• Published 29th Oct 2012
  • 3,598 Views, 83 Comments

Finding Faith - CoolBreeze

Haunted by the past, John finds his place in life, helping an orange pegasus mare...

  • ...

The spoils of hard work

My Little Pony: Finding Faith
Chapter 3 “Spoils of hard work

The ponies in Ponyville, for the most part, are really warm and welcoming, very friendly bunch of individuals. Already several had stopped to greet me and to offer help if I needed it. It was obvious that they could easily pick out a stranger from their crowd so I guess it was a good thing I hadn’t been trying to blend in already.

I found myself in the market again, browsing the goods on sale, ponies of all shapes, sizes, palette and manner call out, advertising their goods, trying to barter sales to any of the ponies passing by. One such pony begins to call out at me, I turn and trot up to the stall.

“Howdy! Ya’ must be new round here!” The mare states with a cheery southern accent. A broad brim hat sits atop her head, hiding most of her blond mane, her green eyes suit the orange of her coat.

“That’s right, was just looking around and checking out the sights, tourist and all.” I explain with a smile.

She beams at me as a large stallion with a light sun faded, red coat pushes some baskets up to the stall beside her. “Say now, interested in some delicious Apple Acre apples?” the orange mare asks, drawing my attention back to her again.

I give her an apologetic shrug with my shoulders and smile meekly, “Sorry... haven’t got anything to buy them with on me.” I explain.

“Now, that ain’t a problem is it Big Mac?” she asks, turning to the red stallion, his orange mane flicks lightly as his attention is brought to our discussion, almost as if he hadn’t been aware of us being there.

“Ah-nope.” Big Mac states matter of factly. I look back over at the mare whom turns to me, “Now, Big Mac could do with a break, why don’t ya’ help by moving those baskets and a few of ‘em crates-” she stops to point with a hoof at several crates and baskets stacked in by a cart, “-with magic, that’d pay for some apples.”

I take a moment, inspecting the crates, they look pretty heavy, and if they’re full of apples... well now, it could be a bit of a task. Wait... she said to use ‘magic’... I look back over at the salespony in her brown hat. Magic? Really? Shaking the sense of incredulousness off, I turn my gaze back over at the red stallion. Of course, this Big Mac fellow looked like he could plow a brick wall down just by running at it, but who was I to argue that he might need a break? Besides... helping someone seems to tickle my fancy.

With absolutely no idea what she meant by magic, I shrug and give her a smile, “Sure, it won’t hurt to try, besides we all might get a good laugh out of it!” I finish with a light chuckle before turning to the navigate the gap between stalls to the supply of goods in those crates.

I can feel two sets of eyes on me as I approach the timber boxes and I inspect them for a moment, trying to see what way might be best to move them without making a fool of or hurting myself. I decide that pulling them is out of the question, I’d have better luck getting behind them and pushing. So I select one that’s on the ground and clear some of the baskets out of the way to give it a clear shot at the apple stall. With ease I leap over the crate, landing on all four hooves gracefully. I feel a sliver of pride worm its way into my consciousness but decide to ignore it for the time being as I spin around and gently press my chest against the box.

“Ah thought you might like to use some o’ that unicorn magic of yours to move them, but hey if you want to give them a good old, earth pony push, ah’d not dream of stopping ya.” the orange mare says with hearty chuckle as she watches on, the red stallion seems unable to look anywhere else but at me.

I take a deep breath, steel myself, then press up hard against the box with my chest and begin to grind my hooves across the stone that makes up the surface of the marketplace. I hear a creak and then the sound of wood dragging on metal as the sheer force of my forward movement pushes the heavy box. Now I realise why the big fellow needs a break, these are darn heavy!

Not wanting to disappoint, nor to be shown up as someone unable to do the task, I press on, shoving and shunting the crate until it’s lined up with the stall. With a loud gasp for air, I sit back and look up at the mare who’s grinning from ear to ear, which is quite a feat for something with the facial structure of these ponies.

I look back over my shoulder, there’s still another three crates and several baskets of apples waiting to be moved and so, before anyone can make a comment, I get back up and begin shunting the baskets one by one to the stall. The mare snaps into action, immediately replacing her already sold stock on the stall’s bench and pushing the remaining baskets under the stall itself, out of the way.

The crates pose a problem, they’re pretty heavy and the first one took a lot out of me... but undeterred I get behind the second crate that is placed on the ground, resting my chest on the side again. “Ya don’t have to do it by hoof you know, unicorn magic won’t hurt.” the mare states, a look of concern on her face.

I give her a shrug, “It’s good exercise.” I explain, deflecting what felt like an entry for questions about magic and why I wasn’t using it. I press hard against the crate and begin to shove, my hooves scraping along the stone below and I begin to think. Me? Use Magic? The idea, for some reason, feels as ridiculous as being able to fly. Then again... Scootaloo can fly, so maybe I really can use magic? I look up and realise that I’ve reached the stall, I turn and begin to shunt it up close to the stall, in front of the first crate I’d moved.

As the crate presses up to its brother, I get a start when an orange hoof suddenly slaps down on the box. “Now, that’s some mighty fine work there,” I look up and over at the mare who’s smiling. “Thanks for the help! Big Mac ‘preciates the rest!” In confirmation the red stallion lets out a calm, “Eeyup!”

I lean back so I can get a view of the two ponies, “Here for your help!” the mare says, pushing a small basket with several of the juiciest looking Apples I think I ever laid eyes upon, ever, in all the history of me being alive, but with the lack of memory and all... that’s not too hard hard, on second thought they appear to be some incredibly juicy and delicious red apples! “Thanks!” I say with cheer before using a hoof to carefully drag the basket to me.

“Say, didn’t catch your name ‘fore you started moving crates. Ah’m Applejack.” Applejack says, with a proud hoof to her chest. I stand up and return the smile she’s wearing, “I’m John Doe,” I introduce myself. “Well John Doe, can ah call ya John? Yes? Okay, well John, what exactly brings ya to these here parts of Equestria?”

What should I say? I hadn’t thought about this, stupid! Stupid, stupid! I quickly rack my brains working up something plausible, even if it is weakly founded. “Uh, I’m just travelling; you know? Here, there, exploring a bit, learning new things, experiencing new cultures and stuff.” I say feeling a bit pressured, I give her a smile that I hope is convincing.

Luckily, Applejack doesn’t get a chance to respond, she leaps over the stall bench and lifts up a small pony, I’d guess since it’s a he, he is a colt to be using the correct terms. The colt has an apple locking in his jaws. It takes me a moment to realise what happened before I scowl. The child had tried to steal an apple!

With the colt in her right hoof, struggling to escape, she begins to shout out about the nerve, and how dare ‘anypony’ try to steal from the market, let alone from the ‘Apple Family’ while I want to see what exactly happens to the colt, who’s dropped the apple by now and is crying, trying to scramble away from the orange mare who is on a complete and destructive roll. I instead turn down to my basket and inspect it for a moment.

How am I meant to carry the darn thing? I walk on all fours. It has a handle. I then get a brain wave, the colt had the apple in his mouth instead of nabbing it with a hoof, of course, how stupid! I lean down and grab the handle in between my teeth, clamping down just enough to grip it without crushing the woven material.

Just as things start to heat up with the colt thief and the stallmare, I hoof it out of there! Hah, hoof it! I’m starting to sound like a local! Setting out at a trot, I weave my way back through the streets and even through an alley as I navigate back to the park where I left Scootaloo. The Sugarcube Corner helps a lot as a reference point and after several minutes of trotting and smiling at passing by ponies who say hello, I find myself back on the park green. The soft grass under my hooves feels refreshing and welcome after the hard stone of the streets.

I make my way down a lightly beaten track, casting my gaze left and right as I look for a certain orange mare with the purple mane. I pass the fountain where I’d left her, but she’s moved on by now, so I continue further on. I crest a hill, passing by two ponies sitting on a blue checkered blanket with a picnic basket between them. Standing on the hill gives me a great view of the surrounding park and even beyond. Further out I can make out what appears to be a farmstead, the entire property surrounded by picket fences, and what appears to be an immense orchard of fruit bearing trees. Turning right gives me an amazing view of open fields that run so far out that they hit mountains that look like small hills, the colouration the only indicator that they are infact mountains. Turning left of the farm rewards me with a view of a wild forest, following the treeline I spot a small cottage with a stream running alongside it.

I lower my line of sight back down to the park and finally spot my quarry, Scootaloo is sitting down in the shade of a tree, facing the tree trunk. Her coat and mane unmistakable to me, very few ponies thus far that I’d seen had similar shades of her palette.

I set off again at a trot and make my a bee-line for Scootaloo, after all, they say ‘As the crow flies’ is the quickest route after all. Ponies trot this way and that, youngsters bolt around playing all sorts of games, some I can’t even conceive with my imagination, but others are familiar to me, like tag and hide and seek. The ponies of Ponyville are happy and peaceful, they live and lead good lives from what I can see and their entire community appears entirely self sufficient, with food, water, labour and leadership. These are a hard working people and they enjoy life to their fullest.

So why is Scootaloo so down? Not once had I been harassed about the lack of a cutie mark, even Applejack and Big Mac had full view of my flank while I helped out but not once did they comment about it, it was like it was perfectly normal, which I knew wasn’t exactly true, all of the adults I’d seen had their marks, some of the children too. So why... why does it get Scootaloo so down?

I’m so deep in thought that I nearly trot right into Scootaloo. I manage to stop just shy of her and look up to the trunk. She’s been at it with a stick, digging into the bark and making carvings. I take a moment to drink in the sight, trying to understand the marks until I see it, a pegasus sitting on a cloud, proud as another pegasus flies past, smaller than the first.

I clear my throat to announce my presence and Scootaloo jumps with a start, turning as she lands. The sight is almost comical if not for the mostly sad expression she has.

“Hey Scootaloo, how’re you feeling?” I ask around the basket, with a surprising amount of control. She doesn’t answer at first but then she looks up into my eyes and shakes her head slowly, “Still... not good.”

I place the basket down in front of her and smile, “Well maybe some lunch will help, yeah? I got these from the market for helping some ponies.” she looks down into the basket at the nine apples sitting in there, a gentle shine evident on their almost polished surfaces.

“Maybe...” she starts, not sounding too convinced. I lean over and grip an apple with my front teeth before tossing it up into the air over my head. I take a step back, open my mouth and catch the apple expertly - honestly a fluke - in my teeth again and with a chomp, the apple breaks under the sheer force, I catch the half I couldn’t fit into my mouth with an upturned hoof before chewing the apple. The first thing I notice is the juice, there’s a lot of it, but not too much and it’s not as acidic as I remember apples to be. Very sweet and it’s extremely delicious with that perfect crunch that you never ever normally get to experience normally.

“Mmm, soo gooood!” I say, half the broken up apple already gone, the other still in a cheek. She just giggles lightly which makes me feel a warm glow inside at having lifted her mood, even if it is just a little. With a forced gulp, the apple half is gone and I proceed to bite a chunk out of the remaining half, chewing it a little quicker this time, not needing to savor it.

I watch as Scootaloo selects an apple and takes a bite out of it, chewing thoughtfully as she gazes out at the park; giving me a chance to get a really good look at her. Her coat is a bit dirty, not enough to be gross but it’s noticeable up close and her mane and tail are unkempt, and not in that attractive, natural way either. I can see the veins in her eyes, the whites ever so lightly tinged pink. I can see the effects of depression and they upset me. I swallow the remaining part of the apple before moving over to the tree trunk. I put a hoof next to the pegasus sitting on a cloud and speak up, “This is that Rainbow Dash you mentioned earlier isn’t it? The one sitting on the cloud here.”

Scootaloo doesn’t answer at first, seeming to have not heard me, but before I can repeat the question she answers at last, “Yeah, that’s her.” I lower my hoof over the bark until it rests just below the second pegasus. “This one that’s flying, that’s you.” The pause isn’t as long this time, her answer comes and her voice is void of emotion, “Yeah...”

I turn and sit next to her, the basket of apples sitting before us in the grass, I press my side to hers and whisper softly, more out of habit than necessity. “Dream?” She shakes her head, “Nightmare.”

Author's Note:

I'm so terribly sorry for the incredible delay! It's been maybe two dozen weeks since I updated this (not including this week) I'm caught up a lot with work these days... but I really want to give this fic some love. I'm planning to try and push for fortnightly updates on Finding Faith, but I can't make promises that I can't keep. I'll do my best though!