As the sun set over Canterlot, Twilight Sparkle’s careful reorganisation of the Ponyville Library – the third that week – was interrupted by Spike hurrying in.
“Sorry to interrupt, Twilight, but it’s the letter you’ve been waiting for.”
“The one from the Princess?”
“Yeah, and I think she likes the idea!”
Twilight snatched the letter from Spike’s claws, unrolling the parchment with her magic as it floated up to her eyes. She quickly skimmed the letter, then read it again, taking in every word. A smile slowly spread across her lips as she reached the bottom. With a sudden burst of action, she turned and ran out the door.
“Come on, Spike, we’ve got some big news for the girls.”
“Ah don’t get it” complained Applejack. “We already share everything anyways, so where’s the point?”
“Really, darling, I’d have thought that was obvious – in fact, I’d have thought you would have been the first pony to see the point, even before I would.”
Applejack glared at the white mare. “And what’s that supposed to mean? D’you think Ah’m slow, or what?”
Rarity smirked for a moment, before catching herself and turning it into an understanding smile.
“Not at all. You’re one of the most open ponies I know, and you’ve made a point of being open with us since that… Incident with the rodeo, so I can see how it may not be as obvious to you as I first thought. I thought you would see the point first because of Apple Bloom. Certainly, when I heard the idea, my first thought was of Sweetie Belle.”
Understanding dawned on Rainbow Dash, who interrupted the meek yellow Pegasus at the end of the table. “Oh yeah, I get it. Remember when Scootaloo rushed your sister all around town trying to find me a few seasons back?”
Twilight smiled at the memory. “That’s exactly why I thought of this, Rainbow Dash. When the Crusaders wanted to learn more about Cutie Marks, they came to each of us in turn and asked for our stories. And when the five of us heard your story, we realised that even we didn’t know all we could have about how we got our Cutie Marks. We never tried to hide the knowledge from each other, but it simply never occurred to us to ask.”
“Ah get it. Sometimes there’re things we could learn from somepony, but they’d never tell us. Not because it’s a secret, but just because we might not get round to it, or we might take it for granted.”
“Um…” Fluttershy tried again, but this time it was Pinkie Pie who spoke over her.
“Well, I think it’s a super idea, Twilight! I bet everypony in town has stories they can share, and I always like to learn more about my friends, which means learning more about everything since everypony’s my friend! I’d be happy to help out however I can. Ooh, I know! We want as many ponies there as possible, right? Well, I’ll throw a super-special first-night party, and invite everypony to come along!”
Twilight smiled to herself, half-shaking her head as Pinkie started worrying about what flavour of cake would be most appropriate for this, and whether or not she had enough funpowder for her party cannon.
“Actually, Pinkie, I don’t think a party is the best way for us to get this started. Remember, there’s no point with us going ahead with this unless everypony who chooses to come can hear what’s going on. And your parties aren’t exactly conducive to an environment where ponies feel able to share.”
“They aren’t conduwha to the huh?”
“Oh, for Celestia’s sake. Yer parties are loud, Pinkie. They’re too loud for ponies to hear themselves think, let alone hear other ponies.”
“Applejack’s right. Your parties are wonderful, but that’s not what this calls for. Fluttershy, did you have something you wanted to ask?”
Fluttershy started at Twilight suddenly calling her out.
“It’s nothing important, Twilight. I was just wondering, um, I mean I like the idea of ponies sharing stories, and I guess we’ve had a lot of things we can share, what with the hydra and the manticore and the… dragons and everything, but…”
“What is it? Let me know if I’ve missed anything, and I’ll make sure I include it.”
“Well, I just thought, is it really necessary to have the stage and the spotlight?”
Rarity still wasn’t entirely sure how Twilight had managed to talk her into holding the inaugural evening at Carousel Boutique.
“We can’t hold it at the town hall, the structure’s still not entirely a hundred per cent since Derpy’s accident last week. The library’s main hall isn’t large enough, not if we get the turnout we’re hoping for, and Sugarcube Corner would be a very bad idea until Pumpkin Cake is over her little… phase. Your Boutique is really the only place in town large enough for us to hold this event. Besides, surely you’d appreciate the free advertising?”
Ah yes, that was it…
“So you haven’t told any of them about the plan?”
Twilight smiled happily as she double-checked her “Lists to double-check” list, confirming that she had indeed done everything she needed to before the big show.
“That’s right, Spike. I know that all my friends will be there, regardless of what I say, and I think that this will be a nice surprise for them. If I told them, the whole night would be stilted, and that would defeat the purpose. But this way, I know that pretty much all of Ponyville will show up by the end, and that should get people talking.”
“All right, Twilight. We told people to show up at seven, right?”
“Yes, half an hour after sundown. Speaking of which, there is one more thing I need to do before it starts. Could you take a letter?”
Apart from Twilight Sparkle, who had organised the evening, the first ponies to arrive were Applejack, Big Macintosh, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo, who set themselves up with Sweetie Belle right in front of the makeshift stage. Pinkie Pie was next, shortly followed by Fluttershy just as the sun went down.
Over the next half hour, another half a dozen ponies showed up, some of which Rarity knew but most of which were no more than a face in the crowd. She definitely knew Golden Harvest (who had pointedly sat as far away from Applejack as possible) and of course Mayor Mare, but she wasn’t really sure on the rest of the audience. Finally, almost exactly half an hour after sundown, Rainbow Dash burst into the boutique, apparently trying to be as late as possible without actually being late.
All in all, there couldn’t have been more than about fifteen ponies in the shop, which made Rarity a little uncertain why precisely the library wasn’t sufficient for the audience. However, she had promised Twilight that she would help out, and dimmed the lighting with an almost-unconscious magical nudge before focusing a spotlight onto the curtains at the back of the stage.
Right on cue, Twilight walked out, smiling happily.
“Good evening, everypony. I know I’ve spoken about this evening with all of you, but I’m not sure that I’ve explained all the details.
“Every pony has their own stories to tell, and normally we would only tell them to our friends. It’s perfectly natural that you wouldn’t want everypony knowing everything that was going on in your life. But it’s also natural that when a pony makes a mistake or learns something, other ponies can learn from the story.
“Some time ago, I spent some time with three young fillies who wanted nothing more than to learn. I told them a story of when I was young, and thought nothing of it. Later that same day, those same three fillies were told a story by one of my best friends. They weren’t the only ponies to learn something that day; I learned as much, if not more, about myself from my friend’s story.
“It is the nature of the world that what one pony does affects other ponies. In the words of the famous philosopher Jondun the Meditator, ‘No mare is an island, entire of itself’ and so it is that by sharing these stories, we may find all of us enriched. This is why I arranged this evening, to give ponies the opportunity to share their experiences in an open environment.
“I intend to run this evening every week for the foreseeable future, and I hope that this evening will encourage you all to think about what stories you may be able to tell that would share a lesson you’ve learned. But don’t think that these evenings are going to just be about soul-searching stories of self-discovery; without your memories, none of you would be you, so every one of your memories, no matter how small, can offer an insight into life.”
Looking out into the audience, Twilight could see that they were getting restless with her little speech. Rainbow Dash in particular had her eyes half-closed, and falling fast, and Scootaloo was talking with Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle, more or less ignoring the speech.
Internally, Twilight smiled, though she was careful to keep her face neutral. She had deliberately written a slightly longer speech than she would have done normally, knowing full well the effect it would have; she felt sure that the best way to leave a good impression, under the circumstances, would be to let the audience drift away slightly before sharply tugging them back in.
“As tonight is our first night, I know none of you will have stories prepared. Some of you may be able to tell a story offhoof, but I want tonight to be a bit special, so I have asked an old friend of mine to get things going.”
That got their interest. Time to reel them in.
“Mares and gentlecolts, please show your appreciation for tonight’s special guest: Princess Celestia”