Lessons Learned from Loyalty

First main installment in the Tutelary Spirit universe. Recommended reading order: Loyalty, Honesty, Generosity, Kindness, Laughter, and Friendship.
Many ages after the original adventures of the Elements of Harmony, a young stallion soars high into the clouds, searching for the Element of Loyalty.
Her original life lived and gone so long ago, Loyalty, like the rest of her friends, has changed and grown over her many lifetimes to guide the ponies of Equestria.
Because even after so long, the Elements of Harmony will always share their lessons of friendship.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/213635/lessons-learned-from-loyalty

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2. The Mare of Loyalty

Thin lines of sight slowly returned to the stallion as his bleary eyes steadily opened to the world around him. The first thing that he noticed was just how bright the sun was, which was a curious bit of info considering that being in a thick cloud was supposed to dull the sun's rays.

Also, didn't he die?

As soon as that little detail crossed his mind, the stallion quickly went from 'flat on his belly' to 'sprung on all fours,' which he swiftly regretted doing so when his sore body screamed at him irritably like an overworked father corralled off of his favorite couch. Wide awake now, the stallion let out a small gasp of pain at the throbbing soreness that his entire body exhumed.

"Well," muttered the brown stallion irritably, his muzzle pointed down with his eyes scrunched closed in pain, "at least now I know I'm not dead."

With that question answered, the stallion quickly decided that if he wanted to figure out where he was and what had happened to him then he needed to take heart some old advice that his own overworked father had given to him so long ago:

Buck up and be a stallion.

So shaking his head to incite his stallionliness, the brown-coated pegasus powered through the soreness of his body and opened his eyes, where he soon found himself distracted by the ground at his hooves.

A heavy mist nipped from the bottom of his hooves to the top of his knees, where it floated no higher than that. Such a thick mist made it difficult to see the ground that he stood on, but he could still feel it. It was firm, much firmer than what a cloud would offer a pegasus, yet it also felt mushy, kind of like how soaked grass would feel.

Lifting his gaze away from the curiosity at his hooves, the stallion looked around him.

Promptly, his jaw hung ever so limply at what he saw before him.

He was no longer inside the large cumulus that had entrapped him so, as the clear sky and shining sun that hanged over his head attested to that. Where he exactly was though was a bit more curious.

Before him, with the grounded mist sashaying around and over its edges, was a pond with clear blue water in it. Though it was definitely not a very large body of water, neither was the pond very insignificant either. In the middle of this pond was a small island of white sand with five palm trees jutting out of its center. High in the air, their large leaves rustled with the blowing wind.

Beyond this island view was a much more entrancing sight.

Laying past the pond was a grand set of stairs. The width of each step stretched far enough wide that an entire herd of buffalo could stampede across the stairs with plenty of enough room to spare if they so desired. These rows of steps lined over one another to achieve the same height as the bottom branches of the palm trees.

The structure that these stairs lead to was awing. Overall wide and rectangular in its shape, the design was similar to older pegasi architecture, like of those ancient temples in the clouds that he had seen in textbooks throughout his colthood. No doors or windows or such adorned the entrance, instead the front was completely open with only huge spiraling columns holding up the roof to greet visitors. Pure white and with a cotton ball fluffiness in shape at the top of the columns, it was clear that the building was made entirely from solid clouds.

The stallion's limply hanging jaw slowly curved into a smile.

He had made it.

He laughed; it was joyful.

He had made it and he was happy. After a nearly impossible climb into the sky, after losing his way in that massive cloud, after suffering from the exhaustion and nearly dying from it, he had made it to the end of his journey. He had finally reached her home, and now he could finally ask her to—

Just like that, he stopped laughing; his expression becoming just a bit less joyful.

He had almost forgotten.

While the journey here was a hard enough endeavor, the reason for being here was just as difficult.

Determination etched his face and he galloped forward. Bypassing around the pond, his galloping slowed to a stop before the bottom of the stairs. Wary of what he was doing and just generally nervous to this situation entirely, he cautiously began trotting up the stairs.

Soon he reached the last couple of steps and he hesitated, unsure if he was allowed to enter through the columned entrance. Wisely, he decided to not take the last few steps to walk on the main floor, instead staying high enough on the stairs where his head could fully peak over the final steps into the chamber without having to stretch his neck.

Although the sun was in his favor, he found it difficult to see far into the back of the chamber where there was more shadow. What he could see of the interior though was that the building was much wider than it was long or tall, and that beyond the columns he could see rainbow fountains adorning the walls and intricate statues placed along the floor. Near the back, hidden in the shadows, he could make out vague outlines of wallpaper and various pieces of furniture, of which included a bed.

It was only now, as he tried to make out the interior of the building before him, that he heard the racketing noise. Loud snoring bounced off of the building's walls and out past the columns to hit the stallion's ears, which twitched mildly at the noise.

The occupant was sleeping, he realized. The best and smartest decision right now would be to not disturb her and wait for her to wake up on her own.

"Um, excuse me? Hello?" called out the stallion before he could stop himself.

As if his own words somehow triggered the power of Discord himself, the stallion saw somepony on the bed violently jerk awake with a, "Wuh?" before accidently falling out of the bed.

"Ow!" the cry was feminine and annoyed.

The stallion cringed at the sound and his worry was not at all helped by the sight of what he assumed was a twitching wing sticking straight up from behind the bed. He hoped he wasn't in trouble now because of this.

Irritable groans were soon heard coming from inside, along with what sounded like the muffled noises of a pony doing battle with a blanket that had ensnared them. Eventually though, the muffled sounds of the blanket battle soon subsided and were replaced with the shambling's of a pony stumbling about in the room: noises of hooves lightly kicking away materialistic items through their steps and the clanging against furniture.

"Ugh, what time is it?" sounded a voice from inside, deep in overtones of tiredness.

click was heard, like that of a plastic button being tapped. Immediately, a dull, blue glow shined from the dark chamber. The light looked artificial and the stallion guessed that it originated from a magitech alarm clock. From the artificial light he could see a figure holding the clock, who was featured with a pegasus body in a lazed posture and a loose mane. All other finer details of the figure were shadowed away by the dull light.

"Mmm, gotta feed Tank," grumbled out the tired voice.

The blue glow disappeared and the clanging of a plastic clock carelessly dropped to the floor was heard. It was then followed by the clopping of light hoofsteps.

On the stairs, the brown stallion waited anxiously.

The hoofsteps sounded closer.

He could see a figure approaching in the shadows.

A cyan hoof stepped into the sun's rays.

And then...

There she was.

Stepping fully into the light appeared a pegasus mare. She was majestic, the natural kind of majestic that would be unbelievable to see on any except of her stature. Although not of the divine beauty like that of Princess Celestia or Princess Luna, her own beautiful features were not too far below of the goddesses. Her coat was like the daytime sky, toned with the same cyan color that ponies see above them every day. She stood tall, taller than most ponies stood. If the stallion was next to her on level ground, her bright, violet eyes would peek just over his black mane.

Before the sun's light, the majestic mare stretched her body out, removing the kinks of her nap. Lean, athletic muscles all over her body were flexed openly under her thin coat, showcasing her build like nothing else. That is until she unfurled her wings; her powerful wings. She stretched them out broadly, showing their encompassing size as they towered above her and splayed across the two large columns behind her. With her great wings flexed open wide, away from her body, the stallion was provided the sight of her mark that adorned her quarters: a storm cloud with a lightning bolt colored like a rainbow.

Then there was her mane and tail, both of which were a rainbow taken straight from a morning sky, with each strand of her hair as a different color that varied through the spectrum. Even in her loose style, with the mane cut short over her face, it was obvious to the stallion that her mane and tail were imbued with magic, as the tips of her hair didn't so much as end as they did disappear. Starting near the roots, the colors of her mane and tail were solid and bright, but as the strands furthered away from her the colors became lighter and lighter in tone, until finally they were invisible to the eye, disappearing into the air.  

This was her.

This was the Mare of Loyalty.

An Element of Harmony, she was the tutelary patron of devotion between friends, and the very embodiment of the Element of Loyalty and all of its aspects.

Currently, the beautiful and divine patron of one of the core concepts of Equestria's cultural morals was giving one of the ugliest glares towards the bright sun.

"Ugh," she groaned in such abhor objection as the sun's light beaten down on her face. With a flick of her color spectrum tail, she turned back past the columns and into her home. A swish of her wing along the side of one of the columns as she passes by and a switch is flicked, turning on the lights hanging from the ceiling and brightening up her house.

With the chamber now illuminated, the stallion could now better see its contents.

...It was a lot more cluttered than he imagined it would be.

Scattered across the floor were various miscellaneous items that stretched from discarded headphones to open magazines. There were also opened bags of chips and emptied mugs that dirtied the floor. The furniture that adorned the room, while definitely lavish and looking very comfy, also seemed quite worn out. The posters stuck to the walls were all pictures of the Wonderbolts team and of various action-adventure stories.

It honestly looked more like a college dorm room than the chamber of a religious icon.

Some items were treated with more respect than those that were forgotten on the floor. Like the small bookshelf kept clean and neat in the back and filled with colorful books. There was also the large trophy case propped up against the far wall, but rather than holding various trophies of past grand achievements, it instead held small, framed pictures of personal memories, a Wonderbolt's uniform too small for the rainbow-haired pegasus's size that was neatly folded on a stand in the center, and strangely enough an orange scooter.

"Come on, where are they?" mumbled out an irritated avatar of loyalty as she looked through the trash that littered her floor: grabbing, tossing, and kicking away all of the junk that got in her way. She suddenly stopped her search and narrowed her eyes towards the bed.

A princess-sized bed, the large furniture was covered in sky blue sheets and was currently minus a blanket that had somehow drooped to the floor next to it. Curiously, scattered around the bed were various pieces of worn armor and guard uniforms. This curiosity may have had something to do with the four buff stallions, all of whom were pegasi, laying across the bed.

Trotting forward, the Mare of Loyalty gazed down at one of the sleeping stallions, who had a pillow over his head as if he was trying to block any blaring noises from entering his ears. Dissatisfiedly snorting at the sight, she raised her hoof and unceremoniously flipped the stallion over ("Oof!" he had said in his sleep) and grabbed something that was under him.

"Aha!" she exclaimed happily. Putting what she found over her face, she trotted back to the entrance.

Stepping back into the sun's day, the stallion could now see that she had adorned a pair of sunglasses.

"Ah, much better," she commented with a smile.

Standing on the stairs below her, the brown stallion gulped nervously at being so close to somepony so important. He wasn't even quite sure how to properly address one such as her.

The stallion opened his mouth, "Uh..."

"Yeah, yeah, I see you," she interrupted rather distractedly before he could even get a word in. Without even looking at him she unfurled her great wings and glided towards the small island of palm trees, "Just give me a minute, alright? I gotta do something first."

The stallion resolutely clapped his mouth shut.

Grabbing onto one of the branches of the palm trees with her mouth and hooves, she started pulling at the branch despite it being stubbornly stuck to a tree.

"Come on! You stupid, little son-of-a-GOT-IT!" she yelled victoriously, holding up the torn, offending branch in her hooves like a prize won. With it in hoof, she then flew further and upward away from her home, before stopping after a relative distance away to turn around and swing the branch temptingly.

"Alright, Tank!" she shouted enthusiastically, "Come on up and get your lunch!"

It was at this time, situated near the top of the stairs and facing away from the grand building, that the stallion took a better look at his surroundings. For what seemed like a mile in every direction, a cloud surface stretched around the small pond and building. The stallion suspected that he was at the top of the massive cumulus that he had gotten lost in. How he had found himself there, he had no idea.

In the corner of his eye, the long stretch of cotton ball landscape was interrupted by a huge, green flipper emerging from below the cloudy layer.

...Wait, what?

Swinging his head to the right and doing a double-take, he did in fact see a large flipper emerge from the cloud. Green and bulbous skinned, the massive limb was as large as the grand building behind him and was arcing back as if it was attached to somewhere below the surface that the stallion stood on. Turning his head to the left, the stallion found another flipper, just as large and in the same arcing position as the other.

These three seconds of observation later and both flippers swung down.

The brown stallion quickly fell to his belly and tightly gripped the stairs under him as soon as he felt the rising inertia. Despite the increasing height, he was surprised to find everything around him remain at a steady level.

As they lifted away from the cloudy surface, as the thick mist lightened up to reveal a massive shell covered in algae that was what he had been standing on, and as a scaly, reptilian head emerged from the front of the massive shell, the stallion reached his peak in what he thought he could be surprised by.

With a head larger than the Rainbow Mare's entire body, the reptile reached up with its elongated neck and plucked the branch tree from the mare's hooves. To which it started meticulously chewing in its mouth.

The Mare of Loyalty smiled and patted the great animal's head, to which it grumbled appreciatively in a deep, echo-y tone. With a flap of her large wings, she arced back toward the stairs and hovered over the stallion, who had his mouth hung open in amazement.

"Hey, glad to see you're finally awake," greeted the Mare of Loyalty in a casual manner, as if she just hadn't fed a reptile as big as a small island, "gotta say: you were out like a light! I actually went back inside to finish my own nap 'cause you were taking so long."

"It's a... we're on a..." babbled the stallion.

"On a giant, flying tortoise! I know, cool, huh?" she finished for him smugly, before realizing something and slamming her hoof into her face in admonishment, "Turtle! I mean turtle!" she reprimanded herself, "I keep forgetting that he changed species when we came back the first time."

"A giant, flying turtle..." muttered the stallion as he rolled the words over his tongue. His brain was having difficulty processing the world around him after saying those words, and in this jumbled mess, as his brain tried to sort this information out, a question popped out of his mouth like a wild, flailed attempt to grasp his hooves on something sensible and solid.

"How... how are we breathing so easily when we're so high up?" he said in a daze.

"Magic," she answered simply, before off-hoofedly adding, "well, magical algae really. The algae on Tank's shell breathes out the air we breathe, or something like that. I wasn't really paying attention when Twilight explained it to me. I was still kinda in the whole 'Oh my gosh! Tank's huge now!' moment at the time." She let out a few chuckles at the memory, "Anyways, you were pretty low on oxygen to the head when I brought you up here, so I thought it be best to keep you closer to the algae."

"The... the colors that I saw. When I was falling... that was you... you saved my life," said the stallion in but whisper, hardly believing it himself. Staring up at the beautiful mare above him, with wonder in his eyes he was unsure of what to say.

"You're, uh, you're the Mare of Loyalty," he stated, a rather pointless and obvious statement in of itself, but he seemed to be gathering his wits now, "an Element of Harmony and the one who achieved the Sonic Rainboom."

"Yup, that's me," she answered with a bright grin, wholly eating the admiration. She always liked it when her reputation preceded her and caused ponies to be star-struck by the sight of her.

Quickly galloping down the stairs, the brown stallion lowered himself to the turtle shell ground before her and royally bowed to the tutelary spirit of loyalty, who had saved Equestria countless times before with her friends, and whose very soul and spiritual essence had been poured straight from the Tree of Harmony itself to protect the world from evil.

"Mare of Loyalty," the stallion addressed her devoutly and nervously without looking up from the ground, "I humbly request your assistance on a personal matter of mine. It concerns a decision I have to make with my friends." The stallion kept his eyelids scrunched closed, waiting in trepidation for her answer.

Above the bowing stallion, the hovering tutelary spirit of loyalty raised her eyebrows over her sunglasses in surprise, caught off-guard by her visitor's actions. This only lasted a moment before she rolled her violet eyes in bemusement.

"Ah, jeez," she muttered under her breath, a cyan hoof rubbing against the bridge of her snout that lifted up her sunglasses to reveal her eyes sealed shut in annoyance. Star-struck was one thing, but devout devotion was another. It was something that she and her friends had never wanted or ever will want, which was why they liked to travel around Equestria a lot: connecting with the ponies and making friends often enough helped stamp out any preconceived notions that the ponies might have of them wanting to be perceived as beings deserving of worship.

Of course, being the Elements of Harmony their status of divinity was unquestionable, but that didn't mean that they didn't want to be humble about it.

With a sigh, the Mare of Loyalty slowly descended her altitude to land on the back of her massive pet. All four hooves on the shell, she then lifted her sunglasses up into her iridescent mane and stared down at the bowing stallion.

"Hey! How's the weather down there?" asked the Mare of Loyalty with a smirk as she playfully knocked at the stallion's head, quickly gaining his surprised attention, "'cause it looks like it's foggy and wet."

"W-wuh?" stuttered out the stallion as he looked up at her.

The Mare of Loyalty chuckled, "I'm saying that maybe you should stand up, hmm?"

"Oh!" said the stallion, quickly springing up and brushing off the residue algae off of him as he looked at the Mare of Loyalty apologetically, "I'm sorry, was I supposed to not bow?"

"Were you supposed to..?—Of course you weren't supposed to bow!" she laughed out, "Why would you think that you would need to bow?"

The stallion kicked his hoof against the algae shell in embarrassment, "Well, it's just that... I've heard that in Canterlot, when ponies ask for the princesses' favor they bow to her first."

The Mare of Loyalty snorted, "Do I look like a princess to you?" she asked, her grand wings ruffling in indignation as her iridescent mane and tail blew in the wind colorfully like a glorious rainbow fading away into the sky.

The stallion blinked once, before looking away embarrassed, "Well..."

"—Don't answer that," quickly interjected the Mare of Loyalty, "the point is: is that unless it's some kind of super classy formal event, don't bow to us Elements—especially the way you were doing it. That shtick got real annoying real fast for us," she lightly tapped her hoof against the top of the stallion's head, smirking "got that, dunderhead?"

"Hey!" exclaimed the stallion before he could stop himself, rubbing his head from the Mare's tap.

"No thanks, I'm not hungry," joked the Mare of Loyalty, snark in her tone, "but honestly though, just be glad it was just me that you bowed to. If you had tried to do that to Applejack, she would've kicked you in the rear and yelled your ear off for it. And Pinkie? Hah!" she laughed abruptly, "She would have tricked you into doing all kinds of crazy antics before she would even decide to help you."

"A-Alright, if you don't want me to then I won't do bow to you again," stuttered the stallion, before looking up at her, his eyes hopeful, "but... you'll still help me, right?"

Her mouth firmed, the Rainbow Mare gave off a mute expression of thoughtfulness, which silently unnerved the stallion as her continued silence put fear into his heart that she might just choose not to help him.

The terror ended when her mouth curved a smile, "Tell you what," she said cheerfully, "how about we go inside and you can tell me more about this problem of yours first, alright?"

Wordlessly and relieved, the brown stallion nodded vigorously at the opportunity.

"But first, how about you tell me your name," the rainbow mare smirked playfully, "I mean, you gotta have a name or else I'll just end up calling you the 'brown stallion' while you're here. And honestly? I think that would get pretty annoying and inconvenient really fast if I had to do that."

"Yeah, I guess," the brown stallion nodded in agreement, before finally introducing himself, "my name is Bourbon."

"Nice to meet ya, Bourbon," she greeted, before laying a hoof on her chest, "my name's Rainbow Dash. Don't forget it."

"I won't," said Bourbon, shaking his head vehemently.

"Good," she replied happily, before raising an inquisitive eyebrow, "so... Bourbon, eh?"

"Yeah," he nodded, "It's a distilled drink. See, I'm a bar owner back in my home town." Instinctively, he angled his body to show off the mark displayed on his hindquarters, which was a black bar stool that looked like it was about to tip over.

"Ah," said Rainbow Dash, half-listening before she allowed her smile to quirk into a mischievous expression, "...so does that mean you know how to mix drinks?"

"Um, ...yes?"

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