• Published 10th Dec 2013
  • 19,010 Views, 1,985 Comments

One In A Million - ocalhoun

Scootaloo finally finds her special talent. It's the worst week of her life.

  • ...

Don Quixote

weetie Belle and Apple Bloom bounced in front of Cheerilee on the train station's platform with an enthusiasm I could hardly share. Despite my hints of optimism from yesterday, now that I actually stood at the station, listening to the mumbling crowd and smelling the warm, acrid steam from the train, it started to seem all too real to me. I could feel my breathing getting shallower and a thin, cold sweat breaking out on the back of my neck.

“Are you really sure I should go?”

Cheerilee smiled back at me, just how she always did. “Scootaloo, I've known you were destined to be somepony special ever since I adopted you. I know you can do this.”


“Not another word, there. You'll go, and you'll do fine. You'll learn all about that talent of yours, and when you come back, you'll be ready for anything.” She gave me a soft, quick pat on the head. “And when you come back, you'll have some wonderful stories to tell.” She glanced away, then back at me. “I do wish I could go with you, but the school needs me. Don't worry, though. You'll be picked up and taken care of when you get there.”

“I just–”

All aboard who's comin' aboard!” I whirled to face the direction the shout came from just in time to see a mustached stallion disappear into the train.

“Cheerilee, I–”

“You'll be fine, Scootaloo. Now go. Don't miss your train.”

I didn't see any choice; I stepped into the train just in time for the door to slide closed behind me with an all-too-final thwack. I had my saddlebags on, and I had everything I needed. Though, honestly, the bags were nearly empty and I still felt immensely unprepared.

I made my way into the first passenger car. Ponies crowded around me on all sides; this would be the train's last stop before Canterlot, so it was already packed. All the wide-open seats were already taken, of course, which forced me to pick an unfamiliar pony to sit next to. I winced.

As I picked my way down the aisle, a mechanical squeak resounded through the car, and with a little lurch, the train began moving. I passed a few empty seats, but I just couldn't bring myself to sit next to any of these ponies. There was an elderly earth pony mare, pocket photo album already out, no doubt ready to assault anypony unlucky enough to sit beside her with tales of her grandchildren, and then a clean-cut businessmare who glared at me as I walked by, making it clear I wasn't welcome there. An obese stallion more than filled the next seat, so I gave him a wide berth. The well-dressed unicorn stallion beside the next empty seat met my gaze with a venomous sneer. I began to worry that I wouldn't find anyplace acceptable, that I'd have to go back and try to choose the lesser of these evils, but the last empty seat changed that. Next to it sat a unicorn colt, not much older than myself, with a white coat and a deep red mane. He smiled back at me as I looked, and my apprehensions about choosing a seat melted away.

“Hey, is this seat taken?” I asked, already sliding my saddlebags under it.

“Not at all, come on over.” His accent came through strongly, and I loved it.

I hopped into the thinly-cushioned seat. “You're from Trottingham?”

“Well, yes, but ever since I got my cutie mark last week I've been living with my Aunt Sapphire in Fillydelphia.”

“Really? You just got your cutie mark last week?” I stole a glance at it, a single big brilliant-cut ruby on his flank. “I just got mine yesterday!”

“That's right. I got mine sort of late. When your special talent is gem cutting, it's sort of hard to find out about, because, really, who's going to just give you a gem to practice on when you've never done it before?” He shook his head. “I tell you what, I sure did get fed up with being called a blank flank.”

I laughed. “I know what you mean!” Luckily, those days would be behind me now. “Better than being called a chicken though.”

“I bet!” He laughed along with me. “I'm glad that's all over now.”

I settled into my seat as the train picked up speed. “Me too. So, what brings you to Canterlot?”

“Oh, my Auntie's sending me off to magic kindergarten. She says I need to refine my magic to get the gems to sparkle with just the right colour.”

“Wow.” Just how intensive was this school going to be? “They teach about gem colors in magic kindergarten?”

“Heh, I bet not! My old auntie can get eccentric sometimes.” He turned from the window back towards me. “And what brings you to Canterlot?”

Well, this was probably going to be awkward. “For the same reason, actually.”

The colt's face scrunched up. “Huh? To learn how to cut gems better?”

I giggled, though much of it was just on account of nervousness. “No, no. To go to magic kindergarten.”

None of the confusion plastered on his face cleared up as he stared down at my wings and back up to my face. “Seriously?”

“That's what my cutie mark is for.” I pointed to the purple stars on my flank. “I really can use magic.”

He peered at me from the corners on his narrowed eyes. “You can use magic...?”

“I can.” It almost felt like a point of pride now. “Twilight Sparkle even tested it to make sure.”

“Wait.” The colt's eyes went wide. “Twilight Sparkle, as in Princess Twilight Sparkle?”

“Uh-huh. That's the one.”

“Wow, you know the Princess of Magic? Cool!” He sat silently for a moment, seemingly awed by the thought. “What's your name, anyway? I never got it.”

“I'm Scootaloo.” I reached out a hoof.

Instead of shaking my hoof like I expected him to, he picked it up and planted a little kiss on it. Was that some kind of Trottingham custom? “Pleased to meet you, Scootaloo. My name's Ruby Shine, but my friends just call me Ruby.”

I giggled; I wasn't used to such formal introductions. “The pleasure's all mine.” I could hardly say it with a straight face. “So, Ruby, what do they do for fun all the way out in Trottingham?

“You mean, besides train rides through the countryside?” He laughed. “Well, my personal favourite would have to be the stage shows. Why, just a month ago, there was one by a traveling unicorn magician called 'the Great and Powerful Trixie' that was completely amazing. She even...”

The conversation rolled on, to the accompaniment of the train's click-clacking wheels, and I decided I couldn't possibly have found a better seat-mate to share the trip with.

“And that's when I just had to reel back and punch him right in the nose!” Ruby burst into laughter as he finished his story.

I leaned away a little. “That doesn't sound very nice.”

“Oh, you don't know the half of it, but he totally deserved it, seriously.”

“Well, ah, okay.” I supposed that might be true. “But what did your dad do when–”

The screech of the train's brakes interrupted me, and a call of, “Last stop, Canterlot Station! Please watch your step as you exit onto the platform. Luggage pickup will be on your left,” punctuated the noise.

Ruby hopped up. “That's our stop.”

I grabbed my saddlebags and rushed to follow Ruby through the crowd. A few bumps, jostles, and mumbled apologies later, I stood in the middle of the crowd at the Canterlot rail station. I stared up at all the grand buildings and gleaming white spires; I had only been to Canterlot a few times before, and I still found the city impressive.

“Hey, there's our sign!” Ruby pointed to the left, where a mare with a yellow mane and a pink coat stood levitating a sign that read Magic Kindergarten with her magic. Her dull-eyed stare glazed over the crowd without seeming to actually see anything.

I trotted on over towards her, with Ruby following me this time. Several other fillies and colts were already gathering, and as I stepped up among them, I noticed more coming in from the crowd.

The mare in the center of the group put her sign away and came to life. “Okay, children, if you have more bags than you can carry, please put them in this wagon.” She gestured toward a wagon nearby, already hitched up to a tired-looking earth pony. “We'll be leaving to go to the magic kindergarten campus of Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns in just a few minutes.”

Her eyes latched on to me for a moment before she walked up. She turned to Ruby Shine, who still stood beside me. “Your friend can walk with you to the school if she likes, but she can't come inside the gates with us.”

“She's not–”

“I'm a student, too.” I interrupted Ruby. “I'm not just going along for the ride.”

The mare stared at me for a moment, her gaze flickering down to my wings. She raised an eyebrow before shaking her head. “I really wish we still had entrance exams. Well, I'll just leave it for the headmaster to sort out when we arrive.” She looked up from me and addressed the students. “Okay, children, time to go. Follow me closely and don't wander off. If you're not with me when we get there, you're not getting into the school.” She walked into the city, drawing her little crowd along behind her, with the wagon bringing up the rear.

As we all walked together, I felt the eyes of all the little unicorns around me on my back, and we walked in an awkward quiet that did nothing to calm my nerves. Unlike my school in Ponyville, I was very much the exception to the norm now, and I did not enjoy the attention.

I stuck close to Ruby Shine the whole way, even though we were too intimidated to break the eerie silence surrounding us by talking. A low wall came up ahead, with a large gate in the middle, covered with ornate ironwork.

The unicorn mare leading us stepped in front of the gate, and her horn began to glow. A key in a matching pink glow shot out into the gate, and the sound of the lock clicking could be clearly heard. The gates themselves began to glow and open, and our guide walked through.

As the gates swung open, a wide stone courtyard revealed itself inside, with big ornate buildings on either side. A few unicorn fillies were already lined up against the far wall.

“Okay, kids, get yourselves lined up against the wall over there. The Headmaster will be along soon to introduce you all to the school.” As I trotted across the courtyard, she called out again. “No, dear, not yet. You'll be able to get your luggage out of the wagon before you're shown to your rooms. For now, please just line up.”

I stepped into place at the very end of the line, with only Ruby next to me. I didn't want to be next to the other unicorns. Something about their quiet watchfulness made my skin crawl.

Before the gates closed, though, another group of young ponies flooded in, led by a different unicorn. They also trotted across the courtyard and lined up – unfortunately making me no longer the last pony in line.

A violet filly trotted confidently to my side and slicked down her already-streamlined mane with a flick of her hoof. She looked me up and down as she stepped into place, and then leaned over as if to tell me a secret. “Don't look now, but I think somepony stole your horn.” She giggled derisively. “Did you get lost and just end up here or something? I knew earth ponies were that dumb, but I thought a pegasus would be just a little smarter.”

I blushed and looked away. I knew I didn't belong here. My glance caught sight of a distinguished-looking unicorn stallion coming out of the building on the right. Was that the Headmaster?

“Hey,” Ruby chipped in from my other side, “just calm down alright?”

“And what do you care about it, scrawny?” Again, she made that evil little giggle. “What? Is she your special somepony or something?”

I looked over to Ruby, mortified. He looked to be in even worse shape though. His eyes were wide around his constricted pupils and he seemed to be having trouble breathing. Even a drop of sweat trickled down the side of his face.

After a moment of what looked very much like panic, Ruby spoke. “What? Me? With an earth-pony-dumb pegasus like her? Not a chance in the world!” He punctuated his denial with a rough slap on my back.

I, unfortunately, did not expect his betrayal, or the sudden slap on my back. It threw me off balance and I teetered forward. I caught another glimpse of the approaching unicorn as I struggled with my wings to get myself back in balance. My wings never had been up to a challenge, though. I toppled forward, landing face-first on the hard white stone of the courtyard.

I stayed there, chin grinding into the dust and eyes squeezed shut, the cold knife of betrayal twisting inside me. I thought Ruby was my friend. How could he do that? What had I ever done to deserve–


I opened my eyes, only now realizing how blurry they had become. Looking up from my painful position against the ground, I saw the same unicorn stallion, now standing over me with a frown on his mustached face. I cringed as his eyebrow slowly rose.

“I'm terribly sorry. There must have been some mistake. You see, this is Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns. You should probably be heading off to... wherever it is you're supposed to be.”

I picked myself up and tried my best to wipe off the dust and grit. “I, um... No sir. This is where I'm supposed to be, learning magic.”

His eyebrow rose even further, and he tilted his head to look at me over the rims of his glasses. “You poor, deluded thing. I'm sorry to be the one who has to break this to you, but you are a pegasus, not a unicorn.” A slight sneer broke out on his face. “You'd best be moving along to wherever your kind belongs.”

Doubts resurfaced in my mind. Was this really what I should be doing? But what would I tell Twilight and Rainbow Dash when I got back? That brought up a memory though... Twilight! I looked back up to the stallion. “But I've got a letter and everything. Princess Twilight sent me here.” I made sure to emphasize the 'princess' part. That might just impress him enough to get him off my case. I hopped up, reached into my saddlebags, and pulled out the letter, holding it out in front of me proudly.

With a huff, he took the letter up in his yellow-tinged magic, unfurled it, and began to read, “From the desk of Princess of Magic, Twilight Sparkle... pegasus named Scootaloo... unusual assignment... personally verified... next class...” He looked up from the letter. “This is completely unprecedented and absolutely preposterous. I said it myself that having such a young mare as a princess would lead down the road of folly, and here's the proof, right in front of me.” He sighed and rolled his eyes, his magic sending the letter back into my saddlebag. “I'll do my royal duty and humor this absurdity, though I have no idea what purpose there could be to it.” He turned and stepped away from me, still mumbling to himself.

I breathed a quick sigh of relief, glad that everypony's attention began to shift elsewhere.

He strode out into the sun-drenched courtyard with a slow strut that could easily be mistaken for dignity before turning around at the point exactly across from the middle of our line of students. For a moment, he just stood surveying us all, as a stern general inspecting his troops. “Welcome young unicorns, and other ponies, to the magic kindergarten campus of Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns, the most prestigious institution of magical instruction in all of Equestria.” His eyes shined out with a fierce pride. “Here, you will receive the finest education in magical principles to be found in the world. This is an accelerated course, and you will find it both rigorous and difficult. However, I am certain that”– his piercing gaze shot out directly towards me for a moment –“every unicorn here can successfully complete it with discipline, diligence, and the determination to prove yourself worthy of Canterlot's foremost institution.”

I could already tell that I was not going to have an easy time getting along with this guy.

“My name is Headmaster Herald Dust, and I'm here to ensure you all receive a firm grounding in not only the use and theory of magic, but in magic safety as well. As such, breaking of the safety rules will not be tolerated.” He stomped his hoof down. “First and foremost, the use of magic is absolutely prohibited except when authorized and supervised by one of the school's teachers. Roughhousing and – ahem – horseplay will not be permitted anywhere on school grounds. Finally, students will follow their teachers' instructions at all times.”

At least he didn't seem to be harping on me in particular anymore. That was an improvement.

“Following the principles taught in this school will endow you with the magical skills that will enable you to prosper in life, just as many of our alumni have, including such prestigious names as Crystal Sun, Sound Theory, Trillian Starmane, Midnight Rose, and even Princess Twilight Sparkle.”

My ears perked in interest. Twilight went to this school herself? I never knew that. It made me feel just a tiny bit better about her sending me here.

“This course is seven days long, not counting two days of break on the weekend. Starting tomorrow, you will be attending regular classes which will consist of a class on magical theory and a course of magical exercises. You will have the weekend off, giving you time to rest and study. Next Monday will be the final exam for your theory lessons, and the Tuesday following it will be your final test for demonstrating magical skill, followed by the exam results and graduation.” He blatantly looked right at me. “Or lack of graduation, whichever the case may be.”

My apprehensions about this weren't clearing up, that was for sure. What was this stallion's problem?

“I wish all of you promising young unicorns good fortune in your upcoming studies, and in your futures.” His voice lost its booming pride, without losing much of its volume, as he continued, “You will now be shown to your rooms. You may collect your luggage from the wagon now. Fillies, please follow Miss Honeydown to the left, colts, please follow Missus Primrose to the right. You are dismissed.”

I stood there, blinking for a moment as the rest of the students around me walked off in different directions. For some reason, it took me a moment to even register that the Headmaster's speech had ended. Before I knew it, I was the last in line to get into the buildings. I headed to the left with the rest of the fillies, of course, and by the time I made it into the line, ponies were already filing inside.

A few more fillies stepped into line behind me; the purple filly with the slicked-down mane somehow ended up right next to me again. Behind her came a light blue filly with a puffy, dark blue mane. Both of them pulled along heavy suitcases, making me wonder if I had come here under-prepared.

The yellow mare stood over me, pointing a hoof at me and the two fillies behind me. “And you, room three nineteen, along with the next two. Yes, you and you. Move along now.”

Did that mean that I had to share a room... with that filly? I didn't like the sound of that at all. “Miss...” What had the Headmaster called her? “Honeydown? Could I maybe get a different roommate?”

She brushed a bit of her mane out of her face and smiled down at me. “I'm sorry, little one, room assignments are permanent.” Without waiting for my reply, she moved on down the line, assigning more room numbers as she went along.

I thought about resisting for a moment, but as the line of unicorn fillies in front of me began to move, I went along with them, feeling a little like I was being swept along by an irresistible current. How bad could it be, though? Everything was going to be okay.

Miss Honeydown called out from the back of the line, herding all the students forward. “Okay, girls, once you get inside the doors, head to your right and then up the stairs.” As everypony filed inside, the mare continued, “The first floor is open to everypony. It includes the theory classroom and the dining hall, where you'll get your meals. Breakfast is at seven sharp tomorrow morning, by the way.”

I finally made it up to the doors to the building, despite the crowd in the way. Those doors, too, were ornately worked, but made of wood this time, not iron. As I stepped inside, I felt as if I had dropped into a different world. The lights shone dimly compared to the afternoon sunlight outside, and everything, from the musty smell to the way the students' voices echoed through the hallway, struck me as totally different than the atmosphere in the courtyard.

By the time I adjusted to the change, Miss Honeydown came through the doors behind me and shut them with a flick of magic. “On the ground floor of the other building, you'll find the magic exercise workroom and our staff offices.” She began shooing the fillies onward again. “Now, at the end of the hallway is a stairwell. Upstairs areas are for fillies only, just as the upstairs of the other building is only for colts. Now, please head upstairs and find your room. Room numbers starting with a two will be on the second floor, numbers starting with a three will be on the third.”

I waded through the crowd of noisy, jostling unicorn fillies, slowly making my way toward the stairwell. A plush maroon carpet softened the stone floor underfoot, but the rest of the building seemed dark and uninviting, and the bustle of a couple dozen young unicorns completely filled the close air of the hall.

As I set foot on the first step of the stairwell, the teacher called out from behind, “Bathrooms are at the end of the hall farthest from the stairs on each floor. The class schedule and a map will be posted in your room. Don't be late tomorrow!”

The wooden steps of the wide, spiraling stairwell creaked and groaned under the weight of all the fillies climbing up them at once, and the echoing sound of dozens of excited little mouths still filled every nook and cranny of the space. I hurried up the winding steps until I reached the top floor. The hallway here was made of the same dark grey stone, and the same red carpet ran down its center. The occasional picture frame or tapestry on the wall and the warmer lighting up here softened the effect. The noise, too, was softer. An occasional girlish squeal still lit up the hall, but the voices were more subdued, and there were fewer to be heard, thanks to leaving many of the other students behind on the second floor.

I followed the carpet down the hall, checking the brass numbers on the doors as I went along. Soon, I found the one I was looking for, nearly at the end of the hallway.

Pushing the door open, I breathed a sigh of relief when I found that I made it into the room first. It was tiny, with triple-stacked bunk beds and a tiny window filling the far wall, a desk with three chairs filling the right, and a few shelves on the left, all made with the same dark wood. I wasted no time in throwing my bag onto the shelves and hopping up onto the top bunk. The day had been long and stressful, and I felt more than tired enough to just go right to sleep. Though the room felt more than a little spartan, the bed's soft blankets welcomed me like an old friend's hug.

As I yawned and my eyelids drooped, my two new roommates barged in through the door, still lugging their suitcases. The violet one tossed her suitcase unceremoniously at the shelves, where it bounced off and clattered to the floor.

The other filly, the one with the puffy blue mane, walked quietly over to the shelves and softly placed her suitcase on the center of the bottom shelf.

Meanwhile, the first pony stared at me with narrowed eyes and a gradually deepening frown. Before I knew it, a purple aura surrounded me, and I hurtled through the air, to crash down on the rough wooden floor next to the door.

As I cleared the stars out of my eyes and shook my head from the shock, I saw the purple filly smirk at me and hop up into my top bunk.

I jumped back up and stomped a hoof down. This had gone on long enough. “Hey! Just what do you think you're doing?”

The blue filly quietly slipped into the bottom bunk as I waited on an answer. None was forthcoming.

I fluttered up and hung on the edge of the top bunk. “I'm talking to you! Just who do you think you are, tossing me out of my bed like that?”

I am River Star, future diva of the musical stage, and you... you get the privilege of helping me and making sure I get through this as quickly and easily as possible.” She gave me a wide smile that couldn't hide the predatory gleam in her eyes.

“Not likely!” I reached out to grab her and toss her out of my bed, but just before I touched her, I found myself floating in a purple aura again.

River Star gave a showy gasp of faux disbelief. “Fighting? On your first day? What would the Headmaster say?”

I struggled in every direction, and even tried flapping my wings, but nothing could get me free of that magical grip. “Oh yeah? And what's he gonna say when he finds out you've been using magic without permission?”

“Oh, please.” She laughed as her magic shoved me down onto the floor again. “Who's he going to believe? The pegasus who wants to be a unicorn, or his own daughter?”

I picked myself up again. A sharp pain shot through my left hock where it had hit the wooden floor, but my heart boiled with impotent rage. My head spun, trying to think of something to do about it, but nothing came.

“Worm!” River's voice called out from the top bunk, “Introduce yourself!”

“Oh, um, okay,” the filly in the bottom bunk mumbled. Her sky blue head popped out, crowned with her messy dark blue mane. “Hello, my name ith Night Withper.”

“Um, nice to meet you, Whisper. I'm Scootaloo,” I replied, ignoring the lisp. What could I do?

“That's not your name, Worm!” River's harsh voice called down from above.

“Oh, I, um... thorry... my name ith, um, Worm.”

I looked back up at the top bunk. I couldn't see her from here, but I knew River was up there. “Hey, you can't do that to her!”

“Oh, really?” River's head popped out over the edge of the bed. “I can do whatever I want.”

River's horn lit up, and I winced reflexively, prompting a cruel chuckle from above.

The light switch clicked off and the violet glow around River's horn died away. “Now, I'm a little tired, so I say it's bedtime.” She laughed again; it could almost be called a cackle. “Nighty night!”

I sighed, still seething with frustration, before climbing into the middle bunk and snuggling into the blankets. I was ready for some sleep, after all. As I settled in and let my eyes droop closed, I thought of how nice it would be to at least get a good night's rest.

Slowly, my eyes closed and I could feel myself drifting off to–

An obnoxious snore cut through the quiet room, coming from the bunk above... and then another snore. I ground my face into my pillow and kicked at the bunk above, but yet another snore followed.

I let my head fall into the pillow, exhausted and defeated. What else was there to do?