Twilight Sparkle stepped towards the audience chamber of Princess Celestia. Even with all the time she had spent in Ponyville the grand halls of the Canterlot Palace set her at ease, it was as much her home as the Ponyville library had become. This was all fine and well in Twilight’s mind, but paranoia still nagged at the back of her mind like Angel Bunny demanding attention from Fluttershy.
The circumstances of Twilight’s visit offered no clue as to the suddenness of Celestia’s summons. Even after the Smartypants incident, Twilight had managed to discover a new lesson on friendship roughly every week. She had sent her last report four days prior, so the Princess could hardly have felt that she had been slacking. The contents of the report was fairly mundane, inspired by a near falling out the Cutie Mark Crusaders experienced when the girls couldn’t decide how best to improve their clubhouse. The lesson was similar to what Twilight had learned from the fight with Discord, that friendship was not always easy, but it was still always worth it.
The contents of the invitation were ambiguous as well. It only went so far as to say that the Princess had a personal lesson on both magic and friendship that she felt Twilight was ready to begin. This prospect was what set Twilight’s mind at ease by the time she arrived at the audience chamber of Princess Celestia.
Strangely, there was no line of petitioners leading up to the dais upon which the royal throne sat. Twilight gazed up at her ruler, teacher, friend, and, dare she say it, surrogate mother with admiration on her face and in her heart.
“Princess Celestia, I came here as soon as I could.” Twilight stated, it was the truth, having received the invitation just that morning, Twilight had gotten all things arranged for a departure so swift, was in Canterlot by the afternoon.
"Please Twilight, there's no need for formal titles, I'm truly glad you could come so soon."
"You mentioned in the letter that you had an important lesson on both magic and friendship, my I ask what it is."
"Of course you can Twilight, but first," Celestia pondered for a moment before continuing. "What do you know about conjuration and summoning magic?"
Twilight was surprised by the question, summoning and conjuration were fringe schools of magic even amongst scholars. "Conjuration, or summoning as it is also referred as, is the act of bringing forth an object or subject across dimensional planes. It is different from phase-shifting magic, which involves transferring the caster to another dimension. It is also different from teleportation magic which involves movement only within the same dimension. It requires an immense amount of magical energy and a preparatory ritual as the caster must reach across dimensional boundaries, infuse the object to be conjured with magic, and then pull it through." Twilight rattled off the answer as though she had the text book right in front of her, eliciting a smile from Celestia.
"Very good Twilight, now, the magic lesson will involve a particular conjuration spell, only a few others have cast it over the millennia, even fewer without my aid." Celestia noted the fascinated expression on Twilight's face before continuing. "Due to the nature of the conjuration spell, the creature that will be summoned will be a being that has knowledge of friendship and strife, of good and evil, what you learn from this creature will be your lesson, though it is likely to be lessons, on friendship."
Twilight was dumbstruck, the Princess was offering her assistance in cast a spell that, if done without enough energy, would drain and the life and magic out of a unicorn. The fact that this act would also further her studies on friendship only made the decision more entrenched. "It would be an honour Princess."
"Then come Twilight, we have a ritual to prepare." Called Celestia as she rose from her throne, leading Twilight out of the audience chamber and towards the Royal Archives.
"Alright Bodicker, we have the building surrounded, you have nowhere to run." I could hear a police officer yelling through a megaphone from the fifth floor of my apartment building. Beside me were a mother and child who had were embracing eachother in fear. Standing in front of me beside the apartment's window was Frederick Bodicker, a serial killer who had managed to escape during a prison transfer. He had been all over the news a few months ago, ritualistically murdering his victims.
"Don't count on it! I got fucking hostages and I'll kill 'em all if you try and fuck with me!" Bodicker yelled, making sure not to expose himself out the window, likely covered by a sniper team by now.
"There is no need for that, what do you want Bodicker?" The officer responded.
"First, I want you to turn the fucking power back on!" Bodicker replied, the police had turned off the power in the building after clearing out all the people, it was a bargaining chip that they could use, clever plan I had to admit. "And then I want a helicopter, on the roof, with a pilot, and he's going to fly me to the airport, and then I'm gonna get a plane, and then I blow this joint and all its damned critics!" The news coverage had mentioned that Bodicker fancied himself an artist, obsessed with bringing about a new world view on human aesthetics, he mostly just hacked off random chunks of flesh from his victims with various implements.
"That's quite a bit Bodicker, but I tell you what, you release a hostage, then we turn on the power, then you release another hostage, then when the chopper get's here you release the last hostage." Clever boy, releasing to hostages for simply flipping a switch. With only one hostage, Bodicker couldn't blast them at the first sign of trickery, if the police made for a breaching manoeuver, then there was less chance of a hostage getting hit. Most people didn't respect cops, but I had to admit, they were covering all bases with the resources at hand.
"Alright! I'm sending out a hostage!" Bodicker walked up to the mother, still holding her child and dragged them apart. "Get down there, and tell them if the power isn't on in two minutes your girl's pretty little head gets to be a part of my next masterpiece!" He unlocked the door and shoved the woman as her daughter yelled for her.
"Shh, don't worry, it will be alright." I said, trying to keep her calm.
"When did I say you could talk!" Bodicker pointed his gun at me, an M1911, a powerful gun with big bullets, one round to the head and it was all over. Before anything else could happen, the lights flickered on.
"Bodicker, release the next hostage!" The officer sounded from the outside.
"Which one to keep?" Bodicker asked.
"Me" I replied, I knew this moment was going to come, and I needed to make sure mother and daughter saw eachother again.
"Hmm? And why should I do that?" Bodicker looked at me, sizing me up. I was a tall man, but I was far from muscular, mostly fat really.
"You release the next hostage, the police are going to give you breathing room, that's time for you to work your craft with your remaining hostage. The girl, she's not worth your talent, she'll pass out in an instant, me, you'll have someone to witness you in the process of art." It was a ploy, pandering to his need for recognition, it put me in great danger, but this was the best way to get the girl to safety. I have to admit, I wasn't even telling the truth about staying awake for the things he did to me, I had never even broken a bone in my 21 years of existence.
"Good point, leave cunt." Bodicker gestured to the girl, who got up and went to the door, as she slipped to safety she glanced at me with eyes full of fear, and thanks. That was all I needed to know this was the right thing to do.
"Now, let's get the studio set up." Bodicker said as he used a pair of handcuffs to chain me to a radiator, it was an old apartment, what can I say?
Bodicker stepped to a box and pulled out a corded drill and a reciprocating saw. I gulped. "Ready to be immortalized?" He asked me, leering.
"Its really that important to you isn't it?" I said, now was the time to distract him, and there was no better distraction for a devil than his own reflection.
"What is?" he questioned with genuine interest, no doubt none of his previous victims played to his personality in this way, that was my ticket to distracting him.
"Your art," I replied. "You're willing to die, to give up your life for your art."
"Of course, its my grand gift to the world."
"How do you know its art then?" I asked.
"Well, art's art isn't it?" he countered
"In some circles yes, but do you know what I think?"
"What?", he was fully enraptured now. People were only concerned with a few things in life, I was goading him with the promise of addressing a need.
"The purpose of an artist is to tell a truth."
"Yes, yes, that does make sense, but then, what truth am I telling?"
"You aren't." Now it was time to pull the promise away, make him beg for the truth.
"And why isn't it!?"
"You're murdering people, thinking living beings, with hopes, dreams, volitions and a will. You're turning them into twisted mockeries of what's important, and in that, you're showing your just the same." It was a gambit, he could get angry and kill me outright, or he could continue the questioning, trying to figure me out, but dead men cannot see.
"And what about you, do you tell truths?" Lucky me, he was more curious than angry, but I was running out of time.
"No, I act on them."
"By helping others achieve their own hopes."
"HA! You think you're helping people by doing this? They're insects, useless vermin, you die, and they'll make the world a little worse than it was before, how is you're death going to improve the world?"
"Maybe my death won't make the world a better place, but I saved a mother and child today, maybe their lives will improve the world. Or maybe." I stalled, trying to buy more time as the drill was plugged into the wall.
"Or maybe what?" Bodicker asked.
"Nothing" I smirked.
"OR MAYBE WHAT?" He shrieked, pointing his gun at my head again.
"Alright, or maybe ... the world will be a better place from my death, because it will also mean your death."
At that moment the window shattered and a police officer in full tactical gear burst in. Bodicker flinched, firing a round that grazed my neck, and an artery, starting an impromptu crimson fountain as the police officer fired off an MP5 into Bodicker. The officer ran over to me as the door burst open with three more officers coming in. He placed a hand over my neck, trying to staunch the bleeding.
"You're gonna be fine! Get the medical team here now!" I heard him yell as my vision faded to black, not from closing my eyes, but from the pain.
At this point I repeated a silent mantra in my head there are things in this world worth dying for, not that I wanted to die, I would have preferred to have lived. But if my death was necessary, I was willing to make that choice. I then began to feel, what I can only call a cessation of existence of my body, more profound than simple numbness. My mind however, seemed intact. So this is what dying feels like. I thought, glad that I could still form coherent thoughts, glad to know that maybe the soul was real.
The comfort was short lived and replaced by terror when I felt my mind muddying.
Twilight and Princess Celestia had made all the preparations in the foyer of the Forbidden Archives. A ring of gem laden candles formed the shape of a square within a circle. Twilight was looking over the particulars of the spell, she would be performing it, with Celestia providing the raw power. The spell itself was very specific to what it summoned according to who the caster was. The spell would pull a being that would most benefit the knowledge that the caster already had, in such a way that there repertoire of knowledge would be enhanced should all that the conjured being knew be passed along. The spell also contained limiters that would only pull beings that were no longer of use to their own realm.
Shutting the tome, Twilight nodded to the Princess, who in turn nodded to two guards by the entryway. They were there to carry out whatever was summoned should it be necessary.
Wordlessly, Twilight began channelling the spell, and Celestia probed Twilight's mind to grant her access to her power, it was an immense trust that the princess had given Twilight, and the fact was not lost on the purple unicorn. Twilight revelled in the raw power, compared to her own, it was a candle, no, an image of a candle brought beside a red giant. As Twilight searched the Ley-lines with the spell, she touched upon a target, and Twilight cast the spell.
Within the square, a mass dropped from one foot in the air. Twilight gasped, a good deal of her energy spent in the process. When she opened her eyes she gasped again seeing the creature that lay before her. It had pale arms and face, with darker, loose hide attaching to the torso and back legs. Its front legs reminded Twilight of Spikes claws, but were blunted on the ends.
It was at this point that Twilight noticed the blood draining out of the creature's neck. Without hesitation Princess Celestia walked towards the creature and began healing it. Channelling Earth Pony healing with manual manipulation of nerves, blood vessels and muscle. Twilight could have sworn the princess had prior experience dealing with such a creature. When the deed was done, Celestia called over her guards who carried the creature to the infirmary, where preparations had already been made for whatever might come from the ritual.
Turning to Twilight, Celestia said. "Twilight, you did very well tonight." I will make sure our ... guest makes a full recovery, when he does, I will be sure to inform you. Go back to Ponyville, I am certain that the recovery will take quite some time."
"Yes Princess." Twilight said, so drained of power she found herself not even able to ask about the creature. She turned to the door and left, intent on sleeping in her old room at the Canterlot Palace before leaving for Ponyville the next morning.
The first thing I noticed when I came to was a periodic beeping. Must be in a hospital. I thought as I attempted to open my eyes, immediately regretting the decision as they were assaulted by a garish white. As I eased open my eyes I saw the room was completely white with the exception of the bed's sheets, which were a pale blue. Definitely a hospital. At this point I remembered I had been shot and reached for my throat and felt ... a small scar where the bullet had entered. How long was I out? I questioned myself as I looked down on my body. My shirt was gone but strangely my pants were still on. Why I was not in a hospital gown was beyond me. I saw that I was now notably thinner, and I figured that I had been in a coma. I got up, not connected to anything but an IV marked as water. I pulled the needle out as I looked to the wall.
On the wall hung a grey vest, I swung my feet over the edge and began applying pressure on them, my legs quivered a bit as I stood up, but held. I proceeded to hobble over the the vest and picked it off the wall hook from which it was suspended. I slipped it on and immediately noticed the strange shape, the chest was much to big once I secured some buttons and the shoulders were on the tight side, but it protected my modesty, that was sufficient.
Looking around the room I noticed there were no other hospital beds, I was in a private room, strange. I looked over to the wall opposite of the bed and noticed a large mirror. A one way mirror? I thought, Why would I be put in an observation room? I walked to mirror and examined myself, the grey vest matched my black pants and tan shoes. I noted that I now had a respectable beard protruding from my face. I could take some of the cheeks, maybe get a goatee started? I laughed, my voice hoarse as I realized I likely hadn't drank any water in weeks.
"Hello? Anyone there? I'm awake." I croaked at the one-way mirror, hoping some staff were active on the other side. It was at this moment when a door to my right opened and I saw ... a unicorn. Yes, a unicorn, yes I thought I had gone insane. The unicorn was a fluorescent teal with sapphire blue eyes with a white lab coat hanging about his shoulders. As it stepped into the room I garnered a sense of his, assuming it was a he, full dimensions. At the head he would have reached up to my waist, putting him at about three feet tall, his body was about four feet long. That was the extent of my observations when his mouth opened and ...
"Can you ... understand me?" His voice was definitely male, but timid.
Dumbfounded I said yes, not wanting to ask why I perceived the doctor in front of me as a unicorn.
"I would like you to come with me." He said as he opened the door behind him fully with a hind leg, revealing a pegasus adorned in armour. I obliged, figuring it was best not to mention the fact that everyone I saw was a creature of myth. If I was insane, then surely I would get to see a psychologist eventually.
"Princess Celestia asked to have an audience with you." The unicorn stated as we entered the hallway, and I saw several more pegusai, all adorned with Identical armour, and possessing the same coat colour of a pure white, like on rice and a glass of milk on a paper plate in a snowstorm white. I was going to see a princess? Maybe my mind was altering what others were saying as well as there image, provided any of what I saw was rooted in reality.
I then saw a water fountain and asked, "May I have a drink of water?" under normal circumstance I would have simply walked to the fountain and had my fill, but given the eight guards, I figured it prudent to have permission.
The group stopped as a whole as the unicorn turned to me after giving a quick glance at the water fountain and nodded, "You may." I walked over, had a drink, a long drink, and then returned to the group. We proceeded down the hall.
"So, I'm going to be seeing a princess? Who is the queen then?"
The unicorn replied. "We don't have a queen, Princess Celestia is our ruler, along with her sister, and the two are our gods as well." Okay, so there was no reaction to my saying princess, I began to feel as though I might not be hallucinating. If that was the case then wherever I was in was a principality, given the head of state being a female ... something. Wait, gods? I could not think of any place that still had royalty that people genuinely believed were gods. I was developing more questions when we turned to a grand hall, vaulted ceilings reaching at least a hundred feet hight. Stained glass windows lined the hall with images of ponies, winged, horned, and neither. At the end of the hall I noticed a midnight blue pony, with wings and horn sitting atop a throne, silver regalia adorning her hooves and chest, and a crown reaching to her main.
By God, her mane was an ethereal rendition of the the night sky, yet unfettered by the torchlight from the sconces lining the hall. If I truly had been sent to another world, I began to feel at that moment that the forces that had aligned to bring me here should have sent a poet, so sublime was the view. My own experience of the night sky was always polluted with the light of cities that knew not slumber.
Remembering I was now presumably in the presence of royalty, I dropped to one knee, causing the unicorn doctor to flinch, and the guards tense, as I said. "Greetings Princess Celestia." The mare arose and walked towards me.
"Rise." She said as she reached me. I did so, and noticed that standing at full height, her eyes came up to my throat, but her horn rose to just above my head. "I am not Princess Celestia, I am her sister, Princess Luna. We appreciate your manners, but We would have your name and race creature."
Ouch, screwed that introduction up something fierce. I replied to her command. "I am Edmund Ross, a human."
As Luna's mouth opened to reply I hear a voice from the entrance of the hall. "I am glad to see that everything has remained civil dear sister." Turning, I saw a white coated pony, with wings and horn as well, and adornments of gold upon her. Her mane was like Luna's blowing in a non-existent breeze, with pinks and greens mixed like the northern lights I had seen as a child. As she passed by to stand by her sister I noticed her rear was adorned with a tattoo of the sun. Looking to Luna I noticed she too had a mark, but of the moon, emblazoned on her rump. "I am Princess Celestia, and I welcome you, Edmund Ross of the humans, to Equestria."
"Thank you your highness, I am honoured, but I must ask. How did I get here?" I knew it was rude to ask questions of royalty, but manners be damned, I needed to get myself situated, and to do that I needed information.
"My student and pupil, Twilight Sparkle, with my assistance, summoned you to our realm."
"For your benefit and ours, now I am sure you have a great deal of questions, but I have some of my own to ask of you."
"Very well." I replied. "What questions do you have for me?"
"I am curious as to how humans have been doing, it has been quite some time since one of your kind has visited Equestria." Celestia replied, smiling benevolently.
I was stunned at this prospect, though suddenly the warm greetings I had been given thus far made more sense. There had been other humans in Equestria. "When was the last human in Equestria, and what events had happened in their time?" I asked, before I realized I had asked a question when the Princess had been anticipating and answer. "It's just that ... I don't wish to bore your highness with details you already know."
Celestia turned to Luna still smiling. "He reminds me of you when you first returned dear sister, always stuck on ceremony and proper manner of speech." I could have sworn Luna blushed, indicating the truth of Celestia's words, before the white princess turned again to me. "The last human to visit Equestria came here a little under 200 years ago, a Lord Byron if I am not mistaken."
Lord Byron, well I'll be damned, the forces that be had sent a poet before me. Well, this was good, I knew history quite well and already had an idea of where to begin. "Alright, that means you should know about human history up to the French Revolution yes?"
"Indeed, and the Greek's attempts at independence from the Ottomans." Celestia replied as Luna remained reticent with a look of fascination that no doubt matched my own. Of course Celestia would know about how Greece had been trying to become an independent state, Lord Byron had gone to Greece to fight the Ottoman Turks.
"Well then, I shall begin from there. Though I should tell you, human history is hardly a tale for the faint of heart." As the words left my lips I felt I had made a grand understatement.
"I'm sure little could perturb me after hearing about the Crusades and Wars of Napoleon." Celestia responded, how wrong she was.
I recited all I knew to the best of my abilities, I noted the frown upon Celestia's face when I told how the Greeks ended up with a monarch upon gaining independence, rather than going to a democracy. I told of revolutions and massacres, the colonization and partitioning of Africa and Asia by Europe. Of the unification and formation of Germany. I told of the politics and underhanded dealings of states, and then I reached the tale of World War One.
When I spoke of the Great War I told the princesses of the constant meat grinder of the western front, of the collapse of Russia to be reborn as the Soviet Union. I told of heroes of war, Lawrence of Arabia, the German commandos of Africa, the Red Baron, and many others. I spoke of defenceless cities bombed, yet soldiers on the field of battle spared by supposed enemies. I would like to say I gave a realistic account of things, but I could tell from Luna's face that the prospect of so many dying for so little was a foreign concept. If Celestia felt keenly about the things I told her, she did not show it, her face never betraying emotion except for the occasional nod or frown.
I told the princesses of the Great Depression, and of World War Two. I told them of the Holocaust. I told them of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was at this point that Celestia's countenance resembled her sister's. If she truly was goddess of the sun, then hearing of the sun's power, the atom, used to end so many lives in an instant. I dare not think of what she thought of that.
I concluded my account with the end of the Cold War, and of the War on Terror, and other recent things. When I was finished Luna had long since laid upon the ground, tears flowing down her cheeks, in pity for the woeful and confused condition my world was in.
"You were very brave to tell us all that." Celestia said. "That you were willing to give such a candid account of your people speaks well to your own character." I breathed a sigh of relief, I was concerned that upon finishing, I would be dragged to some hole in the ground to be thrown in, that I would never harm one of her subjects. However, I had to make sure.
"So, what happens now?" I asked.
"Now, you will be going to see my student, Twilight Sparkle, and teach her about what you know about good and evil, of the Magic of Friendship." Celestia responded.
At this Celestia tilted her head, clearly my response was not anticipated. "Just like that? Why are you so compliant? Most of the humans I've met were stubborn and unwilling to do as told."
"Before I came here, I was in a situation I should not have survived, but from the actions of you and your pupil saved my life. You are my benefactors, that I would refuse to aid you now in such a humble manner would be a betrayal, and I would rather die again than do that when given the chance to do good." It was the truth, as held by me, and at this Celestia nodded and smiled.
Celestia then looked to the doors of the grand hall and called out. "You may come in now!"
I gazed over to the entrance and saw a tan pony with a dark brown mane, as dark as my own hair. Adorning his flank was the image of an hourglass. "This is Doctor Whooves, he will escort you to Ponyville, and make sure that you do not get into any trouble." Celestia recited as she nuzzled Luna and the two sisters cantered out of the hall.
Before walking to Doctor Whooves, I looked at the unicorn doctor who had brought me to the audience chamber. If I had thought Luna looked distraught, he was positively terrified of me now. His eyes were wide and his mouth wider as I looked at him. He backed away slowly before turning and galloping back towards the infirmary. The pegasus guards stoically remained still, but the eyes of some were watered from holding back emotions.
I exited the hall just a few steps behind him and asked. "How much of that did you hear?"
"Quite a bit." To my surprise his accent reminded me of a British accent.
"You don't seem very, concerned about me." I stated.
"I'm used to seeing strange things." He responded.
"So ... you have past experience with trans-dimensional beings? I queried, now intrigued.
"Well, past would imply a subjective, linear grasp of time, with an endless stream of causes and effects. I'm more of a mind that its made of a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey ... stuff."
"Hmm." Was my only response, I wasn't one for physics, and I felt I was getting dangerously close to entering a field of which all I new was, fast things will remain fast unless they happen to hit some poor sod in the face or groin.
"Can I ask you a question?" I was now concerned with having my own questions of this new world answered.
"You just did, so obviously you can." He replied.
Great, he was one of those guys who would grill you for using conversational English. Come to think of it, it was amusing that these ponies were speaking English, but I decided to take that for granted and asked. "So, the doctor who brought me to the Princesses said they were gods, how so?"
"Oh, well Princess Celestia is the goddess of the sun, she raises and lowers it, her sister, Princess Luna, is goddess of the moon. Together the bring forth the night and day." Doctor Whooves responded. Fascinating, I was far from religious, if anyone on earth had asked me what religion I was I would have staunchly replied Atheist, but questioning the abilities of a being that saved my life, divine or not was in poor taste. I moved on to my next question.
"I noticed that you have a tattoo on your butt, same as the Princesses, mind telling me what they are?"
"Not at all, though you may want to refer to that part of out anatomy as 'flank' in the future, sensibilities and manners you know? This is my cutie mark, everypony gets one when they discover their special talent." Our conversation proceeded in this manner when we walked outside the castle, it was night and nary a soul was outside. We proceeded to a train station where the doctor brought me to a private car. It was at this point that I thought to ask of this Twilight Sparkle I was going to be ... living with, teaching, guiding?
"This Twilight Sparkle that I am going to be seeing, what is she like?" I inquired.
"Oh, she is the Element of Magic, one of the six Elements of Harmony, with the others being her friends. Pinkie Pie, Element of Laugher; Applejack, Element of Honesty; Rarity, Element of Generosity; Rainbow Dash, Element of Loyalty; and lastly Fluttershy, Element of Kindness." This statement led to more questions and I asked them eager to know all I could. I noted with some amusement the content smile that spread across Doctor Whooves' muzzle whenever the conversation turned to Rarity, the unicorn fashionista.
When I had sated my knowledge we had arrived in Ponyville, the trip having taken what the Doctor confirmed as two hours. When we stepped out onto the platform I felt at one with myself, my present situation had been accounted for, and was eager to thank the woman, er, mare, who had saved my life.
Little had I known at that moment that I was being watched by one eager to welcome me to Ponyville, by way of a party.
Doctor Whooves and I walked towards Twilight's library, the entire town quiet in the wee hours of the morning. I found it intriguing that the building was incorporated into a tree, my thoughts turning to the giant redwood trees of earth and how a person could dig a tunnel that could ferry a car through one. When we reached the door Doctor Whooves reached out of hoof and rapped the door three times before walking off.
"Wait where are you going?" I asked, concerned to meet Twilight alone.
"Home, I'll be keeping an eye on you, if you need to talk, or send a private message to the Princess, you'll know where to find me." The Doctor replied as he stepped towards a blue police booth across the street from the library.
When he disappeared into the blue box I turned to the library as I heard a hurried "Coming!" emanate from within. When the door opened I saw the lavender mare for the first time, adorning her flank was a pink star burst pattern, her mane was straight with a pink highlight that matched the hue of her cutie mark. She looked at me. Had her eyes been smaller I would not have noticed the subtle movement of her gaze shifting from my eyes to my throat, where I had been shot.
"It's good to see you." She stated warmly as she smiled up at me. "When Celestia told me you had gone into a coma ten days ago I was so worried you wouldn't come out." She was worried for me? She did not even know me. Such faith, no doubt strengthened by a goddess who truly existed. "Come in!" She invited as she moved from the door allowing me entrance. "When I got the letter that said you were coming to Ponyville, I got everything prepared for your arrival." She pointed to a bed that looked to be made of three smaller ones bound up together. "I couldn't find a bed that would fit someone your size so I had to improvise." The purple unicorn giggled.
"I hope that was not to expensive." I said, concerned that I was already imposing by mere presence.
"Oh no, not at all, besides, the Princess increased my stipend to cover the expenses of taking care of you .... HUH! Oh my! I'm sorry I totally forgot to ask your name, and tell you mine!"
"It's quite alright, my being here is no doubt quite a bit to take in, I am Edmund Ross, and you are Twilight Sparkle, Princess Celestia spoke quite fondly of you." I replied flattered that she had been so distracted.
"Oh, ok, well, it still was rude of me to forget something so important."
"A name is hardly important without something to associate it with." I stated, Princess Celestia had told me she wanted to teach Twilight what I knew, I figured I could start here.
"What do you mean names aren't important?" Twilight asked.
"A name is a symbol, it is meant to encapsulate the whole of an intelligent being in a few short sounds. But the presence of a symbol requires that you know what is being represented, we have only just met, our names as of yet have no attached meaning." I replied.
"I never thought about it like that, but still, it would be rude to just call you 'big tall thing with pale skin'." Twilight said, casting her eyes downward.
I chuckled. "It would be truthful. Though now I think that we know enough of each other to warrant the use of names."
Twilight yawned and winced. "Well Edmund, its almost One in the morning, we should get to sleep, I want to introduce you to my friends tomorrow, unless ..."
"Unless what?" I asked, puzzled why she would have doubts regarding the prudence of her proposal.
"Unless humans are nocturnal? I mean, you woke up late at night, and you still seem quite ... chipper."
"I had been asleep for ten days prior. I think I would be well rested after that. To answer your question, humans are not generally nocturnal, though our sleeping habits can be inconsistent."
"Ok, goodnight, if you need anything, I'll be on the second floor, but try and be quiet, my assistant Spike is sleeping." I had wondered where the baby dragon Doctor Whooves had mentioned was, with this question answered, I lay upon the bed arranged in the foyer and drifted to sleep.
Bodicker held the gun to my neck, a sickening grin plastered across his ugly mug. I couldn't hear the word coming from his mouth but I could sense the emotion, derision, contempt, he thought I was an idiot for what I had done. He was going to wipe me off the face of existence for that, to show the world his truth of what happened to those who question his truth. I saw his finger squeeze the trigger when ...
"This is your singing telegram we hope it finds you well!
You're invited to a party cause we think your really swell!
We welcome you to Ponyville
And hope you will find thrills!
Don't feel the need to bring a gift just coming will be enough!
Parties are about having fun with friends not getting lots of stuff!"
INHALE, INHALE! I commanded myself as the shock of what just happened began to subside. A pink mare stood before me and judging from her exuberant nature I guessed she was Pinkie Pie.
A purple flash appeared beside my bed and Twilight began yelling. "Pinkie! what are you doing, you terrified Edmund! How did you even know somepony new was in town, he came here are one in the morning!"
Pinkie giggled. "Silly willy Twilight. Every time you go to Canterlot something interesting happens! So, I waited outside the town square to see what it was that was gonna happen!"
Twilight looked quizzically at Pinkie. "You mean to tell me that you staked out my house for the last ten days?"
"Yep!" the party pony bubbled as the back-pack on her blew forth another wave of confetti.
"Excuse me." I said, "But where exactly will this party be, and who is going to be there?"
"Well..." Pinkie began before a purple hoof thrust itself neatly into her muzzle with practised ease when Twilight interrupted.
"Here! The party will be here, and the guests will be just us girls and Spike! Right Pinkie?" Twilight turned to the cotton candy filly, withdrawing her hoof before it became drenched in saliva.
"Sure thing Twilight!" Pinkie saluted before trotting out the door.
"I'm sorry about that," Twilight sighed. "Pinkie can be a little ... very unrestrained, she didn't scare you did she?
"I'm fine, though I ..." I stopped at this point as my eyes chanced upon a purple and lime green lizard began descending the stairs as I rose to my feet. This must have been Spike, the dragon, mentally correcting myself at that moment lest I insult him.
"Twilight, what was all that racket? I thought I heard Pinkie Pie talking about a party. Is it going to be ..." Spike stopped when he saw me.
"Woah, you're tall." He stated matter-of-factly.
"Yes, I am." I replied, the dragon reached only to my knee.
"And you speak Equestrian?" Spike continued.
"Yes, I do." I said smiling at the simplistic questions of youth.
"Cool, when Twilight said we'd be having a guest from another dimension I thought I was going to have to serve tea to some amorphous cloud." Spike said. I was liking him already, plain spoken, but far from rude. Though the word amorphous was quite advanced for someone Doctor Whooves had called a 'baby dragon'.
"Ahem," Twilight interrupted. " Spike, this is Edmund Ross, our guest; Edmund, this is my assistant Spike."
"A pleasure to make your acquaintance good sir!" I offered my hand, bending over and smiling.
"Wow, nobody ever calls me a sir! Except when I talk to Cheerilee while I have a moustache." Spike responded, grabbing my hand and shaking it.
"A moustache?" Now I was thoroughly confounded.
"Oh yeah, when I've been extra helpful Twilight uses her magic to grow me a moustache!" Spike iterated. I was aware of magic's existence in this world from my talk with Doctor Whooves, but such a use brought a smile to my face as I imagined Spike with a handlebar 'stache.
At this point my stomach, tired from now eleven days of being neglected, and my body, now tired of consuming fat to keep myself going united in an unnaturally loud rumble with accompanying cramp.
"Oh dear!" Twilight said. "I'll get you some breakfast ... what do you eat?" She asked.
"Cereal." I replied quickly, in truth I could have gone for a full ham, but I had yet to mention my very human need for animal proteins and thought it would be better to mention it when my stomach wasn't raising a cacophony.
As I entered the kitchen between Twilight and Spike, I spoke. "So, Spike, you excited for the party Pinkie's gonna hold here for me?" I sat at the table as Twilight set a bowl of cereal, spoon, and glass of juice.
"Am I ever, Pinkie always has the best parties!" Spike responded going to a cabinet and pulling out a topaz and promptly biting into it. I was stunned, I stared at him as my brain, to distracted by the sight handed the reigns over to my stomach, prompting me to raise and lower the spoon and feed myself as I continued to look at Spike.
"What?" Spike asked.
"Didn't that hurt when you bit into that rock?"
"No. I have really strong teeth, all dragons eat gems."
"Yikes, remind me to never get between you and your food."
Twilight laughed. "He can get rather protective of his stuff. So." Twilight turned to face me as Spike walked out of the room, mentioning something about tending to a 'PeeWee'. "No doubt the Princess told you why she was sending you here."
"Indeed she did. She wants me to teach you about friendship, and good, and evil." Twilight gulped at my last word, Equestria seemed so at peace, so harmonious, I was hardly surprised that mere mention of anything but would set a pony on edge.
"Alright! Go ahead!" Twilight said eagerly as I finished my cereal and juice, I began walking to the sink to deposit the dishes.
"Very well, let us begin, though I would say that we would best start by my describing to you the foundation upon our explanation of the good will entail."
"What do you mean? How is friendship related to 'the good'?" Twilight inquired.
"Would you disagree that friendship is a good thing?"
"Of course" she said.
"Now what is good?"
"Well ..." Twilight hesitated, no doubt quite confused as to why I was asking such seemingly inane questions. In truth I trusted that she knew these things already, but I wished to make sure she in fact knew this, and how she knew this. "Good is a description of something, it varies depending on what ever it is."
"And I agree, but let me see if this example makes things clearer. Would you say a hammer is good if it is able to drive nails into wood, and do this well."
"Yes," Twilight said. "A hammer is good when it hammers well, any object is good when it performs its function well."
To this I responded. "And what do you think then is the function of a pony, or of a human, as I am, as we both seem to share the same properties, just as all hammers that hammer well have a weighted head and a handle by which they are wielded.
As Twilight opened her mouth to respond a knock at the door sounded, and the matter was dropped as Twilight stood suddenly.
As Twilight walked to the entryway she glanced over to me and requested "Could you stay here for a minute? I think my friends are here and I want a moment to explain things, I'm not sure how they'll react to you." I nodded my assent and she stepped out of the kitchen as another bout of knocking sounded at the door.
"Twilight! Darling its simply wonderful to see you again! Pinkie Pie told me she was holding a party for a recent arrival to Ponyville, and I simply had to see if they would need some new clothes for starting their new life in our quaint town." I heard the voices from the kitchen, not knowing for certain which friend in particular was speaking.
"Darn tootin', I was right happy to hear there was a party today, I finished apple bucking early with Applebloom's help. I always do like ta meet new ponies." I listened to the thick southern accent.
"Yeah, right, about that new pony." I heard Twilight say nervously.
"Yeah, I'm itching to meet this guy, who is he, why is he here with you? Pinkie mentioned something about them being from Canterlot?" An upbeat voice sounded, I could only describe it as full of, spunk.
"Ummm..." Twilight expressed. I was at this point concerned she would falter and leave her friends worried.
"I'm sure they must be tired from the long journey from Canterlot." A demure whisper sounded from the lobby, barely registering to my ears.
"So where is he? I want to meet him again! I want him to try out my chimmi-cherry-changas! I made them just for him! Do you think he likes cherries? Oh, what if he eats through his feet?" Chimed the voice of Pinkie Pie, her voice wandering where it would, regardless of where her mind was.
"Well ..." Twilight began. "Remember when I told you girls about the summoning ritual I performed with Princess Celestia?"
"Uhuh!" Was the unanimous response and Twilight continued.
"Well, my guest is the, uh, thing that I summoned. Girls ..." A purple aura enveloped the kitchen door and opened, taking this to be my invitation to reveal myself I stepped into the lobby as Twilight continued. "I'd like you to meet Edmund Ross."
"Thank you Twilight, and in the future, you may refer to me as a human, not a thing." I said slightly irked at having been referred to in such a manner.
"Ok." Twilight blushed as a gasp sounded from a butter pegasus. Looking to her, I saw she had a pink mane and tail, and was performing the greatest imitation of a statue I had yet to witness.
"Well, the new guest broke Fluttershy, can't say I'm surprised." Sighed a cyan pegasus, her mane possessing all the colours of the rainbow.
Fluttershy breathed in and resumed her status among the undoubtedly living and quickly said. "Oh!, I'm sorry for panicking there, its just that you're so um..."
"Giant," Finished an orange coated mare, staring me up an down. "He must be as tall as Princess Celestia, sans horn o' course." Her perception of size was spot on, Celestia and I had been but slightly taller than Luna, our eyes able to stare straight into eachother's were we to stand tall.
"Yeah but he's standing on his hind legs, Celestia would totally tower over him if she did that." Admonished the rainbow maned mare. She glanced back at me. "The name's Rainbow Dash, fastest flier in all of Equestria. You must be able to run pretty fast with those long legs of yours."
"Hardly as fast as most of my people." I replied, modest of my non-existent athletic abilities.
"Hold on. There are other people like you?" Questioned the white Unicorn, looking not at me, but at my clothing, this must have been the Miss Rarity that Doctor Whooves had spoken so highly of.
"Not in Equestria, so far as I know." I replied.
"Oh, but please forgive me, I am Rarity, clothier of Carousel Boutique, dispenser of quality vestments chic, unique and magnifique!" Rarity extended a hoof towards me, but before I could grasp it a blast of confetti collided with the whole group.
"And I'm Pinkie Pie! Let's party!" Pinkie yelled as my lungs, attempting to evict the paper strips attempting to squat in my throat gave a mighty heave. I was becoming mildly irritated at the party mare's tendency to expel small objects at high velocity. This thought however was immediately rectified as I took in the room, now splattered with decorations, and interestingly, a perfectly hung up banner reading 'Welcome to Ponyville, Edmund, the not-a-pony-but-still-really-nice-like-a-pony-thing'. Quaint.
Walking to Rarity I continued our line of conversation. "So you are a tailor?"
"Indeed." Rarity cooed as I took a seat on the couch after swiping a few pieces of confetti off of it.
"Well ... I am dreadfully lacking in clothing, what is on my person at this moment is all I have."
"So?" Rainbow Dash asked. "Why would you need more clothing than that, just wash it after special occasions like this."
Rarity huffed at this and I responded before she could go further. "Humans wear cloths all the time, except when we bathe. Its mostly for protection from the weather, but also because of modesty, or to show off on rarer occasions."
At this Rarity exclaimed. "Your people wear clothes all the time? Oh my, I love fashion more than the next mare but all the time, that seems to extract the, sentiment out it. This means I'll have to make you, how many sets of clothing?"
"I would say seven sets would be sufficient, but unfortunately I don't have any money."
"Pssh!" Rarity exclaimed. "Think nothing of the sort, consider it a gift."
"Seven sets of clothing? No I will find a way to pay for it. It would be unseemly to impose upon not just Twilight but her friends as well."
"Actually, you could pay for it out of the additional stipend Celstia gave me for taking care of you." The last bit hurt, I was being taken care of when I had been tasked by the Princess to teach Twilight, but a small subset of caring.
"That's mighty kind o' her Highness Twilight, but ah gotta say I don't think that addresses the issue of Edmund not wantin' a handout." Applejack entered the conversation. "Ah can offer a solution thought, ah could always use a lil' help around the farm, he could earn bits that way."
"This sounds quite agreeable, provided I can be of use on your farm Applejack." I responded, farm work would be good for me, I had, apart from my mind, no workable skills by with to seek the best for my new world. The best way to rectify this would be to strengthen my body.
"Then it's settled." Rarity stated. "After the party you'll come with me to Carousel boutique where I'll get your measurements, then you can go to Applejack's and get accustomed to working. By the time I finish the clothes you'll have enough bits to pay me, and if not, I'm certain the difference can be made up from your stipend." I liked this Rarity, she was resolved, and having seen the solution to the problem. She took it up even though it differed from her own ideal stratagem, charitably giving to me, who was at this time still a stranger to her.
The party proceeded amicably and Spike soon joined the festivities as I had my fill of treats that Pinkie had thoughtfully brought to the party. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy walked up to me and the Cyan pegasus asked. "So, humans, do they play sports?"
"Yes we do, quite a few, racing, soccer, football, baseball, basketball, badminton."
"Cool." Rainbow Dash said, cutting me off before I could divulge myself of an encyclopaedic recitation of all the sports I knew of. "So, how many sports do you play?"
"In truth, none at all."
"Really? that doesn't make any sense, I mean sports are really fun, and well, you seem like the type to exercise a lot."
"What do you mean I look the type?" I asked, wondering what about me, besides mere height, would lend to her opinion of my being the sporting type.
"Well, you look kinda, what's the word Twilight would use? Gaunt, that and you smell like you've run a marathon four times."
"Oh, Rainbow Dash, that's not a very nice thing to say." Fluttershy whispered.
"Well, I have been unconscious for ten days, so I haven't really had a chance to bathe." I responded, sniffing myself, at close range, I was quite rank, and I could only imagine the strength of smell that ponies had, and the restraint they had been exercising to remain silent on the matter this long.
"So you got this smelly from laying in bed for just over a week?" Rainbow asked incredulously.
"Yes, why, how often to ponies bathe?"
"Like every two weeks, and that's with everyday life and grime." Rainbow responded nonchalantly. This was intriguing, ponies did not develop a strong odour as quickly as humans? I had been in horse stables on earth and quite honestly it had been the second most horrendous smell I had ever encountered. Yes, I had lived a privileged life, no I did not actually own a horse on Earth.
"Well then, I suppose I should get ready for my day." I stated, loudly enough that it would be clear I was addressing everyone and no one at all in particular. "Twilight, where exactly is the bathroom?"
The lavender mare turned to me to me, having not heard the line of conversation that led to this abrupt question. She answered me in a tone of confusion. "Upstairs, down the hallway, second door on your left." I nodded my thanks and proceeded up the stairs as the mares excused themselves.
"Well I had been planning on bringing Edmund over to the boutique after the party, but I suppose it would be just as well that I go there now and prepare." Rarity said to Twilight.
"That's a great idea Rarity, I'll send Edmund over with Spike when he's ready. Is that okay with you Spike?"
"Is it ever!" Spike replied jubilantly as I stepped into the bathroom, the voices becoming dull and muted as I shut the door.
I looked into the library's modest bathroom, a mirror and sink along the right hand wall, and a white tub with a shower curtain dominating the centre of the room. Too the left I saw what must have been a toilet, it looked identical to one on earth, but with a broader seat to accommodate a quadruped. I removed my shoes, socks, pants, and all other clothing, I had no replacements yet, so I would have to make do and put them back on when I finished.
I stepped into the tub and began my ablutions, it operated in a manner identical to tubs on earth, complete with a shower attachment. When I finished bathing I dried myself off on a blue towel hanging from the wall and dressed, ready to greet the new day. I meandered back down to the main room. I gazed at the the various shelves, filled with books, I could get used to the prospect of living here, surrounded with knowledge of the realm. Twilight was reading a book entitled Social Cues of Dragons, Gryphons, and Other Sentient Beings embossed in gold upon both the cover and spine when she looked up and saw me.
Grinning she said. "Hello, come sit with me, I wanted to continue our discussion from before the party." I recalled the morning vividly, we were just broaching the subject of the good. "You asked me what I thought made a human or a pony good, that we had some traits that made us suited for something specific." Twilight said to me. "But I've been thinking about it and I can't think of anything, its confusing, I mean, ponies are so different from each other and then there's you, what did you mean when you said we shared something in common?" Her eyes glinted with self-doubt that to me looked all to familiar.
To this I replied as I planted myself firmly on the couch beside her. "I meant that humans, and ponies, at least ponies of Equestria, both share the quality of possessing a brilliant mind."
"But brilliant how so?" she asked.
"We can learn things, know things, know that we know these facts, and recount how we came to know them.This much is apparent from our conversation this morning. Or do you disagree?"
"No, but then if our minds are what makes us able to perform some function in the world, like how a hammer can hammer nails, or a bucket can hold water. Then what's your, our, function." Twilight asked, doubt fading as her mind turned to the task of discovery.
"For this there have been, and are, many answers, but with each one we go through, we discover a little more. We take a supposition of what this good is, and follow it from its start to its logical conclusion, if something becomes a contradiction that cannot be reconciled, the theory is disposed." I replied.
"You sound like you already have your own idea on what the good, what humans and ponies should do." She giggled no doubt amused at how I sounded like every other aged scholar she had ever read about. I felt no pride in knowing the things just discussed, only content, and at one with myself.
"I do, and if you will allow me, I could tell you what I think it is, and we can discuss it, examine it, and see if it has any semblance of truth in it.".
"Go on." the lavender unicorn implored, now fully enraptured.
"I think that the function to which people and ponies are best suited is this, to seek the betterment of the objects of our interests."
"I see, and this is because we can determine what an object is good for, and how they can be made better." She stated, taking the lead. "Like how a carpenter knows what a table is good for, and how to make a better table!" She exclaimed.
"And I agree." I said smiling at Twilight, knowing full well now why Celestia had spoken with such warmth at the mention of her pupil.
"But wait, you said to improve the objects of our interests. That's pretty broad." She said.
"And you see an issue with this?" I prodded, glad to take the submissive part in this endeavour.
"Yeah, what if a pony wants to improve the wrong thing? What if the pony's interests, desires, umm..."
"And affections are directed at the wrong thing?"
"Yes." She replied.
"You make a good point, but for now I think I should leave for Rarity's place." I stated having recalled my earlier arrangement with the fashionista. "In the mean time, we should contemplate what things people should not seek to improve."
"Ok!" Twilight nodded. "But first, there are some things you mentioned during that confused me a little. You mentioned that humans and ponies from Equestria were similar, are ponies on earth different?"
"On earth, ponies, or horses as people more frequently call them are not able to talk, and not able to learn and discover things with the acuity or skill that humans can." I replied, noting the shocked expression on her face. "Ponies on earth are very different than from Equestria, they are nowhere near as colourful, none have wings or horns." Twilight gazed down, her stare coming to grips with what she was feeling.
"I'm sorry ... it's just, it's disturbing to think of something similar to yourself yet so totally different in what's important, the mind." Twilight sighed.
"It's quite alright, besides, horses are a lot more different from ponies on the outside as well, not to mention the smell." I chuckled, patting Twilight on the shoulders.
"Smell? what do pon ... horses smell like?"
"Like I did before my shower, but about a hundred times worse!" I laughed. "Sorry for not having noticed it earlier, your friends were quite polite on the matter."
"So that's why you took a shower after talking to Dash." Twilight piped, expressing irritation at her blunt friends remark.
"Indeed it was." I confirmed. "Was there any other questions you had before I leave?"
"Yeah, you said humans wear clothing for modesty's sake. Why?"
"Well ..." I blushed, I had been hoping that the matter would speak for itself and I would not need to elaborate. "Because humans stand on two legs, certain, parts are much more visible, we have no tail or fur to cover particular markings, and in the case of male humans in particular there is quite a bit... more to see."
"Huh, why is that, don't humans have a ... a ..." Now it was Twilight's turn to blush. "sheath?"
"Nope" I said, face now a shade that would call Pinkie Pie's namesake into question, when I heard a loud clap from behind me.
"Oh Goddess, I immediately regret hearing that!" Turning I saw Spike, with palms planted fast to his ears and the situation rendered to ever greater heights of awkwardness. Twilight rose to her hooves and trotted to Spike, beginning to calm him and bring him upstairs. I was left to my own devices until one of them returned, as I had no idea how to get to Carousel Boutique on my own. Much less without eliciting panic among the ponies who were as of yet still unaware of my existence.
Trixie was walking the road of the Everfree, a name that was just that, a name only, the 'road' as it was called, was more akin to a raised patch of earth with slightly more dead vegetation than the rest of the forest floor. She had been on the road without proper shelter for the last three days, her last proper meal had been two weeks ago, and constant pace which Trixie exerted out of herself was tiring her quickly. She was on her way to Caneighda after she had been laughed out of Manehattan. Word of her failure in subduing an Ursa Minor had reached the cosmopolitan city just three nights after she began her show in the bustling city. Stupid, Twilight Sparkle, she thought to herself as images of her past clouded her vision, she just had to prove she was better than me, she couldn't let me have my moment of ... approval. That last word willed out of Trixie's eyes twin trails of tears. Neither of her parents had been unicorns, her father had been an earth pony, and her mother a pegasus. Neither showed any support for her when she had started budding in her magical talents.
She remembered when she had first managed to teleport, she remembered her father's words exactly. 'Well maybe now you can just teleport the water from the river to the fields!' She had been five years old, and prior to that her only magical accomplishment had been moving balls and blocks about with telekinesis. On that here mother had been even less supportive, 'That's silly, moving blocks is useless, why can't you learn to move clouds, or something that can actually affect the world hun?' At this point a cramp developed in Trixie's stomach, her body no longer willing to comply with the ordeal Trixie was putting it through.
Brought to her knees Trixie cried out in pain. Her thoughts still dwelled on her past. Being a unicorn born of non-unicorn parents in Stalliongrad had been ... to use the word taxing would indicate some modicum of necessity born of some higher power such as the state, or gods and goddesses. Filly faker, mud horn, mixed-up mare, and others had been just the tips of the insults she bore, which compared little to the beatings she would get. She couldn't outrun the earth ponies, and if she tried teleporting out of reach, either unicorns or pegusai would drag her down. When Trixie had been eight she had thought of a way out, that night she was going to end it all, when yet another group, this one consisting only of earth ponies and pegusai had marked her as their next target. She ran, she didn't want to go in pain, she wanted to do it on her own terms. Trixie had dashed into an alley way and jumped into a pile of refuse, the stench suffusing her coat. With only moments to spare Trixie attempted a spell she had been practising, but never accomplished, a spell of invisibility, the pinnacle of illusion magic. The posse entered the alleyway, looking about, a pegasus looked straight at Trixie, and continued looking past her.
"She must not be here." stated a blue earth pony with an ice pick for a cutie mark. With that the group left and Trixie let go of the magic she had been channeling. She looked over her shoulder and noticed adorning her flank, a newly formed cutie mark of an ethereal crescent of stars and a star-headed wand.
Trixie had at that moment, decided against ending her life that night, for years her parents had called her useless. But with a cutie mark, she knew she had a purpose, and it was a purpose she was going to pursue in spite of her parents. So she had run away from home, it had been difficult at first, but soon Trixie was gallivanting about the highest promenades with shows planned in various luxurious theatres. But she needed more, she didn't want to be liked for being entertaining, she wanted to be loved ... for the power she wielded, for how she could bend reality and seeming to her will. As more ponies grew tired of her self-glorious rants, she had been forced to take to a humble wagon show, going from town to town until she had lost it all except for the tattered cape on her back, and the meagre mass still attached to her stomach.
Trixie slumped to her side, to tired to keep herself upright when she spotted above her a gleaming red apple, and beside it still others. This was most fortuitous, edible plants this far into the Everfree were unheard of. Bringing her magic to bare, Trixie tugged at the apple, and ... nothing, she was so drained she could not even perform telekinesis.
"No! The Great and Powerful Trixie does not want to starve! I don't want to ...!" She did not finish the sentence, afraid that its utterance would bring the fear to fruition. She looked about, there had to be an apple that had fallen to the ground but there was none, only crisp, pristine grass at the base of the tree, with no sour weeds corrupting the ... NO! Trixie would not lower herself to that. A pony could, if they so desired, subsist entirely on grass, though the flavour was unpleasing, and one had to eat quite a bit it was possible to survive on the stuff. But these were not the reasons Trixie refused to yield to what for her ancestors, twenty million years of instinct, and life itself bid she do. It was unseemly, the ultimate act of shame to eat raw grass for a Stalliongrad unicorn. Doing that was something an earth pony would do to swear fealty to a unicorn oligarch.
Trixie willed herself to her hooves and orientated herself so that her hind legs were facing the tree, one solid buck would send the apples to her. Bracing herself, Trixie raised her legs and snapped them backwards. into the solid trunk. The sound that echoed through the Everfree was not the sound of hoof meeting wood but an agonized scream from the pain Trixie now felt. She collapsed to the ground with the tempting grass prodding her muzzle. All she had to do was open her mouth, but she could not. But why? Trixie thought to herself. Because they'll laugh at you see that you're nothing but a mud-horn. Responded something altogether to familiar, her own self doubt.
"But the Great and Powerful Trixie can't die here!" she moaned. Then you will live as cattle should! Doubt nagged back.
"For what!? Image, a sense of honour that's done nothing for me?" Screamed Trixie. "Some convoluted reasoning that does nothing but confuse and deprive ponies of what's truly important!?" She was hysterical now, barely speaking, the noise coming from her raw emotion and anguish.
Are you saying that you're image is not ... "It's not my image!" Trixie cried. "Its an illusion, just like I've always been. It's not me." Trixie sobbed. "This, construct that I believed for so long ... it's not worth dying for!"
Trixie craned her head and opened her mouth, hesitating. No! You cannot, must not!. Trixie lowered her head and bit into the grass, tears once again flowing unrestrained as Doubt began chanting in the back of her mind as she had her fill Nopony will ever love a cow like you.
After a brief five minutes, I noticed Spike come downstairs to the library lobby, head slightly down turned. When he reached the foot of the couch he quickly stated, though in a manner clearly not forced. "I'm sorry I over-reacted about what I heard its just, well, Twilight gave me ... 'The Talk' a few months ago and it was ..." He stopped, not so much from embarrassment as mere want for a proper term "vivid, I hadn't wanted to visualize."
"If it makes you feel any better I think you handled it quite well, when kids hear about that kind of ... stuff, they make as if their brain is going to leak out their ears." I responded.
"Ha! that sounds like a vivid image itself!" Spike laughed. "So, you ready to head for Rarity's for clothing measurements?"
"Indeed." I affirmed. "Thought I am concerned, none of the other ponies have seen me, I don't want to cause a panic."
"Don't worry about it, once they see you with me, they'll know Twilight is cool with you, and then it'll all be fine." He responded, smug that he was a proxy of such an admired mare.
"Well then, if that is the case," I said, heading for the door. "lead the way." I finished as I opened the door, stepping over the threshold and keeping the door open for Spike.
"Thanks!" He said, passing by me and heading down the road with me in tow.
A few minutes passed with a few gasps and stares directed at us, but no screams, stampedes, or impromptu pitchfork sharpening. Spike glanced over his shoulder and, looking past me, began squinting his eyes.
"What are you looking at?" I asked.
"That pony has been the same distance behind us every time I look back." He said. At this I turned back to look myself I noticed none other than Doctor Whooves, with a set of saddle bags hanging from his sides. I beckoned with my hand for him to come over and he trotted to our side, soon matching our pace.
"Good morning Doctor, how are you?" I asked, glad to see that Celestia's agent hadn't attempted to appear unaffiliated with me.
"Oh quite well thank you." He inclined his head to Spike. "I don't believe we've been formally introduced, I'm Doctor Whooves, I brought Edmund here to Ponyville, and I'm making sure he integrates into town without problems."
"The name's Spike, pleasure to meetcha." The dragon stated, extending a claw to the Doctor.
"So where are you headed? Not that I mean to be nosy, but well, its my job to make sure nothing bad happens to you." Doctor Whooves said to me.
"We're headed for Carousel Boutique, I'm getting fitted for some new clothes. After that I'm going to Applejack's farm to see if I can help her." I replied.
"Really, that should be interesting to watch, what with your unconventional shape and size." Doctor Whooves
"And we're here!" Exclaimed Spike as he rapped on the door with an enclosed fist.
"Cooooommmiiiing!" Came a sing-song voice of Rarity as the door became enveloped in a pale aura, opening to reveal the interior. "Come in! And welcome to Carousel Boutique, home of fashions chic, uni- oh, hello Spike, Edmund aaand." Rarity paused, the sweeping motion of her hoof halting to gesture towards Doctor Whooves.
"He is Doctor Whooves." I stated. "He was so kind as to guide me to Ponyville when I finally awoke in Canterlot."
"Hi!" Doctor Whooves chirped, waving a forehoof at the ivory mare. "I ... uh, just wanted to see that everything was going well. With the measurements that is. I'll just take a seat."
"So Rarity, is Sweetie Belle around?"
"Oh yes, she's upstairs, I was planning to send her off to Applejack's with you, I wanted some peace and quiet while I worked on Edmund's clothes, and with Edmund helping Applejack on the farm, I'm sure that Applebloom will be able to spend time with her."
"That sounds like a great plan! I'll go get her." Spike said jogging up the stairs.
"Now, for measuring." Rarity said curtly, levitating measuring tape beside her.
As Rarity began to measure my waist, I heard hoof steps coming down the stairs at a rate that could not have been safe. This was followed by a filly unicorn, coat white as Rarity's with a mane of pink, white and purple. Her eyes were squinting from the huge grin on her face as she yelled "Cutie Mark Crusader diplomats!". The exuberance of her face changed as she noticed she was on a collision course with my legs. Had her footing been true, she might have skidded to halt, this was not the case however as she stepped on a bolt of fabric, and she slid, horn first, into my leg. It was at this point I was immensely glad unicorns did not have horns as sharp as alicorns, for the contact did not result in an immediate skewering of my leg, but a buckling, causing me to fall over in a heap, my arm banging against a sewing machine.
"Ow." Was my only response, it was nothing akin to taking a bullet through the neck, but it was none the less discomforting.
"Woah are you alright?" Spike said as he walked over to beside my head.
"I used to be bipedal like you, then I took a unicorn to the knee." I chuckled, the joke was hopelessly unoriginal, but immensely appropriate, as the point of contact had in fact been been my right knee.
"I'm sorry mister, when I heard there was an alien down in the shop I thought I could get my Cutie Mark in inter-governmental relations." Sweetie Belle piped up, now standing up, I was thoroughly impressed at how she didn't stumble over her words. She gasped, and glancing at her flank, groaned out at seeing it still an empty slate.
"Well, you may not be one for politics, but you may have potential as a Rugby player." I chuckled, rising to my feet, tentatively placing weight on my smarting leg.
"No, we already tried that." Sweetie Belle sighed.
Before I could offer encouragement, the sewing machine next to Rarity began making a valiant effort to sew together spare molecules of oxygen, making a racket.
"Oh dear! Umm..." Rarity's horn began to glow as she attempted to flip the power switch, when this failed Rarity began stomping her hooves hooves and squealing as the delicate piece of equipment began bending the needle and a horrid ratcheting noise began sounding from the appliance.
"Hang on!" Doctor Whooves exclaimed, pulling out a screwdriver from his saddlebags, and chomping down on it, sent a blue pulse into the machine, which immediately shut off.
"Oh thank Celestia and thank you Doctor Whooves, I was worried I was going to have to replace a sewing machine again!" Rarity gasped, removing the bent needle and setting a replacement with delicate manipulations of her horn.
"It was no trouble at all." Doctor Whooves said as he set the device into his saddle bag once more.
"Whew, glad that's over, hey Doctor Whooves, can you show Edmund the way to Sweet Apple Acres once the measuring is done? I wanna go there with Sweetie Belle right away." Spike pondered.
"Certainly." The Doctor replied. With that Sweetie Belle began following Spike to the door when she turned back to me.
"Sorry again for hurting your leg." The white filly turned and trotted out the door.
The measuring commenced in earnest, with Doctor Whooves looking on, or rather, looking at Rarity as she plied her craft. She was fully engrossed and did not notice. But I had, and gave the Doctor a knowing grin when his eyes chanced upon mine, causing his head to turn to the door while the last measurements were made.
"And... done!" Rarity exclaimed. "Now, I should have the clothes ready in a few days, they'll be something durable, but fashionable, good to work in or have a casual visit. Now where did I put the denim and cotton?" Rarity began to wander to a closet as various cloths floated around her as I offered thanks, and stepped outside with Doctor Whooves.
"So, fancy the colour purple eh?" I chuckled, now eager to hear the Doctor account for his wandering eyes.
"Oh umm, well, you see, it's like, you know, she's just, how do I?"
"Explain it? With words, preferably with complete sentences." I said, choosing a sentence to complete and offer a solution.
The Doctor breathed. "She's a very talented mare, and, you wouldn't guess it from a fashion designer but she has a certain ..."
"Charm, allure, approachability, fire, spiritedness?" I offered.
"Yes, the last one, you hear about what she did to Prince Blueblood at the Gala and you can't help but admire her ..."
"Guts and bravery to let others know when she feels she's been slighted?" I offered, having heard of the Elements rather hectic Gala appearance from the Doctor during the train ride to Ponyville.
"Yes, and could you stop that?"
"Finishing other ponies -"
"Sentences." It wasn't a question this time the conversation was something I was intimately familiar with, yet for the life of me I could not stop. The amusement gained, if not the time saved, of cutting through other's thoughts and getting to the crux of any situation was something I prided myself on.
"Yes! Exactly, I want you to stop finishing my sentences and let me figure out what I am feeling at my own rate!" He said, not with any anger, only speed so as to ensure I did not repeat the offence.
"Very well, but if you think I'll drop the matter entirely you'll be sorely disappointed."
"Now, as I was saying, Rarity, she's got a ... fire, she knows what's right and she makes others know it. Me, I always try and talk things out, use my mind to solve the issue, but sometimes you just have to go out there and make something clear." When he finished, I nodded.
"Well, it sounds to me like you should make what you're feeling clear to her." I said. "Know that I am here to help."
"Thanks, but I have to ask, why are you offering help like this, I've only known you for a day, and I'm your ..."
"Parole officer?" I offered, now willing to risk reneging on my word to not finish sentences. "Because, I'd like to see people improve themselves, and if that means giving relationship advice, so be it. Also, I'd like to be your friend."
"That's odd." Doctor Whooves said. "I'd have thought you would say the friend thing first."
"If I conveyed that the befriending would occur only after the helping, I'm sorry."
"For what?" He asked.
"Well, that's what friends do right help each other?"
"So I'm sorry that I gave the impression that I could help you without being your friend, that would be rather boastful of me if I did." I answered.
"Hm. Ah! Here we are, Sweet Apple Acres!" Doctor Whooves affirmed. We proceeded to search for Applejack, to see how I could help her.
Trixie awoke with a start, having heard something stirring nearby. When she looked about she saw nothing she turned her gaze back to the ground, the neatly chewed grass all around her testament to her failing. She had stooped to the lowest a unicorn of Stalliongrad could, she had eaten raw, unrefined grass off the ground. MULE! Doubt clawed at her stomach where hunger once reigned. Trixie turned her head to the tree, trying to dislodge the thoughts clouding her mind. "The Great and Powerful Trixie is always resourceful, and will, find a way." She stated to herself. The loan apple tree still bore enticing fruit and with a tentative pull of magic, Trixie smiled as she noted she had regained enough energy to perform magic once more. As she had her fill of apples. Trixie set her cape on the ground. Yes, cast off your vestments, become the pathetic chattel that you are. Doubt interceded. Pushing through, Trixie placed several apples on the cape and tied the corners to form a bag. Lifting it with her magic, Trixie placed it on her back, balancing the package so it would remain secure as she walked. Beast of Burden. Echoed Doubt, he was grating against Trixie now as she began down the path.
"The Great and .... I am not a beast of burden, I just realized the impracticality of Stalliongrad ethics." Trixie said aloud. Oh, so its about practicality now is it? What about making yourself better than others, or do you realize that you're worthless? "I..." Trixie stammered. When will you realize you're not worth even this? Go ahead and end it, there's a cliff to your left now. Trixie gasped, she had not thought like that for years now, she glanced to her left and sure enough the ground had dropped off to a sheer drop twenty feet from where she was walking. She snapped her head back to stare straight ahead. "No, I am not better than others, or worse than others, I'm their ... equal." But look at your Cutie Mark, wind noise and light, images, imagined things, that's all you're good for. "Trixie is different yes, but that is what makes her important, ... I am able to do things other's cant, just as they can do things that I can't." Trixie was trying hard to correct her manner of speech, she had talked like that for years, isolating herself from others, setting herself above them. She was now finally realizing that it wasn't what one ate, whether one could perform magic or fly, that made one of value. She just did not know what it was, but she did know it was not the self-obsession she had been preening over the years, how could it, it had nearly destroyed her. What kind of virtue was it that dashed oneself to pieces? A bad one. Thought Trixie, glad to note that self-doubt was no longer clouding her mind.
She sighed contentedly, wondering where she would go. I suppose ... I am in the Everfree, which means I could go to Ponyville. If I could prove that I really have changed there, I could really live my life anywhere. The powder blue mare thought. She was comforted by the thought but also afraid now, she still wanted a purpose in life, but not simply setting herself with some false messianic reputation. How could she contribute with just ... images. Trixie shook her head, the set off with renewed vigour, she would find a way to make something better.
Doctor Whooves and I reached a glen of Granny Smith Apples, following the sound of hooves striking against wood. No doubt this would be where Applejack was and as we crested the hill the theory proved correct.
Doctor Whooves turned to me. "Well, here we are, I don't see you needing my help, so I'll be on my way." He said, and trotted off in the direction we came.
I jogged down the hill to Applejack as she finished placing a few stray apples into various buckets arranged around the base of an apple tree. "Good afternoon Applejack." I said, turning to the surrounding grove I continued. "So, how can I be not useless?"
"Well not sure what y'all would be good fer, but I bet there's somethin' on the farm ya can help with." The orange pony replied.
"Sis, who're ya talkin' to." Sounded a small voice from behind the tree. A little filly, the size of Sweetie Belle rounded the tree, she was the same colour as Fluttershy, but with a vibrant red mane. She looked up at me and opened her mouth. "Golly, is that there visitor ya told me about sis'? you weren't kiddin' when ya said he was tall. Gosh, he must be as tall as Celestia. Hey Mister! Are you a god?"
" ... No." I responded quite dumbfounded by the question, though touched at the innocence of the little foal before me.
"Now sis, this here is Edmund, he's gonna be helpin' around the farm for today so you go off and find Spike and Sweetie Belle and have fun now y'hear?" Applejack told Applebloom.
Applebloom nodded and trotted off before calling out to me. "Bye Mister! Good luck buckin' apples!"
Turning to Applejack and the tree I asked. "So you just kick the tree and the apples fall right out?"
"Yup, just give 'em a good solid buck and they'll all come tumbling out." She affirmed. I turned to the tree and began sizing it up. The shoes I wore weren't steel toed, so to simply kick the tree like it was a soccer ball would invite disaster. I adjusted my position to face my back to the tree. I figured emulating Applejack would meet with the most success and so I lifted my left leg and shot it backward, planting the bottom of my foot into the trunk. The resulting impact caused me to fall forwards, onto my right knee, still tender from my altercation with Sweetie Belle. Hissing as I got up I turned to the tree to not that not a single apple and been relinquished. Applejack hummed. "A'right, so apple buckin' aint yer strong suit. Here, lemme do it." With that the orange mare spinned on her back legs and let loose a mighty double hooved buck, causing a cascade of apples to fall into the buckets below. With this I noticed that many of the apples had missed and Applejack began picking them up on at a time, by the stem, and placing them into the nearest bucket. With this an idea formed.
"Hang on, I can get the apples on the ground." I stated, I moved to the apples and began rapidly moving all the apples into the bucket, doubled over to reach the ground. It was at this point I heard a snicker from behind me and I turned to Applejack. "What?"
"Y'all look just like Spike when he's diggin' fer gems in the ground fer Rarity." Applejack replied as I continued gathering apples and placing them in a nearby bucket.
".... And done." I commented as I placed the last stray apple into the bucket.
"Wow, that was fast, guess them claws of yers are good for grabbing stuff, and not a single apple cut open too boot!" Applejack praised as she inspected my work. "It's a li'l like having Twilight or Rarity helpin' out, all them apples gettin' in the buckets lickety split!" Pleased to be of use, we continued progress swimmingly, taking a break to indulge in a lunch of, you guessed it, apples. When the sun was beginning to make its downward arc to the horizon, we had just finished pulling the apple buckets to the farm. When we notice two specks in the distance, one yellow and one orange. It was not long before the dots became Applebloom and Scootaloo.
"Howdy sis! Say where's Spike and Sweetie Belle?" Applejack inquired of the two fillies.
"Ah don't know sis, Sweetie Belle, Spike and I agreed that if we wanted to find Scootaloo we should split up and meet at the club house later, but they never came." Applebloom replied.
"What direction did they head off in?" Applejack asked, now with a concerned air.
"Intah the center o' the town."
"Whew, for a moment ah was worried, they prolly just got distracted and found somethin' else to do when they couldn't find Scootaloo."
For all this time, aforementioned orange pegasus had been looking at me, when finally she commented. "How do you keep yourself from falling over?"
Expecting the question to be regarding my anatomy, I had an answer in quick supply. "The same way Spike does, a very good sense of balance, and lots of practice moving on two legs."
"Meh, makes sense, don't see why other ponies would be afraid of you though." Replied the purple maned filly nonchalantly.
"Wait, who thinks I'm scary?" I asked.
"Dinky Whooves, Derpy Whooves' sister, then again, that girl is afraid of anything bigger than her, which happens to be everything."
"Well, if I meet her I'll have to make sure to convince her I'm not a threat." I stated, and moved on to other matters. "I should be going back into town, you can give me my pay for today's work tomorrow Applejack."
"Sure thing sugarcube." Applejack responded, waving a hoof as I made my way back to Ponyville.
Rarity had been working for the past several hours on Edmund's clothes, all the designing had been finished, and she was well through the fifth pair of pants. She had been quite inspired, but now that she was falling into a routine, her mind couldn't help to wander to that Doctor Whooves. He had saved her spending a few hundred bits on a new sewing machine, not to mention time saved. There was however something more, about him, something, physical. No, it wasn't that he was outrageously handsome, but Rarity found his humble colours pleasing. It was as common as not in Ponyville for a citizen to have some garish coat colour. It was something that often clashed with the muted tones of older styles of formal attire, Rarity's personal favourite branch of design. It would have been nice to make a suit for him, if nothing else.
It was at this point that the door to Carousel Boutique open, revealing the pony that had been occupying Rarity's thoughts. As Rarity got up she gave her usual introduction, and the Doctor said. "Hi, I was thinking about getting a suit, you know, something for a formal occasion, oh, but something that's durable to, things tend to get hectic where ever I am."
"Certainly good sir, step right this way and I'll get your measurements." Rarity replied, all her glee at having the opportunity to improve the object of her interests.
Ok, just let her do the measurements and you can go. Doctor Whooves thought to himself, he had left Edmund realizing that he really was interested in this mare, but he needed an angle, a way in, and a suit was just the way. He would get some advice from Edmund later. For now he was just a customer and interested individual, he really did need a new suit, the D'aawleks, in an attempt to love and tolerate him, had burnt up the last two dozen he had.
Shortly thereafter the measurements were finished and Doctor Whooves bid Rarity farewell, promising to return in a few days to pick up his purchase. Rarity let out a contented sigh, returning to her work on Edmund's clothes, eager to finish them so she could get to work on the Doctor's suit.
I rounded the turn by Sugarcube Corner when at last I saw the familiar faces of Spike and Sweetie Belle. Each in possession of a rather large lollipop. "Hey you two, Applebloom and Scootaloo were wondering where you were." I called out.
"Oh! Uh hey Edmund, Sweetie Belle and I looked for hours and then we thought that we would get something from Sugarcube Corner!" Spike replied after giving a brief start.
"Well, it's getting late we should all be headed to our homes."
"Gotcha, seeya Sweetie Belle!" Spike waved to the filly as she silently made her way to Carousel Boutique. Spike and I headed towards the library when Spike spoke. "You called the library home after just being here for less than twenty-four hours, care to explain?"
"Ah, well, its a good place to be, and truth be told I don't think I'll be able to afford a house very soon, so for now it is a home to me." I replied, the dragon was an attentive listener.
"You just seem to be taking this all in stride so well, seriously, when Twilight moved here she was practically climbing the walls." Spike noted.
"Yes I am, though being alive when for all accounts I should be dead is hardly something I think I should doubt." I chuckled as I said this, the image of a pony somehow climbing a wall without the gripping power of hands or feet crossing my mind.
"Wait, you almost died?" Spike asked worriedly. "What happened?"
"I was in a situation that warranted I remain while others were brought to safety." I replied.
"Did it work, did you save someone, who were they?" Spike was gazing up at me intently.
"Yes, I did save someone, two people actually, I didn't know who they were though." I answered.
"Why did you save someone you didn't know, what if they turned out to be bad?" He asked.
"Sometimes you can tell a lot about a person from a quick examination, maybe not enough to know everything about them, but enough to know their worth protecting... even dying for." I responded.
"Oh, that makes sense, Twilight's told me since I was little 'Don't judge a book by its cover.' Funny, she had to relearn that lesson herself with Zecora."
"Zecora?" I asked.
"She's the zebra who lives just inside the Everfree Forest. For a long time everyone in Ponyville thought she was an enchantress or something, it all turned out to be a bunch of hooey." Spike replied.
"It's important to have faith in others, I wish I could have trusted others in my own world so readily." I said looking to the now rising moon.
"You mean you didn't trust others in your own world?"
"Placing trust in someone requires you to expose a piece of yourself before them, I didn't really have an opportunity to do that without immediately regretting it when I was younger." I said.
"Then why are you so trusting of me, or ponies?
"Spike ... In my world humans are the only intelligent species, there was nothing else with art, language, ... stories." I stated. "When I was young I was constantly bullied by others, to me, they all looked the same, like me. I guess in time I just started to learn that I couldn't trust what was similar on the outside. The only people I met who showed any modicum of kindness looked quite different from me, on the outside."
"And so you figure that because ponies look so different, they must behave differently as well?" Spike asked.
I smiled, it felt good to reflect on who I was, and how I'd come to be. "Yes, though when I got older I realized that look like or unlike me, every person could hold a beautiful soul, it was just a matter of taking the risk to see it."
"Even if it ended up hurting in the end?"
"Being a good person doesn't mean that you're always going to come out ahead in life. But when you look at the people who lie, and cheat and do everything under the sun to destroy. You still get the last laugh, because at the end of it all, they aren't even at one with themselves, let alone others, and it destroys them. That is the ultimate mockery of the vicious."
"What is?" The purple drake asked of me.
"That they think that they can be at war with everything that is good on the outside, yet keep the inside intact."
"I think I understand now."
"If you ever want to discuss something Spike, I am here for you." I told him as we reached the library. The last vestiges of the sun had crept under the distant mountain Canterlot was set upon. And the moon was rising over the Everfree.
Trixie was walking along a cliff in the Everfree, gazing at that same moon, she contemplated stopping to rest, but she was still well rested from her afternoon nap. She saw by the stars that she was close to Ponyville now, and she planned her moves for when she got there. Maybe I could ask Snips and Snails first they still believed in, if just a little, even after the Ursa Minor. Maybe I could get them to give a not to Twilight, to apologize, and meet with her. It was at this point she heard a rustle from a bush behind her, followed by a familiar set voices. "Watch it ... No you watch it! I swear I heard somepony right over ... WAH!" To Trixie's surprise she beheld just the two ponies she had hoped to meet.
"Snips? Snails? Its so good to see you, but, what are you doing here in the Everfree?" Trixie asked candidly.
The plump unicorn stood up and answered rather quickly. "We were just out for a walk when we heard something coming, so we hid in the bush, thinking it was an Ursa Minor."
"Or a manticore!" Snails added. Something was off about their manner of speech, much to, quick, like they had been ready to speak. Trixie shrugged and she began.
"Well I was hoping you two could help me, I've realized how ... foalish I've been in the past, and I was hoping you could tell Twilight that I apologize for what I've done." Trixie stated.
"You haven't done anything wrong though..." The two unicorn stallions, no, colts said in perfect unison. This set Trixie on edge as the sat beside her, one on either side. Still, the two were rather adamantly standing in her defence, that clearly hadn't changed in her absence.
"No, I did do something wrong, I lied about my abilities, refused to accept that I have limits, and put ponies with which I had no quarrel with in danger as a result." Trixie replied.
"Oh, but who cares about other ponies, you have us ..." Snails said as Trixie felt a hoof stroke her mane, this was uncalled for, humbled as she had been by the day's experiences, this was crossing multiple lines.
"Stop it, you hardly know me, that you think I shouldn't care about the things I've done shows that, though I suppose it's not your fault." Trixie said as she glanced back to see that the source of pressure on her tail was Snips taking a seat on it. Trixie was getting angry at this, being the only friends she had or not, this was crossing all boundaries and Trixie began to wonder if she had entered estrus early this year. This thought was brought to an abrupt stop as she felt a sharp scraping sensation on her flank. Reflexively Trixe bucked, and she heard a hiss come from Snips as she turned around to reprimand the upstart colt. She looked to the ground in time to see a green flame work its way over Snips.
Trixie jumped to the side as another hiss and flame poured over the corner of her vision. She now beheld two abominations. Onyx carapaces covered them from instect winged back to hole riddled hooves. Muted teal shades filled the creatures' eyes as they hissed at Trixie. Changelings.
Trixie let loose a bolt of magic at one changeling, and bolted through the forest. She could hear a buzzing rapidly approaching her as she ran for dear life. The drone of wings grew to a loud din when Trixie, stopped, taking the creature by surprise and landing a solid buck in the creatures chest and it fell. Trixie turned to run again when the other changeling caught her by the leg with a grip of magic, Trixie didn't know where it was, and could only continue to drag herself along with the impeding miasma surrounding her leg. The grip snapped a few moments later as Trixie worked her self out of the magic with wards. She galloped as the sound of screeching sounded from behind her again. Turning to look back Trixie's next step met with no ground, sending her tumbling down a steep hill. Her left forehoof struck a rock and she screamed as she felt bones crack as she fell the rest of the way. Landing on her stomach, Trixie looked to a clearing in the distance in front of her. Gathering her magic, she teleported to the glade just as she heard the thrumming of wings again. Trixie began to limp as she heard a roar behind her and she dared a glance behind her. What she saw confused her greatly. The changelings were at the edge of the clearing but going no further. A few moments later and they retreated, and Trixie collapsed, the pain finally catching up to her. She thought she saw a cloaked figure out of the edge of her vision.
The last thing she heard before slipping unconscious was a motherly voice cooing. "What is this? Pony of blue. With bone and muscle, torn askew?"
Spike and I entered the library to see dozens of books flying off the shelves, all encased in a purple glow. "Well, she's started re-organizing the books again, joy to the world." Spike commented sardonically as Twilight ceased humming, glanced at us, and placed the remaining books in some as of yet unfathomable sequence.
Stepping forward I asked Twilight. "How are you organizing these books?"
"Alphabetically by title, why?" Twilight responded.
"That isn't the most efficient method, and it certainly isn't helpful for anyone looking for a particular book." I responded, years of scanning the contents of libraries had given me a tenable grasp on how to search for books, and by proxy, organize them.
"How do humans organize their libraries then?" The lavender mare asked.
"Well, first we organize according to genre, fiction, history, dramas and plays, poetry collections, such as that." I began.
"Great, you two go on with that, I'm getting a ruby." Spike said as he walked to the kitchen.
"Each of these genres is given a two letter code that all other books of the same genre are given. Within each genre books are then ordered alphabetically by author and in turn given a numeric code, the books are arranged then according to the order of the numeric code. These codes can then be placed on stickers which are placed on the spine of the book. That way, finding the proper place for the book once it is returned is a matter of matching it in its set, rather than looking at the title individually. You can have shelves labeled with the range of codes that they have." I finished. Twilight's amethyst eyes darting around the library as the pieces fell together.
"That's brilliant!" Twilight exclaimed. "I can't wait to do that!"
"Well, the night is young, and I can get by on little sleep."
Trixie opened her eyes groggily to the interior of a hut. A dull throbbing permeated her body. Shifting herself the throb became a sharp stab in her left foreleg, forcing a cry from the blue illusionist.
"It seems now you are awake, very long that did not take." A voice emanated from the edge of Trixie's vision as a zebra stepped into view, bracelets jangling on her hooves and neck. "Zecora is my name, and I would ask of you the same."
"Trixie." She replied. Her travels had put her in contact with zebras before, making understanding the rhyming possible, if no less convoluted.
"It is not safe to roam the Everfree, many dangers among the trees. To where do you go, Ponyville? Tell me if it is so."
Trixie decided that to save herself time she would answer the question, and all others that would follow, taking a deep breath she began, forcing her way through the pain that was omnipresent. "Yes, I am heading for Ponyville. I have been there before and I did things that I regret and want to apologize. If you could help me get there it would be greatly appreciated."
Nodding, the zebra replied. "Help you get a second chance I will do, but first your injuries I must tend to."
"Thank you." It was all Trixie could muster before another ache began bothering her. Wordlessly the zebra grabbed a bowl, and filling it with a green liquid she tipped it to Trixie's lips.
"Drink this and be healed, brew of herbs from far afield." Trixie complied to the witchdoctor's request, sipping at the potion. In a few moments began to fade, along with consciousness.
I sat with Twilight, it had taken two hours, but we had implemented a system that would make the library run smoothly in the future. The purple unicorn turned to me, and said. "I've been thinking about what you said this morning, about how humans and ponies, and well all intelligent beings have some purpose, that purpose being to improve the object of its interests."
"Go on..." I pressed, intent to listen on what she thought of the matter.
"Well, an intelligent being is able to improve pretty much anything with enough time and determination, but what does that have to do with morality?"
"Well, Twilight, would you consider that each individual is inclined to be talented in something?"
"Of course! That's what Cutie Marks show. Everypony has something which they are valuable for, not just for what they can do, but the ideas and approaches that can be made to a problem." The unicorn replied quizzically, wondering where I was going with this.
"Then think on this, each improvement each pony makes improves all around them in a particular way, the carpenter improves houses, chefs food, and librarians libraries. These in turn improve the lives of those around us, and ourselves. However, what each does is different, but of value. I suggest that morality is understanding this position that each holds and seeks to improve it."
"So ponies end up improving those around them by doing what they are suited for, each is different but still wholly a pony as they can understand each detail of their craft." The lavender mare continued. "Then the basis for morality is understanding those around you, and seeking that which is best for them according to one's talents."
"Indeed, what you just touched upon, the understanding and the improving, this can be called many things, friendship, compassion, even love if one feels so inclined, that is merely a matter of semantics." I concluded.
"Then, if this is all there is to it ...." The unicorn fell silent, glancing at the floor beneath her. "Princess Celestia ... when she taught me the spell that brought you here, she said that I would summon something that had knowledge of both good and evil. What is it that makes your world, your kind, different from mine?"
"I cannot claim to know for certain, but I can give the insight I can. Let us start with perhaps the biggest difference." I began. "Humans do not have Cutie Marks, we have essentially, only a few things to rely on to determine what we are good for. This I notice is the greatest difference of our kind, and with it humans are far more likely to attach to what they cannot understand or improve upon, if one would allow for the phrase, it could be conceived as love misdirected."
It was at this point that Twilight interjected. "Wow, suddenly Applebloom's obsession with finding her Cutie Mark makes a lot more sense...." At this point Twilight's stomach began to grumble, we had not eaten. "Oh, heheh, I guess we should eat now before bed." She offered.
We went to the kitchen and soon prepared a meal, a rather hefty salad, if such a meal could ever be considered such. On this thought I looked up at Twilight and said. "Twilight, there is something I need to ask, humans require protein to survive, and we often get that protein from specific sources."
"Oh, like what?" She asked.
"Mostly from meat, but there are particular plants, like spinach or beans or nuts, that provide what we need to survive, I just thought you would want to know that it would be best if we got more food like that so I don't waste away."
The lavender mare looked up from her plate at the mention of meat, her ears folded back. "You eat meat? I mean its not unheard of among intelligent species but ... I'm glad you told me this first, it could have ended badly if you told anypony else, even mentioning it, from a griffon or a diamond dog, tends to send most ponies on edge."
"I'm glad you understand, and I'm sorry for not having told you sooner."
"Well then, I'll be sure and add some more high-protein foods to my shopping list in the future."
We finished our meal and headed to our rooms to turn in for the night.
I awoke from my dreamless slumber to the sound of knocking at the door. Rising from the library's couch, I could already make out the faint rustling of Twilight awakening. I looked at the window to note that the sun had only just began to contemplate rising. Whoever was visiting was certainly an early riser. Twilight stepped down the stairs as another round of knocking sounded at the door. "Can you get that Edmund?" she asked. Obliging, I stepped to the door and opened it.
"AH!" was all I received in greeting as I opened the door. I had anticipated the reaction to be more common since my arrival in Equestria. All the same it hurt to be viewed as an object of fear. Casting my glance downwards I saw two ponies. Both had a grey coat with blond mane. One was a full grown adult pegasus with eyes slightly askew, the other a filly unicorn with eyes shut tight, huddling against the larger in fear.
"Dinky hush, it's not going to hurt you." The elder said as Twilight stood beside me in the doorway.
"Oh hello Derpy! Is something wrong with Dinky?"
The grey pegasus opened her mouth to reply. "My sister saw this ...."
"Edmund, a human, though the human would be applicable as well." I offered.
"Right." The pegasus nodded, one eye following the motion as the other remained fixed on me. "My sister, Dinky, saw you yesterday, she came home crying that she saw a monster. When I heard it, you, were here with Twilight, I thought I could show her you were alright. At this moment the foal shuffled and whimpered, placing herself under her sister.
I got down into a kneeling position and transitioned into sitting on the ground and extended a hand. "Hey there, Dinky, I'm Edmund. Why don't you come out from there. The small filly opened her eyes and looked at me, then at my hand. Sniffing, she looked at Derpy, who gave a nod of assent. With this the filly took one tentative step towards me, her leg shaking as it reconnected with the ground. I put on what I imagined to be my least intimidating look as the filly made her way to just in front of my hand. The blond maned unicorn extended her neck, her nose just making contact with a knuckle. Derpy had now adopted a familial smile at the young pony's antics as Dinky took another step and extended a hoof towards my fingers. She put a slight pressure on my pinky and and I coiled it into my palm, earning a slight start but also a fascinated look. Dinky then looked around and noted all the faces smiling silent encouragement to her. She applied pressure to the rest of my fingers and I obliged, forming a loose fist. The filly tilted her head slightly and inspected her hoof before pressing it with some speed to my knuckles. "Hello!" Dinky uttered.
"See? He's friendly." Derpy grinned as Dinky returned underneath her sister. "Now, I also have a delivery."
"HUH! Oh my gosh! I forgot with all that happened I was expecting another delivery of books soon." Twilight exclaimed. Looking beyond the cross-eyed mare I noted a large crate. Twilight lifted said crate with her magic and I stepped aside to allow the box in, if it was full to the top with books, I would not have been able to lift it with the apparent ease Twilight did. "Thank you for bringing these Derpy, and I'm glad Dinky got to meet Edmund.
"Thanks Twi, come on Dinky, I feel like cherry muffins for breakfast!" The mare turned, her hooves weaving awkwardly around the grey filly and lifting off, flying with a gentle curve punctuated by the occasional zigzag. Dinky waving a hoof at me as she grew even smaller in the distance.
I turned to Twilight as she pried off the lid of the box, revealing a respectable repository of knowledge that did indeed fill all the space in the crate. "Wow, it seemed like I ordered fewer books when it was just on a sheet of paper." Twilight chuckled as she lifted a book. "Now to organize, lets see The Life of Chancellor Puddinghead by Jebediah Stampede." Twilight peeled a sticker to place a respective code. "That would be biography..." As Twilight lifted her head I noted a fact I had missed late last night, every shelf in the library was completely full. "Well, that's a problem ..." The purple mare stated flatly, ears folding downwards.
"Well, the solution is obvious, we need more places to put stuff." I stated gently.
"But every space is already occupied in the library." She responded. "Everything here has a place, and there isn't a place for anything else."
"Well, sounds like its time that the library receives an extension." I indicated to the back door of the library, leading out to a generous open space behind the great oaken building.
"That would require a permit from the mayor, not to mention the cost of construction and materials." Twilight turned back to me as she rested the tome onto a coffee table.
"I've got my work with Applejack, and you have your additional stipend for supporting me. As for construction materials, there's plenty of trees in the forest nearby." I offered, I was stubborn, when a solution arose, it was hard to divert me from pursuing it.
"Whitetail woods is a nature preserve." Twilight shaked her head. "You can't just go chopping down trees there."
"That ominous outgrowth with those black mountains in the distance? It doesn't even have a path leading into it." I replied.
"Oh! You were thinking about using trees from the Everfree? That might be difficult, that place is dangerous. Not to mention that its Crown Land, it belongs to Princess Celestia, you'd need a royal grant to cut it down." The lavender mare looked at me.
"Well, I would only be at the edge of the forest while gathering lumber, as for the permits, I suppose I can handle that in my time off." I offered, eager to see the Ponyville library improved. It was Twilight's passion, and after all, she had saved my life, even if not fully intentionally. The least I could do was cut down a few trees and deal with paperwork.
Nodding, Twilight spoke. "Alright, we'll get breakfast, and then you can go to town hall and deal with the papers for the library to be extended, and I'll write up a letter to Princess Celestia about your plan, I'm sure she'd grant you an audience when she hears that its to help Ponyville.
I agreed to this arrangement, and Twilight set to preparing a meal as Spike entered the kitchen. We explained the the dragon our plans and when we finished, we set off to make the world a little bit better.
In Canterlot, a white alicorn was seeking the best for the object of her own affections. Princess Luna had, since meeting with Edmund, become reticent and seldom met any subjects outside of her ceremonial raising of the moon. Celestia was standing at her sister's door, frowning as she noted it was locked. "Luna," the elder goddess said, "please talk to me, I told you that humans had a dark past, but there was also good in it. Nations forming alliances for purposes greater than themselves, artists showing the beauty, not just of their world but of other imagined ones." A dark aura enveloped the door and it swung open revealing Luna standing on the balcony. Celestia walked to her sister, noticing a few shining drops of freshly shed tears on the floor by the night alicorn's hooves.
"I can't believe ... no, I can believe, that kind of cruelty I heard described. It..." The princess of the night sniffed, continuing. "It reminded me of ... her." Celestia nodded, Luna's memories, all one thousand and three years, nine months, and five days, of her corruption by Nightmare Moon. "I'm ashamed of myself, not just for what I did, but for thinking only I could have known such suffering and cruelty." Luna finished. She turned to her sister and decided to speak further. "You said that this human would be able to help Equestria, how do you think he is going to do that?"
Before Celestia could reply a flash of magic brought a scroll before the sun goddess. Opening the letter, the ivory mare scanned the letter, a smile spread across her face as she muttered. "Deus ex machina."
Luna tilted her head, confused, "What's that sister?"
"I think the answer to your previous question just got answered Lulu." Luna returned to her normal stance as the letter was passed to her. Celestia seldom used Luna's nickname unless she was very happy about something. "Be well sister, I have a permit to arrange."
Trixie awoke to the sound of gentle stirring and birds chirping. But more than this, she noticed a notable relief in the pain than she had the last time she woke up. She lifted her head to see Zecora stirring at a cauldron, the smell emanating it was to Trixie, not wholly unpleasing, and she decided to ask if it was food.
"What are you making?"
"Not a magical brew, 'tis but a vegetable stew." Zecora responded, hardly surprised at the unicorn's return to consciousness.
Trixie shifted her position and noted that even her broken leg felt much better as she reached for the floor. Testing the weight on each hoof Trixie found that they were all fine except for a dull ache. "How long was I out?" She asked.
"Hours four, you slept and snored." The Zebra returned, adding a dash of salt to the cauldron. Trixie's mouth was agape at this, unicorns could learn healing spells that would repair wounds in minutes yes, and earth ponies would cause everything around them to grow and regenerate by mere presence alone. All the same it was impressive that the herbal tonic had been so potent.
"Thank you, for helping me I mean, I ... didn't really deserve the kindness." The blue mare said.
At this the zebra's ears swivelled and she cast a sidelong look at the illusionist. "Not deserving of kindness this cannot be, you seem a virtuous sort to me."
"But that's just it! I seem good but I want to be good." The mare exclaimed, not in anger at Zecora, but at herself. "All my life I've been obsessed with putting myself above others with nothing but flaunted tricks, and now... I want to do something real for a change. I know I said I wanted help going back into Ponyville, but first, I need to help you, to show you the kindness you showed me."
Zecora stopped stirring the pot and spoke. "If a good character you wish to show to me, then after this meal you can help me clean."
"Thank you. But why are you doing all this?" The cerulean unicorn inquired.
The zebra smiled and spoke. "My people's poets have this to say, on treating others, there's only one way. 'Teach me to feel another's woe, to hide the fault I see, that mercy I to others show, that mercy show to me.'"
The day had gone well, I had gone to the mayor's office early and acquired a permit to expand the library after filling a refreshingly minimal amount of paper work. I had then went on to Sweet Apple Acres, where I had worked with Applejack and Big Macintosh for several hours, stopping for a lunch of more apples. I was going to have to start bringing my own lunches, or develop a greater appreciation for the fruit than I already had.
I was returning to the library when Doctor Whooves trotted alongside me, grinning ear to ear. Interested to know what had him so jubilant, I asked. "What's got you so happy?"
"I went to Rarity's yesterday after you talked to me."
"And...?" I was happy for the chestnut stallion, he had certainly taken the initiative. "How did it go?"
"So, when's the date?" I asked.
At this the Doctor glanced at me and his ears turned downward. "I didn't actually ask her out, I ordered a suit, also, a fez, but that's less significant."
At this I stopped and grabbed the bridge of my nose. "Well, do you intend to ask her out when you pick up the suit?"
"That's exactly my plan, but, well, normally when I find a partner its under some situation of duress which we might not make it out of, how do I ask her out when there isn't something trying to kill us?"
This thought concerned me, the stallion before me was not used to an evening of contentment. Having lived the easy life myself, barring the unfortunate circumstances of my arrival to Equestria, I gave him some cliched advice. "Tell her that you're fascinated by her and would really like to get to know her better."
"But I already know her quite well, agent of Celestia and all that?" The Doctor responded.
"You know what she is and has done, you do not know who she is and why she does the things she does." I responded.
"That actually makes a bit of sense, even with my previous partners it sometimes took a while to understand what made them tick, not dreadfully long, but then that was when we were talking and saving the world or universe. I'll take that approach, thanks." He responded and trotted off. Boastful as he was for claiming to have saved the universe, I had the feeling that he could back it up by action.
Upon reaching the library I heard the indistinct moans of pain emanating from within, concerned for the safety of Twilight and Spike, I entered without knocking. I saw Spike laying on his stomach and letting out long exasperated declarations of discomfort, with Twilight levitating an ice pack to her assistant.
"What happened?" I inquired, informing the purple hued duo of my presence, and Twilight was the first to speak.
"Spike was just putting a few books away when he started feeling a cramp in his shoulders, its been getting worse for the last few hours."
"Oooohhh... I don't get it, I've done way more lifting than that on any other day." Spike added.
I looked at Spike's back and saw no discolouration to indicate a bruise or some such internal injury. Then I realized that the purple scales would make such an endeavour useless. I leaned down and pressed Spike's lower back with a slight pressure. "Did that hurt?"
"Not really, like Twi said, it's my shoulders that are ... AAAHHH---URP!!" I slid back as Spike's scream rapidly shifted to a belch as a piece of paper materialized before him. I grabbed it, and noticing that it had a sun emblazoned on the seal, handed it to Twilight. Spike panted as I continued to look at his back, looking for some sign of the purple dragon's suffering. When Twilight finished scanning the paper she spoke up.
"It's from the princess, she asked to see you back in Canterlot in a week regarding your proposal to use trees from the Everfree forest for the extension's construction." The lavender mare spoke as her amethyst eyes again began scrutinizing her assistant's heaving frame. She squinted as her eyes met with Spike's shoulders again. I turned to see that on Spike's upper back to spine growth were protruding from his back. "Aha!" The purple unicorn ran to the shelves. "Medical anatomy, Dr. Living Stone, yes! Dragon Growth and Development." Twilight began scanning the book and stopped a third of the way through and began reciting from the text. "At between the ages of ten and sixteen years of age, a baby dragon will begin their first growth spurt, this will involve the growing of wings, elongation of the tail and overall growth that, by approximately age twenty, will place the dragon at the size of an average pony. That's it Spike, your wings are finally coming in!" The mare at this point was smiling and tears were forming in her eyes. "It seems like moments ago, but really its been fifteen years since I hatched you."
"Ugh, so I'm not being torn apart from the inside by a crazed squirrel, but from my own wings? Great." At the dragon's deadpan we all snickered. "The pain is actually starting to subside."
Twilight continued. "Wing development happens fairly rapidly, by the time you wake up tomorrow you'll probably have a full set, though it might be a few days before you can fly."
We were all thoroughly relieved to know that Spike was perfectly, if painfully so, fine. The hours rolled on and soon we all found our way to bed after Twilight had delved into several texts regarding dragon anatomy. I personally found a science text labelled Equestrian Bestiary and I turned in for the night, content to inform myself of an extensive, if not comprehensive, overview of Equestrian fauna over the next few days.
A/N The quote Zecora uses is from Alexander Pope, a 17th century poet. While in the story it has been stated that humans have from time to time visited Equestria, the quote is intended to have developed from Zecora's own people.
I stepped into the palace of Canterlot, prepared for my audience with Princess Celestia. All was well in Ponyville, Rarity had delivered my newly tailored clothes, and Doctor Whooves was set to receive his suit, and ask for a date, that night. Spike had, true to Twilight's words, sprouted a set of two diminutive wings from between his shoulders. Dragon flight, along with a pegusai's was fuelled mainly by magic, and so by the day before I was set to leave for Canterlot he was able to hover about to feet in the air under his own strength, though he could make no horizontal movement.
With this meeting I hoped to begin the extension of the library in earnest, Twilight had already found several workers to build the extension, all I would need was to provide the lumber. Applejack had been quite supportive when I told her I would be working slightly less at the farm, glad that I was 'Findin' honest work elsewhere as well' and that she would all the same miss my help. Applebloom and the Cutie Mark Crusaders offered to help me on occasion, but Applejack put her hoof down, affirming they would only do so if there was another adult present, my work would have prevented me from managing the three active fillies and I was grateful for her intervention.
I walked through the streets of Canterlot in the daylight, alone, in a set of clothes I had yet to wear. Oddly, or perhaps only from outside perception, my stride was confident, I was fitting into life nicely. All the same I drew a great deal of stares, though again, no perceptible screams or declarations of the end of time. I reached the gate to the royal palace and held Princess Celestia's letter before the reticent guard, casting a glance at it, he gave a curt nod, stood aside and uttered the word "Enter." As I did so.
I had no real problem of finding the audience chamber once more, a servant had been willing to speak with me when I explained my purpose. As I stepped into the grand hall I noticed the distinctly empty throne, and no petitioners, I pulled out a watch that Rarity had seen fit to include with my clothes. I had been unable to return the watch, as she had slid it into a pocket and when I attempted to return it to her later, she claimed it was the least I could do for having helped inspire her so much, and recommend Doctor Whooves to her for a suit. The watch read that I was half an hour early, it had always been a problem with me, I had always been the first to arrive at formal occasions even on earth. My thoughts were interrupted when I heard a faint knock from above and to my left. Looking to the source I noticed a staircase leading upwards. With nothing better to do I climbed up the stairs, the guard at the entrance had made no specific instructions, and so I assumed I was free to find my way around the castle of my own initiative, excepting specific instruction from a guard.
The staircase spiralled upwards and I figured it must have been going up a tower when I again heard a slightly louder knock. I rounded a corner and saw a massive door before me, flanked on one side by a single guard. The guard looked at me and asked. "What business do you have here?"
"I have an audience with Princess Celestia in a half hour, and I heard a noise up here, is anything wrong?" The guard tensed.
"The Princess is currently resting, she will see you at your due time of appointment. Until then, I suggest you return to the audience chamber and wait." the white pegasus declared, for it was very clear it was such.
Turning to go I had one more question. "Aren't there usually two guards at any one post, in case one has to run a message or for rotating shifts or something?" At this the pegasus guard twitched in irritation and opened his mouth, but before he could offer a response another loud know emanated from within the room, accompanied by a rapturous male voice.
"Oh Goddess, you truly are the sun, for my nethers burn for you alone!"
All that could be done for a few moments was a continued awkward silence between the guard and I. It was the guard who spoke first. "You didn't hear anything."
"Didn't hear what?" I asked, offering an obvious wink to confer that the question need not be answered, and my silence was guaranteed, what we just heard was between the guard, myself, the Princess and whatever lucky bastard, or poor sod, she was with. It was also between us and the walls, the desperately in need of soundproofing walls. I began my way down the stairs and called back one last statement. "Tell him I said congrats." I soon returned to the audience hall, checking my watch I saw I still had twenty minutes to wait. The time dragged on for me, but this was counteracted by the fact that, somewhere above, time was going rather quickly for two ponies. If Princess Celestia truly was a god, and immortal at that, it was comforting to know that she had at least something to which us mortals could relate.
Trixie had, over the last week, aided Zecora in a number of tasks, from gathering ingredients, to cooking and cleaning. She was glad to have found a use for her illusion magic in the back woods on one occasion, creating a cacophony of light and sound to ward off some timber-wolves that were less skilled at stealth. Today was the day the two had agreed to go into Ponyville, that Trixie might confront Twilight and offer an apology for her past actions. The two mares set off, striped leading blue through the forest. Trixie had grown used to the feeling of being constantly watched in the forest, she knew that so long as she was not alone, and on the trail no less, that this close to the edge of the forest, most creatures would not even make themselves visible. Much deeper in the forest however, far more insidious creatures dwelled, and Trixie shuddered at how she had almost become an unwitting victim of them.
Many miles further into the forest, said insidious creatures, the changelings, had made a new nest, deep within, a matriarch was meting out discipline to two drones.
"Warp, Stretch, what is the meaning of this? You were supposed to bring food from any fools who attempted to use the road through Everfree."
The two addressed drones cowered before their dread mother, if the ponies had a skewed gender ratio favouring females, then changelings were beyond mere opposites. Females were exceptionally rare, and all the male members born of one would become part of that queen's swarm, setting out to gather food, tending to the maggots, or performing duties of the hive.
Stretch looked down at the blackened floor, not coloured so from flame or nature, but by a black slime changeling drones produced when well fed. Retching it up and covering whatever it touched in a soon hardened layer of chitinous exo-structure. He hoofed at the ground with the perforated appendage as his matriarch glowered at him. Finally it was his clutch-mate, hatched at the same time as he, who spoke. "There were no travellers except one unicorn, but she managed to escape, but she led us to a zebra we could catch."
At this Stretch came to Warp's defence. "Yeah, we just needed to wait for the right moment before you beckoned for us." Changelings had, amongst their own, something akin to telepathy, though it only went so far as convey demands from queen to drone at large distances.
"And you think this excuses you from shirking your duty and failing to feed your own mother!?" The shadowed figure called from atop her perch and the two drones cowed in response. Males, being so frequent, would, in a usual hive, been near infinitely expendable but this hive had been scraped together from the remnants of a failed attack on the Equestrian capital. The changeling queen descended from her organic spire and loomed over the two wretched, pathetic servants before her. "You are to leave the hive, never to return until you start bringing me enough love that I can rebuild my army, and march upon Canterlot, and by my own will topple the very mountain it is built upon." Chrysalis stepped forward into the gentle glow of a nearby torch. "Do I make myself clear?"
The drones nodded and stood to leave, their punishment could quite readily have been a death sentence. But the queen could benefit from this arrangement. If the two succeeded, she would be closer to her once sought after victory, if they failed, then she would be rid of the two dolts, how such inconceivably daft oafs had been born of her glory, she knew not. All the same the drones were in a predicament, they needed to find a pony with great amounts of love, both to give and receive, as whoever it was would be replaced by a changeling, as the actual pony would be drained of all being. The alternative was to somehow conquer an entire village, an option that was ruled out by Stretch and Warp. Their lives, and those of their queen`s swarm was on the line. They needed to find somepony that was universally loved, and loved universally.
I rose as Princess Celestia entered the room, a regal grin planted upon her muzzle. I bowed, and greeted. "Greetings Princess Celestia, I thank you for seeing me today, and, might I say you look quite content with yourself."
Taking a seat on her throne the Princess tilted her head. "Content? How so?" She inquired.
"In that you look as though you have ... lit a fire within one of your subjects, driven them to great deeds. One could say that whoever last received your attention now has a burning within them to see the world, themselves, and your great nation improved, for reasons I might dare say would be of a personal nature." I was taking a huge risk, but politics be damned, I was never one to waste a double entendre, especially a politician.
Celestia raised her brow, and her smile widened, nodding her head. She seemed approving, likely she was relieved that there was someone in the world, even if they were not of it, who could share some plebeian humour in the halls of court. The guards along the hall, if they understood what I was implying, showed no sign of it as Celestia spoke. "As for improving the lot of those around us, I would agree that you are doing much the same in Ponyville. Twilight Sparkle has informed me of some of your deeds, and I am happy to see that you have fit so well into your new position." The white goddess continued. "As regards to your asking permission to gather lumber from the Everfree forest, you have my permission. However ..." At this the princess stopped briefly, causing me no small amount of worry when I heard the grand door behind me open. The next voice that spoke was not Celestia's, but of her azure sister.
"We would request of thee to take this token, that it may aid you in your task, and forge ahead even greater deeds. As the Princess of the Night stepped by, I notice a large axe, single headed, in tow behind her, attached was a loop of leather by which the axe might be fastened to the waist. Looking at it I noted it was rather plain, except for a line of emeralds, amethysts, and rubies lining where shaft met the blade. "Humans have a tendency to war, more than ponies, but it is slowly becoming clear that you are properly guided on the differences of great and terrible things. Thus we present to you this axe, that you may become an engine of improvement of this world." The axe floated towards me and I grasped it.
"I thank you for this, but ..." I paused, curious over something. "You said that there have been other humans here before myself, and I am curious, was the Everfree once larger?"
"It was." It was the only response, this time from Celestia.
"And when was it last brought low?"
At this Celestia smiled. "Oh, a little under two hundred years ago, the last fellow was quite romantic on the notion. He was quite glad to have a chance to do some good after having died of fever in your world."
At this the aura surrounding the axe dissipated, and I truly gained a feel for its heft, I was not overly strong, and proper use of it, even as a simple lumber axe, would be difficult at first. I turned to go after bowing to the two Princesses. When I heard Luna call out "Guard yourself well, even at its borders the Everfree is willing to expel great peril to those who face it." As I left Canterlot, my mind turned to a certain mentioned zebra who was also willing to brave the forest for the sake of the good.
Twilight was content in organizing the library, Spike had left for Rarity's again, the task had been much easier since the introduction of Edmund's simplified "Dewey Decimal" system. For it Spike had all the more time to go out and spend on his own terms, that it was spent seemingly with Rarity so often came as no surprise to the mare. However, many times when Twilight had gone to Rarity's to pick up the purple and lime dragon, she had been informed that he had gone off with the Cutie Mark Crusaders or Sweetie Belle. Twilight was glad that Spike was making friends of his own, rather than obsessing over the alabaster Element of Generosity. Spike had also developed an unconventional use for his wings, using them as additional appendages while he practised on the piano in the basement. His skill had improved substantially over the years, he was quite musical. Perhaps that had rubbed off on him from Sweetie Belle, she had quite a good voice, though she used it far too seldom.
There was a knock at the door that stirred Twilight from her thoughts as she went to the door. Opening it, she was surprised to see Zecora, garbed in her usual brown travelling cloak. Behind her, eyes cast low and hoof scratching the ground, was a blue unicorn mare with a silver-white mane. Twilight glanced at her and thought she saw .... no, common coat and mane colours were common among ponies, but in conjunction with the same Cutie Mark? That was almost unheard of. As Twilight tried to think of some explanation other than the most simplest, the powder blue mare raised her head and spoke.
I was seated in the train from Canterlot bound for Ponyville, the axe that Princess Luna had presented to me lay across my lap, I glanced over the book I was reading to see it's well honed edge. "I'm going to end up naming you, aren't I?" I asked of the inanimate object. It remained unsurprisingly reticent on the matter, and I turned the page of my book. It had been quite illuminating, going over the various species of animal throughout Equestria. I was going through it alphabetically, and was in the "C" section. The page I looked at now had a depiction of pony, but with insect wings and holed hooves, repulsed by this illustration, I read.
The changeling is a creature of deception, taking on the form of a pony's loved ones in order to steal their love. Reports have however occurred where ponies are kidnapped whole sale and drained of all their ambient emotional energies and the leisure of a changeling hive.
I shuddered, as I continued reading, at the thought of having my emotions, my hopes, dreams and volitions, in essence my humanity, ripped from me. That this could be done by a mimic was of little consoling value. What was comforting was that such creatures were purportedly quite terrible actors, often seeming to suffer splits of personality when mimicking a pony. it was only appropriate, anything that could scorn love in such a manner would be incapable of being at one with itself, torn asunder between its predatory aspects and the object it was trying to imitate.
As the train rounded a mountain Ponyville came into view, I was eager to return. To see how Spike was learning to fly, if Doctor Whooves got a date with Rarity, maybe I would return to find that Scootaloo or Sweetie Belle or Applebloom found their Cutie Marks. I snickered, interesting things had the tendency to occur in my presence, not my absence, my having ended up in Equestria alone was evidence of this.
Sweetie Belle was sitting in a small grove at the outer edge of Sweet Apple Acres, when the apple trees technically ceased belonging to the apple family as the property lined the Everfree forest. Looking upwards she saw Spike, eager to show off his newly acquired wings. The purple drake descended before the white filly as she stared wide eyed. "Wow Spike, you're amazing!" The dragon's quick grasp of flight was impressive, he had just performed his first loop de loop, just a day after he first managed to fly.
At this Spike blushed, of all the Cutie Mark Crusaders, he had spent the most time with her. They could both confide with one another whenever their respective sisters became to much to bare. Moreover than this similarity, the two shared a passion for music. Sweetie Belle was constantly humming some tune as she went about her day, and was always quite ready to regale the Crusaders and Spike with her dulcet tones. Spike often accompanied with the piano, an instrument which Spike's claws, and newly grown wings, were quite suited to playing. Eventually, the two had found ways of getting away from it all and spend time together.
Mustering himself, Spike spoke. "Thanks Sweetie Belle, that's really nice of ya to say, but its really not that much."
"Spike .... don't sell yourself short." The young unicorn responded. At this point her mind thought of an exciting proposition. "I bet you could lift me off the ground by now."
"What? No way Sweetie Belle, that's a little dangerous, dontcha think?"
"Come on Spike, just a foot up in the air, besides, you haven't even let me say what I was going to bet." The pastel maned filly replied.
Spike lifted a claw to his face. "I know I'm gonna regret this, but what's the bet?"
"If you can fly me up to that branch," At this the filly pointed to a nearby tree with a thick branch about six feet off the ground, the point of the bet was not for Sweetie Belle to achieve a faux flight, but to feel the thrill of Spike's embrace. "Then I'll sing you that song you like so much." Concluded Sweetie Belle.
At this Spike was tempted to immediately agree, but he felt it necessary to know the full terms. "And if I can't?" He inquired.
"Then I give you my rendition of 'Hush Now, Quiet Now'." The filly replied, the bet was very much in Spike's favour, even though he preferred it when Sweetie Belle tried her hoof at softer songs, listening to her loud, flamboyant take on Fluttershy's lullaby would still be of great enjoyment to the purple dragon.
With this in mind Spike said "Deal". He stretched out his wings and began flapping, lifting in place. Leaning forward, Spike positioned himself two feet above Sweetie Belle and reached down as he descended. Grabbing her by the sides, careful to keep his claws from digging in. Spike strained against the new weight he was attempting to lift. Soon however, his internal magic made the feat possible, as both he and Sweetie Belle lifted up and soon she was placed on the branch. "Okay, you got to experience flight Sweetie Belle, now for your end of the bargain."
Nodding her head the filly began. The sweet sounds surrounded Spike as he closed his eyes, the words eluded him as he simply thought on the melody. He sat there for a few minutes before opening his eyes as the filly finished. She looked immensely pleased with herself as she stood up and walked towards Spike, it was only then he noticed something new about his friend. "Sweetie Belle look!" Spike cried, pointing to the filly's flank. As Sweetie Belle looked she cried out in joy, adorning her flank was a microphone with a wire extending out the bottom to the shape of a heart.
Without hesitating the filly began jumping about. "I did it Spike! I did it! I found my special talent! I can't wait to ... tell ... the others."
At this point the white foal's head turned downwards, and Spike asked in confusion. "What's wrong Sweetie Belle?"
"Its just, now, if I tell the other's about my Cutie Mark, we're going to have to tell the others about ... us."
"So?" Spike retorted.
"SO!? isn't it obvious? I mean, you and me, we're different, what would the other's think? What would Twilight or Rarity think?" Came Sweetie Belle's panicked response.
It was Spike's time to act as the shoulder, and his did so admirably, walking to Sweetie Belle and offering his take of the situation. "Look, Sweetie Belle, we'll face the others together, we may have our differences, but we also have our similarities! It's what's on the inside that counts, and if somepony disapproves of us, then they're the fool."
At this Sweetie Belle sniffed, "Thanks Spike, but before we do that, let's just wait a few more minutes."
"Fine by me." Responded the purple dragon, reach a wing over the white filly's shoulder.
"I ...." It was all Twilight could think to say after having listened to Trixie's story, that a mare's parents could be so cruel was surprising, and the lavender mare was surpised that Trixie had found the courage, and the wisdom, to realize she had been wrong. Zecora had left shortly after Trixie's story began, returning to her home in the Everfree when it became clear that any bad blood between the two unicorns was washing away.
"So with that, I want to just say once more, I'm sorry." Trixie looked up at Twilight, eyes weary from crying at several points.
Shaking her head Twilight responded. "No, it should be me who should be sorry, when you were run out of town, I didn't have a second thought as to why you were the way you were."
"I doubt you could have done much good at the time, I nearly died before I realized the way of life I was leading was so ... wrong." The powder-blue mare replied before finishing. "But now that I have realized that, I would like to ask for your help, I want to find some way to be useful."
"Of course I'll help you." The purple unicorn responded without hesitation.
"Come on we can go see the rest of my friends, I'm sure they'll have some idea on what you could do in Ponyville." With this Twilight magicked the door open and the two stepped outwards. Twilight noticed that Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash were going about the town square. Twilight though it a serendipity as she trotted up to them. She had hoped to re-introduce the girls to Trixie on her own terms. This desire on her part was soundly demolished as Pinkie turned her head and immediately opened her mouth.
"Hi Twilight! Hi pony-who-looks-just-like-meaney-weaney-Trixie-but-can't-be-Trixie-because-she-doesn't-have-a-cape!" The pink mare gushed in one breath.
"Huh?" Rainbow said as she turned her head and took in the sight of Trixie, eyes narrowing, she flew up to the blue unicorn, bypassing Twilight completely. "What are you doing here? Going to try pulling a fast one on everypony here again?"
Before any could respond Pinkie jumped in "Ooh! I can hold a 'Welcome Back to Ponyville' Party!"
"Wait Pinkie." Rainbow interjected. "How could you possibly want to throw a party for this pony full of hot air?"
As the conversation between cyan and pink mares devolved into an intensive discussion of which cupcakes would be best to smear across Trixie's coat. Aforementioned unicorn turned to Twilight and sighed. "Maybe it would be better if I just left, you could tell your friend's what happened when I'm not around."
At this Twilight gasped. "No! You should tell them yourself! This is important, and I know my friends will take the time to listen just as long as you ... hey!" Trixie was already trotting away, with Pinkie Pie and Rainbow chasing after her. Twilight trotted after them, unaware that she was being followed.
I saw before me as I approached the Ponyville Library a strange sight, Twilight, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and a fourth mare, a blue unicorn were making their way out of town, seemingly arguing. I started jogging to catch up as they entered the forest.
Spike and Sweetie Belle were standing up when they heard in the bushes a rustling. The two young ones turned their heads to see two black ponies burst through and his at them. It took as split second to realize that the two ponies were in fact changelings. At this revelation the two screamed just in time for Trixie, Twilight, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie to burst into the open glen and time for a moment stood still. All looked at one another, and Twilight began analysing the situation.
Situation: Two changelings are bearing down on Spike and Sweetie Belle. Resources: Pinkius Piecus, Rainbow multichromatius, Trixie Lulamoon. Plan: Have Rainbow Dash usher non-combatants to safety and gather other elements of harmony. Have Pinkie Pie use gatling magic as per discovered during Canterlot invasion while Trixie runs distraction.
Putting her plan into motion, Twilight yelled. "Rainbow! Get Spike and Sweetie Belle out of here and get the other girls here! Trixie! Do what you do best! Pinkie! Changeling chaingun!" Without a word Pinkie and Rainbow dash nodded and began their duties. Rainbow grabbed Spike and Sweetie Belle and flew off as Pinkie grabbed Twilight's tail and began spinning it, ushering form a stream of magical bolts at a rate Trixie thought impossible. Shaking her head, Trixie launched her own bolts of magic at the creatures, casting a blue overtone to the bedlam. The changelings were dodging the magic adeptly, they had been feeding on the love that was coursing around Spike and Sweetie Belle a few moments prior, and only a few stray bolts caught them before Warp collided with Trixie and Stretch grasped Pinkie's mane in his fangs. The two were about to afflict grievous injury, the two changelings silently agreeing to take the pink one, the amount of love coursing about her had given them a boost even with the brief moments it existed before replaced by fear and anger. This plan was interrupted when a tall biped ran on the scene, grasping an axe with his two hands, burst into the glen and Pinkie looked back at Warp.
"You meanies are in trouble now!" Declare the pink mare as her mane flattened and hooves extended, bucking the changeling off of her, and onto Twilight. "Uh oh."
This is it! Doctor Whooves thought to himself as he entered Carousel Boutique. The time had come for him to pick up his suit and hopefully, ask Rarity on a date, normally he had some opener, like 'The D'awwleks are trying to topple the Diamond Dog Khanate and I'd really like your help in stopping them.' On this occasion there was no such luck. Rarity turned to the Doctor as he trotted up.
"Ah, good to see you again, here is your suit." Rarity levitated the folded articles to the Doctor as he lay several bits on the counter. "Is there anything else I can help you with?" Please say yes, please say yes. Oh it was just so nice to work on something in the classical style! She though the last part.
"Actually there was something I was considering, maybe asking of you." The chestnut stallion stated.
"Yes?-" At this point the door to Carousel Boutique slammed open, letting in Spike, Sweetie Belle and Rainbow Dash in.
"Rarity, you have to help Twi and Pinkie!"
"Changelings attacked us while we were out in the woods!"
"They told us to get you and the others!"
A moment of silence passed before Doctor Whooves spoke. "Changelings, as in disgusting mimics that feed off of love?"
"YES!" Sweetie Belle yelled.
At this Rarity shook herself out of the daze that had consumed her. "My apologies Doctor, but I have to go."
"I'm afraid I have to insist I help out, alonsy!" The doctor yelled as he galloped out the door.
Rainbow at this point spoke up. "I'll get Applejack and Fluttershy, you go help the others." With that the cyan mare flew out the door.
Rarity turned to Spike and Sweetie Belle. "Stay here you two, I'll be back shortly and ... hang on, Sweetie Belle, is that a Cutie Mark?"
Sweetie Belle rolled her eyes. "More important things sis."
Eyes widening Rarity dashed out the door as her sisters words drove her impetus to help her friends.
I saw before me two changelings, one had Twilight on the ground and the other pinned the blue mare to the tree. I charged at the one bearing down on Twilight and shoved the shaft of my axe into its body, forcing it off of her. A flash of blue preceded the second changeling being flung into a tree in front of me. I decided to press the advantage and went for the downed changeling. I swung my axe in front of me and the changeling ducked its head, leaving me to embed my axe in a tree trunk. "Fast bugger aren't you?" I asked as grabbed its wispy mane and slammed its head into the solidly anchored axe handle. While the changeling was stunned, I pulled the axe out of the trunk and turned to face the other black carapaced monstrosity. It flew at me and I lifted my axe, driving the shaft into its jaws. The creature slavered over me as it tried to chew through the wood. The shaft stood firm as a bolt of magic struck the creature in the side, sending it careening off of me, with the axe still in its mouth. "Bloody hell." I stated as I stood up to see the first changeling standing in front of me. I raised my right foot and made contact with its body, stubbing my toe on the hard chitin. "Ow, bad idea." The changeling roared at me and it turned to buck me, but I dodged and grabbed its two rear hooves, my hands readily finding a solid grip among the many holes in the legs. I lifted and swung the changeling into a nearby tree, its horn embedding into the trunk. At this point the changeling's companion jumped at Pinkie Pie, and I lunged to retrieve my axe from the ground. "Oh no you don't!" I yelled as I charged.
The changeling's rear hoof bucked my in the chest, landing firm, and planting me on my ass. The changeling lifted from Pinkie and faced me, circling as its compatriot pulled itself from the tree and began harassing Twilight and the blue unicorn. "You're one ugly mother-fucker ... you know that?" at this the changeling screeched and I yelled in response. We charged one another and met dead center in the glen, the edge of my axe swinging for the creature's head. I misjudged the height but was still rewarded as a piece of horn flew off of it eliciting a scream from the creature as it pounded its fore legs against me. I swung the handle into the side of the creature's head as a yelp sounded from the changeling facing the two unicorns. Glancing over, I saw that Pinkie had tossed a cloud of streamers at the creature while Twilight slammed the creature into the ground and the powder blue mare sent a flaring white spark at the creature's face. The glance was a moment to long as from the corner of my eye I notice my own changeling running for Pinkie Pie. I ran forward and swung my axe in an upward stroke, catching the insectoid in the left haunch and it flipped on top of its own onyx brother. The two extricated themselves and stared down at us when we heard a voice behind us.
"We're a comin' girls! Just hang on!" The Stetson-wearing mare burst through the bushes and the two changelings turned to take flight.
As the two horrors grew small in the distance, I turned to the farmer pony, noting that the remaining Elements of Harmony, and Doctor Whooves, had arrived on the scene. I grasped at my chest and grunted in pain, and Fluttershy flew up to me.
"Oh dear, are you hurt? Is there any bleeding? Anything broken?" The butter pegasus pressed.
"I'm fine, but I think I'm gonna have a nasty bruise shortly, let's head back into town."
"Yes, I agree, I don't want to leave my sister and Spike for another moment. That said, our reasons for celebrating are twofold." Rarity quipped and Twilight turned to the alabaster mare.
"What do you mean Rarity? I mean, yeah, beating off two changelings is something to celebrate, but what's the second thing?"
At this Pinkie laughed. "Isn't it obvious, we sent two meanies flying, so that's two reasons to celebrate!"
"Actually Pinkie, the second reason pertains to Sweetie Belle, she ..." Rarity said, pausing for dramatic effect, but it was soon filled by the pink party pony once again.
"Oh! That's the second reason! We can have a 'we-beat-two-changelings-and-both-Spike-and-Sweetie Belle-are-safe' party!"
Rarity growled at this. "No, as I was saying, Sweetie Belle got her Cutie Mark!" At this the whole group broke out into a series of murmurs and congratulations. It was a minute before Twilight coughed, drawing attention to her and the blue mare.
"There's one last thing, girls, Doctor Whooves, Edmund, this is Trixie." The purple pony introduced us all and as we walked back to town Trixie told us about how she had reached Ponyville.
"It's impressive that you managed to figure things out on your own, its hard unlearning lessons from childhood." I stated to Trixie.
"Thanks, but it really isn't that big of a realization, I should have realized sooner." The blue illusionist replied.
Before us loomed Carousel Boutique, and we all entered. We saw Spike holding Sweetie Belle who was shaking when he saw us. "Twilight! Rarity! Man, are we glad to see you're alright!"
"Thank you Spike, but I have to ask what were you and Sweetie Belle doing so far from town, and why does Sweetie Belle have her Cutie Mark?" Twilight asked.
"We were ... uh." Sweetie Belle stuttered as she stepped forward.
"Go on Sweetie Belle, we're listening." Rarity offered.
The white filly filled her lungs and began rapidly, in retrospect, we would all know why she wanted to get it over with. "Me and Spike have been seeing each other for months now and we were sitting in the forest and I sang his favourite song cause he flew me onto a tree branch like I asked and when I was done I had a Cutie Mark!"
A few blinks and moments to process the rapidly fired statements, Twilight spoke first. "Oh, well if that's it I suppose no harm done."
It was now Sweetie Belle's turn to blink. "Huh? But Spike is practically your brother Twilight, not to mention the whole scales thing..."
"It's what's on the inside that counts Sweetie Belle, you and Spike share a special friendship, but we just want you both to be safe." Twilight said, smiling warmly between the filly and the dragon.
"See? I told you everything would be alright!" Spike piped in.
Together, we discussed many things, including my permission to gather lumber from the Everfree forest, and then the subject of what Trixie was going to do in Ponyville arose.
"I just don't know what I can do, I mean I can put on a good show, but what else am I good for?" Trixie asked.
Pinkie Pie raised a hoof to her chin. "Well, why can't you just continuing being an entertainer? I mean, its what your're good at!" Clever girl, she was prone to important insight despite her manic personality.
"Because it's not real, its just noise and shadows." Trixie added.
"Yes, but the feelings they elicit, joy and wonderment, pathos and sorrow, when a good performance is made are very real." I offered.
"I ..." Trixie began. "But where would I perform?"
Twilight now offered her advice. "Well, Edmund has permission to cut down trees in the Everfree, so using the wood he gathers, if he does it for long enough, we could build a theatre for Ponyville."
Trixie nodded her head up and down as she spoke. "Yes that could work, thank you all for helping me." With this issue resolved we each began to make our way out and to our respective homes.
I walked with Twilight and Spike back to the library, Trixie having agreed to stay with Applejack at Sweet Apple Acres. Twilight spoke. "Its amazing to see how much Trixie's changed, but, her self-esteem has taken a real hit, I just wish why she's still so hard on her self."
"You'd be hard on yourself too if you spent your entire life misguided." I said.
"You say that like you have experience in it." Spike said.
"Briefly, very briefly. When Trixie feels she has done some good, she'll be fine." We continued onwards in silence.
Doctor Whooves was still at Carousel Boutique, having stayed behind to pick up his suit. Rarity had gone upstairs to assure Sweetie Belle that everything between them was alright. The Doctor decided to wait, he still wanted to tell Rarity how he felt, and if he had galloped full speed to the prospect of facing changelings for her, he was willing to wait a few more minutes. Rarity stepped downstairs to see the brown stallion. "Oh, is there something else, I'm terribly sorry about dragging you into all that happened today."
"Oh, its perfectly fine, the day isn't finished until I've run away from, or towards, something large and hungry." Doctor Whooves chuckled. "Now, I was wondering, you're fun to be around, so I figured if you wanted to, maybe, hang out again at some point?"
At this the purple maned fashionista replied. "Well, that sounds quite agreeable."
Yes! Two minds both thought at the same time.
Rarity spoke first. "How does next Wednesday at three o'clock sound."
"It sounds fantastic."