The Chance

This story is a sequel to The Chase
The city of Vanhoover is having the worst winter storm in generations as Mignon Croix has to make his way home from the grocery store. Along the way home, he finds something that will change his life forever, but only if he will take the chance.
Reading The Chase is helpful but not necessary to enjoy this story.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/224341/the-chance

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3. Chapter 3

Mignon Croix awoke to the sensation of breathing on his ear. He felt his ear twitch and flicker from the annoying tickle, and he opened his eyes slowly. Magnolia was just behind his head, curled up in her own blanket, her snoot pressed into the back of his skull, directly behind his ear. The back of his head and his silvery blue mane felt damp.

He rose from the bed, shook his head, and then wiped his eyes with one folded fetlock. Sunlight shone through the window, flooding into the room. He hadn’t closed the curtains last night before going to bed. He yawned, shook his head once more, and then yawned again. He started to shuffle off to the restroom and made it almost to the door when he heard a tiny yawn from behind him.

“I’ll be back in just one moment,” Mignon grumbled.

“Okay…hurry, I gotta go,” Magnolia replied in a dry sounding voice.

Pausing in place, Mignon lifted the foal from the bed, pulled her free from her blanket cocoon, and levitated her along with him. “You can go first, and then I’ll set you on the couch. Once I go, I’ll fix cracked wheat for breakfast.”

“Ooooookay,” Magnolia yawned in squeaky voice.

Finishing the last breakfast dish, Mignon rinsed it off and placed it in the dish rack to dry. He glanced at the clock on the kitchen wall and saw that it was almost ten o'clock in the morning. He stepped out of the kitchen, crossed the living room, and then peered out the window, down upon the street below.

Unicorns had been at work, melting some of the ice and snow from the streets. Icicles hung everywhere. Snowdrifts were piled between buildings. Several feet of snow had fallen last night, and everything had iced over. He saw ponies out below, braving the narrow icy streets, and pegasi flew overhead. A griffon was opening up his store, waving at ponies who passed by.

“Magnolia, I am going to be stepping out for a while. There is some business to take care of. I shouldn’t be gone for more than an hour. Think you will be okay all alone? I mean, you ran away from the orphanage, so you must be a big filly,” Mignon said, turning around to look at the filly on the couch as he spoke.

“I’m sleepy,” Magnolia murmured.

“Well, you can nap while I am gone,” Mignon said, taking a few steps towards the foal. “Do you want me to carry you to the bed?”

“No,” Magnolia replied. “I’m comfy here, but can I have a blanket?” The foal struggled to sit up, grunted, gave up, and went still for a moment. Once she had her breath again, she wiggled along the cushions a little bit, and then snuggled into the cozy corner where the arm of the sofa was.

Reaching out with his magic, Mignon levitated a blanket into the living room, folded it in half, and then placed it over the foal, tucking it around her carefully. “You sure you will be okay while I am gone? I’m worried,” he said in a low voice.

“Sleepy,” Magnolia mumbled, pulling her head beneath the blanket.

Lifting his saddlebags from the floor, Mignon put away the contents of what was inside, including the much needed dish soap. He strapped on his saddlebags, cinched them tightly, and then pulled on his heavy cloak.

“I’ll be right back,” Mignon whispered. Hearing no reply, he let himself out the door, shut it, and then locked it behind him.

The air was cold, but the sunshine was warm. A breeze blew, it tickled icily over Mignon’s snoot as he walked, and it made his ears sting from the damp chill. He lifted his hood up over his head and continued, moving swiftly, making his way through the streets and sidewalks that were crowded with ponies and griffons. Pony drawn cabs rumbled down the icy cobblestone streets. The gas lamps still burned, the glass dark and sooty. The air was thick with the smell of wood burning stoves, burnt coal, and the heady aroma of maple syrup being refined. As he continued, he caught a whiff of roasting chestnuts, which made him inhale deeply.

Twelve blocks later, he arrived at the orphanage.

He let himself in and stood in a wide foyer, looking around. The air was damp and filled with the smell of urine. His nose crinkled. The walls were fuzzy with black mold, the plaster was crumbling, and pieces of the ceiling were missing.

“Hello?” Mignon called out.

“Back here,” a voice replied.

Entering a doorway, Mignon saw a beat up looking desk and a mare was sitting behind it, looking at him curiously, trying to size him up. He swallowed, and then started to wonder how he was going to play this.

“I was thinking about adoption,” Mignon announced, his eyes darting around the room and taking in the dilapidated squallour.

“Want to surprise your wife with a foal for Hearth’s Warming Eve?” the mare replied.

“Yes… um, actually, that was the plan,” Mignon replied nervously, the knowledge that he was a single stallion making itself loudly known by screaming inside of his head.

“How sweet,” the mare replied. “If you will wait here, I will call somepony to show you around. It would be nice if some lucky foal had a home for Hearth’s Warming Eve,” she continued. The mare struck a bell and it rang out, a loud clear sound that pealed through the room.

Waiting, Mignon stood around, not sure what he might see or what might happen. He felt a painful tightness in his barrel. “So, um, is there like a fee for adoption or something?” he asked, trying to pass the time and learn something about the orphanage.

“The adoption processing fee is two hundred and fifty bits,” the mare answered.

“Um, isn’t that a little high? And counter productive? I mean, wouldn’t more foals be adopted if the fee was cheaper?” Mignon questioned.

The mare looked up at Mignon and tittered. “Do you think running this place is cheap?” she asked in reply, looking up along her raised muzzle at Mignon, peering at him through her reading glasses.

“I’m sure it isn’t… I bet feeding the foals costs a lot of money,” Mignon answered.

“It sure does, and we feed our foals very well,” the mare said.

Thinking about Magnolia’s visible ribs, Mignon struggled not to scowl. He peered around the room, his eyes lingering over everything, and his gaze fell to the yellowed tiles underhoof. In the corner of the room, he saw something on the floor.

Rat turds? he thought to himself.

A door behind the mare’s desk opened and a panicked looking young unicorn mare came out. She was breathing heavily and panting with distress.

“There’s been another attack… we just found him… the rats got another one in the night, that’s why he didn’t come down for the breakfast headcount!”

The older mare turned to glare at the younger mare, and the younger unicorn mare looked at Mignon, her face contorting with even more panic. She inhaled sharply and her eyes went wide with shock.

“Ooh,” the unicorn mare exhaled and then retreated through the door.

“Excuse me, just wait here sir,” the older mare requested, and then she too, went through the door.

Peering through the door, Mignon struggled to see what was beyond. He saw a white sheet stained crimson on the floor, and something lumpy lurked beneath it. As the door slowly swung shut, he saw the white sheet being lifted, and what he saw stole his breath away. What he saw was horrible. What he saw was indescribable. It was easily the worst thing he had ever seen, even worse than the time he had stumbled into the gutting room of the fish processing plant. What he saw was…

“SLAM!”

The door shut with a bang and he stood there numbly, suddenly unable to remember what was behind the door. What he had seen had troubled him, he knew that, but now, no matter how hard he tried, he could not recall what he saw. He had seen something… something unpleasant. Something that had unnerved him. His brain teased him with an image of white.

He swallowed and backed out of the office, stepped into the foyer, and then with a frightened cry, he fled the orphanage and the horror within, running screaming into the street, his cloak billowing out behind him.

Mignon Croix stumbled down the street in a daze, unable to remember what he had seen behind the door. Tears rolled down his cheeks, tears of anger, tears of frustration, tears of fright, and the freezing air made his damp cheeks sting. He made his way home, his mind reeling from whatever it was he had seen, but could no longer remember.

He paused in front of a Hearth’s Warming window display and looked at the toys on sale. Stuffy toys, action figures, dolls, My Little Pretty Princess castle playsets, which seemed to be the big gift to give this year. He looked down at four figures, his eyes lingering over each of them. Princess Twilight Sparkle, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, Princess Celestia, and Princess Luna. Princess Luna was barely visible, tucked away in the tower of the castle playset, only her head peeking out, while the other princesses were prominently on display.

His brain, still dulled from whatever he had seen behind the door, gently offered up a thought to the rest of his conscious mind. Sweet little Magnolia might like a stuffy… oh, and a warm winter coat his brain announced. The fog in his brain cleared slightly, and he stepped inside of the store, mindful that he could not tarry for too long.

Inside of the store it was warm and inviting. The shelves were surprisingly well stocked, there were plenty of things other than food that was still available. Warm winter hats, scarves, coats, jackets, cloaks, saddlebags, there was all manner of things for sale, and a shortage of ponies and griffons buying things by the looks of it. The store was nearly deserted.

He proceeded down the toy aisles, looking around, his eyes lingering over different toys. He found another display of My Little Pretty Princesses, this time, Prince Buckminster’s wives. He saw Derpy, a little grey pegasus, and something seemed off about her. He looked the toy over, bending down to examine it closely, and realised the toy had perfect eyes. He had seen a picture of her in the paper, and she did not have perfect eyes. He felt a disquieting feeling of unease. There was Berry Punch, the earth pony, Thistle, the kelpie lake monster, Bon Bon the earth pony, and Lyra Heartstrings the unicorn. Of Buckminster Bitters, there was no sign, no indicator that there was even a toy. There was also a giant castle playset, which bothered Mignon more than he cared to admit. By all accounts, Buckminster and his family lived in a farmhouse, but this failed to surprise him. They sold a friendship castle playset for Princess Twilight Sparkle, and everypony knew that she lived in a library. As he started to move away, he couldn’t help but notice that Thistle was in the moat.

He rolled his eyes in disgust and moved on.

He came to another section, this time, stuffed Elements of Harmony. There were stuffy versions of Princess Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and Fluttershy. He passed these by and kept moving, finally reaching a bin full of nameless random stuffed pony dolls. Using his telekinesis, he dug around in the bin, trying to find something that Magnolia might like. After much digging, he found a stuffy that sort of looked like Magnolia. Magnolia was lilac, and the stuffy was more of a bright pink. But both had a green mane and tail. He smiled and held the stuffy in his levitation field, moving off to find a coat.

Peering at the coats, Mignon realised he had no idea what size Magnolia was. She was small, skinny, and rather bony. His lip curled back in frustration as he looked around for a coat or a jacket that he thought would be perfect for her. There were a lot of pretty coats and jackets made of bright cheerful fabrics, but they seemed flimsily made and rather thin and useless. He prowled the displays, his patience dwindling, his breath coming in snorts as his emotions threatened to boil over.

“Argh, nothing,” Mignon grumbled in annoyance.

“Looking for something?”

He turned, looked, and saw an old mare with her grey mane pulled back into a bun. Her face was blank, impassive, she had seen far too many Hearth’s Warming Eve shoppers throughout her long life to even be bothered to look like she cared.

“I need a coat… something thick, heavy, practical, and none of these fit the bill. These jackets are awful,” Mignon muttered.

“Yeah they are, but these are what foals want,” the mare said in a nasal whine.

“Parents should know better!” Mignon snapped.

The mare’s stony expression cracked and a faint hint of a smile spread over her muzzle. “They should,” she agreed. Her ears perked forward.

“Is there nothing better? I need something that will keep a foal warm in heavy inclement weather, like what we had last night. I need for it to stay warm, even if it gets wet. These seem like very reasonable demands,” Mignon said, raising his eyebrow as he stared at the old mare.

“Hold on,” the mare said. “Just stay right there. I’ll be back, but it might take me a few minutes,” she added. She went teetering off, one knee crackling loudly with each step she took as she departed.

Alone, Mignon Croix’s mind began to drift, and he thought about the door and how it had slammed shut. He felt a growing feeling of concern and agitation, as though he wanted to cry again, and he somehow managed to stuff those feelings down. He tapped his hoof impatiently, he needed to get home to Magnolia. She was helpless by herself, and he didn’t want to be gone for more than an hour.

“This has been in mothballs for a while,” the mare said as she wobbled down the aisle, making her way back to Mignon. “The last time we regularly stocked coats like this one was almost twenty years ago.” She had a coat laid over her back and she turned sideways so Mignon could have a look.

The coat was navy blue wool, thick, heavy, and seemed almost the right size for Magnolia, if maybe a little large. It had a rain skirt that hung off of the back to cover the legs, a hood, and large shiny wooden buttons. Not plastic, but actual wood.

“How much?” Mignon inquired.

“Still has the price tag from about twenty years ago. Twenty three bits, which cost a bloody fortune way back then. It’s cheaper than any of this trash out on display right now. I’ll sell it at the original price,” the mare responded.

“Sold,” Mignon replied.

“You’re a special kind of father, you are. Buying your filly an ugly coat just because you love her enough to keep her warm rather than pretty. Good on you,” the old mare wheezed in a nasal voice. “If only more parents had common sense. What is this world coming to? I don’t like it. I remember a time when there were good fathers and mothers. Equestria has become an awful place.”

Nodding, Mignon followed the mare up to the cash register, his expression sheepish, and for some reason, the old mare’s praise made him feel better over the fact that he could not remember what he had seen behind the door.

 
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