• Published 10th Mar 2013
  • 3,366 Views, 136 Comments

Appletheosis - DuncanR

Just your average, garden-variety talking snake. In an apple tree. What could go wrong?

  • ...

The wisest fool I’ve ever met

Pinkie Pie hopped down Ponyville’s Main Street with a broad smile and a tuneless hum. Everypony they passed gasped in shock and ran away at a gallop, fleeing into buildings or through alleys. Doors slammed shut, window shutters fell into place, and “closed” signs appeared in storefronts.

“Can’t say I find this particularly surprising,” the serpent said. “Ponies and serpents, after all.”

“They just need to get to know you, that’s all! Put on a smile and be on your best behavior, and I’m sure they’ll warm right up.”

“Yeah. Sure.” He watched as a mare dragged two small children out of the street and ran away screaming. “Look, is this going to be a problem?”

“Well it’s not like there’s anything you can do about it. You are what you are.”

“Actually, I can do something about it. I don’t have to appear as a serpent.”

“Huh?” Pinkie Pie stopped hopping. “But that’s what you are, right? A snake.”

“There’s no law that says I have to be. It’s like the tree... sometimes it’s apples, and sometimes it’s figs or pomegranates. It’s taken on many forms throughout the ages. As have I. The physical form isn’t as important as the underlying meaning.”

“So you can change what you are?”

“I get it from my father’s side, actually. Do you think it would startle anybody? I mean, you know... shape-changers can be pretty startling if you’re not expecting them.”

She looked at the deserted street around them. “I really don’t think it’s going to be a problem. So how exactly do you—”

She looked back and saw a stag, sleek and athletic, with a sheath of glittering ruby scales along it’s neck and back. It’s head was a cross between that of a dragon and a serpent, and a pair of long, twisting horns swept from the back of it’s head.

“Oh-mi-gosh! Is that you, mister snake?”

“It is I, yes.” He nodded his head and bent one knee, elegant and graceful. “Is this better?”

“Oh... wow, yeah. You look... well, I mean... just wow!” Pinkie Pie stared at him for a moment. “So I guess I can’t call you mister snake anymore. What are you?”

“A quilin, actually. You wouldn’t be familiar with them.”

“If I’d seen one before, I’d definitely remember it. You look amazing, mister quilin!”

“Zaraturvara, if you please.”

"Zara... huh?"

“That’s my name. I know it’s kind of a mouthful... you can just call me mister snake if you like. I won’t mind.”

She smiled at him. “Zaraturvara... I think it’s beautiful name. It sounds musical!”

“Thank you.” he shuffled his hooves: the cloven hooves of a deer. “So, where were we going?”

“Right, right!”

Pinkie Pie and Zaraturvara sat at a patio table together, waiting quietly. A whole crowd of ponies had gathered by the road to stare at the shimmering, ruby-scaled newcomer. Eventually, a waiter approached the table and set out a pair of tall glasses filled with foamy white liquid.

Pinkie Pie stuck a bendy-straw in each of them and turned one to face him. “Here you go!”

Zaraturvara sipped at the straw. “Thank you.”

“So, what do quilins do, exactly?”

“They’re sacred creatures that bring serenity and good fortune, and only the dragon and the phoenix are held in higher regard. They’re pretty ferocious looking but utterly peaceful... they only attack the wicked, and will never willingly harm any living thing no matter how small.” He gripped the straw in his cloven hoof and stirred his drink. “They appear most often to benevolent rulers and wise sages. In fact, the birth of the great Confucius was foretold by the appearance of a quilin.”

“Wow!” Pinkie Pie leaned her elbows on the table. “Who’s that?”

“You wouldn’t know him, but he was very wise. He was a great teacher who supported the cause of peace and enlightenment. Nobody can really decide if Confucianism is a religion or a philosophy... that’s what I love about it.” He sipped from his drink. “You know I’m not actually a quilin. Not really.”

“You could always pretend to be one. Like make believe.”

“Oh no you don’t. That’s a good way to get into great deal of trouble, even by my standards. The only reason I’m assuming this form at all is because nobody within a thousand leagues has the slightest clue what they are.”

“Well, you could still do nice things for ponies, right? You could be all peaceful and stuff.”

“People don’t care about what you really are on the inside. I used to think that, but it’s just too much to ask of people. That’s not the way the world works.” He sighed. “I mean, really... a quilin shows up to herald the birth of a great sage, and they get treated like sacred royalty for the rest of recorded history. But what about me? What happens when I try to impart wisdom to the primitive and ignorant? How do I go down in history? Ask me if that’s fair, why don’t you?”

“Sorry,” she said.

They sipped at their drinks and ignored the constant flow of gawking passersby.

“What’d you do?” she said.


“It sounds like you got in trouble for something. What was it all about?”

“I let somebody eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. And then she let somebody else eat of the fruit of the tree and it all went downhill from there. Once that can of worms was opened, there was no closing it. Everybody thinks I tricked her into it, but she was the one who brought it up in the first place. She asked me about the tree, and I called it like I saw it. That’s it.” He tapped the table. “I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone about this. Not once. I complain about it all the time, but it’s not the same as just talking.”

“How much trouble did you get into?”

“Not much. Not nearly as much as the stories would have you believe. What burns me up is the reputation I get... the stories people tell.” He leaned on the table and stroked the edge of his cup. “It’s not like any of them were there. They can’t imagine there might have been unusual circumstances. I can’t stand being cast as a black-and-white person.”

“Wow,” she said. “You’re all complex and stuff.”

“It’s what defines me. People need to know that nothing is ever as simple as it seems.”

“And kinda cute, too!”

He jerked his head up. “What?”

“Well, yeah. Why do you think everypony’s staring at you?”

He looked at the road by the patio table. The crowd of mares immediately looked away, whispering and giggling.

“Walking around is nice,” Pinkie Pie said, “but we ought to do something special. It’s your one day off, so why don’t you pick?”

“I can’t really think of anything, off the top of my...” he straightened up in his seat. “Actually, some music would be nice. Does music exist here?”

“Does it ever! What kind do you like?”

“Violin music. I haven’t heard a violin in ages.”

She grinned at him. “I know just the place.”

Later that evening Pinkie Pie stumbled out of Ponyville’s most popular tea-house, leaning against Zaraturvara’s shoulder and sobbing uncontrollably. They walked all the way down main street and through sweet Apple Acres, and only when they reached the edge of the everfree forest did she pause to blow her nose on a lace kerchief.

“Sorry,” he said. “I probably should have picked something a little happier.”

She looked up at him. “What? Oh, no! That was the best sad music ever. It’s one of my favorites! Sometimes it’s good to be sad, because when you stop being sad it makes the happy times even happier.”

He watched her for a time, lost in thought.

“What? Is there something on my face?”

He took a fresh lace kerchief and dabbed her runny nose one last time. “Pinkie Pie. I think you are, without a doubt, the wisest fool I’ve ever met. And let me tell you: I’ve dealt with some first-class fools.”

“Aww! You’re just saying that.”

“I don’t ‘just say’ anything. It’s true. And I had a perfectly marvelous time.”

“Really? I hope it wasn’t too boring.”

“That was some of the best violin music I’ve ever heard, and I’m quite the connoisseur.”

“You’re sure you wouldn’t have preferred a party or something?”

“I don’t really like crowds. It was nice just walking and seeing the sights.” He looked at the village rooftops in the distance. “Though it’s a shame we never danced. People say I’m a pretty good dancer.”

She smiled up at him. “We could always go out again, sometime. Just the two of us. Dancing.”


“No, I mean... not out out! Not going out! That’s not what I...” She fussed with her mane. “I’m sorry, that came out wrong. I mean, we could just go and... y’know... dance. Would you like that?”

“Wow. That would be... really weird, wouldn’t it?”

They stared into each other’s eyes for a moment.

Pinkie Pie cleared her throat and nodded to the woods. “So here we are. At your place.”

“Yeah.” He smiled at her for a moment, but quickly regained his composure. “Listen. I just broke up with somebody, very recently... and... I wouldn’t want you to...”

“Oh, right. That.”

“I think I have to finish what I started, you know? I’m kind of a mess right now, and I need to sort myself out before I start anything else. I wouldn’t want to hurt your feelings.”

“No, that’s... I understand. Totally.”

“You’re not angry at me?”

She touched his cheek. “You’re being honest with me. I appreciate it.”

“Thank you for understanding. I really did have a fantastic day, you know.”

“Me too.” She glanced into the forest. “Hey, do you mind if I walk with you to the clearing? I might as well pick up those baskets my friends left behind.”

“Of course. It’s not far.”

They walked into the forest and, after only a few steps, came to the gated archway. He opened the gate and stood aside, waiting for her to pass.

“Aww! Just like a true gentle-colt!”

“I may as well get some use out of my manners.”

They came to the edge of the clearing and froze, stock still, as they heard a chorus of shouting, arguing voices. There were three colorful young fillies at the foot of the tree, rolling around on the grass and wrestling with each other.

“I saw that one first! Gimme gimme!”

“Nuh uh! Nuh uh! Mine, mine mine!”

Zaraturvara stamped a cloven hoof and roared with the voice of a dragon. “What the hell is going on in here!?”

The three fillies spun to look at him, frozen in fear. Their mouths were all stuffed full of fruits—all shapes and colors—and juice and saliva dribbled down their chins.

“It was her idea!” they said, each pointing at the next.

Pinkie Pie ran over to them, wide eyed. “Oh, you silly fillies! What have you done? What were you thinking!?”

Sweetie Belle’s lower lip trembled. “But the sign said welcome!”

“Don’t you talk with your mouth full! How did you three even find this place!?”

Applebloom rubbed the back of her neck. “I heard Applejack talking about the snake and the tree, and we just wanted a quick peek to see what all the fuss was about. I was with her when she got lost, so I thought—”

“No, you didn’t! You didn’t think at all! Why would you ever go into the forest at night without a grown-up to go looking for a giant snake!?” She looked back at Zaraturvara. “I am so incredibly sorry about this!”

Zaraturvara walked to the top of the hill in a daze. “My first day off in three and a half billion years... and this.”

Pinkie Pie began shepherding the fillies away from the tree. “We’re so very sorry about this. I swear it won’t ever happen again.”

“Well you’re right about that,” he said.

“We didn’t mean to!” Scootaloo said. “We didn’t know the tree was important! Honest!”

“Yeah,” Zaraturvara muttered, “because that excuse worked so well the first time.”

Pinkie Pie pushed the fillies behind her. “Please oh please don’t blame them! It wasn’t their fault, honest!”

“You’re right,” he said with a scowl. “It wasn’t their fault at all.”

They stared at each other for awhile.

“What’s gonna happen?” Applebloom whimpered.

“To you?” he said. “You three are going back to your homes to tell your families that you wandered into a dangerous forest alone, at night, without asking permission. And from this day forward, you will honor your fathers and mothers, that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Scootaloo furrowed her eyebrows. “Wha?”

He loomed over them, ominously. “And if you do not honor your fathers and mothers, and remain disobedient children, you will be gobbled up by a giant snake. Things will not go well with you, and you will most certainly not live long in the land. Are we clear?”

All three fillies stared up at him, wide eyed.

“Good. Now go and wait by the edge of the clearing.”

They darted off.

“I’m so sorry,” Pinkie Pie said.

“They’ll be fine. The fruit of the tree of knowledge won’t have any effect on a child. They’re innocent, so they already know all that stuff.”

“They... do?”

“It’s the grownups who forget and need to be reminded. The miracle of the tree lies in the coexistence of knowledge and innocence.”

“So nothing bad will happen? You won’t get into trouble?”

“Not this time, no.”

She sighed. “Talk about lucky.”

“More like a wakeup call.” He looked back at the tree. “He works in mysterious ways.”

“Who does?”

He sighed. “I’d better get back to the... y’know.”

“Right, the tree.”

“Yeah. That.”

“So, can we hang out again? Do you think we could go dancing sometime?”

He worked his jaw. “I think that would be a bad idea. I have responsibilities.”

“That’s cool. I understand.” She took up the wicker baskets and the red-and-white checkered cloths. “Do you regret it?”

“I don’t know. I really don’t. But I did enjoy it. Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome.”

She walked down the hill, but paused to look back at the tree. Zaraturvara, a snake once more, hung from the lower branches just as he had when she’d first seen him. She remembered reading that serpents could sit perfectly still for days on end, waiting for prey to wander past... and if none did, they’d simply starve to death where they sat. Never moving. Never blinking. She wasn’t sure if it was true... but looking at him now, she could believe it might be.