• Published 2nd Nov 2011
  • 1,724 Views, 7 Comments

Equestrian Day Dreams - PonyMarine

A collection of short stories relating to the land of Equestria, and the lands that people populate

  • ...

Tattoo You?

So due to the nature of this kind of short story, I'm going to include a paragraph or two of "set up" to give us a framework to work with instead of building through exposition. I want to keep these one shots pretty locked down. Without the chance of expanding them to separate chapters, they might show some continuity though...seriously, when have your dreams made sense? This is an experimental project, and I've had to infer a portion of it (Especially the framework...trust me I'd like a better frame to work with too, but take it up with my subconscious).


Simple background this time: I'm in Equestria somehow, I've gained a ponified form somehow, and after my discovery in the Everfree forest by Fluttershy I'm be shown the town and introduced/fed. My tattoos have remained as patterns on both my coat and skin. If you're curious as to what said ink looks like, there's a link to my deviantart on my profile, and my tattoos are in my "random" folder in my gallery. I know it's a self insert, and those suck. I hate them too, but this is literally based off of a dream and expanded to a story. When's the last time you dreamed about/as someone who wasn't you?

Further, with the feedback from my awesome team of prereaders and editors (DJ, Errant, props brohirim) I have split this fic into two versions, one which I’ve dubbed “light heart” is simply a cute quick story with the CMC and a big mess, the other takes a more serious tone and goes in to detail behind my tattoos and the world I come from that resulted in their creation. So which ever you think you’d prefer, go on and read it. You’re currently in the full version.

Walking on all fours when you're used to walking on two is not a simple mental process in the slightest. I was stumbling down the streets with the butter yellow pegasus mare, Fluttershy as she gave her name, and garnering more then a few stares.

The locals probably thought I was drunk, or they were just staring at me in general. I'd caught a glimpse of myself in Fluttershy's mirror after she finished patching me up and took me into town. There were bandages everywhere. A couple of my old body's more visible scars standing out prominently against my now tan colored fur as well as my tattoo ink, which had adapted itself to my new anatomy instead of vanishing by whatever magic had brought me here.

My Marine Corps tattoo and Celtic brand now rode high, one on each of my fore shoulders. Another warrior brand right under...whatever the horse's variant of a clavicle is called...was clear on my chest, and of course my shield and wing remained on my right.... flank, it had also gained a full color duplicate on the left side which Fluttershy informed me was called a "cutie mark"... considering that tattoo didn't have much to do with being cute I wanted to protest but decided to just go with the local terminology. On a positive note everyone... everypony seemed to have their own tattoos on their flanks so maybe here it wasn't quite as odd or taboo as they could be on earth? I was so deep in thought I almost missed what Fluttershy was saying.

"I'm sorry, miss. What was that you just said?"

Fluttershy kicked the ground with her front hoof and whispered,

"If you don't mind, we could go to Sugarcube Corner. I'm sure one or two of my friends will be there for you to meet, and we could maybe get something to eat."

"Sure, Fluttershy, lead the way!"

The bashful and shy nature of this pony was rather amusing sometimes, and the prospect of food sounded good. try as I might I just couldn't bring myself to think of grass as food, and some place called Sugarcube Corner didn't sound like the place to go to experiment with the vegan life style.

A short walk quickly proved me correct. The entire building was a monument to baked goods, candy, and anything to do with sugar at its most refined. Yeah, even in a new pony body, I could work with this. Fluttershy wasn't kidding about her friends either, as soon as we walked in the door we were ambushed by a bouncing pink.... I’m still not quite sure she was a pony, maybe an animated pony-shaped hunk of cotton candy. Whatever Pinkie Pie was, she obviously indulged in a very, very large amount of the products here at Sugarcube Corner. After getting some confections from the still very excited Pinkie Pie, we moved outside to a small table which let me people, err pony watch a little as we ate. The peace and soft noise of the market was quickly spoiled however by a commotion off to my left, a scooter with a wagon attached loaded down with three little ponies, I suppose you'd call them fillies, barreled down the road at breakneck speeds. They screeched to a stop that physics told me should have been relatively impossible, especially considering the apparent lack of brakes on either conveyance. The three quickly ran up to Ms. Fluttershy, talking excitedly. I couldn't follow most of it, something about chickens, omelets, and cutie marks. Fluttershy got them calmed down a little and reminded them of their manners. They spun around to introduce themselves.

"Hi, mister! I'm Scootaloo!"

"I'm Applebloom!"

"And I'm Sweetie Bell!"

Then in unison, "And we're the Cutie Mark Crusaders! Yay!"

It was at this point the girls noticed my rather unorthodox collection of "cutie marks". Fluttershy had asked me about them and explained the concept of cutie marks being a coming of age process and a kind of method to determine one’s place in the world. They were like those career suggestion tests I took in high school, but the results are indelibly marked on your ass for the world to see. Scootaloo was all over the place, apparently trying to look at my tattoos all at once.

"Wow! You have so many cutie marks! And they're all kinda...weird, what kind of special talent does this represent? It's a bird, a globe, some rope, and some weird hook thing. Why is it on your shoulder instead of your flank?"

The three were all looking up expectantly, obviously waiting for the story. How to tell them in terms they'd understand? From what I understood from Fluttershy there was no war here and very little crime. So no real form of military existed, especially nothing that would relate to the Marine Corps...but she had mentioned a Royal Guard, maybe that would do for an analogy.

"Well it's not a cutie mark, where I'm from certain groups of peo... ponies have special marks called tattoos put on them to commemorate or acknowledge a part of themselves or a life achievement. I got that one for joining our version of the royal guard. We call them the Marine Corps."

Close enough, we did guard the President of the United States after all. It didn't prevent another barrage of questions from the excitable little fillies who wanted to know what all of my tattoos meant. I had just finished translating the gaelic slogan under my Celtic tattoo "Bona Na Croin” which meant, “Neither Collar Nor Crown," when the quietest of the bunch, Sweetie Belle, saved me from explaining the old Irish rebel slogan with another question.

"So, mister, if your tattoos don't appear on their own like cutie marks do... how do you get them?"

"That's a good question, Sweetie Belle. You go to a special artist called a tattoo artist, and he uses a special kind of.... quill to enchant the ink on to the skin. It's something you have be careful with though, because they’re permanent and can’t be removed."

The three young fillies seemed to be satisfied with that, and I was able to return to my delicious pastry. Just as I pulled a particularly tasty looking apple tart, the three fillies tore off on their homemade conveyance with their shout of,

"Cutie Mark Crusaders tattoo artists! Yay!"

Their cry echoing in my ears. Fluttershy and I shared a brief look and immediately raced off after the girls as they sped down the streets of Ponyville. They weren't exactly hard to track. I still don't know how those girls propelled that scooter, but damn it could move and throw up a hell of a dust cloud. We were still hot on their heels despite my new limbs trying to intimately acquaint me with the ground a few times. We reached a large tree-shaped building which turned out to be a library. Its door had been left wide open. Inside was...chaos. Books and writing supplies were everywhere. I have no idea how the fillies made such a mess so fast. Fluttershy and I were directly behind them!

A purple unicorn was standing in the middle of the chaos, obviously more than a little annoyed with the rambunctious trio, and using, what I assumed was magic, to levitate the three of them. The fillies were obviously about to catch an ass chewing, and I guess it was partially my fault so I stepped in to defend them.

"Excuse me, miss. Don't be too mad at the girls. I'm the one who got them all worked up. I didn't explain to them what tattoos were fully, and I think they might have gotten the wrong impression."

I stepped over to the young fillies still floating with the unicorn's purple magic surrounding them.

"I forgot to tell the three of you that tattoos aren't a short cut to finding your place or your path. A proper tattoo is received under much the same conditions as a cutie mark, when you find something that defines you. You also have to wait ‘til your a grown-up to get them. I doubt that any of the quills in this library would have quite the affect you three want any way."

I chuckled a little as the fillies faces dropped a bit and they apologized to the purple unicorn, "Miss Twilight." She looked like she was about to set them to work, but I interrupted her again.

"I know they made the mess, miss, but I'll clean it up. It was mostly my fault." and gave Applebloom, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle a wink that said 'break for the door while I still have her distracted'.

The fillies took my cue and scrammed, shouting apologies over their shoulders. Twilight stared at me like I'd just done something wrong but broke into a smile. Fluttershy came over to make introductions and to start helping put the library back together.

"Twilight, this is the pony I told you about, the one I found on the edge of the Everfree forest."

"It’s a pleasure to meet you. I'm Twilight Sparkle, student of Princess Celestia and the Ponyville Librarian."

"Nice to meet you, Twilight. I'm sorry again about the girls, but it really was my fault for not being clear enough."

"Well, fillies will be fillies. You can make it up to me by telling me everything about those markings on you and where you come from."

An especially long scroll, quill and ink pot levitated in to view, and the unicorn was grinning almost manically now, waiting for me to begin to speak. I stifled a groan. I got the feeling when she meant everything she meant it literally. She settled into a relatively clear area on the floor while still levitating various things back in to place.

“So, where are you from exactly? Somewhere across the ocean? Or is it...”

She went on, and I was only half paying attention. I knew where here was, and I knew where home was, but I really had know idea how I’d gotten from A to B...

“I’m not sure. I know where I’m from compared to here, but it’s a very different place. A different world at least... if not something more.”

I had a slightly pained expression on my face, and I think Twilight got the cue this wasn’t the best subject for the moment.

"Let's start with your cutie mark then, shall we? It's full color on your left flank, but it's black and grey on your right flank. Why is that? What talent does a shield and a stylized wing represent? and what's the inscription say? I can't quite make it out"

"Well before I got here I only it had it on my right side. Like I told Miss Fluttershy, where I come from we don't have anything like cutie marks. Tattoos are something you receive from an artist who uses a special kind of needle to mark your skin with ink. As to what it represents, back home I am a warrior, what we call a Marine. I pledged myself to defending everyone I could. The wing is because I was also a flyer, an aircrew...pony"

Twilight and Fluttershy both looked extremely confused and shared a quick "Is he ok?" look.

"But... you don't have any wings. You're an earth pony...and whatever would you need to defend everypony from?"

"I come from a slightly... rougher neck of the woods than whatever this place this is. Where I'm from there are many conflicts, and a lot of evil. We’ve had to fight plenty of wars throughout our history, with many of them lasting decades... if not centuries in some more extreme cases.”

The two ponies were shocked to say the least, and poor Fluttershy looked... terrified was probably the word. Twilight seemed determined to press on though, her determination shining past the look of horror on her face.

"Why would anypony want to do such horrible things to each other?"

"We have a wide variety of excuses, religion, greed...the list is as long and varied, but it never really works out for any of us in the end. As I said, my calling is to defend the innocent and the weak from the predations of those who would do them harm for any reason, so I got that tattoo done on my leg. The wording is 'On the wings of honor, in the skies of fate.' It's nothing traditional, just something that came to me at one point while I was thinking. Fate tosses and turns and can change in seconds much like the weather in the sky, but your honor is what carries you through the good times and the bad."

Twilight looked up from her scroll, a look of mild confusion on her face.

"What exactly is honor to you? It seems like it's central to your life, and one of your other markings, the one with the bird, globe and hook, even goes as far to say that you would accept death before dishonor. Why is it so important as concept to you that you would define your life by it and even die before you would step away from it?"

"Honor where I'm from is a warrior's life blood. It can mean all sorts of different things to each one who has it, but in general honor is living your life to a certain code, displaying integrity in your actions. For myself, that code is a modernized form of an ancient code of conduct amongst warriors called chivalry which includes oath of fair play, courtesy, valor and loyalty. I do say modernized because chivalry came in to being some five hundred or more years before my birth and things have changed a lot since then."

"Does everyone where you're from live by honor codes like that?"

"No, not really. It was rare back in our history, and it's even rarer now. Those who take up such codes and mantles tend to be legendary figures even amongst warriors, especially those who fight and die according to those codes. We refer to them as heroes. In modern times... they just tend to be ignored.”

My two companion’s faces fell at this, even here they could understand the inherent sadness of living in a place where the sacrifices made to protect others are forgotten, I think they both also knew how painful it was to be ignored, or have your contributions to something written off and were relating slightly.

“No matter how many sacrifice to keep the populace at large safe, few appreciate it, and fewer still acknowledge it. We still do it though, and willingly because someone needs to... just one of the harsh realities of our world."

"That... sounds horrible."

Even Twilight’s demeanor was wavering at this point, her professionalism slipping slightly, maybe I was painting a slightly bleaker picture than I should have.

"We have each other, our brothers and sisters in arms, and we know that we're doing the right thing. That's part of honor too. Honor is how you behave every second of every day, doing what's right by your code. Not just what the public at large thinks is right or acceptable. You might not be able to eat your pride, but it does let you stand stronger in the face of adversity. Which brings us back to the death before dishonor tattoo you just mentioned, Miss Sparkle. That marking is around two hundred years old in it's design. It depicts an eagle, globe and fouled anchor. There's many stories and even jokes that go about this particular symbol, but in it's simplest, the eagle is the symbol of our nation, the globe is for world wide service to that nation, and the fouled anchor, which is that odd looking hook bound in rope, is for our tradition as soldiers of the sea. Anchors are used to hold sea-going vessels called ships in place. They’re symbols of steadfastness, safety, and strength. The fouling of an anchor represents the danger, adversity and challenges inherent in sailing. The eagle usually carries a banner in it’s beak depicting our motto "Semper Fidelis" or "Always Faithful." This is our pledge to our nation as warriors, that we will always be there to fulfill our oath of service. I envy you... on many levels. From what Fluttershy has told me since I came here... you don't need such oaths or such warriors here. This a kind world where love and peace come before the warlike ways and self interest of my homeland."

Fluttershy was pale and slightly terrified, even the thought of such things frightened her to such a state as to not be able to leave the room I walked over to her and looked her in the eye.
"Miss Fluttershy I promise that nothing bad is going to happen. This place is safe and so are you. There’s thing at all to be scared of."

The most timid pegasus could only nod, and with a glance Twilight knew our conversation had ended for the moment. Tea was fetched and the talk turned to more pleasant things for the time being, mostly me asking Twilight and Fluttershy as many questions as I could cram in about the world I had come to inhabit. The time and conversation passed quickly, and Fluttershy soon had to leave to tend to her animals. Twilight offered me the use of the library couch for the night, and I accepted. I did not wan to impose on Fluttershy another night, and I knew Twilight would want to finish the conversation from earlier that had so disturbed the sensitive mare. More tea was made, and I was delighted to find Earl Grey existed in the place I now knew was called Equestria. Twilight cleared her throat delicately.

"Shall we pick up where we left off? Let's see... your chest tattoo almost looks like a code of some kind. What does it mean? or reference?"

"This tattoo is incomprehensible by any one who doesn't know me as it happens. The U cubed symbol is improperly used to say there are three U’s present. Written out it stands for Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken, No Surrender, No Retreat. It was something that came to me during a very dark time in my life and became a personal motto, something I would focus on mentally to keep myself strong when I wanted to give in and be weak. Not much depth to it beyond that, Twilight."

"Well from what I understand not all tattoos can be massive involved masterpieces, so that brings us to your last one. A pattern of knot work, what appears to be a wolf, a small crown and some words in what appears to be a different language from your other tattooed words."

"That's about all of it. The knot work is a symbol belonging to an ancient tribe called the Celts. The symbol has come to mean many things over the centuries. Personally I believe it represents the trinity of land, sea and sky. The wolf is also snapping out of a collar if you look closely, and his forepaw is about to come down and crush the crown. The words are in a language called Gaelic which was spoken by the Celts. ‘Bona na Croin" translates to ‘Neither collar nor crown.’ "

"What does that mean exactly? It seems... odd."

"To the subject of a monarchy I'm not surprised, Twilight. Where I come from we aren't ruled by incarnate Goddesses. In fact, we have many religions and faiths all of which have different gods and goddesses. We're ruled by others of our own species, and many of them... are neither as wise or as benevolent as the Princesses are from what you've told me. Many use the great power given to them for their own self interest. Sometimes whole groups decide to inflict that power to force things on others. The country many of the Celts come from is called Ireland, and for many years they were conquered and subject to the neighboring nation of England. Their language and traditions were almost destroyed; their religion was suppressed. They fought for freedom for many years and eventually won it back from the English. This slogan was one of many held by these rebels. Stating firmly they would be a free people, subject to no one."

"I... I find that shocking but given the other things you've told me I suppose it's not really that shocking. If you don't have monarchs ruling in much of your world, who rules instead?"

"Nominally, the people rule, but in most nations we form what is called ‘a republic’ where the nation comes together and from their own numbers elect individuals to lead them for a set period of years. The law applies to all equally, and everyone should be treated equally. That's the theory any way, we fail a lot... but it's better then most of the other things we've come up with in our history. Freedom where I'm from isn't something that exists without question. Freedom is individual, and we all must struggle to achieve it in some regard, beyond just the realm of the political but the personal as well. Just because you have the right to determine your own course doesn't mean it's always easy. Freedom does come easily in your diarchy despite absolute power existing in the crown. Little governance is needed in a society with so much plenty that no one will ever starve or go hungry, so little if anything to protect the populace of the nation from.

I could tell I'd given Twilight a lot to process and that to her, a lot of what she’d just heard must be troubling - if not outright disturbing. We decided to stop for the evening, and good nights were exchanged with the promise to continue the conversation in the morning with much lighter subjects for both our hearts and for Twilight to show me more of Ponyville. Little did I know as I slumbered the young Unicorn sat up at her desk with another scroll of parchment, writing her own words this time.

Dear Princess Celestia,

today I learned a little about kindness, generosity and giving everypony a chance to tell their story. I also learned a lot about appreciating the wonderful things in this life, big and small. Especially the things we sometimes take for granted...