• Published 20th Dec 2014
  • 17,665 Views, 1,494 Comments

Tears of a Foal - Rocinante

In the winter snow, a lost foal cries.

  • ...

New Ways

- - - day 1 pt 4- - -

Leaving the clinic with the tired colt on her back, Celestia felt better. Clover had no signs of broken bones or muscle damage, but the massive gaps in his development still worried her. Walking through the public hallways, the scent of food from the cafeteria reminded her that it was dinnertime. Luna was probably already sitting down to eat.

The smell reached Clover too. She could hear his stomach whine at the promise of food nearby. But he held still, neither squirming nor complaining over the hunger.

She made a quick path to the royal chambers. Greeting passing guards with only a friendly nod. Clover seemed desensitized to them by now, only reacting to one that had ran up to Celestia to deliver a message. Even then, he had only clung to her neck a bit tighter.

Inside the private chambers, Celestia lowered herself, letting Clover slide off her back. This was Celestia and Luna’s private suite. While the formal guest quarters could host a hundred nobles and their retinue, here they could only host dinner for a dozen, and sleep half that. Dignitaries were seldom welcome here, but friends always were. Cadence and Twilight both knew these rooms as well as they did their own homes. Twilight’s friends had been here enough that they no longer bothered asking before raiding the icebox.

With the public world on the other side of a locked door, she slipped off the regalia of state, from crown to shoes, and hung them on their purpose-made stand. In the other room, she could hear Merry Hearth humming and moving plates around.

“I brought a guest for the night. He’ll need a booster stool for dinner.”

“One step ahead of you dear,” the old earth pony answered.

“I told Merry you would be bringing the colt home,” Luna added.

Clover looked around the corner, then back to Celestia. He had that nervous, lost, expression again.

“Let’s go wash up,” she said, motioning for him to follow.

He stayed tight on her heels, as she made her way to the guests’ bathroom. Opening the old door, Celestia stepped off the wood floors of the hall, and onto the cool tile of the bathroom. She hadn’t gotten her hind legs onto the tile, before Clover shot past her, his head swiveling every direction in search of something. Spotting the toilet, he tilted his head, as if not quite sure what it was. He stood next to the recessed trough, and examined it and its two buttons. Squatting, in a rather lewd gesture, he pointed to the toilet, looking to her for some kind of answer.

Is he asking for permission, or has he never seen a toilet?’ Celestia nodded. The look of relief in Clover’s eyes almost made her laugh, but the worry in her heart muted it. Stepping back into the hall, she closed the door to give him privacy.

Luna walked from the reading room and into the hall as she waited by the door for Clover. “Merry tells me that dinner is ready.”

“Eep!” Clover’s voice screeched through the door. A clattering of hooves on tile, and the thud of a body hitting the floor jolted both the princesses. The door flung open with their combined magics, only its solid nature kept it from slivering.

“Are you okay?!” Celestia asked standing next to him in a leap.

The colt was splayed out on the floor next to the toilet, his face a mix of pain and confusion. He groaned, chirping something as embarrassment reddened his face. Celestia helped him to his hooves, as Luna looked to see what had happened.

“I do not see anything,” Luna said. “Other than he did not flush.” Stepping on the button, a blast of clean water washed the tinted water from the trough. The colt gave her a confused look. Regaining himself, he moved a bit closer to her: whether wary of her or the toilet, she wasn’t sure. Reaching a hoof out as if the device might bite, he pushed the bidet button. The little jet of water shooting into the air bewildered him for a moment, before the spark of realization hit him.

Luna and Celestia laughed.

“I believe he goosed himself,” Luna chuckled. “That would be a rather cold shock for the unprepared.”

Feeling the unease of the foal—Luna gave him some space, allowing her sister to help him up to wash his hooves. “I hear his caretakers are still missing and unknown. Has he spoken Equestrian yet?”

“Not that I can understand. He does not speak Equestrian, or any language I have ever heard. However, we've had some success with communication nonetheless.” Celestia paused, scruffing his mane with her hoof, she gave Luna a toothy smile. “I named him Clover, while we were in the clinic.”

Luna watched silently, as her sister doted on the foal, showing him how to wash his hooves, running a brush through his mane, and even taking a damp towel to his face. The foal… Clover took the mothering in stride, prattling in his native tongue all the while. The tone sounding like complaining and protests, but he withstood the assault as best one could expect a young colt to.

Celestia was right. Whatever language the foal spoke, she’d never heard anything like it. Leaving the two, she made her way to the dining room. ‘She named him Clover,’ she mused to herself. To give a name was to give a little bit of yourself.

Clover, be gentle with her heart. May the shadows of your past stay lost, and the amnesia of youth reap freely.

Taking her seat at the table, Luna settled into her cushion, and smiled at Merry Hearth. “They shall be along shortly.”

Merry Hearth nodded. Pulling the greens off the stove, she poured them into the serving bowl. With the last of the meal on the table, she sat herself down next to Luna to wait for Celestia and her ward for the day.

“Sleep well?” she asked Luna. “Your afternoon nap seemed a bit short today.”

“Between Hearth's Warming coming up, and this abandoned foal, my mind had a hard time letting me sleep.”

Merry straightened a few things on the table with her hoof. “Tomorrow should be quiet. Hopefully you will catch up on your rest.”

“Sorry,” Celestia said walking into the room, the foal hiding behind her legs. “You should have started without us.” Spotting the booster stool, she helped Clover take his seat, before taking her usual spot across from her sister.

The foal sat politely on his raised cushion, as Celestia floated his serving onto his plate. Merry could tell he was nervous, but given the company, it was normal. His eyes darted around the table with hungry intent. The colt was hungry, but he dared not move without instruction. That kind of discipline wasn’t natural for a little one.

She wasn't going to ask though, she was sure they'd had enough of that for the day already. Dinner was a time for pleasant conversation. “Tomorrow, I think I’m going to start putting out the Hearth's Warming decorations. Any suggestions for this year?”

Luna hummed while taking an ample portion of the alfalfa and fescue salad. “I think a small tree in the parlor would be nice, something simple.”

Deciding Clover needed his share of healthy food, Celestia added a serving of the salad to the colt’s plate. “As long as I get some of your eggnog and ginger snapps, I’m happy.” Looking to her own plate, Celestia served herself some fried tofu, before dipping the sprouts in chili sauce. “Although, it has been a while since we had the train around the tree.”

Merry nodded. Reaching for a biscuit, she moved the foal’s drink a bit closer to him; adjusting the straw so he could drink from it without having to pick it up. He was at the age that tended to complain about sippy cups, but not quite old enough to be completely trusted with holding a glass. “There you go. Make that easier on you.”

He gave her a smile and nod, but held his silence. “He’s a quiet one.”

“Clover doesn't speak any language we know.” Celestia frowned, realising she wasn’t sure how well the foal could feed himself. Memories of the lunch tray came back to her; he probably had eaten straight out of the bowls with his muzzle. Taking a fork in hoof, she motioned for him to see if he could do the same.

The fork would stick, with the utmost concentration, but as soon as he tried to pick anything up with it, it would clatter to the plate. Celestia watched him try for the fourth time to use the fork, she could feel his frustration turning to anger. When, again, the fork tumbled out of his grasp, she took it into her magic. He recoiled from the golden aura for a second, but then relaxed, giving her a confused look.

Spearing some of Clover’s boiled greens, Celestia floated it up to his mouth. He sulked for a moment, mumbling something. With a sigh, his composure slipped into that of one consigned to their fate, and opened his mouth for the floating fork.

Merry had to smile as the foal’s embarrassment gave way for a moment: perking up, he made a happy little humm as he chewed.

“I believe you have another fan,” Luna said, giving Merry a little salute with her fork.

The fresh grass was met with less acceptance. His glare at the floating food seemed to question whether it was actually edible. Leaning forward, he took only a nibble of the offered tuft. His face scrunched up as his jaw worked on it own accord. With a shrug, he took the rest of the offered grass.

Celestia ate with fork in hoof, while feeding Clover with the other. Luna had to admit it was an impressive show of multitasking. She let dinner stay quiet, till Clover eased back, and refused more food. “Tomorrow, what will you do if the parents are not found?”

“After three days, he is a ward of the crown.” Celestia fumbled with her food for a moment. “I do not think many would be able to offer him the care he needs to adjust.”

Luna held in any response; whatever decision her sister made about the foal had to be her own. “Thank you for the meal, Merry. I should be in for the usual breakfast. I’ll take my midnight snack in the cafeteria though. The night guards are having a birthday party for Ipomoea, I will eat with them there.”

Rising from her cushion, Luna smiled and gave Clover a nod farewell before doing the same to her sister. “Goodnight to you, Sister. Sleep well.”

The worried frown jumped off Celestia, replaced with a warm smile. “Have a good night. I hope it goes well.”

With the sounds of the balcony doors closing, Celestia looked at her plate one last time, before deciding she was full. “Thank you Merry,” she said walking over to Clover, and helping him down from the stool. “A wonderful meal as always.”

Merry Hearth stood up and gathered some of the bowls. “Thank you. I’ll make the first room ready for the little one, after I have the dishes cleaned.”

Nodding her thanks, Celestia smiled down at Clover. She could feel anxiety under his facade of calm, but it was still an improvement over when she had met him. ‘If only he could talk.’ Turning, she headed into the Great Room.

Clover followed her without prompt. In the library, she scanned the shelves for something useful. Twilight always had a better mind for finding the right book for any problem. Movement caught her attention. Looking towards it, Clover had ventured away from her. He was pacing the shelves one by one, carefully checking the spine of each book, but never seeming to find what he was looking for. ‘What is he is looking for? Something in his native language? Or is he just imitating me?

A large book on a half-filled shelf caught her attention. It was a collection of famous photographs; a gift from Twilight to Luna. Taking the book in her magic, she waited by the door, till Clover had given up his search, and rejoined her.

Again he paused to gawk at the floating book and the glow around her horn. Going cross-eyed, he looked up at his own horn, as if expecting it to be glowing too. Celestia chuckled, and patted him with a wing. This was a curiosity she was used to. “I will teach you about that too, if you like. First we must teach you Equestrain.”

Heading back into the Great Room, she lead him to a great lounging pillow beside the fireplace. Laying the book open on the overstuffed futon, Celestia lay down, patting the pillow for Clover to join her. She had to suppress a giggle as Clover waddled and crawled his way across the fluffy cushion.

Taking a seat next to her, Clover looked at the open pages. She watched his eyes scan the two pictures. When he had seemed to absorb all he could she flipped the page. The image of a hot air balloon captured his attention, but it was not the bright red balloon against blue sky that held his gaze, but the pegasi flying around it.

“Pegasus,” she said, pointing to one of the flying ponies. She let him repeat the word, then pointed to the dramatically poised bowl of oats on the next page. “Oats.”

The next few pages didn’t offer any simple vocabulary lessons. With Clover against her chest, she watched over him as he looked on one page after another. As they made their way through the book, Clover’s head scanned the pages slower and slower. Celestia closed the book, and put it away when his head finally rested motionless on the pillow.

Resting her head inches from his, she closed her eyes, and listened to him breathe.