• Published 9th Jul 2015
  • 1,884 Views, 106 Comments

Their Variables - Meta Four

A collection of short one-shots about alternate universes and "What if?" scenarios.

  • ...

Yak Attak

The double-wide door opened, and a yak peered out. Her huge, brown face broke into an equally huge smile. “Twilight Sparkle! Pinkie Pie! Good morning! Come in, come in …”

Before Twilight or Pinkie could say anything, she wrapped them in a tight hug and pulled them inside.

“Good ... urk ... morning, Thurleena ...” Twilight said, in between struggles for breath.

Thurleena released the two ponies and shouted into her house, “Gregand! Get off your fat butt! We’ve got guests!”

“I’m coming, I’m coming …”

The living room of the yak house looked much like any other in Ponyville: wood-paneled floor and earth-toned walls with pink accents everywhere. The only difference was that everything was scaled larger, matching the inhabitants.

“So,” Thurleena said, “to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit, Twilight and Pinkie?”

“We just want some of your recipes!” Pinkie answered.

“What is this?” the bull yak growled as he entered the room. “You ponies walk into our house just to steal our secrets?

Thurleena head-butted him. “Gregand! Be nice!”

“But it’s not stealing if we ask for it, is it?” Pinkie said, bouncing in place. “And we don’t want your secrets, just your yak cake, and yak yams, and yak yule logs, and yak yuxiang ...”

Twilight interrupted. “We’re throwing a party for some yak guests tomorrow. Pinkie and I both agree on the importance of research in party planning. So we’d really appreciate anything you can tell us about traditional yak cuisine.”

“... and yak yellow cassava, and yak yam naem, and yak yeast extract, and yak yangrou paomo, and yak yurla …” Pinkie continued, more to herself than to the yaks at this point.

“I see,” Thurleena said. “But where are these yak guests from?”

“Yakyakistan,” Twilight said.

Both yaks took in sharp breaths, and their eyes widened.

“... and yak yogurt, and yak yomari, yak yum sen lon, and yak yemas de Ávila, and yak gyros …”

Twilight continued, “It’s an official visit by Prince Rutherford and his entourage. And this is Yakyakistan’s first diplomatic gesture in—”

“I’ll do it,” Thurleena interrupted. “I’ll make the yak food for your party.”

“... and yak yellow soybean paste, and What?” Pinkie spun to face Thurleena as she exclaimed, “But we don’t want to be a bother! I’m already doing everything else for the party, so if you can just show me how to—”

“No, no.” Thurleena waved a hoof dismissively. “You’re a good cook, Pinkie, but nopony and noyak can learn yak cooking in just one day.”

“Before we left the old country,” Gregand added, “darling Thurleena was the best cook for fifty miles. But do you know how long she had to practice before her meals didn’t induce projectile vomiting?”

Thurleena beamed as she answered, “Only two years!”

Twilight and Pinkie gaped at the yaks.

“She’s still got it, you know,” Gregand said. “Still the best yak cook I’ve ever met.”

“Oh, you’re a biased source,” Thurleena said with a smile. “Pinkie, dear, why don’t you make your best pony food and dessert for the Prince? Leave the yak food to me.”

“Hmm ...” Pinkie smiled and extended her hoof. “You drive a hard bargain, Thurleena, but I’ll take it!”

The next day …

“Me honored. Yaks hope for great friendship between ponies and yaks. Friends for a thousand moons!

The force of Prince Rutherford’s voice wasn’t enough to knock Twilight Sparkle off her hooves, but the stink of his breath almost was. Smells like you haven’t brushed your teeth in a thousand moons, she thought.

Carefully swallowing her bile, Twilight waved a hoof at the buffet tables which Pinkie Pie and Applejack wheeled out. “You must be hungry after a long journey. We’ve prepared two banquets for you. A smorgasboard of our favorite Ponyville foods, and another of traditional yak food.”

“If things not perfect, yaks get mad,” Prince Rutherford said, pushing past Twilight as he approached the tables. “Yaks always get mad when things not perfect!” The Prince’s two retainers (Enrique and Josh—the Prince hadn’t introduced them, but Twilight’s research was thorough) followed him closely.

Twilight gulped and made sure none of the yaks were looking her way before wiping the sweat off her brow.

Upon reaching the buffet of pony food, Prince Rutherford scooped a slice of apple pie—made with Sweet Apple Acres apples, of course—into his mouth. Enrique devoured a hayburger; Josh took a surprisingly dainty bite of a raspberry scone. All three yaks chewed slowly.

Twilight glanced over at Pinkie and Applejack. Judging by their faces, they were at least half as nervous as she felt.

Prince Rutherford swallowed and threw his plate to the floor. It shattered; Twilight cringed and recoiled at the sound. “Pony food taste funny,” the Prince said. His retainers nodded.

Oh, so that’s what it feels like when my heart stops beating, Twilight thought.

“Funny, but good kind of funny! Yaks want more!” The Prince dug into a bowl of salad with Neightalian dressing, while his retainers both helped themselves to slices of apple pie.

Twilight’s heart resumed beating. She glanced at her friends, who either beamed back at Twilight or breathed huge sighs of relief.

Prince Rutherford threw his salad bowl down. The wooden bowl simply bounced off the floor. “Only thing make this meeting better is some real yak food.” He walked to the other table and grabbed a slice of cake. His retainers attacked the yam casserole and porridge. All three started chewing quickly ... then slowed and eventually stopped.

Twilight’s blood ran cold as Prince Rutherford spat the cake out of his mouth. “This no taste like yak food!” he bellowed.

The six ponies gaped at the Prince, then another voice bellowed a reply from the back of the chamber: “Like hay it doesn’t!” Thurleena emerged from behind a crystal column and marched up to the yak diplomats. “I made that food, Prince! Tell me to my face it’s not good enough! I dare you!

Gregand emerged from a different column and gestured desperately at Prince Rutherford, a look that said Quit talking if you know what’s good for you.

Twilight rushed over to her friends. “What’s going on? How did Thurleena and Gregand get into this meeting?”

“No idea, sugarcube.”

Prince Rutherford raised his voice and slipped back into his native yak language. “Gak gakgak gak gakgakgak gakgak!” he shouted at Thurleena. Twilight could understand the gist of what he said: “<Fake pony food makes yaks mad!>”

Gregand facehoofed.

Thurleena didn’t back down, but answered in Yakyaki herself. “<That recipe passed down through yak family for fifty generations!>”

“<Cake too heavy on vanilla extract!>”

“<Maybe Prince just a pansy! Can’t handle real flavor!>”

“Any idea what they’re saying, Twilight?” Applejack asked.

“Uh …”

“Is it okay to be nervous now?” Pinkie asked.

“Uh …”

“<Porridge not use enough paprika!>” Prince Rutherford shouted.

“<Too much paprika overwhelm beets’ subtle succulence!>” Thurleena answered.

Twilight was beyond all capacity for rational thought. Scary words like international incident and unmitigated disaster and cassus belli swirled around in her mind. It took every bit of self-control she possessed to refrain from unleashing an alicorn-tier spell like stopping time, or freezing everypony inside a glacier. Sure, neither of those would solve the loud catastrophe unfolding before her, but they sure as Tartarus couldn’t make it any worse.

“<Casserole not soaked in lye long enough!>”

“<It casserole, not oven cleaner!>”

“<Yaks smash!>”

“<Yaks smash!>”

At that, Prince Rutherford and Thurleena both lowered their heads and charged. With a crack, their horns collided. Loud grunts and scratches filled the chamber as they pushed and strained against each other, their hooves ripping the red carpet to shreds and gouging into the crystal floor beneath.

“<Fake yak food make ancestors weep!>” Prince Rutherford growled.

Thurleena shoved, pushing the Prince back a few feet. “<No, ancestors weep at pansy Prince who not recognize real yak food!>”

Rarity rushed over to Twilight’s side. “Twilight, is there anything we can do?”

“Uuuuhhh …” Twilight’s eye twitched a few times, and a bit of drool came out the corner of her mouth.

Rarity continued, “What a dreadful scandal! Foreign royalty and a Ponyville citizen, brawling like uncouth ruffians right in Twilight’s palace! I can’t believe this is happening.”

“And I can’t believe Thurleena’s winning!” Rainbow Dash retorted.

Indeed, Thurleena had pushed Prince Rutherford quite some distance. Inexorably, the two drew closer and closer to the palace’s front door.

“I dunno,” Applejack said. “That Prince Rutherford could just be pullin’ a tactical retreat.”

Motion from the back of the chamber caught Twilight’s eye. Gregand was waving at her, and as soon as he caught her attention, he mouthed something—it looked like So sorry.

Then he charged at the Prince’s stunned retainers, bellowing “<Yaks smash!>” only a second before colliding. He took Enrique completely by surprise and easily pushed him across the chamber. They bowled over Thurleena and the Prince—forming a ball of fur, hooves, and horns that rolled out the door, bounced off the balcony, then crashed into the street below.

The last yak standing, Josh, gaped at the open door, then looked around the room. Upon noticing the six ponies staring back at him, he shouted in Equine, “Yaks smash!” He gave the nearest buffet table a weak shove; it tipped without falling over. He then grabbed another scone and rushed out the door.

Twilight’s friends galloped to the front balcony and stared down, and Twilight trotted after them, mechanically.

“<Yaks smash!>”

In the street just outside Twilight’s castle, the four yaks brawled. Thurleena and Gregand, Prince Rutherford and Enrique punched and kicked and grappled and headbutted. Josh remained just outside the radius of the scuffle, jumping up and down and shouting “Yaks smash!” in a futile attempt to look like a participant. Ponies peered out of their houses as the yak fight raged, and some of the braver ones trotted forward for a better view.

“Oh my …” Fluttershy crouched as low as she could and still see the carnage below.

“Land sakes,” Applejack muttered.

“So …” Rainbow Dash said, “who do you think’s gonna win?”

“Rainbow Dash!” Rarity wheeled on Dash with her most indignant glare.

“What? I’m just saying what we’re all thinking.”

“This barbaric display is a travesty of the worst kind! You can’t treat it like some sporting event! Hmmph!” Rarity stuck her nose up and turned aside—but she continued watching the fight out of the corner of her eye.

“How about you, AJ? Who do—”

“Thurleena. Sure as shootin’.” Applejack didn’t take her eyes off the brawl.

“Really?” Rainbow quirked an eyebrow. “Weren’t you rooting for that Prince a minute ago? Something about ‘tactical retreats’?”

“T’ain’t nothin’. That Thurleena’s a stone-cold badflank, and I wouldn’t bet against her.”

“Oh yeah?” Smirking, Rainbow leaned closer to Applejack. “And how much wouldn’t you bet against her?”

Applejack met her smirk. “Fifty bits says Thurleena wins.”

“You’re on!”

Applejack bumped Rainbow’s hoof, then leaned over the balcony railing. “Whooo-ee! Go Thurleena! Momma needs a new set of horseshoes!”

“Oh, um ...” Fluttershy said.

Ignoring her, Rainbow Dash turned back to Rarity. “You sure you don’t want to get in on this?”

“Um, I’d like to,” Fluttershy said. She didn’t recoil when the other ponies turned towards her, because she was already crouched low enough to just barely see over the balcony railing, her ears folded flat against her head. She gulped, then raised her voice—only a decibel or two, but by Fluttershy’s standards, that was practically shouting. “Fifty bits on Enrique.”

“Oooh!” Dash nudged Fluttershy’s ribs. “The wildcard.”

“He’s got a fire in his eyes. Like he’ll do anything to win. I think he might be crazy.”

“Sure, sure. Hey, Twilight, who do you wanna bet on?”

“Uuuuuhhhh …” Twilight was finding it harder and harder to keep her eyes in focus.

“Alright, I’ll give you a minute to decide. Hey, Pinkie!” Rainbow Dash looked back and forth. “Where’d Pinkie go?”

“Oh dear.” Rarity pointed at the street below. “What is Pinkie Pie doing down there?”

In the street, the crowd of spectators completely encircled the yak brawl, and more ponies joined by the second. Meanwhile, Pinkie Pie pulled a wagon towards the brawl—a wagon loaded with a massive, rubbery, pink thing that sloshed with every step. She stopped at the outer edge of the crowd, then reared back and shouted, “Hold it! Stop right there, everypony!

The yaks froze: Thurleena with Enrique in a headlock; Gregand and Prince Rutherford inches away from headbutting. Every pony in the crowd turned to Pinkie.

“Aren’t we forgetting something?” Pinkie continued. “Something important? Something that unites us all, whether pony or yak or any other talking creature on this great big planet?”

Twilight blinked and felt her racing heart begin to slow. Good old Pinkie Pie, she thought. Figures she’d be the voice of reason when the rest of the world goes crazy.

Pinkie flicked a lever on the side of the cart. “We’re forgetting this!” In less than a second, the cart transformed into a catapult, then fired. The massive water balloon sailed in a beautiful parabolic arc, wobbling so hard that the stress popped it in midair. The water fell right in the center of the brawl, soaking the yaks and the first few rows of spectators alike. The dirt road was abruptly transformed into a mud pit.

While everypony else was stunned into inaction, Pinkie used a nearby stallion’s head as a platform to leap over the crowd. She curled in midair and shouted, “Cannonball!

As the mud splattered everypony, Thurleena resumed grappling with Enrique, and Gregand and the Prince cracked their heads together so hard they both fell back, into the mud.

“<Yaks smash!>” the Prince bellowed.

“Yaks smash!” Josh shouted.

“Ponies smash!” Pinkie replied with a huge smile on her face, as she tackled Josh into the mud.

“Ponies smash!” somepony in the crowd shouted. Mrs. Cake leaped into the mud pit, then the rest of the crowd followed.

And then Twilight’s brain decided it was time for a short vacation.

“Twilight Sparkle?”

Twilight knew that voice. It was the voice of peace and safety and sanity—the voice of the one pony who could pick up the pieces when Twilight really screwed up.

“Princess Celestia!” Twilight said. Her vision cleared, and she rushed forward to embrace her beloved mentor. “I just had the craziest dream. Foreign diplomats came to Ponyville, but they were insanely rude, and somehow it turned into a brawl, and it probably would have caused a war with … Oh, dear, I’m still dreaming.”

Twilight and Celestia stood in the street before Twilight’s castle. Behind Celestia, the brawl was still going strong—in fact, it was even larger than before. But the mud-covered ponies and yaks weren’t punching or kicking or wrestling very much. Mostly, they jumped up and down a lot and bumped into each other.

Oh. That wasn’t a brawl. That was a mosh pit.

On the other side of the mosh pit was an elevated stage, where a four-piece rock ’n roll band serenaded the raucous crowd below. Their song was psychedelic nonsense, something about a pony with “hooves down below his knees” and the necessity of coming together. Pinkie Pie was the drummer, because of course she was. She waved back at Twilight, while somehow still keeping the beat.

The rest of Ponyville had transformed just as dramatically into a huge party. Mud-stained streamers and banners decorated every house. Smiling ponies wandered about, helping themselves to snacks from the numerous food carts lining the streets. Mud pies were a particularly popular treat, for some reason. About a third of the ponies wore novelty foam yak horns.

“Yes,” said Celestia, turning to stand at Twilight’s side and survey the scene. She wore a massive sombrero—Twilight wondered how she hadn’t noticed that sooner. “This really is a dream come true, isn’t it?”

“A fever dream, maybe,” Twilight muttered.

Ahead, a mare climbed onto the stage—wait, was that Cherry Jubilee?—adjusted her foam horns slightly, then shouted “Ponies smash!” She dove, and the crowd caught her.

“Gak gak!” Prince Rutherford said, suddenly on Twilight’s other side. He held a pitcher of lemonade, and mismatched lampshades rested on his horns. “This good! Ponies funny, but good funny!”

“Ha ha, what?” Twilight said.

“And that Thurleena! She live like pony but still fight like yak. Bring great honor to ancestors! Prince not have brawl that good for many moons!”

“Ha ha ha ha!” Twilight’s laughter was a little too forceful.

“Hey, Twilight!” Pinkie exclaimed, suddenly appearing in front of Twilight. Apparently her band was taking a break. “Great party, huh? I’m almost as excited as you are!”

“Ha ha! Me, excited? Ha!”

“Yeah! You were so excited, you went all stiff and rolled your eyes back in your head and foamed at the mouth a bit! And then you stayed that way for hours! So the girls and I stuck you right here where everypony could see you, so you could be the life of the party!”

After glancing back and forth, Pinkie leaned towards Twilight and whispered, “You might want to wash up. Princess Celestia drew on your face while you weren’t moving.”

“Exciting! Yes!” the yak Prince proclaimed. “Party exciting! Ponies exciting!”

“Ha ha ha!” Twilight’s face twisted into a manic grin. “Frieeeeeeends, then?”

Prince Rutherford drank the rest of his lemonade, smashed the empty pitcher on the ground, then pulled Twilight and Pinkie into a crushing hug. “Friends for a thousand moons!

The hug ended, and the Prince wandered off, bellowing to all and sundry about how much he was enjoying himself.

“Gotta go, Twilight! The band needs me!” Pinkie rushed back to the stage.

“Ha ha,” Twilight said. “Ha ha ha ha.”

“I’m very impressed, Twilight Sparkle.” Celestia smiled serenely. “Yakyakistan has been so isolated. I honestly expected it would take weeks of negotiation to win over Prince Rutherford. Yet you managed to befriend him in just one day. How did you do it?”

Twilight bit back another round of sharp laughter, then shook her head. She gave Celestia a small but sincere smile and said, “I’m really not sure. I think this is more everypony else’s doing …”

Celestia raised one eyebrow, almost imperceptibly. “So you just sat back and let your friends do all the work?”

“Well, when you put it like that—”

“I’m so proud of you, Twilight! You’ll make a fine princess yet.”

“Excuse me. I’m suddenly very thirsty.” Twilight made a beeline for the nearest table with a punch bowl. Dear me, she thought, I really hope somepony spiked this punch.

Author's Note:

Many thanks to my prereaders for this story:

Kuroi Tsubasa Tenshi
Japanese Teeth