• Published 16th May 2017
  • 5,169 Views, 79 Comments

Ember Goes to the Spa - Starscribe

Ember doesn't think ponies have anything to offer. Spike takes her to the spa to show her ponies may be able to offer more than she bargained for.

  • ...

And Also Gilda Works There

Author's Note:

So I didn't think I'd be writing any more of this, and I wasn't even sure this idea would mesh super well with the other two. But given how loosely this is all connected, I thought I might as well stick this final chapter here.

Gilda stared forward at the scroll in her claw, hardly believing her eyes. Of all the places she'd interviewed, the days spent searching with increasing desperation, she hadn't imagined the Ponyville Spa of all places to accept her. But Lotus's dense scroll of hoofwriting was quite clear on that fact—not only was she accepted, but she should come in as soon as possible to begin her training.

"With the Summer Sun Celebration taking place in Ponyville this year, we anticipate overflow crowds. The position can be guaranteed at least until the end of the season. Further employment to be determined pending a performance review."

Gilda hadn't ever been much for the fancy way ponies spoke to each other, or the way they used politeness to hide when they were just insulting you, but a yes was a yes. Her bits were running low, and she couldn't go back to Griffonstone after leaving the way she had. There's no place for me there anymore. I need to make a new life for myself here.

But Gilda had been getting desperate. It was harder and harder to hear offers of help from her friend Rainbow Dash and to continuously turn her down. She would've accepted, if it was between that and going hungry. But her pride might never have fully recovered. After Griffonstone, she had precious little pride left to spare.

Gilda left her modest apartment—all that her few bits could afford—and flew to the spa as quickly as she could. She didn't know the first thing about treating ponies at a spa, and hadn't pretended to, but she'd proudly proclaimed how hard a worker she was and how quick she could learn. Apparently, that was enough.

Aloe and Lotus greeted her with visible relief—the ponies looked like any other earth ponies to Gilda, soft pink and blue twins with a perpetually-hushed voice about them. They were entirely polite to her, not trying to take advantage the way a griffon might've done. Griffons rarely started companies, since working for another was a sign of subservience.

But it's okay, they don't know that. I can get the bits I need without anyone thinking less of me.

As it turned out, Gilda’s work at the spa would involve very little physical contact with ponies—like all the new hires, she’d mostly be dealing with the infrastructure. Collecting towels, maintaining the heating system, occasionally offering refreshments. It wasn’t difficult work, just the matter of memorizing everything she needed to be doing and when.

It was amazing to her just how weak the ponies who worked at the spa really were. The heat of the boiler quickly overwhelmed them, and they couldn’t carry enough fuel or towels to make only one trip. With so few unicorns working there, they had to work patiently and carefully at repairs Gilda could make in moments with the help of her claws. Gilda had none of those weaknesses, and so very quickly made herself indispensable. She got a few odd looks, from the many ponies surprised to see a griffon working there, but that was all.

Within a month, she’d mastered her routine to such an extent that she had plenty of extra time to learn more involved work. It started with mixing baths first—no different from remembering the ingredients for a recipe. But with the Summer Sun Celebration truly upon them, that too proved to be a waste of her abilities, and Gilda graduated to the most prestigious position in the spa: giving massages.

“I expect you will have a… unique touch,” said Aloe, or maybe Lotus (she still hadn’t learned which was which). “Those claws of yours, should really be able to work the aches out of our customers.” She gestured over her shoulder, at the massage parlor. There was already a customer in there—one of the locals, Gilda didn’t know their name either. And the one standing over her…

For the first time since visiting Ponyville, Gilda found herself looking twice at a stallion. To say he was muscular would’ve been an understatement—he was one of the few ponies she’d ever seen who wouldn’t be looking up at her. The few who might have a chance against her if they got into a wrestling match. His wings left a lot to be desired, and he still didn’t have a beak or claws—but she couldn’t hold that against him. It wasn’t just his looks, either. Gilda could smell him, could imagine all the things he might…

Aloe had moved on, expecting her to follow. Gilda had been standing in the doorway this whole time, staring like a fledgling leaving the nest. Without a word of explanation or apology, Gilda hurried inside beside her boss, her tail twitching in agitation behind her.

Aloe cleared her throat, looking away with obvious embarrassment. “Forgive us, Mayor Mare. I’ve brought our newest trainee to observe your session, if that’s alright. Bulk Biceps is going to train her—we think they’ll probably have a similar style.”

“Oh, of course.” The pony was lying on her belly, head swallowed by the contours of the table. She hadn’t even looked up. “No bother to me. I’m always thrilled to see the ongoing success of a local business.” She lowered her voice just a tad. “If she’d like to take a crack at these knots, that’s fine by me. I don’t even think Bulk here has the endurance for the stress of running this celebration. Why they couldn’t have just done it in Canterlot again I’ll never know…”

But Gilda wasn’t listening—she couldn’t care less about what this pony was talking about. With renewed embarrassment, she realized she’d been staring again, and glided the rest of the way over to the table, where she landed with a thump.

“Bulk will teach you,” Aloe explained, whispering into her ear. “Watch very carefully. You’ll practice with a dummy before touching a live pony, but you need to see how it’s done. We’re too pressed for time to have him demonstrate on a dummy first.”

She nodded. “Yeah, sure…” She would’ve agreed to just about anything right then. “I got it.”

“Bulk is… well, you’ll see. Just pay attention.” Aloe bowed politely to the customer, who wasn’t even watching, before excusing herself out the way she’d come.

Bulk Biceps looked up from where he was standing beside the pony, meeting Gilda’s eyes. She stared back, searching for any sign that her feelings might be reciprocated. All she saw was intense concentration. “I, uh… for Earth Ponies, it’s like this.” He hopped up onto the table, with such force Gilda was a little surprised it didn’t break right then. Apparently pony furniture was sturdier than it looked.

He demonstrated the technique, though of course Gilda had eyes for a very different aspect of what she was watching. She was still learning, in the sense that she would need to succeed here to one day get the bits to return home, but just now her skill and future employment at the spa was the last thing on her mind.

“Yes, that’s wonderful,” the pony muttered. “I feel so much better already, and it won’t even be over until next week. You can’t even imagine the stress.”

“Of course not, Miss Mayor,” the stallion said. “But we will do everything we can to help you relax.”

And so it went. When the appointment was over, Gilda followed the pegasus stallion out, trailing him as close as she could. “That was impressive work,” she said, her tone a little deeper and slower than it would’ve been normally. How had she not seen this pony working here until now? “I wouldn’t mind a personal demonstration myself. If you’d like to come over to my place after work.”

“Oh, we don’t have to go anywhere,” Bulk said, not even looking back. “They keep the dummies in a back room. I can show you there. I know how overwhelming it can feel when you’re new on the job. But just keep practicing, and soon enough they’ll love you. I know it worked for me.”

Gilda opened her mouth to protest, staring in stupefaction at the pegasus. She mumbled something that was not quite a question and almost an apology, but nothing came out and the pegasus didn’t seem to hear her anyway.

They went to the back room, and he proceeded to demonstrate proper technique for her on the dummies for the next hour or so. Entirely not the sort of technique she had in mind. She tried a few more, even less subtle hints, but as before the pegasus hardly seemed to notice. He just kept working. As soon as the shift ended, he left without remark.

Gilda made her way to the lockers to clean up for the day feeling more than a little despondent. Of course, the innocent ponies wouldn’t notice. Crazy they’re not all extinct by now. Of course, there was another possibility, one she wanted even less to consider. It was possible the stallion had noticed her advances, but just hadn’t been interested. Maybe ponies were pickier than griffons, maybe they were only interested in their own kind. Could the stallion have ignored her as his way of being polite?

Gilda’s mood had thoroughly soured by the time she was making her way back home from the spa, and she didn’t even take the effort to fly home. Instead she found the darkest, most deserted route she could, so she could stew in her feelings. She couldn’t take her anger out on those who had upset her, not as she might’ve done in Griffonstone. The Equestrians were already skeptical enough of having a griffon in town, she didn’t need to lose another home.

Yet as she walked, hissing, and growling to herself as she did, she became dimly aware of dark figures following her. It was well after dark, and the streets were almost completely deserted, so it wasn’t hard to see the shadows of motion at the corner of her vision. Gilda stopped walking and inhaled sharply, trying to use scents to isolate who might be following her. Unfortunately, she was standing on what would have been a busy street during the day, because there were so many different pony smells around her she couldn’t tell them apart. Some seemed fresher than others, but that didn’t mean much. Sundown had only been an hour ago, and plenty of lights were still on in the surrounding buildings.

“Hey,” said a voice from behind her, as unfriendly as a pony voice could sound. “I think you’re lost, friend.” It was a stallion’s voice, gruff and unpleasant.

“Yeah,” a mare joined in. Like the stallion, she didn’t sound like anyone Gilda had known in Ponyville. But there were so many visitors here for the celebration, that it was quite likely neither of them were locals. “You should be flying south, friend. Equestria isn’t safe with strangers like you around.”

Gilda tensed, taking a single deep breath. On some level, these ponies had a point—she did have to take a moment to clear her head, to resist reacting violently to their words. A brief scuffle would settle disputes among griffons, but ponies were too fragile for that. She had to always keep that in mind, no matter what these same words coming from a griffon might mean.

Gilda turned slowly around to face them. There were five of them, and none looked familiar to her. Visitors for the celebration, or just ponies who avoided her? Either one seemed plausible. “I don’t know what you mean,” she said, as flatly as she could. “I live in Ponyville. Lots of different creatures do—a dragon, a zebra, a reformed criminal…”

“Exactly,” said another one of the stallions. “These Ponyville ponies have been through enough. We think you should move on.”

“Move on…” Gilda looked away, claws briefly tensing, tearing little divots in the cobblestone path she was standing on. Maybe if she hadn’t already been so upset, she might have just taken to the air and flown home. As far as she could tell only one of these ponies had wings, they probably wouldn’t follow her. She could give up a little pride, let them think they won, and just wait for the festival to end so she wouldn’t be bothered again.

Unfortunately for them, Gilda had not been having a good day. For a griffon, pride was everything. She wasn’t going to bow to these idiots. “I don’t know what you mean, friend. I live here. This is my home. You all are the ones visiting.” Whatever part of Equestria these ponies had come from, obviously it wasn’t one that had much contact outside their own kind.

The crowd visibly stiffened. A few ponies closed in around her, ringing her in. Gilda didn’t look to see if there was a policemare nearby—as far as she knew, Ponyville didn’t have very many. Besides—she could settle her own scores. “You wanna say that again?”

Gilda opened her mouth to do just that, but someone beat her to it. “Hey!” It was another pony’s voice, this time a familiar one. “Gilda, is something wrong?” Bulk Biceps towered over these ponies, in height and girth both, and the crowd parted from behind as he approached. He walked over to her, turning to face the crowd. “What happened?”

“We found a potential threat to Ponyville,” the stallion with the scar said. “We were making sure it flew away.”

Gilda would’ve snapped back at him again, but now that Bulk Biceps was here, she decided she’d rather just watch him. Maybe she hadn’t been as unsuccessful as she’d thought?

“Gilda’s my friend,” he said, without anger. Almost as though he genuinely thought these ponies were confused. “There’s no danger to Ponyville here. I think you’re lost.”

“A griffon is your friend?” A mare asked from the crowd, raising her eyebrows.

“Yeah!” Bulk answered, his voice loud enough to rattle the nearby windows. “So what?”

The crowd was stupefied. That, and they probably didn’t like their odds against a griffon and such a powerful specimen of pony strength. They dispersed, muttering angry slurs as they slipped away into the streets.

Bulk turned back to her, apparently unconcerned. “Ponies used to talk about me that way. I don’t think it’s very nice.”

“No,” she agreed, watching him. “I don’t like it.”

Bulk Biceps looked as though he were thinking very hard about something. He didn’t speak for nearly a full minute. Gilda just waited, silent in the darkness. Eventually he said, “I know a place that’s still open. Hungry?”

“Yeah,” she said, much more quietly than he had. “I think I am.”

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Comments ( 20 )

Gilda and Bulk. Huh. Never would have puzzled this together in my mind.
This was a neat chapter! Makes me want a whole story about Bulk helping Gilda fit into Ponyville or something :derpytongue2:

This is kind of sweet. I like it.

I think you're right that it doesn't mesh well with the other chapters. It'd be just fine as its own story though. :twilightsmile:

Yeah, I can ship this.

I thought Bulk was supposed to have been shanghaied to Ember's lair....:rainbowderp:

I like it. I can see Bulk and Gilda getting along.

Continue! I want more of this! I ship it!

Great shipping. And man did that crowd of ponies get lucky Bulk came along!

I thought you said the last chapter would be the final one.

And, for that matter, the one before that. :rainbowlaugh:

Oh well. It's not like we're complaining or anything... :raritywink:

Gilda didn’t look to see if there was a policemare nearby—as far as she knew, Ponyville didn’t have very many.

Which is sort of baffling, when you think about it. I mean, after all the nonsense Ponyville gets put through on a regular basis, you'd think they'd keep the town extra stocked with police ponies.

Though, then again...it is Ponyville. Maybe there aren't enough police ponies mad enough to accept a position there. :rainbowlaugh:

Gilda made a friend.

Also what's your opinion of Spike and Gabby as a couple?

You know? I certainly won't object to this, Gilda needs some love.

“Hey,” said a voice from behind her, as unfriendly as a pony voice could sound.

I imagine this wouldn't sound unfriendlier than a bored griffon, right?

I really enjoyed this, this was quite a good story. :twilightsmile:

I would love to see a spinoff with more of Gilda's life. You've got a good setup here.

I guess the story couldn't have focused on Ember forever.

That settles it. I definitely need to start tracking unread chapters on my Complete shelf. These have been some great reads. Thank you for them.

Really enjoying the Ember POV.

..... eh. Not a ship I usually push but their chemistry is real sweet so I dig it.

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