• Published 15th Jun 2012
  • 16,012 Views, 205 Comments

Windfall - Warren Hutch



Timeskip foalbirth friends gathering to celebrate

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Chapter 2

A flourish of warm brass echoed over the pristine towers of Canterlot, as the sun descended below the dark layer of clouds that currently obscured the valley and distant Ponyville from the lofty mountain capitol city. An answering call of silvery horns sounded as a bright crescent began its ascent on the opposite horizon.

In an oak paneled lecture hall at Canterlot University, Twilight Sparkle's vivacious voice rang out as she levitated a stick of chalk and drew complicated sigils and runic equations on the broad expanse of green slate. "... and so, by process of elimination, we can determine that the magical field tastes like grape-ade." With that, she emphatically underlined a string of symbols and rounded on her audience, beaming with satisfaction. "Does anypony have any questions?"

Her smile tightened a bit at the corners as she beheld a largely empty hall, with a scattering of undergrad unicorns, half of whom were struggling mightily to appear politely awake while the other half made no such pretense and either slumped forward, their drool pooling on the thick pillow of their open text books, or sprawled back in their seats with their horns pointing toward the ceiling. Twilight's felt a twinge of embarrassment that she'd allowed another lecture to drag on for too long.

The lavender unicorn mare sighed and telekinetically straightened the frilly cravat around her neck as her shoulders slumped a little. "All right, that's all for today. Next week, Professor Presto will be back from that symposium and will be lecturing on Transformational Field theory, so make sure you've read up to chapter five of Dazzlefizz's Dissertations on Dweomers and section twelve of the Codex Regia Alicornaeum. Oh, and don't forget to bring an old sock with you for the lab session."

She turned away and floated the chalk back to its storage tray as the sounds of quiet words exchanged and hoof steps and benches being skidded rustled behind her.

The quiet murmur of the classroom was shattered by the sound of a pair of clopping hooves and a loud, melodic cheering filled the room. "YAAY! BRAVO! BRAVISSIMO! MOLTO BENE, PROFESSORA! WHOO!" Several of the dozing undergrads were jolted awake, as the lavender unicorn's head whipped around in surprise.

Twilight squinted and peered at a pale figure perched toward the back of the lecture hall, a slender young unicorn mare with a two tone powder violet and pink mane framing a porcelain colored face with wide green eyes. It was a face the lavender unicorn recognized at once, shared as it was by one of her oldest and dearest friends, although this variation on the theme substituted a guileless freshness for her older sister's pristine sophistication.

The violet maned mare cocked her head and twitched an ear. "Sweetie Belle? You're not in this class." This gave her pause, and she raised an eyebrow. "In fact, now that I think about it, you don't even go to school here."

The young filly got to her hooves, stumbling a bit as she cleared the benches, and came bouncing down the aisle toward the front, an open smile on her primrose white face. She wore a light gold silk shawl draped across her shoulders with an edge decorated in black and white sequins arranged to resemble musical notation, which offset her gold bell and musical note cutie mark.

She came to a stop in front of Twilight's lectern. "Yeah! No! I honestly had no idea at all what you were even talking about, Miss Twilight, but I could tell you were excited about it and giving it your all. Kind of like I feel when I do the "Aria de Regia Luna" in C minor. Even if the audience doesn't speak Neightalian, they still stomp and cheer when I finish."

Twilight chuckled and a slight blush came to her cheeks as she smiled down from the stage at the filly. "Well, thank you, Sweetie. You never fail to live up to your name." She lifted a sheaf of papers with her magic and tapped them on the lectern to straighten them up. "Now what can I do for you tonight?"

Sweetie's brow furrowed in thought for a moment, then she brightened again and replied. "They got a call at the Bijou from the Carousel Boutique a little while ago. Snips told Miss Bangle that Rarity ran out of the shop with Pinkie yelling something about one of Pinkie's doozys and Sweet Apple Acres and Miss Bangle came up to my room and told me about it and said Snips thought that Rarity would probably want me to come here and tell you about it."

Twilight levitated a briefcase from a nearby table and prepared to lower the sheaf of squared off papers into it as the wheels spun rapidly in her head. "Hmmm. A doozy, huh? At Sweet... Apple... Acres..."

Her eyes grew wide as her pupils shrank to pinpricks, and the papers exploded in a cascading, fluttering cloud. "WHAT!?"

She leapt down off the stage and gripped the startled and confused younger mare by her shoulders. "Sweetie, don't you understand? Fluttershy's foal! She's having her foal! Right now, probably!"

The lavender mare let loose of the younger filly and went galloping up the aisle, bowling over one of the undergrads as she shouted at the top of her lungs. "Spike! SPIKE! I need you to take a letter!"

Sweetie Belle stood with wide eyes and watched the older unicorn recede in a cloud of dust and fluttering papers, the wheels in her own head turning furiously but at a much lower rpm.

Suddenly, a look of ecstatic joy lit her face up and she started jogging in place as an extended note in Triple C escaped her throat, rapidly increasing in volume until cracks started to form on the slates behind her.

She broke into a gallop, leaping lightly over the prone form of the undergrad Twilight had just knocked down as her voice reverberated on the oak panels of the lecture hall. "Fluttershy's gonna be a mommy! Apple Bloom's gonna be an auntie! Miss Twilight! Miss Twilight, can you ask Spike to burp a letter at Scootaloo for me ?! Miss Twilight!"

***

Spike the dragon lounged in a nearly pony sized basket next to Twilight Sparkle's desk in the office shared by several of Canterlot U's junior faculty and student teachers, seemingly flipping lazily through an advanced and esoteric tome of magical theory.


In truth, he was perusing the four color panels of the latest issue of Thunderpony tucked neatly into the pages of the larger book. He'd picked up a lot in his years as the lavender unicorn's assistant, and knew how to choose books to get the best startled double takes from any students or faculty who happened to pass by.
 His stomach rumbled a bit, and he glanced at the somnolently ticking grandfather clock that stood by the door, noticing that Princess Celestia's beaming portrait on the dial had been replaced by Princess Luna's shyly smiling visage.


 As the comic book he read wrapped up on a cliffhanger, he began to mutter petulantly under his breath. "Is this it for our hero? Will Thunderdragon ever... eat... again... Will the nefarious Not A Doctor Yet Twilight Von Sparkle triumph in her sinister scheme to starve him to death?" He snorted to himself and idly turned his attention to the letters column and novelty ads in the back pages.


The spines over his ear holes twitched at the sound of galloping hooves in the hallway outside. With a blase expression he looked up to see Twilight Sparkle attempt screech to a halt on the highly polished marble floor, only to keep sliding on past, her eyes wide in alarm as she began to spin with her hooves splayed wider and wider beneath her. He lowered his gaze back down to an advertisement depicting a smiling family of pink, scaly Seaponies as a softly echoing whoop and a crash sounded from down the hall.


 He looked up again sharply as another pony hove into view in the doorway and called after her in a melodious voice he instantly recognized. There was the alabaster white and pastel pink and purple figure of his childhood crush's younger sister, standing with her green eyes wide with alarm and a hoof to her mouth. "Oh! Miss Twilight are you okay?"


Spike raised a scaly brow ridge. "Sweetie Belle? What are you doing here!"


The young unicorn's innocent as a button face turned toward him, startled. She began to look rapidly back and forth at him and down the hall while hopping on her hooves in a frantic tempo. "Having a foal!"


 A small gout of green flame popped unbidden from his throat as he reared up in his basket, tossing the heavy tome aside with a thud. "WHAT?"


Twilight came hurriedly limping into view, her cravat, mane, and tail in disarray. "Fluttershy is having her foal! Right now!"


At this Spike surged to his clawed feet and tumbled out of the basket, scrabbling a moment to get upright, where he looked his guardian in the eyes and laid his hands on her shoulders. "Holey Guacamole! What are we waiting for? Lets go see if we can get a chariot!"


The lavender unicorn gently shouldered him aside as she stepped up to her desk and began to root through the drawers. She pulled a couple of pages of foolscap and an ink bottle and quill out and floated them over to him. "First things first. I need you to send a couple of quick notes off."


The young dragon took the writing implements and nodded, breathing deeply to both calm himself and stoke his internal fires. "Right. The Princess..." He started writing "Dear Princess Celestia..."


He stopped scribbling as his guardian interjected. "Hold it! Yes, I want you to send one to the Princess. Both of them. And then send off a note to the Dean. But first I need you to send one to Rainbow Dash."


She grunted in satisfaction as she tugged a colorful mailer out from under a stack of books, featuring a familiar squad of blue and yellow suited pegasi with a photo inset of a brashly smiling rainbow maned mare. Twilight spread the pamphlet out on a clear spot on the desk with her hooves and peered at it. "She's in... Manehattan! At Madison Mare Gardens tonight. Think you can zero in on her?"


 The little dragon puffed out his chest after crossing out the Princess' name on the header. "If I can see 'em in my mind's eye I can drop a scroll right on their head. Rainbow Dash is a no brainer."


 Twilight nodded, and proceeded to use her telekinesis to undo her cravat. "Good. All right, I'm on my way. Sweetie Belle, I'm leaving Spike in your care. If you can't get a chariot take any of the morning express balloons. You can use my Royal Transit Pass, it's in the top left drawer of my desk there, and Spike knows where I keep my wallet. Spike, do what Sweetie tells you. Sweetie, listen to what Spike has to say and try to pay attention. I'll meet you both at the Library in Ponyville at lunchtime if I don't see you sooner."


With that she turned and hurried toward a large set of windows framed by potted plants at the end of the row of desks, the western night sky beginning to twinkle over the ruddy glow of the city lights as Princess Luna brought the stars online.


The younger unicorn and dragonet looked at each other in confusion as Spike lifted his quill from the page. "Wait, what? Aren't we taking a chariot together?"


Twilight paused and looked back at them, shaking her head. "That's too slow. Pinkie's "Pinkie Sense" is coming in at full on "doozy". You know what that means. Time is of the essence."


 She threw open the windows, climbing up on the sill as a chill mountain wind suddenly blew in, knifing through the stuffy air of the offices and ruffling the leaves on the plants and the papers on the desks. The lavender mare looked over her shoulder. "In fact, you'd better specifically write "doozy" in your letter to Rainbow, and tell her it's at Sweet Apple Acres."


 She turned back with a wink. "See you kids in Ponyville!"


She stared out over the ivory towers of Canterlot, looking down the vastness of the valley toward the canopy of clouds gathered over the distant hamlet where she'd found all of her most beloved friends. Closing her eyes, she centered herself, concentrating on the sun blessed apple orchards and sweet scent of hay and earth of a particular farm where she'd spent so many glorious summers. Her brow furrowed as she bunched up her rear legs and crouched in a starter's position on the windowsill.


Sweetie Belle leaned in, speaking to Spike in a silvery whisper as her earnest green eyes grew wide. "Uhhh... She knows she's not a pegasus... right?"


The little dragon's own green eyes narrowed as Twilight's horn began to shimmer and spark. "She's not gonna... oh wow, she is!" He threw up an arm to shield his face. "Don't look directly at..."


Before Spike could finish Twilight Sparkle pushed off from the window and launched herself into the air, her hooves thrown wide as she sailed over the campus so many stories below. Sweetie Belle shrieked in alarm as a sphere of blinding white flared, throwing everything in the office into stark black as rectangular beams of hazy light shot forth between the window frames.


A split second later, all the young unicorn could see was luminous spots dancing before her eyes.


 Spike peered over his upraised arm as the primrose colored mare slumped heavily onto her rump beside him. The stars twinkled cheerily over the warm blaze of the sunset in an empty, deep purple sky. He muttered under his breath as he resumed writing on the parchment in his claw.


Sweetie Belle's voice came out in a low vibrato next to him. "S-spike. I can't feel my face..."


The young dragon nodded vaguely. "That'll pass. Do you spell "doozy" with a Y or an IE?"

***

The ponies gathered in the parlor of the farmhouse at Sweet Apple Acres sat in silence, too anxious to talk but still drawing comfort from each other's presence.


Caramel shared the love seat with Pinkie Pie, gamely trying to sip his coffee or take a bite of a pfeffernusse without spilling or getting crumbs all over due to his fiancee's relentless oscillations.


The pink mare herself was looking a tad green around the gills, and was uncharacteristically uninterested in any of the apple based baked goods freely on tap in the kitchen.


Rarity huddled on the couch wrapped in a rustic quilt, her mane bound up in a red and white checked towel, a cup of tea cooling on a barrel converted into an end table next to her. She was looking a bit peaked herself, her deep blue eyes never settling for long on any particular point in the room, although whether it was from her recent ordeal or simply from being immersed up to her horn in the Apple family's down home country decor she declined to say.


Granny Smith sat placidly on a rocking chair, humming tunelessly to herself as she worked at knitting a set of foal booties with a beatific expression on her wizened face.


 Apple Bloom sat beside her on a little stool and busied herself carving a small figure of a pony out of a block of apple wood, letting the shavings flutter quietly into a bucket on the floor.


Applejack's physical nature was getting the best of her at the moment. Lacking a quiet hobby to occupy her mind and without even the minimal distraction of feeling under the weather like Pinkie or Rarity, all the blonde farm mare could do was pace, which was even more infuriating because she was trying her best to walk softly and not disturb the occupants of her brother and sister in law's room.


The orange earth pony's head whipped around as a blinding flash of light blossomed outside, followed by a yelp and a splat and the frantic barking of Naomi, starting from a point under the porch and then moving out into the courtyard.


Applejack rushed over to the radiator, plucking up her drying hat and flipping it onto her head, then galloped out the door, screeching to a stop on the rain dampened planks of the front porch as the other ponies craned their necks in curiosity. Apple Bloom dropped carving and knife into the bucket with a plunk and rose, following her sister outside and taking up a position at her side, her brow sternly furrowed.


Naomi was running laps around a steaming, hemispherical crater in the yard, from which a mud and soot smeared unicorn rose shakily to her hooves, a plume of grey smoke rising from the tip of her glowing horn as it faded from white-hot to yellow to ruddy red. The new arrival shook her head and blinked, and then gave the Apple sisters a grin, her violet eyes and white teeth showing plainly in her soot blackened face.


An equally wide grin spread across Applejack's face, causing her freckled cheeks to bunch up under her smiling eyes. She bounded down the steps and slid down over the lip of the crater, throwing her front hooves around the unicorn mare's neck. "Howdy, Sugarcube! Glad you could make it."


Twilight Sparkle hugged Applejack back with shaky limbs. "At least an acceptable percentage of me did."


Apple Bloom let out a sigh and turned toward the door with a lash of her tail. "I'll go n' fill up th' tub agin..."


As soon as Applejack had led a slightly disoriented and staggering Twilight Sparkle inside, Rarity was on her feet and hurrying to join them, followed closely by Pinkie who didn't get up so much as allow her vibrations to carry her off the edge of the love seat and onto the floor. The quartet of dear friends, two thirds of the Elements of Harmony, all embraced and exchanged warm greetings with one another as Caramel and Granny Smith looked on.


When the group hug disengaged, the lavender unicorn looked expectantly at her friends. "How's Fluttershy doing?"


Before any of them could answer, a fearsome shriek like a roaring manticore came from the cloistered back room, followed by a voice the group of mares had first heard when the chaos had reached its absolute height at that first Grand Galloping Gala they'd attended so many years ago. "YOU DID THIS TO ME YOU BIG... LUNK-HEADED... BRUTE! NO! YOU KEEP BREATHING! THAT'S RIGHT, TRY TO KEEP BREATHING WHILE I STRANGLE YOUR STUPID HEAD OFF OF YOUR BIG... FAT... RED NECK! LET GO OF ME YOU NAGS! I'M GOING TO STRANGLE HIM! LET ME UP SO I CAN STRANGLE MY HUSBAND!"


 In the stunned silence that followed, only the sound of Granny Smith's low chuckle and the rhythmic clack of her rocking could be heard. The old mare smiled fondly as she knitted. "Such a sweet filly. I sure as shootin' weren't so gentle with my husband when I was a-birthin' my first."


The group of younger mares merely gaped at her, and looked up in unison as the bedroom door opened with a soft click. Nurse Redheart came tottering out, her nurse's hat askew. The sounds of low murmuring and sobs could be heard from the dim room behind her. She gave them a glassy eyed smile before glancing in the elderly Apple clan matriarch's direction and clearing her throat. "Um..."


 Granny Smith kept gently rocking with her eyes on her knitting. "China hutch by th' kitchen door, third drawer down."


Nurse Redheart nodded and stumbled to where she'd been directed, pulling open the drawer and lifting out a small jug marked with three X's. With shaky white hooves gripping the sides, she pulled the cork with her teeth and set it aside, then raised the jug to her lips and took a long pull from it. She coughed, wiped her mouth with the back of a hoof, replaced the cork and then very carefully replaced the bottle, slid the drawer shut, then turned and crossed back to the door.


After staring long and hard into the room, the pink maned medical mare set her hooves, adjusted her hat, hiked her tail, and strode back inside, pulling the door gently closed behind her.