A filly's Cuteceñera.
The one defining moment in her life. The time when all her friends and family gather around to celebrate that she found her special talent in life. The moment that she realizes what she is meant to do to help all of Equestria.
Dinky's had postponed hers for almost two years as she prepared for her journey. For most ponies, a Cuteceñera was a time that they were declared an adult by Equestrian standards. But today was also bittersweet for the young filly. Pacing nervously outside of Sugar Cube Corner while all her friends inside were having fun, the young unicorn looked to her mother as she spoke with a twinge of fear and worry in her voice. "Mom, will you be okay after this? I may be gone for a long time..."
Ditzy Doo reached out with her forehooves, grasping her daughter's face as she leaned forward. Resting her brow to her daughter's, the grey Pegasus' eyes brimmed in tears to show the sadness mingled with hope this day held for her. "My muffin..." Ditzy manages out, the tone of her voice showing the strain on her emotions not to cry. "You find big muffin. Even if dead, you find big muffin and let me have peace."
The unicorn nuzzled into her mom's brow, her own forehooves rising up to hug her mom back. "I'll write every day, mom... And with you being the mail pony, you're sure to get every letter. I know Dad's alive, and I'll bring him home to us both..."
Ditzy sniffled, a few tears escaping from her eyes to drop onto her daughter's back. "Just come back, little pony. Don' wanna lose both muffins."
Dinky held back her own tears, putting on a brave facade for her mother as she leaned back. Looking into those sad eyes, she smiled gently. "Mom, I've spent the past two years training myself for this search. Uncle's been helping me build up endurance, and Twilight's been my mentor on honing my magic. Even Grandpa & Grandma Cake have been teaching me to cook so I can survive in the wild." The young filly reached out, touching her mom's muzzle tip with a smile. "And you taught me how to talk to Dad when I find him... Everyone I care for has helped me prepare, and I'm finally ready. I have to do this. And I will come home."
The Pegasus looked at her little filly, now nearly a mare in her own right. There were so many things she wanted to tell her--so many missed chances due to her inability to make the right words at times--but still she'd never been prouder of Dinky Doo. Sniffling, she slipped back from the younger unicorn and made a few gestures with her hooves.
Dinky smiled and nodded back. "I love you too, mom. Now come on! This Cuteceñera is my going away party, and I want to leave on a high note!"
By the glow of the gibbous moon, a small unicorn trotted along the dusty streets of Ponyville. On her back were several saddle bags filled with supplies, and on her face was a sad yet determined look. She'd seen her mom to bed, and didn't leave until she was sure Ditzy was sleep. The young unicorn didn't want to leave at night, but knew she had to or her mom would convince her to stay just one more day--then one more day after that--and so forth until she ended up never leaving. Shaking her head, the filly knew she had to leave tonight, or she never would be able to.
"Sneaking off in the middle of the night, are we?"
Dinky twirled, looking out across the plaza to see a pink pony with a hot pink mane trotting forward from the shadows. "Aunt Hairspray!" Dinky gasped loudly, galloping across the plaza to give her a soft nuzzle. "I-I-I'm not sneaking off! I just have to leave now, or I may never be able to!"
The older mare nodded and sighed, her mane pulled back into a simple pony tail that still had a flair to it. "Shhh, I know dear. But there are some things we must discuss before you go, you and I..."
Dinky paused and listened, her eyes filling with curiosity. "We could have discussed them at my Cuteceñera, couldn't we?"
Hairspray shook her head and sighed. "No, dear, as that was in public. This is information you need to have, that can help you down the road. But it's not supposed to be shared."
Dinky blinked and shook her head. "But, won't you get in trouble for telling me, then? I don't want you in trouble!"
Hairspray waved it off as she chuckled. "Ah, Dinky. You're family, and I'd rather you be safe. Now, you know how some ponies will sometimes fall in love with another of the same gender?"
Dinky nodded happily. "Well, sure! My mentor Twilight and Princess Luna did that, as did Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash! Ooh, and Lyra an' Bonbon had a unicorn like me that I babysit! An' then there's-"
The filly unicorn felt her aunt's left forehoof gently touch her lips to cut her off as she nodded. "Yes, yes... We don't need a rundown of all the couples. Now, in every town in Equestria there are establishments where those who love the same gender congregate at night. These places are always full of gossip, and you may find some good leads there. Also, if you need food or lodgings, you can ask to work there for the night in barter for such."
Dinky nodded slowly as she let out a soft gasp. "That's wonderful help! But, how do I find these places? And won't they think me a... You know, a fillyfooler?"
Hairspray chuckled and shook her head. "Not unless you tell them you are. Just by being there means you support their love, and that's all they'll want. And in doing so, they'll help you if you need it. Now then, look closely..." Hairspray motioned for the unicorn to come closer as she pointed to the steps of a building she'd walked past her whole life without giving it a second thought. There, engraved into the bottom step, was Princess Luna's crest. "If you see a house or a business with this symbol, it means that this is the gathering place for that town. Look for it, if all else fails, and they'll help you. But you must never share this knowledge with other ponies. It's a secret, and it helps to keep order in Equestria to keep such things hidden from the colts and fillies."
Dinky looked up at her aunt and nodded. "Thank you, Auntie Hairspray... I don't know how you know about it, but I promise I won't abuse this knowledge."
The pink earth pony reached out, tussling the unicorn's mane as she smiled gently. "That is a story for when you return. For now, know I met your uncle in this very bar--and I've never been happier since."
Dinky nods softly and reaches up, giving her aunt a tight hug. "I love you, Auntie... And thank you."
Hairspray hugged her back just as tightly as she nuzzled the unicorn's neck. "Ah, Dinky... I love you, as well. Now get going on your trip. And hurry back. I want to hear about everything that happened when you return as I style your mane."
The unicorn nodded as she released the hug, the smile on her muzzle reflected in her eyes as she gave a final wave. Then, turning quickly, she began to gallop towards the town's exit. Hairspray leaned against a light post, watching as the young unicorn galloped away as she let out a soft sigh before turning herself, trotting towards her sister-in-law's house for when she woke up.
Ditzy Doo flew like a Pegasus possessed, the mail pony working hard on her route to finish even quicker than usual. It'd been a week since Dinky left on her trip to find out what happened to Bran Muffin. And today, as she gathered up everyone else's letters, a letter with a familiar script had arrived addressed to her. She knew in her heart it was from Dinky, but she had to finish her rounds first. Then, and only then, would she read the letter from her daughter.
The grey Pegasus swerved, dodging a tree branch that had seemed to come out of nowhere to block her path. Shaking her head to focus, she spied the last house ahead. Landing in front of the house, she pulled out the final batch of letters and stuffed them into the mailbox. Closing her mail bag,Ditzy's face took on a huge grin as she sped towards the post office to return her mail bag so she could get home.
I just reached Fillydelphia, the city of Equestrian Love, last night. Please thank Auntie Hairspray for me, as her tip helped me find a place to stay while searching the town. The mare who runs the place is really nice, and I think you'd like her. Her name's Silver Streak, and she used to fly with the Wonderbolts before retiring. Her wife is a mare named Tiramisu who runs a high-end bakery in town making desserts, and they are too delicious! I'll have to see if I can get some recipes to bring home to Grandma & Grandpa!
I haven't heard anything about Dad yet, but I just got into town. As soon as I hear something, I promise I'll send word! I love you so much, mom, and I wish you were here with me! Give everyone hugs from me!
"Big Bro! Big Sis!"
Ditzy Doo smiled, seeing Quarterback and Hairspray trot into the Ponyville Clinic as she tried to wave her one leg not in a cast.
"Ugh, seriously Ditzy... You need to watch where you're going! I know you get excited when you get letters, but you have to go slow on your routes so you don't smack into trees!"
The bandaged Pegasus hung her head solemnly, her eyes drooping down as she let out a low whimper. "Ditzy sorry, big bro..."
The pink earth pony reached up, resting a forehoof on the brawny male Pegasus' left withers as she tsked softly. "Now, now Quarterback. You know you're as curious as Ditzy and I am about what Dinky's been up to. And accidents do happen to even the best of us. Or do I need to bring up how you pulled those muscles last month, hmmm?"
A blush rose on the muzzle of Quarterback as he quickly shook his head. "N-n-no need to go there." Looking about for a quick way to change the topic, he spies a letter on his sister's bedside table. "So, Ditzy, you have the next letter from Dinky? Want me to read it to you?"
Ditzy nodded quickly with her usual grin plastered across her face. "Oh, yes! Read me the muffin recipe of happy green balloons!"
After a week in Fillydelphia, I was able to track down where dad had gone to next: Hoofington. From there he took a well-traveled road that all travelers take to get to Coltland near where The Farm is. I used some of my saved coins to have a printing press make up flyers with Dad's picture on them, and then spread them about town asking ponies to send any leads to you at home.
My last night in Fillydelphia, Silver Streak and Tiramisu took me out to a fancy dinner to thank me for all my hard work at Silver Streak's club. I tried to refuse, but they were quite insistent. Tiramisu also let me have her namesake's recipe for Grandma and Grandpa, but only on the condition that she can come try it when we make it.
After leaving Fillydelphia, it was a nice pleasant gallop towards Hoofington. I rented a room with my earnings from Fillydelphia, and started hanging up more flyers. It was here that I struck paydirt finally. A private investigator named Squeak approached me the next day offering to take up my case for 10 bits a day. It is a bit strange that a private investigator has a rubber duck for a cutie mark, but his references did check out. So I told him I'd pay him AFTER he came up with evidence.
Anyhow, I love you mom! I wish you were here with me!
I got the best news last night, and had to include this note before I sent it! Squeak actually found a solid lead! An old Diamond Dog in the Hoofington Jail remembered a pony that his old pack had kidnapped with 'food on his flank'. He gave the guards the information in the hopes that, if it pans out, he might get released. I'm setting out tonight to find out if this could be the lead we've been hoping for!
The chilly night air caused a ghostly mist to slink along the ground as Luna's full moon provided light but no warmth. Under the cover of darkness, Dinky slid on all four hooves down the rocky slope with her traveling cloak pulled over her head. The unicorn grew nearer to the home camp of the remaining Diamond Dogs in this area as her adrenaline began to pump. Most of this pack had been arrested for kidnapping ponies to do their chores or mining, but the remnants of the once great pack remained hidden in the rocky plains just outside the Hoofington Police's jurisdiction. Reaching the bottom of the embankment, the filly braced herself for the worst as she crept slowly into the village.
Most Diamond Dogs lived near gem deposits or in caves, but these were living in makeshift shacks built of a few tall rocks with fabric stretched over them. Dinky shook her head sadly, seeing a pair of pups cuddled inside one of these shelters, their tiny bodies shuddering as they clung to their mother to try to get warmer in the chill night air. Shaking her head, Dinky's horn began to glow as her left saddlebag opened. A glowing blanket floated out of the saddlebag and drifted across the path to enter the shanty shack. Laying over the two pups, Dinky used her magic to tuck in the pair as their shivering began to subside. Closing her saddle bag, she gave a soft smile.
The voice was harsh and masculine, whipping to her left, Dinky saw a young male Diamond Dog wearing tattered rags brandishing his claws as he stood up tall. Looking up, the Diamond Dog had to be twice her size easily. Dropping to all fours, the canine bared his fangs as he started to let out a low growl.
Dinky braced herself, pawing her left forehoof into the earth as she glared back at the dog. "You don't scare me... I want my father! Is he here?"
The male canine let out a laugh as he started to pace around the young unicorn. "There no ponies left here. Only food. Ponies tasty! And soon you be food, too!" The Diamond Dog leapt at Dinky, his teeth bared as his sharp claws for digging aimed at the young filly.
Dinky turned on her forehooves, rearing back with her hind hooves before bucking her rear hooves straight out as if apple bucking a tree. The sickening snapping sound of bones breaking in flesh could be heard as her hooves met the left side of the Diamond Dog's jawline. A gargling howl of pain echoed across the camp as the other canines stirred from their slumber.
Unfortunately for Dinky, the forward motion of the male dog caused him to push her forward as they both tumbled out into the center of the camp. The Diamond Dog landed on his back, letting out a gasping breath as blood spittle flew up into the air. Slamming into the male's chest, Dinky heard the male gasp for air as her weight knocked the air out from him. Her forehooves began to rain down on the head and shoulders of the canine, the little filly beginning to let out a scream of rage at the thought that these monsters... These beasts had eaten her father. The dog under her flailed his arms as she continued her beating, not relenting until two pairs of clawed hands gripped her about the waist to drag her off the injured male.
Dinky squirmed, her muzzle foaming and her eyes wide with rage as she struggled to free herself. "Lemme go! Lemme go! Kill y'all! Ate m'dad! Kill 'im!" She struggled in the grasp of those holding her, fighting with all her strength in the dirt as she tried to get free.
The bellowing female voice filled the camp, causing everyone to stop suddenly and look up. From the largest shack emerged an older female Diamond Dog, her body adorned with necklaces and rings of gemstones. In her right paw she held a staff made of one long quartz crystal, and she leaned heavily against it. "Who is this that disturbs our sleep on this cold night?"
Dinky continued trying to struggle free of the grasp of those that held her as the male Diamond Dog lifted up his head to point at the unicorn with a trembling paw. Seeing the clawed digit point at her, the filly glared angrily. "He said you all ate my father, and then he tried to eat me! I'll beat you all up! I'll do it!"
The large female looked down at the beaten male and shook her head sadly. "Ah, thought he be good stud, too..." Her crystal staff spun in the air before striking across the throat of the male on the ground. The sound of snapping bone could be heard as the male let out a bloody gurgle. Trashing on the ground for a bit, his body finally began to grow still.
Dinky swallowed hard, watching the male who attacked her die as she glanced up at the decorated female Diamond Dog. She felt the paws holding her finally let go, and the unicorn spilled forward into the circle of canines around her. Looking around, she finally got a look at the group around her. "You... You're all women and foals!"
The large female let out a low chuckle. "Sires all stupid, like this one. We weed out stupid so no in jail. Sires all stupid and get taken away! We tired of their way! We try pony way now! Bitches in charge now!" Tossing back her head, the leader of the pack let out a proud howl towards the moon as the other adult females joined her.
Looked about worriedly, Dinky tried to put on a brave face. "Go ahead, eat me! I don't care! Just let me see where you put the bones so I can say goodbye to my father before I die."
The pack leader peered at the unicorn before letting out a barking laugh. "You funny, unicorn. You no listen! We no eat ponies like you. We eat gems! That new stud, he stupid. No ponies here anymore, we set all free several moons ago."
Dinky gasped as she turned, her magic flipping up her cape as she showed the leader her cutie mark. "Did any of the freed ponies have a mark like this?"
The leader looked closely at the mare's flank for a moment before nodding. "One pony. Quiet pony. He leave with rest. He your sire?"
Dinky nodded quickly as tears began to fill her eyes. "Oh, yes! Please, which way did they go!? Please, will you let me go after him?"
The leader nodded as she pointed her cane in a direction to the west. "Quiet go that way. But to leave you must give something we need for taking stud here."
Dinky looked about the circle before seeing the two pups she tucked in with her blanket earlier. Their mother still held them in the blanket as she held them close to conserve their warmth. Smiling, she let her horn begin glowing as both her saddle bags opened. "How about blankets and a tent?"
The leader's snout took on a pleased grin as she nodded. "This sound like good trade to me..."
The Two Tree Inn was not the best place in Equestria. In fact, the creaky stone walls let in more cold air than they kept out during winter, and the roof leaked like a sieve whenever it rained. But to weary travelers passing between Hoofington and Coltland, it felt like the finest lodgings. Situated at the midway point between the two cities along the well-traveled road, it was the only place for miles to get some warm food and a bed only slightly less lumpy than the ground outside.
The owner of the Two Tree Inn currently was an earth pony named Freestone Peach, who had inherited it from his parents Clingstone Peach & Spring May. Peaches had always run the inn, named for the two signature peach trees planted out front alongside the road. Of course, behind the inn was the real peach tree orchard, but the inn always helped pay the bills when the harvests didn't bring in enough.
Freestone sat at his usual spot behind the bar, the adult stallion's soft orange coat catching the light from Celestia's sun just right as he tossed back a yellow mane with a forehoof. The stallion wasn't that old, maybe 5 summers after getting his cutie mark, but the hard life in the wilds had seemed to age him more than regular. Still Freestone didn't knock his lot in life. He was happy to help the travelers and hear their stories from the road, and he was happy to give them a bit of comfort especially if some bought peaches to sell on the road.
Reaching for a bar cloth, the young stallion blinked as he saw a smaller cloaked pony begin to trot into his inn. Smiling brightly, he nodded hello. "Why hello there, and welcome to the Two Tree Inn! Will you be needing lodging for the evening? We have the best beds for miles! They're the ONLY beds for miles, but they are the best!"
The pony reached up with their forehooves, pulling down the grey traveling cloak to reveal a dirty blonde mane with an equally dirty pale purple unicorn horn. Letting the hood rest on her withers, a female filly nodded as her face came into view. "Yes, please. And a bath, if you have one? I ran into some Diamond Dogs a few days ago, and haven't had the chance to clean up since."
The stallion nodded and smiled. "Of course! The cost for a room with a bath is 4 bits, and that includes dinner and breakfast. We also have some Peach Schnapps an' Peach Brandy for 1 bit a drink, if you fancy that as well."
The unicorn's eyes lit up as she nodded. "Ooh, I'll try a bottle of the Peach Schnapps, then, after my bath!" She reached her muzzle into the coin purse hidden in her mane and quickly plopped out 5 bits without hesitation with a nod. "Now, where's my room, please?"
As the tired filly was lead up the stairs, the back door to the inn slowly creaked open. As the door opened wider, the tan rump of a pony could be seen under the stairs pushing the door open; his long golden brown tail swishing slowly as the door open. On his flank could be seen his cutie mark as clear as day: A muffin.