• Published 14th Nov 2015
  • 534 Views, 11 Comments

Stranger in a Stranger Land - Charon the Chronicler

I had found myself in a new world with a strange companion. He helped me, but when I tried to return the favor, I messed up. Bad. I hurt him. And he told me never to come back. This is the story of my journey in an odd, but beautiful world.

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Chapter 1: The Billowing Gray of Ash Plumes

I was angry. Okay, angry and a bit scared. Someone I trusted ended up being my biggest threat. Granted, he did say he was mentally unstable. And he did advocate underhanded techniques to win a fight. And he lied. Like, a lot. And--

Holy crap, how did I not see all of those red flags?

I should have seen the signs. I should have been more careful. But did I really have a choice? I mean, he understood what I was going through. He knew what to do to get me on track. However bad his intentions, he did help me. I grimaced.

Why can’t things be easy?

I stormed inside the cottage and gathered my stuff. So my staff, my money--

“Oh, bits, like what you put in a horse’s mouth.” I shook my head. “Punny.”

--and nothing else. I looked over to my bed--His bed. That he gave to me.--and sighed. I couldn’t stay. Some lines had been crossed, by the both of us, which time wouldn’t heal. I collapsed on the bed one last time.

“What am I going to do now? What the fuck do I do?” I rolled over, and a little voice in my head gave me an answer.

Whatever I want to do.

It was a simple answer. I had no place to go, no place to be, no taxes to pay, nobody to care for, nobody to care for me. I had lost my home, again, but oddly enough, I was free. Free to follow my dreams. I could do whatever I wanted to; I had money, and the land was rich and plentiful. Hell, I once went on a walk through the forest and managed to get myself a lunch in fruits.

“I’m in a whole new world,” I finally realized. “A new world unseen by humanity, unpainted, yet to be marveled. And even here, I’ve already seen what would make some beautiful masterpieces. I can’t exactly lug around an easel and canvas around the world, but seeing more of what this world has to offer will be enough.” I got off the bed and dusted myself off.

I knew what I wanted to do. But traveling the world wasn’t a cakewalk. Which meant I had to go into… Ponyville. Which I just couldn’t say dramatically. I picked up the set of wooden horns Windell had carved for me and put them on my head before pulling up my cowl.

“I really hope this works,” I muttered before heading to Ponyville.

The walk was tense. The chirping of birds and the crunching of leaves underfoot were drowned out by the sound of my thundering heartbeat. Terrible scenarios kept rushing through my head. What if they throw stones? Oh my God, what if they form a mob? What if they send me to prison? Or if they banish me? Well, the second one wouldn’t be so bad, considering I want to explore the world…OH NO! What if they banish me, and imprison me in the place they banished me to? That’d be terrible! I stopped and took a few deep breaths. I remembered what I’d learned for the past few weeks. Act like you’re supposed to be there. Don’t be nervous.

I managed to walk into the small town without any trouble. There were a few skittish looks, and eye-shifting, but the ponies generally acted normally. Of course I had no clue where I could buy some supplies, so I walked over to a stall. The lady, or mare, whatever, slunk down as I approached, but she didn’t run away.

“Um, hi.” I waved. The mare seemed to ease up at that and sat up a bit straighter. “I’m sorry, I’m new here and I don’t know where to buy some supplies. I was wondering where I could get a flask, a flashlight, and a sleeping bag.”

“O-oh,” The earth pony stammered. “Y-you might want to check Outdoors’ Outdoor Outdoor Emporium.” She pointed towards a green stallion down the road selling camping equipment outside. “I-it might be a bit rude to ask, b-but what are you?”

“I’m a minotaur.” I pointed to the fake horns on my head.

“Why are you dressed like that?”

“It’s a custom among my people.” Cover story, save me now! “We cover our bodies to hide our appearance, because too many judge on nothing more than first impressions. We only reveal ourselves to our closest friends and lovers.”

“Wow, that’s…” I’msoscrewedI’msoscrewed. “Romantic! A bit strange, but romantic.”

“Thank you.” I bowed my head. “Have a nice day.” That wasn’t so bad.

As it turns out, Outdoors was a pretty reasonable pony. Maybe a bit rough around the edges, but he knew exactly what I needed. When I told him I just wanted to see the world, he lit up like the Big Apple at night. Of course, when I nearly collapsed under the piles of stuff he suggested I take, he decided that packing light was the way to go. The stallion gave me what I liked to call ‘the utility belt’, with a magical firestarter, a few spare battery gems, a (really sweet) pop-up tent, a thermos inlaid with a ‘purifying rune’, and the pony equivalent of the Swiss Army knife. The whole deal was a bundle, plus with an explorer’s discount, so I had about a hundred bits left. When I shook his hoof, he looked at me curiously and smiled.

“I forgot minotaurs do that,” he said. “Just remember, some ponies haven’t seen as much of the world as I have, so you’ll want to give them a ‘fist-bump’ as you ‘taurs call it. Some ponies get weirded out by shaking hands.”

“Thanks, Outdoors. I’ll be sure to remember that.”

“No problem, miss. Good luck on your journey! And don’t hesitate to tell me all about it next time you’re in town.”

I nodded and waved as I headed towards the road leading out of town. Unfortunately, I wasn’t looking where I was going, and I found myself on the ground, shaking stars out of my vision. Apparently I’d tripped over this skinny little colt. I picked myself up onto my knees and helped the little guy get to his hooves. Okay, maybe I picked him up and put him on his hooves. The way he stumbled around, eyes rolling around, was probably one of the cutest things I’d ever seen.

“You okay, little guy?”

The pegasus shook his head and looked at me, taking a step back.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, sir--”

“Miss,” I corrected. His ears must still be ringing.

The kid’s eyes shrunk to pinpricks as I struggled not to giggle. The poor dear.

“What’s a cute little colt doing out in the middle of the street?”

The pegasus blushed and looked away, rubbing the back of his head with a hoof.

“I… I was just testing out my new camera. My camera!” He looked left and right as he started hyperventilating. “Oh no! I can’t believe I-”

“Relax, kid.” I reached over him to pick up the weird camera behind him. It was just a box with a really big lens, a flash, and a red button. I guess they really are a bit behind technologically. “No need to ruffle your feathers over it.”

“I’m not a goat!” He frowned. “I’m a pony. See?” He flapped his wings a bit.

“Sorry, little guy. It’s just a term I forget doesn’t apply to you guys.” I looked at the camera once more, an idea forming. “Say, where did you get your nifty little thing anyways?”

“Oh, my camera?” He beamed. “My pa got it for me in Vanhoover. It was worth a lot of bits, but it was the best birthday present I’ve ever had!”

I smiled and gave him a pat on the head, got up, and dusted myself off.

“Keep doing what you love, little guy. Just be careful where you put yourself for the ‘perfect shot’.” The little colt smiled and blushed as I turned around and headed towards the train station.

“How much for a ticket to ‘Vanhoover’?” I asked the till lady, the pun feeling strange as it left my mouth.

“Five bits, ma’m. The train will arrive in five minutes.” I passed the mare five of the golden coins and waited on one of the benches.

The lush countryside greeted me from the other side of the rails, hills rising up in soft blues and violets in the distance, looming gently over golden fields. Wind made waves on the ocean of wheat, crashing against the foot of the mountainside, sending flecks of grain into the air like the spray of a tempestuous ocean on a cliff face. And there I sat, on my own little island, far away from the storm, the storm I should have seen coming. But no, I ignored it. I remembered a day when the waves grew flat during my first year in New York. When you could see the horizon like a perfect brushstroke. I stared out into the ocean, ignorant of the storm clouds that brewed overhead. I heard people say that the Greeks thought it was Boreas calling his winds for the storm. Silence…and a rushing of wind as the train arrived at the station.

I got on it. I sat down. I leaned my head against the window. I saw the closest thing I’ve had to a home pull away.

“Why is it so hard?” I sighed. “He needs help. But it can’t be me.” Ponyville disappeared as we rode around a hill. “A volcano, a hurricane, a force of nature. That’s what Windell is. He buries it all deep inside, so you can’t see. I couldn’t see. His lack of emotion…is just another way of hiding. And when it wells up…he erupts.” I brought up a sleeve to wipe my wet face. “I hope you find peace someday, Windell. I hope, not just for your sake, but for the sake of anyone that wants to get closer to you.”

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