• Published 20th Oct 2015
  • 1,949 Views, 163 Comments

Norrath, Earth, Equestria. A Construct's Journey - Nimnul

A strange construct, or fancy golem, is displaced to Equestria. But Landshark is no servant, no mere automaton. She claims to be a renegade Bellikos. What and Who is she, and why does she just want to settle down quietly now?

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Momentary Normalcy

It had been about two months since the night Landshark met Princess Cadance. Remembering the encounter with Luna still occasionally prompted a brief bout of embarrassed self-loathing. She was proud of what she was, but her poorly controlled antipathy had really made a mess of that night.

The alicorns had apparently lost interest in her, which only made sense, considering they had actual important work to do, while Landshark was mostly a curiosity. The construct kept herself slightly aloof from the general bustle of Ponyville, but of course the demands of her business and her social life kept her engaged. Additionally, the fact that she barely slept left her with a lot of free time, as even on the outskirts, Landshark wasn't comfortable working metal when ponies tried to sleep. She also recognized the importance of being seen to take part in public life every so often. She was by no means a hermit, she was merely being fairly private and had no particular need to regularly buy much of anything at the market, where ponies interacted frequently.

Her smithy could be doing worse, Landshark supposed. Her three apprentices, Greywack the minotaur, the changeling she'd started calling No-Toes as a joke since he'd failed to decide on a name for himself, and Berry Punch, were just learning the craft after all, while Landshark herself might know the techniques for working metal but had no experience with items that weren't war material. They'd muddled along, making ends meet just barely, and leaving few excess funds for Landshark to have actual spending money after paying her people's wages. They'd probably be about to go under in any town less friendly than Ponyville, or if some ponies hadn't appreciated the novelty value of genuine golem-crafted knife sets.

Landshark was happy. She didn't need much for herself and she was able to pay low but adequate wages. Still, she hoped that soon she'd earn a bit more extra to be able to buy more tools as well as craft some armor for herself, a luxury she had in no way been able to fit into the budget. Furthermore, eventually her employees would be skilled enough to deserve better wages.

She was also extremely glad to be handling a normal civilian life pretty well, although she had to admit that Berry Punch had a much better handle on running any sort of business than Landshark had, and she wasn't shy about informing people about the help she was receiving. The construct had never learned to be really responsible with money. Twilight had offered another loan, but Landshark hadn't needed to take that step yet, likely thanks to Berry's management. If Berry's budget said there wasn't any money to spare for metalworking experiments or other indulgences, Landshark stuck to it. She had all the time in the world.

She'd kept up the little code-name games with the fillies, who enjoyed visiting Landshark, even though they weren't supposed to hang around at the smithy during work hours. They were curious about the forge, but sensibly careful. They'd even been insightful enough to initially warn Landshark about the Cutie Mark Crusaders, who, luckily, hadn't had occasion to take an interest before getting their cutie marks. This hopefully meant she would not have to worry about the fillies getting in trouble at the smithy through their curiosity.

Occasionally an interested unicorn scholar would make an appointment with Landshark for research purposes, be they magical or cultural. She had a sneaking suspicion that Twilight was putting them up to it, because after the triple-alicorn night, Landshark hadn't made any effort to book further visits with Twilight for her research. She also thought they'd argue more about paying for her time if they were losing their own bits, or were going to have to justify the expense to their institute.

There was still usually a small group or even a lone pony stationed near her smithy with signs declaring 'Equestria For Ponies' and other xenophobic nonsense, but they hadn't made any real trouble and quite a few local citizens expressed their displeasure when passing by. Ditzy had crashed into them once or twice. They'd actually tried to involve the guards, but even though Landshark had been pretty sure Ditzy hadn't been buzzing them on accident, every local 'knew' that Ditzy was the clumsiest flier and even the guard just laughed the incidents off. It just served to make people think of the protesters as outsiders. Who in their right mind would try to cause legal trouble for the friendliest mailmare over a crash that hadn't even caused serious property damage? No one from around Ponyville, ponies were sure of that.

Of course, Landshark was still an outsider as well, but it seemed that a growing number of locals were starting to consider her 'their' outsider, which was by and large good enough for her.

Landshark was sitting next to Ditzy at the bar in the Copperhead, an establishment which was, frankly, barely even snake-themed aside from the banged up sign outside. Perhaps the owner had simply decided that his patrons wouldn't care one way or the other about how far he went with a snake theme. Of course humanoid visitors weren't anticipated by Ponyville establishments, but without a real need for physical comfort, the precise how of sitting or standing at a pony bar had never been a problem for her.

Invariably she'd order at least one drink, then trade mugs when Ditzy was done with hers. Landshark argued that it kept the bartender from considering her a waste of space, but Ditzy appreciated the gesture also. The mailmare wasn't the type of pony to suggest hitting a bar, and would have been just as happy to be visited by Landshark at her home, but the construct occasionally preferred to be seen taking part in social life.

"You ever miss your old home and your unit?" Ditzy suddenly asked without preamble, watching Landshark out of the corner of her eye. The mailmare was a little slow of speech and perhaps occasionally of thought as well, but despite her clumsy demeanor, Landshark had never thought of her as anything but utterly dependable in the short time they'd been friends. Having picked up the odd minor superstition from her time with humans, Landshark occasionally caught herself thinking of Ditzy's minor misfortunes as good omens for the rest of her circle of friends. They kept loose bad luck from landing on the rest of them. In any case, Ditzy accepted every thankless, demanding duty the post office threw at her, plodded through them successfully, if not always unharmed, then got handed another one.

"Hmm." Landshark bought herself some time to formulate an answer. "Sure I do. Maybe not with the intensity a pony would, but I remember them very fondly and regret that my loss caused them pain. They were professionals, however, and won't be debilitated by it. You miss ... Cloudsdale, was it?"

Ditzy snorted an amused dismissal. "Miss Cloudsdale? No." She took a swig of her cider. "I guess you've never been there. I didn't have an easy time with my eye and my clumsy ... everything." She sighed. "Couldn't hold down a job. When everyone's a pegasus, weather-type cutie marks are everywhere. You mess up once and your boss remembers every other applicant with the talent to be better than you. I just didn't have the background for an office job either."

"I see," Landshark mused, "so if your special talent isn't immediately useful for a paying job, and your educational background isn't great, the job market is awful. But here in Ponyville, things are less cut-throat because ... having a mix of ponies makes people used to accepting less than literally the best?" Landshark played with an empty brass casing she'd found in her pocket, making it spin on the bar top.

"Yeah. Just the fact that I keep getting asked to help out the weather team is proof enough, even though I constantly mess it up." Ditzy seemed to have a talent for scathing self-reviews that lacked the expected component of self-loathing, which Landshark always found curious. "And of course Dinky can't walk on clouds, so it's for the best I live here now."

"Well, I'm happy you live here too, since I can't walk on clouds either." Landshark chuckled before turning serious. "Sometimes I think, from one friend to another, that I don't do enough for you."

"Nonsense, Shark. I'm just low maintenance. I've got my job, my daughter. Friends who take me as I am." Ditzy swished the drink in her mug around. "Money's a little tighter than I'd like. You're not paying much more than the post office, don't suggest it. Don't argue, I hang out with Berry too. And Dinky really likes you."

Ditzy cleared her throat. "I didn't have a lot of real ... real close friends before you came along. Just ... having me be part of your little group like it's the most normal thing in the world. I'll never be able to pay that back. Life is easier. Not ... not in terms of job and bills, but I just feel stronger." She paused to calm herself and keep her focus on what she was trying to say. "It helps Dinky so much to see that ... that there's more grown-ups than just Berry who aren't indifferent or even nasty to me. She's going ... going to be so much smarter than me. I don't want her to be c-cynical."

"Young ponies are incredibly adorable. Why does cuteness even work on me? Maybe it's the way they interact with their mothers that gets me?" Landshark shook her head. It was uplifting to her to know that simply by being her friend, the construct had helped. Ditzy hadn't ever had any use for Landshark's verbose lectures, no matter how well-meaning. "I hope you don't mind what I've been teaching them."

Ditzy considered the question, or rather, how to best put her stance into words. "You're honest with them. You tell them what you think. Don't dumb it down very much for them. You trust them to be smart and they like it." Ditzy briefly focused both eyes on Landshark. "You're not exactly warm and comforting. Dinky can tell you're solid, and that's important too. They love that they have a grown-up friend who looks kind of scary to ponies."

"I understand, and it's fine. I'm just glad I've got something to offer. You should be proud of Dinky. She told me her, uh, telekinesis is coming along better too, lately?"

Ditzy smiled, perhaps a little sadly. She didn't enjoy not being able to help with that part of her daughter's life. "Princess Twilight says her fine manipulation is .... it's very good, even if she's not as strong as most fillies her age."

"Fine manipulation? Maybe I should show her how to take apart my rifle." After a moment of quiet, Landshark hastened to add, "if you're alright with that, I mean. Let's say instead that I'll take it apart beforehand and just show her how it comes back together." It wouldn't be dangerous either way, but the gun was a pretty unfamiliar weapon so she understood parental trepidation.

"I know you're a responsible type," Ditzy allowed after thinking it over. "And I would never think you'd endanger the fillies. But yes, I think the second option would feel better. I don't want to say no, because Dinky would love learning something unique like that. She's so clever. I have to support that." There was another pause before Dinky added. "I'm not sure what I would feel if she suddenly got a gun-making cutie mark. I guess it wouldn't technically be your fault."

Landshark patted Ditzy on the back. "That's just another crafting talent, then. Maybe she'll be a watchmaker instead, or just about anything else and it's just coincidence what part of magic she's good at first. How would I even know?"

Ditzy sighed. "No, it's fair enough. You're doing right by Dinky and Pinchy." She smiled. "So don't think you're doing too little for me. If you're still in town by the time my girl hits puberty I might have to lean on you for moral support. Some young mares get nasty."

Landshark nodded with enthusiasm, then righted her beret. "I've got no plans to move away, and I'd resist the idea unless something exceptionally compelling convinced me. But, I have literally no experience dealing with teenagers or whatever age bracket you ponies start to develop in." She paused. "There's only so much hormones could do, right? ... right? Dinky is so convinced you're the greatest thing in her life it barely took any effort on my part to make her basically impervious to bullying when dumb jerks make fun of you."

"You're cute when you're naive." Ditzy giggled. "It's a stressful time for a filly, your emotions get wild. Maybe she'll yell at you because your cold machine mind couldn't possibly understand. But when she calms down, she'll feel bad."

"Physically maturing can make children irrational, got it." Now that she had been reminded, she was sure this had been true for humans too, of course. She'd been designed to deal with fully mature people, and she didn't really have that big lump of unstated background knowledge every member of an organic species was culturally immersed in. Even among humans her job rarely involved prolonged contact with developing children. "I'll still expect a bit more self-mastery from Agents Double-Down and Pincer than from the average filly. They hang around with a renegade, after all."

"Maybe that will help a little bit." Ditzy slowly conceded. "But they'll still need their space too. Berry and me will make sure you don't go too hard on them."

"I should hope so! I teach anyone who'll put up with it to be strong, and to value integrity, and to be proud without looking down on others." Landshark tossed the brass casing she had been playing with into the air and caught it again. "However, I have little clue what is and isn't appropriate when raising children. My first meeting with Pinchy, I taught her how my revolver works and told her how dangerous my old job was."

"Maybe not ideal if you ask most parents. But Ruby Pinch is very mature for her age too." Ditzy emptied her drink. "As I said, that's what they like about you. You don't just tell them 'that's not for kids'. And ... honestly, Berry and me, we trust that our fillies are smart enough to know stuff like that. And we're used to other parents thinking we're doing it wrong."

"Your children are developing good, strong Selves. You've both done wonderful jobs raising them, in my opinion." Landshark chuckled. "Yeah, I'm their cool friend or relative, but you made them who they are. I'm just trying to make them strong enough to hold onto that, no matter what. While having fun along the way, of course."

It had been a fairly quiet night at the Copperhead. Most nights were fairly quiet, as the establishment sat in a comfortable spot between being a cheap dive or being too fancy for the working pony. Customers came along, shared a few drinks, maybe played a round of cards, then went home, often to families. The owner and usual bartender, an older pegasus known as Good Old Roy, was not known to hesitate when it came to cutting off ponies who had had too much to drink. It was not clear to Landshark why the 'Good Old' part of the name seemed almost mandatory, judging by the regulars, but she was used to accepting odd code-names.

The bar was also frequented by some of the older members of the town guard, a further factor in keeping the atmosphere relaxed. Only a fool or an outsider would try to start anything at the Copperhead.

Sometimes it was both, of course. A pair of pegasus stallions entered the bar, conversing a bit too noisily for general comfort without being outright obnoxious. There were annoyed glares, but the regulars quickly lost interest again. The leading stallion, on approaching the bar, stopped and nudged his companion with a grin before speaking up loudly. "Why, if that isn't Ditzy! I'd recognize that do-nothin' mark anywhere!"

Ditzy flinched when she heard the voice, facehooved, then turned her head. She didn't look happy, and anxiety didn't help her somewhat slow speech, but at least she didn't appear really scared. "Buzzard. W-what brings you to Ponyville?"

"W-what, sure. Was always wondering where you went off to after you couldn't hack it in Cloudsdale. Wallowing with farm ponies, eh?" The pegasus put on his best 'I am talking to an idiot voice.' "We are transferring to the Las Pegasus weather service. Work for real pegasi. Just here for cheaper drinks to celebrate."

Landshark did idly wonder how pegasi stored anything in their cloudhomes. Other ponies couldn't walk on clouds, could pegasi just will items not to fall through? Were commodity prices higher because you could only rely on pegasi to haul goods? She continued to listen to the exchange.

Ditzy shrugged, making the effort to not react to the insult. "Good for you." She turned back towards the bar when Buzzard spoke up again.

"So what have you been doing, Ditzy? I guess even somepony like you might be useful to the local rubes."

Landshark turned her head and snapped her jaws. "Ventriloquism of course." She cackled while reaching a hand into her overcoat, resting it on her holstered gun.

"Very funny, freakshow." The pegasus behind Buzzard sneered. "We read the news, you know. You can't fool us."

"Seriously?" Landshark was legitimately surprised. "You know I'm the only one of my kind in Equestria, on this planet, and your first impulse is still being a jerk to Ditzy here when you see us both?" She shook her head. "That's dedication to being petty." She mock-huffed. "No autographs for you boys."

Ditzy turned around fully to face the other pegasi with a scowl "It's been nearly ten years and I barely even thought of you. Haven't ... haven't you found anything better to do than being a bully? Kind of sad." She'd spoken clearly and with a voice that carried. Some nearby patrons chuckled. Some smiled to see Ditzy make the attempt to stand up for herself. "And that f-freakshow is my friend, so just buzz off."

"Oho, someone who hasn't learned of the terrible cost of being close to the flying catastrophe." The two laughed and hoofbumped.

Landshark stared mutely, then turned her head slightly. "Yo, Roy?" She sighed. "Good Ol' Roy. Am I drunk?" Of course she wasn't. "You hearing this? Pair of grown stallions acting like schoolyard bullies." Landshark couldn't remember the last time she had felt quite so baffled by a social situation. Had walking up to Ditzy and giving her a hard time been so acceptable in Cloudsdale that it still seemed like a good idea nearly a decade later? It boggled the construct's mind.

The barkeeper and proprietor grumbled in annoyance. The tan stallion valued his bar's rather sedate customer base and had little use for loudmouths. With a coarse, gravel-gargling voice, he called out, loud enough for most of the bar to hear, "We don't take kindly to that sort of talk here, lads. Or to bugging paying customers. So go right ahead and buzz off."

"Really now?" The pegasus Ditzy had called Buzzard seemed almost shocked. "You're siding with the imbecile and the machine over us?"

Ditzy looked hurt. She'd taken a good shot at standing up for herself, but there was only so much she could take in a direct confrontation. It wasn't as easy as just letting whispers and amused looks slide off her back while on the job.

Landshark put a comforting hand on Ditzy's withers. She hoped the sentiment was comforting, she didn't expect the texture and temperature of her hands to be particularly helpful by themselves. Before she could say anything, a familiar voice cut in from a nearby table.

"He's siding with Ponyville folk over smug Cloudsdale pukes, and so's everypony else here." There was muttered agreement among the customer base. "Now you lot better get going before someone has to teach you some manners." Landshark gave Grasshopper a nod. Since they'd talked at Pinkie's party, she'd occasionally exchanged greetings with the cop, but little more.

"Hopper," she acknowledged. "Long time since we talked."

The Cloudsdale pegasi kept sneering and began backing out of the establishment. "Fine. We'll take our business elsewhere, then." Landshark wouldn't have been terribly surprised if they had sworn revenge, but she supposed they were just bullies who had grown up bitter.

Ditzy sagged back against the bar. "Thanks ... thanks for sticking up for me, everypony. And Shark." She was trembling a little. "Can't believe they ... they didn't grow out of that."

"Hey now," Grasshopper had gotten up from his own group of friends and trotted over to Ditzy. "The old nag at home would tan my hide right quick if she heard I didn't stick up for a fellow groundside pegasus against clowns like that. Especially a lovely lady like you." He chuckled, fondness evident in his voice. "She still thinks she married a gentlecolt."

"Too right," the bartender rumbled. "Sides, can't have outsiders hassle one of our own." He cleared his throat, which didn't have any apparent effect on the coarseness of his voice. "Now I know there's some bad apples in Ponyville too, but you ever have any other young folk give you a hard time, there's always gonna be a spot for ya at Good Ol' Roy's bar to take a load off."

He grinned around the room. "Maybe you're ten, twenty years too young to fit in with this crowd, but that doesn't matter none." After a moment's thought, he added. "Well I don't mean literally. No bad Apples in Ponyville."

"Thank you," Ditzy found back to her smile. "I really appreciate it." She sat back down at the bar. "I'll take a grape juice, don't want to be hung over tomorrow. Doing the Saturday morning mail round."

Landshark sat back down also. It had felt good to see Ditzy receive support from the local ponies here. She often did not seem to realize it, but due to the high visibility of her job, she was well known and liked by those who could see beyond her mistakes and the appearance of her eye. "That was downright bizarre. Is that a Cloudsdale thing or what?"

Grasshopper was moving to return to his own friends, but paused. "Meh. You get these types anywhere you have only one sort of pony living in a community. Cloudsdale, Canterlot unicorn nobility, earth pony towns out west, you name it." He nodded and continued back to his own table. "I guess some of 'em pretend like they know somethin' about ancient pegasus warrior culture too. Heh."

"Any excuse to look down on other folk. This one's on the house," Roy declared as he served Ditzy her drink. "On account of you getting hassled at my bar! And Hopper's right. I'll take a mixed town like Ponyville, or lower Canterlot even, any day of the week. And some bullies just grow into big ol' jerks without ever improving."

Ditzy and Landshark didn't stay for much longer afterwards. Although the Friday night was only starting at other bars and clubs across Equestria, most of the Copperhead's customer base weren't the type to party hard deep into the night, and Ditzy was planning to get up early for work. She wasn't planning on wasting a saturday on being tired and hung over.

"So," Landshark spoke up while walking Ditzy home. "I'll be showing the fillies a little chemistry tomorrow afternoon. Don't worry, we're all going to be extra careful. I won't let them handle anything dangerous without supervision. It's going to be fun."

"Wish I could come, really." Ditzy smiled. "But I'm taking an extra shift. Start saving up bits early for the holiday season. Say hello to everypony from me!"

"Mmhm. Fly safe tomorrow. And sleep well."

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