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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6. Chapter 6

The snow was deep and the woods were silent. He moved through the slumbering maples, the naked trees waiting for the kiss of spring sun to spring back to life like a phoenix. Mignon moved purposefully, stepping through the snow, keeping a wary well practiced eye out for treacherous tree branches and widowmakers.

It would be dark soon, and Mignon was making good time.

Not knowing where else to go, Mignon was heading out to a lumber camp, a place he occasionally took work from, hauling logs back to Vanhoover to be processed in the lumber mills. The camp was populated for three fourths of the year, and closed during the winter. Mignon knew that it had a large communal kitchen and he hoped there would be food stored in the camp, but he wasn’t sure what he would find.

The maples were slowly giving way to evergreens and the heady scent of pine filled the air around Mignon. He moved with a well practiced high step of a pony used to moving through snow. The narrow trail ended and Mignon found the end of the narrow gauge railroad tracks buried in the snow. Trees were pulled out of the deep woods along the rails to this point, where they were loaded into wagons and taken to town. He peered around, saw the crane scaffolding in the distance, and saw the tiny half open to the elements lean-to that offered shade in the summer and protection from the rain.

He took off, following the rails. A faint cough from under his cloak urged him on, and he knew that Magnolia would need her medicine soon. He had her cough to worry about, the runs, which so far had not returned, her infections, which concerned him a great deal, and the need to keep her warm, which was his number one priority. Mignon moved like a stallion possessed, his hooves crunching through the thin crust of ice that capped off the snow.

Ahead of him, in the distance, he saw the dim outline of buildings. He had helped to supply this place numerous times during the early muddy spring, and he headed right for the hollow tree where he knew the master key was stored. The camp was undisturbed, he saw no signs of hoofprints in the snow as he crossed the clearing in the middle of a cluster of buildings arranged in a circle. It was dark now, and the moon was slowly rising over the treeline.

Retrieving the key, he immediately went to the forepony’s cabin, the small cabin where the camp manager lived when the camp was open. He knew it had a small wood stove, a bed, a tiny kitchenette, and it would be a cozy enough place to hide for a few days.

The cabin was dark and full of cobwebs. His horn flaring, Mignon let himself in, found a collection of oil lamps, and lit one of them with his magic, which caused a warm yellow light to fill the room. He lit a second and third, hanging them from hooks on the ceiling.

He needed to get a fire going. The room was freezing. He exited the cabin and walked around to the side, then behind the building, heading for the place where cut logs were stored to heat the camp’s many wood stoves, including the entire kitchen, which was wood burning.

Retrieving several logs, he returned to the cabin, placed them inside of the small pot bellied stove, and then thought about them burning, thinking angry thoughts to get up enough magic to make them burst into the flames.

After several minutes, one of the logs burst into the flames, lazy flames that clearly had not decided if they wanted to burn something just yet. They flickered, threatening to go out, and Mignon stood ready to make more fire if necessary.

“I’m actually quite warm,” Magnolia announced.

“Good,” Mignon responded.

The stallion lifted Magnolia out from under his cloak and set her down upon the bed. There were several quilts at one end of the bed, no pillows, and no sheets upon the mattress. She sat there blinking, her eyes adjusting to the sudden light, and looking around to check out her new environment.

“I’m kinda hungry,” Magnolia announced. “And thirsty.”

“I’ll be taking care of that soon,” Mignon promised. “I’m going to leave you here while I go check out the mess hall and see what we have to work with. I don’t think we’ll have running water at this time of year, so I’ll need to melt snow or something. The toilet should still flush if we pour water down the bowl. Once I check out the kitchen, I’ll make some juice from a tin and try to fix some food. There is a little kitchen in this cabin that will serve our needs,” he explained, nervous, blurting out details that were entirely unneeded.

Looking down at the source of all of his troubles, Mignon saw that Magnolia was nearly swallowed up in her coat. She was huddled in the bed, her forelegs pulled through the sleeves and tucked up against her body, and she did indeed look warm. She wasn’t shivering, but smiling, and she didn’t look sweaty or convulsive.

He pulled her stuffy from out of his saddlebag and placed it next to her on the bed, which made her smile broaden. He watched as one lilac coloured leg crept out of the heavy coat, snaked through a sleeve, and then wrapped around the stuffed animal that was nearly as large as Magnolia was.

“I’ll be back quickly. Just relax. We’re safe here. This place is deserted. I’m going to check the kitchen and then I shall return,” Mignon said reassuringly.

“Okay,” Magnolia replied, hugging her stuffy.

The light provided by his horn was ghostly and the dining hall flickered with shadows as he moved through the wide open space. The tables were all stacked in a corner, along with the chairs. He moved though the door in the back of the room leading to the kitchen.

The kitchen was empty and dusty. Heavy cast iron pans sat in racks, shiny and well oiled in the light of Mignon’s horn, and as he moved through the kitchen they glistened in the passing light. He came to a large heavy wooden door that led to the pantry, and, using the master key, he opened the door and peered inside.

He saw food.

There wasn’t much in the way of variety, but there were large canisters of dried pancake mix. A lot of the heavier dried bulk goods had been left behind. There was a giant vat of maple syrup. There was a dust covered plastic bag of dried banana chips that Mignon knew were used in the pancakes, because he had eaten many of them. There were big tins of condensed milk, pouches of instant pudding powders, canisters of orange drink mix that contained a full day’s supply of vitamin C in every glass, large tins of beans, overly large tins of ketchup, and much to Mignon’s relief, canisters of coffee.

If Mignon had to, he could survive on coffee and condensed milk, which was better than no coffee and no milk. He continued to rummage around, finding a small cache of tea, which surprised him, because the lumberjacks typically did not drink tea. There was one giant jar of pickled eggs, covered in dust and sitting in a corner, that he was grateful to see.

Sighing with relief, Mignon was thankful that he and Magnolia would not go hungry, and consumed with guilt for the fact that he was stealing from the ponies who sometimes employed him. None of that mattered now; just keeping Magnolia warm, secure, safe, and happy. Those were his only priorities, and he would deal with the consequences later.

When Mignon returned, the small cabin was warm and Magnolia had opened her coat, somehow undoing the buttons on her own. She was smiling, happy looking, and hugging her stuffy when he had entered with a collection of goods in tow, as well as some kitchen utensils. He placed a cast iron pan and a griddle upon a table near the wood burning stove, stowed the food he had procured, and then, feeling weary, sat down in a tattered dusty chair.

Sighing from exhaustion, Mignon smiled at Magnolia to let her know that it was okay.

“What is for dinner?” Magnolia asked, her chin resting on top of her stuffy’s head.

“Do you like pancakes?” Mignon inquired in reply.

“I love pancakes,” Magnolia replied. “Before everything went wrong, my mama used to fix them.”

An aching feeling of misery settled over Mignon and his ears drooped. “The collapse affected all of us I suppose, some worse than others. I suppose I was lucky. I’m a unicorn that doesn’t mind hard labour.”

“My mother cut manes and trimmed tails,” Magnolia murmured, looking distant, her eyes staring off at nothing in particular. “We used to live in a city called Manehatten. We left before things got real bad. I had to grow up quickly. My mother kept getting fatter and fatter and weaker and weaker. We ended up here. Now she’s gone and somepony took Olive away.”

“I’m sorry Maggie,” Mignon offered, feeling useless and morose.

“My mother called me Maggie sometimes,” Magnolia whispered.

“I don’t have to call you Maggie if it hurts you,” Mignon replied, looking concerned, his face drooping, his eyes wide and glimmering in the lamplight.

“I don’t mind,” Magnolia breathed, her eyes moistening as she spoke. “It makes me happy to hear my nickname again. I thought that it went away with my mother. I never got to say bye bye or that I loved her. She was not herself when Olive came, she went to sleep and she never woke up. They wouldn’t let me near her or hug her goodbye.”

“Ugh, hrm, I’m sorry Magnolia,” Mignon apologised, shaking his head sorrowfully.

“Bad things happen,” Magnolia muttered as she squeezed her stuffy. “I learned that quickly in the orphanage. The other orphans beat each other up and steal each other’s food. If you give some of your food up willingly you are protected and everypony piled up the bed together so the rats don’t eat you. Those of us who refused to be bullied had no protection. I fought back… Imma pegasus. We fight.”

“You sure do,” Mignon agreed.

“Before I ran away, I was nearly adopted. I didn’t want to be. A stallion came in with his wife, but I don’t think they were married,” Magnolia whispered.

“What makes you say that?” Mignon asked, his eyebrow raising and his curiousity growing. He peered at Magnolia carefully, determined to believe her after doubting her about the rats.

“She was scared of him, and kept flinching when he moved,” Magnolia answered, her lips trembling as she spoke. “The marm put me in a room with both of them. He scared me. He kept touching me and telling me that he was going to put me to work so I could make money and he kept trying to lift up my tail and it made me feel funny. I didn’t know what was going on so I bit him and ran out of the room. I got in a lot of trouble… they didn’t listen to me when I tried to tell them. I got into a lot of fights with my fellow orphans and I was a troublemaker, so they probably thought I was making more trouble. I got whipped for being a bad filly and locked into a room to think about what I needed to be grateful for. They left me there for three days. When they let me out, I was really weak. I heard stories from my fellow orphans what ponies like that want from little fillies like me. I got scared. I got really scared. And I ran. I jumped out of a window and ran away.”

Not knowing what else to do, Mignon lifted Magnolia, pulling her out of her coat. She dropped her stuffy in panic, let out a cry, and Mignon levitated her across the room. A moment later, he was sitting back on his haunches, holding her, squeezing her tightly to his neck. Magnolia squirmed, unsure of what to feel or do, and then understanding she was safe, finally relaxed into Mignon’s neck, wrapping her forelegs around him and squeezing back.

“This is why you cried in the shower,” Mignon grunted in a pained voice.

“Yeah,” Magnolia admitted. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I could feel his hooves on me and I just felt icky.”

“I’m sorry,” Mignon whispered in a strained wavering voice.

“I trust you,” Magnolia whimpered, her barrel starting to hitch. She lifted her face as a few tears started to fall and kissed Mignon on the cheek.

“I need to fix you something to eat and get your medicine in you. Then it is time to get you to bed. You need rest,” Mignon said after he felt two small lips kiss his cheek. Warmth blossomed through his body.

“I don’t mean to get scared when you touch me, a lot of bad things happened. I'm glad I took a chance on you. Thank you for everything,” Magnolia whispered as she nuzzled her cheek against Mignon’s neck. “Just hold me a minute longer, dinner can wait,” she murmured.

“Okay Maggie.”

 
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