Field Trip, part 2- Ponyville is the Pits!
The night ‘s river voyage from Bright Valley to the Ponyville excavation site, had been a far more somber experience than Bow Tie had expected. Oh, Surprise and the students were having a good time- playing games on the deck, and hanging over the rails and talking to Sea Ponies. But Bow Tie was spending most of her time consoling a distraught Cheerilee. The teacher spent most of the trip either ranting, crying, sitting in a corner depressed, or doing a combination of all three.
“Of course! Looking back on that Hearts and hooves day… it all makes sense now!” The distraught earth pony mare wailed. “My neighbors complaining about all the whinnying and loud noises coming from my house that night… AJ wondering why Big Mac never came home that evening. How could I have not seen it before?”
“Cheerilee, calm down!” Bow tie yelled at the pink pony, who now pacing frantically. “You’re a teacher, you know full well two ponies cannot mate without the lifebond!” Bow Tie put a reassuring hoof on her shoulder. “It’s biologically impossible, love poison or no love poison! Ponycosso probably saw the two of you rubbing noses in the park and…” The blue earth mare blushed. “… used his artistic imagination.”
“Yes, you’re right. But there’s still that statue for all of Ponydom to see!” Cheerilee tried to hold back her tears. “I’ll never be able to show my face in polite society again! A-and Wigwam… Wigwam saw-” Cherilee hung her head.
“Awwwwwww, Ponyfeathers!” Bow Tie grumbled, taking the pink teacher into a hug. “It’ll be ok, Cheerilee… I promise…”
“Wigwam, lad… ye need to go talk to her.”
The grim earth pony was below decks, talking with the captain in his quarters. He had been silent the whole trip back, and Bow Tie had urged Barnacle to have a word with his fellow stallion.
“And what on earth could I possibly say to her?” The aboriginal pony replied. “Any words that came out of my mouth would only make the situation worse.”
“My boy, don’t blame the lass fer what a love poison made her do.” Barnacle told him. “There’s a reason the last copy o’ that potion’s recipe was destroyed centuries ago!”
“I do not blame her.” Wigwam replied. “But right now, Cheerilee has far worse things to worry about. If word of that statue were to get back to Dream Castle, Moondancer and the other overprotective pony mothers,would be working overtime to get Cheerilee booted from her job.”
“Then t’would be best if everyone were at’ keep silent on this matter, lad.” The captain sat down at his desk, and took a puff on his pipe. “Surprise and the kiddies have no idea about any o’ this, and ye had best endeavor ta’ keep that way.”
“Thank you. Barnacle.” Wigwam replied, before trotting out of the room.
After his friend had left, Barnacle strolled out into the hallway. As he trotted down the hall, the captain noticed a certain pink Pegasus filly sneaking out of her cabin, and silently sliding down the hallway towards Cheerilee’s room.
“Baby North Star.” Barnacle muttered grimly, causing the filly to nearly stumble over in surprise. “Not on yer way down te play another prank on yer teacher, are ye?” The stallion loomed over her.
“Oh! Hi, dad!” Baby North Star looked up at Barnacle meekly. “Blimey! Why would ya think I’d do something so daft?”
“That water balloon in yer hoof kinda reveals yer intent.” The blue Stallion looked straight at the filly, with his one good eye. “Now listen ‘ere, young lady! You’ll not be causin that teacher ‘o yers any more grief… or should I be telling yer mother what ye been up to, when we reach the Ponyville site?”
“No! Please don’t tell mum!” Baby North Star begged. “I’ll behave, I promise.”
“Good! Now, off at bed with ye!” The old sea dog trotted on down the hallway.
“Ugh! What an absolute rotter!” The Pegasus filly snorted, trotting back to her room in a huff.
The following morning, the ship sailed into Equestria Valley. Captain Barnacle called Cheerilee up to the deck with the rest of the ponies...and she couldn't believe what she saw.
The great expanse of the valley, looked mostly as it had in her age. The beautiful fields and streams, the fertile hills and rolling clouds. But as they rounded the bend in the river, and Canterlot Mountain came in view... Cheerilee's eyes went wide.
"Canterlot city... it's gone!" The teacher ears drooped. "Oh,it must have slid down the cliff side, and crumbled into dust ages ago." The great city, the symbol of the three tribes unity, and capital of the once great Equestrian nation... had vanished forever.
"Well, that's what you get for building a city hanging out on a mountain like that!" Surprise Blurted out rudely. Cheerilee resisted the urge to reach over and smack her.
"Actually, that happened more recently than you think." Bow Tie replied Sheepishly. Cheerilee gave her a confused look, but the earth pony mare said no more.
"Well, I see the Royal Palace is still there!" Cheerilee replied hopefully, noticing the castle had construction equipment and scaffolding around it. "It looks like they're even restoring it!"
"The Castle was recently recovered by Ponykind from an evil warlord." Bow Tie explained. "Now a group of monks- calling themselves the rainbow ponies- have taken up residence in the palace, and converted it to a monastery."
"The Equestria valley is considered a holy place, by most o' ponykind!" Barnacle explained, coming up behind them. "The Rainbow Valley monastery will be an excellent stopoff fer faithful ponies, on pilgrimage to the sacred mountain."
"Well, that makes sense... I guess..." Cheerilee replied. Ponies on Pilgrimage? The world really had become medieval again!
It wasn't long before they came into dock at the Ponyville excavation site, and Cheerilee and her class began to disembark.
"Surprise, Wigwam, and Barnacle won't be taking the tour with us." Bow Tie Told Cheerilee, as they stepped off the ship. "I've heard the two Stallions want to have a word with her about her antics on the ship."
"I suppose that's just as well." The teacher pony sighed. She was relieved that she wouldn't have to deal with the Pinkie Pie spawn, that was even crazier than her ancestor. But she was depressed Wigwam wouldn't be there, either.
"Now move along, class!" Cheerilee told her students, as they trotted up the riverbank.There, waiting for them, was a pink Pegasus with a compass cutie mark. This was North Star the elder, no doubt... as she looked just like a larger version of her daughter. But the unicorn who came trotting up next to her made her eyes go wide in shock.
"T-twilight Sparkle?" The earth pony teacher blurted out loud.
It was Twilight Sparkle... but not. Her coat was a bright pink, instead of Twilight's violet hue, and her mane was striped a different color. The final touch was a five-star cutie mark, instead of twilight's single glimmering burst.
"Twilight Sparkle? Oh, goodness, no!" The unicorn trotted up to Cheerilee, and laughed. "My name is Twilight Shine-Firehooves, and I am the royal court magician to queen Majesty!"
“Twilight Shine?” Cheerilee’s ears perked up “Oh, of course- Ember‘s mother! It is a pleasure to meet you!”
“And you must be Cheerilee, her teacher!” Twilight greeted her. “I trust she is doing well in her classes?”
"Oh, she's doing just fine!" Cheerilee replied. "In fact, she's one of the few students that actually keeps up on her studies, and has never given me any trouble!"
"Glad to hear it!" Twilight replied, looking behind the earth pony teacher. "Oh, I see most of your class has arrived, I think it's about time to begin!"
"Welcome students!" North Star spoke up, as the assembled ponies gathered around her. "We'd like to thank all of you for coming out here to the excavation site today, and we hope you'll enjoy you're stay here at the Ponyville historical site!"
Cheerilee and the others followed North Star, as she began giving the intro to the tour. As they walked, Cheerilee divided her attention between the speaker, and Twilight Shine, who had taken up trotting beside her during the Tour. The pink unicorn, ever as interested in learning as her ancestor was, was just as curious about Cheerilee, as the earth pony was about her.
"So, Miss Shine..." Cheerilee asked politely. "Are you related in some way to Twilight Sparkle?"
"Indeed!" She replied, grinning. "I am the most direct descendant of the element of Harmony bearer of magic, and current head of house Twilight."
"Yes, I met one of your relatives in Bright Valley." Cheerilee replied. "A Pegasus with a candle cutie mark, I believe?"
"Twilight Sky, yes." Twilight Shine replied. "She lives in Fort Rainbow Dash, and I occasionally have her run messages between the different branches of the clan, on in the various manor estates in Ponyland."
"Didn't part of your family marry into the royal Alicorn household, as well?" Cheerilee asked. "I seem to recall a royal wedding in my time, with Princess Cadence..."
"I think you're referring to Twilight Sparkle's brother, Shining Armor." Twilight replied, shaking her head sadly ."That branch of the family doesn't want anything to do with us, I'm afraid."
"Oh, I'm so sorry." Cheerilee replied, her ponytails drooping.
It was then that North Star led them up to the gates, and into the actual dig site itself. Cheerilee looked out at the sight of what had once been Ponyville... and her heart sank.
Broken down walls, huge empty pits that the excavation team had dug... nothing resembled anything from the Ponyville she had known. From some of the slopes in the section of the landscape that hadn't been altered, the teacher could make out where this or that building had stood... but otherwise, nothing.
"A thousand years decay..." She said to herself. "I should have known..."
"Ponyville was originally a farming community, founded around the growing agricultural center of Sweet Apple Acres." North Star explained. "But the full attention of Equestria was not brought upon this little town, until it became home to the Element of Harmony bearers."
As they continued trotting, they passed the hole in the ground that had once been Sugarcube Corners. Cheerilee turned her head away, as an image of her having shakes there with fer friends Golden Harvest and Daisy flashed through her mind. On their tour they passed by another roped off pit, that had once been Twilight Sparkle's library. The teacher remembered laughing with Twilight Sparkle, as they researched some material for one of her classes in the library together.
"Miss Cheerilee, are you all right?" Twilight Shine asked, as she saw the teacher was trying desperately to hold back tears.
"I-I'll be fine." She replied, wiping her eyes with her hoof. "Let's just keep up with the group."
It was soon that they came to what Cheerilee recognized as the Ponyville cemetery, although most of the tombstones were long gone. Much to Cheerilee's horror, she saw several of the graves had been dug into.
"Y-you're digging up the bodies of d-dead ponies?" The horrified teacher exclaimed. "T-that's... barbaric!"
"Applejack said the same thing, when we first came here a year ago." Twilight replied. "I promise the bones are being treated with the utmost respect and reverence."
It was then that Cheerilee noticed ten metal coffins- each draped in a flag, with one of the element of harmony bearer symbols on them- had been exhumed, and looked like they were being readied for transport. Twilight noticed what Cheerilee was staring at.
"Those are the bodies of the Harmony bearers, and their spouses." The Pink unicorn told her. "The five kingdoms of Ponyland each requested one of the couples be sent to each of them as holy relics."
"You're doing WHAT!?!" Cheerilee shrieked.
"It was the only way to get all five of the kingdoms to agree to let this dig continue... they each get a share of the artifacts." Twilight's ears drooped, as she was clearly not happy about the situation. "All five of the kingdoms have a claim to the Equestria valley, and each one wants a Harmony Bearer to inter in their crypts. Rainbow Dash and her mate is going to Fort Rainbow Dash, Rarity and hers to Hoofkaido, Fluttershy and her mate to Flutter Valley, and Pinkie Pie and her hubby are off to Bright Valley."
Cheerilee shook her mane, trying hard to suppress her disgust. "Ponies... wanting relics to venerate... this is a dark age..."
"It's better this way, Cheerilee." Twilight replied. "Now that the graves have been rediscovered, every tribe of monsters in Ponyland will be going out of their way to desecrate them." Twilight snorted. "At least I had enough clout to secure Twilight Sparkle and her husband for the Dream Valley catacombs."
A world that treated the deceased like this... Cheerilee looked around, and looked at her students, and thought of the current mess with Wigwam. "Twilight... would there possibly be any way of sending me back home?" Cheerilee asked hopefully. "I've heard of Time travel spells..."
Twilight cut her off. "Time travel has always been nearly impossible.. even in the age of Equestria, you could only jump though time once, and even then only for a few minutes." She looked down. "And the first disappearance of Tambelon released a chronal wave, that stabilized the time stream...eliminating time travel permanently."
"I... understand." Cheerilee replied glumly. So there was no going home. She had already known this, but to have it confirmed... she tried to distract herself by looking around at the excavation site.
Cheerilee noticed that there were several things in town she didn't recognize- like the foundations for a small castle at the center of town, or the support pillars of a long-vanished roller coaster sticking out of the ground. It was when they passed the crumbling ruins of a large treasure chest shaped building, on the spot where the Carousel Boutique had been, that Cheerilee finally spoke up.
"Miss Star?" Cheerilee asked. "What happened to the town after the passing of the element bearers?"
"The value of tourism for the town sky rocketed in the generations following the harmony bearers. " North Star explained. "So, an elderly business mare named Diamond Tiara bought up most of the Town, demolished it, and built a massive amusement park in it's place."
"Wha... " Diamond Tiara had done this? Her student Diamond Tiara, had chosen the call of greed over the call of friendship? Cheerilee's eye twitched, and she felt her whole body spasm, as her cutie mark burned her flank. "Diamond Tiara...hnn...ggh..." One of her students, one of her precious little flowers that she had helped to bloom into the best pony she could be...
....had instead turned into a weed.
Bursting into tears, the teacher pony galloped away from the group, even as several of her students desperately called out after her.
"Oh flank! It's cutie mark insanity syndrome!" Bow Tie turned to the Pink unicorn. "Twilight, go back to the ship, and get Wigwam!"
Cherilee kept running, not watching where she was going. She just wanted to get away from everypony and everything, and forget any of this had ever happened. As she galloped across the archeological site, her hoof hit a rock, and she tumbled down into the most recently dug pit.
"Ahhhhh!" Cheerilee whinnied, as she rolled down, and landed in the mud. The teacher stood back up on her hooves. and shook her mane and coat out.
"Where am I?" She said aloud, looking around at the pit. Seeing something sticking out of the mud, she reached down with her mouth, and pulled out a broken metal piece off a school desk.
"Oh, no, it can't be..." Looking around at the exact dimensions of the hole, Cheerilee realized where she was. "My school... my old school..."
Without saying a word, Cheerilee trotted up to the front of the pit, where her desk would have been, and sat down. She pulled the scrunchies out of her ponytails, and pushed her hair back into it's old style as best she could.
"Now settle down class, it's time to begin!" She said to the open empty air. "Silver Spoon, Stop picking on Apple Bloom! Scootaloo, hold that pencil properly in your mouth!" Her hair was frizzing out in every direction, and her eyes had a wild look in them. "Diamond Tiara! Stop selling your hometown down the river, and be... a... good... pony... ha ha..."
Cheerilee looked up at the clouds, tears streaming down her face. "Ha ha ha.... HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAA!"
"CHEERILEE!" She heard Wigwam's yell above her, and he quickly slid down into the pit. "Cheerile! Are you all right? I heard you had run away!"
"Look, class! A buffalo pony is visiting today!" A wide, insane grin spread across her face, as she looked out at the empty space of the pit. "Let's alllll ask him lots of questions, and be sure to be respectful!"
"Cheerilee, STOP IT!" He cried out desperately, shaking her. "Calm down, please!"
The teacher's tear soaked eyes snapped back to reality. "Wigwam... this world is insane... I don't belong here... the statue... I'm so sorry..." She babbled incoherently, as Wigwam's eyes started to tear up.
"Cheerilee, listen to me..." He stared straight into her eyes. "I don't care about the statue, or the spell, or what you've said or done." He put his hooves on her shoulders. "I don't care about the past, I care about the present... and my future with you." He took her into his hooves, and held her in a tight embrace. "I love you, Cheerilee... and I don't want to lose you to your memories. Let the past go Cheerilee, please... don't let yourself be buried with it."
Cheerilee wavered for a second... then leaned in to Wigwam's embrace, closing her eyes. "I'm so sorry Wigwam..I love you, too." Cheerilee felt his pain and worry for her flood into her mind, just as he felt her feelings wash into his. "I'll try to let go of the past... I promise."
They sat there like that, locked in each others embrace for almost an hour. Wigwam noticed the sun was setting. "Cheerilee, are you all right?" He asked her.
"I-I think I'll be ok." She replied, straightening out her hair, and carefully putting her ponytails back into their scrunchies. "We'd better get back soon, they're probably worried sick about us."
"Can you believe it." Wigwam said with a grim laugh. "We formed the lifebond here, of all places."
"Somewhere, three of my old students are laughing their flanks off." Cheerilee laughed nervously back. "I got married at the bottom of a pit."