateral before I handed the gemstone over to you.” Opening her paw, she held the orb out so Astral could see it. “You see, if you fail to bring me the one I desire, or if any harm comes to my prize,” with a light touch with the tip of her talon, Avarice lightly scraped it across the orb. Astral suddenly  gasped and clutched a hoof to her chest in pain, “our bargain will be broken and I will claim you instead.”

Glitter rushed forward to help her matriarch.

“I have not been known for my patience, so I would not take too long if I were you. Find my prize and bring it to me. If you fail me,” she then closed her paw around the orb and squeezed. Astral cried out and crumpled to her knees, gasping for breath, “it will be you who will be mine.”

Avarice opened her paw and Astral gasped out in sudden relief. Slowly, with Glitter’s help, she clambered back to her hooves to glare up at the smirking draconequus.

The blood-red gemstone floated down to Avarice’s talon, taking it, she held it out and passed it through the crystal surface where it dropped down onto the stone ground, coming to rest right before Astral’s hoof. “Take it and go. Remember to keep our bargain and bring me what I desire.”

Astral snatched up the gemstone in her magic and held it to her chest. Turning away she let Glittering Crystal help her cross back to the passageway they came in from. Behind them, they could hear Avarice’s chilling laughter following them out.

 

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