"Some figures monstrous and misshaped appear,
Consider'd singly, or beheld too near,
Which, but proportion'd to their light or place,
Due distance reconciles to form and grace" - Preface
My name is Farleigh Cross, and a couple of months ago, or so I am to believe, I murdered my mother. Over the past few weeks, plenty of ponies have attempted to tell me otherwise. I have been approached by officers and officials, and by the local townsfolk, and all of them have wished me their deepest condolences for my loss and have insisted that I do anything but blame myself. And, while their words are justly appreciated, they fall on deaf ears; for I feel deep inside that I am the one to blame for her passing, and any individual who would attempt to tell me otherwise is oblivious to my crime.
The passing weeks are a blur, but I remember the night of the killing vividly. As much as I wish that I could remove its image from my mind, such a desperate plea only illustrates it further. I had been in the living room the night of the incident, sitting before the fireplace drinking my father's liquor. It was against his rules for me to even go into the cupboard, let alone open the bottle and take a sip, but it had been one of those nights wherein rules are abandoned and better judgement is a secondary illusion. Father is one of the wealthiest stallions in Trottingham: Mr. Friesian Cross, a local businesspony with strong connections in the big city of Manehattan. To say that I know little about his empire is an overstatement; he barely involves me in such matters, and even now I could not tell you what he does for a living. I know only that it is something in the vein of retail, and that his efforts had allowed us to live in one of the largest estates for miles, at least until the fire.
The fire was the primary cause of my mother's plight, and it's my fault that it started. See, I was in a bad mood that night. I'm not normally one to allow my personal problems to drive me into a depressive rut, but during that fateful evening things had gotten out of hoof. My father had gone away the night before on an alleged business trip, writing a note to my mother informing her that he would be absent for roughly a fortnight, with an additional week of absence if required. And, while she had believed this she had never really questioned his prolonged disappearances I knew better. In her mind, he was going on a trip to Manehattan to meet with heads of corporations and business magnates. In reality, he was going to Manehattan in order to see her, the bitch with the sickly dark mane and the youthful look about her. I couldn't really hold it against my father that he wished to see her again, because she was more attractive than my mother; being half her age certainly helped, but she had that naturally beautiful sort of appearance that would make any pony crazy with desire. What I could hate my father for, however, was his callous and irreverent fondness of seeing her and the lies that he fabricated to my mother while he was doing so. And, while I do really mean it when I say that it normally doesn't get to me, that night was a bit different.
My mother had been speaking with me for the past couple of days prior to the incident about finding a suitor, as it was prime-time that I find a stallion, or so she persisted. And forgive me if I come across as somewhat negatively disposed towards relationships, but I'm afraid that, given the ugly state of affairs existing between my mother and my father's cheating ways, I did not have a particularly positive attitude towards stallions. I'm no idiot; I know that not all stallions will be like my father, but around Trottingham I don't exactly get to socialise with many ponies unless they have a property beneath their saddle, and those rich and smug elitists just don't appeal to me. I also object to the idea that I should feel obliged to be courted and wed by definition of my sex; it may be a Trottingham tradition, but it is a dated concept that I refuse to conform to. Furthermore, I don't even want a male in my life, for having a stallion would require effort on my part, and, sadly, I'm just not all that interested in being wooed and romanced by a go-getter desperate to claim me for his own.
But less about me would be appealing, because I still haven't quite gotten around to my confession. I can assure you that I am not making light of the ordeal. I can only assume that I went off on that tangent because I really don't like to recap the events of that night, as much as they still haunt me. But, I guess I wouldn't be here if I wasn't going to divulge further, and so I'll do my best to avoid wasting any more time. It was late, and I was curled up in my father's armchair in the living room. He had gone off to the big city to sleep with his mistress and my mother was ignorant to the entire thing; I did not wish to shatter the apparent exterior stability of their relationship, even if it was a relationship based on lies, and so I kept my mouth shut about his affair. My mother had been pressuring me into marriage, and, due to these factors, I was not in the best of moods. And so, yes, I drank a bit, and yes, I regret doing so. Alcohol goes straight to my head, and no sooner had I put the thick glass rim to my lips I was groggy. I sat there in the living room for a while watching the fire dance, and when I was ready to depart to my bedroom, I could have sworn that I placed the metallic fire-guard up in front of the fireplace so as to end the crimson performance.
Well, it turns out that what I thought I had done is very different to what I actually did. Of what little of the estate remained after the fire, the ponies who had rushed to the scene in order to extinguish the flames had said that the fire-guard had not been engaged, resulting in a stray ember or log falling from the fireplace and causing the carpet to ignite. They also made a large fuss about how the dated interior appliances of the estate, such as the oil lamps, made it easier for the fire to spread, although I assume that they only told me that because they wanted to ease my burden. But dated design or not, my mother died that night in the fire, and although I managed to drag her out of the home, I was unable to save her life. I tried furiously, honestly, but nothing worked. I thumped her torso and struck her ribs, and I cried deeply as I tugged at her mane, but still nothing worked. When I was forced away hours later by the ponies who arrived, my own hooves were cold and lifeless; for I had been unable to use them to bring life back to my mother.
I don't want anybody feeling sorry for me, and I don't at all wish to be absolved of my crimes. My greatest issue now is that the ponies with power don't want to place the blame on me. They call me a victim and send aid in my direction, and when I object and insist that the fire was my fault they shake their heads and view me as delirious. And that makes me look back over the events of that night in even greater detail, hoping that I can identify a forgotten memory during the next visitation that proves my innocence or guilt either way. But all I seem to be able to piece together is that I was in the living room in front of the fire, and that that very night my home burned down. It has been described in various news publications as an unfortunate event, but the most unfortunate thing, bar the death of my dearest mother, is that there is no certainty in who I should enact revenge upon.
Had the fire been an arson attack, the law could track down the culprit and I could stare them in the eye, watching the tears of guilt fall from their sleepless lids. And, alternatively, if I knew for certain that I was to blame, I could attempt to take my own life, for my mother, and my father in his own special way, had always taught me that an eye for an eye was a reasonable moral ethos to live by. But while I blame myself on the outside and almost entirely on the inside as well, I cannot guarantee that the fire was entirely my own doing, and so suicide isn't really something that I could bring myself to commit to. I suppose I could find the tools to do it, but I don't at all believe that I could go through with any method of personal mutilation. I cannot stand the sight of blood, after all.
Of course, the most immediate problem facing me right now is that I am homeless. I shouldn't really complain about that, because I know of the abject poverty that exists in certain areas of Equestria, such as in the Old Manehattan regions that my father plans on reforming one day, and it should be noted that I am only homeless because I have chosen to be so. After my father was informed of the destruction of his property and the death of his wife, he did a very curious and surprising thing; he stayed in Manehattan's plaza-like district with his mistress and refused to respond to legal questioning. For a while he was a suspect in the fire, but his whereabouts could be vouched for by her, and now it seems that without any conclusive evidence, nor a motive to destroy his own family and home, he is no longer being harassed by the media. When the story had first broken his affair with Miss Ambrosia Clemency had been widely publicised, but it turns out that most of Manehattan either already knew or were in no way surprised. It was odd that such a gossip-heavy city had not flooded the streets with the news, but I suppose that the potential conspiracy of Friesian Cross getting his wife out of the picture in order to be with his mistress just lacked enough reasonable proof, even for them. My father may be an arrogant bastard, but he would not murder my mother nor attempt to kill me. I'm his little filly, as he always says, and although his words have, over time, lost their magic, I refuse to accept that my father is capable of organised murder.
Both he and his mistress offered me a chance to stay with them at first, and for a single day I took them up on their offer. But it was difficult seeing him with her, because, although he was clearly moved by the passing of my mother, he had decided that the best remedy for his loss was to indulge in Miss Clemency's female assets, which I found to be very disturbing and inappropriate. The three of us had shared one meal together, during which time she had done her best to try and keep me from speaking with my father about my mother. I knew that I was not welcome, and I slipped out of the apartment the next day, taking to the streets in order to get away from it all. When a loved one dies, a lot of individuals who like to think that they understand your situation tell you that you should fill the void of the loss by spending more time with other loved ones. It's a shame, then, that I don't really love my father as much as I tolerate and obey him, and an even greater shame that I had not taken my mother's advice in finding a handsome stallion sooner, for he could have then supported me in my time of need. Perhaps if I had made this pre-emptive movement, this entire event would have been easier, as I would have had a shoulder to cry on. As things stand, I am alone.
Well, alone and talking to myself, or whoever wishes to hear about what I'm going through. I suppose the inner monologue 'thing' has always been a part of my personality; in the absence of anybody else to communicate with, it helps to have somebody on the receiving end to acknowledge you. And it's a good job that I happen to value my own opinion very much, because it makes talking to myself a whole lot easier. I'm not exactly talking to myself, I should say, because I have Artemis with me. Artemis and I have been together for a long while, since the third time that I saw the Symphony of Seven Paladins; a musical performance famous throughout Manehattan and Canterlot. My mother had purchased the little plush toy for me of the lead character from the performance, and ever since I had held her tightly to both my torso and my heart. Artemis was everything that a pony could ask for in a friend, because, like the character who she represented, she was loyal and kind, and very pretty: a paint-horse decorated in regal satins, complimented by a green bow tied behind her back that I often found myself playing with. She was always there to dispense good advice, and even now that I'm away from home, I still clutch tightly to her and ask her for proverbial truths.
Not that I always take the advice that she offers, mind. And, when I do ignore it, I often find myself in dangerous situations. The first night that I was officially without a home I found myself in the bright streets of Manehattan, but because I needed sleep I had left the lantern-lit roads in exchange for darker alleys. In Trottingham it is perfectly safe to take the dark back-roads, but in Manehattan undesirable creatures dwell. I cannot say that I was hurt, but I was looked upon by the eyes of carnality, and, had I stayed there longer, I would have been at risk of satisfying the sinful urges of the lecherous. Their kind were at home away from the light of society for a reason, and I was not yet ready to join them in mutual antipathy of virtue. Holding Artemis to my breast was enough to remind me of that, because her light-stitched body was enough to guide me back to the street lamps of the city.
I assumed that I needed to leave Manehattan, because there was little doubt in my mind that my father would do his best to see me returned to him should I stay. Granted, there was reason in his desire to have me taken back to him, but I did not wish to spend another second in the company of my father when he was with her, for his was a disgraceful behaviour that defaced the memory of my mother. But leaving Manehattan is no small feat for one as inexperienced as me, and I was in two minds about boarding a train to uncharted lands. For I had heard that, when a pony wishes to escape, Manehattan is ironically the place to go, for one can assimilate into the bustling crowds and adopt any persona that suits them with ease. However, I stuck out like a sore hoof upon the streets of Manehattan, especially by clinging to Artemis; she made me appear younger than I actually am, and no doubt ponies would inquire as to if I was lost, or attempt to lead me astray, should they deduce that I was alone. And so, standing on the train platform with no destination in mind save for 'away from Manehattan', I asked Artemis with trepidation about what I should do next.
"Your father loves you," the plush-toy said, "running away will pierce his heart through."
"But Artemis," I replied doubtfully, "he doesn't care that I'm leaving. He's happy starting his new life with Miss Clemency. I can't be a part of that."
"And so what will you do?" Artemis responded through her wise, stitched-mouth. "Run away and hope that salvation is due?"
"I will be like you in the Symphony," I resolved, clutching Artemis tighter between my hooves and pressing my face down into her fabric-folds. "I shall become a wanderer. I don't need anybody else."
"You shall become an anchoress?" Artemis spoke. "Remember, Farleigh, that I made my pilgrimage for a selfish reason, and that by the end of the second act I was accused of treason. Think long and hard about this decision; to board that train is to forsake revision. To be alone is impossible; we always seek another in a similar situation to us. The terminal of life has a way of remedying things; in fate we trust."
I looked dotingly into Artemis' embroidered eyes, narrowing my own until they were all but closed. Artemis was always full of advice, but her learned ways were a result of her past actions. I had never lived the life that her character had, and she was only as wise as she now appeared to me due to mistakes that she had made. At times, even if we know that we're working against our best interests, there seems to be an inherent desire to do what we know that we should not. I held tightly onto Artemis as the train pulled up to the platform and the tall conductor withdrew from the vessel.
"All aboard!" he called, and I found myself climbing upon it.
"Let my father search for me," I said to Artemis conclusively, kissing her softly on the top of her delicate head. Artemis fell quiet as I entered the nearest cabin. Perhaps it was a result of the time of day I could not see the hands of a clock but it was, at least, light outside that the train was not too busy, and I curled up upon a vacant seat without difficulty. Artemis fell onto the floor in front of me, and as I reached down to pick her up my glasses slid down my snout. I pushed them back up against my eyes, scooping Artemis up in my free hoof and placing her beneath my legs, allowing her to act as a rudimentary pillow. It made the journey a lot more comfortable, as the seats were hard and evidently nothing like the cushioned chairs back home.
It wasn't long before the first pony spoke to me; the ticket operator, who asked me to present him with my ticket. That was my first mistake, because I had no ticket, and nor did I have any bits on me to pay for one. I fell quiet when he asked me for it, because I feared that the punishment for not having a ticket was to be cast out of the train, and, by the looks of the scenery outside of the window, it was all identical topography for many miles. I would surely be lost should I be thrown from the carriage. But a kind stallion sitting in a nearby chair spoke up when the ticket pony's brow contorted into a frown, and he hoofed a few coins towards him hurriedly.
"I'll pay for her," he said. "She's just a kid."
That was the start of our interaction, although I was dubious about why he had paid for me. I fell silent, as thankful as I was that he had purchased a ticket for me, and I pulled Artemis out from between my legs, holding her in front of me as a protective idol when the ticket operator left the cabin, for I was fearful of what would happen next. I expected that the stallion would attempt to speak with me after his kind gesture, and I was right: he looked towards me and smiled, pointing towards Artemis before addressing me more directly.
"She's a lovely plush," he said to me. "Would I be right in assuming that she is Artemis, the lead character of the Symphony of Seven Paladins?"
I gulped a little, tugging Artemis closer to me.
"Yes," I said quickly, for I did not wish to appear rude by ignoring him. He smiled and sat back in his seat, and I hoped that that would be the last of his questioning. For a little while he remained wordless, and I assumed that he had given up; however, he must have merely been thinking of more questions, for he pressed me further as the journey continued.
"Are you here alone?" he asked me, to which I shook my head, hinting towards Artemis. He asked where my parents were, but I wasn't about to answer him on that matter. It would be an incredibly difficult response to attempt to convey that my mother was dead and that my father was likely currently looking for me upon the streets of Manehattan. He looked ready to ask more questions, but I cut him off quickly.
"-I'm here with Artemis," I said. "We're going on a trip."
"Somewhere nice, I hope," he replied, but I could only shrug, admitting that I had no idea where this train was heading.
"We're heading to Ponyville," he explained, and I was curious that he had not attempted to inquire as to why I had no idea about where I was going on a train that I had consciously boarded. Most adults like him, I bet, would have probably contacted the authorities at that point and made a detailed estimate as to why a young mare was alone on a train without a clue of her destination. But, for whatever reason, this stallion did not seem to question my motives, and nor did he pry.
"What is your name?" he questioned me after a little while, and, although I had been warned by my mother and father about giving out my name to strangers, I could only perceive that imparting my first name alone would be a simple formality, if nothing else.
"Ponies call me Fa," I mewed. "It's short for Farleigh."
He took a moment to contemplate my name and then smiled, although he did not give his own name in response, and I was too nervous to ask him for it. Identity is more than just a name, thankfully. "That's a nice name," he said. "Do you know what it means?"
I did not, and neither did he, which brought about a little period of silence in our conversation, for I assume that he expected me to know the archaic meaning behind my name. He was upon me again soon after, however, this time returning to the safe zone of speech; he had struck something of a mutual chord with me in relation to Artemis, and that was what he now chose to dwell upon.
"Are you a big fan of the Symphony?" he asked me.
"Yes!" I exclaimed, perhaps louder than I should have. I pulled Artemis to my torso once again, burying the tips of my hooves into her soft body. "I have seen it over fifty times," I added, which surprised a stallion even as old as him.
"That's quite impressive," he admitted. "I have seen it fewer than ten times that amount."
I cocked my head to the side, fumbling with my hooves as I worked out his sum. "-So you have seen it fewer than five times?"
"Yes," he replied. "But it gets better after every showing. You are very lucky to have seen it as much as you have."
His eyes fixed on Artemis once more and I blushed, hiding her from his vision by covering her with my tail.
"You have a very unique tail," he observed. "Blonde manes in general are quite rare. Are you native to Manehattan?"
Naturally he would have assumed that, as I had boarded the train from the city. I shook my head, however, which caused him to raise an eyebrow. "Trottingham," I said softly. "I was born in Trottingham."
This interested him very much, as he revealed that he was familiar with the area.
"For a while I lived in Trottingham," he explained. "In one of the manor houses. Do you know about them, on the outskirts of the town?"
I did not feel as if I should give too much away about my identity to this stallion, and so I shook my head. "I am from the town," I lied, but he could not see through it, instead moving the conversation on. "Trottingham is lovely," he said, resting his head back against his seat. "For one so young, you've covered a lot of ground. Born in Trottingham, boarding a train in Manehattan, and now heading to Ponyville. At your age, I was still living at home."
Home. I didn't exactly have a home to go back to. And, as this pony spoke, he was drawing closer to topics of conversation that I did not wish to discuss. As kind as he appeared, I was not a fool, and I knew that very few grown stallions would start up a conversation with a young mare unless they had some form of ulterior motive. With this in mind, I turned away from him and cuddled Artemis, holding her tightly against my body as I closed my eyes. He did not attempt to speak with me again for the remainder of the journey, and I did not check to see if he was glancing in my direction as the train continued on its way. While I had been attempting to pretend that I was sleeping, I may have actually fallen asleep, for it did not seem as if much time had passed at all when I was forced to open my eyes and ears to the image and sound of the ticket operator explaining that we were drawing close to Ponyville. I had never visited this small settlement and knew very little of it, save for a few bits and pieces of information that I had read about the town in newspapers and had heard from my mother and father. Something was telling me that there had been some news here recently regarding a fashion designer by the name of Rarity, although I could not guarantee that the pony I had read about had been from Ponyville rather than any of the myriad surrounding towns.
I had not planned on going to Ponyville, but it seemed as good a destination as any. I just needed a bit of time away from my father in a place where ponies would not still be acknowledging the death of my mother. Out here in Ponyville, I bet that none of them would have even heard of Florence Cross, nor my father, nor the unfortunate and terrible events that I had instigated in Trottingham. Perhaps I had come to Ponyville in order to escape, or maybe it was just a safer option than staying in the wicked streets of Manehattan. Whatever the reason, the train pulled into the town station, pulling me away from my thoughts, and Artemis and I were thrust forwards a little, for I was not used to the force of steam trains coming to a halt. The talkative stallion rose from his seat and walked behind me until Artemis and I had hopped from the train, during which time he walked alongside us both.
"Good luck to you in Ponyville, Farleigh," he said to me. "I know that you don't really know me, but if you ever get in trouble and have nowhere else to turn, you can find me at Carousel Boutique, near the centre of town. It's an old converted loom, like the ones you still find in Trottingham, and so you should be able to find it easily enough." He paused, looking at me for a moment longer than he perhaps should have. "Take care of yourself," he then spoke, turning and disappearing amongst the others who had disembarked from the train. I watched him go and held on tightly to Artemis, the plush straining due to the power of my clutch. I took a glance back at the train as the authoritative steward gave the order that ponies heading for Manehattan should board, for the train was making its return journey.
"Are you sure about this disobedient refrain? Now is your chance to return to the train," Artemis squeaked, and I gave a little nod of defiance.
"We're staying in Ponyville for a little while," I said, and the train doors clasped shut a short distance behind me. I listened as the train began to chug away, the sound of steam engines and the ringing of greased metal leaving my ears as quickly as they had entered.
"I can make it on my own," I said to myself softly. Artemis did not respond that time, but I clung tightly to her all the same; we took to the streets of Ponyville, a place untainted by the vice of money and fame.