• Published 6th Oct 2012
  • 1,874 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 7

ADT Chapter 7

"So?"

"So what?"

"So how was she?" Twilight elaborated.

"Huh?"

"She certainly didn't seem like a pony that exactly lived up to her position at first glace—or second—but her act was quick to change when she got word of the Princess. I want to know if you think she'll be nice company for living with while you're here, since I don't really know much about her and want to get a second impression."

"She's... Interesting," I said hesitantly, "that's for sure. She is pretty smart, and was more than eager to begin researching the strange new creature, so Celestia seems to have a good enough grasp of her personality."

Twilight stopped in the road and gave me a hard stare, causing me to realize and hastily correct my folly, "Ah, sorry. I meant to say Princess Celestia"

Acquiesced, she resumed walking.

When I'd emerged from Cashmere's house, Twilight had still been seated and patiently awaiting my return. Pinkie, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen. For whatever reason, Twilight had been either unable or unwilling to tell me where she'd gone, only responding to my question with a shrug. I'd let the matter drop, knowing that I'd find out sooner or later, but I already had a sneaking suspicion.

As of that moment, we were approaching the Town Hall to meet with the Mayor. Oh, and about that...

"You can't be serious," I said as the town’s tallest structure came into full view.

Twilight nodded firmly. "That's her name. I admit, it is unconventional, but I suppose a name is as much a precursor to one's fate as a cutie mark is a resolution."

"That's a fine and dandy philosophy to have, but Mayor Mare? Seriously? Were her parents Socialist Stallion and Prime Minister Pony?"

She giggled at that. "I don't know what her parents' names are, but you might not be too far off."

The town's ponies were becoming less and less of an annoyance by the minute. While I'd been initially tailed by those looking for some hot gossip, I was hardly seeing any repeat faces. Some would see me for the first time, quirk their heads or display some level of shock, then move on with their days, scratching their manes as they did so. More, however, would round a corner as if looking for something, spot me, eye me up and down from a distance (And sometimes a damn sight nearer than that), then run off to tell their friends or family about the bipedal creature that was walking alongside the town librarian. Said friends and family would come to confirm the tale, and the cycle would repeat.

Throughout all the hubbub, not one soul had even tried communicating with me, though the fact that I could speak their language was no secret, as I conversed off and on with Twilight the entire time. It was obvious that It’d take some time before I was recognized as a relatively normal member of the society. There was nothing to worry about though. If a dragon could do it, so could I.

We spotted the tan Earth pony on her porch, and she saw us at much the same time. Her lack of reaction or surprise indicated that she'd been expecting the visit, and me as well.

"Good morning, Miss Mayor Mare!" I cheerfully greeted her. She smiled in return, oblivious to the jibe at her originally unoriginal name.

"Good morning, Mister..." she trailed off questioningly.

"Joseph," Twilight supplemented.

"Joseph," the mare completed her courtesy. "I'm glad to finally be able to lay eyes on the creature I've been constantly hearing about for the last few hours. If I'm not mistaken, you're called a 'human', correct?"

"Yup."

"I must beg your pardon, but I've neither seen nor heard of one of your kind prior to today. Miss Sparkle's assistant forwarded a letter from the Princess to me not long ago, which informed me of her plans for you to reside in my town for an indefinite period of time. I must say that while I am shocked at the abruptness of it all, I am intrigued at the prospect of a non-pony becoming a part of our little community. You can look forward to a pleasant time here."

"I already do," I said with a sly smile.

First we get the runes. Then, the WORLD! MUHAHAHAHAHA

I was thinking more along the lines of just sodomizing everything that moves, but that also works.

"I take it you're in the middle of your introduction to the town?" the Mayor asked.

"I'm seeing to that myself," Twilight proudly answered. "After this, we're heading over to the Apple Family's farm."

"I'll leave it to you then, Miss Sparkle. Good day, Joseph. Now if you two will excuse me, I have my own duties to return to."

I waved farewell as the two of us walked off once again. The visit itself had only lasted a few minutes, but there really wasn't much else to be said or done. Even so, having the Mayor formally recognize me as a citizen of Ponyville just made everything seem more permanent, somehow.

Sweet Apple Acres was closer to the Mayor's house than it was to Cashmere's. I'd traveled almost clear across town from the point of my arrival, and still had to march for a solid ten minutes before the first of the farm's structures became visible.

During this time, Twilight sought to question my reasons for coming to Equestria to begin with, as the letter had not made any specific mention of that,

"I'm here to learn about your culture," I answered with at least partial truthfulness. "I got tired of being cooped up at home and made the decision to get a new lease on life. What better way than by traveling to new places and making new friends?"

"Agreed! I can already tell you and the girls will get along just fine."

"The girls?"

"Oh, right. You've only met Pinkie so far. Let’s see; There's also Rainbow Dash, the young and often harebrained captain of Ponyville's weather team. Fluttershy, the animal caretaker that lives on the edge of town closest to the Everfree Forest, just a bit North of the farm. Rarity, our own local fashion designer. She happens to be extremely talented, if you’re ever in need of some stylish new clothes. Then there's Applejack, who we're on our way to meet now. She's a hardworking and dedicated farm pony whose family provides all of Ponyville with the best apples in Equestria year round. We’ve been the best of friends for about two years now, and they'll all be happy to make your acquaintance."

The path to Sweet Apple Acres was plain dirt, but it was just as neatly kept as any of the roads back in town. The surface was worn smooth from constant usage, and the grass at the sides was always low. After some time, plain grass gave way to a single stretch of white fencing that led straight up to a recognizable red barn in the distance. A sign hung from the entrance-way, welcoming all visitors to the family farm. Even from where we were, apple trees began to show up. One moment there were none, the next, they were lined up in orderly rows of a dozen or more. It was impossible to look between any space between the trees without my view being obstructed by yet another at some point. This went on for a distance that was impossible to gauge from my position on the ground, but I felt dwarfed by the hidden scale of them all. It was more of a small forest than an orchard.

We arrived at the entrance to find... Nobody. Neither pony nor dog was there to greet us.

Twilight walked in uninvited, and I followed close behind. She led me to the farm house, where we found a gently snoring elderly green Earth pony having a late morning nap in her rocking chair. She did not stir at the sound of our approach.

I pouted. "Huh. I expected to have someone ready to greet us or something. I swear it's like only the Mayor and you knew I was coming."

"That would be the case. I didn't exactly have the time to pass on the message to anypony else. That's why I'm going to stick with you for your entire first day here, so that you'll be seen as a friend of a friend to the townsfolk."

"Makes sense, but Applejack and her family live some distance from the town. I still think it would come as a small shoc-"

"Cutie Mark Crusader Monster Capturers, ATTACK!"

I was promptly reintroduced to the world of pain I was becoming more familiar with by the passing hour when three separate and solid bodies impacted me from behind, sending me rolling head first into the front door with a resounding crash.

I lay groaning on the floor in agony as three distinct and childish voices whooped in victory, and one more mature voice gasped in horror.

Well if anyone's getting a shock, it looks like it'd be you.

"Oh my goodness! Joseph, are you okay?"

I didn't have the mental capacity to push myself off the floorboards at the time, so I just gave a shaky thumbs up and hoped she'd understand the meaning.

"Girls!" Twilight exclaimed, immediately hushing the cheers. "What is the matter with you? Why did you do that?"

"Don't get your tail in a bunch," said a nonchalant Scootaloo. "We saw this thing holding you hostage and using you to gain entrance to the farm, so I staged an assault, buying you time to escape while it's down."

Scootaloo's the first to die. I do it wearing a chicken suit.

"Holding me hostage? Where did you you even get an idea like that?"

"Well, ah..." the young pegasus' previously infallible logic hit a snag. "Because... It's really... Tall and weird looking? Look, whatever. We don’t have time for this. Run while you still have a chance!"

Twilight sighed with patience I could only dream of having. "It- I mean- He isn't a monster. His name is Joseph, he's a friend of mine, and he'll be staying in Ponyville for a while. I was in the middle of showing him around when you three decided to use him for a landing pad."

There was a high pitched gasp, which I recognized as belonging to Sweetie Belle. "Wait, you mean we just hurt an innocent not-pony thing?"

'Innocent' is a subjective term, but I'll take what I can get.

"Oh no! Mister, I'm so sorry. I didn't know! I honest to goodness thought you were a bad guy and that Twilight was a damsel in distress. It's also Scootaloo's fault."

"My fault?!" the filly indignantly exclaimed.

"Well ya'll were the one that gave us the idea to begin with," said Applebloon in her unmistakeable Southern drawl.

Sweetie was quick to follow up, "Yeah, Scootaloo. You know how impressionable our developing minds are. Stop coming up with these delinquent schemes."

"Delinq-" the your pegasus sputtered. "Use some bigger words, why don't you? Yah dumb dictionary!"

"For the last time, just because I like to make use of my expanding vocabulary, doesn't mean I'm a dictionary."

"There you go again! Is it so hard for you to talk like a normal-"

"Girls!"

The three bickering children fell silent and stared at Twilight, who was giving them all a look stern enough to put any grade school teacher to shame.

"Could you three please calm down? You're going to wake up poor Granny Smith." She pointed a hoof towards the mare who was still soundly snoring in her rocking chair not ten feet away.

"No we won't," objected Applebloom. "Gran Gran's slept through way worse than-" She cut herself off as Twilight's glare intensified.

"Just stop arguing about who said what and apologize to Joseph, please." She may have added the courtesy, but it was still a clear order.

The Crusaders grudgingly complied.

"We're sorry," they droned in unison.

"It's not okay," I grunted as I finally managed to roll over onto my throbbing back and sit up, "but I forgive you, if only because I need to make a good impression on the locals, and eating you all alive wouldn't help that." I flashed them the toothiest smile I could manage, making sure the points of my incisors were plainly visible.

Getting to see their pupils dilate and their coats pale in fear—even Sweetie Belle's, somehow—before they scampered off in separate directions was absolutely worth it. Even so, having Twilight's ire switch over to me in their absence made me regret it all the same.

"That wasn't funny, you know," she muttered.

"But it does make us even," I weakly countered, chuckling as I attempting to get back on my feet. "So when do I meet Applejack?"

"She's either inside or on the farm. The house is right here, so it couldn't hurt to check."

I straightened up, stretched my back, and knocked on the door. Thankfully, we weren't treated to another wait like back at Cashmere's place, and it took only a few seconds for someone inside to respond.

"Come on in ya'll, it's open!"

Applejack's country accent was even more pronounced than that of her sister, and all the more endearing. I couldn't help but smile upon hearing it. Somehow the novelty of meeting a member of the Mane Six just didn't seem to wear off.

I reached for the doorknob to make my entrance-

What the what?!

But- but- but-

"Twilight?"

"Is something wrong?" she asked.

"It's just..."

I didn't know what to say. I just continued to stare at the doorknob—a physical impossibility in a world made by ponies and for ponies, who I feel I should mention had NO GODDAMN FINGERS.

After several seconds of confused silence, I made a request in the hopes of preserving what remained of my view of universal order, "Twilight, could you open the door for me please, without using magic? I need to see something."

"Ooooh-kay?" she said unsurely. Stepping forward, she lifted a hoof to the smooth and rounded mechanism and [REDACTED]

"So that's how they work!" I exclaimed with a snap of my fingers as the door swung open before us. "I can't believe I didn't think of that."

"What do you mean?" asked Twilight. "You've never used a doorknob before?"

"Of course I have. I just didn't see how a creature without fingers could be capable of using them as well. Thanks for showing me."

She giggled at my silly reason for confusion. "Any time. Let's head in, shall we?"

The interior of the Apple Family household was as cosy as could be expected. The furniture all had an old-timey vibe, and the walls were absolutely covered with photos of countless generations of the family line. It all looked like something you'd expect to see at a grandparent's house, but everything was in pristine condition, and clean to the point where I could actually make out my reflection on the wood of a table almost as clearly as I could on the mirror that sat on it. It was all very impressive. I knew for a fact that the Apples were usually busy with either business or family affairs, which made the effort they put into simply keeping their environs presentable that much more admirable.

"Applejack?" Twilight called out as I pulled the door shut behind us.

"I'm in the kitchen, Twi," called Applejack from what I'm going to guess was the kitchen.

We walked across the well furnished living room and towards the room she had called from. We found her with her back turned, busy focusing on crushing what were clearly apples in a large wooden tub, tail swishing as she did so. She gave no indication that she'd heard us approach, and I couldn't blame her, considering the racket she was making as she pulped the fruit.

Spotting an opportunity for some innocent fun, I held up a hand to silence Twilight from announcing our arrival. She gave me a questioning look, but I put a finger to my lips and told her to shush. Before she could protest, I rushed into the room with the lightest steps I could manage, positioning myself directly behind the oblivious Applejack. Too late, Twilight picked up on my intentions, but I didn't give her a chance to call out.

A tap on the shoulder was all it took to get AJ's attention. She paused her rhythmic steps and turned around with a smile, ready to greet her friend.

"Oh, heh. Sorry bout that Twi. Didn't even hear when you-" she fell silent as she found herself staring directly into my alien face, which I was doing my best to contort into a startling visage, just for the fun of it.

"Boo."

***

"You brought that one on yourself," said Twilight without a hint of pity for my sorry state.

"Oh be quiet," I muttered. "It's not my fault that little miss trigger-hooves here likes to buck first and take a joke later."

"Well excuse me for gettin' startled," said an unapologetic Applejack. "What did you expect me to do, on account of you plum sneakin' up on me like that? Ah say you should take this as a lesson learned."

"The only thing I'm learning is that you ponies have a thing for abusing me. First my feet, then my tongue, then my back and head, now my chest. Spare me the waiting and finish me off, why don't you?"

"What happened to your feet?" asked Twilight, who had witnessed all but the earliest of my torment.

I winced at the memory, "Long story. All you need to know is that you should never trust Princess Luna when it comes to transportation magic."

The Earth pony scoffed. "Well however bad a time you've been havin', don't feel too sorry fer yerself now. Ah didn't hit ya'll nothin' too fierce. Now quit yer whinin' and get up and properly introduce yerself. Ah believe in making a good first impression when meeting new ponies—or otherwise—and I'm willin’ to give you a second shot at that."

Grumbling under my breath, I got up, rubbing the section of my ribs that had been clipped by Applejack's shotgun hooves minutes before when she overreacted to my failed prank.

Introductions were made yet again, and once she'd finished pulping the fruit and storing it in a cooler concealed beneath the floorboards, she was even kind enough to offer me a look at the goings on at the farm. One Big Mac was met, who had been forewarned of the approach of the terrible pony eating troll (or something along those lines) by one or more terrified Crusader. Thankfully, he proved to be as level-headed as expected, and accompanied the three of us as we made our way around the premises. He didn’t say much beyond a "Pleased to meet ya" in greeting, but he was pleasant company nonetheless.

By the time I'd gotten to see the general layout of the farm, the sun was just passing its high point, as was signaled by four sets of grumbling stomachs and a shared laugh between us. As planned, we headed back to town for lunch at Sugarcube Corner, leaving Applejack to finish the meal we'd interrupted her from making.

After over twelve hours spent in a living, breathing Equestria, I'd begun to get a sense of familiarity with the sights. That's probably why the return trip felt twice as long as the first, as there was no sense of wonderment to distract me from my hunger, which was evolving from an itch into an incessant demand for food with each passing minute. Thankfully, it wasn't long before we were in the middle of town and walking into a building that looked like it was made of gingerbread and chocolate. By that point, I was almost tempted to find out if the decorations went beyond just a theme.

The bell chimed overhead as we opened the door. The store was mostly vacant, save for a few ponies enjoying cakes and pastries at their respective tables. All of them paused when I entered the room, gave me a glance of recognition, then promptly resumed eating with disinterest. By then, not a pony in town hadn't seen or heard of my arrival. I was just another citizen by that point, and that was both a relief and a slight disappointment, because there hadn’t been much drama involved.

Not bothered by that at the time though, I breezed past Twilight and straight up to the service counter. There was nobody there to take my order, so I pressed the buzzer that lay on the glass and patiently waited to be noticed.

Just kidding.

I tapped that little fucker like a teen that just discovered the true purpose of the internet.

It took only a few seconds to get an annoyed response from the kitchen. "Alright! Alright! I heard you the first dozen times! Keep your mane on!"

I couldn't immediately place who the voice belonged to, but it was female, and certainly not Pinkie's annoyingly cheery pitch.

By the while, Twilight had caught up, and she was giving me a hard glare which I refused to acknowledge. Instead I focused my attention on the numerous brightly colored cakes, cupcakes, donuts, tarts and other assorted pastries that lay in the glass case I was forced to wait in front of. If the act of taunting could be captured in a baked treat, I swear to you that the Cakes have mastered it. It was only by some superhuman feat of self-control that I managed to resist jumping over the counter and devouring their smugly sweet and sticky beings where they sat. Thankfully, before my will could snap, a blue Earth pony with a pink lump of a hairdo emerged from the side room, balancing a tray of piping hot cookies on her hindquarters.

"Sorry bout the wait, but I couldn't leave these unattended when they were so close to finish-" she froze in her tracks, causing the metal to slide off the protective cloth and onto her bare back, which led to a yelp of pain, a shocked leap, a panicked dance and some juggling to catch it all before the ground got a treat of its own, and a breathless sigh of relief, "-ing."

I laughed and clapped for her efforts. "Well that's certainly the most entertaining reaction I've gotten all day."

"Oh, really?" Mrs Cake smirked as she deposited the saved cookies into a vacant space in the display. "Glad to know I won that particular competition."

Even Twilight was having a poorly stifled laugh at the mare's expense. "I'm sorry Mrs Cake, but—heh—that was pretty funny."

She smiled in good humor. "Oh shush, you two. How can I help you today, Twilight and... Joseph, was it?"

I gave a thumbs up. "Nailed it. Did you study for the test or just get a lucky guess?"

"I confess," she said, playing along, "the Mayor gave out the answer to everypony in town about an hour ago."

"Word here sure travels fast," I remarked.

"Well it is a small community," Twilight put in. "Every pony knows at least four more."

"And I'm sure Pinkie helped that along somewhat," continued Mrs Cake, "giving out in-"

"-fections!"

The two of us stared at Twilight, who had either gone insane, or made a joke in poor taste.

She held a hoof up to her mouth and blushed magenta. "Sorry, I meant to say... Inoculations! Mrs Cake, you know how she's always up for helping at the hospital. No need to go boasting about her good deeds though. She always likes to keep these things under wraps, right?"

Twilight is good at a great many things, but she sucks at being discreet. If her sudden and poor substitution for the word 'invitations' wasn't proof enough, the shaky wink she gave Mrs Cake—on the side facing me, mind you—was the clincher; Pinkie Pie had run off because she was busy giving out invitations to my mandatory 'Welcome To Town Mister Guy I've Never Seen Before' party.

I can be a sport though, no matter how cynical I may seem at times, so I said nothing, only smiling and nodding along with Mrs Cake as though I bought the bullshit.

"It's nice to hear that my soon to be friends are generous people," I said, "but I'm friggin starving here, so if you don't mind..."

The baker's eyes widened as if she suddenly remembered her post. "Oh, of course! Silly me. What would you like, dears?"

"I'll have a daffodil sandwich, please," said Twilight.

Silly Twilight, eating simple.

"I'll have two of those strawberry tarts, one of those powdered donuts, a slice of that red velvet cake, about three slices of that apple pie... And a glass of water, to make up for the calorie intake."

They stared at me.

"Uh, not that I don't enjoy a customer with a big appetite and all," Mrs Cake said slowly, "but... Wouldn't you rather have something less... Sugary, for your lunch?"

"No."

"How about some hay fries?" Twilight offered.

"Can't eat hay."

"Maybe another daffodil-"

"Neither flowers."

"Well there has to be something at least partially healthy that you could eat."

I could tell that they were not going to let me have my way. It wasn’t that I had not other options—I just hated to see so many delectable snacks sit there while I had something bland sate my hunger. So I compromised.

"Alright, fine. I can eat fruits and veggies too," I said, "but I still want a slice of that apple pie!"

Mrs Cake smiled at my insistence on having her baked goods, "Now that I agree to. Take any seat you like. Just give me a few minutes and I'll be right with you."

She turned and re-entered the kitchen, while my purple meal ticket and I seated ourselves at the nearest table.

"Just to check, who's paying here?" I inquired.

"Well, I wouldn't expect you to use your money on a trip that I planned, so I'll cover everything," she clarified, before hastily adding, "But don't take that as an excuse to go crazy."

I grinned innocently.

She's picking up fast.

Hold on, where indeed am I supposed to get my funds? I've got nothing to my name but my charm and the clothes on my back, and neither phone nor watch to pawn.

You could always sell yourself into slavery.

Ew. There's only one kind of slavery I'm interested in, and even if I had to sell myself, it would only be to the highest paying and kinkiest of customers.

Even if they're-

YOUNG, FEMALE customers, thank you very much. In any case, I don't want to mooch off of Twi forever.

Are you planning on getting a job?

... Prostitution it is.

"So where to after this?" I asked.

"I was actually going to let you decide. The best way to learn about a place is through first hand experience, and you'd better remember how to navigate the town if you explored it yourself. I'll still be with you, of course, but you'll be doing the leading. If you need to know anything, just ask."

"Sounds good."

In all truth, I didn't know much about the town's layout, so the exercise would help. That said, I did have a few places in mind that I wanted to check out, the Carousel Boutique being among those. I needed to commission a couple sets of pants, underwear and jerseys, and fast. The longer I could avoid the awkwardness of bathing, only to re-don the same used clothing afterwards, the better.

Before I could become impatient once more, Mrs Cake arrived at our table with a plain sandwich for Twilight, a bowl of chopped cucumbers and mixed berries for me, and even a generous serving of apple pie on the side. All in all, it was a sweet meal. Not quite what I'd initially hoped for, but by all means enjoyable.

Twilight picked up the tab and we were on our way.

After some wandering around, I found the Boutique along one edge of the town. Much to my dismay, however, it was closed. Sweetie was likely still playing at the farm, and Rarity was nowhere to be found.

"That's strange," said Twilight, "Rarity's usually open for business at this hour."

"Out of curiosity, what day is it?"

She gave me a strange look. "Saturday, why?"

"Ponies work on weekends?"

"Not all of them, but it's by no means unusual. Are humans any different?"

"We generally treat them like weekly holidays, only sacrificing them for work when times are really dire, or if we need the money. But even if she's normally open on a Saturday, what's so different about now?"

"I'm not sure. Maybe- Oh! I just remembered, she's busy with, um, out of town stuff, and she won't be back till around six this afternoon."

This again...

Be glad. They're probably all doing something for you, and this is before you've even had the pleasure of getting to know them.

I guess that's true. If they're going through all this trouble for me though, let's check up on them, shall we?

You'd ruin your own surprise party for the fun of it?

Shush. Don't question my reasoning.

"Alright then. If that's a bust, let's check out that giant tree I spotted on the way here."

"You mean the town library? I don't see why you'd want to- Hey!"

I'd rushed off, not giving her a chance to come up with an excuse to delay my arrival. She did give chase, and she did indeed turn out to be faster than me at first, but my head start proved enough to keep her just within shouting range till her indoorsy physique kicked in.

"Joseph! Wait up!" she called, panting from the unnatural exertion.

I quickened my steps, managing to outpace her even further. The library came into view ahead as she lagged behind, and my goal was in sight.

Flash!

A flustered Twilight appeared directly in front of my in a shower of sparkles.

"Would you stop running for a moment and-"

I ducked around her, doing my best to close the gap between me and the entrance.

Flash!

"Joseph, please slow-"

I leapt right over her his time, not breaking my stride as I sprinted the last few meters and shoved in the door to find-

An unoccupied, party supply-free library. The place was absolutely clean, if but for an odd pile of books beside a set of empty shelves in one corner.

"Well that was a waste of effort," I muttered.

What made you assume it was being held here to begin with?

Then... Where are they having the party?

I heard Twilight unsteadily trot in behind me and shut the door, "What...” pant “Were you in such a rush for?"

Bullshitting powers, ACTIVATE

"Because I just remembered that I needed to do research on something!"

"And it was so urgent that you needed to get here as soon as possible?" she asked incredulously.

"What can I say? I'm stick to my priorities."

She looked like she wasn't sure if to take me seriously, but accepted my answer without protest. "Well, all right then, I guess. If it's really something important, I'll perform my duties as the town librarian and help you find what you need. Just tell me what you're looking for and you'll have it in no time."

"You're the librarian for this place?"

"I also live here. It guess that gives new meaning to the phrase 'Taking your work home with you', right?" she laughed.

"But if you're out in town with me, then who's running the place while you're gone?" I asked.

"That would be me," came a muffled response from beneath the collapsed books.

Twilight walked over to them and effortlessly lifted the whole lot off the floor with her magic, revealing a disheveled Spike beneath.

He laughed nervously, "He- Hey Twilight. What's up?"

She frowned as she began sending the books back to their respective positions one by one. "Spike, why is my entire collection of Draconian philosophy on the floor?"

"Because they fell off the shelf when I bumped into it and I couldn't get them off?" he explained while stretching out kinks formed after however long he'd spent under the load.

"Of course you couldn't," I said with a smirk. "That stuff sounds real heavy."

The two of them gave me looks that spoke volumes as to just how funny they'd found my pun.

"Well fine, be that way," I pouted.

Spike held up a claw in salutation, "Hey Jo. Nice finally see you in person. How's the town treating ya?"

"Better than I'd expected, actually," I answered honestly. "Everyone's so friendly. It's a nice change of pace from back home."

"Where are you from anyway?" he asked.

"The lands of the West," I proclaimed. "Equestrians don't know much about them, so it won't make much sense to say more than that."

"Then how come you can speak our-"

"THAT MEANS NO QUESTIONS."

He dropped it. Twilight laughed at the exchange. She’d already learned over the course of our time together that I would not converse about my place of origin.

With that said though, she reminded me of my ratched excuse, "So, what is it you were looking for?"

Shit! What am I supposed to say? I got nothing!

Wait, remember where we are. We have access to the personal collection of Twilight Sparkle, along with whatever generic texts she'll have archived. I'm sure she's got more than a few spell books to share with us, which we can go through without Cashmere's or the Princess' knowledge.

It was true enough, considering that I only had basic definitions at my disposal for the time being, so I went for it, "I need to find a particular spell, but I'm not sure how to explain it. Have any grimoires?"

She headed towards the next shelf over, asking a follow-up question on the way, "Related to what branch of Magic?"

Quick, give me something!

I don't know, freaking levitation?

"It has to do with the manipulation of objects," I replied as confidently as I could manage.

"Strange subject to suddenly need to look up, but alright." One of the dozens of thick books was surrounded by a purple glow and flew off the shelf, coming to a halt directly before me. "Here you go."

I gratefully accepted it, and the suspending magic dispersed the moment my hand got a firm grip on the cover. I silently read the title; “Psychokinesis to Transmogrification; An in-depth look into the intricacies of Matter Manipulation."

This seems like as good a place as any to start.

"Is that close enough to what you're looking for?" she asked.

I just went with it. "Yeah, this looks good."

"Well, I hope you find that spell then," said Twilight. "I've never seen any normal non-pony creature perform magic before. Mind if I watch and take some notes?"

"Study me, you mean?" I rephrased her request more honestly.

"That about sums it up," remarked Spike, who had been just sitting on the floor and observing. His single act of participation earned him a magically flung cushion to the head from Twilight which exploded upon impact.

"It's fine by me," I said, laughing as the dragon spat out a mouthful of stuffing.

The unicorn scholar clapped her hooves excitedly and retrieved the quill and a fresh sheet of paper from her bag before settling down, eager to see my magic in action.

Alright, let's see if we can put on a show for her.

Start with getting the hang of basic telekinesis. You won't need the book for that, since it's part of what Discord left us with, but you'll need the right mindset if you want to try anything more advanced afterwards. After that, all I need are the defined symbols, a bit of context, and we're good to go.

I flipped through the first few pages, finding the inevitable starter's guide to moving an object with one's mind. The lesson itself seemed simple enough, asking the practitioner to focus on the object of their choice, envision their intended movement, and most importantly, to want it to happen. It was pretty much a variation of the mental manipulation spell I'd tried when I first arrived, so it didn't take me long to skim through it all. One interesting thing I did note, however, was that any magic performed had a cost, be it wear on the caster's mind, or outright physical fatigue relative to the amount of energy required to perform the intended spell. It all came down to what they wanted to do, and in my case, the cost would be a minimal mental stress.

Having adequately prepared myself, I asked Twilight for a small and light object, which she readily provided in the form of a small plastic bookend of a transparent cube.

I cracked my fingers. "Alright, just going to get warmed up a bit here."

"By all means, proceed at whatever pace you see fit," said Twilight.

I didn't bother trying to close my eyes or relax this time, instead going straight for the heart of the task. After sitting in the most comfortable position I could hold, with my legs crossed and my back leaned forward, I held both my arms straight out towards the cube on the floor so that my open palms were facing it from a distance of no more than three feet. Next, I felt for the ever present but subdued movement of my aura, pushing it outwards and past the object.

You don't need to extend it as a sphere in this case. Keep it focused on the bookend, and extend it only in that direction. Everywhere else can remain relaxed.

I did my best to comply, releasing the tension along my back and feeling the energy return to me. The only part of my aura that stayed pushed outwards was the part that enveloped my arms, and subsequently the cube before them. As my attention shifted from the area around me to just that small space, the energy condensed, to the point where I began to see a light orange glow manifest around the bookend.

So that's what mine looks like...

Encouraged by my success, I was able to hold that extension of myself in place, and even lower my arms to my sides without breaking the link. I was left with a miniature sphere of my mental energy shining softly on the floor between the three of us. It remained attached to me only by a thin stream of conscious will, and would have dissipated if I desired. All that remained was for me to do was to direct that energy.

Alright, I'm ready. Hit me up.

Here's the rune for lift.

The image of a black symbol that resembled ancient glyphs as much as anything you've likely seen was imprinted on my mind. One thing I noticed was that it had a clear hook at the very top, with a single short line through the middle that would have made it resemble an arrow pointing upwards if the flat bottom and intersecting lines within it were ignored. I didn't exactly have time to wonder what each curve or stroke meant though, and just poured my energy into it with every intention for the trinket to rise off the floor.

It trembled, then rattled, then shook unsteadily, but I was sure never to doubt my effort, and it slowly but surely began to rise. Within five seconds of having begun to directly focus on the rune, I had a half pound piece of plastic levitating in the air before me, and it felt fucking fantastic.

Spike yawned, "When're you going to do the exciting stuff?"

God damnit, quick! Give me a rune for setting whelps on fire!

"Spike, levitation may be near entry level magic, but it is by no means simple or easy," chided Twilight as she recorded my results onto the paper. She would be able to sympathize with me, considering the effort she had put into her own magic as a filly.

Despite the truth of her words, I still wanted to test my limits. Lifting the bookend using magic had taken a minute or two to get the hang of, but it was far from being outright difficult. I wanted to go for something more noticeable.

Give me something else to try out here.

Would you rather send it forward, or back? Oh, maybe diagonally? Look, I only know so much. If you want to be fancy, go through the book some more so that I can pick up on some extra runes, unless you'd rather I give you some random ones and hope they don't set you on fire when charged.

I took the advice, skipping past lessons on basic movement to find an interesting challenge. As I flipped page after page, the bookend remained suspended at around the height of my head, wobbling slightly, but otherwise stable. Soon I stumbled upon one spell in particular that caught my attention.

"Defragmentation?" I read aloud.

Twilight looked up from her notes in surprise, "That's the spell you needed? It's quite a jump from something like levitation, and not one you'd use very often. Why the sudden need to practice it?"

"I don't so much want to practice it as I do learn it."

"You mean this would be your first attempt? What's the most advanced spell you've tried before this?"

I sheepishly pointed to the spell that remained operating between us, and her jaw dropped.

"You're telling me that the most you can do is some crude telekinesis, and you want to go straight for matter deconstruction?"

"I think I can figure it out. Can't be that hard."

Twilight stared at me, and Spike slapped his forehead like I'd just made an extremely stupid mistake.

"Dude," he hissed, "when Twilight tells you that something's complicated, you don't argue, especially when it comes to magic."

The unicorn who had spent practically her entire life learning the intricacies of energy manipulation would indeed have more practical knowledge than someone who'd been magic-free just the day before, but I had a lot of help to balance the scales that she was unaware of. That would explain her reaction to my dismissal of her words.

"Not... That hard?" Her eye twitched and both quill and parchment dropped to the floor, forgotten. "Do you have any idea the amount of runes you need to memorize just to properly infuse something with magic, let alone split it up into thousands upon thousands of almost microscopic particles that each require individual attention if you want them to function with any semblance of order? I know scores—SCORES—of spells, and I can't pull that off for more than a few seconds! Trust me when I tell you that, as an amateur, it's too complex and too dangerous."

"I won't know till I've tried," I stated with a confident smile. I didn't know if I would really be able to handle it, and that was what I wanted to find out.

She glared at me, teeth grit in irritation at my refusal to listen. Spike wisely backed off half a dozen feet or so, but I didn't have the luxury of moving, with my own focus on sustaining the damned levitation spell holding me in place. Just when I swore she was about to explode in a blast of indignant rage, she sighed and bowed her head in resignation.

"All right, go wild. But I'm not taking any chances with my library. If you're going to try it here, you'll do it from within a force field."

I shrugged. "Fine by me. I just think you're overreacting."

"I agree with the new guy," called Spike from across the room, "but I'm still gonna stay here, just to be safe!"

Twilight shot him a look, but said nothing. Seconds later she'd erected a thin bubble of magic around me to protect the surroundings from any potential fallout when I proved her right. Satisfied with the preparations, she sat back and gave me the go-ahead to begin. While she'd been busy setting up, I did a once-over of the runes involved in performing the defragmentation spell and the meanings of each one, which were thankfully listed in plain Equestrian English below the pictures. That single look was about the extent of my own preparation, and after that, all I could do was channel energy into them as they were streamed to me by my reliable pal Casper.

This is significantly more involving than what you've tried till now, but have no fear! I'll compile every single command into one unique command that will activate each in turn when powered.

You mean like a macro?

Heck yes. Just remember that controlling energy at this level of detail has its own cost. You shouldn't keep at it for any longer than a few minutes.

That's all I ever need, isn't it?

All belittling innuendos done with, I received the bold image of a rune that seemed like a literal combination of all I'd scanned off the page, strung one after another in a spiral pattern. In the very middle of it all, there was a single large character that resembled a broken Theta symbol. That was the focal point of everything, and that was what I poured my effort into, directing my attention to the bookend floating in the air inside the bubble.

I began to mentally recite the instructions gleaned from the book.

Envision the whole.

It filled my consciousness, and I became aware of every tiny scratch and pockmark on its previously smooth-seeming surface. I could feel every cubic inch of it as if it were a part of me, but at the same time I could tell that it remained separate. It was at this point that I closed my eyes, as visual information was proving to be a distraction from my intent.

Pull it apart, bit by bit.

In my mind's eye, I could feel the cube begin to break. It did not crack and fracture as plastic normally would, but rather the infinitesimally small particles that made it up were pushed apart by my energy, which had fully spread throughout it. This separation began at one corner and made its way over to the other, leaving a dusty and ethereal looking replica of the original in its place. Once the energy dispersed, I was left with what felt like a countless amount of tiny bubbles of awareness suspended in the air. I can't really explain what the truly felt like, except that it made my head itch.

Imagine having not just two hands, but four. Imagine if they each simultaneously grabbed ahold of a piece of sandpaper and rubbed their fingers across the surface gently, feeding you information on the rough texture. Got that? Now multiply it by a hundred, and then multiply that by a thousand, than compress all that sensory input into a space no taller or thicker than three inches cube, and you'll understand how I felt. Thankfully, they felt nothing but motionless air, as I was in an undisturbed space of my own. Had my focus wavered though, and they dropped to the floor, and I think I might have gone insane.

I heard a gasp, and cracked open my eyes.

She was staring at me again, but this time in awe. Spike's eyes were also wide, but with their own impressed gleam. I'd proved myself capable of something that Twilight herself had been unable to master over the course of however long she'd been trying, and that said a lot for my capabilities.

"Wow," said one.

"Whoa," said the other.

"Ow," said I, as the act of drawing breath to speak disturbed the delicate state of the atmosphere in the bubble, and the plastic dust in turn.

You don't need to hold it any longer. Your mind is only capable of handling so much at once. Just pull it all together again, like clay.

Closing my eyes again, I meshed that extension of my consciousness in on itself, allowing every fragment of energy to return to me, and leaving the bookend back in its complete, solid form once more, sans any blemishes that had been smoothed over during reconstruction. Satisfied with the effort, I released the mental strain, allowing it to gently float back to the library floor as the energy receded.

I looked at my audience, and they stared right back for a moment of pregnant silence.

Then the bubble popped, and I cheered.

"I did it! I freaking did it!" I happily exclaimed.

Twilight shook off her shock, then smiled and gave me a congratulatory clap which Spike was quick to mimic.

"You sure did, Joseph. I wish I could say how, but the fact remains that you proved me wrong."

Spike spoke up after that, "Man, do you have any idea how long it took Twilight to get that far? And you did it on like, your first try! There's no way you're new at this."

Twilight's clapping lost some of its enthusiasm at those words. "You know, I'm inclined to agree with Spike here." She gave me another questioning look.

I just grinned. "What can I say? I'm a natural."

True, I'd cheated in a sense, but it's not like it was a test or anything. The result usually justifies the method, right?

I picked up the now flawless cube and returned it to its place on the shelf, while Twilight sent the book back to its own. I'd gone to the library in the hopes of surprising those planning the party, failed at that, but learnt a slew of new runes to make up for it. All in all—a very fruitful way to spend the early afternoon. I still had other things to try though. There were so many books at my disposal there, and so much to learn.

I took a step towards the nearest set of grimoires to get a better look at the covers-

I was suddenly on the floor, my world fading into darkness...

***

"Holy crap!"

I shot up off the couch, clutching at my head as it throbbed in pain.

"What the hell happened just now?" I demanded.

To my right, I heard a shuffle of papers, and turned to see Twilight setting aside whatever scroll she'd been busy with till that moment.

"Oh, good, you're finally up," she said as she trotted over to me. "And just in time too. I was about to wake you myself."

"Wait, what?"

You passed out. As it turns out, using a macro spell to pull a lump sum of energy away to charge a sequence of runes wasn't the best idea, because I just guessed as to how much would be required according to the book's guidelines, and that turned out to be less than was needed for your particular instance. The spell just continued to pull pulses of that single large amount over and over till it was shut off, and that left you in shock afterwards.

"You overexerted yourself with that spell," said Twilight.

Why couldn't you just say it like that, Mister Dickens?

Oh shut up.

"Ugh..." I rubbed the dregs of sleep from my eyes. However long I'd been out, I didn't regret it. All signs of fatigue from the lack of sleep over the past day were gone, and all I had to show for my last escapade was a headache that was already beginning to fade.

"Well, I'll be more careful next time," I said as I got up and stretched myself into alertness.

"It's a shame you won't have a chance for that till tomorrow though," said Twilight.

"Why do you say that?" I asked. "It's still-" I glanced out a window, then did a double-take. The sun was already almost done setting, casting the bright and cheery town in a light so orange that it looked practically aflame.

"I slept through the afternoon?" I groaned in disappointment at the time lost.

"Don't look too down," giggled Twilight with barely concealed excitement. "There's always some other time. For now, I, um, need to close the library. In fact, I think I'll walk you home so that you don't get lost in the dark."

"I'm a grown man, I think I'll be fin- Hey, where'd Spike go?" I looked around for the usually ever present assistant. He only left Twilight's side when she needed something handled somewhere that she couldn't personally see to, and the number of things that came to mind at the time to explain his absence were exactly nil, as I was still slightly groggy.

"He stepped out for some dinner," she said as casually as she could while slinking over to the door. "You coming?"

"I guess so," I said, and followed her out into the streets of Ponyville.

Our walk back to Cashmere's manse was uneventful, with Twilight being uncharacteristically quiet, and only stealing glances back at me as if to make sure that I didn't wander off. As we neared the house though, and my mind began to clear, I noticed something odd.

"Where is everyone?" I asked, looking around at the nearly empty streets.

"They all called it in early?" she weakly suggested.

"Why's Cashmere's house the only one with the lights off?"

"Because there was a power outage?"

I scratched my chin in thought as we climbed the stairs, trying to piece together a realization that remained just out of focus. She rang the doorbell, and I heard a click as the door unlocked, but no moody pegasus came out to greet us. Instead Twilight opened it herself and walked in, with me trailing close behind.

She turned and shut the door, leaving me in complete darkness, after which I heard her giggle quietly and scamper off to the end of the corridor. Confused and distracted from my suspicion, I blindly followed the sound of her hoof-steps and found myself in an unlit living room with all the furniture pushed straight to the edges.

"Hello?" I called out nervously, as I could no longer detect Twilight.

There was no warning. In an instant, I was blinded as every single light in the room was switched on simultaneously, shooting me from murky gloom into painful brilliance without so much as a chance to brace myself. I shouted in pain and clawed at my eyes, but I was completely drowned out by the sound of well over a hundred voices screaming out at the same time;

"SURPRISE!!!"

I HATE YOU ALL AND OH GOD MY EYES!


End of Chapter 7


Are longer chapters a good thing or a bad thing? I can cover more details, and fillers (ie; Chapters with no real main plot advancement, but that focus on minor character development/fine details) in one go, meaning that instead of taking two weeks to get an image across, I can do it in one while also paving the path for a grand painting that truly showcases my capabilities. That said, they're a bitch to write. ;_;

It's up to you all though. If reading my work ever feels like a chore, tell me, and I'll do my best to crunch everything without losing any of whatever attracts you to it.

Anyway, next week mark the official start of my end-of-term examinations. Will they affect the pace at which I write chapters? Most definitely...

It's a good thing I have a couple backed up for this occasion. :3

Next chapter will be up at the same time next week. Till then, cheers!