46w, 3dFokkityfokkityfokfokfok! 4 comments · 183 views
49w, 1dOh, look, a chapter 4 comments · 87 views
49w, 1dOkay, that didn't work 10 comments · 106 views
51w, 22hLet's do this. Again. 17 comments · 161 views
57w, 4dThe people at Equestria Daily are rather cool people 10 comments · 70 views
57w, 6dNew plan! 7 comments · 92 views
61w, 23hAaaaaaand back again! 5 comments · 73 views
66w, 22hChapter eight delayed, come back Wednesday. 4 comments · 95 views
67w, 12hSleep is not overrated 1 comments · 65 views
68w, 11hBooyah! In your face, deadline! 7 comments · 62 views
Lucky Chance tried to run towards the farmhouse, but his legs only managed a weak jog. He had overestimated how much strength he had left before, so hauling that last load of apples took longer then expected. Uncharacteristically, he hoped that he could make it in time for dinner. He usually doesn't care much for the basic necessities of life, but he was currently starved for some calories. Once he made it to the front door, he steadied his wobbling limbs as to hide his weakness, and entered.
“Oh, yah made it! Come sit down and eat with us!” Granny Smith welcomed him. The entire Apple family was gathered around the table, and had left a seat open for Chance. He eagerly accepted the offer and sat down between Applejack and Applebloom. Within the blink of an eye, Granny dealt him a bowl containing a royal serving of boiled potatoes and red cabbage with apple, while Applebloom poured him a glass of juice. Never before had such a simple meal looked so delicious to Chance. After shortly studying the table manners of his hosts, he dug in.
“So what is yah cutie mark, mister?” Applebloom suddenly asked. This time, Chance wasn't fazed, as he had ample time to prepare his answer.
He slowly swallowed down his food before answering. “Just call me Chance. And it's not that special, really. It's a four-leaf clover.”
“Really? How did yah discover it?” Applebloom scooted closer.
Chance cleared his throat, as he was about to deliver his masterpiece. “Well, I was just a young colt, about your age, maybe a bit older. I told you we lived high up in the mountains, right? One day, I was really bored with my life there. Always the same faces, always the same chores, always the same food, it sure wasn't a very exciting place to live, you see? So I took a walk. I went to a nearby cliff where we have a great view of the clouds surrounding our village. It wouldn't do much to elevate my boredom, but it was at least something.
“But that day, there were no clouds. A team of pegasi took them away for some irrigation project, so for the first time in my life, I got a clear view of the world surrounding the mountain. I saw forests, lakes, villages, even a few castles. I was enchanted by the world's beauty, so much that I decided to someday leave the mountain, and see all those exciting new places up close.
“And then, my cutie mark appeared. A four-leaf clover. I was quite happy with it and showed it off to my whole family, who threw me a party. Yeah, it was a pretty good day, indeed.” Chance sighed and stared off into the distance, as if he was lost in memories. He gave his audience ample time to applaud at his perfectly delivered monologue, but he quickly returned to his bowl when he realized that he wasn't on stage. Applebloom looked nonetheless impressed, as she hadn't touched her food ever since he started talking, but it wouldn't take her long to find a new question.
“So yah special talent is travelling? What's that got to do with four-leaf clovers?”
Chance chewed slowly. His fatigued mind had trouble remembering the next part of the story. Eventually, he swallowed.
“Travelling is all about luck when you don't know where you are going. One day, you sleep in the streets, the other day you happen to have some bits in your pocket to rent a bed, and the next you'll be invited to stay with a nice family like this one. So a symbol of good fortune seems to be most fitting for someone with my way of life.” Praise Avandra, he jokingly added in his mind, and he took another bite. Applebloom also finally started eating, thinking about what she learned.
“So yah were living high up on a snowy mountaintop, right?”
“That's what I said.”
“Truffle Shuffle did a presentation on mountains last week. He said yah can't grow grass or fruit that high. What did yah ponies eat?”
Chance stopped chewing. His prepared material did not cover this. He glanced in the direction of Applejack for help, but she seemed too preoccupied with pouring Big Macintosh a new glass to notice. He was on his own.
“Mountain Mushrooms,” Chance quickly answered, and he immediately regretted piling up another weak lie on the heap. His carefully built card-fortress could fall apart any second now. “Speaking of food, this is some delicious red cabbage, Granny Smith.”
“Aw, yah flatter an old mare,” said Granny, dismissing his compliment with her hoof. “It's just some simple things from our farm. If Ah had known that we'd be having a guest when I went to the market this morning, Ah'd have whipped up something more fancy.”
Chance smiled charmingly. “Oh, please don't trouble yourself for my sake. I do not wish to impose.”
“Impose? Boys that work so hard don't impose. Yah've done a good job today,” Granny replied. To demonstrate her point, she added another scoop of potatoes to Chance's bowl.
“And he ain't just done yet!" Applejack chimed in, patting Chance on his back. "He said he'll be helping me with the pigsty later, didn't yah, Chance?”
Chance opened his mouth in order to voice a protest. He could barely feel his limbs, let alone do any more heavy lifting. But he remembered about 'playing along', so he instead took another mouthful and nodded.
“My, now there's a work-ethic if Ah ever saw one,” said Granny, immediately dumping another scoop of red cabbage into Chance's bowl. “Reminds me of Grandpa. That was one hard-working fellah. Ah always had to drag him by his ear to come home. Yah know, Ah sure wouldn't mind if Applejack were to marry a stallion like that.”
Chance froze as Granny's implication pierced his mind, and felt his eyelid twitching. In the early days, before he decided that all ponies are equal, he'd occasionally go onto the internet to crusade the cause of 'Applejack best pony' in good fun, but marriage went several steps too far. The way Applejack loudly choked on her juice and sprayed all over the table signalled that she agreed with this sentiment.
Granny burst out laughing at the scene she caused, and was soon joined by Applebloom and Macintosh.
“Why, yah should see the look on yar faces. Ah'm only kidding. Surely yah're a bit too young to get serious about things like that, aren't yah?”
Chance and Applejack looked away to hide their embarrassment.
“That said, Ah wouldn't mind if it came to that,” said Granny with a wink.
“Darn it, Granny!" Applejack exclaimed as she wiped the table. "Don't joke about stuff like that! Yah might give him ideas!”
Granny stopped laughing, and her face darkened. “Ah was hoping Ah'd give you some ideas! Yah might be too young to make a purchase, but yahr old enough ta do some window-shopping.”
“That's none of yahr business! And yah never complain about Big Mac never bringing a girlfriend!” Applejack pointed at her brother, whose disgruntled face implied that he wasn't pleased about being dragged into this.
“That's because Ah don't have ta worry about Big Macintosh. He's getting plenty attention from the lasses. But you are neither looking or letting yahself get looked at. Yah don't want ta end up like an old spinster like yahr auntie Apple Tart.”
“Ah'll look when Ah feel like it. Which means not now, and certainly not with him!”
Chance coughed as he recollected his composure, while this argument continued. It was a fine example of awkward family drama that he wanted to end as soon as possible, but he wasn't sure what side to take. He could sympathize with Applejack's point of view, but he was also pretty sure she deeply insulted him just now. “I doubt that I'll be staying long enough for that sort of thing, really,” he said, hoping to diffuse the situation a bit.
“Oh, right, how long will yah be staying?” Applebloom asked.
Chance had to think for a second. “Erm, I don't know really.”
“Yah don't know? How so?”
“Well, I came here with a friend. Midnight Watch, he's called. He had some kind of business with the local librarian. We'll be staying around here until he's finished.” Chance felt relieved, being able to tell at least some of the truth.
“What kinda business?”
“Oh, you know, magic and stuff. Unicorn business,” Chance replied, looking for a way to direct the topic towards less explosive territory. “Say, Big Macintosh, you've been outside all day as well, haven't you?”
“Eeyup,” Big Mac replied in his usual stoicism.
“Did anything interesting happen?”
Well, that sure wasn't very explosive, Chance thought and changed his plan before Applebloom could fire up her next question. “You know, Granny Smith, I heard that the Apple family was involved in the founding of Ponyville. Could you tell me some more about that?”
“Why, of course, lad. It was many years ago, when I wasn't much older then Applebloom here. My family and I were.....”
Having bought himself a few precious minutes, Chance quickly went back to his food. A few more questions like this and he'll be able to finish his meal and get away from the table before he gets caught in his own web of lies. He felt a hint of resentment towards Midnight, who was probably taking it easy at the library.
“Watch out!” Twilight yelled. Heeding this warning, Midnight Watch dived to the ground and felt the mighty claw of the Ursa Minor brush past his tail. He quickly got back up to his feet and narrowly evaded a second swipe. He could feel the monster's pungent breath in his neck, spurring on his mad dash even further. His entire being was consumed by fear.
“This way!” Twilight's voice slipped through his panic. Having lost all ability for critical thought, he followed the voice that led him through some low-hanging tree branches. He heard the Ursa roar in anger, and realized that the creature wouldn't be able to follow them in this densely grown forest. For now. This idea cleared his mind, and he could see where he was going again. He saw Twilight diving for a thicket, and followed suit. Crouching under the cover of branches and leaves, the two heard the Ursa tearing through the trees.
“Are you all right?” Whispered a heavily breathing Twilight.
“Considering the circumstances, just dandy. What about you?” Midnight's hooves trembled from the adrenaline, but at least his sense for sarcasm was restored.
Twilight looked away. “I'm fine. But I just don't understand. Why did my spell bring us here of all places?”
Midnight laughed nervously. “I have no idea.” In reality, he knew perfectly well that he and Chance were notorious for being rather sloppy, to the point that everyone, friends and family included, started to describe their bachelor pad as 'a bear cave for the world's biggest bear'. He had already sworn several times by now to clean up both his act and his part of the apartment if he were to make out of this alive. “More importantly, what do we do now? Are we safe?” He quickly asked.
“I don't know. Ursas are on the top of every food chain, but they are not invulnerable. To make sure that no animal ever dares to harm them, they instinctively hunt down everything that enters their lair. If I could use the full extent of my power, I could maybe calm him down, but now we will just have to keep running and hiding until he gives up.”
“Gives up, you say?” repeated Midnight, slowly peeking out his head. He saw the Ursa casually uprooting a tree while sniffing the ground. “I might not be an expert, but that looks like one bloody-minded monster.”
“I know, but it's our only option. Is he coming this way?”
“Oh, he sure is.” Midnight didn't even have to look to confirm this, as the ground trembled stronger by the second.
“Then we should move on and find a new hiding place. Come on!” Twilight stood up and attempted to gallop, but her knees gave way with the first step she took.
Midnight quickly crawled to her side. “Hey, are you okay?”
“I'm fine, I'm fine. I just need to...lay down.” Twilight lowered her head towards the ground and closed her eyes.
Midnight's chest turned to ice. After attempting to brute-force the barrier between worlds, fleeing from a monster for what seemed to be an eternity and skipping dinner and snacks, Twilight was no longer able to run. He heard a falling tree landing less than ten metres away, as well as the thunderous footsteps of the Ursa Minor. For an awfully long moment, he considered abandoning Twilight, but realized that he would not be able to get out of this forest alive without her help. He had only one option left.
He put his hoof to Twilight's shoulder, and vigorously shook her body. “Twilight! Wake up, Twilight! Wake! Up!” He didn't have to worry about his volume, as the Ursa produced enough noise to drown out a South African football stadium.
Twilight moaned and gradually opened her eyes. Midnight could not give her time to fully come back to the world of the living, so he continued. “Twilight, listen to me! You said that, after that super-spell of yours, you'd still have enough power left for a single 'go home' spell. Does that still apply?”
Twilight shook her head. “I'm not sure. Not after all that running.”
“Twilight, you have to try it! You have to zap yourself home!”
This suggestion seemed to wake her up. “I can't leave you behind!” She exclaimed. “I'm the one that brought you here, I have to get you out of here safely!”
“You can't run any further! I can! You must go home and get me some help! It's the only way we both might survive!”
Twilight opened her mouth, but before she could voice a protest, she realized that Midnight was being reasonable. Instead she nodded, and stood up despite her wobbling legs. She closed her eyes, and her horn started flickering. As her faced twisted itself into a pained grimace, the flickering became a weak aura. Midnight could see her bare teeth as she tried to squeeze every last drop of her remaining power. A brilliant flash appeared, and Midnight was alone.
He could not find the time to wonder if Twilight succeeded, as a new worry entered his head: the noise had stopped. He quickly turned around, and looked straight into two giant nostrils blowing warm air heavy with moisture over him. The Ursa Minor bared his teeth in what seemed a sadistic grin. Knowing that his brain did everything it could to ensure his safety, Midnight delegated commanding duty to his adrenal glands and legged it.
The door wailed its usual cry for attention as Chance entered his room, but it fell on deaf ears. Chance had managed to clean out the entire pigsty with Applejack, and was covered in all kinds of grime for his trouble.
Why do vegetarian ponies even keep pigs? He wondered and decided to ask Applejack tomorrow if he could remember to, because he doubted that he'd be able to take in new information in his current state.
Granny Smith had offered him a cup of sweet tea with a slice of apple pie. While tempting, Chance politely declined the offer, saying that he was fatigued from his over-night journey to Ponyville. Right now, the only thing he had on his mind was his bed, and the last thing he could use right now were even more questions.
Lies, lies, all those lies to keep track of. He often likened lies to the subway system in his home-city: an altogether unpleasant experience for all parties involved, outweighed only slightly by its convenience. He had hoped that he would never have to lie again when he dropped out of college, but whatever it was that brought him here had different plans, it seems.
Chance grabbed all the random items piled onto the bed that Applejack had assigned to him, and laid them all over the floor. He'd tidy the place up later when he could see straight again.
Once he made enough room for himself, he crawled under the covers of his bed, ignoring the choking dust, and after curling up in a tight ball soon fell asleep to the soothing rhythm of his own heartbeat.
Well, ain't that just hilarious? Midnight thought. His situation was indeed rather remarkable. Only this morning, he was trying hard to walk a normal pace without falling. This evening, he could barely outrun a raging monster in full gallop though difficult terrain for what seemed to be an eternity. Back home, during PE class, he couldn't even climb a rope all the way to ceiling, and now he somehow managed to use the last of his strength to climb all the way up to the top of a tree that seemed a lot higher than it's thin yet flexible frame should logically allow.
As he looked down onto the Ursa Minor through the leaves covering his position, he saw that it was still sniffing around the ground for him. Feeling relatively safe, he thought about how he could turn this experience into a boring nugget of wisdom for his future grandchildren. Remember, kids: no matter how high your ambitions, no matter how far your goals, you can do anything you set your mind to, as long as a giant bear is trying to eat your face.
It still needed some work, but Midnight could no longer care as something amazing had happened: the Ursa Minor had stopped sniffing. Midnight held his breath, as the Ursa tried to listen for suspicious sounds, and watched towards the distance. Eventually, the Ursa turned around in defeat.
Midnight could hardly keep himself from shouting in triumph and doing a victory dance. After everything that happened, he finally managed to outsmart a monster with teeth as big as he was. He couldn't wait to tell everyone he knew about this.
His celebration was cut short by a creaking sound coming from underneath him. Before Midnight realized what that sound was, the branch he was seated upon snapped away. He yelped and held on to the trunk of the tree like a Tigger that really shouldn't have climbed that high, as the branch fell down causing a minor yet disastrous ruckus.
The Ursa's ear twitched, and he turned around. He could clearly see movement in the top of that tree. His bear-like face smiled as he figured out a fun new way to deal with this pest. He placed his paw against the trunk of the tree, and pushed gently. Under the carefully exerted pressure, the tree bended until Midnight hung horizontally right above it's head. The Ursa then held the tree in place with the three claws of his paw right in front of the unicorn.
Midnight wasn't exactly sure about what the Ursa was trying to do, but then he remembered seeing something similar in a cartoon he once watched as a kid. “Oh no, you can't possibly...”
The Ursa reacted by lifting one of his claws. He most definitely could.
“Look, it was an accident, okay? Can we perhaps cut a deal? I am really...”
The Ursa didn't seem to care for negotiations, and lifted a second claw.
“I'll do anything! Anything! Absolutely any-” Midnight's pleas were in vain, and the Ursa let go. The flexible trunk whipped back into position, and despite his best efforts to hold on, Midnight was catapulted screaming into the air.
As the air whistled past his body, Midnight flailed his limbs in panic, hoping that he'd somehow sprout wings, because he had no idea how else he was going to survive this. Once he had passed the apex of his flight, he saw what appeared to be his destination: a mountain consisting of some pretty high-quality stone. He had often considered that he might not die of old age in bed, but he never imagined that his life would end like that of a fly on a wind shield. He closed his eyes and braced for impact.
After a few seconds, he opened his eyes, expecting to finally see this 'afterlife' people had always hyped so much, but he found that he was still in one piece, and was actually gracefully gliding on a steady altitude towards the lights of Ponyville on the edge of the forest. He looked up and saw a mare with a rainbow-coloured mane. Rainbow Dash had swooped in and saved him from splattered doom.
Midnight forgot his pride, and cheered with his whole heart. “Yes. Yes! YES! Thank you Rainbow! Thank you so much! You have no idea how much....”
“Shut it!” Rainbow interrupted him. She gave her cargo the most dirty look possible. “Save that for Twilight! She's the one that's now half-dead because of you! The only reason I'm not feeding you to the Ursa myself is because she'd never forgive herself if you'd die!”
Midnight's mood plummeted. He had completely forgotten about Twilight. The pair sustained an uneasy silence as they approached Ponyville and landed in front of the library.
The two then rushed through the door to see how Twilight was doing. They found her standing in the middle of the entry room, and she smiled her biggest when she saw Midnight. “I'm so glad,” she said, and then collapsed to the ground.
Midnight slowly approached the unmoving body, and confirmed to his relief that she was still breathing. “I am so sorry,” he whispered.
Rainbow brushed him aside, picked up her friend and wordlessly flew to her bedroom. Once Twilight was properly tucked in, Rainbow left through the window, but before she slammed it shut, she gestured with her hoof towards Midnight, then to her eye, and then to Midnight again.
Midnight just stood there unsure what to do. He was snapped out of it when Spike offered him a blanket. “Don't beat yourself up about it,” the dragon told him. “It's not your fault. Twilight got in over her head and did something rash. We're lucky it didn't end up being worse then this.”
Midnight wasn't convinced of his own innocence. “Will she be okay?” he asked.
“Sure. She'll probably be out of commission for a while, but then she'll be back to her usual crazy self.” Spike smiled reassuringly.
Midnight nodded without much conviction, and accepted the blanket with his mouth so he wouldn't have to speak any more. As Spike left for his bed, Midnight installed himself onto the interrogatory sofa. He closed his eyes, and the world fell silent.
Chance instinctively flew up in reaction to the perceived marauding of his lair. However, as his instincts didn't take the ceiling in account, he got himself yet another nasty bruise and crashed onto the floor next to his bed. Once he remembered what was up or down, he discovered the remains of a paper bag resting in peace next to a pair of familiar orange legs. Chance groaned. He had hoped that it was all just a bad dream.
“Was that really necessary?” He harshly asked the legs.
“Yup,” said a beaming Applejack. “You wouldn't wake up otherwise. Ah had to do something to get yah out of that bed.”
Chance remembered the state he was in when he went to sleep. “Ah, that bad, huh?” He said, trying to stand up. His entire body yelled in protest, demanding that he'd remain still, but Chance wouldn't have any of it.
“Will today be as busy as yesterday?” He yawned.
“Nope,” was the casual reply. Chance didn't even try to cover his relieved sigh.
“Oh, thank the stars!” he exclaimed. “Because to be honest, I don't think I could..”
“It's going to be even worse!” Applejack interrupted him.
Chance froze up, while every fibre of muscle in his body screamed in pain.
(The author is just as curious towards the next chapter as you hopefully are)