The Crystal Empire: A Brother's Despair

Published Jun 8, 2023, 11:39:52 AM UTC | Last updated Aug 6, 2023, 12:13:10 AM | Total Chapters 11

Story Summary

An infectious disease has been spreading in the Crystal Empire. 

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Chapter 4: A Brother's Despair

“Excuse me, miss? Could I get a second ration?” a young crystal pony foal asked Brave Storm after she passed him a paper bag.

“I’m sorry, fella. It’s one per pony. Otherwise, somepony else might not get fed.” Brave Storm answered, feeling a pit in her stomach that she couldn’t help further.

“It’s not for me. It’s for my mom,” he explained. “The infection grew along her spine and is really heavy. It’s hard for her to move very far.”

Brave Storm bit her lip. She was happy to help these ponies, but working in the mess hall made her heart ache. The mare looked around the room for anypony to ask about what to do, but the other volunteers were busy elsewhere. Repressing a saddened sigh, she passed another lunch bag to the young colt. She was sure the Equestrians were making enough to account for every infected pony in the Crystal Empire.

“Thank you, miss!” the foal’s eyes lit up. She watched with a smile as he galloped home.

 

“There’s not enough left for all of us.” one of the other volunteers stated, counting over the last of the rations. Those who remained at the end of the night were confirmed infected with the Crystal Curse. But there had been an oversight in the supply chain for the rations- those who would become infected weren’t accounted for.

Brave Storm felt a pain in her stomach and her head ached. But she was large and her body held fat regardless of how hard she tried to lose it in the past. Those around her were far slimmer by comparison. It was an easy decision for her to volunteer away food that might have gone to her. As she left the mess hall and meandered her way to her temporary shelter, she heard a voice she recognized, but couldn’t name calling out for her.

“Brave Storm! Dear? Over here!” 

Brave Storm turned her head to see a pale pink earth pony galloping with Star Atlas in tow. She recognized her as the mare that had worked with her and Paz to get some of the first batch of supplies over the fence. She recalled her name was Pale Blossom.

“Hi? What are you doing here?” Brave Storm asked, mostly to Star Atlas, who was avoiding the plague zone.

“Paz told us-” Star Atlas began. His voice was thick and nasally and Brave Storm could see him harshly pulling the corners of his mouth.

“Pas D’arms told us what happened to you.” Pale Blossom talked over hurriedly talked over him. “That you became infected! I came to check in on you and your brother- well, he refused to believe it until he saw it for himself.”

Brave Storm focused her attention on Star Atlas, who was staring at the crystal collar. She felt her bottom lip twitching at the devastated look on his face. He brought his own gaze up to hers and she felt as though she knew every thought rushing through his head.

I shouldn’t have let you go. This is my fault. How do I fix this? What sort of brother am I to let my sister get hurt like this? No, don’t think like that, she can take care of herself. This was her decision. I thought she wouldn’t get sick. She’s so much sturdier than everypony else I know. Why her?

“Is there anything we can get you, dear?” Pale Blossom asked, pulling Brave Storm’s attention away from her brother. “Blankets? It’s rather cold out here. Maybe I can ask someone to get you a padded bed. Those look so uncomfortable to sleep with.”

“Food.” Brave Storm answered as her head began to swim. “We need more food. There’s not enough to feed the new infected.”

“Anything else, dear?”

“Just food.” Brave Storm sounded far more defeated than she intended to. 

Star Atlas took several steps towards her, his wings unfurled. He wanted to comfort her, Brave Storm knew he did. But she couldn’t let him. Acting before she could even think about it, she had taken her own several steps back. She needs him on the other side of the fence. He was so much smarter than most ponies she knew. If anyone could find the cure to this curse, it was him. And he couldn’t help in that way on this side.

Star Atlas halted. The look of pain on his face hurt more than the hunger pains. She bit her lip and dropped her gaze as she saw Star Atlas begin to quiver. She heard him fighting back the tears with deep and sharp breaths. But he couldn’t do it and he bawled. Celestia, he cried so loud. 

Brave Storm could only look on in pity as Star Atlas found himself on the ground, his wings over his head as he cried and screamed at nopony in particular. She wanted to help him. To rub his back and tell him everything is going to be okay. But all she could do was watch in silence while he worked it out himself. 

“Oh, dear. Uh, there there.” Pale Blossom awkwardly tried to comfort him. She kept herself an arm’s length away as she patted somewhere on the middle of his back. But the mare reeled when Star Atlas lifted his head to face her and she saw the copious amounts of snot running down his nose. Even if it wasn’t for the snot, Star Atlas cried hard and his forehead was rather scrunched and his eyes were already puffy.

Pale Blossom made an awkward noise. But Pickles, her rat, was on the case. It would seem as though Pickles had found a handkerchief somewhere on their journey. The rat kindly offered the handkerchief to Star Atlas, who gladly took it and used it to blow his nose. A little more comfort was offered by Pickles, and Star Atlas had managed to compose himself and offered the handkerchief back. Without being able to say anything, it was obvious Pickles was okay with losing it.

“Jus-just hang in there, Brave. I’ll fix this.” Star Atlas promised, his voice still thick and phlegmy. “I’ll find the cure for you. For everypony.”

 

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