• Published 16th Apr 2020
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If You Would Friend a Tiger... - Coyote de La Mancha

Long ago, Princess Luna gave birth to a son from her own mystical essence. His name was Jack. She also made Jack a stuffed tiger to sleep and play with. This is his story.

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4) A Tea Party is Held.

Twilight Velvet frowned at the white and violet filly in the mirror, turning her head this way, then that. Finally, with a great sigh, she slumped onto the floor.

“I’m doomed,” she muttered.

After three weeks of being the new foal in Ponyville’s school, Mae Mare and Spoiled Milk had invited her to a tea party that afternoon. They were both a little older than her – they had their cutie marks and everything – and she really wanted to make a good impression. But she’d never been to a tea party with other fillies before.

Should she wear a dress, or was that too much? Should she style her mane? Would there be real tea, or just pretend? She didn’t know, and having to ask now would just make her look stupid.

“Ohhhhhhhhhh,” she moaned in sheer frustration, “what should I do?”

Out of habit, she glanced over where her tiger sat on top of her toy chest, always ready to offer his silent advice. He’d been a gift from her Uncle Earthworks when she’d been just a little filly. Five, or maybe six. Of course, Uncle Earthworks hadn’t been her real uncle, exactly. But he’d been an old friend of her dad and drove the train and was always nice, and she’d liked him a lot.

So, Uncle.

Uncle Earthworks had been way older than her parents, though. She didn’t know how old. But one time when he was over visiting and she was in bed because it was bedtime, she’d been crying because she’d been lonesome, and he’d come in and talked to her and told her stories until she’d fallen asleep. And the next day, he’d come over and given her his tiger to keep her company. She’d never had trouble sleeping again.

Uncle Earthworks had died a little while later. He hadn’t had any family besides them, so her mom and dad had arranged everything for him. And even though she’d been just five (or maybe six?), Twilight’s parents had let her come to the funeral to say good-bye to him. She’d brought their tiger along (now just hers, she’d realized sadly) because it only made sense that if ponies could get sad, then so could tigers.

Since then, the tiger had been her favorite toy. There was no way of counting how often they’d saved each other from pirates, battled back-to-back against Equestria’s foes, avenged the fallen and unjustly slain. Not to mention the schools they’d built and run together, with her other stuffed toys in attendance as teachers and students; how many wild safaris they’d been on to explore uncharted wilderness; how many hide-and seek-games they’d played in the kitchen and living room whenever it was too rainy to play outside.

Still: for all that he was a tiger, he couldn’t hunt very well (though Twilight would never be the one to tell him so). He always forgot to keep his tail down for one thing, so there was always this orange-and-black signpost bobbing along wherever he was in the tall grass. Also, he chuckled to himself when he got close to his prey. So, though the wildebeests usually let him get at least a little close before running away, to keep from hurting his feelings, an apex predator he was not.

Twilight Velvet smiled at the memories, then shook herself free of them. She was eight, almost nine. Getting invited to tea parties by the big girls was a sign that she was maturing, becoming a young mare. She understood that. Just as she understood that she was also, therefore, too old for playing with toys anymore.

All of which brought her back to the mirror.

She’d style her mane, she decided, but just a little. Even if the older fillies hadn’t, that shouldn’t be too much. As for the dress, well, Mae Mare was hosting it in her back yard, and her yard had a big white fence. Twilight could peek in before she entered. If nopony else was wearing dresses, she’d leave it by the gate where they wouldn’t see.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Twilight went to gather her dress. She knew just the one, too.

Digging it out of her bottom drawer, she put it on quickly, spinning happily in front of the mirror. Her mom had said it brought out her eyes nicely, and now Twilight Velvet had to agree. Plus, she still had plenty of time to eat something (in case all the tea and snacks were just pretend) and head over to the party.

After the party, the three of them would be the best of friends, she decided as she modeled. Even if her dad’s job moved them all back to Canterlot next year – which he’d warned her and Mom that it might – that was no reason not to make friends. If she moved again they could be pen pals, filling page after page with their adventures. Details of what it was like to live where they lived, sharing tales of their school days, and later even their first dates…

And then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw her tiger, sitting alone on the toy chest. She knew that the sideways tilt in his neck was because some of his stuffing had gotten smooshed over the years…

But, well, he still looked sad.

“I’m just going to Mae Mare’s house,” she said out loud. “They won’t have toys there, it’s a big girl party. But it won’t take long, I promise. I have to be home before dark anyway.”

The tiger just sat there, head cocked to one side. Looking down a little, maybe.

Twilight Velvet sighed again.

“We’ll play when I get back,” she heard herself saying. She blinked, a little surprised at herself, then shrugged. If playing toys wasn’t fun anymore – which she was sure it wasn’t, her being a young mare now – she could always stop.

Then again, what if it was a tea party with toys? Twilight frowned again. Mae Mare and Spoiled Milk weren’t that much older. Maybe tea parties were the exception.

Ultimately, she made a frustrated noise, though she was smiling as she did.

“Urgh! Okay, you win, you can come. But,” and she looked into his scuffed black eyes sternly, “if it turns out to be a pony-only party, I have to leave you to guard the gate. Like a soldier. Okay?”

She waited a moment, then nodded, and carried him downstairs to get snacks before they headed out.

* * * *

Twilight Velvet peered in through the white picket gate with the stealth of a master hunter who always remembered to keep her tail down. There were Spoiled and May, sitting at a small table with a child’s tea set and plates of cookies.

“They have real snacks,” she confided to the tiger happily, “and tea… and they’re wearing dresses! Yes!” She almost jumped for joy, but then she realized.

“Oh,” she said softly, her tail drooping a little. “There aren’t any toys.”

She was more disappointed than she’d expected to be. She glanced at a place by the gate, a small depression in a corner with tall grass. Even if he forgot to keep his tail down again, it was a fine place for a tiger on guard duty.

She looked over her shoulder at the stuffed tiger on her back, then back at the older fillies. She couldn’t walk into their tea party with a stuffed toy. She couldn’t. What would Mae Mare and Spoiled Milk think?

But then, Twilight thought about the time she’d been imprisoned in Tartarus by the evil knight Sir Vile and his terrible master the archmage Fatcat, and how only her tiger had been able to free her, braving Tartarus and all its demons at every turn…

It was just pretend, of course. But still, she’d always imagined that if the tables had turned she would do the same for him.

With determined eyes, Twilight Velvet opened the gate wide, and strode into Mae Mare’s back yard. She made sure the gate didn’t slam, and she made sure to take her time. But just the same, she entered with her head and tail held high, her tiger riding proudly on her back.

* * * *

At first, everything went well. Mae had kept her purple mane in a simple cascade down her neck, while Spoiled had opted for an elaborate beehive-like affair. So, Twilight’s simple do fit in perfectly as a middle ground between the two.

Plus, there were a few extra places set at the table. Mae explained as she greeted Twilight that her family always set the table with unexpected guests in mind, just in case. So, Twilight happily set her tiger at one of them and poured him tea. The three of them talked about nothing in particular for a while, calling one another “Miss Mae” and “Miss Spoiled,” until Mae finally asked…

“So, Miss Twilight, if I’m not prying, what is your guest’s name?”

Twilight Velvet stopped chewing for a moment. Uncle Earthworks had told her their tiger’s special name, of course. But she knew enough about tigers to understand that such a name was not to be shared lightly. Taking another sip of tea, she swallowed her bite of cookie.

“Um, well,” she began, “tigers have a lot of names. Most of them we’ll never know. And he has a special name, one that’s really old and kind of a secret. But it means ‘Bright Fame’ in modern Ponish, kind of, so I guess we can call him that.”

Mae nodded. “I see. So, with a name like that, is he a soldier?”

Twilight let out the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.

“Not exactly,” she said. “But tigers are great warriors and hunters.”

“Mmm,” Mae nodded again as she took a sip. “He has a killer’s eye, too. One can tell.”

“He does,” Twilight agreed, wondering which eye was the killer one. “He hunts down evil monsters and stuff.”

“Well, then,” Mae smiled. “Mister Bright, you’re very welcome here. Would you care for a cookie?”

“Oh, honestly, Miss Mae,” Spoiled said, rolling her eyes, “You don’t have to humor her like that. I mean, don’t you think it’s a little weird, carrying some old stuffed toy around?”

Twilight started, taken aback by the sudden shift. “Um…”

"Honestly, if she keeps carrying that old tiger around all the time, ponies will think she’s a weanling. In fact, you know as well as I do that lots of ponies do already."

“Please don’t be upset, Miss Twilight,” Mae said smoothly, pouring Twilight some more tea. “She’s just teasing you.”

“Sure,” Spoiled added with a cruel smile. “Don’t cry about it. That’s what weanlings do.”

“I—” Twilight blinked back tears, her throat starting to tighten.

“Now, ladies, let’s don’t quarrel,” Mae said quickly. “Perhaps we should change the subject. Miss Spoiled, would you care for another cookie?”

“Oh, yes please,” Spoiled rejoined happily. “But can we please keep from giving our snacks to that smelly old tiger of hers? It’s obviously just a ploy for her to get more than us.”

Twilight was standing now, though she hadn’t meant to move. The other fillies were still talking, she could just hear them over the roaring sound in her ears. She could feel the wet on her cheeks, but she didn’t want to call attention to her tears by wiping them away.

Mae was staring at Twilight with wide eyes. “Um… Spoiled…?”

But Spoiled just waved the matter away. “Oh, please, Twilight, I’m just teasing you, like Mae said. Besides, you have to admit you’d have more friends if you weren’t so weird all the time.”

Then, turning to Mae Mare, she added, “You should see the stuff she draws in art class, sometime. Nothing but that stupid toy cat of hers.”

“Spoiled,” Mae managed weakly, “Stop it.”

“What? I’m just trying to be nice to her by telling her the truth,” Spoiled replied. “That’s what friends do. And you know as well as I do that everypony thinks her thing with tigers is strange, and that’s why nopony likes her. Even you only invited her because you felt sorry for her—”

Mae whipped her head to look at Twilight’s stricken face. “That’s not true!”

“I’m just trying to help,” Spoiled said. She was still speaking to Mae Mare, but now she was looking right at Twilight. “Celestia knows she needs it. I mean, look at that stupid thing. She probably found it in a trash can somewhere, and now she can’t let go of it.”

Something cold flowed through Twilight’s body then, cooling the fires that had been building within her.

Reaching down, she picked up a napkin in her perfectly steady hoof. With great dignity, she wiped her face dry. Then, she picked up her tiger, put him on her back, and trotted back to the gate, head and tail held high.

“Um, Twilight…?” Mae managed.

Twilight Velvet paused at the gate and turned to Mae Mare, addressing her and her alone with a voice that was both calm and gracious.

“I’m sorry Miss Mae, but I’m afraid you’ll have to continue without us. We don’t have tea with ponies who aren’t nice to tigers.”

And then she was gone, allowing the gate to gently slam behind her.

* * * *

The terrible Fatcat had somehow returned, placing all of Equestria in his diabolical thrall, freezing them in magical ice.

But that hadn’t been enough. The dreadful archmage hadn’t just wanted power, he’d wanted revenge!

So it was that Bright Fame, feared defender of ponies everywhere, had been overwhelmed by the thousands of wendigo at his enemy’s disposal, and ultimately imprisoned within the deepest pits of Tartarus.

Twilight Velvet was afraid, of course. Any pony would be.

But Bright Fame was her friend. And he had saved her from Tartarus before.

It was only fair that she returned the favor.

The journey was longer than she’d remembered it being before, the perils in greater numbers. But Twilight persevered, through untold dangers and impossible odds. Against the wendigo, against the strange denizens of Tartarus… and even against Sir Vile himself: once slain by Bright Fame, now re-created by Fatcat’s evil magic into a monstrous knight of darkness and fire.

Finally, it came down to Twilight Velvet’s mastery of magic against the evil wizardry of Fatcat, Lord of Tartarus. He fought savagely, using every dirty trick and deadly spell that had ever been known.

But ultimately, the outcome was never really in doubt. Fatcat was defeated by the mighty sorceress, cast down into the flaming pits he had plundered for their forbidden knowledge, there to die forever. The world was saved, and Bright Fame was freed.

And so, friendship triumphed in the end, as it always must.

Just in time for bed.