• Published 6th Jun 2018
  • 3,692 Views, 45 Comments

School Recruitment - Calliope Pony



Before opening her School of Friendship Twilight needs to recruit students from Equestria and beyond. Luckily, her friends are there to help.

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Recruiting in the Changeling Hive

Starlight made her way towards the Changeling Hive, picking her way among the now-lush vegetation. Not too far away, the mountainous spire rose into the sky, looking even more beautiful than the last time she had come.

Her saddle bags sagged slightly to one side, and she paused to adjust them. In addition to the school brochures and travel supplies she had packed some books to read if she had the time. She removed one book from the left bag and moved it to the right, balancing the load better.

WHUMPH!

Starlight froze in panic as the world turned almost dark. Fuzzy spots of light filtered through the rough burlap that threatened to smother her.

Her panic only lasted for a few moments, however. She relaxed and even rolled her eyes upon hearing a familiar raspy voice.

"Hey, there Starlight. Long time, no see."

"Hello, Pharynx. Is the bag really necessary?"

"How else am I supposed to greet an old friend?"

A moment later the mouth of the bag opened, and she was released. Before her stood a tall, dark green changeling with a teasing smirk.

"What brings you all the way out here?"

"I have a message for Thorax from Princess Twilight. Can you take me to him?"

"Sure. Do you want to walk or should I drag you in the bag?"

"I'll walk."

***

Thorax was in his throne room when Pharynx led Starlight into the hive.

"Starlight! It is so good to see you!"

"It's good to see you too, Thorax. And it's good to see that Pharynx is taking his guard responsibilities seriously. He met me on the way here."

"Did he put you in a bag?"

"Only for a minute."

"Pharynx…"

"What? I let her out."

"It's fine, Thorax. At least my arrival wasn't boring."

"Well, I guess there's no harm done." Thorax smiled. "So why are you here?"

"I'm bringing a message from Twilight." Starlight levitated a brochure from her saddle bag and held it out for Thorax to see. "She's starting a new school to teach about the magic of friendship, and she's opening enrollment to creatures from all the countries Equestria is allied with. She sent me here to tell you about it and see if there are any young changelings who would be interested in attending."

Thorax grabbed the brochure, and read it over with an eagerness that surprised the unicorn.

"Starlight! This is the perfect answer to a situation I've been trying to solve!"

"What situation?"

"Ocellus!"

This answer didn't really provide Starlight with any information, so she inquired further. "Ocellus?"

"Ocellus is a young changeling who's been having some trouble lately. This school would be perfect for her. Don't you think so, Pharynx?"

Pharynx snorted. "Sure, if you could actually get her to go. She scarcely ever goes outside the hive. Do you really think you can convince her to leave the country?"

"I can try," said Thorax determinedly. "Starlight, come with me."

As they walked through the meandering corridors of the hive Starlight questioned Thorax. "Why do you think Twilight's school would be perfect for Ocellus? What problems has she been having?"

"She's smart, Starlight. She's already surpassed all the other changelings in her age group. Her teachers are running out of ways to challenge her."

"Is she getting into trouble?"

"No, she's really quiet and well-behaved. No disciplinary problems. But she's becoming more and more withdrawn. She doesn't mix much with the other changelings in her class. She's very sweet, but she's also shy. I think she gets scared to talk to the others, especially when she's so far ahead of them in their work."

"Have you tried moving her into an advanced class? Giving her more challenging material to work with?"

"Unfortunately, we don't have much more for the students to work with. Revamping our education system is just one thing on a long list of projects I've been working on. For most of them it's been working out all right since the instructors have been given the freedom to be creative in how they teach. And to be honest, we don't have much advanced material that would be appropriate for her. Our library is… limited."

"Limited how?"

"I haven't had an opportunity to add to the library since I became the leader of the hive; it's been fairly low on the list of priorities. So it's the same library as we had under Chrysalis. It mostly contains information on deception and conquest."

"Yikes."

Thorax nodded. "I know. Ocellus reads every book that her teachers will approve. She's so curious. She wants to learn, and she remembers what she learns. But right now we just can't meet her needs. That's why Twilight's school looks like it would be just right for her."

"If she wants to learn and is having trouble making friends it really does sound like a perfect fit."

***

At last, they reached an archway where Thorax peeked through and nodded.

"She's right through here. Just one other thing, Starlight. I mentioned she's shy. Well, she's really shy. She might be scared to meet you."

Starlight waved her hoof confidently. "I'm friends with Fluttershy. I'm sure I can get along with Ocellus."

"All right, then."

Thorax led Starlight through the archway. Seated near some bushes, reading a scroll, was a petite, pale teal changeling. Thorax greeted her cheerfully.

"Good morning, Ocellus. I want you to meet my friend, Starlight-"

Ocellus took one look at Starlight, and her eyes widened fearfully. There was a flash of bluish light and she… vanished? Starlight couldn't tell where she had gone.

Thorax sighed and walked over to bushes. He prodded one bush gently and spoke in a soft voice. "Come on, Ocellus, that's no way to greet a guest. Starlight is nice."

There was another bluish flash, and this time Starlight could see the bush turn back into the little changeling. She kept her head down, eyes averted. She bashfully rubbed one hoof against the opposite leg.

Starlight put on her best smile. "Hi, Ocellus. It's really nice to meet you. Thorax was just telling me about you. He said you're really good in school."

Ocellus just glanced up at her and pressed against Thorax's side. Thorax smiled down at her.

"Ocellus, Starlight is my friend from Equestria. She came to tell me about a new school that's opening up there. It sounds like a really nice place, and I wanted to show you the brochure."

Thorax spread the brochure out in front of Ocellus and gestured for her to read. Ocellus's eyes flicked between him and Starlight before beginning to read.

Starlight felt the minutes dragging on as Ocellus slowly read through the information. She shifted impatiently but heeded Thorax's warning glance to not rush the little changeling.

At last, Ocellus finished reading and looked up at Thorax.

"Well?" he asked, "What do you think of it?"

"It looks… nice."

That was the first time Starlight actually heard Ocellus's voice.

"Do you think you would like to go there?"

Ocellus's eyes widened at the suggestion, and she visibly trembled.

"You mean… leave? Leave home?"

"Only for the school year. You would come back home at the end of term. And of course you could come whenever there's a vacation."

Thorax's words didn't seem to provide her much reassurance.

"But… go away? To another country?"

"Equestria's a really wonderful place, Ocellus. I have lots of friends there besides Starlight. You've heard me talk about Spike and Princess Twilight, right?"

Ocellus just nodded. Thorax seemed to decide to try another approach.

"Princess Twilight is a fantastic teacher. She has an amazing library with books on every subject."

At last, at last, that seemed to catch Ocellus's interest. "Really?"

"Oh yes. When I visited last time I had a tour of her castle. Her library is much bigger than ours, and the books are much better than what we have."

"What kinds of books?"

Starlight thought this would be a good chance to step into the conversation.

"I have some books from Princess Twilight's library with me. Would you like to see them?"

Ocellus hesitated for a moment before nodding.

Starlight levitated two volumes from her bags. "This one is a history book. It tells about unicorn societies of the pre-classical era. And this is a botany book about fruit plants."

"Like these?" Ocellus pointed at the bushes she had hidden among. They were dotted with purple berries.

Starlight flipped through the book until she found a picture which matched the bushes. "Yep. Here they are."

Ocellus held up the scroll she had been looking at when they found her. "I was working on my report. We were each supposed to pick a plant that grows around the hive and study it. I picked these bushes, but our library doesn't have much information, because there didn't used to be much plant life around here."

Starlight offered her the open book. "Here. You can borrow this and use it for your report."

The little changeling reached out for the book, then hesitated for a moment before glancing uncertainly at Thorax. He nodded encouragingly, and she took it. Right away, she began poring over the page.

Thorax saw that Ocellus was becoming immersed in the book and thought it would be best to let her continue studying.

"You go on with your report now, Ocellus. We can talk more about the school later."

***

"I think that went rather well." Thorax smiled.

"Really? She didn't seem too keen on the idea, except for getting to see Twilight's library."

"You can't rush Ocellus. Let her have a little time to sit with the idea, and I think she'll come around.

"In the meantime, they should be getting set up for our weekly potluck. Why don't you join us?"

Starlight's stomach growled at the mention of food. "Lunch sounds like a great idea."

***

After lunch Thorax got Starlight set up in a guest room where she could stay for a night or two. She freshened up and went out to tour the hive. Many of the changelings greeted her and stopped to talk. She spent a very enjoyable afternoon. In the evening she went back to her room. She was brushing out her mane when she heard a light tap on the door.

She opened the door, and there was Ocellus.

"Um… thank you for lending me the book." Ocellus held it out. "I finished my report, so I came to bring it back."

"Oh, thank you. If you want to read more of it, you can borrow it for a bit longer."

"Really?" Ocellus looked eager.

"Sure. In fact, you can borrow the history book too if you want to."

Ocellus smiled at Starlight for the first time as she took the second book. "Thank you!"

"You're welcome." Starlight paused for a moment. "Have you given any more thought to the school Thorax told you about?"

Ocellus swallowed nervously. "Well, um, I'm not really sure. It does sound nice, but…" She trailed off.

"Hey, I understand. Leaving home for the first time can be scary. But it's not like you're leaving forever. You'll be able to come home whenever you want."

"That's true…"

"Plus, you might find things you really like in Equestria. If you're interested in plants like you were writing about earlier, then you should meet my friend, Applejack. She's a farmer, and she knows more about fruit than anypony I've ever met."

"Really? What about history? This book looks really interesting."

"Then I'll introduce you to Twilight. Not only does she know all about history, she's made some special studies of the pre-classical era." Seeing the growing interest on Ocellus's face, Starlight kept going. "And my friend Rarity also knows a lot about history. She's a fashion designer, and she's studied all sorts of historical clothing styles to use in her work. There's also Fluttershy who's an expert on all kinds of animals. If there's anything you want to know about zoology she's your pony."

Starlight studied Ocellus's increasingly rapt expression before adding carefully, "They'll all be teaching classes at the school if you're interested."

Ocellus seemed to be seriously mulling it over. "Would there be… would there be a lot of people at the school?"

"Well, it's a new school, so I don't expect our inaugural class will be very large. It takes time to build up a student base. Plus, I know Twilight wants to keep class sizes small. So no, I don't think you'll be overcrowded if that's what's worrying you."

Ocellus was quiet for a few moments. "Some of the other students in my class… they think I'm… weird. I don't know… if…" She seemed to struggle for words.

Impulsively, Starlight laid a gentle hoof on Ocellus's shoulder. "Thorax told me you're shy. I know it can be hard to make friends when you're shy, especially if you really like to learn. When I was a filly I had a hard time making friends because of that."

"You did?"

"Uh-huh. I liked to spend a lot of time learning, and I had a hard time talking to other ponies. My best friend also liked to learn, so we had a lot in common, and we would study together. But otherwise, it was hard for me.

"But that's one reason why Twilight is starting this school. It's not only for studying. It will be a place where ponies and creatures from different backgrounds can get to know each other and find things they have in common. If you go, you'll be able to meet others who like to learn and who have interests in common with you. You'll learn things from them, and they'll learn from you."

"What if no one likes me?"

"I like you. And I'll be at the school, so you already have one friend there."

"Would… would I be able to see the princess's library?"

"If you want, I'll give you a personal tour."

Ocellus stared thoughtfully down at the books Starlight had lent her.

"Well, I guess I could give it a try."