Fallen Leaves

by Donnys Boy

Chapter 1: Fallen Leaves

“Fallen Leaves”

by Donny’s Boy


Synopsis: On the morning of the Summer Sun Celebration, he returns to Canterlot even though he knows he'll find nothing there but certain doom. He returns because he made a promise ... and nopony breaks a Pinkie promise.


“Looking through the backyard of my life,
Time to sweep the fallen leaves away.
Like the sun that rises every day,
We can chase the dark clouds from the sky ...
I gave my promise to you, girl.”
--Paul McCartney, “Promise to You Girl”

He liked Cloudsdale. It wasn’t like other pony cities, all tiny houses and cramped narrow roads. No, the capital of the pegasi was different--open, airy, spacious. Majestic, truly. It stood white and pure against the vivid blueness of the surrounding sky and, as the sun began its descent below the horizon, the city lit up in a hundred shades of oranges and pinks and reds. It reminded him quite a bit of the old palace in Canterlot, of how during sunsets the palace positively glowed.

Despite himself, he snorted at the memory. It had been quite some time since he’d thought of Canterlot with anything like nostalgia.

But then, this wasn’t any ordinary day, was it? Perhaps he was allowed this small bit of sentimentality. Just perhaps.

He swooped down low over the pegasus city spread out before him, drawing a few fearful gazes as he did so, and kept his eyes trained on the clouds below. After a few minutes of searching, he finally found his prize. She was standing right outside the weather factory, leaning against the building with hooded eyes and a bored expression on her face. That look was one all too familiar to him, but he felt a jolt at seeing it on a yellow face framed by pink mane.

“Heya, squirt!”

The young pegasus gave a jump and, looking up and spotting him hovering above her with a toothy grin, she gasped. “Oh, my gosh! What are you doing here?”

“Geez! No ‘hi, Spike,’ or ‘how you doin’, Spike?’” he grumbled, throwing in an eye roll for good measure.

“No, no, no. I didn’t mean it like … ugh!” She took to the air and flew up to meet him, until they were eye to eye. “You know she’s looking for you just about everywhere. Cloudsdale isn’t the most inconspicuous place you could hide, y’know.”

“I’m a dragon. There’s no such thing as being inconspicuous for a dragon.” He allowed a tiny, sly grin to slip across his muzzle. “Besides, isn’t ‘inconspicuous’ kinda a big word for a self-proclaimed dumb jock? You been spending too much time with that egghead fillyfriend of yours?”

“She’s not an egghead!” the pegasus shot back, her rose-colored eyes blazing in anger. Then she paused, and horror dawned upon her face. “And, uh, she’s not my fillyfriend. We’re just, y’know, flight school buddies.”

“Sure, sure. If you say so.”

The filly somehow managed to square her shoulders, even in mid-flight. “I do say so!”

He laughed at that, a nice long laugh, deep from his belly. The sound of a dragon laughing uproariously drew more than a few concerned glances from passing pegasi. He tried to grin at them in as reassuring a way as possible, but it didn’t seem to help.

“Seriously, Spike.” The young pegasus’ eyes softened considerably, becoming almost gentle. “It’s not safe for you to be here. So why’d you come?”

He gave a shrug that he hoped look casual. “What? I need a special reason now to visit my favorite grandniece?”

She snorted. “Yeah, okay, first of all? I’m not really your grandniece, or grand anything else. I’m a pony, and you’re a dragon. Remember?” She rolled her eyes. “And second, I’m your only grandniece.”

“Doesn’t mean you’re not my favorite.”

He wondered if he should tell her how much she looked like her grandmother. Like both her grandmothers, really. Wondered whether she’d like knowing that or would just resent it. She resented a lot of things having to do with ponies who’d come before her, in whose shadows she’d lived her entire life.

He decided to not say anything. She probably knew, on some level, anyway.

Suddenly, her eyes hardened again. “You’re … you’re not planning to do anything stupid. Right?” She frowned at him with great suspicion. “Oh, geez, you totally are, aren’t you? Apple Bloom always said you were never up to any good when you got that look in your eye.”

The dragon simply grinned and, leaning forward, gave the pegasus a gentle nuzzle. “I love you, kid.” When he pulled back again, he saw that she was frowning twice as hard. “Have a happy Summer Sun Celebration, okay? Say hi to your fillyfriend for me or something.”

“Spike … why? Why?

There were tears in those rose-colored eyes, and they looked so strange, so misplaced, so unspeakably wrong. He tried to remember the times he’d seen tears in those other eyes, eyes as fierce and as deep and as pink as the ones before him now, but for some reason he couldn’t. But tears had always looked strange in those eyes, too.

He turned his head away. Maybe the problem was that he didn’t want to remember.


“Because I made a promise. A Pinkie promise, even.” Still he didn’t look at her. “And nopony breaks a Pinkie promise.”

And with that, he gave a strong flap of his wings and was gone, rising upwards into the sky, as fast as a bullet and at speeds no pegasus could hope to match. He thrust his arms forward as he continued his ascent, reaching, grasping--for what, he didn’t know. Perhaps the sky itself. He closed his eyes against the wind and kept climbing, until he felt his breath begin to come shallow and quick.

High above the earth and all its ponies, he paused and opened his eyes. Even majestic Cloudsdale looked like little more than a tuft of cotton from this great of an altitude. Spike laughed again, but it sounded strange and reedy in the thin atmosphere.


He found a cave to sleep in that night, one that had been long abandoned, dank and stinking of mildew. Unsurprisingly, he discovered that he wasn’t able to sleep except in fits and starts. But perhaps that was all right. It was the eve of the Summer Sun Celebration, after all. Everyone was supposed to stay up until dawn.

After the fourth time he awoke, his heart hammering from a dream he couldn’t quite remember, he decided to give up all pretenses of slumber. He reached out and grabbed the small pouch that laid by his side--the pouch that carried and protected his most precious earthly treasure--and he quickly tied it around his waist. Then he crept out of his hidey hole and returned to the pre-dawn skies.

He flew east, towards where the sun would be rising soon.

He flew east, towards Canterlot.


The guards stopped him outside the city’s walls, just as he expected they would. He smiled at them, his very best smile, the one that Rarity had made him practice all those years ago, and as one the Canterlot guards took a nervous step backwards. Spike sighed, and he could feel the smile drop from his face. Apparently he hadn’t practiced enough.

Finally, one of the ponies, a tall unicorn stallion, stepped forward again. “Sheldon Sparkle! Alias, Spike Sparkle!” he called out, his voice loud and crisp in the chilly air. “You are wanted for crimes of treason, against the Crown and against Equestria!”

Spike slowly sat down and folded his wings against his back. The pouch, still tied securely around his waist, gently bumped against his upper thigh as he did.

“I wrote a book,” the dragon replied, throwing in a snort for good measure. “It wasn’t even that great of a book. Just ask my publisher.”

If the guard pony was capable of recognizing humor, he showed no signs of it. “You are under arrest, Mr. Sparkle. Prepare to be placed in restraints and transferred to a holding facility.”

With a hearty chuckle that sent a wispy tendril of smoke through his nostrils, Spike lowered his his head until his snout was level with the unicorn’s. “So you’re gonna arrest me, huh?” He raised an eye ridge. “You and what army?”

The stallion glared at him and took a threatening step forward. “Why, you impudent--”


The stallion froze at the sound of the intruding voice, his eyes bulging so large that it took nearly all of Spike’s self-control not to laugh. As the unicorn guard struggled to maintain his composure, the dragon lifted his head to greet the pony who’d just arrived.

She smiled at him brightly, almost warmly. “Hello, Spike.”

“Hi, Princess Celestia.”

“Would you like to come inside for a cup of tea?”

She phrased it as a question, though of course it really wasn’t. Ever gracious, the Sun Princess. Spike felt a rush of something like appreciation, if not affection.

“Sure,” he said, shrugging. “Tea sounds good.”

She led him past the stunned cadre of guards, her posture and bearing as regal as they’d ever been, and with little other choice he followed after her. They strode through the wide, empty streets of a twilit Canterlot, and Spike couldn’t stop himself from marveling at everything that had changed and everything that had stayed the same. Unbidden came the memory of a trip to a rock farm just outside Ponyville, where an excitable pink pony had exclaimed over every new rock and every new fence post that she’d spotted along the way.

He’d laughed at her then--they’d all laughed, in that affectionate way of theirs--but he understood now. It was strange, very strange, to return to a place that had once been home but wasn’t any longer.

Soon enough they’d reached the palace, and the guards there reacted subtly and silently to the dragon’s presence in the company of the solar princess. There were a few murmurings among the ranks but little further. They bowed to Celestia as she passed by and, as he tagged along after her, Spike gave the guards a mock salute.

They glared but dared not say a word in reproach.

Celestia didn’t speak during the long trek through the palace’s ornate hallways, until they reached the relative privacy of the informal dining room. It was a smallish room, somehow intimate despite its cathedral ceiling, and entirely different from the great banquet hall used for feasts and diplomatic events. The princess already had a teapot and two cups set out on the table. She’d obviously been expecting him.

He’d known that she would. Very little escaped Celestia’s attention, after all.

“I read your book,” she began conversationally, as she began pouring the tea.

“Oh? Did you like it?”

“I thought it was interesting, to say the least. But political exposes usually are, even if they do sometimes suffer from a certain incompleteness of facts.” She glanced up from the tea cups and gestured with a hoof. “Please, Spike, there’s no need to stand on ceremony. Be seated, and help yourself to some tea.”

He did as he was asked. A space had been left at the table for him, where the chairs had been removed, and he untied his pouch from his waist and set it carefully on the table before sitting down. Once seated, he took up a tea cup between the very tips of his claws and sipped gingerly. Green tea, he discovered, thick and bitter, though sweetened with several dollops of honey. Not his favorite--quite the opposite, actually--but it carried with it the pleasant scent and happy memory of a cozy little cottage nestled near the woods, so he couldn’t complain too terribly much.

“Thank you, Princess,” he said, “for the tea and for the hospitality.”

Manners were important, after all. Even now, and even here. They wouldn’t have wanted him to forget his manners.

Celestia smiled again, that smile that was almost like the smile he used to know. It made him feel cold, deep down in his stomach, despite the warmth from the tea.

“You’re very welcome,” Celestia replied. She took a sip of her own tea before continuing. “I’m sure you know it’s quite an important day, so I’m afraid I don’t have as much time to chat as we’d both prefer. So perhaps we should discuss what you’ve come here to discuss.”

He nodded. Perhaps they should. “I’m here to avenge the bearers of the Elements of Harmony.” He grinned a bit as the words hung in the air, ridiculous even to his own ears. “I’m here to remove you from power--by force, if necessary.”

“Surely you realize you can’t. I’m immortal.”

“Then I’ll die trying.”

“A suicide mission, then? Spike, what would Twilight Sparkle think of such a thing?”

Spike felt his jaw clench, and it took some effort to force it open to speak his next words: “Twilight can’t think anything, actually. Because she’s dead.” The tea cup suddenly shattered in his grip. “Because you killed her, Celestia.”

She just stared back at him with those large, impassive eyes, with a gaze he’d once thought of as beatifically sage. “She knew the risks. They all did.”

“They trusted you. They trusted you, and you lied right to their faces.”

“They knew the risks, and their sacrifices were not in vain.” Celestia took another sip of tea. “They saved all of Equestria.”

“They trusted you!”

He felt his heart speed up, faster and faster, like the thundering of countless hooves during the Running of the Leaves. Dim recollections of a blue pegasus pony and an orange earth mare floated through his mind, tantalizingly close yet oddly distance. His heart was beating so fast that he almost felt nauseous, while his vision was going dark at the edges. Abruptly he realized--

“You drugged my tea.”

There was no surprise in his voice, no outrage. Only calm acceptance.

“An execution would only create a martyr, and martyrs are nearly as immortal as goddesses,” Celestia explained, her tone as gentle as ever, even placid. But her eyes looked sad. “A death from simple disease, however? That’s an entirely different matter.”

As if in slow motion, Spike toppled over onto his side. The marble tiles of the palace floor felt cool against his face. He could hear the clop of hooves echoing off the high ceilings and, a moment later, four golden-shod legs stood directly in his line of sight. With a shaky sigh, he shut his eyes.

“It should not be painful, nor should it take very long. Please believe me when I say that I didn’t want it to come to this.” A pause, then a brush of something soft and warm against his cheek. “Is there anything I can do for you, my little dragon? Any final request that is within my power to grant?”

He felt like laughing at that. It had been decades since any pony could have truthfully referred to him as “little.” But when he tried to laugh, all that came out was a sickly gurgle.

“Yes, Princess … yes, there is.” Spike licked his lips, which felt dry and cracked against his tongue. “My pouch. On the table. There’s a book in the pouch.”

“If it is the book you have written--”

“It’s not.”

There were some shuffling noises, followed by the sound of more hooves against marble. Spike forced open his eyes, and he saw that the golden rays of dawn’s light were starting to creep across the floor. He heard rustling, coming from the direction of the table, and then a long, deep silence.

Daring Do and the Quest for the Gem of Griffondonia?” The princess’ voice quavered with something that it didn’t often betray--confusion. “I don’t understand.”

Spike smiled gently. “I promised. She … she made me promise to bring back the book to …” He paused. Coughed. Spit out a mouthful of blood. “To the Canterlot library. Since she knew she … she wouldn’t be able to. And I did. I promised.” His eyes slid shut once again. “Woulda promised her the world, at that point. But all she wanted was for me to make sure that stupid book got brought back to you.”

Celestia said nothing.

“Sorry it’s bein’ returned so late,” Spike muttered, mostly as an afterthought. His voice was little more than an exhalation of breath. “She always did hate being tardy.”

Author's Notes: This was written for a writing project put together by v-dub. The participants all drafted a story synopsis, character list, and genre tags, and then we were each assigned someone else's character list and genre tags (but kept our own story synopsis). Here was my prompt:

Plot: A childhood promise is made that no one expects her/him to keep ... but all through the years, it's never once occurred to her/him to NOT keep the promise.

Setting: Cloudsdale

- Princess Celestia
- A philosopher who published a work speaking out against the solar princess' practices, laws, and handling of various situations, such as the changling invasion and the banishment of Luna. He stands for reason and logic above all else and will not be swayed into admitting he was wrong or going against his beliefs by simply being told to do so by a higher power.

Genre Tags: Sad, Tragedy

Many, many thanks to v-dub for putting this together and to the other writers for participating.

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