Chapter 5: Of Key Importance
His eyes were blue; his father's eyes were green. That was the only difference between the brown colt and stallion in appearance with the exception of the obvious size difference. They had the same hourglass cutie mark, the same brown hair style, and the same awkward stature. There could be no doubting that they were in fact father and son.
Derpy awoke after only a few hours of sleep. It was still dark, and could not have been any later than three in the morning. She was still tired, and had she been lying in her bed her first instinct would have been to roll over and doze off again. However when she awoke she had no pillow to fluff or covers to adjust because Derpy had instead dozed off on the carpet before her fireplace.
The mare shivered, for she was cold. The whole house was cold, cold enough to be the inside of her refrigerator in fact. Due to this fact, returning to her sleep was the last of her priorities; the first being to find warmth.
Her two yellow eyes darted around in the dark, which did not in fact appear so dark for her eyes being closed for so long had adjusted to the low light. They quickly found what they had been searching for, and without hesitation she reached out and grabbed the small blanket from its position not four feet from where she was laying. In a single motion, she tossed the large cloth object over her back and around her body to simulate some sort soft shell to hide her from the frigid air.
Once her body was securely wrapped in the blanket, she wriggled a few inches towards the small stack of logs. It was so cold that she did not even consider cleaning the ashes in the fireplace, but simply just shoved them to the side with the log before setting it on the rack. She then used the same method as before, to light the wick at the bottom of the fireplace, and ultimately start the process of warming her currently un-cozy home.
Spring, she thought, what's the point? Instead of snow we get frost and freezing rain. It's all the cold of winter with none of the charm.
Once the fire had really started to blaze, she stood up and trotted slowly over to the kitchen, still wrapped in that blanket. Once there, she found a box of matches. Using her teeth to grasp one, she struck a match and lit a candle, which was set on a brass dish with a little loop to carry it by. Once again, using her teeth she picked up the lit candle, by the loop on the dish, and turned back around. This time she did not stop at the fireplace, but rather continued to trot into her bedroom, where she found her bed still made.
Sleep later, she told herself, I have other things to do.
She looked around the room not yet exactly sure of what she was looking for. She had it in her mind only moments before, but suddenly her thoughts had vanished from her head. What bothered her about this was that she didn't know if this was common for everypony or if it was just another symptom of her poor memory.
Her gaze panned around the room, examining its features. It was a small room, truly only big enough for one pony. The queen sized bed itself took covered most of the carpet's surface area anyways. On either side of the bed was a small nightstand in a box shape. Both had three drawers separated vertically. Her first idea was to open each drawer and look for anything of use.
The stand on the left of her bed was quite uneventful. The top two drawers had nothing in them and the bottom drawer had only a sock, which was ironic because she could not think of a time when she would wear a sock. The nightstand on the right of the bed was a little more useful but still not much better. The top drawer contained a paperclip while the middle drawer held a piece of butterscotch hard-candy still in its wrapper. The bottom drawer contained a key, but nothing for it to fit into.
Derpy picked up the key to examine it more closely. It was gold in color, but was obviously not made of any real precious metal. The shape of the key was quite strange as well. The holding end was shaped like an oval with a peculiar shape in it. To Derpy it looked like a crescent moon looping through a C, creating a small loop in the middle. Then a straight line went down through that very loop, on either side of this strange shape was what looked like a diagonal little river. The stem of the key was cylindrical, but still quite thin. The very end of the key, she found to be in no particular shape that would be useful in a lock of any sorts. It was shaped like what appeared to be a curvy looking X.
The pegasus spent perhaps six minutes looking at the key and guessing at what it would open. Eventually however, she opened the middle drawer again, dropped the key in it, and then took the piece of candy.
Sugar, how delightful!
On her way back to the fireplace she popped the hard candy into her mouth and began savoring in its sweet flavor. At this point, whatever she had gone into her room for had completely vacated her memory and her mind was now on other things. Her journal, for instance, was one of them.
Despite her lack of a good night's rest she found that her memory was in fact not all there, and she took several of the following minutes reminding herself of the events that had come to pass. It was at this point that she was becoming far more familiar with the first entries she had written, and now instead of having to read them could merely skim over them and have her memory repaired to a comfortable level.
When the mare had finished reading she closed the journal and stared at the burning log in the fireplace. For a while that was all she did, and she fell into some sort of trance, just staring into those flames, thinking trivial thoughts that would depart from her memory even if hers was not so poor.
For some time she sat like that, but after maybe half an hour or so she did come to some legitimate thinking. Thoughts begin to cloud her mind, so quickly that she began to lose track of any one point she was trying to confirm in her thoughts. Soon it became impossible to focus on one idea and she was forced to stand up and find something to do. When she looked around she saw nothing, and instead decided that she should go for a walk.
The cold air of the early morning had started off as quite uncomfortable for Derpy. But soon, she grew used to the chilled air, and rather than flinching from the cold she came to embrace it. Still, in Derpy's opinion spring shouldn't start until the temperature truly started to rise, because it truthfully was as she had put it before "all the cold without the charm".
Yet there she trotted, in the cold of the early morning before the sun did rise. Though the sting of the bitter air traveled between her feathers and pinched her skin every time the wind blew, she trotted on. Though it caused her eyes to water and her spine to shiver, she still trotted on. She did not do it as if to punish herself. She did not do it because she had any place to go. While she did not know it, her only reason for being outside in the blistering cold was subconsciously to feel aware, and aware she was. All winter long she had walked in this cold, not truly feeling the cold, not truly feeling the winter air. It was as exhilarating as it was chilling.
Derpy continued to trot rather than fly, because the bite of the air was too much for flapping her wings. Eventually she found herself standing at the top of a hill, staring down into a meadow of newly budding flowers which would, in not too long of a time, bloom in the essence of spring.
It was at a time like this that she could take a deep breath and simply feel like she was where she was supposed to be. Although she had hardships to endure, she still had purpose. She still had a reason to go on.
She looked up to the sky, vacant of any sunlight and began to notice how bright the moon and the stars truly were.
The night, she thought, it's so beautiful!
She stood there, looking for something that she was sure would happen. It was something special, something that she had considered nothing less than a gift from Celestia herself to the ponies of Equestria. She could faintly remember herself having this same urge of waiting, this same feeling of excitement growing inside of her as the suspense grew so heavy in her chest.
I remember, they should be here, I know their coming…
She waited, knowing soon that the sun would rise, and then it would be all too late for it to be seen. She just had to wait. She could feel it in the air; she knew it was coming. She hoped it was coming.
It's almost time…
[One month earlier]
"Time to start any minute now." Derpy heard somepony say. She, herself was ready to get to work on Winter Wrap Up.
This year she was on the weather team, her jobs were to help clear the skies and the trees of snow.
Suddenly light began to break the horizon, and wisps of it were forming across the land. But there was some other phenomenon, something in the sky. A gift from Celestia herself to the ponies all across Equestria getting ready to wrap up winter. The Celestial lights.
Derpy watched in wonder as the spectrum of light appeared in the sky, streaming every color thinkable in the morning sky. It flowed with all the grace and beauty of the sun Goddess herself.
It was beautiful, but like all things with beauty, it could not last. As quickly as it began it ended, and the sun broke the horizon.
It was a scene she was rarely up in time to see, but there was one time every year that she did in fact get up early enough to see it, no matter what.
The first part of the day went without any problems. The clouds this year were still harder to hit than last year, for she could barely make out where any of them were.
After four tries or so she finally managed to hit a cloud, and she beamed with pride. Then she heard her name being called, and she looked down to see that there was an empty cart under a tree ready to catch the snow from the branches.
She nodded and went into a dive.
She could see the branch, and then it disappeared. She was confused but she picked up speed, and it reappeared. Then once again it was gone. She went a little faster, but then she found herself face to face with the branch.
"Wood!" she shouted as she swerved hard to the left, missing the branch by inches. She felt the branch scratch at her blue vest, and it felt like something was ripped from the fabric.
She had no time to check to see what had been pulled off for only moments after redirecting her flight path she was stopped by a branch to her stomach. The pegasus grunted and yelled as she was spun around the branch three times before being flung down to a pile of snow.
For a moment there was no movement, and then her head popped back up out of the snow with her eyes rolling in her head. Suddenly she panicked.
"Dot on map? Dot on map?" Derpy said frantically, as she scavenged through the powdery snow which she had fallen into only moments ago. Her vest had fallen off somewhere in the mound of white that had formed form in a wooden wagon after being removed from the tree.
Her arms flailed clumsily, digging through the loose water crystals in hope of finding the lost item.
"Aha!" She exclaimed as she felt her hoof touch fabric, "Needle in stack!"
Without a moment's hesitation she began whipping the vest in the air to rid the material of snow, before slipping it back on. She never once noticed the golden sun-shaped patch that had fallen off.
Derpy stood still in front of a large tree. She stared at its branches, one of which was fairly damaged. She noticed something sticking off the end of a branch, and she flew up to see it. Closer examination revealed that it was in fact the patch that had been torn from her vest at Winter Wrap Up. It had to be hers.
She tugged on the cloth once but it did not come loose. The threads had somehow managed to tangle themselves around the contour of the bark. Another tug at the cloth produced the same unsatisfying results. It took a third tug at the branch to pull the sun loose, but it was done in such a way that the cloth itself would not be damaged and the branch would not swing back to smack her in the face. Once she had the patch in her grasp she pushed back with her wings then brought herself to a slow descent.
Now that she was on the ground she thought that it was a good time to examine the patch more closely. She tried to find some sort of distinguishing features about the sun itself. There were no intricate designs or special marks; just a plain gold-colored sun. It was a shame, for she had been hoping that the sun would spark the same sort of flashback that had brought her to the patch not ten minutes ago. Instead the patch brought her no memories, no change in thought, no abnormalities to her vision or hearing.
She heard a faint laughing sound in the distance. Maybe she was having a vision after all.
Her head tilted to the left and she perked up her ear as to be more susceptible to sound. The noise grew louder, and now it sounded like there were multiple voices, all of them laughing.
It was not a menacing laughter that she heard, but rather a playful one. Yet still it grew louder and louder by the moment, and suspense still managed to grow even despite the playful tone.
Suddenly the laughs turned to shouts. "I'm going to get you!" she heard. Another voice laughed and made some witty comeback.
Then from the bushes came Apple Bloom. The red haired filly had an expression of joy and excitement with her smile stretching from ear to ear. She appeared to have been running, but she stopped dead in her tracks when she noticed Derpy standing there.
"Howdy Derpy!" she exclaimed cheerfully.
Suddenly there came another filly with an orange coat and purple mane from the bushes. This young pegasus entered the scene shouting the phrase "I gotcha now!" moments before tackling Apple Bloom to the ground. Almost immediately after she had done so, a third filly, with a purple and pink mane, contrasting her white coat, entered the scene from the exact same direction as the other two and added to the dog pile on young Apple Bloom. They all laughed and giggled away as it became very obvious that they were good friends.
Derpy smiled, and watched as they scrambled to their feet. Once standing, Apple Bloom stretched her back. The filly pegasus ruffled her own wings and cracked her neck.
The white coated filly, who was indeed a unicorn, did nothing of the sorts but instead simply stood up. Because she was not as distracted as the other two, who seemed to be somehow engaged in a competition to see who could stretch the most, was the first pony to actually notice what Derpy was holding.
"Look!" she squealed (Derpy could not think of any other way to describe the unicorn's high pitch voice, for it indeed seemed to be just that, squealing). "She was able to pull the sun out of the tree!"
The other two fillies stopped their shenanigans to see what their friend was hollering about. Suddenly, their silly faces, which had been making some sort of attempt at intimidating glares (failed attempts, as they were), had all but changed instantly into wide-eyed looks of surprise.
The young, orange-coated pegasus pumped her arm in a way that resembled victory. "Yes!" she shouted in a melodramatic tone.
Unlike her friend, however, Apple Bloom's response was more modest and better fit the circumstances. "Wait a minute, Scootaloo," she said with tone that mixed disappointment with open-mindedness, "Derpy got it out of the tree, so it's hers."
The other two frowned slightly, but nodded in understanding.
Derpy looked down at the sun in her hoof and wondered just what was so special about the sun. "Why do you girls need the patch?" she asked them curiously.
The girls looked at her with a spark of hope, as if enlightened by the idea, that perhaps Derpy would give them the object that seemed to be of their desires.
"Because," squealed the unicorn, "at school we have been working on a special project!"
"Project?" asked Derpy, her head tilting a little.
Apple Bloom took over the explanation at that point. "Yep, we are supposed to make a poster of items we find lying around outside."
"Yeah," said Scootaloo, "it's to show the importance of recycling or something like that." She rolled her eyes with an obvious lack of interest in the importance of the subject.
Derpy looked very thoughtful, and Apple Bloom must have noticed her interest in the ordeal because she made the older pegasus an offer to come see it. Derpy being fairly open-minded, and having nothing more important to do that morning, nodded her head in agreement at the friendly gesture.
"Well come on then!" Scootaloo shouted in excitement, leading the way on hoof.
Derpy smiled as Apple Bloom's two friends ran off. Apple Bloom stayed behind with Derpy. "Come on, if we don't hurry, we're gonna be late!"
Derpy looked at her kindly and nodded. "Then we better get going."
The schoolhouse was a building filled with a sort of classic grandeur. The building's design was much like a school inside of a barn. It was wooden-framed with a red finish and white trimming. But in Derpy's opinion it was decorated more like a Hearts and Hooves Day card than a place where farm animals are kept. Hearts topped every window frame, and were alternated with an elegant-looking tilde shape on the white trimming of the roof.
When they arrived there were a number of foals playing and talking outside. Scootaloo and the unicorn, who Derpy had learned was named Sweetie Belle, immediately headed for the tether ball game to the left of the school building.
Apple Bloom stayed behind for a number of reasons; the two most likely being that tetherball was a two player game and she wanted to talk to Derpy some.
"So, uh, Derpy," she started off in her deep country accent, "can ah ask a question?"
Derpy scrunched up her face in a way that resembled that she was thinking the question over, and then nodded with a smile.
"If you don't mind me askin', what happened the last time ah saw you?"
Derpy looked to the upper-left limits of her vision, this time actually thinking the question over instead of just making a thinking face. "Well," she said slowly as to consider the possibilities, "I guess that really depends on when the last time you saw me was."
Apple Bloom made a particular face that blatantly resembled 'Why didn't I think of that?'
"You know, that other night a while ago." The young filly's face hardened, which let Derpy know that she was mentally scolding herself for saying something that didn't necessarily help her know what night she was talking about. "Ah was with mah sister one night because ah got an A on a test and she wanted to take me out to celebrate."
Derpy raised a brow just slightly so that Apple Bloom wouldn't notice that she still had not said anything to help her know what night this was.
She was about to say something, but Apple Bloom beat her to it. "She said she was proud of me for doin' mah best, so she took me to Sugar Cube Corner…"
Derpy's heart suddenly sank, and a grim feeling came upon her. She had completely forgotten all about that fateful night.
The pegasus came to her senses to see that Apple Bloom was standing there with a tilted head. She was about to explain what had happened that night when once again she was cut off by a familiar voice.
"Alright my little ponies, time for class."
That voice... thought Derpy.
Apple Bloom perked up. "Come on, now we can show you our poster!"
The grey mare followed the filly into to the school building. Other foals also followed the voice into the classroom. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle waited to finish their game, which only took a moment because Sweetie Belle used her unicorn magic to wrap the ball around the pole. "I win." She said before rushing to the classroom with Scootaloo close behind.
The teacher was inside to welcome the students as they walked through the door. Still that voice seemed so familiar to Derpy, but she couldn't quite put her hoof on it.
"Good morning Apple Bloom; where's your bow?"
The foal looked up wither eyes and smiled. "Why, Granny-Smith is puttin' it through the wash today."
"Well that's nice."
"Oh, miss Cheerilee,"
"Ah brought a friend to see our poster, if that's okay."
"Why that's just fine, who is it?"
Apple Bloom signaled for Derpy to come in, but she didn't budge. Now that the teacher's name had been mentioned she was actually quite nervous. This was such the case that she would have probably never walked into the classroom were it not for Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle pushing her through the doorway on their way in.
"Oh hey there Derpy! I didn't expect to see you here." Cheerilee
Derpy had the urge to shy away, and the overjoyed expression on Cheerilee's face didn't make it any better.
She opened her mouth to reply, but once again she was interrupted. "Miss Cheerilee Derpy got the sun down!" said Sweetie Belle.
"Oh is that so?" the teacher replied. "Well why don't you go over there and show her the poster then?"
They nodded their little heads in agreement and lead Derpy to the back of the room. There were a number of posters in the back, all of which were decorated with items that they had found on the streets. It was quite neat, actually, how a foal would make a scene using only wrappers, a chip bag, and some random litter they found in the park.
The three foals stepped in front of their own poster and beamed at it with pride. When the mare saw it she couldn't help but to be rather impressed.
The fillies had recreated the schoolhouse using popsicle sticks, toothpicks, cotton balls, paperclips, wrappers, stamps, bottle caps, newspaper clippings, coupons, string, ribbon, and cardboard. There really was only one single thing missing to make the scene complete: a sun to shine down its light to the newspaper cutout ponies below.
Scootaloo looked at Derpy with a sort of awe and admiration that was hard to understand. "You see why we need the sun?"
Indeed Derpy did see now why the patch was important. Without another word she gave the sun to Scootaloo who practically squee'd at the gesture. The filly took the patch and taped it in the upper-right corner of the poster. Now it was complete, and was certainly a job well-done.
"Wow girls," praised Cheerilee as she approached from behind, "that's quite the poster you have made there. I think that deserves a big A-plus!"
The three fillies cheered and jumped around. "Thank-you!" they squealed in delight before heading off to their seats.
Cheerilee watched them with a loving smile. Once again she was showing that special care that only a teacher could have. It was the very essence of the love to help others thrive, and to give help to the foals of her community. It truly was an inspiring glow.
"Oh, I almost forgot!" she said in a moment of realization as she turned back to her desk and began trotting. "I'm actually very glad you stopped by, Derpy. I have something for you."
Derpy's expression showed much excitement and wonder. What could she possibly have for her?
"I was rummaging through my belongings looking for my poetry journal and I came across something I think you might like to have."
Poetry journal? Derpy wondered.
The magenta-colored mare reappeared with a rectangular package wrapped in brown paper and tied together with a pink ribbon. Once within range of the pegasus, she turned the package over to her and smiled warmly.
The present was graciously accepted, and Derpy stood there in awe, wondering what it was.
At this point all of the students were in their seats, waiting for class to start, and Derpy did not want to be intruding on their school day. So with a quick thank you, she turned and departed. Yet what Cheerilee had said about a poetry journal still filled her with interest. Poetry, perhaps she could find some of that in the library.
Derpy's visit to the library that day was much different than the first time she had entered. Spike welcomed her to the establishment rather than questioning her motives, and Twilight as he explained had picked up a cold from one of the people at the book club the day before. The pegasus asked him to give word of her best wishes for the unicorn, and then went on to find a place to sit comfortably as she opened the package that had been given to her at the schoolhouse.
She found a seat in the back on a nice blue cushion. As she sat down in it she found that it was actually very comfortable, and it sank slowly with her weight until it felt like she was floating just above the ground.
Once she was situated there, she placed the package in front of her. Instead of examining the shape or size of the object to guess what it was, she simply went straight to pulling ribbon. It easily came untied and the ribbon was pulled off of the package. She then went on with unwrapping the object, being careful not to tear the paper (though she was not sure why she was so careful to preserve brown paper). It was a book.
She didn't take any time observing the cover, but rather opened to the first page immediately. Inside there was scattered writings in three separate handwritings, each with its own color. One was written in magenta pen, one in grey pen, and a third in red. Just by guessing she was sure that the grey was her own writing and the magenta was Cheerilee's.
The first page seemed to be nothing more than random babble, the second page fairing no better. Then on the third page was a poem. It was a very small one, but it was very playful. She flipped through the pages, reading each poem out loud. Spike started hearing the poems and came over listen. He lied on his belly with his head in his hands, kicking his feet while he listened to the playful poems.
One particular poem they both seemed to enjoy was found on the 24th page. It read
"A mare from Manehatten met with the moon,
But the moon was a loon and seemed much like a buffoon
But the mare was unaware that the toon named the moon,
Would play a funny trick on her all too soon."
Another one on page 39 read:
"It was a nice day on the farm,
So farmer went out to the barn,
He saw a cow fly
And yelled 'Oh my!
Somepony set the alarm!'"
There were many other poems that the two enjoyed, and they spent a few hours there reading each poem and then laughing and talking about each one for a little while. Finally they came to the sixty-fifth page.
By this point Derpy had noticed that all of the other poems had some sort of title. Even if the title did not always make sense, it had become rather routine to see one at the top of each page. This poem however did not have a title, but rather a crudely drawn picture of a key at the top. Still, she paid no mind to it and went on to read it.
"From the depths of all dismay
Our brothers still will lead the day
We won't ever lose our way; we will always live to say
Still forever we will stride."
Once she finished reading it they paused. This one seemed to be less towards the playful side than the others, and more meaningful.
"H-hey wait," stammered Spike, "I have heard that before."
Derpy looked at the dragon with a tilted head. "You have?"
"Yeah!" he replied as she scurried to grab the ladder. He pushed it over to the poetry section of the library then climbed to the top shelf. He then returned with a blue-covered book title Poetry, Songs and Tunes of Inspiration. The youngling then opened the book and began scurrying through the pages. "Here!" he said after about seven minutes. He handed her the book.
Derpy looked at the book a raised brow, wondering just what she was about to read. She began to read the poem.
"Our brothers we all trot,
For the valleys which we sought
Hoof in hoof, we will go together"
Something familiar was struck inside of her, something she had not felt before. She read this unlike the other poems. She read this like a song. She started to sing it, and the lyrics seemed to match her notes perfectly as if that was the way they were supposed to be read.
"We have come from the sky; we have come from the land
And we come from the sea, forever we do stand
Hoof in hoof, we still go together"
The next paragraph of the poem was separated from the first by a picture of a distinctively drawn key, but she had not the time to look over it.
"From the depths of dismay
Our brothers lead the way, so that we may say
Together we will stride
We won't ever lose our way
For our brothers lead the day
Forever we will stride."
There's that key again, what does it go to? What does it unlock? It's sitting there, trying to show me something… but what?
"We do not hide
No we stand tall and stride against the tide
We will remember..."
Remember… I can't remember…I… can I remember…?
"For what we do not know
We will trot through rain and snow
And once we know, we will still remember…"
Remember… I must remember, I know I must…
"No longer hide behind
The chairs and tables in your mind
It is time to see the light
In the sun we do go
Through the rain and raging snow
For it is time to see the light"
"Hoof in hoof we go together
Together we will stride so we will remember
It is time to see the light, as friends
Hoof in hoof we still go together
Forever we will stride, we will still remember
For it is time to see the light, as friends."
Suddenly her eyes rolled out of place and her vision faded to white as the sounds of her own voice trailed off into the distance.
These ponies I see, who are they? What are they doing? They are speaking to each other, are they fighting? Yes they are fighting, but not with each other, they are fighting together. What are they fighting? They fight just with their voices, even though I cannot hear them. Where are they going? Are they even moving, no I am the one moving. Where are they now? A key… what does it unlock? A door? No. A window? No. Does it unlock a safe? No nothing like that. Does it unlock a box? Yes. What kind of box? It opens a special box. Turn the key to the right. The right, but that's what makes things lock, why would I turn it to the right? Am I locking the box? No. Then what? Where is the key? I have the key. Yes I have the key, it is safe. Yes I will, I promise to remember…
Vision returned and suddenly she came back to reality, her eyes back in their correct alignment and her hearing back to normal as well.
She looked around, still trying to understand what had happened. The library was completely silent, all except for the quiet snoring of Spike, who must have fallen asleep to the sound of her singing. She took one last moment to examine the picture of the key in the book, and then set it down next to Spike and walked away.
"Come on Derpy where is it?" she muttered to herself as she scavenged her room for the key. She had completely forgotten where she put it, and it was driving her crazy.
Finally she found it in the second drawer of one of her nightstands.
Her thoughts raced as she examined the key. It was the exact same key from the drawings in the poem book. Now, however, she could see more in the strange symbols than she could before. She now could see that all of the moon-like shape and the two sides of the curvy X shape were really just the letter C and its backwards counterpart.
She also noticed an engraving on the stem of the key that read "πουλάρι συνεργασία" and also another on the exact opposite side that read "Colt Collaboration." She knew not what any of this meant, but seeing as the picture of the key was also crudely drawn in the book she had been given as a gift, perhaps Cheerilee would know.
Derpy arrived at the school building after asking for directions multiple times. When she finally arrived she noticed foals were leaving the building. School must have been over for the day, and considering it was Friday that would mean there would be no school for the next two days either.
She wasted no time in walking up to the door and entering the classroom. Most of the students were gone, but a few straddlers here and there still roamed the room. Apple Bloom and her friends where among them.
Cheerilee was behind her desk looking over the papers she had assigned during class. She seemed to be happy with the results because she was smiling and giggling at what her students had written. At first the mare did not notice Derpy walk in, but it only took a few moments for her attention to be drawn to the pegasus as moved closer to the teacher's desk.
"Oh hi again, Derpy." Her voice was warm and welcoming. It was the kind of voice you would want to hear when walking into a stranger's home for the first time to make you feel comfortable.
Derpy smiled back and greeted her in a similar way. The two of them engaged in some small talk before she got to the reason she had come back.
When she showed Cheerilee the key she seemed completely lost as to what it was. She shook her head and apologized for not being able to help her with it. Still, that name lingered in her head. Colt Collaboration It seemed so familiar yet so unknown at the same time.
They talked a bit more about the key before being brought to the topic of poetry. Cheerilee explained to Derpy that she loved poetry. She loved to write it and she loved to read it. Then she invited Derpy to join her in her poetry club on Monday. Without question the pegasus agreed, and it was decided that she would come to the school after classes had ended and they would go together as friends.
They exchanged a laugh, and then Derpy left.
Cheerilee sighed happily in knowing that she and an old friend were once again becoming just that, friends. She looked back to the classroom and noticed that the Cutie Mark Crusaders, as they referred to themselves, were still in their seats. "Girls, you know you can go home now right?"
They nodded. Sweetie Belle explained the situation. "Apple Bloom's sister is taking us to go camping this weekend with one of her friends. We're trying to come up with a story to tell around the campfire."
Cheerilee thought for a moment, and then looked to the door. Then it hit her, a brilliant idea had formed in her mind. "Why don't you girls ask Derpy if she wants to go? She doesn't have many friends, and she might have fun with you all."
The three looked at each other, then without any need for rehearsal all shouted out in unison "Cutie Mark Crusaders camping with Derpy!" They then made a dash for the door, and that was the last Cheerilee would see of them until Monday.
"Wait just ah darn minute," said Apple Bloom's older sister. "Ah didn't understand a word y'all just said. Take it slower and try again."
The girls all took a deep breath before going back to explaining situation to Applejack.
"Wait, so y'all want Derpy to come along? Well why didn't ya say so? The more the merrier." she looked at Derpy, "That is, if you wanna come."
Derpy looked at Apple Bloom, who was making those signature puppy-dog eyes that all little foals tended to do so well. In the end she knew she had no choice but to accept, that became clear the moment they had caught up to her and invited her to come with them to the farm. The eyes worked then and they worked now.
The three rejoiced for a little while and Applejack shrugged.
"Hey, Derpy, come with me while they are distracted."
Derpy nodded and followed applejack into the orchard.
The orchard was such a beautiful place in the spring. The apples were growing, the trees were blooming, all of which mixed together to create a powerful yet rejuvenating fragrance.
As they walked Derpy came to realize just who her host was. Applejack was an orange pony with three apples for a cutie mark. She had blonde hair and green eyes, and she always tended to wear her cowpony hat wherever she went.
"So, do y'all like apples?"
Derpy blinked. "I like apples."
"Ah like apples too."
There was a moment of silence after the obvious had been spoken.
"Ah like this time of year…" Applejack said at last. "Ah like to see the leaves grow back, and the birds come home, and the aroma the air. It all just comes natural to me. This is mah home. These trees have been like companions to me throughout the years."
Applejack bit her lip, and then chuckled. "Ah y'all know what ah mean. Right?"
Derpy didn't really know how to respond at first. "Actually, I'm not so sure I do. I don't remember home."
"Aint this home?"
"It's not where I grew up, I don't think."
Another moment of silence.
"Home is where the heart wants to be. Aint you happy here?"
The two of them stopped walking, and Derpy shrugged. "I guess. It all seems so simple—"
"Now y'all stop right there!" she scolded. Derpy nearly jumped at the sudden change in tone. "Let me tell ya a little story. When ah was just a youngin' ah thought the same thing. Ah wanted more excitement, more adventure. But have you ever stopped and just breathed in all that this place has to offer?"
Derpy didn't reply. She didn't have time to reply. Applejack started to run and insisted that she follow.
The two of them stopped on a hill that looked down over the rest of the orchard. "Now ah want y'all to just take a deep breath, and let it all in. Walk around a little if ya have to."
The pegasus sighed, and took a deep breath. The spring air filled her lungs. There to greet herw were the fragrant aromas of the grass and the apples, of the dirt and soils, of rain and trees, and of the honeysuckle and wild berries. It was intoxicating.
She closed her eyes and took another breath, holding the sweet air in her lungs, embracing it as if it were a friendly face. Maybe that's what Applejack meant when she said the trees were like companions to her.
With her eyes still closed she listened to the sounds around her. The crickets chirped as afternoon turned to evening, the birds sang their beautiful melodies from their nests, and the wind whispered as it sifted through the trees of the orchard. Oh the wind, what beautiful stories it must tell of faraway places.
Then it all became clear to her. She loved it all. She loved the air and creatures of Ponyville. She loved the sounds of parts of daily life. Sounds like the crunching of leaves beneath her hooves, or the opening of a Styrofoam take-out box when you opened or closed it. She loved the sound of the light pitter patter of rain during a light summer shower, and the first cut into a piece of construction paper. It was all wonderful. But it wasn't just the sounds of the world around her. She loved the feel of a soft bed after a long day and taste of cold sweet tea on a warm afternoon. She loved the warmth of the sunlight in the morning as the light first creeps through her window to wake her up.
These were the things that made Ponyville special to her. She had never truly understood before. But now she realized that it was these simple parts of life that made it worth the while, and it was there at that moment that she understood what had been said to her by Twilight and Applejack. This was her home. It had friendly faces that smiled when they saw her, and places that she could go to feel happy.
She felt like a warm glow was radiating from within her. Now she understood what the poem meant. It was the way she felt about her home and the ponies that lived there. It was the feeling of simplicity and security that caused her to look at the sky and feel the warmth warm her bones, and it was that same light inside that glowed even through the freezing nights. It radiated from the mid-winter snows and the summer rains; from the leaves in the fall and the flowers in the spring. It was there inside of her right then. All she had to do was close her eyes to see what she could not otherwise. To look around and see that it was everywhere in the air and the sounds all around her every day. It was this very warmth that drove her to love and to care for everypony she met, and as she felt the warmth she knew that it was what she could count on to guide her. She knew that it meant that in the light of the sun she would go, through rain or raging snow, to find what it was that had to be learned. This was what she could feel inside. This was her sense of purpose.
"So?" Applejack said at last.
Derpy was silent for a few moments, and then opened her eyes again. "I am home…"
I have a key, oh yes a key
To a world, which you've never seen
A place where the flowers
Grow in an hour
And the grass is oh so green…
I have a key, oh yes a key
Turn it and see
Turn it and See…
5 reptahC dnE|End Chapter 5
"A house is built with walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams."