Aqua awoke to sunlight gently streaming through the window of her room. She yawned and slowly got out of bed, then trotted downstairs to find Lyra and Bon Bon in the kitchen. Lyra perked up when she saw Aqua, which caused Bon Bon to turn and smile.
"Good morning," Bon Bon said with a nod. "How did you sleep?"
"Quite well," Aqua answered with a smile. "It's quieter here than in Manehattan."
There was a knock at the cottage door and Aqua started toward it. "I'll get it... it should be for me." She opened the door to find a unicorn mail pony on the other side. He tipped his hat to her and levitated a box out of his bag.
"Delivery for Aqua Pen."
"That's me," said Aqua, eagerly.
The mail pony pulled out a clipboard and pen.
"Sign here please." Aqua took the pen gently in her magic and signed on the dotted line. The mail pony handed her the box and smiled at her. "Have a nice day, miss."
"You as well," she replied, closing the door behind her. She carried the box into the kitchen and set it on the table. Lyra came over to inspect it.
"What is it?" Lyra asked.
Aqua opened the box to show that it was full of bits. Lyra and Bon Bon gasped.
"Who sent you all those bits?" they asked in unison.
Aqua chuckled at the silly ponies. "It's my share of the bits from my books that sold."
Lyra sat down and looked at Aqua, amazed. "I need to become a writer!"
Aqua chuckled and carried the box upstairs. She placed it in one of the empty desk drawers and magically sealed it. She walked back downstairs to find Lyra and Bon Bon eating daisy sandwiches. She was suprised to find one laid out for her.
"Thank you," Aqua said.
Bon Bon nodded while munching on a bite. Aqua levitated the sandwich up and took a small bite. The bread was soft and the daisies were fresh. Aqua smiled and took another bite.
"After the fillies leave I was planning on heading down to the market. Do you want me to pick up anything?"
Bon Bon shook her head no, but Lyra nodded. She quickly swallowed the bite she was chewing. "If you could buy a bit worth of apples from Applejack that would be wonderful. Let me get the bit for you." Aqua waved a hoof at her as she started to get up.
"I'll cover it, it's only one bit," Aqua told her.
"Are you sure?"
"Of course! It'll be my way to start paying you back for letting me stay here."
Bon Bon swallowed in shock and nearly choked on her food. When she finally had her throat clear she looked to Aqua.
"But you're paying rent."
Aqua chuckled as she looked over to Bon Bon. "Yes, but I have to pay back the kindness of allowing me to stay here at all... and the best way to repay kindness is with kindness." Aqua looked from Lyra to Bon Bon as they both stared at her in shock. "It's just how I do things, so you'll have to get used to it."
Aqua went back to her sandwich as the two ponies stared at her. Lyra was the first to recover and she sighed.
"I guess if you start to help out we can't refuse, even though you don't owe us anything."
Aqua shrugged and Lyra sighed again. Bon Bon finally recovered and frowned down at her sandwich. Aqua finished her sandwich just as there was another knock at the door. Aqua stood and walked over to the door opening it with her magic. On the other side stood three little fillies. Apple Bloom she regonized, but the other two hadn't been at the party. There was an orange pegaus and a white unicorn. She noticed they were all wearing red capes with a blue shield and pony on them. She smiled down at the fillies and stood back from the doorway.
"Come on in girls."
They filed inside and she led them upstairs to her room where they all sat on the floor.
"So you two must be Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo," Aqua said.
The orange pegasus jumped up and down working her wings like crazy.
"That's right I'm Scootaloo and that's Sweetie."
"I'm Aqua Pen. It's nice to meet you both." Aqua used her magic to open the drawer with her manuscript. She took out a blank page and put the manuscript back into the drawer, making sure to close it so the seal would reactivate. "Shall we get started?"
The three fillies nodded and Aqua smiled. "Have any of you written anything before?"
Sweetie raised her hoof into the air. "I wrote a play."
Aqua took out a blue pen from her desk. "That's great Sweetie. So you have some idea of characters and such."
Sweetie blushed and looked at the ground. "To be honest it wasn't as good as you think it was."
Aqua reached out and pet Sweetie's head with a forehoof. "I'm sure you're an excellent writer."
Aqua ripped the paper she held into three pieces and handed them to the fillies. She levitated three more pens from her desk. She gave a pink one to Sweetie a green one to Scootaloo and a purple one to Apple Bloom.
"Now to start off let's talk about creating a character. Let's pretend we're gonna play a game but the game has no premade characters. So to play you have to come up with your own character to face three trials. The most important thing about this is you have to think about why you do things. So say I say one of the trials is to get over a pit in a forest and you give your character an ax to chop down a tree. You have to think about why your character would be carrying around an ax. Understand?"
Three hoofs shot up in the air and Aqua nodded to Apple Bloom.
"What are the trials?" Apple Bloom asked.
"We'll get to that in a second."
Aqua pointed to Sweetie Belle next.
"Do our characters have to be ponies?" Sweetie asked.
Aqua thought this over and finally shook her head. Lastly she turned to Scootaloo.
"Why was your character carrying an ax?" asked Scootaloo.
"Well, in my scenrio my character knows the forest very well and already knows there is a pit there. So when they have to cross it they make sure to bring along an ax," explained Aqua. "Any other questions?"
All three little fillies shook their heads and Aqua took out another blank piece of paper.
"To make things fair we'll all start with the same baseline. All your characters have to be from Ponyville and it can't be a living pony," Aqua instructed, flipping the paper on it's side and writing that at the top of it. "Now onto the trials. The first trial is as follows: you come across a bridge with a strong looking stallion gaurding it. He says to pass you must answer his riddle. The riddle is: I have seas without water, coasts without sand, towns with no ponies, and moutains without land... what am I? The second trail is as follows. You stumble along until you find an injured griffon who knows the way to the final trial. The third and final trial is as follows: following the directions you got from the griffon you discover a cottage with your goal inside all you have to do is open the locked door. There are 10 keys displayed next to the door."
Aqua drew the trials onto the papaer as she talked and put the description under each picture. She smiled when she finished and held it up so all three of the fillies could see it. Sweetie took off writing and the other two were close behind her. Aqua watched them until they were all finished. She picked up their papers and examined them. She saw that each filly had decided to model their character after themselves. Sweetie Belle had a unicorn, Apple Bloom an earth pony and Scootaloo a pegasus. She handed the papers back to the ponies and smiled.
"Let's read your characters out loud," said Aqua.
Sweetie took her paper and cleared her throat. Aqua giggled at her eagerness and nodded to her.
"I made a unicorn. She passed the stallion's riddle because she figured out the answer was a map. She is very smart. She healed the griffon with magic that she learned from helping out at the hospital. Finally she tried the key in the door and got it on the first try because she was always really lucky."
"Good job, Sweetie! Your character is nice and well rounded," Aqua told her. "Scootaloo you're up."
Scootaloo gulped and sighed.
"I made a pegasus. Instead of answering the stallion she just flew around him because she didn't know the answer. She helped the griffon with bandages from her bag that she brought. She always likes to be prepared for anything. When she got to the cottage she flew around it and found an open window because she always likes to open her windows on nice days."
"That's really good! Your character is very straight forward and easy to understand," Aqua stated. "Alright Applebloom that makes you last of all."
Apple Bloom nodded and picked up her piece of paper.
"I made an earth pony. When the stallion gave her the riddle she pulled out a book of riddles and found the answer. She had always loved riddles and always carried her favorite riddle book. The griffon wasn't too badly injured and so she used tree sap to stop the bleeding. She had learned that from her parents. Instead of using the displayed keys she lifted the mat to find the real key. She knew it would be there because she keeps an extra key under her mat, too."
"Wonderful! Your character is quite unique," Aqua said, beaming over the success of her students. "You all went about the trials differently and that's great. It shows how different you all are. Anypony can be a great writer, regardless of their talent."
Scootaloo looked out the window and jumped up. "It's almost Twilight time!"
The other two fillies jumped up as well. Aqua gave them a confused look.
Scootaloo was already heading out the door but Apple Bloom turned back to Aqua.
"We go over to see Twilight and she teaches us new skills, but it's supposed to be a secret now." With that Apple Bloom turned and left the room as well.
Aqua blinked a couple of times in suprise and then collected her pens. She placed them back in the drawer and picked her saddlebags out of her dresser. She placed her bits in the right bag and slipped them onto her back. She adjusted her scarf and walked back downstairs. There she found the three little fillies at the bottom of the stairs.
"Weren't you going to see Twilight?" Aqua asked. Scootaloo looked away nervously and Apple Bloom nudged Sweetie Belle. Finally Sweetie cleared her throat.
"We were wondering if you would teach us more about being writers," Sweetie said.
Aqua noticed that all three of the fillies had their character papers in their hoofs. This made her smile.
"Sure, if you're still interested I would be glad to teach you again," she assured them.
The three little fillies smiled. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo placed their character pages in their mouths and walked towards the door. Aqua looked to Sweetie who still stood in front of her.
"We'll talk to you about when you can see us later," Sweetie told her.
Aqua nodded and Sweetie placed her character paper in her light green magic. She walked towards the door and Aqua followed her. When they got to the front door they found Scootaloo and Apple Bloom waiting for them. Aqua opened the front door and waved to the fillies as they left towards the library. Aqua waited until they turned the corner before she closed the door and headed off towards the market. She had passed it on her way to Lyra and Bon Bon's cottage so she knew the way. When she arrived at the market it was full of stalls and ponies. She noticed a stall full of apples set up in the middle of the road. She saw Applejack standing next to it and she trotted over. Applejack smiled when she saw her walking over and tipped her hat. Aqua examined the apples on the stall before turning to Applejack.
"Good day to you Applejack, Lyra wanted me to pick up a bit worth of apples." Applejack nodded and turned to her stall. She picked out a few nice looking apples and placed them in Aqua's left saddlebag. Aqua levitated a bit out of her bag and placed it in Applejack's waiting hoof. "Do you grow all these apples yourself?" Aqua asked.
"Sure do, our farm is just outside Ponyville."
As they were talking, Applejack's brother Big Macintosh walked up with a cart full of apples. Applejack smiled as he stepped out of the cart's harness.
"Is that the last load?"
"Eeyup," Big Mac replied, nodding a greeting toward Aqua.
While Applejack was talking to her brother, Aqua looked around and spotted a familiar face. She trotted over to the paint stall and smiled at the pony there.
"Hey Squiddles, buying paint?" Aqua asked.
Squiddles turned from examining the paints on display and looked to Aqua.
"Hey, Aqua. Yeah, I'm working on a sunset painting but I don't know which shade of pink to use." She pointed to two tubes of pink set up on the stall. One was the same shade as Agua's mane highlights and one was a lighter shade. Aqua looked at them for a second and then pointed to the lighter shade.
"Though I'm biased to the other shade I think this one would look the best if you're planning to do a sunset," Aqua advised.
Squiddles glanced at the other shade and then looked at Aqua. She giggled as she realized what Aqua meant. She reached under her wing and pulled out a bit. She placed it on the stall and picked up the tube of the lighter shade. She tucked it under her wing and smiled at Aqua. "Thank you," Squiddles said, gratefully.
"Any time! I have seen my fair share of sunsets," Aqua said with a smile.
Squiddles turned to walk away before glancing back at Aqua. "If you want to see my painting you should swing by the town center. I'll be painting there this evening."
Squiddles turned and trotted off. Aqua continued to walk the market and as she was looking around she spotted something she didn't expect: sitting on the book stand were her first three books, diplayed quite proudly. The images on the front covers stared at her and she walked over. The pony behind the stall gave her a shocked expression. The cream colored unicorn had a bubblegum pink mane.
"You're..." She picked up one of the books with her purple magic and flipped it around so Aqua could see the back. There staring back at her was a picture of herself. It was her editor's idea to put her picture on the back. Aqua sighed and nodded.
"Yes, that's me," she responded.
"Wait here." The unicorn diappeared behind the curtain at the back of the stall. Aqua waited for a full minute before the mare returned with a well worn copy of her first book. "Could you sign this?" The unicorn floated a pen to Aqua along with the book.
"Well, Twilight was setting up an offical book signing but I guess signing one before that wouldn't hurt." Aqua gently took the book in her magic and opened it to the cover page. She took the pen and with all the grace she could muster she placed her swooping signature on the page. "There you go." She handed the book and pen back to the grinning unicorn.
Aqua nodded to the unicorn and continued on her way. She finally arrived at her destination. The stall she walked to was full of streamers and ribbons in big rolls. The earth stallion behind the stall was a darker cream color with a forest green mane and tail. His cutie mark was of streamers and he wore a brown hat.
"How are you doing? What can I do for you today?" he asked.
Aqua studied the ribbons and finally smiled. "How many colors of ribbon do you have?"
The stallion look behind himself and seemed to count and then turned back to Aqua. "We have twelve primary colors and then light and dark versions of some of them."
Aqua rubbed her chin and thought about it. "Just give me the primary colors. I'll need a foot of each color."
The stallion went about measuring and cutting the ribbons. Soon the stall had all twelve cut and sitting on top of it. Carefully she picked up the purple ribbon and tied it lightly to the base of her right ear. She tied it lightly so she could still hear but enough so it wouldn't fall off.
"I never thought about doing that." Aqua giggled at the stallion and showed off her new ribbon.
"How much do I owe you?"
"We are actually having a sale today," he replied, pointing to a sign that read "Buy One Get The Second One Free". "So it'll be six bits."
Aqua took out the bits and as she was setting them down she noticed a small spool of ribbon behind the stallion.
"How much is that?"
The stallion turned as she pointed behind him and saw the rainbow colored ribbon. "That's expensive ribbon," he explained. "It would be two bits a foot."
"I'll take it!"
The stallion looked back at her, a bit shocked as she pulled out two more bits.
"You must really be dedicated to fashion!" Aqua shrugged as he started to measure and cut the ribbon.
"Not really, I just love ribbons." After he finished she placed all the ribbons in her bag. "Thank you."
"No, thank you... do come again."
"If you get in any more ribbons I'll be sure to stop by."
Aqua turned and walked back toward home. She was stopped by a lovely pony named Rose who complimented her ribbon. But other than that, the walk was uneventful. She opened the cottage door and walked in.
"I'm home, where do you want me to put the apples?" Aqua announced. She waited a few seconds before Bon Bon's voice rang from upstairs.
"Just set them on the table!"
Aqua walked into the kitchen and set the apples down on the table. She walked upstairs and went into her room. She placed her new ribbons on the desk and her remaining bits back into the desk drawer. She placed her now empty saddlebags into the dresser and flopped onto her bed. She levitated the Daring Do book over to her and opened it to the first page. She sighed and found a comfy spot on the bed. She levitated her reading glasses onto her nose. She read for a few hours and then looked out the window. The sun was just touching the horizon and she knew the sky would soon be alight with color. She jumped off the bed and stretched her legs. She placed the half finshed book back on her desk along with her glasses. She decided she would finish it first thing the next day.
As she was heading downstairs, Aqua heard laughter coming from the kitchen. When she peeked in she saw Lyra and Bon Bon eating dinner. "Hey!"
They both looked up at Aqua's voice and smiled.
"Would you like something to eat?"
Aqua's stomach growled at the prospect of food but she shook her head. "No time. I'm going to see Squiddles paint."
As Aqua turned to leave an apple floated in front of her face.
"At least take an apple."
Agua took the apple in her magic and walked out the door. As she made her way to the town center she happily munched on the apple. By the time she made it to the town center the apple was gone. She spotted Squiddles with her easel and a brush in her hoof. She headed over and nudged the paint covered pony. Squiddles turned and when she saw Aqua she broke out in a huge grin.
"It's good to see you made it in time," Squiddles said.
"Are you always covered in paint?" Aqua asked with a smile.
Squiddles looked down at herself and shrugged.
"I hardly notice, it comes with being an artist." She placed the paintbrush in her mouth and held up a palette with all kinds of paint on it. She watched as the sky became awash in the sunset colors and started to paint. Aqua stood back and sat down as she watched Squiddles work. She seemed to capture the very essence of the colors and transfered them onto the canvas. In less then an hour she had captured the sunset completely. It was almost as though she had taken a photo. She set her things down and took a step back from the painting. She looked it over and turned back to Agua.
"What do you think?" Squiddles asked.
"I think it's great. You did an amazing job."
Aqua walked up to the painting and looked it over. She could smell the paint but that was the only thing that told her it was, in fact, a painting.
"I usually do daytime sky views, but I got a request to do a sunset. I figured it would look best from the ground."
"Who requested it?" asked Aqua.
"Vinyl, she likes sunsets apparently."
"Well, I think she'll love it," Aqua said, turning back to look at Squiddles who was smiling at her.
Squiddles walked up next to Aqua and looked at the painting. She picked up the palette and carried it to the side of the town center. There was a faucet there and she used it to clean the paint off the palette. After she was finished, she walked back and placed the palette in saddlebags that Aqua hadn't noticed. She did the same with her paintbrush.
"Do you want help carrying the painting back?"
Squiddles looked up at her with a shocked expression. "That would be really nice. That way I don't have to wait for it to dry." Aqua picked up the painting with her magic, making sure to only grip it on the sides and back. Squiddles quickly folded up the easel and tucked it under her wing. She placed the saddlebags on her back and turned to Aqua. "Ready?"
Squiddles nodded and started to walk off in one direction. Aqua noted they were going in the exact opposite direction from Lyra and Bon Bon's cottage. Aqua followed close behind Squiddles, being careful not to drop the painting. Finally Squiddles stopped in front of a white cottage with green accents.
"This is it," Squiddles said as she opened the door and held it for Aqua.
Aqua walked in and saw that on the first floor where there should have been a living room was instead a studio filled with paintings. Squiddles quietly set the easel back up in the middle of the room while Aqua looked around at all the paintings. Every one of them was from the viewpoint of a pegasus. It was amazing it gave the sense of being a pegasus to an earth bound pony like Aqua. She always wondered what it was like to be a pegasus, because her mother was a pegasus. She and her unicorn father both lived in Canterlot.
Squiddles cleared her throat and Aqua saw that she had finished setting up the easel. Aqua blushed and placed the painting down on it. When she was sure it was steady she let go of it with her magic.
"Thank you very much, Aqua," Squiddles said. Aqua nodded and looked back at all the paintings. "I should head off to bed now."
Squiddles opened the front door and Aqua jumped after a second.
"Oh right! I'll go." With that Aqua walked out the door. She turned and waved at Squiddles as she was closing the door. Squiddles waved back and closed the door quietly.
Aqua sighed and started her walk back to her cottage. As she walked she looked up at the sky, which had by then turned to night. Aqua always loved the moon and stars it gave her inspiration to write her books. The sun gave her inspiration as well, but she couldn't look at it like she could the moon. The moon glowed without being hurtful and the stars always twinkled just right. She had never noticed it until a couple years ago when she stayed up really late to finish her manuscript, but somehow the stars had looked different that night and since then they have always been her favorite part of the night sky.
Aqua was staring at the stars and so she barely noticed that she had already made it all the way home. She walked inside and up the stairs. She figured Lyra and Bon Bon were already asleep so she went straight to her room. She pulled back the covers of her bed and slipped under the sheets. She pulled out her ribbon and set it on the desk with the rest. She curled up and faced the window so she could see the night sky. She watched the sky for a while until she finally drifted off to sleep.