Twilight and the Spartan Stallion
Part 15: A Hot Bath
Daring Do was leaning back and forth, her face as white as a sheet with worry. “Careful now! Careful! Another rope on that end! Nice and steady!” She scampered back and forth to supervise it all. Spartan Shield the statue had been completely excavated, and by estimations weighed between eight and nine thousand pounds. Solid marble was heavy like that. The entire excavation crew was working with thick ropes, simple cranes and a sturdily-built cart. A dozen powerful stallions had been employed to drag the heavy thing to the university warehouse in Canterlot, and they looked raring to go. “Slow! Slow now! He’s a thousand years old, be careful!” Daring was pacing back and forth with worry. The slightest bump, the slightest fracture could shatter him into a million little pieces!
True Facts stood nearby, calculating on his clipboard and mumbling to himself as time went on. “Put four more stallions on the carting crew, and add two ponies to the back-ups.” He said to a passing assistant, who nodded and scampered to do his bidding. This was their prize and crown jewel, and everypony present knew it. The weight of the statue slowly situated itself on the cart. It groannnned, the wheels pressing into the dirt. “I want a trio of road-sweepers!” He shouted over the milling crews. “If there’s a pebble on the road between us and Canterlot I want it swept away!” he made a harsh gesture to the hired help. They all moved quickly and efficiently, seizing brooms and making way for the massive cart.
“Are those ropes secure? How about the cushioning? I don’t want his hooves damaged, secure that end there!” Daring Do was shouting orders back and forth. Transport was the most dangerous part of any archeological dig. Once you found something, getting it home without damaging it was paramount. Adjusting her hat and vest, she took a deep breath. Squaring her shoulders, she gave the signal. “Alright, let ‘er rip, boys!” she shouted to the team. The group of stallions pulling the cart started forward. At first it was really hard to move the four or five ton pony statue, but once they got some momentum going it wasn’t as bad. The road sweepers worked furiously to get any debris out of the way, and they were off. It was going to be a long day, making the trip up to Canterlot. But, it was their victory road and everypony was excited. “C’mon everypony! With this statue and everything else we’ve secured, it’ll make our careers!” Daring launched into the air, wings flapping animatedly. A great cheer rose up from the group. True Facts grinned. She was really beautiful when she got all excited like that, haha.
12 Years Later…
Spartan Shield was studying a community bulletin board, in front of town hall. Dressed in his breastplate, wrappings and scarf, he did stand out a little bit. With his face fixed in a semi-permanent scowling expression, he scanned the articles. Kittens for sale. Yard Sale. Necklace Found. Have You Seen Me, with a picture of a child’s toy. Fence Painter wanted. Caterer Wanted. Young Flyers Competition in Three Months. The warrior stallion was pushing five weeks at living in the new Equestria now, but he had yet to truly decide what his community service project was going to do. He could not simply go door to door and ask for money (could he? In this peaceful Equestria…?). It was dishonorable to beg and grab at money without working for it. Twenty-five hundred bits seemed to be a more and more impossible goal. Even if he got a normal job, to use all of his earnings for the project would take months. If only there were something he could do to gather the money all in one fell swoop…
Big Macintosh went by in his peripheral vision. Spartan Shield turned, studying the red pony for a long time. The draft horse was as big and burly as he in every way. He liked that. He liked a big, powerful stallion in place of all the strangeness and even feminine ponies in Ponyville. It gave him hope for this strange new future. Though the world had become a candy-colored virginal version of itself, it still had its tougher ponies. Excellent. The curious warrior watched Big Mac set up his apple stand on his usual spot in the market, setting up open barrels. There were red, golden, and green apples respectively. The strange preserved rainbow apple made a reappearance as well, ever frozen in time in its glass jar. When Big Mac had set a brightly-colored pennant on the counter to attract attention, he bobbed his head in satisfaction. Open fer business.
Spartan Shield approached, a wild idea slowly forming in his mind. This was too perfect, how could he pass it up? Big Mac saw him coming and smiled. “Ho, Big Macintosh.” He greeted, raising a hoof. Big Mac did the same, bobbing his head mutely. “Good stand you’ve got here.” Spartan Shield gestured vaguely.
“Eeyup.” Said the draft horse. Spartan Shield wasn’t overly fond of the farming community. Soldiers like himself thought it below them to fraternize with such commonfolk. But, the Apple Family had proven themselves to him on many occasions already. The healthy foal, Applebloom, had survived a mini-agoge against Timberwolves. Applejack, the older sister, had apparently had a hoof in toppling a GODDESS. And then there was Big Macintosh. The only stallion in Ponyville that seemed as mighty as he. There was a certain flair for life in that barrel-chested thing, and Spartan Shield respected it.
“How much are you selling for?” Spartan Shield asked. He had no money, but was trying to make conversation to lead up into his idea. Big Mac nodded upwards, towards the sign. Three bits for one apple, any color. Twenty bits for the time-frozen zap apple (he would NEVER sell that silly thing, but there was always the off-chance some crazy pony would lay down the bits for it.). “Ah, I see.” Spartan Shield stroked his chin a little bit, admiring his wares. “You have a prolific business, no doubt, Big Macintosh… however.” He smirked, looking at him sideways. “I wonder if I may interest you in a sweeter pot of honey?”
“Nnope.” Big Mac said politely, shaking his head. He was an Apple. He wasn’t about to go switchin’ careers just for the money. He liked bein’ a farm pony and that was that. Spartan Shield cocked his head a little, as though working out what he was about to say. He worked his lips a little. Big Mac took the time to admire the strange pony’s breastplate. Not just anypony wandered around wearing armor. Applejack had told him that Twilight Sparkle had… had… what was it again? Reversed a curse that made him a rock? How had she known which rock was him? The world was full’a rocks. Hm. Twilight was a clever one, though. If there was anypony that could spot somepony trapped in a rock under a curse, it would be her. Or maybe he was missin’ something obvious and it was the rocks in his head.
“No?” Spartan Shield asked, cocking his head at last and smiling in a friendly way. “Suppose, friend, that I told you that the two of us could make more than twenty-five hundred bits in a single evening?” This statement shot Big Macintosh’s eyebrows into his mane. There, they remained lost in shock. See his look the Spartan Stallion smiled, bobbing his head. “I kid you not, for my plan requires at least that amount.” He explained. “Suppose, after the first twenty-five hundred, you keep all the rest, no questions asked?” he offered.
Big Mac sensed something big. It was a hunch, or an instinct, he wasn’t sure what. Something about Spartan Shield’s look made him want to know more. If his friend expected, so easily, to make twenty-five hundred bits… why share it with him? Furrowing his brow, he leaned forward silently, to learn the secret.
“A contest, Big Macintosh, between the two of us.” Spartan Shield leaned to whisper with him. “Ponyville’s mightiest stallions. Ponies in this innocent, virginal land would pay, I think, to see a true test of mettle between powerful stallions like ourselves.” He said with a smirk. Big Mac blinked a few times, still curious but unsure about what he meant. “I shan’t explain here in public.” Spartan Shield said, backing off a bit. “Meet me in the baths at the spa, and we shall talk in private.” He said. The big stallion nodded mutely, very interested.
Princess Luna slowly leaned over her viewing mirror. It was like a scrying pool, but augmented with water and lunar magicks. “We wonder how he is doing, is all, sister.” Luna defended when she saw Celestia’s disapproving look.
“It is called snooping, Luna.” The white alicorn was standing next to her.
“We also want you to take a closer look at him, by the by.” Luna looked over at her while the scrying spell revved up. “When he was here at the palace I sensed something… off, about him. I wasn’t sure it was him at first, but the feeling vanished when he left with Twilight Sparkle for Ponyville.”
“What feeling?” Celestia leaned over the scrying mirror just as the images began to swim into view. Ponyville came into focus, an animated day at the marketplace, it seemed. Spartan Shield was chatting animatedly with a big red stallion, who agreed with something, and then he was off. “He seems to be getting along alright.” She smiled warmly.
“He is bleeding solar magic all over the place, Tia.” Luna murmured softly. Celestia flinched visibly, looking at her in shock. “Tiz true. Something about Spartan Shield positively reeks of your signature of magic.”
“Are you sure? I didn’t sense anything when he was here…” Celestia was already leaning close over the image. Reaching out with her thoughts and willpower, she ran a sweeping scan over Spartan Shield’s body. Suddenly he stopped and sneezed. Scowling furiously he looked skyward, back and forth.
“Does he know we look upon him?!” Luna suddenly recoiled in horror.
“It was a trend in his era.” Celestia chuckled a little. “Suddenly sneezing or feeling hot behind the ears meant somepony was talking about you.”
“And this is true?” Luna said skeptically.
“Oh no, it was a fable. But, I may have tweaked him a bit when I touched him to look for solar magicks…” Celestia trailed off when Spartan Shield sneezed again, harder, ducking between buildings to rub his snout and look around furiously. “Yes.” The sun Princess suddenly said, her eyes widening. “There is something on him, and it is definitely mine…” she squinted a little, as though trying to see better. “I can’t tell, though.” The goddess said with a slight frown. “Something about the magic surrounding him is… is…”
“Old? Very, very old?” Luna said helpfully. Celestia nodded slowly.
“Why did I not sense it when he was before me?” Celestia mumbled.
“Thou art constantly surrounded by thine own magicks, sister. It would be like a needle in a haystack to sense just one more source of your own magic nearby.” Luna said, shaking her head at her sister’s frustration. “I only sensed it because it felt… older. And it was moving.” She finally said. “If he’d been standing still I may not have sensed him in the palace at all.” The Royal Sisters watched Spartan Shield for a bit. He talked with the red stallion for a long time, then wandered seemingly aimlessly around town for a bit.
“What does he do all day, if he has no battles to fight and no other profession?” Luna mused aloud, almost cruelly. “Has he become a lay-about?” The two of them watched the armored stallion go to the park and wander among some bushes. “What is he doing now?”
“I think perhaps you have too much fun spying on him, sister.” Celestia teased her just a little. Luna blushed and stuck her tongue out just a little, un-princess-like. “He’s trying to find himself, no doubt. A warrior from such a violent era, introduced into such a peaceful…” she leaned forward with interest too, for now he was doing something else. They watched the Spartan Stallion poke about in a flower bed or two, plucking up a series of purple flowers in his teeth and shoving them in his saddlebag.
Luna snorted. “Or perhaps he’s become a thief.”
Celestia sighed a little, cocking her head. “He probably doesn’t know any better.” she mumbled, watching Spartan Shield steal all the purple flowers he could find from the displays in the park. With nopony watching him in particular, nopony stopped him. It didn’t take long for his purpose to be revealed, though, for next he made a bee-line for Twilight Sparkle’s home.
Twilight Sparkle blushed coyly when Spartan Shield THRUST a hoof full of purple flowers practically into her face. “For you.” He said with a very serious expression. The purple mare was delighted, and leaned forward to bite into the closest one. Lavender suckles, they tasted like sugar and honey!
“Oh thank you, Spartan! They’re tasty!” Twilight took them as he came into the library.
Spartan nodded pleasantly to himself. Truth be told he didn’t understand the significance of bringing a mare flowers in this era. Would they not like something better like a laurel of twine, a bundle of candles, or a jug of scented oil? No no no, times had changed so he had to adapt to them. He’d seen another stallion present his mare with flowers and she had seemed very pleased, so he thought to copy such an interesting cultural gesture for himself. Mission accomplished. Another new Equestrian custom observed. Twilight seemed very pleased indeed.
Twilight Sparkle fought the urge to eat the whole bouquet on the spot, they were so lovely. But no, she should enjoy them for a bit first. Getting a vase from a little cabinet in the kitchen, she put them into water and put them on her writing desk. Spartan Shield felt a twinge of delight. Twilight only placed very important things directly on her writing desk. Everything else was piled around the room when she got into one of her long study sessions—or perhaps on another table. Perhaps she would snack on them as time went by? She did forget to eat sometimes, perhaps something brightly colored would draw her eye and remind her to consume something now and then other than daisy sandwiches. (Then again she was a slender thing, so it was how she kept her figure—in his opinion)
“Now then, I must tell you something. I shan’t be home this evening.” He told Twilight somewhat officially. She cocked her head at him, giving pause. “I shall be away with Big Macintosh for a bit.”
Her face brightened. “Ah! A stallion’s night out, huh? I’m glad you two have become such good friends!” Twilight smiled enthusiastically. This was an excellent sign for Spartan. He was going out on his own, making his own friends and interacting with ponies without Twilight being there to chaperone him. This was going so well!
“Yes! I intend to perform my community service with his help.” Spartan Shield said. “Giving him anything beyond the sum I need, of course.” He chuckled.
“Oh? That’s good! I’m sure he’ll like that. Applejack’s always telling me how tight the money is on the farm sometimes.” Twilight said, gesturing vaguely in the direction of Sweet Apple Acres. “What are the two of you planning?”
“The planning will be tonight, at the baths.” Spartan Shield said. Twilight got the sudden very real image of a pair of handsome, burly stallions philosophizing while lathering themselves in the spa, but SQUASHED the thought before it colored her face scarlet. “Tiz a social place, is it not?” he said conversationally, going up the stairs. “I must change for the evening, I trust you’ll be fine?” he asked over his shoulder.
“Y-yeah, sure.” She said. Twilight looked at the vase of flowers, smiling slowly. Pushing her mane behind her ears she gave a slow and quiet sound. She didn’t know what sort of sound it was, but it sounded like a happy one. They’d been flirting with the idea of… well, flirting—for weeks now. A few scant kisses didn’t make them marefriend and coltfriend, those were all in the heat of the moment… right? “Oh Celestia!” Twilight suddenly buckled in her back legs, rushing over to the relationships sections of the stacks, then to the Greek and Roman era stacks, then to her tool chest. She had a LOT of cross-referencing to do! Notebooks and quills and inks and all sorts of other things started flying back and forth. “SPIKE!” she shouted over the hailstorm, sending her little assistant running.
Big Macintosh emerged into the spa’s hot baths. He’d shed his yoke, scrubbed himself down, rinsed, then gotten his towel and soaps. Peering about, he found only Spartan Shield was present in the pool-like structure. The lazy curl of steam and salts wafted under his nose. Looking about and checking for others, he cantered slowly forward until he reached the edge. Dropping his towel and such to one side, he clambered in as gracefully as he could. He wasn’t used to these fancy-smancy places, but he was curious about Spartan Shield’s proposition.
“Glad you came.” Spartan Shield sat up from his lazing position, nodding to Big Mac briefly. The two of them sat on a sitting rock, shoulder to shoulder, and the stallion told Big Macintosh his plans. At first, there was doubt in his features. The warrior pony was forward, brunt and almost sarcastic with his ways. Then, the red stallion shifted to slowly growing curiosity. Was that the way things could be done, then? Huh. Then, a smile began to work its way across his face when Spartan Shield thunked his chest a few times with a massive hoof, confirming Big Macintosh’s toughness. The farm pony was nodding enthusiastically by the time it was over. This was a great idea! He loved it! He was ready to be a part of it! “So, what dost thou think? Want to do it?” he said, reaching with a hoof.
“Eeyup!” Big Macintosh said, taking his hoof and shaking it firmly. They shook for a long time, and the Apple stallion noticed the slowly increasing grip Spartan Shield had on him. He flicked his gaze to his face. “Uh?” he said, trying to pull away. There was a grand and mischievous smile working its way across the Spartan’s muzzle. He pulled a little harder, but he wouldn’t release him. Harder. Harder! Gripped thus, Big Mac gave him an angry shove.
Spartan Shield shifted his weight and THRUST Big Mac off of their sitting rock, splashing him into the hot water over his head. The barrel-chested farm pony slowly emerged, huffing water out his nose. His mane was in tangles all over his eyes, and the steam of the bath’s heat rose from his shoulders. They HAD promised to wrestle again someday soon, but… but… this, with no warning? This. Meant. War. Big Macintosh splashed forward with all his might, splish-sploshh-splish-sploshhh—hooves outstretched to do battle with the laughing Spartan Shield. He kicked up foam as he went. They locked shoulders with both hooves, muscles coiling as water dripped from them, glistening in the evening light of the lamps posted around the hot baths. “Uh-HAH?!” Spartan was lifted bodily and tossed head-first into the water. He emerged, sputtering, as Big Mac pressed his assault. The stallions laughed and wrestled wildly as only competitive male friends can, sending waves through the pool. Their laughter could be heard even in the locker rooms. By the time they emerged they were both clean and exhausted and happy. “Until then!” Spartan said cryptically after they’d both emerged, dried and ready to head home for the evening.
“Eeyup!” Big Macintosh said, enthused with everything that was happening.
“I knew I could count on thee, Big Mac.” Spartan said with some affection, chuckling and turning to head back to the tree library. Big Mac bobbed his head a bit, then went his own way back to Sweet Apple Acres. Spartan felt better than he had in days. His community service project was going to be simply unforgettable, he just knew it.
Now? He needed an artist, and he needed to visit the athlete Rainbow Dash. Then all would be ready. Those foals would have an excellent exercising ground before they knew it. Princess Luna would fork over his monies. Then, he could start out in his life as a more, eh… ‘normal’ pony. The thought gave him pause. What was normal in this era? He wasn’t sure.
He knew what wasn’t normal. The Harlequin, Pinkie Pie. Spartan Shield scrubbed his chin a little, frowning at the thought. She claimed to be very educated. Perhaps he would do well to pay her a visit soon also. With the proper protection of course-- Twilight Sparkle. Protection... Suddenly, Spartan let out a gasp and looked down at himself. He was naked! Turning around back the way he came he RUSHED back to the spa to get his breast plate, wrappings and cape-scarf. How embarrassing!
End of Part 15