Over the Border

by Jay David

Chapter 1: Over the Border

Over the Border

Rain, while always a necessary thing, nevertheless came as something of a discomfort to those who actually had to walk around in it. And such was the case tonight, as one lone hooded figure, walking quietly along a lonely path, grumbled under his hood as he made his way closer to what appeared to be a tavern of some sort. A warm glow could be seen from the windows, leading to a small smile on the part of the stallion. On he marched, and at times there seemed to be a slight spring in his step, to the point where he was even humming a song, occasionally even glancing up to smile at the sight of the moon. However, with the aforementioned rain, there were plenty of clouds about, so, sadly, that moon wasn't as visible as it usually was. Still, this was a minor point, and before long, the stallion reached his destination, pushing the door of the tavern open and entering the place in earnest.

A warmth spread over him as he entered, leading to a relieved sigh on his part. Lowering his hood, he was revealed to be an earth pony, small for one his age, with dark blue fur and a black mane. Still smiling, he glanced around, seeing quite a few other earth ponies around chatting to themselves, drinking cider, and just generally enjoying their time here. Eventually, however, his eyes settled on the one sitting beside the bar of the place itself. This stallion was easily the largest pony here, towering over everypony else by a clear foot, with a very muscular body, and bearing dark grey fur that matched his mane. He seemed to be downing cider after cider, much to the blue stallion's amusement, and as the former approached, he watched this larger pony in silence, before, finally, clearing his throat. As the enormous grey stallion turned, his eyes widened with surprise, leading to the smaller stallion chuckling and speaking up.

"Enjoying yourself, Granite?"

Immediately, the larger pony broke out into an enormous smile, and he hopped off his chair before embracing the smaller stallion in a tight hug.

"Ha! Cobalt! Long bloody time, no bloody see!"

Naturally, Cobalt had to struggle for air as his friend continued to hug him.

"Yes...ach! Nice to see you too, buddy!"

Letting him go, Granite's smile widened.

"Finally back from your vacation, eh? Enjoy it?"

Taking a moment to recover, Cobalt regained his smile before nodding.

"Yes, it was certainly...eventful. We’d have come back sooner, but you know how thorough security checks along the roads can get in that part of the country."

Granite threw back his head and let out a hearty laugh, leading to some amused looks from some of the other patrons of the tavern, though the latter ponies were polite enough to keep to themselves over this. As for Granite, he gave a playful punch to his friend, which, again, led to some discomfort on Cobalt's part, before finally speaking up.

"You deserved it, friend!"

Cobalt sighed.

"I would have preferred to stay at my work. I mean, I was right in the middle of..."

But Granite raised a hoof, halting him.

"Nope! None of that! You and your wife deserved a break, and you were gonna have one!"

Cobalt, of course, was taken aback by his friend's forwardness on this, and so bumbled his words soon after.


Thankfully, or perhaps not, depending on who you were, it wasn't long before he was given a reprieve from this, when a third voice started to speak to him.

"Well, well, well, look who it is."

Both stallions turned, just in time to see the bartender, a mare with reddish-brown fur and a bright red mane, walk up to where they were sitting. This mare was eyeing Cobalt in particular, with her eyebrow arched quite high.

"Enjoy your little break?"

Cobalt sighed to this.

"Nice to see you too, Ruby."

The mare rolled her eyes, before promptly lifting up a used cider glass and starting to wipe it with a nearby towel.

"I'll be honest, it was nice, not having you around the last couple of weeks."

Cobalt frowned to that, but again, Granite spoke first.

"So, what was it like? The capital?"

Looking to his friend, Cobalt regained his smile.

"Queenstown? Oh, it was incredible! I've never seen so many ponies together in one place before!"

He looked away, looking almost nostalgic as he continued speaking.

"And the way the moonlight hit the royal spire in the middle? Oh! I tell you, Granite, it was the most beautiful place you've ever seen!"

Granite smiled back, clearly interested, though his smile faded a little bit afterwards.

"Well, it's not really a royal spire these days, is it? I mean, the Queen hasn't lived there in years."

Cobalt nodded.

"True. She prefers that castle of hers out east, by the Everfree."

After he'd said that, he found, to his slight surprise, that Ruby had placed a glass of cider by his part of the bar, giving him a silent nod as she did so. Though there was clearly no love lost between them, Cobalt nodded right back, taking a sip of the drink while the mare started speaking herself.

"I don't blame her. All those ponies crammed into one spot like that? Ugh! It must get pretty loud."

Finishing his drink, Cobalt let out a long sigh before nodding.

"Sure...but it's still impressive, Ruby."

The mare then looked to him with a slight frown.

"I still think you were crazy, taking my sister with you over there. I mean she was, what, eight-and-a-half months along when you left?"

Cobalt considered that for a moment.

"I thought the same. But, she insisted that she needed to get around a bit."

Then, ever so slowly, a knowing smirk came to his lips, as he regarded by his friend and his sister-in-law.

"Although, if it makes you feel any better...she's not really troubled by it now."

At first, neither of the other ponies had any clue what he was talking about. But, as Cobalt continued to smirk, as well as taking a few sips of cider here and there, Granite and Ruby's eyes began to widen.

"You...you mean...?" Granite began.

Cobalt nodded.

"Yep. They came along right in the middle of the vacation. Thankfully our room was near the hospital, so no worries there."

But Ruby raised an eyebrow again.

"Wait...they came along?"

Looking to her, Cobalt nodded.

"Twins. A colt and a filly."

As one would expect, Ruby was quite shocked by this, but, it seemed her sense of snark won out, and she gave a loud chuckle before giving Cobalt a playful punch on the foreleg.

"Well, looks like you were more potent than I thought!"

As before, Cobalt rolled his eyes.

"Yes, thank you for that, Ruby."

Unfortunately, this news had the added effect of giving Granite yet another reason to embrace his friend in a powerful and crushing hug, much to Cobalt's irritation.

"This is wonderful news!" Granite exclaimed.

Cobalt put up with it for a while, waiting until his friend released him before taking in a deep inhale. After a few moments of recovering from this, however, he returned to smiling.

"And it doesn't stop there."

Yet again, his two companions looked to him, clearly interested as to how this situation could be any better than what it was. Then, after waiting just long enough, Cobalt revealed his secret.

"The filly, our daughter...is a unicorn."

Immediately, both ponies looked utterly shocked at this news, to the point where even Ruby was lost for words. Granite, by contrast, actually did have something to say, by his shock was evident as he spoke with a much quieter voice, almost to the point of a whisper.

"But...there hasn't been a unicorn in your family since..."

Cobalt nodded, finishing his words for him.

"I know. Not since my great-great-Grandma."

Here, Ruby leaned forward, having recovered enough to actually get a few words out.

"Do you mean to tell me...that my neice...is a unicorn?!”

Looking to her, Cobalt smiled and nodded silently, leading to perhaps the widest grin he'd ever seen on his sister-in-law's face.

"Oh...I am so gonna rub this in my neighbours' faces when I get home!"

Cobalt laughed to that, taking another swig of his cider, only to then find Granite leaning closer to him, speaking as though in awe of something.

"So...does that mean...you got it? The letter?"

Turning to his friend, Cobalt took on a look of pride.

"Yep. The day after little Stella was born, the letter came in. When she comes of age, she gets to go to one of the royal magic academies!"

Granite's own grin widened at that, and he raised his glass to his friend.

"Well, here's to little Stella then!"

He gulped his cider down heartily, leaving Cobalt to ponder his situation, with a warm smile on his face as he did so.

"To think...one day...my own daughter could be taught by one of the Queen's own hoof-picked magical instructors! She might even join one of her Majesty's elite unicorn squadrons!"

He let out a brief gasp.

"Maybe...maybe she'll even be one of the Order of the Stars!"

A clearing of a throat caused him to turn to Ruby, who, while still smiling, nevertheless gave a somewhat incredulous look to him.

"I'd temper your expectations, Cobalt."

Hearing that, the small stallion let out a laugh of his own.

"Yeah, guess I got carried away. But hey, a guy can dream, right?"

Ruby smiled to that, then looked over to Granite as the latter, after having downed his latest cider, took on a look of curiosity.

"I never asked. What about your son?"

To that, Cobalt shook his head.

"Earth pony, like his Mother and me. But, he's healthy and strong, so consider me pretty proud all the same."

Here, Granite placed his hoof upon his friend's shoulder, showing clear approval at that attitude.

"Perhaps your colt might even join the army one day. Wouldn't that be something!"

Cobalt laughed briefly.

"I certainly hope so. I could never have joined myself. Too small at the entry age."

But Granite just waved that concern off.

"Ah, don't beat yourself up over it. If you had joined, we wouldn't have the best-damn blacksmith in the area!"

Cobalt smiled to his fellow stallion's remark.

"Well, you would have had no trouble joining back then!"

Again, Granite brushed the remark off.

"Nah! These hooves were meant for crushing rocks, not skulls. I'm a miner, like my Father, and his Father, and his Father, and..."

But, before he could continue what was probably a long-winded rant, Ruby cut him off.

"Yes, yes, going all the way back to the legendary Rockhoof. We've heard it all before, Granite. Every earth pony in a hundred miles gets to say that about themselves. Even Cobalt here!"

Granite let out another bellowing laugh.

"Well, what can I say? How did the old saying go? Old Rocky liked to plough the fields by day, and at night, he liked to plough the..."

"Yes, yes, no need to finish, Granite!" Cobalt interrupted.

Together, both Granite and Ruby had a good laugh over their friend's more reserved response, and eventually, even Cobalt himself joined in on it. After a time though, the laughter died down, and Granite, of course, couldn't help but slam his hoof against the counter, looking to Ruby with a wide smile.

"Three more ciders, Ruby! One for each of us! On me!"

But Cobalt raised a hoof to that.

"Oh no! I wouldn't want to impose!"

But Granite just laughed again.

"No worries! Trust me, I can afford it today!"

He looked to Cobalt, smirking slightly.

"We've been given higher demands for iron lately, so we're all getting longer shifts."

Instantly, Cobalt understood.

"Ah, greater ration privileges then?"

Granite nodded.

"Yep! And I can't think of anything better to celebrate than something like this!"

When the ciders arrived, both Granite and Ruby took their glasses, raising them to Cobalt.

"Here's to your foals, Cobalt! May they grow up strong!" Granite declared.

Chuckling, Cobalt picked up his own glass, and together, the three ponies gulped their drinks down hard. But, when those glasses were put back down on the counter, Granite's smile faded a little.

"Believe me...we could all do with something to celebrate right now."

Hearing that, Cobalt gained a look of confusion, and he turned to Ruby, only to find that she too was seeming a little put off right now. But, after spending the next few moments in silence, Granite elected to explain things to his friend by pointing to a newspaper that, until now, Cobalt hadn't noticed on the counter, titled "The Daily Constellation". There, right on the front page, was a photograph of what he recognised instantly from past news. It was the Lunar Embassy, stationed in Ponyville, only it was looking far from grand right now, as there were scorch marks all over it. At the top of the page, in big bold letters, was the title; "Embassy Attacked! Rogue Equestrians to Blame?" Seeing that, Cobalt sighed.

"Yeah...I heard about that. Everypony in the capital was talking about it."

Granite sighed even deeper.

"I hear there was a whole bunch of burn victims from this. One even had to be sent home."

Cobalt nodded.

"I know...I saw her."

Instantly, the other two looked to him, with Ruby asking the obvious question.

"What?! When?!"

Cobalt took another sip of his cider before answering.

"At the hospital. After the birth, Sapphire was recovering, so while she slept I walked about a bit. I happened on the ward where the burned mare was taken and..."

He grimaced.

"...it...it wasn't pretty."

Granite leaned closer.

"I heard some pretty bad stuff. How was it?"

Cobalt looked to him.

"Honestly? Probably worse that you've heard. She took a pretty big hit from the fire. There were burns over most of one half of her body. And her wing was so badly mangled that..."

He looked away, shutting his eyes tightly.

"...the last thing the doctors said was that...they'd have to amputate."

As soon as he'd heard that, Granite growled, looking to the newspaper before unceremoniously spitting on it.

"Equestrian savages!"

Ruby seemed just as ticked off, though she said nothing as she dwelt on this. As for Cobalt, he reached out, trying to calm his friend.

"Granite...you needn't be so angry."

His friend snapped his head in his direction.

"What?! That innocent mare will never fly again because of what those...those...those monsters did to her! How can I not be angry?!"

To that, Cobalt smiled.

"Because...she was saved."

Again, both ponies looked to him, waiting for an explanation. And after he took a moment to gather his thoughts, he gave it.

"Barely had the doctors given their verdict on the mare when...when..."

Slowly, he took a deep breath, then looked to his friends as though he'd seen the most wondrous thing imaginable.

"...she arrived. Queen Moon."

Silence fell, and not just for the three of them. Everypony in the tavern stopped what they were doing and looked to Cobalt, completely disbelieving what they'd just heard. But, nopony said a word as he carried on.

"The moment she arrived, we bowed. We got to our knees and said nothing to her. She walked past us all, right over to the injured mare. After a moment there...there was a glow, and then a flash. Some kind of magic. When the light died down, I...I couldn't believe it."

He smiled wider.

"The wing, it...it was healed! Like there'd never been a burn there at all!"

He again took a moment for himself.

"After that, she waited for the mare to wake up, and when she did, she placed a hoof on her shoulder, giving her a quiet nod before...leaving. She just...turned around and left, never saying anything."

Silence persisted for a long time after that, as nopony wanted to be the first to speak up about this. Then, after a long while, it was Granite who broke that silence.

"So...what was she like?"

Cobalt shook his head.

"She was...like nopony I'd ever seen before. She...she almost had a glow about her. Beautiful...powerful...wise. That poor mare...she was doomed, her life practically over...until Moon came along."

Granite leaned back, then developed into a smile of his own. He reached to one side, picked up his glass, then raised it, looking out to all the other ponies in the tavern.

"To Queen Moon! Praise be her name!"

Instantly, all of them raised their glasses in unison, speaking as though as one.

"Praise be her name!"

Together they drank, and when it was all over, everypony got back to what they'd been doing before this sudden shift in their priorities. All, that is, except for Cobalt, who nodded to himself and let out a long sigh, taking a sip while listening to his friend, who spoke with determination in his voice.

“I tell you, Cobalt, if we ever do go to war with those Equestrians, which we should after this mess, I’ll feel a lot better knowing our great Queen is with us!”

But Cobalt shook his head.

“We mustn’t blame all of Equestria for this, Granite. The article says it right there, this was only the act of a few. Their Princess publically condemned the whole thing!”

But Granite snorted.

“Yeah, right! I’ll bet she was just waiting for somepony on her side to do this! She doesn’t want to look like a warmonger, so she just sits back and hopes somepony in her country takes action against us. You mark my words, friend, those Equestrians feel nothing but hate for us, and this right here just proves it!”

Cobalt remained unconvinced.

“Don’t forget...that’s our Queen’s sister you're talking about.”

Granite hesitated, then frowned.

“Maybe...but our Queen has always had the strongest will. Family or no...she will do what is right for her people.”

Cobalt frowned right back.

“I’m a Father now, Granite. My wife came this close to dying to bring those precious foals into the world. I don’t want my children to have been born into a time of war.”

Slowly, Granite looked away, uncomfortable, but still unwilling to bend in this matter.

“Life...doesn’t always give us what we want, Cobalt.”

For a while, Cobalt just sat there, watching his friend drink his cider. Then, his eyes turned to his own drink, and after taking another small sip, he spoke softly to himself, almost like he was whispering a prayer.

"My Queen...oh great protector...whether it be peace or war that awaits us, may my children grown strong and powerful to serve you...just as we all do."

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