• Published 13th Dec 2017
  • 882 Views, 164 Comments

Mister Cook Goes to Canterlot - Dave Bryant

Cookie Pusher travels through the portal to visit Canterlot during Hearth’s-Warming for a little cultural exchange. Where will he go? What will he do? Ideas and suggestions from the readers guide his foot—er, hoofsteps on this holiday junket.

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My steaming mug rose, enveloped in the glow of my levitation, and I took another thoughtful sip. The coffee within was even better than Joe’s, but then I expected nothing less. While the proprietress specialized in teas and cakes, she prided herself on the superior quality of everything she offered.

I was feeling at loose ends. Sightseeing just wasn’t the same when it was too dark to see the sights. By the same token, it seemed a bit early yet to be heading for home. Of course, if I sat nursing my coffee long enough, the end of the day might catch up with me yet; the evening was well under way already.

Idly I glanced around the parlor. Everything about it was even smaller than the public space of the Tasty Treat, including the dainty little tables and seats. The front windows held shelves that, during the day, bore some of the cakes produced in the kitchen at the back. Now they stood almost empty, the panes between them and the street night-dark blank. Gas-jet sconces and oil table lamps lent the room a cozy air that, I long since had realized, was the source of the obsession in my own world with unnecessarily low lighting in so many restaurants.

A few of the brochures Twilight provided lay spread on the small round table in front of me. “Canterlot by Gaslight”, “Luna’s City at Night”, and several others offered blandishments to the curious. The trouble with nearly all of them was the underlying assumption one would be staying in the city overnight, at home or in a hotel, for all ran, or even started, quite late. Moreover, it had been a busy—and active—day, and I wasn’t prepared for anything as physical as, say, a walking tour.

“Can I get you anything else?” Cinnamon Chai smiled graciously at me as she paused beside my table. The brown-over-cream unicorn mare’s tiny waitstaff was stretched to the limit on a busy holiday-season evening; with the bakery closed for the day, she obviously had decided to stay on and help out—and, I guessed, keep an eye on things.

“Yes, actually.” I smiled back. “I think I’ve digested enough dinner to make room for a little baklava.”

She laughed. “I think we have just a couple of pieces left. I’ll be right back.”

The small square of dessert was still fresh, probably part of the day’s last batch; its flaky, sticky sweetness balanced the coffee admirably. However, it did nothing to help resolve my indecision regarding the rest of the evening. I sighed and shuffled through the circulars once more like an indifferent hand of cards.

“You look busy.” The unfamiliar voice brought my head up. Standing on the other side of the table was a slender, graceful pegasus mare, off-white with bouffant blonde mane and tail. The latter’s distal half was braided; a sidelock of the former echoed it on a smaller scale. A shock of blue near the mane-braid might have been dyed—it was hard to tell. She looked young, possibly younger even than I, but with a mature poise that reminded me obscurely of Raven. Her eyes, just on the orange side of red, were laughing, and I couldn’t help chuckling in response.

“I wish I were. Alas, I’m afraid I’m just spinning my wheels.” A moment too late I realized my slip; it was hardly fatal, but the idiom belonged to the automobile age, and might sound distinctly odd to the inhabitant of a cart-and-wagon society.

“Maybe you need a little sand under them,” she riposted immediately.

I restrained my sigh of relief. Of course she would parse the phrase in terms of railroad locomotives. Steel wheels on steel rails are extremely energy-efficient at speed, but trying to accelerate from a dead stop involves a good deal of wheel-spinning—unless the engineer dumps sand on the tracks to increase friction. It was very common to see streaks and small piles of sand on the ties and against the tracks, especially at minor stops like Ponyville.

I sat back from my slight hunch over the pamphlets. “Maybe I do.” I explained my dilemma in a few short phrases; she cocked her head and listened in amusement.

“Well,” she said thoughtfully, “have you considered attending a holiday pageant? You could sit on a comfortable cushion—no walking required—and it would be a very educational experience, I’m sure.”

My brows rose. Conscious of my pose as an ordinary tourist, I commented, “And how would it be different from pageants elsewhere? After all, Hearth’s-Warming pageants are a staple all over the country.”

Her laugh was musical. “Maybe I have just the thing, then.” Deftly she turned her head back to pluck a small portfolio from one of the panniers cinched around the outside of her full-length winter tunic. Golden gaslight flashed from the polished triangular pectoral and lozenge-pendant earrings she wore. She deposited the slim card-stock jacket on the table. “You could attend a performance of the crown invitational pageant. I have a few tickets—more than I need, really—and I’d be happy to spare one for you.”

“That’s very generous of you, but—”

“It’s a very old tradition started by Princess Celestia herself,” the pegasus put in persuasively. “Of course, she and her sister do attend, although usually only the first and last performances. Attending every evening would be tiresome for anypony, and besides, it would distract attention from the performers.”

My eyes narrowed slightly. If Celestia and Luna wouldn’t be attending this evening’s performance, as she implied, I could go without the risk of accidentally running into them. “Well . . . in that case, thank you very much.” I levitated the paper jacket closer and peered at it.

“You’re very welcome. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. You may even learn some new things about the history of the holiday.” She gave me another cheerful smile. “For now, though, I must fly. I have places to be this evening.”

“Happy Hearth’s-Warming,” I called to her as she trotted for the door.

She slipped through it, then stuck her head back inside just long enough to reply, “Happy Hearth’s-Warming, Mister Cook.”

. . . I hadn’t told her my name. Had I?

Author's Note:

Who was that mystery pony? Follow this link and find out!

Thanks to FanOfMostEverything for this chapter’s suggestion.

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