• Published 26th Feb 2012
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A Different Viewpoint of Equestria - Christopher28



An archeologist finds himself in lost in Equestria after Discord's storm of Chaos.

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Chapter 6

The next morning, Johnathon Dwire woke late, and noticed that they already had company over. A familiar looking White Unicorn with a dark blue mane was sitting at the kitchen table with Fluttershy, and the two of them were intently discussing something in low voices. He stretched and started getting up, startling the two ponies into silence. Fluttershy came over to him immediately, asking him a question, or at least, speaking in a quiet interrogative tone. He smiled and stretched again, shrugging. She was probably asking him how he was feeling, he figured, but he didn't really have the words to answer her yet.

"I feel fine." he told her anyway, knowing that while she almost certainly wouldn't understand the words, his tone would probably convey enough on its own. The yellow pegasus looked at him critically, then nodded, smiling. Johnathon noticed a glow of unicorn telekinesis from the table, and spotted several large pieces of parchment being rolled up and put away in the White Unicorn's saddlebags. He stood and waved politely at her, and she walked over toward him. Her gaze was surprisingly intense, and she walked around him once, as if wanting to see him from all sides. Johnathon raised his arms up, to balance himself in reaction to her moving close behind him, and took a careful step forward in the suddenly rather tight quarters.

The White Unicorn snorted once to herself, then came around in front of him again, smiling pleasantly. She met his gaze, and nodded once, regally, before departing.

"What was that about?" he asked Fluttershy, not expecting an answer. She seemed to get the basic idea, and she shrugged helplessly, smiling gently as if her friend was just eccentric, and it was best to put up with her. Or that's how he took it.

Sighing, he frowned, wondering how much longer it would be before Twilight Sparkle returned. It wasn't that he didn't want to learn the Equestrian language the hard way, but more that he was getting very tired of not being able to communicate in more than very simple concepts. He could not remember ever spending so long without being able to be understood by someone... it was getting quite frustrating! Still, if it continued, it would be an excellent motivation to learn quickly. He was afraid that his poor language skills would make it a very long process, regardless.

Fluttershy busied herself in the kitchen, and before he could go to help, she was already almost finished with preparing a very nice looking salad. She had obviously been paying attention to his tastes, for the salad looked tantalizingly good, with almost all of his favorite ingredients. Johnathon had always liked Cob Salads... and despite not having explained the details to Fluttershy, she had managed to put a very good looking one together for him, although he had no idea how she had prepared some of the ingredients so precisely without hands or the use of telekinesis!

Half an hour later, feeling really satisfied with a meal for the first time since he had arrived in Equestria, Johnathon sat back with a sigh. Fluttershy looked pleased, then glanced at her wall clock. She smiled, and looked even happier for a moment, before heading for the door. She turned to him as she reached the door, and said something quickly, and then seemed to realize, as if for the first time, that nothing she was saying was really making sense to him. She flapped her wings, raising off the floor a bit, then settled down, then pointed outside.

Johnathon blinked, then pointed outside as well. He made flapping motions with his hands, and then pointed upwards in a diagonal direction. She nodded, and then pointed to him, and them made a pushing motion, as if telling him to stay put.

"I'll stay here then, shall I?" Johnathon said with a wry smile. "When will you be...?" he shook his head, and then glanced at the clock. That, at least, was pretty easy to understand. He pointed at it, then at her, and made a motion with his shoulders, trying to let her know he wanted to know something. Fluttershy thought about it, then walked to the clock. Pointing at the big hand, she pointed to the top of the clock, and then looked at his face. He nodded in comprehension. "When the big hand is there, you'll be back." he pointed at the big hand, then at the top of the clock, then at the floor of her cottage, and raised an eyebrow.

Fluttershy nodded, and turned to go again. Checking once to make sure he was staying put (or so he guessed), she flew off. He was surprised to realize that he had almost never seen the yellow pegasus fly before. The blue one... Rainbow Dash, flew almost constantly, as if it was second nature to her to be in the air, but Fluttershy seemed much more attached to the ground. Johnathon stepped into the yard to watch her go, and gazed out in the distance to see if he could figure out her destination. He stepped out of the yard, and walked up a nearby hill to get a better view as she dwindled in the distance. He could make out the town of Ponyville (as he had heard his hosts call it) and he could see apple trees in the distance as well.

"That must be Sweet Apple Acres." he said to himself, looking around to see if he could recognize more landmarks. Fluttershy disappeared behind a hill in the distance, and he noted what almost had to be train tracks leading up to a small building near where she had gone. He allowed his eyes to follow the tracks out into the distance till he could no longer make them out, and then, his jaw dropped wide open. On the side of a mountain in the distance was what was unmistakably a enormous fairy castle. The architecture was like nothing he had ever seen before, outside of a story book. It was obviously a long distance away, but so enormous that he could make out it's individual turrets and it's basic structure if he strained his eyes a little. It had to be twenty miles away or more, and still he could see it clearly!

"That almost has to be where the Princess lives." Johnathon decided when the castle.. city, did not vanish after he blinked a few times. "Wow... that's... impressive." he simply stared in wonder for several minutes, straining his eyes to try and make out more detail, but to little avail. "Huh. I suppose if they can build a city out of clouds, then that's not too incredible..." he reasoned, "but still... wow."

He glanced back at Fluttershy's pleasant, if rustic cottage, and shook his head. "Remind me not to underestimate these ponies... just because some of them choose to live simply."

Up to this point, he had not truly questioned the world he was in, despite the fact that much of it made no sense. The very existence of magic was startling, for instance, but he could not deny the evidence of his senses, and didn't know why he should try. Seeing was believing, and he had seen magic... powerful magic, first hand.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology will resemble magic." Johnathon said aloud to himself. "But I guess for now, it's just going to be magic to me. I certainly don't have the background to figure it out, not really." he started to head into the house, to wait for Fluttershy's arrival, when he saw a train, pulled, by all things, by what looked like, at a distance, to be a team of Clydesdales, but moving with remarkable speed, coming up to what had to be the Ponyville Station, and made an educated guess. "She must have gone to meet the train!" Johnathon decided with a smile. "If I'm lucky, it'll be Twilight getting back!"

He closed his eyes and made a small wish. "Let it be Twilight... I'm starting to go stir crazy."

Sitting down on the top of the hill, he waited, watching the road that led from what appeared to be the train station toward Fluttershy's cottage. His patience was rewarded. In the distance, he saw a purple unicorn with a dark purple mane walking with a distinctive yellow and pink pegasus, heading his way.

He waved, and started down the road toward them, suddenly impatient. With a grin, he started to jog.

Twilight's eyes widened as she saw the human, Johnathon Dwire, running swiftly toward them. She was surprised by how quickly he could move on only two legs. Spike wasn't able to move half as quickly, although she supposed that the human's legs were much longer. She increased her pace as well, to meet the human half way, Fluttershy hurrying along behind her.

They met several hundred yards from Fluttershy's home, and stopped in the middle of the road. He raised an eyebrow at her, and spread his arms slightly, as if he was waiting. Twilight nodded, and pointed her horn at him, recalling the spell as she concentrated. A beam of purple light struck the man, and after a moment, he spoke.

"Can you understand me now?" he asked hopefully.

"Yes we can." Twilight told him with a smile, then looked guilty. "I'm so sorry, Johnathon! I forgot that the spell would wear off after only two days! You've been unable to speak for the last two days because of me!"

Johnathon shrugged. "It's alright, Twilight. I made do. Fluttershy, Applebloom, and some of her friends were very helpful. Actually, I put together a long list of words from my language while I was waiting."

Twilight looked interested. "Oh, I'd like to see that!" she started to walk towards Fluttershy's cottage, and he came with her, walking to one side. "I've been meaning to ask you... could you still access your own language while the spell was working? I wasn't completely sure how it functioned, you see, as it's been quite a while since that spell has been used."

Johnathon shook his head, frowning. "Actually, no. I couldn't speak... or write in my own language at all... and I tried, trust me."

Twilight nodded sympathetically. "I think it overwrites your own language skills with the knowledge of Equestrian." she frowned thoughtfully. "Now that I think about how it works, it might actually give copy the caster's language skills directly onto the recipient, overwriting their own in the process."

Johnathon shook his head slowly. "I thought it might be something along those lines at first, but I realized it has to be more complicated that that. You see, I found only one flaw... when I used an Acronym that had another meaning... as a regular word, that is, the spell wasn't able to quite...." he frowned. "Er... well, apparently, your word for ram, as in the animal, does not have the same sounds that the words random access memory have at the beginning of each word."

Twilight blinked. "Er... and they do in your language?"

He nodded. "I think that means that the spell has to use more than your own language ability, Twilight. I think there's more to it than that. The spell seems to be able to translate any concept in my own subconscious into your language, even when the word isn't commonly used in your language. Like... television."

Twilight puzzled that out. "Does that mean... vision at a distance?"

Johnathon grinned. "In a way. But I'm going to assume that it's not a word you've heard before?"

Twilight shook her head. "No, it's not. I know the different parts of the word, but I've never heard them used like that before." she grinned, looking pleased. "You reasoned this out yourself?"

He shrugged. "Fluttershy helped some. It's almost if the spell taps into a collective unconscious... in any case, it's impressively sophisticated."

Twilight nodded. "It takes quite a bit of magic to cast, really. Now that I understand how it works a bit better, it makes more sense." she looked apologetic. "Usually I research a spell much more thoroughly before casting it, but it seemed like an emergency situation at the time."

Johnathon shook his head. "No harm done. I'm grateful for your quick thinking, really. It's much better to be able to communicate than not, believe me."

Twilight nodded agreeably. "I can imagine." they had arrived at Fluttershy's cottage, and he opened the door for Twilight, who came inside, Fluttershy following closely after her. "I'd like to see your written language for myself though! I've never seen a language from another world before."

Johnathon went to get his stack of primers. "A purple pony... with a light colored mane and... three flowers on her... er.. flank, brought these by with Applebloom and her friends. She helped me with my translations till quite late. A very nice... er... pony."

Twilight blinked. "Johnathon, why are you always pausing before saying the word pony, anyway? Is it a problem with the translation spell?"

Johnathon laughed. "No... well, perhaps just a little. It's just that I'm used to saying person instead of pony, or anyone instead of anypony... and, surprisingly, your translation spell isn't stopping me. I guess the PARTS of the words are known, but I'm trying to use the same... er... lanquage conventions as er... everypony else does."

Twilight frowned thoughtfully. "Oh, I see. How strange! I never really thought about it much, but it must seem a bit odd. I mean, we have dragons... and griffons, and other creatures who we share a language with, and yet we use words that mean pony when we speak of... um... every... individual." she shook her head. "I wonder why?"

Johnathon shrugged. "Language evolves in different ways for many different reasons. I actually know a lot about etymology, although I guess it won't help so much here."

Twilight frowned. "I'm sorry... that's a study of... what exactly?"

Johnathon blinked. "Oh, the study of where words come from."

Twilight blinked, then nodded. "Oh! Of course, I should have remembered that." she shook her head. "It's not something you think about. According to Princess Celestia, our language has remained pretty much the same for the last thousand years or so. Mostly thanks to her influence, I think. We add new words all the time, but the old ones have stayed pretty much the same."

Johnathon blinked. "Her... influence?" his eyes went wide. "Oh, right! She's been around for...." he shook his head incredulously. "She's really been around for over a thousand years?"

Twilight nodded. "Quite a bit more."

The archeologist closed his eyes for a bit. "I knew that... I mean... she told me that she and her sister were the ones to build both the castle in the... er... the Everfree forest, and the ruins on my world." he shook his head in disbelief. "But the ruins on my world... they had to be over three thousand years old! That's older than most recorded history on my world!"

Twilight smiled faintly. "The Princesses have been around for longer than we have accurately recorded history as well, I'm afraid. Truthfully, records only become relatively trustworthy for the last... oh, eight hundred years or so. Before that, we have stories, and legends, but not a whole lot of facts."

Johnathon grinned. "Sounds like you need a good archeologist."

Twilight smiled at him. "We might at that. I suppose if somepony really wanted to know what happened, oh, two thousand years ago, they could simply ask the princess... but she IS very busy most of the time, and she couldn't be everywhere at once, obviously."

Johnathon nodded slowly. "Obviously." he shook his head again. "Still... it's so... difficult to believe! Any being that has lived for so very long... are her and her sister the only ones that... I don't even know what to call it, that are... immortal like that?"

Twilight hesitated. "The only ones that I know of, besides Discord, I suppose.":

Johnathon looked curious, sitting on the couch to make himself more comfortable. "I keep hearing about this... Discord. Was... he, or she an... alicorn as well?"

Twilight blinked. "Oh! No... he was... is, what is known as a draconequus. He has the head of a pony and a body of... well, of lots of other things."

Johnathon blinked. "Oh... like a chimera?"

Twilight hesitated. "Something like that. He was... very, very powerful. Long, long ago, he ruled Equestria with fear... and chaos. The princesses eventually defeated him and sealed him in stone, until, well, until about the time you arrived, actually, when he finally broke free of his magical prison."

Johnathon blinked. "And.. they stopped him again?"

Twilight flushed, looking embarrassed. "Actually, my friends and I defeated him."

Johnathon looked impressed. "Wow... I guess the princess wasn't kidding when she said you were a really good magician, huh?"

Twilight shook her head. "I can't take the credit. It wasn't MY magic which defeated Discord, but the magic of the Elements of Harmony."

Fluttershy spoke up quietly. "You should take some credit, Twilight. We'd have been lost without your magic. You saved us all with your memory spell."

Twilight hesitated. "Well, if the princess hadn't sent all of my letters back to me... to remind me of our friendship, I would never have thought to use a memory spell to bring you all back to yourselves."

Johnathon glanced from one pony to the other. "Sounds like it was pretty rough, huh?" he smiled gently. "If it's too painful, you don't have to tell me."

Twilight smiled and shook her head. "No... although it was pretty tough at times. Still, I believed in my friends, and in the end, they didn't let me down."

The archeologist nodded politely. "So... how did you beat him? What are these... Elements of Harmony? Some sort of spell components or something?"

Twilight smiled. "Well, the Elements of Harmony are broken up into six parts... the elements of honesty, generosity, loyalty, laughter, kindness, and... magic." she smiled at Fluttershy. "Fluttershy embodies the element of kindness."

Johnathon looked puzzled. "So... they're ponies? Ponies that exemplify ideals?"

Twilight shook her head slowly. "Not completely. The Elements themselves are... very powerful magical artifacts, that can only be used by ponies that, as you said, exemplify the ideal each individual element represents. When all six are used together, they are... well, a very powerful force."

Johnathon thought about that. "Huh. So... I'm guessing you embody the element of Magic?"

Twilight blushed. "Well... yes. Apparently. Applejack is honesty, Rainbow Dash is loyalty, Rarity is generosity, and Pinkie Pie is laughter."

Johnathon blinked. "Well... huh. I'll have to take your word for it. I don't really know most of them that well yet." he thought for a moment. "OK, I can see Pinkie Pie and laughter... and Applejack does seem like a really... down to earth sort. I did get the strong impression that I could trust her word." he shrugged, smiling. "I'm not sure if I've met Rarity?"

Fluttershy coughed. "She was here earlier today, Johnathon. She's a unicorn."

Johnathon nodded. "Oh yes, of course." he smiled. "Well, she did seem nice, even if we still haven't managed to talk yet."

He turned to Twilight. "So... you six ponies were able to use these... artifacts to defeat this... Discord?"

Twilight nodded. "Yes, we turned him back to stone." she frowned. "According to the princesses, he escaped this last time because they were no longer attuned to the Artifacts... so at some point, probably a long way in the future, but after we're all gone, he may escape his prison again."

Johnathon whistled. "Well, hopefully the ponies of that time will know what to do. You should probably make sure that what you did is recorded and passed down, I guess."

Twilight nodded, looking a bit embarrassed. "Princess Celestia thinks so as well. She... sort of already has a picture of us defeating Discord up in stained glass in the palace already."

Johnathon smiled fondly at her. "I take it you don't like being the center of attention much? I guess every... pony would be wanting to thank you for saving the world and all." he blinked. "Er... I did get the impression that he was pretty much a global threat, or was I mistaken?"

Twilight looked even more embarrassed. "Well... yes, I suppose he was. He probably wasn't as dangerous to the world as Nightmare Moon would have been... but his chaos would have spread across the whole world eventually."

Johnathon blinked. "Who's Nightmare Moon?"

Twilight winced. "Er... that's a... a long story."

Johnathon shrugged. "Well, I'd love to hear it sometime... if you're free."

Twilight hesitated, then levitated the primers and the papers stuffed into their pages into her saddle bags. "Actually, I should get back to the library and drop these books off. I need to unpack, and take care of whatever I've missed while I've been away."

Johnathon nodded sadly. "Of course. I shouldn't keep you." he sighed. "I've been hoping to get out for awhile now... but I suppose I can wait a while longer."

Twilight glanced at him, then smiled. "You can come along with me if you like. I won't mind the company."

Johnathon rose to his feet with a grin. "Really? That's great! I won't be any trouble, I promise!"

Twilight chuckled. "Well, I expect it'll be interesting going though town, if you've been here in Fluttershy's cabin the whole time, but we can't keep you in here forever, can we?"

Johnathon shuddered slightly. "I hope not..." he winced and turned to Fluttershy. "Not that I don't love your place, Fluttershy, and you've been a wonderful host, but I really would like to be able to get out and about a bit."

Fluttershy smiled kindly. "I understand. I wouldn't like being stuck at home all the time, every day either."

Johnathon shrugged. "It'd be bearable if I had more to do... but by the time I thought to ask, the translation spell wore off. I can lose myself for hours in a good book, but since I couldn't read anyway, there didn't seem to be much point."

Twilight smiled. "Well, you can borrow something from the library when you get there. That's what it's there for, after all!" She started for the front door. "Are you coming, Fluttershy?"

The shy yellow pegasus shook her head lightly. "I have quite a bit to do here... and a few more errands to run before...." she blushed slightly. "Er... before tonight."

Johnathon raised an eyebrow. "Let me guess... Pinkie Pie's got you in on the party preparations as well?"

Fluttershy smiled slightly. "Something like that."

He nodded and waved goodbye as they went out the door. "I guess I'll be seeing you tonight then!"

She nodded again, then hesitated. "Will you be coming back to sleep here tonight, Johnathon?"

The archeologist hesitated. "Well... I was planning on it, if that's alright. I don't like imposing, but at the moment, I don't have anywhere else to stay!"

Fluttershy's face softened. "You're welcome to stay with me for as long as you need. I don't mind."

Johnathon nodded. "Thank you for the kindness, Fluttershy. You really do exemplify that quality. I don't know why that makes some sort of magic super weapon work, but if somepony is looking for kindness, they certainly wouldn't go wrong looking here."

Fluttershy blushed so hard her face started to look as pink as her mane, and she covered her face with her hooves with a small squeak. Johnathon and Twilight left the shy yellow pegasus, both laughing slightly, although not unkindly, as they headed into town.

As they approached the town, Johnathon tensed slightly, anticipating the worst. When the first few ponies spotted him coming, they tensed as well, as if ready to run, then almost immediately relaxed, their eyes settling on Twilight as their fear visibly subsided. This repeated itself over and over again as they entered the center of town. It appeared to be a market day, and there were open air stalls everywhere, selling all sorts of goods, mostly food, and the center of town was packed. Johnathon stood head and shoulders over any of the ponies, and soon all eyes were on him, but whenever they noticed Twilight walking calmly at his side, they relaxed. Before long, their interest seemed to wane, and slowly but surely, everypony went back to their own business.

Johnathon blinked, then smiled down at Twilight. "I guess that comes with saving the World, huh, Twilight?" he commented. "As soon as they noticed you're with me, they all relax. They must really trust you a lot."

Twilight herself was looking a bit surprised. "I... I guess so." she shook her head. "Well... it's probably just that they see you're with somepony... and you're not acting dangerous... it's not just because you're with me."

"Not hardly!" a familiar voice said, and they both turned to watch an orange earth pony walking up to them from an apple stand. "Don't sell yourself short, Sugar Cube! Everypony knows you're the one who saved us all from Discord... and from Nightmare Moon as well! They know that if you're walking all calm with somepony... er... some human, I guess... they know it's alright, even if he looks mighty strange."

Applejack tipped her hat to the archaeologist. "Begging your pardon, Johnathon, but I'm just saying it how I see it." she smiled at him "Although I'm getting used to ya by now, I reckon you must seem pretty strange to most of the folks here in Ponyville." she nodded reassuringly. "But not to worry, they're reasonable folks. They'll get used to you right quick, you'll see."

Johnathon smiled back. "Well, if you say it, Applejack, it must be so." he said with a small bow. "I will take your word on the matter."

Applejack blinked, looking confused. "Er... thanks?"

Twilight giggled. "He found out that you're the Element of Honesty this morning."

Applejack flushed. "Well... that don't matter a mite! Just because...." she sighed. "It's not like I've never told a lie or nothing... I just... prefer to tell things as I see them."

Twilight smiled at her friend, her eyes twinkling. "Even when Discord made you want to lie about everything, you were AWFUL at it. I've never seen a pony so bad at lying." her face softened. "And that's a good thing."

Johnathon nodded immediately. "I've always had the sense that your word was good, Applejack. And that's worth a lot."

Applejack found herself blushing. "You're going to turn my head, you..." she shook her head. "Anyhow, I should probably get back to my cart. It's the busiest part of the day for selling."

Johnathon nodded again. "Sure. Will we see you tonight, at the party?"

Applejack grinned. "Wouldn't miss it, sugar! Pinkie does throw the best shindigs, for certain!"

Johnathon grinned. "So everypony keeps saying. I guess I'll withhold judgement till then. Maybe I'll actually enjoy a party for once."

They left the market behind, and soon found themselves in front of what appeared to be a building built entirely out of a large tree. "This is it!" Twilight announced as she telekinetically opened the door. "Hey Spike, I'm home!" she announced brightly. There was no immediate response, and the purple unicorn frowned slightly. "Spike, are you here?" She called louder as she walked inside.

Johnathon followed, ducking slightly to clear the doorway, and whistled lightly at the thousands of books all around him. It wasn't, by any definition, the largest library he had been in, or even the most impressive, but possibly the first in a very, very long time in which every single book would be new to him. He found himself drawn inextricably to the shelves, skimming the titles, and admiring the quality of the bindings. There were immediately several titles that looked interesting... "a beginners guide to magic" being the most appealing of the many options, despite the fact, or perhaps because of the fact that the words were in large, friendly letters, and it had the almost unmistakable look of an illustrated children's book.

Johnathon had no qualms about starting at the beginning on THIS subject. He was well aware that he knew less than any child of this world about the subject, and the most basic of texts would almost certainly be the best place to start. He would have pulled that particular book from the shelf and begun reading already, but he was trying not to ignore his host.

"Spike?" Johnathon said, sounding out the name. The word sounded somewhat different to him with the translation spell running, but he thought he knew what she meant. "Does that little dragon live here, then?" Johnathon asked curiously. "He came over Fluttershy's home yesterday." Johnathon frowned. "Er... Spike is a boy dragon, isn't he? I wouldn't know how to tell, I guess." Even as he spoke to her, his eyes wandered back to the ever so tempting book.

Twilight glanced down the stairs, (having already made it up to her bedroom to look for the baby dragon, to no avail). "That's right. Spike is a male dragon. He's kind of like my kid brother, in a way. He helps me at the library, and sends messages to Princess Celestia for me." she noticed Johnathon's eyes on the library shelves instead of on her, and smiled. "If you want to borrow a book, go ahead. That is what a library is for, after all."

Johnathon grinned and took the "Beginners Guide" off the shelf, turning to the first page, then flipping past the introduction quickly. "Thanks, Twilight. I expect I'll be coming here all the time. I've got a lot to learn, and probably a finite amount of time to learn it in."

Twilight blinked. "Er... well, everyone has a finite amount of time... except perhaps the Princesses, but you seem to be thinking of something specific?"

Johnathon shrugged. "Well, eventually, you may find me a way back home, and then if I've any books that I wanted to read left unread here, I'll just have to do without!" he grinned. "Not that I'm trying to slow you down, but i wouldn't mind terribly if you took several months, or longer. I can't see getting bored any time soon!"

Twilight grinned. "I guess every book here is something new to you, huh?" she smiled. "I imagine that must be pretty exciting."

He nodded enthusiastically. "Oh yes. I doubt I'll find something interesting in every book, but I've just glanced at the shelves, and I see dozens... more, that I want to read already."

Twilight nodded, looking thoughtful. "I imagine I would feel the same, if our situations were reversed. A chance to study a whole new world, and you get to start in a library!" Johnathon glanced at her with a raised eyebrow, but the purple unicorn seemed to be sincere.

"Actually, yes. That is how I'm feeling. I can learn a tremendous amount about your world right here, without ever leaving this room! I can probably learn more and faster here than anywhere else." he smiled. "Of course, it won't be as significant as learning things the hard way, out in your world... but I can't complain about getting to cheat a little."

Twilight chuckled. "So reading up on our world is cheating?"

The archaeologist chuckled back. "Well, it kind of feels like it. Usually, I have to figure out an ancient culture by little clues... artifacts buried in the dirt for hundreds or thousands of years, bits of writing on stone slabs that no one has been able to read for a hundred generations... pieces of pottery, burial sites, that sort of thing. Getting to read things straight out of a library... and being able to actually READ them without needing to painstakingly translate each part? That does feel a lot like cheating. But I'll take it!"

Twilight laughed at the man's good humor. "I don't blame you. As much as I like puzzles, I do like finding out the truth as quickly as I can. I don't know if I could do your job. It sounds very difficult."

Johnathon smiled. "Well, it can be tedious, but at the same time, you get to discover details about other cultures... other peoples, that no one else has known for the longest time. I do like puzzles, and solving them is a lot more fun when they're hard then when they're easy." he shrugged. "But given the alternative, I'll accept learning a WHOLE lot of things the easy way instead of only a few things the hard way, since I'm given the option." he started reading the children's book on magic he had selected again, then stopped, looking at Twilight, who was still peering down the stairs at him curiously. "Speaking of doing things the hard way... could you tell me about your translation spell? Will it last for two days each time you cast it? Or is that a variable you can change?"

Twilight blinked. "Oh. Well... the spell I read from that book has the time limit set at two days. I simply used the formula they had set down, as I didn't want to waste time experimenting, but I could probably lengthen or shorten the time if you wanted me too. Is it important?"

Johnathon hesitated. "Well... on one hand, with the spell going, I don't think I'll be able to learn your language the hard way... which means I'll be dependent on your spell to communicate. On the other, I've always been very bad at learning new languages. I mean, really bad. I've studied a couple other languages besides my own pretty extensively, and it seems to take me a whole lot longer to learn a new language than it takes most people. My sister in law is my exact opposite in that, actually. She seems to be able to learn a new language, fluently, in only a few months. Me, after six years of classes twice a week, I could barely say two sentences in a row in Japanese... and now, several years later, I remember next to nothing of it."

Twilight looked curious. "Japanese is a language from your world?" she asked curiously. "Are there many different languages where you come from?"

Johnathon nodded. "Hundreds...." he frowned. "Well, thousands, really, although there are a few dozen, I guess, that are used by the majority."

Twilight looked astonished. "So many! I don't think there are more than a dozen total spoken languages listed in the royal libraries in Canterlot... and they have the most comprehensive library in the world!"

Johnathon looked curious. "Perhaps it's a result of having an immortal for a ruler." he said with a frown. "As odd as that concept is for me, I think I can guess some of the effects it might have on a society. For one, most everyone would learn to speak whatever Princess Celestia spoke, I'd think. Also, she probably keeps the language stable just by existing... and speaking it the same way all the time."

Twilight blinked. "That's an interesting hypothesis. So, I take it that you don't have any... er... immortals on your world?"

He shook his head. "No immortals, no magic... at least not that I've seen or felt." the archeologist hesitated, looking like he wanted to say something, but unsure of it's reception.

Twilight started walking down the stairs. "You look like something has occurred to you that you don't like, Johnathon." she smiled wryly. "I've seen that look in the mirror before."

Johnathon frowned. "Twilight... I don't want to sound... paranoid... but... how does Celestia feel about people... ponies, talking about her?"

Twilight shook her head. "I don't understand. You mean, starting rumors and that sort of thing?"

Johnathon shrugged. "Sure, among other things."

Twilight smiled. "Princess Celestia is very... very kind. I've read some really horrible things that some of the tabloids print about her, but no one takes them seriously. And the Princess never lets anyone tell them that they can't say bad things about her." she shook her head. "It doesn't really happen that often. Not very many ponies believe such things about the Princess, and those magazines aren't very popular."

Johnathon blinked. "Well... that actually does answer my question. I guess I am just slightly paranoid." he shrugged. "I... I just thought, that you're really lucky that your Princess is as... good natured and rational as she is. It seems like she has a lot of power, and that she's had that power for as long as your recorded history. Longer."

Twilight nodded, frowning slightly. "What are you getting at, Johnathon?" she immediately flushed. "I'm sorry... I get a little defensive about the Princess sometimes. She is my mentor, after all."

Johnathon shook his head. "Don't worry about it. Honestly, I like Celestia. She really seems like a good leader. A very good one, from what I've seen. I don't like the idea of absolute power resting in any one individual's hands, but if it has to be anywhere, I think Celestia, from all I've seen, is as good a choice as it gets."

He frowned. "Actually, that's not entirely accurate. I've seen that many people controlling a government is hardly perfect either." he shrugged. "Heck, I'm not even sure what sort of government you have... is Celestia in charge of everything, or is she a figurehead, or something in between?"

Twilight blinked. "Oh! I see. Actually I did study different forms of government a little in school. The griffins have a... I believe they call it a direct democracy?" she shrugged. "It's where any citizen has a vote... although I believe in griffin society you have to have served in their military to be considered a citizen?" she looked thoughtful. "Well, I don't remember much more, something about how some of the dragons are organized into a... meritocracy? Where the dragons with the best skills or the most power get to rule the others?" she shrugged, then blinked. "Oh yes... to answer your question, er... yes, Princess Celestia is, essentially, our ruler in every meaning of the word. However, as the task of governing is quite complex, she has a large administration made up of noble ponies that administrate the day to day activities of government."

She looked thoughtful. "On a regional level, majors and governors are elected officials, so we have what is essentially a.. er..." Twilight tried to remember the term. "A republic on a local level... I believe."

Johnathon Dwire nodded. "Well, I am not in a position to really to judge it's effectiveness, but at least from the very little I've seen it seems to work." he shook his head. "Actually, what I find most interesting, now that I'm a little more aware, is that the Princess was able to intervene directly in the situation here when I arrived. I'd expect her to send an intermediary."

Twilight hesitated. "Well... normally, she would, I think. But the situation with the portal to your world, that was, as far as I can tell, something of an emergency situation. She usually sends... er... well, she usually would have sent me to deal with something like this, but I assume that the Elements of Harmony wouldn't have been effective in closing an open gateway between worlds, or perhaps that she felt that, given her unique knowledge of the matter, and the fact that time was likely a factor, it was important that she handle it herself."

Johnathon nodded. "I'm sure you're correct... it's probably one of those things." he shrugged, then looked at Twilight in interest. "So... you're not just the Princess's student, you also act in her stead?"

Twilight's eyes went wide. "Oh no! Nothing like that! It's just... when there is something... er... dangerous, or difficult, that she feels I... well, we, my friends and I, can handle, she asks us to step in. It hasn't happened often."

Johnathon nodded. "Still, it's obvious she must place a lot of trust in you, Twilight."

Twilight lowered her head and sighed. "She believes in me. Sometimes I'm not sure why..." she raised her head then, her eyes going hard. "But I won't let her down."

Johnathon nodded gently. "I believe you." he told her simply. "Anyway, thank you for explaining. I was quite curious, but I was a bit nervous about asking. It's considered unwise to meddle in other people... er... ponies' cultures." he growled. "Ponies... ponies. I'm going to remember to say it right the first time sooner or later, I hope."

He hesitated again, then shrugged and asked anyway. "Er... you speak of Princess Celestia as if she is the only ruler... but I was under the impression that there are two alicorns? Celestia has a sister... Luna, I believe?"

Twilight blinked. "Oh... er... that IS a bit complicated."

Johnathon nodded. "Alright. Do you mind telling me about it, or is it a taboo subject?"

Twilight frowned. "Well, not taboo, exactly, but..." she sighed. "Let me just tell you about it."

******************************

It took almost two hours, as Johnathon stopped her many times with questions, or to clarify a point, but bit by bit she explained the events behind the return of Nightmare Moon, the discovery of the Elements of Harmony, Nightmare Moon's defeat (and Luna's restoration to sanity) and Princess Celestia's return.

Johnathon, while trying to allow Twilight to tell her story, had to practically bite his own lip to avoid interrupting her constantly. Some of the things she was telling him so matter of factually just HAD to be wrong... didn't they?

"I'm sorry to bring this up again..."he said, after letting her get to the end of her story, (something that had taken every bit of his self control), "but... Celestia and Luna... raise the sun and moon? Literally? They move them in their orbits?"

Twilight blinked. "Well, yes. Princess Luna has... at least I believe she has resumed her responsibility for raising the moon at this point, although for the thousand years of her imprisonment, Celestia raised both on her own."

Johnathon opened his mouth to point out the obvious impossibility of the idea, then closed it. Twilight accepted the fact with such confidence that it was quite obviously something that had simply been fact for recorded history. Which, Johnathon now recalled, only went back some eight hundred years or so in her society, accurately, to use Twilight's words. He wondered, for just moments, what possible reason Celestia might have for creating such an elaborate fabrication, but almost immediately the answer came. Who would dare turn on a monarch who literally raised the sun? Everything would, presumably, die without the life-giving rays of the sun, and if it was truly believed that she was responsible, it would be practically inconceivable to attempt any sort of take over. He tried to fit that in with the Celestia he had met, who had struck him as, at the least, kindly disposed toward her people, and as far as he could tell, quite fair minded. Again, his mind supplied the answer. She was as far as he could determine, a pretty darn good ruler, and, being wise enough to recognize her own worth, had simply taken an expedient way of eliminating threats to her rule, which, frankly, would probably be more harmful than helpful, assuming she was, in fact, a truly beneficent leader... which, despite the odds, did seem to be the case.

I can't say anything. Johnathon realized. Unless I'm completely wrong about this... I can't say anything. I could accidentally start a revolution against what, unless I am wrong, is actually the most beneficial dictator that I have ever heard of. And for what? Death and destruction... possibly ending in a slightly more democratic rule? He shook his head. I can't make that call. It's not mine to make. Not without a whole lot more information... and I'm not sure even then if I would have any right to dare make such a call. He looked at Twilight Sparkle, who was starting to look a bit concerned by his long silence, and wondered. Am I underestimating her? Could she handle the truth? Or does it matter if she could or not? He did wonder at one point in her story... where, the moment that Nightmare Moon had been defeated, the sun had, in fact, risen, and Princess Celestia had immediately appeared. But the timing could easily have been faked some how though some sort of illusion, couldn't it?

"Johnathon?" The Element of Magic, Princess Celestia's pride and joy, frowned in concern. "You looked... really upset for a minute, and now you're just looking kind of sad."

The archeologist shook his head. "Just... thinking strange things, Twilight. Best just to ignore me when I get like this."

She raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure? If you need to talk about it, I'll listen."

Johnathon smiled. "I appreciate the offer, but I think these are thoughts that I would prefer to keep to myself. They're just... random musings, nothing constructive. I promise, when there is something that you can help me with, I'll let you know."

Twilight nodded reluctantly, obviously curious, but polite enough not to pry further. Before they could talk any more, a knock came at the door, and without further ceremony, Applejack popped her head through the doorway.

"Hey Twilight, hey Johnathon! Pinkie sent me to let you know the party's going to start in about half an hour. It's at the barn at my place, OK?"

Johnathon smiled. "Cool. Thanks Applejack." he turned to face her. "Twilight was just telling me about some of your adventures. Really riveting stuff. Saving the world, huh? Twice? Pretty darn cool."

Applejack just put a hoof behind her head (making Johnathon's eyes widen slightly), and looked away, obviously embarrassed. "It weren't nothing special. All I did was what any honest pony would have done. It was Twilight who did all the hard parts."

Twilight shook her head. "Don't be silly, Applejack. I never could have made it without you and the others. Without you, I'd have fallen from that cliff and died before we got halfway to the Castle in the first place... and that's hardly the last time you saved the day."

Johnathon grinned. "Well, I wouldn't count out your own actions, Twilight, but yeah, it did sound like it was a serious team effort. You six seem to make one heck of a team!" he smiled slightly. "I've been part of a group like that once or twice... people who you could work together... and you could do more as a group then you could do separately? Where you could trust your teammates to help you without ever asking? It's rare... and there's nothing else in the world like it." he frowned, looking a little sad. "It's really hard when it's gone. It's not something you can just... have because you want it. It's something special... it really is something like magic." he shrugged, helplessly. "Sorry... just feeling a bit nostalgic."

Applejack put a hoof gently on his shoulder. "I guess you had some real good friends. Do you mind if I ask what happened to them?"

Johnathon shook his head. "I don't mind." He shrugged. "Time... the pressures of life. I've had a couple really good groups of friends. When I was a kid, as a boy scout, for about six years I had an almost... magical group of friends. We were in a patrol... a small unit, together during that time, but we were friends at school, and everywhere else as well. Then me and my family moved away, and didn't really settle down anywhere till I was practically an adult. In college, I... found another group of friends... people who I could really trust, no matter what." he sighed. "But we all... grew up, got jobs, formed families of our own, and well, we couldn't seem to help growing apart." Johnathon smiled. "I think, of all of us, I might have tried holding on the past the hardest, but in the end, even I moved on. I found a girl that I really liked... I fell in love, moved away from my friends, and got married. And again... it was... magical."

Applejack sighed. "I'm so sorry, Johnathon. You must miss her an awful lot."

He shook his head. "I don't regret... ANY of it. I wouldn't change a thing." the man shook his head. "Not one choice I made. Not one. It's just... I get a little nostalgic sometimes."

Applejack hugged him, and so did Twilight. He put a hand on each of their shoulders, and smiled. "Thanks, girls. I appreciate it. Really. It's good when someone takes the time to understand you... and I do appreciate that." he smiled. "But let's cherish the friends we have now. We don't want to be late to Pinkie's party, do we?"

Applejack stepped back, laughing lightly. "No sir. We wouldn't want to do that."

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