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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29. Chapter 29

Author's Note:

Events in this Chapter my be too intense for some readers. Viewers discretion is advised.

 

    Dark wanted an early start that day; every pony was up and ready to leave before the sun cleared the horizon. The fires had been put out, and the gear had been checked and packed back away before setting off for the pass. Working themselves cautiously around the lake, the party made it up into the pass without any problems. The way ahead seemed clear. To be on the safe side, Dark ordered that Sky was only to take short flights to look ahead but otherwise was remain on the ground for the rest of the time.

Ash kept an alert eye out for any dangers, especially from the air. He'd never seen a Roc before, having only heard of them in stories. They were described as being so big, their shadows would stretch far across the land below them. Mustard and Morning were once again tasked to keep an eye on him and Dusty as they traveled up the pass. It appeared that Papa wasn't going to let them off after just a day.

As they traveled, Mustard and Sky were off to the side, talking quietly with each other while Flutter Fly floated just above them with slow flaps of her wings. It had been a surprise that Flutter Fly had decided to accompany them up into the valley to help them.

Dusty had tried to walk next to them, but Sky and Mustard leveled flat gazes at him until he wisely decided to walk over by Ash and Morning.

"I don't get it," Dusty complained. "If I try to talk to them, they glare at me like I just stepped on their tails."

Morning glanced over to the two mares with an almost pained look on his face. "I wouldn't take it personally," Morning said, his face returning back to normal. "They're just having some private mare talk with each other. Stallions aren’t welcome."

Dusty glanced over to Morning. "You were a mare before. You would know what they’re talking about, right?"

"Nothing that would be a stallion's concern, that's for sure," he said gruffly. "Just accept that there are things a stallion shouldn't stick his muzzle into."

Ash glanced over to the giggling pair of mares and thought about trying to listen in on what they were saying, but decided to listen to Morning about staying out of it.

The mountains that surrounded them were tall and despite it being late summer some of the peaks still had snow on them. After a while, the party came out into a wide gently sloping valley.

In various spots along the valley, large piles of enormous boulders lay piled atop each other along sheer rock walls. It was clear to Ash as he looked about, that rockslides were not totally uncommon here.

Mirage seemed excited when they came to the midpoint of the valley and hurried over to to a tall, narrow crevice, that was hidden off to the side of the valley. A short ways in, they could see a large section of the rock wall had sheared off and blocked up the passage with huge slabs of stone.

"This is it!" Mirage exclaimed in excitement looking up at the pile of rocks and boulders blocking their way. "This is the canyon we came out of. Oh, I hope they’re still safe in there. I've been so worried!"

"We'll soon find out," Dark said softly, setting his hoof onto his sister's shoulder. "Listen up, ponies. I want the crafters to start devising a plan for how to best get the ponies over this blockage. Mosswood, you will be in charge of that. Pack carriers, I would like you to set up camp back out in the main valley. Grass Stem, you will be in charge of that. Make sure you find an area that is sheltered. Some of them may be injured. Spear Bearers, I want you all to scout out the area and set up a protective perimeter. Ground Pound will be in charge of that. Sky Twirl, Flutter Fly. I would like you two to fly on over and see how they are. Let them know that help is here."

"They've never seen a Pegasus before. We may frighten them when we fly in," Sky said, stepping closer.

Dark thought about it and his eyes settled onto Ash. "Take Ash with you. When they see a colt is with you, they'll probably feel more at ease."

Ash felt his heart beginning to race with excitement as he moved next to Sky. Papa had a job for him! He knew that Papa was still angry with him, but he hoped that when he showed him how well he’d do with this, he would earn a little bit of trust back with him. Sky bent down to let him hop up onto her back. Once he was set into place. Sky lifted off and flew up with Flutter Fly.

Below them, the ground fell away as the sheer rock face along each side streaked by. As they climbed higher, it became clear how big the rock slide had been. An enormous section of the cliff face along one side had cleaved off completely and fell down into the narrow valley below. It was lucky that Mirage and the mares with her had passed by when they did, for there would have been no hope of their surviving had they been beneath it when it came down.

Flying over the top, Ash and the two Pegasi got their first view of the sheltered valley beyond. What they saw was alarming. Mirage had told them that there had been a small stream running through the valley, but now that it had been blocked by the slide. The valley beyond was slowly beginning to flood. After eight days, just over half of the valley had already been submerged in water!

"Over there! I can see them!" Sky shouted, pointing her hoof to the far side of the new lake.

Arrayed out on raised portion of land, Ash could see a small herd of just over twenty ponies gathered together. They weren't expecting ponies to come out of the sky, so none of them saw them approaching until they came in to land.

Letting out terrified screams, the mares shied back from them in alarm as some older stallions rushed forward to see what was happening. With a light touch, Sky and Flutter Fly set their hooves to the ground. Hopping off of Sky's back, Ash jumped forward to stand before the stallions.

"Don't be afraid!" Ash shouted. "We're friends! We won't hurt you!"

"What the!?" a grey-green stallion exclaimed stopping to look down at the colt. "Who are you? And what manner of creatures are these... winged mares with you?"

"My name is Ash, and this is Sky Twirl and Flutter Fly," Ash said pointing to each as he named them. "They are Pegasi."

"Pegasi?" the stallion said, looking the two winged mares over. "Never heard of them. How do we know you are friends?"

"Mirage found us! She and the other mares are safe." Ash explained. "She asked us for help."

"Mirage?" A silvery-blue mare asked stepping closer. "They're alive?"

Ash nodded. "Yes! And Mirage brought us back to help you."

"How!?" Another mare asked. "How can two winged mares and one colt help us to get out of here?"

"In the valley on the other side of the slide, twenty more Earth Ponies are working on a way to safely get you all out." Sky said

"Earth Ponies?" The stallion asked.

"That’s what we are," Ash answered, setting a hoof to his chest. "They are Sky Ponies and we are Earth Ponies."

"How do we know you’re telling us the truth?" Another stallion asked.

"What would they gain by lying to us?" The grey-green stallion said back to the skeptical stallion behind him. "We are trapped here in a flooding valley with no way out." He looked over the rest of his tiny herd. "I lead us into this place believing that it would be safe. I was a fool. My mistake lead us to our deaths. But now there is a chance that we can be saved from my foolishness and I won't let it pass us by." He turned to look back to Ash. "We'll accept any help you can give us."

"Please," a mare said stepping forward with a young filly following close to her side. "Save our foals. Even if you have to leave us behind, take them with you."

"Yes!" another mare said carrying another filly forward, held up in her teeth. "Please, save our younglings."

Ash helped to settle some of the foals onto Sky and Flutter's backs. Once they were in place, the two Pegasi took off. Ash held on to a drooling colt that let out a happy squeal when they flew out over the lake. Next to them, Flutter had one of the older fillies clutching onto her back. Cresting over the landslide, Sky and Flutter looked for the camp that was being set up and spotted Dusty waving up at them by one of the old landslides.

When they landed, Dusty and other ponies moved forward and collected the foals from them. The camp that Grass Stem had chosen was a covered area, made by enormous boulders that had come to rest against each other, in one of the old rock slides.

Ash rode Sky back as she and Flutter returned to Dark.

"How did it go?" Dark asked when they landed. Mirage stood anxiously by his side.

"They’re scared, but are doing as well as can be," Sky answered.

Mirage let out a relieved sigh at the news.

"They have been so brave," Flutter added. "I would have been so frightened if I had been in their place."

"The valley is slowly flooding on the other side," Ash said. "If we can't save them, they'll drown."

Dark glanced down at Ash for a moment then back to Sky and Flutter. "I know this would be asking a lot of you two, but is there any way you can carry them all out?"

Sky thought about it for a moment. "We can get the foals out just fine. They're not too heavy. But the adults are another thing. I might be able to lift a mare up for a short flight, but flying them across the lake would be much too far for me. And the stallions would be much too heavy to lift up even for a short trip."

Dark looked to Flutter and saw her nod her agreement. Taking a long breath, Dark scratched his chin as they thought about the problem. "What about if you both lifted together? Could you fly a pony across the lake and over the barrier?"

Sky thought about it. "I'm not sure. How would we be able to lift together?"

"Just like how we use rope to let a pair of ponies drag a large log together. We can do the same with you two to lift a pony," Dark said. "I'll get Mosswood to work on it. In the meantime, go ahead and collect the foals and bring them back to the camp."

"Some of their foals still need the teat," Sky added. "If we’re unable to bring their mothers over with them, they'll need to be fed somehow."

"Rose Petal still has milk from her last foal," Mirage said, indicating one of the craft mares. "I'll have her go down to see to them."

"Ash," Dark said looking down to the colt. "Good job over there. Now I want you to stay with Mirage, and don't leave her side."

"Yes, Papa," Ash said and rushed after Mirage.

By the time Sky and Flutter returned from bringing the rest of the foals to their camp, Mosswood had devised a harness system with the ropes that he thought would work. Using Dark to test their rigging, they strapped him in and Sky and Flutter Fly lifted together and managed to lift him clear of the ground. After flying him around for a short while, they both set him back down, safely to the ground, before they both landed to catch their breaths from the exertion.

"Still too heavy," Sky panted. "I think we could lift you to the top of the rockslide but not much further than that."

Dark considered the two and nodded, "I understand. We'll have to come up with something different for them. Lets see how this works with a mare." Turning he looked over at his sister. "Mirage? Would you like to give it a try?"

Mirage looked at the rope harness and then up into the air. "I... don't know about this. I don’t think Earth Ponies were meant to leave the ground."

"Don't worry! It’ll be fun!" Ash assured her with a smile.

Mirage closed her eyes and let out a groan. "Oh, I know I am going to regret this, but if it will help..."

Ash helped to fit the rope harness around her. Once it was all in place, Sky and Flutter took off and started to lift Mirage up. Mirage had her eyes clamped shut the entire time they flew her around. This time they didn't seem to be struggling as much and stayed up for much longer. Taking her across the valley and back. When they finally set her back down, Mirage let out a relieved breath and collapsed to the ground.

Sky and Flutter Fly both were out of breath but not as badly as with Dark. "I think it will work," Sky declared happily.

Dark smiled. "Good. At least we can get the mares out. We'll just think of another way to get the four stallions out as well."

When they were ready, Sky and Flutter Fly lifted off and disappeared over the rockslide. Ash sat down next to Mirage to wait for them to return.

"Mirage?" Ash said, looking over at her. "What happened between Papa and his mama? He doesn't talk about her at all."

Mirage gazed forward for a time, her face set in deep thought. "Mama told me what had happened. What she had done to Darkie was one of her greatest regrets. Darkie was younger than you when Mama became pregnant with me. She cared for him as best she could but the season was harshly dry, and the fresh grasses were scarce to find. When winter set in, it became clear to her that she needed to make a choice. She told me that it was the hardest thing she had ever done." Mirage looked out at Dark, watching him argue with some of the craft ponies as they all worked on a way to rescue of the four remaining stallions. "Darkie was always so strong. That was something I admired the most in him. He never gave up. Whatever problem came up, he would meet it head on and work through it until he solved it. Mama knew that she was unable to care for him anymore. Not while she was having me, and she had to push him off onto his own."

"A choice she shouldn’t have made," Ash muttered angrily.

"It was a necessary and heartbreaking choice," Mirage continued. "Out of all the mares who tried to care for both, none made it through that horrible winter. Mama knew that Dark was strong and resilient. She knew he could make it. And she was right. That cold, hard winter changed him. It hardened him into a stallion, able to stand on his own hooves." Mirage's eyes fell to the ground. "It broke her heart whenever she saw the cold gaze he gave her whenever he looked at her. All the warmth he had for her was gone." Mirage paused to wipe at her eyes. "It's wonderful to see what his strength has driven him to accomplish. He’s done so much with his herd. No longer does a mare have to make the same terrible choice my mama had to."

"Or my mama," Ash added, causing Mirage looked down at him with a curious look. "My mama did the same to me. Dark found me buried in the snow, frozen half to death. I don't know if I would’ve lived through that winter had he not stumbled over me when he did. He took me and carried me to Meadowlark. She was pregnant, just as my mama was, and she had Celestia to care for too. Despite this, she took me in without a second thought. To me, Dark and Meadowlark are the greatest ponies ever, and I would do anything for them. I love them, and I love Celestia and Luna too. They’re my family and I would protect them with everything I have, even at the cost of my own life."

Mirage smiled as she gazed down at Ash. "I believe you would. I see in you the same strength that Darkie has."

Above them, Sky and Flutter Fly reappeared with a terrified mare dangling below them. Lowering her down, they carefully set her to the ground. Mirage rushed over and hugged her. "Oh, Tender Vale! I’m so happy the plan worked! How is everypony doing in there!? How is my mother?"

"It was horrible in there, Mirage," the mare gasped in relief at feeling the firm ground beneath her hooves again. "We all thought we were going to die!"

"What about my mother?" Mirage pressed. "How is she?"

"Her illness has grown worse. She's coughing a lot now, and none of us could get her to eat much the last few days. Where's my little colt?" she asked looking around. "I don't see him."

"He's down at our camp. I'll bring you down to him," Mirage said and turned to Ash. "Ash, please help me take the harness off her."

Once Tender Vale was free, Sky and Flutter gathered up the loose lines and took off to collect the next mare. Doing as Papa told him, Ash stayed with Mirage as they showed Tender Vale down to their camp.

Things were going well and Sky and Flutter Fly managed to collect three more before the sun began to disappear behind the mountaintops to the west. They wanted to go for one more, but Dark told them that with night setting in, it was too dangerous to continue.

They were halfway back to the camp and the shadows from the mountains had already stretched to the far side of the valley when they heard a strange rhythmic rumbling coming from further down in the valley.

"Look!" Mosswood exclaimed pointing her hoof. "That tree just shook!"

Sure enough, as they watched they saw another tree suddenly shake, as if something had struck it. Then they saw a third tree abruptly topple over followed by a cracking sound that reverberated up the valley.

"What is that?" somepony asked nervously.

Ash was wondering the same when he suddenly saw two ponies come dashing out of the trees, followed a moment later by a giant, horrible creature Ash had never seen, but had heard described in some of the most scary stories he had ever heard Sage tell. Some of the foals had been so scared by the story, they ran to their mamas to cry. Melodious had to come and swat Sage across the back of his head, telling him to stop scaring the foals with his monster stories.

The creature was enormous. Its two heads nearly cleared the tops of the trees, and its short, stubby legs, propelled its great, ungainly bulk forward with surprising swiftness as it pursued the two ponies. No. There were three ponies! The second pony that followed after the first had a pony on its back, and it was clear that the pony was growing tired and would soon falter. When that happened, the hydra would have its pony meal.

"Everypony who doesn’t have a spear, get back to camp and hide yourselves as far into the safety of the rocks as you can!" Dark shouted out. "Ground Pound, and everypony else who has a spear, come with me! We’re going to save those ponies!"

"Dark! You can't help them!" Mirage shouted in distress. "There is no way you can face a hydra! It'll kill you!"

"Mirage! Take Ash with you. Go!" With that, Dark took his spear into his mouth and charged down the slope.

Ash's heart was racing with worry and panic as he hurried with the rest of the ponies back to the camp. Papa was facing something that could eat a pony in one bite! When they arrived at the camp, Mirage quickly explained what was happening down below. When she finished, several of the spear bearers ran off to help their Herd Father. Mustard and Morning grabbed their spears and went to go as well but Mirage was quick to stop them.

"No! You two are to stay here and protect the ponies here," Mirage shouted at them. "Help me get them all as far inside as we can, where it's safe!" she said, indicating a deep cavity that was left by a massive leaning slab of fallen rock resting against another.

Ash struggled with whether he should help Mirage or go to Dark. His heart was torn. Dark had told him to stay with Mirage, and he knew that he would want him where it was safe, but he had made a promise too, to protect those he loved! Knowing that he was disobeying Dark again. Ash snatched up a spear from the packs.

"Ash! What are you doing!?" Mirage shouted out to him.

Ash glanced back and met Mirage's frightened eyes for a brief moment before he turned and rushed off down the slope. Behind him, he heard Mirage shouting for him to come back.

 

 

 

 

☽☽

 

 

 

 

    Dark gripped his spear tightly in his teeth as he ran. He hoped feverishly that they were going to be in time. Breaking out of the trees, they came out into the long meadow that ran along the center of the valley. Ahead of them he could see the three ponies still running from the pursuing hydra, but the second pony that was burdened with the third pony on its back was lagging further behind.

Pausing, Dark stuck his spear into the ground. "Hurry! Over here!" he shouted out, waving his hoof.

The pony in the lead turned her head at his shout and looked over at him. They was now close enough for him to tell that they were all mares, but not only that, but he also noticed that they all had horns on their heads! They were Unicorns!

The lagging unicorns struggled to follow after, as the lead mare ran ahead to Dark and the other Earth Ponies. Why wasn't she helping the other two? Dark wondered. The hydra was closing in on the pair and it was licking its lips in eagerness as it prepared itself for a tasty meal.

“Ground Pound and I will draw the hydra’s attention. The rest of you, help get those unicorns to safety!” Snatching up his spear, Dark charged out. Behind him, he heard the thundering hoofsteps of the rest of his ponies following after him.

The deep auburn unicorn mare blinked in astonishment as they all passed her by, charging themselves courageously right at the pursuing hydra. Passing the second set of mares, Dark gazed up at the towering form of the hydra that was bearing down on him.

Seeing Dark coming right at him, the hydra lowered one of its heads and opened it maw to snatch him up. With a quick turn, Dark dodged the over eager strike and rushed around behind the hydra.

One of the hydra's heads turned to follow after him as the other head reached out to try and grab Ground Pound as he swerved the other way. Avoiding the hydra's thick, stubby tail, Dark leveled his spear and drove it into its tough hide. The sharp stone spear tip pierced deeply into its thigh.

Letting out a pained roar, one of its heads swung around to bite at Dark. Releasing his entrapped spear, Dark bucked out his hind hooves and managed to catch the hydra's lower jaw with a solid blow that stunned it enough for him to gain some much needed distance!

On the other side, Ground Pound rushed in and slashed his spear around and sliced open the second head's nose with the sharp speartip. With blood running down its face, the hydra snapped at the stallion, just missing him as he barely managed to dodge the strike.

Dark took a chance to look around and saw Holly Hock and Mulberry Surprise helping the two unicorns. They just needed a few more moments more to make their escape! Without his spear, his options were more limited. Seeing that both of the hydra's heads were now tracking in on Ground Pound, Dark scooped up a stone and tossed it up into the air. Quickly turning himself, Dark bucked his hoof. With a crack, he sent the stone flying right at one of the hydra's heads, striking it just over its brow.

Shaking its head, the hydra quickly focused onto Dark. Running around, Dark forced its head around to the side so it wouldn't be able to strike at him. Glancing back, Dark saw that Holly and Mulberry had vanished safely into the woods with the two unicorns.

"Ground!" Dark shouted scooping up another stone. "Get back to the camp!" He tossed the stone up and bucked it into one of the hydra's faces.

"What of you!?" Ground asked, circling around to dodge another clumsy snap.

"Don't worry about me! Just go!" Dark ordered.

"I won't leave you behind!" Ground shouted back before rushing in and stabbing his spear into the hydra's stomach.  

"No! Don't try to pull it out!" Dark cried out when he saw Ground pull to remove the stuck spear. His warning came too late when the hydra stepped back so both its heads could snap down at the hapless stallion below it.

In a desperate attempt to save Ground, Dark rushed forward and bucked his hoof right into the butt of his own stuck spear, driving it deeper into its thigh. Letting out an agonized roar of pain, the hydra jerked its body around, and whipped its tail right into Dark, sending him flying.

The impact of its tail had driven the air out of Dark's lungs, and he felt his body tumbling through the air. Closing his eyes, Dark gritted his teeth when he felt his body smash painfully into the ground, where he rolled to a stop. He needed to get back up! But the world around him was spinning too much as he struggled to draw in a breath. The ground rumbled under him as the hydra stomped closer to claim its prey.

 

 

☽☽

 

 

    Ash dashed out into the clearing just in time to see Dark get knocked to the ground. Seeing his papa laying lifelessly as the hydra closed in on him, Ash felt something inside him suddenly rise up. His legs were moving before he even thought about it, and his hooves tore at the soft soil as he raced down into the valley as fast as he could. Everything seemed to be moving slowly around him. He could see Ground Pound clamping his teeth onto the hydra's tail and dragging his hooves through the dirt as he futilely tried to halt the beast’s advance.

His blood felt like it was on fire, and his ears roared with the thunderous clap of his heartbeat. Every part of his body tingled like he’d been struck by lightning. He could feel a power welling up inside himself in response to his need to save the one he loved.  

The hydra stepped up to Dark and reached one of its heads down to the prone stallion’s body, its mouth eagerly opening wide to taste the flesh of a pony.

With a last burst of speed, Ash made it to Dark just before the hydra closed its mouth around him. Bracing his hooves to either side of the hydra's mouth, Ash held its jaws open with a new strength that raged through his body. Blinking in surprise, the hydra struggled to clamp its mouth shut but Ash held firm and kept its jaws locked open.

Below him, Dark's eyes blinked open and he looked up to meet Ash's eyes. "Ash!?"

"I'm sorry, Papa,” Ash said. “I didn't stay with Mirage like you told me to.”

Suddenly the hydra lifted his head up and shook it viciously as it attempted to dislodge the colt. Losing his grip in its slippery mouth, Ash was hurled out and tumbled onto the ground a fair distance away. Behind the hydra, Ground Pound was swatted away when the hydra flicked its tail.

Climbing back to his hooves, Ash turned and faced the enraged hydra and met its gaze unflinchingly. Just like with the manticore, he now saw the hydra for what it was. A tiny insignificant creature that was no more than a worm. The air around him crackled as he drew on the power of his love and devotion for Dark. The ground beneath his hooves trembled as he stepped forward.

The hydra’s eyes on both of its heads widened in terror as the colt approached it. The trees and every blade of grass cast a shadow from the brightness that now surrounded Ash's body. Ponies watching from the edge of the forest had to shade their eyes from the sight. Closing on the hydra, Ash’s gaze bore into it with eyes that burned like flames.

When he spoke, his voice thundered out across the valley. "I will not allow you to eat my Papa!"

Rearing up, Ash drew his hoof back and struck the beast as hard as he could. The moment his hoof impacted the hydra, a great surge of power exploded out of him. With a deafening boom, the hydra was hurled back through the air across the valley, where it impacted the cliff face with a wet thump that shook the mountain.

With a deep, thunderous crack, a large section of the cliff broke loose and crumbled to the ground below with a roar. In moments, the hydra's remains were buried under a mountain of stones as it all crashed down atop it.

Everything disappeared in a flash of light as Ash felt himself falling.

 

 

 

 

☽☽

 

 

Starless Night gazed out in shock as the colt collapsed to the ground. She had never witnessed such a display before. A lone, magic-less, dirt pony colt had just killed a hydra! What kind of ponies did she just find herself being saved by?

Tranquil Charm and the other surviving low blood, Grand Vista, rested nearby as a dirt pony checked over her broken leg. Ponies started to arrive bringing burning branches to light the area. Starless Night gazed at them in wonder. They controlled fire!?

Just then, the most handsome, light grey stallion she had ever seen, stepped into the firelight and stopped to examine her and the other two for a brief moment. Laying draped over his strong back was the charcoal brown colt she had just seen killing the hydra.

“Greetings. My name is Dark Storm,” the stallion said, his voice both strong and warm. “The danger is passed. You are all safe now.”

His intelligent, deep blue eyes met hers and she felt her heart suddenly racing in her chest. Opening her mouth, she attempted to reply, but only just managed to let out a croak before everything turned to darkness as she fainted, collapsing on the leaf-strewn forest floor.

 
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