• Published 9th Nov 2017
  • 1,783 Views, 62 Comments

Tracks in the Sand - DwarvishPony



Pinkie Pie discovers friendship amidst the ruins of Canterlot.

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Chapter 1

There was always sand in Canterlot. You had to climb over it to get anywhere. It was in the air, threatening to blind you if you didn’t wear goggles. Sand when you walked, sand when you tried to sleep, and, worst of all, there was always sand in your shoes.

There was sand in Pinkie’s shoes as she approached a building she’d never been in. The big letters in front of it called it Caterlo Centrl Staton. Pinkie was pretty sure that it was supposed to say ‘Canterlot Central Station’.

Pinkie walked over the fallen doors to the train station. There was sand in here, too.

The entry area to the station opened up immediately after she entered, with a grand atrium letting in filtered sunlight through dirty glass overhead. In the center of the room, a lone statue of a horse rose above her, rearing back majestically on its hind legs. Or it would have looked majestic if the floor around it weren’t covered in strange symbols, melted candles, and various remnants of what looked to be some kind of burnt offerings.

Pinkie paused to look at the stuff scattered about, but deemed none of it worth taking.

She continued onward, hopping over the turnstiles that had begun to rust and continuing to the station platforms. Two long-dead passenger trains sat on the tracks, never to move again. A few of the train cars had cloth covering the windows.

“Hello?” Pinkie called out to the trains, announcing her presence to anyone who could be living in them. “I promise I’m not here to rob you! I only want to take stuff back to town and trade it for different stuff!” Pinkie Pie called out to the emptiness. Silence was the only response the rusted train cars could provide, which was as close to getting permission as Pinkie was going to get.

Pinkie shrugged and got to looting, taking anything she deemed moderately valuable and cramming it into her backpack. This meant that if it was shiny or looked neat, she took it. Consequently, Pinkie’s bag was filled before the third train car.

“Wow, I’m gonna have to make another trip. This place is just loaded with goodies! I wonder why nobody’s come to take it—pointy object!” Pinkie’s hands slowly went up when she found herself staring at the unfriendly end of a crude spear.

At the other end crouched a human. At least, Pinkie was fairly sure it was another human and not some sort of freaky mutant. They were wearing a worn black cloak and some sort of wooden orange horse mask with a horn, so it was hard to tell.

“What are you doing here?” Definitely a human voice—a woman’s to boot.

“Scavenging.” Pinkie said slowly, taking a step back. The spear woman stepped forward, leaving no room for a quick escape. “I didn’t know this was your stuff. I can give it back if you like just please don’t poke me with the pointy end of your stick.” Pinkie raised her hands up, letting the woman see that she was unarmed.

“Leave.”

“Okay, I can do that. Pinkie Pie, out.” Pinkie started scooting sideways. “Did you want me to give back the stuff I picked up? I really didn’t mean to take anything from you.”

The woman paused, letting the tip of the spear drop slightly. “Leave it.”

“Okay, I’m just going to crouch down here.” Pinkie slowly sank to one knee and slipped her backpack off. “And put your stuff right here.” One by one, the baubles she’d taken were set in front of the backpack until Pinkie was left with her meager supplies. “That’s all of it.”

The masked woman finally pulled the spear away from Pinkie, who let out a sigh of relief.

“I’m just gonna go, if that’s okay.”

“Go.”

“Yep! You got it. This is me leaving. Nice and slow.” Pinkie backed away slowly. Her gaze didn’t leave the spear as she felt blindly for an exit with her feet. “Did you need me to bring anything back? I’m a scavenger, so I find neat stuff all the time…” Pinkie chuckled nervously. A bead of sweat trickled down her forehead. “No? Okay, well it was nice meeting you—”

“Books.”

“Huh?” Pinkie stopped, startled when she actually got a response to her not-completely-sincere offer that was only said so she could leave safely.

“Books.” The masked woman said. “I need more books.”

“Right. Books. I can totally find books. Give me one week and I’ll have a ton of books for you, Pinkie Promise.”

“Pinkie Promise?”

“Cross my heart, hope to fly.” Pinkie gave a sincere smile. She’d never break a Pinkie Promise, even if it was with a scary mask lady with a spear.

Scary mask lady said nothing as Pinkie left in a hurry.

***

Seven days later, Pinkie found herself walking up to the Canterlot Station ruins with only the sound of gravel underfoot as a travelling companion. Her heart thudded in her chest as she adjusted her backpack. She felt jittery, like that time she’d traded for that bag of coffee beans and eaten the whole bag in one sitting.

Running was still an option, according to a little voice in the back of her head.

No, Pinkie told the voice. She would not start breaking promises now. She pressed on, stepping over the battered wooden door to the train station. Light filtered through dirty and broken skylights overhead.

“Hello? Scary mask lady? I’m back!” Pinkie called out for the woman, hoping that she wouldn’t end up with sharp objects pointed at her if she announced her presence. “I brought books.” Her voice quavered, betraying her apprehension.

“You’re back.”

Mask lady’s voice sounded from behind Pinkie. Pinkie screamed and clamped a hand over her mouth, spinning to face the owner of the voice.

“Sorry!” Pinkie said through her hand. On the bright side, she didn’t have pointy things being pointed at her. “I, uh, brought those books. I didn’t know what kind you liked, so I brought whatever I could find.”

Pinkie knelt down and began pulling books from her bag, setting them on a decent sized stone to keep them out of the dirt. “A Hundred Ways to Prepare Fish, Cooking for Dummies, Cooking for Parties—I have a copy of that one—a coloring book…” Pinkie read each title aloud as her stack of books grew. “I didn’t know what kind of books you wanted so I just brought back whatever I could find.”

Mask woman picked up one of the books and thumbed through it for a moment before tossing it aside. She picked up another book and repeated the process, eventually tossing aside every book.

“Well, that wasn’t very nice.” Pinkie pouted.

“Is that all you brought back?”

“Yeah,” Pinkie deflated a bit at the woman’s harsh tone. “If you’d told me what kind of books you were looking for I could have brought something better. Oh! I know! Why don’t you do that?”

“Magic.”

“Magic?”

“Magic.”

“What kind of magic? Like card tricks and sawing ladies in half like on those old billboards in Las Pegasus? Or are we talking super spooky evil enchantress stuff?”

“I’m not evil.” Mask woman wasn’t amused, if her tone was any indication.

“No, no!” Pinkie waved her hands in front of her. “I didn’t mean you were an evil enchantress, but if you were I wouldn’t judge you because that would be mean and I don’t want to be turned into a toad.” She grinned sheepishly. “Please don’t turn me into a toad.”

Pinkie paused as the implications of her brief exchange finally sunk in. “Are you asking me to get more books?”

“Yes.”

“Okay,” Pinkie said slowly. “but you gotta do something for me. We’ll call it… payment for services. That’s what the merchants in Rustwall call it.”

“Name your price.” Mask Woman sounded colder, like she was contemplating grabbing her spear. But that was just Pinkie’s imagination, right?

“It’s not something super-duper expensive, I promise.” Pinkie hurriedly explained, nervously rocking back and forth on her heels. “You just gotta tell me your name.”

“You just need my name?” Mask Woman took a wary step back.

“Yep! Easy-peasy. That way I don’t have to call you Mask Lady anymore.”

“Seriously? Mask Lady?” The woman folded her arms in front of her. Pinkie nodded with a bashful smile. “Sunset. My name’s Sunset.” She said with a sigh.

“Well, Sunset, I promise to get you the best collection of books I can find! It’ll be a piece of cake!” Pinkie stood straight and gave a mock salute.

***

“This is not a piece of cake!” Pinkie yelled over the wind howling outside her impromptu shelter. The walls rattled under the force as dirt and sand threatened to trap Pinkie inside the ruins of the Canterlot library she’d been searching.

“It’s okay, Pinkie, you’ve been in worse situations. Remember that time you were trapped in a library during a sandstorm?” A nervous laugh escaped the girl only to be swallowed by the sounds of the storm. “Wait... that’s right now.” Pinkie whined and kicked a ruined book.

It didn’t make her feel any better.

On the bright side, Pinkie had plenty of kindling for a campfire.