Twilight had two of her friends with her today. Rainbow Dash had volunteered to be her backup, in case of any real danger, but surprisingly Pinkie had tagged along too. She and Rainbow Dash along with a few other ponies had formed a new club, and they were very eager to share the details with somepony else.
Twilight, unfortunately, was that somepony.
“See Twilight, the Ponyville Pranksters aren’t just your average team of lovable rascals.” Rainbow bragged to her, flying above her two friends. “We specialize in most unexpected pranks Ponyville has ever seen.”
“But for now, we don’t prank just anypony like we did before! We have the bestest rival prank team in Ponyville! The Ponyville Musicians Guild! And we’re in the middle of a prank war!”
“The Musicians guild agreed to this?” Twilight spun around to Pinkie, honestly baffled. “And they kept their professional name?”
“It’s so they wouldn’t have to make new business cards.” Rainbow shrugged. Twilight sighed, shaking her head. Most of the Musicians guild members were so formal. It was hard to believe any of them, save for maybe Vinyl, would sign up for this.
“So I'm getting Lyra back for her last prank, and Pinkie getting Noteworthy back then she's gonna do one for Vinyl. I’m still working out the kinks in my plan, but Pinkie’s got this great one where she-”
“Ooh! Yeah! Where I tie a bunch of balloons to me and I sneak from rooftop to rooftop, and then I take this giant bucket of-”
“Hey Pinkie, maybe you should keep your big prank plans secret, you know?” Twilight was trying her best not to feel responsible for any future damage by knowing she could’ve stopped this coming mayhem. “You never know who might be listening.”
Pinkie gasped, looking around suspiciously. Twilight smiled, but it didn’t last the walk. Her thoughts went back to the woods. The more she had thought about them last night, the deeper her theories went. She had studied some different detection spells to scan for darker spells and non-pony magic, in case something actually sinister was about.
They hadn’t faced any evil creatures that could think or talk since Shining Armor and Cadence’s wedding, but she sincerely doubted there was a changeling at work here. It had apparently imitated the voice of a pony, according to Roseluck, but that’s where the similarities ended. She had found a few rarer creatures that were bipedal, but the more monstrous and unknown they got the less likely they were to be smart enough to speak, or at least commonly speak Equestrian.
When they’d returned home yesterday, Twilight had assured her that whatever she'd seen was gone. She wasn’t about to use her newfound authority to ban ponies from the woods (especially since nopony had actually gotten hurt) but the citizens of Ponyville were advised to steer clear for the time being.
Twilight had also considered the fact that the creature simply did not exist, but there were too many factors. The forest was so devoid of life that anything being there was a red flag in itself. And if her imagination had gotten the better of her, Roseluck could’ve said she “saw” anything. A bear, a dragon, even something you might see in the Everfree. Ponies would’ve come running just the same. But she “chose” to describe a creature she could barely explain.
Roseluck was visibly a lot calmer than the day before, but she and her fellow florists were still on edge. But Twilight had a feeling that if she were to try and get a clearer description out of her now, her story would’ve already changed slightly due to her fear and suggestibility. Some faint gossip had spread yesterday by ponies that had heard the news, tales of a creature that changed a little every time she heard them. A few, mostly parents of young ponies, had already approached her asking if they should be worried. She did her best to calm them but fear usually spread pretty quickly in that town. She would have to keep anything she found under wraps, unless it pointed to actual danger, for the time being to keep from inciting a panic.
Twilight almost would’ve preferred if they hadn’t gone back to those woods. But they did.
Twilight first scanned for signs of life as she had yesterday. Still nothing but plants, but something new had changed in the general topography since yesterday.
“Hang on girls…I think…something’s off.”
“Is it the monster!?” Rainbow shouted, whipping her head around.
“No, I’m pretty sure we’re still monster free…something’s changed though.” She closed her eyes, comparing the two scans in her mind and finally turning to face the right direction. “I think…it’s this way.”
And as soon as she opened her eyes, a rainbow trail was leading into the woods, weaving around the dense trees. Pinkie stood by Twilight, they both blinked in confusion.
“Holy smokes!” a far-off Rainbow called. “What the heck happened here?”
At their friend’s shouts, the two of them took off in the same direction. Twilight wasn’t worried since she still sensed no life, but her imagination was running wild. Pinkie was bouncing alongside her, bounding over the brush and somehow narrowly avoiding smashing headfirst into trees despite seemingly not paying attention. They saw a partial grassy clearing ahead, a rainbow mane standing out against the green.
In a weaving path from the clearing, the bushes and underbrush were trampled, as if something had plowed through them fairly quickly.
"Wowie, somepony must've been in a hurry!" Pinkie gasped, her eyes big.
"Alright, alright, something has been here since yesterday...but there's no reason to think it's related to our mystery creature. And I'm still not sensing any life around so whatever did this is long gone."
That did seem to calm her friend's just a bit, but Rainbow stayed alert.
“We should check out this path in case there's anything strange.”
Pinkie was the first to take off down the trail of trampled foliage, her nose to the ground, Rainbow in pursuit. They were getting closer to the end with each step, but Twilight almost didn't want to know what they'd find.
The trampled path of greenery just…stopped. It didn’t taper off, or anything of the sort. It just stopped in a perfectly straight line. Even the leaves from the bushes that had been pushed through ended in the same exact spot.
“That’s…bizzare! Teleportation? It’s advanced magic but…or maybe a summoning enchantment? Oh, it’s too early to tell!” she trotted around the end of the trail, her intellectual curiosity peaked. “I have to line this area with…ALL of my magical residue spells! Girls, this may take a while!”
Pinkie was happy to entertain herself until Twilight did her thing. Rainbow Dash on the other hoof was beginning to regret tagging along.
Being a pony in a human house was pretty challenging, turns out.
I had managed a shower fine, but since I couldn't work anything into my hair (or fur) without fingers, it was more of a rinse-off. But as far as I could tell, I didn't stink and I could care less if my hair looked nice so I made due. Brushing my teeth had been more challenging, but I eventually resigned to sitting on the floor, grabbing the toothbrush between my front hooves and doing my best.
I had resigned to eating anything that I could just pull out of the fridge or had a wrapper I could open with my teeth. That left me eating apples, strawberries and some cold pop tarts. I had attempted to pop some popcorn, and it didn't go too badly. I did eat it out of the bag since my bowls were in a high cabinet. It wasn't bad for a day's worth of meals, but I was going to run out of the easy-to-eat stuff before long. Luckily grocery delivery was a thing, but I'd feel bad telling them to "just leave it on the porch" like a crazy shut-in.
Although I guess I was more or less a crazy shut-in...
I spent the night in a bedroom on the first floor, not brave enough to try climbing the stairs just yet. I wasn't going to put on my pajamas so it was a bit off. Though I wasn't cold at all with the new fur. A lot of my personal things were still in boxes on the first floor too so I wouldn't miss much not going up stairs. I'd have to do it eventually though, they probably have stairs in horseland.
I had spent the better part of a day preparing, both mentally and for the trip. I wasn’t going to bring too much, considering I wouldn’t be going for long and I would be prepared to make a hasty retreat. My plan was to spend the first outing surveying my surroundings, seeing how far away any horse…settlement could be. I at least needed to find the schoolhouse, and I could only hope it would be nearby. I would do my best not to interact with the locals unless necessary, so I didn’t stand out so much.
I have to learn everything I needed by watching and listening, seeing as I probably couldn’t read their language, going by the writing on the back of the photo. No going to the local horse library and searching for a book on social etiquette. When I met the pony who knew about humans, hopefully, I could ask them for help on that front. Maybe I could even see if I could get help opening the book from the box, since I missed my window to crack it open with power tools.
I did have one resource at my disposal. The gold coins from the box would come in handy, I was sure. Money was never a bad thing to have when alone in a new place. And I’d need to take the school photo with me, to try and find out who might be in the picture that might know about humans. Hopefully it would at least put me on the right path. Luckily for me, if I could call it luck, I hadn't gotten the chance to re-bury the box. Those...things had grabbed me before i'd even dropped it in the ground.
The teacher in the pony photo had been wearing a ribbon around her neck, and some of the students had odd bits of clothing or accessories. The horse from the woods hadn’t been wearing anything. My options were limited but I needed something to carry the stuff I’d be taking with me.
“I’ll keep it simple today and see what the horses wear, if anything, and if I stand out too much I’ll come back home and try again.”
For now, my jacket seemed like a safe bet. I tugged it off a hanger in the living room closet, after an embarrassingly long time getting the door open. It had deep pockets I could kinda, sorta reach and I could get it on easily enough. I laid the jacket on the floor and did my best to wiggle into it from underneath, slipping my front legs into the arm holes. It took some doing without the ability to grab anything but by the time I finally got done I was oddly proud. I could dress myself, a feat commonly accomplished by most six-year-olds.
It was big on me now, ending down by the tail, and the sleeves were long on me now but they fit around my horse ankles fine so they wouldn’t slip down and trip me up.
I was not an improviser. I usually didn’t do anything without a plan or a schedule to guide me, left a lot less up to fate that way. So today I was doing the equivalent of getting dropped off in a foreign country with no game plan and it was freaking me out a little.
“This is so nuts…”
I was getting tired of saying that, but it made me feel better. The moment any of this was normal was the moment I’d officially lost my mind.
“You’re just on recon today, Lottie. Just look around, don’t interact with the locals but don’t look suspicious by not interacting either. Be the most convincing horse you can be. Just be casual.”
I caught my reflection in a full-length mirror in the guest bedroom. I was sweaty and uncomfortable-looking, not unlike my human self. I hadn’t even known horses could sweat before today.
I walked farther into the forest, close to where I suspected that the…portal was. I just followed the niggly feeling in the back of my brain and it led to where it got quieter and quieter. Soon I found where the vines had dragged me on this side. It put fear back in me but it also created a clear path for me to walk along. I followed it farther in still, my eyes darting around for any sign of the vines. But none came.
“I guess now that I’m a horse they’re not interested in me anymore. Lucky me.”
Eventually the cold and the silence was overwhelming, and the trail ended abruptly, just like on the other side. I stood in front of it, my heart pounding in my chest, and closed my eyes.
“Uh hello, portal to horse world. I’d like to go…there. Please.”
And just like before, for whatever reason, I was let through. I found myself on the other side of the trail, still terrified. It was quite possible my entire life rode on this plan I just came up with, and knowing my luck it wouldn’t be as easy as I hoped.
But I had to try.
“Well, here goes…everything.”
It was almost comical how uneventful my entry had been compared to yesterday. The sun was bright and high in the sky again, not a cloud to be seen. Either I was always strolling in at this world’s equivalent of high noon every time or something was up. Maybe the days lasted a lot longer there, like on planets further from the sun? Just a guess.
I kept on past the trail towards where the trees got less thick. I decided to stay off the trail not wanting to be spotted by any horses again. At least not just yet.
I started to reach the tree line, and before I could mentally prepare I hit wide open sky. A wide dirt road surrounded by lush fields of green grass filled my field of vision.
There was nothing in sight, save for some mountains way in the distance. The big dirt road only went two directions, left or right. Left went to the mountains, but right? Not a clue.
Just to the left of the exit I had come through was a wooden sign. The words were just as confusing as the ones on the back of the photo.
"This sign won't stop me, because I can't read." I laughed a little to myself. "But this might help me remember where to come back in."
I walked closer to the dirt road weighing my options. The horse I’d seen the first day had to have gone somewhere when she…ran away screaming in terror. There had to be someplace nearby.
The horse ears I was sporting had pretty good hearing. They were picking up far-off sounds I hadn’t heard back in the forest. Wind rustling through the wild grasses, a faraway…train?
Okay, horses have mastered the technology of trains, no big deal.
Some birds flying overhead, the clip-clop of hooves-
Sure enough, in the distance there was what looked to be a little brown horse trotting down the path from the left. It was pulling a cart and I think it was wearing a little vest. I debated whether I should duck back into the woods and avoid being spotted, the sight of another horse was making my legs refuse to move. At least I didn’t scream this time.
They got closer and I was sure they had noticed me, I was right by the road after all. They gave a nod and a cheerful smile and all I could do was dumbly wave back. And now in full view, not twenty feet away, I could see that the horse was actually a little tan unicorn with white hair. They had one of those pictures on their backside too. Four green gemstones, looked like.
It was one thing in the photo but in real life? A flesh and blood unicorn. Better get used to that, I suppose. I wonder what his picture means.
I realized what just happened and trotted off after them, doing my best to copy the way they were doing it.
“Oh um, excuse me-” Oh shoot, is it a guy or a girl? “-you there!” I winced at the informality. “Sorry, could I ask you a question?”
“Huh?” A masculine voice called out. Boy then, here’s hoping. “Oh, sure miss.” He slowed down so that I could catch up with him.
“Heh, sorry to bother you. I got turned around out here. Do you know the closest town from this road?”
“Well I’m headed to Ponyville myself, just a few miles down the road here.”
“…Ponyville.” I couldn’t stop myself.
“Yeah.” His eyes drifted down to my legs, I think he saw how unsure my footing was. Concern flashed briefly across his horse face. Probably correctly thought I was having trouble. “Uh, in fact, my mother would scold me for meeting a mare all the way out here on her own and not offering her a lift.”
I’m a mare huh? So he’d be…a stallion, I think? And normally I would get a ride from a stranger but he’s literally offering to take me where I wanted to go (probably), no chance of me getting held up or lost.
“Well that’s very kind of you, if it’s not too much trouble.”
“No trouble at all.” He came to a stop and ducked out from under his harness, walking around to the back. “Here, I’ll give you a boost.”
With his help, I managed to clamber into the back of the cart. It was filled with open wooden crates stuffed with hay. I scooted in between two crates and put my front hooves up and peered over the side.
He got back in the harness and started back down the trail with a steady pace. My heart was still pounding in my chest. So far, so good.
“Sit tight, miss. I’ll make it as smooth of a ride as I can.”
“Thanks, I’m sorry to be a bother, sir.” I said, trying my best to mind my manners. Strange unicorn or not, he was really helping me out.
“Oh, you’re not a bother miss!” he assured me, sounding almost upset by my choice of words. “I was on my way into town anyway. And the name’s Rare Find.”
“Rare Find.” I repeated him, trying to process this as a name.
“Have you heard of me?” he asked, getting a little spring in his step. “I don’t mean to boast; my family’s gems are the talk of most towns around here.”
“…Not before today, no. Sorry, did you say gems?”
“Yep! I’m taking this shipment of emeralds and diamonds down the way to Ponyville. They’re harder to find around here, but we’re lousy with them up in the caves near Canterlot. I just dropped a crate off in the little railway town back there, Neighton. Hardly anything there but hotels and restaurants but they needed their gems.”
“That’s what’s in these crates?” I said, my eyes scanning the crates in the back with me. “Just…piles of gems?” That explains the picture on his backside. So, they’re like job markers?
“Mm hm, it’s not the fanciest job, but my family and I mine gems all over. Somepony has to.”
So, I guess they’re ponies, not horses. Somepony…oh that’s gonna be hard to remember to say every time.
“Yeah, I guess somepony needs to do it.”
“Go ahead, dig one out and take a looksee.”
He was giving me a lot freedom around his livelihood. I was curious though. I leaned against one of the crates and rooted around. I felt one and pressed it between my hooves, wishing I had fingers again so badly. It was just a bit smaller than one of my hooves.
“Wow! It’s huge!” I gasped, carefully holding it up to the light. The sun hit it and it sparkled brighter than any piece of jewelry I’d ever seen.
“Well, it’s about a mid-size, not one of my best finds.” He shrugged in the harness, sounding nonchalant for somebody with more gems than I’d ever seen in my life. “And that one could use a polish.”
“No foolin’? I think it’s beautiful.” And it was a genuine compliment. I was getting the feeling that “precious” didn’t apply to gems here, he did say that caves were lousy with them.
“Aw, shucks…” he laughed, sounding very proud. I admired it a bit longer before setting it gently back in the hay.
“Well, miss uh…Now where are my manners, I don’t believe I got your name!”
I had no idea how much to lie about in this situation. His name was “Rare Find” for Pete’s sake! Was his name normal for this place? Was Charlotte too much of a giveaway? A monster’s name?
What are typical pony names? Prancer? No that’s a reindeer. Honey Suckle? Dewdrop? I was getting nervous. Just stick with something simple. You’ll probably never even see this guy again. Just pick something! He’s waiting!
“My name is…” I glanced down at my front legs, the color catching my eye. What was it called again?
“C-Cornflower. Cornflower Blue.”
“Well that’s a lovely name, Miss Cornflower!” I sighed under my breath, relieved he hadn’t reacted strangely. “Very fitting.”
“You think so?” I asked, still not believing I pulled that crap off.
“Well, yeah!” he chuckled, using his head to gesture to…all of me. I grinned a bit awkwardly, playing it off as best I could.
Look at me, hitting it off with the locals. I laughed to myself. Mom would be so proud.
After maybe ten minutes of idle chatter, nothing specific on my end, we came over a bridge and a town was in sight. I didn’t know what I was expecting from a pony town but it was actually nice. I saw tons of ponies in the distance, getting nervous again.
“Here we are Miss Cornflower.” He said, trotting into the main street, ponies on all sides. I thought about niceties in these kinds of situations, the coin purse still in my pocket.
“Can I give you something for the ride?” I asked ready to dip into my very limited funds. He did me a favor after all. “I’ve got a little money here and-”
“Oh, nonsense. Save your bits, I don’t need anything!” he laughed, coming to a stop and looking around. “Any place in particular you need dropped off?”
“Any chance you know where the schoolhouse is?” I asked hoping to get that info for my next visit.
“Can’t say I do, I’m not from here. But anypony here will point you in the right direction if you ask them.” He ducked under his harness again and came around the back, holding a hoof up to me. I took it, carefully lowering myself out of the cart.
We exchanged goodbyes and he trotted off down a different road with his cart. A chill ran up my spine, my ears got a nervous twitch to them. Reality was starting to sink in once I was alone again. Well, not alone alone. Lots of them were roaming around, doing completely normal daytime activities. What got to me was that the whole time I was Cornflower Blue, I held a perfectly pleasant conversation with a creature that was by all means mythical. And he was nice! He had a job and took pride in it, he helped a perfect stranger like nothing was wrong.
I really was blending in. I wasn’t a terrifying monster anymore. They didn’t suspect a thing. And nobody seemed to look twice at a pony in a jacket and indeed, a few of them, not many, were wearing various items of clothing. Some of the mares were even wearing dresses. So, clothing was optional, as I had suspected.
Looking around what I assumed to be a marketplace, there were stalls of food and goods everywhere, I saw so many different-looking ponies. The first two ponies I ever saw in the flesh were a cream color and a light brown, but they seemed to come in any color, with any color hair too. And there were little ones running around too. They were a lot cuter in real life. And…
A lot of the little ones don’t have pictures, like in the photo. But…ALL of the adults have one. I looked around at the dozens of ponies out and about in the marketplace, and sure enough, every single one of them had a picture on their sides.
I was an adult. With no pictures.
I checked to make sure the coat was still covering down to the tail, carefully scooting it farther down. Would this be a sign? Something to tell them that I didn’t belong? That underneath the blue fur and hooves and big pair of yellow peepers I was something…to be afraid of?
Now calm down, Lottie. I’m sure it’s just something you’re supposed to get at a certain age. I don’t know how or where to get one, or if not having one is merely an inconvenience for me or a huge taboo. But hopefully I won’t be around long enough to find out.
The town of Ponyville was interesting to look at. Most of the buildings were like thatched-roof cottages, save for what looked like big tents. Not too far off in the distance there was a big brown clock tower that looked not unlike a clock back home. I had left home not long after 2 pm and the clock here was the same.
So...the sun's still dead center in the sky, but it is a similar time system. At least that was close enough to home. No need to worry about massive time-differences between the two worlds.
A lot of the customers in the marketplace looked busy and I didn’t want to try and bother another stranger. No telling if they’d be as nice as Rare Find. I imagined a shop keep would be willing to give directions to a paying customer, so I looked around for something I could buy. I still couldn’t read any of the signs in this language, but most of the ponies’ wares were in plain sight.
I strolled farther down the marketplace street, looking for something I could use and not have to carry around. Some food? Maybe. It would be good to see if I could stomach pony world food.
I started weighing my options when I heard something…very faint. But very close too? I turned around, but nobody there was doing anything odd. If I strained the new ears I could swear I could hear something…It was…
Giggling? Some more kids must be playing around here.
I turned back to the road, wondering if I should try to figure which buildings were the restaurants or get some produce from one of the street vendors.
Then I heard…the giggling again? And then loud shouting from above.
“Hee hee heeee! Look out beeeellloooww~!”
And before I could blink, a terribly, gooey weight completely covered me. I was so startled I actually whinnied and fell flat on my stomach. My nostrils were overwhelmed with a terrible, sugary smell.
“Hee hee! Oh wow, I got you back good, Noteworthy!” a high-pitched voice cheered, and a bright pink terror floated down from the sky, balloons tied to her middle and an empty bucket in her front hooves. The ponies around us started to laugh.
“Noteworthy, you outta know better than to be out in the open during a prank-”
She froze, looking me over, and the ponies around us were laughing harder. I was getting a little…overwhelmed.
These colorful jerks just couldn’t get enough, and I tried to stand up and tell them off. The batter had other plans and I slipped, falling on face, my butt in the air. They just started howling, and I snorted, whipping my head a little to get some of the stuff off my face.
“W-Wait!” the pink one stammered. “Everypony-”
“You…You…” I could feel my eyes getting wet. I was an angry crier, sad but true. I scraped my hooves in the dirt and got solid footing, standing up to my full, tiny horse height.
“What’re you all laughing at, huh!?” I shouted, and it got eerily quiet. I felt my legs shaking, my tiny body filled with a certain rage I hadn’t felt in years. I stomped the ground, hard, almost slipping again. “Y’all got somethin’ to laugh at!? You find somethin’ funny!?”
They all stood there and looked around at each other. The rush was cooling slightly and I realized what a spectacle I had made of myself, cake batter aside.
So much for blending in…