• Published 7th Nov 2011
  • 30,122 Views, 795 Comments

School Daze - Paleo Prints

Can Cheerilee make a group of inner city colts and fillies stand and deliver?

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Chapter 2: Welcome to the Jungle

School Daze
by Paleo Prints
Chapter 2: Welcome to the Jungle

The Next Day…

As she followed Luna out of the inner city gate, Cheerilee reflected on how she loved the ancient architecture of the capital. Her senior prom had been held in Canterlot, and she nearly missed the festivities. Her friends were scandalized when she skipped out to look at the frescoes and monuments, which is why they sent her date after her. She sighed reflexively as she remembered her first kiss, shielded from the rain by the statue of General Truehorn. It was like a scene from a John Hoofs play, like Pony in Pink or the Trotfast Club.

The nostalgia ended as the new schoolmare beheld the first mutilated and disfigured statue of Princess Celestia.
“Thou hast arrived, teacher,” Princess Luna said sardonically. She continued past the statue without giving it a second glance.

Who would dare do such a bogus thing? Worse yet, who would do it HERE? Cheerilee turned back for a reassurance. We’re still within sight of the capital gates!

Luna, turning back slightly in her walk, read her expressions easily. “Our subjects show disaffection much for the both of us. They must also survive how they can. Pray tell, what accoutrements have been removed?” She stopped at the end of the street, waiting for an answer.

Cheerilee furrowed her brow. “The Golden Solar Horseshoes have been chipped off. Her Mantle of the Morn is cut apart.” That’s weird. “Her tail is completely untouched, but they removed her horn. “ She turned to the immortal monarch with questioning eyes.

“In this hamlet, the gold of the statue is more real than the favor of the monarch. Past a certain point every statue in Old Canterlot is a mere shell of its former glory. In truth I don’t understand why my sister keeps placing them here.” Luna raised a hoof toward their destination. “Yon township is Old Canterlot. After Celestia and I vanquished the terrible Draconequus, the ponies of the land sought to build us a royal town worthy of our deeds. “

She smiled sadly. “We would have been happy to live amongst our subjects, partaking in their day to day laughter and struggles. We were ‘banished’ to royalty because of the anxiety our presence seems to cause. Thine people have ever distanced yourselves from us. I understand why my sister resorts to petty tricks to break that barrier.”

“Where we came from, wherein I and Celestia hold court, could more properly be called New Canterlot. The original town was erected against the face of the mountain. It took years to erect the marble face of Canterlot Castle.” The Princess smiled wryly. “The nobles are thankful that Old Canterlot lies between the capital and the mountain. It saves them the effort of looking down their nose at it while entering their noxious Gala.”

Cheerilee started to see signs of life on the street. Ponies pulled wagons of ore and marble down the street. She saw cutie marks of pick-axes, mining carts, and hard hats. There were also more mysterious marks she couldn't decipher. What does a big brawny colt like that need a mark of a yellow bird in a cage for?

The buildings were as weathered and rugged as their inhabitants. The townsfolk lived in squat stone apartments that looked hewn instead of built. Cheerilee calculated they were so close together that much of the street would be dark whenever the sun wasn’t directly overhead.

“It’s hard to believe this is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Celestia’s Square and the Philharmonic, your Majesty.” Cheerilee realized she could have brought her class here without adding much time at all to the field trip. It would have been worth it to see Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara’s reaction. She smiled with bittersweet nostalgia. Even if it meant dealing with the Cutie Mark Crusader Cave Crawlers.

“Thou must know my sister’s heart bleeds for the downtrodden. Unfortunately, for centuries they have felt betrayed by her, and refuse her charity. They saw the fruit of all of their labors taken over by ungrateful aristocrats. “ Luna snorted. “I know not how Prince Blueblood was produced from the mighty stock that first gazed upon Nightmare Moon. I worry that the race of ponies is failing. The blood of Dream Valley is all but spent, its pride and dignity forgotten. “

Luna’s eyes became unfocused. She stood in the middle of a busy street. That alone was enough to startle Cheerilee; she couldn’t imagine a place where a princess could walk without everypony bending their hoof. The very Alicorn of Twilight now received questioning glares that bordered on disrespectful. Earlier, she had seemed almost hurt by it. Now Luna was a traffic obstruction, heedless of the paths she blocked.

The out-of-place educator nervously walked to Luna’s side and followed her gaze. As they progressed into the older areas of the city, she had started to notice more carved artwork on the walls. Instead of Classicist architecture, it had a more down-to-Equestria feel, like something that would decorate a mug or barroom wall. They were charming in how they mixed realistic artwork with whimsical subjects.

Luna was standing stock still, examining an archway. The art in question portrayed her; there was a tale told with pictures involving an Earth pony trying to catch the moon in a bucket of water for her. Much of the archway had been smoothed away by time, leaving the beginning and the end in mystery.

Cheerilee could tell by the movement of the alicorn's eyes that the fresco was quite significant. The ancient mare was tracing the damaged parts of the architecture with her gaze; whether she was recalling the original archway from memory or trying to imagine it the schoolmare didn’t know.

“Um…I’m going to canter into that store, your majesty. I’m a little hungry. I’ll come back here if you're not finished…doing whatever it is you’re doing by then. Do you mind watching my cart?”

The resigned teacher tourist waved her hoof in front of Luna’s stare to no avail. She would have sworn her hoof felt colder afterward. Gently, she tied her cart to the alicorn's back leg. She felt a mixture of blasphemous, disrespectful, and embarrassed at the same time. Well, even here nopony would steal out of the Princess’s cart, right?

Cheerilee walked cautiously into the pub. She was slightly reassured by its cheerful sign proclaiming itself 'The Generous Meal.' Unlike the wide open floor space of Sugarcube Corner, the tables here were densely packed together and filled. Boisterous conversation stopped as the grizzled workers turned to her. The bar was silent.

Did I walk straight into a Colt with No Name western?

Unconsciously whistling to herself, she approached the barkeep, trying to stare over the salthounds in her way. The miners ignored her, dehydrating their tongues in a full-on sodium binge.

“Excuse me, sir? Do you have any food for sale?”

The aged stallion with a cutie mark of a broken pool cue turned lazily.

“Trail mix is nine bits. You one of them teachers from that school down the way?”

She relaxed at little. At least they’re interested in education. “Yes indeed, sir. I’ve pulled my cart all the way from Cherry Lawn in Ponyville just to be here. I start at Luna’s School for Disadvantaged Youth today!” She reared backed and struck a dramatic pose.

Snickers seemed to saunter to the bar from all around.

“Ayep, well if yer from that useless waste of space it's gonna be fifteen bits. Y’all might as well start paying back something to the community.”

She was speechless; despite their reputation for nervous breakdowns no Ponyville business owner had ever treated her like this. Gravity not-so-gently reminded her that she was rearing up, and she barely kept her balance.

“Pardon me, sir?”

He spit on the counter. “You heard me, miss. Waste of time and bits that building is, when the kids could be getting proper minework done rather than filling their heads with nonsense. ” He grinned wryly. “Actually, from what I’ve heard about the teachers they ain’t managin’ to fill anyone’s heads nohow.”

“I…um. I’d expected…better treatment from the sign outside.” They’re moving in around me. This may go from bogus to plain bad, and I don't mean the good kind of 'bad.' She frowned. Why did we ever have a good kind of 'bad,' anyway?

A younger mining stallion with a dented helmet started whispering in her ear. “You know what they call the first trapped miner to perish after a cave-in, Missy?”

“Not yet, but I’m always willing to learn new things,” she responded with a nervous smile.

The crowd waited with anticipation for the awaited punchline to an old joke.

“Since he’s gone from eatin’ food to bein’ food, you call ‘im the generous meal.”

Omigoshomigoshomigosh. Everypony here is….worse than crazy.


Luna took up the entire doorway, casting a shadow over the entire bar as her eyes flared with light. The walls of the building stopped shaking shortly afterward. The patrons took a little longer.

The ebony alicorn walked over to the bar. “Thy wares were nine bits?”

The bartender nervously passed two bags over the bar. “On the house, ma’am.”

The Pony of Night merely levitated the bags away with her after a thankful nod. The trapped teacher saw her window of opportunity and followed quickly behind.

In the street Luna’s unexpected cheer continued. “Oh delight! We have obtained walnuts!” She suddenly cast a reassuring glance to Cheerilee. “'We' as in us, teacher. Rest assumed I have learned much grammar and manners in recent days. I only regret having to use the Canterlot Royal Voice to frighten those patrons rather than use diplomacy.”

The relieved mare shrugged. “That’s fine, Your Majesty. I’m sure…what the hay! Somepony actually took my globe? Who would pickpocket a princess?”

She suddenly stopped shouting as she saw guilty tears starting to form on the alicorn. She remembered the vulnerable side of Luna that Twilight had claimed came out on Nightmare Night. I never believed her; I was at home grading, after all. Let’s hope everything Twilight said that night was truthful.

“Luna,” Cheerilee nervously ventured. The princesses eyes went wide at the familiarity, but it wasn’t an angry surprise. “Let’s go to the school. It’s all right. I’m sure they have another one, and that one wasn’t important anyway. I forgive you.” ‘ I just hope Miss Scribbler never learns I lost her parting gift.

She was unprepared for the strength of Luna’s hug. “How wonderful! Forgiveness is surely a gift between friends. We shall multiply our friendship at once!” The stares of onlookers brought Luna quickly to her senses. She released her grip, and Cheerilee started breathing again.

The skeptical schoolmare bit her lip as she questioned the princess. “Are you sure THIS is it?”

Luna raised a barely-restrained eyebrow. “I can number all the quasars in the Seven Sectors of local space. I trace the path of billions of comets as they weave through the embrace of dark matter. I don’t get lost on my own campus.”

Cheerilee expected statuary and columns, architecture and artwork. What she found was a squat two-story building that looked more like a fort. The grounds were surrounded by an iron fence easily taller than the princess. From the fence to the main building was a large section of cleared, level stone. If this place wasn’t so gloomy it would be the perfect roller skate practice park.

The building itself had a single hint of decorum. Chiseled into the plain archway were the words ‘Luna’s School for Disadvantaged Youngsters.’ Underneath the subtitle labeled the school as “A Place for Second Chances.” The rest of the outside facade was darkened and irregular brick. On both floors, the windows were covered in bars.

Luna smiled at Cheerilee’s obvious shock. “Thou beholds the original Canterlot jailhouse, made to house only the most malicious malefactors and menaces.”

The teacher shivered. She tried to imagine what terrible deeds placed ponies inside these walls.

“Really, it only ever housed Claimjump Clem; he was arrested on 47 counts of sheep-napping, 121 counts of salting in public, 42 counts of dry-and-disorderly and 198 prison escapes.”

Cheerilee blinked several times. Is that Luna humor? Does Luna humor exist? Have pony scientists discovered it yet in the Large Fun Collider in Geneighva?

Luna smiled. “He had the most roguish hat.”

They walked up to the roughly hewn staircase under the arch. Past the entrance were two reclining young ponies. They had pieces of burning paper in their mouths, and were talking to each other as the smoke curled under the archway.

Cheerilee stopped. “Are they actually smoking hay on school grounds? My mom grounded me just for pretending to take a puff at a party once.”

Luna nodded. “So, go ask them where the principal is.”

The schoolmare blanched. “Really? Ask those two delinquents? Just trot over and ask for help?”

Luna began pushing the earth pony forward, royal hoof on Cheerilee’s flank. “Thou must begin somehow.”
Well, time to get to know my new flowers. She walked through the shadowed arch for her first breath of haysmoke.

“Pardon me, students. Could you take me to the principal? I’m your new teacher.”

Two incredulous stares became braying laughter. “Hoi, miss, ‘e can’t get us into his office himself if ‘e asks us himself,” snorted out the peach-colored filly in the dark jacket. “What makes you think you can get us there?” She had a closely-shaved mane; one could only tell the chestnut shade that would have been by looking at her tail.

Cheerilee froze. She looked back at Luna. The Midnight Monarch’s facial expression was unreadable. That’s it. Try the ol' Nightmare Night tactic. Cue the intimidating smile.

“I’m sure you’ll reconsider. After all, I’m going to be your teacher. That means I’ll remember you when your name shows up on my rolls, especially since I’ll remember your cutie mark…”

A snort of anger came from the student. Cheerilee scanned her flank and realized she was the oldest blank flank she’d ever seen.

The indignant filly stopped moving. Her companion looked nervous. “Bomber, maybe we should go.”

The jacket-clad pony responded by blowing a cloud of smoke into her new teacher’s face. As the older mare went into a coughing fit, the younger mare walked away. “It’s down the hall, third door on the right ‘miss.’ I think you’ll find you’ve bought yer rump some trouble with the check yer mouth jest wrote.” As she left, she spit the smoking cigarette into Cheerilee’s cart. "An' learn to handle yer crabapples, lightweight."

Cheerilee watched them retreat casually into the school’s shadowed hall through her bleary smoke-filled eyes. She turned to Luna while still coughing. “That’s the student body? That’s who I have to teach? Those aren't flowers, they're weeds! That scary-clown-smile I used made Snips and Snails cry twice, and these fillies just stared me down. What kind of super-principal keeps a hoof on this place?”

The Princess smiled. “I have picked you because I believe you can give these young ne’er-do-wells the second chance that they deserve, the kind of chance I myself doubted I deserved. These fillies and colts have unplumbed depths to them. After all,” she said as she walked into the school, “ask thyself how a youth managed to obtain a leather jacket.”

Luna almost heard the gears in Cheerilee’s head grind to a halt.

“Butyourmajestythatcan’tbeleatherthere’sonlyonelegalwaytogetleatherinthekingdomand::GASP::LUNA COME BACK HERE!”

The princess nickered to herself and turned around to face Cheerilee once she went past the door. She gave an imperious look. The earth pony wondered if she had pushed it too far.


An amused raise of an eyebrow was the only response Luna had time for. The pair was interrupted by a corpulent pink-maned unicorn stallion in a fancy great coat. “Your Majesty, you have arrived at last! I assume this means the current assignment is ending forthwith.”

The Princess beamed in amusement. “Actually, Principal Placeholder, I deliver unto you Cheerilee of Ponyville. Thou art blest with a new teacher of great and accomplished arts. This new recruit I bequeath unto you here to enable your students.”

The vanilla-coated pony started to sweat. “Really, then? New recruits? I usually don’t get new resources and reinforcements. In fact, that speaks of a longer assignment. “

Luna nickered. “Indeed! I am hoping to extend the assignment. I adore reading your reports, and wish to see more.” Lightning flashed behind the alicorn for effect. Instead of the emphasis Luna hoped for, it only served to reduce Placeholder to a near blubbering wreck.

“Well, we…I must be leaving now. Please make mistress Cheerilee at home.”

Placeholder levitated a hoofkerchief across his damp brow. “Of course, your majesty.”

“Please remember, dear Placeholder, you are free to call me Luna.” She beamed with good cheer, whereas the principal merely approached nervous collapse. Luna turned around and began leaving the school.

“Wait!” Cheerilee galloped after the princess with barely restrained alarm. “This is the place? This is my new boss? And also leatherLeatherLEATHER!”

The alicorn regarded her with mirth. “Dearest Cheerilee. If I stole some of your journey of discovery from you, where would the fun be?”

With those words, Luna launched herself out of the archway into the sky above the courtyard. She gave a dramatic peal of laughter as she teleported away.

Cheerilee shook her head. She’s enjoying this way too much.

Principal Placeholder caught up with his newest employee. “Well, welcome to the staff! I hope you’ll be here a long time. Hopefully much longer than me!”

She turned with a quizzical expression on her face. Her eyebrows arched higher when she noticed his cutie mark consisted of a blank sign posted into the ground.

“So then, proper introductions a must! I’m Principal Placeholder. Been here six months. Very long time for me, that is. Before then I was the final Trottingham Volunteer Fire Chief, and previous to that the last head of the Appleloosa Opera House. I recently did a stint as the curator of the Stalliongrad museum. We closed that one with style!”

Dark suspicions grew in Cheerilee’s mind. “Let me get this straight. Your job is to fail at things?”

He looked stunned. “Of course not! Once things have already been run into the ground I perform the task of cleaning them out properly, putting them away gently, and shuffling the employees to their next assignment.” He laughed from nervous tension. “This is my longest assignment, actually. It’s absolutely terrifying,” he concluded with a cheerful nod.

Cheerilee cocked her head. “So, why are you still here, then? Why have I been hired to work under a professional…”

“My dear, I prefer to think of myself as an organizational custodian. I sweep up the mess.”

The earth pony smiled as she walked past him, “Well, you’re going to need a new job then, Principal Placeholder.”

He looked curiously at her retreating flank. “Why is that, my dear?”

She turned her head back, smiling wryly. “Because your fortune has just changed. I plan to give you your first success!”

He contemplated that for a second. “I’m glad you can keep a positive mindset. One question though, Miss Cheerilee.”

“Ask away! I’m totally ready for anything!”

“Why exactly is your cart on fire?”

Next Chapter: Celestia! More Luna! More Screwball! And we meet the staff!