Dude, We're Ponies
You All Meet In A Library
Birell closed the Tome Of Gates with a smile. He couldn't quite believe that this book, with its illegible scribbles, actually contained knowledge that, in the wrong hands, would cause the worlds to collapse into each other, but it didn't really matter anyway. The Hierophant of Arganum would reward them greatly for taking it from the Cult of Mara, which is all that is truly important to adventurers such as Birell and his companions.
He stretched his arms upwards with a satisfied yawn. Their airship, the Cloudcleaver, would safely see them to their destination. Only a few more hours, and they would be swimming in fame and fortune. That is, if nothing were to occur to disrupt their success.
Sure enough, before Birell finished that thought, the door to his cabin opened, and a head poked inside. “Hey, Birell, you might want to come outside for a minute.” It was Francisco, the pickpocket-turned-adventurer, who had been instrumental in getting the Tome without having to fight off the entire Nightmare Army of Mara. Though loose coins had a strange tendency to disappear in this man's presence, it was a price Birell was willing to pay for his expertise. “Flint saw something coming.”
Without missing a beat, Birell picked up his sword and shield, and sprinted onto the deck, where he found Flint standing on the stern. The druid usually served as the lookout, not just because his cat-like eyes never seemed to miss anything, but mostly because he seemed to enjoy staring into the distance. “What is happening?” asked Birell.
“Over there,” said Flint, pointing somewhere in the sky.
It took a while for Birell to see what Flint was indicating. Though he'd inherited many blessings from his Elven mother, her sharp eyesight wasn't among them. “Are those... giant birds?”
“Not quite,” said Flint. “It's a pair of Dragon Knights riding young adult dragons. I can't really make out their uniform, but I'm willing to bet that they're with the Nightmare Army.”
“I see,” said Birell. weighing his options. “I doubt we'll be able to outrun them, so we'd better prepare for battle. Flint, put up one of those thorn walls of yours along the starboard side. We'll force them both to attack from the port side, so they won't be able to flank us.”
Flint did not answer with words. Instead, he began his incantation, and within seconds, thorn bushes about five metres high appeared along the entire starboard side.
“Heindrich, I need you to lock the wheel and pick up your bow. Shoot as soon as you feel you can hit them!”
“Way ahead of you, boss!” said the ranger, who was already aiming his bow at the dots in the distance.
“Fransisco,” Birell continued, “you and I will be manning the ballistas! And Corrin... What in the world are you doing?”
“I tied a rope with a grappling hook around my waist!” answered the halfling, proudly presenting his handiwork.
“Yes, I got that far,” said Birell with a sigh. “Why would you do that?”
“Because I've found a new and exciting way to honour my Lady!”
“O, gods,” said Birell as a shiver went down his spine. “Can you do whatever you are going to do while getting them to focus their attention on you?”
“Oh, I'll grab their attention, all right!” said Corrin with an impish grin.
“Very well, everyone check if you got enough healing potions and get to your stations!”
The knights seemed to realize that they had been spotted, as one began to climb towards the sun, while the other dived towards the ground. Heindrich loosed an arrow, and Flint fired a lightning bolt from his staff at the highest dragon, but neither could land a hit because of the distance and the sun. Fransisco managed to hit the other dragon with the ballista, but the bolt didn't seem to bother the creature that much before it flew under their reach. Finally, the higher flying Knight let go of an arrow of his own, scraping at Birell's armour.
“Everybody watch out!” shouted Birell. “Here they come!”
“And here I go!” exclaimed Corrin. With grappling hook in one hand, a shield as tall as himself in the other and a mighty shout of “Gerinomo!”, the tiny man bravely jumped over the railing towards the dragon approaching the warriors from below.
“Wait, wait, hold on a second,” said Twilight while quickly glancing over her many notes. After nearly an hour of persistent questioning, she had finally gotten her guest to open up about exactly what he had been doing on the night before his and his friend's sudden dislocation. Midnight had seemed rather embarrassed to talk about it at first, but once he got going, he had provided her with about a dozen pages of “data”. “Aren't characters supposed to stay alive in this game?”
“Well, yes,” answered Midnight from the interrogatory sofa, “but Chance likes to think outside of the box when it comes to games. He rolled a paladin in the service of the goddess of luck specifically so he could justify his insane gambits.”
Twilight mulled this over for a bit. “I see, but if he does this sort of thing that often, how did he survive so long into the game?”
“Because he's crazy, not stupid. He thinks of creative uses for mundane tools, only does something when he has a reasonable chance of success, and his character has several powers he can use to make the dice fall the way he needs them to. It's all actually pretty clever.”
Twilight shrugged. “Okay, moving on, then. What happened after he jumped?”
“Corrin managed to land safely on the dragon's back, right in front of the rider. He then attached himself to the barding with the grappling hook...” He put his hoof to his lip as he tried to remember what exactly happened. “... and used a power of his to zap both the dragon and the rider with divine lightning. After that, he was pretty safe since the rider couldn't effectively use either his lance or his bow against a target that close, and the dragon couldn't reach him.”
“Uh huh,” said Twilight, after taking a small note, “and what about the rest of the party?”
“Well, while Corrin took down the rider and spent the rest of the encounter playing dragon rodeo, the four of us ganged up on the other. The druid forced the dragon against the deck by entangling it with magical roots, after which I dislodged the rider from his saddle,” said Midnight proudly. “After the dragon was released from its rider's magical control and flew off, we rescued Corrin from the other and high-fived each other.”
“What is 'high-fiving', exactly?” asked Twilight.
“Same thing as a hoof bump, except we use our hands to do it. Five digits up high, see?” said Midnight, demonstrating the motion with his hoof. “Anyway, we safely landed the ship near the palace of the Hierophant, got our reward, and called it a night. After half an hour talking afterwards, our friends left, and we went to bed. Next thing I remember, I woke up as a pony.”
His story concluded, Midnight took a deep breath while Twilight took a few final notes. She then laid down her pen and sat up straight with her eyes closed. Midnight looked at her serene pose and, for a moment, he was convinced that this was what all great minds must have looked like just before they came up with their most brilliant ideas.
The moment lasted until Midnight heard her snoring softly. “Erm, Twilight?” he asked, gently prodding her.
Hearing her name, Twilight jerked up and only barely managed to avoid falling onto her back. She looked around, and her surprised eyes finally fell on Midnight’s. With an embarrassed cough, she started fidgeting around with her papers. “Ahum, right, right. Question! I had a question!” she mumbled. She quickly produced a blank page. “You said your world had no magic and no dragons, but you seem familiar enough with both concepts to incorporate them into your games. Can you explain how that is possible?”
Midnight stared at the ceiling as he thought it over. “I’m not sure, actually,” he finally said. “We certainly have a whole lot of stories about magic, and plenty of people that pretend to have such powers, but none of those have ever been proven to be anything but cons.”
“Hm hm, I see I see,” said Twilight, noting down the answer. “No actual instances, but a whole lot of stories. Don’t you think it’s weird that humans apparently made up multiple complicated concepts from whole cloth, which just happened to be an everyday occurrence for ponies?”
“Well, if you put it like that...”
“Right! This gives us a whole new angle to research.” Twilight jumped up and began pacing a few rounds around Midnight. “How about this for a theory: at some point in time, humans and ponies came into contact with each other. Though there are no records left of said meeting, the ponies left enough of an impression about them and their magic for the humans to retell the stories with increasing inaccuracy over the ages. If this were true, then your situation wouldn’t be unique, and we might be able to replicate the event a third time. How does that sound?” Twilight looked at Midnight with huge eyes, though he wasn’t sure whether they were like that because of excitement or sleep-deprivation.
“Well, I guess that’s possible.”
“Perfect! I’ll go dig up a few more books on obscure history. You just sit there; I got this!"
Twilight hurried away, leaving Midnight on his couch. He stretched his limbs in preparation for leaving the sofa, which which seemed to grow more comfortable by the hour. He briefly considered taking a nap, but his thoughts were loudly interrupted by a loud bang coming from the direction of Twilight’s room. He jumped up, and saw Twilight rubbing her nose with a pained expression on her face. “Are you alright?” he asked.
“I did not hit the doorpost!” snapped Twilight before picking up the largest of the books scattered around her and quickly ascending the stairs.
Midnight sighed and got up from the sofa. He wasn’t the only one in need of rest. He walked towards the shelf on which Spike was arranging the books. “Spike, we have got to do something.”
The young dragon turned around with a big smile on his face. “I know, right? That game of yours sounds awesome! We should get that friend of yours to come over, and I’m sure Pinkie Pie and Rainbow...”
“Not that!” Midnight snapped. “I meant about Twilight!”
“Oh, right,” said Spike with a hint of disappointment. “Yeah, that too. So, what do you propose?”
“What do I propose? Spike, you are the one that knows her best. Can’t you stop her in some way?”
“Well, I’d love to,” said Spike with a bit of a frown, “but she doesn’t listen to me! All I can do is try to talk some sense into her and see if it sticks.”
“Well, obviously it didn’t, so we need a new plan. Can you send a letter to Princess Celestia and see if she can clarify her instruction a little?”
“I would, but the Princess is gone for a month, remember? I can send letters to the castle, but if she’s not there, she won’t get them.”
Midnight tapped the floor with his hoof as he tried to come up with a new solution. “Okay, plan C: we get all of her friends together and stage an intervention. How does that sound?”
Spike rubbed his chin with his claw as he thought over the suggestion. “Hmmm, that could work, but when it comes to her friends, Twilight has always been better at giving advice than taking it. That being said,” Spike moved his face closer to Midnight and whispered, “I suspect that some of them think of you as the problem, so unless you want to get kicked out and be stuck as a pony forever, you might want them to keep a little distance.”
Midnight was about to protest, but the baby dragon made a pretty good point. Rainbow Dash was the only pony that showed open hostility, but he’d been less than sensitive in handling Rarity, and there was no limit to the ways his friend on the farm may have been screwing up. Though Midnight doubted that they’d just toss him out on the streets, he decided that it would be better not to fan the flames too much. He began nervously pacing around the room. In two more days, Twilight would be allowed to use magic again, and if she hadn’t come to her senses by then, he might be forced to sign up for a starring role in Angry Blue Bear 2: Revenge Of Angry Blue Bear, or worse.
This prospect seemed to give his brain the final push it needed. “Tell me, Spike,” he said with his best imitation of a completely ignorant person, “Does Twilight, by any sheer coincidence, happen to have an older relative, like a cousin or sibling, that she has idolised since childhood, who just happens to work and live near the castle?”
Spike’s face lit up. “Why yes, yes she does! Her big brother, Shining Armour! He’s the captain of the royal guard!”
“Excellent!” said Midnight with feigned surprise. “Let’s send that guy a message asking him to come over. Even if he can’t actually calm her down, at least we got someone else around to help keep her out of trouble!”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” said Spike, and he ran over to collect a pen and paper. It took him a second to find a blank page, but once he did, he picked up the pen and gave Midnight an expectant look.
“What?” asked Midnight.
“Well, what do I write?”
“Spike, I don’t know the guy. You write it.”
“Oh, right. Sorry, force of habit. Then, how about: Dear Shining Armour, Twilight recently got an assignment from Princess Celestia which she probably misunderstood. Because of this, she expended most of her magical power, but still refuses to rest. We are worried about her health, but she won’t listen to us. Please come over and help us convince her.”
Midnight nodded along with approval. It wasn’t exactly how he would have done it, but at least it was short and to the point.
Spike continued. “Signed, Spike and Midn...”
“Don’t sign with my name!” Midnight shouted.
Startled by the sudden outburst, spike dropped his pen, which left a nasty stain on both the paper and the floor. Annoyed, he looked up to Midnight. “What did you do that for?”
“Look, sorry about that, but just don’t sign with my name. He’s Twilight’s big brother, and as a big brother myself, I know that we really shouldn’t tell him about me just yet. Telling him that a male has been getting close to his sister lately would make him very worried. The wrong kind of worried.”
Spike rubbed the back of his neck. He wasn’t sure what Midnight was talking about, but at least the weird unicorn seemed to know what he was talking about for once. “Well, okay, but he’ll find out about you when he comes here anyway. What do we do then?”
“We get to explain the situation in person, which means we will leave less to his imagination. Really, the last thing I need right now is an overprotective brother breathing down my neck.”
Spike shrugged. “Okay, I guess. I already wrote down ‘we’, though, so I’ll just put in Owlowiscious’ name instead.” With that, Spike rolled up the finished letter and send it out the window with his fiery breath. “There, all done!”
Midnight sighed with relief. With that letter send, he had done pretty much everything he could. Just a little more patience, and Twilight’s brother would swoop in and save the day. Heck, with a little luck, he might know something about how Midnight and Chance got here in the first place. Midnight knew that was pushing it, but there was no harm in dreaming. In fact, speaking of dreams, he thought that he might take that nap after all.
“SPIKE!” Twilight’s voice coming down from the stairs prematurely ended Midnight’s course of inaction. She hastily descended the stairs and stopped only millimetres away from Spike’s face.
Spike spine stiffened as he heard his name. “I didn’t do it!” he declared with a panicked voice.
“Where is the rest of it?”
“Th... the rest of what?”
Twilight let out an exasperated sigh. “The rest of Zecora’s special blend, of course!”
Hearing this, Spike seemed to relax a little. “There is no ‘rest’ of it. You used all we had left last night.”
Twilight’s eyes widened as she realised that Spike was right. They were running a little low lately. “Ahum, right, I see. Well, I can’t really work like this, so I suppose we need to change today’s schedule a little. Midnight!”
Midnight visibly cringed as his hopes for staying out of this were crushed. “Yeah?” he hesitantly answered.
“We’ll move two loads with one cart. We’re going to Zecora’s to get some more of her special blend, and while we’re there, we are going to ask her about those burned herbs of yours,” said Twilight as she put on her saddlebag.
Midnight was about to go along with her when he realized something. “Wait a second. Zecora is the apothecary living in the Everfree Forest, right?”
“Oh, did I already tell you about her? Yes, that’s the one.”
“The same Everfree Forest where we quite recently ran into a rather big, blue ball of trouble?”
Twilight thought this over. “Hm, I wouldn’t say we ‘ran into’ the Ursa Minor, but I suppose that you’d be right. So, are you coming?”
Midnight took a deep breath, puffing up his chest to the very limit. “No! No way! Absolutely not! Neither of us can use magic right now, which means that we’d be walking snacks for any other nasty monster that just happened to pass by.” With a powerful motion, he stomped the floor. “I refuse to let you go into that forest without some sort of protection!”
Twilight stopped in her motions, giving Midnight’s statement some thought. After a few seconds, she walked over to an open window, and gently tugged on the rope that was coming through it.
Midnight silently wished that he never opened his big mouth.
Lucky Chance took a deep breath, and savored the air in his nostrils. Though Ponyville wasn’t a particularly large town, the air was filled with the scents of bursting activity, in addition to the blossom of Sweet Apple Acres that was being carried on the wind. Chance greatly enjoyed this atmosphere. He liked the farm well enough when he wasn’t being worked to the bone, but he was still a city boy at heart; he was used to amusing himself amongst the anonymity provided by a big crowd consisting of other people doing the same.
He took a good look around, and was pleased to see that the scene was largely unchanged from a few days ago: happy ponies going about their business, chatting with their friends and neighbours. Chance was eager to join in on the fun.
The pouch that was dangling in front of his chest started to itch a little when he walked past a hatter. Back home, he had always wanted to buy a hat in order to stand out a little more, but was forced to admit that he didn’t have the kind of face that would benefit from such an accessory, as it would only serve to articulate his already unusual thinness. Since he had never quite managed to gain enough weight for it to make a difference, he had given up on the idea, but now that he had an entirely new face to work with, he wanted to give it another shot.
He resisted his first instincts, however. He had business to attend to, and there was little fun in exploring a town like this on your own. After asking for a few directions, he managed to find the local library, not too far from the town square.
Chance walked up to the door and raised his hoof, but stopped himself a mere centimetre from actually knocking. He was unsure about the proper etiquette of gaining entry to this particular building. On one hand... hoof... whatever, this was a public library, and knocking on the door of a public building would look profoundly silly. Then again, this was also someone’s home, which meant he couldn’t just barge in either.
After considering this for a short while, Chance shrugged and knocked anyway. For all intents and purposes, he was a visiting foreigner, and foreigners are expected to do silly things every now and then.
“We’re open!” was the answer from inside. Heeding this invitation, Chance opened the door and stepped inside.
It was pretty much like he had expected, if a bit messier: large quantities of colourful books stacked several storeys high, each of them filled with a whole world of knowledge. Chance was never really the type to sit down and study, but he was quite certain he could have some fun here.
“Looking for something specific?” asked a familiar-looking purple dragon carrying a small stack of books, snapping Chance out of his daydreams.
“No, not really,” said Chance with a smile. “I was wondering if Midnight Watch could come out and play.”
Spike thought it over for a second, and then seemed to realise something. “Oh, you must be that other guy, Lucky Chance! My name is Spike,” he said as he approached Chance and shook his hoof. “Sorry to tell you this, but he and Twilight just went out.”
“Ah, okay. You think I can catch up to them?” Chance had to struggle to hide his disappointment. He was hoping to exchange stories with Midnight, as they had both probably collected more than a few by now.
“They went to the Everfree Forest. It’s a little tricky getting through there, so you might not want to go there on your own.” He picked up his stack again and started putting them back on the planks. “If you want, you can stay here and wait, but I don’t know how long it’ll be before they get back.”
Chance considered the offer while looking around the library. “Nah, that’s alright,” he eventually said. “You don’t get to explore a town like this every day, so I think I’d rather be outside for now. Care to come along?”
“I can’t. I have to keep an eye on the library while Twilight is out,” said Spike, collecting a new stack of books from the floor.
“Then I guess this is goodbye for now,” said Chance. “Once he’s back, could you tell Midnight I was here?”
“No problem! See you later, and stop by anytime you want!”
After exchanging goodbyes, Chance left the library, a little unsure of what he was supposed to do now. As he looked around, his eye fell on a sign saying “R. Dash” standing next to the library. He glanced upwards, and saw a familiar-looking cloud hanging close to the library's branches, with several ropes leading to the tree’s various windows, and one dangling next to the sign.
Chance blinked a few times in confusion as he tried to make sense of this peculiar sight, but shrugged once he decided he didn’t need to know, as this presented a good opportunity. He walked towards the rope and cleared his throat. “Hi, Rainbow Dash! Remember me? I heard what a great flyer you are, and I was wondering if I could trade you a drink for a few beginner’s tips.” He opened and closed his mouth a few times, as if to taste his own words. Casual, playful and to the point, with a bit of flattery thrown in for good measure. Satisfied with his preparations, he tugged on the rope, and a high-pitched bell sounded from above.
She wasn’t sure when, but sometime during her pursuit, Applejack decided on a more subtle approach. Now that her attempt to chase Chance away had fallen apart, the only way she could make sure her friends didn’t get hurt was by catching him with his hoof in the cookie jar. So once she found him, she silently followed him, and by the time Chance had arrived at the library, she was sitting behind a pair of garbage cans, quietly chastising herself for bringing her Stetson.
“What’s he doing at Rainbow’s house?” asked Pinkie Pie.
“Ah don’t know. Talking to himself, it seems,” said Applejack. Her bored eyes then turned to shock as she remembered that she hadn’t brought a partner for this stake-out. “Wait a sec, what are you doing here?”
“I’m hiding behind a trash can!”
Applejack put her hoof against her forehead. “Hiding from what?”
“I don’t know. What are we hiding from?”
Applejack turned away once she figured out what Pinkie was asking. “Erm, well, yah see...”
“Oh, oh, let me guess!” said Pinkie, and seemed to think deeply. “Lucky Chance insisted on coming to town on his own, and you were worried about him, so now we’re secretly following to make sure he won’t get into trouble!”
“Uhm, yeah, yeah, that’s it! Good guess, Pinkie,” said Applejack with a sigh of relief. “Except for, yah know, the whole ‘we’ part.”
“Aww, can I come too? I’m bored!” said Pinkie with big puppy eyes.
“Aren't yah helping at Sugarcube Corner today?”
“I did! I helped by coming up with a new kind of cookie, and once I was done, Mr. Cake said ‘you’ve helped quite enough’, so now I’ve got nothing to do. So please, please, please?”
Applejack really wanted to refuse, but she realised that doing so would have the opposite effect on Pinkie Pie. “Fine. Just don’t make a mess, alright?” Ah guess Ah’m going to need another witness, she thought.
Just after Applejack managed to stop Pinkie from blowing their cover by skipping with joy, Lucky Chance walked away from Rainbow’s house looking dejected.
“Ah guess Rainbow isn’t at home right now,” said Applejack. “Ah wonder what he wanted from her.”
“Yah can’t make cookies from clouds, Pinkie.”
“Why not? You can make them from cotton candy.”
“Pinkie, please stop talking.”
End of Chapter 9
The author should be dragged out in the street and shot for making lame webcomic references.