• Published 22nd Dec 2015
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Human Rituals - Aegis Shield



A human stays among ponies, mystifying them with his odd traditions and customs.

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The Star-Spangled Banner

Human Rituals
The Star-Spangled Banner
(3 Months Since Arrival)

“Thanks for coming,” I said. “It means a lot.” The orange farm pony stood next to me with a mix of polite uncertainty. We’d picked a nice open spot in the apple orchard. The moon hung lazily in the sky and I planted the stabilizer stalk in the earth.

“It ain’t no problem sugarcube. So uh… what’re we doin’ out here, huhm?” Applejack hadn’t spent much time with me alone, much less in the dead of night. But it was summer and the nights were short, so we did have to wait until rather late at night.

Brushing my bangs out of my eyes, I unfolded my little paper. Checking the night sky for a moment to make sure there were no passing pegasi, I smiled. Clearing my throat a little, I paused and looked over at Applejack. “Have you got my…?”

“Right here,” she said, fishing a tiny three by five inch flag out of her saddlebags. Stick in her teeth, she gave it a little wave and I smiled.

“The Fourth of July was always a big deal at my house,” I told her. Applejack’s calendar had neither a July nor a holiday on the fourth of it, but after some long conversations with Twilight I’d made some rough guestimate of the proper day.

The purple mare had exploded with curiosity, wanting to know if it was the date of another one of my ‘human rituals’. Like she’d never heard the word 'holiday' before. But then again after comparing Valentine’s Day to Hearts and Hooves Day, and Christmas to Hearthswarming, I’m sure ponies had rough equivalents of a few other things. But five years was a long time for a reality-ripping mana crystal to charge and send me home to another universe, so I could certainly hold my own traditions while I was a guest among these strange magical horses.

“What’s it about?” Applejack wanted to know.

“There was a naval battle,” I told her, slowly sitting down. She did the same. The hilltop was nice, and it overlooked much of Sweet Apple Acres.

“A battle?” She said. “Are you a war hero or somethin’?”

“Oh no no, it was… about two hundred years ago,” I paused to do some mental math. “Somebody penned a poem in the middle of a war, sitting on a ship that was bombing one of his own people’s forts. But despite the bombardment the fort stood, and the flag of his country stayed over it. Or… somethin’ like that,” I told her.

“Sounds mighty violent,” Applejack set the flag in her hoof and put it next to my stabilizer stalk. Opening the rucksack Rarity had given me, I gently strung the bottle rocket to it. Pinkie Pie had gotten it for me out of her ‘more dangerous party supplies’ shed. Ponies didn’t have fireworks often, but even the strange pink mare knew they had to be kept dry and safe from smaller hands. Er, hooves.

“It was,” I nodded.

“And you celebrate this every year?” Applejack wanted to know.

“Yep,” I said.

“By shootin’ off more explosives?”

“Well when you put it like that,” I grumbled at her.

Applejack’s muzzle rumpled, “Er, I guess everypony’s got their own odd traditions. S-so what’re we doin’, huh?” She backpedaled a little.

“Well normally I’d host a barbecue, have friends over, hang flags everywhere and all that good stuff. For patriotism?” I nodded at her, smoothing out my paper.

“Yeah?”

“But this isn’t my country, so it’d be kind of rude to hang flags from my home all over your home,” I smiled a little awkwardly. Applejack returned the expression, nodding her understanding. “So here I am with one little flag, and one bottle rocket. Guess I’ll have to skip the burgers and such since all you ponies don’t eat meat.”

“Spike eats meat, you could’a had him over,” Applejack interjected.

“Maybe, but I trust you to be more mature about it than him,” I said without looking at her.

“Oh,” Applejack took off her hat for a moment. “Them’s mighty kind words of you, sugarcube.”

I gave a loud sigh, not wanting to drag it out all night. “Anyhoo, Here we go.” I stood at the hilltop looking up at the moon, then turned a bit. With only Applejack there to hear me, it wasn’t too embarrassing to sing the Star-Spangled Banner. But it meant something to me to at least have a witness. “Match?” I asked softly.

Applejack gave me the pony-sized matchbox. I struck one and lit the bottle rocket. We quickly stepped back and it screeched into the sky. Boom! The red, white and blue sparks fell for a bit, then all went into silence. The orange mare gave me my little flag and I gave it a test-wave. She smiled, sympathy in her eyes. “That it, sugarcube?” she asked kindly.

“That’s it,” I said. “You can go if you want, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t start any fires or anything without anyone around.” I twisted the tiny flag around and around the little six inch pole until it was tight.

To my surprise Applejack sat next to me and put an arm around my shoulder. “Rarity make that for you?” she asked after a time.

I nodded. “I cleaned out her gutters. Didn’t even need a ladder. Your homes are so small compared to me,” I snickered. I sighed a little though, homesick. “Not that I don’t appreciate your company.”

“Ya’ll’re always welcome,” Applejack said. “And if all hyoo-muns are as nice as you,” her accent struggled with the word as Twilight’s universal translation band on my wrist shifted and warmed. “Then I can see why you wanna uphold your traditions while you’re here with us ponies.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” she agreed with a genuine smile.

“Thanks Applejack,” I smiled and scrubbed at her mane. Her muzzle rumpled and I quickly let go with an awkward grin. “Sorry, still fighting that habit.”

“S’okay. I reckon I got my own dose of culture for the night, bein’ a part of a hyoo-man patriotism ritual,” She coughed once and put her hat back on. “Anyhoo, I better put up for the night. Can ya find yer way home with this?” she gestured to our unlit lantern.

“Yes,” I nodded. Twilight, living in a castle, had the highest roof and was the only one with a dwelling big enough for my ‘awesome height’, according to her. Even Fluttershy had yielded after this reasoning, though she’d wanted such an ‘exotic creature’ to stay with her. “Goodnight,” I waved a little.

“G’night!”

I made my way home, giant among the little houses that I was. With the average stallion standing about three feet tall, I towered over most of the structures. It made money easy to make, doing gutters and other simple roof stuff, but I had to sit on my legs most of the time so I wasn’t as intimidating. One thing I’d learned pretty quickly; ponies could panic, and when they panicked in groups they stampeded.

Arriving at Castle Friendship I took off my shoes and set them next to the door. Then I waited. Five, maybe ten minutes later, Twilight ‘arrived’ home. “If you wanted to come,” she jump-startled at my voice. “You could’a just asked.”

“Yeep!” she scampered to one side like a startled cat, back arched and wings up. “I-I just didn’t want to interrupt your ritual! You asked Applejack to come, not me! I-I just wanted to observe! I hope you’re not mad!”

“I’m not mad,” I passed my hand over the top of her head as I walked past her. “Maybe you can come to the next one. Goodnight, Twilight.” I offered a tired smile, casually leaving my written paper on a bench. She’d no doubt snatch it when I was gone. A sample of human writing could be paramount to her 'other-dimensional sentient species reports'. She was adorable like that.

“Goodnight, Neig-g-g-gh!” she said. For some reason my name didn’t translate in Twilight’s magic bracelet. We never could figure out why. To me it sounded like a horse noise when they said it. When I said it, they said it sounded like nonsense too. Ah well, can’t have it all, even in a world of magic and talking ponies.

I retired, putting my translator band from my wrist to its little charging crystal next to my bed. Twilight had whipped it up in less than three days, it was very impressive. Minding the chandelier despite the high ceiling, I stretched out for sleep. Unfurling the little flag, I waved it a bit before just leaving it on my desk. It was a work of art, thanks to Rarity. I would keep it forever, I promised.