It was a lazy summer afternoon in Equestria. Princess Celestia was in Canterlot castle, dealing with issues that the various ponyfolk had. This task normally took all day, as there was a seemingly never ending stream of complaints or suggestions on how to make the country run better. Ever since Luna came back, Celestia had been putting some of the burden of running the country on her sister's shoulders. This left her with some free time on occasion.
Today was slower than normal. It was only 3 pm by the time she had gotten through all the day's royal duties and paperwork.
"Hmm, things must be going well. I almost never get time off like this." She mused to herself. "Maybe I should go spend some time with Luna." She closed court for the day, as there weren't going to be any other visitors.
Celestia walked upstairs, only to find that Luna was asleep. She had forgotten that Luna held court in the castle at night, and so she slept during the day.
"Oh dear, I haven't had any real time to myself in, oh my, 800 years! I have no idea what to do." Having been so busy after Luna had been sent to the moon, Celestia was always busing with something or other, running the country, attending events, dealing with the antics of Twilight Sparkle and her friends.... She never actually had time to herself, to do things she wanted to do, and so, after many centuries, stopped having hobbies. Her entire life had become taking care of Equestria, and she was clueless as to how to do live for herself instead of others.
"What was it that Twilight liked to do in her spare time? Oh that's right. She liked to read. That and practice her magic. I haven't tried any new spells in a very long time. Maybe I'll search in the library basement for something I haven't read. They have books from over 8 thousand years ago tucked down there where nopony can get at them. Couldn't hurt to have a look."
Celestia entered the restricted section of the library, where all the oldest, and most dangerous, books were kept. She browsed through them, quite literally judging the books by their covers, until one of them caught her eye.
All you need to know about apparitions, familiars, and binding magic.
"Hello, I've never seen you before." She told the inanimate hardcover. In all her many years, and all the magic she knew, she had never heard of this 'conjuration' before. It was enough to pique her interest. She asked the librarians about it, and they all just shook their heads. They had never been allowed in the basement, as dangerous and forbidden knowledge was housed there, along with fragile, one of a kind books, such as Starswirl's own hoof written journal, deemed far too precious to have open for display. She tucked the book away before heading to her room.
Chapter One, Safety.
1. The first thing that you should know about conjuration is that it is, by nature, unstable. You are summoning things from another plane of existence, where the laws of this universe may or may not apply. The things you summon may not act in a manner you are used to, and you must expect the unexpected.
2. Know that while the summoned creature or object is required to obey your will, it still has a will of it's own. Unless you specify the manner in which the conjured is to go about a specific task, they will attempt it in their own way, which could quite possibly be dangerous to the caster or those nearby. You must always be specific in giving a familiar it's orders, lest it find a loophole in your instruction.
Example: You know how to kill? Tell me an example of how you would do it. This would cause the familiar to explain verbally the manner in which it would fight. Give me an example. This means the familiar can explain it to you in any way it sees fit, probably leading to it making it's summoner the example. It followed it's orders to a T, but because the conjurer was not specific, it resulted in their untimely death, followed by the unsummoning, or 'banishment' of the summon, in which it returns to it's own realm.
3. Do not listen to the conjured. Many summoned entities will attempt to trick you, convince you of doing things you should not. You must always be of sound mind when summoning a conscious extra planar entity. Simple objects are of no harm, but sentient beings may provide advice that proves to be dangerous.
4. Never summon an entity more powerful than yourself. To do so may result in the conjured becoming 'unbound', meaning no longer tied to the caster's will, and unable to be banished by regular means. It is highly recommended that the caster learns a 'banish summon' spell. This spell is commonly used against conjurers, depriving them of their summoned fighter, while also being used by the conjurers themselves, in case a summon gets out of control.
5. You must be completely precise in the drawing of your runes. While the runes are the same for whatever you wish to summon and your mind decides what comes from it, at least with basic spells, they must be completely accurate, else you may conjure something completely different from what you want.
The list went on and on. Entrapment circles to snare summons, wards to protect against them.
"I'm Celestia, I possess the most powerful magic in this entire world, save for the elements of Harmony. I'm sure I can handle myself. Let's get on to the summoning."
The most common, and by far the safest, way to conjure something, is to write the summoning circle on a piece of paper. If the summon gets out of hand, hoof, or claw, (depending on the race of the caster) destroy the paper, and the summon will be returned to it's realm of origin. The danger lies in the summoning circle being stolen, as the holder of the circle becomes the summoned's master. Another method, although much more difficult, is to draw the runes in your mind. this means that unless the summon undergoes a release ritual, making it an 'unbound', it cannot be turned by another caster. This method has it's drawbacks, however, as it is time limited, and it requires a constant, steady stream of magic to maintain.
There were several beginner summons, all using the same basic circle, for low power conjurations, such as butterflies, small mammals, pebbles, flowers, and what not.
"Hmm, okay. Let's see. I want to summon, a bunny. So, I draw the runes on the paper, okay, what's the next step?"
In order to prevent the summon from being taken by another caster, place a drop of your own blood on the circle. This binds the summon to you. The only danger is if the summon itself gets hold of the circle. Then pour your magic into the runes, be they drawn on the floor, on a paper, or in your mind. The summon will then appear."
Celestia cringed at the thought of having to use her blood. She'd have to cut herself to do it. She was only going to summon a bunny, then immediately destroy the paper and send it back. There was no need. Even if somepony got a hold of the paper, what kind of damage could they possibly do with an otherworldly bunny?
"Alright, here we go." She poured her magic into the runic paper in front of her, all the while thinking, 'Bunny'. Lo and behold, after the air distorted a bit, making room for the creature to appear, a small, white, and very annoyed rabbit appeared in front of her.
"Angel? Where'd you go to? You were here a minute ago!" Fluttershy began searching frantically through her cabin for her beloved pet.
"Well, hello there little one. You seem familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?" Celestia began to speak, while the rabbit jumped and grabbed the paper in his mouth, and began to run off with it.
"Oh no you don't you little rascal." She said, grabbing him with her magic. She took the paper from him.
"Alright, now sit." She commanded. The bunny didn't want to, but for some reason, he complied.
"Jump?" He obeyed.
"Do a jig." He began to dance, as though he had an invisible cane and top hat.
"Oh, what fun! Alright, I'm sorry for putting you through that, I'll send you home now." she tore the paper. The air distorted again.
"Oh, there you are Angel, I was getting worried. Is something the matter?" Fluttershy asked as the infuriated rabbit kicked a carrot at her.
"Well, this is rather fun!" Celestia said, having satisfied herself. She conjured several other things, such as a feather, a glass of water, and a sword. They were all inanimate objects, and while she thought that forcing somepony to do something against it's will was cruel, at the same time, she couldn't help but laugh at the little bunny doing a dance on her bedroom floor.
"I can see how this might be useful. Just carry a stack of these around, and call on whatever you need, whenever you need it. Lose something? Just summon it to you. Of course, it'll go right back where it was before as soon as the spell is over, but if you keep the papers in a vault or filing cabinet or something, you won't have to worry about it. In the middle of a desert, just summon some water. It'll disappear out of your body after the spell is gone, but it would be enough to tie you over till you get some water from your own universe."
She practiced some more, learning that if you summon something you've already summoned, it'll disappear from where it was and reappear next to you. She also learned that if you summon a container, whatever is within the container will travel with it, but is not actually part of the container. This could be used to send things long distances. Fill the container, have someone of the other end summon it, empty it, then send it back. It didn't have to be from another realm either. She summoned the conjuration book that was on her nightstand. The spell would find the closest dimension containing the item, then bring it to the caster.
Celestia played around with the spells long into the night. Soon, it came time to raise the sun, and she realized she had pulled an all nighter. It was simply too interesting to put down.
"Sister, you look... well, terrible. Are you alright?" Luna asked.
"Oh, yes. I just, found a very interesting book and just could not put it down. Next thing I knew, I had lost track of time." She explained.
"Have you been copying Twilight Sparkle?" Luna said with a laugh. It was lucky that it was her weekly day off. Although she didn't have royal duties on those days, she most often spent them helping out somepony else, or talking with her sister about happenings and politics. Not this time. This time, she spent it sleeping.
Once a summoning circle has been used, it is bound to the item it originally summoned. If the summon is returned to it's location of origin without the destruction of the circle, then the circle may be reused, and the very same summon returned to this world once more, no longer requiring the blood or the focus on form, simply the magic to reconjure it.
"It sure is boring around here." Alex said to himself, and immediately thought 'Mah boi, this peace is what all true warriors strive for!'
"Damn Youtube. Can't get it out of my head." He sighed. "I wonder what's for dinner?"
Alex had an average life. He had loving parents, a sister, an 'on again, off again' girlfriend, and a minimum wage job befitting someone just out of highschool. He was planning to go to college to become a carpenter. He loved wood working. He also loved puzzles. Fiddling around with his rubik's cube in one hand, he ate a microwaved mac and cheese with the other.
"I just wish something would happen. Friends are all busy, my exforthethousandthtime-girlfriend is dating some jock, good riddance, sister is already gone to college, parent's aren't home, and there's nothing on television, except some stupid show about ponies. Like I'm gonna watch that. Eh, maybe I'll play left for dead. I can't wait till I go away to college too, then I won't be so damn bored all the time."
"Hmm, I think I'll summon something a little bigger. I know, a chicken! It'll be hilarious to see it running around clucking!" This spell was a little more complicated, and required a larger circle. She drew it on the floor in chalk, so that if she should need to, she could just scuff it up and make the summon go away. The circle had two smaller circles inside of it, one for the conjurer to stand in, and the other where the summon would appear. Putting her hoof into her circle, she accidentally stepped on one of the symbols, causing it to smear slightly.
"Okay, I want a chicken. Let's try this." She closed her eyes, and her horn glowed.
"Princess?!? How did I get here?" A young voice asked.
"Huh?" Celestia looked, and saw a dark orange pegasus filly, with an unkempt purple mane.
"Oh my, Scootaloo was it? Dreadfully sorry, it seem's I've botched a spell. I was trying to bring a chicken here, but instead I got you....."
"Great, now even the universe thinks I'm a chicken. Haha, very funny. Can I go home now?" Asked the annoyed pegasus.
"Erhm, yes, just a moment, and you'll be on your way." Celestia put her hoof on one of the runes, and scratched it out. Scootaloo dissapeared instantly.
"That was awkward. Poor thing, I feel really bad about that. Then again, I now know that I can summon ponies. Maybe I should bring Twilight here? That would be hilarious. Then I could make her tell me her deepest darkest secrets. Of course, I already know them, and it would be completely confidential, but it would still be funny to make her squirm a bit."
Celestia knew about her student's crush on her. She just never had a way to make her admit it. Until now. Then again, would it be the right thing to do? Some things were meant to stay a secret, and even though she already knew, she didn't want to ruin their relationship by forcing it out. She now knew why this book had been held in the restricted, magically sealed, 'royal eyes only' section. Unicorns with this knowledge would have been able to enslave the pegasi and earth ponies, becoming the dominant race. If that had happened, Equestria would not have been as it was now. While it was all in good fun, summoning a pony meant depriving them of their rights and freedoms. Such a thing should never be allowed to come to pass. Although it would be extremely useful in many situations, the possibilities for the abuse of such knowledge were far greater, and far more severe than the benefits.
Celestia locked the book away in her magic trunk, still wanting to study it some more, but not wanting anypony else to get a hold of it, not even Luna.
"Summer's almost over. During the school year there's too much to do, and during summer there isn't anything. Can't I just get a nice happy medium of a little busy. Still, I'm looking forward to getting out of the house. Living all on my own." Alex thought to himself. Having literally nothing to do was wearing on his nerves. He was actually excited when some strong winds blew down his fence, because that meant he could fix it. He didn't have a workshop in his garage, meaning he couldn't do his woodworking, which he loved.
"I guess I'll just go to bed early."
Celestia had taken to working shorter days. Luna held night court, but since almost nopony came at night, she decided to start taking over the evenings, leaving the sun princess with even MORE time to herself. Of course, she knew exactly what she was going to do with it.
Only the most skilled conjurers can have multiple summons. While having several inanimate objects at once is a moderate skill, having multiple sentient conjurations is only possible for the most talented of casters.
If a conjuration is destroyed or dies, it is not gone, simply sent back to it's own world, in the same state it was in when it first arrived in our plane. It may then be resummoned immediately. The exception is an unbound. Not being tied to the caster means that it is severed from it's own world. The world it is brought into becomes it's new realm, and upon death, will not return to it's location of origin.
"Who thought of all this? They must have been at least as talented as Starswirl, if not more so. The time and effort that went into this research must have been enormous." Celestia said to herself. Having picked up a completely lost art, she'd never be able to ask it's inventor.
"Perhaps something from another world in the first place? A dimensional traveler who gave the knowledge to the ancient ponies? But for what purpose?" She had so many questions, and almost no answers. She felt something she hadn't felt in a long time, something Twilight was well acquainted with. Hunger. She NEEDED to know. Her curiosity was unparalleled. What was originally simply a way to waste time had, in the months she practiced, consumed all her free time.
Continuing to read through the various spells, she came across a 'reanimate corpse' spell, which she knew immediately not to go anywhere near. Calling a soul from the afterlife to posses it's former body allowed for a resilient summon, but it broke every moral she had, and she decided not to go down that road. They didn't need zombie ponies running around. At least she knew where the old mare's tale had come from, presumable a necromancer pony at one point.
"Maybe I'll try for something random. Just cast out a line, using only a little magic, and see what I get. Of course I'll put up a barrier spell first."
Celestia drew am ornate looking circle on the ground, with a thick line coming out of it, going to a plain, hoof sized one. She had learned her lesson in accidentally messing up the runes, and with this method, she could be in contact with the design without actually touching it. Then she drew another around the first, to contain whatever came through.
"What do you mean full? I signed up six months ago! Processing error? You've got to be kidding me!"
Alex was mad. Extremely so. He had been waiting to go to college for months now. He finally arrived at the school, only to find that his name wasn't on any roster. His classes had been confirmed, but due to a computer error, he had been taken off the program list. In that time the classes filled up, and he could no longer take them. This meant he'd have to wait an entire year before being able to sign up again, before he could get out of his dead end job, and start his career. The school had just thrown a year of his life out the window, and they couldn't care less. He called his family, who decided they would get on a plane and fly up to the school. They would all go on a quick tour of the city before heading home. That way, his trip to the school wouldn't have been a complete waste, and they could get rid of the bad memories by replacing them with good. It was just the way they worked. It was a rather good philosophy after all.
Still being in a rather foul mood, he decided to head to the campus bar. He didn't usually drink, and when he did it was never in excess. This time was going to be an exception. Walking back to his dorm, (they conveniently remembered that he had rented one, and paid in advance for the first month) feeling dizzy, he felt like he needed to lay down. Rather than fall on the cement path, he walked over to the grass, and let himself fall over. What he felt when he landed was not soft earth, but hard tile.
"The hell?" Alex said. His voice however was in stereo, as if someone else was saying it at the same time. He stood up, and what he saw defied all logic. A large horse, with wings, a horn, and a mane that seemed to be made of the stars themselves, flowing in a non existent breeze.
"Okay, I may be drunk right now, but not THAT drunk. Someone must have spiked my drink."
"You... you can talk?" Said the horse.
"Oh great, a talking unicorn with wings. Or is it a pegasus with a horn? Now I know I'm crazy." He replied.
"Actually, I am a pony. I am Princess Celestia" She introduced herself.
"Okay, so a magical, talking, pony princess. And yes I can talk, why wouldn't I be able to? Other than being near to passing out due to alcohol consumption. Wait a minute. Ponies don't talk, they don't have horns or wings, and they certainly aren't royal. I'm definitely hallucinating." Despite being drunk, his speech was not slurred at all. Apparently, his cognitive function was fine, just his balance was off.
"Wait, you're drunk? Oh my. Why would you drink so much alcohol?" She asked.
"Because I've had a very bad day. It's a long story, so I'll just give you the short version. The ones completely in charge of my future career lost my paperwork, and so a year of my life has just gone down the drain. I don't normally drink, but today is a day I'd rather forget."
Celestia looked at the strange creature sitting in the middle of the runic circle with sad eyes. A simple error on the part of the education system caused him to lose an entire year of his future.
"Ehm, perhaps I should send you back, at least until you've sobered up?" She suggested.
"That would probably be a good idea. I would very much like this hallucination brought on by a mixture of alcohol and whatever drugs someone slipped into mine to end. I'm laying on the lawn outside my temporary home at the moment, and should probably find my way to a bed. Please don't bring me back for three days. My family is coming to visit, and I would rather not start going crazy in front of them." He replied. With that, she cast the 'unsummon' spell, and sent him home.
"He thinks that none of this is real. Then again, he just got dragged into a new world when he wasn't of sound mind, I wouldn't blame him. Still, I won't bring him here for three days. It would be bad if he vanished into thin air right in front of his family, and judging from what he said, explaining to his family that a magical talking pony just conjured him wouldn't be a good idea. He was rather pleasant though, even while drunk." Celestia giggled to herself. Since she had already summoned him once, she just had to keep the circle there. It would save on having to remake it, as the preparations were quite extensive, taking up a good two hours making sure it was all done correctly.
"I've never been this giddy before. He was nice, despite having a bad day. Maybe we could be friends." She was laughing like a school girl. It's like having an imaginary friend, somepony only you could see, but this time around they were real. Even though he thought he was crazy, he still took it in stride and played along. He probably had a good upbringing, whatever he was, and wherever he was from. Although he hadn't introduced himself, he was in no state to do so, so she would forgive him of that, at least until the next time they met.
After spending some time with his family, Alex got on the plane with them and headed home. He arrived in the morning, and his family headed off to their jobs. Having the day off, he started to think about the night he had gotten drunk.
"What a crazy dream that was. Well, it's the fourth day. I'll find out today whether or not I'm crazy. I'm super hungry, might as well make some food." Alex had two passions. The first was obviously his wood working. The second was cooking. He loved to make new meals. Normally breakfasts or lunches. Once in a while he'd eat something pre made, but he usually took the time to make something for himself. It relieved his boredom.
"Crack the eggs, gentle two. Grated cheese, peppers few. Add some parsley, herbs and spice, perfect omelette made just right." He sang a little tune as he cooked it. He put it on his plate, and cleaned the pan while it cooled. He savoured the smell, cut off a small piece, brought it to his mouth, and closed his teeth on empty air. Opening his eyes, he saw Celestia, in the familiar stone room.
"So close...." He said sullenly.
"Hello again. I trust you are in better spirits this time?" She looked at him, sitting on the stone floor.
"Why yes. I am feeling much better. Was about to have breakfast in fact. I'm also not drunk, so I can't use that as an excuse for why I'm seeing a magical talking princess pony. I'm either crazy, or this is real." He said, getting to his feet.
"I can assure you, this is quite real." The creature standing before her was an enigma.
"I guess I'll take your word for it, umm. Oh this is embarrassing. I've forgotten your name." Alex blushed.
"I am Princess Celestia. Along with my sister, Luna, I rule Equestria. I believe you neglected to give me your name when last we met, but given your state of mind at the time, your rude behaviour will be forgiven." The sun princess said sternly.
"Ah, yes, pardon my manners. My name is Alex, nice to meet you, for the second time. I have some questions, if you don't mind?" He said with a slight bow.
"I have questions for you as well." She stated.
"Then how about one for one?" He asked. She raised an eyebrow in confusion.
"You ask me a question, then I'll ask you one? We take turns until one of us runs out of questions, then the other asks the remainder of theirs." He suggested. She agreed.
"What are you?" She asked.
"My species is known as human. Closest similar species is the ape. We're basically tailless, hairless, except for the top of our heads and certain other areas, highly intelligent monkeys." Celestia thought it strange that a creature similar to a monkey was the dominant species of his world. She wondered if they acted like monkeys as well.
"I take it that ponies are the dominant species here. I've never seen a pony with a horn or wings before. Seeing as how you have both, I take it both pegasi and unicorns exist in this land. As for how I got here, looking at the circle I'm standing in, I'd say I was summoned by some sort of magic ritual, you being the caster. In which case, magic also exists in this land. So, a question, hmm, okay. Why did you summon me?"
Celestia was astounded by his reasoning ability. "I summoned you, because well, as the ruler of this country, I never had any free time, up until recently. Due to my sister returning from a thousand year banishment to the moon, she has taken over many royal duties, which I had been performing. I hadn't had this much free time in a milennia, so, I got bored. I started with smaller things, but then I decided to just cast out my line and see what I got. I got you." She explained.
"Alright, my turn. How is it you can walk on two legs without any tail? By all logic you should fall over either forwards or backwards without one." She asked. When she finished her question, she saw that he had picked up his right leg, crossing it over his left by the knee. He stood on one leg, whistling.
"Now you're just being ridiculous." She said with a laugh. At least this 'human' had a sense of humor.
"As for how, we have extremely sensitive feet, with two solid area's on them, one forward, and the other backward." He explained, taking off the shoe on his right foot, and pointing out the areas. "With practice, we can stand on one leg as well, although there isn't really any purpose for it other than martial arts. Since our feet are sensitive, walking without shoes would cause immense pain. We wear rubber shoes to cushion our feet, and socks to protect them from abrasion from the shoe." He explained, putting the sock and shoe back on, and standing on two legs again.
"Okay, you said your sister had a one thousand year banishment to the moon, that mean you and her are either immortal, or live for a very long time. I doubt that all ponies live that long, it's probably something to due with why you're royalty, or maybe the royal blood line. I don't know anything about magic, much less summoning, but just throwing out a line to see what you catch seems dangerous. The only reason you would do it is if you were immensely powerful, and thus confident. Given your name, 'Celestia' and the sun on your flank, I take it you have something to do with the sun. Given your lifespan, that would make you the sun godess of this world, dimension, whatever. Your sister's name was 'Luna' which in my world, is latin for moon. Given her name, and that you are of the sun, I take it she's the moon godess, and the two of you are responsible for the day night cycle." Celestia was appalled, and intrigued at the same time. This creature was taking every little thing she said, and using sound logic to derive a great deal more information about their world then she provided.
"You're thinking awfully clearly for somepony who just got pulled from their world into another one." She stated.
"I like puzzles." He replied simply.
"You also just said somepony. We speak the same language, although with some words being different, and have similar species in our two worlds. We both have a moon, we both have alcohol. My guess is that my world is an alternate dimension of yours, or vice versa. One where the dominant species is evolved from monkeys, and the other, ponies. I'm not making this very fun for you by guessing everything myself am I?"
She smiled. "You are correct. What's your next question?"
"I just asked it, remember?" He smiled back. She looked at him thoughtfully. Endless tact and wit. She could grow to like this human.
"You said you were about to have breakfast, what do humans eat?" She asked.
"Well, we're omnivores, so we eat grains like bread and dough, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and meat." He suddenly realized that telling a royal pony godess, powerful enough to make him into a splatter on the wall, that he ate meat was a bad idea. She looked a little disturbed.
"What kind of meat?" She asked nervously.
"Um, well, mostly chicken, pig, cow, and fish." He replied, swallowing hard. She looked thoroughly disgusted.
"What about pony?" She asked, thinking about sending him back and never bringing him near again.
"Honestly? In some cultures, yes. However, in mine, it's considered disgusting. It's not illegal, but it's certainly a mild taboo." He said nervously. She looked at this creature in a new light, and it wasn't a very good one. They were like monsters who would eat anything and everything they came across.
"How can you eat ponies, or cows for that matter! They have families, jobs, lives!" She had trouble understanding.
"Tell me, do dogs talk in your world?" He asked.
"Well, no, except diamond dogs, but they aren't really dogs." She didn't understand.
"In my world, neither do ponies, cows, sheep, or pigs. In fact humans are the ONLY species in my world capable of speech or rational thinking. The rest are just.... animals, like fish. And, often times, animals eat other animals." He explained, sweating.
Celestia thought about a certain griffin diplomat that had visited several times, making the mistake of asking for venison. Deer were not sentient, despite being cloven quadrupeds. They were mere animals, and the griffins ate them.
"In all fairness, humans don't actually NEED to eat meat. It's the most readily available source of iron, which is needed, or else we'll bleed to death. We can get it from other sources, such as mushrooms, potatoes, and such, as well as eggs. Lots of humans choose to, becoming vegetarians. I was having a parsley and herb omelette this morning, before you brought me here. It's actually still waiting on my kitchen table." She felt a little better at hearing that they weren't actually monsters that went into pony's homes at night and snatched them up.
"So, have you ever killed for food?" She asked. It was his turn to answer a question, but he decided it would be better to answer hers first.
"I've only ever caught fish. Most humans don't know how to hunt. We just buy it from a store. So, no, I guess." His answer put her at ease. No longer having to worry about him sinking his teeth into the first thing that couldn't kill him, she had finally calmed down. Wait, what if this was a trick? He was a summoned familiar, he could be lying.
"Stand on one leg." She commanded. He obeyed instantly.
"Jump up and down." He obeyed again.
"Tell me a silly rhyme."
"There once was a man from Peru, who dreamed he was eating his shoe. He awoke with a fright, in the middle of the night, to find that his dream had come true. Is there a point to any of this?"
"Stop talking." He obeyed.
"Stop breathing." He obeyed again, tears streaming out of his eyes as his lungs burned for air. He started to turn blue.
"Okay, you can talk and breathe again." He took a huge gasp of air, and fell over, panting.
"Are you trying to kill me!?!? I kind of NEED air to live you know! Wait a minute, why couldn't I disobey you? What the hell is going on here!" He yelled.
"Be quiet." She commanded. He obeyed.
"Part of conjuration is that the summoned, known as a familiar, is physically unable to disobey the conjurer. I am the conjurer, and you are the familiar. Basically, you have to do what I say, regardless of if you want to or not." She explained. He just sat there quietly.
"You can talk again."
"So pretty much, as long as I'm here, I'm your slave?" Alex asked.
"That's right." Celestia replied.
"And whenever you get annoyed, you're going to summon me here, and make me hold my breath till I almost die?" He was upset. She got upset that he thought she was that cruel. Then again, she did just make him hold his breath till he turned blue in the face.
"I'm sorry, I had to know if it would work." She explained.
"Why?" He asked.
"Because, familiars will often lie to their summoners in order to trick them. Tell me the truth, is what you told me before true, in it's entirety?" She asked.
"Yes." He replied.
"Good, you are never to lie to me." She commanded.
"It's just that I had to make sure what you were saying was the truth. If you were a danger to this land or it's people, I'd have to send you back, and never bring you here again. As Equestria's ruler, I have a responsibility to protect it's people, even if that means never seeing the most interesting creature I've ever talked to again." She said with a small frown.
"Interesting? I'm interesting? I'm average in every imaginable way. I'm slightly taller than normal, I have a low paying job, which is normal for someone my age, I have a normal family, do normal things. Life it utterly BORING. This is by far the most interesting thing to ever happen to me. Despite not being able to move around as I please, I like it here. It's something about this place. The air is, clean. But so much more than that, it smells like the air here has never even known a bad smell, like they don't even exist. It's smells slightly sweet, like sunshine on the morning dew of freshly cut grass. When I'm here, there's also a kind of tingle in the air, like static, except calmer. I don't know what it is."
"That would be magic you're feeling. Odd, most can't feel it. It takes a very long time to be able to sense it." Celestia mused.
"Probably because my world doesn't have magic. It like jumping into a pool I guess. You weren't in the water before, but now you are. If you had always been in the water, you wouldn't know the difference." Alex explained.
"If you don't have magic, then how did you know about the summoning circle?" She asked.
"Just because we don't have magic, doesn't mean we don't have imagination."
"You know, you seem awfully calm for someone who's just been told that they're a slave." Celestia said.
"Well, seeing as how you're the god-princess of this land, it is probably not a good idea to disobey you. If you think about it, this just makes it easier for me." Alex replied. Once again, he had thought things through.
"I believe it's my turn for a question. Since I missed breakfast, can I have something to eat? I'm hungry." He said as his stomach growled. Celestia giggled.
"Just wait here."
She returned with two large salads, knowing that her human friends couldn't eat hay or grass, and the pair sat down to eat. She picked at hers slowly, while he just about inhaled his.
"I've never had a salad so good! What is with everything here? It's like a paradise!" He exclaimed.
"This is just a simple salad. Are things not like this where you're from?" Celestia stared, wondering what his world was like.
"No, they're not. We have a lot of pollution, so the plants don't grow well in many places. Lots of places have droughts or floods, so it's almost impossible to grow things or build houses. I guess that's a lot of the reason why humans invented so many things. The entire world is basically out to kill us, and it's not like we have fangs or claws to protect ourselves. We are the physically weakest species in our height and weight range. We had to be smart to make up for the things we don't have."
Now Celestia understood. Most humans ate meat because it was an easy source of iron. For them, having a balanced diet without it was extremely difficult. Life in general was extremely difficult, so their species was constantly looking for shortcuts. Ways to make things better, easier, or do them quicker.
Alex explained a great deal of his world to her. From cars and planes to cellphones and satellites. Radios, radiation, everything he could, using his limited understanding of them. She seemed intrigued.
"What about magic? We don't have any such thing where I'm from, what can you do with it?" He asked. Celestia then went over all the various possibilities. Levitation, transformation, teleportation, scrying, conjuring, and everything else she could thing of. They spoke for hours about their two worlds, having some snacks while they chatted. Both agreed that while Earth had more interesting stuff, Equestria was the better of the two.
"Well, that all pretty much lines up with the human myth and legend. I really should go now. My family is going to be home soon, and if I'm not there, or if I pop up right in front of them, I'm going to have a lot of explaining to do, and then I'll wind up in the loony bin because they'll think I'm crazy." The two of them laughed a weak laugh.
"I still can't get over the fact that you weren't surprised when you first came here." Celestia said.
"Well, it probably helps that I was drunk the first time, so I wasn't thinking clearly. Then this time I already know about it, so it's not scary. If I had been in my right mind the first time you brought me here, I'd have probably freaked out." Alex admitted. With a flash of light, he disappeared.
"Great, it's been hours. The omelette has gone bad." He said as he proceeded to dump the fly filled egg in the garbage.
"Sister." Luna said entering the room. "I thought I heard voices, is anypony in here?" Luna was worried because somepony being in the royal bed chambers was a very serious thing.
"I just had a friend over for a talk is all. They had to go so I sent them back home." She smiled. Luna looked warily past her sister and caught a glimpse of some weird drawing on the floor, but wasn't going to question her elder sister. Not when she could sneak in while she was doing her duties and find out for herself.
"Alright sister, just be ready to hold court tomorrow morning. I don't want you staying up all night with a good book and being exhausted when you have a job to do." Luna was taking the role of a concerned parent to her older sister, which Celestia thought was funny, but at the same time was annoyed by it.
Celestia slept well, all the while dreaming of the things Alex had described. Giant steel birds that carried passengers inside, carts that moved all on their own. What was also surprising is with all the things they could do, they didn't use magic for any of it. Just ingenuity. She awoke well rested for her duties that morning. Luna gave her a passing hello as they walked by each other in the hall. Celestia closed her door, but unknown to her, Luna had kept it open a crack with her magic.
"Alright, let's see what Celly has been up to." Luna said to herself as she entered the room, carefully closing the door behind her.
"A chalk drawing? On the floor? What's the point of that?" Luna was curious beyond measure. As she eyed the runic design, she sensed a small amount of magic coming from them. Focusing her magic into the circle, she found that it was rejected.
"That's odd, my power is near equal to Celestia's, I should be able to over come a mere remnant of her magic. That's when she spotted a single drop of blood in a circle coming from the first.
"Aha. A blood seal. Whatever she was doing, she didn't want anypony else to discover it. Well, too bad." Luna always was impulsive, and didn't even think for a moment why Celestia had sealed it. She pricked her hoof with her horn, causing a single drop of her own blood to fall on the design. She then focused her magic into the circle again. This time, the characters glowed a pale blue, the same as her own magic aura. The air distorted, and a tall figure appeared in front of her. A tall, wet, naked figure.
"Celestia, what the hell, I was in the middle of a shower.........you're not Celestia." Alex said worried, as he quickly covered himself. Luna looked in awe at the bipedal creature, who spoke in such an informal tone regarding her sister. Immediately resorting to old equinnish, as she was dealing with somepony other than her sister, she began.
"Who and what art thou, how dost thou know of my sister, and how dost thee dare speakest to her and I in such a manner?!" She said, not quite using the royal Canterlot voice, but approaching it rapidly.
"I am Alex, a human. I am Celestia's summoned familiar, and I speak to her that way because we both hate formality, and she's not here, meaning you summoned me, when I was NAKED." Alex was mad, but it is hard to be angry when you are embarrassed about being in the nude.
Realizing that he wasn't any regular subject, she dropped the ye olde language for the modern one.
"What's the problem with not wearing clothes? We ponies are almost always without garment." She asked.
"You also walk on four legs instead of two, and your... area's.... are hidden by the rest of your body and tail, while mine are in full view. In my culture, it's embarrassing and considered rude to be without clothing in public, especially in front of royalty, Luna." He said, red faced half from anger and half from blushing.
"What do you mean by 'familiar' and 'conjured'?" Luna inquired.
"Can I please go put some clothes on first? Besides, I left the water running and I don't want to flood my house." Alex begged.
"Very well. Um, I don't know how to send you back though." She said sheepishly. He facepalmed.
"You didn't think this through at all did you? Your sister practiced for months before hand. Go get her. She'll know what to do." He begged.
"Oh no, I can't do that. Sister will be so angry that I snuck into her room." Luna started looking a little pale at the thought of punishment by her sister.
"If you summoned me, that means you must have gone over the blood seal with your own. When Celestia tries to summon me tonight, it won't work, and she'll notice what you did anyway. It would only be delaying the inevitable. In the mean time, it's causing me a huge amount of trouble. GO. TELL. HER." He said sternly.
"Who are you to give me orders? I am Princess Luna of Equestria! You are nothing more than a hairless monkey I summoned!" She shot a blast of magic at him, not meant to be lethal, just a punishment for talking out of turn. It slammed into him, pushing him against the magic barrier he was trapped in, crushing him against it. With a poof, he was gone.
"What have I done?" Luna began to cry, seeing that this 'human' has disappeared in a puff of smoke, she assumed him to be dead. She ran out of Celestia's room and into her own, crying. She had just killed Celestia's friend, because he was trying to save her trouble.
"Holy shit!" Alex yelled as he found himself once again in his shower, and quickly turned the water off. He dried himself with a towel, and put on some clothing.
"She, she killed me. But, I'm not dead. I just went back home. She doesn't know about summoning though. Let her think I'm dead, just for a while. Maybe that will teach her not to nose around."
Alex was on guard the entire rest of the day. By on guard, I mean he spent it in his room watching television so that when Celestia brought him back, he wouldn't be doing anything important, or embarrassing. He felt a familiar tingle. Turning off the T.V, he grabbed a packet of skittles and put it in his pocket, (maybe Celestia would like them) and with a flash, disappeared.
"Hello Celestia." Alex said, making sure it really was the older sister this time.
"Hello Alex. Is there something you'd like to tell me? Perhaps something about why there was somepony else's blood on your summoning circle? Something to do with why my sister is crying hysterically in her room?" Celestia asked sternly. It wasn't his fault, and she wasn't mad at him, she just wanted to know.
"Curious Luna is curious, summons a naked me, doesn't know how to send me back. I tell her to get you, she gets mad, and now she thinks she killed me." The dry and clothed human answers.
"How many times have I told her not to go in my room? Ugh, sisters will be sisters. I'm guessing she lost her temper, tried to throw you into a wall, and you hit the barrier?" She sighed. He nodded.
"Well, we can't have her thinking you're dead. My guess is she's been beating herself up over it all day." Celestia was interrupted by crying coming from the next room.
"Why don't I go see her? Let her know I'm fine?" Alex suggested.
"I fear that would be letting her off too easy, especially since she neglected to tell me about what she did." She said, hanging her head low. She didn't want her sister to be sad, but Luna needed to learn a lesson.
"You have an idea?" He asked.
"I always do." She said, erasing the barrier circle.
"Luna, is there something you'd like to tell me? Maybe something about why you overrode my blood seal, and I can't summon my familiar?" The elder sister asked. Luna just looked up with crying eyes.
"I'm sorry sister. I, I got curious about what was going on, so I entered your room without permission. I saw the circle, and I used it. The thing that came through was embarrassed because it was naked, and wanted to go home. I didn't know how to send it back, so he told me to get you. I got mad that it was bossing me around, and I didn't want you to find out. It was barely a push I swear! He just kind of, exploded, in a puff of smoke. I'm so sorry. You finally found a friend after all this time, and I've killed him." The moon princess proceeded to bawl her eyes out again, not because she was afraid of punishment, but because she had deprived her sister of companionship, something she had wanted for so long.
"Well, for the murder of my familiar, I have no choice but to punish you. As the crime is quite severe, so too is the punishment." Celestia looked down at her sister with a righteous flame in her eyes.
"Whatever the punishment is, I gladly accept it, no matter what it is, it is certainly less than I deserve." Luna said sullenly, expecting banishment, or worse. Celestia stomped her hoof on the ground, and Luna closed her eyes. The stomp was Alex's cue to enter.
"I hereby sentence you to one hour of non stop tickling, to be administered by the victim of the crime. Alex, tickle her till she squeals." Luna opened her eyes, eyes that had been red from crying, to see the very being she believed she had killed, standing there uninjured, and fully clothed.
"With pleasure." He approached. Celestia held her sister down with magic, as he used his hands to tickle her all over. She laughed and thrashed and hollered until she couldn't breathe from the laughter, tears once again streaming from her eyes, although this time not due to sadness or guilt.
"Alright, that's enough now, I think she's learned her lesson." Celestia said. Alex promptly stopped tickling Luna, after only a half hour had passed, merely half the sentence.
"I..I...I don't understand..." Luna managed to say between gasps, desperately trying to get some air.
"In summoning, if the familiar 'dies' they aren't truly gone, they just pop back into their own world, completely unharmed. So yes, you 'killed' me, but it's no harm done." Alex said laughing.
"But, I didn't put nearly enough force into that to cause death..." Luna added.
"That's because you threw him into the barrier spell I had set up, to contain whatever came through. It negates any conjurations that pass through it, causing him to die." Celestia explained.
"Yeah, just because I'm not actually dead doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt beyond all measure. Please don't do it again."
"Now, if you don't mind, I believe you have something you need to say to the both of us?" Celestia said.
"Sister, I'm sorry for sneaking into your room, I know I'm not supposed to. Alex, I'm sorry for killing you, and bringing you here while you were naked." Luna said, still chuckling a bit from the intense tickling session.
"All is forgiven." They said in unison.
"Okay, so, who want's some Skittles?" Alex pulled out a package that said 'Taste The Rainbow' on it.
"Why would we want that? Rainbow's are unbelievably spicy." Luna asked. Alex facepalmed.
"Of course, you have liquid rainbows here. This isn't made from rainbows. They are all different fruit flavour candies, and if you put one of each in your mouth, all the fruit juices mix together making a 'fruit rainbow' of flavour on your tongue. They're really good." He said as he ripped open the red plastic. He took a handful and put them in his mouth. The sisters took several each, and did the same. As soon as them bit into them, they understood.
"This is.... good!" Celestia exclaimed.
"I thought you'd like it. I don't know what you all have for sweets here in Equestria, but on earth, these are some of the best." Alex explained, taking another mouthful.
"I can see why!" Luna said excitedly, then added, "It would be best to NOT let Pinkie Pie have any of these, else we would never get any ever again."
"Agreed." Celestia said.
"Pinkie Pie?" Alex asked, wondering what kind of creature could possibly have such a name.
"Oh dear, I believe I've neglected to tell you of the elements of harmony." Celestia said.
"The Element's of Harmony are six magical stones, representing kindness, generosity, loyalty, honesty, laughter, and magic. Their bearers must be pure of heart and share the bonds of friendship with one another. If these conditions are met, the most powerful magic in all of existence can be brought forth, and anything becomes possible. Since magic is only limited by imagination and available ability, this provides unlimited ability. The bearer of magic, my own student, Twilight Sparkle, is the leader of the group, and directs the magic. The other element bearers are, Fluttershy with kindness, Rarity with generosity, Rainbow Dash with loyalty, Applejack with honesty, and Pinkie Pie with laughter." She explained.
"Let me guess, Pinkie Pie, laughter, is a hyperactive pink fuzz ball of a sugar addict?" Alex guessed.
"Once again, your powers of logic and reason are astounding. Twilight would love you." Celestia remarked.
"Hmm, logic and reason, skilled magic user, your own student.... she's a book worm." He guessed again.
"Correct once more." Luna stated.
"You know, instead of me guessing all of their personality traits, as much fun as it is. Maybe I should just meet them? That way, if I do end up meeting them eventually,It's not creepy. It's more than a little awkward meeting someone you know all about when they know nothing of you." Alex suggested.
"Unfortunately, I don't think that will be possible. You are bound within a one mile radius of this circle. Basically, you are able to go anywhere within Canterlot castle, but outside it's walls you will be unable to proceed any further." Celestia explained, a little sullen.
"Well, is there any way to boost the range, or maybe make it portable?" He asked hopefully.
"I'm afraid not. The preparation required to bring you here in the first place was enormous. To try and remake it in a portable fashion would require an excessively large piece of paper, and it would be so fragile that it would likely break on the way to the town. Even then, you'd have to stay within 20 feet of me at all times." She apologized.
"Well, I guess that's okay. I can still see them on their next visit to see you. Until then, I can just get to know you and your sister better. Maybe introduce me to the rest of the castle?" Alex said, a little sad.
"We'll see. Until then, perhaps you should head home. If what you said about our time lines being in sync, it's almost nightfall in your world. You should probably be going home."
"Alright then. See you two later." Alex waved goodbye to the princess sisters. Celestia's horn glowed, and nothing happened.
"Ehm, why didn't anything happen?" He asked.
"I, I don't know. Maybe you need to be in the circle?" Celestia offered. They all headed back to her room. Alex stood in the circle, no longer with the magic barrier around it. Celestia tried again, and it still didn't work.
"I don't know what's wrong. I've done this dozens of times, using things from this world and others. Why can't I send you back?" She asked.
"Hey, you're the conjurer, I don't know anything about summoning!" He said, starting to get worried.
"What if I just kill you again? That should send you back right?" Luna suggested, receiving a sharp 'NO!' from Alex, who was not looking forward to pain of that magnitude any time soon.
"Okay, stand outside the circle, I'll try summoning you again, then unsummoning you." Celestia said.
"Well, it's worth a shot." He said leaving the circle. She summoned him, and he appeared within it. She cancelled the summoning, and he appeared back where he was before.
"Well, that's not good." Luna said, knowing nothing of conjuration, but the result was bad.
"Maybe check the book?" Alex suggested desperately. Celestia went took the chest out from under her bed, using her unique magic signature to unlock it. She flipped through the pages, before she gasped.
There are several methods of a familiar becoming unbound, the most prominent of which is a gift exchange. While the caster can order the familiar to give them something, if the familiar gives the caster a gift of it's own free will, they will become an unbound, no longer bound to the caster, but the caster's world itself, and no longer having to obey it's former master. There is currently no known way to unsummon an unbound. The spell would merely send the conjuration to it's current point in the world, meaning it would have no effect. While it may be summoned again, and have the properties of a familiar once more, when unsummoned, it would return to it's anchor location in it's new world. Most unbounds are violent and highly dangerous. As such, their casters were slain by their familiars upon gaining their freedom, disallowing any research into unbound banishment to occur. The most common gifts are small items from the familiar's world, including but not limited to, trinkets, jewelry, and food.
All three stared wide eyed as Celestia read the passage.
"You mean, I can't go home?" Alex said, tears in his eyes. Luna prepared a spell to kill him in case he became violent. He fell to his knees crying.
"My family, my friends, I can never see any of them again, all because I gave a magic pony a pack of skittles?" Luna saw his misery, and got rid of her spell. Celestia gave him a hug.
"I'm sorry. This is all my fault. I should have read more into it. I brought you here, I'll find a way for you to go home. Until then, you are welcome to stay here, with me." She offered. She had caused him so much trouble. An innocent gift, sharing something from his world, had prevented him from ever returning to it. Celestia and Luna were powerful, but they knew very little of the complex magic used to bring him to their world. The book's author had lived over 8000 years ago, and was no longer alive. The only one in Equestria with any knowledge of conjuration was an amateur.
"By the time you do, I will have been gone for a long time. Maybe even years. Will I even want to go home by the time you do?" Alex said crying, as Celestia placed her head on his shoulder.
"I'm so sorry. I only know the spells because I used the book as a reference. I know nothing of how the knowledge came to be, the formation of the spell, anything. This is a beginner's guide. Any more complex references simply don't exist. I fear you are correct. It may take thousands of years of research before we find a way to send you back, and you don't have that long." Celestia was crying just as much as he was. She felt beyond guilty for what she had done. He had no idea that a simple act of kindness could cause this. As one who had always kept his cool and thought things through, to see him break down like this, she knew that he felt truly helpless.
"Princess, can you summon me again? I know I'm already here, but I'm not thinking too clearly right now. I don't want to run off crying and end up hurting myself." Alex asked her. She complied and cast the spell, causing him to appear in the middle of the circle.
"Thank you." He said with a tear running down his face.
"Perhaps you should go to bed. Although it isn't much, you will probably feel a little better in the morning, after a good night's rest." Celestia showed him to another room, opposite side of her's to Luna's. He lay down in the soft but firm bed, pulled the covers up, getting himself comfortable.
"Have pleasant dreams. That's an order." Celestia said. Alex was starting to like being a familiar. It meant a lot of things were easier than normal, and there were a lot of tough choices that he didn't have to make. He indeed slept well that night, having pleasant dreams.
"Are you feeling alright?" Celestia asked Alex at breakfast. She had unsummoned him in the morning, letting him roam as he pleased, as he was thinking clearly again. He barely touched his food, despite being hungry.
"I guess I'm not." He replied. Since he wasn't a familiar at the moment, he was not required to follow Celestia's 'do not lie' rule, but being one to normally speak his mind, he wasn't going to hide anything by deadpanning 'I'm fine'.
"I hope I'll be able to see them again, and I'm worried about them. They must be missing me terribly right now. I wish there was a way to send them a message, but I guess I can't." He said sullenly.
"You are very kind, to be in such a predicament, but only worrying about others." Luna complimented.
"They're my family, I love them. I don't want them to suffer. They must be sick with worry and it's eating me up inside." He replied.
"It's alright Alex. Today I'll show you to the institute of magic and science, give them the book with strict orders not to summon anything animate or to spread the knowledge, and have them start working on it. They are some of the most brilliant minds in Equestria, I'm sure they can come up with something. Until then, we should probably get you acquainted with the castle layout, and introduce you to the guards so they don't go throwing you in the dungeon for trespassing." Celestia tried making light humor.
"Thanks Celestia." Alex was grateful for any attempt, even if it didn't help at all.
"By the way Alex, while in our secluded company, forgoing formality is fine, but in the presence of others, I suggest using our titles. We are royalty, and so must keep face with the whole of Equestria." Luna added.
"Of course Princess Luna. I understand that you and your sister have an image to keep." He said rubbing his eyes. Knowing that he would have the finest minds in Equestria working on his case made him feel better, and so he regained his appetite. He hungrily devoured his eggs and salad.
"That was delicious. Maybe after I get a tour and get used to castle happenings, I could do something to help out around here. After all, I have no idea how long I'll be staying, and I don't want to be a burden." Alex suggested.
"I wouldn't dream of asking you to do that." Celestia interrupted. "I brought you here, you're my responsibility."
"With all due respect, I can't stand being a freeloader, regardless of situation. Besides, you both have duties to attend to. I'll get awfully bored if I have nothing to do, and rather than say.... skateboarding off the roof of the castle, I think I'd rather do something constructive. Besides, if you ever need me, you know how to call. In fact, I can just go to my room, then you can summon me. That way I'm rooted to a safe place. After that, I can go and do pretty much anything without you worrying about me. If I really am stuck here, then there's no use crying about it. I might as well make the best." He said with a sigh.
Other than Alex's main hobbies of cooking and woodworking, he had several other minor hobbies, such as skateboarding, archery, and free running which he did on occasion, all of which could get him into a great deal of trouble. He had always been athletic to some degree. He wasn't superman by any measure, but he was rather fit. Other than that, he was also a rather skilled musician. What originally got him into woodworking was that he didn't have enough money for a violin, and so decided to make one. It wasn't a striking piece of craftsmanship, and did not hold the beauty of a professionally made one, but it did work quite well. After realizing he had a natural talent for the work, he decided to stick with it. He loved nothing more than the feel of wood under his hands, both of which were satisfied by crafting an object with lumber, or crafting a song with an instrument.
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves. First we have to let everypony know that you aren't a scary monster."
After assembling the castle's various workers, chefs, artisans, guards, renovators, scholars and the like, Celestia began.
"My faithful subjects, I have called you here today to discuss a matter of great importance. We have a new arrival here in the castle, a being from an entirely different world. He is currently trapped here, and while we search for a method of returning him to his place of origin, he is a guest in our castle. Please treat him with the respect and dignity you show each other."
"Thank you Princess Celestia. Hello everyon..... everypony. My name is Alex. I'm a human, which is a kind of hairless primate. I come from a civilization somewhat similar to yours, and while there are a few differences, I'm told that I act in pretty much the same way you do. I.. um, I hope we get along? I guess that's it." Alex was nervous with all the pairs of eyes staring at him, untrusting, despite what the princess had said.
"Oh, there is one more thing. Princess Celestia is able to summon me to her side at any time, so I may suddenly disappear. If that happens, don't be alarmed, because I'm with her. I hope that after I get to know you all a bit better that I can start helping out around here, maybe make all your lives a little easier."
At hearing that this creature was going to be helping them with their various tasks, should they allow it, they eased up a bit. That and the fact that the princess could call him to her at any time basically meant that he was an extension of her, and that he was okay to be around. That also meant that he was probably going to be spying on them and reporting how well they did their jobs to her, which made them nervous all over again.
Thankfully, somepony broke the tension. It wasn't a good somepony however.
"So, this animal is going to be spending time in the castle, living amongst we elite?" A white unicorn stallion asked with an air of pompous arrogance. Alex thought it ironic that a pony, which was considered an animal in his world, was calling him one, so instead of getting offended, he just smiled.
"Why yes, I am. Oh dear, I'm sorry, it seems that in my arrogance I have missed your name." Alex responded with a regal air. The other, less stuck up ponies stifled a giggle, as they all knew that he hadn't even given his name, and the emphasis or 'arrogant' was like a needle sticking in the stallion's head.
"I shall forgive it, this time. I am Prince Blueblood, and you would do well to remember your manners." The bleached unicorn scoffed.
"Your kindness is matched only by your grace m'lord." He replied, giving an overly dramatic bow that made Blueblood blush and Luna giggle. The prince was getting a little upset that his attempts to make a mockery of the newest arrival were being blown off that easily, but at the same time, couldn't help but be impressed at the level of regality he was expressing.
"I'm Stone Chip, the castle's head mason, and you should probably just stay out of it. It's a lot of work keeping this place looking good, and structurally sound at that. Unless you're a bricklayer, it would be best if you just stayed out of the way." A grey earth pony introduced himself. He wasn't being rude, just informative.
"Ahm head chef Ladle, and you'd best remember to stay out of my kitchen. I don't take kindly to midnight snacker's, and if you get in the way during the meal rush, you're likely to end up in a pot of soup, accidentally or otherwise. This here's my sous chef, Flay." Said a deep earth unicorn with a scowl, pointing at a white, red maned one who looked like she had a temper, both mares.
"I am Fiddle Stick, and I have to say that you are fascinating, just fascinating! Oh, I forget myself, I am the head of magic development at the institute. I do believe we will be spending a great deal of time together oh yes." A lemon yellow unicorn, with colours vibrant yet faded at the same time, said in a tone reminiscent of a kind old wizard.
'Finally, someone with a warm welcome. I always liked old people, they know how to take things slow, and they have the best stories." Alex thought, giving the ancient stallion a warm smile.
"I'm Widget! Head of the mechanical section of the technological department of the institute." Said a steel grey pegasus mare with an iron red mane, pulling off a pair of steampunk-esque goggles. Her cutie mark being a gear. She offered a hoofshake, seeming a little too happy to see him, which he accepted, only to find his hand full of grease.
"Oops, sorry 'bout that, call was kinda sudden, forgot to clean myself up." She said perkily, pulling out a hoofkerchief for him to wipe himself off with.
"And I'm Suds, the janitor. Please tell me you're tidy, I practically have to stalk Widget around here, just to keep the place from being a total mess." Said an olive green unicorn stallion in a defeated tone.
"Don't worry, I clean up after myself. He replied with a knowing look. He did have a sister after all, who just so happened to be a slob. He was always cleaning up her messes.
"I AM COMMANDER GRISWOLD, HEAD OF PRINCESS CELESTIA'S ROYAL GUARD! YOU WILL TREAT ME WITH RESPECT, AND YOU WILL NOT CAUSE ANY DISTURBANCES. IS THAT CLEAR MAGGOT?" Barked a bleach white pegasus in golden armor. The guards behind him were wearing similar gear, but his had blue plumage on the top of his helmet, while the others had none, and a select few had red.
"SIR YES SIR!" Alex stood at attention, giving a salute. He resisted the urge to grin stupidly at the absurdity of a pony half his size giving him orders like that, but then again, this pony could probably kick his ass.
"I'm sorry about Griswold, he just doesn't like new arrivals." Whispered a dark grey bat winged mare in silver armor who came after him with a smile. "I'm Commander Serenity, head of Princess Luna's royal guard. I expect you won't be any trouble?" She said sweetly with a wink. Apparently, the moon princess's guards were a lot friendlier, and several times quieter. Probably used to trying not to wake up the whole castle.
"Between you and me, I couldn't if I tried. For reason's I can't explain, I am physically incapable of disobeying one of Celestia's orders. You don't need to worry your pretty head at all." Alex replied, equally quiet. Quiet was good, quiet was nice, calm, soothing. It's the reason he usually stayed up late at night.
"Well, that's just about everypony, I hope you all get along well." Celestia ended the introduction. "Since Suds knows the layout the best, perhaps you should stick with him for now, that way you don't get lost." She suggested.
"That sounds good, maybe I could take a bit off his workload while I'm at it." Alex accepted. He had the feeling that he, Suds, Fiddle Stick, and Serenity would get along just fine, and figured it would be best to just avoid Stone Chip, Griswold, Ladle and Flay. He didn't know what to make of Widget.
"PLEASE do." The defeated janitor begged, clearly overworked due to the presence of Widget. "You know how to mop right?"
" I worked in a fast food restaurant before coming here. It was a terrible job, with the cleaning being the most enjoyable part. So yes, I know how to mop."
"Fast food? What kind of cuisine do you have where you're from?" Ladle asked inquisitively, clearly wondering if it would measure up with her own.
"We have all sorts of culinary arts. It's one of my passions, so it pains me to say that the slop served where I worked doesn't deserve to even be called food. I could barely take seeing that rubbish shoveled out the door day after day, so I stuck to cleaning instead." Alex said with a frown.
"Fitting." Blueblood huffed, thinking that janitorial duties and swill serving was suited perfectly to the new arrival.
"What kinda gadgets you got?" Widget asked excitedly, her eyes beaming.
"Hold on just a moment everypony, first thing we need to do is bring him to the institute and figure out as much as we can about him, get him on record for the archives, some official paperwork and such." Fiddle Stick interrupted, seeing that he was straining from being bombarded by questions.
"Yes, I think that would be best. Thank you Fiddle Stick." Alex said, thankful for the break.
"Name?" Asked the ancient scholar.
"Alex." The pony filled in the paperwork.
"Date of birth?"
"January 14th, 1993." Alex had just turned 19.
"Human. Binomial nomenclature is Homosapien." He learned species classifications from biology class, which he took as one of his required high school sciences. He hated it, but the knowledge stuck. "Not sure if it means anything to you, but go by my society's scientific classification system, it's Animalia, Chordata, Mammalia, Primates."
"Simply fascinating!" Fiddle Stick said again. "We have the same classification system here in Equestria!"
"Not to mention the same language, alphabet, and societal tendencies, with the exception of Equestria being far more peaceful, and being predominantly female from what I've seen."
"Why? What's the ratio on your world?" The elder pony asked.
"It's about a 60/40 ratio, for female." Alex replied.
"It's about 75/25 here. Alright, now I'll just need to draw some blood so we can have the medical department run some tests. We'll also need to do some x-rays to determine your skeletal structure." The wrinkled old stallion brought him to the medical wing.
"Now, don't worry, this won't hurt a bit." Alex closed his eyes, waiting for the needle prick. A small pinch, then he opened his eyes. After drawing the blood and sending it off for tests, and the x-rays for his bone structure, he was finally released. Suds was waiting for him.
"So, how'd it go?" The soapy stallion asked.
"Well, I'll find out soon enough whether or not I'm gonna die, so till then, I should probably get to helping you clean. That way I can get a feel for the layout. Don't wanna go getting lost in here." He replied. They both laughed at the little joke, can began.
"So, the castle layout is pretty simple. It's like a cross, but it has two squares around it, one on the outside, and the other half way in. At each of the junctions, there's a staircase to move between floors. Basement is kitchen, janitorial, heating, storerooms, and castle maintenance facilities. The store room is in the middle, providing easy access to each of the wings. First floor is medical, science, and mechanical, with the library in the middle. Second floor is lodgings, with the main hall in the middle, and third floor is guard quarters and barracks, with the throne room in the middle. Fourth floor is off limits to most, and is the princesses' rooms, as well as some of the more dangerous things. Fifth floor is the observatory. We take care of the basement, second and third floors, as well as first floor hall ways. Those sciency types don't like us going in there, think we might clean up a pile of magic dirt or something. The observatory has it's own special cleaning crew, as do the royal quarters."
Alex was taken aback by the complexity of the system. Then again, it made sense to have special cleaners, trained to deal with magic spills, and highly trusted ones to deal with the princesses rooms. This was the capital of the country after all.
"Ya catch all that monkey?" Suds used that as a nick name, not meant to be degrading.
"Yeah, I'm just drawing a map in my head. Helps to have a visual representation. Okay, so even if I get lost, I just need to keep walking, and eventually I'll find a staircase, and I'll find signs there telling me where I am."
"Ya catch on quicker than most of the newbies here. You're pretty smart for a hairless ape ya know that?" He teased.
"Yeah, where I come from, our positions are reversed. Ponies are just animals there. Kinda awkward, especially when Prince BB called me an animal." Alex replied.
"Ya handled yourself pretty well though. Ah well, I'm not one to judge. If the princess thinks you're okay, then I guess you're okay." They laughed and began to clean.
"Well, that's the whole basement done. So, the other floors are exactly the same?" Alex asked.
"You catch on quick. We normally do the first floor three times a day while the other's we only do once, unless there's some kind of accident." Suds replied.
"Let me guess, It's because Widget is on that floor, and she likes to wander while forgetting to clean herself?" He said sarcastically.
"Bingo, that and the rest of the eggheads tend to have spills. It's the reason the science wing is on the floor next to the janitorial, and directly above it at that. We should never be to far away from there, and should have a mop and bucket always close." He replied with a sigh.
"You've got to put up with a lot don't you?"
"Yep, but, I wouldn't give it up for anything. I may be a humble janitor, but I'm working in the capitol of Equestria, in the princess's castle no less. Every job, no matter how small, is something to be proud of if done well."
"I'll remember that. Well, now that we're at the mechanical section, Widget wanted to see me for a bit. When you're back for your next round of this floor, come and get me. I don't want her to talk my ear off." Alex then parted ways with his new friend, and headed into the mechanical section. It looked like a garage and wood shop combined. There were ponies of all types doing all sorts of different things.
"Well heya there new guy! I was wondering when you'd get around here!" Widget rolled over on one of those skids mechanics lay on when they go under cars, but she used it like a skateboard.
"Suds didn't make ya dull did he? I'd call him a stick in the mud, but that would be a dirty joke now wouldn't it?" She said, obviously referring to the fact that he hated grime. Holding out her hoof, she found it in a cloth wrapped handshake, the towel graciously given to Alex by the janitor pony before he went in.
"Well, come take a look at what I'm building over here. I call it the internal combustion engine! Takes oil and makes the cart move all on it's own. The stuff is kinda hard to find though, and it makes a heck of a stink." Alex went wide eyed as he saw a V8 sitting on a table. "This way, earth ponies can get around real quick, and have some machines to do heavy pulling."
"Yeah, I hate to burst your bubble Widget, but I've seen one of these before. They have loads of em in my world, but in cars, lets humans get around. Problem is, oil eventually runs out, and they pollute everything. Letting these go into mass production would be a huge mistake. Don't make the same error my people did." Alex said with a sigh. He didn't want to upset the steel gray pegasus, but even more so, he didn't want Equestria to lose it's beauty.
"Oh, well, that's no good. I guess I'll have to go back to the drawing board." The iron maned mare looked down.
"Maybe not. Because humans made these and realized it was a huge mistake, they started making electric ones. You can put big batteries in them, and set up solar panels, windmills, or water wheels to turn sun and wind into electricity, and use that to run them. It doesn't pollute at all, and you don't need to worry about fuel. Maybe you could work with some of the other eggheads to make a generator and electric motors or something?" Alex explained.
"Electric huh, hmm, yeah. I think we could pull that off. What kind of other gadgets you got where you're from?" She looked at him with a twinkle in her eye.
"Well, we have telephones. They turn sound into electrical signals that get sent along a wire, then back into sound at the other end. Since electricity moves instantly, you can talk with someone on the other side of the world. Then there's radios. They use things kind of like x-rays, although way lower frequency, and not dangerous at all, to send sound like with a phone. Then radio's pick up the signal and play music or news or whatever."
Alex spent the next two hours explaining various harmless gadgets that humans had, things that wouldn't destroy Eqeustria, before his head started to hurt. Thankfully, Suds came back for him before he lost his cool and strangled Widget. She was like a little kid, asking 'why' to everything, and she would get frustrated when he said he didn't know the answer. That, and the loud grinding of metal and machine was getting to him.
"Thank goodness, I was just about ready to cut my own ears off." He told his saviour once they were out of earshot.
"Heh, cuz of you, miss grime herself didn't go walking around with her greasy hooves, and we only have to do two rounds on this floor today." Suds laughed.
"Joy." Alex replied sarcastically as they continued to their jobs.
"Well, that's it then. We've finished our parts way ahead of schedule. Now I can take the rest of the day off, until I do the science floor later, unless something gets spilled of course. No matter what anypony says, you're all right in my book." The janitor pony said.
"Thanks soapy. We're getting to be pretty good friends for this only being my first day on the job." He remarked.
"What? Everypony is like this. Is it hard to make friends where you're from or something?" He asked.
"Kinda. There's just so many, it's hard to find someone who has the same interests you know? And of course, the more you have, the bigger your chances of finding a bad apple, someone who you really shouldn't be friends with you know what I mean?" Alex replied.
"Sounds kinda rough. Well, looks like you've got a new friend. Thank's for helpin clean, and stopping Widget from making a huge mess." Suds said with a hoof shake.
"You have no idea."
A gentle knock on the door woke Alex from his slumber. He dreamed of home, and upon waking, found that he had tears in his eyes.
"Geez, I look like a wreck."
"You may want to hurry and get dressed, breakfast will be in a few minutes." Celestia's soft voice came through the door.
He had been in Equestria for a week, helping Suds keep the place spotless and stopping Widget from making a mess, as well as offering his unprofessional but advanced opinion on the things she kept coming up with. He still talked to the princesses when they were off duty, and had breakfast with them every morning. The rest of the time was spent around the castle, getting to know the various ponies, the layouts, all that. He made a mental note to avoid Stone Chip, not wanting to get in his way, and Blueblood, as the prince was a twat.
Alex dragged himself out of bed, getting dressed, and washing his face off, before he was summoned.
"Not a morning person?" Celestia asked him as he popped into her room.
"Well, it's just that, I've been wearing these same clothes for a week now, and they're kind of starting to stink." He replied.
"Ah, yes, I was aware of that, so I had the tailor make several outfits you might find appealing. Go ahead, try them on!" She said. Unfortunately, he was then forced to undress and put on the new clothes right in front of her. She face hoofed and turned away.
"You could have done that in your room......" She said, not looking at the human out of respect for his cultural difference.
"Not with Mr. magic circle calling the shots. You weren't specific. You told me to try them on, so I had to do it, right away." The humiliated human said with a blush.
"From now on, unless I say to do it right away, I mean at your earliest convenience. That way we can avoid awkwardness."
"Alright, you can turn around now." Celestia looked at her friend, wearing a kind of tuxedo with a frilly poof coming out by the chest. Think Edgeworth from Phoenix Wright.
"Eh, it's nice, but, a little TOO, what's the word? Formal? I mean, I'm going to be helping out around here as a janitor and project consultant for the mechanical division, I don't think looking like a lawyer is proper attire. Maybe for going to a business meeting or formal party or something?" She giggled at the thought of Alex sipping tea with the upper crust of Canterlot society. He tried on several more outfits, off of which would be useful in different situations, but settled for wearing clothes similar to a T-shirt and khaki's.
"Much better, thanks Celestia. Now I should probably wash those." Alex suggested after getting comfortable. He had changed behind a privacy screen to spare them any embarrassment.
"Don't bother, I'll just toss it down the laundry shoot. That's the laundry pony's job, you have a different job. Today I want you to see what you can do to help the guard training. You'll be up all day with Griswold, and all night with Serenity, seeing what you can do to improve their skills. Then you get the next day off to recover from it. That is, if this task sits well with you." Celestia didn't want to force Alex into anything he didn't want to do. He was her familiar right now since she had summoned him to her room, but he was also her friend, and she didn't want to take advantage of him.
"Alright, I'll see what I can do, although I'm not sure how much help I'll be training guards, I might be able to offer some insights."
"Oh and Alex, don't let them boss you around."
"MAGGOT! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING HERE ON MY TRAINING GROUND?" Griswold barked.
"Sir, Celestia's orders sir. I am to assist in the training of the troops sir!" Alex replied, seriously this time.
"YOU HEAR THAT MAGGOTS? THE PRINCESS THINKS WE'RE SO OUT OF FORM, SHE'S SENDING A HAIRLESS MONKEY TO TRY AND WHIP YOU INTO SHAPE!" He sure knew how to make his underlings feel appreciated.
"WHAT IS YOUR NAME PRIVATE?"
"Sir, Alex, sir."
"DROP AND GIVE ME 20!"
"Sir, no sir." Everyone went wide eyed, including the commander. It was so quiet, you could hear the birds chirping, in the garden on the OTHER side of the castle. Since Celestia had ordered him to not let himself get bossed around, he was able to do it. If she hadn't, he would have simply done as the commander said, since the commander took his job very seriously.
"What did you just say to me?" Griswold looked him straight in the eye.
"I said no. I'm here to assist in the training of your guards, NOT join them. This is THEIR training, not mine. Is that understood?" He just stood there shocked. He had never been spoken back to.
"I said, IS THAT UNDERSTOOD?"
"Sir yes sir!" Griswold said, standing at attention.
"Good, now drop and give me 50!" Griswold began doing push ups, while the rest of the squad laughed.
"Do you think this is funny? Well then, I guess you'll all be having a laugh riot when you give me 200 push ups! You take a break or fall down, and you get another 20 added on top each time! Now get to it!" Alex ordered them. He was having way too much fun with it. Facing opposite of Griswold, who was clearly angry, he went down and began to do his own 50 push ups, matching the commander rep per rep. He gave Alex a strange look, to which he replied,
"What kind of a commander would I be if I didn't lead by example?" He was having way too much fun. The commander could only think, 'I like this kid'. They did various exercises throughout the day, agility, swordplay, dodging and rolling, but Alex never seemed to get tired.
Nightfall came around, with the sun falling and moon rising, resulting in the changing of the guard. Serenity tried to sneak up on Alex, which she failed at.
"Aw, how'd you know?" The bat winged mare pouted. Alex clicked his tongue against his teeth, making a 'clip clop' sound.
"Humans have soft feet, meaning when we walk, it's silent. Ponies have hooves, so it makes a clopping sound. Sensory adaptation. You're used to hearing hoof steps, so your brain doesn't even register it anymore. My footsteps don't make any sound, so I do hear them. If you want to sneak up on me, fly, and come straight from above. Wings flapping are much softer, and the last place anyone looks is up." He explained.
"Old Grizzy the grizzly didn't go too hard on you did he?" She asked.
"It's strange, normally activity like that would tire me out, but for some reason it's not. Maybe it has to do with me and the princess's relationship? I think I might be passing all my exertion to her. I'll have to try it in my other state to see if that's the case."
"Other state?" She asked.
"Well, right now, I'm bound to Celestia. I'm physically incapable of disobeying her, if I die, I'll just poof back to my room and be perfectly fine, and I think I'm giving her my exhaustion. My other state is unbound, where I am capable of disobedience, and if I die, I really die. I have to see if I give her my exhaustion or not. If I'm bound, I'm sustained by her magic, so it's entirely possible that when I exert myself, I automatically get replenished by her magic reserves. I'll have to do some testing to figure it out." He explained.
"That's way too confusing for me." Serenity shook her head.
"Yeah, I am a bit of an egghead. Anyways, I'm supposed to help you with your guards, and I think I know how." Alex said.
"How?" She asked.
"A game. You bring all your guards here, then I leave and you wait five minutes while you prepare yourselves before you all come after me. I have to try and get to my room, and you all have to try and catch me. If I tag one of the guards, he's out and has to lay on the ground, as though he were dead. If one of them tags me, the game is over and the one who got me get's a prize or something. Of course, you'll be participating too. This will be a game of stealth. If I can't get to my room, I can just hide for the remainder of the game. If the sun comes up before you catch me, I win. If I get to my room, I win. If I eliminate all the guards, then I won't have anyone to get in my way, and I'll win. As for what I get if I win? I dunno, I guess you can think of something, and I'll decide if I like it. I have to get a few things from storage, when I get back here, have your guards at the ready."
After getting a few supplies, Alex met the majority of the night guards in the training ground. The commander had already informed them of the rules of the game.
"Alright, so the guards who are actually on duty won't interfere, they won't help or hinder anypony, and they know what's going on so they won't be suspicious if they see you skulking around." Serenity said. "If you get out, you lay down and don't do anything."
"Okay, now that we all know the rules, let the game begin!" Alex rushed into the castle as fast as he could, wanting to get as much of a head start as possible. After the five minutes were up, the guards, as well as Serenity, headed in after him. They fanned out throughout the castle, using search light spells to look around. Hiding in a corner as he waited for a pair of guards to pass, Alex said to himself, "Ready or not, here I come."
Waiting in his hiding place, he timed how long it took for each set of guards to make a full pass, going by glimpses of their search lights from the corner of his eye, and the sound of hooves on stone. Waiting for his moment, he silently crept up behind a pair of guards, controlling his breathing, tapping them both on the back. They turned around to see Alex smiling.
"You're out, play dead." The guards did as they were told, extinguishing their lights and laying on the cold stone. Noting which way the next set of guards would be coming from, he dragged the two 'dead' guards so just their back hooves poked around the corner, then hid by the staircase. The other pair of guards, a unicorn and pegasus, spotted the prone guards and rushed to them. They ran around the corner, hoping to catch whatever had eliminated their fellows, putting their back to the stairwell.
"Damn, he got them. He must be close, I wonder where he could have gone." The pegasus said. Suddenly, they both felt a tap on their backs.
"Right behind you." Alex said in a thick french accent. "You lose." The guards then played dead as well, having lost the game. Carefully peeking up the stairwell, he noticed four search lights. They were guarding the stairs, his only way up. Deciding that wouldn't be a good way to go, he carefully moved his way down the hall. security would be higher further up, as his room was the safe zone. He could either head to his room, trying to slip past the guards, or head to the basement and hide for the next 10 hours. He decided hiding wouldn't be any fun, and would only be used if they decided to camp his room. Finding another staircase, he noticed only one searchlight spell. He took out a ball bearing, part of the mechanical department supplies, rolled it slowly so it would go down the stairs, then hid in one of the open empty rooms. Many of the science rooms that weren't being used were left open to air out, and would serve as perfect temporary hiding places while he waited for guards to pass.
"You hear that? It sounded like it came from the basement!" The unicorn went ahead, leaving his pegasus pal behind.
'Haven't they ever seen a horror film? NEVER go anywhere alone.' Alex thought to himself. Quickly, he crept up and tagged the unicorn, his spotlight going out, then he crouched low by the stairs. The pegasus came after him.
"Hey, why'd you turn off your..." Was all he could say before he had a hand clasped over his mouth.
"You lose, play dead." The pegasus guard just nodded, laying himself comfortably on the staircase next to his friend. Alex thought it would be funny to make them face each other, wrapping their hooves around each other. They were about to object when he told them he couldn't hear them because they were dead, and they had to lay there like that till morning. He stifled a laugh before heading upstairs.
'Okay, groups of three guards now. I'll have to do a little more distraction.' Hiding in an open guest room, he waited to check the interval between guards. He watched as they carefully checked every open room, leaving the closed ones so as not to disturb the sleeping guests. He found one open room close to the dark staircases, and after the patrolling guard checked it and left, he walked up and closed it quietly, then returned to his spot. When the next patrol came, they looked at the previously open room, thinking he must have hidden inside and closed the door to stop them from searching it. When the trio entered the room, he quietly followed them, tapping all of them quickly.
"You are dead." They all lay down on the beds, while Alex hid in the room behind the door. He watched as the next set of guards came, shining the light spell into the room, and seeing the sleeping guards. They decided to pass the room by. Alex quietly opened the door, and eliminated the patrol.
"Your instincts serve you well, follow them next time."
'Okay, another staircase, I checked them, and they're staggering which ones are guarded in favour of more frequent patrols. I can't get past the patrols on this floor, so I have to get by the next set of guards. Hmm, I know!'
Slowly creeping up the stairs as not to make any noise, Alex saw the four guards, all looking different ways, some taking periodic glances up and town the stairway. He spotted his target, an open room, fairly close, with the opening of the door facing him at a 45 degree angle. Taking another ball bearing, he waited for the guards to stop looking down the stairs, before tossing the metal sphere at the door, making it roll inside. The guards nodded to each other, two of them moving to search the room, while the other two widened their search area, making them less frequent. Cupping his hands over their mouths, he had them lay down before he headed up to the floor his room was on. He hid around the bend of the stairwell, waiting for the other two guards to head upstairs after him.
'Damn, I'm in the wing OPPOSITE of my room. He found another room, this time closed. Taking the key's off the 'dead' guards, he opened the room, tying a piece of yarn around the nob so it would pop off once the door was closed. Hiding around the stairs, leaving the fallen guards out in the open to draw attention away from himself, he waited till a total of eight guards, obviously reinforcements from the floor below, came up the stairs before pulling the string. The door creaked shut then clicked as it locked.
"He's in there!" He watched as the eight guards all ran to the room, opening it, intent on performing a full sweep. He also noticed that the patrols on that floor had tripled, since he had obviously gotten past the lower ones. There was no way to make it to his room. Alex thought for a moment, his heart was pounding, he was sweating, and he had an idea that was stupid beyond measure, but given that he couldn't die, was brilliant. He went back down the stairs, opened a window, and climbed out.
It was high. It was beyond any doubt, very VERY high. Even though he couldn't die, Alex was shaking with fear. He had to put the thought out of his head, because despite the danger, he was actually safe. If he fell, he'd hit the ground, go poof, and be in his room. It would hurt like hell, but he'd be alive. Carefully closing the window behind him, he shimmied along the ledge running alongside the castle exterior. It was far too small for ponies to stand on, but it was actually a fair size for a human. He could walk normally, but he decided to go sideways just to be careful. He went along the whole exterior of the castle, coming out under Celestia's room. There were drapes hanging off the balcony, which he gave a slight tug on. They were sturdy. He put a little more weight on, and they held. Then he pulled with all his might, and they still held.
"Must have kept falling off in the wind, so they made them able to carry a couple hundred pounds. Once I'm on the balcony, a quick shimmy to my room, open the door on my balcony which I have the key to, and I win the game. If I wasn't immortal right now, this would be the stupidest idea ever thought of. I'm not too keen on falling to my death."
Luckily, Alex didn't get tired trying to climb, and was able to pull himself up the ornate cloth hanging from Celestia's balcony. Once he was up, he quickly crossed to his own.
"Right, my keys. Let's see, which one is it?" He fumbled through his key chain, going through all the keys he had. Suds had given him all sorts of them for the various rooms he needed to get into to clean, and it made it hard to find his own. Just as he found it, he felt a soft tap on his back. He turned around and didn't see anyone, finally looking up to see Serenity beaming at him.
"If I want to sneak up on you, fly, and come from above, isn't that what you said?" She winked.
"Well, you got me, let's go round up your guards. Honestly, are they all rookies? I just did stuff I saw in movies and comic books." She smiled as we went in to my room, closing the window behind us. We spent the rest of the time rounding up the guards, and she got quite a kick out of seeing a pair of them sleeping, holding each other. Dawn finally came, with the night guards in the courtyard, most of them feeling humiliated.
"Well, that was fun. We should do it again. Rule one, don't EVER go anywhere alone. It's a sure fire way to get picked off. Rule two, don't all look the same way. The guys on the fourth floor had it, what were the rest of you doing? Playing cards? Rule three, if there's a disturbance, it might be a distraction. Move as a team, if you split up, keep tabs on each other. I was able to eliminate WAY more of you then I should have. What if I was an assassin? I was literally outside my room before the commander caught me. Keep unused rooms closed at night, because they're good hiding places. Don't use light spells all the time, wait for your eyes to adjust to the dark, and only turn on the lights if you think you see something. Otherwise, it's just a giveaway to your location. Well, Serenity won, so she gets to have a prize or something, but as for right now, I gotta go have breakfast. I have to say, you guys almost caught me. The guys on my floor knew what they were doing, getting more guards to come when something was amiss. To the rest of the guards, you need more training. Try playing hide and seek. Sounds like a kids game, but that's how I was able to out do you all."
"How are you feeling this morning Celestia, Luna?" Alex asked.
"I am well Alex, I heard you put both sets of guards through the wringer yesterday. I am particularly disappointed in the laxness of my own troupe, just because it is night does not mean they can afford to relax." Luna said. Celestia looked like she didn't sleep all night.
"Are you alright Celestia?" He asked.
"I don't know. I slept all night, but I feel like I've been running around the castle non stop for the past 24 hours." She moaned.
"Well then, I guess that proves my theory. It seems that while I'm bound to you, any physical exertion I do gets taken out on your magic reserves. I think you'll feel a lot better as soon as you unsummon me. As for me, I'll probably pass out from exhaustion the moment you do. It's a good thing we both have the day off. I know you wanted to talk some more, but I think we should rest. I don't think the day guards need any help, but the night guards need to get whipped into shape. I suggest having Luna summon me another night, that way I can help train her guards while she's bored holding court at night. Is that okay?"
"Mmmh, yeah, sure." She said with her head on the table, not really caring about anything at that moment. Luna seemed excited at being able to have him around.
"It's not that Serenity isn't doing a good job, it's just that since you weren't around for a long time, the night guard didn't really have much guarding to do, and nobody sane would try to break into the castle anyway. They just need a little help getting back on their feet, er, hooves is all. I'd be glad to help. Right now, I need to sleep. Do you have enough energy to undo the summon?" Celestia nodded, her horn glowing faintly, as Alex appeared in his room. His eyes went wide, an entire 24 hours of physical labour catching up with him, passing out. Celestia suddenly looked perkier. She was no longer sustaining her immortal self as well as the active Alex. She made a note that the longer a summon is conjured, the more difficult it is to sustain, as exhaustion in the familiar compounds to the summoner.
"Well, I feel a little better. I'm going to eat then go back to bed." After she ate, she went upstairs to find Alex, lying on the stone floor, crying in his sleep. He wasn't bound, so she couldn't command him to have good dreams, and she didn't even need to ask what he was dreaming about. She knew he was thinking of his family. Feeling sad as well that she couldn't do anything for her friend, she picked him up with her magic, and brought him to her room. Laying on her stomach, putting her head on her pillow, she had Alex lay next to her on his back, head on another pillow. She stretched her wing over him, using it like a blanket, as she too fell asleep.
Princess Celestia awoke later that afternoon, finding that in her sleep, she had folded up her wing, effectively pinning Alex against her side. Luckily, he was still asleep. Carefully unfurling herself, she dismissed her guards, then lifted him with her magic, bringing him to his own room to save them both the awkwardness of him waking up in the princess's bed. Such a thing would NOT be helpful to their relationship, especially if anyone in the castle found out. It would scream scandal, because even if nothing actually happened, ponies would talk, it's what they do.
Alex slept for the rest of the day, waking up when it was night. Luna had taken the opportunity to copy Celestia's floor circle to an empty room, to which only she and Celestia had the key. It would stop 'bedroom' gossip. After making sure he was actually awake, he got dressed, laid back down in his bed, and awaited being summoned.
"Alright, now when I go back, I'll be laying in my bed. I have a massive headache from yesterday when I passed out and hit my head on the stone floor."
"Ah, yes. Well Alex, the reason I have you here, is not for my own purpose, rather, at the request of my head guard." Luna explained.
"Hello Alex, it is nice to see you doing well." Serenity said. She wasn't wearing her armor.
"Ah yes, I suppose you're here for your prize, for winning our little game yesterday?" Alex replied.
"Why yes. What I have decided I want my reward to be, is to take you on a date."
"Ehm, what?" He said, staring blankly, tilting his head slightly.
"Oh, just a night out on the town between friends, not like I'm your marefriend or anything. Just to get to know you better, have a bit of fun." She said with a smile.
"Oh, well that's alright, except I can't leave the premise. Right now I'm bound to Luna, and I've got a 1 mile radius from the center of the castle. That, and I can't exactly have all of Canterlot knowing I'm here. So, maybe we could do this on castle grounds?" He offered. She accepted.
"Since I'm taking you on the date, I expect you'll let me lead." The night guard captain said.
"Of course. Lead the way."
"Here we have the the observatory. While floor 4 is off limits to most, because it houses dangerous artifacts and the princesses quarters, floor five is the royal observatory. Since the princesses don't need telescopes because they can just feel the stars with their magic, it's used mostly by the eggheads, but is open to anyone to use, as long as they don't break anything that is."
"Ah, mind if I take a look? I've got a telescope at home. Star formations here are even the same as back home. There's Orion, oh, here, take a look at that." He adjusted the telescope to the Orion nebula, located just below the belt, then began to snicker.
"What's so funny?" Serenity asked.
"Well, there's a joke from my world, known only to the geekiest of the geeks. You've got Orion's belt, and just below that, you've got the nebula. Given the orientation of the star cluster, what does the nebula add to the constellation?" Alex asked. Suddenly, the guard captain blushed and let out a laugh.
"That's right, you're looking right at Orion's dong."
"Ahh, you've got a much better sense of humor than that old grizzly bear leading the day guards. What do you say we raid the kitchen?"
"Empty, good. Ladle is all bark and no bite, but Flay will chase us and throw knives at us if she catches us in here." The night commander said.
"Oh, that won't be good, I don't even have the proper song." Alex replied.
"Oh, never mind." He replied as he began humming the Benny Hill theme.
"Want me to make us something? It won't take long. I've only made it once before, but I remember how. It's really good, and vegetarian no less."
"Alright, I'll watch the door."
Taking out some flower, an egg, and mixing into dough, Alex skillfully kneaded it to perfect firmness. Then, taking a vegetable broth, soy sauce, chili, ginger, and sesame oil, while adding some oregano, parmesan, and a pinch of cayenne, for flavour, he set it to simmer. Then he took the dough, stretched it between his hands, then spun it around. He repeated this over and over until the dough formed a mass of noodles, which he then put in a pot of boiling water.
"What'cha making?" Serenity asked.
"It's called ramen. I saw it once on a filler episode of a show about ninja's, and I just had to make some myself. I found some recipes, and there you have it!"
Taking two bowls, putting the noodles in first, then the soup, and having some parsley float on top for decoration, he packed the rest of it in the refrigerator, placing a note from the pad, next to the revolving order wheel, (you know, they have em in really old diners, they stick the order on, and the chef spins it so he knows what to make next?) wrote 'From the food fairy' then stuck it on the two pots and placed them in the fridge. Leaving the kitchen, narrowly avoiding a sleepwalking Flay who had been drawn by the scent, the pair headed outside into the cool September night air.
"Mmph, mmph, mmm, mmm, mmMMMmmmph." Serenity tried talking with her mouth full of noodles.
"Pretty good huh?" Alex replied with a laugh at the antics of the commander of the guard.
"Gah! It's really good! Where'd you learn to cook like that?" She said, taking a deep breath after she swallowed her mouthful.
"It's my passion, besides woodworking." He replied.
"So, what's your cutie mark for, cooking or carpentry?"
"I don't have one. No human does. We have tattoos, where we ink something into our skin, but it's a choice. It's doesn't just pop up when we figure out what we're meant to do."
"Then how do human's know what their special talent is?" She asked curiously.
"We don't. We just kind of, I don't know, figure it out along the way. We might like something, then suddenly change out minds, hate it, and try for something else. Very few of us are blessed with knowing ourselves, something ALL ponies have. So, what's yours?"
"Well, as you can see by the bat against a full moon, I was meant to be a stalker of the night. I always loved the night, and I was the best at tag and hide and go seek. I could blend in with shadows like nopony's business. One day, I took a game of hide and seek too far, and found myself in the forest outside Canterlot. I got attacked by wolves. I ran, I hid, but I just couldn't lose them. I saw a shooting star, and wished upon it to be safe. Then a swarm of bats appeared, taking the form of a midnight mare, driving the wolves away. Even though she was nightmare moon at the time, Princess Luna was still in there somewhere. She heard my plea, and used some of her power to save me. I knew at that moment that she would one day return, and when she did, I would serve her with my life, something she gave to me."
"That's, amazing. Being looked out for like that, knowing that you're safe. It must be nice." Alex said softly.
"Don't humans have somepony looking out for them?" Serenity asked concerned.
"Well, kind of. There are many different religions on earth, and while nobody know's who's right, we still believe that somewhere out there, someone is looking out for us. We have faith. Problem is, a lot of bad things happened, and a lot of us lost our faith, having nobody to believe in but themselves. We can't just beg for something to happen, we have to make it happen ourselves. If I was getting chased by wolves back home, if I prayed to be safe, I'd probably get eaten. I'd probably have to ask for strength, so I could kill the wolves myself. That's the thing. Whatever god looks out for my people, he only helps those who are willing to help themselves. He works THROUGH us. Just wanting something to happen won't make it happen, we have to do it on our own."
"That's, kind of sad, but empowering at the same time." She replied thoughtfully.
"So, why'd you call me out on this 'just a friend' date. We've only known each other for what, a week now? And we've only seen each other on two separate occasions."
"Well, for one, you're interesting. There's a whole different world out there will all sorts of different things. For two, you call yourself average, but you 'assassinated' over 12 of my guards. If you had been trying to get into the princess's room, you would have succeeded. You crossing to your own gave me the time I needed to catch you." Serenity explained.
"How DID you find me anyways?" Alex asked.
"Smell. You were sweating, and I picked up on it. I followed it to a window, where it just stopped. I went outside, and there you were." She replied.
"Oh geez, you can smell that? I didn't smell anything. How did the other's not find me? I must have REEKED."
"Relax, not all ponies have a sense of smell like that, just me, because I specifically trained to smell supposedly odourless poisons in food and stuff."
"Well, that's a relief. I didn't want to go stinking up the place. The prince would have a hell of a fit. Wait, scratch that, he'd just avoid me, and that would be in my favour." The bat winged mare just fell over in a laughing fit.
"Well, I should go to bed. It's back to work tomorrow for me." Alex said.
"Want me to fly you up there?" Serenity offered.
"Are you okay with that? Are you sure I won't be too heavy?" He asked.
"I think I can handle it, although, I'm not sure how I should carry you." She replied.
"Well, um, in my world, humans normally ride on the backs of ponies. Then again, in my world, ponies can't talk or use magic, so I have no idea what's considered disrespectful here. That, and I'm kind of big. Ponies in my world are all at least the size of the princesses, or bigger. Maybe just wrap your hooves around my stomach and chest like I was giving you a piggy back ride?"
"That's a much better idea. It's actually considered insulting to be mounted like that, and very few would allow it. Reverse piggy back is much better."
Wrapping herself around him, she flapped her wings hard. No kidding he was heavy. Finally lifting him into the air, she slowly flew him up to his room, sweating and panting once she got him up there.
"Maybe you ought to be in a couple of Griswold's training sessions. I hear he's a delightful chap when he's had a good cup of tea." Alex said in a British accent, bringing a giggle from the tired Serenity.
"I had a good time tonight. It was nice to get to know you. Now I just hope I Flay doesn't figure out we raided the kitchen and I wake up with a knife in my arm."
Breakfast was tense, to say the least. Ladle was fuming, while Flay was just standing there, flipping a very large knife into the air, over and over, using her hoof instead of magic for some reason.
"Eh, any reason why you two are so miffed this morning?" Alex asked.
"Somepony broke into the kitchen last night!" Ladle was mad.
"They made food. Whoever this 'food fairy' is, as soon as I find them, I'll make them wish they never set hoof in my kitchen." Her face turned red, and a very tiny amount of steam left her ears.
"What makes you think it was someone with hooves?" Alex asked.
"Eh?" Flay who had been silent the whole time piped up. Celestia and Luna giggled.
"Oh for goodness sake it was me! What's wrong? Didn't like the soup?" He said annoyed. He suddenly pulled his hand back as one of the knives Flay had was jutting out of the table. The table was made of thick ironwood, so you can tell how mad she was.
"Are you crazy? Someone could have gotten hurt! Nice knives by the way. How can they cut that easy? This has to count at kitchen tool mistreatment. Look! You went and chipped the blade! Poor little knife. What did it ever do to you?" He said, looking sullen at the now useless blade.
"Funny are you? Well, you won't think it's so funny when you're on kitchen duty!" Ladle barked.
"Kay. When do I start?"
"Right NOW!" She said, dragging Alex to the kitchen by his collar, levitated magically. He just shrugged and went along with it, thankfully able to convince her he wasn't going to run away before she dragged him down the stairs.
"Okay, so breakfast is over, what's on the menu for lunch?"
"You have a lot of nerve asking questions in my kitchen." Ladle was still very mad.
"Oh alright then, I guess I'll just prepare meals willy nilly, without at all taking into regard what the one who's eating it wants, and without knowing what we have supplied." Sarcasm is ever useful in this kind of situation. Flay threw a knife at him, which he narrowly dodged.
"Oh give it up with the knife throwing already! You'll make a mess of the kitchen. Blood stains are NOT sanitary, especially when the diet is vegetarian. I swear, we don't even need boilers, just put the pan on your forehead!" He mocked, picking up a frying pan and using it to knock away another knife.
"How many of those do you carry?"
"I count 18. You were hoping to throw all but one and then catch me off guard. You really ought to treat your knives better, now we have to have a funeral for the broken ones." He walked around, picking up the shattered kitchen equipment.
"How?" Flay asked.
"I have a keen eye, nose and tongue. Kind of needed with what I do." He explained, she just looked strangely at him.
"Alright, so not that Flay is done her little tantrum, we should prepare lunch. What are we making?" He asked.
"Oh, we aren't making anything. You are." Ladle pulled the two pots out, still full. "Since you're the 'food fairy' perhaps you can use your magic to keep up with the lunch rush all on your own, but not before we test what you have made."
"Very well! I shall make a grand feast!" He said, being over dramatic. "But you can't just put that back on the oven, you'll burn the soup. I forgot that ponies don't have microwaves."
"Microwaves?" Ladle asked quizzically.
"Yeah, it's kind of like a box, and you can use it to reheat food without cooking it any further. Means you'll never burn anything you put in it. Humans use them a lot for reheating leftovers so they don't turn black from overcooking. I kind of forgot that you don't have them when I put the soup in the fridge. I have no idea how they work either, so it's not like I could have Widget make one." Alex explained. The idea of being able to reheat food got the pair thinking what it might be like.
"Seems a shame to have it go to waste, but you really can't eat it unless it's hot. I'll make a fresh batch for you, then you can decide whether it's good or if I'll give everyone food poisoning."
He proceeded to remake the same soup from the previous night, but kept the noodles, as they were still good. After serving the two cooks, they cautiously sampled it, as if it were an unknown poison.
"It is, satisfactory." Ladle said.
"Coming from you, that's high praise. How many we serving? I need to know how much of the ingredients I'll need."
"200." Flay said in a dead tone, trying to stop her voice from betraying how good the soup was. Her face however, being used to rage fits, was very poor at hiding emotion, and gave it away.
"200, that's quite a lot for one person. No, I CAN do it. Believe it!"
'If only Naruto could see me now. Since there are multiple universes, I wonder if his is real as well.' Alex thought as he gathered what he needed.
"Okay, so lunch is 20 minutes away, got all the ingredients. I can just prepare the soups and let them simmer, but I'll be frantic making these noodles especially since it's not something that can be rushed. A number of the other cooks came in, looking at the spectacle before them.
"Well, since no chef is without a sous chef, I think it's only fair that I have 1 pony help me, my choice." He reasoned.
"Very well, one pony. Choose." Ladle said a little annoyed.
"Flay." She was about to argue, but Ladle just shook her head, the raging mare just went with it.
"Alright, start the soups. The ingredients are all measured out and lined up. Put the first two in on the first minute, and the last two in on the fourth minute. Once that's going, come over here, mix the dough, and then take out your frustrations on it by beating it to a pulp before passing it to me." Alex instructed. Ladle watched scornfully, almost hoping he'd mess up. Flay did as he asked while he spun an already made batch of dough into noodles while humming a little tune. Once the noodles were ready, he did a little dance over to the other wall, where a row of pots with just plain water in them stood, barely boiling, dumping them into the pot. He then headed back to the counter for the next batch of dough.
"Is he, dancing?" One of the cooks whispered to another.
"I take it he just really likes to cook?" The second one responded before they both got a sharp look from the head chef. Flay looked strangely at the human visitor, who appeared to be having the time of his life.
"Oi! Flay, you're getting distracted! Get your act in gear!" He reprimanded her, catching the dough she threw at him and beginning to twist it into noodles.
"Well, at least it's not a knife." He said, throwing the second set into the pot, pulling the first.
"Only one pony for cooking, the rest of you, quit twiddling your hooves and start putting it in bowls! Noodles first, then soup. We have hungry ponies to feed!" He laughed as one of them lifted a pot of soup over to another counter, along with several bowls, and began preparing it.
"They're here! Lunch has begun, and the princesses are with! Widget, Suds, Fiddlestick, Serenity, Griswold, Stonechip, and even Prince Blueblood! The princesses know, but the rest aren't aware who's making it!" One of the waiters called into the kitchen.
"Good, first two batches are ready! Move your flanks! I swear, if you were this slow on earth they'd put you in a deep fryer! Go!" They weren't actually being slow, but Alex figured he might as well have fun with them as well. Pots of soup and noodles flung around the kitchen magically, prompting Alex to keep his head down as they were brought around, emptied of their contents, then refilled by Alex and Flay for the next batch. This chaos continued for about an hour, until all had been fed, except Alex, Flay, and Ladle. They each grabbed themselves a bowl, then headed out into the dining hall. Both princesses, the prince, and all the staff heads were there, eating. You can only imagine Blueblood's surprise when Alex came out wearing an apron.
"You mean to tell me HE cooked this?" The prince spat, pushing the food he had been so greedily devouring before away as if it was toxic sludge. Everypony else simply continued eating.
"Ah, well, if you don't like it fine by me. Ain't gonna force you to eat it. Shame it goes to waste then." Alex said, taking the bowl away. The prince suddenly looked distraught, but didn't say anything. It was obvious he liked it, but his stubborn pride wouldn't have it. He got up and left in a huff, while the rest enjoyed their meal.
"Well, you said cooking was your passion, but I never expected this. It is quite good." Luna said.
"Yeah! Sure is great!" Widget said, covering the bowl she held in her hooves with grease.
"How can you eat like that?" Suds looked disgusted.
Flay approached Alex slowly, clearly nervous by the way she was tapping her hoof on the ground.
"Um, I'm sorry for throwing those knives....." She said wincing.
"Between you and me, I could tell that you weren't actually trying to hit me. Sure makes you come off scary though. How are you ever supposed to get a boyfri... coltfriend if you go scaring everyone away? I don't know about here, but where I'm from, being able to cook is a huge plus in a relationship." He replied, causing her to blush.
"You think, maybe you could give me and Ladle some recipes? Everypony seemed to like it." What she asked was in dangerous territory, as most chefs wouldn't just give their secrets to one another.
"Sure. Why not? After all, I'm not the castle chef, and if I go making food without permission, Ladle will yell so, yeah. Better to have everyone be able to have it." After writing down a number of recipes on various sticky notes and passing them to the unicorn sous chef, she skipped merrily back to Ladle in the kitchen, where they began going over them.
"Well, now that kitchen duty is out of the way, I gotta work double time with Suds to clean up." Alex said a little sullen that he was behind on his work.
"Do you want me to...." Celestia began to ask.
"Nah, I'll be fine unbound. I've been here a while already and nothing catastrophic happened. I trust myself to not get killed." He replied.
"Whew, all that's left is the third floor south wing. Aren't they doing renovations there?" Alex asked Suds.
"Yeah, I know Stone Chip doesn't like it when we get in the way there, but they spilled a load of mortar and they need us to take care of it." He replied.
"Alright, well, let's get going."
Arriving at the sight, Alex saw Blueblood, butting in. He was scolding the ponies working there for something or other, yammering on about things he knew nothing about, making a general ass of himself.
"Out of my way you peasant! Oh, and look, the filthy ape is here too. Come to roll around in the dirt?" He scoffed.
"You gonna put up with that monkey?" Suds whispered, using his nickname for Alex.
"Meh, I'm over it." Alex said with a shrug. Blueblood walked right up to him, and although the human was taller, the prince brought himself up high and looked straight into his eyes.
"That's right. Because I'm Prince Blueblood. There is nothing you can do to me. You have to put up with it, you don't have a choice." He snarled, making a complete idiot of himself.
"As I said once before my liege, I'm over it. A little saying, sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. Especially if they come from someone I couldn't care less about. Listen and listen well, I've tried avoiding you, I've tried being pleasant, I don't know what your problem with me is, but I suggest you deal with it. The sooner we get over this issue, the better, as acting like this is most unbecoming of both of us. We're both civilized, but we're acting like animals who're intruding on each other's territory."
"Hmmph." Blueblood stuck his nose up.
"Fine, be that way. Soon as you feel like getting over yourself, come and talk to me. If something about me is getting on your nerves, then SAY something." Alex turned away. All the worker ponies, Stone Chip, and Suds were just staring at him after the prince had left.
"Nopony's ever stood up to the prince before. He just canters around, treating everypony like dirt." They replied.
"I guess since I'm not on payroll, I can't really get fired now can I? Even if I was, it's not like I have bills to pay. I'm living here on royal request. There's nothing he can do to me either. As long as I don't clobber him or sling insults, I'm fine. And I don't see that happening any time soon. I've dealt with people like him before. I know just how to get under his skin. That being said, I'm not gonna go around looking for trouble, I'll just hold my ground when it comes looking for me."
"Alex why aren't you dressed yet?" Celestia said averting her eyes from the only-in-boxers Alex after she summoned him to the special summoning room.
"I'm not feewing too good...." He replied with a sniffle. And a cough. And a sneeze.
"Well, that's no good. We can't have you helping out around here when you're sick. Speaking of health, it's almost been two weeks. Your blood work should be coming back soon." She said.
"Well, that's good. *cough* It's porbaby just a cold. I'ww be fine." He said with his nose stuffed.
"I'll have none of that. I'm unsummoning you. You head straight back to bed. I'll send somepony by later to take your temperature and all that." With that, Celestia sent him back to his room. He laid down in bed and went back to sleep.
"Hey there sleepy head. Time for your checkup." A stark white nurse with red mane and thermometer cutie mark entered the room.
"Hey Mercury." Alex replied weakly to the unicorn.
"That's nurse Mercury to you, now, pull those covers off so I can.... oh my Celestia." The nurse backed away slowly, opening the door with her rear hoof and charging off down the hallway. Alex looked himself over to see that he was covered in red spots and purple blotches.
"Ooh, let's see..... Pony Pox, hoof and mouth, neigh fever, muletanic plague. Looks like you caught the works." Fiddle Stick said in a very uncomforting tone.
"Ehh?" Alex asked with a cough.
"Well, it seems that you've caught just about every illness known to pony kind. Going over your blood samples, we found that against these diseases, you have very little immune defense." The nurse explained.
"So, like War of the Worlds?" He asked. They didn't understand.
"It's a *cough* movie about aliens. Aliens invade earth and are unstoppable, but eventually die out on their own because they couldn't handle the foreign bacteria. They didn't have any immune defenses against it." He explained.
"That about sums it up." They replied.
"Pony pox sounds like chicken pox or cow pox, hoof and mouth is foot and mouth, which explains my tongue. Muletanic plague? Sounds like Bubonic plague. Great, I've caught all the pony versions of diseases on my planet." He sputtered.
"Well, we attribute the fact that you lasted this long to being that you had similar diseases on your world, and for a great deal of the time you were being sustained by the princess's magic. You would have eventually caught them and built up immunity to them. The problem is, you caught them all at once. We attribute this to your interaction with such a large number of ponies during your 3 weeks here." A doctor explained.
"Well, give it to me straight doc, don't sugar coat it." Alex muffled out.
"1 week." He said sternly.
"Please tell me that's till I get better." He hoped.
"I, I'm sorry Alex." He just lowered his head.
"Wait, why didn't you all get sick with diseases from my world, not that I'd wish it on anyone." He asked.
"It seems that our strains are more severe than your world's. We all might be off for a day or two maximum." The doctor offered.
"Couldn't the princesses just summon me till I can fight off the infection?" He suggested.
"No, because as soon as you returned, you'd be just as sick." Fiddle Stick explained.
"Great, I'm gonna die because of Skittles. Am I contagious?"
"No, only those who haven't ever caught these diseases will be able to get them from you. You can have visitors as much as you want. After all, you only have..... one... week..... left....... you should be allowed to spend it....... however you want........" Serenity, who had been guarding his room, overheard the entire conversation, interrupted and was breaking down.
"I, I'd like to see Celestia and Luna for a bit.... if that's okay." Alex asked. Everyone left the room and the princesses walked in.
"You wanted to see us?" Celestia inquired.
"Yeah. Well, I'm sure you've heard......." Alex replied.
"Yes, your degrading health. One week at the most. I'm, sorry Alex. Not only have I taken you from your family, but I've killed you as well." Celestia began to weep.
"Hey, it's not your fault. Nobody coulda known. I'm just glad I got to meet you all." He smiled weakly.
"Is, is there anything we can do for you?" Luna asked.
"Well, there is one thing. You said maybe I could meet those ponies, you know, Celestia's student and her friends one day. Well, it looks like one day has to been one of the next seven. I'd like to meet them." Alex requested.
"Of course. I'll send a letter right away." Celestia began to leave when Alex stopped her.
"In fact, since I've only got a little time left, can you tell them to have anyone who wants to see me come as well? I'm probably the only one of me they'll ever see. I'd hate for anyone to miss out."
"Are you sure? I mean, putting yourself on display like that, in the state you're in? Would you be okay with that?" Luna asked.
"Yeah, might as well get as much interaction in as I can." He assured her with a cough.
A day went by, Alex getting periodic visits from Suds to clean up some vomit and tell him he'd miss him, as well as from the nurse to check him over and try some antibiotics. It was a small chance, but perhaps it could fight off the infections long enough for his body to adapt. They were grasping at straws. Serenity came by a couple times and sobbed at his bedside, Griswold only came by once and gave him a salute before heading off. He's the kind of pony to cry at a grave site and claim it was raining. Widget was hysterical because someone with enough idea's to satisfy her wasn't going to be around anymore. Ladle and Flay tried cooking for him, but just about everything he ate came back up. Despite their rocky start, they had become fond of the human in his short stay. Mostly because of his recipes. Then, there was Blueblood.
"Well well, look who it is. Not so high and mighty now are we?" He scoffed.
"Come to laugh at a dying man? *cough* Go ahead. Laugh your heart out." The stallion approached the fading human slowly.
"Careful, you don't wanna get sick too. I'm an animal remember, what if I bite?" Alex asked sarcastically.
"This really isn't a show is it?" Blueblood said, not asking as much as telling.
"What was your first hint, the red and purple splotches that itch beyond all measure, the constant coughing, everyone coming by to say their goodbyes, or the fact that I've become sarcastic? I'm gonna die in 7 days, and you have nothing better to do than rub it in." He hacked, a small amount of blood coming up.
"Hmmph, well, it'll be good riddance. You've been nothing but a stain here in this castle. I don't know what Auntie and Luna ever saw in you." He said sticking his nose up in the air.
"If I could move right now, I'd kick your ass. Rot in hell Blackblood." Upon hearing his modified name, clearly meant to be an insult to his black heart, he stuck his nose even higher in the air and stormed out. A little while later, Celestia entered.
"The element bearers will be here tomorrow. Is there anything I can do for you in the mean time?" She asked.
"Yeah, strip Blueblood of his title. Tell him he has to earn it back by joining Griswald's guards and serving for a year under the NEW training regime." Alex coughed painfully, but wore a sinister smile.
"He paid you a visit didn't he?" She asked sternly.
"How'd you guess?" Alex asked in turn.
"Consider it done." Celestia replied with a smirk. Even on his death bed, Alex was full of good ideas. The prince had this a long time coming.
"Um, Alex? Can I come in?" Luna asked apprehensively. She didn't get an answer, so she let herself in. He was looking worse, a lot worse.
"Hrrmm, yeah, come in." He sputtered.
"I, um, I brought the element bearers and several other visitors. Should I send them in?" He just nodded.
"Alright, you can go in, just remember, be gentle with him. He's really sick, so he hasn't been able to eat and has become frail. We've had to go with a feeding tube just to keep the food down." The nurse with Luna whispered. Upon entering, they saw a strange creature, lying on a bed, hooked up to various machines that were taking his vitals and keeping him alive.
"Hi! I'm Pinkie Pie and..."
"Gaaahh." The bouncy pink blur was suddenly held in a violet glow. She looked and realized that she had just jumped on his chest, causing him pain.
"Sorry." She said softly as she was placed on the ground.
"Pinkie Pie, you like parties. I know you want to throw me one, but it doesn't look like I'll be able to attend." He said with a small laugh, which he then regretted.
"Hello, I am Rarity.... erm... do you mind asking just what exactly are you?" She was then elbowed by Applejack for asking a rude question like that, but Alex replied that it was fine.
"I'm a human. My name's Alex, although Suds calls me monkey and guard recruit Blueblood calls me filthy animal." At the mention of 'Blueblood' Rarity became fuming, then suddenly pondered.
"Did you say guard recruit?" She asked.
"Yeah, he laughed at me on my death bed so I told Celestia to strip him of his rank and put him in the new day guard training regiment, which I helped come up with. Let's just say I sent him to hell for a year." Despite being ill, Alex still managed a laugh.
"Well, anypony who can bring that pompous, arrogant, bas....... besides the point. Anypony who can bring him down a notch is fine in my books." She gave him a smile.
"I'm Twilight Sparkle, and I have to say, the prospect of a multiverse and interdimensional travel is so intriguing! Oh, all the things I could learn!" She took out a long list of questions, before being elbowed by Applejack.
"If you want to know any of that stuff, you can just get FiddleStick to let you raid the archives. I've spent two weeks with him and Widget going over all the human stuff and that. You can find out from there. Normally, I'd love to answer questions, but I'm a little short on time, given I only have 6 days to live." Alex coughed again.
"Oh you poor thing! Oh, let me take care of you! Do you need you pillow fluffed? Or better blankets? Are you hot or cold? Have you taken your medicine? Have you been able to eat okay?" A yellow pegasus with a pink mane fluttered around him, trying to make him as comfortable as possible.
"Fluttershy, I think he's alright in that regard." Applejack, being the voice of reason in this situation spoke up.
"Yeah, I'm okay. Can I just hug you instead?" They all looked at him strangely.
"What? She's adorable. She's like a soft, marshmallow, pillow, bunny, teddy bear pony with wings." This made Fluttershy blush. After a hug which was a little too tight, causing Fluttershy to let out a dog toy squeak which was also adorable, he let her go.
"I'm Rainbow Dash! Fastest flyer in Equestria! What's all this nonsense talk of only 6 days to live! That's quitter talk! When life gives you lemons, you just gotta make lemonade!" Dash did a little strut and puffed out her chest.
Alex had a private laugh, thinking of Cave Johnson and his combustible lemons.
"Yeah, but the lemons are sour. If life had given me apples instead, maybe I could do something with them." He replied with a laugh.
"That reminds me, I haven't introduced myself yet. I'm Applejack. In the letter, the princess told us all about how you're an honest, hardworking guy. Hate to see somepony like that in a situation like this." She put her hat over her heart.
"Nah, don't worry about it. We all gotta go sometime right? I just wish mine wasn't so soon. You're all so nice, I just wish I coulda gotten to know you all better." Alex said in his now normal coughing, sputtering tone.
"Well, I guess we ought to be giving him his rest." They all began to leave.
"I'll have plenty of time to sleep when I'm dead. I heard there were some other visitors?"
"Yeah, but we're only allowed six at a time. We'll send the next group in." Twilight replied as she walked out the door. Next thing Alex saw was a small purple lizard thing with green spikes, a teal unicorn with a lyre cutie mark, and an earth pony with some pieces of candy. They were followed by three young fillies. A yellow one with a red mane and bow, a dark caramel pegasus with a dark purple mane, and a white unicorn with two tone light purple mane.
"What are you?" The purple lizard asked.
"A human. Name's Alex. What are you?" He replied.
"A dragon. Name's Spike." He answered with an equally dead tone.
"A dragon? That's cool. I guess I should have expected it with the unicorns and the pegasi, but it's still awesome. Dragons are awesome." He was getting a little delirious. "You breathe fire?"
"Sure do." He let out a small puff of green flame.
"That's cool. You're cool. You're also one the the only guys around. Ladies must be all over you."
"Nah, I'm still a baby dragon." Spike blushed.
"Ya remind me of Spyro. He's not real, but he's macho, and he's just a kid. Saved the world three times. Then again, the whole multiverse thing. Maybe he is real. I don't know anymore. Gotta suck being young like that, can't do all the things ya want to. Just tough it out." Alex's thoughts were getting hazy. The next pony introduced herself.
"Well, If I didn't see it, I wouldn't believe it. I guess you were right Lyra. My name's Bon Bon. I, I'm sorry you're like this." She said.
"Would you believe it's all because of a pack of candy? Apparently, giving something to the caster makes the spell that brought me here permanent, and because of that, I'm gonna die. Who'da thought. You're a candy maker right?" Alex asked. She nodded.
"Good. Make a candy that has all different fruit juices solidified in a swirl so when it melts in your mouth, all the different flavours come out at the same time. Raspberry, orange, lemon, green apple, blueberry, and grape. You can also put strawberry and lime in too if you want. Call them Skittles. You'll make millions from Pinkie Pie alone." She just nodded again.
"Hiya, I'm Applebloom, this here's Scootaloo, and this is Sweetie Belle. We're the cutie mark crusaders and we're crusadin to get our cutie marks. Ya think if we fixed ya up we'd get our cutie marks in doctoring?"
"Nah, I don't know much about it, but it sounds like you'd each get a different one. Try and do things you like and are good at." Alex replied.
"That's what everypony says!" Scootaloo deadpanned.
"Why do you think everyone says it? Maybe because they're right?" Alex said sarcastically. The trio thought about it for a bit before they said 'NAH' and left. Finally, the one called Lyra was the only one left. She just stood there, staring.
"Take a picture, it'll last longer. Literally." With that, she shook her head, pulled out a camera, and took about 30 photos.
"Well, it's just. You could say I'm a bit of a human enthusiast. Name's Lyra." She replied.
"Let me guess. You tell everyone humans are real, and they call you crazy?" She nodded. He motioned to her to give him some of the pictures and a pen, on which he wrote,
Lyra isn't crazy
Alex the human.
Ps, I'm real.
"There, that ought to settle it. Anything else?"
"What can you do with your hands?" She asked.
"Anything you can do with your hooves, other than walk on them. Some humans can, I just have bad balance."
"What do you eat?"
"Ponies. I'm the monster under their beds. Actually, I eat the same things ponies do, minus the hay and flowers." Lyra at first had a look of shock, then giggled at his joke. Even close to dying, he still had a sense of humor.
"What about human mating rituals?"
"I wouldn't know, because I just barely came of age." A lie, he wasn't going to talk sex with a pony.
"Other species on your world?" He didn't mind answering her questions, as they were short and to the point.
"Pretty much the same as here, minus 'mythological' creatures. Basically, anything that's magic, like timber wolves, manticores, griffins, pegasi, unicorns, minotaur don't exist. Humans are the only ones capable of thought and reason. Imagine my surprise to find a whole world full of things from fairy tales." At that, she seemed satisfied and left.
"Alright, time for me to take your temperature" Mercury said. "Alex, hey Alex? Doctor! He's gone critical! Doc........"
"10 cc's of........"
"One one thousand, two one thousand........."
"Come one, please don't go." Serenity.
"Maggot, you get back up you hear me? If you die on me, it's a thousand push ups a day for a year!" Griswold.
"Poor thing, he's burning up." Fluttershy.
"I don't want to be alone again! You're the only one I can talk to!" Celestia, crying.
"He gave me somepony to talk to on the job. Don't leave me monkey! You made this job worth while!" Suds.
"I never got to throw him a party." Pinkie Pie.
"But I had so many idea's I wanted him to look at." Widget.
"He had so many recipes." Ladle.
"I had fun cooking." Flay.
"I never got to show him the rainboom." Dash.
"I shouldn't have been so tough on him." Stone Chip.
"He thought I was cool." Spike.
"Honest hardworking folk goin like that. Darn shame." Applejack.
"Good riddance, filthy ape." Blueblood. 'Bite me.'
Alex was surrounded by a group of crying ponies, all saying their final goodbyes. After they had left, Celestia and Luna placed a white cover over him and wept. He was the only one who they could talk to on a personal level, as he did not bow in reverence, and could talk with them as an equal without preconception. They had lost him. He was Celestia's first true friend in several hundred years, and he had passed away in under a week, on the one month anniversary of the day he became trapped there.
Alex took a massive gulp of air. His lungs burned, giving slight relief as the oxygen he craved filled his body. Another gasp, desperately taking massive, and very quick, breaths, trying to get as much oxygen in his system as possible. It was difficult. Then he found out why. A white sheet was covering him. He also found that he wasn't in his bed anymore, he was in some kind of coffin with the top left open. There were flowers all around his half casket, incense burning, and a small indoor pond with waterfall to one side. After he had finally calmed down a bit, he noticed that he was emaciated from not being able to eat well for the past week. His red and purple splotches had faded greatly. He was also wearing what he called his 'Edgeworth suit'. Apparently, hearing about human funeral customs, they put him in formal attire and set a beautiful scene behind him.
"Am I, dead?" He felt himself to find that he was very much alive. He was in his summoning room, which had been turned into a funeral room. The circle was still on the floor. They had probably left it there as a memorial. Stumbling as he got out of his coffin, he fell to the floor and coughed a bit. He was still sick, but he had somehow gotten better. During that time, they must have thought he was dead and were set to bury him.
"I, need to find somepony. Need to. Help get." He murmured to himself. He crawled to the door, only to have it knock him over as it opened. Celestia and Luna had entered.
"It's time for the burial sister." Luna cooed.
"He was my first real friend since Starswirl. The others, they're my friends, but they're also my subjects, and I their princess. They'll never be able to get close to me, never be able to be on equal terms. He's the only one who never feared me. He appreciated me for who I am, not just because I'm royalty." Celestia sobbed.
"I'd appreciate it a whole lot more if you'd stop talking about me like I'm dead, and I'd really appreciate it if you'd call the doctor." Alex managed to choke out from behind the door. Celestia and Luna went wide eyed when they realized his casket was empty. The carefully moved the door to find that he was sitting behind it, clutching his stomach in pain, but wearing a stupid grin that just about cut his face in half. Immediately, the sun princess dove at him and put her head over her his shoulder.
"Alex!" She wept. "You were dead for two days! I......." She trailed off.
"I know, *cough* I know, Woona, get's da docta pwease?" At this point, Luna had just been stunned. Alex giving her the 'cute talk' like a foal stumbling over their words snapped her out of it, followed by her teleporting out of the room, then back in with two doctors and four nurses. She did so in about 10 seconds, not explaining anything to them at all. Their jaws literally hit the floors to see Alex not well, but very much alive, and being embraced by Celestia. It took them about a minute or so before they snapped out of it, and another to pry the princess off of him to bring him to his room, which still held the equipment they had been using to sustain him. Machines hummed to life as the heart monitor began to bleep once more with the slightly unsteady rhythm of his pulse.
"Alex, I, you were dead. I thought you were gone forever!" Celestia cried.
"Nah, you couldn't get rid of me that easily. I heard you all, you know. You and Serenity crying at my bedside, all the others. And Blueblood. He's part of the guard now right?" Alex asked. Celestia just nodded.
"Good, I guess when I get better, I'll have to....... help Griswold with the new recruits."
"You won't..... um..." Luna looked a little worried.
"Kill him? No. Although if he dies from a heart attack, that will hardly be my fault. Oh! Please don't tell him I'm alive, I wanna see the look on his face!" Alex chuckled.
"Well, this is quite miraculous. We've gotten the tests back, and I have to say, the results are extraordinary!" Fiddle Stick rambled in his usual tone when he was interested in something.
"So, not that I'm complaining, but, why aren't I dead?" Alex asked.
"Well we're not entirely sure, but given the results, I can say in all likeness that a certain dragon saved your life." The scholar mused.
"Out with it Fiddle, just because I'm immortal does not mean I have time to waste." Luna spat.
"Oh, of course your highness, silly me. Ah yes, Spike, young Twilight's assistant. Well you see, you had slowly began to bleed out due to your injuries. You needed a blood transfusion. We searched everypony present, and only two matched your blood type. The dragon Spike, and our own Prince Blueblood." The elderly pony explained.
"Let me guess, old Blueblood wouldn't give me any, so the little tyke stepped up to the plate?" Alex asked.
"That is correct."
"Well, I'm almost glad. Knowing my luck, the prince's blood would have poisoned me." Everyone gave a laugh at that.
"Although that still doesn't explain why I suddenly came back from the dead."
"Well, although the prince's blood would have been a better match as you are both mammals and Spike is reptilian, the results of the test indicate that his draconic blood had an unusual beneficial reaction with your own physiology, overriding your genetic code with his own, creating a hybridization of cellular masses and a near immediate augmentation of your immune system."
"Yeah, I totally understood that, but um, I don't think Luna did, you mind explaining it in layman... laypony's terms for her?" Luna scowled.
"Oh come on, you know I'm joking." She smiled. It's hard to stay mad at someone who was up until recently dead.
"His dragon blood took over, altering your DNA. Since dragons are naturally immune to almost all disease, a fact that we discovered after researching it more thoroughly, once your body accepted it, you almost immediately wiped all traces of the bacteria and viruses from your system. Dragons have been a topic of much inquiry, although lacking willing test subjects means that the study of this rare breed is........ non existent."
"So basically, that little dragon gave me his blood, and not only did it cure me and bring me back from the dead, but I'm an artificial human dragon hybrid now? Despite being entirely human in form?"
"Well, actually, the hybridization is what cured you, but yes."
"Well, that's somewhat disturbing, and also AWESOME." Alex proclaimed. "I mean, in human legends, dragon teeth were used to bring the dead back to life, so it's not all that far fetched. By the way, how's Celestia been?"
"Sister has, well, first she entered a depression when you became ill, then when you died, she refused to raise the sun and thus forced me to do it, and now she has become, numb. She is so filled with emotions that she does not know which one to display." Luna reported how her sister had been having mood swings.
"Okay, so, number one, make Celestia happy. Number two, undying gratitude to Spike, numbers three, four, and five, Makey Celesty HAPPY! Number 6, ruin Blueblood. Then seven, eight, nine, and ten, make the wonderfully amazing princess Celestia the most happy pony in Equestria. Got my list. How long till I'm out of bed?"
"Well, I'd like to run a few more tests, but you're fit as a Fiddle Stick." Fiddle Stick laughed. "Although, the fact that your DNA and cell structure has changed, you must report and physiological differences you discover."
"Such as?" Alex inquired nervously.
"Well, it's likely nothing, but if something does occur, you'll know it when you see it."
"Great, next thing you know, I'll wake up fifty feet tall and covered in scales."
After recovering some more, although this mostly being his weight and trying to walk again after a about a week in bed, he was finally able to move around freely.
"Why hello there my dear Celestia, you are looking fine this morning, as every morning. How are you today?" Alex asked in a chipper mood.
"Well, somepony is certainly feeling better. Not one week ago you were dead. I am well, given the circumstances." She replied.
"I see, do you think I can drag you away from official business for some more enjoyable official business? You see, I am to assist in the training of your guards today. I've heard that a certain new recruit has been giving Commander Griswold trouble, and I've agreed to help..... deal.... with him." He said with a devilish grin.
"Oh, I wouldn't miss this for the world, despite the fact that it's already mine." She smiled back as she walked towards a balcony overlooking the training yard.
"Alright you sorry excuses for stallions, Princess Celestia is going to be overlooking our training today, and as such, I'm having the other drill sergeant come in to fix the lot of you." Griswold had learned to use adjectives other than 'maggot' and that yelling didn't really get the point across, courtesy of Alex. Everyone OTHER than Blueblood knew who he was talking about, but none of them let it slip.
"Well, look what we have here. It looks like there are a few new recruits in this little herd. Oh? There's only one. He's just so fat I mistook him for two." The guards forced themselves to not laugh, while Blueblood looked at the once dead human and screamed!
"No, not a zombie. If I were a zombie, I'd be trying to eat pony brains, and thus wouldn't be anywhere near you given your lack thereof." Glancing up at the balcony, Celestia stifled a giggle. She clearly heard him with her amazing alicorn senses.
"How dare you! Do you know who I am?" He scoffed at the human making a mockery of him.
"Indeed I do, you are the newest recruit in Celestia's day guard, which is currently under MY command. Which means that you are a worthless can of worms because I said you are!" He got right in his face.
"How are you even alive? You died!" Blueblood was about to cry.
"There is a saying where I'm from. One should not speak ill of the dead, lest they climb from their graves seeking venegence." At this, Blueblood fainted. He sprawled out on the ground, his tongue hanging out of his mouth. One of the guards giggled, then had a look of horror on his face at what he had done.
"So, you think this is funny do you?" Alex turned to the now sweating guard, who knew how merciless the human was in his training regime. The guard gulped and shook his head no.
"Well, that's too bad, because I think it's hilarious! In fact, for the next five minutes, and not a second more, all of you are hereby authorized to laugh and make a mockery of this new recruit. Starting now."
What started with a few uneasy 'ha's and giggles broke in to a full out laugh. When the five minutes were up, Alex raised his hand, and the guffaw stopped immediately.
"I want you all to know that should this recruit regain his former position, you are all provided job protection and amnesty from your actions here today. Also, you should all be ashamed of yourselves. Is this the face of the Canterlot day guard?" He asked, pointing a the now prone ex-prince.
"From now on, you will succeed as a unit, or you will fail as a unit. A chain is only as strong as it's weakest link. If any of you fails to perform, then the whole group will fail. Help each other to become strong. Keep each other in line. These are the ponies you will be working with for the rest of your lives. Consider them your brothers. And for Celestia's sake, somepony pick Blueblood up, he's a damn embarrassment. The rest of you, 300 crunches. The usual 20 extra for failing like the miserable sods you are."
Walking back towards Griswold, he patted the Commander on the back.
"He's all yours. I don't think he'll be a problem anymore."
"You know, you're scary when you get mad." The gruff pony replied.
"So are you. The first time we met, if Celestia hadn't ordered me to not be afraid, I would have soiled myself. The whole not a pony thing makes it easier. I'm pretty sure they all think I'm some blood thirsty monster. Force em to be a team, then tempt them to break apart. Do they betray their squad to make things easier for themselves, or do they stick with the team? You'll know what each and every one of them are made of. I'll see you around ya grizzly bear."
"Well, do you think I was too rough on him? I mean, he'll probably be a nervous wreck now." Alex cautiously asked Celestia.
"I think you did what needed to be done. He kept going on about how as soon as he got his position back, he was going to fire all of them for making him go through that. Griswold is only 5 years away from retirement, he's got a family to think about. I think Blueblood was getting to even him."
"Yeah, he can't really fire me now can he? Being your friend doesn't come with a paycheck or title. It doesn't need one. I'm just glad to be around to make you happy." With that, Alex leaned in and wrapped his arms around her neck, giving her a big hug. Celestia blushed furiously.
"Oh my, red seems to suit you well Celly. What have I stumbled upon here?" He smiled a playful smile. Her eyes turned to pinpricks.
"Oh relax will you? You know I'm joking. You really ought to lighten up. Perhaps on your day off we could go out on the town, maybe do something fun?" He suggested.
"You mean, both of us, go out, into the city? Among other ponies?" She seemed nervous.
"Well, yeah. I mean, the element bearers, as well as half of... Ponyville you said? Anyway, they all know about me, and I'm sure word has gotten around about you having a friend who had taken ill. There's really no reason to keep me a secret anymore. Other than that, you should probably go out on the town a bit. Only the best rulers go out among their people. Lets you connect with them easier. Who knows, you might find some more friends." Alex gave an innocent smile. Celestia had spent the past thousand years more or less confined to Canterlot castle. She needed to get back out there.
"Well, I'm not so sure."
"It's alright, there's no rush. I just want you to think about giving it a shot. Besides, if you've got me as arm candy, what could go wrong? Wait, they don't have tabloids in Equestria do they?" Celestia nodded.
"Okay, then I understand your apprehension. LOTS could go wrong. It would be best if we weren't seen alone together. A better way to handle this would be to have Twilight and her friends come along too. Equestria already knows about their relationship to you, so having them there will make things seem ordinary. Then I'd just be an addition to the group instead of the main focus. There will still be a buzz about me, but it'll die down soon enough. If we do it that way, it'll kill a lot of rumors before they even start. I don't think it would do to have Equestria think we were dating. Unless, you know, you WANT that...."
She just stood there in shock, unable to think about what to say or do next.
"Why Alex, are you coming on to me?" She asked after she got her brain in order.
"Nope. You really ought to get your head on straight. I think me dying did a number on your nerves. All the more reason you need to get out more. Oh, and since you brought it up, just because I'm not coming on to you doesn't mean I'd be adverse to the reverse." Alex smiled and gave a wink before heading off the meet Suds for his rounds. Celestia simply stood there, thinking about what Alex had just done. He had cleverly caused her to bring up the possibility of a relationship to save himself the awkwardness of the ordeal, letting him know her feelings without openly asking her and risking rejection.
"Well played, you clever devil." She said with a smile.
"Are you sure about this?" Princess Celestia asked.
"Yep. There's only one way Equestria is going to get used to me, and that's with me getting out there. What better place to start than Ponyville? After all, they know about me the most, and will be the most accepting. Then we'll let the news spread from there." Alex replied.
"What about you?" She asked.
"Well, I'll be fine. Who better to make sure I don't get in trouble than your own student? Just remember, if you ever need me, you know how to call. Heck, I can still have breakfast with you in the morning, and I can still do whatever needs doing around the castle. Then you just unsummon me and poof, I'm back in Ponyville."
"Well, just to make sure you aren't doing anything troublesome when I summon you, take this scrying crystal. I've set up the parent one in the summoning room. If I need you, I'll talk to you on it. That way you can get somewhere safe before I bring you over." With that, Celestia passed Alex a small glass sphere, like a marble, but the size of one of those extra large jawbreakers with multiple layers and sour gum at the center. He stuffed it in his pocket, gave everyone in the castle a temporary goodbye, then headed towards the pegasus dock where a chariot awaited him.
"An hour flight. Might as well get comfortable."
"Hey! Listen! Hey! Listen!" Alex heard a small voice coming from his pocket. He pulled out the scrying crystal to see that it was glowing blue.
"Go ahead." With that, the center cleared up and he saw Celestia and Luna within it.
"Alex, is it working okay?" Luna asked.
"Yep, it's working great. I notice you made it sound like Navi whenever you call me." He replied.
"Well, you mentioned how annoying that particular fairy is. This way, you won't be able to ignore it now will you?" Celestia laughed.
"As if I'd miss out on a chance to talk to you. Still, good idea." They all laughed.
"How's the flight?" Celestia inquired.
"Well, I'm 1000 feet above ground in an open chariot. I'll be fine so long as the guards don't try doing aerobatics. It's a long way down." Alex gulped as he looked over the edge.
"I've already sent a letter to Twilight explaining the situation. She'll be ready to receive you when you get there. I've also sent a diagram of the circle I used. She's going to make her own in the basement. This way, you'll have a means of permanent, two way transport. Just give the crystal to whoever calls you to unbind yourself."
"I see the magic department has been studying the book."
"It's good that they're getting some use out of it. Perhaps in the future, this spell set could be used for things like long distance transportation and such. The possibilities we could develop as side discoveries from trying to get you home are intriguing." Luna mused. She then held her tongue when she realized she mentioned home.
"Don't worry about it Luna. It's alright. Until they find a way to send me back, I just have to accept that I'm here now."
The carriage landed in Ponyville in front of the library, the town coming out to see what the commotion was. Many of them looked in shock at what they saw riding in the chariot, but many already knew who he was, having seen Lyra's 'I'm not crazy' photos. Alex stepped out, thanked the guards for the trip, to which they didn't respond, and was met by Twilight Sparkle.
"Well Alex, I have to say, seeing you again is a pleasant surprise. Last I saw of you, you had died and we all went home. I was in quite a bit of shock when I got the letter saying you were coming here." The purple unicorn said, trying to brush out her rat's nest mane and tail. She had clearly run herself ragged trying to prepare for a new guest.
"Yep, although, there is someone else I have to thank. A certain dragon that lives with you."
"Sure, come on in, don't mind the mess."
As Alex walked in, he noticed that there was NOT any mess, and Twilight had obviously been fretting about having her home neat when he arrived.
"Spike! Alex is here to see you!" She called up the stairs. The purple and green dragon came running down, looking up in surprise at the human who's life he had saved.
"Heh, you sure are tall when you're not lying in bed." He gulped. He didn't have time to back away as Alex had already picked him up and flung him over his shoulder.
"I have to thank you. You saved my life. Because of your generosity, I'm still alive and kicking. See? Didn't I say that you're awesome?" He said after putting the uncomfortable dragon back down. Spike blushed.
"Aw, it was nothing." He dug his toes into the wooden floor bashfully.
"It's not nothing. You saved my life. You gave me a part of yourself. Sure, you won't miss it, but it made all the world to me. We've gotta hang out some time." He insisted. Just then, the door busted open to reveal Rainbow Dash.
"Aha! I knew it! Alex is dead! Who are you impostor? Are you a spy?" She said in an accusatory tone. Alex stood there for a moment in thought.
"Yes." At which point Dash flew right up in his face, scratching her chin with her hoof.
"Nah, no spy ever admits to being a spy." She replied.
"Unless I knew you'd think that and I'm throwing you off." He argued.
"Ooh, he's good." Rainbow returned.
"Oh for Celestia's sake, he's not a spy Rainbow Dash, by some miracle of nature, he got better after he died. Now he's here in Ponyville to make himself known to Equestria." Twilight scolded her friend. After that, the rest of the group came in.
"Oh my gosh! You were all icky sicky and now you're all better header so now we get to party arty!" Pinkie Pie bounced.
"Yep, I'm not looking forward to the surprise party for me getting better, because I don't know about it, and how can I look forward to something if I don't know about it?" Alex stated. Pinkie stood there thinking for a moment.
"OOOOOOH right! I'm going to go to Sugarcube Corner now to NOT plan you a surprise party. Don't show up at eight!" With that, she bounced out of the room to do what everyone knows.
"How'd you keep up with Pinkie Pie?" Twilight asked.
"How does Pinkie Pie keep up with Pinkie Pie?" Alex asked in turn.
"Well, how about that, you're stubborn as a mule. Ya won't lay down and die even after you're dead." Applejack joked, bringing laughter from the rest of the group, Fluttershy excluded.
"Well, when I was laying there, I heard all your voices begging not to go. Soon as I heard Blueblood say good riddance, I told myself 'Ain't no way I'm gonna die. I'm gonna live just to deny him the satisfaction!' Then, when I got up, I helped train the new guards, of which he's a part of."
"And?" Rarity asked, looking for details.
"I think he's in therapy right now."
"Well, It's good to see somepony finally brought him down to where he belongs. Insufferable little.... besides the point. I'm glad you're better. I'll have to make you some new clothing while you're here."
"Do ya think you might wanna help out on the farm later partner?" Applejack asked.
"Well, I can't applebuck or I'll break my legs, but I'm sure I can help load and unload baskets or something like that. I'm not as strong as you ponies, despite being about three times as heavy. Also, I think we're missing one." As soon as Alex said that, he heard and 'eep' from behind the curtains. Everyone looked at each other, then at Fluttershy's hiding place. They all rolled their eyes. For her to be hiding from him now, after the display at Canterlot, was absurd. Pulling the drapes back, he saw the yellow pegasus curled up, trying to remain hidden. He knelt low, wrapped his arms around her, and gave a firm but gentle hug.
"See? I won't hurt you. It's fine. I'm like a big, 200 pound teddy bear. I'm really soft and squishy." Fluttershy giggled, stopped shaking, and returned the hug.
"Was that so hard? Come on, you know me. Sure, I look a little scary when I stand up, but that's just because I'm so tall. Or, are ponies short? I don't know. Either way, I'm still me. And you're still adorable." Fluttershy blushed and hid behind her mane again, although now in the middle of the room instead.
After taking a tour of the town, which brought several curious stares, but none with fear, the group finally entered Sugarcube Corner.
"Oh wow! This is awesome, and I totally didn't know about it!" Everyone just laughed at the obvious lie. It didn't matter, they were all having fun. Lyra had an absurd number of 'I told you so' moments before Bon Bon finally hit her over the back of the head with her hoof to make her stop rubbing it in.
"Oh, that's the princess. Go ahead." Alex said to the small glowing blue glass.
"How is everything?" Celestia asked.
"Pretty good. Twilight should have the Ponyville circle set up in about a day or so. Everyone's getting used to me. I don't have a place here to sleep yet. Think you can bring me back to the castle? I wanna make a grand exit."
"Sure, just tell me when you're ready."
"Alright everypony, I had a great time, but I should really get headed home for some shuteye."
"But, you just got here? Do you have a place to sleep already?" Pinkie asked.
"In fact, I do. Canterlot. As for how I'm gonna get there, don't worry. I'll be back in a couple of days after Twilight get's my transportation ready. Alright Princess Celestia, go ahead." At which point, Alex disappeared in a small flash, the air rushing to the spot he had been occupying. Everypony started to look a little worried.
"It's alright everypony. That's just how Alex travels long distances. It's a kind of magic that the princess discovered about a month ago, and he's helping her develop it." Twilight explained, which put the rest of the ponies back into their party mood.
"That was great. Too bad I can't see the look on their faces, I expect it would be something like this..." Alex made an overly exaggerated look of bewilderment, causing Celestia to giggle.
"Oh! By the way, I need to talk to Fiddle Stick. I found something out."
"Or, you could just send him a letter." The sun princess suggested.
"Right. Okay, Dear Fiddle Stick, in regards to physiological changes due to the introduction of draconic DNA, I have found a marked increase in sociability, spontaneity, and confidence. Dragon blood made me more fun to be around. No physical changes have occurred. Sincerely, Alex."
"Did that sound okay?"
"Yep, now I'll just send it off." Celestia's horn glowed as the letter disappeared. Alex watched intently as she performed magic, almost like a child at a performance.
"Alex?" She asked.
"Oh, yeah, sorry. Just kind of lost myself when you used magic. It never gets old, no matter how much I see it. Well, off to bed. See you tomorrow morning at breakfast."
"Sister, is something troubling you?" Luna asked.
"No, I'm not troubled, I'm interested. It's Alex. He came to this world, and he regards it with almost childlike wonder, despite being full grown. I just performed a simple spell, and he seemed intrigued by it. His world doesn't have magic, so this is all new, and he seems to want to know more about it. Almost like a unicorn foal would." Celestia replied.
"I assume if Widget were to go to his world and see all the machinery, she'd have the same look. Still, being interested in magic and being drawn to it like a unicorn would be are two very different things. Are you sure you saw that look?" The moon princess asked.
"I've seen countless foals come into my school for gifted unicorns. He had the same look as when Twilight studies something, the very same intense focus. It's a shame really. He doesn't have a horn, so he'll never be able to perform magic, but he's so intrigued by it. I almost want to just teach him magic theory to satisfy his desire, even if he can't use it."
"Well, it would be a great way for the three of us to bond."
"Three of us?"
"Well, yes, I mean. We both have our royal duties, during our times off, we could both teach him what we know. You weren't thinking of keeping him all to yourself were you?" Luna asked with a judgemental tone.
"Oh, no, of course not! The more the merrier." Celestia had a bad poker face. She didn't want to admit it, but she hadn't even thought of including her sister in the activity, something that should have been a fairly obvious step. Luna cautiously walked away, heading out to hold night court.
"Luna came back after a thousand years, and here I am, trying to blow her off..... Maybe there is something wrong with me, but what?"
"Alright, so even though I can't perform magic, you want me to learn about it?" Alex asked
"Yes, you just seemed so enthusiastic, I figured it would be good for you to understand it, and then maybe understand our world a bit more." Celestia replied.
"Well, alright then. Let's get started! It's been killing me not knowing how it works."
Taking out a book on basic magic, they began to study.
"Okay, so, magic exists as a field, and in the field, there are waves that come in pulses, and each wave is made of particles. So the unicorn horn acts like an antenna, tapping the field, While possible to simply force it to do what you want, it's most effective to work my manipulating already existing fields. Going WITH the flow of a river, or the tides of the ocean. I see. By imprinting desire on the field, going with the flow of the wave instead of against it, it allows manipulation of the world. While difficult, it is possible to go against the flow, which is why unicorns who haven't learned control of their magic are able to do many things that adults can't, such as self levitation, or turning their parent's into a cactus."
"Exactly right. You are grasping this much better than most, considering you won't be able to use it." Celestia praised his efforts. Learning something that would be completely useless to you and staying committed to it takes a lot of dedication.
"So, the horn picks up on the waves which are a natural representation of the world, then alters them to alter the world. Each object has it's physical form, and it's wave. Like an object and it's shadow, except that when the shadow is changed, the object is as well. Interesting. Celestia, is there any way to store magic, like a battery?" Alex mused.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, find an object that when a spell is cast on it, instead of happening, it's delayed until there is a trigger event. For example, cast a spell on an amulet that will let the wearer walk on clouds for a day, but it only actually activates when they're touching a cloud? Perhaps an amulet that automatically shields when it detects danger, but does nothing the rest of the time? You could even make it recharge when it's not active, although that would require casting two spells on it. If you could enchant objects with passive effects like cloud walking or shields, it would go great lengths to assist non unicorn ponies. Or even just to tap into the field like a horn does, it would allow much easier investigation into magic."
"Hmm, I'll have them look into that. When did you come up with this?"
"Well, I was just thinking, I can't use magic, but I CAN sense it, something most aren't able to do without training. If I maybe had a medium I could use as a replacement for a horn, I might be able to tap into the field. I guess, well, I seem to think differently than the ponies. I think of things they don't. Magic is basically limited only to your understanding of it and your imagination, but all the unicorns don't seem to have that second quality. They like to operate within convention. I suppose it's because everyone is just trying so hard to find a way to send me home, I want to help out in any way I can. In fact, if I could learn how to use the summoning magic in that book, I'd be able to bring something I recognize from my world into this one, then send it back."
"I see, you really miss them, don't you?" Celestia asked.
"I do. I know you can only bring things you recognize. I recognize my family, MY phone, MY notebook. If you tried to bring something like that here, you'd just get a random one. I know MY things specifically, so I'd be able to bring the one I wanted, and just maybe, send my family a message telling them I'm okay. I've been gone over a month. I know they're worried about me. It hurts! It hurts so much! I miss them with all my heart. What's more, I wish I could show them this world. Show them where I've been. What I've been up to. Maybe, in time, we could open our worlds to each other. We could improve yours greatly, and we both know you could improve mine." Alex replied sorrowfully. Having been gone from those he loved was weighing on him greatly. As always, Celestia was there to comfort, laying her head on his shoulder.
"We'll find a way."
"Hi Alex! Twilight's got everything set up here! So we're ready to bring you over! This is gonna be fun!" Pinkie exclaimed as she popped up in the crystal.
"Sure, just give me about 10 minutes to finish up my rounds, then call me back."
After getting changed from his janitorial attire, Alex put on his Edgeworth suit. It was just Ponyville, but he figured he might as well show up in style. Twilight called him, he said goodbye to Celestia, then disappeared from Canterlot castle and appeared back in the library basement.
"Well Alex, how have you been?" The lavender mare asked.
"Pretty good. Celestia and Luna are teaching me magic theory. I kind of hoped that my unbiased look at it would bring new insights, maybe find a way to send me back. Apparently, I'm picking it up as fast as you did, although I can't put it to practical use." Twilight became a little flustered, quite jealous that he was able to spend so much time with the princess.
"Oh, before I forget, take this." He passed her the crystal. Soon, the familiar tingle he felt when he was in his summoned state dissipated, and he knew he was unbound. Then, she gave him back his communication stone.
"There. Now, I can just pop back and forth frequently. Kind of convenient. I wonder if we could send other stuff that way, besides letters of course."
"Well, I'll have to look into it a little more. The institute made a copy of the book for me to look over. Of course, I won't go bringing stuff from other worlds here, and I won't abuse it. The princess has complete confidence in me, and I won't let her down!" Twilight said with a fire in her heart. The unicorn literally lived to impress Celestia.
"Oh, by the way Spike, I got you a sky sapphire. Celestia gave me an allowance, and I thought I'd get you something you might like. I heard that you specifically enjoy sapphires and rubies, so I wanted to show you my gratitude." Alex said handing the dragon the blue stone, looking as though it was made of air frozen in a spiral. The gem sparkled with an inner gleam, beautiful to behold, right up until Spike tossed it in his mouth. He seemed to savour the taste before he crushed it in his jaws and chewed slowly. Finally, he swallowed it and a warm smile came over his face.
"Delicious. Anytime you want to thank me for something, you just let me know!"
"I will." Twilight was about to scold Spike for his lack of manners, but Alex didn't mind and actually seemed to get the joke. They had a quick laugh as they walked out of the library basement.
"Ah, right! I was going to help Applejack on the farm today. I've got to drop by Rarity's first to have my measurements taken, then I'll come back here and change into work attire. Spike, you wanna come with?"
"Well, he does have to help me reorganize the library... and then we have to make a list of the lists we need to make, and then....."
"Come on Twilight, let him come along. I promised I'd hang out with him a bit. Besides, you're only young once. Live a little. Don't you have a new book to read? You know, the one on conjuration that I took great pains to convince Celestia to give you a copy of? I mean, it was considered to be forbidden knowledge for who knows how long. Only yourself, the princess, and the institute have seen what's inside. What I do know is that it's got 400 pages, and small writing."
Seemingly having forgotten all her other chores, the purple unicorn quickly shooed the two guys from the library to be alone with her new best friend. They walked slowly down the streets of Ponyville, not in a rush at all.
"So, you have your eyes set on a special somepony?" Spike broke the awkward silence.
"I have a certain someone in mind, yeah, but, it's really too early to say. I mean, I HAVE only been here for a month, and, I'm still hoping on being able to go home you know? If I ended up falling in love, then found a way to go home, it would just be more heartache then I can take. Being torn between the one I love and my family. I don't think I could handle that. What about you?" Alex replied, curious about the dragon's own romance life.
"Well, you promise not to tell anyone?" Spike had him promise then lean in close.
"I've got a crush on Rarity."
"Rarity eh? Yeah, I could see that. Well, after I get to know everyone better, maybe I could help you set up a little something. No guarantees though."
They entered the dress store, spotting the white unicorn right away. She had known they were coming, and decided to forgo her usual greeting.
"Alex! Spike! Oh, so good to see you both! Now, the princess has given me sketches as examples for your attire, but I must take your measurements to get started. If you would kindly remove your garments so I could get started then..."
"Sorry Rarity, I'm afraid that's not going to happen." Alex interrupted her.
"Why ever not dear?" Rarity asked, genuinely confused.
"Well, you see, I've noticed ponies walking around, most of them don't wear clothes. It's optional. For humans, it's NOT optional. Sometimes, in the summer months, we go without a shirt, but NEVER without pants in public. Being naked is something reserved only for private moments among lovers. While you are quite beautiful, we just met, and that's taking things a little too fast. By the way, you should see the look on your face right about now." Alex and Spike chuckled slightly as Rarity's expression turned to a mixture of embarrassment and insult.
"Don't worry Rarity. I know you're not like that. Was it a little too much? I mean, I guess what I'm saying is I try to diffuse awkward situations with humor, and I'm not very good at it, so I'm sorry if I offended you." Last thing Alex wanted to do was make a bad impression.
"Ah yes, well, I'll forgive it this time. Pinkie and Rainbow may enjoy such buffoonery, but I ask that you leave such things at the door when speaking to me." She stated sternly.
"Got it! Won't happen again."
"Still, it is intriguing. Your entire species wears clothing ALL the time. Oh, the fashions you must have developed! The culture!" The unicorn mused. I held my arms wide to show off my Edgeworth suit.
"Right. What I'm wearing now would have been a common sight about 200-400 years ago among nobility. Modern style tends to either be tight cut or extremely loose. Most tight fits are used to show off muscle tone while still covering up, while the more baggy style is meant to hide flaws and make the wearer look more illustrious as their clothing follows after them. Middle of the road, not to tight and not too loose, isn't very popular, although can work well in spring and summer seasons with thin, breathable cloth as a more relaxed look, although it's usually paired with a tight fitting muscle shirt underneath. I can't sketch it for you, since I'm no artist, but perhaps later I can come back and give you pointers on what you've drawn up. Also, NO frills. They're out of style and considered tacky. And go easy on the gems. above all, the clothing must be comfortable. Think about if you were making something for Fluttershy. She wouldn't want all eyes to be on her, she'd just want to look nice when someone happens to look, not blind them."
After Alex's lengthly explanation of human attire, and Rarity taking his measurements with clothes on, he and Spike left the boutique and began to walk back to the library.
"So.. um... that pony you had your eyes on....."
"No Spike, it's not Rarity. I won't be competing with you for her. She's not really my type. And a tip, if you want her, play her suit. She likes making clothing, ask her to make some for you. Don't be afraid to be demanding on that front. She'll enjoy the challenge. Besides, needing new clothes is a really good excuse for you to go over and talk to her. It sets up an event. Just make sure you leave the romance out of it. Let her make the first move. If she can't stop thinking about the clothes she's making you, it means she's thinking about you. It lets you sneak yourself into her thoughts without her noticing. Next thing you know, she's asking you to come over more often. Girls THINK they want a knight in shining armor, dashing heroics, romance, public displays of affection. What they really want is for you to be there day after day, and catch them when they fall. Be there when they need you. Dedication is worth a whole lot more than a single moment."
"And if that doesn't work?" The dragon asked.
"Then she's not right for you. Trust me, you're young. I've had six ex-girlfriends. With each one, I thought that they'd be right for me, and they weren't. It might hurt, but that's life. I can recognize the friend zone. You're in it pal. The thing is, it might suck for a bit, but they eventually realize that you've been there for them the whole time, through the ups and downs, and that you are the one who truly matters to them." The human explained.
"What if she doesn't notice me?"
"If they can't see that, then they aren't worth your time. You gotta remember though, you're still a baby dragon. Nobody sees you as relationship material.... yet. It's going to be a long time before you're ready for that. In the mean time, try focusing on someone other than Rarity. Maybe go help Fluttershy feed the animals once in a while, watch Rainbow Dash do some tricks, or help Applejack on the farm. You might fall for one of them, or they might fall for you. Even if they don't notice you, someone will. It just takes time is all."
"So, instead of following Rarity like a puppy, follow someone else around for a bit, and when she notices I'm not there, she'll come looking for me?"
"If she feels for you, she will."
"Hey, yeah. That makes sense. I've been trying to get her to notice me without any luck. A change of pace. I need to stop trying so hard and let just let it happen. Thanks Alex!"
"Ah, don't mention it. Seriously, don't tell anyone. I've got enough to do as it is, I can't go around playing match maker."
After getting changed into work clothes in Twilight's bathroom, Alex headed off to meet Applejack. She had the same idea, meeting him as soon as he got out of the library.
"Hey thar Alex, you ready to work?" She asked.
"Ready as I'll ever be."
She showed him the way to the farm, and he made a mental map of it so he wouldn't get lost. He had only been to Ponyville once before, and the town layout was confusing, to say the least. He didn't think wandering around without a clue where to go would be much fun.
"Geez, big enough orchard? There must be at least ten thousand trees in there!"
"Fifteen thousand, four hundred and seventy six, if you don't count the saplings we just planted." Alex just glared at Applejack, praying that he didn't have to do ALL of them.
"How the heck do you care for so many trees?"
"Well, I have Rainbow Dash take care of watering em. Every year, when we get to applebucking, we check the tree over. If it's sick, we mark it off and deal with it in the fall. It's applebuck season right now, so I'll have you set the baskets up and pick up any apples that fall out of em, then help carry em back to the barn. Job should be mighty easy with those hands of yours. Today, we're doing the east-south-east-south group. On the north-west side. Only seven hundred trees in that one. Should be easy."
'Why did I agree to this? I gotta stop helping everyone.'
"Yeehaw! All done. Thanks fer the help Alex. How ya feelin?" Applejack asked.
"Just cut off my arms, then I'll be fine." "Alex replied sorely.
"Aww, it waddn't that bad was it?"
"Well, I suppose I can't blame ya since yer not an earth pony, you ain't got our strength. Or pegasus speed, or unicorn magic for that matter. Still, you stuck with with it till the job was done. I'm proud of ya." She gave him a punch in the arm, which caused him to let out a soft scream in pain. Applejack quickly lifted his sleeves to take a look. She knew muscle tears when she saw them.
"Well hayseed, if ya couldn't handle it, why didn'tcha say so sugarcube?"
"Cuz I'm more stubborn than you are?"
"Not quite, but close. You head back to the library. I'll tell Fluttershy to bring some of that ointment she uses whenever I push myself too hard." Alex tried to walk, but fell over, Applejack catching him over her back.
"Make that a lot of it. I'll get ya home."
The door to the library opened, Alex groaning in pain as he was flopped on the couch. The orange earth pony left to go get the pegasus medic, while Twilight and Spike looked in shock at the state their human friend was in.
"Holy Celestia, what happened to you?"
"Applejack killed me. She's gone to get Fluttershy to fix me up. Spike, remember how I told ya to maybe help AJ out once in a while?"
"Yeah?" The dragon replied cautiously.
Spike and Twilight giggled, followed by Alex joining in. They entered a full laugh, with the human suddenly stopping because of the pain.
"Oh dear. You pushed yourself too hard. Here, lay down. Take that shirt off. No buts mister! Doctor Fluttershy won't have any of that." The yellow pegasus then carefully removed his shirt, thankfully leaving the pants on, and proceeded to apply the ointment all on his arms and back.
"Oh! Look at all that tension! Your knots have knots! We need to get you to the spa right away!"
"But, I told Rarity that I'd be back and help her with her designs......"
"Oh, don't worry, the two of us go to the spa all the time, I'm sure she won't turn down a visit. Then you can go over the designs there."
Alex was about to argue, but Fluttershy slumped him across her back and began walking to the boutique. Not having the strength to move on his own, he sighed in defeat as he let the unusually unshy pegasus haul him off. Twilight and Spike just laughed at his plight as he was dragged all over town by their friends.
The spa was something Alex found, painful at best. First, the ponies tried to have him remove his clothes, which while he was fine with the shirt, he downright refused on the pants. Hooves were DEFINITELY not as suited for massaging as hands were, and while they were some of the best at their job among ponies, pretty much ANY human could do a better job. It was something you just need hands for. Then they tried to brush his tail, which he had to explain that he didn't have one. Eventually, he had an herbal bath to relax. At the end of it all, he was glad he did it, as he could at least walk on his own by the time he was done. Rarity saw fit to pay for it, knowing how heartless Applejack could be when it came to work. Finally, it was time to head back to the castle for a lesson on magic theory with Luna.
"Alex.... are you alright?"
"Yeah, just exhausted. Long day...."
The studies didn't go well, as Alex was far too tired to pay attention, and Luna far too frustrated at trying to teach a sleeping student. Getting nowhere, they just opted to go to bed.
At breakfast the next morning, Celestia and Luna were both very grumpy. They were constantly twisting themselves to try and get comfortable, and looked like they hadn't slept at all.
"You two alright? No offense, but you don't look so good."
"We are quite well, your concern in unwarranted." Luna snapped back. Celestia was more forthcoming.
"It's my mattress, it's enchanted, but it still wears out once every two hundred years or so and I need to get a new one. I ordered it a week ago and it still hasn't shown up yet."
"You might want to get a massage or something." Alex suggested. Luna laughed.
"Oh please, our subjects are afraid to touch us, let alone give a massage. They barely rub the ache and then send us on our way."
"Oh, so they're gentle with you? Geez, I went to the spa and I was sure they broke a couple bones before they were done. Hooves just aren't as good for that as hands are." As soon as it was out, he bit his tongue. Both princesses looked at him with puppy dog eyes.
"Oh fine. But if I do this, you both need to do something for me." The quickly agreed as the three walked to the relaxation room.
"Alright, just, get comfortable or something. Remember, I'm not a chiropractor, so I can't do any adjustments, just sooth the muscles." Standing between the sisters, he applied the massage oil on his hands. He placed on on either of them and began to forcefully work his hands down their spines at the same time, all while looking ahead and trying to no think about the position he was in.
'Just a nice, friendly massage, for friends, just friends, just like at the spa, nothing strange about it at all.'
"Alex, are you blus *pop* ow!" Just as Celestia was about to ask, a knot in her back came loose, interrupting her.
'Just friends, just friends.'
"Thank you very much Alex, you are quite correct, hands ARE much better for this sort of thing." Luna said.
"Yep, and now the two of you need to do something for me. It is both of your day's off today. Tell me, do you have any disguise spells?"
"Yes we do, why?" Celestia asked.
"Simple, you're going to go to a club in with me tonight, disguised as regular ponies. If you go as yourselves, everyone will just stop what they're doing, but if you go in disguise, you can have as much fun as you want." He smiled a devilish smile.
"But we...." Luna began.
"No buts, you promised. You're going to go out and have a fun night on the town whether you like it or not."
"There are no 'night clubs' in Canterlot......."
"There's one in Ponyville."
"But we'd be spotted....."
"Hence the disguise. The two of you are NOT getting out of this."
Grumbling, the alicorn sisters cast spells on themselves, turning Celestia into a pink pegasus and Luna a light blue unicorn, both the size of regular ponies, with regular manes.
"There, was that so bad?" Alex asked.
"What about our cutie marks?"
"Starlight and Moonbeam, I don't think that'll be much of a problem. You love bringing sunshine and warmth to ponies hearts with jokes and tales, and you love bringing romance. The storyteller and matchmaker, come from out of town, looking to relax a bit before they continue on their way. That's believable right? I mean, as long as we don't run into Twilight, Applejack, or Pinkie pie. Then again, the odds of the first two being at a nightclub are nil, and Pinkie won't give it away. We'll be fine."
So the three teleported to the outskirts of town that evening and entered Club Po-neigh. A white unicorn with magenta eyes and a pair of violet shades perched on her brow was at the DJ station, playing some rave music. Luna looked like she was going to have a seizure from all the blinking lights, Celestia didn't know what to think, and Alex, dressed in dress pants and a loose, long sleeve shirt, pulled his own pair of shades over his eyes before giving the hidden pricesses pairs of their own. That made the lights much more bearable.
The party continued, nobody seeming to see through the disguises., that is, until Pinkie showed up.
"Oh my gosh Alex! Are these new ponies? They must be, because I know everypony in Ponyville because they're all my friends and I never forget a friends face and if they're new in Ponyville then they need a party!"
"Pinkie, I need to tell you a secret, you gotta promise not to tell anypony." She went through the motions of the Pinkie Pie swear before I told her.
"Starlight and Moonbeam are actually the princesses in disguise. They wanted to have some fun, well, more I'm forcing them to have fun. I figured you'd find out eventually, they're just here to party and have a good time, they don't want everyone bowing to them. You know, blend in with the crowd?"
"I got just the thing to get the grump out and make em party!" At which point the party pony pushed the royal pair onto the dance floor. They began moving awkwardly, not really sure.
"Loosen up will ya? It's been what, two thousand years since you cut loose? Have some fun!" Alex whispered.
"I don't think I know how, it has been a very long time......." Celestia tried to persuade.
"Well then, I don't have a choice then do I? This calls for extreme measures! Pinkie!"
The pink mare sped over, and after whispering something in her ear, she sped off to the DJ, who promptly stopped the music and began a familiar beat. Alex and Pinkie stood on stage, and after dragging them, so did the royal sisters. Alex began to sing, while Pinkie tried to force them to dance. He figured he might change the words a little, just for the heck of it.
"I came to dance dance dance dance,
I hit the floor cuz that's my plans plans plans plans,
I'm here with all my bestest friends friends friends friends,
Give me some space for both my hands hands hands hands
Cause it goes on and on and on,
And it goes on and on and on.... YEAH!
I throw my hooves up in the air sometimes
Gotta let go
I wanna celebrate and live my life!
Baby let's go!
Cause we gon' rock this club,
We gon' go all night,
We gon' light it up,
Like it's dynamite,
Cause I told you once
Now I told you twice
We gon' light it up
Like it's dynamite."
Celestia, who had been a little unsure at the beginning, found themselves moving more naturally. Whether it was the wink Alex gave them when he pulled down his shades, Pinkie's inexplicable magic, or a combination of both, the royal pair started to lose their solid form and have some fun. After all, tonight they were Starshine and Moonbeam, not the princesses. Nopony would ever know, they'd never have to worry about their image being tarnished just for having a little fun. Then the second verse began, and something happened that would surprise all of them.
"I came to move, move, move, move
Get out the way me and my crew, crew, crew, crew
I'm in the club so I'm gonna do, do, do, do
Just drop the phone, came here to do, do, do, do
Cause it goes on and on and on
And it goes on and on and on, YEAH!"
At which point Pinkie and Alex each grabbed one of the princesses, picked them up with the greatest of ease, and threw them into the crowd, who caught them and began having them crowd surf.
"I Throw my ponies in the air sometimes!
Look at that mare go!
I wanna forget all the pain and strife,
You're having fun, no?"
The song continued, with the royal sisters absolutely flabbergasted. They didn't know whether to be angry or thankful. They decided on the latter and just began laughing hysterically. Once the song ended, Alex and Pinkie joined the sisters outside the club, who were gasping for air from having laughed so hard.
"I haven't had that much fun in years! Not even the Gala could compare to that!" Celestia heaved.
"You.... are..... in.... big..... trouble..... for.... doing.... that......" Luna huffed.
"Why? Because I broke your shell?" At which point Alex gave Pinkie a high hoof, the smacking sound reverberating through the air and he clutched his hand.
"Right! Hands are soft, hooves are hard, ouch."
"You had fun right? That last bit, you went sailing through the air and were all 'whoosh!' And you were all like, 'What?' And then you started laughing and it was great!"
"Yes Pinkie Pie, I had fun."
After teleporting back to Canterlot, the two got rid of their disguises and much to their joy, their new mattresses had already been placed, which they immediately flopped down on exhausted.
"Have fun kidnapping the princesses?" Serenity walked out of the shadows.
"They needed to get out of their regular routine. They were in a rut and you know it." Alex replied.
"And you didn't invite me because..........."
"Um..... oops? As if they'd be able to relax being swarmed by guards. Sure, you might have let us get away with it, but Grizzy would insist that there was at least three divisions guarding the club alone."
"You took them CLUBBING?" She said in disbelief.
"And they had a wonderful time. No, we didn't drink anything, and nobody found out except Pinkie Pie, and she didn't blow it. Nobody will EVER know that the Princesses went out and partied like it was 1999." Alex replied.
"That's the year when all the good parties happened."
"Well, they might be tuckered out, but I'm still fine. Wanna go raid the kitchen? Flay and Ladle actually gave me a 24 hour pass so I can do whatever the heck I want in there." He asked.
"Is this a date?" Serenity asked in turn.
"I don't know, do you want it to be?"
"So Serenity, what kind of trouble can we get into in the kitchen?" She blushed as I realized what it must have sounded like I said. I blushed slightly as well before recovering the situation.
"Oh you, I mean what can we cook?"
"I don't know anything about cooking Alex, besides, you're the chef, remember?"
"Well then, how about a pizza?"
"Piz-zah?" She tilted her head to the side.
"Do NOT tell me that you don't have pizza here in Canterlot, they have it in Ponyville, that I know for sure."
"Okay, I won't say it......"
"What do ponies eat around here anyways?"
"Well, mostly hay, grass, flowers, and vegetables. There's some dairy.... stuff like peanuts......"
"Right....boring food, got it. Okay, pizza is a dish made by flattening dough, then adding tomato sauce, shredded cheese, and then your choice of topping. While the most popular ones on earth are made with meat, that's obviously not an option here, so we'll go with vegetarian options. You can top it with fruit or vegetables of any kind, although to make sure they don't dry out, it's better to add them when the cooking is partway done, so that they're just nicely soft by the time it's done. Add some herbs and spices, then throw it in the oven till the crust is nice and browned. It's absurdly easy to make, and you can't really go wrong unless you go overboard with the spices or burn it. Just wait here, I'll get the ingredients then show you how."
I came back with two bags of flour from storage, then took a load of vegetables from the fridge. Thankfully, they had tomato sauce, because it's a pain to make from scratch and takes forever. Washing hands and hooves both, I started by mixing the flour and water into dough, until I had a mass of it, then split it in two and passed half to Serenity.
"Now, just do as I do."
I started humming a little tune, and suddenly, music began to play. I was going to question it, but I chocked it up to magic and just focused on the task ahead of me. I spread the dough out, Serenity following my lead, then I began spinning it. Then to my surprise, we both began to sing.... in Italian. Which is fine and all, except that I don't even know Italian.
I started spinning the dough, tossing it up into the air. The unarmored night guard at my side tried to mimic, but comically threw hers too high. It almost hit the ceiling, and just as it was about to fall on her head, I salvaged it by catching it with my left hand and spun both before laying them on the marble counter top. She smirked at me, her yellow eyes and mane a stark contrast against her dark grey coat and black bat wings.
Still singing, with the music still playing from who knows where, I began spreading the cheese first. The cheese acts as a binder, which holds the pizza together. If you put tomato sauce first, as most do, it separates the cheese from the dough, and all your toppings slide off. Not too much trouble for a human, but potentially devastating for ponies who try to pick it up with their mouths. If the sauce comes second, the cheese is all the way through, melts nicer, and hods everything together. She followed my example, before we spread the tomato sauce as well, then sprinkled our own personal blends of herbs. Parmesan, oregano, parsley, and a pinch of cinnamon on mine, basil, bay leaf, and chives on hers. We tossed them in the oven for fifteen minutes, and the song promptly ended.
"So, um, Serenity, what just happened?"
"Oh, the music? There are musicians all over the place. All the time. For some reason or another, probably to make life more fun, whenever someone starts breaking into song, musicians assemble and play from hidden locations. It's part preparedness, and part of the magic of Equestria." She explained.
"So, you mean, there's just musician ponies all over the place, always carrying their instruments, and as soon as someone starts singing, they all just know to show up and what to start playing, which they do from behind the scenes so as not to interrupt whatever's going on?"
"Yep. I'm not sure when or how it started, but it was before I was born, at least. We all just got used to it in time, so much so that we don't think about it. Like how once it happens enough, you don't think when you tie your shoes." I gave her a quizzical look before exclaiming,
"But, ponies don't even have shoes!"
"It's best not to think about it, or you wind up crazy."
"Right. It's fun, who cares! Alright, so, now we take them out and add our toppings. We don't want the fruits and veggies to get all dried out, so we put them on with only five minutes left." I added banana and apple slices to mine, while she put cauliflower and broccoli to hers.
"Fruit pizza. I have to say it's different, but I felt like going out on a limb. Playing it safe with the veggies I see?"
"Pizza's new enough to me as it is, I don't want to go overboard." She stated.
"That's no fun."
"Well then you won't mind if I steal half of yours then...." She put a slice of my pizza on her plate, then a slice of hers on mine, so now we each had a slice of each. We put the rest in the fridge with a note,
For Celestia, Luna, Griswold, Flay, Ladle, Widget, Fiddle Stick, and Suds. Also, force guard recruit Blueblood to eat a slice of each, as my way of a peace offering. He's been working hard since I kicked his flank, so I'll cut him some slack. It's already cooked, so just heat it in the oven for a couple minutes till the cheese runs slightly, then serve.
Sincerely, the Food Fairy and Serenity.
Then the two of us went out into the gardens to eat, among the chatter of nocturnal animals who were rather interested as to what we were doing there. We began to eat, I have to say, they were pretty good. Apple, banana, and cinnamon combined with dough, cheese, and oregano was an.... interesting.... combination, but it was still pretty good. Serenity seemed to agree. A monkey tried to steal my piece but I snatched it away and finished it before it could. Her's was pretty good too, although, she went a little heavy on the chives, so we both ended up with a slight case of garlic breath. It was still good though, and after a session of intense teeth brushing, I headed off to bed while she, with a flick of her tail and a smile over her shoulder, went to start her duty of getting the only slightly improved night guard into shape.
Morning, and I was awoken the usual way with a knock on the door. Quickly getting dressed I headed out of my room. We didn't need to bother with the summoning any more, I had pretty well settled in, and unless the universe hated me, which I doubt considering I've got loads of friends and smile nonstop, as long as I stayed away from Stone Chip, I wouldn't have to worry about bricks coming loose and ruining my day. There was no danger, so we just forgot about it unless I was travelling to and from Ponyville.
"And a good morning to you all, how are you all on this lovely day?" I gave an exaggerated bow that made Celestia and Luna giggle. Griswold was trying to look stern, but the smirk on his face was evident when he ate a slice of my creation.
"Well, it looks like we were visited by the food fairy again. Do you remember what happened last time it showed up?" Ladle asked sternly.
"You ponies ate the best food you've had in ages?" I offered, cocking my head slightly with a grin. Flay drew a knife, and to my surprise, didn't throw it. No, she used it to cut her pizza like a proper lady.... mare. Everyone was doing the same.
"You know you can just pick it up and eat it right? It's not fancy food, it's just pizza." At that, a clatter of forks and knives as the slices were lifted by magic and hoof to their mouths. So much easier to eat. Even the princesses, who were starting to act a little less stuffy in public. Blueblood just sat there.
"What? Don't want it? That's too bad, the princesses seem to enjoy it, after all the work the night guard captain went into making it." After a glare from his commander, the temporarily non-prince picked up a slice and ate it cautiously. He chewed slowly, then swallowed.
"Well, it's a sight better than the gruel they feed us at the barracks." He remarked.
"From you, that's high praise. You ever want more, just ask. I had my fill last night."
"Speaking of which, what exactly did you do last night? I heard music." Luna asked.
"What, you don't sing while you cook? I'm sorry if I woke anyone, but I had no idea that your whole world had musicians running around ready to play theme songs for whatever you do." Celestia laughed.
"Yes.... that would explain it...... You're quite the singer." Luna complimented.
"Magic helped. I don't even know that language. Kind of nice, the way things have a way of just happening around here."
"You don't have that on earth?" Widget asked.
"No..... if we wanted to set something like that up, it would take DAYS of careful planning and practice to pull off. I mean, we can set it up to use music players instead of live musicians, but it never just 'happens'."
"Well, that must be boring." Celestia said.
"Yeah. Equestria is just so much more interesting than earth, so much more fun and light hearted. I wish my family could see it......................." Suddenly, I got that look. You know, when everyone just looks at you because you said something brilliant, but you don't know what it was. And then I figured it out.
"Fiddle Stick, do you still have my wallet, the one I let you examine at the institute?"
"Why yes, yes I do."
"Celestia, if you're not busy, would you mind coming with me and setting up another circle, I think I found a way to see my family again."
"So, your idea is?" Celestia asked me. I still hadn't told her the specifics.
"Simple, you got me by random, but the only way you can get something specific is by knowing what you're looking for. With this picture of my family from my wallet, you'll know what you're looking for, and can bring one of them here."
"All right, the circle is prepared, so, who should I bring?"
"Well, my sister is going to be busy with my niece, and my dad would freak out so...... my mother. She should be home right now. I just hope we don't get her when she's in the shower. Also, I think it would be best if I was the first one she saw, you know, lessen the shock."
"Very well Alex, so, her?" She motioned to the blonde, 44 year old, slightly plump woman.
"Yep. Alright, I hope this works."
Celestia, Luna, Fiddlestick, and I all held our breaths as the spell activated, the circle's lines and runes glowing brightly and the ponies vacating the area as my mother appeared.
"What the he.............. Alex?"
"Hi mom." I replied weakly. She dove at me and drew me in a hug.
"You've been gone for two months....... we gave up hope of ever seeing you again. You just, disappeared and......"
"Hey, it's okay. Now, there's something very important, you can't freak out okay?"
"Wait, where's here anyway? Where am I? How did you get here? I don't...." I grabbed her head in my hands and made her look in my eyes. She was crying with a mix of joy and confusion.
"Listen, calm yourself, I'll explain everything okay? But you have to listen. And no matter how strange or messed up this sounds, you have to know it's all true."
"So, this princess/goddess get's bored, uses magic to find a friend, and get's you.... then you get stuck here because you gave her a pack of skittles?" She asked incredulously.
"That's pretty much it, yeah. It's nobody's fault I got stuck here, it just, happened. They've been looking for a way to send me home nonstop."
"Well, I always said you shouldn't eat so much candy. Speaking of which, are you healthy?"
"Yes mom, I am well fed."
"Okay, so, you've been living here, helping them out, and they take care of you? Have you been eating well? They're nice, aren't they?" She asked, of course, motherly, worrying about me.
"Yes, they're all very nice, well, except for maybe one, but he's already getting an attitude adjustment. I've been eating fine. I got sick for a bit...... died for a day..... but I'm all better." I replied perkily.
"Died?!?!?" She started freaking out.
"Well, there's different diseases here, and before you worry, while you're like this, you can't catch them. But, yeah, I got really sick, my heart stopped beating, but, well, since there's magic here, they don't have tech to check for brainwaves, but yeah, it's fine, I'm all better, and I'm not a zombie."
"Well, that's good, we were so worried about you." She replied nervously, considering that I had died. "So? When do I get to meet them? Why haven't you introduced us yet?" She asked, thinking I was hiding them for some reason because she wouldn't approve. Oh mom......
"Well, there's one more thing you should know....... they're not human."
"They are not human."
"Then what are they?"
"Sentient, speech capable, sophisticated, magical....... ponies."
She sat there for a second, letting it process, she looked like she was going to laugh at the absurdity until Celestia came in.
"Oh........" Was all she could muster.
"Hello there, I am Princess Celestia and, I must apologize. I know you have been missing Alex terribly. He's spoken of you all nearly nonstop. He.... also missed you...." The alicorn replied with a bow and a tear in her eye, obviously regretful of what happened.
"Well.... I guess it's not so bad... I mean, he was going to go to college, so he wouldn't be near us anyway..... I mean..... thank you for your concern..... Princess......" My mom bowed.
"Please, call me Jean."
"Very well, Jean, you do not need to bow to me.... I am responsible for taking your son away from you. If anypony should apologize, it should be me." Celestia bowed.
"It's just, I'm so happy to see you again, but, how do I know this is real?" She asked.
"Well, you do have a camera phone. Take a picture of us."
"Of course! Hold on." So Celestia, my mother and I stood together while she took the picture, with the sun princess in the middle. I took a few of the two of them standing from far away, and she did the same, capturing Celestia's full glory on the camera."
"Oh, thank you so much. You may not be able to come home, but at least I can visit you. Oh! Here, let me give you a photo of your niece, she's grown up so much!"
"What? Did I, say something wrong?"
"Yes, remember, you can't give anything to us. We have to demand it from you, you can't offer, or else you'll be stuck here too. Also, don't tell anyone else, just, tell the family to meet in the living room before 9:00 pm, and on the dot, we'll bring the whole lot of you here, just so you all know you're not crazy. It'll be other ponies bringing you this time, so, just, prepare them for a shock okay?"
She nodded, and with that, Celestia sent her home. I breathed a sigh of relief, then walked out, exhausted.
"Are you alright?" Celestia asked, concerned about me.
"Yeah, I guess I'm just feeling drained is all. I mean, I haven't seen them in two months, and now, all the emotions and stuff, I'm a little worn out. It's a good thing today's my day off. I think I'll go to the spa in Ponyville today, get myself cleaned up and relaxed for tonight. She took it rather well I think, I just hope the rest of them handle it like she did."
After a refreshing spa visit, in which no bones were broken, (I told them to give me Fluttershy's treatment, so much better) I returned to Canterlot and read through the summoning book. As it turns out, there is absolutely NO problem with giving your summon something, only in receiving something from them do they become unbound. So basically, summons are the opposite of house elves. I went upstairs to await my family. Mom was already there, waiting with me in the hall for the rest of the family. I heard my dad's voice.
"Jean? Jean? Where are you?"
"Out here Robert!" She called, the door slammed open, and you should have seen the look on his face when he saw me standing there too.
"Hey pops, what's up?" A smile while leaning against the wall.
"Is that you Alex?"
"Nope, a burlger." My traditional mock greeting, usually when I come home after dark. More hugs followed.
"What the he..."
"Hey dad, don't swear, Alice is here too." My niece, confused, but not crying, being carried by my sister, Candace, quite scared.
"Hey sis. Well, looks like the whole fam damily is here. Why don't you head on in and get yourselves comfortable, while I explain what's been going on."
Another hour explanation and questions later, all the while Celestia, Fiddlestick, and a number of other unicorns from the magic department who had been called in to bring them here, as well as Serenity from the night guard, were listening, my family finally just sat to let it all soak in.
"So, son, do you have a....... girlfriend?" Dad asked. The question almost made me spit out my tea in shock before I composed myself, swallowed it down hard, then replied.
"Marefriend. Well, no, although there are a certain couple ponies I have my eyes on at this point, but, nothing's been set so far. As this is a matriarchal society, I'm going to let them make the first move." Both Serenity and Celestia started looking around.
"Well, I mean, I'm not really against it.... I mean, we were never against you having a foreign girlfriend, although this is a little..... extreme......" Mom answered.
"I mean, they're ponies, okay, I mean, yeah, they're nice, and, on the inside they're really no different than we are, well, maybe a bit better even but, wouldn't it bother you? You know, not being able to have kids?" Candace asked.
"Whoa! Geez! Not that far yet. Not even CLOSE to being near that. As for that, well, we'll cross that bridge when we get there."
"But, don't you think it would be kind of, you know, weird?"
"There's nothing about this situation that ISN'T weird."
"Ponies!" Alice squealed with delight as she hugged Serenity. Two year olds are adorable aren't they? When they're not being hellions that is. Everyone d'awwed.
"Well, Alice seems to like ya, so, I guess there's nothing wrong with it." My sister finally relented.
"Yep, Alex, just, remember to invite us to the wedding." Serenity and Celestia's turn to choke on their tea.
"Seriously Dad? Your jokes are putting them off."
"I'm not joking. If you really are stuck here, well, then, it goes to say that eventually you'll want to settle down and start a family, maybe adopt a..... foal"
"Dad, I'm 19, I still have plenty of time ahead of me. While I may be working here in the castle which provides room and board as well as some spending money, I'd have to get a house first."
"Unless you move in with the lucky... mare." Candace stated. "After all, this is a female prominent society."
"True enough, although considering that I already live in the castle, I'm pretty sure whoever it is would want to move in with me, unless it's a guard or one of the princesses. I've got a pretty lavish lifestyle just for cooking, cleaning, and making sure Widget doesn't make something that destroys the castle." Everyone laughed.
"Yeah, we always said you'd be the perfect stay at home husband." Mom joked. Everyone laughed again.
"Well, it's night now, Alice fell asleep in Serenity's wings, you all should probably get going home."
"Yeah, work tomorrow." Dad replied.
"Same." Mom answered.
"Work for me and preschool for her." Candace stated. It was almost 11:00 pm now, and so the unicorns all prepared to undo their spells and send them home.
"So, I have every Saturday off, maybe every other week we could have a get together?" Celestia nodded, as did my family, and they were sent home, and all but the sun princess and night guard cleared out.
"Alex..... you're crying...." Serenity said, looking worried.
"I've never been so happy in all my life. I got to see my family again, and will see them again more often, I have ponies I care about, good friends, a stable job, what more can a guy ask for?"
"How about a marefriend?" She replied. Celestia scowled. I was just stunned.
"I mean, you were dropping hints all over the place. Either a princess or a guard, they have to ask you first. Since I'm pretty sure you've got no shot with Princess Celestia or Princess Luna, I take it you were asking me out?" The bat winged pegasus asked. Celestia cleared her throat and awaited my answer intently.
"Um...... I.... um....... uh?"
"Well.... um.... the thing is..... I like you.... and.... well......, I...."
"You like both of us." Celestia replied. I couldn't say anything, so I just nodded.
"Well, I am sorry to disappoint Alex, but, unfortunately, I am not interested in a relationship. No doubt that you are a very kind individual, and any mare would be lucky to have you but, I'm afraid that it isn't me." The alicorn stated sadly. I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding.
"I understand. You have your royal duties, and several other factors that just makes a relationship impossible for you right now. I guess it would be alright for me to start dating, finding out who I like, and see if it develops further than that. We wouldn't be marefriend and boyfriend yet Serenity, we'd just be, dating, figuring out if we want to continue the relationship before diving into it. Taking things slow. That okay with you?"
"Yep! That way, if it doesn't work out, neither of us gets heartbroken and we can stay friends." She gave me a quick nuzzle.
"I'm glad you understand Alex. This could have been a lot more complicated and awkward, but thankfully it wasn't. Now, I'm off to bed. It's late, and I'd like to get a good night's sleep." The sun princess left and headed to her room.
"Well then Serenity, I've got a few more hours before I'm going to bed, since I slept a bit in the sauna at the spa, so, what do you wanna do?"
"Is this our first date as a not-yet-couple?"
"You could say that."
"Well, since my guards are still terrible, how about I hide, and you direct them to try and find me? I happen to love that game."
"Sounds good to me. Bring em to the courtyard and we'll get started."
"What am I afraid of? How I'll be seen by the public? Am I ashamed of him? Am I shy? He's fun, he talks to me instead of grovelling, he's interesting, and he makes me do things I never would have done before, and enjoy immensely. Is it because I'm an immortal, and I know he'll die long before I do, so I'll be alone again? Or is it because I know if we find a way to send him home, he'll take it? Either way, it seems I'm destined to always be alone in the end."
"Oh auntie! I'm home!" The singsong voice rang throughout the castle. Most of the castle staff came to see what the commotion was. I looked from a railing overlooking the foyer, where I saw a pony, lighter and softer pink than Pinkie Pie, same size as Luna, both wings and horn.
"Cadence! I'm so glad you've returned!" Celestia smiled as she walked in from the hall. They greeted each other with a quick nuzzle.
"Well? How did it go?"
"It went great. Once I got the diamond dogs and basilisks to stop bickering, they were able to see eye to eye and resolve the border dispute peacefully." The pink alicorn responded.
"A good thing too, with tensions building like that, they were on the verge of war." A unicorn in fancy regalia walked in.
"Shining!" She called.
Shining armor. The captain of the Canterlot guard. I've never met him before, but I've heard about him a fair bit from Griswold during our training sessions. Griswold is the commander of the castle guard, Shining armor is the captain of the entire Canterlot guard, meaning he's Griswold and Serenity's superior. Oddly enough, he didn't know about me. As for me....
Well, these past couple months, I've been helping the guard more. Getting them in shape, and getting pretty good looking myself, good muscle tone, more agile. I knew about the wedding, and the guards had to be in top shape, and since I'm pretty unique, I give the best training they can get.
I've been moved out of my other duties, besides cooking, in order to help them prepare nearly full time. Oddly enough, I've actually gotten to know Blueblood, and he's shaping up to be a fine guard. I don't know what it was, but for some reason, he was xenophobic. He was terrified of non ponies, and his uptight personality made him absolutely harsh to them. So, here I come, a non pony, living in his house, hanging out with his aunts, and they like me better than him. No wonder he was an ass. But, he apologized, and is going through some psychological treatment with a shrink to discover his underlying issue. Funny what being through boot camp does to you.
Family visits are still on the bi weekly schedule. They're glad to see me. I'm glad to see them. It makes the whole 'stranded in another reality' thing bearable. The look on their faces when they came back the first time, priceless. When they suddenly realized that it wasn't just a dream, and that I was living in a land full of magical talking ponies, in the castle of the princess no less. Well, they began doubting their sanity, and decided against telling anyone else. Wouldn't want to end up in a mental clinic. Well, unfortunately, the wedding is on a working weekend, and they used up all their emergency days. Can't call in and say you're going to an interdimensional wedding. Heck, I might not even go. All depends on how well things turn out. Despite my popularity in the castle, Canterlot and Equestria as a whole don't know about me, and this is going to have national coverage. I'd hate for their wedding to be remembered as 'The day we discovered we are not alone in the universe.' That would just suck. So, I'm laying low. If they decide to invite me, I'll show up, but I'm not betting on it.
Serenity and I are actually dating now. Made it official last month. We like each other. She's fun, although lately she seems stressed out. Probably just from the wedding closing in, kicking into overtime trying to get everypony ready. I still get chills whenever I'm near her. Kind of a funny feeling. I just want to be around her, all the time. I've only ever had an on-again-off-again girlfriend, so I don't really know what love feels like. Is this it? I'm not really sure.
Back to the present, I decided to leave the two lovebirds to themselves, have Celestia introduce us later. Time for bed, I've got kitchen duty tomorrow.
"Time to cook.... hmm.... what should it be today....... breakfast, omelette with.... alfalfa, some chedder cheese mixed in, bit of chives........ and a drop of rainbow for some kick." Yep, spicy rainbow. Turns out, it works really good as spice, if used in tiny amounts. A single half teaspoon is enough to flavour an entire pot of stew. Of course, I've made this dish before, and everyone seems to like it pretty well. It's a good breakfast. Except that Cadence and Shining Armor are going to be eating it too. I figured this might be a good time to introduce myself, so I had a little something set up the night before with some of the ponies in the castle. Nothing spells trust like 'I made the food you just ate, if I was dangerous, you'd be dead from the poison already', followed by a performance.
"I've missed you so much my love."
"As have I. The time we spent apart has only deepened my longing."
"Well, soon we'll have the rest of our lives together, first, we need to eat." I spied out of the circular window in the kitchen door, they look so happy together. I had my chef's hat and apron on, wearing a black shirt and black bell bottoms with three horizontal stripes below the knees, finishing the look with pristine white sneakers, which Celestia had ordered her to bring. (She would have done it anyway, but, you know, rules of summoning.)
"That was fantastic! I've never tasted something like this before. I must meet the chef!" The pink alicorn proclaimed.
"Well, that's my cue. Hit it Vinyl." The DJ plugged my phone into her sound board. A long time ago, had mom get it and bring it to me, and then I had Celestia order her to give it to me so she could still go home. I liked having my music, and with musicians always hiding behind the scenes, it made things a lot more fun, and several things possible, which had not been beforehand.
I waited about a minute before I burst through the kitchen double doors into the eatery, where only the princesses, Shining armor, and a few guards were, right as the beats dropped. And then, I began to shuffle. Hardstyle. Wearing a chef's hat and apron.
Well, there were mixed looks. Celestia and Luna looked amused, always finding humor in my antics. Cadence looked giddy at having a performance, and Shining looked confused beyond all else as to who I am, what I am, why I'm wearing chef's gear, and why I'm dancing to rave music in the private dining hall, adjacent to the main one. Flay and Ladle joined me in the dance, roughly copying my moves in their quadruped version, also wearing chef hats and aprons, while the other cooks and waiters came out wearing aprons only. Shining looked to the castle guards, only to find them snickering to themselves, telling him they knew this was coming, some kind of elaborate prank on their superior officer. We were coordinated. We were stylish. We had fun. The song came to an end, and the ponies did the pony bow, while I did a long sweeping one, putting my left leg behind my right and bringing my head low. I looked up to see the three princesses clapping their hooves, Cadence more excitedly than the other two, while Armor was looking incredulously, not sure what to believe.
"Ah, Cadence, Armor, I'd like you to meet Alex." Celestia giggled to herself. "He's been here with us for a few months, shorty after you left in fact. He's been working out many of the kinks in the castle's operation with his.... unique.... insights."
I raised my eyebrow, brought my open palms in front of me, and shrugged.
"I'm nothing special. Well, back home anyway. This entire place is amazing, I'm the average one. Grass is greener on the other side of the fence I guess. Pleasure to meet you. And congratulations as well. I believe you two are getting married?"
"How'd you find that out?" Armor asked questioningly.
"Well, other than the princesses telling me, I've been the one working so hard to get the castle guards in shape. Eventually I was going to find out why."
"Ah, so you're the one all the guards talk about in hushed whispers. Some well kept secret, word of it not supposed to leave the castle. The one who put Blueblood into therapy? I have to say, I'm impressed. He doesn't like anypony, but you managed to get through that thick skull of his. Never did like the stubborn brat." Cadence elbowed him.
"I mean, he's been getting a lot better lately." He corrected himself.
"So, how'd you like the food?" I asked.
"You made this?" Cadence tilted her head.
"Yes, I did. I'm quite a talented cook. I've learned a lot about Equestrian cuisine while I've been here, and taught them a fair bit too. We serve some of the best in the city."
"Well, it was amazing. I liked the added spice, it was, unique. What was it?"
"Can't tell ya, secret ingredient. By the way, it's not liquid rainbow." And I made an awful poker face. She laughed.
"Oh! I almost forgot. I gotta go. It's Serenity's day off, and we've got a date. Sorry to cook and run, but I gotta go."
I waited in the garden outside the castle for my marefriend, excited to be able to spend what little free time I had with her. Except, to my dismay, she didn't show up. I waited a whole hour and a half after the appointed time, and she still didn't come.
"Probably got pulled on duty on her day off, after all, her guards need the most work, and now there's three princesses to protect, and the wedding is closing in. I'll see if I can find her.... tomorrow."
And then I went back inside to continue my duties.
It's been two days since I last saw Serenity, so you can understand my surprise when she suddenly turned up again.
"Serenity! There you are. I've been so worried! You didn't show up for our date, or your shift yesterday. I thought something might have happened to you." She ran to me and gave me a quick nuzzle.
'There's that chill again.'
"Alex, I'm so sorry. It's just, something came up. There was a family emergency, and I had to hurry, right away. I couldn't leave my mom's side for even a second. I didn't even have time to talk to anyone."
"Things are alright now though, right?" I asked, worried.
"Yes. They're alright. Better than alright. Things were pretty touch and go, but everything's fine now." I wrapped my arms around her, and gave her a big hug.
"That's good. I was worried, but I can understand. When things happen with family, you want to do everything you can for them, and it makes you a little crazy... like when I figured out how to bring my family here. I worked on nothing but for three days. Celestia still had her duties, so it was up to me to draw the circles with such accuracy. You know, hands and all."
"I'm just glad things are okay. In fact, my family's coming to live in Canterlot, to be closer to the doctor, so I'll get to see them more often now." She sighed happily.
"Well, that's good, although I'm still a little upset that you didn't tell me anything. I mean, I AM your 'coltfriend'." I put my hands on her hips and looked at her sternly.
"I know, I really should have found you first. Can I ever make it up to you?" She pouted, asking for forgiveness.
"Sure, just let me meet them, and make sure they don't buck me through a wall when they do." I snickered.
"Done. Things are still really tense but, I'm at least able to get back to my job without worry. How's Thursday sound? That should give enough time for things to settle down." She gave me a joyful smile.
"Thursday is good. I've been working so hard lately, I get an extra day off now and then. Four whole days to get ready to meet your parents? Either they're really something special, or I'm gonna have a lot of trouble when we finally do meet."
"You have no idea. Oh, but don't worry. In the time I spent with them over the past two days, I made sure to tell them all about you." She replied without hesitation.
"You mean, they know about me being.... not a pony, and they're okay with it?"
"Yep, they're totally okay. They don't care about species differences. I mean hay, my sister isn't a pony either." I tilted my head in confusion at this statement.
"Adoption?" I had heard about the other species. Cows, sheep, donkeys, griffins and whatnot.
"Eeh, it's complicated. It would be easier for them to explain it They're really good at it, where as when I try to tell it, I just end up tongue tied."
"I see..." I find this a little weird, considering they know all about me, and I know nothing of them. I only have to put up with that for four days though, so I don't really mind. I'm just glad to get to meet them. It also explains why I never heard her talk about her family before, if she's got some complex family system that's too confusing to explain without them actually there to reference. Either that, or, since she's got bat wings, they're some kind of vampire family. Probably not. She hasn't tried biting me yet, so I think I can safely take that off the table.
"Well, now that that's dealt with, I suppose we better both get back to our jobs, while we still have them."
"Yeah, and I have to explain to Luna why I ditched guard duty for the past two days. This should be fun. I hope she doesn't use 'the voice'. I'd very much like my ears intact."
"Yeah, it would suck if I couldn't scratch you behind your ear that way you like." I teased as I did just that, causing her back right leg to kick out like when you scratch a dog.
"H-h-hey! That's not fair!"
"Yeah yeah, but who ever said I play fair?" I reply playfully.
"Oh? Then what if I do..... THIS!" She buried her face in my side, my extremely ticklish side, causing me to double over in laughter. She kept it up despite my pleas, until I finally caved.
"Alright! Alright! You win!" She finally let me get up.
"Whew. Okay. Seriously though, go to work you little scamp. I've gotta go play adviser to Celestia. She's having trouble with a political problem that resembles something on earth, and I'm supposed to talk to her about it. See you Thursday?" I ask trying to catch my breath.
I was okay'd to leave the castle today. Basically, since the out of castle guard know about me, that means word about me has already left the castle, and there's really no stopping it now. Ponyville already knows about me, and as it turns out, word happened to spread from there by means of tourists and a particularly ditzy pegasus who gets around a lot. So, while it's mostly rumor, ponies do know about me. They just don't know that they know, it's speculation, although a widely accepted one. There's a strange creature that lives in Canterlot Castle, is friends with the princesses, is fun, and above all will not try to eat you. Means I'll be able to get out a bit. Not that I don't mind, but being stuck in the castle and Ponyville can get a little boring. That privilege will be especially useful when it comes to meeting Serenity's family. The guards will be looking out for me, making sure I don't run into anymore xenophobic ponies with a chip on their shoulder and influence. Don't need a Blueblood repeat. The fact that I'm hanging out with the guard should be enough. Time to go find out what Celestia needs.
"It's horrible!" I heard the royal pony's cries coming from within her room. She had a habit of talking to herself when she was thinking too hard about something.
"Um, Celestia, am I intruding?"
"Oh, no Alex not at all." She quickly tried to compose herself. "Thank you for coming. I have a problem I hope you can help me with."
"Anything at all. Just name it."
"Well, this!" She held a newspaper in front of me, the front page of which had a picture of her devouring a mountain of cake with a guilty look on her face, headline reading, 'Celestia, just like us?' Uh oh. Tabloids. She hid her face in her hooves with shame.
"Aaaannnd? You've been in the newspaper before."
"Yes, but never gossip columns. This is extremely personal. Just look at that photo! Everypony is going to think I'm a glutton!" I walked up beside the distraught ruler and put my arm over her back, just before her wings.
"Hmm, that's not what the column says. 'Just like us?' Well, that certainly doesn't sound like glutton. In fact, if that's what they were insinuating, then they'd be insulting themselves. Actually, if you were a glutton, then the phrase would suddenly become a term of endearment, or perhaps a compliment. It's a largely unknown paper. Not many are going to see it, and it's gossip. Doesn't make it true. Besides, this is a good thing." I comforted the alicorn with sound reasoning. She blushed at my blatant flattery, and then cocked her head to one side in confusion.
"I don't understand...."
"Well, the whole reason you've been feeling so lonely is because everypony acted too much like a subject around you to get to know you and be friends, sure this ruins your image, but only the bad part of it. By appearing 'Just like us' it closes the gap between yourself and the ponies you lead. Oh, you like cake? So do we. Oh, you like going to parties? So do we! If anything, this will make you more approachable, while at the same time not losing any of your dignity. You should go to some public events that don't actually require you to be there."
"Well, there is the national dessert competition coming up. I'm not really needed there, and I do love cake...."
"See? That's perfect! You'll get to do something fun that has nothing to do with boring royal duties, be able to get closer to some other ponies, have some cake, and take your mind off things. It's just what you need." Celestia perked up at this.
"Oh, I guess I've been a silly filly haven't I? Gotten all worked up over nothing I suppose. A thousand years ago, there was a massive inquiry into why I had banished Nightmare Moon, and it was a media debacle. Since then, I've always been a bit apprehensive about appearing in the media, and haven't had any insight into my private life in decades. Every time there was.... well, they always had less than pleasant things to say. Thirty years ago some madmares thought I was a tyrant, and fifty years ago some others were convinced I was some sort of sexual deviant, using my position to molest my guards. Of course, none of it was true, but the name 'Molestia' stuck for five years before I could finally get the paper to make a retraction and official apology. I had to threaten to shut them down for slander before they'd do it."
"Ouch. That's harsh. I guess everypony wants a piece of the princess then eh? That's gotta suck. I can see why you'd freak out finding your name in something like this. Unpleasant memories. You wouldn't want to go through another nightmare like that. I don't think you have to worry about that with this though. This is a school paper, run by..... Ponyville Elementary? I don't think there'd be such accusations in a newspaper made by kids. And if there were, then those are some seriously messed up kids." Celestia wrapped her wings around me, and I, my arms around her. She put her neck over my shoulder, something she didn't need to lean down to do, since I was almost as tall as she was.
"Thanks Alex. You always know what to say. You're a good friend."
"Ready to go Alex?" Serenity asked.
"Do you think the tie is too much? I want to make a good impression, but I don't want to come across as all 'formal', but on the other hand, I don't want to be seen as a slob and...." She put her hoof in my mouth.
"It's fine. Forget the tie. Remember, clothing at all is formal, seeing as how nopony wears them to begin with." She reassured me.
"Heh, right. Well, I guess I'm ready then. Shall we go?"
"Let's." With a smirk and a swish of her tail, we headed out of the castle, into Canterlot proper, me wearing black dress pants and a red pinstripe, long sleeve shirt with collar, and she in had her mane done up. I had told Celestia that I would be spending some time there, possibly overnight, but would still meet her for our Saturday counsel session.
As Serenity lead me through the town to where her parents had moved in to, I received many stares from the ponies we passed. They weren't glares of spite, anger, fear, or jealousy. Just curiosity. They wanted to know who and what I was. A couple whispers, and some snickers, the kind that says 'She's with him? Scandalous!' But not mean, more like...... kind of hard to explain since I'm not a girl, but you know the one. We just ignored them for the most part, other than running into a group of Serenity's friends on the way to her house.
"Ooh, who's the stud?" A slightly underweight unicorn mare asked.
"So tall. And such a snappy dresser. You sure know how to pick em." A definitely underweight earth pony asked. Are all Serenity's friends on crash diets or something?
"This is Alex, surely you've heard the rumors of the 'creature' at the castle? Well, this is him. And yes, I am pretty lucky. He knows how to treat a mare a lot better than most stallions do."
"Is that so?" The raised their eyebrows suggestively. Serenity face-hoofed.
"NOT like that. We've only been going out a couple months. I'm bringing him to meet my parents today."
"Oh, well, we better not keep you then. See you around."
"Alex, you're awfully quiet."
"Just butterflies in my stomach. Except I didn't eat any, so I have no idea how they got there." She giggled at my joke, and she showed me to the house. It was in a poorer section of the capital, so it was a wee bit run down, but still in good shape.
"Well, here we are. It was a bit short notice, so it was hard to find something good within our budget. I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all."
"Oh, just one more thing, my family is a little bit different, and might try scaring you. Don't mind it, they like to 'test' their guests. Don't let them get to you. Just keep an open mind." My marefriend explained.
"It's not a 'haunted' house is it? I'm fine with ghosts, although I'll be a little nervous if I'm meeting a vampire, err, vampony."
"Oh, nothing of the sort. They're master illusionists. They might make it look like that, but, just remember there's nothing to be afraid of and you'll be fine." She smiled as she unlocked the door. "Come on in."
As I entered the house, I felt an unnatural chill, as though something was very VERY wrong with the ground on which I tread. Though, she warned me this would happen, and so, I squashed the feeling in my gut and pressed on into her dark abode. I didn't complain about the lack of light, seeing as how she's a bat winged pegasus, I assumed that has something to do with it.
"Hello? Come out come out wherever you are......." I called into the house with a creepy tone. Two can play this 'fright' game. Serenity just snickered and gently pushed me further inside, before entering herself and closing the door behind us.
"Okay, mom, seriously. Cut him some slack will you?" My escort called into the dark of the home.
"Oh, you just had to go an ruin my fun. Oh well." Called a voice from the dark. Well, it was one voice, but it sounded like several. I watched as a black mare the size of Cadence walked out of the shadows of the house. She had a mane like seaweed, holes in her hooves, tattered insect wings, a crooked horn jutting out of her head, and fangs. But that's not what caught me. No. It was the piercing green eyes.
"Uh.... hi?" I said nervously as I swallowed hard.
"My my, She was right, you certainly are different. Anypony would have run screaming by now."
"Well, I can certainly admit you're different, but then again, so am I. Where I'm from, we're taught to be accepting of others, regardless of what they look like."
And such a wonderful place it must be. But, I believe introductions are in order.
"I'm Alex. Nice to meet you....."
"Queen? I wasn't aware that Equestria had a queen."
"It doesn't. At least..... not yet." She replied with spite. Then those piercing green eyes flared, almost looking to have a flame within them, and I blacked out.
"Good morning sleepy head." My eyes opened, and I looked around to see dozens of black, hole hoofed, bug winged, blue eyed ponies. I tried to move, but my arms, legs, and torso were bound by a thick, green, sticky goop that several of the bug ponies were expanding by vomiting a similar substance onto it. The slime almost seemed alive, because instead of staying where they put it, it began slithering up to the top, slowly covering me. Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway, I screamed.
I screamed for about five minutes straight till I was out of breath. Hyperventilating, I finally regained my senses.
"Alright, seriously. You've had your fun. Quit the illusion already. Yes, you've scared me, you win!"
"Silly Alex, this is real. Everything else is the illusion. I have to admit, I'm surprised you woke up this early. Usually, the sleep spell lasts a whole day, but you were only out of it for two hours." I heard my marefriend's voice call out.
"Serenity! Where are you? Get me out of here! Serenity.... I'm scared...." Then, I saw something horrifying. Serenity, the bat winged mare, walked in front of me, and with a flash of green fire swirling around her, she became like the rest of the hundred chittering bugs that swarmed around me. Not exactly though. Her hooves were sharp points, she had four wings, antennae, and a stinger. She also had a translucent green mid section which had a faint glow. Then, she spoke in the same, multi-tone voice as her 'mother'.
There's no reason to be afraid. I told you, there's no danger. You'll be fine.
"W-w-what is this? Where am I? What are you? Tell me what's going on!"
"This, is the beginning of a stasis pod. We're in the basement, and I, my sisters, and mother, the queen, are changelings. And what's about to happen, is we're going to take over Equestria, starting with Canterlot."
"But, why? And, take over Equestria? That crazy!"
"As for crazy, that doesn't matter. As for why, it's simple. Love."
"We changelings feed on love. It's our nourishment. Equestria is a land of love, truly a buffet. We disguise as a pony, replace them, and drink up the love those who care about them give off. Well, until now that is."
"You saw those two mares from before. Didn't you see how scrawny they were? We're starving. The only reason I'm alright is you've been feeding me."
"You can sense that?" She seemed genuinely surprised. I take it not many can, else they'd found out pretty easily.
"In this world, magic is synonymous with emotion. We feed on magic, and so, the most powerful of emotions, love, is nurturing to us. That 'chill' was me draining you of your magic. Feeding."
"So then.... this entire time.... I was nothing but... but a.... meal to you?"
"Then, all the fun we had together, eating dinner under the moon light, singing, dancing, it was all meaningless?"
"Of course not. You did each of those things with such care for me, I have been full for quite some time now, and have been giving the spare love you gave me to the hive." The bug Serenity explained.
"You know what I mean."
"No, I do not."
"I mean, DO YOU LOVE ME? Was it all just an act, was I just a meal to you, or do you ACTUALLY care about me?" She laughed. The one who I trusted, who I gave my heart to, laughed at me. Not with me, at me. It was enough to make me cry.
"Ha ha, no. Changelings can't love. I've been leading you on this entire time."
"Then, why now? Why are you doing this? Couldn't you have just kept feeding on me? Left me blissfully ignorant, and let me at least THINK you cared?"
"Because, soon, we won't need to hide anymore. We will take Canterlot, and the rest of Equestria will follow. We will feed to our heart's content. I no longer need a pitiful little creature like you. You actually believed I loved you, that a pony could ever love an animal like you?" I began crying my eyes out now. Why would she do this? It doesn't make any sense.
"Fool, I am matron 47. Serenity was an identity I took fourteen years ago, a personality I made up in order to spy on the Equestrian royalty. You fell in love with an illusion!" She cackled. "All those times we played hide and seek in the castle, you never once found me, because I changed what I looked like! Oh, and your food, disgusting I can't believe you can eat that garbage."
"I....I....I...." I was blind from the tears coming from my eyes. I felt like my heart had been torn out and stomped on. I also felt the green slime working it's way up. It had covered my torso now, leaving the top of my chest, my neck, and my head, all that remained.
"Ha! This is precious! You know the truth, she never existed, and yet you still love her! You are wonderfully pathetic, loving somepony who isn't real. Which will make this so much sweeter." She approached, bearing her fangs.
"What are you..... going to do?"
"Feed. Once I'm done draining you of every last delicious drop of your love, you're going to be sealed in this stasis pod. It'll keep you alive so you can slowly have all your other emotions drained out. Once you're dry, you'll become one of us. A lowly drone, spending the rest of your worthless life gathering love from the newly enslaved ponies and feeding it to the hive." And then she jumped, dug into the slime around my trunk with her spiked hooves, and buried her fangs into my neck. I could see the clear section of her body slowly filling with a glowing blue fluid as she sealed her lips around the wound and drank it. I felt so cold. Never had I been in so much pain. Even when I realized I would never see my family again, that didn't compare to this. After about a minute, she pulled away, neon blue dripping from her lips. And she laughed.
"Well, it seems I'm full. Mother, would you like a taste? He's absolutely delicious." And then the queen bit me as well. Spots danced in my vision as the green goo finally closed over my head just as she pulled away, and I fell into sleep once again.
The next thing I knew, I was laying on the floor of my summoning room, Celestia looking at me with intense worry. I still had some of the goo on me.
"Alex? Gods, ALEX! What happened to you?!" She rushed to my side. Mustering what little strength I had, I passed her my communication stone, and with as much of a voice as I could bring forth, which amounted to a whisper, I spoke.
"Serenity, spy. Canterlot, danger. So cold........." And I slept once more.
"Hahahahaha.... Pathetic.......... Worthless........ Fool........... Pitiful.........."
"No, wait... please don't do this..... stop....." Fangs digging into my neck, my essence being drained away. So..... cold......
"Aaahhhhhh!" I jumped out of bed in a start, only for all the blood to rush away from my head, causing my vision to black out and making me lose my balance. I fell to the floor with a crash and lay there for a couple minutes, letting myself get over the sudden drop in blood pressure. I felt something on my face, as well as other, wiry things all over my body. I felt cold tile, and everything was blanch white. I hear a frantic beeping noise in the background.
"Oxygen mask?" I pull the breathing apparatus off, and start ripping the wires off my body. A rush of smell hits my nose, the scent of alcohol and sanitary. Hospital? Once I detach them, the heart monitor flat lines, and a warning alarm goes off, bringing a rush of doctors and nurses into the room.
"Alex! You really ought to be in bed, you need to...."
"No, gotta go........ find Celestia....... Serenity....."
"Okay, come on, this way.... calm down... back to bed...."
"NO!" The ponies backed away at my sudden outburst, then renewed their efforts in trying to calm me.
"Alex you need to get back into bed, you're not better yet you.."
"I NEED TO FIND CELESTIA!"
"You need to rest, we'll get her, just, get back in bed, you can't be up yet...." They tried guiding me back to bed, but I pushed them off, only to stumble and fall as I attempted to reach the door. I clawed at the ground, still very weak, trying to reach the door when none other than the sun princess herself made herself present in the opening. She picked me up in her magic, and brought the hospital gown clad me close. I wrapped my arms around her neck and cried into her mane as it billowed.
"Celestia, I.... she........." My eyes jumped open. "Serenity! She's a changeling! Canterlot is in....."
"Alex, I know...... it's alright....... the danger has passed."
"Alex, listen, you're still very weak, and you need to calm down or you'll pass out again. Everything is alright. Rest now. I'll come by after day court and tell you what happened, but for now.... rest....." I fell asleep in her embrace.
The next time I woke up, I didn't jump out of bed. The mask and wires had all been replaced, so this time around I used the call bell like I should have in the first place. It's astounding really, how behind the Equestrians are in some aspects of technology, yet they're probably more advanced in medicine and related tech than earth. After pushing it once, a nurse immediately sped to my room, and removed the messy tangle of wires going all over me at my request. She brought me some food, then left go go find Celestia. She returned with the sun princess, who had a look on her face that was a mixture between overwhelming relief and a sadness deeper than the deepest pit.
"Alex, it's good to see you up. You had us all so worried, and we've been so busy."
"Princess.... what happened?" She motioned to the others to leave so we could have some privacy, and they did so immediately.
"Now that our company is gone, there's no need for titles. I want you to feel at ease, because what I have to tell you will not be easy for you to take. Are you sure you want to hear it?"
"I.... need to know...."
"Very well. Three weeks ago, you vanished. We had thought that you were merely spending some time, getting to know Serenity's parents, until you missed the weekend visit with your parents. We started getting suspicious, so we checked Serenity's file. She had been here for a long time, and we all trusted her, given that she became the captain of my sister's guard. We looked into it, and her file says that she's an orphan. Now we know that to be false. I realized you might be in danger, so I summoned you immediately. I found you covered in that green..... ooze... and didn't recognize you right away. You passed me the stone to finalize the summoning, and told me she was a spy, and that Canterlot was in danger."
"I..... remember that." I answered sadly.
"Yes, and because of that, everypony went on high alert. We brought you to the castle medical wing for treatment, hoping you would wake up and give us more information. The wedding came and went, the changeling invasion with it. The queen impersonated the bride, Cadence. We repelled them. They failed, not before injuring me and putting me in one of those.... disgusting pods. They slowly drain you of your magic. I was fine,considering what I am... but you were not. You originally had no magic of your own, and only had a minimal amount due to your transfusion from Spike. The effects were..... far greater.... than we anticipated."
"You have been laying in this hospital bed for the past two weeks, unconscious and crying, calling out to both myself and Serenity. Watching you go through that.... as someone I care for, it breaks my heart. I was afraid you'd never wake up."
"She...... she.... bit me......"
"And...... she called me pathetic...... and......... and... she....... mocked me......."
"They are cruel beyond all measure.."
"And, she...... insulted my cooking........" The princess got a sudden look of absolute rage on her face.
"How DARE she! The food you make is on par with my personal chefs, and in many cases, even better! You can invade my kingdom, kidnap my friends, and put me in a goo pod but you do NOT insult my food!" She looked to me, then let out a snicker.
"Celestia........ I want to go....."
"Where?" She looked at me with almost pleading eyes, ready to bring me wherever I asked.
"Anywhere.. Just for a while..... get out of here..... just go somewhere else...."
"I know the perfect place."
Celestia helped me get dressed, then lifted me onto her back with magic and secured me there with a spell. I remember Serenity telling me that very few ponies would allow another to ride them, as it is considered insulting most often, and I had that confirmed as fact by Spike, as he rides Twilight around fairly often. For Celestia to place me on her back herself..... how important am I to her? She flapped her wings experimentally, then took off, ever so gently into the sky. Of course, not used to that, and never having ridden a horse before, I wrapped my arms around her neck in fright.
"Alex, you can't fall off, even if I go upside down." Thankfully, she didn't do that, just flapping her wings softly as she soared through the air and clouds, the cool mist being a pleasant sensation on my skin, but reminding me too much of the chill I felt when I was being fed on, making me shiver at the thought.
"Sorry, we're almost there." She apologized as she lowered out of the clouds. Looking down at the sunlit earth as the majestic orb sank in the sky, turning it a reddish hue, I could see rolling grassy fields, crisscrossing rivers, little settlements here and there, and several forested areas. Celestia banked and lost altitude, bringing us towards one in particular at the edge of Ponyville.
"The Everfree? As in the dark forest that everyone is afraid of, for good reason?"
"Not the forest itself..... a certain special place that, despite the state of disarray the surrounding area fell into after my sisters banishment, remained as it was in my youth."
We flew for a while longer until we landed in a clearing. In the center of the dark forest, near a set of ancient ruins, there was a glade still illuminated by the setting sun coming through the tree tops. It was abuzz with life, warm mists coming from a hot spring where fish swam and splashed, birds chirping, it was.... magical.
"Celestia... this is..."
"This is where Luna and I played as foals. I haven't been here in years, yet for some reason, the darkness of the forest never encroaches on it."
"It's beautiful......." I didn't say it with much emotion.
"I'm glad you like it. When I found you..... you were a wreck. I.... wanted to do something for you, but I didn't know what. Now that you're awake, I wanted to do something special for you. After all, because of your warning, we were prepared to fight the changelings, and prevented a lot of damage...... and after going through such an ordeal, I wanted to do something nice for you. You work hard in the castle, and you don't ask for much..... I just want you to know you're appreciated."
"Well...... thank you..... I feel strange though.... I should be bawling about Serenity, or happy that you're sharing this will me.... but I feel..... nothing? Apathy? I know it's beautiful but..... I can't find myself caring, even though you went through all the effort. I don't understand."
"Well, that would be a side effect. You were very close to being drained completely and becoming a changeling yourself, it's reasonable to assume you'd have trouble feeling positive emotions, or at the very least be confused about the feelings you are having. That should pass in time. When it does....... you might succumb to grief. Just know that whenever you need a shoulder to cry on, I'll be there. Oh, look, it's time."
Celestia's horn began to glow, and with it, the sun finally dropped below the horizon. The last light of day vanished, and was replaced by the pale glow of the moon filtering into the clearing through the trees. The soft light came down, and with it, hundreds of previously hidden Luna moths spread their wings, bathing the entire glade in a soft blue light. It was mystical, but I couldn't enjoy it, which would have made me sad, except that I can't feel that either right now. I felt fear of heights when we flew, as well as anger and frustration at needing to reach Celestia, but I couldn't feel happy, sad, or the warmth of companionship that I should have been getting from the princess. Instead, I merely lay there, my head against her side, and drifted off into sleep.
In a desert, late at night, the cool sands whipped up by a frigid wind, the ever shifting dunes were disturbed. A column of black chitin, worn away by the desert, creating green rashes and scars on the drastically emaciated changelings as they marched. When one fell, succumbing to the hunger and exhaustion, as well as the injuries caused by their defeat and the biting grit of the wastes, no tears were shed. They were just one of the swarm, and with their passing, they were now one with it. An odd changeling, one with wings like a dragonfly, spiked legs, and a bee like abdomen stood next to the queen at the head of the line.
"So. This is it then."
"Seems so. I have failed us. I have failed the swarm."
"I'm going back."
"Why did we have to become greedy? Why are we so full of hate? I had someone who loved me for who I was, even after the revelation, and I threw it in his face. I had never eaten so well in all my life, and now we're starved." A hoof smack was audible, even over the howling winds as Matron 47, formerly known as Serenity was stuck by her mother.
"We CANNOT go back. We would be killed on sight. What we have done is unforgivable, and none can love a changeling! We are parasites!"
"You're wrong. He did. Even after we knocked him out, insulted him, kidnapped him, and drained him of everything he held dear, he still loved me and would have accepted us."
"Pfft, then go. Be with your precious Alex. Go back to him and be spurned. Feel the sting of hate as he denies you, then die in agony."
"The swarm is dead mother, you lead them to ruin. We followed you, believed in you, and you brought us to disaster."
"I am the queen. You belong to me, and you follow my command! You cannot take a single step without me allowing it."
"What was that?"
"You are my queen no longer. If you want to wander around a desert and starve to death, fine, but I'm going and taking everyling who will come with me back to Equestria. We'll start a new swarm, and instead of impersonating ponies, we'll simply be who we are."
"You are a fool to think that they would accept changelings. No matter where we roam, we will always be hated."
"We were fools to follow YOU. The reason we're hated is because hate is all you have let us feel! The telepathic connection you hold with us denies us that sense of belonging to ensure our loyalty to you. I may not be a queen, but as a matron, I can sever the connections of myself and anyling else who wants it."
"Then go Matron 47, you are no longer part of this swarm." Her eyes were stern as she hissed in anger, and over half the voices in her mind suddenly went quiet.
"My NAME is Serenity, and your swarm is dead." The other half remained, and now free from the tyranny of Chrysalis, broke rank and turned back to the land of happiness from where they came.
"Alex..... I'm so sorry..... can you ever forgive me?"
"Heya Alex! I heard you could use some cheering up, so I made ya a remote control helicopter!" Widget said cheerily as she skipped into the room and passed me a remote control. "I know it's not much, but at least it should help get rid of the boredom while you get all your feelings back, and who knows? Maybe joy will be the first one!"
A very small smile appeared on my face. "Actually, it's gratitude. I'm thankful to have you, and Suds, and Celestia, and all my other friends. If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't be able to make it through this."
"Aww....." The mechanic pony was about to wrap me in a hug, but remembered to quickly wipe her hooves first before doing it, then left the room as the janitor mopped up behind her.
"Hey Alex, up for some work?"
"Yeah, I could use something to get my mind off things." I said as I grabbed a mop and bucket. "I'll play with my new toy later. For now, let's make this castle shine!"
"Heh, at least ya didn't lose your enthusiasm."
"What a nightmare....." Both Celestia and Luna were literally buried in paperwork. After the wedding, and the changeling attack, reports came flooding in from all over of changelings being located among the populace, everypony being terrified of being kidnapped and replaced, or losing their friends. Most of these fears were unfounded, but in times like these, you could never be too careful. And so, the princesses, which the whole country looked to, were completely swamped in reports, safety program proposals, and other papers.
"Well.... I'm bored." My day off. I had already spent some time playing around with Widget's helicopter, and had gone around trying to find something to do, maybe someone who needed help, but couldn't find any. The Princesses were busy, the kitchen staff were busy, and the tech center was working on a 'changeling detector'. Everyone else was working double time, and there was literally nothing for me to do.
"Hmm......." I found my way to Celestia's study, where ever her larger form was completely concealed by the wall of papers around her desk. "Celestia, you in here?"
"Oh, um, yes Alex, just.... little busy...."
"Oh, that's alright, I was just coming to tell you I'm headed to Ponyville for a bit."
"Alright. Have fun. Hopefully you'll be able to recover some of your emotions there. I'm certain Pinkie Pie could help you get your joy back."
"Alright. If you need me, you know how to call." I held up my communication stone. "Show me the library." The image of the inside of the tree house basement came into view, and with it, the unicorn working on... something. Some kind of machine?
"Alex. Feeling better?"
"Yeah. I was wonder, can you bring me over for a bit? I'm bored and I need some fresh air."
"Sure.... one second...." The world flashed, and next thing I knew, I was standing in front of Celestia's student.
"Do you have a place to stay?"
"I'll try and figure something out. If I can't, mind if I bunk here?"
"No problem at all."
"Yeah? Oh, hey. You're staying over? I'll go get the sleeping bag." The dragon said after barely poking his head through the door. I guess he's been living with Twilight so long, all she has to do is call for him, and he'll already know what to do without explanation. "There, all set up."
"Thanks Spike." I tossed him a sapphire, which he grabbed and began crunching on.
"So.... what are you up to today?"
"Well, Rarity is running out of gems for her dresses, so, I'm going to go gem hunting with her."
"Mind if I tag along? I'm bored out of my mind, and I could use another guy to talk to. Suds is alright, but he mostly just talks about cleaning..... and complains about Widget."
"I know that feeling. Big Mac doesn't talk much, Snips and Snails aren't the most........ intellectual, and sometimes you just need another dude to chat with. Mares are great but...."
"Yeah. I figure we can chat while we work. I'll go grab a shovel."
"Alex... I'm glad to see you out of bed, out and about. That whole business with Serenity was absolutely dreadful, you poor dear."
"I.... I'm alright." I lied. I didn't want Rarity to go on and pity me. I'd gotten enough of THAT sentiment during my physical recovery, I don't need any more during my emotional one.
"So..... why are you here?" She asked. I held up my shovel.
"You and Spike were going gem hunting, and I had nothing better to do, so I figured I'd tag along."
"Well... that's a very sweet gesture, but I have plenty of gems..... and I didn't plan to go gem hunting with Spike till next month."
"Rarity.... you asked me last Thursday to come with you today. Out at the market place?"
"But... I always do my grocery shopping Wednesday. Thursday is a sewing day, and Tuesday is my planning day. Sunday I get the orders, Monday I brainstorm, Tuesday I plan, Wednesday I get the supplies, Thursday and Friday I sew, and Saturday I deliver."
"You said that you were out of corn because Sweetie Belle tried to cook and burned it."
"I haven't let Sweetie Belle cook since she burned the orange juice."
"I.... I think I know what's going on."
"Alex? Do you have an idea of how this happened?"
"I do..... but first I need to test something." At which point, I walked right up to Rarity, and gave her a great hug. It lasted several moments before I broke away.
"Well.... that was very nice.... but I don't understand...."
"Okay..... explanation.... I don't have very much magic, and I learned that when a changeling is feeding off me, I get this.... chill. So, I gave you some tenderness and care. Didn't feel anything but warm and fuzzy. Had to make sure you were really you. I think there's a changeling impersonating you. I'm not sure what their goals are, but they may have been after Spike. Replace you, get Spike, and with him, Twilight's connection to Celestia, then replace Spike, get close to Twilight, replace her, and so on and so forth."
"But, at Canterlot, we drove them out."
"Which is all the more reason for this. Their main assault failed, so they're doing a retaliatory strike. Celebrating the victory, defending your home, defeating your enemies. Your guard is down. Or, you're paranoid and start thinking everyone is a changeling, so you start looking in all the wrong places, and they slip in, unnoticed. They failed the first time, so they're trying again with a different approach. I might be wrong......"
"But we don't want to take that chance. So.... there may or may not be a changeling in Ponyville, and you're some sort of.... changeling detector? But how will you get through the town?"
"Simple. Changelings feed on love. That's kindness and care, romance, everything. I need to attract those who need care, and I know the perfect way to do it. You just continue on the way you were before. Don't worry about anything, don't act differently, and don't tell anyone or it'll blow our cover."
"Alright..... but still, what are you planning?"
Out in the center of the Ponyville market place, I stood next to Spike behind a sign planted in the ground, on which was written in big bold letters, FREE HUGS!!!
"Welp, this sucks."
"Yup." Spike agreed. We spent most of the afternoon out there, and nobody even gave us a second glance.
"I wonder why it didn't work?"
"Dunno. Guess nopony was in the mood for a hug." I pondered glumly.
"Well, it wasn't so bad. Just sitting outside all day in the sun, drinking lemonade and eating ice cream." Spike snickered while gobbling his scoop.
"May as well call it a day then." I sighed. "I think I'll go to Sugercube Corner, want anything?"
"Sure do, but, Twilight'll get mad if I eat too many sweets again, because she'll have to take care of my sore stomach, so, I better not."
I entered the bakery, and the moment I did, I found myself face to upside down face with Pinkie. She was somehow standing on the door that I just opened. I don't get it.
"Hey Alex, you're looking kinda glum." Next thing, she was behind the counter, wiping the same spot over and over with a rag. "Wanna talk about it over a milkshake?"
"Bartender, listening to the woes of the weary traveler? Good one. Sure, gimme a vanilla please." She went to work getting my drink, while I hummed patiently, waiting for her to return. After taking a couple sips, I began.
"Well, this morning, We visited Rarity. Spike said we were going to go out gem hunting, because Rarity asked him to, but when we met Rarity, she said she said no such thing, and she wasn't available today anyways, because she has a very particular schedule. So, me and Spike got to thinking that maybe it was a changeling in disguise, so, we set about trying to catch it. Best way I figured was to give ponies hugs, and see if I felt cold, but nopony wanted one. I'm fun and huggable right? Aren't I? Now, I feel like I could use a hug."
"Aww, silly filly, that's what Pinkie's here for!" So she snuggled up and put her head under my hand, letting me pet and scratch her ear.
"Aww yeah. That's the spot." Hilariously, the pink pony started kicking her back leg like a dog.
"Alright, thanks. I think it's about time I got back to Canterlot."
"Busy day Princess?" I asked.
"You wouldn't know the half of it. I literally spent ALL day just putting my stamp on things. Normally the council comes up with ideas, they go through a dozen rounds of voting, making changes, before it finally gets sent to me, and I staple, stamp, and sort. I trust the council on decisions like this, so I start thinking I could just put my stamp on all of them and be done with it, but I have to read them so I know what new laws and such are being made. At least I only have to do it once a month, and I've gotten it out of the way." Celestia let out a deep breath. "And how was your day?"
"Could have been better. Talked to Rarity, found out she had apparently said a bunch of things she didn't, which just screams changeling, tried to find them by giving out free hugs, nopony wanted one. Kinda depressing, but I guess everypony was busy today. So, Pinkie helped cheer me up, aaand, I may have learnt something interesting."
"Oh?" She raised an eyebrow. I began scratching behind her ear. She closed her eyes and let out a soft moan of relaxation. "Oh, that is nice. It's one spot that, unless you can levitate objects, is pretty much impossible to get, even with help. Perhaps you should offer ear scratches next time?" She giggled.
"Hmm, yeah, maybe. Thanks. You always know just what to do. And I think I figured something else out as well. The reason I like you so much, I think it's more of a, motherly love. I mean, you're pretty much a parent to the entire nation, if you think about it.
"Hmm, yes, I suppose I am."
"Well, good night. See you in the morning."
"Good night Alex."
Motherly? Is that why I can't find anypony to call my own? They all think of me as a parent?