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July 6, 2013
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Chapter 6 - 22nd. Day of the Sixth Month, Year 10 AE.

Morning broke a bit literally, o diary, to the sound of something fragile shattering on the floor, accompanied by a soft cry of distress. This was followed by me letting out a groan, as my mind stumbled sluggishly from the vale of slumber into the clear light of the waking world. I found I was the sole occupant of my bower, which in turn meant little Dawn Heart had awakened and gotten up, which in turn meant she was poking about my chambers and had knocked something off of one of my shelves. Which in turn meant that my troubles were far from over.

A thick smell of lavender filled my nostrils, leading me to guess that it had been the perfume bottle from distant Araby[1] that Vetch had given me as a wedding present[2]. I felt the beginnings of a headache gather at the base of my horn as I rolled over to face the wall and dragged a pillow over my head, counting slowly to myself to keep from exploding with anger at Dawn's unthinking carelessness. She is but a foal, I lectured myself. She knows not what she does, which was the entire problem with foals, I seethed. I know not how long I lay there and stewed, and as I look back on it now and put pen to parchment, mayhap I was being more than a bit childish as well.

Presently, an uneasy feeling crept over me as silence filled my bower. Too much silence for comfort, in truth, to use the old turn of phrase. I unburied my head from 'neath my pillow and perked an ear, and heard the faintest of sniffling in the stillness. I propped myself up to look about, and was at once moved to soft laughter and a welling of pity in my heart, as I saw the dear filly sitting solemnly in the corner where I'd banished her last night for her last destructive outburst, a tiny penitent with bowed head and drooping ears. My resentment drained away at once at this small demonstration of contrition, and I remembered this child's sweet temperament and loving heart, much more precious than any vain bauble, no matter how treasured.

She perked up as I called to her and rounded upon me with a woeful look upon her sweet face and more tears in her eyes. I arose and went to her, taking her into a hug and then bade her show me what she had done. She led me to a spot on the floor near one of my shelves, where the cloying scent of lavender essence wafted from a small, oily puddle amidst shards of painted glass, that glittered as the morning sun's light streamed in the windows and washed across the faceted surfaces.

I stroked her tousled mane and floated the privy pot over to cast the glass fragments into it, plucking them off the floor in my magic as Dawn watched, wide eyed in fascination.

Would that I had taken more care, as her boundless curiosity caused her to reach out a dainty hoof toward one of the larger pieces of broken glass. The privy pot joined the perfume bottle in shards on the floor as her piercing cry broke my concentration, and I wheeled to see her rear up and tumble backwards onto the floor beside me, thrashing and kicking and beating her wings.

Time seemed to slow to a crawl, as I saw drops of blood, like the clearest, most flawless rubies ever prized from the earth, trailing from the frog of her front right hoof. My heart chilled in my breast as a fearsome glow lit Dawn's slender body, radiating from inside her like a bright flame inside a frosted glass lantern. Winding motes of light flickered in the air like fiery dust motes, as the chips of the broken bottle and pot and the various bits and bobs that scatter across a floor in need of sweeping began to float in an aura of gathering force. My head began to throb, as I felt the welling of raw magical power coalesce around us.

Again, I thank the Maker that I had dear Pansy's brave lead to follow, as at once I laid hooves upon the stricken filly and drew her into a comforting hug, pulling her tight to me and stroking her mane as I pleaded with her to be still and calm once more. Further mercy came from above in that my caress seemed to bring Dawn back to herself, and she lapsed into ragged sobs as she trembled in my embrace, her wounded hoof held out beneath the pit of my foreleg as if she were trying to push the hurt she doubtless felt as far from her as she could.

Poor little thing, making pain's acquaintance so soon after entering this mortal world. Mayhap I should sit in the corner a while myself for being so careless. Were I able I would spare her that first introduction for all time, but alas such grace is not mine to bestow, and such endless days are not mine to command.

Crimson stumbled into the room with eyes wide in alarm, demanding to know what I had been doing to the child that would make her cry out so loudly. He understood as soon as he saw her bloodied hoof and the fragments of glass and pottery on the floor, and went to retrieve the leech's chest that old Starswirl bade me always keep at the ready when I left his tutelage.[3]

My dear husband returned shortly, bearing a pitcher of water and a hoof full of cloths, as well as the precious casket of medicines.[4] After a brief consultation, it fell to me hold and comfort the whimpering filly as Crimson tended to her wound, drawing forth the slivers of glass from her tender little hoof as gently as he could as I breathed a steady cadence of soothing words in her ear. Bolstered by my assurances, Dawn watched through her tear blurred eyes as my good stallion cleaned and dressed the wound, only wincing and moaning a little as he applied essence of thyme to stave off blackening of the blood.

As he finished securing a pad of lambs' wool in the cup of her hoof with bindings of clean linen, he smiled and winked at me (the rogue) and bade me kiss her hoof as the final step in the process. This I did, and thus it was that Dawn learned the word "better" with a fragile, tear streaked smile. (Although I think, o diary, that she believes it is a verb, as she proudly told Pansy upon her return that "Kwovuh Betta Dawn" when showing her the bandaged hoof.)

We got her to rise, balancing precariously on three legs with wings outstretched as she favored her wounded hoof. Before she had a chance to become upset at her impairment, darling Crimson swept Dawn up in a cloud of magic and placed her on his back. He gave me another wink and set off at a high stepping trot, boldly declaring it was time for brave little fillies to eat blackberries and cream for breakfast. This brightened the dear poppet's mood immensely, and she flapped her wings and giggled with glee as my adorable fool of a husband spontaneously sang a song of the sweetness of the fruits of summer.

I sat wearily on my haunches and smiled and waved as they went, calling after Crimson that I would join them as soon as I'd cleaned up my chambers and run a brush through my hair, and to make sure Dawn got something hearty in her as well, like some oatmeal or timothy hay. As their laughter and song receded down the stairs, I flopped onto my side, my meagre night's sleep already used up on the brief morning's fresh tumult. I'd only known this child a day and a night, and yet it already felt like I'd aged another decade.

As my head settled on the flagstones of my chamber, I beheld with wondering eyes that the spots where Dawn's blood had spilled were sprouting tiny blossoms of golden yellow and pink, with delicate leaves of vibrant green that rustled in my breath as I drew close to stare. I had never seen the like in all my born days. Yet another mystery to add to the growing tally, although this one I hoped dearest Cookie might be able to shed light on when she arrived, for the ways of the green and growing things of the land are known well to her tribe. Additionally, I wanted other ponies to see this lest they think madness had alighted upon the tip of my horn.

After cleaning up and composing myself, I made my way down to the castle's feasting hall, where I found Dawn and Crimson at one of the trestle tables among Hurricane's troupe of pegasi, who lounged about with their tribe's typical rough informality, laughing loudly among themselves with much striking of hooves upon the planks and rattling the platters as the servants bustled about.

By my dear husband's posture, I could tell he was more than a bit nervous, as pegasi have a bit of a reputation for taking violent offense to an ill considered turn of phrase, but bless him and his ever ready wit, he was jesting as easily with these fierce warriors as if he were among the bards and glib courtiers of my lady the Queen's court.

The Commander herself was seated beside little Dawn, in what appeared to be a rapt conversation. As I came near, I realized that the pegasus mare had laid aside her scarlet tunic and was giving the filly a guided tour of the scars that crisscrossed the hide of her barrel and flanks like lines on a well traveled map. Dawn turned to face me with a grave look on her sweet little face, as she pointed a dainty hoof at the war mare's side and informed me that this was a "dwagon skwach" and that was an "assins dagguw" and another was from a "gwiffon speaw".

My ears laid back in shock and indignation, and I stomped a hoof and demanded to know how Hurricane could countenance showing such terrible things such an innocent child. Her troops fell silent at my raised voice, as poor Crimson gave a nervous chuckle and flicked his ear trying to signal me to be still.

The Commander merely met my gaze with one of her accustomed smirks and shrugged, asking me if I'd rather pretend to Dawn that such things never happened, or show her that while they do happen they can be gotten over. She took up her tunic and pulled it on over her head as I stood and sputtered, and then genially invited me to sit down and break my fast before little Dawn gobbled up every blackberry in reach.

Indeed, the dear filly's muzzle was stained purple with dribbling streaks of the same running down her chin. I grumbled as I sat down beside her, thanking the stars that they at least thought to tie a napkin about her neck so that her pastern remained unstained. I'd already had quite enough of bathing her for one day.  

The rest of the meal, and in truth the remainder of the morning passed uneventfully, by the grace of the powers above. The rhythm and rote of life in the castle continued as it ever had, although my usual role in its workings was unfulfilled as I was much too weary and distracted to be of much use in her majesty's archives or at council.

I stopped in briefly at my lady the Queen's chambers to beg her pardon for another day's idleness, which my generous sovereign freely gave on condition I make a detailed report in privy council of last night's assorted goings on, especially regarding the new window the castle had suddenly acquired in its western wall. In faith I detected more pity in her majesty's gaze than umbrage as I pawed sheepishly at her red carpet and hunched my withers in abject penitence, weakly offering that it would be a fine place to install a balcony with the commanding view it offered. My lady deigned not to comment, and dismissed me from her presence with a bob of her horn.  

Upon my quitting her majesty's apartments, I sought after Crimson and Dawn, and found them in the castle garden, where my dear husband kept our troublesome waif's rapt attention with the pleasing strains of his lute as he sang her more of his boundless store of old songs and poems. After whiling away the morning thusly, our bellies bade us seek a midday meal among the flowers that bloomed there, and once we'd refreshed ourselves in the fountain, the dear filly and I turned once more to the simple pleasure of our game of learning the names of things.

I was watching Dawn as she stared engrossed at a ladybird beetle crossing a broad green leaf when the calm was broken by the sound of trumpets from the watchtowers. Rising to my hooves, I peered eastward with hoof over eyes, and was awarded with the sight of several pegasus drawn wagons approaching.

Our esteemed friends the earth ponies had finally arrived.

Translator's Hoofnotes:

[1] Ponies had been exploring and trading with other peoples of the ancient world for centuries before the great migration from the old lands. Before the unification of Equestria, it was the wide ranging pegasi tribe who'd established initial contact, although given their warlike nature that contact wasn't always welcome or friendly. As the influence of harmony and cooperation between the three tribes led to a greater emphasis on diplomacy, boat and wagon loads of goods began to flow in both directions across our kingdom's borders in an ever growing stream.

[2] The lamented perfume bottle Lady Clover refers to would have been a fine gift indeed. What records survive to the present identify Vetch as Lady Clover's elder brother, who also abandoned the family trade of candle making to become a civil engineer. Based on Lady Clover's occasional mentions, he was deeply involved in the construction of many of Equestria's early roadways. She clearly took a fair bit of pride in her big brother, from the tone of her mentions of him in her diary, and considered him one of her best friends from her childhood and onward.

[3] It's quite interesting here that Clover reverts to a more neutral tone in referring to her mentor, as opposed to her usual use of the High Monoceric jibe that I translate as "the old grump". I think her gratitude and relief at having what we would term a first aid kit handy tempered her usual mildly exasperated attitude toward her former teacher.

[4] The exact contents of this chest are lost to time, as "leech-craft" as the ancients termed it was superseded by modern arcane medical techniques. I had several fascinating conversations with my good friend Zecora, a zebra mare who makes her home in the Everfree Forest and whose knowledge of herbal medicine and folk remedies is unmatched in all of Equestria.  

Zecora's conjecture on what herbs and emergency supplies Starswirl the Bearded would have instructed Lady Clover to keep at hoof would fill another book and is a bit outside the scope of this manuscript, but the abbreviated list would have included an assortment of natural disinfectants, pain killers, and palliatives that would have been kept in powdered form for maximum storage time and efficacy, to be mixed into broth or tea or thick pastes if they were to be applied to wounds as a poultice.

Lambs' wool and linen, as well as silk thread or waxed linen thread and silver needles, washed and boiled then sealed in wax paper, were kept handy for the dressing of wounds. The ancients had yet to invent the sort of spells that would allow viewing of microscopic germs, but they understood how to prevent sepsis and that clean wounds just healed faster regardless.

My zebra friend had a good natured laugh at my squeamishness at the idea that what our ancestors called leech-craft probably involved actual leeches. (In fact, she had to give me some camomile tea to settle my stomach after our discussion.) While it sounds horribly primitive and really, really gross, she told me that there was a sound basis for their use, as the anesthetic properties of their bite and ability to cleanly drain fluid buildup was very helpful when dealing with bruising and infection. (I'd still have to be pretty desperate before I let anypony put one of those nasty things on me, though.)

Zecora and I both recommend "Super Naturals - Natural Remedies and Cure-Alls that are Simply Super" as an excellent resource for further study of the pharmacopia that grows in the gardens and forests of Equestria, and some of the herbal remedies detailed within doubtless date back to Lady Clover's time and even earlier.

The characters depicted in this fiction are copyright and trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. This is a work of fan fiction, and the author makes no claim on Hasbro's copyright or trademarks.

Dawn breaks, and Clover needs to clean up again. There's no rest for the learned.

Here's a double update. Hope everybody's havin' a good weekend, with a happy Independence day to my fellow Americans out there.

Part 7 -> [link]
Why a double update?
Because I did two chapters. :)
That explained why it took so long.
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