On a dark, stormy night, a lightning bolt strikes an old tree, setting it ablaze.
Imagine not knowing what that was, or where it came from.
Imagine how scary that would be.
And just for a moment…
Imagine there was a magic that could take the fear away.
Nearby, in a nest under another old tree, a herd of ferals sleeps in a fluffpile.
Outside the nest, the fluffies unfortunate to be working as toughies tonight huddle together under the branches, watching the rain extinguish the flames.
One of the younger toughies looks fearfully up at the sky.
“Wut am dem sky fwashies?”
The oldest toughy, his navy fluff going grey, explains to the best of his ability, like a human would try to explain something he heard from some bloke at the pub, and probably didn’t understand entirely due to his heavily inebriated state at the time.
“Dat am da Bestest Hoomin fite-in bad hoomins, yung tuffie. It am cawwed wite-nin, an da Bestest Hoomin am caww-in it to stwike bad hoomins down, cuz dey wan gib fwuffies owwies.”
Another toughy tilts his head.
“Su ev-wee time dem sky fwashies happun, a bad hoomin am guin foweba sweepies?”
The head toughy nods.
“Dat am wite. Da Bestest Hoomin nu wike it wen fwuffies git owwies, yu see.”
This puts the toughies’ minds at ease.
The lightning scares them, sure, but the idea of wicked humans inflicting pain upon them scares them more.
It comforts them to know that there are humans who won’t allow that.
A particularly large raindrop lands on another toughy’s nose, and he shivers.
“Su wut am da sky wawas? Wai wawas faww fwom da sky?”
The head toughy explains again, being something of a wise man-- or stallion-- to the herd.
“Dat am da swet of da Bestest Hoomin, cuz fite-in bad hoomins am vewy hawd wowk.”
The head toughy gestures with a marshmallow hoof at the plant life surrounding the nest.
“An dem wawas hewp da pwanties we num gwo, tuffie wuns heaw dat from a hoomin. Su dem sky wawas am a gud fing. Am aww fanks tu da Bestest Hoomin.”
The other toughies all nod, because to them, that makes perfect sense.
Fluffy logic tends to be, ah…
Another time, another place.
Another herd, only two dozen strong, the foals riding on the adults’ backs, waddles along the side of the road, a very recognizable skyline in the distance.
Even more recognizable now, with the towering tree atop the tallest building.
It can be seen from miles away.
The smarty points with a marshmallow hoof.
“Dat am it, fwuffies! Da bestest sitty, whewe da Bestest Hoomin wib! Hewd wiww be safe dewe!”
One of the weanlings, still chirping a bit, looks curiously at the smarty.
“Da Bestest Hoomin? chirp”
He was born during the herd’s exodus from their old home, which is no longer standing.
Let’s just say the herd used to be substantially larger.
The smarty nods.
“Da Bestest Hoomin! He say, aww fwuffies am him fwuffies, an dat meen it am him jawb tu pwotekt dem! Fwuffies nu shud be scawedies of munstahs, cuz munstahs am scawedies of da Bestest Hoomin!”
One of the mares giggles.
“Dey say dat da Bestest Hoomin am weawwy weawwy stwong. An dat da Bestest Hoomin haf a fwuffy, hu am aw-most as stwong. Dey say, if da Bestest Hoomin am da bestest hoomin, den da fwuffy of da Bestest Hoomin am da Bestest Fwuffy.”
Another weanling pipes up.
“Su how stwong am da Bestest Hoomin? peep”
One of the older stallions answers the question.
“Stwong-uw den anee udda hoomin. Wun time, a wot of fowebas agu, dewe was a big big wockie dat feww fwom da sky. Aww da way fwom da dawk time sky baww. And da Bestest Hoomin bwoke it intu wots and wots of widduw pee-sess, su it nu wud smoosh ev-wee-wun.”
The other oldest members of the herd nod, remembering the resulting meteor shower.
One older mare sighs wistfully.
“Wuz ack-shu-awwy weawwy pwetty.”
Meanwhile, in the very same city that herd is waddling towards, in an alleyway, a mare feeds her foals, waiting for her special friend to return to their cardboard home with whatever food he can scavenge.
These days, it’s very likely that a stallion will make it home from foraging, and with food.
The mare looks up at the noise, seeing two trails of golden fire in the sky over the alley.
“Wook, babbehs! Da Bestest Hoomin wuz jus hewe!”
The foals look up too, their eyes having only opened yesterday, marveling at the sight, but not really having the words to describe their awe yet.
As the stallion returns, dragging an angel food cake in a plastic bag with his teeth, the mare sings an off-key mummah song for her foals.
“Mummah wub babbehs, babbehs wub mummah! Babbehs am safe cuz mummah an daddeh am hewe, babbehs am safe cuz da Bestest Hoomin am neaw!”
It’s kind of rare for a mummah song to actually rhyme, and usually, it’s purely a happy accident.
The stallion carefully places the bag in the box.
“Daddeh saw da Bestest Hoomin, speciaw fwend. An da Bestest Fwuffy tuu. Dem gowd buwnies am su pwetty.”
Yes, it’s not uncommon to see those two flying around, wreathed in flames or not.
Or swinging around on webs.
Or leaping from rooftop to rooftop parkour-style.
Or sometimes just walking.
They don’t have to get around in a flashy way.
Elsewhere in the city, another stallion, a foal riding on his back, waddles past Harry’s Place, a bar known for being frequented by a certain team.
This foal is older than the ones in the alleyway. Almost not a foal anymore, almost too big for a fluffyback ride.
He was the sole survivor of his litter, and their mother followed them into the black desert not long afterwards. It wasn’t really anyone’s fault. Fluffies tend to be accident-prone.
But the stallion and his surviving son are still soldiering on.
The foal looks up, at a sticker on the bar’s window.
A sticker of an X in an octagon.
“Wut am dat? Cowt see dat aww oba da pwace. Chirp.”
He’s a bit of a late bloomer, so he’s still chirping.
The stallion gasps in disbelief that his son doesn’t know.
“Dat am da mawk of da Bestest Hoomin, babbeh! Am a gud fing. If yu see dat mawk sumwhewe, it meen dat pwace am safe fow fwuffies. An if yu see sumwun wif dat mawk, it meen dat dey am a fwend of da Bestest Hoomin. An yu can twust dem tu hewp yu. Wemembew dat.”
“Hao manee fwends du da Bestest Hoomin hab? Peep.”
“Um… wun… too… manee… wots… wots, da Bestest Hoomin haf wots of fwends. It am wike a big hewd, but nu wif jus fwuffies, wif hoomins an nu-hoomins tuu, an da Bestest Hoomin am wike da smawty.”
The stallion nods, a grin on his face.
“Yuh, dey am ev-wee-whewe deez bwite times! Dey nu am su diff-went fwom hoomins. Wike, dowfs am jus smaww hoomins. An Aw-kay-dee-yuns am jus hoomins, but weddies, an wif fouw awmies.”
“Dat nu am faiw. Chirp. Fwuffies nu eben haf too.”
“Daddeh knu, babbeh. Daddeh knu.”
That night, in the alleyway, one of the few abusers left in the city sneaks towards the cardboard box, a knife in his hand, the family who saw the blazing trails sleeping soundly.
When he gets close, he hears the sound of someone gently clearing their throat, coming from a particularly dark corner.
He turns slowly, the realization that he’s not going to like what he sees creeping up on him.
And what he sees is two pairs of glowing red eyes looking back at him from the dark corner.
One pair at human height, the other pair at fluffy height.
Their silhouettes are just barely visible in the shadows, but recognizable enough that the would-be abuser knows how much trouble he’s in, and he freezes out of sheer terror.
The human speaks up, his tone quiet and deceptively calm.
“Are you really going to do this here, dude? Do people like you not watch the news? Are you allergic to newspaper ink? Or are you just another spiteful, bullying, Syndicate wannabe little shit with a big ego? Seriously, why are there still abusers around here? Were you trying to piss me off? Because it’s working.”
The fluffy snickers softly.
“Du yu wan tu gu tu pwi-sun, ow am yu jus da dummest mummahfukkah dewe am?”
“How about we take this conversation somewhere else, like, say, the police station?”
The abuser is fully aware that, despite the question mark, this is not actually a question, nor is it a request.
Unfortunately for him, that knife is a conventional stainless steel knife, making it completely useless in this scenario.
It won’t even break their skin.
He makes the only move he can make, sighing in resignation.
“Let’s just get this over with…”
The next morning, as the sun rises over the alleyway, the feral family wakes up, happily greeting the new day.
And quickly noticing the new addition to their home.
On the wall, above their cardboard box, there’s a new piece of graffiti, made using a stencil.
An X in an octagon.
Just inside the box, someone has left a bag of cookies. Chocolate chunk, to be specific.
Octagonal cookies, with Xs in octagons iced on them.
And just outside the alleyway, a new Faucheuse Foundation self-surrender booth stands, the fluorescent yellow impossible to not notice.
There’s no obligation to use the booths.
Everyone’s gotta be free to choose their own Way.
The stallion and mare gasp in glee.
“Da Bestest Hoomin wuz hewe again!”
“An he weft bwess-ins bee-hine! Fank yu, mistah Bestest Hoomin!”
There’s a church not far from here, which is where the couple learned that word.
Yes, that is more or less how fluffies see him.
Not counting the fluffy currently occupying a cell beneath Dr. Pierre Faucheuse’s School for Gifted Individuals.
That one sees himself that way.