“You're not from here. Very interesting!”
A voice poured into Warren's mind like ice-water, jarring him awake. As his eyes began to focus, an absurd sight greeted him. His bed was perched precariously in a bizarre purple tree. As far as his eyes could see were rolling hills of green checkerboard. A rainbow of trees dotted the checkerboard landscape.
“What the...?” It was all he could think to say as a flock of bananas passed overhead, weaving their way through a bright pink cloud. Something tells me my sanity took leave of me while I was asleep.
“Oh no, little human.” It was the liquid voice, again inside his head. “You're still quite sane, or at least, as sane as any human could claim to be after waking up in Equestria as a small colt.” Sibilant laughter echoed inside his head.
“Who are you? What's going on?” Warren cried out, more alarmed than before. Something was speaking to him inside his head, and was apparently reading his thoughts.
“Oh, I thought you knew?” More of that sibilant laughter erupted. “You're dreaming, a wonderfully chaotic dream.” No sooner had the word dream begun to sound out in his head than everything began to vanish into nothingness. The darkness embraced him. It was warm, just like the covers in his bed at the hospital. “Just remember, you wonderful beast of disorder. You don't belong here, so have fun while you can!”
Early mornings were a regular fixture in Fluttershy's everyday life. It had been that way since she moved to Ponyville, and she wouldn't have it any other way. Her animal friends all greatly appreciated her being up bright and early to care for them, and she loved caring for them in turn.
After making sure everybody was up and had eaten, Fluttershy liked to settle down in the garden and have tea with her most loving companion, a white bunny by the name of Angel. She was always there to receive the Ponyville Post, Equestria Daily and the local mail, first thing in the morning.
As sure as clockwork, a gray pegasus with a pale yellow mane landed just outside the fence that bordered the edge of Fluttershy's land. She smiled as the wall-eyed mail-mare sauntered up to the gate, her saddlebags bulging. Fluttershy met her at the gate with a polite welcome, “Good morning, Derpy Hooves, do you have a letter for me today?”
“Yep!” The mail-mare nodded vigorously. Without warning, she turned and nuzzled one of the saddlebags. “Dinky, the letter for Fluttershy, if you please.”
One of Derpy's saddlebags began to shake and squirm. Without warning, a pale purple unicorn filly popped her head out, clutching a letter in her mouth, grinning. “Did I do good momma?” she asked as Derpy took the letter and passed it to Fluttershy.
“Yep, Dinky, you did very good.” Derpy smiled and ruffled her daughter's mane with her hoof. “Have a nice day, Fluttershy.”
“Wait!” Fluttershy exclaimed suddenly. “I mean, um... Would you like to stay for some tea? Only if you want, though.”
“Sorry, Fluttershy. No can do.” The post-mare smiled halfheartedly as she turned to leave. “After all the damage I done to town hall, they said I'm not allowed back on the weather team. Gotta pull overtime with the post office to make ends meet.”
“Oh, okay.” This left Fluttershy disappointed. Try as she might, she'd never once been able to convince the mail-mare to have a bit of tea. “Have a wonderful day then, Derpy.”
Returning to the garden, Fluttershy went back to her tea, saddened. She just wanted to sit down with Derpy and ask about her adoption of Amethyst Star for a few moments, but could never get the opportunity. While she'd never admit it to Applejack or Rarity, she was a bit envious of them. Both of them had younger siblings that they helped take care of, while Fluttershy had grown up without any brothers or sisters.
It had never occurred to Fluttershy, at least until she started hosting the Cutie Mark Crusader sleep-overs, just how much she'd wanted a younger sibling to take care of. She had so much fun with the girls, and reckoned she was cut out to take care of a little pony. She'd considered adopting, but she didn't know how to go about it, hence her desire to speak with Derpy about it. She dropped the letter down on the table, and returned to sipping her tea.
Finishing her cup of tea, Fluttershy began to gather her things up to go inside. She glanced down at the table one last time, and remembered the letter. For the first time, she actually read who it was from. Her eyes lit up in alarm as she read the sender, Ponyville Hospital. Panicking at the thought that one of her friends might be hurt, she tore into the envelope without abandon.
Dear Miss Fluttershy,
A while back, you signed up to be part of the Emergency Foster Care program. We hope you are still interested in participating in the program. Recently, an emotionally confused and injured colt has come into our care, with no family to speak of. As such, we are required to request the help of an Emergency Foster Care volunteer until we are able to track down his family, or - short of that - determine a chain of custody. If you wish to take this young ward into your care, please stop by the hospital at your earliest convenience.
Fluttershy gasped loudly. “An injured and confused colt! Oh, I hope the poor little guy is okay.” she whispered to herself as a stray thought began to cross her mind. If the colt hadn't yet been taken in by anypony else, she could always take him in. Fostering, even if just for a while, would certainly help her decide adoption was right for her. “That'd be nice, I think.” It was decided, then. Fluttershy hurriedly put away her belongings, and was out the gate in a flash.
Warren was in a daze as he picked his way through the oatmeal Nurse Redheart had brought him. He was puzzling over his dream. Ultimately he knew it was just a product of stress and confusion stemming from this bizarre world. Still, he couldn't help but wonder if some part of him didn't think he'd be able to fit in enough to be able to determine what had brought him here, and if he'd ever get home. It almost escaped him completely that Nurse Redheart had entered again.
“Are you up to having visitors, little one?” Her voice was sincere, with the slightest hint of concern.
Looking up at her Warren thought it over. There aren't many ponies who want to come and see me, I reckon. That means it's those Cutie Mark Crusaders! For a reason he couldn't particularly fathom, this thought excited him most. Maybe it was that someone actually seemed interested in him, or that this childish body had him more inclined to childish behavior. “Yeah! Bring'em on, Nurse Redheart!” he exclaimed, maybe a bit more enthusiastically than intended.
Nurse Redheart smiled knowingly, and ducked back out of the room. Shortly after, she returned, followed by a light yellow pegasus mare whose face was half obscured by her long pink mane. Warren eyed her cautiously as she walked silently to the center of room. She smiled sincerely and kept up a non-threatening posture. Whoever she was, she clearly didn't mean him any harm.
“Hello there,” the mare said softly. “My name's Fluttershy. What's yours?”
Warren looked at her with a guarded expression. Fluttershy? Scootaloo and the others mentioned her, didn't they? She's the one that takes care of all those animals, right? If I tell her my name is Warren, she might misunderstand and think I was named after a breeding ground for rabbits.
“Hi, Fluttershy! My name's...” Think Warren think. He glanced around the room. On a counter was a vase with flowers in it. “My name's Goldenrod. Scootaloo, Apple Bloom, and Sweetie Belle told me so much about you.”
“Oh, that's wonderful!” She sounded truly happy for him. “I'm so glad you're already making friends. The letter said you were emotionally confused, so I was afraid you might not be able to make friends.”
He looked at her quizzically for a few moments, and then glanced back at Nurse Readheart, who was standing silently by the door. “What letter?” he asked.
Nurse Redheart walked forward with an embarrassed smile. “Well you see, you aren't in bad enough condition to require us to keep you here long-term.” She sighed. “Since you're just a small colt with no apparent family, we had no choice but to contact the Emergency Foster Care volunteers.”
He sat down and stared at the ground for a moment. Well, I guess that takes care of finding shelter. “Alright. Makes perfect sense to me. When can we go?” He beamed at Fluttershy. “I've only been cooped up in the hospital for a day and it feels like forever.”
Fluttershy glanced at Nurse Redheart, seeking an answer. Picking up on Fluttershy's unspoken question, she coughed before speaking up. “We just have to have some paperwork signed and filed, and then you can be on your merry way.”
The walk to Fluttershy's cabin was fraught with an awkward silence. Warren wanted desperately to say something, anything, in order to break the silence. He wanted to get to know his new caretaker. The two were next to each other, but worlds apart. Fluttershy, too looked as though she wished to speak, but remained silent out of understanding or perhaps respect.
Their quiet journey was interrupted not far from Fluttershy's cottage when a figure stepped out of the woods. It was another pony. Turning its head, the pony noticed the pair and quickly trotted up to them. Warren instinctively took a few paces backward. An unfamiliar sensation pulsed through his horn and head as the figure approached.
As the unknown pony drew close, he could begin to make out her features. Yes, she was definitely a mare. A straight indigo mane, streaked with pink and purple, flowed as a breeze caught it. Poking through it was a lavender horn, attached to a lavender pony. Her violet eyes locked on Fluttershy, and a smile spread across her face.
“Oh, hi Fluttershy!” The lavender mare exclaimed. “How are y-, oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know you had relatives visiting.”
Warren glanced at his foreleg and then at Fluttershy. Their coats were certainly close in color; his was just a few shades lighter. Fluttershy must have done the same, because he caught her glancing at him and then chuckling. “Oh no, Twilight, he's not a relative.” She smiled sincerely. “He's just going to be under my care for a while.”
Twilight glanced at Warren, who smiled and nodded at her, before speaking up. “Aw, that's great Fluttershy.” She grinned at Fluttershy. “I'm sure you'll take great care of him.”
Fluttershy nodded “Goldenrod, this is Twilight Sparkle, a very good friend of mine. Twilight, meet Goldenrod. I'll be taking care of him until his situation changes.” She seemed to Warren to be confident in her abilities to care for others, not that he had any intention of making things difficult for her. “So what brings you out to the Everfree Forest today, Twilight?”
Twilight bobbed her head forward in - what seemed to Warren - the equivalent of a shrug. “Just a bit of investigating for Princess Celestia.” She cocked her head in the direction of the forest. “There's been some reports of unusual magical activity in the forest. When I stopped by this morning to speak to Zecora, she told me that there was a full-blown magical storm. Apparently the center of it all was the ruins.”
Warren perked his ears up to listen better. “When I went to check it out, I found something very strange.” Her tone changed ever so slightly at this point. “In the atrium there was a-”
“Glass crater.” Warren wasn't even aware that he'd spoken the words aloud until he caught Twilight looking at him in blank astonishment. Fluttershy was glancing repeatedly between the two, a confused expression chiseled onto her face.
He took a step back, realizing he was now in an awkward position. He didn't know anything about this Twilight Sparkle, aside from the fact that she was apparently a representative of a regent by the name of Princess Celestia. On top of that, he'd just revealed that he knew at least something about a site she'd investigated. I don't think I can worm my way out of this, so I won't even try.
“How do you know about the crater in the ruins?” she inquired a bit forcefully. “What did you see?”
Warren lowered his head. “That crater in the ruins is kind of where I woke up, really early yesterday morning.” Twilight looked at him inquisitively and expectantly. Clearly she wanted to hear everything he knew. Even Fluttershy was looking interested. He inhaled before continuing. “When I woke up there, in the dead center of the glass crater, I had no idea where I was, how I'd gotten there, or even what I was. Waking up in those ruins is my first memory of this world.”
Everyone was silent from that point onward. He thought he'd heard Fluttershy say something about how horrible it must be to have lost his memories, but he'd honestly been too busy paying attention to Twilight's facial expression. She appeared to be trying to determine whether or not he was telling the truth.
She suddenly exhaled, and then closed her eyes. Her horn began to shimmer, and began walking towards him. Warren began backing away almost immediately. He had no idea what was going on, but it made him anxious. After a few minutes of chasing him, Twilight sighed, her horn dimming. “Please sit still. I'm just trying to get a magical impression of you.”
Fluttershy trotted up beside him. Placing a reassuring hoof on his shoulder, she said, “It's okay, Twilight won't hurt you.” He looked at her unsure. Swallowing his anxiety, he sat down, and then nodded at Twilight.
She stepped forward again, her horn alight. A shimmering field of energy enveloped him. Every hair on his body began to stand on end as an odd tingling began to sink into his every pore. This continued for many moments. Then, without warning, that unfamiliar sensation pulsed through his horn again. Then it began to ache, dully at first, but building up in intensity quickly. He brought a hoof up to his horn moments before his legs gave out. As he fell forward, his glasses tumbled from his snout. The world blacked out around him.
Something warm and purring was nestled against his side. Warren opened his eyes, only to find himself all but blind. He flailed his hooves around, looking for some sort of table, but all he managed to do was get himself tangled in the blanket that had been placed over him, and evoke a displeased yowl from his bedmate.
“Hello? Is anybody there?” he called out. “I seem to be, er, stuck. Also, I can't find my glasses.”
Two sets of hoof-beats began to echo from somewhere else and draw closer. He could hear whispered chatter as the sound of a door opening echoed through the room. Then he heard laughter. “My goodness, how did you manage to get so tangled up in the blanket?” It was Fluttershy.
Warren scoffed. “It's kind of hard to see anything without the glasses.” He laughed in spite of himself. “Where are they, anyway?”
His question was answered a moment later as something floated in front of his face, and his vision then cleared up instantly. “Sorry, we figured it'd be better if you slept without them on.” Twilight chortled. “I also need to apologize, Goldenrod.”
“Why?” he asked as he began to untangle himself from the blanket, taking care not to disturb the white kitten that was still nestled beside him. It flinched as one of his hooves brushed past the powder-blue ribbon on its head, but did not wake. “It's not like you did anything to me.”
“I'm not completely sure that's true though.” Twilight's smile faded. “I didn't notice your bandaged horn when I began that spell.” He looked at her quizzically, but made no move to speak. “The magic I used may have overwhelmed your cracked horn, which is what caused the intense pain.”
Warren thought it over for a moment, and then repeated the motion he'd observed Twilight make earlier that he reckoned was a shrug. “What happens, happens, right? You couldn't have known.” He looked her in the eye and smiled sincerely. “It would have been hinky if you'd known and done it anyway.”
He watched as Fluttershy and Twilight exchanged glances. He had the impression that for the second time in as many days, his ease of forgiveness was surprising others. Perhaps this world was not so different from my own. He rose out of the bed and moved to stand in front of the two.
“So, did you learn anything interesting when you scanned me?” He asked nonchalantly.
Twilight stood aghast for a moment. It made him wonder if he wasn't being too forward. “Well, there was a strange magical residue at the ruins that I've never encountered before.” She sounded like a scientist with a fascinating research topic. “That same residue was all over you, too. So at least, we know you weren't lying about being there. Is it true though, that you don't remember anything about Equestria at all?”
“That's right.” He decided then and there that it would be better to tell the truth. “I'm pretty sure I'm not from this world. I can remember my whole life in another world, and can even remember going drinking with my family in Manhattan. I just don't know how I got into those ruins, or how I became this way.”
“Oh, you're much too young to be drinking.” Fluttershy exclaimed. “No wonder your memories are all funny.”
“I've gotta agree with Fluttershy there, Goldenrod.” Twilight chuckled. Clearly she thought his story was just as farfetched. “The whole magic incident and your cracked horn wouldn't help things, either. I hope you've learned your lesson about drinking, though.”
Warren sighed, and decided to get into the role that was apparently expected of him. “Yes, Miss Twilight.” He let defeat creep into his voice, and he dug at the floor with one of his front hooves, and hoped he looked as guilty as they thought he should be.
“I need to get the meals ready for the animals, would you like to help, Goldenrod?” Fluttershy asked suddenly, as if looking for a change in the mood of the room. “I'm sure Twilight has somewhere else to be.”
“Okay, Miss Fluttershy.” He smiled weekly. “Just tell me what to do.”
“Right, I've got to go write a report to Princess Celestia.” Twilight excused herself. “I'm sure she'll be interested to hear my findings.”
Fluttershy and Warren spent the rest of the afternoon preparing food for the animals. He was only slightly useless in his current form. She did a good job of explaining how to make use of his mouth and his hooves. When it came to clean-up, he was only slightly covered in flour. By the time the evening came around, Warren was tired out, and spent the rest of the night asleep, the white kitten close by.
Dear Princess Celestia
I investigated the magical disturbances in the Everfree forests like you asked. There were swaths of storm damage throughout the forest. When I spoke Zecora, she told me that the epicenter of the magical storm that had torn apart the forest was at the old ruined castle. Inside the atrium, I found a crater filled with glass created by the magic of the storm heating the sand. Aside from the crater, the only finding worth mentioning was a magical residue, the likes of which I've never seen before.
I feel that this should also be mentioned. Fluttershy has recently taken in a unicorn colt named Goldenrod. When we spoke on my way out of the forest, he knew about the glass crater. I examined him with my magic, only to find him to be covered in the same residue found in the atrium. In my carelessness, I failed to notice his bandaged horn, and may have addled his memory a bit when the spell overpowered his nervous system through a crack in his horn. When I questioned him about his knowledge of the crater at Fluttershy's cottage, he claimed to have woken up there with no prior memories of Equestria, and instead claims to remember a whole other life in another world. As an aside, it might be worth looking into Manehattan age policies in drinking establishments, as Goldenrod mentioned drinking there with family.
I apologize for not finding out more about what went on at the castle in the Everfree Forest. I will forward you any information I am able to dig up, in addition to any friendship reports. Please say hello to Princess Luna for me, too.
Not too much to say this time around. I won’t comment on a certain unsubtle hinting at the beginning of this chapter. It’s all pretty straightforward, so take it as your mind tells you. Much thanks goes to DarkxRedemption again, both for beta-reading for me and being a merciless taskmaster (He forgets I can still see and edit this, DxR). Would you believe the first chapter took weeks? Yeah, me either. To think, this chapter took just three or four days. Here’s hoping for another quick chapter release.