• Published 30th Jul 2018
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Off The Mark - Goldfur

Mark Wells only bought an old mirror, so why did he now have hooves, wings and green fur? And where was he? Maybe this great and powerful princess could tell him?

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Chapter 1 - A Stumble Too Far

“Nice going, Captain Klutz,” my best friend said as he chuckled at my misfortune.

I sighed as I hauled myself out of the mud puddle with a helping hand from Phil. “I just want to know why these things happen to me and not to you. You’ve hauled on that rope just as many times as I have, but it had to break for me.”

Phil shrugged. “What can I say, Mark? You’re the designated fall-guy of this duo.”

As much as I hated to admit it, he was right. Even when I did everything right, if something went wrong, it was always me who copped the consequences.

“Go wash up – I’ll finish breaking camp,” Phil said.

I nodded and headed for the lake shore. The overnight thunderstorm had been spectacular, but it had made a bit of a mess of our campsite, not to mention creating that mud puddle that I just got acquainted with. However, the weather was warm and I had no hesitation in stripping off my clothes and taking a quick dip to clean myself off. I rinsed off and wrung out my attire too and then took a few minutes to just enjoy a last swim in the lake. Phil would have to pay for laughing at me – best friend or not.

Of course, I found out that Phil had packed my belongings in the car already, so I had to put up with the sodden clothes until I dried out.

With the campsite fully cleared and everything loaded, we started our journey home. We were in no rush, so we took some less well-travelled roads which passed through some small towns. That’s where Phil spotted the shop. I sighed as I pulled over to park.

I hate antique stores. Some of the most boring hours of my life have been spent at one or another. If I had my preference, I would never set foot in one again. But I knew I would; I was about to do so right now. I grumbled, “Haven’t you given up yet on finding that matching plate, Phil?”

“Nope. Someone somewhere has got to have one, and when I find it, I’ll have a complete set of one of the rarest collections in the world. It’ll be worth a mint!”

I groaned. “You always say that – did you think I’d be enthused this time?”

Phil gave me a playful jab in the ribs with his elbow. “Aw! You know you love it, Mark.”

“No – I really don’t, and I can’t understand why you don’t believe me.”

“Then why do you always come with me?”

Why indeed? Phil and I had grown up together and had been lifelong best friends. We did almost everything together, shared the same interests, and went to each other’s family gatherings because we were that close. But Phil had developed a keen interest a couple of years ago in collecting rare antiques, much to my bewilderment. However, while I did not share my friend’s enthusiasm for this one exception to our perfect match, I always supported everything else Phil did, and this was not going to be an exception.

I rolled my eyes. “Let’s just get this over with, okay?” I said in my best long-suffering tone.

Phil grinned and said, “I’ll try to make it quick. Have a look around while I’m busy and see if you like anything.”

“Have I ever?”

“First time for everything!”

Phil led the way into the shop, a bell tinkling as the door opened. As I already knew it would be, the store was filled with the usual mixture of useless, ancient, or tasteless bric-a-brac that left my mind numb just looking at it. There was the occasional piece that I recognized might actually appeal to someone, with an optimistically high price attached. While Phil sought out the inevitably geriatric proprietor of the shop, I wended my way through the narrow aisles in the hope of finding something that would help me stave off catatonia while my pal was busy.

I was stifling yawns already before movement caught my eye. A moment later, I realized that the movement was merely a reflection of myself in a mirror. It was a free-standing full-length one, and I paused to look at myself in it. A young adult Caucasian looked back at me; unkempt blond hair and a scruffy beard from days of not shaving while camping hardly detracting from my appearance. However, even I had to admit that my clothes could stand a good laundering despite my earlier attempts to clean them. I was still checking myself out when Phil reunited with me.

“Found something that you like for once?” Phil asked.

I almost automatically said no, but then I paused. I had been in the market for a good full-length mirror, and although I’d had in mind something a bit more modern to mount on a wall, I certainly had the room for something like this. I gave it a good look over and saw that it was in very good condition with a sturdy wooden frame that had been ornately carved. The top corners even had extra details featuring creatures, one that I recognized as a unicorn, while I was unsure of the other.

“What’s that?” I asked Phil, pointing at the carving.

“Hmm? Looks like Pegasus to me.”

“And what’s a Pegasus?”

“It’s a winged horse from Greek mythology. I gotta admit that it’s a rather odd thing to find on a mirror though. Are you interested in it?” Phil asked hopefully.

I glanced at the price tag and frowned. “Costs too much,” I replied with a shake of my head.

“Tell you what – I’ll spring for half the cost if you buy it.”

I stared at my friend in surprise. “Why?”

Phil grinned broadly. “So that I can finally get you to stop saying that you never find anything useful in these stores.”

I groaned. “But complaining is the only fun I get out of these visits.” I gave a resigned sigh. “Okay – I give in. At half the price, it’s a good buy, and it’ll save me trying to find another later. Thanks, Phil.”

The shopkeeper was delighted to make a sale after the initial disappointment of not being able to provide Phil with what he sought. It took both of us to get it into my pickup truck and safely lashed down on top of the camping gear. Then we continued on our journey home.

Phil lived only a block away from me, and after dropping off his bags, we continued to my house and we were very soon backing into my garage. We unloaded the mirror and took it into my bedroom where we put it into an empty corner. Then we unloaded the camping gear and stowed it away properly until it was needed once more. With the work completed, we took a couple of cans of beer from the fridge and toasted a successful and enjoyable outing. We took our drinks out onto the deck and sat down to enjoy them in the warm, late afternoon air. The thunderstorm that had marred our trip was a distant memory, and the sky was cloudless once more. The sun was setting behind the house, keeping us pleasantly shaded as we drank in companionable silence, and a yellow full moon started to peek over the horizon.

“Blue Moon tonight,” Phil commented.

“Hmm? What?”

“Second full moon in a month,” Phil clarified.

“Oh? That’s right. That’s pretty rare, isn’t it?”

“Yep. Spectacular one tonight.”

I nodded, admiring how it appeared to be so large when it was sitting on the horizon.

With the moon fully risen and our beers drunk, Phil bade me goodnight and headed home, walking the short distance down the block. Meanwhile, I headed to the shower to clean off the grime accumulated while communing with nature. I dumped my dirty clothes in the laundry basket and then enjoyed a lengthy hot shower. Finally satisfied that I was as clean and relaxed as I would ever get, I stepped out of the shower and toweled myself dry before walking into my bedroom, still nude. I immediately noticed my reflection in my new mirror and chuckled.

“First thing you do with the mirror is admire your bod,” I scolded myself. Nevertheless, I knew I was a fairly well-built and handsome male – not gorgeously so, but I had yet to be concerned about how I might look to a potential girlfriend. Not that I’d had much time for one yet; I was too busy enjoying being a single unattached male. Plenty of time yet before thinking of settling down with someone who hopefully enjoyed much of what Phil and I liked to do. No drastic life-changing decisions for me!

The mirror seemed to shimmer for a moment and my curiosity was aroused. The light of the moon that was coming through the bedroom window seemed to add a slight glow to my appearance in the mirror, and I wondered how it did that. I reached out to push it a little to swivel it on its pins to adjust the angle, but my hand failed to touch the glass. Startled as my hand seemed to pass through its surface, I dropped the towel that had been in my other hand, stumbled as my feet got tangled as I lurched off balance, and I pitched forward towards the mirror. This time, more than just my hand failed to find the cool glass. Without anything to stop me, I toppled through the frame of the mirror into pitch blackness.

My fall was barely broken by my arms, but my nose still smashed hard against the cold floor. The blinding pain distracted me for a long moment from the fact that it was stone or tile rather than the wood of my bedroom floor. Not that I could confirm that fact because there was not an iota of light to illuminate the room. I reached up with my right hand to touch my abused nose to try to feel if it was broken, only to bash it with something hard that sent another pulse of agony through it. When the pain waned enough for me to think straight, I wondered what the hell had just happened. I lifted my hand again but noticed this time how odd that seemed. Then I realized that I could not feel my fingers. I tried to flex them and nothing happened. I shifted my position on the floor to reach out with left hand to check out the other, only to sense the same lack of sensation. As soon as left connected with right, there was a clack that made no sense whatsoever, and a total lack of the expected feeling.

I began to panic, wondering if I had injured far more than my nose in the fall, and I struggled to climb to my feet. Nothing felt right though, and my balance was shot. I fell over, crashing into something which toppled along with me. There was the sound of splintering wood and shattering glass, and I lay still for a moment because I was worried that I might cut myself on whatever I had just broken. Then I carefully tried to get onto all fours, worried that I still felt weird and could not feel my feet properly either. At least I could still move, but my balance seemed all wrong. A second attempt to stand upright had the same disastrous result, but this time I felt a bizarre twitching on my back as I struggled to stay steady on two legs, and part of me collided with another unseen object with the same smashing consequences. This time however, it sounded like it hit something along the way and brought whatever it was down with it.

It was too much for me. I was blind, injured, insensate in my hands, and incapable of even standing up, and I screamed my frustration. “What the fuck is going on?!” Hell – even my voice sounded odd.

After a few moments, there was the sound of a key turning in a lock followed by a blinding shaft of light coming through an opening door. Through squinting eyes, I saw some animal silhouetted against the light as it entered the doorway.

Who goes there?!

The voice seemed to be coming from the animal, but I presumed it was someone behind it. As the door opened wider to illuminate the room better and my eyes adjusted, I saw that it was a small equine creature dressed in armor. I wondered about that but responded to whoever had made the demand.

“I need help. Something has happened to me, and I don’t know what’s going on.”

The equine stepped closer and a horn on its head that I had not noticed earlier started glowing. A short spear that had been attached to the armor floated free enveloped in the same glow as the horn, and it shifted to point directly at me.

“Who are you and what are you doing in this high-security room? How did you get past the guards?”

It talked! There was no hidden speaker unless he was a great ventriloquist. I stared in numb shock.

“In the name of the Magnificent and Powerful Empress Trixie, I order you to answer me!” the creature said irritably, moving the point of his spear closer to my face.

I held up my hands in surrender as I protested, “Peace! I don’t know… what…” My voice trailed off as I stared at what should have been hands, but I saw two hooves instead. My arms were covered in fur too – light green fur! I suddenly became aware that I could also see my battered nose prominently protruding into my field of vision. With a creeping sense of dread, I turned my head to look at the rest of me and saw a body that was similar to the creature threatening me except with the addition of a pair of wings. I looked back at what had to be a guard and recognized him as a unicorn, just as I now appeared to be a Pegasus like in the mirror carvings. My last thought as my brain checked out was – ‘Green is a stupid color for a horse.’

I awoke in a hospital bed. Anyone who has ever been in one as often as I had will recognize it for what it was irrespective of what country you visit. My hope that my memory of having hooves and green fur was a hallucination was quickly dashed as I struggled to sit up. Pushing the bed sheet off me, I got a really good look at myself. Aside from some bandages that had been applied to various parts of my body, I was still naked. Still male, all too obviously. Odd proportions for the rest of my new form too, and that shade of green simply did not exist on equines. Too small for a horse – maybe a pony would be more accurate. And those wings! Without even knowing how I did so, I spread one, noting several disheveled feathers. It was too surreal, so why was I so calm about it? Oh wait – I wasn’t.


My scream brought a quick response. Two ponies rushed into the room – a doctor and a nurse, apparently. How did I know that? Because the stallion was wearing a doctor’s white coat with a stethoscope about his neck, and the mare was wearing a nurse’s uniform. I stared at them, wondering what a pony was doing wearing clothes at all, let alone something so familiar that I could tell right away what they were.

The doctor looked at me with concern. “Please calm down, sir. Are you in pain?”

Of course they talked too. I gave up – I had to be in a coma and hallucinating this. Might as well play along. “Where am I?”

“Canterlot Hospital. The Royal Guard brought you in last night. You were badly lacerated in places and had several contusions, but you’re basically in good health. May I ask your name?”

“Mark Wells, and where’s Canterlot?”

The nurse looked shocked. “You don’t remember the capital of Equestria?” she blurted out.

“Perhaps some memory loss due to a blow to the head,” opined the doctor. “Let me examine you now that you’re awake. Nurse – the Royal Guard wished to be informed when this pony regained consciousness. Please do so.”

“Yes, Doctor.”

The mare exited and the doctor’s horn started to glow. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that he was another unicorn, although the mare had lacked both horn and wings. I wondered how she got dressed, but that thought was soon pushed away as I gazed at an optical device that was levitated in front of my face, surrounded by the same color glow as the horn. The doctor used it to peer in my eyes, humming thoughtfully as he did so. Then he asked me to open my mouth and he peered within, followed by an examination of my ears. The stethoscope was also put to use as the doctor gave me a thorough check-up, including the new feathery appendages. If it wasn’t so impossible, it would have been terribly normal.

The doctor drew back and said, “Aside from your superficial wounds, I can’t find anything wrong with you.”

“That’s good to hear,” came a new voice.

I looked over to the doorway to see a pony in armor like the one that I first saw. He entered the room and gazed sternly at the doctor.

“I require that you release this pony into my custody immediately.”

“I’d prefer that he stay overnight.”

“Her Highness wishes to talk to this stallion immediately, and you have just said that he is in adequate health.”

“Very well, I will allow it. See the nurse on your way to sign him out.”

The soldier gestured to me. “Get up and follow me.”

“Haven’t you forgotten something?” I asked.

“What do you mean?”

“How about some clothes?”

He stared at me as if I was crazy. “You are going to be questioned, not attend a royal tea party. You don’t need to get dressed. Now follow me.”

I wondered why I was so suddenly concerned about clothing on ponies, but with every other one that I had seen so far at least wearing a coat or shirt, I was feeling a bit naked. Nevertheless, I tried to follow. I practically fell out of bed as I attempted to get to my feet. Oh yeah – four legs. No wonder I kept falling over when I tried to stand up. I attempted to shuffle forward and planted my poor nose in the floor once more as my body got confused as to which of my four legs to move first. I ignored the soldier’s expression and pretended that I was just slightly dizzy. Firmly focusing my efforts, I managed to start walking fairly steadily, highly aware of my hooves clacking on the hardwood floor. I was led down the corridor and stopped at the nurse’s station where the soldier signed me out before we continued outside.

A carriage awaited, two ponies in armor apparently serving to pull it. Ponies pulling ponies? Sure! Why not? This hallucination didn’t have to make sense, after all. I was urged into the carriage which I managed without making a fool of myself again, and my guard sat down opposite me. Without a word, the two-horsepower vehicle lurched forward. I quickly forgot about it as we drew out into the street and I got a good look at the neighborhood. My jaw dropped as I saw dozens of ponies of all hues and types going about their business in what looked like some fantasy theme park city. Unicorns were common, but it was the Pegasus ponies that left me gaping. They were actually flying! I may not know much about aerodynamics, but even I knew that you can’t stick wings on a horse and expect it to fly! They are just too heavy and the wings too small to provide sufficient lift. But there they were, cavorting in the sky with total disdain for physics. I half-spread my own wings and shuddered at the thought of being in mid-air without any means of support besides those tiny appendages.

“Do not try to fly away,” the guard warned me.

I shook my head. “Believe me – I have neither the intention nor the ability to do so.”

He frowned slightly in confusion at that answer but seemed satisfied that I wasn’t about to flee.

I ignored him while I took in the scenery. For a hallucination, this was way too detailed. I didn’t even recognize some of the aspects of this odd city and I didn’t think that my imagination was this good. For the first time, I started to reconsider my self-diagnosis. Then I caught sight of the palace.

“Whoa! What’s that?” I asked my guard.

He gave me a funny look before replying, “Canterlot Palace – the same place we caught you intruding last night.”

“What? How the hell did I end up there?”

“That’s what you have to explain to her Highness,” the guard replied before clamming up.

I didn’t bother trying to get more out of him because I was too overwhelmed by what I was seeing. I gaped in awe at the beautiful structure with its gravity-defying towers. Then we pulled into a courtyard and the carriage came to a stop.

“Get out.”

Terse and to the point. I was disinclined to argue with the pony with the pointy pike and I quickly moved to obey. Let me say in my defense that going down steps is a lot harder than going up them. My nose was probably beginning to resemble a pug’s by now. The unsympathetic guard merely hauled me to my feet… I mean my hooves… and herded me inside. The inside of the palace was just as impressive as the outside, and I have to say that I loved the stained glass windows.

While I wondered what they depicted, I had a feeling that the guard wasn’t about to enlighten me. We came to a pair of enormous doors flanked by another two unicorns in the same armor as my guide, and they challenged him as we approach.

“Her Magnificence has ordered me to bring this intruder to her for questioning.”

“You are expected. Proceed,” said one of the guards who opened one of the doors for us.

We entered what appeared to be a throne room, although it was not as well-lit as the rest of the palace had been. Long, thick curtains draped at least half of the room, with just a single spotlight focused on the dais with the lavish throne upon it. We came to a halt at the foot of the steps that led up to the empty throne and the guard rapped his spear on the floor.

“I bring the prisoner as you ordered, O Magnificent and Marvelous Princess!”

A shower of sparks and plumes of smoke rose from the base of the throne and a female voice boomed from within.

I am the Great and Powerful Trixie, Duchess of Canterlot, Princess of Equestria, Queen of the Sun and the Moon, and Empress of the Equian Empire. Who are you? WHO ARE YOU?!

“Nice sound system you have in here,” I replied, “but I think you’re cribbing your lines from the Wizard of Oz.”

More smoke and fireworks exploded, and the image of the head of a blue mare with a white and light blue mane appeared from within. Looking closely, I could see the tell-tale lines of the image being projected onto the smoke from the rear.

Answer me, or suffer my wrath!

“Sorry – I just can’t take this too seriously. Mark Wells is my name, Your Blowhardiness.”

The disembodied head looked as if she was going to explode before she turned her gaze to the guard and said, “Leave us!

“As you command, Your Mightiness.” The guard then hastily exited.

As soon as the door shut, the image did explode, but only in a dazzling flash of light. When my vision cleared, the unicorn mare herself stood on the dais, her barrel draped in a purple cape emblazoned with stars. She glared at me and sneered a little.

“Some ponies cannot appreciate Trixie’s true greatness. Nevertheless, you shall answer my questions, prisoner!”

That was going to be a real trick considering that I had no idea what was going on. “Sure – if you answer mine too.”

Trixie frowned but continued. “Why were you intruding in a security area of the palace, Well Marked, and are you responsible for the disappearance of the alicorns?”

Wait. What?!

# # # # # # # # # #

Author's Note:

And so begins my foray into something a lot sillier than my usual stories. Believe me – this is utterly unrelated to my Cogs and House Path tales.

Art by PixelKitties and used with permission.

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