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

Tears of a Foal - Rocinante



In the winter snow, a lost foal cries.

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Learning

day 2 pt 2

Celestia straightened her desk, and turned off the light. With the work day done, she could finally go check up on Clover.

Walking into the hall, the door guards saluted her.

“At ease. The sun set ten minutes ago.”

The guards relaxed a bit, giving her a soft smile. “Still no word on where the foal came from, your Majesty. Princess Luna left him in the care of the dean of language, before retiring for the afternoon,” the guard told her.

She expected the lesson to have only lasted an hour or so. There was nopony at the college that she didn’t trust implicitly, so she hadn't worried about him. But now that she had time to think, she was rather curious what they had found to keep him occupied in the hours since then.

“Where is he now?”

“Still with the dean.”

“Really?” Walking towards the nearest balcony, Celestia unfurled her wings. “I have to see this.” Perfect Diction was a good pony, but just a bit curmudgeonly. Private lessons with a foal would be beneath him in most cases; she knew it was only a personal favor to Luna that had gotten him to agree. Even then, she only expected succinct ninety minute lessons.

Landing outside the language hall, Celestia entered the old building. One of the smaller halls on the campus, not a tenth the size of the magic hall, but still a noble building. Empty of students and faculty, she walked in silence towards the dean’s office. Perfect Diction’s voice chanted something from inside. She couldn’t make out the words, but every repetition was punctuated by a smaller voice repeating it.

The room went silent as Celestia pushed the door open. Perfect Diction gave her a polite bow.

Clover waved, saying “Hello” with a thick accent.

Diction looked from her to the colt. “I will work on the pronunciation later.”

Celestia’s face lit up at the greeting. Trotting over to Clover, she gave him a wing hug. “Hello to you too.” Releasing the colt, she looked to Diction. “How long have you two been here?”

The question surprised Diction. “We started after lunch. What time is it?”

“About five.”

The old stallion jumped at the answer, letting out one of his wry chuckles. “Time flies when you’re having fun.”

This time Celestia was struck with the wry laughter. “I was afraid you would resent foalsitting.”

Diction nodded his head. “Oh, I groused about it all morning. I didn’t realize he really didn’t speak any known language though.”

“Why would that matter?”

“Because I’ve never taught a language without translation. It’s quite the rare challenge. Outside of yearlings anyway, and they teach themselves.” Seeing the lack of understanding in the Princess’s eyes, Diction scratched his chin in thought. “Without words, how would you explain want.”

Celestia pondered the question. Want, was a simple idea; one that yearlings learned early. Constant repetition of the question of “Do you want?” let them pick apart its meaning. To teach it in a classroom was another thing.

“I do not know,” she finally answered.

“You can not. You teach the nouns and verbs you can, and let him deduce the less tangible ones. The trick is to give him the right structure to be able to find the pattern.”

Looking back to Clover, Celestia smiled. The colt was studying their every word. “I’m glad you are enjoying the challenge, Professor Diction.”

“This will make for a wonderful paper a year from now. He is a bright colt, and he has a discipline I wish my morning class had. Not to mention, he seems to speak some language I have never heard. I intend to stay in his favor, so I can have him teach it to me.”

Quid pro quo,” Celestia mused.

“Everything in life is quid pro quo, your majesty. Most ponies just refuse to call it what it is.”

Celestia nodded. She’d had this conversation before, she wasn’t going to start it again. “Is there anything I could do to help him learn faster?”

“The usual things you do with a yearling. Do not dumb down your vocabulary, but use simple sentence structure. Try teaching him some magic, he might be able to express himself more that way. Not to mention getting him writing will be easier with magic.”

“Teach without words?”

Diction gave her a little bow. “Mae'n sialens addas i Dywysoges.”

Celestia scoured her memory for the old words; Luna was always the better linguist. “I suppose it is.”

Having made a schedule for Clover to visit the dean a few days a week, Celestia bid him farewell. Clover seemed tired, but in that healthy way. His gait was still awkward, but didn’t slow him down much.

Perfect Diction’s suggestion ran through her mind as she lead Clover back outside into the cold night. She had only seen his horn spark that one time. She should have seen more errant magic from the colt by now. Perhaps it was a challenge best suited for her.

A gentle snowfall interrupted her thoughts. Coming to a slow stop, Celestia looked back at Clover. He was getting cold. Kneeling down, she motioned for him to get on her back. She smiled as he clambered on without hesitation. She had a little time before dinner would be ready. As Clover snuggled into place, Celestia strode off campus, and over to market street. She would have flown, but she needed to test the foal’s reaction to that first. Maybe something else to do tomorrow.

Rounding a corner, she found herself on the great road that divided the market district: four carts could travel abreast on it, from the train station to the castle gates. A scenic walk at any time, but the Hearth’s Warming season made it a living wonderland.

Clover shifted on her back. She could feel his head looking every direction at the sights. Thick cloth and bright buttons filled the haberdasheys window displays, reminding her of how cold Clover had been a moment ago. ‘I should ask Rarity to make him a winter coat.’ The thought put a mischievous grin on her face. The request would send the girls into a frenzy of speculation.

The warm glow from a familiar shop caught her attention as she neared the castle. The trip hadn’t taken long, she had enough time to stop and get a treat.

“Good evening your highness,” Joe said with a bow. Trotting up to the counter, he looked to the foal on her back. “Who’s this little guy?”

Celestia was proud of Clover for not wincing at the loud, friendly stallion. “This is Clover. He is under my care for a while; maybe longer.”

Joe didn’t ask for any specifics, he never did. He knew pleasant conversation, and stuck to it. Honestly, it was the main reason she came here over the fancier places. “I would like a hot cocoa to go, please,” she said, floating two bits out from her torc. “And put a straw in it.”

Wandering back out into the snow, Celestia traded sips of the cocoa with Clover as they made their way back home.