• Published 19th Feb 2012
  • 30,685 Views, 314 Comments

When the Man Comes Around - GentlemanJ



As Ponyville prepares for arriving royal marshals, a new traveler quietly slips into town.

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Chapter 2

Chapter 2

As the traveler walked along, the babble of crowds in the town center quickly faded away. Out here, away from all the bustle and commotion, the only sounds to be heard were the rustling of wind in branches and the droning of a few lazy bees.

Soon, the forest’s scattering of trees began to thin out, slowly shifting from unkempt wilderness into orderly rows of well-dressed apple trees. It was clear that each tree had received plenty of loving care to grow so strong and healthy. With sturdy trunks and vibrant viridian leaves, each tree’s dozens of branches hung heavily with ripe, delicious fruit that ranged in color from deep red to bright green to brilliant gold shining in the sunlight. It was as if–

“Ow,” the traveler said, more out of surprise than pain as he felt an unexpected thump on his head. At his feet, a bright red apple rolled to a stop.

Picking up the fruit, the young man looked overhead at the branches, wondering where it had come from and noticed a mass of leaves moving in a distinctly odd manner. Peering a little more closely, he was quite surprised when all of a sudden, a small freckled face popped out.

“Gee, thorry about that, mithter," the little girl replied, disappearing back into the leaves before shimmying down the tree trunk. Once aground, she stood there grinning at him, wearing little jean overalls, a big pink bow on her head, and an even bigger smile on her face. The traveler could see she was missing one of her front teeth.

“I wath trying to get that one,” she said, pointing at the apple at his feet, “but it lookth like it got away from me.”

“It’s fine,” he said, giving the apple a quick polish before handing it back to her.

“Thankth, mithter,” she replied and immediately took a big, noisy bite. “Tho, what bringth you out to Thweet Apple Acreth?” the little girl asked around a mouthful of fruit.

“Looking for Miss Twilight Sparkle. I was told she might be here.”

“Hmm,” the child mumbled thoughtfully, taking another bite of apple, “You thould athk Applejack. Thee’d probably know. Come on, I’ll thow you.”

And with that, the little girl skipped off, giving the traveler no choice but to follow along, rather bemused to say the least. As a stranger, and a man familiar with strangers, being accepted so openly was not normal. Nice, but definitely not normal.

Making their way through the orchard, the little girl led them to a sturdy old barn and farmhouse where several large baskets of apples sat next to a horse drawn carriage.

“HEY APPLEJACK,” the little girl hollered at the top of her lungs, “WHERE YOU AT? WE GOTTH A VITHITOR!”

“Apple Bloom, what 'n tarnation are you yellin’ about out here?” came another voice from inside the barn. A moment later, a cute blonde girl in a tied-up checkered shirt and Stetson stepped out with yet another basket of apples. She too, had freckles.

“Oh, there you are, thith,” said the younger girl as she skipped over to Applejack (who apparently was her sister if the traveler had understood the lisp right). “Thith guy’th looking for Twilight and thomebody told 'im that thee’d be here. You theen her around?” Applejack looked up and just noticed that there indeed was a stranger standing there with them.

“Well shucks, beg yer pardon for that, mister,” she said, dropping the basket of apples next to the others. “I’ve been runnin’ around so much I can’t tell heads from tails no more. Welcome to Sweet Apple Acres. The name’s Applejack.” With that, she took the traveler’s hand in hers and gave him a firm handshake. Though she only came up to chin height on him, the strength of her grip would have put many men to shame.

“No problem,” he replied, returning the shake, albeit not quite so enthusiastically. “Miss Pinkie Pie said I might find Miss Twilight Sparkle here?”

“You lookin’ for Twilight? Shoot, you just missed her. Just stopped in not some ten minutes ago checkin’ in about them apples. Apples, which my little sister here,” she added, sending the young girl a keen glare, “should’ve been helpin’ me load up.” The gap-tooth girl gave her sister a sheepish grin.

“Um… oopth?”

“I’ll take you over there as soon as I’m finished,” Applejack grunted as she lifted a basket of fruit, “so why don’t you make yourself at home while’s I finish up here?”

The traveler took a look at Applejack, then at Apple Bloom, and then at the number of baskets to be loaded. The little girl probably wouldn’t be able to help with much of the heavy lifting, and the number of baskets meant there would indeed be a lot of heavy lifting. Regardless of how tough this Applejack was, she was still a girl…

“Hey, whacha doin’, mithter? Apple Bloom asked. Applejack turned from the wagon and watched the traveler set down his thing and take up a basket of apples instead.

“Aw, that’s mighty kind of yeh, mister,” Applejack said, “but I can’t be askin’ a guest to help out with mah work. It just ain’t right.”

“You didn’t. I volunteered,” the traveler shrugged, heaving the basket onto the cart and squatting to pick up another. “Besides, a man shouldn’t rest while a lady’s working.” This last comment brought a surprised, put rather pleased grin to Applejack’s face. After all, people didn’t often call a tough girl like her a lady.

“Well, ain’t you just the gentlemanliest feller I ever did meet. Thanks, stranger,” she grinned, tipping her hat in salute, “I sure do appreciate it.”

The three set off to loading the wagon, the two older ones heaving the baskets onto the wagon as little Apple Bloom dragged them towards the front. As they worked, the two sisters began chatting about Ponyville’s upcoming festivities.

“Tho, what do they need all theethe appleth for, Applejack?” little Apple Bloom asked as she struggled to drag an extra full basket forwards.

“Why, it’s for the marshals, of course,” Applejack replied. “You know that the apples from our orchard are some of the best around. That’s why we figured if we’re gonna welcome such a mighty fine band of Equestria’s finest, we oughtta do it with the best we got an' that’d be our apples.”

“These marshals,” the traveler grunted with more fruit, “they’re a big deal?”

“Of courthe they are!” Apple Bloom chimed in, almost invisible behind a basket stacked higher than she was tall. “The royal marthalth are like, thuperheroeth! They go where there’th trouble and thtomp it out tho that uth folkth can live in peath. My friend Thcootaloo’th alwayth talkin’ about how thee’d join ‘em if thee wathn’t already joinin’ the Wonderboltth.

“Wonderbolts?” Applejack asked. “As in the best band of rune flyers in the country? Those Wonderbolts?”

“Yup,” the little girl nodded. “Of courth, thee doethn’t have her own thet of thpell wingth yet, tho it'th thtill kinda early to thay. That’th why thee practithes with Rainbow Dath’th, but it’th not the thame as having your own, you know.”

“They sure is fancy flyers, I’ll give ‘em that,” Applejack agreed, heaving up another basket, “but I still say them marshals is more impressive. The Wonderbolts put on shows, but the marshals, well, they go around helpin’ people, you know? Lendin’ a hand to folks in need, no matter how long the road or how dangerous the trip. I think that kinda selflessness make ‘em somethin’ else entirely.

The traveler just picked up another basket.

*****

In fairly short order, the three of them had all the apples loaded and ready to go. Placing her fists into the small of her back, Applejack leaned back and cracked her stiff spine. It sounded like tree branches snapping.

“Well, stranger, I gotta say, I sure am grateful for yer assistance,” Applejack grinned as she gave him a hearty slap on the back. The traveler couldn’t help but wince: girl or not, she could probably knock over lesser men with that kind of power.

“So anywho, we’ll drop these off with Pinkie Pie and see if we can’t rustle up Twi’s wherea… uh oh.” Applejack's smile disappeared faster than the sun behind a storm cloud. “Time to hit the deck.”

“Wha–?” was all he managed to get out.

“GAAAAANNNNNNNGGGGGWWWWAAAAAYYYYYYYY!!!!!!”

The traveler had barely turned around before what could only be described as a solid rainbow hit him square in the stomach and catapulted him back a good twenty feet. At least.

“Rainbow Dash! Are you alright?” Applejack asked as she rushed over.

“Ugh, I think so. Good thing I landed on something that broke… my… fall…? … Heh heh heh, oops. Um… sorry about that?”

Looking up from where he’d been sent sprawling, the traveler saw a young lady in a cyan tank top and athletic shorts sitting on his stomach with a sheepishly apologetic grin on her face. Actually, it took him a moment to notice these, because the first thing he noticed was the very obvious head of short locks shining in every color imaginable.

“Rainbow Dash, I presume?” the traveler finally asked, his voice slightly strained. After all, it’s not that easy to talk with somebody using your stomach for a cushion.

“The one and only,” she declared, jumping up and actually striking a pose before reaching down to help him up. “Sorry about crashing into you and stuff. Twilight sent me over to check on Applejack, and I figured I’d use the time to try out some new tricks.”

“Tricks?” the young man asked.

“Yeah, I’m training for the Wonderbolts! Once I get a routine set up, I’m heading up to Canterlot to show them my stuff. Check it!” Turning halfway around, she displayed the runework frame on her back where two luminescent, aquamarine wings fluttered softly. “Built this bad boy from scratch. With this little guy, I’m gonna be the greatest flyer in all of Equestria.”

“I don’t get it,” Apple Bloom asked, brow furrowed in confusion. “If you’re tryin' out for the Wonderboltth, then why ith your trick crathing into people?” Applejack only kept from laughing out loud by clamping a hand over her mouth and the traveler almost, almost broke into a smile. Rainbow Dash just gave the little imp the stink-eye.

“I wasn’t supposed to crash, pipsqueak. I was going for a double aerial back flip into an inverted barrel roll so I cou–ohmygosh! What happened to your hand?!”

Looking down, the traveler was surprised to the back of his left hand had been cut.

“Ah. Probably nicked myself in the fall,” he shrugged. It wasn’t that big of a deal really, daresay hardly even a scratch. But from the way the three girls started fussing, you’d think that he’d just spilled his innards all over the ground.

“Rainbow,” Applejack huffed in obvious consternation, “It’s a miracle you didn’t kill him, flyin' around and crashin' into him like you did!”

“Ohmygoshohmygosh, I am so sorry about this!” Rainbow Dash babbled, fluttering around him in a nervous tizzy. "Please tell me you’re alright! Oh, I am such a klutz. You’re not going to die, are you?”

“He’th gonna die!?” Apple Bloom wailed, tears starting to brim in her eyes at the grisly thought of his impending demise. “But that’th… that’th…”

“Nobody’s gonna die, sweetie,” Applejack said, giving her sister a reassuring pat on the head. “We just gotta get 'im patched up is all.”

“It’s not a big deal. Really,” the traveler said, trying to reassure them. It didn’t work.

“Not a big deal?” Rainbow Dash gasped. “Are you crazy? Look at yourself: you’re practically leaking all your gooey parts all over the ground! How can you be–” the rest of Rainbow Dash’s gruesome tirade was cut off as Apple Bloom really began wailing in earnest.

“Alright, that’s enough of this hogwash, “the blonde cowgirl firmly said. “Rainbow Dash, you take this feller down over to Fluttershy’s place. I’d go with you, but I gotta bring these apples in, and that’s plum in the other direction. Apple Bloom, you go inside and see if Granny Smith needs any help around the house, y’hear?”

“You got it boss!” Rainbow Dash replied with a crisp salute. “Come on, mister, we gotta get you patched up pronto!” Seizing him by his other arm, Rainbow Dash practically yanked it out of its socket as she dragged the traveler off.

He didn’t even have time to grab his things.

**********

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