Goldenrod was most eager to get to the library, Fluttershy could see the spring in his step. It was puzzling – to the point that she was worried – that such a young colt would be more interested in going to the library over going out to play with his friends. It reminded her a bit too much of Twilight before she opened up to everypony and became more sociable.
On the other hoof, she could understand why a colt in his situation might take solace in books. With so many things he should know that he didn't, books were the easiest way for him to catch up on things. He'd said he wanted to research something he learned about in class, which meant he was at least not shying away from reality.
Even now, one day after picking him up from the hospital, she couldn't believe he was the same pony described in Nurse Redheart's letter. Certainly he was confused, but he seemed quite emotionally sound. He was very well mannered for a colt of his age, as far as she'd seen. He was very respectful to those who were older than him, almost too much so.
“Miss Fluttershy?” Goldenrod spoke in that overly-respectful manner again. She'd asked him to just call her Fluttershy, but he insisted on using that 'Miss'. “I was wondering, would it be alright with you if I could go hang-gliding with Scootaloo, Apple Bloom, and Sweetie Belle tomorrow.”
The proposition caught her off guard, not because it was dangerous, but because it was as though he'd read her mind. “I guess if you promise not to get in trouble, yes.”
If it was even possible the spring in his step seemed to increase. He was almost bouncing as Pinkie Pie often did. A wry thought crossed her mind as they approached the library. It would certainly be nice if Goldenrod could experience a Pinkie Pie party, once he was settled in of course.
- - -
Warren still found himself awed by the unique architecture found throughout Ponyville. There was a bakery made to look like a gingerbread house; Fluttershy said it was called 'Sugarcube Corner'. Then there was a building that reminded him of a carnival merry-go-round. It was apparently called 'Carousel Boutique', and was run by Sweetie Belle's older sister Rarity.
Both of these were nothing in his eyes compared to the sight that stood before him. It was a massive tree, windows carved into various points, and two balconies near the very top. In front of the tree was a signpost with an open book painted on it, evidently, the tree was hollow. It was like something out of a children's cartoon. As libraries went, this was one for the books.
As they approached the door, Warren couldn't help but feel a burst of giddiness, here he was, about to enter a library built inside a tree. It was like some sort of child-like fantasy come true. It occurred to him that such childish thoughts had been occurring more frequently as of late, but he put it off as some sort of subdivide between his mind and the brain-chemistry of the young colt, and assumed it'd get better with time.
Fluttershy pushed open the door, and they both stepped inside. The inside of the library was surprisingly cozy, not too big, but not at all claustrophobic. The walls weren't just lined with bookshelves. The bookshelves were literally carved into the very structure of the tree. On the far side of the room, he saw a staircase, leading up to the next floor.
“Um, hello? Are you in, Twilight?” Fluttershy called out, hesitantly.
“Oh, Fluttershy! Good afternoon!” exclaimed Twilight as she came downstairs. “Oh, and Goldenrod is here too. What can I do for you two today?”
Warren didn't stay by Fluttershy's side long enough to hear her response to Twilight. He trotted over to the nearest bookshelf and examined its contents. Not seeing anything of interest on the bottom shelf, he realized that his height was going to cause issues. Cautiously, he reared up onto his hind legs and placed his hooves on the shelf in front of him. At least in this position, He could see the next two shelves.
A hoof tapped him on the shoulder. Startled, he fell over backwards, only to see Twilight Sparkle standing over him from his upside-down perspective. “So Goldenrod, Fluttershy tells me you're interested in reading. Is there anything in particular you're looking for, perhaps adventure, mystery, or something like that?”
“Now that you ask,” said Warren as he rolled over. “I'm actually looking for a few things. First things I'm looking for are the unabridged encyclopedia volumes for letters D, H, and M. Next, I was wondering if you had a catalogue of rare, unidentified or extinct creatures. These ones aren't to take out. I just want to do some research here.”
Twilight looked at him, and chuckled. “I didn't expect you to be making off with three unabridged encyclopedias.” Pointing a hoof at his legs, and then waving it, she said, “You certainly don't look like you're built to carry that much weight. C'mon. I can help get you set up.”
Twilight began to lead him up to the second floor. There, she sat him at a small table, and brought him three massive tomes, and a smaller, but still fairly large book. She smiled watching him instantly dive into the first encyclopedia. “If you need anything, just call for me, or my assistant Spike. Just leave the books there when you're done. Spike will get them. I'll be in the next room having tea with Fluttershy.”
- - -
Warren felt disappointed, having just finished with the last of the encyclopedias. Closing the last encyclopedia, he couldn't help but sigh. He had been hoping to find some sort of reference to humans in them. Human, Homo Sapiens, even man; no such articles were found. The only reason he even thought to look up his own race was because of his dream; he wanted something to validate his belief that he wasn't just a brain damaged little colt.
The only thing that could be considered a reference at all to humans that he'd come across was in the articles on the Draconequus and on Discord. Both articles referenced strange upright walking creatures sighted during times at which a Draconequus had been seen. They were described as tall, lacking a mane, and having prehensile multi-digital appendages not unlike a gryphon’s or dragon’s claws. Much of these sightings were listed under Discord's reign at the end of the Pre-Classical era, but all were attributed to Discord's Magic.
Lacking the gusto he'd started with, he pulled over a faded tome that had seen better days, otherwise looking like any other image catalogue. As he hoofed carefully through the book, he saw plenty of bizarre creatures. Among them were many creatures from the various mythologies of man, like the cockatrice, the basilisk, and the hydra. The manticore was a bit surprising to see, and a bit disappointing, as it didn't have a man's face like human mythology, but a lion's instead.
He felt more and more defeated the more he passed through the pages. Finally, he'd reached the last page. Absolutely nothing was there to be found. Absolutely and utterly lost, he began to close the catalogue. At the last possible moment, however, he noticed that the last page was actually two pages stuck together. Ever so gently, he separated the pages.
There, staring him in the face were multiple photographs of a perfectly preserved human skeleton. Warren let out a giddy squeal of victory at his find. Humans do exist! I'm just not some addled little colt!
He read the small blurb of text out loud with relish. “This skeleton, found on the outskirts of the Everfree Forest two hundred years after the establishment of Canterlot, is regarded as one of the most enigmatic finds in pony-history. Some argue that these remains, colloquially called 'Ponyville Bones' are creatures either created or dragged into this world by Discord during his reign over Equestria, while others would argue that the magical residue found on the remains stand as proof that the remains are nothing but a hoax perpetrated by unicorns.”
“Wow, I thought Twilight was the only one who did that.” A high, but clearly masculine voice nearby broke the silence, startling him. The surprise caused him to lose balance on his seat, leaving him again sprawled on the floor on his back. In the unguarded moment, he contemplated the peculiarity of how his glasses could possibly still be on after falling over backwards not once, but twice.
He stared at the source of the voice. In front of him stood a bipedal purple reptile, with green spines dotting the length of his back, and a pale yellow belly. “Huh?” Warren couldn't muster anything more than that for a few moments. “You thought only Miss Twilight does what?”
The reptile sauntered over, smiling coolly. His spade-like tail swung ever so slightly as he walked. Sitting down beside Warren's prone form, he laughed. “When Twilight gets really into a book, she'll forget everything around her start reading it aloud. She's the only pony I've seen do it. I mean, I suppose other ponies might do it, but I can't very well state it as fact without seeing for myself.” The reptile boy laughed thoughtfully and offered up a claw. “By the way, I'm Spike. What's your name?”
Quickly rolling over and sitting up, Warren put his hoof in Spike's claw and shook. “W- er... I'm Goldenrod.” He stared at Spike for a long while. “I've never met anyone like you before.”
“That's 'cause I'm a dragon!” Spike exclaimed proudly, pointing at himself. “Hey, you said anyone instead of anypony!”
Warren blanched, though he doubted such a thing was noticeable with his light coat. “Well, it wouldn't be fair to speak with a word such as anypony when there's someone around who is clearly not a pony.” He was trying desperately not to let his anxiety slip into his voice. “It's just not courteous.”
“You kind of sound like Rarity when you talk like that.” He heard Spike whisper – no it couldn't be – dreamily under his breath. “Right on. By the way, Twilight would like to talk to you in the next room.” He motioned a claw towards a doorway.
“Oh, uh, thanks Mister Spike.” He cantered towards the doorway before stopping. “Have a good day.”
- - -
“So, Spike said you wanted to speak with me, Miss Twilight.” Goldenrod entered the room slowly, somewhat hesitant. Twilight could see now that Fluttershy wasn't joking about formality, she'd have to be gentle. The foal psychology book she read stated that a filly or colt whose behavior matched his was wary of adults, and polite out of fear of reprisal.
“Yes, please, come in and have a seat.” She ushered him in, directing him to an inviting, plush couch. He looked at her, at the couch, and then back to her. Almost casually, he trotted over to the couch and gingerly climbed up onto it.
Goldenrod looked at her and smiled knowingly, but decidedly not arrogantly. “We're to continue the conversation we were having yesterday, then?”
“Yes, Goldenrod. That's right.” She returned his smile, but frowned inwardly. His outwardly timid appearance was most definitely a facade put on for the benefit of adults. If anything, he seemed more cool and collected than Twilight was, as though he'd been prepared for this inevitability. Gone was her carefully laid out plan, so all she could do now was play it by ear. “I wanted to talk to you about the ruins you woke up in.”
“You mean the ruined castle of the Royal Pony Sisters, resting place of Elements of Harmony, and the location where Princess Luna and Princess Celestia imprisoned the Draconequus named Discord in stone before dragging him back to Canterlot, yes?” The young colt seemed almost proud to make this statement.
“Yes, that's the place. You know some Equestrian history after all.” Twilight was intrigued by him now. He was mature, polite, deceptively innocent, and had a mind sharp like a tack, but there was also that element of childish behavior there, as well as a surprising well of forgiveness. “Are you starting to get some of your memories back?”
“Nope.” He shook his head in that deceptively innocent fashion. “I still have the memories I woke up with, and the memories I've been making since then, nothing more. We simply had a very convenient lesson in history in school today.”
Her mind whispered that there was something off about what he'd said, but couldn't decide what it was. “About those memories, would you like to discuss them?”
Goldenrod turned his head, thoughtfully. “I don't want to discuss them per say, but rather, I'd like to discuss the way they feel.”
There it was again. That inkling that there was something off in the conversation. She could see now, though, what it was. He was steering the conversation to where he wanted it to go. What was he up to? Twilight decided to see where he was taking her.
“I guess the best way to explain it isn't how I explained it to my friends when they were peppering me with questions. I don't think they would have understood if I'd explained it fully.” He laughed so easily, despite the fact that his furrowed brow belied his calm demeanor. “I have memories, but they aren't of here. They are of another place, being another being. Yet here I am, in a fantastical world, bequeathed unto me a form much unlike my own. You have no idea how unreal my memories feel when I compare it to where and what I am.”
Twilight watched him carefully, but didn't speak. There was a flash of something in his eyes when he spoke again. “Then, I began to wonder... What if Miss Twilight is right?” There was definitely fear in his eyes. “What if I'm just an addled little colt. Where does the brain damage the doctor mentioned end, and where do I begin?”
Goldenrod was visibly trembling. Fluttershy, who'd been sitting quietly at the table, drinking tea and observing quietly, moved over to the couch to sit with him. She put her foreleg around him and held him close. “It's okay. Nothing can hurt you here. You can let it all out.”
“During school, I heard about Discord and the Draconequus during class today and made me wonder.” His face showed a panicky expression Twilight knew too well; she'd seen that same expression on her own face when she overreacted about missing a deadline for a friendship report. “If a Draconequus can warp the natural laws of things and warp reality to meet its own desires, what's to stop one from reaching across massive distances, or even between universes and plucking a guy out of his own reality and stick him here.”
He shrugged out of Fluttershy's embrace and laid back on the couch. “There were few mentions in the encyclopedias of anything like my kind. Most mentions, strange upright walking creatures, were all under the Draconequus and Discord articles. I thought I was at a dead end.” He laughed nervously. “Then I saw it in that creature catalogue... The Ponyville Bones; a human skeleton! See! I'm not losing my mind! I'm not just an addled colt!”
Goldenrod seemed to relax. Having gotten that all off his chest, he let out a large sigh for such a little pony and sat up. He was rubbing the back of his neck with his hoof. An awkward smile was plastered across his face, and he was clearly blushing. “Sorry about the dramatics. I really, really needed to get that off my chest before it could eat at me. Besides, you needed to hear it.” He looked kind of serene. “I know it's not quite what you were expecting to hear, and I did kind of hijack your interview. Sorry about that.”
Twilight Sparkle, for what felt like the first time since learning of Pinkie Pie's Pinkie Sense, was totally dumbstruck. Everything the colt said about the Ponyville Bones was circumstantial at best, but he believed in it implicitly, clinging to it as though it were the only floating thing in a sea of confusion. Then there were his theories about the mentions the upright-walking creatures spotted during times when a Draconequus has been active in the world. She didn't know quite what to think, but maybe Princess Celestia would.
“It's quite alright.” Twilight smiled, approaching the couch to stand face to face with him. Gently patting him on the head with her hoof, she whispered in his ear. “You did great. I'm sure what you said will be very helpful.”
Twilight watched Goldenrod as he and Fluttershy began to get ready to leave. The colt seemed like he had a great weight lifted from his back. She wasn't sure if it was because of the Ponyville Bones, or if it was because he'd come clean about his identity anxiety with an adult. It might have just been that he'd been able to confide in two adults without judgment.
The sun was beginning to set, and the smell of various dinners in Ponyville began to waft through an open window. She really wanted to get started on her report to Celestia. It occurred to her that reporting to Celestia everything that he'd said would be a grievous breach of trust in most ponies eyes, but it needed to be done. She just hoped he'd be as understanding and forgiving as he had thus far.
A stray thought crossed her mind as Fluttershy and Goldenrod left. She knew it wouldn't make up for such a breach of trust, but she still felt the need to do something nice for him. After asking Spike to take care of the library for a bit, she ran up to her study and rooted through her personal collection of books. What she was looking for was exactly where she'd left it. In a hurry, she bolted out of the library after the pair.
- - -
Warren felt kind of bad. It wasn't his intention to hijack Twilight's interview like that. It just happened. He simply wanted to make sure that she knew his theory as to how he came to be in Equestria. It makes sense, right? I mean, she was appointed by a regent to investigate.
Without warning Twilight Sparkle galloped up behind them, startling Fluttershy. She was carrying a book with her magic. She panted heavily, trying to catch her breath. “Sorry,” she said with a cough. “Goldenrod, you're of that age, right?”
Staring at her, he didn't know what she was going on about. Surely she couldn't mean what he thought she meant. “Huh?”
“Magic! You're around the age where unicorn fillies and colts become interested in magic, right? I figured I'd lend you my copy of Introduction to Unicorn Magic: Useful Cantrips for Fillies and Colts.” She used her magic to gently place the book on his back. “It gives a good tutorial on activating your horn, a number of control exercises, and the most basic of basic spells that unicorns simply can't go without. This is the very book that set me well on my way to being Princess Celestia's apprentice.”
Warren sputtered. He didn't know what to say. It surprised him that she wasn't angry for taking control of the conversation so childishly. “I, um, thanks!” He laughed, realizing he had a book on his back. “I'd hug you, but, well...” He motioned in the direction of his back with a jerk of his head. “I'll take very good care of it, Miss Twilight.”
“Take care of yourself, too, Goldenrod.” Twilight said, turning away. “Don't push yourself too hard, either. A cracked horn is a very unpredictable thing.”
“Bye, Miss Twilight!” he called out as the lavender mare ran off. “You and Mister Spike have a good night!”
He looked up at Fluttershy as they continued on towards the cottage. “Miss Twilight is certainly a nice pony, isn't she?” He smiled sincerely. The weight of the book on his back reminded him of the fun night to be had as he walked.
“Oh yes. Twilight Sparkle is a very nice pony.” Fluttershy nodded. “You wouldn't think she was the same pony who came here three years ago assigned to oversee the Summer Sun Festival. Fighting Nightmare Moon brought all of us together, but it had the most profound effect on Twilight. She really opened up to others after that.”
The pair was just passing the limits of town when they ran into another pony. Warren wasn't quite sure if he was looking at an actual pony, or if he was just staring at a walking ball of cotton candy. The pony that stood before him was pink-coated, with bright-blue eyes. Her curly pink mane and tail looked as though no amount of combing, brushing, or ironing would allow them to be straight.
“Hi Fluttershy, what are you doing out so-” The pink mare started. As she glanced down at Warren, just a pace behind Fluttershy, she gasped loudly, like someone about to scream bloody murder. Without another word, a pink blur shot between the two of them and into town. Awestruck, he looked at Fluttershy.
“What in the world was that all about?” He muttered aloud.
He could just catch Fluttershy whispering something under her breath. “Oh dear! I thought I'd have more time.”