• Published 30th Dec 2018
  • 1,109 Views, 13 Comments

The Right Reads - libertydude



Back in Equestria, Sunset Shimmer finds herself stuck in a Hearth's Warming party without much warmth.

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The Warmth of Friendship

“How could Daring Do and the Secrets of Shangri-Neigh not be considered ‘classic literature’?!” Rainbow Dash said. Pinkie Pie had been perfectly fine with getting the story, but Twilight had tsk-tsked Rainbow for violating the exchange’s theme. This was why the Princess of Friendship stood nearby, leaning on the mantelpiece that held her crown and staring at her multicolored friend with a bemused expression.

Sunset and Luna stood nearby, their minor symbiosis to match Discord lasting through the book exchange. Sunset had spoken up frequently during the event, her reactions to the gifted literature ranging from vocal approval to pronounced disgust. Luna, however, sat in silence, only giving the occasional nod to whatever book appeared.

She doesn’t have a clue what these stories even are, Sunset had thought a quarter through the event. Her suspicions were further confirmed when two aberrations in the gifts appeared: Luna’s own Pone Quixote and Canterdide.

These aren’t even within the last two hundred years, Sunset had thought. The rest of the books, from A Summons to Manephis to Equestrian Pastoral, had been just past the cusp of being ‘classic’, in that they’d been written just before the Elements were born.

“I mean, it’s listed in National Equestrian Review’s Greatest Equestrian Novels!” Rainbow continued.

“So is The Bridges of Mareison County,” Twilight said with just a hint of smugness. Luna and Sunset looked on in silence, watching the two’s sparring match in shared amusement.

“Whatever!” Rainbow huffed. “It’s one of the greatest books in the series, and all the characters were written with a lot of depth. Besides, Pinkie loves anything you give her.”

Sunset nodded, more for Dash’s assertion about her poofy-haired friend than anything about Shangri-Neigh. She hadn’t even read a Daring-Do book from this world before; for all she knew, The Mistress of Maredipoor involved a fire being using the sun to fuel his lava production factory.

“Still, Daring-Do’s stories have only been written over the past few years,” Twilight said. “Something’s only classic once it hits twenty-five years old.”

“Says who?” Rainbow scoffed.

“Pretty much every author who ever lived.”

“Pfft! I’m not going to let some club of eggheads tell me what is and isn’t ‘classic’.”

“Oh? And what gives you the right to say what is and isn’t classic? Have you read every significant novel from the last two hundred years, let alone the past twenty-five?”

Rainbow rolled her eyes. “Not everypony has the free time you’ve got, Twi.”

“Free time?!” She pointed at the golden crown resting on the mantle. “Does Princess of Equestria and Headmistress of the School of Friendship sound like it breeds a lot of ‘me time’?”

“Well,” Sunset spoke up. She’d hung around the girls’ alternates long enough to know when an argument was brewing. “I always thought Hoofinghay was a very important classic writer.”

The two friends looked at her, confusion on Rainbow’s face and relief on Twilight’s.

“Hoofing-who?” Rainbow said.

“Hoofinghay,” Twilight said with a smile. “One of the biggest names to come out of the Equestrian expatriates living in Prance one hundred years ago. He wrote The Sun Always Rises and To Hoof and Hoof Not.”

“Of course you’d know him,” Rainbow said with a sigh.

“But he was very good,” Sunset said. “Very few writers ever managed to pack as much emotion in so few words like he did.”

Luna smiled and nodded, but Sunset fought to contain her disappointment. I might as well be talking about aliens, Sunset thought. Princess Luna wouldn’t know the difference.

“I must agree,” Twilight said. “Actually, I think you’d like him, Rainbow. He was always writing about really dangerous things, and he used a very simple vocabulary.”

Rainbow squinted. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“No, I didn’t mean it like that...”

Sunset looked back at Luna, who giggled at the two friends now staring daggers at each other. But that same, vague feeling of listlessness still plastered across her face.

Okay, what’s something she would have read? Sunset’s mind flashed through a hundred different authors, spanning genres even well-read ponies rarely dipped into.

Then, just before Rainbow Dash and Twilight could explode into another verbal barrage, it came to her.

“Luna,” Sunset said before flinching. Celestia’s sake, she’s a Princess! Sunset scolded herself. A traditional one at that. She’ll tan me alive for leaving out the royal title.

But Luna simply looked at Sunset in eager anticipation. After a quick breath of relief, she said, “Have you ever read Marechiavelli?”

Luna’s ears perked up. “Indeed! In fact, I spent a lot of my younger days pouring over Chevi’s treatises.”

“Chevi?” Twilight said, pried away from her stink-eye competition.

“That’s what I always called him,” Luna said with a faint smile. “We had brunch a few times every year, usually when he visited his cousin in Canterlot. For a stallion who wrote about such serious political subjects, he could be surprisingly amusing in private.”

Twilight danced in place, glee radiating from her face. “Oh, this is great! I always wanted to know more about him. Did he ever tell you whether he was being serious when he wrote The Princess?”

“Ha! It’s funny you should ask. We were actually walking through Canterlot’s main thoroughfare when I asked him that same question…”

Sunset walked away towards the punch bowl. I haven’t read Marchivelli at all, she thought. But Luna has, and that’s the most important thing. She looked back at Luna, now unmistakably absorbed in the conversation with her fellow Princess.

At least she won’t have to be alone either, Sunset thought with a smile.

Just then, Luna looked right at Sunset. Her first instinct was to turn away, to avoid the awkward situation two strangers looking at each other always causes. But Sunset didn’t see annoyance or surprise, but thanks in Luna’s glance.

Thanks not given to a stranger or even a mild acquaintance, but a friend that’d helped another out of a jam.

And just as fast as Sunset saw it, Luna’s eyes returned to her compatriot’s excited recitations of political theory and balances of power. But Sunset knew then, before all the future Hearth’s Warmings and the adventures that’d come with them, that she had another friend to share them with.

Author's Note:

Well, that was short and sweet, eh? It's funny, because the original story I'd planned involved Sunset and Luna going on an epic adventure fighting mystical forces and learning about Hearth's Warming's past. But as I wrote it out, the more I realized just how complex and time-consuming that kind of story would be. So I simplified the story to the duo coming across each other at a Hearth's Warming book exchange, as I myself had recently gone to a Christmas party with a book exchange (one where I too forgot to bring a book and often felt out of place). Using this experience, I found a way to show the kind of alienation and aloofness through Sunset Shimmer and Luna. This story ends happier than my own, but that's the advantage of MLP: happy endings are always possible.

But the best part about this story was nothing about its creative process or how I felt about it, but how enthusiastically my Jinglemas recipient Nyronus received the story. He really seemed to like it, praising Discord's presence and the other characters' interactions. Without his enjoyment, I'd probably just think of this as another story in a slathering of other finished and unfinished works. With his approval, this is a story I'm immensely proud of. Writing is often used to help us understand and connect with one another, and the fact that I was able to appeal to Nyronus so naturally showed this power in full force.

Here's to hoping you enjoyed the story as well, and a Happy New Years to everyone!

Comments ( 9 )

Two of my favorite ponies, thanks for delivering!

Such magnificent cover art! I must read this story.

Well, that was nice and sweet.

An unusual character interaction, delivered with aplomb. A lovely read. :twilightsmile:

Fun fact. The Prince was apparently written as something of a resume.

Thanks to everyone for responding! I hope you enjoyed the story, and sorry I haven't responded as soon as I should have. Grad school takes a lot of a person, I tell you h'wat.

9375746
You're welcome! :pinkiehappy:

9376222
I hope you've read it by now. And yes, Vanilla Ghosties is a great artist who you should check out.

9379972
That was the sensation I was going for. Based on everybody's responses, it seems I was successful.

9381543
Glad you enjoyed it!

9395599
Yeah, it's weird enough when you go blind temporarily in both eyes, but only losing sight in one seems to be more disorienting. As for The Prince, I'd heard a lot of conflicting explanations for why Machiavelli wrote it, which is why Twilight asks Luna if he was being serious when he wrote it or if it was just satire.

9396948

A well written story and a very good read.

9575757
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

“But he was very good,” Sunset said. “Very few writers ever managed to pack as much emotion in so few words like he did.”

Interesting :applejackunsure:

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