• Published 21st Dec 2015
  • 237 Views, 6 Comments

The Glimmering Gardener - ArgonMatrix



Life is told not in one great story, but in many smaller ones. Here are a few from the life of the magical plant breeder, Lilligold.

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How Mango Leaf Stole Winter

Author's Note:

My story (poem?) from the Semifinals of the OC Slamjam—Lilligold vs. Mango Leaf. You can find the original story along with my opponent's story over here.

‘Twas the first week of winter in fair Canterlot.
And the snowclouds, they snowed. They snowed quite a lot.
There was chill in the air, and frost underhoof,
And icicles lining each eave of each roof.
The foals frolicked gaily, built snowponies wide,
Till the sun winked away and bade them inside
Where their parents awaited with plates of warm food
And mugs of hot cocoa. ‘Twas just the right mood!
For the essence of winter can always be found
In desserts that are warm and sleep that is sound.

But this tale, dear friends, does not start so warm.
It features a pony quite far from the norm.
A stallion who somehow had grown to despise
Those cups of hot cider and warm apple pies.
Yes, any hot food would give him a rise!

Mango Leaf walked, shopwagon in tow,
Through the coldest of nights and deepest of snow.
The smells from the homes drew a scowl to his face.
They smelled of fresh bake, which smelled of disgrace.
“Dumb winter!” he cried. “You make it so hard
to peddle my wares. My dessert avant-garde!
Why is it that this, the season of cold,
Should hinder us few who love cold tenfold?
It’s all I desire to share my dessert.
My love for this tastiest frozen yogurt!”

Mango huffed and he pouted, it just wasn’t fair!
That for three months a year he was doomed to despair.
Yet he saw no way out. Not a one. Not a bit.
It seemed that, for now, this was all. That was it.
And till spring rolled around, he might as well quit.

But then, what he saw on the street’s near’st corner
Lifted his spirits and dispelled his self-mourner.
For there, twixt decor of Hearth’s Warming glee
Was an independently owned travel agency!
“Now there’s an idea!” he said. “What a score!
Why haven’t I ever thought this up before?
I’ll travel someplace where winter’s unseen!
Someplace with sky blue, and grass evergreen!
And then, once I’m there, it’ll be time to shine!
To share my dessert that’s one of a kine!”

He strolled to the store, in through the front door,
And just ‘cross the floor stood a mare, who looked bored.
“Aloha, good mare!” said Mango mid-trot.
“I’d like to be sent someplace that is hot.
Where summer’s eternal and winter is not.”

“Uh huh,” groaned the mare in a voice not quite hers.
She slid forth a bundle of travel brochures.
“Hoofolulu?”
“Been there.”
“Palomino?”
“Done that.”
“The city of Elmshire?”
“…Now where is that at?”
“Just south of the desert, it’s really sublime.
Please can you say why we’re speaking in rhyme?”
“No can do,” Mango said. “Now I’m Elmshire-bound!
Please sell me one pass for a trip not-so-round.”
With a sigh, and a stamp, and a series of clips,
She hoofed him a pass. “That’s two hundred bits.”

His coinpurse weighed less, but his spirits were high.
With a smile and a wave, he bade her goodbye.
He stepped back out into the night, and then shivered.
“Come morning,” he said, “it’s bye-bye to this blizzard!
Look out, sunny ‘Shire, for the Great Froyo Wizard!”

***

The trip took twelve hours, from six until six.
So far as sleep went, Mango’d gotten his fix.
So rested was he for the sojourn ahead,
By the time he awoke, the sky had gone red.
As the countryside rolled like an emerald sea
Mango yawned, and he smiled. “I can’t wait to see
All the sights and delights this city might hold
So far from that nasty Equestrian cold.
But what’s more than that: I’m dying to share
My dessert so divine that none can compare!”

“Next stop: Elmshire!” the conductor proclaimed.
“Make sure when you leave that your baggage gets claimed!”
Mango grinned out the window, but something was off.
A chill coursed his veins, and he sputtered a cough,
For the city of Elmshire was covered in frost!

But not just frost. No! Also ice! Also snow!
And everything wintry that Mango did loathe!
What?!” Mango roared. “But this can’t be right!
Where’s the heat? And the sun? And the summer so bright?!
Don’t tell me I’ve traveled so many long miles
To learn that I’ve fallen for wintertime wiles!”
He shot to the front of the train as it stopped.
The door squealed open. To the platform, he hopped.
As snowflakes danced ‘round, he glared long and hard.
He looked ‘cross the station and found a street guard.

“Hey!” Mango called as he galloped headlong.
“What’s with this snow? It has to be wrong!
I was told this is where only summertime lives,
But it’s blizzarding now. So tell me: what gives?”
The tone of his voice seemed not at all his.

The guard wore a smile. “Oh, isn’t it great?
Now we can ski! We can sled! We can skate!
All thanks to the latest of royal decrees,
Mandating the placement of everwhite trees!
One on each block, and two in town square.
Praise be to the duchess! She really does care!”
With a scoff, Mango said, “That’s completely insane!
Decreeing it winter? She’s sick in the brain!
Where is this duchess? I’ll give her my reason
Why summer should be the ultimate season.”

The guard’s mouth turned down. “I’m not sure I should.
If your word with the duchess does more harm than good…
But you seem quite earnest, and I feel divine!
So I’ll show you the palace down Parapet Line.
But first, can you say why we’re speaking in rhyme?”

***

His wagon retrieved, and a stomp in his gait,
Mango Leaf passed through the palace front gate.
In a city created of buildings aglow,
This opulent manor was star of the show.
‘Twas wider than wide, and taller than tall.
And wore enough holly to deck every hall.
The rooftops were sharp, trimmed wholly in gold,
Yet paint gone so dull, it had to be old.
But Mango cared not for aesthetics just now.
There was too much at stake—forget being wowed!

The guard led him in, up two flights of stairs,
Down six corridors, past three working mares.
At long last they came to a lavish oak door.
He knocked on it thrice, and then knocked once more.
“Duchess! A pony has asked for the floor!”

“Let them inside,” said a voice, so demure
That it straddled the line of being mature.
The door rumbled open, and Mango walked in.
A throne stood inside, a cute mare sat within.
She looked far too young to be done with school
Never mind on a throne, solitary in rule.
She smiled so coy and said, “You look strange!
Foreign, are you? From Equestria’s plains?”
Facing the mare, Mango bowed low and said,
“Actually, Duchess, I’m Haywaiian-bred.

“But that doesn’t matter. Not now, anyway.
There’s only one thing that I’ve come here to say:
I came here in search of a summer retreat
For I wish to share a great frozen sweet,
But your new decree has gotten me beat.

“I ask of you now, please lift your decree.
Take torches to ev’ry last everwhite tree,
For only in heat can you eat my dessert.
My scrumptious, fantastical frozen yogurt.”
The duchess’s mouth drew in a straight line.
She chewed on her words. She chewed for some time.
“I worried on this. On these trees. Even told
Their master—my friend, dear, sweet Lilligold—
That perhaps our fair subjects would not enjoy winter.
And now here you are, in quite a big dither.

“But my word is my bond. I will not go back.
The trees, they will stay till they’ve all fallen black.
And only one thing will alter my choice:
Hearing your plea in Lilligold’s voice.
That’s the one way you might find rejoice.”

Mango considered. The task sounded tame.
He just had to sway this Lilligold dame
To taste his sweet froyo. To taste it just once.
And surely the flavour would make the fair dunce
Relinquish her chase of the cold winter season.
She’d chop down the trees. She had to see reason!
“Miss Duchess,” he said, “just where can I find
This Lilligold mare? I might change her mind.”
“I doubt it,” said Duchess. “Her mindset is hardened.
But still, you may find her at Glimmering Gardens.”

With a smirk and a bow, Mango Leaf said,
“Thank you, Miss Duchess!” And outside he fled.
The duchess waved bye and called, “Anytime!”
She slumped in her throne, but ‘fore she reclined
she pondered, “Did all that just happen in rhyme?”

***

Road after road after serpentine road
Mango Leaf carted his heavy cartload
Of froyo supplies. And it just gained more mass
As the wheels gathered snow. This trip was not fast.
So late was the hour when he reached the store,
The red in the sky was not there anymore.
‘Twas all black and blue, great flurries blew ‘round,
The howling of gales commandeering all sound.
His bones has grown cold, his hooves had gone numb.
But he still soldier’d on. Determined, or dumb.

He hammered the door, at eleven-oh-four,
Of Glimmering Gardens: a floral-type store.
“Hello?” Mango said. “Please, let me in
This weather is brutal. It’s cold as all sin.
So open up, please, ‘fore frost bites my skin.

The shop made no sound. The windows were dark.
But someone was there, for one light did spark
On the store’s second floor, the window topmost.
And soon, to the door came the probable host.
The entry swung open, and standing inside
Was a beautiful mare who seemed beyond tired.
“Oh dear. Yes, of course. Come into my home.
Just please mind the plants. Each one is home-grown.
I’ll fetch you a blanket to help with the cold.
And in case you stay long: my name’s Lilligold.”

“And mine is Mango. So nice to meet you.”
His words came out kind. His thank-you was true.
He stepped from his cart and crossed the threshold
Into the warmth, and out of the cold,
But froze when he saw just what this shop sold.

‘Twas full up of plants. Complete as a jungle!
But each plant was strange, a natural bungle.
From flowers that glowed with ethereal light,
To pinecones that blended right into the night,
To pumpkins that floated up high like balloons,
To roses that seemed to be made of monsoons,
To cacti that burned, looked ripe to explode,
To min’ature trees making min’ature snow.
Despite his own thoughts, Mango was quite impressed
By this greenhouse that danced with such magical zest.

Lilligold came back, wool blanket in hoof,
Hot tea in her magic. So Mango’s head shook.
“No tea for me please, but thanks anyway.
I actually have something I quite need to say.
I’m afraid it can’t wait, not even one day.”

With a smile so soft, the mare said, “Of course.
Say what you will. The floor is all yours.”
Huddled deep in his blanket, Mango Leaf said,
“I’m here not by chance but by choice. From the head
Of the city, the duchess, I’ve come. Seeking you,
For this winter you’ve made has got be quite blue.
I came to this city to sell my dessert—
To share with the masses my frozen yogurt—
But no one will buy it in this kind of storm!
The sun must be up! The air must be warm!

“So here I am now. I’m begging you, please!
Take away all of your everwhite trees
And bring back the summer with radical haste.
I promise you now, it won’t be a waste.
Especially after this yogurt you taste.”

He offered a cup full of lemon-lime swirl.
He’d whipped it up prior, for meeting this girl.
Lilligold took it. Her frown was so small.
As was her frame: she’d shrunk ‘gainst the wall.
Not even licked once, she set far aside
The frozen yogurt. She heaved out a sigh.
“You speak from the heart. Of love and of passion
For this dairy treat, served in a cold fashion.
Your plight is quite sound. I’m so very sad
This winter has rendered you so very mad.

“But passions are plenty among ponykind
Perhaps you have noticed this passion of mine
To breed plants of magical manifestation.
The everwhite tree is my latest creation,
And one that I opted to share with the nation.”

“But why just that one?” Mango said with a shiver.
“What’s so compelling ‘bout a tree that brews winter?”
Lilligold fell pretty silent at that.
She looked away, petting her mane like a cat.
“The needs of the many. The needs of the few.
Which one weighs more? I ask that of you.
For many long years, Elmshire has suffered
A desolate burden: eternally summered.
The heat was a threat. I answered the call.
Now winter is here. I’m afraid that is all.”

With slack in his jaw, and cold in his brain,
Mango still found the strength to complain.
“I’ve traveled so far. I’ve worked hard and long!
I’ve come too far now to meet my swan song.
My ambition is just. It cannot be wrong…

“Can it?”

“I implore you to stay,” said fair Lilligold.
“Sleep on the thought where it’s cozy, not cold.
I think in the back, twixt soil and pots,
I have what I need to build makeshift cots.
Stay till the morn, and after sunrise
We’ll see if this winter, you still so despise.”
Mango Leaf wanted to speak, but he yawned.
So tired was he, that he could not respond
With anything else but “Fine. I will stay.
“I’ll follow your lead. Please show me the way.”

In the store’s storage room, it took little time
For Lilligold to weave a cot out of vines.
She found him some sheets, then faced him and said,
“Have a good night!” before going to bed
Not knowing the plot that had formed in his head.

***

Just one hour later, a tick past midnight,
Mango could no longer stand the dread sight
Of blizzarding blackness just outside the shop
He slid from his bed and said, “This must stop!
Elmshirites want this? They don’t even know
What they’re missing, dismissing my yummy froyo!
I’ll end this myself! Before break of dawn
Ev’ry last everwhite tree will be gone!”
He borrowed a scarf, set of boots, and a toque,
And went out to end this wintertime fluke.

An everwhite tree stood tall, and quite bright.
‘Twas a mere evergreen whose spines had gone white.
Mango beheld it and smiled quite bold.
“This should be simple, everything told.
I’m Mango Leaf: Master of Magic That’s Cold!”

With a flick of his horn, he invaded the tree,
And dismantled the magic. Internally.
Faster than fast, the everwhite withered.
And all ‘round the block, ‘twas no longer blizzard.
The cold crept away, as though it had never
Been there at all. ‘Twas spring-ishtime weather!
Mango Leaf blinked. “It’s really that easy?
This winter is weaker than even a breezy!
The city’s quite big, but I have lots of time
‘Fore anyone wakes. This season is mine!”

So Mango Leaf went, for hours and hours,
Sapping out ev’ry last everwhite’s powers.
One on each block, and two in town square,
He conquered them all with quite little care,
Restoring the summertime warmth to the air.

It took all night long, right up until eight.
And despite his exhaustion, Mango felt great!
The snow was now quickly succumbing to melt.
No ice underhoof, no chill to be felt.
The horizon grew light. Daybreak would come soon.
And Mango would be there the whole afternoon
In Elmshire Square, shopwagon in tow,
Prepared to deliver his own brand of snow!
His sole motivation. His chilly dessert.
At last he could dole out his frozen yogurt!

As Mango prepared all his treats to be sold,
He couldn’t help but to recall Lilligold.
His heart did a twist. He felt a bit bad.
But then he said, “Sure, I guess she’ll be mad.
But only till she tastes my froyo so rad!”

***

When ponies awoke and greeted the day,
They all looked confused. Confused sans-pareil.
They flooded town square, looking quite like a mob.
And, completely in sync, they spat, “We’ve been robbed!
Where is our winter?! Is this some big coup?!
Where are the trees?! And just who are you?!
With a humbling grin, and his cart open wide,
Mango Leaf shouted, “It’s Froyo Riptide!
I’ve cleaned away winter! Now who will be first
To sample my buffet of frozen yogurts?”

The ponies all roared, and raised their hooves high.
But before they attacked, the duchess arrived.
A phalanx of street guards put halt to the din.
With voice so serene, and mouth lined so thin
The Duchess of Elmshire commanded, “Seize him.”

Mango Leaf paled as the guards all advanced.
Tired as he was, he stood not a chance.
“You don’t understand!” His effort, last-ditch.
“I had to perform this seasonal switch!
I wanted to share my treat so divine!
My frozen yogurt is—”
“Save it, fruit rind,”
Said a guard. “You’re causing a lot of unrest.
By Law of the Duchess, you’re under—”

Wait!

The world went silent, and everyone turned
To the voice that, somehow, everypony had heard.
‘Twas Lilligold there! She stepped through the crowd
And right past the duchess, who made herself loud,
“Guards! Step away! May her path be allowed!”

The guards cleared away, leaving Mango alone.
As Lilligold neared, his gut felt like stone.
But ‘fore he could speak even one single line
Lilligold said, “One, please. Lemon-lime.
I never did try that dessert yesterday.
Can it be truly as good as you say?
By… killing my trees, you’ve cut me quite deep,
And hurt our fair town by the winter you reaped.
If it led you to that, it must be quite nice.
So one yogurt please. Served overtop ice.”

As silence ensued, Mango Leaf stared
Into Lilligold’s eyes, and the hurt that lay there.
A lump in his throat, and guilt in his eyes,
He set slow to work with his froyo supplies.
And when he was done, the silence reprised.

He hoofed her a cup of dessert, yellow-green.
She lifted it up with her magic white sheen.
And with her first bite, she managed a smile.
The first one that Mango had seen in a while.
A smile of someone who, for the first time,
Had tried his dessert, and found it sublime.
Lilligold said, “It’s really quite good.
Quite good indeed. Your plight’s understood.
I’ll speak with the duchess. You will not be chained.
But please.” Her voice cracked. “Don’t come near me again.”

She teared up her eyes, turned tail, and ran,
Once more leaving Mango alone with his stand.
He looked to the crowd, and found only hate.
He looked to the duchess and saw nothing great.
He saw Lilligold and he shouted, “Please wait!”

To his full surprise, Lilligold really stopped.
Mango picked up the froyo she had dropped.
He tossed it aside to the slush-laden quarry.
He bellowed a cry. He bellowed, “I’m sorry!
There isn’t a treat in the world worth this.
This stunt that I pulled was completely remiss.
It was selfish of me. The only way I could see
To share with this city my froyoing glee.
But my plan was so wrong! Reckless and dumb!
Should’ve left you alone to your wintertime fun.

“If you’ll let me, I would like to help you rebuild
Those everwhite trees. I’ll stay till we’ve filled
This city to bursting with ice and with snow.
It’s the least I can do in an effort to show
My truest remorse for stooping so low.”

A pause. A long pause, where Lilligold stood
With her back facing Mango, which couldn’t be good.
She turned to the duchess and spoke in hushed tones.
Her eyes were not dry. Her words were unknowns.
The duchess replied, with a smile quite clear.
Though that did quite little to bide Mango’s fear.
Lilligold turned with the smallest of sighs
In a voice barely there: “Your insight is wise.
It would be rather nice if you help my trees live.
Indeed, a good step on the road to forgive…

“…ness.”

***

Several weeks later, Mango Leaf found himself on a frosty metal bench in Elmshire’s market district. As far as he could see, he was the only pony not wearing winter clothes. Somehow, that made him smile. He took a bite of agave froyo and looked around.

The everwhite trees were back in full force. He’d never taken the time to appreciate how they gleamed in the sun like great marble spires. They were really quite beautiful, despite the surrounding weather. But even the weather wasn’t so bad. Mango had helped Lilligold refine some of her spellwork to prevent the trees from making it too cold or too windy. It was winter, but it was an optimized winter.

“Aha! There you are!” He turned and saw Lilligold trotting up. She smiled, wearing a full set of pink winter clothes.

“Aw, shoot,” Mango said. “I hate goodbyes.” He smiled anyway.

Lilligold settled in next to him and said, “You’re not getting away that easy!”

“Ha, shoulda figured.” He offered her a spoonful of yogurt. “Agave?”

She took the spoon and wordlessly set it in her mouth. A gentle silence fell between them, broken only by the crunchy hoofsteps of passersby in the snow. Eventually, Lilligold dipped her head and whispered. “I… really feel like I owe you an apology.”

Mango nearly did a spit-take. He chortled and said, “You’re kidding me, right? After everything I did, you owe me an apology? Ha!” When Lilligold’s face remained straight, Mango let his smile fall. “What for?”

“Well…” She looked up at a nearby everwhite. “What you did was certainly wrong, but your heart was in the right place. You just wanted to share your joy with ponies, and you tried to do that the only way you saw how.” She broke her stare and looked Mango in the eyes—something she rarely did. “No matter how misguided your goal, I should’ve recognized your intent. Perhaps my fault was lesser, but… Regardless, I’m sorry.”

“Pfft, you think I’m that sensitive, girl?” Mango waved her off. “Nah. I goofed up big time. Of course, no one’s perfect, so I’ll take that as an apology for not being perfect and we’ll call it even, yeah?”

Despite herself, Lilligold giggled. “You are so strange.”

“Just learning this now?” Mango laughed heartily, and Lilligold joined.. It was quite a peculiar sight: two ponies smiling as they shared frozen yogurt in subzero weather. It was strange, but then so was the city, and so were the ponies.

Lilligold glanced up at the nearest clock tower—just five minutes until Mango left for his train back home. “Well, before we say goodbye,” she said, “I do have one last question.”

“Shoot,” Mango said.

Clearing her throat loudly, Lilligold said:

“Your company’s nice, I quite liked our time.
But why did so much of it happen in rhyme?”

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