• Published 29th May 2019
  • 9,311 Views, 408 Comments

And when the darkness comes around - Cackling Moron



Local human encounters nocturnal pony, provides sustenance

  • ...
14
 408
 9,311

Headwaters of the river of blood

Author's Note:

How long can a man live in the dark?

Turned out that Applejack’s family was considerably larger than Eric might have ever guessed. There were dozens of them! Scores, even! The shindig was a veritable profusion of Apples and extant relations.

Eric made a point to talk to a bunch of them and found them all delightful.

He’d planned on wandering on down - or moseying on down, if it was more appropriate - sometime near enough to night, but Lamia had continued her sudden and inexplicable habit or waking up comparatively early and so it had been late evening instead.

“Are you sure you’re okay with going? He’d asked her again, kneeling down the better to be on her level.

“I said it was okay…” Lamia had said, squirming a little under his scrutiny and then squeaking when he gave her a pat on the head.

“I know, you’re a trooper - was just checking you hadn’t changed your mind. Because you are allowed to, you know.”

“I know…”

And that had been that, off they’d gone. Lamia had flapped along beside him up until the point of the noise of the shindig became impossible to ignore, at which she had alighted on his shoulders and curled up there, head tucked in against his neck, tail hanging down his front.

Eric and his batpony scarf of sorts had attracted a few odd looks here and there, but no unkind comments. Those who were aware of Lamia felt it would have been rude to call attention to it, and those who were not also felt it would have been rude, but for different reasons.

None of which registered on Eric, of course, who was just happy to be meeting and mingling with new people, drinking free drinks, making the occasional horse pun, chatting idly about his craft with anyone who asked and generally having a good time of things.

He even managed to coax a word or two out of Lamia here or there, even if that word was usually just ‘hello’ delivered very quickly before she dug her face back into his neck and took no further part in the conversation. It was something, at least.

Not long after all this mingling had finally exhausted him, Eric was sat a comfortable enough distance away from the bulk of the shindig activity, balancing on his lap a plate on which was resting a slice of apple quiche.

“Who knew apples were so versatile?” He said, more to himself than to Lamia, before carving himself off a little with his fork and giving it a try.

He chewed.

“Well, I’m sure someone will like it,” he said, putting his fork down on his plate and the plate on the table nearby. Then, after some further consideration, he pushed the plate a little further away, in case anyone thought he might still want it.

“Hello Eric!” Someone said, pulling his attention away from curious culinary experimentation and towards the two ponies on approach. He saw them, and a few seconds after he saw them his brain ground into gear and rustled up their names - Pinkie and Twilight, yes, those two. He did know them both.

“Hello girls! Or should I say howdy? Important to stay on-theme.”

If he’d had a wide-brimmed hat he would have tugged it in greeting. But he did not. So he didn’t.

“Howdy,” Pinkie said with an unusual level of seriousness, pulling off a very impressive quick little two-step - or should that be four-step? - maneuver which obviously taxed her concentration if the tongue poking out the corner of her mouth was anything to go by.

“You don’t have to do that anytime somepony says howdy…” Twilight hissed at her but Pinkie continued regardless.

“It’s the way of their clan,” she said, which was maybe true, probably not. By the time she wrapped up the maneuver she was lightly out of breath and gave a small bow.

Eric had no idea what had just happened or why, but this was hardly unusual and no reason not to appreciate it.

“I’d clap but I’ve only got one hand free, so please accept this hearty thumbs-up for a job well done, Pinkie,” he said, giving a hearty thumbs up.

His other hand - and indeed, his whole other arm - was presently occupied in supporting the lump inside his jacket.

“Yes! It was hearty!” Pinkie said, pumping a hoof.

Twilight decided to just gloss over all of this.

“Enjoying the party?” She asked.

“It’s a shindig,” both Eric and Pinkie said in immediate, perfect unison. It was such an unexpected stereoscopic experience in instant correction that Twilight was momentarily completely unbalanced.

“Um, right,” Twilight said, rubbing an ear with her hoof.

“He just said it’s important to stay on-theme!” Pinkie said exasperatedly, gesturing to Eric, who nodded.

“I did! I did just say that!” He said. Twilight sighed.

“Alright! Enjoying the shingdig, then?”

“Yes, yes I am. Thank you for asking, Twilight,” Eric said, now all sweetness. Twilight accepted this answer, and then looked down to the lump in his jacket.

“And how is, uh-”

“Lamia.”

“How is Lamia enjoying it?”

“We can probably ask her,” Eric said, giving the lump a quick and gentle bounce. “How about you, Lamia? Enjoying the shindig?”

At some point after Eric had sat down Lamia had removed herself from across his shoulders and had instead taken up residence in the crook of his arm, balancing on his hip beneath his jacket. Hence the lump. At his sudden attention she stirred, peering out cautiously.

“Enjoying the shindig, Lamia?” He asked again, looking down at her.

She took a moment to look back up at him happily enough before regarding Pinkie and Twilight with more restraint and wariness. She did not know them.

“...yes,” she said, directing the answer up at Eric before retreating a little.

“Good. And are you sure you’re comfortable in there? You feel a little precarious.”

She really did. How she was staying where she was balanced was a mystery to Eric

“I’m fine,” she said.

“And, ah, Lamia, how are you finding living with Eric?” Twilight asked, hoping to keep the ball rolling. Lamia had not expected to be addressed directly.

“Um. It’s nice,” smiling a little at the thought of just how nice it actually was - a level of niceness she had difficulty properly summing up on the spot, but which she could feel in her bones.

Eric no need here to puncture the mood by pointing out she did not live with him, but was just staying with him.

“That’s good. You know Pinkie, I’m surprised you haven’t thrown her a party yet!” Twilight said, giving Pinkie a playful nudge - all in good fun!

Pinkie though was confused.

“Her cave is outside my partyorial jurisdiction,” she said.

“Patryorial?” Eric asked, having never heard this perfectly cromulent word before.

“Cave?” Twilight asked, unaware of where a cave was meant to fit into this at all.

“Yes,” Pinkie said, not see any reason to go further. She grasped the situation perfectly.

The three of them ground to a halt.

“...right, well, okay then. That clears that up,” Twilight said. “I’m - I’m going to go and get some cider. Would you like anything, Eric? Lamia?”

He held up his free hand.

“Very kind of you to offer but no, I’m quite alright,” he said.

“I - I’m fine. Thank you,” Lamia said. Much as she did not drink tea she also did not drink cider. Took Twilight a second to catch onto this.

“Oh, right. Uh, sorry. I’ll go. Have fun now!”

And so off Twilight went and, perhaps a second later, Pinkie gave out a quick ‘Bye!’ before hopping away as the winds of fate dictated she should, once again leaving Eric and Lamia on their own.

“Lovely girls,” he said.

“They seem nice,” Lamia said from beneath his jacket, slowly emerging out onto his lap and stretching out her wings briefly before settling down somewhat more comfortably, cooing as Eric idly started the ear scratching. He’d barely noticed his hand doing it.

“They are indeed very nice. There’s a lot of that going around.”

They stayed there sitting, soaking up the ambience at a distance.

Some time later though what had been a constant, churning background music provided by a band with a surprising number of jugs among their more orthodox instruments paused as the musicians rearranged. Once the music resumed it was louder, quicker, and ponies were now actively dancing to it.

A schedule part of the shindig, not that Eric was aware. He just started tapping his foot along to it.

It was only a whine from his lap that alerted him to the fact that Lamia was apparently now in some distress.

“Are you alright?” He asked, immediately concerned.

“It’s loud…”

Her ears were, he noticed belatedly, rather larger than most other pony’s...

“You want to go?” He asked.

“No. Yes. Not if you don’t,” she said, wincing.

Eric did not, at least not yet, so something else had to be done about it.

He looked around, but saw no immediate solutions to hand. Cotton candy here and there, brought along and provided by Pinkie or just having spontaneously generated in her presence - possible solution? No, no probably not. That would just cause more problems.

Then again, there was at least one option he had quite literally to hand - his hands.

He put them over Lamia’s ears. It seemed to work. She tensed, then relaxed, then relaxed further still, her look of discomfort disappearing. Thus protected, she was easily able to endure the loudness, even if she found the accompanying dancing baffling to watch. She’d never seen anything like it.

The rambunctious music lasted a little while, then moved onto something gentler and slower, allowing Eric to remove his hands, Lamia twisting around on his lap to look up at him again, smiling that toothy smile of hers. She did this a lot.

“Thank you,” she said. She did that quite a lot, too.

“Think nothing of it.”

“Um, Eric?” Asked an interloper in a soft, soft voice that came out of nowhere.

Lamia, taken by surprise, let out an ‘eep’ (distinct from a ‘meep’) and instantly zipped back inside Eric’s jacket again, forcing him to hurriedly put his arm back to keep her balanced again. Once that had been taken care of he was actually able to pay attention to who’d spoken to him. She was yellow.

“Ah! Hello Fluttershy! Didn’t hear you coming. Enjoying the shindig?”

Fluttershy was something of a repeat customer for Eric, and not in the sense of him and her having a specific deal set up, as with Mortis, but more in the sense that she just seemed to have an awful lot of things she wanted him to come over to her house and paint.

Birdhouses, furniture, rooms, that one time she’d just wanted him and her to paint eggs all day for some reason - the list was voluminous. He’d started giving her a discount after a while, feeling bad for taking her money when she was just such pleasant company and always insisted on hanging around and chatting with him while he worked.

Very nice girl, in his estimation.

“Yes, it’s fun. Um,” she said, eyeing the lump in his jacket doubtfully for a moment before standing up just a smidgen straighter for whatever reason. “W-would you like to dance? I-if you don’t mind, of course.”

She then hid behind her mane. Eric, who’d got used to Lamia doing this every few minutes, found it just as endearing as he always did. Ponies really were an adorable bunch.

“Dance?” he asked.

For a split-second the sheer wonderful absurdity of considering how on Earth someone of his size was supposed to dance with someone of her size made Eric forget that he still had Lamia huddled close to his side.

Then he remembered, and the point became moot - he could hardly abandon her just like that, and engaging in dancing while just holding her tucked under an arm or having her across his shoulders would be a little awkward for all concerned, and perhaps a little rude.

Frankly, more trouble than it was worth, sadly. He gave a rueful smile.

“Ah, perhaps another time?

Fluttershy was plainly crestfallen, but hid it well.

“Oh, o-okay. That’s okay! You - I - you have fun!”

She then beat a hasty retreat.

“You still want me to come over this weekend? Do that thing?” Eric called after her, but she was gone.

She had not specified what it was she’d wanted done, but that wasn’t unusual. Eric took most things as they came.

Perplexed by her sudden appearance and equally sudden exit Eric frown to himself on confusion. Had he missed something there? If so, what?

Ah, if it was important someone would tell him, he was sure.

Within his jacket Lamia stirred again, head poking out just enough for her to watch Fluttershy disappearing into the shindig crowds.

“Who was that?” She asked.

“Hmm? Oh yes. That was Fluttershy. Lovely girl.”

There were no such things as unlovely girls in Eric’s world. No unlovely people at all, in fact. It was an attitude that had seemed quite outlandish back home. Here though, not so much. One of the reasons why he liked it.

Once again Lamia wriggled back out onto Eric’s lap, this time sitting facing him.

“You didn’t have to stay with me,” she said, having heard what Fluttershy had proposed, having experienced a moment of dread on hearing it, too.

“Nonsense! I said I wasn’t going to leave you all on your own, and I’m not sure the dance would have worked with me carrying you about - think Fluttershy might have been quite confused about that, too!”

Confused here being used as a synonym for ‘put out’ or possibly even ‘upset’, were Eric in the mood use such strong language.

He thought about this.

“Unless she’d have been fine with it. Would she have been fine with it? Hmm, too late to know now, oh well. Let’s assume yes. That’s how dancing works, isn’t it? Typically? One-on-one?”

“I don’t know.”

“Hmm, neither do I…”

They went quiet, Eric idly watching those at the shindig who were actually dancing, Lamia watching Eric.

“Probably just as well,” Eric then said, apparently out of nowhere. Lamia cocked her head.

“Why?”

“I’d probably end up crushing the poor girl. There’s something of a size difference! And I wasn’t exactly a dancer to start with. I mean, sure, could have been fun, but I’d likely make a hash of it somehow. Two left feet and all that.”

Dancing was not Eric’s forte. He was down for it whenever, to be sure, but wasn’t so deluded as to think of what he did as anything close to good. Fun, mind.

Lamia thought about this.

“W-we could dance later? I-if you want. Back home, I mean. It’d be like practising.”

Lamia thought of Eric’s house as home. He did not notice this, mostly because it was too subtle and natural a conversational detail for him to have picked up on, partly because he was concentrating on what she’d said.

Not only a fun thing to do with a friend close to hand - Lamia - but also possibly useful in making it up to Fluttershy - another friend - later! It could only be good! No disadvantages here that he could see, and no issues whatsoever.

“Practise dancing, eh? Not a bad idea, Lamia, not a bad idea at all. Maybe tomorrow though, eh? After I’ve had a rest.”

“Okay,” she said. She could deal with that.

“Great! It’s a date, heh. You know how to dance?” He asked and Lamia shook her head.

“No.”

“Ah, good. Was afraid you might show me up! Two amateurs crashing about I can handle. I will push the furniture back, though. Just to be safe, eh?”

He grinned. Lamia grinned. She was better than grinning than Eric, something he’d be the first to admit, and he’d also admit that he really rather liked it when she did it.

Meant he had to be doing something right.