• Published 15th Jun 2021
  • 202 Views, 26 Comments

Back to School - Coyote de La Mancha

Along with being Princess Twilight's apprentice, Sunrise Shimmer hopes to become Ms. Cheerilee's teaching assistant. The first day is often the most challenging.

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Prologue: An Overdue Meeting.

The moon rose into the deepening sky. The cool wind blew pleasantly across her mane, dispelling the heat of the fading day.

Carefully, so as not to spill the milk-and-honey mixture, the young mare set the earthenware bowl down before the castle doors. Then, straightening herself, she looked out into the bejewelled sky.

The unicorn’s voice was calm, but intent. Even commanding. Cutting through the early autumn night as she intoned the verse of power, a new variant of an ancient charm:


“If there be shades or terrors here, let them wait in their hunger,

for this night’s offering is meant for another.

As ye dance and ye hunt in thy dam’s moonlight,

lanthorn son, be welcome at my hearth this night.”

Then she went back inside, gently closing the door behind her.

After a moment, Sunrise grinned. Granted, the old summoning was about as simple as they got. What mages called a ‘low ceremony,’ something any being with inherent magic could do, no sorcery required. In this case, a basic summoning, the equivalent of sending someone a page. And also granted, she’d been very carefully not adding any oomph into her recitation, just to be sure.

Twilight had helped her research and plan the spell, of course. But she’d carried out its execution alone. And as she’d finished the incantation, she’d been able to feel the atmosphere shift. And she hadn’t blown anything up!

Silently, she hoof-pumped in the air. Yes! My first successful spell!

Suddenly, the crystals around her dimmed in their sconces, the shadows deepening into an impossible hue, seeming more like gaps in space than any simple lack of light.

For a moment, her ears went flat and she took several involuntary steps back, glancing around herself frantically. Oh, crap, maybe Twilight should’ve helped me cast this after all...

Then there was a wind swirling in the room, the gentle scents of autumn leaves and bale fires. The darkness subsided somewhat, the light crystals brightening again as the shadow coalesced into a smoky form. Flames licked from its eyes and mouth, illuminating the pumpkin-like head and feline body, the tail lashing gently as it surveyed her.

The unicorn realized her mouth was still open, and closed it.

“Okay,” she said, “That was awesome.”

Unseen by either of them, in the upper library, Spike and Twilight shared a smile across the princess’ scrying crystal. Not that Twilight had ever doubted their friend’s abilities, but it was a poor teacher who abandoned their student on their first outing alone.

At the same time, it was a poor friend who had no respect for their friend’s privacy.

As Twilight released the clairvoyant spell, the crystal dimmed, and she and Spike returned to the task of planning out the upcoming week’s itinerary.

Silent as a shadow’s dying breath, face unreadable, the visitor considered for a moment the mare who had called him forth.

**Sooth, few there are who remember the old rites,** his voice echoed from all around her at last. **And indeed, thou didst speak it altered, e’en then. For always ‘twas a calling for me to guard one’s hearth, not be welcome to it.**

“Yeah, well, I didn’t want any misunderstanding,” Sunrise said. “Between Twilight and Spike, the hearth’s pretty secure, you know? And I wanted you to know you were welcome.”

For a moment, the shadowy creature before her said nothing. He simply studied her, breathing in her scent, taking in her stance, her form, her shadow.

**I thank thee,** he said at last. **I am not of many words… but, I thank thee.**

“Hey, you’re welcome. In every sense,” she grinned.

Then, her bravado faltering, she muttered, “So, um, yeah. Anyway...”

Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, she took the plunge.

“My name is Sunrise Shimmer. And… I’m dating your mom.”

The next morning, Sunrise made her way out of her room, still yawning, when suddenly her vision was filled with the purple face of her mentor.

“How did it go?” Twilight bounced.


Losing her balance, Sunrise fell onto into a sitting position, blinking.

“Sorry,” Twilight said a little awkwardly, extending a hoof. “I’m just… yeah. Sorry. You okay?”

“Oh, sure.” Sunrise said as Twilight pulled her up. “Thanks.”

They embraced, and for a moment Twilight managed to contain herself. Then, “So… how did it go?”

Sunrise tried not to match Twilight’s grin and failed.

“Pretty good. Spell went off without a hitch!”

“I knew it would. I keep telling you, you’ve got this!” Twilight cheered. “And what about Jack?”

“Jack’s cool. We hung out for a couple of hours before I had to crash. he’s… intense. Like, really intense. And metal as buck, by the way…”

Twilight rolled her eyes good-naturedly at her apprentice’s word choice. “Seriously?”

Sunrise laughed again. “Hey, I’m learning, alright? But, yeah, we’re cool. He’s super busy – like, Luna levels of super busy – but he’ll be swinging by when he can.”

Twilight smiled happily as the two of them fell into stride. “I thought you’d get along, from what Luna described. I can’t wait to meet him myself.”

Sunrise nodded. “Yeah, he’s pretty cool. Heck, I wish I’d met him sooner.”

“Yeah, I wonder why Luna doesn’t talk about him more often.”

Sunrise shrugged. “Well, he’s a really private guy. And, maybe a little socially awkward? So, I guess she figures that if he’d really wanted to step out of the shadows, he would have by now. Or maybe she’s just helping him get used to ponies really slowly, now that she’s back? I didn’t ask.”

“Understandable. Oh, and by the way, Spike had an idea for a kind of field trip for the schoolfoals. Well, it’s sort of a sleep-over, in a way...”

Sunrise laughed. “Dude, it’s my first day! I’m not even sure I’m hired yet. Let me at least meet everypony first!”

Their voices faded as they continued down the corridor, happily chatting as they did. Spike watched them go. Sunrise had been receptive to the idea, as he’d expected. All that remained was making certain the castle was ready for so many foals at once.

Spike nodded to himself and returned to the library. There were still many preparations left to be made, and little time remaining to do them in.

Author's Note:

Jack’s story.