There was general sigh of relief in my Equestria Dreamscape. The Deception and to our knowledge the last remanent of the Kingdom of Shadows had been destroyed. Applebloom while injured and facing a long road of recovery and rehabilitation had not been lost and now the Apple family was truly back together again. Twilight's condition was serious but stable, and Applejack was expected to make a full recovery along with every other pony that had been wounded in the recent battle.
Over the course of the day there was a steady stream of official ponies arriving and departing from Sweet Apple Acres. After further stabilizing Twilight, Cpl. Stone, Sgt. Wind Whisper, Pvt. Blue Cloud and Cpl. Steel Mane were flown out in sky chariots to Canterlot General Hospital for treatment of their wounds. Both Celestia's star pupil and Cpl. Stone in particular had specialist surgeons awaiting their arrivals. As final precaution the Royal Sisters decided they'd spend the next day at the farm before returning to the palace in Canterlot. Celestia and Luna wanted to check and make certain there were no nasty surprises still lurking at Sweet Apple Acres. Unless something exceptional was discovered they would return to the palace tomorrow evening.
Of course the sounds of combat, magic, gunfire, and the blinding flash/ explosion had aroused the attention of ponies all over the area. This along with glimpses of the Royal Sisters and Royal Guards patrolling the farm meant that in no time every pony in the immediate area around Ponyville was aware of the events out at the farm. A cordon was set up around the farm and only ponies with "official" business were allowed on the property. Still a surprising number of ponies that seemed to have "official" business out at Sweet Apple Acres that day.
The Mane Six along with the Mayor and Carousel were admitted on to the property and were given a short briefing. Celestia also took the time to speak with the other members of the CMC and explain to them what had happened to Applebloom.
Needless to say this had been a news worthy event. Before shooing them off the property both Celestia and the Mayor gave a brief statement to the reporters who had begun to arriving looking for a story. Luna let Celestia doing most of the talking and the Royal Sisters promised that an official press conference concerning the events of the day would be held in the next few days. Eventually the afternoon grew late and with nothing else exciting happening most ponies went home to their warm homes and hot meals. At sunset Celestia and Luna went out into the barnyard and set the sun and raised the moon. It was strange to observe such an ancient and profound ritual amongst such a rustic setting, it gave a certain primal and timeless aspect to it.
When Celestia announced that her and Luna intended to spend the evening at Sweet Apple Acres the remaining members of the Apple family who were still on their hoofs went into a frenzy. Arrangements had to be made for providing appropriate lodging for such important guests. Applejack tried to help but was quickly led back to her bed and was told by the old matriarch that she was not to get out of bed. If Granny Smith caught her out of bed and going anywhere but to the bathroom she'd hogtie AJ herself and throw back into bed. Like some grizzly general Granny Smith began ordering anypony except the Royal Sisters to move this, get that, clean this, stack that. Rank, office, age matter not to her and it was amusing to watch Royal Guard ponies being ordered around by her; at first they protested but Celestia volunteered the soldiers to the cause. The Royal Sisters may be the rulers of Equestria and the controllers of the sun and moon, but at the moment Granny's word was law on the grounds of Sweet Apple Acres and Celestia and Luna were not interested in challenging that authority. In fact it was interesting watch Granny chat casually with Celestia, and I realized as I watched them partake tea around the dining room table that this was a special occasion for Celestia.
Granny Smith was one of the oldest ponies alive in Equestria and in many ways could appreciate the Royal Sister situation. She had watched the birth of Ponyville and had seen generations of ponies pass before her eyes. She was too old and wise to worry now what younger, richer, and supposedly more "important" ponies thought of her. She had seen the her family grow and prosper along with the town she called home. She had experienced the joy, pain, wonder of being a mother and helped many a mare raise their foals into fine stallions and mares. She had experienced the sadness of outliving many of her kin and neighbors and had helped comforted those who had lost those close to them. She had watched as her granddaughter help save a Royal Sister, defeat of an ancient nemesis, and now crush eldritch nightmare. She had no fear of the future. Ponies would get along just fine.
Since Granny Smith knew that I had some cooking skill I was assigned to be one her assistants in the kitchen along with Petina. For her part Petina also realized the futility of questioning Granny commands and availed to carry out her instructions to the best of her abilities. In fact the two seemed to get along just fine. For me though I was pondering several questions in my head. Through out the day and into the evening I mulled over the issues in my head.
When these Equestrian dream arcs began several of my watchers on DA and FA commented or sent me notes asking whether I had tried to intervene or stop the tale that my subconscious was spinning. If I made no attempt to force a change to these events was my conscious mind consenting to letting the darker parts of my imagination do these terrible things to a family and a little filly. How did this reflect on myself as an individual? For the first time in all my years of lucid dreaming I was asking myself a question. Should I awake from this dream and never return to Equestria? Were Petina, Carousel and I a destructive and harmful force in this dreamscape? If I really cared so much for this beautiful place should I make the choice to leave it and never return? Would my continuing visits to this place ultimately destroy everything I loved about? Was I the serpent in the garden? Throughout the day and that evening pondered this question.
I found myself not able to sleep that evening as the gears in my mind ground over and over again this question. Finally as dawn approached I gave up and quietly slipped out of bed and crept out the front door. Usually the Apple family would be up and about but due to the recent events they were all sleeping in this morning. Donning my goggles I launched myself into the still dark early morning sky. Luna was apparently off attending to other matter of the night. It was cold but at least the worst of smoke was now beginning to subside and I could make out the glistening stars in the indigo heavens. I found myself flying higher and higher all the while the same question rolled through my head. Should I leave and never return. Would this be the last time I would fly like this. Finally I found a small cumulus cloud and landed on it. Lying down on it I stared off into space. Literally.
I don't know exactly how long I remained on that cloud but I became aware of a growing glow on eastern horizon. Dawn was a coming and the Royal Sisters were beginning the changing of the guard from night to day. I rolled off the cloud and glided back down to the farmstead. Like yesterday they were standing in the barnyard but today Celestia appearance was very different. Luna still had on the trapping of her office on, but her sister had decided to forego her tiara, pectoral or symbolic war boots. Celestia mane and tail were beautiful rivers of shimmering multi-color light and her feathers and coat glowed with a warm light that illuminated the entire barnyard. Gently I landed and silently watched a ritual which bonded them not only to that world but also to the ponies they so loved. Finishing their task they turned and acknowledged my presence. Slowly I bowed to them. Luna spoke first.
"Greetings Sky Brush. What had you out flying amongst my stars today?" Her voice was cool but not cold and her eyes still had a glow to them like reflected moonlight on still waters.
"Could not sleep your Highness so I decided to stretch my wings." I said. Luna nodded her head then looked at her sister for several seconds. Though no words were spoken between them one got the feeling that a discussion was going on between them. Finally she nodded and looked back at me and spoke .
"Well my duties over for the night and now I must retire. Until we meet again Sky Brush take care." Then she turned and left leaving myself and Celestia standing in the yard. Through all of this Celestia had remained silent. When her sister was out of obvious earshot she spoke to me.
"Sky Brush, I wish to stretch my legs, would you accompany me on a morning stroll around the farm? I wish to discuss something with you." She spoke the words as if it was an idea that had suddenly sprung into her mind, but her stare and body language conveyed a different story. I nodded of my head. "Of course your highness." I replied.
For the next ten minutes or so we casually wander the grounds of Sweet Apple Acres. The princess checked in with the guards who had kept a watch on the farm throughout the cold night and thanked them for their diligence. With that task completed we eventually found ourselves standing in front of the Apple family farmstead. Before I could head inside Celestia stopped me. She had her usual soft smile on her face but her eyes had a subtle look of confusion and concern.
"Sky Brush. I have been watching you for the last day. There is something on your mind and it is weighing heavily on you. Care to share it with me?"
At first I just looked at the dirty snow on the ground. Throughout the last the day I had tried to imagine how I might tell every pony that I was leaving, but now all those deep, well crafted, composed thoughts fled my mind. After a second or two I finally raised my head and spoke in a somewhat shaky voice.
"Princess Celestia. I, I, I have been thinking, and maybe it might best if Petina, Carousel and myself left Equestria and never returned."
"Why this sudden desire to leave?" Asked the princess of the sun. "Why would it be best for you or any of my subjects?"
I looked at the rows of snow covered apple trees and composed my thoughts. "Princess it was because I arrived in Equestria that the Lord of Shadows took Applebloom and threatened your reign. Because of me one of his agents almost succeeded in doing unimaginable harm to every being in this world. You've taken the dream walk through my mind, and even If you do not know all the facts you should know my existence here is a unique situation." I felt a great sadness growing in heart as spoke the next words. "If I stay I fear I if things like this will keep happening and I may end up endangering and wrecking everything I love about Equestria." At this point I realized that tears were trickling down my muzzle.
Celestia looked at me for moment then with tilt of her head she gestured. "Come sit with me on the porch." I followed her up the snow covered steps and on to a small porch attached to the deep crimson farmhouse. She laid down and asked that I lay down alongside her. I settled down on her right side. The boards of the porch were cold and damp. For several seconds she was silent as she watched her celestial orb continue to rise in the eastern sky and bath her kingdom in its glowing light. Finally she returned her stare to me she spoke with a soft but serious voice.
"Sky Brush did you consciously or willing assist the Lord of Shadows or any of his minions in their actions against myself, my sister or my subjects?" Silently I shook my head. She continued. "Did you take any pleasure or satisfaction in what has transpired to Applebloom or any of my subjects who were abducted or attacked by him?" Once again I shook my head. "Did you in light of the special conditions allow you to exist in Equestria do everything in your power to help my sister and I confront these threats?" I looked her in the eyes and slowly nodded.
She looked out over hills and orchards again. "Then I fail to see why you can't continue stay here if you wish to." Her voice once again had that wonderful warm quality to it.
In rebuttal I spelled out the questions that myself and others wondered about how my subconscious had allowed things to unfold and I my fear that it might do the same again in the future. It felt odd saying these things since with the exception of Petina I never openly discuss my role as the builder of my dreamscapes to the inhabitants of those world. "I just don't know if I should be here." I said somewhat bitterly as I closed my eyes and laid my chin on the cold, damp boards.
Suddenly I felt a warmth spread over my body and something soft gently caress my back and sides. Opening my eyes I discovered that Celestia had shifted her body over slightly to my side and had laid her right wing over my body pulling that wing back in again she had gently pressed me against her side. A faint soft white glow encompassed us both. She lowered her head and looked me with beautiful mauve eyes. Her mane not confined by the golden tiara flowed like a waterfall from her head, and created a canopy with my head inside it. It was no longer a cold winter morning but instead a warm pleasant summer afternoon filled with the scent of flowers. When she spoke her words had an unshakeable conviction to them.
"Sky Brush. I do not know why you are here. Like Petina there are parts of your mind that I could not see when I dream walked in it, but understand when I say that I believe that you are here in Equestria because for whatever reason you need to be here. To deny that would not be wise for you. I've watched you and studied you. I have seen images of the other realms you've visited. You are not a malicious soul by nature and whatever has transpired here was needed for you to become a better individual." She smiled. "Do you understand?"
"But what about Applebloom and Applejack? What about Twilight? You almost lost your star student and two of your bearers of the Elements of Harmony. What about the war with the dragons? Those things would've never happened if I never came to Ponyville. I've hurt your subjects more than helped them."
"And how do you know that helping them recover is not the reason you are suppose to be here? Maybe by helping them you'll learn the courage, and wisdom to help others and yourself in the future." she lowered her head until the bridge of her muzzle was touching mine. "I'll say it again. You are not a bad pony. You have your weaknesses but so does every pony. It is how we rise above those weaknesses that define us, not the weaknesses."
I had one last question for Celestia. "Did you already know about the Vortex of Heaven and that Hiccahorrilka was trapped in their? Were you and Luna some of the beings that imprisoned it?"
Celestia shook her head. "No Sky Brush we had no part in that and until recently my sister and I were unaware of its existence. Please understand that there are beings in this universe far more older, powerful, wiser, and crueler than Luna and I."
She then raised her head and tossed her mane. "We should go inside now. I smell something wonderful coming from the kitchen. Granny Smith must have breakfast almost ready." Then gracefully she rose and opened the front door and went inside with myself in tow.
This is the end of this dream arc. I have had more since then in Equestria. I want to thank everyone who stuck with me when this story got rather grim. Also thank you for your patience as I stretched my writing skills trying convey the images and words of my sleep in some sort of coherent fashion.
To be continued.