• Published 17th Aug 2021
  • 1,855 Views, 330 Comments

Beginning Anew - Goldfur

A rogue portal dumped Caleb into an Equestrian desert and left him stranded in an unfamiliar universe. He has to start his life anew but a sympathetic earth pony mare offers to help him learn the ways of his new world.

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Chapter 3

As amazing as Twilight’s castle was, Caleb expected to step out into some kind of grand city. What greeted his eyes that evening was anything but impressive. Quaint thatched-roof homes and colonial-style buildings abounded. The most modern things about the unpaved roads were the electric lamp posts lining the streets giving the scene a warm homey glow. All the shops were closed but he did notice some establishments were still lit – restaurants perhaps? And he supposed one was the bar that was their destination.

“I was under the impression that Ponyville was a bit more progressive than this,” Caleb remarked.

Willow chuckled. “This is the Old Town sector – it is heritage preserved. The most modern thing about it is the underground electric supply to every building. All the new structures with modern designs are built outside this central area. However, if you want to see something more impressive, look behind you.”

They had walked maybe fifty yards from the castle by now and, when the human turned around, he was able to see its bizarre tree-like structure. Having been told that it was a living thing sounded even more believable now. However, that was not what caught his attention. To the right of the castle and slightly behind, extending into the nearby hills, was a larger sprawling edifice. The main section still echoed the style of the township but with a more up-to-date vibe. Even more buildings behind the castle were designed to fit in with the others. These showed signs of recent construction as evidenced by piles of dismantled scaffolding.

Willow said, “That the School of Friendship. Aside from Princess Twilight Sparkle making Ponyville her home base, it’s largely responsible for the growth of this town. Creatures from all over the world vie to come here to study. The institution had to double in size to cope with the demand. That’s what those newer buildings are for. They also contain facilities for some of the newer curriculums being taught.”

“They study friendship?” Caleb asked with a skeptical eyebrow raised.

“Yep. It was Princess Twilight’s idea to bring all kinds of races together to learn ways that their different cultures could harmonize with each other. Of course, the school teaches all the regular subjects too, but the students who graduate from there are regarded more favorably than most universities.”

“And with the growth of the school came the expansion in population and all the businesses that come with it,” Caleb guessed.

The earth pony nodded. “You got it. Ponyville used to be famous for its orchards, then as the Princess’s home, but now it’s because it’s a major educational center.” She smiled. “Hence all the new construction that keeps me employed.”

Caleb turned around and resumed his walk down the road. Willow fell in beside him.

“This reminds me of how many towns in the United States grew into what they are now.”

“You can tell me about them later. My job is to get you up to speed with the way things are here,” the mare reminded him.

A unicorn mare approaching them on the same side of the street suddenly stopped and then hastened to the other side before scurrying past them.

Caleb watched as the pony cast nervous looks back at them. “What was that all about?”

“Don’t mind her,” Willow replied. “Ponies tend to be nervous around strange beings. While the citizens of Ponyville have gotten inured to many of the Equian species due to the School of Friendship, not all are comfortable with every race. And let’s face it – you’re new and unique and nopony knows what you are like.”

“You didn’t seem to have a problem when we first met,” Caleb pointed out.

“I’ve fought monsters uglier and more dangerous than you. You seemed pretty harmless.”

The man gave her a flat look. “You saying I’m ugly?”

Willow giggled. “Well, you’d never make it onto the cover of Cosmarepolitan.”

Caleb rolled his eyes. “What would a pony know about humans anyway? And don’t think I haven’t seen you staring at me while I’ve been walking. If it isn’t my rugged good looks, then what?”

“Oh! It’s the way you walk on just two legs. It’s fascinating how you do that without constantly falling over.”

The man gave her a skeptical look. “I already know you have other bipedal races. I’ve even seen a minotaur from a distance.”

“Yeah, but I’ve never met one before aside from the battlefield, and my attention was focused elsewhere then. Standing on just our hind legs is tricky for ponies.”

“Put it down to our superior sense of balance. Walking is really a controlled fall. As we fall forward, we move a leg under us to prevent that and the momentum carries us onward until we reach the falling point again and we move the other leg under us. It’s pretty simple in principle.”

“Still fascinating to watch though,” Willow confessed.

Caleb said, “If you find that wondrous, you should see our acrobats!”

“Maybe I will someday.”

A few more ponies passed them as they continued onward, but those merely gave the human a cautious look and an acknowledging nod. Then, the two came upon a building from which came not just light but also music. The scent of beer confirmed to Caleb that they had reached their destination. He opened the door and waved in his companion.

“After you,” he said.

The mare smirked. “A stallion holding the door for a mare? What next? Are you going to pay the bill on your first date?” she asked as she stepped inside.

“What’s wrong with that?” the puzzled human asked as he followed her inside.

Willow made her way toward the bar. The pub was well patronized at that time and the conversation was quite loud, so it was very noticeable when it gradually died down as they progressed further in. A burly bay stallion behind the bar frowned in the direction of the disturbance but Willow ignored the reaction.

“Hi, Foamy Brew! Got a visitor for you to meet. Mind if I make an announcement?”

Without waiting for an answer, the mare jumped up onto the counter, causing the bartender to frown even deeper. However, he held his tongue while Willow addressed the room, now completely quiet as the musicians in the corner had stopped playing too.

“Mares and Gentlecolts! I would like you to meet Caleb Awad. He is a human from a distant land and Prince Mark Wells has asked me to show him around town. He’s new to everything here, so try not to overwhelm him. Let’s give a big Ponyville welcome to our new friend!”

Caleb was surprised by the rousing cheer and cries of welcome. He smiled and waved. “Thanks, everyone!”

Willow nudged him. “Everypony!” she said in a hoarse whisper.

Although it sounded a bit silly, the man repeated himself. “I appreciate the warm welcome, everypony!”

Willow jumped down from the bar and Foamy pointedly wiped it down with a cleaning rag. “Are ya gonna order anything or just make a nuisance of yerself?” he asked.

“A jug of Clydesdale Draught and two tankards, please,” the mare replied, fishing a purse from out of her mane.

Caleb wondered how it had stayed there even as Willow took out coins to pay for the brew.

Foamy filled a large jug and placed two clean glass tankards on the bar.

“Would you bring those while I find us a table?” Willow asked the human.

Caleb grabbed the jug in one hand and the two tankard handles in the other. The man ignored the gasps followed by the chatter caused by his mundane bit of manual dexterity. He then followed the mare deeper into the crowded room. They were lucky as a threesome were just leaving and offered their booth to the odd two. The man placed one of the tankards in front of Willow and the jug in the middle of the table before seating himself. He then poured some of the beer into each of their glasses which had had very large handles. Caleb noted how the mare’s hoof slipped easily under the handle to firmly hold the tankard which she then drew to her lips and took a hefty swig.

“Ah! Just what I needed,” she said.

Caleb followed suit and found the brew to be quite agreeable. The beer was earthy with a toffee-like malt flavor. It was also strong which, upon reflection, made sense for an earth pony village. Caleb took another swig before addressing his companion. “I’m surprised at how accepting everyo– everypony was.”

Willow shrugged. “Aside from a hoofful like the mare we met along the way, you won’t find a town full of ponies more accepting of strangers than Ponyville. It has seen many strange and wonderful things over the years, and the citizens are used to new things happening all the time. In fact, once they get over their shyness, you’ll probably find them a bit too friendly.”

The man raised an eyebrow. “Too friendly?”

“Fair warning, Caleb – ponies are very touchy-feely and hugs are going to happen. I noticed your reaction when Twilight hugged you; I gather that you’re not a fan?”

“Not from virtual strangers, no. Thanks for the warning. I’ll try to keep that in mind in future.”

“Good.” Willow took another drink, half emptying her tankard. “Now – more advice. If royalty invites you to dinner, you better have a bucking good excuse to decline.”

“That why you kicked me in the shin?”

“Yep. You don’t fart in the face of the Triarch who is trying to help you in favor of having a beer with a soldier.”

“I got the impression that Mark was pretty easygoing and would not have minded.”

“That’s Prince Mark to you. Let’s get down to the hard facts – you’re stuck here whether you like it or not, and as you can’t simply be a non-entity in the empire, you will be made a citizen of this nation. Prince Mark is one of the three highest authorities in this country and also one of the most powerful beings in the entire world. While he may be friendly and personable, he is still somepony who demands respect, and you don’t just blow him off. And even if he doesn’t get mad at you, you don’t want to get his wives annoyed. Believe me, they’re not nearly as tolerant of disrespect as he is.”

“Okay! Okay! I get the picture,” Caleb said, raising his hands in surrender. “But what’s this about wives? I thought he had one wife and three mares… umm… herdmates?”

Willow sighed and took another drink, draining her glass. As Caleb refilled it, she said, “According to strict legal terms, a stallion is only allowed to marry one mare. He can accept further mares into what is called a herd. However, that law was only put in place for the benefit of the nobility who wanted tight control over who was and was not an heir. They did not want any bastard foals turning up to claim part of their estates. The reality is that all the mares in the herd are the stallion’s wives, but there’s seniority with the first one being known as the lead mare.”

“Is bigamy really that common here?”

“Bigamy wasn’t even a legal concept in Equestria until the nobles interfered. Look about you – how many of the ponies here are male?”

Caleb paid close attention for the first time. He tried counting the stallions and frowned, then counted again. “I think only a third at most in this crowd. Isn’t that unusual?”

“Nope. How many stallions were taking a break at the search command center when Prince Mark brought you there?”

“Come to think of it, only two or three.”

“Right again.” Willow looked at the human earnestly. “Caleb – mares outnumber stallions about three to one. Even putting aside the fillyfoolers, that’s a huge number of females to every male. We need to make herds.”

“Fillyfoolers?” he queried.

“Lesbians,” she clarified. “And because there are still quite a lot of monogamous couples or two-mare herds, that just increases the ratio of unmated mares to stallions. Prince Mark’s four is hardly unusual.”

Caleb refilled his glass and took a long drink as he thought about that. “I don’t know how you ponies can cope with that. Heck, I don’t know how I would deal with having two wives let alone four.”

Willow chuckled. “Lucky for the stallions, they don’t have to deal with it at all. It’s the lead mare’s job to make sure that any mare joining the herd is compatible with all the others. That way, everypony is happy.”

The man thought of something he saw back at Twilight’s castle. “Is that why my bed is so huge? It’s designed to hold several adults?”

“You got it. One big cuddle pile,” Willow replied with a grin.

“What if one wants sexy fun times?”

“The lead mare has priority and the others have to wait their turn.”

“No, I mean do the others get asked to leave the room while they get it on?”

Willow gave the man an uncomprehending look. “Why would they do that?”

Oookay – ponies are into orgies,’ Caleb thought. “Forget I said anything. Anyway, if you have so many more mares than stallions, does that mean your army is mostly mares too?”

“Well, considering that the EUP nowadays has so many other species in it that don’t have the gender imbalance, that’s no longer completely correct. However, back when it was only ponies, that was true. And if you go back before the Unification, stallions were banned from the earth pony military fighting forces.”

“Mares only? That’s the opposite of what my country’s policy used to be. Even now, there aren’t too many females on the front line.”

“You obviously had males to spare – ponies could not afford to lose any of the limited number of stallions. Only the pegasi regularly had male soldiers, but they were always more arrogant about their military capabilities.”

“I suppose that makes sense. I know that in our last great war, we lost far too many men of marrying age. However, didn’t that affect your ability to put your strongest peop– ponies into battle? I can see the stallions in this bar are all bigger than the mares.”

“For pegasi, size isn’t really an advantage. Smaller ponies are more agile and maneuverable in the air which is where they do the most fighting. Unicorns rely on magic rather than physical prowess. And any earth pony is far stronger than those from the other tribes. Remember that cart I was pulling all day? I could lift that fully loaded with one hoof.”

“Pull the other one,” Caleb retorted.

Willow slammed down the now-empty tankard and stepped out of the booth. She stood there glaring defiantly at him. “Nothing suitable to lift here, but try making me move.”

“If you insist.” Caleb got up, put his hands on her barrel, and pushed. The mare didn’t move in the slightest. He then shoved a lot harder, but once again, she didn’t budge. Willow grinned mockingly.

“Are you even trying?” she asked.

Annoyed, the man leaned down and put his shoulder to the mare’s barrel. He pushed with all his might, but she might as well have been a bronze statue bolted to the floor for all the difference that it made. His feet skidded out from under him and he fell to the floor amid laughter from the nearby patrons who had been watching his antics.

Willow held out a hoof to help him up. “Earth pony strength,” she explained. “Once I anchored my hooves, you didn’t stand a chance of moving me. And I get a lot of exercise while doing my construction work. Yeah, the stallions can be stronger, but earth pony military mares have always been the backbone of the army.”

“I’m convinced,” Caleb said as he resumed his seat and reached for the empty beer jug. He held it up and caught Foamy’s eye, and the barkeep soon brought over a fresh jug. “In fact, it seems to me that you’d be a lot stronger than Prince Mark.”

Willow started howling with laughter.

The man scowled at the impudent mare. “Okay, what’s so funny?”

“The prince is an alicorn!” she gasped out.

“So? That makes him a flying unicorn, right?”

“Wrong. Alicorns are ascended beings. They possess all the abilities of every tribe including earth ponies, only to a much greater degree. I wouldn’t stand a chance against any alicorn, let alone the Prince.”

“He didn’t look that strong when that huge wooden dog had him pinned to the floor.”

“First – that’s the family pet and Prince Mark had no intention of harming him. Second, the Prince has to restrain himself or else cause injury to others. I don’t think Twiggy would have appreciated being smashed into kindling.”

“I don’t think any creature would like being killed but it wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.”

Willow chuckled. “Timberwolves can reassemble themselves. Twiggy would have had his feelings hurt at the very least.”

“Good God! How would you stop one of those creatures if it attacked ponies?”

“Fire. It’s the only thing that can permanently stop timberwolves. Smash them and set them alight before they can put themselves back together.”

“And they keep one as a pet? Sheesh!” Caleb took a few gulps of his beer.

“Yeah, you don’t want to meet one of those in the Everfree Forest. They were raised on its wild magic and they are far from friendly.”

Caleb shuddered and took another swig of beer. “I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.”

“Which?” Willow asked. “The timber wolves or alicorn power?”

“Both!” he replied fervently.

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