“Were you surprised?” the pink blob asked again.
Big Macintosh blinked his eyes until they could focus again. Gradually the pink blob resolved itself into Pinkie Pie, grinning wide and fluttering her eyelashes expectantly.
“Eeyup,” said Big Macintosh.
Pinkie Pie snorted out a few giggles.
“You sound just like Big Macintosh! I can’t wait for you to meet him! Oh but I bet you must have already met him, huh? What with you staying at Sweet Apple Acres and all. Does he make your thighs turn to jelly, too? You know what my favorite kind of jelly is? Don’t make me choose! Oh gosh…”
A small gaggle of ponies filtered out of the barn behind Pinkie Pie and gathered around. Tombs helped Big Mac to right himself as the crowd closed in.
“…which I guess is a long way of saying welcome to Ponyville!” Pinkie Pie cheered.
A great hurrah rose up from inside the barn as the Welcoming Committee swept Big Macintosh and Tombs back inside.
The barn was bright and alive with ponies from all over town. A broad banner hung from the edge of the loft, proclaiming in bright letters:
Beneath it, a delicious smorgasbord of savory pastries and treats from Sugarcube Corner stretched from wall to wall. It looked like the Cakes had emptied their entire shop for this spread. Pinkie Pie leapt up on the buffet table, kicking aside a tureen of custard and nearly treading on a platter of apple danishes. She balanced on her hind legs and raised her forehooves to the crowd.
“Everypony, I’m pleased as punch to announce the arrival of Princeton Charmington and Tombstone! They’re staying with the Apple family during their visit, so let’s honor them and welcome them to Ponyville!”
The barn rumbled with the clatter of hooves as everypony stamped and cheered their new arrivals. Applejack let out an energetic “Yeee Haw!” while Fluttershy whispered a slightly more conservative “Yay.”
In spite of actually having been a lifetime resident of Ponyville, Big Mac couldn’t help but smile at the warm welcome. Tombs doffed his cap and bowed graciously at the crowd. Big Macintosh opened his mouth to thank everypony, but before he could make a sound, Pinkie Pie leaped off the craft table and zipped out of sight. She returned in a flash bearing gift baskets for Big Macintosh and Tombs.
“Rarity had the great idea to put these together for you guys! We all pitched in. Nopony was sure what you liked, so there’s a little bit of everything!” she grinned, presenting a small basket to each of them.
There certainly was. The baskets overflowed with chocolate bars, coupon books, travel sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner, horn wax, massage oil, scented candles, pencils advertising local businesses (Impress your filly every night, Zecora’s herbs will start you off right!)…
“Balloons!” added Pinkie pie, tugging a party pack of balloons out of the basket with her mouth.
And much more, besides!
“You said Miss Rarity put these together?” asked Tombs, using his magic to set the basket aside.
“Yeah! She also helped with the decorations!” Pinkie gestured at the banner and sparkly ribbons that festooned the walls and rafters. Rarity’s knack for design managed to make even the simple interior of the Apple Family barn look posh.
“Is she still here?”
“She should be around, I’m surprised she hasn’t already swung around to welcome you guys to Ponyville.”
“And I’m surprised that even you could sink so low!” Rarity was standing in the entrance to the barn, her flank halfway out in the cold darkness. Her accusation skewered the ebullient mood and sent the crowd into a tizzy of shocked murmurs. Pinkie Pie gasped and dashed over to the phonograph player and kicked it so that the needle scratched off the record.
Big Macintosh and Tombs stood in the center of the silence.
Twilight Sparkle walked out of the darkness and took her place at Rarity’s side.
“I rushed over as soon as I heard about the party,” Twilight explained “I couldn’t stand by and let everypony be deceived! You’re all here to welcome ‘Princeton Charmington’ and ‘Tombstone’ to Ponyville, but these two aren’t who they claim to be!”
“That’s right!” Rarity chimed in “They are Prince Blueblood and… somepony who is probably also an impostor!”
The susurrus of murmurs increased in volume. The guests began to stir and paw at the ground.
Tombs bowed low to the crowd.
“Tombs, gentlecolt’s gentlecolt, at your service.”
“Save it!” shot Twilight “Prince Blueblood, why are you here and what’s the meaning of this deception!?”
Big Mac was speechless. He gave Tombs a pleading look. Tombs looked up at him, a strange sort of triumph dancing in his eyes.
“Sir, you couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to make a meaningful apology to Miss Rarity,” Tombs whispered “A private apology is one thing, but a public apology is certain to impress not only her, but Miss Sparkle as well.”
Big Mac looked back up at his accusers. Twilight’s face smoldered with righteous anger. Rarity’s delicate body trembled with indignance. He turned around to face the crowd. They stepped back from him. Uneasy. Unsure. What was happening? Many hadn’t heard or didn’t fully understand. Something exciting was going on.
Big Mac cleared his throat.
“Everything they just said is true,” he spoke slowly so as not to overplay his aristocratic accent “I am Prince Blueblood.”
The crowd gasped. Twilight and Rarity smiled smugly.
“I didn’t mean to deceive y’all,” he broke his poise and coughed loudly “Sorry. I haven’t meant to hurt anypony. I was only in disguise because I didn’t want special treatment on account of my aunt being the Royal Princess and all…”
Tombs cleared his throat ever so softly. Big Mac straightened up a bit. He told himself that he wasn’t lying per se. From what he gathered, this really was why the Prince had come to Ponyville.
“I came here to turn over a new leaf. Maybe I’m a prince, but I haven’t been very charming and there’s somepony here I owe an extra special apology to…”
This time, Rarity gasped. The fire of Twilight’s anger began to fade, doused by surprise.
Big Mac turned around and looked Rarity in the eyes.
“Miss Rarity…” he began “I behaved horribly at the Grand Galloping gala. I’m sorry I was rude to you and I’m sorry I humiliated you and I’m very, very sorry I ruined your dress. I’m not worthy of your company.”
Big Mac bowed low and touched his horn to the ground. Rarity’s eyes glistened with tears. Twilight could only stammer; her big bust was turning out to be… well… a bust.
Big Mac raised his head from the ground, keeping it low “Do you forgive me, Miss Rarity?”
Rarity sniffed back her tears, doing her best to disguise it as a demeaning snort. It was a beautiful dress! Maybe one of the most beautiful dresses she’d ever made and she could only wear it for one night and it was ruined!
Rarity drew herself up to her most imperious posture, glaring down her nose at Big Macintosh.
She took a step forward.
“You behaved like an absolute lout!”
“You humiliated me!”
“You ruined my evening!”
She towered over him.
“You ruined my dress!”
“I’m very sorry.” Big Mac looked right up into her eyes. Her expression melted.
“I forgive you.”
She touched her horn to his and he felt a warm spark course through him. It wasn’t telepathy, but he suddenly knew she really forgave him... well, the Prince. They rose together and turned to face the crowd. Tombs nodded his approval. The crowd cheered.
Pinkie Pie wiped away her tears with a trembling hoof. She sniffled, then reached over and clasped a pull cord between her forehooves.
“Well, now we can get this party kicked off right!” she grinned and yanked on the cord.
An air horn blasted and a blizzard of confetti dropped from the ceiling onto the crowd. At the same time, a new banner unfurled from the rafters proclaiming:
The crowd cheered again and somepony started the music again. In a few seconds, the barn was one again filled with the warm sounds of laughter and dancing.
Tombs trotted over to Pinkie Pie.
“Miss Pie, did you really have that banner prepared beforehand?”
“Yup!” she beamed with pride.
“How did you know about the Prince?”
“Because he was at the Grand Galloping Gala when I was there! Doy! Plus, he was at the hospital later when I was getting stitches in my lip for smashing my face into Applejack’s apple cart. He was crying and insisting he had Pee Tee Ess Dee!” she giggled.
Tombs didn’t betray any amusement at the idea, but he did allow himself the most fleeting moment of schadenfreude at the image.
“If you knew all along, why didn’t you tell everypony who we were?”
Pinkie giggled again “Because! That would’ve spoiled the dramatic reveal!”
Tombs raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, and sorry about the banner,” said Pinkie “but I didn’t get your real name for sure until just a few minutes ago!”
“It’s quite alright, Miss Pie.”
“Call me Pinkie! All my friends do!” she snorted.
“I appreciate the gesture, Miss Pie, but it would be improper.”
“Well that’s silly!”
While Tombs did his best to explain the rules of propriety to Pinkie Pie, Twilight Sparkle trotted up alongside Big Macintosh at the buffet table. Big Mac hadn’t eaten all day, and he was stuffing himself when Twilight appeared.
Big Mac almost choked on a ginger snap. He exploded into a fit of coughing that showered Twilight with wet crumbs.
“Oh gosh! I-I’m so sorry!” stammered Big Mac, catching his breath.
Twilight magicked a napkin from the buffet table and dabbed the crumbs from her face.
“It’s my fault, really.” Twilight tossed the napkin away.
Big Mac shuffled his hooves and looked at the ground. Twilight couldn’t help but smile at his bashfulness, even if were so jarringly out of character from the Blueblood she knew.
“That was a very mature apology you made,” said Twilight.
Big Mac shuffled again, but smiled.
“When you came by the library today and said you wanted to be my friend, I didn’t believe you. You’ve been a jerk for as long as I’ve known you.”
Big Mac sighed. Thanks for setting me up for success, Blueblood.
“But that wasn’t a jerk I saw back there. Admitting you’re wrong is one of the hardest things in the world to do. If you’re able to do that, then you’ve already taken a big step towards learning what it is to be a good friend.”
Big Mac perked up his ears and looked up at Twilight.
“I’d be proud to accept you as my pupil… and my friend.” Twilight smiled and extended her forehoof. Big Macintosh took it and shook it. His massive hoof eclipsed her petit one like a dinner plate covering a coin.
“Lessons start tomorrow at eight. Meet me at the library.”
Big Macintosh nodded. He was so happy he thought he would explode.
His stomach growled and he remembered he was starving.
Ponies continued to trickle in as the night went on. Aloe and Lotus showed up late because they’d spent the evening rounding up everypony in town who decided not to come and telling them that the party was really for Prince Blueblood. A prince and his valet made for much more interesting party guests than two random ponies, and it wasn’t long before the Apple family barn was packed wall to wall with ponies dancing, laughing and making themselves at home. Big Mac found himself shaking hooves all night, with barely any chance to break away and talk to Twilight.
“These folks better not stomp all over my fields is all Ah’m sayin’,” grumbled Applejack, surveying the throng of party ponies. She frowned at a blue Pegasus who had obviously just returned from using the upstairs bathroom.
A team of colts was busily hauling a massive pair of tower speakers and a DJ turntable up the hill toward the barn while a couple of unicorn electricians were checking the connections of a track of colored spotlights hastily fixed to an overhead beam. The night was looking to spiral out of control in a hurry.
“I’m more worried about what we’re gonna feed them all!” said Pinkie Pie “The buffet’s been picked clean and there’s still more ponies showing up! Nopony wants to hang out at a party with nothing to eat!”
Tombs shimmered up alongside Pinkie Pie and cleared his throat.
“Perhaps I can be of some assistance, ma’m.”
“Oh? Do you know where to get some more food at this hour? Because Applejack already told me we weren’t allowed to pick any of the apples or the vegetables in the garden or go into the refrigerator or the chest freezer,” Pinkie Pie began to think hard of what else Applejack owned that she might have overlooked.
“Not food, ma’m.”
“Many’s the faltering party that’s been saved by the liberal presence of free libations.”
“What’s there to drink? We already ran out of punch, silly! And cider season’s not for another seven months! All we have left is juice!”
“As luck may have it, among the Prince’s luggage is his rather expansive drinks cabinet. With a little help, I can get it set up and maybe sustain the party for another hour or so at least.”
Pinkie and Tombs grabbed a couple of colts and unloaded the heavy drinks cabinet from the cart outside. The cabinet was massive; at least twice Tombs’s height and finished in dark faux leather, like the upended steamer trunk of a giant. It rattled heavily with the sound of dozens of bottles and decanters brimming with liquor. They got it inside and Tombs opened the latches.
The cabinet unfolded like a traveling showpony’s wagon. As Tombs and Pinkie watched, a gleaming city of crystal bottles rose to meet them. The interior of the cabinet was all fine mahogany. The tools and shakers and strainers were sterling silver. Tombs trotted around and settled behind the little fold up table. He allowed himself a smug smile as he magicked up some bottles and a shaker. In the blink of an eye, he’d whipped up a gin and tonic. Tombs passed the glass to Pinkie, who took a big whiff before gagging theatrically.
“Phhheew!” exclaimed Pinkie Pie “Did you know there’s alcohol in this?”
“The finest gin in Canterlot,” he answered.
“But! I’ve never served liquor at any of my parties!”
Tombs raised an eyebrow.
“Yes, really. That’s Pinkie Pie’s first rule of parties!”
2. Good music is the heartbeat of the party!
3. There is no rule 3.
4. You can never plan a good party, only prepare.
5. If your guests need to be drunk to have a good time, you’re doing it wrong.
“Sorry,” amended Pinkie Pie “That was the fifth rule I guess. I think the first rule is balloons.”
“What about balloons?”
“Well… I understand your fear that alcoholic beverages are often used as a crutch by lazy hosts, but a judicious application of liquor can be a great social lubricant. In moderation it enhances the mood and breaks down social barriers.”
“I don’t know…” Pinkie Pie cast another suspicious look at the tumbler of gin and tonic.
“If you drink until you’re drunk, then you’re missing the point of alcohol. All it really does is act as the catalyst for the ultimate sugar high.”
“Ultimate sugar high? No way! I know everything about sugar!”
“Then you know that your liver stores thousands of calories worth of sugar reserves and when you drink liquor it dumps all those reserves into your bloodstream at once.”
“Huh. How do you know so much about alcohol?”
“Well, one hates to brag, but I would expect I should, considering it’s my special talent.”
Tombs lifted the end of his tailcoat so that Pinkie could see the silver martini shaker emblazoned on his flank.
“Ohhh, I thought it was a vase or something. Like you were really good at polishing vases.”
Tombs made an amused sound that was as close to a laugh as propriety would allow.
“Most ponies think that because my name is ‘Tombs’ that it’s a picture of an urn.”
“Oh yeah! That makes a lot more sense. Are you sure it’s not an urn?”
“Fairly sure, ma’m.”
“You would know, I guess,” Pinkie looked down at the glass of gin and tonic like it was going to bite her.
“You sure it’s okay?” she asked.
“Okay… bottoms up!” Pinkie bit the edge of the glass in her teeth and drained the whole tumbler into her mouth in one swig.
“It’s really more of a sipping beverage…” Tombs started to say.
Pinkie’s eyes bulged and her cheeks puffed out. She gritted her teeth and twitched, all the while a steady whine, like the whistle of a boiling kettle, built up behind her nostrils.
“Miss Pie, are you…”
Pinkie’s body locked as rigid as an iron statue. She howled like the blast of a steam whistle before launching straight up into the air, ricocheting off a rafter and flying into the crowd, bouncing off the walls like a superball.
A purple pony with a cluster of grapes and a strawberry for her cutie mark approached the drinks table.
“I’ll have what she’s having,” she said.
Tombs broke out another gin and tonic. Behind him, Pinkie Pie did a triple front flip out of the loft into a pile of hay.
“Everypony! Stomp your hooves for… DEE JAY PON THREEEEEEEEEEE!”
The audience cheered and stamped wildly. There was a whir of smoke machines and the air around the turntable filled with mist.
DJ-PON3 stepped out of the smoke and raised her hooves to the crowd, which cheered and stamped. She was a white unicorn, lean and svelte. She wore her blue mane cropped short. The colored lights on her mirrored sunglasses made her eyes look like psychedelic kaleidoscopes of swirling color. Twin streams of blue magic shot from her horn and energized the turntables. She popped a needle on the first record and a thrumming bass beat rattled the windowpanes and jarred apples off the trees outside.
Everypony was so distracted by the show that Big Mac could finally slip away to look for Twilight. He found Applejack first. She was guarding the door to the upstairs.
“Blueblood!” she shouted over the deafening bass.
Big Mac leaned in close so he could hear her.
“Have you seen Big Macintosh around? I caught Berry throwin’ up in our bathroom and then wipin’ her mouth on Granny Smith’s guest towels! I could really use his help keepin’ an eye on everypony!”
As she spoke, a colt and his giggling filly friend tried to sneak behind her. Applejack glared at them and they scampered away. She looked back at Big Mac with a “see what I mean?” expression.
Big Mac nodded. Applejack raised a good point. He hadn’t seen his body all night.
Tombs hadn’t seen him either. Big Mac got up on the skeletonized buffet table and scanned the dancing crowd. A pony his size should have stuck out like a sore thumb, but the Prince wasn’t in the barn.
Big Macintosh stepped out into the cold. After the heavy, pounding rhythm of the barn, the outdoors seemed deathly still, even with what sounded like a muffled earthquake throbbing just a few feet away. A small cluster of other ponies loitered outside, grabbing some fresh air or quiet conversation. A few waved drunken greetings to him as he passed and he nodded back. A couple necked around the far corner while somepony else leaned into the bushes to vomit.
Blueblood was nowhere to be found. He hadn’t seen the Prince since yelling at him out in the field that morning.
Big Mac shook his head. Could he be… no… there was no way…
He set off down the path to the East field. The music and light of the barn faded into the trees behind him until it was dark and quiet.
It was no trouble for Big Mac to find his way to the East Field. He’d been down to the field before sunup more times than he could remember, and made the trip back after sunset almost as often. The thick cloud cover that had obscured the moon was gone now. In the sky, the dark shapes of the night shift Pegasi flitted high overhead removing the last of the lonely clouds.
Big Macintosh rounded the hillock that obscured the East Field from the path and looked out across the dark furrows.
The Prince had plowed the whole field. Inexpertly. The furrows were sloppy and the grass around the edges was torn and scuffed where the Prince had turned the plow around, but it was done. The blade of the plow glinted in the moonlight and Big Mac made his way over, nearly stepping on his body as he moved in for a closer look.
The Prince was asleep, the yoke still tied up to the plow. He must not have known how to remove it without magic and given up. Blueblood stirred and whimpered slightly, shivering against the cold night air. Big Mac undid the reigns with his magic and then reached out with it to move the Prince.
Trying to lift the prince was like trying to grasp a cactus. The life force that streamed from Blueblood shifted and prickled against his powers and Big Mac worried he’d done something wrong. He tested his powers on a nearby rock and found them working perfectly fine. With a little more practice, Big Mac would learn that lifting inanimate objects was easy, but moving matter that had a mind of its own was quite a bit more tricky. For now, though, Blueblood would just have to move himself.
Big Mac nudged Blueblood awake. Blueblood blinked in the darkness and panicked briefly in disorientation. Big Mac placed a calming hoof on the Prince’s shoulder and guided the weary pony back up the path to the barn.
Blueblood didn’t speak during the walk back to the barn. He was too tired. The whole day seemed like a frightful nightmare and this was only another dream. Stumbling back to the barn in the darkness. It wasn’t until they cleared the orchard and could hear the music coming from the barn that he started to realize he was awake.
“What’s going on?” he asked. His own face looked back at him and he experienced a moment of vertigo before remembering he wasn’t in his body any more. He wished he were. This body ached all over. He could barely move!
“It’s a party for you,” explained Big Macintosh.
“Do they know I’m not there?”
“Oh, right,” Blueblood said through a terrific yawn “I guess I shall have to make an appearance.”
“Let’s get you cleaned up, first.”
“Okay…” Blueblood leaned against Big Mac and let him guide him inside to the warmth and light and music.
Inside, Pinkie Pie was up in front of the turntable, gripping the mic between her hooves and leading the audience in the chorus of Aerosmith’s Pink.
“Pink, it was love at first sight!” she bellowed. The crowd sang along.
Big Mac and Blueblood crossed the hay-covered floor of the barn where little pebbles jumped in time with the beat.
“I get Pink when I turn out the light!”
Applejack trotted over.
“And Pink gets me high as a kite!”
“Big Mac, thank Celestia you’re here! Where you been?”
Big Mac gestured in the direction of the East field.
“And I think everything is going to be alright no matter what we do tonight!”
Applejack understood. Somehow. This Prince feller was almost as good at sayin’ a lot while sayin’ nuthin’as Big Mac was.
Big Macintosh helped Blueblood upstairs and tugged of his yoke before putting him in bed. Blueblood folded up like a foal and was soon deep asleep in spite of the shuddering bass that shook dust from the cracks in the ceiling.
Big Mac went downstairs and took Applejack’s place minding the stairs while she went off to help clear away the buffet tables.
Pinkie Pie did a stage dive off the edge of the turntable and crowd surfed back over to Tombs.
And so, the night wound down with Big Macintosh looking after the house while Blueblood slept and Tombs worked through a party held in their honor. The sky was brightening in the east when the last guest left and Fluttershy came to collect Rainbow Dash, who was snoring up in the rafters, her rainbow mane stinking like rum and cola.
Big Mac staggered up to his room and flopped to sleep on the straw pallet in the center of his room. A few minutes later, Applejack peeked her head in the door.
“Thanks for yer help tonight,” she said “When Big Macintosh wakes up, tell him he can sleep in. Ah don’t need him out in the fields today. When he feels up to it, he can go mind the apple stand out in town.”
Big Mac nodded and closed his eyes.
End of Part 6