56w, 3dAussie Bronies
I was dancing with Princess Luna. The beams of pure white moonlight looked almost solid, like shafts of impossible marble framing a modest circular ballroom floor where we daintily stepped through the moves of an ancient formal dance. All around us forested foothills full of glinting feral eyes led away to dangerous peaks limned with purple lightning.
All dances are stylised sexual tension frozen into rote, even those performed with a goddess. Our eyes were locked and our breaths came together. As commanded by the dance, our bodies closed in. The sky in the east lightened through the colours of Twilight. Sparkling stars retreating before the oncoming dawn.
Step, step, slide, Luna rustled her wings and dipped her head, I followed suit. We circled each other as Celestia rose over the horizon, an enormous comical golden mallet clutched in her mouth. The new wings on my back were not a cause for concern. They were needed for the moves of the dance, so they appeared and disappeared as required.
The circle tightened, we draped our wings around each other's backs and drew ourselves in, our lips...
“WHAT IN EQUESTRIA DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING WITH MY SISTER?”
Princess Celestia dropped from the sky like a meteor, my mind exploded into gold as the mallet flattened me to the Earth where my kind belonged.
She stood above me, imperious and stern. “Know your place earth pony.”
Celestia’s golden hammer pounded on my skull. Pound. Pound. Pound.
No. Wait. It was just a beam of morning sunlight striking through my caravan’s window and into my dry eyes. I had left the curtains open in order to wake up with the dawn. I needed to be out of this place before Twilight could corner me again.
I put away the dream charm I had bought in Hoofington for guaranteeing pleasant nights. It worked far too well, often I was loathe to wake up. The cunningly wrought azure crescent set in silver had cost me two weeks worth of takings but once I had set my eyes upon it I simply had to possess it.
‘But why the hay do I always dream about Princess Luna? I’ve only met her once.’ All of the academy staff had lined up for inspection as the royal sisters toured the facility. Rumours about the recently returned Princess Luna were rampant. Some of the staff claimed illness and fled rather than come face to face with a creature that had threatened Equestria with eternal darkness.
She was easily as terrifying as Twilight Sparkle but without the cold comfort of familiarity to temper the fear. I had thought her the most beautiful and distant pony I had ever seen. In the true spirit of royalty she had glided through the halls at her sister’s side without casting so much as a glance towards the servants on display.
I pulled a bottle of tincture of willowbark from my bedside drawer. Waking suddenly from the charms effects always caused a disturbing backlash and a doughnut hangover was not helping matters. Rather than expend energy in making up a mixture I just took a quick pull from the container. It tasted like my mood.
I could hear the sounds of a weekend farmer's market setting up in the park next to the town square, cheerful greetings ringing in the clear morning air punctuated by the crack of mallets as pegs for guy ropes were pounded into the packed earth.
I took a second long pull from the willowbark tincture as I opened the window. Now I could hear the creaking of folding tables and the jingling of tack as loads were unpacked and displayed for sale.
BANG BANG CREAK JINGLE BANG CRACK “HI CARROT TOP!” BANG CREAK “BUY SOME APPLES!” TWANG “OOPS, MY BAD” BANG
Columnists who waxed lyrical on the charm of small towns and who wrote about their ‘idyllic’ rustic lifestyle had obviously not had the dubious pleasure of growing up in one.
I’d lived that life for years as an earth pony. Travelling from town to town with my parents, setting up stalls in the frost or dew of a freezing dawn and packing them away in the stifling afternoon. All to make a pittance on the sale of cheap jewellery and geegaws. When I finally found my geomancer cutie mark I threw a party and left for Hoofington in the same week.
Hat and cape in place, I pulled together what little part of my mind was functional and opened my door. I budgeted myself an hour to buy some travelling supplies and find drinkable coffee before hitting the road.
I nearly tripped over two colts camped next to the doorstep. One was gangly and almost adolescent, the other unusually short and round.
“He’s awake! All hail the great...”
“WHAT THE, ahem, What do you want?”
“Oh! we’d like some autographs”, “yeah, autographs.” “Then we’d like to see some really awesome magic, like the kind you can’t put in your shows ‘cause everyone would, like, die.” “Have you ever seen an Ursa Major? Ya want to?” “We totally know where to get one! Honest!” The tall one, with a pair of scissors for a cutie mark was trotting on the spot in excitement, his friend nodded in time. “Yeah, you can like, fight it in the town square or something.”
I wasn’t listening to a word of it, but I saw the autograph pads and responded by reflex “OK then, here you go.”
I gave both of their pads a taste of my illegible mouthwriting and the colts sped out of the square nattering excitedly to each other. “He said yes! He said yes!” I’ve never really understood why people get so excited by collecting autographs. I’ve met some souls at the Traveller’s Guild meetings who get a kick out of it but I found the ritual tiresome. It’s not like I’m Hoofdini or somepony of that stature.
The colts had lightened my mood a bit though. The previous entry in their little book had been ‘The Great and Powerful Trixie’. It was no wonder that the Ponyvillians had bags of fruit at the ready last night. That mare was a travelling trainwreck.
I paused at the entrance to the park. It was filled to the brim with cheeful, freindly and enthusiastic ‘morning ponies’ with giant happy smiles on their faces. My headache was in remission but that could change at any moment.
I selected a nearby stall where a hurtingly cute little yellow filly sporting a huge stetson hat far too large for her head was dejectedly staring at the ground.
‘That looks like the quietest stall, and they seem to need some help.’
“Good morning Miss, may I...”
“Ya want some apples!?”, “Do ya?” Her eyes were enormous, seeming to fill her entire face. Her gaze had me trapped, unable to move.
“We’ve got Akane, Aldermans, Ashmeads, Baldwins, Belmonts, Bismarcks, Campfields, Carolina Reds, Chieftans...”
“I’ll take that bushel of Pearmains, thanks.” I know apples too. I needed a traditional variety that would keep well on the road.
Her eyes grew even larger, shimmering a little with repressed tears. “But, but I ain't done the whole list yet. Ah was up all last night learnin' them so I could help my big sis with the stall.”
A strong mare with a gold mane lifted the hat from the filly’s head with her mouth, nonchalantly tossing it into the air and catching it on her own. “That'll be fine Applebloom, ya don’t need to give the whole list to every customer, just those that can’t decide. Now you go an' get the signs from the cart, OK?”
The filly nodded. I saw that the stetson had been covering the biggest pink bow I had ever seen adorn a filly's head.
“Ah saw part of ya show last night sugarcube, from ya fancy accent and those crazy clothes I’d pick you as a big city kinda pony. Am I right?”
Without waiting for a response she leaned in, her bright green eyes gave me a knowing look from under the brim of her hat. “Just so’s you’re in the know, we don’t just sell apples here. We've also got full range of” She cast her gaze left and right and lowered her voice, “apple accessories.”
“Thank you for the kind offer Miss”
“Applejack, sugar” She offered.
“Miss Applejack, but I haven’t tried anything like that since high school. I’m just a simple pony at heart.”
“To tell the truth, I’m a little relieved to hear that hun.” She rested a hoof on my shoulder in a way that skirted the border between familiar and threatening. "Now let me explain somethin' to ya."
“Ponyville is a small, small place sugar. A very good friend of mine lives right there in that bakery lookin’ over the square.” She waved a hoof in the direction of a giant gingerbread fantasy of a building. A pink hoof waved back from a second story window. “That’s Pinkie Pie. She knows everypony and everything that’s goin on in this town. She has a gift for it, ya hear?”
I nodded without commitment, this was not going anywhere good.
“She told me that she saw Twilight come to see ya late last night, but she didn’t see her leave. We’re very proud of our Twilight Sparkle in this here town. She has a lot of good friends here and we don’t want to see no big city ponies causing her trouble, whether it’s trouble she wants or not. Catch my drift?”
I could feel this earth ponies strength through her hoof, her intent was crystal clear. I was mentally grasping now for something innocuous to tell Applejack. Casually mentioning that I had plied her friend with enough doughnuts to knock out the Royal Guard seemed to be the wrong thing to do.
“Er.. She was just reading my books, helping me with spells." Despite the crisp morning air I was beginning to perspire.
"She made margin notes. So many notes. I can get them if you like.”
Applejack seemed satisfied by that and dropped her hoof. “That sounds like a right exciting kind of night for our Twilight. Right up her alley. Just mind yer manners is all I’m saying, then we can all be friends.”
“I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.” I would hold it foremost in my mind as I ran far, far away from this town.
“That’s good hun, now you go have a pleasant day.” She thought for a moment. “Ya know, If it doesn’t work out with Twilight you can always come back here for some apple accessories. We’ve got the best in Equestria an’ I should know.”
I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt that everypony in this town was insane. It was time to go.