• Published 21st Jan 2015
  • 4,002 Views, 197 Comments

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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5. Appleloosan hospitality

After the run-in with the raiders, Derpy didn’t dare take to the sky. She crept across the southern Waste, its stiff, dry grasses scraping her belly raw. She would stop and sleep in dry culverts when she was too tired to go on, waking with a start every time the wind scraped two twigs together. She wished again for a pocketwatch so she could know how many days it had been, or whether she was tired because she’d earned it or just out of fear.

She saw the smoke of Appleloosa’s cooking and heating fires rising up on the horizon before she could see the town. She picked up her pace, but the thin columns of smoke didn’t seem to be getting any closer. It seemed to be taunting her, staying just out of reach.

A coldness came over her. After everything—all the flying, the empty plains, the suspicious strangers, the raiders—she would never reach safety. She was never supposed to make it back. She began to run, stumbling in the long shadows of the endless twilight.

Something rustled off to her left, and she sprang to the air and flew. Soon the safety of the town’s walls were only seconds away.

There was a flash on top of the walls, and a crackling sound. Fireworks? she wondered. It wasn’t until the second flash, and a whistling past her head, that she realized they were shooting at her.

She dove to the ground and rolled to the side. There was a pattering like hail, and puffs of dust rose from the spot where she had landed. She stayed frozen, knowing she would be nearly impossible to spot in the deep grass at that distance.

“Did you get ‘im?” she heard a voice call.

“Don’t think so.”


Silence, then the creaking of a gate. Were they closing it or opening it? She tried to remember if the gate had been open. Probably not. She stayed still and willed her heart not to beat so loudly. For a long time she heard nothing but the wind in the grass

If only the shadows could move, she could have some idea how long she’d waited, but they stayed stubbornly in place.

Finally she heard hoofsteps, and she knew she’d done the stupid thing again by waiting. If she ran now, they’d shoot her down. If she didn’t, they’d find her and shoot her down.

“I’m over here,” she called out as loudly as she could.

The hoofsteps stopped. “There!” someone shouted.

Five or six earth ponies stepped out of the grasses. One of them opened the shade of a lantern and shone it in her face, blinding her. She wondered why they hadn’t surrounded her, and then realized it was so they wouldn’t have to risk shooting each other.

“Please,” she said, shading her eyes from the light. “I’ve come to deliver the mail.”

Hooves shuffled.

“I’ve heard some dumb excuses, but that one would take first prize on fair day in Canterlot,” a male voice said.

“She’s a spy for sure,” said another. “I say we shoot her.”

The dark shapes and the light came closer.

“Naw,” the first voice said. “We’re too close to town. We’d be smellin’ her for weeks.” A rifle poked her in the side. “Get up, girl. We’re going for a walk.”

She drew her legs in closer. “I don’t want to be shot!”

“Life’s full of disappointments, honey,” the same voice said.

“That don’t make sense, Clover,” the second voice said. “You should say, ‘Death’s full of disappointments.’”

“Or, ‘Life ends in disappointment,’” a third voice suggested.

“Please don’t shoot me. Just take the letters and let me go,” Derpy said.

“Oh, we’ll take the letters. They’ll burn real nice. But we can’t let you go tell all them pegasi what you saw,” the first voice said.

“What? What could I see? Everypony knows where Appleloosa is. It’s on the rail line!”

“She has a point, Clover.”

More hooves shuffled behind the glare of the lantern.

“Or,” Derpy said, “I could… you could…”

“We could what?”

She sighed. These ponies weren’t raiders desperate for anything on four legs.

“What you could do,” a new voice said, “is tell us what you pegasi are planning.”

“I’m not planning anything!” Derpy cried, sitting up and looking toward the voice. “Please believe me!”

“It’s that googly-eyed mailmare from Ponyville!” the second voice said. “The one helped bring that giant apple for the State Fair some years back!”

“Ponyville? Pokey, you’re turned in the head. Ponyville’s in the other direction.”

“Look at that face! You tellin’ me I’m mistaken?”

Derpy craned her neck up to let them all get a good look. They crowded close and shone the light in her eyes, and for once in her life she was glad to be different.

“Sorry about that, Miss Hooves,” a moustachioed bay stallion who identified himself as the sheriff told her after they were inside the gates and she’d slurped her fill at a water trough that turned out to be for cattle, who were however very understanding about it. “It’s just that we don’t get anything but pegasi coming in from the south.”

She glared at him with one eye.

“I mean raiders, begging your pardon. Now I would’ve cleared it all up quick if I’d been awake when you came in, but it was Clover’s shift. Clover the not-so-clever, we call him.” He chuckled. Derpy didn't.

Other ponies were coming up and gawking at her wings and her eyes. She kept her good eye straight ahead.

“Now about them letters…”

Derpy stopped in the middle of the street. She snapped the mailbag with the letters for Appleloosa out of its harness, opened it, and dumped its contents onto the ground. Letters spilled and fluttered about their ankles.

She started walking again. Some of the gawkers stayed behind to chase down the letters as they began to blow away.

“Ma’am?” the sheriff said, still following her. “Ma’am, I understand you’re upset. It was a terrible mistake. Please allow me to extend some Appleloosan hospitality to you. The ladies are putting together quite a spread for you in the town hall. Their pies are not to be missed! I believe I can smell them from here. And if you would, please allow me to offer my own guest room for your use. We’ve cold water in the cistern, and if you want a bath we can heat some up for you right quick.”

Her stomach rumbled. A meal, a warm bath, and a soft bed all seemed so wonderful that she felt like a hungry donkey starving between three piles of hay because he couldn’t pick just one. The only thing stronger than her hunger, her tiredness, and her unease with the sweat and dirt chafing her leg pits each time she took a step, was her anger.

She stopped at the entrance to an alley between two wooden buildings. It was just dust and dirt, but so was everyplace else. She took a few steps into the alley, pulled off her mailbags, and slung them on the ground. “All I want from you people is not to kill me for one night,” she said, and lay down with her back to the sheriff. “Or day. Whatever.”

The sheriff stood over her. “Ma’am?”

Her stomach grumbled again. “And a can opener,” she added. She turned her face to the wall, rested it on the bags, and closed her eyes.

The sheriff turned to the crowd of ponies following them. “You heard her,” he said, waving a foreleg at them. “Don’t stand about where you ain’t needed.”

When she woke, the sheriff was still standing guard at the end of the alley, and there was a can opener lying on a tin plate near her on the ground. She used it to open the can Tale Spin had given her. It was green beans, which was not the best thing that could be in a can, but not the worst either.

The sheriff stepped up and coughed politely when she’d finished licking her plate clean. “Now that you’ve rested and eaten,” he said, “we’d like to discuss your delivery terms.”

“Delivery?” she asked.

“Folks all over town have been writing letters since you got in,” he said. “I tried to get them all to stick to just one apiece.”

She got to her feet and put her mailbags back on. “I’m four letters from retirement,” she said.

He planted his forelegs well apart and puffed out his chest. “We’re prepared to offer you one jar of good Appleloosan preserves for every letter you deliver,” he said.

She stepped past him into the street and leapt into the sky.

“Two jars!” he called out after her as she flew away.