• Published 6th Oct 2012
  • 1,877 Views, 101 Comments

A Discordant Tale - piedol



A story of Ponies, Humans and Discord, and the tragedy lost to history.

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Chapter 6

ADT Chapter 6

Honestly, it wasn't that far of a distance between Canterlot and Ponyville; About two dozen kilometers at most. With the speed we were soaring at, the trip itself took no longer than two hours. It was completely uneventful as far as the actual journey went, due mostly to my no-talky-talky curse, except for right when we were departing...

Holy moist crumpets.

Holy what? Where did that come from?

Remember how Celestia was sort of... Weird?

Yes, in several ways. Could you be more specific?

When we first met her. You'll recall she was somehow able to sneak up on you while you were sleeping, because I couldn't sense her aura for some reason?

I'd just assumed she was concealing it.

Hah. No chance of that ever happening. I just realized why she was invisible to your non-physical senses. Turn around and use your second sight.

I did so, relaxing my aura once more and letting it form a veil before me. What I saw was utterly beyond belief, and made my heart stop cold.

Canterlot City; That's how large it was. I was staring open-mouthedly at an orb of celestial white flames that encompassed the entirety of Canterlot, from end to end. At first I'd thought it was a protection spell since it was similar in size and shape to the one used by Shining Armor during the attempted Changeling takeover, but it was not a solid orb. Its hue, consistency and shimmering form left me with no doubt in my mind, though I still had trouble accepting it.

Please tell me that's the collective energy of every citizen of Canterlot somehow globbed together into a nightmarish mass.

I won't lie to you. That's one soul and one soul alone. It belongs to someone you should be thankful you didn't piss off.

How did you not notice that, exactly?

You'll notice that the environment you're in right now is far less saturated with energy than Canterlot Castle's gardens were. All living creatures leave some residue behind once they've existed somewhere. Back at the observatory, you saw that residue as a white fog permeating the gardens around us. I'd just believed that was because the land itself was swarming with life. It wasn't until we left the city, and the range of her aura, that I was able to sense things with sudden clarity, and realize just what we've been dealing with since we arrived.

Spiritual residue? Where the heck are you getting this information?

Discord left me with more than just magic. It would have been unwise to send you here without the basest knowledge of what you’d be doing, so he imparted some of his more technical knowledge with me. I’m ashamed to say that, while I had the information, I wasn’t able to make the connection till I saw it I action. I’ll be more on the ball in the future.

… Whatever. I’ve met two ponies that I recognize so far, and I’m several orders of magnitude weaker then both. I’m going to learn and eventually outshine them.

That's like an ant trying to arm wrestle a sphinx. I'd tell you to accept your place, but that'd only make you fight reality harder. I wish you luck, General Asshat.

Oh hardy-har.

My internal reverie concluded, I instead focused on taking in the sights of Equestria's Mile High club. Honestly, we weren't that high up, but a fall from that height directly to solid ground would leave more than a few gibs to clean up.

One thing I was quick to notice about Equestria was that the clouds were at a far lower altitude than I was used to seeing them at. We were only a few hundred feet up, and the air wasn't even chilly yet, nevertheless I saw dozens of tiny recognizable white puffs floating around far below us. It was only upon seeing these that it occurred to me that Canterlot also had clouds both above and below the city, ranging from free floating blobs that drifted aimlessly around highest towers to arranged formations, such as the race course along the side of the mountain it was all built into.

The Pegasi controlled the weather here. I'd have to remember that. Even the plants didn't grow without a pony to tend to them, if I recalled correctly. I was ignorant of the exact mechanics of Equestria's nature, but I'd figure it out in time.

After some time, the carriage tilted downwards, interrupting my relaxed observations. It didn't lurch, but the unexpected change in angle sent my stomach into my throat and made me freeze involuntarily. Looking dead ahead, I could see the reason for our descent; Ponyville in all its technicolor glory was before us.

About time we got this show on the road.

Unlike Canterlot, which had been primarily made out of stone, marble and precious metals almost entirely themed in white and gold, Ponyville was a far more cozy settlement. Even from a hundred feet away, I could make out the various thatched and wooden roofs and simple yet colorfully painted buildings that lay scattered about the small town. It was a far cry from the regality of my place of arrival, and that was a welcome refreshment to me.

The pegasi continued to descend towards an ever so slightly lowering trajectory. Not a word was shared between them, yet they moved in perfect synchronicity as they tilted their wings lower and lower to control our angle of descent. Within a minute of beginning their dive, we'd landed at the outskirts of Ponyville.

Both soldiers unsaddled themselves and came around to the back of the carriage to meet me. I had partly expected them to just drop me off and leave, but then it occurred to me that I would not only need to be shown where Cashmere Down lived, but to also be introduced to at least some of Ponyville's residents. I couldn't very well do that myself on account of the still functioning ‘STFU’ spell that had been cast on me, so I welcomed any assistance granted.

As I dismounted, I heard a stifled gasp off to my left. The three of us pivoted to perceive a pair of particular pink and purple peeking ponies pitched in a patch of petunias. No, I'm not sorry.

Oh mah gudnais! It's Twilight and Pinkie Pie! Quick, do I have anything for them to sign?! Wait- No. Self control. They're just two more ponies. I'm going to stay calm and treat them as such.

Try not to get any drool on them.

You underestimate my power...

"Ugh! Pinkie, let go of me!" growled the purple mare as she struggled to detach herself from a candy-colored limb that was dragging her to the ground.

"But what if-"

"It's not going to eat us! Princess Celestia wouldn't have sent us to greet the creature if it were dangerous in any shape or form," Twilight indignantly explained. I wasn't sure if I should be annoyed or amused at how they were reacting to me.

"Of course it's not dangerous, you silly filly," countered the Earth pony. "I was going to ask you if it might be shy. We should have snuck up on it so that it didn't see us from a distance and get spooked." That's Pinkie logic for ya.

One of the burly pegasi beside me called to them, "Ahem, ladies?"

Twilight jumped as if she'd only just realized that they were being observed. "Oh! Sorry about that, Mister royal guard. Just a moment." She finally snatched her forehoof away and trotted over to us, a leather saddlebag slung across her back.

"Ackies!" Pinkie was dragged out of the patch of roadside flowers that had been concealing her by the force of Twilight's pull and tumbled fully into view.

"Well there goes any chance of a surprise 'hello'!" was her only comment, after which she just lay on her back in the dirt, presumably thinking Pink.

The unicorn gave a Luna-reminiscent sigh before formally introducing herself. "Good morning, guards and guest. My name is Twilight Sparkle; Personal protege to Princess Celestia herself. Though, I'm sure at least two of you already knew that." She giggled nervously at her attempt at humor and turned to me. "I'm here on behalf of the Princess, as I just received a letter from her informing me of your approach and plans to stay in the town indefinitely. Welcome to Ponyville! I just know you're going to love it here. I've been instructed to give you a tour of the town and introduce you to the most important ponies here to help you get settled in as quickly as possible. We can be on our way as soon as-"

Her eyes suddenly widened with a combination of realization and remembrance.

"Oh, right. She said you wouldn't be able to speak until I removed that spell on you. Just a moment." She closed her eyes. "Let's see, how did that cure go again..."

Her horn glowed softly for a second, though the effect was nearly lost in the full light of the morning sun. Immediately, I felt my tongue begin to shrink like a deflating balloon, and seconds later my mouth was once again free and usable.

I flexed my jaw for a while, working out the kinks formed after the hours spent with it wedged open.

"Are you okay?" she asked. "Did it work? That was only my second time trying that particular spell on something living, but it's simple enough. I sure hope I didn't mess it up."

"Testing- Yeah, I'm good. Thanks Twi...light," I caught myself. Once again, I had to remind myself that I was supposed to be unfamiliar with anyone there.

"If you don't mind me asking, why exactly did you have a puff-tongue spell on you?"

Because you're an idiot.

"Because Celestia doesn't take kindly to sarcasm," I curtly answered.

"I... Would imagine not," she said unsurely. "Anyway, are you all set for the tour?"

I nodded.

"In that case, I'll take it from here, gentlemen," she told the soldiers with a polite smile. "Thanks again for your help."

The pegasi shrugged and returned to their chariot saddles without another word. Bastards didn't even wish me luck, after all we'd been through together...

As they hitched themselves up for departure, Twilight attempted to strike up a conversation. "To be honest, I'm not exactly the kind of pony to go around helping others socialize, much less a stranger. That's why-"

She was cut off as a lump of pink fluffy hair appeared between us, and its proud owner finished for her. "That's why I volunteered to make sure you're all buddy buddy with every mare, stallion and cupcake in town by day's end! Hi, name's Pinkie Pie! What's yours? What are you? How come I've never seen one of you before? Why're you moving into Ponyville? What goes up white, but comes down yellow, gray an-" Her verbal assault was thankfully silenced by a well-placed purple hoof.

Twilight gave me an apologetic look, "Sorry about that. Pinkie can be rather..."

"Suffocating?" I supplied.

"I was going for 'overwhelming', but whichever you think applies more," she laughed.

Pinkie messily spat her hoof out, much to Twilight's disgust, and piped in once more, "Speaking of suffocating, geez Twilight! Give a girl some space!"

The unicorn just glared silently at the unapologetic, perpetually grinning party pony as she wiped the unappreciated slobber off onto the dirt track. She nudged her head to the town entrance a little ways before us, and began trotting towards it. I walked briskly behind her, and Pinkie Pie cheerfully bounced beside us.

Without even needing to close her eyes or tense in focus, Twilight lifted a trusty list and quill from the pack at her side. The objects were surrounded in a subtle purple glow as they moved to hover before her, pen poised and at the ready to begin ticking off numerous unfilled boxes visible on the paper. Such a feat of telekinetic prowess was well beyond me at the moment, due in part to my inexperience, and also to my sleep deprivation, so I watched her with mild jealousy.

"Alright," she said, "let's begin, shall we? First thing's first; What's your name?"

"It's Joseph," I answered. "Joseph Palmyran," I added as an afterthought. I rarely made use of my last name, but I just wanted to be thorough.

"Alright Joseph, the Princess tells me you're one of a kind here in Equestria, and that you come from a far off land ruled by 'humans' instead of ponies. She also said that your culture is very similar to ours, and put me in charge of making sure you get accustomed to ours." She paused briefly and put a hoof to her chest as a show of dedication, "You can count on me! I'll make sure you know the ins and outs of our history, traditions, magic and - something she strangely decided to emphasize - our diets."

"Uh, right," I nervously laughed.

As we neared the first set of buildings, we passed a few sets of ponies heading to and from the town. Every one of them reacted to the sight of a tall, bipedal creature strolling beside two of the most well-know ponies in town. Some did double, then triple takes. Some openly stared, or gawked. Much to my chagrin though, none screamed, or cried "Monster!". I was simply an oddity, and being in the presence of two relaxed ponies said a lot for my deadliness.

So much for terrifying the locals.

"Well, with that on the table," said Twilight, "our first stop will be at Miss Cashmere Down's manse so that you can get your bearings, after which we'll be going to introduce you to the Mayor, followed by Sweet Apple Acres, and then to Sugarcube Corner for lunch. Anything after that is up to you." She said all this while scribbling away at the parchment before her.

I looked over at the list and saw that she had indeed made plans for every one of the locations she had called, and then some. There were even scribbled estimates for times of both arrival and departure next to each name. She said that she had only 'just' gotten the Princess' letter, so I didn't see how she could have possibly planned an entire morning to accommodate a complete stranger on such short notice.

"Hold on, 'manse', you said?" I asked as I finished processing her words.

"Yupperoni!" answered Pinkie before Twilight could even open her mouth. "Cashy's got one heck of a house on her hooves. It's mostly guest rooms, which is strange, cuz she doesn't ever have any guests over. You're actually the first as far as I know."

"Cashy?" I repeated incredulously. "You call a mare with a name like Cashmere Down 'Cashy'? That hardly seems fitting."

She rolled her eyes. "Ugh, tell me about it! I used to call her ‘Downy’, which sounds way cuter, but for some reason that made her really really mad, especially when I used the name in public."

Twilight slapped her forehead with a hoof and sighed, but said nothing. I just tried my best not to laugh.

We gradually transitioned from fields with houses sparsely scattered here and there to regularly spaced homes as we walked. Every building was more decorated and looked more lived in than the last. Before I knew it, we were officially in Ponyville, surrounded by colorful structures and confused ponies on all sides.

Needless to say, the number of strange looks I got increased exponentially as we got closer to the densely populated hub of the community. Scores of curious inhabitants turned to stare at the never-before-seen creature that was padding along with both the local bookworm and party animal.

While Twilight tried her best not to shrink back under the combined focus of so many ponies at once, Pinkie seemed to love the attention, giggling with increasing frequency as townsfolk kept dropping whatever they had been holding in their mouths at the moment, or kept on performing their various tasks and chores without focusing on them. She outright fell over laughing when an unfortunate mare at a cafe we were passing failed to pay attention as she carried a cake to a customer and tripped over her own hooves, splattering both herself and him in whipped cream and frosting. Twilight's ears just went further back along her head.

It wasn't long before we reached our destination, but it sure felt like it. A couple nosy kids and gossipy individuals had actually had the nerve to follow us at a distance from time to time, just to see what we were up to. There wasn't anything wrong with it, but I wanted to be feared, if not accepted. Nobody likes being a freakshow.

"Well, here you are," declared the lavender unicorn as we came to a stop before one building that was admittedly larger than most of what I'd seen thus far. "This is the home of Cashmere Down. I can't really tell you what to expect while staying here, since I don't really know her all that well, but she is one of the Princess' most relied upon contacts here in Ponyville, so you can be sure you're in capable hooves."

The wooden house was painted entirely white save for the tan roof, and was easily the length of any two of the surrounding buildings. There was no lawn, but two palm trees were set at opposite ends of the structure, making it all look extremely elegant, if not a little out of place in the countryside town. A simple short flight of steps led to a shaded verandah which had several chairs and even a swinging bench to make sure that any visitors were comfortable even when outside of the no doubt elegant interior.

I finished appreciating the view and walked up to the door, my two companions staying close behind. I lifted a hand and gave the doorbell a firm press, hearing a single ring resonate from indoors and echo throughout the building. I then stood at the door and waited for Cashmere's response.

And waited, and waited.

Seconds turned into minutes, during which I repeatedly tried to signal the owner of the house, but met with no success. My patience quickly wore thin, and became outright irritation.

"Huh. That's strange. I would have expected someone with her status to be a bit more punctual," said a confused Twilight.

Pinkie hopped around excitedly, "Maybe she's been kidnapped again! Ooh, this is the perfect chance to try out my new spy gear. This time I’ve even got a grappling hook!"

"Wait, what do you mean 'again'?" I asked suspiciously. "She's been kidnapped before?"

"If you count getting randomly dragged off by Pinkie every couple of weeks to do who-knows-what as being kidnapped, then, yes," Twilight wryly answered.

I wasn't sure what to think. Had she gone out for whatever reason? Twilight did have a point. Someone that was outright depended upon by the Princess would be expected to be at the ready when they were needed. Perhaps she simply hadn't heard the doorbell?

I began hammering the button as rapidly as I could just to be sure, its echoing dings melding together into a deep and steady thrum that, while clearly audible from outdoors, must have been an absolute nightmare for anybody within. Hey, if she wasn't home, no harm done, right?

There was a loud crash from in the house. I abruptly ceased my incessant ringing and listened closely, hoping that I hadn't somehow broken something. There was now the unmistakable sound of someone moving around and speaking coming from somewhere inside.

I pressed my ear to the door, and the muffled speech became recognizable as a female voice. "... I swear to Celestia's Great Aunt Beatrice, PINKAMENA, IF THAT'S YOU AGAIN, YOU'D BEST START RUNNING NOW!"

The shouted warning was accompanied by the steady clops of a pony fast approaching the entrance. Foreseeing the incoming mishap that would befall me, considering that the door swung outwards, I took a big step back away from the thick and undoubtedly hard wood, just in time for it to slam open and reveal a particularly irate looking tan-maned pegasus glaring out at the world.

A pegasus? But the Princess said 'studious'! Pegasi are supposed to be, like, the natural equivalent of pony jocks! his can't really be-

"Cashy! You're okay and not kidnapped!" The jubilant Earth pony rushed up to the supposed Cashmere Down and smothered her with a hug, to which the annoyed mare reacted by doing absolutely nothing.

She just allowed Pinkie to become sufficiently attached to her, and actually wrapped a white foreleg tightly around her neck, almost as if to hold her closer. She then asked very calmly, "Pinkamena, were you the one that woke me up at this ungodly hour and caused me to break yet another of my expensive Canterlot wine glasses?"

"Nope! That was Jo-Jo over there." She pointed directly at me.

Cashmere's green irises orbited towards me, and I immediately noticed the bloodshot white surrounding them. Several things occurred to me in the space of the next few awkward seconds of silence:

This pony had been drinking. This pony was enduring a very acute case of hangover, and I had prematurely woken her from her drunken slumber by the worst possible way you can wake anything ever from its drunken slumber—loud and repetitive noise. She was angry, and she had just been given a target.

She stared at me, not seeming surprised, but not saying anything or changing her deadpan expression to indicate otherwise. After several tense moments in which I debated running more than twice, she spoke.

"Did you wake me up?" she asked.

"N- Yes," I bravely answered.

She immediately released her grip of Pinkie and turned to Twilight, "I don't know what he is, or what you're here for, but the reason had better be damn good unless you want to end up leaving here with one less creature thing than you showed up with."

Twilight didn't flinch or shy away despite Cashmere's harsh tone. I wish the same could be said for me. Even Pinkie backed off once she picked up on her mood. Surprisingly enough, the otherwise reclusive unicorn met the red-eyed glare of the pegasus with a serious stare of her own.

"Miss... Cashmere, please tell me that you—one of Princess Celestia's very own trained, private and professional contact—are not drunk," she asked very slowly.

"I aint drunk," the annoyed mare replied. "I was drunk. Now I just have one heck of a headache to show for it. Now are you going to explain why the three of you are here, or can I get straight to making him regret disturbing my beauty sleep?"

Twilight flashed a distasteful look, but suppressed it and complied, "Well, Cashmere," I noticed the sudden absence of a title, "I'm here on behalf of the Princess to help Joseph, the human here, around town, and our first stop has to be at your house. Is it safe to assume you know what for?"

The anger immediately vanished from Cashmere's face and she glanced meaningfully towards a stack of unopened letters and parcels visible on a table in the entry hall, on top of which sat a scroll with a distinct and intact red seal marking its unread status.

"Uhhh, yeah, of course I do." Her demeanor instantly changed into that of a more soft-spoken and less murder-inclined pony. "I've been expecting you, Mister Joseph. It's a pleasure to finally meet you in the flesh. You'll find me to be a very accommodating host, and my cozy house is only half as warm as my heart. Forgive me for my initial impression, but I'm recovering from a serious ailment and sometimes drink is the only thing a pony can resort to for comfort. Please, come inside and make yourself at home." She smiled wide and gestured invitingly towards the inside of her house.

What the balls... Did Celestia have to choose old Hyde pony here, out of all the possible options?

Sleep with a knife under your pillow and you'll be fine. Maybe. Make it two knives and a cyanide pill, just to be safe.

Not wanting to antagonize her further by stalling, I accepted her invitation and walked into the corridor. Twilight and Pinkie made no move to follow, looking at the doorway as if it were a barrier into some other world.

"We'll wait here, thanks," Twilight said as politely as she could manage, and seated herself on the nearest bench.

Pinkie was quick to follow her lead. "Yeah, I think I'll stick with Twi. Just check out your new pad and then it's back to the tour!"

I nodded, and Cashmere looked at them darkly. She opened her mouth to say something, but nervously glanced at me and seemed to reconsider.

"Suit yourselves," she grumbled, and slammed the door.

We've been abandoned with a psycho. Twilight, Pinkie, I'll never forget this!

"Rooms are upstairs," she told me once we were alone. "There's a good bit to choose from, so just take a look at them and tell me which one you want. Just know that the one on the far left is occupied and off limits."

There was a flight of stairs at the very end of the glossy white corridor that led up to the second storey of the building. There had only been two storeys visible from outside, but I also suspected that she had an attic because of the triangular shape of her roof. I'd have time to look for all that later.

The last I saw of Cashmere as I ascended the stairs was her hastily cracking open the letter that Silas had sent her once she thought my back was turned. I could only hope that she took the news of my sudden imposition well.

The walls along the stairs were decorated with several photographs of Cashmere, but in each one she shared the frame with someone else. In some there were ponies, both male and female. There were also pictures containing griffins, zebras, donkeys and even one with a familiar muscular blue minotaur. Each scene featured Cashmere and her company standing together before her house, which remained much the same in each shot. Previous tenants. perhaps?

I reached the top and found myself in another corridor, except this one ended with a large glass window overlooking a section of the town. Doors lined the walls on both sides, numbering six in total with each spaced almost ten feet from the next.

Five large unused rooms to decide between. Maybe I should get a job working for the Princess too. Her tips must be damn fine.

I opened the first door on my left and found myself in a large bedroom with the standard furnishings. There was a wardrobe, dresser, and a couple shelves, all completely empty. There were plain blue curtains across two normal windows, a regular bed; It was all pretty standard fare, if even a bit bland for such a grandiose house.

Moving on, I found the second room to be slightly more interesting. In addition to what the previous one had had, it featured a vanity table lined with jewels along the edges. Beside it were several assorted brushes, combs, clips and other haircare products, so that the room’s occupant would be able to groom themselves in whatever manner they saw fit. To go along with these, there was also a much pinker, fluffier bed. By the way, when I said that it was ‘more interesting’, I meant that. I didn’t mean that it was any more appealing than the bare essentials.

Maybe if I were slightly less inclined towards being straight.... NEXT!

It continued in this fashion for the next two rooms.

One was chock full of board games, like chess and checkers and that weird Asian thing with the dots (Except, you know, with less Asian history behind it.), as well as having a wall mounted dart board, and even a full size pool table. Distractions are nice and all, but I much preferred to lose myself in a good book, or violent video game.

The other was really nice; As opposed to the single-tone walls and relatively tame features of the rooms before, the walls were all painted with various landscapes, as were the curtains, and the ceiling. Even the tiled floor—which was something different, since all the other rooms had wooden floorboards—had a different scene or creature depicted on each ceramic square. It also had several easels, brushes and paints set aside in one corner so that the person sleeping there would have an outlet for their inspiration, should it ever strike while they were indoors. While I wasn’t particular to painting, it was the most relaxing choice yet, and I would have taken if the next room hadn’t been so... Awesome.

If nothing else, I guess I’ll go for- OH GOD

It was pretty much the same deal as the first room. Standard furniture. Standard decorations. Except it had a freaking RECORD PLAYER in one corner, as well as three fully stocked shelves of the discs right above it, and a piano to the right of that. That may not sound like much to you, but you have to remember that I no longer had my phone, or internet access. All I could really use to entertain myself was magic, and here I’d been given an opportunity to enjoy music again. I’m not a picky guy, so whether it be rock or classical, I could lose myself in a beat. The piano, I didn’t know jack about using, but I suppose it’s nice to have options, right?

Point is, I leapt at the chance to get some music back in my life. Any place, no matter how magical, would eventually get boring without something to jam to.

That's that, then.

I made my way downstairs, but Cashmere was not where I had left her. I looked around, but the kitchen, dining room and living room were vacant of all forms of bipolar pony life. It was only when I was walking back out into the main hall that I noticed a small, out of the way door that was almost hidden beneath the stairs.

I knocked, heard no reply, and opened it to find a surprisingly spacious study. The walls were lined with enough books on enough variations of literature, science and magic for it to be labeled a small library. It had no windows to allow in light from the outside world, but it was equipped with dozens of softly glowing crystals that gave enough luminescence for that to be unnecessary. Cashmere was at a wide desk that was stacked high with many volumes of what appeared to be biology texts, two of which were open and in the process of being simultaneously consulted with what was either intense focus or enthusiasm, or some mixture of the two.

She had her back turned to the entrance and gave no indication that she'd heard me approach, so I called out, "I've made my choice. I'll take the first room on the right."

Cashmere answered without looking up or turning. "Alright, I'll have it ready for you in a bit. You're going to take a look around town now, right?"

"Yeah. I think I'll be back a little after lunch."

She waved a hoof to shoo me off. "No need to rush. Spend the day looking around if you need to. The more familiar you are with the layout of everything, the better, right?”

“I guess so.” What I really guessed was that she just didn’t want to be disturbed. “What’s with all the sudden research?”

Cashmere turned to me with a grimace, as if ashamed for what she was about to say. “I'm used to having strange guests from far off lands in my house, but you're a first even for me. I find it hard to just accept that I've never so much as heard of your kind before today, neither from texts or my colleagues in any of Canterlot’s research divisions, and you suddenly show up for an indefinite stay with a species that you’re familiar enough with to know the language of? I've got questions that I want answered, but that's for later. You can go."

I turned to head out and meet the two ponies that had been waiting for me for the better part of fifteen minutes, but the moment I took my first step she halted me.

"Wait."

Cashmere trotted over from her books and stopped directly before me, peering up into my face with the first sign of acute interest that she'd shown since our initial meeting.

"Would you do me a favor and lean down a bit, opening your mouth as wide as possible?" she asked.

I laughed as my mind painted a dozen different images to accompany her request. "If this is about what I think it's about, I'll tell you right now that I don't swallow."

She gave me a deadpan stare. "Well, at least I can conclude that you are in fact male. Now, if you'd be so kind..."

I did as she asked, and she closely inspected the inside of my mouth. She even went so far as to use a hoof, which was solid but also surprisingly pliable, to pull my lips apart to reveal more of my teeth and gums for observation.

After several seconds, she grunted in acceptance to let me know that she was done, and I stood upright.

"Omnivore," she said. "That solves one problem, at least. You'll be a lot less awkward to cook for than a griffin."

"You know, you could have just asked me."

She surprised me with a grin. "But you learn so much more through action and observation. Just by obeying without question, you told me that you have some form of natural curiosity. By taking the room with the music over the others, you showed me that you prefer mental imagery and meditation to silence, or plain distraction. By making that crude joke just now, you told me that you, for want of not offending any uninvolved species, are a bottom."

I snickered. "Got me there."

Cashmere returned to the desk, calling over her shoulder along the way, "Enjoy your day, Joseph. Also, be sure to return with steady nerves. Trust me on that."

I nodded and walked from the room.

I wonder what she meant by that? I asked myself as I neared the front door.

Man, if only I’d known...

End of Chapter 6

Another week, another chapter. I'd like to give a shout-out to Jorofrarie, for constructive criticism with this and every chapter so far besides the first. Story's progressing as steadily as planned, and will ramp up very soon. Cashmere's OC, which means I get to go all out on her personality and back-story. :D

Yeah, she drinks a lot. Yeah, she's slightly bipolar. Yeah, she can get REALLY grumpy, and will often use violence to have her way. Yeah, you'll learn to love her. :3

ONWARDS, WITH GREAT STRENGTH. Next chapter will be the longest yet. After that, though, I might have to slow down updates a bit, because exams are coming up, and I'm not sure if I'll have the time to plan and write out a story that's as vivid and believable as I've been trying to maintain till now with that drain on my attention.

I'll see if I can pre-write a chapter or two by next week, and that'll give me the time to split between pointless tests (srsly, I'm not even going to use the certificates for passing them because Psychology only requires a prerequisite course that you GET WHEN YOU APPLY TO DO IT) and my precious writing (PONIEEEEEEEEES).

Till next week, everyone.