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The Good, The Bad, and The Traveler
(Takes place during “Over a Barrel”)
“I can’t believe we’re gonna go to Appleloosa!” I said excitedly, trotting in place.
“Settle down there, pardner,” Applejack said, standing protectively by a large apple tree that had been prepared for relocation (what the hell do you call it when it’s a tree? Replantation? Reforestation? Re-have a new tree-ation?).
“I can’t! We’re going to Appleloosa!” I repeated, an idiotic grin on my face. “And if Braeburn is anything to go off of, then that means that Appleloosa is one of my favorite kinda towns!”
“…Twilight, are ya sure ya didn’t hit ‘im with some sorta crazy spell?” Applejack deadpanned, raising an eyebrow at her scholarly friend.
“I wish I did…maybe he’d act normal for once,” Twilight giggled.
Currently, the girls, Spike, and I, were standing at the Ponyville Train Station, waiting for our train to come and take us to Appleloosa, so that Applejack could plant one of her trees at the newly settled town. Braeburn had extended the invitation to all of us, and my inner-Texan squee’d in happiness at the prospect of going to a Western town.
Why am I so giddy about going to a Western town? Well, gee, let me think…it could be because my main guns are a revolver and sawn-off shotgun, both of which are staples of a Gunslinger. It could be because of the epic bar brawls. Or it could be the fact that I was born in Texas. What can I say? I just love me some Western action!
“So, Rarity, did you finish that outfit I asked you to make?” I asked Rarity, who was digging through her saddlebags for what must have been the millionth time.
“As a matter of fact, I did!” she said, pulling out a small folded bundle. “Though I must admit, a pink poncho and matching sombrero are some of the stranger articles of clothing I’ve had to make.”
“Sweet!” I grabbed the poncho and shoved it on, and stuck the hat on my head, grinning crazily. Standing up on my hind legs, I put my hooves to my side in the classic gunslinger fashion, and growled out, “Banditos beware…for I am…” I pulled out dual sawn-off shotguns, and aimed them at the sky, yelling, “CORMANE-O!”
Silence met my wild cry. Sheepishly, I stuffed the guns back under my poncho, and chuckled. “Uh…Cormane-o…Like Cormano, but…right, ponies don’t get Sunset Riders jokes.” I sighed, and sat down, scratching my beard absently. “Damn it.”
“Cormano? Sunset Riders?” Rainbow Dash asked, giving me a strange look. “What are those?”
I rolled my eyes, and tipped my sombrero. “Dash, Cormano is one of the roughest, toughest, bounty hunters out there. Well, in western terms anyways.”
“Oh. So…why the pink getup?” She asked, raising an eyebrow at me.
“I have no idea! I just know that was his thing, and he gave me permission to use it!” I laughed. “I am going to have so much fun in Appleloosa!”
“That’s what I’m worried about,” Fluttershy said, eyeing my poncho warily. “Did you really have to bring those guns?”
“Relax, Shy,” I said, pulling the guns out again. “They’re just really good carved pieces of timber. Only useful for firewood.”
“Ooh, goody!” Pinkie snatched the guns away from my hooves, and tossed them onto a small pile of wood she had gathered. Pulling out a match, she lit it into a small blaze, and was soon roasting marshmallows over it. “I was getting hungry just waiting around for those lazy train workers!”
I gave Pinkie a blank stare, and she just smiled in return. Finally, I let out a sigh, and mumbled, “Pass me a ‘mallow.”
She tossed me a fresh marshmallow, and I caught in my mouth, chewing irritably. That is, until I looked at some of the melted marshmallow goop on my beard, and gently wiped it off. I glance from it to Rarity, and shook my head. “Not gonna say it, too overdone,” I muttered.
Finally, after a few more minutes of waiting (and resisting the urge to yell, “PINKIE STOP, YOU’RE EATING RARITY!”), a team of ponies wearing what reminded me of train engineer clothes galloped onto the tracks, pulling a heavy looking locomotive with them.
“What’s with them pulling the train? What happened to the classic steam engines?” I asked, slightly confused.
“The engines are still slightly experimental,” Twilight explained as a team of farmponies loaded the tree (Dubbed, “Bloomberg”, by Applejack) onto the last car of the train. “They’re still trying to find a way to make sure it will last in the heat of the desert.”
“Ah, got it,” I responded.
“All aboard the 3:10 to Yuma!” A conductor yelled from the train.
I did a small double-take at his words, and shouted, “Wait, what?!”
He frowned at me, and shouted, “I said, all aboard the 3:10 to Appleloosa!”
Shaking my head, I trotted onto the train, and said, “Okay then…just making sure.”
A couple of hours later, and the train was tearing through the desert, leaving Ponyville behind us in a cloud of dust. For a while, I simply sat there, staring out the window, reminiscing over some of my past adventures.
“Pink? Really?” Spike asked, climbing onto the seat next to me.
“Hey, Pinkie’s not the only one who can do stuff like this!” I replied defensively. I then glanced at my poncho, and grimaced slightly. “Although I have to admit, it doesn’t seem to work very well on me…”
“Thanks, Spike,” I grumbled.
“Don’t you have anything, I dunno, tougher?” he asked, pulling my dark blue saddlebag up next to him, where he proceeded to rummage through it.
I scratched my beard in thought, and said musingly, “I might have something…It belonged to an old friend of mine.”
“Really? Wow. What’s his name?” Spike asked, as he pulled an old, weathered black cowboy hat out from my bags.
I grabbed the hat from him, and replaced the sombrero on my head with it. “His name was John. John Marston.”
“Was? What happened to him?” Spike looked at me with curious eyes, and I couldn’t help but chuckle a little. Sure, I may look and act young, but I’ve still got that Grandpa’s ability of telling entertaining stories from my past. Then again, this is one of those darker stories that Ponies (and baby dragons) shouldn’t really know about.
“Well…he died, protecting his family,” I said evasively. Spike crossed his arms, and continued to stare at me. Rolling my eyes, I muttered, “There’s no shaking you and the others when it comes to me telling a story, is there?”
“Oh, definitely no.”
“Figures.” I took off the poncho, and pulled out a wrinkled, grey, once-white, shirt, and pulled it on, awkwardly buttoning it shut with my hooves. As I dressed myself, I told him the story behind one of the greatest Western epics out there…
“You sure about this, Marston? You can run while I hold ‘em off,” I offered one last time, my twin showstopper revolvers tightly gripped in my fists.
John Marston looked at me with his tired, brown eyes, and he let out a long sigh. “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Nate. I need you to help look after my boy, and make sure he stays on the right path.”
“What if he doesn’t?”
He frowned, and then shook his head. “Well, at least make sure he doesn’t get himself killed. I don’t want to be seein’ him any sooner than I have to. Hell, I don’t want to see him at all if I’m right about where I’m goin’.” Almost as an afterthought, he laughed darkly, and added, “And for Christ’s sake, make sure he knows how to use a gun right.”
I let loose a grim chuckle at that last statement. “I’ll try, John. I’ll try.”
I peered out the crack in the barn wall, at the top of the loft, and said, “It doesn’t look good. Shit ton of them, and only a few bullets between us.”
“That’s why you’re not shootin’.”
Before I could ask what he meant by that, he pushed me over, and tossed a heavy saddle blanket on top of me, harshly whispering, “Now, quiet boy! I don’t want them finding you when this is over!”
As I struggled to untangle myself, I heard the muted thud of John’s boots hitting the hard dirt floor of the barn, and his heavy sigh, as he accepted the inevitable. Frantically, I threw out my arms, trying to get free of the makeshift net, hoping I could do something to save him, to make sure that he made it back to his family.
Just as I finally tossed the blanket aside, I heard the doors creak open, as if they had been kicked, and the sound of Marston’s revolver firing at the squad of Federal agents surrounding the barn. For an instant, I thought he would make it, or at least that I had enough time to fire off a few shots and give him cover fire. I shoved my eye to the small hole in the wall of the loft-
-and saw John Marston, the man who proved that chivalry wasn’t dead, become the newest victim of one man’s greed and ambition. Several rifle bullets tore into him, painting the ground red with his blood, and he struggled to take one step forward. His revolver fell from his lifeless hand, and he collapsed to his knees, blood flowing from his mouth. Finally, his eyes rolled back into his head, and he fell over…
And he didn’t get back up.
In shock, I fell against the wall, refusing to believe that after all that we had gone through together…
“…He was dead,” I finished, my eyes wet with tears that refused to fall. I finished the last button on my vest, and let out a deep breath.
“Wow…” Spike muttered, breathing fire on another marshmallow on a stick. “Why would that guy do that though?”
“What, kill Marston?” I let out a grim chuckle, and leaned back in my seat. As I stared out the window, and at the desert scenery that was slowly taking up the majority of the landscape, I said, “How do I say this…Spike, some people have certain things that they’ll do anything for. For John, it was his family. For Ross, it was power. Some people will literally move the world if they have to, and I’ve seen it done before…”
“What about you?” He asked.
“What would you do anything for?” He clarified, childlike innocence on his face.
I was silent as I tried to think of a good answer. Truth be told, there are a lot of things I’d do anything for. I mean, we’ve got the obvious one of my friends, who are really my true family. Not only that, but I’d also do anything if it meant saving an innocent life. In the end, I guess that…
“I’d do anything for the side of Good,” I finally said, startling Spike after my long moment of thinking. “I’ve gotta make sure that everyone is safe. I can’t sit by and let someone get hurt. It’s just how I was made.”
“Uh…okay. More marshmallows?” he offered, holding out a bag of them.
“No thanks,” I declined. Pulling my hat over my eyes, I yawned, and said, “I think I’m just gonna turn in early.” Settling into my seat, I mumbled, “Don’t need no stinkin’ bunk beds…seats are comfortable as is…”
I was violently awoken from my slumber when something rammed into the side of the train. As my eyes shot open, my old gunslinger instincts kicked in, and immediately started to assess the situation.
Okay, train was rammed from the side, the speed it takes to shake a train like that, no matter how much mass, rules out any chance of it being an accident of some sort. Appleloosan settlers have apple trees, we’re carrying an apple tree in the rear car, most likely meaning that something wants the tree, either for profit, or other means. Willing to harm others to get to it.
All of that was thought of in less than five seconds. In that time, I was already running to the door of the train car, and glancing out the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of whatever it was that was attacking us. My eyes widened when I realized that it wasn’t a group of pony bandits (although admittedly, that would be cool too), but instead:
“Buffaloes with native feathers?” I asked, before I shook my head and fell back into gunslinger mode. Currently, the only weapons I had with me were an old lasso that was tied to my side, and a hunting knife that was strapped on the opposite side, within easy reach of my mouth.
Opening the car door, I put a hoof to my mouth, and let out a long, piercing whistle. A few of the buffalo looked at me, distracted from their charge, and I leaped out from the train, and onto the ground. If I was correct, since this train was pony powered, then that meant that I should be able to keep up with it, if I pushed myself.
Rolling as I hit the ground, I charged over to where the buffalo were stampeding as a herd, and pulled out my lasso with my mouth, twirling it above my head in the classic wrangler style. “Thank you, Applejack,” I muttered, before tossing the lasso at the closet buffalo. The rope snagged onto its horn, and I fell alongside it, tugging it into a tight turn. As it forced itself not to fall flat on its face, the other buffalo simply ran around him, neatly avoiding my rope altogether.
As it was, I managed to stop one of them for all of ten seconds. Then it snapped its head back, and launched me into the air. Flailing my arms and legs, I managed to direct my flight onto the roof of the train, where I clung desperately to the edge. Hauling myself up, I pressed my hat down onto my head, and pulled out my knife, galloping along the roof.
Amidst all the action, a small part of me was squealing in delight. I mean, come on: I’M RUNNING ON TOP OF A FREAKING TRAIN, IN THE MIDDLE OF A TRAIN ROBBERY. Not only that, but I’m in pony form, while dressed up as John Marston. Today is officially awesome.
Finally, I reached the caboose, where my instincts told me that the buffalo would try to make their move. Throwing myself down, I swallowed nervously, and said, “Okay, I’m about to do something either stupid, foolish, or totally awesome. Ye Gods, I hope it’s the last one.”
With that, I grasped my knife in my teeth, and lowered myself to the small stepladder attached to the caboose. Slowly, I reached out with my hooves, and managed to grasp the underside of the car, where I held on for dear life. As I waited underneath the car, I vaguely heard what sounded like Rainbow Dash shouting at someone, then a loud “CLANG!” as if she had crashed into something.
I glared silently, but stayed where I was. If I was going to stop those buffalo, then I needed to make sure I had the element of surprise on my side. After what felt like hours of hanging onto the metal bars, the sound of thundering hooves reached my ears, and I felt my lips curve into a grim smile. As I started to climb back out to attack them, I heard something that shattered my entire plan:
“HEEEELP!!!” Spike’s voice called out, barely reaching my ears.
Shit! What the hell was Spike doing in there!? Okay, new plan: instead of going out and attacking them head-on, I’ll have to see if I can’t get my hooves on one of the smaller ones, and use them as a hostage to negotiate the release of Spike.
…Nah, I’ll just do my usual gig:
“ESPERANTO!” I shouted through clenched teeth, before I let go of the caboose, and tumbled onto the hard tracks. My teeth rattled in my skull, as I miraculously managed to land on the tracks with only a few bruises. Amazingly, I wasn’t trampled at all by the hooves of the stampeding herd. Guess I can get lucky sometimes.
I quickly picked myself up, and charged after the buffalo, leaving the train in the dust. One of them actually turned around, and spotted me still keeping up with them. He snorted, and did a 180, rushing out to meet me. Lamenting the fact that I had lost my lasso, I gripped the knife tightly in my mouth-
And dropped it when I stumbled over a rock that was protruding from the tracks. Oops. Oh well, Live and Learn! Charging at the buffalo, I leaped over its head, and slammed my hooves down on its back. Shaking slightly, it threw its head up, grazing my leg with its horns. I jumped to the side, rolling as I landed, only to be met by another buffalo.
“You settler ponies will pay for what you have done!” He shouted angrily. Before I could ask what he was talking about, he slammed his head into mine. Stars exploded in my vision, and a smaller, petite buffalo, almost calf-like, threw my own rope around me. Hogtied, I could only let them drag me with them, while I quickly lost consciousness.
“Ugh…I have GOT to stop getting knocked out,” I groaned. “It is extremely bad for my health…”
Ignoring the pounding sensation in my head, I tried to move my hooves. Sadly, I was still tied up, barely able to make any movement at all.
“Well. Still better than Vegas,” I muttered.
“Be quiet!” A voice harshly said, slapping a hoof on my head.
“Ow! What the heck was that for?” I asked, glaring at the offending buffalo. It was the same calf (well, smaller buffalo) from before, and she was glaring daggers at me, as we sped across the desert. A small part of me realized that we had left the tracks a while ago, and were now currently trailblazing. On the bright side, they had been a bit courteous by throwing me onto the back of another buffalo.
“You’re not allowed to talk! You tried to hurt us!” The calf spat.
“In my defense, you’ve kinda kidnapped a friend of mine!” I shot back.
“What, the tree?” she asked sarcastically.
“No, the dragon,” I growled, struggling against my bonds.
“The what?” This was apparently new to her, if the look on her face was anything to go by.
“Did you bother looking in the caboose before you stole it?” I deadpanned. Rolling off of the buffalo’s back, I managed to wrap the ropes around the pointy end of its horn, where it neatly cut the ropes off. Instead of landing gracefully, I once again got to meet the ground’s desert cousin.
“Ow,” I mumbled, before picking myself up. The buffalo stampede had stopped now, curious to see what I was doing. Limping, I made my way to the caboose, and hollered, “Spike! It’s okay, you can open the door now.”
“I can’t! It’s locked!” He shouted from inside the caboose, his voice finally able to be heard by all of the buffalo.
“Of course it’s freakin’ locked…Alright, stand back Spike!” Looking at the window, I pulled my hoof back, and slammed it into the glass. Flicking the rest of the shards out of the frame, I waved for Spike to climb out.
“Thanks,” he said, dropping next to me. He glanced at my arm, and added, “How come you aren’t bleeding?”
I shrugged, and said, “Years and years of practice. There’s a certain method to punching glass.”
The buffalo quickly started shouting apologies…to Spike. I was mostly ignored, except by the calf, who sheepishly trotted over to me, and said, “Erm, sorry about all of that…”
“Ah, it’s fine. Sans Souci,” I replied, extending a hoof. On an impulse, I introduced myself by saying, “Name’s Omnius…but you can call me Red. Red Marston.”
“…Uh, alright. I am Little Strongheart.” she answered, a little confused, but willing to go along with it. “But why would a dragon be traveling with an Appleloosan settler?”
“What? No, I’m not a settler!” I said, raising an eyebrow. “I’m actually goin’ there to visit with a few…friends…Ye Gods.”
I jumped off the caboose, and snatched Spike onto my back. “Hey! What’s the big idea?” he asked indignantly, holding onto my mane for dear life.
“The others don’t know we’re okay! They must be worried sick about you!” I explained. One of the buffalo leaped in front of me, causing me to skid to a stop. As I looked around, Strongheart trotted next to me, a small smile on her face.
“Our apologies, but do you even know where the town is?” she asked logically.
I face-hoofed myself, Spike joining me with a face-claw, and muttered, “That would help…”
“Night is coming. Why don’t you and the dragon stay with our tribe for the night? I’ll take you back to Appleloosa in the morning,” she offered. Her eyes kept gazing at the small reptilian on my back, and I guessed that they must have held dragons in high regard.
“Alright, that’d be much appreciated,” I finally said. “Lead the way, miss. And while we head there, you can tell me what’s goin’ on with you and the Appleloosans.”
“What makes you thi-”
I interrupted her with a cough, and said, “M’am, it’s pretty obvious. You attack their train, steal a tree, and buck me in the head for lookin’ like one of ‘em. I’d like some answers now.”
She blushed, but agreed once Spike repeated the question. As she explained the feud going on between the buffalo tribe, and the settlers (look, I’m not about to dumb it down for you. Seriously, go and watch the episode if you don’t know what’s going on. Honestly, I’m not about to summarize what you’ve already seen. There’s a thing called GOOGLE for that), I couldn’t help but feel a little saddened. Of course, there would be a disagreement with something like this…
“Hey, Omnius?” Spike asked from his perch on my back. “You mind if I go with the rest of the buffalo? They’re gonna go look around and make sure nopony else followed them.”
“Sure, kid,” I answered. “Strongheart and I will head to the camp. I wanna learn more about their ways…Maybe become the Last of the Buffalos…” I muttered the last part so that I wouldn’t accidentally cause any alarm.
The last thing I needed was to be mistaken for some crazed gunslinger who would kill them all in a moment’s notice. Besides, why would I want to kill them? THEY’RE FREAKING BUFFALO. With bison horns…huh. Weird.
As the moon rose high into the sky, I had managed to learn a lot more about the buffalo from Little Strongheart. According to her, they were a very spiritual people, believing nature and the stars to guide them. They also believed very strongly in their ancestors. In fact, they actually had a “stampeding ground” which was dedicated to them, where they would, as the name implied, stampede across it, hoping to channel their spirits. Well, something like that anyways.
Anyways, Strongheart just left to go and get Spike (or “Mr. Spike” as she had started calling him) some turquoise, leaving me to converse with the chief.
“Howdy,” I stated. The chief gazed at me with a spark of anger in his eyes, and I tipped my hat at him. “Just call me Red. Red Marston.”
“I am Chief Thunderhooves,” he answered curtly.
“I’m not a settler pony, I just dressed up like one for the occasion,” I immediately said.
“Hmph,” he snorted, puffs of steam coming from his nostrils.
“Hmph,” I repeated, smaller puffs of steam coming from my own nose.
He cracked a small smile, and said, “Are you trying to intimidate me, little pony?”
“No, you’re too huge for that!”
That got him. He let loose an earth-rumbling chuckle, and he said, “You are not as bad as the settlers. And you are different as well.”
“What gave it away? The beard?” I asked rhetorically.
“No,” he replied, shaking his head grimly. We walked through the camp, and he glanced at me. “I can sense that you hold many mysteries…that you yourself, are one.”
“Yeah, I’m just a walking oxymoron,” I grumbled.
“I do not mean it in any offensive way. I mean to say that you seem to be…not of this world.” Thoughts raced through my head, as I struggled to maintain my casual posture. He seemed to know that he had struck a chord, however, and he added, “I do not sense any malicious intent from you, though. Whatever secrets you may have, you may keep.”
“Thanks,” I grunted. “Now mind tellin’ me what’s up with the battle between you and the settlers?” Okay, I did just hear the gist of it from Little Strongheart, but if you want an accurate description, you ask the guys in charge. Once I get the info from this side of the land, I’ll make my way over to the town, and ask the sheriff (western town, has to have a sherrif!) what’s been goin’ on. Or just head to the saloon.
I haven’t gotten in an old timey saloon fight in ages.
Snapping myself out of bar-brawl memories, I listened to what Thunderhooves was saying.
“We have a long and winding stampeding trail that we have run upon for many generations. My father stampeded upon these grounds, and his father before him, and his father before him, and his father before him, and his father before him, and-”
Okay, skipping this! How to make him stop without seeming rude…hm…
“Chief!” Strongheart called out suddenly, snapping him out of his monologue. He looked over to see the young buffalo standing in the opening of the tent. “There are two ponies here, friends of Mr. Spike. They want to know what’s been happening.”
“Good. Red, join us. I don’t want to repeat myself,” he stated, maneuvering his bulk through the small tent opening.
“…Says the guy who just went on about his endless grandpas.”
After some explanations, I was sitting next to Spike, Dash, and Pinkie, who had followed the trail the buffalo left to find Spike, and we were all listening to the Chief’s explanation of the problem. Luckily, Strongheart had the sense to cut him off before he got on a roll about the “his father’s, father’s, father’s” bit.
“See, Rainbow Dash?” Spike said when they were done explaining their side of the story. “They had a good reason to-”
In anger, Rainbow Dash stomped her hoof on the ground, and half-shouted, “I’ll say they had a good reason! Come on! We have some apple-picking Appleloosans to talk to!”
Surprised, but happy that she had finally come around to their side, the crowd smiled, while Dash dragged Pinkie and I by our tails back to the trail. Strongheart and Spike followed, while I rolled my eyes, and said, “Okay…guess we’re getting the hell out of Dodge.”
“Hi guys!” Pinkie Pie said happily, when we saw our friends (plus Braeburn), who were just leaving town. Fluttershy hug-tackled Pinkie in happiness, while I myself was hugged by Twilight.
“Pinkie! We’re so glad you’re safe!” Fluttershy exclaimed, burying her face in Pinkie’s mane.
The others expressed similar statements, and Twilight asked, “How did you escape from the buffalo?”
I rolled my eyes, but returned Twilight’s hug, saying at the same time as Pinkie, “We didn’t.”
Behind us, an outcropping of rock hid Little Strongheart from view, and I called out, “Come on now, no need to be shy. We’ve already got Fluttershy to do that for us.”
An audible gulp sounded out, before Strongheart jumped out from behind the rock, much to the astonishment of the ponies. While she nervously pawed (hoofed?) the ground, Rainbow Dash said, “We promised the buffalo a chance to talk.”
“Oh yeah?” Applejack asked, a hint of scorn in her voice. “’Bout what?”
Throwing a friendly, reassuring hoof around the calf’s shoulders, and said, “We brought our new pal Little Strongheart here to explain to the Appleloosans why they should move the apple trees off buffalo land.”
When she finished, she pushed Strongheart into Braeburn’s face. The cowpony gave her a friendly smile, and said, “That information will be quite help-”
“That’s weird, ’cause my cousin Braeburn here wants to explain to the buffalo why they should let the apple trees stay,” Applejack cut in, shoving Braeburn closer.
“That would be a useful thing to-” Strongheart started, before Dash interrupted her.
“The land is theirs!” She shouted, flying over to Applejack. “You planted the trees not knowing that. Honest mistake. Now you just gotta move ’em, that’s all.”
Uh oh. If I know my Western movies, then that means that this town might not be big enough for the two of ‘em. I cleared my throat, and tried to get their attention, but to no avail.
“They busted their rumps here! And now they’re supposed to bust their rumps again just ’cause some buffalo won’t stampede someplace else?” Applejack retorted, now getting into Rainbow Dash’s face.
“Plant the trees somewhere else!” Rainbow insisted.
“Where?” Applejack gestured at the tall desert hills surrounding the town, pointing out, “It’s the only flat land around these parts!”
“The Buffalo had it first!”
“The settler ponies need it to live!”
From there, it escalated into a huge shouting match, with both of them arguing needlessly over who had the right to be there. Braeburn and Strongheart, to their credit, both looked uncomfortable, as if they felt that each one was making valid points, but that they’d rather talk it over calmly. I empathized with them. There have been endless times where I’ve nearly gotten into wars because both leaders would refuse to listen to the other.
Finally, Twilight had had enough, and she shouted over the two of them, at the same time as me, “ENOUGH!”
I blinked, and motioned for her to go ahead with her rant. As she told the two arguing ponies about how both sides had good reasons to stay, I edged my way over to Braeburn, and whispered, “Hey, Braeburn. Know any good saloons where I can try my hand at keeping the peace?”
“Well, I dunno what’cha mean by that, but you can always try the Salt Lick Saloon!” He offered.
“Thanks. Tell the girls I’m off doin’ my usual gig,” I muttered, sneaking away back into the town.
“What’s your usual gig?” Strongheart asked me as I walked off.
Not even looking back, I chuckled, and said, “Oh, you know. Just the usual: Help others, learn new things, and make a fool of myself. It’s a living.”
Oh, it’s good to be The Traveler.
“So, the Salt Lick, eh?” I said to myself, as I walked through the swinging doors. I had to say, I already liked the place: Only a few ponies, including a mare at the piano and the bartender stallion, it actually looked like an old time western bar, and…I felt like I was in my element. I don’t know why, but I always feel…relaxed, when I’m in a western setting. It must have something to do with my old time values of chivalry, and how I keep going on about how I was trained in the ways of the gunslinger.
Something like that anyways.
The moment I stepped in, a group of burly ponies playing a card game (how are they holding the cards?) turned to glare at me, and I nodded quietly at them, casting a glare of my own at them. They grunted in approval, and I trotted up to the counter.
“Y’er not from around here, are yeh?” The Bartender instantly asked me, absently wiping a glass with a fresh rag.
“Nope,” was my curt reply.
“What’ll you have?”
I cracked my neck, and placed a bit on the counter. “Just a water. Something is going down later, and I want to be sober for it.”
He raised his eyebrow at me, but he took the bit willingly enough, and set a cup of water in front of me. “We finally doing something about them buffalo?”
“Nah…crazy mare named Pinkie Pie is getting some sort of number put together,” I said, guessing that Pinkie would probably want to solve things with a musical performance. If it worked, more power to her. If it failed, then I was gonna need to see if I could talk peace with the ponies.
“Huh. Any buffalo gonna be showin’ up?” The bartender asked, placing another glass in front of me as soon as he noticed that I had finished the first one.
“Why don’t you ask ‘em yourself?” A card playing pony in the corner of the room called out, right before a trio of angry looking buffalo squeezed through the doors. The bar went silent instantly at their arrival.
“Anything I can get for you?” The bartender evenly asked, treating them as he had treated me.
The largest one, a steel colored buffalo with a decorative headdress-
Oh no. So much…just…shit. In his headdress, he had the typical feathered bit going on, but not only that, he had a bit of obsidian dangling from a coarse brown string.
Okay, sidetracking from the action to briefly explain something: I hate obsidian. See, a while ago, Torrentican had managed to capture me for about…gahl, I can’t even remember. Thirteen months? Anyways, every time I tried to Travel out of there, Torrentican would follow me (as we are the only beings who can track each other’s Traveling accurately, unless covered with some form of magic spell), and he’d torture me with obsidian weapons.
Long story short, he psychologically trained me to think that if obsidian was touching me, then I’d forget how to use most, if not all, of my magic, Traveling abilities, or skills in general. I could still remember basic stuff, and I wasn’t gonna be a wimp like Superman with kryptonite, but…well, I wasn’t going to be that useful until the stupid rock was gone.
Alright, back to the action.
The buffalo trotted up to the bar, and he slammed his hooves onto it, getting all of the patrons’ attention. In a loud, deep voice, he called out, “Settler ponies! Thanks to the pink one’s…efforts…we have decided!”
“On what?” I asked, calmly sipping at my drink.
“That at high noon, we will continue our stampede…no matter what stands in our way.”
I slammed my glass on the counter, and turned to them, a dangerous gleam in my eye. Two of the buffalo stepped back, but the leader kept staring at me. “Now why would you do that?” I asked in a dangerous voice.
“Because…I for one, would actually like to feel my hooves stomping on the heads of you useless ponies,” he growled, steam puffing out of his nose.
“Come on, can’t we all just get along?” one of the card playing ponies tried.
“Hmph. Maybe if you tiny ponies stopped planting trees on our land,” the buffalo retorted. He then directed his gaze at me, and snorted, “And shaved that mess of pubic hair you call a beard.”
The bar got deathly quiet. All of them could feel the anger rising off of me, like a heat wave, as I turned my head to stare at the steel colored buffalo that stood in front of me. “…What did you just say about my beard?”
“Are you settlers deaf now?” He spat. Putting his massive head closer to mine, he enunciated every word, and said, “Shave. Your. Pathetic. Beard.”
I got up from my seat, and lowered my hat. “Pardner, there are three mistakes you’ve just made right now.”
“One…I’m from Texas…”
“So? Who cares about a made up land?”
“Two…I’ve had training as a ranger…” My legs tensed, ready to strike out at any given moment.
“What are you getting at?”
“Three…you just insulted my beard.”
Before he could respond, I pivoted on my front hooves, and used all of my momentum to spin my back hooves around, and buck him full strength in the face. He flew backwards from the sheer force of the blow, and he crashed through the window of the bar, and into the wall of the next building.
His companions looked at me with a mixture of anger and awe, and I responded by cracking my neck again, and stating, “The eyes of the ranger see all.”
As if that was their cue, they leaped into action, charging at me from across the bar. Two of the card players intercepted them however, slamming their chairs onto the buffalos’ heads, and dazing them for a few moments. Another drinker at the counter grabbed the bottle he was drinking from, and he slammed it onto the head of the poor sap sitting next to him.
Needless to say, all hell broke loose from there.
I was slammed in the back of the head by a bag of salt (the hell?), and I turned around and lashed out with my front hoof, punching the attacker in the face. As he fell to the ground, I threw a large bag of bits onto the counter, and yelled, “For the window, the chair, and whatever else I’m gonna end up breaking!”
And then, I leaped into the fray, laughing madly as I did so.
“Wow…I can’t believe Pinkie’s song failed that badly,” Twilight lamented, wincing as she remembered the disastrous musical number.
“Oh yes,” Rarity agreed. “I do hope Omnius is having better luck than we are at convincing the ponies and buffalo not to fight one another.”
“I know,” Fluttershy said. “We really need to find a way to let them know that they really CAN share the land…”
“Where IS Omni anyways?” Pinkie asked.
“You gotta SHARE!” I slammed a bottle on one buffalo’s head, and threw the chair I was holding in my mouth at a pony who had tried to stab me with a pool cue. “You gotta CARE!”
Another buffalo crashed his head into me, pinning me to the counter, and I slammed my hooves onto his head in a double-hoofed blow. As he stumbled backwards, I added, “That wasn’t the right thing to do!”
For hours, we all fought each other, in the time honored tradition of western bar fights, with no rules.
Well, almost no rules.
“HEY!” I shouted at a pony who was about to slam his hooves into the piano mare. “What’s the big idea? You never attack the musician in a bar fight!”
Some of the other fighters stopped their beatings for a moment to nod in agreement with me. I trotted over to the offending pony, and grabbed him by the collar. “Sorry, but for that, you’re disqualified.”
“I’m sorry!” He yelled, as I tossed him out the doors.
“AND STAY OUT! Piano Mare, if you would continue?”
“Gladly,” she answered.
Resuming our brawl, we kept wailing on each other, until the sheriff finally had to intercede, and he hollered out over the crowd, “ALRIGHT, ENOUGH!”
We all stopped, and looked at the old colt with respect. Well, I punched the colt I was holding in a headlock one more time, and dropped him to the ground.
“Now iff’n y’all are done actin’ like a buncha foals, ye can help us fight off the buffalo!” he suggested, before galloping out of the saloon, and ducking behind a stack of hay bales. Occasionally, he would pop out from behind them, and launch a pie at something that I couldn’t see from where I was standing.
Trotting over to the window, I put my head to the wall, and mumbled, “Oh, duh. I forgot that I was supposed to be stopping this. Why did I get distracted?” I then spotted the same steel colored buffalo from before, only this time he was getting hit by a well aimed pie to the face. “Oh, right, he insulted my beard.”
“Omnius!” Twilight shouted, running over to meet me as I jumped out of the broken window.
“Well, howdy Twilight. I’m guessing your negotiations didn’t work?” I said casually, pulling her behind a wall to avoid a flying pie.
“No, they refused to listen to any of us! What about you?”
“Well, three buffalo and several ponies won’t be attending this little shin-dig,” I replied.
“Really? You managed to convince them not to fight?”
“Ow! My leg!” A random pony screamed from inside of the bar.
“…sure, let’s go with that,” I replied. “Where’s Rarity, Fluttershy, and the rest of ‘em?”
“We’re trying to help anypony who needs it,” she answered, using her magic to catch a pie before it hit my flank. “This whole thing is pointless!”
“That it is…that it is…” I said sadly. Sighing, I trotted out from behind the building, and my eyes widened as I saw the Chief charge at the sheriff. The sheriff calmly removed his hat, and placed it over his chest, closing his eyes as he accepted the inevitable.
“NO!” I shouted. Without thinking, I grabbed the pie from where it was hanging in the air, surprising Twilight, and I hurled it at the Chief.
The Chief watched the pie fly towards him, and time started to slow down. The pie lazily floated through the air, getting closer and closer to the suspended Chief. “NOOOOOO!” He shouted in slow-motion, right before the pie hit him in the face, and caused him to land in front of the makeshift barricade the Sheriff was standing behind.
We slowly walked over to where the Chief was, his eyes closed, and his tongue handing out of his mouth. Nearly his entire head was covered in bits and pieces of apple pie, and some of the ponies started to cry. Spike just flat out started bawling, as he hugged Twilight for support.
“Um…you do realize that’s just pie, right?” I asked, as some of the ponies and buffalo aimed angry looks at me. “Seriously! He’s fine!”
As if to prove my point, a bit of the pie that had hit him landed on his tongue. And the sheer awesomeness of the flavor of the pie apparently brought the Chief back from the dead, as his eyes shot open, he said, “Yum!”
“Told you! Buncha crybabies…” I muttered. Rarity flicked the back of my head, and I said, “Okay, I’ll shut up.”
“Hm…wait! I’ve got a much better idea!” The Chief said, eyeing the rest of the pies.
“Hooray!” I shouted, getting ready to hop back onto the train with the rest of the pony folk. “The ponies and the buffalo are at peace, I got to be part of an old timey bar fight, and I rode a train, all while dressed up like an old western hero. BEST. VACATION. EVER.”
“Pardner, it was mighty fine havin’ you come here,” Braeburn said, shaking my hoof. “Y’all will have to come back and visit sometime!”
“Definitely!” Applejack laughed. “Hay, you might even be datin’ Little Strongheart by the time we get back!”
“I expect to hear wedding bells!” I laughed, before jumping onto the train as it pulled out of the station. “Goodbye all!”
As the train started to make the long journey back to Ponyville, I couldn’t help but grin at my friends. At their questioning look, I said, “I need to do one last thing before I can properly call this the end of a western.”
Jumping off of the train again, I looked at the setting sun, conveniently placed in the general direction of Ponyville, and galloped towards it, laughing and hollering all the while. I could hear the laughter of the girls, as they watched me from the train, and I gladly called out in a voice that echoed across the desert: