• Published 10th Jan 2016
  • 998 Views, 52 Comments

Wizards of Everfree Valley - Dafaddah

A geeky young Pegasus decides that magic should be for everypony, and sets out to make his dream a reality.

  • ...

Chapter Two: Economics 101

Author's Note:

In this round of the OC Slamjam I got one of the most positive reactions to one of my entries overall. It did get some flack for including canon characters, but as Firefly was in Ponyville I made the case that it was inevitable he interact with canon characters. Still, I was lucky with the pairing to the OC Gross Product, as he also had a personal connection to Ponyville and a daughter, both mentioned in his OC Profile, that provided the perfect set of circumstances to introduce one of the most significant formative events of Firefly's early life.

The wake: Applejack

I came up to the reception line just as Twilight finished her story. “So what happened on the second date?” I asked.

She turned to face me, then smiled fondly at the coffin. “I guess he wouldn’t mind my telling the whole story. He and Melon Rind had a falling out. She threw her drink in his face and stormed out of the bar,” she added with a chuckle.

I laughed out loud. “Now that you mention it, I remember gossip in the town market about those two.”

To my surprise, Rainbow Dash leaned-in lookin’ all-serious like.

“Hey! Ix-nay on the affs-lay! This is a wake, not a comedy club!”

I scratched the back of my head. “What’re y’all talkin’ about, Dash? Wakes are to celebrate a pony’s entire life, an’ that’s bound to include both some tears and some real knee slappers. Y’all are doin’ a disservice to the dear departed if you only talk about the sad parts!”


“Applejack’s right, Dash,” interrupted Twilight.

I noticed some of the media types trotting around and taking pictures of some of the more famous ponies at the wake. I gestured towards them with my muzzle. “Or to let them tabloid varmints say bad things about Firefly jes’ cause he done made good.”


“Looky thar!” I waved to a portly gray coated earth pony stallion and young pale-yellow mare across the hall. “That’s Gross Product and his daughter Ripple. They’re real close friends o’ the Apple family, so I call him Uncle Gap. I’m sure they’d be happy to tell y’all a really neat story about Firefly.”

Uncle Gap and Ripple joined us at the reception line. “Hello, Applejack!” said and bowed to Twilight. “Your majesty. And this must be Rainbow Dash, Dr. Mild Manners, and Sergeant Falcata.” He beamed with pride. “And this is my daughter Ripple. She just started her studies at Canterlot University, my alma matter. It’s a pleasure to meet the two of you, though I wish it were under happier circumstances.”

“Well, Uncle Gap, Ah was just tellin’ Dash here that a wake don’t hafta be all gloom an’ doom! How about y’all tell us the story of when you met Firefly fer the first time, ifen ya don’t mind?”

Gross Product looked at his daughter. She blushed, but nodded. He thought for a moment. “Let’s see, this must have been at most a year after Princess Twilight’s ascension. I had come to Ponyville at her invitation to do a seminar on the economics of magic...”

Economics 101

Gross Product and Firefly

Usually Firefly sat in the front row. Tonight however, Princess Twilight’s weekly lecture on magic had attracted a rather large and intimidating crowd, so he sat at the back of the lecture room, close to where the coffee and pastries were laid out on a table.

Though the sheer number of attendees was unusual, its makeup was even more so: there were many earth ponies and pegasi present. Firefly was used to being the only pegasus in the audience. Even stranger, most of the usual unicorns weren’t in attendance. He chewed the tip of his hoof absentmindedly, wondering if maybe they knew something he didn’t. It had been a busy weekend in the weather brigade, and he hadn't been home except to sleep and eat for four days straight.

The only other resident of the back row was a young pale-yellow earth filly sitting three chairs down from him. Her posture broadcasted seething resentment as she stared fixedly at the chair-back before her. He felt a pang of sympathy, but chose to respect her clearly communicated desire to be left alone.

A commotion at the front drew his attention. The first few rows of chairs were full. To the left of the central aisle sat Filthy Rich and his family. Immediately to their right were the residents of Sweet Apple Acres and Spike.

Why would merchants and farmers come to a seminar about magic? he thought. You should have checked the evening's topic days ago, idiot! He snorted. And do what instead, egghead? These magic seminars are the highlight of your entire week!

With a sigh, he crossed his forelegs. Well, let’s trust in the princess to make this worthwhile.

The hubbub died down as Princess Twilight approached the podium accompanied by a mature, bookish looking earth pony stallion with a gray coat, white mane and, curiously, a cutie mark of a pile of gold coins.

She smiled broadly. “Welcome to the Golden Oaks Memorial Library's series of lectures on magic. Wow! We have a good crowd tonight!” She indicated the stallion. “This is Dr. Gross Product, who teaches economics at the University of Canterlot. He’s a former resident of Ponyville and tonight, as our special guest, he will give a talk on the role of magic in the Equestrian economy.”

Economics! Firefly’s heart and ears sank. Is there possibly a worse way to blow a Tuesday night?!

Gap took Princess Twilight’s place at the lectern. This was a good crowd for a small town, even if half were members of the Apple and Rich clans, friends from when he lived here in Ponyville.

His smile faltered when his gaze fell on the back row. Ripple sat there next to some dubious looking orange pegasus colt of college age. His daughter didn’t look up, brooding beneath the raincloud she’d been under since leaving Canterlot that morning. The last few weeks had been hell at home. He’d hoped the trip to Ponyville would draw her out of her funk. Guess not, he thought. He took a deep breath.

“Thank you, Your Highness,” he began, pasting a smile on his face. “Library, huh? Hey, I know a library joke. What did the librarian say when a book fell on her head?” He paused and smiled crookedly. “Nothing. She only had her shelf to blame!”

The audience groaned as one, except for the dragon Spike who guffawed loudly. “Hey, Twi!” he gasped out, “we resemble that remark!”

The princess chuckled dryly. “Yeah... that was quite funny, Dr. Product.”

Hmmpf. A fizzle. I guess she must have heard it before!

The young pegasus in the back row got up to leave. Called it! The kid’s a slacker!

“Hey you there!” he said.

The pegasus looked up, touching a hoof to his chest. “Me?”

“No, I mean the other young know-it-all getting up to leave my lecture.”

Every head in the room turned to stare.

“Yes, you!” he said. “Do you already know how Equestria’s magic-based economy works? How its forces motivate magic providers and consumers to supply, convert, transport, use magic resources, and to dispose of residual magic? Can you describe thaumic markets and regulatory structures, and their distributional and environmental characteristics?”

“Er, no, not really,” he replied.

Gap put on his best smile. “Then, son, don’t you think you should do yourself a favor, sit down, and learn a bit?”

Twenty ponies’ gazes focused the kid, including Princess Twilight. His orange cheeks turned bright pink. Shuffling to the next chair over, he sat down. “Well, of course I do,” said the kid. “Uh, I just needed to, uh, switch chairs.”

Yeah. Right.

Even Ripple wasn’t buying the excuse. She glared at the pegasus in disgust, then went back to staring at chair-backs.

“Splendid!” said Gap. He leaned onto the lectern. “I always like to start these talks with the basics.” He directed his gaze towards the Apples.

“Now, Apple Bloom, being a big professor at university sounds like an important job, right?”

The filly nodded happily. “Sure is, Uncle Gap!” The other ponies chuckled. Gap distinctly heard a ‘Hmmf Uncle!’ from Ripple. What’s gotten into that girl?!

“Well, it’s real sweet of you to say that, so I’m going to tell you a story.”

“A pony walking along a road in the countryside comes across a shepherd and a huge flock of sheep. Tells the shepherd, I’ll bet you 100 bits against one of your sheep that I can tell you the exact number in this flock. The shepherd thinks it over; it's a big flock so he takes the bet.

973, says the pony.

The shepherd is astonished, because that’s exactly right. He says Sir, I'm a stallion of my word, go ahead and take one. The pony picks up one of the furry critters and begins to walk away.

Wait, cries the shepherd, Let me have a chance to get even. Double or nothing says I can guess your exact occupation. The pony looks smug and says Sure. The shepherd looks him up and down. You teach economics at the university, says the shepherd. Amazing! responds the pony, You are exactly right! But tell me, how did you know?

Well, says the shepherd, put down my dog and I’ll tell you!”

The was a moment of silence. A mare’s lilting laugh rang out, followed by the sound of most of the ponies present laughing. Filthy’s daughter, Diamond Tiara, whispered into the ear of a friend she had brought to the seminar, who began her own belated high-pitched titter, which set the audience laughing again. Except for Ripple, he noted with concern, who covered her face with her hooves.

“This joke introduces the fundamental idea of economics: that things only have value based on how much ponies want them compared with how easy or hard they are to obtain. This is called supply and demand.”

He pointed to Diamond Tiara, “Now, why does the shepherd raise sheep?"

“To grow wool!” she said wrinkling her nose. “Why else would anypony keep the smelly things!” This raised a few laughs, but it wasn’t the answer he was seeking.

He pointed to the Diamond’s friend. “And why does that shepherd want to grow wool?”

“To make scarves!” The filly said emphatically.

His grin faltered. “And why do ponies make scarves?” He looked towards the back. “Ripple, can you tell us?” She knows this. Let’s see if I can draw her out.

She lowered her hooves from her face. There was no mistaking the anger in her face nor in the timbre of her voice. “Because, they’re too cold-hearted to stay home with their families!” she growled. Knocking down her chair, she turned and bolted from the room.

Gap was too shocked to react. What? He swallowed. “It’s time for a break. Ten minutes, everypony. Ripple!” he called, and dashed out in pursuit of his daughter.

He caught up with her on the other side of the library. She glared at him. “I hate you!” she said. “I never want to speak with you again!” She turned her back on him and stomped into the garden beyond the library.

Everypony was gathered around the snack table. Firefly munched happily on an absolutely amazing apple fritter.

“The pastries are better than usual tonight, Firefly,” said a familiar voice.

He turned and sketched a little bow. “Yes, they are, Your Majesty,” he said, licking the crumbs from his lips.

“It’s Twilight when I’m in the library, Firefly. You know that.” A tentative smile lit her face.

“Yeah, Prin... uh, Twilight.” He’d often chatted with her about magic at these lectures, and sometimes when they’d crossed paths in town. She’d always proven both accommodating and cheerful, but tonight he could tell she was upset. “Do you have any idea what that was all about?”

She shook her head. “Not entirely. I know that was his daughter sitting at the back next to you. And she didn’t look like a happy pony.”

“Woah, his daughter?! That’s rough!”

“Ayup!” said a deep male voice from behind him. He turned and stared way up into the huge muzzle of Big Macintosh. His sister Applejack stood next to him. Members of the Apple clan sold produce at their stand every market day, so he had on occasion chatted briefly with them both.

“Ripple an’ her pa are going through a rough spell is all,” said Applejack. “Happens sometimes when foals hit that age.”

He nodded. “Reminds me of my own teenage years,” he smiled ruefully. “My parents weren’t pleased when I didn’t want to go into the family business in Cloudsdale. It got pretty rough.”

“How did it work out?” asked Applejack.

“It took a few years, but the situation is fine, now.” As fine as it could be, he thought ruefully.

Just then, the professor reentered the room looking flustered. Ponies began shuffling back to their seats. Twilight and Applejack exchanged concerned glances.

Applejack fixed Firefly with a speculative stare. “Twi?” She asked. “How well do you know this feller?”

The princess’s eyebrows rose. “We’ve had a number of conversations, mostly about magic and alchemy.” She nodded and smiled. “But we’ve talked enough for me to be able to say that he’s a good pony, Applejack. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“I suppose so,” she said. The mare continued to lock gazes with him. “Son, amongst the adults present you’re the closest to Ripple's age, and it appears you may have some experiences in common. Wouldja mind talkin’ with her?”

“Me?! Counselling a rebellious ‘tween?!” He felt ice in the pit of his stomach. “What about you talking with her? You obviously know her way better than I do!”

Embarrassment tinged the mare’s freckled face. “Ah wish ah could, but she’s been pretty hostile to every Apple since she an’ her daddy got here. I suspect ah’m the last pony she’ll talk with, and she gave Twilight the cold wither when her daddy introduced them.” She sighed and stared into Firefly’s eyes. “So, we’re kinda short on options. Are ya willin’ to help?”

Her gaze was merciless. In town the mare had a reputation for epic stubbornness. She’ll never let me off the hook! he thought. I am so thoroughly bucked!

He put down the remains of the fritter. “Sure, why not?” he said resignedly and turned to go. An iron-hard hoof jerked him to a halt. He turned his head back to look into Applejack’s half-lidded eyes.

“We all understand that she’s still a youngster and should be treated gently, now, don’t we?”

“Yes, ma’am!” he said.

Her hoof let go. “Ya’ll make sure you keep that in mind!”

He nodded, then trotted out of the room.

Idiot! he berated himself. This can only end in trouble!

Firefly found Ripple sitting on a long stone bench in the garden on the opposite side of the library from the seminar room.

“That was quite an exit!” he said in greeting.

The filly didn’t look up at him. “Better get back in before he embarrasses you in front of everypony, again,” she said. “He’s very good at that.”

Firefly sat down on the far end of the bench. “Of us two, I suspect he’s the one feeling most embarrassed right now.”

Her grin wasn’t pretty. “Yeah? Well he deserves it!”

“Does he now?” Quit stalling! In for a bit, in for a bunch! “Why’s that?”

She glared at him suspiciously. “Why should I tell you anything?” She turned her head away. “You're just some loser at one of his lectures!”

Feeling stung, Firefly almost got up to walk away. Almost. He took a deep breath.

“Call me whatever names you want, but I'm somepony who knows what it's like not getting along with his parents.”

He took her silence as an invitation to continue.

“So why did you blow up at your dad?”

She took a moment before answering. “Because he’s a liar! And a fraud! And they are the family he really wanted!” The filly hid her face as tears began to flow. “Not us! My mom isn't the wife he wanted! I'm not the daughter he wanted! Those farmers, they're the family he wants!” She shuddered as she wept. “How do you think that makes me feel?”

Firefly’s own breath caught in his throat. You're not the son he wants! The words echoed in his head. “How... how do you know?”

The filly sniffled and ran a fetlock over her nose. “He kept a diary. I found it in the attic. He was in love with her. Not my mom.”

“Sorry to ask, but in love with whom? Applejack?”

“No.” She said miserably. “It was her mother, Honeycrisp.”

Firefly was confused a moment. He had never met a mare named Honeycrisp at the Apple stand. He then recalled how one of his roommates had told him that Applejack and Big Mac were siblings, as was Apple Bloom, all of them having lost their parents in a terrible accident.

“Wait?” he replied. “Didn’t she and her husband pass away over ten years ago?”

She nodded. “That was before I was born. My parents were already married by then, but he still wrote about her in his diary, and after she died about helping her kids and how they were just like family to him!”

“That's a long time ago. It doesn't mean that he still feels the same way now.”

“Then how come all he talks about is going away?” she snarled. “First he wanted to go sailing around the world. Now he says he'd like to move here and start a farm.” She turned her head to face him, her eyes deep pools of despair. “Why does he want to leave us behind?”

Firefly’s ears fell flat against the sides of his head. “Did you talk with him about this?”

“I don't have to.”

He placed a hoof on the bench and leaned towards her. “Yes. You do.”

Ripple shook her head.

“Trust me! You do!” Tear-filled eyes looked into the filly's. “Before it's too late!” he whispered.

Her eyes widened as she regarded him a long moment. “What do you mean, too late?”

Firefly slumped on the bench. “I haven’t told this to anypony since I moved to Ponyville. I left Cloudsdale because my dad and I had a terrible argument.” He stared at his forehooves. “I said... some things that a foal should never say to a parent. I left, and then...” He turned his face away and shuddered twice. “Then he died.”

Ripple was very quiet.

“Talking to my mom later, I found out how badly I had misunderstood him.” He smiled through his tears. “Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t an angel, but neither was he the only one to blame for our problems. My biggest regret is that I never apologized to him, and now I never will.”

Ripple sat as still as stone. He wondered if his emotional outburst had frightened the filly, and if he should just head on home, when she batted an ear.

“Okay... I’ll do it.”

Gap's heart was in his throat. His daughter was talking to that young pegasus, of all ponies! At least she's talking to somepony.

He spoke up in his gravelly voice. “Is there room for another pony on this bench?”

Ripple and the pegasus turned to face him. He stood there, hoping that, somehow, the colt’s words had bridged the gap between him and his daughter. She glanced briefly at him and then, looking down, nodded.

The pegasus got to his hooves as he approached. They exchanged glances.

“Thank you, son. It took guts to admit what you said to my daughter.” The kid nodded.

Ripple drew in a breath. “How long were you there, listening?”

“Long enough,” he replied. “Long enough to know I’ve been a complete idiot. Long enough to know you have questions you need answered.”

He sat down next to his daughter. The pegasus quietly backed out of the garden, leaving them to conduct their talk in private.

When Firefly got back to the lecture room Princess Twilight was closing the seminar. She glanced in his direction. His nod and quick smile seemed to reassure her. She nodded back.

“Thanks for coming, everypony. Next week we return to our regular series on magic theory and practice with a workshop entitled Teleportation, the do’s and dont’s!”

Firefly looked on as the ponies in the audience filed out. Applejack and Princess Twilight were amongst the last to leave.

“Are all these seminars so lively?” asked Applejack.

“Thank Celestia, no!” he replied.

Princess Twilight’s grin faded. “What? Do you find my lectures boring?!” she asked, looking concerned.

His eyes widened and he shook his head. “No! Er, Your Highness! Absolutely not!”

“Oh good!” she replied, seemingly mollified. “See you next week, Firefly?”

He nodded emphatically. “See you next week, Your Maj.... er, Twilight.”

The mares left him standing in the library. He glanced around. It was getting late.

Guess that wasn’t such a bad Tuesday night after all! He whistled as he walked home.