Dude, We're Ponies!
Late night sessions and lazy mornings
Midnight Watch was standing alone in the middle of the library. After relentlessly practising for hours on end, he felt confident that his efforts would pay off. He concentrated on a book that was balancing on the edge of the table, and mouthed a spell. Instantly, the book lifted off the ground and hovered in front of Midnight’s face. He smiled, proud of his achievement, and had the book perform a few modest turns in the sky.
“Dude, sweet!” said Lucky Chance, who was standing beside his friend the whole time. “Let me try that!”
Before Midnight had the opportunity to protest, Chance had taken control of the book. The book swung open, and was now soaring through the sky, flapping its pages like a bird. Midnight stood there with his mouth open, and felt some resentment towards the person that had shown him up like that again.
“Don’t worry, it’s not that hard!” said Twilight. “Let me show you the part where it’s explained.”
The book drew closer to Midnight, growing bigger and bigger. Its pages showed an image of Rainbow Dash, giving him a threatening glare. Midnight got frightened and turned away, but couldn’t flee the scene, for his feet moved like wading through tar.
The humongously large book closed in on him. Rainbow’s eyes glowed red, and her teeth which were as tall as Midnight himself, were sharp as daggers. Midnight cried out in fear, and with a deafening blow, the book slammed shut.
Midnight gasped and opened his eyes. Still frightened after his restless sleep, he scouted his immediate surroundings. Once his eyes got used to the darkness, he concluded with a sigh of relief that he was still safe and sound in the library of Ponyville, lying on a sofa that Twilight Sparkle had conjured only two days ago. Before he realised that the whole “in Ponyville” part of the situation was far from ideal, a small shadow descended and landed next to a book lying next to the sofa. Midnight froze up for a second, but recognised the large, shining eyes as belonging to Owlowiscious, the second assistant librarian. The tiny critter's over-ambitious efforts to carry a medium-sized book through the air in his talons had come to an abrupt and noisy end around the halfway point.
"What in the world are you doing? You think this is the place for a pre-dawn workout?" whispered Midnight. He had already made Owlowiscious' acquaintance and was pleased to learn that, if his services weren't required, the bird would go about his owly business outside and leave the diurnal creatures to their rest. Seeing him cause a ruckus like this seemed remarkably out of character to Midnight.
“Hoo,” was the owl's defiant answer.
“You! Just what...” Midnight stopped mid-sentence, as he noticed light coming through the open door towards Twilight's room. Seeking to confirm his dawning suspicions, he stepped off his sofa, carefully dodging the snoring Spike, and walked towards the door. Owlowiscous, who seemed to have given up on performing his task by himself, hitched a ride on Midnight's back with his cargo.
Once he’d made it upstairs, Midnight concluded that his prediction was awfully accurate: Twilight was wide awake and had surrounded herself with all kinds of books and scrolls while frantically taking notes with a fountain pen in her mouth. Owlowiscious decided he had been given enough of a boost, and jumped towards his employer. He flew the last few metres with a desperate flutter, once again loudly slamming the book on the floor, visibly startling Twilight.
“Owlowiscious!” she exclaimed while turning towards her night-shift assistant. “Didn't I tell you to bring the abridged version?”
“Hoo!” said an annoyed bird.
“No? Oh, silly me. That's what I get for getting all worked up like that. My head is a complete mess, in more ways than one.”
Midnight noticed that her mane had indeed a rather dishevelled look to it, indicating that the purple prodigy hadn't taken the time for her morning ritual yet.
“Oh well,” Twilight continued. “This is actually even better! You did a really good job, bringing such a large book all the way here. I really should have a little more faith in you when it comes to heavy lifting.”
Owlowiscious' chest appeared to grow three sizes as Twilight gently patted his head. Not wanting to let some bird take all the credit, Midnight announced his presence with a polite cough.
Twilight looked up towards her guest. “Oh, good morning! Or is it good night? Always so confusing, time-related greetings. Why don't ponies just say 'hello' all the time? It's a perfectly applicable greeting at any time of the day!” Twilight scratched her head for a moment. “Wait, that doesn't have to do anything with anything, does it? Hello! You're up early! Didn't humans sleep through the night? Or morning? When it's dark?”
During this conversation starter, Midnight rubbed his eyes. After assuring himself that the pony in front of him was indeed purple as opposed to pink, he choose his words carefully. “Yes, we do, though we can be flexible when it comes down to it. I believe the same goes for ponies, however. Shouldn't you be asleep by now?”
“I’m just fine,” said Twilight while noting down the title of the book that was just brought in. She spat out the pen and looked at the result with a shocked gasp. “What terrible mouth writing! That's what I get for not practising for more than a year!” She then opened the book and started to study its contents. “No need to worry about me, I've slept about twenty-six hours just now. I should tell Spike to schedule extra writing exercises once all this is over. At least, I think it was twenty-six hours. Has the calendar been taken proper care of while I was out? Anyway, I thought I could make a head start on today's research, so I took some of Zecora's special blend. Would you like a cup as well?”
Midnight needed a moment to process the recent communications overload, so he inspected the contents of the near-empty pot sitting near three used cups. He recognised the substance as something vaguely resembling coffee, except it seemed to be a bit too black for that. The smell alone was enough to make him nervously tap his hoof on the floor. “No, thanks, I'll pass for tonight... This morning... Anyway, are you sure it's all right? The doctor said you should be resting for two more days.”
“Correction!” exclaimed Twilight without looking up from her book, adding the strength of her raised hoof to her statement. “Doctor Stable said I shouldn't use magic for three days, and that it's okay for me to walk around once I've woken up on my own. I've woken up, so I can be out of bed. Q.E.D.!”
Though surprised by the fact that ponies apparently knew Latin, even though he didn't think Twilight was using it right, Midnight had different priorities. “Aside from arguing about exact words, I really don't think that intense nightly research is all that conducive towards the healing...”
“I said it's fine!” Twilight snapped. “Don't worry, even if we have to wait for a few more days before I'm back at full capacity, I'm perfectly capable of returning you home! Perhaps it's an induced vibration of the white universal G-string? Just go back to bed, I got this! Or prepare for today's interview, because you are not getting away with 'it's complicated' this time! On the other hoof, this seems to fit the green S-string as well...”
Twilight's speech deteriorated into an incomprehensible mumble, barely acknowledging Midnight's existence. He sighed. There was nothing he could say that would make her stop. He turned around and descended the stairs, knowing that there was only one thing he could do to support his host in her battle.
Spike’s eye twitched when a ray of sunshine unfortunately hit him in the face through a gap in the curtains. Realising that his bed wasn't in his usual sleeping spot, he sleepily scouted the area around him. Once he’d figured out that he was still safe within the walls of the library, his attention was drawn to the dark-blue figure, snoring loudly at the reading table with his face buried in an open book next to a burned out candle.
“You're all nuts!” he groaned while turning on his other side and pulling the blanket over his head.
Lucky Chance stretched his limbs with a satisfied moan. His muscles were still a bit sore, but he felt strangely refreshed anyway. It was almost as if the night had lasted twice as long, giving him plenty of time to recuperate from yesterday's ordeal.
Judging by the light coming through the small window, Chance concluded that it was already past dawn, so Applejack would come and wake him up soon enough. With a smug smile, he decided to beat her to it. He carefully sneaked out of his room, for as far as the wailing door would allow him, and went down the stairs. He was looking forward to the faces of the Apple family when they'd see him sitting at the table, looking all cool, reading a newspaper. He would show them how fast this greenhorn had gotten used to farm life!
Downstairs, he was greeted by the sight of Granny Smith, who was sitting at the table, calmly reading a newspaper. Though disappointed at having his thunder stolen by an elderly lady, Chance decided not to let this minor setback affect his good mood. “Good morning, Granny!” he said in his most chipper voice. “Had a good night?”
Granny looked up from her paper and laughed once she recognised the young stallion. “Heh heh, that's good afternoon for yah, boy. Yah sure sleep like a log when given half tha chance.”
Chance quickly looked up to the wall-mounted clock hanging next to the door post. Much to his shock, it was indeed five minutes past noon. He must have looked pretty funny staring at the clock, as Granny started laughing even harder.
“Heh heh heh, no need ta look so scared. We saved yah breakfast!” she said, pointing towards a bowl of hay and a glass of juice with a straw sitting on the end of the table.
While his mood crashed down hard enough to leave a small crater, Chance wordlessly set himself down and started chewing his hay with little enthusiasm. Is this what I worked so hard for? Of course, he knew that the Apples were probably only being nice. Heck, they were being logical. But that knowledge did little to elevate the sting of getting rejected like that.
As precious few problems were solved by remaining silent, Chance swallowed his hay. “Look, Granny,” he said, “I understand that I gave you all a good scare yesterday, but I'm not that weak. I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't leave me out of the farm work while I'm here!” He looked Granny straight into her eyes, hoping that his sincerity would shine through.
Granny stared at him for a few seconds, blinked, and burst out laughing again. This time, she didn't stop until the laugh turned into a pained cough and Chance momentarily feared for her life. “Ah was wondering what got yah down so sudden,” she rasped once she’d found her breath once more. “Yar jumping all over tha farm with yar conclusions, boy! There's no work ta be done today!”
Chance looked at her in disbelief. “No work? I thought running a farm was a twenty-four/seven business.”
“Well, usually, yeah,” said Granny while rubbing her sore throat. “But while Ah don't know what's going on between yah n' Applejack, we're ahead a schedule because of it. We got rid of most of them apples by making cider, but we still got enough ta fill out our running contracts. We shouldn't pick more apples than we can sell, so this morning we decided to take tha day off an' let yah sleep.”
Chance took a moment to let Granny's explanation sink in. “So you are saying that I not only managed to finish yesterday's work, but also today's?”
Granny shrugged. “If that's how yah wanna hear it.”
Chance grinned from ear to ear. “I'm okay with that!” he said as he took another bite. The hay suddenly tasted a whole lot sweeter. “So if they're not working, where are the others?” he asked with full mouth.
Granny smiled at the way the young stallion's mood seemed to jump up and down as if it were a flee trying to escape a pot. “Applejack an' Big Macintosh are out bringing our farm animals lunch, an' Applebloom’s at school today.”
“Heh, I guess with the Apple family, even your days off are filled with things to do,” said Chance before chugging down his juice. “Well, if you don't need me for anything, I'll be going out to check on my friend at the library, see how his business is going.”
“Yah go do that, boy. See if yah can finally figure out how long yah'll be staying,” said Granny with her eyes on today's crossword. “Oh, an' don't forget tha bag sitting on tha cabinet!”
Chance looked at the indicated spot, and sure enough, there was a small but well-filled pouch on the cabinet underneath the clock. He carefully picked it up in his mouth to size up its weight, which unleashed a soft melody of clear metallic chimes. “Feels heavier than it looks,” he noted after putting it down. “What's in it?”
“Yer pay fer three days, plus some of yer share on tha cider sales in advance,” said Granny without looking up.
Chance's eyes widened when he figured out what he was holding. He didn't know how a single bit was worth, but even he could guess that the pouch contained some significant value to a penniless bachelor like himself. He wondered how much this was to the Apples. After all, while the tools and buildings were still serviceable, they did have a rather shabby look to them. “I'm not really sure if I can...”
“Darn tootin' yah can!” Granny slammed her hoof on the table. “Ah told yah yesterday: Yah work with tha Apple family, yar with tha Apple family. An' family get their fair share. Now stop being a stranger an' take tha money!”
Chance was a little shocked by Granny's tirade, but smiled after letting it sink in; he now knew the pouch's exact value. “All right, then I'll be taking this,” he said while worming his head through the lace attached to the pouch. “Guess I'll be going to town in more ways than one. Bye, Granny!”
“Be back before dinner!” shouted Granny towards the stallion walking out of the door. She wasn't sure if he’d heard her, but it didn't really matter either way. They didn't have any sort of schedule to maintain, so she might as well wait with dinner for half an hour to see he'd show up. More importantly, Applejack and Big Macintosh could be back any minute now from their chores, so she got up from her seat and started preparing lunch for the three of them.
Sure enough, before Granny even had the chance to properly place the plates on the table, her grandchildren entered through the back door. “Hey, Granny!” said Applejack cheerfully. “The piggies were mighty hungry today, but we made sure all animals got their fill!”
“Eeyup,” said Macintosh. He wiped off his hooves, which were still wet after hosing them down outside.
“Oh, good!” said Granny. “Take a seat yah two. Ah'll be right there with your fill.”
“Thanks, Granny!” said Applejack while looking around. “By the way, Ah take it Lucky is still asleep?”
“Nah, yah just missed him,” answered Granny from the kitchen. “He went ta town just now.”
Applejack froze just as she was sitting down, leaving her body in a rather awkward position. Now that her plan had gone down the drain, it was more important than ever to keep an eye on the suspicious stranger. He might have seemed genuinely helpful the day before, but surely that alone didn't clear him of all charges? For a second, she imagined the royal chewing-out that Rainbow would give her once Applejack told her that she’d lost track of him, and shuddered at the thought. “Ah... Ah think Ah'll be going out as well,” she finally uttered and stood back up.
“But what about yer lunch?” asked Granny with a look of surprise on her face. She had just finished putting the food on the table.
“Ah'll just eat something in town, but Ah really need ta go!” said Applejack while walking towards the door.
Granny sighed. “Well, just make sure yah'll be back before dinner.”
“Will do, Granny! Bye now!”
As Applejack left, Granny couldn't help but smile. There would be no need to delay dinner that evening. “Kids these days,” she said while sitting down. “Yah know, for a girl with no eye for them lads, she sure likes ta hang around this particular one.”
“Eeyup,” said Big Macintosh as he shovelled Applejack’s portion onto his own plate.
End of Chapter Eight
The author might be gone for a long time, but he’ll always come back eventually.