‘Remind me again sugarcube, when the Princess said she would drop Spike off personally, did she actually specify completely redecorating the library before she arrived?’
Twilight Sparkle grinned sheepishly as she poured the tea. ‘Not in so many words, no…but you know, the place did need a bit of sprucing up and, well…’ She gestured round the dishevelled library. Teetering stacks of books were testament to her flurry of activity earlier that day, while a sad little patch of paint on one of the empty shelves bore witness to the extent of her decorating prowess. Painting an entire library, Twilight had reluctantly decided, was not actually the kind of task anypony could do alone in one day, no matter how organised she was - or how many pre-painting checklists she drew up…
‘I really appreciate you girls helping out, but are you sure I’m not keeping you from anything? I mean, this is going to take all day, and…’ Rarity gently put a hoof to Twilight’s mouth. ‘Now darling, not another word of protest – if it’s important to you, then it’s important to us. Besides, I’ve always thought I may have a flair for interior design, wouldn’t you agree?’ She sipped delicately at her teacup and gestured languidly at the open magazine in front of her. ‘Now…how do you feel about raffia wall-hangings and driftwood? It’s very much the in thing this season. Of course, you’d have to lose some of these dusty old bookshelves…’
Rainbow Dash raised her hoof. ‘Uhh, Rarity – this is a library, remember? Bookshelves are kind of a necessity!’
‘But darling, minimalist is so stylish at the moment, I’m sure the library doesn’t need quite so many…’
A knock at the door interrupted the good-natured bickering. This had to be Pinkie Pie, Twilight decided - only Ponyville’s most dedicated party pony could make a simple knock at the door sound so happy. Sure enough, as soon as she magicked the door open, Pinkie hopped merrily into the library, carrying a large covered basket. Behind her…..Huh? Twilight blinked in surprise. Behind Pinkie Pie was, in fact, a ghost. As the ponies watched in astonishment, the apparition floated across the threshold, raised a white-shrouded hoof and said ‘Umm…..boo? If you don’t mind being booed, that is?’
It was enough to make the friends crack up completely and, in Applejack’s case, spray tea across the library floor. Still laughing, Twilight levitated the dust-sheet off Fluttershy, while Pinkie was rolling on the floor in hysterics. ‘Were you scared, Twi?? That was my idea!! But Fluttershy made a much better ghost than me because I can’t fly!!’ Fluttershy looked concerned. ‘Oh…I hope I didn’t really scare you, Twilight?’ It was all the unicorn could to to shake her head without bursting into giggles instead. At last, Pinkie composed herself and started rummaging through her basket.
‘Ooh….we’ve got everything we need for the party!’
‘Party?’ asked Twilight warily, regarding the stack of items Pinkie was busily unpacking. ‘The painting party, of course! I’ve brought cakes, dust-sheets, some liquorice, jam-jars to put the paintbrushes in, a rubber chicken, and even the music to paint by, yay!!’With a flourish, Pinkie pulled her gramophone from the basket and set it triumphantly on an errant encyclopedia. Twilight couldn’t help feeling a little impressed. But on the other hoof….Pinkie’s musical tastes? ‘Not the Pony Pokey, is it?’ Twilight regarded the gramophone with suspicion.
‘No silly, this is completely different! It’s the Pony Polka! It’s on the ‘B’ side of my Pony Pokey record!’
‘Ahh…entirely different, then…’
Pinkie cranked the gramophone enthusastically. ‘Now, watch me do the actions, then you can copy me!’ As she lowered the needle onto the record, the cheerful strains of an accordion crackled from the brass horn, joined after a few bars by the voice of a jolly baritone stallion.
‘Please place your pony partner in the pony polka pose
Don’t stop the song, just sing along and this is how it goes.
I’ll be doing the pony polka from my hooves up to my nose,
If there’s one thing that I’m good at it’s the pony polka pose!’
Pinkie finished her dance routine by sliding across the library floor toward the basket of treats. ‘Taa-daa!! And you end the dance with jazz-hooves! And with cake, mm-mmmm!’
The other ponies shared a look. ‘Umm, sugarcube – it’s a nice song an’all, but…’
‘It’s hardly a repetoire for divine décor inspiration , darling. Haven’t you anything less….energetic?’
Pinkie scowled. ‘Aww….but I know for a fact you said this was one of your favourite records, Dashie!’ Rainbow looked up in surprise from the new Daring Do book she’d purloined from the New Arrivals shelf. ‘Uh, yeah….when I was three!’ The pink mare beamed.’See? I knew you said you liked it! Just let the three-year-old you listen to it!’ Rainbow shook her head in amusement. ‘Pinkie Pie, you really are so random sometimes!’
‘I was always a Sapphire Shores girl, even at that age,’ mused Rarity. ‘I used to spend all the bits I got for chores to buy her records, and dance round my bedroom to them. Ahem…with grace and style, of course!’
Fluttershy nodded emphatically. ‘Oh, me too - my parents even took me to one of her concerts in Cloudsdale once. I cheered so loud…’ She looked mildly embarassed. ‘Well, loud by my standards, I mean...’
Applejack slurped down her tea and grinned. ‘Never had no fancy gramophones growing up on the farm, but Granny Smith always taught me all the rhymes and stories she knew from when she were a little-un.’ She cleared her throat.
‘One apple, two apple, three apple, four,
Five apple, six apple, seven apple, more!
Nine apple, ten apple….’
‘Eleven apple, by any chance?’ remarked Twilight, reaching for another cupcake. Applejack grinned ruefully. ‘Reckon you’ve heard it before! Good rhythm to sort apples to though! So how about you, sugarcube? What songs did they teach you at that fancy unicorn kindergarten?’ Twilight glanced awkwardly at the ground for a brief moment, before forcing a smile. ‘Oh, I never really learned any…..too busy studying. You know how it is.’
Applejack gave her a reassuring pat on the shoulder. ‘No worries sugarcube, guess there wasn’t much room in that big old magical brain of yours for silly filly-rhymes, what with all the spells you were learning!’
Twilight looked thoughtful, raking her memory. ‘Well, I do actually remember one, but…’ She paused, looking uncertain. “I didn’t like it as a filly, but here goes -
as I….as I was trotting up the stairs,
I met a mare who wasn’t there.
She wasn’t there again today,
How I wish she’d go away.’
A cold shiver crept round the room as Twilight finished reciting. ‘Oh my…’ murmured Fluttershy after an uncomfortable silence. ‘That’s a bit, umm….’ ‘Urgh, creepy!’ finished Applejack. ‘Let me guess, your brother teach you that one to scare you? Big Macintosh was always trying to spook me with ghost stories growing up.’
Rainbow scoffed, holding up the adventure book she was reading. ‘That’s nothing! You want to know what creepy is? Being buried up to your fetlocks in a pit full of scarab beetles, that’s creepy! But nothing’s too creepy for Daring Do! Why, she..mmph!’ A well-aimed cushion cut her off mid-sentence. ‘Twi’s not read that one yet sugarcube, don’t go spoiling it!’
‘Umm. Beetles aren’t creepy, they’re actually creepy-crawly…and they really don’t like being piled up in pits…’
Rarity smiled at Twilight. ‘So, did your mare on the stair have fabulous hair?’ ‘Eat a pear at the fair? remarked Applejack drily. ‘While flying in the air?’ Rainbow soared round the room to demonstrate. ‘Meet a bear? Or a hare?’ giggled Pinkie, making bearclaw gestures with her hooves and hopping like a hare at the same time. Fluttershy cringed a little as five pairs of eyes turned to her expectantly. ‘Umm…umm….use the Stare?’ All six friends fell about laughing, the brief moment of unease passing as quickly as it had arrived.
As the ponies polished off the tea and cakes, Rainbow Dash took the opportunity to skim over a few more paragraphs of her book As much as she loved her friends, she couldn’t help but feel that the fearless adventurer Daring Do would never be called upon to do a spot of redecorating. Eventually though, her friends’ voices filtered through the literary haze -
‘So, are we going to get started or what?’
‘Twilight dear, we’ll start with your bedroom first. Proper decorators always start at the top and work down, you know.’
‘Proper decorators, Rarity? Like a certain unicorn that painted herself into the corner of her boutique and had to scream for help…?’
‘I thought we were never going to speak of that again…’
Pinkie bounced eagerly up the stairs, somehow managing to balance the gramophone, records, painting supplies and surplus food on her back. ‘Dashie, Shy, you two coming? We’ve got sandpaper with your names on it up here! And liquorice!’
‘Oh…coming Pinkie, I’m just clearing up the tea things.’
‘Up in a moment, just let me finish this chapter!’
Daring struggled against the ropes that dug into her flank, but it was no use. She was bound fast and in the clutches of the tribe of zebra cannibals. At a gesture from the cannibal chief, two zebras in ceremonial wooden masks hoisted the bamboo cane to which Daring was tied onto their shoulders and began dragging her toward the ominously bubbling cooking-pot. Thinking fast, Daring began to – ‘Rainbow darling, did you see where I left that purple paint?’
Her concentration broken, Rainbow sprang up, flexed her wings and glanced around the library floor. Lets see….the paint tin’s by that shelf there, Rarity’s up there…ha, ten seconds flat!
With a determined beat of her wings, the pegasus skimmed in a low-flying loop round the room, grasped the paint with both hooves and surged upstairs toward the upper floor with wings nearly folded, relying on her momentum to negotiate the narrow cluttered staircase. As she emerged in Twi’s bedroom she spread her flight feathers to slow herself down, deposited the tin of paint in front of a startled Rarity accompanied by a mock salute, twisted in mid-air and hurtled back downstairs, bouncing slightly as she hit the couch in a reading position, grinning from ear to ear. ‘Nine seconds….yeess!!’
As she picked up her book again she noticed Fluttershy looking at her in confusion. ‘Ahem…just timing myself, Shy! Gotta keep practising if I’m ever going to make the Wonderbolts!’
Still grinning to herself, her gaze returned to the page. At a gesture from the cannibal chief ,two zebras in ceremonial wooden masks hoisted the bamboo cane to which Daring was tied onto their shoulders and began dragging her toward the ominously bubbling cooking-pot. Thinking- ‘Rainbow, Fluttershy, could one of y’all lend a hoof up here?” Rainbow sighed in exasperation and put the book down yet again. “Coming, AJ,’
‘Oh, I’ll get this one’ smiled Fluttershy. ‘I know how it is when you get stuck into a book…Angel-bunny does so love his Stephanie Mare romances.’ Rainbow glanced up as her friend trotted happily up the library staircase toward Twilight’s bedroom, squeezing past the neat stacks of books on every step. She shook her head in amusement – she’d never even consider using stairs if there was an opportunity to fly instead. Of course, not everypony can be as awesome a flier as me!
Settling back against the cushion, she picked up her book once more. Right, she thought, let’s see how Daring gets out of this one! At a gesture from the cannibal chief…
Rainbow frowned, blinking in confusion. The page blurred in front of her, the words fading and reforming as she watched. At a gesture from the cannibal chief, two zebras in ceremonial wooden masks strode forward into one of the mud huts. Moments later, they emerged, carrying between them a bamboo pole, tied to which was a yellow pegasus. Her long pink mane dragged in the mud as she struggled in vain to free herself. Daring watched in bafflement – was this a member of another expedition? A rival archeologist?Her cutie mark was three butterflies – an entymologist perhaps? Whoever she was, the poor mare’s mind had clearly gone and she was babbling incoherently. ‘Please, there’s been an awful mistake…I don’t belong here…Rainbow Dash, Rainb-
Rainbow snapped the book shut, her heart pounding. A bare second later, a frightened scream rang out from Twilight’s bedroom.