Chapter II: Enigma
"Enigma Shade, eh," Twilight said it for the fourth time, seeming to be swishing the name around in her head, "In Equestria, many pony's names are magically chosen and reflect their appearance or future cutie mark. I wonder if, and how, Enigma Shade has to do with yours."
I stared up, lying down on Twilight's couch with an icepack on my forehead held by Fluttershy. I smiled and thought back, "Perhaps because my cutie mark is an enigma. I mean, I grew up loving the mysteries of life."
Twilight seemed to taste the thought for a moment, "That's too simple, not enough of a challenge."
Fluttershy spoke softly, "I think it makes sense…"
Twilight sighed, "Oh well, I was hoping for a challenge."
My head suddenly felt as if my brain took a hammer to the inside of my skull, "FUUCK!" My hooves jumped to my head.
Twilight looked at me with question and concern, but when my pain subsided she asked, "What does that mean?"
I thought for a second, "You ponies don't… swear?"
Twilight and Fluttershy looked confusedly at me, "Yes, we make promises."
"Silly superstitions," Twilight said, "Can't be backed by any evidence."
"Cussing. We call it cussing where I come from, as well as cursing and swearing," I tried explaining, "Any word that I use in aggravation, please let me know so I stop saying them."
Twilight and Fluttershy shared a glance, but nodded. I did not want to ruin their seeming innocence. Fluttershy removed my icepack and flew off to fix another one.
"Hey, Twilight," I awkwardly moved myself into a sitting position, "Thanks for borrowing me a space here while I find a place of my own. I promise I'll help out as much as I can to pay you back."
She laughed, "What is with you and paying people? Is that how your country worked? You had to repay everypony for everything?"
I nodded, "Yes, my world was not as perfect as yours."
"Who said our world was perfect," She asked as Fluttershy came back with a wet rag.
I lay my head back so that Fluttershy could put the rag on my head, "You ponies spoil me. Treating me better than I deserve to be treated."
Fluttershy pat my head softly, "Everypony deserves a little kindness every now and then, Shade," She stopped herself; "You don't mind I call you Shade, do you? I mean, I can call you Enigma if you want."
I laughed, "Gods, that is adorable. Call me Shade if you want, I don't mind."
Twilight pulled random books off shelves and put them in other places, and looking up from below, it looked oddly fascinating, "I think Shade fits you pretty well. Lots of ponies go by their second name, like Dash."
She shelved another book and I could feel her eyes piercing through me, "What is 'gods'?"
I sighed, my habits needed a quick upheaval, "They were invisible, omniscient beings that existed in my world that nobody had any proof of existence or non-existence. Mare's tales, if you will."
"Like ghosts," Fluttershy asked.
"Yeah, like ghosts," I answered.
"Yeah, but those don't exist here anymore," Twilight resumed shelving books.
She continued to tell me about the eradication of hauntings in their country. Equestria was once filled with spirits of ancestors passed on, but once Princess Celestia discovered immortality, the only deaths that occurred were from accidents. The spirits were all asked to leave Equestria and live in harmony in a new world Celestia created just for them in her castle in Canterlot. They all listened.
"So how old are all you ponies," I asked.
"We stop aging after we hit 80 seasons old," Twilight said, "After that, we stop counting. Wait, you said you still used the archaic 'years' so… at 20 we stop growing, except for those who were past 20 when Celestia found the cure."
"Twilight, I'm back!" A male voice called from the entrance room.
"Come in the back, Spike, there's somepony I want you to meet."
Fluttershy lifted the rag from my head and kissed my forehead, "There, you should be all better now. Twilight, I have to go now. I promised Angel I would take him to get his favorite carrot candies today."
I stood up and bowed my head, "Thanks again, Fluttershy. You are a very kind pony."
She blushed and flew off, swishing past a small form that just stepped in the doorway, and slammed the front door of the library. The figure stepped closer, looking behind him at the door and scratching his head, "What's wrong with Fluttershy?"
"You know Fluttershy, Spike," Twilight said chuckling, "By the way, this is Enigma Shade, he's new to Ponyville."
The young dragon reached out his claw, "Nice to meet you, I'm Spike, Twilight's assistant. Can I call you Shade?"
I put my hoof into his claw and he shook it a couple times, "Sure thing."
"He's going to be staying with us for a little while and help you with your chores until he finds his own place," Twilight explained.
"Oh good, I was hoping for a little more help."
That night Twilight made me a bed near the couch. It was nothing more than a wicker basket with tons of pillows and a blanket. To any human, this would look uncomfortable, and it did to me as well, but when I got on it and lay down, it was one of the most comfortable beds I ever had. So comfortable, in fact, that I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillows.
Although I sort of wish I could have stayed awake longer.
My dreams were filled with the hundreds of terror filled hours of my past life. It was filled with death, screams of agony, and gore covered bodies. I felt my stomach clench and my nostrils flair at the smell of sulfur and blood. Why was peace such a difficult thing to do?
I saw a face I recognized. Tears streamed down it and a rope knotted tightly around her neck. The face dropped and I lurched in my bed. This world seemed so unreal. But it was real. It was so very real.
But why am I the only one to enjoy it?
A drop of water fell onto my forehoof. It took me about a minute to realize I was crying. I tried wiping away the tears, but more flooded out of my eyes. Right when I decided to give up, a small illumination moved across the room. A handkerchief doused in bright violet floated in front of me. I took it gingerly and quickly wiped my eyes.
Twilight's soft hoofsteps came toward me and stopped at my bed. My blanket illuminated violet and the small form lay next to me in the bed.
"I'm sorry, did I wake you," I whispered.
"Shh, don't worry, I was up studying anyway."
I wiped away the remainder of the tears, hoping she didn't see them. She picked up the handkerchief with her magic and wiped my face clean of the tears and lie her head down on one of the pillows. I lowered my head to the pillows as well, a fresh onslaught of tears brought on by her selfless comforting.
She wiped again at the tears and began softly singing, "Hush now, little one, the night can't hurt you anyway. Quiet now, my young colt, I'll always be here night and day. Drift, now, off to sleep, your dreams are just a fantasy. Drift, now, off to sleep, in a world of love you'll be."
She continued her song for another 30 seconds before I was out like a light. This time, I did not dream of hate and death. I dreamt of my new friends.
I woke up in the morning and Twilight still lay curled up on the small hoof-made bed. I slowly stood up and stepped over her, careful not to wake her. I stretched my legs and neck and stepped out of the room, looking. After a few drawers I found exactly what I was looking for—a quill and ink. I used my hoofs to pull the ink out of the drawer and my teeth to open the cap. I then picked up the parchment and quill carefully and unskillfully.
I picked up the quill with my teeth and carefully dipped it in the ink. I could probably do this faster with a bit of practice, but I slowly drew out the two words. After I finished, I inspected my work, which was very sloppy, but better than nothing. I blew on the ink to dry it and folded the paper in half using my teeth and pressed the fold with my hooves. I walked back to my room and laid the crudely folded paper next to the bed where Twilight slept.
I walked back out and put the quill and ink back in the drawer and closed it. Wandering around the library, I ran into Spike, who was reshelving a large stack of books.
"Good morning, Shade," He said when he saw me and waved, catching himself on the ladder before he fell, "Is Twilight up? She wasn't in her bed this morning."
"Good morning, Spike," I stared at the dozens of books sitting on a table as I walked toward him, "She's still asleep."
"Fell asleep studying again, I bet," Spike said, shelving another book, "Hey, you know how to organize books right?"
I looked at the labels on the shelves and the spines of the books, "Well I can if it's anything like back home."
"Work in a library back home," Spike asked.
"For about ten years, yeah," I grabbed a book with my teeth, careful not to get any spit on it, and looked around the room for the right shelf. After I found it, I slid the book onto the shelf and stretched my jaw, "Can you suggest a book for me?"
Spike shelved a couple more and slid down the ladder, "Sure thing, what are you looking for?"
I thought through all the questions I had about this world, "How about we start with politics."
Spike jogged out of the room saying, "Oh, I got just the book!"
I was able to shelve two more books before he got back, and I couldn't shelve anymore because the shelves were too high for me to reach. Spike came back with a slightly large book in his hands that was covered in dust.
"Nopony ever checks out this book," Spike explained, "But I like to look at it every once in a while."
I nodded and took the book from his hands and dropped it on a table and kicked it open, "Sorry I can't shelve anymore. The rest of the books are too high up."
He gave me a confused look and looked at my wings, "Can't you fly?"
I looked at the small dragon and sighed, "Well I'll let you in on a little secret. I haven't always been a pony."
"Well that explains a lot," Twilight's voice came from the doorway, "Good morning guys, I was just about to make breakfast. Anything in particular you want?"
"Oh, oh! You have any sapphires left??" Spike said, salivating.
Twilight giggled, "Yes, Spike, I'll make some sapphire salad. Shade?"
"Anything. Still getting used to the vegetarian diet, don't know much about what you eat," I said, wondering if she had seen the note I left for her.
She seemed confused at first, but then trotted off into the kitchen a few rooms away. Spike looked at me, "What do you mean vegetarian?"
"Well… before I was a pony, we would eat meat," I explained, "We were a very barbaric species."
"Sorry I asked," Spike said, "If you want to know about politics, Twilight could explain to you some of the terms, theories, and laws. She's read that whole book there twice since we got here in Ponyville."
I walked into the kitchen where Twilight was chopping up a cantaloupe and some lettuce with her magic while she dug through a cabinet, "Need any help?"
"No, no, I'm fine. I'm just looking for the bag of sapphires Rarity gave me yesterday."
I looked around and saw a small paper bag on a chair labeled To Spikey, Love Rarity, "Is this it," I asked as I picked it up with my teeth.
She stepped out of the cabinet and looked at me, "Ah! Yes, those are it. Thank you."
She proceeded to dump the contents into a wooden bowl and add lettuce all while swirling and mixing them together. She added a few slices of cantaloupe, "Just enough for a sweet aftertaste."
She set the bowl on the table and went to work on another dish. I sat down watching the objects flying magically through the air. After a couple moments of silence she set a plate in front of me and at an empty spot on the table—where she sat—and called Spike to breakfast.
In front of me was a dozen slices of cantaloupe with two slices of cucumber jutting out of each one holding a strawberry between them. The many different tastes seemed to combat each other on my tongue, but the quarrel left a magnificent taste. They were the most delicious tasting fruits I had ever eaten. When I thought about it, I realized this was because these were fresh fruits, not grown through pesticides and scientific testing.
Spike broke the silence, "So did anypony else come with you to Equestria?"
I stared down at my almost empty plate, "No. My husband was killed at the beginning of the war and my adopted daughter was kidnapped three days before I got here."
"I'm sorry to hear that, Shade," Twilight said.
I stayed quiet a moment, "I'm surprised you guys didn't comment on the husband thing."
"Why would we," Spike inquired.
I smiled, "See, in my world, two men or two women marrying was a horrible thing to do. Homosexuality and bisexuality were anything but a crime when the war broke out."
They stared at me inquisitively and asked what homo and bisexuality was. I explained with a smile on my face, these ponies were way too innocent.
"Well," Spike began, "Everypony is bisexual then."
Twilight spoke up, "Yeah, we don't really see that you have to marry or mate with a specific gender. It's all a matter of romance and partnership. I mean, Dash and Applejack are one of the happiest couples I've ever seen."
Processing. Processing. Ding! "Well, this is… surprising, to say the least."
"Can I ask a question, Shade," Twilight asked, "What did you mean you had to get used to a vegetarian diet?"
"Spike already asked that," I said, smiling, "Humans killed and ate animals. In order to obtain enough nutrients to live, I ate the animals, but refused to kill them."
"There's another way we're really different from each other," Twilight continued, "Ponies not only can't eat other creatures, but we don't want to harm any other animals unless to protect ourselves."
I nodded and finished my meal, thanking Twilight for her work and food.
"It was no problem," She smiled, "Feeling any better from yesterday?"
"Yes," I said, "I remember everything now."
I started spending all my free time reading. The politics book had nothing to do with politics, but with the scientific laws of some sort of alchemy. In the middle of reading a book on dragons in my bed, I was interrupted by a weird belching sound in the other room. Spike walked in with a rolled up piece of paper and handed it to me, "Hey, got a letter for you."
I sat and looked that the paper for a second, trying to figure out how I'd unroll it, "Uh, can you unroll and read it for me?"
He nodded and cleared his throat, unrolling the paper, "Dear Enigma Shade, I wish to formally welcome you to my beautiful land of Equestria. You may wonder how I know you are here, but I will explain everything in person. I request that you come see me at Canterlot Royal Castle. Please bring with you any of my students who have crossed your path since your arrival. I look forward to speaking with you. Signed, Princess Celestia."
Spike chuckled, "Dude, can you believe it? You're in Equestria for a week and Princess Celestia wants to see you."
He rushed out of the room calling for Twilight. I went back to my book, knowing her OCD tendencies would lead to her planning the event. I found, though, that my mind would not let me read. It kept wandering to whatever reason Celestia would want to talk to me, or how she even knew I was here in the first place. Twilight began rushing about the library. I stood up and set my book on a table and turned back to leave when something caught my eye.
When I stood up, a pillow had moved out of place and revealed a piece of paper. In curiosity, I picked it up and struggled to unfold it. It was the note I wrote to Twilight, but more was written underneath my horrid handwriting. Everypony needs a little kindness every now and again. I heard Twilight's hoofsteps outside my door but they stopped and quickly hurried in a different direction.
One thing we definitely had in common. We were both horribly awkward.
Spike was the first to spill the beans. He went to Rarity to get her to watch over the library while we were in Canterlot, and in the process told her about me. Soon she was upon me with a tape measure and a head full of questions. I stood in her studio staring at a mirror. I looked horrifying compared to the bright colored ponies that surrounded me. Black and red fur and mane and tail. My wings and tail both looked rather metallic, but felt like real hair.
"So, Darling, my little Spikey talks highly of you," Rarity said, "He says you are going to see the Princess!"
"Yes, I don't know why, though," I said.
"Oh don't be so modest," She exclaimed, "From a whole different realm and at one point was not even a pony. I have to say that would catch my attention if I were a princess."
Thread and needles flew through the air as she worked on some random project, "So your little Spikey. How'd you get him to tell you about me?"
"Oh, he doesn't hide anything from me," She explained, "Ever since we got together he's afraid to keep secrets from me."
Processing. Processing. Ding! "So you and he are dating?"
"Why yes! Everypony may call him a baby dragon, but we are only 3 seasons apart in age," She continued, "and he won't grow more than a hoof taller than me if he can keep from getting greedy again."
Topic change time, "So what did you want me here for again?"
"Why, to make you an outfit for your first trip to our marvelous capitol, of course!"
I nodded, still staring at the mirrors, "Y'know, in my realm I used to be afraid of mirrors. They don't scare me here."
"Well what in Equestria is there to be afraid of," She questioned, "As long as you stay out of the Everfree Forest, you will have nothing to fear!"
"Are you always this generous and easy-going?"
"Easy-going, no, generous, when I feel it is right," She said, remeasuring my neckline, "And a young, handsome stallion such as yourself should not be allowed to step foot on Canterlot soil without one of my beautiful creations!"
I smiled. At least I was the only one who thought I was hideous, "Y'know, Ponyville has shown me more kindness in one week than I have been shown in a full 4 seasons back home."
Rarity stopped sewing for a moment and turned to me, looking at me over her glasses, "Better get used to it, bub."
I chuckled, "I don't think I ever will."
I came back from Rarity's shop with a brand new red vest that blended with the red in my hair and contrasted just as well with the black. Twilight took time out of her packing to give me a once over and compliment my look. Spike stood taller with his arms crossed, "That's my Rarity."
Twilight finished packing and walked into the kitchen and carried snacks back out, "Okay, small supper tonight, we had a big dinner. We need to get up early to catch the train tomorrow. Spike, have you told Dash and Fluttershy?"
Spike saluted, "Yes, ma'am! And Rarity promised to look after the library for us while we're gone."
"Great," Twilight smiled and sighed, "Finally done with preparations."
Spike took his snack and ran off to bed. I ate mine in the middle room with Twilight.
"Hey Twilight, can I ask a favor?"
"If you need help getting away from those nasty night terrors, then sure, I can help," She smiled.
"Sorry to ask…"
"No, don't worry," She poked me with her hoof as she walked past me, "I used to do the same for Spike when he was younger and read too many scary stories."
I smiled. I had always wanted an older sister. Twilight sure knew the part.