7w, 4dWriting Gold
16w, 4dThe Writer's Group
47w, 14hSlice of Life
51w, 3dTwilight Sparkle
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39w, 2dTwilight's Library
51w, 3dApplejack is Best Pony
1w, 3d502 Fiction
55w, 1dStories I've read
4w, 1dRory’s Semi-Favorites
60w, 4dCompleted Story Compendium
44w, 4dThe Equestrian Critics Society
36w, 4dSuper Best Friends
34w, 4dGood Grammar Directory
7w, 4d~The Decent Writers Club~
7w, 4dEverypony is the Best Pony
3d, 17hFree Twilight Sparkle!
SaturdaySomepony To Watch Over Me 11 comments · 71 views
FridayGuest Chapter by Seether00 0 comments · 36 views
1w, 3hMystery Solved? 17 comments · 106 views
1w, 12hThe Mailbox Compilation 1 comments · 23 views
1w, 12hEpisode Blog Posts 17 comments · 64 views
1w, 15hIt Ain't Easy Being Breezies. 23 comments · 125 views
1w, 3dCheerilee's Thousand Guest Chapter (BronyWriter) 3 comments · 72 views
1w, 3dJust Because I Thought It Was Amazing 6 comments · 75 views
1w, 3dThe Carrot Dog Fight Surprise 11 comments · 66 views
2w, 13hTwilight Time 18 comments · 131 views
“Finally, all of these go in your front row,” Twilight said as Applejack and Rainbow Dash watched her position the last marble pieces onto the board. Ever since discovering the chess set in the library’s storage cupboard, she’d been itching to test her skills again. When she lived in Canterlot, she would occasionally play Spike for a change of pace, but Twilight was surprised to find that he wasn’t very interested in the game any more. When she had shown it to him, he stomped off, muttering something about a two hundred and sixty-six game losing streak. As Twilight stepped away from the board, Rainbow Dash moved in and scrutinized the gleaming stone pieces.
“Okay, I’m going first!” she said, jostling the board as she eagerly reached for the pieces. Twilight gently swatted her away and righted the chessmen.
“Rainbow, I haven’t even explained the rules yet!” she said. Applejack pushed her hat back from her eyes and pointed at Rainbow, chest swelling.
“Yeah! Ya' can’t just call ‘first’ before we even get started!”
“Well, I’m still going first!” Rainbow replied, sticking her tongue out at Applejack.
“Now wait a sec-” Applejack began.
“Alright, you two!” Twilight interjected, stepping between them as Applejack marched forward. She’d spent enough time at sporting events with her competitive friends to see where this was headed. “We'll figure out who goes first later. I need to tell you what the rules are before we get to that.” Twilight settled into her most comfortable lecturing pose, but was left open-mouthed when Rainbow moved in front of her to study the pieces once more.
“Pssh! This’ll be a snap! It’s like fancy checkers.”
“No, it’s not!” Twilight replied, pushing Rainbow out for the way. She had to wonder how Rainbow ever made it through her classes in Cloudsdale. Getting her to sit still for five minutes was a major achievement in Twilight’s book.
“Well, it’s on a checker board!” Rainbow said, pointed to the playing field and regarding Twilight with a raised eyebrow.
“No, a checkerboard is black and red. This is black and white.”
“Really, Twilight? That’s the best you’ve got?” Rainbow rested an elbow on the table and gave Twilight a half-lidded stare. As an All-Equestria checkers finalist, Rainbow knew a variant checkerboard when she saw it.
“Ugh, never mind the board,” Twilight said as she picked up the smallest piece from the table and held it up for her friends to see. “Now this is a pawn. He’s your frontline soldier.”
“How come he ain’t called a soldier then?” Applejack asked as she casually fished out the hay and barley sandwich Apple Bloom had packed for her. Twilight is a great friend and all, but a pony can get powerful hungry waitin’ for her to finish talkin’, Applejack thought.
“Yeah, pawn sounds kinda wimpy,” Rainbow said as she eyed the chessman closely. It didn’t seem nearly as intriguing as the taller pieces that Twilight had left on the board.
“It’s just what they’re called. It’s not important,” Twilight said, attempting to get back into the flow of a proper lecture. “What is important is that they can move one space, unless it’s their first move of the game. Then they can move two.” Finally finding her rhythm, Twilight advanced several of the pawn to emphasize the rule. Applejack chewed casually on her sandwich as she regarded the pawn.
“How come they can only move one after that? Did they get all tuckered out or somethin’?” Twilight’s mane bristled as the unexpected question derailed her train of thought. She shot an annoyed glance at Applejack, fumbling for an explanation.
“Huh? No, it’s just-”
“Pawns are lazy!” Rainbow cut in, crossing her legs tightly across her chest and squinting at the row of pawns.
“They aren't lazy!” Twilight cried. She could feel the beginnings of a headache building between her eyes and wondered if it was too late to pack up and read a book for the rest of the afternoon. “They’re doing exactly what they are ordered to do!”
“Not my pawns!” Rainbow shot back. “They’re gonna be a well-oiled combat battalion! We’re gonna-”
“MOVING ON!” Twilight said, raising her voice to over the growing excitement of Rainbow Dash’s battle plans. “Pawns move one square forward, but can only attack diagonally, like this.” Applejack stopped chewing and cocked her head to the side.
“What the hay? Twilight, what kinda sense does that make?”
“Ugh, I don’t know all right? It’s just the rules!” Twilight replied, massaging the area between her eyes. Rainbow moved forward and pushed a few pawn into new positions. Twilight’s hope began to flicker as Rainbow moved each of the pieces. Maybe this could work out after all.
“So, pawns can only go forward, but can only attack diagonally?” Rainbow asked, looking over her shoulder at Twilight.
“Yes, Rainbow!” Twilight replied. Now they were getting somewhere. “Now-”
“Pawns are sneaky!” Rainbow hissed, rubbing her hooves together. Twilight’s body sagged as she lowered her ears. Her flickering flame of hope was guttering wildly.
“They aren’t sneaky, Rainbow! It’s just how they work!” Twilight cried, stomping a hoof on the ground. She had thought it was difficult to get Spike to clean the kitchen when he was done cooking. This was turning out to be worse!
“Hey, no need to get all worked up about it! I like it!” Rainbow launched herself into the air and fell into a power-dive. “You come straight at your opponent and then fake them out at the last second!” With a deft twist of her wings, Rainbow angled away at the last second and slammed into a nearby bush, twisting and rolling. “Just as you get there, you dive to the side and pounce on the unsuspecting teammate!” In an explosion of leaves, Rainbow’s head popped out of the foliage. “Applejack won’t know what hit her!” she snickered, picking twigs from her mane. Applejack rolled her eyes and stuffed the last bite of her sandwich into her mouth.
“Ah’m right over here. Ah think Ah’ll pick up on your amazin’ strategy, somehow.” Rainbow worked out the last stubborn branch from her mane and approached the board again.
“So if I attack Applejack’s pawn with my pawn, who wins?” Rainbow asked.
“Yours does,” Twilight answered.
“Naturally! Superior leadership,” said Rainbow, smirking at Applejack. Twilight noted the involuntary twitching of Applejack’s strong back legs, as though she couldn’t wait to kick something very solid.
“Your pawn can’t beat my pawn!” Applejack growled, jaw jutting forward. Twilight hurried forward to settle this before it got out of hoof.
“Anypony’s pawn can win. The advantage always goes to the attacker,” she said, moving to block Applejack’s line of sight with Rainbow. Her headache ratcheted up a little more as she contemplated if any two ponies had ever been this stubborn and competitive before.
“There’s no way-” Rainbow sputtered.
“But-” Applejack objected.
“Enough about pawns!” Twilight shouted, waving her legs in the air. She was definitely beginning to regret finding this chess set. Once her friends had settled down a bit, she picked up the next piece. “Now this is a rook.”
“It looks like a castle,” Applejack noted, reaching for its matching partner to take a closer look.
“Well, I guess it is a little castle,” Twilight replied quickly, working hard to stay on topic. “So your rook can move any number of squares, but only in a straight line.”
“Wait just a gol-durn minute! You’re tellin’ me that my soldiers can only move one measly square, but this here castle can move the whole board? What kinda sense does that make?” Applejack said placing the rook back down on the board in one of the pawn’s opening positions. Twilight bit down lightly on her tongue while she move the piece back into place and tried to cast her mind into its most serene and patient state.
I can do this, she thought. I’m a good student and I’m going to be a good teacher. I just need a little patience.
“I gotta agree with Applejack on this one, Twilight,” Rainbow added, absently kicking a stone away and looking up to the inviting sky. “Are you sure you know how to play this game?” Twilight’s newly cultivated patience evaporated and she slammed both her hooves down on the table.
“YES, I AM SURE,” Twilight erupted, “and you two would know, too, if you would STOP INTERRUPTING ME ALL THE TIME!” Twilight’s eyes bulged as she glared at them, her chest heaving.
“Okay, jeez! Calm down, Twilight!” said Rainbow. She shot a glance at Applejack and they both gazed with somewhat unconvincingly rapt attention at the board. Twilight rolled her eyes at the display, but smiled inwardly at her friends' behavior. They were only doing this for her, but she knew they would love the game in the end. It really was right up their alley. Twilight took a deep breath and decided to continue.
“So. Rook. Straight lines. Any distance. Got it?” The two ponies opened their mouths, but Twilight rushed on. “Good. Now, next is the knight.”
“Oh, this is going to be awesome!” Rainbow gushed, snatching the knight from Twilight. Quickly giving it a once-over, she tossed it to Applejack. “Look, Applejack, it looks like us!”
“It’s a knight. Wouldn’t it have to look like us?” Applejack said with a shrug.
“The pawns don’t look like us!” returned Rainbow, annoyed with Applejack’s lack of enthusiasm. “This is clearly the most awesome piece!” Twilight’s ears perked up as Rainbow’s interest rose.
Finally some engagement! Twilight thought. This is what she had been waiting for. “They represent armored ponies from the medieval period.”
“Yeah, I know what a knight is,” Rainbow said, giving Twilight a sidelong glance. Grabbing her matching knights, she took to the air and flew in tight circles, making feint galloping noises as she buzzed Applejack. “See, Applejack, I told you these were the coolest pieces!” Applejack responded with a wide yawn.
“Yup, and they move differently than any of the others,” Twilight said, pulling the knights out of Rainbow’s hooves on her next pass and placing them back on the board. “You see, they move either two squares left or right and then one square up or down, or two squares up or back and one square left or right.” Applejack briskly shook her head and tried to follow the complicated maneuvering.
“Uh, come again, Twilight?” she said, drawing patterns in the air with her hooves while trying to picture all the formations. Twilight rolled her eyes.
“Don’t overcomplicate it.”
“ME?!” sputtered Applejack, who had snapped her head back up so quickly that her hat flew off. Rainbow swooped in and scooped it up, trying to fly away with it, but Applejack was too fast. As Rainbow shot off, she bit down on the brim and wrenched it from Rainbow’s grasp. Calmly, she placed it back on her head and motioned to the knights. “Who trained them knights? Pinkie Pie? They’re all over the place!” Nearby, Rainbow was rolling back and forth on the ground, both laughing at and lamenting her near coup. Twilight shot her a dirty look as she went through the motion again.
“It’s not hard. Just remember this pattern,” Twilight said, allowing Applejack to run through the routine a few times. Rainbow flew up over the table and watched. Twilight partially covered the board as Rainbow’s downdraft threatened to launch a few of the pawns off the board.
“Wow, knights are sneaky, too!” Rainbow said, rubbing her hooves together. “Maybe they’re, like, ninja knights!” Twilight grabbed her tail and firmly pulled her back to the ground.
“Rainbow, come down here before you wreck my board. The knights are simulating the flanking maneuvers of cavalry.” Rainbow bumped Applejack lightly with her shoulder and pointed at the knights.
“I knew these guys were rad!”
“If ya' say so,” Applejack replied, wondering exactly how many trees worth of apples she could have bucked since Twilight started this. As Applejack sighed and let her gaze drift to her orchard, Twilight picked up the next piece.
“Now, these pieces are called bishops and they move any number of squares diagonally.” Twilight said, doing her best to fill her voice with wonder. If she could just get them interested enough to play, Twilight knew she would have some fierce competition. Pulling her gaze from her fields, Applejack pushed her hat back to scratch her mane.
“Can they attack things?” she asked, looking from the bishop to Twilight and back again. Twilight cocked her head to the side and raised an eyebrow.
“Of course. Every piece can.” Twilight replied. Applejack shrugged and turned to Rainbow Dash, who was still making battle noises as she moved the knights to and fro.
“Don’t that sound kinda, well, violent for a preacher?” Applejack asked.
“Hey, don’t count my bishop out!” Rainbow returned, dropping the knights and moving to defend her bishop’s honor. Grabbing a bishop from the board, she thrust it into the air above her head, catching it in a sunbeam. Wrapped in a radiant corona, the bishop’s shadow stretched across the battlefield toward Applejack. “She’s no namby-pamby egghead (no offense)!” Rainbow said, her voice swelling. “She’s a spiritual engine of victory!” Applejack squinted as she looked at the bishop and shielded her eyes with her hat.
“Ah’m just sayin’ that it don’t sound so holy to charge across the battlefield and knock somepony in the head,” said Applejack. Twilight shook her head. She’d never seen two ponies work so hard at not learning a game.
“Girls, we’re going off on a tangent again.” Twilight said, jumping to try and grab the bishop away from Rainbow, who kept the bishop just out of Twilight’s reach. Applejack shot the pegasus a dirty look.
“Rainbow, quit it!” she admonished, receiving a raspberry for her efforts. Rolling her eyes, Applejack turned back to Twilight. “What in tarnation is a tangent?” Perking up immediately, Twilight launched into a rapid fire explanation.
“I’m so glad you asked, Applejack!” she said, eyes shining. “It’s a line that intersects the arc of a circle at one, and only one, point. It’s a useful trigonometric principle in that tangents can be used-” Grimacing, Rainbow landed and slammed the bishop back into place, making sure to jostle Twilight as she did it.
“Oh, hey, Twilight, what about this piece? It’s really big!” Rainbow asked as she displayed the next piece in the row. Applejack had to turn away for a few seconds, as she could feel a fit of giggles coming on. Rainbow’s attempt at an expression of sincere interest was anything but. Rather than seeming annoyed, though, Twilight grinned slyly at her friend.
“Rainbow, that is going to be your favorite piece.” Twilight said as she threw her leg around her friend and brought Rainbow’s gaze back to the board. Rainbow’s eyes grew wide as she focused on the elegant piece that Twilight was holding.
“Really? Why is that?” she asked.
“That’s the queen, and she can move any direction and any number of squares. It just has to be in a straight line,” Twilight answered. She handed the queen to Rainbow, who ran a hoof over the stylized crown that topped it.
“Whoa, nelly! She can go anywhere?” said Applejack.
“Yup, she has a lot of power!” returned Twilight. She smiled and let the tension begin to drain from her body. Finally, both her friends were showing some real interest.
“I didn’t think it was possible for these pieces to get any more awesome than the knight, but I’m loving this queen!” Rainbow picked up the last remaining piece and thrust it out for Twilight to take. She knew that Twilight would have saved the best for last. “What about this one? I’ll bet it’s cool, too!”
“That’s the king. He can move one square in any direction,” replied Twilight, moving the piece for her friends to see.
“That’s it?” Applejack said, arching an eyebrow.
“That’s it.” answered Twilight. A silence fell between the three ponies and Twilight’s smile faltered as looked back and forth between her confused friends. Finally, Rainbow swatted at the king with her tail, knocking it over.
“What kind of lame king is that?!” she exclaimed. Rainbow couldn’t believe she had waited all this time for such a boring piece.
“Yeah,” Applejack added. “No offense, sugarcube, that this king guy is kinda a let down.” Twilight began to lightly sweat as both Applejack and Rainbow began to fidget.
I’m losing them!” she thought, biting her lip. I’ve got to get their attention, and quick! Twilight concentrated on the board. A glowing, purple aura surrounded it and Applejack and Rainbow’s eyes were irresistibly drawn to the action. The kings from both sides marched to the middle of the board, followed by their ranks in formation. “Well, he’s the most important piece on the field!” Twilight said, leading the opposing sides through an intricate marching routine.
“Not for me, he’s not!” Rainbow shot back. Scowling and crossing her front legs, she turned dismissively away from the marching soldiers. “I don’t need two rulers anyway. We can get along just fine with the queen.”
“Not if you want to win, Rainbow,” said Twilight. “The object of the game is to trap the king. If he gets attacked, you lose.” Rainbow whipped her head around to stare at Twilight and unconsciously took to the air, sputtering and gesticulating wildly.
“WHAT?! This guy is useless and I have to protect him?!” Rainbow shouted, making a face that reminded Applejack strongly of the time Big Mac had accidentally eaten some moldy hay. Twilight sat down, applying pressure to the throbbing area between her eyes.
“Rainbow, he’s not useless!” Twilight whisked most of the figures off the chessboard with her magic, leaving just the king and a nearby rook. “You can use him for castling. If you take the rook-”
“Hold up a minute,” Applejack interjected. “Make up your mind. Is it a rook or a castle?”
“IT’S A ROOK!” Twilight cried into the sky. She stared, wild-eyed, at her friends, her chest swelling and brilliant sparks of magical lightning arcing from her horn. With a glance between them, Rainbow and Applejack wordlessly agreed this might be a good time to sit down and be quiet. After a few calming breaths, Twilight continued. “Now, you can use the king to swap the rook into a different position.” Catching the blank stares of her friends, Twilight shook her head. Sometimes you just had to throw out the rulebook. “You know what? Let’s forget castling.”
“So, he’s back to being useless?” Rainbow blurted, earning a hit on the shoulder and a glare from Applejack. “Well, he is,” Rainbow muttered to Applejack as Twilight magically gathered the pieces again and place them all back on the board.
“Yes, Rainbow. He’s useless, but you have to protect him,” Twilight sighed. “If your opponent gets him in a position where he can’t move anywhere or he will get attacked, it’s called a checkmate, and you lose.”
“How did he get to be king when he’s such a wuss?” Rainbow asked, knocking the king off the board and moving the queen to straddle the two squares they would normally occupy together. Twilight flung herself down onto her back and threw a leg over her eyes. Surely she would wake up from this soon. This had to be a nightmare.
“I don’t know! Maybe he’s sick!” she cried, waving her free legs to and fro in frustration.
“Aw, that’s terrible,” Applejack said, righting the king that Rainbow had knocked over. “We really shouldn’t be makin’ him fight like that. It ain’t right.” Twilight sat up and stared at her friends.
Oh, you’re going to make him fight if it’s the last thing I do! she thought. You two are going to play this game if it takes me all day! Twilight climbed to her feet and dusted herself off. This was the home stretch. Just a little more and they could all play together. “One final thing,” Twilight said, forcing cheer into her voice. “If you get your pawn to the other side of the board, you can promote it to one of the other pieces.”
“Any piece?” Applejack said, taken aback.
“Any piece but the king.” Twilight said, relieved that she had their undivided attention again. Rainbow looked over the pieces, calculating the advantages that she would receive with various promotions.
“So I could get a new queen or knight or whatever?” she asked.
“Yup!” answered Twilight, sharing in her friend’s excitement.
“That’s pretty awesome!” said Rainbow. She envisioned a weeping, begging Applejack at the mercy of nine queens. She had been working on a new victory dance and this might be the perfect time to show it off.
“Well, that’s it, girls. Care to try a game?” Twilight grinned, relieved that she had finally explained all the rules to her friends. It had been quite a trial, but they seemed eager to give it a shot. Applejack and Rainbow now stood at opposite ends of the board, mulling over their opening plays and giving each other steely glances.
“Just one quick thing, Twilight,” Applejack said, staring down Rainbow.
“Yes?” Twilight replied, trotting forward to assist.
“Could ya' go over that again?” Applejack said, cocking her head to the side and scratching behind her ear.
“Yeah,” added Rainbow, shrugging, “I didn’t really get it.”
“UGH!!!” shouted Twilight, covering her eyes with her hooves. Rainbow flew over and threw a consoling leg around Twilight’s shoulder, gently rocking her back and forth.
“Aw, don’t be upset, Twilight,” Rainbow said. “We can just play some checkers instead!” Twilight gave one last pinch to the pulsing nerve between her eyes and then smiled at her friends weakly. She had tried and tomorrow was another day.
“Sure,” she answered. “Let’s play some checkers.”