• Published 12th Aug 2019
  • 1,077 Views, 69 Comments

The Horizon Behind Us - Syke Jr



Gingersnap has never had to fear death. But to ponies from the outer realm, death is a big deal.

  • ...
5
 69
 1,077

Chapter 7 - Archery


[noctoria]		so hang on when was this
[noctoria]		last night?

[Snaps]			Two nights ago

[noctoria]		huh

[HyperRaid]		so it worked out. That's great Snaps ^^

[Snaps]			I mean, yeah. It was really weirdly a nice time

[HyperRaid]		why was it weird?

[Snaps]			He has some issues with Celestia. I don't think he's even
			necessarily wrong, but
[Snaps]			There's just a lot going on in that head. Some of it pretty
			bucked up to be honest.

[HyperRaid]		lol so what made it a nice time?

[Snaps]			I dunno. It was just... different. And different is fun. Felt
			like I was actually getting to know him.
[Snaps]			No screen between us and we weren't there mostly to roll dice.
[Snaps]			That's unusual for me lol

[Aquadoc]		Hang on who are we talking about?

[HyperRaid]		oh hey Aqua

[noctoria]		yo aqua
[noctoria]		Snaps has a new otherworlder buddy lol

[Aquadoc]		ah

[Snaps]			Hi Aqua

[Aquadoc]		For a sec I thought you were, like, describing a dream you had
[Aquadoc]		I was like Snaps doesn't go drinking with stallions lol

[Snaps]			lol fair assumption

[magic_Jedi]		I'm glad it worked out Snaps.
[magic_Jedi]		You found out what was bothering him I'm guessing?

[Snaps]			Yeah, and honestly it's not even that crazy

[magic_Jedi]		It never is.
[magic_Jedi]		Celestia can be pretty... hard for immigrants to reconcile
			sometimes
[magic_Jedi]		I'm pretty sure I can guess what the issue was

	[You]-->[magic_Jedi]		go on then what's your guess

	[magic_Jedi]-->[You]		Something to do with thinking Celestia was
					pushing you towards him as a potential love
					interest he isn't ready for?

	[You]-->[magic_Jedi]		Yup, pretty much

[Snaps]			Well in any case
[Snaps]			I'm tired of losing playing Equine Crisis with him so
[Snaps]			I'm inviting him to this chat

[noctoria]		snaps nooooo
[noctoria]		we can't withstand two humans, we'll never win again

[HyperRaid]		lol that's actually a point

[Snaps]			Nah. He only plays shooters and he's not even good at those

[HyperRaid]		so why invite him?

[Snaps]			I just said why

***Ganelon has joined the chat. Say hi!

[Ganelon]		What's this then
[Ganelon]		"Wargames?"

[HyperRaid]		hey there

[Snaps]			Strategic war video games. Mostly "Wars of Eqqus". We just say
			wargames

[Ganelon]		ahhh

[noctoria]		so this is the infamous immigrant
[noctoria]		heard you fell asleep with snaps
[noctoria]		was it hot?

[Snaps]			-_-

[Ganelon]		Yes.

[Snaps]			-_-     -_-     -_-

[Ganelon]		I'm shocked I remember it
[Ganelon] 		Alcohol works very differently here
[Ganelon]		also, hi everypony

[noctoria]		does it rly?

[Aquadoc]		Yeah apparently it completely erases your memory of the night
			in the outer realm

[Ganelon]		I mean. Pretty much
[Ganelon]		If you drink enough that is

[HyperRaid]		that's wild
[HyperRaid]		I mean things get fuzzy sure but I can't imagine just blanking
			on a night

[Ganelon]		lol can you imagine being sick as buck all day the next day?
[Ganelon]		that's something else I'm happy to miss

[Snaps]			Is that real? I thought you were kidding.

[Ganelon]		no, it's horribly real
[Ganelon]		well not anymore =D

[magic_Jedi]		Equestria comes with many blessings.

[HyperRaid]		lol

[Ganelon]		"magic Jedi"??
[Ganelon]		That's a hell of a giveaway

[magic_Jedi]		I mean. Only to those in the know.

[Aquadoc]		??

[magic_Jedi]		Inside joke.

[Snaps]			oh Luna

[noctoria]		never occurred to me that "jedi" meant something
[noctoria]		bucking otherworlders

[Ganelon]		Where are you from Jedi??
[Ganelon]		If you don't mind me asking

[magic_Jedi]		Vancouver.
[magic_Jedi]		And now, Vanhoover. Obviously.

[Ganelon]		Wild.

[magic_Jedi]		You were British I assume?
[magic_Jedi]		To end up in Snaps' neck of the woods

[Ganelon]		Yep. Originally from the States but yep

[Snaps]			So are we up to actually play some games?

[Ganelon]		I dunno is it easy to learn?

[noctoria]		not really

[Aquadoc]		There's a learning curve.

[Ganelon]		uh oh

[magic_Jedi]		Don't worry. It's like any other RTS

[Ganelon]		I... haven't played an RTS in forever

[magic_Jedi]		Well
[magic_Jedi]		I will teach you, young padawan

[Ganelon]		=D

[noctoria]		what??

[Snaps]			no don't ask

[Ganelon]		Inside joke

[Snaps]			buuuuuuuuuck you both

[noctoria]		you did this snaps

[Snaps]			I know -_-

[HyperRaid]		Let's get started. I'll set it up
[HyperRaid]		what do we want, a six-pony? Are we all playing?

[Aquadoc]		I'll play

[noctoria]		yeah

[magic_Jedi]		We're all in I think.

[HyperRaid]		three rounds?

[Snaps]			Maybe only two.

[noctoria]		no do three

[HyperRaid]		I'd rather do three

[Snaps]			Okay.

[Ganelon]		Sounds good. What do I need?

[Snaps]			Oh. Right. lemme grab the game link...

* * *

A few hours later it transpires that Noct was kind of right about the human advantage. Either that or Silver has exceptional beginner's luck. He loses our first couple games, but as soon as he figures out the actual mechanics, he's easily one of the more dangerous players. There's some kind of instinct the former humans seem to have for when to attack and when to retreat.

Everypony in the game but Jedi and Ganelon ends up in an uneasy truce until the human threat is dealt with. Either we fail and Jedi wins, or we beat them and Noct ends up winning. It's still pretty fun. I almost come out on top in the last game. I figure out that Ganelon has a "glass cannon" approach to warfare and if you catch him unawares he's easy to wipe fairly fast. The hard part is actually doing that.

Aqua and HyperRaid drop out after five games. The rest of us four decide to mix it up and play a 2v2, which we almost never do—usually all vs all is more interesting.

But me and Jedi vs Ganelon and Noct? That's too hard to pass up. We go a full seven-round game.

It's hard-fought. As usual, Jedi starts with his defences. The fog of war prevents us from seeing what the other side is doing, but it's easy to guess that both of them are building up attacking forces: Noct with sheer numbers, Gan with overpowered soldiers. I try to strike a balance. If we can wait them out, we'll win.

Five rounds in, there's no clear advantage to either side. They've sustained more losses but also control more territory. The slow burn that is Jedi's strategy is coming into play, though. All I need to to is keep Ganelon busy.

And I manage it. Through the fog of war, my heavily armoured squadron chances upon his spearhead flanking forces. If he doesn't fight me, I'll take control of the territory and he'll be cut off. But by fighting me he sacrifices the ability to flank for Noct. She's on her own.

Ha!!

The seventh round ends with a decisive victory for our team. My army is nearly wiped out but Jedi overran the exhausted troops of the other team. I stretch my wings, basking in the victory.

* * *


[TeaMistress]		You need to get over the fact that you got rekt

[Ganelon]		Oh please. That was a lucky win

***TeaMistress has changed their username to 'Snaps'

[Snaps]			Yeah right.
[Snaps]			I will admit you're better than I'd have thought
[Snaps]			by... a long way

[Ganelon]		lol
[Ganelon]		I don't know why you lot aren't better
[Ganelon]		I haven't played an RTS since high school
[Ganelon]		I didn't even understand the reinforcement mechanic and I
			still did well

[Snaps]			Noct was just right
[Snaps]			former humans op

[Ganelon]		Noct is actually way better than me though

[Snaps]			she plays it a lot.

[Ganelon]		In all seriousness the human thing can't have anything to do
			with it
[Ganelon]		It's not like I ever participated in a war back on Earth

[Snaps]			Maybe it was beginner's luck

[Ganelon]		honestly? almost definitely.
[Ganelon]		I'm still shit at EqC so

I shake my head at the screen. There's no way. But time will tell, I suppose.


[Snaps]			I didn't see you today. We should do something tomorrow.
[Snaps]			I should take some photos in the evening, it's a crescent moon
			on the horizon tomorrow night
[Snaps]			But we can exchange book recommendations at the library or
			something.

[Ganelon]		I want to see your studio.
[Ganelon]		That one across from the sandwich place is yours, right?

[Snaps]			Yup. It's my apartment too

[Ganelon]		Right. You mentioned

[Snaps]			Yeah, pop by. I'm usually in there in the mornings anyway.

[Ganelon]		cool
[Ganelon]		I'll see you then.

[Snaps]			Alright. night

[Ganelon]		night =)

***Ganelon is now AFK

I sigh happily. Usually I hate just "hanging about" with ponies; even friends. But with Silver I feel like I could hang about all day and just enjoy his company. Or idly argue about something inconsequential or philosophical. Which I do online with him often, as well as with plenty of other ponies, I have to admit.

But... actually being there with somepony is just so much better.

* * *

It's just before eleven o'clock that Silver enters the studio, setting off the little bell. Sitting on my stool, I look up from my book with a grin. "Hey."

"Hey," he responds. He takes a few steps towards me, leaning way down to try to see what book I'm reading from the underside. What he sees makes him laugh, a look of surprised approval taking over his face. "Wow. I didn't expect that. Fight Club is easily one of the ones I'd recommend. It's my brother's favourite book." He pauses. "Though, he doesn't read a lot of books."

"It's... something," I say, dog-earing the book and flipping it around in my hooves pensively. "I was mostly reading sci-fi. This is different."

"Yeah. How far in?"

"Only a ways. They just started the, you know. Club."

"Well stick with it. It gets trippy."

I nod. I'm not sure I like it, though. It seems very... human. Not in an altogether good way. "D'you like what you see?" I ask, gesturing around at the studio. I display all my favourites here. The popular ones sell fine online but I don't want them in my space, the one I show to ponies.

"I do," he says, inspecting a series of colour studies. "I thought you said you mostly did landscapes."

"I do. They just get samey after a while. These are the ones I'm most proud of."

He ambles over to a pair of lake scenes, one on an autumn morning and one on a winter evening. The framing is identical. "Were you flying when you took these?" he asks with mild incredulity.

"Yup. I kind of cheated with cropping. But even before that they were pretty close."

"That's awesome."

I grin in what I hope is a modest way.

"So you sell these online?"

"Mostly."

He grins sideways at me. "So I could buy one of these from you right here?"

I'm a little taken aback. "I guess. Yeah." I try to surpress the mild sense of glee. I love selling prints out of the studio.

Then I remember why I'd been up earlier than usual. "I printed something out to show you." I nod toward the far wall.

He looks over. Snorts when he sees it. The photograph I took on that first night, under the stars... Silver Star is a black silhouette in front of the night sky, head raised toward the rising full moon.

He walks over to the canvas. I printed it out pretty big; it's just over two feet across. Silver just stands before it, staring.

I set Fight Club down and walk over. I stand beside him, gazing into it as well.

After a moment I break the silence. “Can I ask you something?”

“Yeah, ‘course.”

“What were you thinking about? In that moment?”

His eyes unfocus as he gazes into the canvas. “I was seeing if… if I could recognise any constellations.” He stops, blinks, turns to look at me. “I never really knew them, back in the outer realm. Other than Orion.” He shakes his head, almost laughing. “A human. The hunter. Supposedly he had a sword and shield, but I always saw a bow and arrow…” again he pauses. “But I knew the sky’s patterns. Constellations I saw on my own, never gave names but could always find them…”

“And did you see them? That night?”

“No. Of course I didn’t.” He looks back at the photograph.

“That’s a shame,” I say after a moment.

He sighs. “Dunno.” A pause. “This is another world. I think I’m okay with that.”

We gaze at the photo for another moment.

“I’m glad you took this,” Silver says abruptly.

“Why?” I ask, an odd mix of feelings gently warring in my chest.

“Because it’s a nice picture.” He takes a breath as if to go on, but stops.

"...I'm glad you like it."

He smiles at me. "I really do, Snaps."

I try not to wonder if he had something more to say.

* * *

At the library, we mull over the human book section. "It looks like Celestia made sure all my favourites were here," Silver says. "And mom's favourites." He looks with some distaste at a shelf full of books by somepony named Stephen King. "But there's plenty here I haven't read."

"Well," I say, "If you have anything to recommend, I can take them out now. They're good for a month of borrowing."

He looks contemplative. "Do you want something I think you might like," he says finally, "or something that I like?"

"Either one. One of each, say."

"Let's see." He crouches on his forelegs, scanning the lowermost shelf. "Here's Vonnegut..." He takes a book in his magic and holds it out to me. "This is my favourite book. By a long way. If you want to know what my, like, philosophy of life was, before Celestia changed everything? This sums it up."

I read the title. Cat's Cradle. "And what philosophy is that?"

"Nihilism," he says shortly, scanning the shelves again.

"I thought you said you were running from that."

"I stopped trying at a certain point."

I roll my eyes. It sounds so overdramatic. But at the same time... how can I judge?

"Here!" he exclaims. "This is something you'll actually really like reading." Another book is held aloft to me in a silver glow.

"Sourcery. What's it like?"

"It's witty. And it's fun. And it has a good ending. It's technically the middle of a series, but you can really dive right in... if you fall in love with Pratchett, and I feel like you might, you can start from the beginning."

"You're sure I won't be lost?" I ask, tucking my other books under a wing and taking Sourcery in hoof. "I'd rather start from the start."

"You could, but... trust me. It takes him a few books to really get into stride. This is a great example. You'll figure out what's going on from context; it's a fantasy world, not Earth."

"Alright." I shrug and tuck it under my wing with the others. "You want to sample some of my world?"

He brightens. "Totally. I really like that show. Golden Storm. Usually I'm not a huge fan of mysteries but it's somehow both dark and joyful. Find me a book like that."

I grin. Silver Star just asked me to show him all my favourites. 'Dark but joyful' is practically a jacket quote for every book on my shelf at home.

* * *

"My brother is moving out, finally," says Silver as we browse the little clothing shop. Ponies don't normally wear clothes, it's true, but there are still jackets, hats, scarves and various other things some ponies like. Currently we're just here for saddlebags for Silver Star. We had to leave the library to come here and get some; he didn't want to levitate a stack of books around all day.

"Oh? Why finally?"

"Because we knew it was going to happen and he barely spends any time in the house," he says. "He met some ponies in Trottingham who own a little basement music venue. They have room for another roommate if he helps them run better events."

"That sounds good for him."

"Yeah. Random's values are getting satisfied for sure," Silver replies idly, taking a set of saddlebags off the rack. "I like these ones. Let's get out of here."

* * *

We leave the library, laughing. Silver has five books of varying sizes in his new saddlebags; I have his two original recommendations, along with one I'd asked about. The one his human name came from. He'd been more than happy to point it out to me. Nine Princes in Amber.

"Oh 'course," he exclaims, voice dripping with goodnatured sarcasm, "my inherent violent nature as a former human is what makes me like Fight Club, because obviously the violence is the best part, and definitely the point of the whole book! How did I not see it before??"

"I dunno," I say, giggling uncontrollably. "Blinded by bloodlust?"

"Ahhh. 'Course. Every day I dream of my next street fight. My weekend's not complete unless I'm punching another stallion in a basement. You know what really keeps me going? The murders."

"See? That's exactly it. You need to kick those urges now that you're in the real world."

He looks at me sideways. "I'm not rising to that."

Damn. "Damn."

"Uh huh."

The way back to my studio goes past the archery range. Silver looks in as we go by. "Hey, Bullseye," he says, spotting a red stallion. Bullseye turns from his shelf of unstrung bows and grins.

"Hey. Silver Star, right? You gonna come by and give us a shot one of these days?" He nods to me. "Pun intended."

Silver looks to me. "What do you think, Snaps? Ever tried archery?"

I shrug. "No. I don't think I'd be good at it."

"Oh, come on. You aim a camera while flying. How hard can aiming an arrow be?"

"Actually, pegasi do tend to make really good archers," Bullseye interjects.

But I don't feel it. I give Silver a what-can-I-tell-you face. "I dunno. I'll watch you try. Should be funny with your horn magic skills."

"Ooh, ouch," says Bullseye with a grin. His own horn lights up as he pulls a bow from somewhere unseen inside the range. "Gonna take her up on that, Sil? Prove her wrong right here?"

He considers it, glaring at me sardonically while I grin at him. "You know what? Absolutely."

He takes the bow in his magic and trots into the range. I bite my tongue in glee and follow. I really, really don't think he's going to be any good. His horn magic is awful, still. But it's with some confidence that he takes a sidelong stance facing a target. Holding the bow in his magic, he eyes down the range, first with one eye, then the other. I expect Bullseye to give him some pointers, but the red unicorn just holds out a quiver full of arrows in his magic. Silver takes one; nocks it, but doesn't draw. He looks down the range again, sizing up his target in the light of the dipping sun behind us.

Then, he takes a deep breath. And stands up on his hindlegs.

My mouth drops open.

He takes the bow and arrow in his hooves, drawing back in one smooth motion as he stops holding them with his magic. A long moment passes where everything is utterly still. Then, he looses.

The dull and distant whap of arrow meeting target is followed by the bow clattering to the ground—he let it fall when he loosed—and his forehooves meeting the ground heavily as he exhales.

He gazes down the range. It's not a bullseye. But it's not all that far from one.

'Smug' doesn't quite do his expression justice. More than anything he looks proud, and more than a little pleasantly shocked at how well that worked.

"Ha ha! Wow! Somepony knows what they're doing!"

"I told you before, Bullseye. I was okay at archery in the outer realm. I figured I just had to... do what I did there."

"I'd say you were right! I've only known one other unicorn to use a technique like that. It's not easy loosing cleanly without a lot of practice. Unless you're an earth pony."

"Well I've been practising using my hooves precisely," says Silver with another smug glance at me. "Video games, you know."

"Right on. I'd love to see you here again. We have contests every month. With some practice you could be a contender!"

"Maybe." He picks up the bow in his magic and holds it out to Bullseye, who takes it back. "I'll keep you lot in mind."

"Alright, Sil. That was impressive for a first go as a pony. If any other immigrants end up here you'll be the benchmark."

Silver grins again. "Thanks. Take it easy, yeah?"

Bullseye nods and goes back to organising his shelves as Silver and I walk out of the range and start back down the road towards my studio.

After a good minute, I relent. "Okay. That was... unexpected. And impressive. You got me."

He bounces in place happily. "Got a badge for it, too. Hidden Talent. 'Surprise somepony with an act of skill'. Five hundred bits. Want to get some food? It's on me."

What the hay. "Sure."

"Burgers or pizza?"

I snort. "Oh. That sort of food." He gives me a look. "You decide. You're the one who did a real good archery."

"I choose to ignore your mockery," he says. "Burgers it is."

"Alright. Let's drop our bags at the studio, though. And let me wrap up your print. I didn't think we'd be gone this long."

"Righto." He gazes into the distance for a moment as we walk. "Wait, didn't you want to take photos of the moonrise? We might miss it."

I shake my head with a chuckle. "There'll be another crescent moon, Silver."

We round the corner and make it to my door. I sigh a little as we enter. My messenger bag, and Silver's saddlebags, go in a pile next to my desk. I pick up the print Silver chose to buy—a ghostly image of some cherry blossoms surrounded by fog, in the twilight of a setting half moon—and begin to wrap it in parchment paper, using my wings and teeth to secure it together with string.

When I'm done, I look around to see Silver Star at the far end of the studio. He's looking at the photo again; the photo of him from that first night. I waver uncertainly.

After a few moments, he speaks, still staring at the canvas.

"I'm glad you took this because if you didn't, I wouldn't have met you."

I walk over to him, and stand at his side. Looking sidelong at him I can see a lot of emotions in his face. Probably very few of them are anything to do with me. But I'm here.

Without giving him any warning, I pull him into a hug.

After a moment, he hugs me back.