• Published 21st Jan 2015
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The Mailmare - Bad Horse



The Equestrian Postal Carrier's Hoofbook lists three circumstances under which mail service may be suspended. The end of the world is not one of them.

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4. Postage Due

When she came to, the leather ropes around her legs had been let out enough that she could stand up if she wanted to. But she stayed lying on the ground. Tale Spin was looking down at her.

“Is it over?” she asked.

He snorted. “You were out for half a minute. Even Dusty here isn’t that fast.” He tossed her mail bags where she could reach them. “Well, Mailmare. Do your job.”

Her bags were carrier bags, so they were full of pockets for organizing letters of different shapes and different destinations. “What city?” she asked.

“What?”

“What city would your mail have been sent to?”

“Appleloosa,” he said.

She leafed through the pocket she’d reserved for standard-size envelopes for the Appleloosa area. There it was—a plain number 10, with “Tailspin, c/o Bottlecap’s Boarding, Appleloosa” written in a flowery hoof.

He glanced away sheepishly. “Always gettin’ my name wrong,” he muttered.

There was another snick as he opened his knife again. He fished the letter out, then held it up with one hoof and turned so that the sunset was at his back to read it. From the glance Derpy got of it, it had looked like a short letter, but he held it up close to his face for over a minute, remaining stone-faced the entire time. Then he folded it up carefully and put it back in the envelope.

“What about me?” Corkscrew asked. “Anything for me?”

“Shut up, Corkscrew,” Dust Devil said. “Reading time’s over.”

“What about me?” Updraft asked, stepping forward for the first time. “Updraft. One word. Dodge Junction.”

“I—I think I’d’ve remembered a name like Corkscrew,” Derpy said. Updraft was a pretty common name, though. She looked through the letters for Dodge Junction.

“Sorry,” she said after checking twice. “That’s all.”

“Can you take a letter to Canterlot for me?” Corkscrew asked.

“Shut up, Corkscrew!” Dust Devil said. “And you know Canterlot’s nothin’ but a smoking crater.”

“I’m headed that way,” Derpy said, and it sounded true to her when she said it.

Tale Spin stepped very close to her and bent down to where she was still sprawled on the ground, almost touching her nose. He held her muzzle with one hoof until she looked into his eyes with her one good one.

“If we let you go,” he asked slowly, “will you deliver one letter for each of us?”

His eyes looked as calm and trusting as a child’s, and she knew that for that moment he was speaking to her as another pony. But if she lied, if she said something and had the least bit of doubt in her mind about it, he would see it, and he would scratch her off from his list of ponies and treat her from then on like a thing he owned.

“Yes,” she said. She took a breath. “Anywhere between here and Canterlot.”

He eyed her dubiously. “How’ll you get past the Everfree?”

“Fly,” she said.

“You are not seriously considering this,” Dust Devil said. He marched up and slapped Derpy’s rear end hard with one hoof. She’d have tried to kick him, she told herself, if she’d been standing. But it was so much easier just to lie there. She looked away and tried to ignore him.

“Look at that ass, gentlemen. Look at that ass and tell me you’re gonna send it away without so much as a farewell kiss.”

Wait a minute, she thought. Tale Spin’s right. I am a pony.

Only then did she realize she had already crossed herself off the list of ponies in her mind and begun to try to act like a thing.

Her cheeks burned. And now she’d promised to deliver their letters for them, like she was grateful. And she knew she’d do it, too.

Would a pony do that?

She got to her feet. “Wait,” she said.

Everypony fell silent and looked at her, and she realized something in her voice had changed.

“Postage,” she said.

Tale Spin stared at her. “Postage?”

She nodded.

“Are you shitting me? I’m offering to let you go.”

“Every letter requires postage.” She was surprised to hear herself say it. But if she left without pushing back, without demanding something of them, something in her would remain forever in chains.

Dust Devil walked up to her side with a wicked grin. “You do things by the rules, don’t you, girl?” He smiled in Derpy’s face, and his breath smelled foul when he laughed. “I say we have fun with her first. She’ll deliver the letters anyway. Long as they have the proper postage.” He stroked her under her chin. She pulled away as far as she could, but he just leaned in further and grinned at her with that timber-wolf grin. “Because that’s the kind of crazy dam you are, isn’t it?”

She forced herself to look straight in his eyes. They looked like eye holes in a pony mask, with something entirely different, something with sharper teeth, looking back at her from underneath. The color hazel would never look the same to her again.

“H-harassing a p-postal worker is grounds for sus… suspension of service.”

He snarled and dropped her muzzle. “I’m done talkin’.” He shoved her head away from him, and suddenly jumped up and wrapped his forelegs around her back, and she couldn’t see anything but the sun’s red eye on the horizon or feel anything but icy cold, but in her mind she saw not a pony but a great shadowy serpent rising up behind her and bending over her and spitting sibilant curses in her ear.

Behind them was a loud snick.

Dust Devil froze with his belly pressed against her left hip and his hoarse rasping breath in her ears.

“You heard her,” Tale Spin said. “Harassing a postal worker is grounds for suspension of service.”

Dust Devil pushed himself off her and turned to face Tale Spin.

“I’ve got a knife, too,” Dust Devil said. “And a revolver, in my bags. You know that. Is that really how you want to play this?”

“It is,” Tale Spin said casually, “if you think you can ignore what I say.”

Dust Devil backed away from Derpy. Tale spin flicked the blade away.

The two ponies faced each other, breathing heavily.

“Maybe sometimes we should do what I want to do,” Dust Devil said.

“No,” Updraft said from the sideline. “I’d leave.”

Corkscrew nodded in agreement.

“Shit,” Dust Devil said. He turned away and spat.

“Get them ropes off of her,” Tale Spin said. Corkscrew and Updraft began loosening them with their teeth while Dust Devil sulked off by himself.

“Thank you,” she told Tale Spin when the last of the ropes had fallen to the ground. Her legs and wings felt suddenly light, like if she didn't hold them down she would drift away like a dandelion seed.

“It’s just business,” Tale Spin said. “Gotta keep him in line. Sometimes he forgets that we all hate him.” He bent down and rummaged through the sack Updraft had left on the ground, and came up with one dented, unlabelled tin can, which he passed off to Derpy.

“Postage,” he said.

She tucked it away in her bags.

“Guess we’ll just write those letters now,” he said.

Derpy stretched out her back and her legs. Then she picked up her mailbags and slung them across her back with a practiced shrug.

“Although,” he added, “as long as you’re here, there’s no reason we can’t have a little fun.”

She cinched up the straps and looked off to the north.

“You aren’t fun,” she said.

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