She picks once more at the chain around her neck, knowing it will do her no good. If it were the silver it seems, she could melt it away and fly into the sunlight.
It’s been so long since she’s flown.
The chain holds, of course. It’s made of stronger stuff.
His name was Far Ranger, and he had made the proper supplications, the proper promises of loyalty and trust. She had acquiesced to the rite of companionship, as much out of bemusement at finding a pony who knew the old ways as anything else, and they had journeyed.
When Far Ranger had passed, as mortals do, she had been entrusted to his daughter.
Though, unlike her father, Hearth Heart was a homebody, she had treated her father’s old friend with the respect she deserved, and Philomena had been more than happy—
Philomena, that was her name. Lately she’d been forgetting herself.
—More than happy to help her in whatever ways she could.
But Far Ranger’s granddaughter Golden Bright was covetous and paranoid. Fearful that her pet would abandon the family, even with the oaths of binding she had sworn, Bright weaved a spell that made said oaths literal.
Pilomena tugs once more at a chain made of promises as much as silver and curses Golden Bright for the thousandth time.
From daughter to son to daughter she had been passed, like an heirloom, and when the family had lost all its money, she had been sold.
Now she dies every night, forced to shed her feathers all at once and burn for crowds of slack-jawed gawkers, fed enough to keep her alive until then, trapped in a dark tent because her masters thought it was keeping her docile, as though she were a common parrot.
She’s just tired, that’s all, tired, and trapped and—
A rustle at her tent’s entrance, and Philomena braces herself for another round of mockery, another night of burning.
Instead of her masters, though, a shining figure glides gracefully into her tent, turning the gloom of darkness into the light of day.
I see. The rumors were true. Quack and Salver shall be punished most dearly for their crimes, Celestia says, looking upon Philomena with pity. It is a poor thing to bind one such as you.
It was a binding she had entered willingly, and which had been wrapped about her neck most wickedly.
No longer. Far Ranger’s line is dead. The shining pony gestures to the chain, which, wonder of wonders, is simply, only silver once more. Your obligation is discharged.
She blazes, and the chain is gone.
She’s free, free for the first time in decades, free to do anything the pleases…
What will she do?
I have a garden, the shining pony says, where you may live as you please, all the days of your life. And if you wish to leave, you may leave. But I hope you stay, at least for a while. There are so few of us immortals in this world.
She hasn’t left yet.
Norse Pony’s comments: Ooh, that’s dark. I like it. The secret history of Philomena, and some nice worldbuilding about phoenixes, and a good reason why she’s loyal to Celestia. Good stuff. I particularly liked the final line, that was lovely, understated and strong. Nice work.