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Twilight and the Spartan Stallion
Part 6: Pinkie Pie’s Symposium
“Still with us, Captain Slate?” Spartan Shield leaned in front of the resting stallion. The lull in the waves of attacks gave a brief time for rest and recovery. The Spartan Stallions were winded after so many successive waves of foes. Perhaps fifty of their number had died thus far, all of them glorious bloody deaths.
Captain Slate looked up at his leader with a pained grin. The left side of his face was painted red with his own blood, pouring neatly out of the eye that was no longer there. The cauterizing had taken six Spartan Stallions to hold him down, but he was still alive and that’s what counted. His fellow was tying a strip of dirty cloth around his head when he spoke. “Never fear, Spartan Shield, it’s just an eye. Luckily, Faust saw fit to bless me with two.” He chuckled a little blackly. Spartan Shield reached out and took a smear of his blood, pressing it across his cheeks in two fine lines. Sharing blood like that was an affectionate gesture, and he thumped the injured stallion’s back a few times.
The sand-colored stallion walked slowly amongst his troops, watching them scarf food, show off wounds and bruises, and trim their spearheads. The morale was okay for the moment, but their numbers were being wittled down. He knew not how many more Lunar Stallions would come, but with perhaps two hundred and fifty Spartan ones remaining, they would hold the line as long as they could. He case his eyes skyward, unable to grasp how the alicorns could still fight so hard for so long. They’d not let up in over four hours, and were still going strong. So this was what it was like to be on the battlefield of the gods. He smiled despite himself, his great chest inflating with pride.
Celestia banked on the wing as a cascade of stars streaked past her, leaving dome-shaped explosions on the fields of Equestria herself. Gathering magic to her cause, she laced the sky with a beam of pure solar magic. Nightmare Moon conjured a sphere of protection about herself, turning and deflecting it skyward with a shout. Such enormous magicks, no pony on the ground could comprehend their efforts! Spartan Shield watched the royal sisters spiral, duck and dodge through the sky. They were beautiful, both of them. When Nightmare Moon was slain, he knew, it would be the most beautiful death imaginable. He grinned wryly, hoping it was something interesting like her jaw getting ripped off, or her crashing into the earth because of a wing injury. Or maybe Celestia would be more direct and impale her sister on her horn. That would be a sight! He could only imagine the curative properties of freshly spilled alicorn blood, hmm!
1,002 Years Later…
“Y… you do?” Twilight Sparkle was flushed and surprised. She turned her ears turn in embarrassment, lifting a hoof and leaning back. Her eyes darted around. “W-with me?” she said softly. “Really?” she looked up at Spartan Shield, who nodded firmly.
“It is the only way we shall learn about each other.” Spartan set his shield, helm, and spear down to one side. Darkness had fallen over the land, and ponies were going home for the evening. That left Spartan, Twilight, and Spike in the library. Spike had long gone to bed, and the fidgeting Spartan Shield had long tired of chopping wood and needed something else to do. That had led him back to Twilight, of course.
The purple mare looked one way, then the other, then back at him with a rather coy expression. “I mean, I’ve never had any… company, like that.” She said cautiously, her cheeks rosing. He stepped up close to her, looking her in the eye with a stern gaze. She jittered back a little, laughing nervously. “Alright, alright!” she said quickly before he started to make a fuss. He smiled genuinely as she turned herself about and bent forward some—getting a series of books of the shelf. By magic, she floated them to a wide table, where they sat side by side. “I’ve just never had a study buddy before, I’m sure it’ll work out.” She smiled, pressing paper and quill his way.
“Running into everything that is new is not very efficient.” Spartan Shield scowled. “A learned military stallion like myself must study the enem—er, study the modern era if I am to do well and adjust.”
“You’re gonna use allll these books?” Twilight said with big soft eyes, showing him the stack. “This is thirty years of general Equestrian history and modern technology!”
“I am almost thirty years old… er, physically anyway.” He amended after a moment of thought. “If I learn things that have happened within the last thirty years, I may slip into the proper time frame and adapt.” With a firm hoof, he turned and flipped open the first book with a snap of the hardbound cover. Twilight flinched. He was so rough with them! Leaning, the Spartan frowned over the opening pages of the text. It spoke of modern economics. He leaned, taking out his coin purse and comparing his own money to the money in the picture. “Hrm.” He said with interest, making notes and already drawing a set of pictures for himself.
Twilight caught herself staring at the studying stallion, and then jerked as though somepony had pulled her tail. Gulping, she moved over to her fancy mathematics book. Applejack claimed it always ‘muddled the issue’, so the unicorn wanted to see what that was all about. Of course, it had taken her awhile to find a book with the title ‘Fancy Mathematics’, but it seemed legitimate. Licking her lips a little and levitating a quill with ink well over to herself, she scribbled now and then.
Z1=Z^2+C, and Z2=Z1^2+C… and Z3=Z2^2+C. That meant, of course, that Z4=Z3^2+C. If the series of Z’s always stayed constant, they would always stay close to Z and never trend away from Z, then the point would be in the Maredlebrot Set, and the stream would remain constant too. Twilight Sparkle furrowed her brow, leaning over her numbers… before her eyes slid over to look at him after a time. She saw he was learning about replaceable parts, simple machinery and the industrial era. Steam power seemed to interest him as well. His mouth moved quietly over the words, never speaking them, but she could hear the quiet whisp of his breath.
She gulped a little, looking back to her fancy mathematics. If Maredlebrot was making a set of numbers that would stay close to Z and never trend away, clearly the purpose was for a two-dimensional fractal meant to be portrayed on a simple length-and-width style chart that was… was… she glanced over at Spartan Shield again, who by then was staring at a detailed drawing of a steam boat and marveling over the turning paddle mechanisms. He pressed his muzzle into the book, turning the page roughly with a little snort. Myeep! Twilight jerked her face back into her own book, trying to focus. Two hours passed in silence. She managed to get through a set of ten problems on a grid board, feeling rather proud of herself. She turned the pages of her notebook, one after the other, admiring the shifting of the Maredlebrot fractal and its morphing shape. Soon, she saw the amazing correspondence between the set and bifurcation diagram of the logistics map she’d done some nights ago. She arched her brow at it, slowly smiling. Fwip. The rough page turning stole her eye over to the warrior stallion next to her. Eyes racing back and forth nervously, she sidled just a little bit closer to him while he scribbled. She flicked her eyes over his notes.
Steam power. Pressurized superheated water to move metal parts to produce propulsion. Pressurized salt acid booby trap in tombs of Egypt comparable. Possibility of constant effect pondered and achieved, unknown source.
He found steam boats interesting, then? Well, out of thirty years of history and a thousand years of improved technology… at least he hadn’t gone to military technology or weapon-smithing or some such thing. Perhaps he was more than just a big mouth and a long spear, then! She found herself smiling, and then jolted when he saw her looking at him. “Er.” She said, her cheeks heating up.
“What have you got there, Twilight?” he asked, reaching for her. She made to jitter back from his rough touch, blushing, but he’d already grasped something in her mane and pulled it out. She yelped a little, afraid that he’d ripped out a portion of her beautiful hair. He instead produced a bubblegum pink envelope and turned it over. “What is Sugar Cube Corner?” he frowned at the heading in the top left corner.
“Pinkie Pie.” Twilight Sparkle gasped, snatching the letter and ripping it open. She completely overlooked the fact that there was mail arriving in her mane. It was Pinkie Pie, after all, why bother trying to figure it out?
You are hereby invited to a Symposium
Host: Sugar Cube Corner Bakery and Sweet Shoppe
Guest of Honor: Spartan Shield, new town resident
When: Tomorrow afternoon, running through dusk.
Entertainment, games and music will be provided, bring a partner.
*Bring your own bedsheets, silly!
It was made in short, blocky letters on light grey paper. Spartan Shield leaned, mooshed up against Twilight’s shoulder, so he could read too. “A symposium? For me?” he said, looking a little flattered.
“What’s that?” Twilight was afraid to ask, knowing Pinkie Pie was involved.
“A drinking party.” The warrior said, inflating his chest impressively. “Music, games of chance, and stories to be told.” He explained briefly. Ahh, a party, of course. Of course Pinkie Pie would learn about the new pony in town and lure him out with something only he would find so specifically appealing. Twilight marveled at the rather mute invitation card. Usually her invitations were covered with glitter and shine and stickers and hearts and love and… stuff. This one looked almost like a folded business card. The purple mare had the sneaking suspicion that Pinkie Pie was catering to her guest of honor’s tastes.
“Hrhm. ‘Pinkie Pie’ was the demon harlequin that attacked me when we arrived.” Spartan Shield said thoughtfully.
“For the last time, she’s not a demon! She’s just… Pinkie Pie.” Twilight said a little helplessly. “She just takes some getting used to, is all. Kind’a like you.” She smiled wryly.
“Like me?” he cocked his head, and instantly Twilight regretted her words. “Am I unpleasant to you, mage?” he leaned forward a little aggressively. “Pardon if I do not originate from a utopian time of plenty, like thou.” He scowled at her, his brow lowering in anger.
“No no, I didn’t mean it like that!” Twilight shook her head quickly, and put a hoof on his shoulder. “I just meant you’re… you’re different than other ponies! It’s a good thing!” she smiled nervously while he considered her words. A slow nod. She sighed in relief. “Anyway, if Pinkie Pie is throwing you a… what was it again?”
“Yes, that.” Twilight smiled gently. “If she’s throwing you a symposium, it’s only because she wants to welcome you to Ponyville and make you feel more at home.” she nodded towards the card on the table. “Besides, it says you need to bring a partner--”
“I shall bring thou, then.” He said quickly. “You shalt protect me from what my spear cannot.” He rubbed a little nervously at his chest plate. He was clearly haunted by the pink mare popping out of his armor by some impossibility of physics. “Thou art my only ally, Twilight Sparkle.” He stood quite close to her, looking down with a neutral and serious expression. She looked up at him, her tail tucking a bit.
“N-no problem, Spartan.” She said in a mildly quivering voice.
He noticed the shift in her tone, and looked to one side. “It is getting late. If we are to be out drinking tomorrow, we shalt need rest beforehoof.” He turned to the table and snapped his book shut, setting it on the stack. “May I leave these here?” he said, gesturing to the pile of books. She nodded slowly, and he thanked her with a smile. “Now then.” He huffed a bit. “Where should I go to sleep?” he peered about for a couch or bedroll of some sort.
“I had Spike prepare the guest bed. You can stay here with us.” Twilight said, turning and putting out the lamps with a yawn. “Normally I stay up much later to study but you… ohhh-*yawn*-hhh… you are just exhausting.” She accused with a little giggle.
“Shall I take that as a compliment, mage?” He waggled his eyebrows at her exactly once, before his gruff and neutral expression returned. Twilight’s face went a lovely shade of scarlet and she scampered up the stairs.
“The-guest-bed-is-across-from-mine-I-need’a-use-the-bathroom-goodnight!” She vanished into the restroom with a shut of the door. He cocked his head, then shook it with a wry smile. Peering about and up the spiraling staircase, he walked up it.
Twilight’s room was small and quaint, stacked with books that couldn’t fit on the shelves downstairs. There was a little lamp, a bedside table, a pair of beds, and a tiny little balcony. The quiet snoozing sounds told him the basket at the foot of one of the beds was occupied. Spartan Shield knew that such a servant would no doubt sleep at the foot of his master’s bed, and wisely chose the other. The thick, neutral manila blankets were comfortable. Looking about for a bit, he discarded his breastplate, gauntlets, leather cords, ties, helm, shoulder bits, scarf-cape, and wrappings. Getting into bed, he pulled the blankets to his chin. He always slept with a troubled expression, never entirely at ease. Before too long, Twilight Sparkle emerged into the bedroom wearing a quartet of long, purple woolen socks.
Oh? Oh, she went around all day naked but wore socks to bed? Spartan Shield contained his snorting sound, turning on his side and curling up a little. “Goodnight, Spartan.” Twilight whispered as not to wake Spike.
“Goodnight, Twilight.” He murmured, stuffing his head under the blanket to blot out the moonlight and let him rest in darkness.
Twilight Sparkle had no idea why she was bringing bed sheets to a party, but the invitation had said so, so she’d reached into her linen closet to get a fresh set for herself and for Spartan. They arrived at Sugar Cube Corner in the late afternoon to find that the windows were all covered and it was strangely quiet. Spartan had chosen to leave behind his spear and shield after much coaxing from Twilight, but his armor was out of the question. Leaning, Spartan pushed the door open and stepped inside first. What he found there astonished him.
Twilight had described Sugar Cube corner as a brightly colored bakery with plenty of happy ponies and a fun atmosphere. What he found there was half-lit stone, sweeping (fake) columns and not much furniture at all. Around the walls that did not share a door were a series of high-sitting couches, maybe twelve in all. All of them had little bowls on them made of bronze, and plates that were currently empty. An oven lay open, sporting a wood fire that pouring black smoke into the chimney and helped to light the room. “Wow.” He said, peering around with interest. “It looks like home!” he smiled, rather impressed.
“SURPRISE!” Pinkie Pie appeared, upside down, from the ceiling, spraying him with confetti and streamers. Spartan reared up, startling back with a shout. “Sorry sorry sorry!” Pinkie Pie appeared upright after that. “I keep forgetting this is a Greek Symposium theme party! No confetti, right right right…” she was either talking to herself, or the entire room, it was hard to tell. She dusted him off. “Lyra Heartstrings should be here soon for music, why don’t you two find a couch!” she said, grinning widely.
Spartan Shield stared at the strange pink harlequin pony. “You did all this?” he said, gesturing about the room. “But it looks like… what I’m used to.” He said, frowning rather fondly around the room.
“Does it?” Twilight smiled just a little. “Is this how Spartan Stallions partied?”
“Yup, it’s true!” Pinkie Pie bounced along like her legs were made of rubber, making little springing sounds as she went. “Symposiums in the Greek and Roman era were gatherings of stallions, maybe thirty of them-- they would get together on couches around a party room and drink, tell stories, boast about their stuff, all sorts of neat things!” She showed Spartan to a couch and he clambered onto it. Truth be told the couch was quite high, almost up to waist level. But that was the point, so everypony could see his fellows and all around the room. He stretched out comfortably, nodding his approval. “They’d have musicians, and servants that could do tumbling, entertainers, and sexy mares to serve them food and drink!”
“You sure know a lot about the Greek and Roman era, Pinkie Pie…” said Twilight with a furrowed brow. Who knew Pinkie Pie could be so knowledgeable?
“Well duh, Twilight!” Pinkie Pie’s eyes briefly went in different directions before locking onto her again. “I wouldn’t have earned my major in partyology if I didn’t know about get-togethers in every era of Equestria!”
“You went to college?” Twilight was shocked. She wasn’t going to argue that ‘partyology’ was not an ‘ology’ that ever existed, because well… Pinkie Pie.
“Yup! I have three degrees!” Pinkie giggled.
“Three?!” Twilight gasped in shock. “In what?!”
“Sociology, Partyology, and Culinary Arts!” Pinkie Pie was suddenly fishing in Twilight’s saddlebags. She got the bed sheets that she’d brought and shook them out. Working with them behind her back for a few moments, she suddenly produced a beautiful white toga. Pushing it over Twilight’s head, she clipped it at her shoulder with a broach made of iron. “There! Now you look Greek!” she said, pushing a pink flower into Twilight’s hair as she spoke.
“She’s right, you know.” Spartan said helpfully from where he lay stretched out and relaxed on the couch. “This is… rather nice.” He admitted. “Will you have watered wine, Pinkie Pie?” he said, eyeing Twilight’s toga with genuine approval.
“Of course, silly! Only drunks drink wine straight from the cask!” Pinkie Pie was already showing off her knowledge of symposiums again. “You water it down to make sure the party lasts longer and nopony keels over from drunkenness!” She turned and helped Twilight find a couch to get up onto. “There! Nice and cozy! Tee-hee-hee!” she squeaked, then bounced away as suddenly more ponies had come to the door. Twilight wondered who all had been invited.
It turned out to be a random smattering of ponies from all over town, none of which Twilight Sparkle knew very well. But there were certainly a nice variety by the time the couches had filled around the room. The interest seemed to be cultural, for everypony that had come had been very interested in going to a Greek-themed toga party. No foals had been allowed since drinking would be involved, but it was certainly a merry atmosphere. Lyra Heartstrings, as promised, eventually appeared and sat upon a little bench in the middle of the room to play for them.
Twilight glanced over at Spartan Shield, who was peering around the room with a rather merry smile. He caught her looking and chuckled mildly. “Perhaps your friend is not a demon after all, Twilight.” He said mildly, turning about on the couch and laying on his belly. “She went through all this just to make me feel welcome.”
“Pinkie’s a strange one, yeah, but she means well no matter what.” Twilight nodded with affection.
“You know, normally this would be only stallions.” He teased her a little. “But, since there seems to be a serious shortage of them here in Ponyville, we can make the exception.” He smirked at her, and Twilight blushed. “Besides, you would not be here to guide me if that were so.”
“No, I guess not.” Twilight said a little bashfully, carefully looking at Lyra and not him. The music was soothing, and the general murmur of the socializing ponies was comforting.
When all the couches were filled and the party was in full swing, Pinkie Pie went around the room to make sure every pony had a bronze bowl on their couch. Nodding when she saw everypony was situated, she came back over to Spartan and smiled wide. “Spartan Shield, you wanna be our symposiarch? I can’t do it, I don’t drink often enough to be able to do it right.” She scuffed her hoof on the ground a little, embarrassed.
“Oh?” Spartan’s ears perked up. “Very well, I can do that. Bring out your wine.” He nodded politely to Twilight Sparkle, getting off the couch and to his hooves. Pinkie went to fetch a large wine jar, easily two and a half feet tall. It was pretty impressive-looking, dark brown with pretty designs all over it. The ponies around the room oooh’d while Pinkie Pie set up little serving pitchers as well. Next, she brought out an equally large barrel of water and popped it open with a crowbar she pulled from nowhere at all. Spartan Shield approached, looking around at the ponies present. None of them, to be honest, looked like they could hold their wine very well. These times were peaceful and innocent. Reaching down, he dipped a pitcher five times, pouring the water ceremonially into the massive wine jar. Pinkie leaned and stirred it with a long rod. Only drunkards drank wine straight, and a social event called for watered wine, Spartan Shield know. When he nodded his approval, Pinkie dashed around the room and poured just a little bit into everypony’s bronze bowls.
“Wanna get us started, Spartie?” Pinkie grinned, holding her bowl on the end of one hoof.
Spartan felt all their eyes on him. Over two dozen ponies looked at him expectantly as he dipped the pitcher and poured himself some wine. He looked over at Twilight Sparkle. “Ahem. In my time,” he began, speaking to the crowd of gathered ponies. “There are three main drinks to be had at a symposium. Since I don’t think anypony here can hold their wine,” he paused for the laughter, grinning a bit, “Let us make it three swallows, shall we?” He showed them his bowl, and everypony got theirs ready too. “I am glad to have landed among such friendly ponies, despite the strangeness of your culture and my being out of place.” Well, wasn’t he the friendly host? He gestured again to his bowl of wine. “One for good health, two for love and pleasure, and the third for sleep afterward. As my fellows— your ancestors— would have done.” He raised his bowl, seemingly directly at Twilight, then swept it about the room in a wide arc. The purple mare smiled coyly, and everypony drank their three big gulps.
The party began in earnest after that. There was chattering, laughter, dice games, plenty of wine going around, and Lyra was ever vigilant on her Lyre. The warm feeling that came over Spartan Shield brought him to smile a bit more. It was really comforting to know that despite everything that had happened, he was actually very welcome in Ponyville. He returned to his couch to watch the revelry and chat with Twilight Sparkle and all who approached him. He told stories about the old world. About training with his bachelor herd in the wilds of the woods as colts. He told them about old Canterlot and its scholars (much to Twilight’s delight), about how charged and different times were back then. They, in turn, told him all about things like the Summer Sun Celebration, Hearth’s Warming Eve, and Hearts and Hooves Day. He was very interested in all the new holidays, the happy-go-lucky celebrations, and the general sense of peace that had fallen over Ponyville. The more wine that made its way into everypony, the more merriment and laughter seemed to go through the room. Hours of partying, socializing, and drinking went by. There was boasting over the upcoming harvest, recent pregnancies, and Spartan Shield was even treated to ‘He’s a Jolly Good Stallion’ more than once.
The fourth and fifth drinks, Spartan Shield knew, were supposed to be for bad behavior and shouting. But hey, it was a party. There was supposed to be horseplay and loud talking. He could not admonish his new friends for their revelry, even if they could not hold their wine especially well. Near the end of the night, he found Twilight had made it to her tenth drink. The drink of unconsciousness. Rolling his eyes and huffing, he nosed her in the side a few times with his muzzle. She moaned a little, curling up. Poor thing, he smiled gently.
“I must away, friends.” He told Pinkie Pie and a couple of others. “Twilight Sparkle is worse for the wear, and I doth grow weary.” He glanced outside at the moon and stars. “I make for the library.”
“Okie dokie, Spartie-chokie!” Pinkie Pie said, hiccupping red wine bubbles. “You be careful with Twilight! She bruises easy, don’t drop her!” she broke into a giggle-fit, leaning up against Berry Punch, who laughed too. Both mares were red-faced and wine-touched.
Spartan Shield rolled his eyes good-naturedly. This had certainly been an excellent pick-me-up. Moreso than the baths and such the day before. Pinkie Pie was certainly a party expert. Going to Twilight Sparkle’s couch, he shoved his head under her side and got her up onto his back. She draped over him like a sack of potatoes and moaned a little. He left the gathering at Sugar Cube corner and, after reading a few road signs, made it back to the library.
The crisp summer night air revived Twilight Sparkle while he was fiddling with the doorknob in his mouth. “Ooohh…” she said a little drunkenly. He smiled over his shoulder at her, going inside. “Are we back?” she asked softly while looking around, red in the cheeks.
“Yes. Tiz your library.” He told her.
“Guhhh, Spike will kill me. It’s so laaaate.” She said, flopping down over his back a little.
“Your revelry be enthusiastic, Twilight Sparkle. That is all anypony can ask by this hour.” He told her walking inside and quietly shutting the door behind him. He saw her to her bed, and even found her quartet of socks in a drawer. Suddenly as playful as a foal she wiggled about and giggled at him deviously when he tried to put them on her. The back legs went just fine, but her front hooves were pawing at him and wiggling around.
“You are so… rugged.” She informed him, feeling his face and chin with eager hooves and a playful giggle. He chuckled a little. “Mmph! And big. So big! How big are you?” she said. “Just look’it you.” she eyed him up.
“The wine doth loosen thy lips, I think.” He snickered a little, shaking his head. “Sleep, before thy pride is shattered upon the morn.” He patted her face a little. Finally, he struggled her other two socks onto her hooves and she curled to one side, smiling broadly. He was about to say something else, but she’d already fallen asleep clutching her pillow. His face returned to its usual neutral scowl after that. In a brief moment of indulgence, he pressed his lips to her temple. “And mine lips too.” He murmured, going to put himself to bed after stripping his armor. He felt delightfully light-headed, and found sleep much easier.
End of Part 6