• Published 11th Jun 2012
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Renaissance Pony - Dafaddah



In the late middle ages, Celestia foresees trouble for humanity and seeks help

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First steps

Renaissance Pony

by

Dafaddah

Based on the The Conversion Bureau by Blaze, as well as other related stories by Chatoyance, Midnightshadow and creative motivation by Krass McWriter

Chapter 2: First Steps

***

Starswirl the Bearded looked out of the carriage's back window as the Château de Cloux receded into the distance. On his newly minted pony muzzle was a sad smile. "Adieu," he whispered. Behind the trees lining the road his last glimpse of the Château's pink and white façade disappeared along with his former life.

"Maestro, you seem sad," remarked Princess Celestia. She sincerely hoped that she had done the right thing, both for Equestria and for her old friend. She also hoped the consequences would be better for both than with her first such conversion.

He sighed. "I have known such happiness in this place. I was with people I loved and who loved me. A king gave me what I have never known: the peace to pursue even the slightest of my curiosities." Starswirl looked into her eyes, his own were twin blue pools of sorrow. "You know, he even called me 'Papa' in front of everyone, shocking all those stiff aristocrats!" He laughed once and looked back at the trees behind them. "And now I abandon all these true and cherished friends, leaving them to mourn my death."

Tears struck the carriage's cushions. She leaned over to embraced him in a hug, encircling them both in her wings. "I am sorry that we were obliged to resort to such subterfuge. The only way in which I could prolong your life was to bring you fully into my realm as a pony. They would... find it difficult to believe you were still the same person inside."

"Am I still the same person? I was a man, my Princess, and now I am not." He raised a hoof, examining it before his muzzle. "And am I still a painter? It might prove difficult to hold a brush." The corners of his mouth raised in a slight smile. Despite his words, the cast of his eyes showed no submission, but rather the anticipation of a new challenge to his formidable intellect.

Over the tracks of tears on his muzzle, he looked on in fascination as Celestia folded her wings. "You are everything you have ever been, Maestro: a painter, a sculptor, an architect, an engineer, a discoverer, a teacher, a designer of cities, an anatomist, a playwright and a good friend. And now you are also Starswirl the unicorn and magician. Behold..."

Celestia's horn glowed with purple light, as did a small chest on the floor of the carriage. With no visible means of support it began to levitate up into the air before the astounded Starswirl.

"How is this possible?" he asked, eyes wide in wonder. With a hoof he explored the air around the chest, encountering no hidden wires or other devices holding it up. Gingerly he placed the hoof on the front of the chest and pushed. It moved back slightly, but then he felt it pushed back into its original position.

"Now it is your turn. You are a unicorn, and so like me you can wield the power of magic." The chest descended to the floor. She touched base of his horn with a hoof. "There is an organ just under your horn that allows you to do so. I want you to focus your attention on the chest and will it to move upwards, as if you were pushing it with that part of your head," instructed the Princess.

Starswirl's horn glowed purple and so did the chest although it stayed resolutely in place.

"Unicorn foals sometimes take years to learn to do this," she explained, in order to spare his feelings should he fail to move the chest. She berated herself for not starting with something lighter, perhaps one of her own feathers. She leaned back to pull one out with her teeth when she heard a crash as the carriage shook.

Looking up she noticed a hole where part of the carriage roof used to be. Looking down she also noted the absence of the chest.

"I may need further practice in order to develop a lighter touch..." said Starswirl, transfixed by the hole in the roof.

***

Several hours later, they approached an inn by the roadside. Starswirl had been hard at work exercising ever finer control of his telekinetic abilities, to the point where he was doing sketches and writing in a notebook. He imagined his hand holding the quill and moving it as if he still had a hand and fingers. He even wrote in the tiny mirror script he used in many of his more private notebooks.

"Your progress amazes me, Maestro. I am impressed, but not surprised in the least. As the man Leonardo, you excelled in nearly every discipline you attempted. I had staked my hopes on this still being the case for the pony Starswirl. You do not disappoint!" said Celestia.

"It is I who am amazed," replied Starswirl. "I would have never imagined being able to do so much without hands. Tell me though, is it usual to get a headache upon doing such things with magic?"

"My poor Starswirl! The magical organ is much like a muscle of the body. It becomes stronger with use. Perhaps a frightening prospect in some cases." She glanced up at the carriage roof. "It can also become sore with overuse. I suggest you take a rest from magical activities."

The carriage shuddered as it slowed to stop.

"We must pause here momentarily. I will resume my human appearance and get us both food. For now I will render you invisible to humans with an enchantment, so please stay clear of them. I suggest you stay in the carriage and have a nap, as you may need some time to learn how to walk on four legs." Her horn glowed a moment and the human Princess Celeste stood in the carriage. She rapped on the door. The footman opened the door and held out an arm to assist her exit. He left the carriage door open as she made her way to the inn.

Despite the light pain in his head, a beautiful day beckoned beyond the open door. Starswirl had spent much of the last two weeks abed, awaiting his death. "I have no desire to waste such a pretty day," he grumbled to himself. He very gingerly tested his ability to walk on four legs. Having studied the gait of horses, he objectively knew which leg to move when. Doing so correctly required a bit of trial and error to master adequately, righting himself with a telekinetic push whenever he stumbled in the limited space afforded him by the carriage floor. He also tried hopping up and down, but stopped when this drew the attention of the coachmen.

Satisfied with his results so far, he decided to take his experiments to a broader stage: the lovely green meadow visible through the windows. He was then confronted with the new task of climbing down the carriage steps to the ground, a complication he avoided by the simple expediency of hopping into the air and trying to cushion his fall telekinetically. Unfortunately this resulted in his landing in a tangled heap next to the carriage, a muffled "Ooof!" and a rather severe increase in the magnitude of his headache. The coachmen, engaged in their meal, noticed neither commotion.

Starswirl rose upon four legs and engaged in his first walk under the sun as a pony. The sunshine warming his back was most agreeable, as was the sensation of walking without pain for the first time in years. He felt giddy with vigor, but restrained his urge to gallop or make any noise that might attract the attention of the few people about.

Then he took a deep breath through his nostrils, and stumbled to a halt. His mind reeled as it was presented with an overwhelmingly rich tapestry of scents: the varnish and dust of the carriage, the coachmen, their meal, the leather of the carriage's tack, the horses and their sweat, their food, the people wandering about, the smoke and cooking smells from the inn, and most enticingly the scents of the meadow, its grass, flowers and growing things calling irresistibly to him.

It took him a moment to recover from the olfactory onslaught. During that time his stomach growled, letting him know in no uncertain terms that it demanded sustenance. With the utmost deliberation he walked to a remote area of the meadow where he felt his actions would not be observed. Satisfied, he scanned the surrounds once more, then lowered his muzzle to the greensward and took in a mouthful. The taste was indescribable! Nothing prepared by Mathurine, his cook at the Château, or even at the king's frequent soirées, had ever tasted as sweet as this simple grass. He then sniffed a daisy growing nearby and nibbled at it delicately. It also was heart-achingly delicious! He smiled broadly while chewing. His disdain of meat would pose no hardship in his new pony form.

He ate his fill of grass and flowers in the space of a few minutes, experimenting with different field flowers. In the end he had to admit his first love was still his sweetest: daisies. Looking up he noticed that the Princess had returned from the inn with a basket in hand and was speaking with the coachmen. He approached as quietly as possible, noting that the Princess and the horses all looked his way as he quietly made his way the carriage door. He swallowed upon realizing that climbing back in might significantly tax his primitive skills in quadrupedal locomotion. He had just raised a hoof and placed it on the first step up when he felt himself unceremoniously lifted into the air and lightly deposited inside, upon one of the carriage benches.

The Princess reentered as well with her basket, siting down on the other bench. The footman closed the door. The carriage shook as it accelerated to resume its travels. With a flash Celestia reclined on the bench in her true form, one eyebrow raised very high indeed. "We may speak openly again, Maestro. I can tell from the smell that you have already decided to have your first meal as a pony and sample the bounty of the meadow. Was it to your taste?" she asked somewhat archly.

"It was exquisite!" gushed Starswirl, an immense smile upon his muzzle. "I had no intent to eat at first, simply desiring to stretch all four of my legs. But hunger and the scent of the grass got the better of me. And then I ate the daisies." He closed his eyes as if reliving the moment in his mind's eye.

Celestia's laughter rang out, a sound he estimated was that of silver bells being played by fairies in the woods. He watched in fascination as the basket rose into the air.

"Are you sure you're quite satisfied?" she asked. When he nodded, she added "That is such a pity, as they had one of my very favorite foods." The lid of the basket opened, a scent rose from it that called into doubt his placement of daisies at the summit of his new culinary pantheon. From the basket rose a beautiful, perfect, blood red apple. It twirled in the air before him.

"I am immune to temptresses!" said Starswirl in a shaky voice, the sight and smell of the apple making his mouth water in the most distressingly obvious way.

"But not to temptation." Celestia smiled as she brought the apple to his mouth. He took a small bite, and chewed with his eyes closed. Tears began to streak down his muzzle and into his beard.

He swallowed. "Never since I was a lad, has anything tasted so sweet and pure. It is like the very food of the gods." His eyes opened. He took another bite and chewed it slowly. "Thank you, my Princess. I have had enough... for this meal." He smiled again to show his return to good spirits. "But after these past few hours I have two very important questions for you." He paused, looking her directly in the eyes.

"Please feel free to ask them, my friend. Coercion is not my way, and I am most serious in my appeal to you for your assistance," replied Celestia.

"The first is this: are you a goddess?" His gaze was unblinking.

"I have oft asked myself this same question, since coming to visit the world of humans. In my world this is not even a question. Unnumbered years ago, I and my sister inherited a world in utter chaos, which we have worked ever since to bring to harmony. We shaped and brought forth the ponies to help us achieve this goal, and have ruled over them since. But in truth, they continually gain in wisdom and power. I am now convinced that they can become greater than even we the sisters who rule them. I guide them now to the fulfillment of that day."

"But you created the ponies."

"Yes, we did."

"In your own image."

"How else would we?" Celestia seemed honestly perplexed.

"Indeed." His glance focused inwardly, as if deep in thought.

When he eventually looked back up from his musings, Celestia spoke again. "In one way I am not a goddess such as the ones depicted in human legends. I permit no worship of my person." She paused for a moment considering her words. "I will not lie to my subjects and tell them I am omnipotent or omniscient, for I am neither of those things. The only prayers that reach my ears are those expressed by my subjects when they come to visit me in my castle, or when I visit their villages. If that makes me less than a goddess, then so be it."

Starswirl looked again into her fathomless eyes, eyes that had captivated his mind, an intellect more profound, and good, than any other he had ever met.

"My dear Princess, if you are a goddess then you are the goddess of truth. Ever have I followed truth, and ever I shall."

For the second time that day Starswirl found himself in Celestia's embrace. He felt her shudder as she wept into his mane. After a few moments she pulled back, tears still tracking down her ethereal face.

"Then let us be fellow pilgrims in this quest," she said. "I have been so alone these past several hundred years. Much do I need sound advice and a helping hoof, for I fear the task ahead might be beyond my reach."

"This brings me to my second question," said Starswirl. "What am I to do?"

Celestia paused to gather her thoughts. "In several hundred years, the world of men and the pony realm shall intersect, with the latter eventually consuming the entirety of the former."

He smiled at Celestia. "I cannot imagine your realm to be any but a most pleasant one. Why is this prospect so dire?"

"Because, my dear Maestro, my realm is poisonous to humans, unless they are first converted into the true substance of ponies. I do not know why that is, it is simply so. Your quest, Starswirl the Bearded, is to determine how to turn millions of humans into ponies, to house them, to feed them, to build cities to accommodate them, to bring them happily into Equestrian society. The alternative is to let them die a horrible death. This is why I need an anatomist, an engineer, an architect, a builder of cities.

"The most powerful tool at your disposal is magic, and so I have another task for you to do, perhaps even preceding the first: to turn the practice of magic into a science. To measure it and map its dimensions. To elucidate its potential, its rules and limitations, and apply them to the problem of conversion. This is why I also need a scientist. Maestro, you are unique in being all these in a single person, and more. I want you to help me save humankind."

Starswirl was most encouraged to hear of this truly great task. But to have a clear conscience and devote himself entirely to it he needed one more thing. "Tell me, my Princess, why do you desire this? You must certainly be aware that such a monumental task is fraught with risk for your own people and kingdom."

"I have two reasons, Maestro. The first is that it is simply the right thing to do. I cannot stand by idle and witness the slaughter of innocents, even when they are naught but victims of unhappy circumstance.

"The second is that I made a promise to a man who loved me. Perhaps this was not the wisest decision I have ever made, but I always keep my promises, Maestro, even those that speak more to my ambitions than capabilities."

At that Starswirl began to laugh heartily. "What good fortune you have Princess. I am personally expert in this final mastery, that of promising overmuch! I suspect I shall be entirely too comfortable and familiar in this new life you have given me."

For a third time Princess Celestia reached over to hold him to her bosom, encircling them both in her wings. "Then, my dear Starswirl, I am glad to announce that we have reached our destination." There was a violet flash. When Celestia retracted her wings, the carriage was gone and they were in a verdant land under a blue sky. Before them on a mountain side stood a great city with a beautiful castle. Flying ponies could be seen winging their way about. In the fields before them other ponies without wings nor horns husbanded the land.

Celestia spoke with pride in her voice. "Welcome home to Equestria, Starswirl the Bearded."