My wall

by Cackling Moron


This rising wall that shades our ancient hovel

The plan for today was lunch, lunch with the girls - nice and simple, nice and straightforward.

Today was a day sat in a period of relative calm. No great threats threatened and no lessons on interponyal relationships needed learning. Life just slid onward smoothly, like a canoe on wet grass.

So, lunch. Make hay while the sun shines. Then eat that hay with friends because you’re all magical horses and so you’re down for that sort of thing. Hurrah!

Or so had been the plan. But now that it came to it Twilight - emerging blinking into the sunshine - found that the friend who’d said they be waiting for her outside at this time, were not there waiting for her. She double-checked the time.

Maybe they were just a touch late? All of them, all at once. It could happen. Maybe she was just being overeager. Maybe just wait a bit.

And so it was, and so she waited. Minutes ticked past. Nopony showed.

Twilight was fond of many things in life, and one of them was prompt punctuality when it came to plans. While others might have waited a few minutes more she was not them and so she, tetchy, went off to start tracking her friends down.

To her surprise it did not take her long and, on top of that, she found them all at once, all in a line, all apparently fixated on the same thing. This was odd. Twilight approached.

“Hey girls! Why are you all...uh…”

The question she had been going to ask - your fairly understandable ‘Why are you all standing around?’ - died in her throat as she trotted up and saw for herself the reason why.

Julian, local human, was just a little way off and down, stripped to the waist, dripping with sweat, grunting with exertion and all of this in service of...

“Um, what’s he doing?” Twilight asked, unable to really work out what it actually was all in service off, at least at this distance.

“Building a wall,” Applejack said, flatly.

This was one of those answers that was so acutely useless it made you wonder why you even bothered to ask anything in the first place. Twilight gaped at her, annoyed, and so she wasn’t the one to fill the void in the conversation:

“I still say it’s more of a dyke,” Pinkie said, frowning the frown of one who finds these distinctions very important and doesn’t understand why they’re the only one who finds them so important.

“I think he’s digging his way home,” Rainbow said, hissing in pain a moment later as Applejack whacked her in the shoulder. “Ow! What?”

A hard stare was her only answer, so she huffed, rolled her eyes and grumbled to herself.

Attention returned to Julian, and the group regarded him in silence for a bit.

“You know, for somepony - er, someone, sorry - diggin’ with an antler he ain’t doin’ half bad.”

Twilight squinted. She hadn’t noticed before but he was indeed digging with an antler.

“Where did he even get that?” She asked.

“He said he brought it from home,” Rarity said. She had said this with such a faraway, dreamy tone that she everypony present turned to look at her, and it took her a second or two to actually notice. When she did, she flinched and laughed lightly, forcedly, clearing her throat into a hoof.

“He’s very, ah, smooth, isn’t he?” She asked, doing a very poor job of changing the subject and therefore remaining very much the centre of attention. She went red. “It’s simply not something you see every day, that’s all…” she mumbled.

I kind of want to give him a bath.

Attention now turned to Fluttershy who had spoken and who also went red.

This was going to some strange places, and none of those places were any closer to lunch.

“Why are we all just standing and watching?” Twilight asked.

“Well ah noticed then Rainbow Dash noticed ah noticed then-” Applejack started, but Twilight cut in, having a feeling for where this line was going.

“I think I get the idea. Guess it makes sense. But why are we still standing and watching?” She asked. No-one had an answer for this one and a period of silence followed. Rainbow Dash was the one to eventually break it:

“It’s just so weird. Right?”

None felt the need to disagree with her.

As the new-arrival and the one with the least-firm grasp on what was going on, Twilight felt compelled to keep asking questions. Questions such as:

“How do you know it’s a wall anyway?”

“We asked him,” Rainbow said with a shrug.

“Did any of you ask why he’s doing it?” Twilight asked by way of followup.

Blank stares all round for that one. Twilight sighed.

“Alright. I’m going to go ask him, see if he’s okay and then we can go get lunch, okay?”

She did not wait for an answer, setting off at once for Julian, still furiously hacking away at the ground with his antler and, she noticed as she got closer, muttering to himself more-or-less constantly as he did so.

“Julian? Are you okay?” She asked as she approached, taking pains to approach slowly and in full view of him, ending up standing on the heap of earth he’d managed to throw up and so ending up peering down at him. 

Not that he seemed to be paying much attention to his surroundings.

For I am Wodan, though some call me Hermes...hmm? Oh hello there, Twilight. Sorry, did you ask me something?” Julian said, blinking and, on seeing Twilight, smiling. He had been just about to take another swing but now relaxed, standing up straight, his back crunching alarmingly as he raised a hand to shield his eyes.

“Was just curious why you were digging,” Twilight said.

He blinked at her some more then looked down and jumped, as though startled to find himself standing in a ditch holding an antler and digging. He got over it though and looked back up to her, grinning broadly.

“Oh! Well, just digging a ditch, making a dyke,” he said.

“Yes!” Pinkie said quietly in the background, pumping a hoof. This was ignored.

“Why though?” Twilight pressed.

His brow knotted.

“I’m - I’m not…”

He went quiet, mouthing to himself, then he snapped his fingers.

“Safety, safety. Protection. For all of us. Keeps out dangers. See? Doesn’t look like much now but think about when I’m finished. Look to the North a quick mile yonder. There be the ditch that they shall die in, here be the wall that I shall cry on.”

This he said while pointing with his antler off North, then to the ditch he was standing in, then to the pile of dirt he’d made. Once he’d pointed out all these bits he grinned and put a fist onto his hip, antler now resting across his shoulders.

“...okay…”

By now the others had moved up to join Twilight on top of Julian’s pile of dirt, getting a better angle down on him. He gave them all a wave, too, and they waved back with varying levels of enthusiasm.

“You do know that, like, basically everything bad that we have to beat up can fly or teleport or something, right?” Rainbow pointed out.

That gave him pause. His brow knotted again, but only briefly, and then an expression of absolute calm spread across his face.

“The wall continues to have symbolic value, to have intrinsic power. This place is ancient, and all that is, was, and shall be again. Hanging god of boundaries,” he said.

“What does that even mean!” Rainbow said loudly.

But he’d started digging again.

Don’t blame the messenger…” He was heard to say.

“Are you okay, Juian?” Twilight asked, and this time he didn’t pause when he replied:

“Fine, fine. Just motivated. Something moves through me, something old. I feel alive.”

And he carried on digging.

“Should we be worried?” Twilight asked the others, leaning toward them and hissing out the corner of her mouth.

The answer here was probably yes, but what followed on from this answer was less clear, and none of them had any comfortable idea of what they were actually meant to do.

“You know how he is, he’s just going to get bored eventually,” Rainbow said, not bothering to keep her voice down and doing a good job of sounding unconcerned even if she was plainly starting to get a tiny bit concerned.

She did have a point though, Julian’s life being a long list of things that he’d started and not finished, something he’d apparently carried with him from home. Not exactly the most comfortable thing to bank on.

“Yeah...we can’t really leave him doing this though, can we? He’s going to hurt himself,” Twilight said, grimacing. While he’d apparenly wrapped a length of rag around the bit of antler he was using as a handle his hands - that she’d seen - were still alarmingly raw looking, if not already bleeding.

A point of concern.

Maybe invite him to lunch?” Fluttershy suggested, earning herself a small flurry of, if not sharp looks, at least vaguely-pointy ones. The all-girls lunch hadn’t really been put together with a random tagalong alien in mind.

But the opinion was still silently shared between all of them that they couldn’t in good conscience just leave him here doing this without at least trying, and that Fluttershy’s suggestion was probably going to have to do for them in a pinch.

“Uh, hey Julian?” Applejack piped up to get his attention and he again paused, squinting up at them.

“Yes?” He asked.

“We were all about to go and enjoy a spot of lunch, darling, and were wondering if you’d care to join us?” Rarity asked, desperately fighting the urge to suggest a shower first.

Julian looked honestly baffled by this line they were taking, as though he was having trouble working out what it was is they were even talking about.

“Hmm? What? Lunch? Oh no, no, don’t worry about me, don’t worry about that. I’d only be an, uh,” He had to count them quickly here. “Seventh wheel, no. I’m not even wearing a shirt! You girls go, don’t worry about me. Wouldn’t want to intrude. I have plenty to be getting on with,” he said, getting back to his digging at once.

“Are you sure?” Twilight asked.

“Yes yes yes, very sure, very sure. Off you go,” he said.

And that was that for asking.

The girls pulled back a little to discuss better out of earshot of him, although really the odds of him listening in seemed slim to none.

“Now what?” Rainbow.

“You heard him, we can’t force him,” Applejack pointed out.

“But can we really just leave him like this?” Twilight asked.

“He’s a big boy, he can do what he likes,” said Rarity, moving swiftly to defend herself for having used those specific words: “That’s what he calls himself! You’ve all heard him!”

They had.

Rather brought things to a halt. Uncomfortable looks and shuffling hooves all round. Rainbow snapped first, huffing out:

“Look, let’s just go. Lunch isn’t going to take forever, is it? And if he’s still doing it once we’re done, well, we can worry about it then!”

“She’s got a point,” Applejack said.

She did have a point.

And so it was decided that this was going to be the course of action. They’d leave him to his own devices for now, and if his bizarre behaviour persisted then they might consider it a cause for concern. Immediately though? Lunch. Delicious lunch.

The group set off, though Twilight did hang back to deliver something final to Julian.

“Julian?” She asked down, gently.

“Hmm?” He hummed back up, not looking at her.

“Don’t forget to take a break, okay? Maybe go get a drink of water or something?”

“My purpose is sustenance enough, Twilight, but I appreciate your concern all the same!” He said cheerfully, following it up with a muttered: “Look to the farthest far horizon, look to the bloodlust deepest scar, look to the scattering Brythonic uprising…

Twilight wasn’t touching that one. He was a grown man, he could do what he liked and, like Rainbow said, if he was still doing it by the time lunch was over and done with then maybe it was time to start worrying properly. Until then, just let him do his thing.

So off she went to catch up with the others.

Lunch occurred, and was wonderful. A thoroughly relaxed affair it started out plain breezy and ended up frankly lovely. Good food, good company the whole thing. A soothing balm for troubled times, and the sort of thing that makes you appreciative of friends and the moments of quiet you get to spend with them.

Nothing interesting happened, obviously. Nothing worth going into any particular detail over that’s for sure. Just some natter and some nibbling. You had to be there, really.

They all happily forgot about Julian, too, at least until Twilight was wending her way back and caught sight of him. He was standing on his raised pile of dirt now, still shirtless, stretching up and rolling his shoulders.

On the plus side he’d stopped digging, but that could mean anything. Twilight moved in to assess.

“How’s the digging?” She asked.

“Digging? Ah, that. That’s done. Done with that.”

He said it so dismissively that Twilight was entirely blindsided.

“It is? Oh, uh, but you seemed quite, ah, motivated before?” Twilight asked, feeling around for the right word and feeling she did pretty well.

Julian shrugged.

“I think I was in a bit of a funny mood, if I’m being honest. Not sure what came over me,” he said.

“So you...don’t remember why you decided to dig that?” Twilight asked.

For one human and an antler and a morning’s worth of work he’d done surprisingly well. Kind of scarily well, in fact. She couldn’t quite work out how he might have managed it in the time he’d had available, honestly. It just didn’t make sense somehow.

“Oh it’s not that I don’t remember, I just never thought about why. I just did. And now I’ve just stopped. It’s not required, I know this. Such is life! Going for a walk now, to the lake. I may go for a swim,” he said, pointing in a direction he hoped a lake might be in.

“The lake is that way,” Twilight said, pointing in the opposite direction.

“Not my lake,” Julian said, tapping a bloodied finger against his nose and striding off barefoot into the afternoon sun, humming happily to himself.

Twilight made a mental note to check in with him tomorrow, and maybe ask if he’d been eating the furry apples again, maybe see if there was anything he wanted to talk about.