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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31. Chapter 31

Mustard felt a strange kind of nervousness as she stared down at a small group of little foals. Their exhausted mothers had left the three fillies and one rather rambunctious colt in her and Morning’s care while they napped in the shade of a nearby tree. Looking very much like a proud father with his foal, Morning was smiling to himself as he rocked a sleeping filly in the crook of his leg.

How did this happen!? Mustard asked herself in panicked bewilderment as she looked down at the other three foals. She didn’t know anything about foals!

An orange filly, a few shades lighter than she was, was happily burbling to herself as she played with a blue flower she had been given. Sitting next to her, a blueish-pink filly kept trying to stand onto her hooves but kept flopping back down onto her rump. The light-tan colt happily gambled about in the grass. Mustard found she had to constantly nab the little colt from just dashing off.

The bluish-pink filly who had been struggling to stand up, flopped over forward when she lost her balance and fell face down into the ground. Letting out a scream, she began to bawl her eyes out. Moving over quickly to the distressed filly, Mustard hovered over her in panicked indecision as she wondered what she was supposed to do!

“Don’t just stand there looking like the filly is going to grow a second head,” Morning snapped at her. “Pick her up and comfort her.”

Mustard was terrified that she might accidentally hurt the filly. Gingerly she reached her hoof around the wailing filly and hesitated with worry.

“What are you doing? Just pick her up!” Morning said firmly.

Taking a quick breath, Mustard quickly scooped the filly up into her hoof. Holding her awkwardly up, the filly continued to cry. “Okay, I picked her up, but she’s still crying. What do I do!?” Mustard asked in a rush.

“Don’t hold her away from you like that,” Morning instructed harshly. “Hold her to close yourself. Let her feel that you are near.”

Moving the filly in, Morning carefully set her against her chest, and held her there as gently as she could. To her dismay, the filly continued to cry. What was she doing wrong!? Mustard desperately searched her mind for what she should do. Why didn’t she pay more attention to mares when they were comforting their foals!?

Failing to come up with something, Mustard gave into instincts and did what she felt was natural. Holding the filly a little tighter against herself, Mustard began to slowly rock her body back and forth as she murmured soothingly to her. This seemed to work as the filly began to settle down into her embrace. Heartened, Mustard smiled as she relaxed at last. Closing her eyes, Mustard felt a pleasant feeling of contentment come over her and she began to hum a simple melody to her.

The little filly was soft against her chest, and her breathing evened out as she slowly began to fall asleep. Mustard was surprised at how good this felt. Her heart swelled with a strange warmth that made her feel like she had crawled into a campfire. Letting out a happy sigh, Mustard snuggled her cheek against the top of the filly’s head.

Was this what it feels like to be a mother? Mustard wondered to herself as she listened to the filly’s soft even breaths. A strong desire of wanting to keep the filly came over her. She felt the urge to curl herself around her and tuck her in close to her body. To nuzzle and kiss her. The desire grew so strong her heart ached with the need.

These strange and powerful new feelings Mustard was having would have frightened her not that long ago, but after spending time with Sky and feeling the new life she carried inside her, as well as listening to her talk about her experiences with being pregnant and her excitement for the day when she finally gets to hold and kiss her foal. Mustard found that she was growing interested in her new maternal desires, and she was even fantasizing about what it would be like to have a foal growing inside her. To feel it moving around and kicking in her belly. And later, to finally see and hold it for the very first time and look into its eyes. To feel her foal’s soft lips latching onto her teat to suckle milk from her.

“You look happy,” Morning voice suddenly said, breaking her out of her private moment.

Cracking an eye open, Mustard saw that he was looking at her a strangely amused look. "If you even try to ruin this moment for me, I won't even try to hold back when I make you regret it," she growled at him, careful to not disturb the sleeping filly.

“I’m serious,” Morning said hurriedly. “You’re practically glowing with happiness. I've got to say, you're looking very beautiful right now.”

Mustard felt her face suddenly begin to flush with embarrassment. She had never been called beautiful before and hearing Morning calling her that was very oddly pleasing.

Glancing down, Mustard saw that the orange filly had grown bored of her flower and was now playing with a pair of brightly colored rocks as she tried to set one atop the other. "Where did the little colt go?" Mustard asked in alarm, noticing that he was missing.

Morning let out a chuckle, and nodded behind her. "Oh, he's having fun playing in your tail."

Looking around over her shoulder, Mustard saw a lump shift under her tail as it darted to one side then to the other.

Letting out a giggle, Mustard looked back to Morning, "He's so adorable. I want one," she said, before nuzzling the filly in her hooves. “I want one of these, too.”

Morning’s ears suddenly shot up in surprise as he blinked at Mustard for a long moment. His gaze turned troubled and he looked away to stare out in deep thought. Mustard didn't notice this, as she happily snuggled her cheek against the filly’s head once again.

☽☽

Ash lay on his grass-mat looking back at his newfound cutie mark. A large, golden, eight-pointed star, set before a host of smaller stars of every shade of color. It was proof that what he had seen while he had been asleep had indeed been real and not just a dream.

Gazing back at his cutie mark, Ash knew what it meant. It meant that his talent was to protect others from danger. That's why he dove into the river to rescue Pine Blossom when she had fallen in. And why he stood before the door and held the wolves at bay. And just like what he did a few days ago, when he stood before that Manticore and faced it down with his gaze.

There were so many things he was told that he didn’t understand. There were ponies with special magic that would need his help someday. Ponies that were destined to return harmony back to the world. Before he departed that strange place, Wellspring told him one last thing: “Protect the Element of Light. For she will bring them all together.”

"What's wrong? You look troubled," Mirage asked, stepping into the chamber.

Ash glanced up at her and gave her his best smile to try and reassure her. "I'm fine. I'm just thinking about things."

Mirage pursed her lips as she looked down at him. "Well, you've been thinking about things ever since you woke up, and I think it's time you got out and stretched your legs."

"But Papa told me he wanted me to stay here so I would stay out of trouble," Ash complained.

"I spoke with my dear brother and I managed to convinced him to let you out for a bit," Mirage said, giving the colt a warm smile.

Ash looked up at Mirage in surprise. "Really!? You did?"

When he had woken up, he had discovered that he had slept for almost two days. And during all that time, Dark had been sitting closely by his side. Seeing him awake, Dark quickly swept him up into a mighty hug that crushed the breath out of him.

When Dark finally released Ash and set him back down, he sat down with him to have a talk with him. He never yelled, or even raised his voice at him, but Ash still felt like he was. Dark spoke to Ash of being disappointed in him, that he had thought he could trust him to do as he was told and stay with Mirage were he was safe. Ash felt horrible, and his heart sank into his guts as he stared down at his hooves, finding that he was unable to meet Dark's disappointed gaze.

When he was done, Dark surprised him when he picked him up again and hugged him with a kiss. Holding him, Dark then surprised him again when he thanked him for what he did when he saved him from the hydra. It was the only time Dark, or anyone, even acknowledged what he had done to the hydra.

After that, Dark left him there, telling him to stay there and keep out of trouble. Food and water had been brought to him, but otherwise he remained alone until Mirage arrived telling him he could go out.

"She did," Dark answered as he walked into the chamber behind Mirage. "She made such a complete nuisance of herself on your behalf. I finally had to agree so I could get her out of my mane. But only with a condition." Taking a length of rope he had coiled on his back, he tossed a loop of it over Ash head so it settled around his neck, he then took the other half of the rope and slipped it over Mirage's head, tethering the colt to her.

Ash looked down at the short length of rope that now attached him to Mirage in surprise. "You're tying me to her!?"

"If you don't like it, I can have you tied between Mustard and Morning," Dark replied evenly.

There was a chance that Dark was just joking, but Ash knew that Dark thought things were funnier when they were also true. "No! I'm fine with staying with Mirage."

"I thought you might be," Dark answered with an amused nod of his head. "Now, you will stay with Mirage at all times and you will not take the rope off for any reason, even if you need to relieve yourself. Understood?"

"Yes, Papa," Ash quickly answered, stepping up next to Mirage. Being tied to her was embarrassing, but Ash was willing to endure it if it meant that he could start to earn some of Dark's trust back. He may have saved his life, but he disobeyed him to do it, and worse yet, he endangered himself. Dark had promised Mama that he would keep him safe, and if he so much as gets a single scratch before they returned, Meadowlark would strip Papa’s hide right off his bones! At least that is what Papa said. He actually looked a bit scared about it. Funny. Why would papa be more scared of mama than the hydra?

Sky and Flutter Fly had finished getting all the mares out, and now the others were trying to come up with a way to rescue the four stallions. They thought they were close to something, so Papa went off to see how it was going. Following along closely with Mirage so as to not tug on the short rope lashing them together, they went to visit with the mares who had been rescued and see how they were doing.

Moving along, Mirage introduced Ash to practically every mare of her herd. At one point, Ash found himself surrounded by a rather sizable group of mares who gushed over him, congratulating Mirage on catching such a fine adorable colt as they nuzzled his cheeks and tickling his chin. Ash began to rethink his choice for not being tied to Mustard and Morning.

Finally as they walked toward an older mare, resting in the shade of a rock ledge, Mirage paused to lean down to whisper to Ash. "Please remember, don't mention Dark by name. She doesn't know about him yet. Her health is very frail right now, and I don't want to over-strain her."

After he nodded, Mirage led him over to the mare. Ash was surprised to see that she was the exact same light-grey color as Dark. She was resting against the side of a rounded stone with her head set over the top which had been softened with a bed of moss. She was gazing out at the nearby little foals as they played under the watchful eyes of Mustard and Morning.

"Mama?" Mirage said, calling to the mare. "How are you doing this afternoon?"

The mare slowly lifted her head and looked around to Mirage and him. "Ah, Mirage," she said giving them a weak, if warm smile. "So good of you to come and see me." Her body was then wracked with a series of coughs that left her gasping for breath when it subsided.

Mirage rushed up to her mother to rub at her back, her face etched with concern.

Mirage's mother waved her daughter off. "I'm fine, dear. You know how this is."

"But you're not fine," Mirage complained. "You've barely been eating, and you can hardly stand without somepony to help you."

"You worry too much, dear," her mother said before looking down at Ash. "And who is this fine young colt?" she asked.

"Ah... hello. My name is Ash," he answered politely. "I'm pleased to meet you."

"Oh my. Such good manners," the older mare replied with a soft smile before glancing up to Mirage. "Please tell me you stole him for your own," she asked hopefully.

Mirage gasped, then shook her head with a sigh. "I didn't steal him, mama. I'm just keeping an eye on him for a bit."

A look of disappointment settled onto Mirage's mother's face. "That's too bad. I would have liked to see you as a mother before I go."

"Mama, don't talk that way," Mirage complained. "You're going to get better now. There's plenty of food to eat, and there is fire to keep you warm on those cold nights."

"You worry too much for me," her mother said with a scowl. "You should be looking for a strong stallion to fill you with foals. Not bothering to care for a old mare. You should have had at least two by now with a third on the way."

"Mama, we've talked about this before, and I'm tired of explaining myself," Mirage said firmly. "Most of the stallions were old and tired, and the only one that is even close to my age is as ugly as a log."

"You're just being too picky. It doesn't take looks to get the deed done," her mother pointed out.

"But it sure helps!" Mirage quickly snapped back.

"It's an attitude like that, that is what is keeping you from being caught by a stallion," Her mother said with a scoff.

Mirage smiled coyly. "Oh really? I'll have you to know that a very handsome stallion has already caught me!"

Her mother paused with an incredulous look. "Who is this stallion? I’d like to meet him."

Before Ash knew it, he found himself suddenly swept up by Mirage into a tight hug to her chest. "This young stallion captured me and my heart the moment he captured me in the forest."

Mirage's mother blinked in surprise, then she began to lightly laugh. "Oh, you win this one. There is no denying that he is handsome." Her laughter suddenly changed into a racking cough.

Dropping Ash back down, Mirage quickly moved to her mother's side to rub at her back. Ash stood awkwardly nearby as he watched Mirage minister to her mother until her mother’s coughing fit subsided.

Leaning back into her moss covered rock, Mirage's mother smiled down at Ash as she caught her breath. "Come my handsome young stallion. Sit with me and share the story of how you captured my dear daughter."

Sitting down, Ash told of the events that lead up to his capturing Mirage and taking her back to the settlement. After that, he continued telling her of their journey out here. She seemed really impressed at how he stood up to a manticore, though by the way she praised him over it, Ash wasn't sure she really believed him.

Suddenly, a voice cried out in alarm. "Mustard!"

Looking quickly over, Ash saw Morning rushing over to a prone Mustard, who looked like she had just collapsed to the ground. Mirage jumped up and hurried over to Mustard, taking Ash along with her. Rolling her over, Mirage placed her ear to Mustard's chest and listened for a moment before she used the edge of her hoof to draw back one of Mustard's eyelids. "Morning. Did Mustard say anything before she collapsed?"

Morning was anxiously standing over Mustard, with worry all over his face. Mirage had to ask him again before he finally seemed to understand what she was asking. "Oh! She ah!... we were watching over the foals when she suddenly felt a little queasy. When she got up to go lay down in the shade, she suddenly just collapsed!" Morning said in a rush. "Is she okay!?"

Mirage smiled and looked up to the worried stallion. "She's fine. She just fainted," she assured him. "Ash. Help me put her on my back and we'll take her inside to rest."

"I'll carry her in." Morning quickly offered.

Mirage quickly blocked him from picking her up. "Ah... no. It'll be best if I carry her. I promise you she's just fine. Just give her some time to rest and she'll be back on her hooves in no time. I'll stay with her until she's awake. Now shoo, and go find something to do, and leave this to me."

Once Mustard was settled onto Mirage's back, Morning watched as they disappeared into the rocks.

☽☽

Morning felt anxious as he watched them go. He wanted to do something but was unsure what he should do. Mirage assured him that Mustard was just fine but he couldn't help but feel that her fainting was somehow caused by the changes that happened to them. Perhaps there was something that had gone wrong in some way.

Morning had noticed that Mustard had been acting differently over the last couple of days. She was behaving more like a mare. When Dark sent them out to watch over the foals, Mustard just seemed to fall in love with them. Morning liked foals just fine. They were fun to play with and hold, but Mustard, once she got over her initial anxiety, took to them naturally and lavished love all over them.

Morning thought it might just be his imagination, but he also noticed that he himself was also acting and feeling differently. He didn't like it when a stallion got too close to Mustard. Often times, Morning would move himself to stand between her any stallion who was too close to her for his liking. At night, he would sit over her as she slept and watch over her. More and more, his memories of being a mare was growing hazy as it became more natural to think of himself as a stallion.

Morning couldn't stand not knowing anymore. He couldn't keep pretending that everything was okay. It was time he got some answers and there were a some magical ponies nearby he could ask. Hurrying through the confusing web of corridors through the piled boulders, Morning arrived at where the unicorns were being kept. Looking large and imposing like his father, Hoof Strike, Ground Pound stood guard outside their chamber.

"Please, I would like to talk to them," Morning said. "It's important."

"Go ahead," Ground Pound answered him. "I'm just here to keep an eye on them so they don't go running off."

Entering the chamber Morning saw the unicorn with the broken leg and her friend sleeping on their mats while the third, Starless Night, stood looking out a narrow gap between the stones at the ponies outside. Hearing his hoofsteps, Starless quickly turned to look back at him.

"I ah... I'm sorry for disturbing you but I needed to ask you something." Morning said.

The mare eyed him curiously. "You're that stallion with that angry orange mare the other day, are you not?"

"My name is Morning Sky. I'm sorry for Mustard Seed, she does let her mouth run loose sometimes," Morning said apologetically.

"I've been known to do that myself," Starless said, stepping a little closer. "It was interesting that she was so passionate about our males and how they are treated."

"It would be more understandable to know that she was once a stallion herself," Morning Sky offered, carefully watching Starless for her reaction.

Starless froze as her eyes shot open in surprise. "Surely you are joking," she said with disbelief. "You would have to be for something that's impossible like that."

"I'm not joking," Morning said shaking his head. "I myself was a mare until Mustard and I fell into an enchanted pool together and our genders were switched."

"That's not possible..." Starless suddenly paused as her expression became thoughtful. "Did you say you fell into an enchanted pool?"

Morning nodded, "Does that mean something?"

Starless sat her rump down and scratched her chin. "It has to be. It's the only thing that makes sense," she mused out loud.

"What?" Morning asked stepping closer. "What makes sense!?"

"Have you dirt... er... Earth Ponies ever heard of a Draconequus?" Starless asked, looking back up at him.

Morning shook his head. A Draconequus? What was that? Some kind of weed?

"Draconequus’ are creatures born of fragments of Chaos magic," Starless explained. "The origin of this chaotic magic is unknown to us nor do we know when the first Draconequus appeared. We just know that one day they were here and spreading havoc wherever they went."

Listening, Morning sat down. Creatures born of chaos!? What would such a thing look like?

"We believe that fragments of the same chaotic magic that created the Draconequus also scattered all over the world, imbuing other things with its strange powers. Some unfortunate foragers found an odd, blue flower at one time that would strike its victims with random and rather silly afflictions. The enchanted pool you mentioned falling into is another one of these Chaos imbued things as well. The changes the pools cause can be as simple as altering color, or as complicated as changing a creature into a completely different type. Like turning a dragon into a butterfly."

Morning let out a shudder at the image that jumped into her head of being turned into a slug. "Sky mentioned these pools before," Morning said. "She said that the changes can't be reversed. Is that true?"

"Unicorns have studied these pools whenever they were found, and very little has been learned from their magic," Starless explained. "Our Harmonious Unicorn magic is just too different from Chaos magic. When we try to change a rock into an apple, it just becomes a rock that looks like an apple, or when we change a frog into a orange, it's just a frog that looks like an orange. We are unable to change their true essence with Harmonious magic. No matter how much magic is used, their true nature doesn't change. The rock is still a rock and the frog is still a frog, and the changes that we do make don't last long. Some of our strongest casters are unable to make the effects last for much more than half a day or so before it reverts back. Chaos magic can somehow break this rule and change a thing’s nature completely."

Morning felt his heart sink down. "So there is no way to change back?"

"I can look to see if there is anything I can try." Starless stepped up to him and her horn lit up with a warm glow. Touching her horn to his forehead, Morning felt a tingle rush through his body. After a few moments, Starless drew back and her horn stopped glowing.

"I'm sorry. I don't sense any magical trace in you," Starless said softly with a shake of her head. "There is nothing for me to dispel."

☽☽

Mustard was confused as she blinked her eyes open. What happened? Last thing she remembered was feeling ill and going off to rest in the shade.

"Ah good. You're awake," Mirage said from next to her.

Sitting up, Mustard saw that Ash was sitting next to Mirage with a short length of rope tying the two together. Mustard looked around and found that she was laying in one of the large open chambers many of the mares used to sleep in.

"What happened? Why am I here?" she asked.

"We carried you here after you fainted," Ash answered.

"I fainted?" Mustard said in surprise. "I remember feeling funny, and I thought I was just getting too much sun."

"Can you describe how you were feeling?" Mirage asked.

"Well, ever since I woke up in the morning, I've been feeling funny," Mustard explained, rubbing the side of her stomach. "I've been getting little cramps in my side, and I feel unusually tired."

"Anything else?" Mirage pressed.

Mustard looked slightly embarrassed, "I ah... also noticed that my... ah... udders felt sore and a bit swollen for some reason. Then later when we were with the foals, I started to feel queasy. That is when I decided to go lay down." Mustard looked to Mirage with concern. "Is there something wrong with me!? Am I sick?"

Mirage smiled and shook her head. "No. Nothing is wrong with you. You're just having an usually strong reaction to going into heat for the first time."

Mustard sat there for a moment then gasped in sudden horror. "Heat! I'm going into heat! But it's too soon!"

Mirage smiled and laughed lightly. "Going into heat is perfectly normal for a young mare your age."

"But... but... but... I'm not ready!" Mustard complained. "I thought I would have more time!" Suddenly her eyes widened in horror. "Did... any of the stallions...!? Did Morning...!?"

"No. None of the stallions bred you while you were asleep," Mirage said with a sigh. "Have a bit of trust in them. They would never do that to a mare while she's unconscious."

Mustard relaxed with a relieved breath. "I know. I'm sorry. It’s just this is all so new." She felt bad for thinking that Morning might have taken advantage of her. In fact, just earlier when they were playing with the foals, she was just thinking how nice it would be to have a foal of her own. Now that her body was readying itself for the act of making new life, and she suddenly felt really scared at the reality of it. "What do I do?"

"Well, if you don't want something small and adorable to snuggle with next season," Mirage said with a shrug, "then don't get too friendly with any of the stallions."

Mustard nibbled her lip nervously, "I ah... what if I ah... do want... ah possibly... something small and adorable to snuggle with next season?"

Mirage gasped in shock, then smiled. "Really!?"

Mustard lowered her eyes down at the ground. Anxiety, fear, excitement and nervousness all tumbled around inside her, each one vying for dominance over the others. "I... I'm not sure," she confessed. "I feel really confused and scared about it. On one hoof, I want to have a foal, but on the other, I am terrified of not knowing what I should do when I have one! Motherhood was not something I was expecting to ever happen to me."

"Have you talked to Morning about this?" Mirage asked.

"I have a little, but he didn't respond to me," Mustard answered. "He seemed happy when we were with the foals and even helped me get over some of my anxiety, but after I spoke about it, he got all quiet."

Mirage nodded thoughtfully. "I see. If motherhood was not something you were expecting. I would think that Morning feels the same way about fatherhood. He's probably just as afraid and confused about the matter as you are."

Mustard wiped at her eyes, she didn't know why she was tearing up. "You think so?"

Standing, Ash suddenly walked over and snuggled himself into Mustard's side. Mustard felt her face flush as the colt looked up at her. "My mother abandoned me to the winter, and my sire didn't even know I was alive. I never knew what it was like to know the love of a mother or father until Meadowlark and Dark took me in. I can tell you that no matter how a parent raises their foal, as long as they love it, that's all that truly matters."

Mustard couldn't stand it. Her eyes quickly misted up and she started bawling, her tears pouring out. Why did the colt have to be so cute?!

 
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