• Published 5th Dec 2012
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Tangled Roots - Bad_Seed_72



The CMC know that Babs Seed was bullied in Manehatten, but how bad could things really have been?

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Bobtails And Bartenders

Bobtails And Bartenders

Digging her hooves into the cobblestones, Babs Seed struggled against the pull of Card Slinger’s rough hoof. A hoof-full of her long, streaming mane was held captive by the drunk colt, a look of unconstrained glee upon his face. She could see the moonlight shine off his devilish grin from the corner of her eye.

Celestia, please, no, please…

Card Slinger cruelly laughed as the smaller foal whimpered in his grasp, her hooves falling short of the strength she needed to break away from him. “I don’t think so, blankflank. Even if youze did get 'way, I got me main colt Toss heeya, an' Fenca, too.”

Fencer giggled and approached Slinger’s quarry, swaying as she did so. “So, what’s a bad seed like youze doin’ out in Luna’s night? I didn’t think dey let crybabies like youze outta youze crib!”

Babs Seed swallowed the tears that were threatening to flood her eyes. Not heeya, I can’t let ‘em see what dey do ta me. It’ll just make it worse. “I… I snuck out! But I’m leavin’ now, so jus' let me go, will youze?!” She contemplated bucking Card Slinger with one of her powerful hindhooves. She restrained herself only once she saw the broken cider bottle, its ends sharp as knives, held tightly in Slinger’s other forehoof.

“Heh, well, youze tryin’ ta be a gangsta-pone, are youze, bad seed?” Lucky Toss mocked, his slurred words cutting at Babs with a razor edge. “Youze think youze can be one o' us, eh?”

She shook her head rapidly. “No, sir! No!”

Snickering, her captor yanked her mane harder, eliciting a sharp cry of pain. “Good! We ain’t got no room fo' blankflanks like youze!”

Babs flailed her hooves wildly, wondering if she should scream for help. Would it make things worse? O' would it scare 'em off?

“So… Slinga…” Fencer asked, circling the terrified filly with hungry eyes, “What should we do wit' dis one?”

“Please…” Babs said, “Please, let me go… I didn’t do nothin’ ta youze!”

“An' let’s keep it dat way, lil’ seed,” hissed the gang-leader. Babs Seed felt his hot breath on her ear. She could smell the awful stench of fermented cider on his poisonous tongue. “Youze don’t put up a fight, an' we’ll let youze off easy.”

Let me off EASY?!

“Heh, youze know what I think… Slinga?” slurred Fencer, grinning wildly with excitement. “I think I like dis mane o’ hers…” Fencer grabbed a hoof-full of red-and-pink mane. “I think I want some o' it fo' maself.”

“W-W-What?!” Babs shrieked.

Fencer lowered her gaze, something dark and primitive crawling from within the crevices of her heart and into her eyes. “Cut it, Slinga.”

“Huh? Whaaat?” Toss stumbled and swayed, not sure if what he heard was the product of reality or yeast. “What didja say there, Fenca?”

“Cut her mane.”

Sobering up in a matter of seconds, as far as her voice was concerned, Fencer boldly stepped in front of Babs Seed and grasped her by the chin. “A blankflank like youze doesn’t deserve such a beautiful mane. I want it. I’ll use some o' it ta decorate ma swords.”

“Youze… youze can’t do dat!” Tears were becoming impossible to resist now. Babs Seed was utilizing all of her mental escape techniques as best as she could, though she wanted to cry until her eyes bled. Her mane were one of the few parts of herself she liked. And now, this awful foal wanted to steal that away from her, too, just like everything else.

“Like hay we can’t." Card Slinger sneered, yanking on Babs’ mane as she yelped. Slinger lifted her up to look him in the eyes. “Would youze rather we take summat else from youze?”

What else do I have dat youze would want?! The answer hit Babs cold in the stomach once she realized it. She felt like she was going to vomit. Her tail shivered and swept between her legs. A sharp pain rang out as she felt Fencer yank and grasp her tail, stretching it out.

“Cut her tail too, Slinga. I want half o' dis. Make fine tassels, it will.”

Lucky Toss began to chortle, snorting as he did so. “Fenca, youze a crazy mothabucka. Just let the blankflank go. Iffa she ain’t no snitch, we oughta. Youze is soundin' crazy.”

Fencer smacked Lucky Toss with her forehoof again, this time with much more force. Blood trickled from his jaw, a look of shock upon his face. Lucky Toss whimpered, but said nothing more as he leaned against the alleyway.

Card Slinger handed Fencer the broken cider bottle. “Here’s youze knife, m’lady." He snorted and dropped Babs to the ground. She landed with a THUD! as Slinger growled at her. “Youze lay nice an' pretty while the lady gives youze a manecut, an' we’ll let youze go.”

Babs Seed nodded rapidly, trying to run within her mind, far away from this dark place.

Luna’s moon smiled down at them, Card Slinger and Lucky Toss watching as Fencer took the broken cider bottle to Babs Seed’s tail. Babs Seed lay silent, willing herself not to cry. She could hear Fencer curse as she sawed the glass through the thick red and pink fur, but she felt no pain at all. She thanked Celestia for that, at least.

“Dammit, dis bottle sucks.” Fencer groaned, hiccuping. “Either o' youze have knives?” Both Toss and Slinger shook their heads. She laughed and gazed down at her quarry. “Ironic, but do youze have one, stupid blankflank?”

“No, ma’am,” Babs whispered quietly.

“Aw, well, dis’ll have ta do.” With a final slice, Fencer dropped the cut portion of Babs’s tail to the ground. Babs turned to try and see what remained, but Fencer was already grasping her mane, forcing her to face forward.

Babs Seed watched in dreamlike horror as Fencer began to saw through about half of her mane, cutting drunkenly through the thick strands of hair with the cider bottle. The silent foal made a mental note to never drink hard cider.

It brings the monsters out from behind their masks.

Suddenly, Babs heard both Toss and Slinger gasp and rise from their relaxed pose against the alleyway wall.

“HEY! WHAT ARE YOUZE DELINQUENTS DOIN’ BACK THERE?!”

“RUN!” Slinger yelled. He turned tail and bolted from the scene, a drunk Lucky Toss staggering after him as fast as his intoxicated hooves could carry him. In horror, Fencer dropped the hard cider bottle, barely missing the face of her victim, and let the filly's mane drop to the ground.

“Consider youzeself lucky, bad seed." She hissed and then galloped away, the combined hoofbeats of her three bullies pounding in Babs’ ears, fading away gradually into the wind with the night.

A beige Earth pony stallion wearing an apron and a bowtie rounded the corner, a look of rage shining upon his muzzle. First, he saw three sets of hoofprints leading away from a crumbled mass on the ground. Next, he saw a large pile of empty cider bottles at the far end of the loading dock. And, finally, his eyes met the shivering filly beneath him, a pile of red and pink hair near her tail, a broken cider bottle by her face, and her mane half-cut by, he presumed, the broken bottle.

“Are youze okay, kid?” the stallion asked gently, leaning down to meet the gaze of the frightened foal below him.

“Yeah... I... I think so." Babs gasped as she began to rise on all four of her own hooves. She swished her tail so she could look at it. It had been roughly cut in a bobtail manner, but it was still long enough to cover her blank flank when she twisted it towards herself. She could not see the state of her mane, but she could feel that it had not been fully cut, her tormentors having been scared off at the last second by the angel standing in front of her.

Oh, Celestia, thank youze fo' listenin’ ta me.

“Thank youze,” she said, feeling her heartbeat begin to slow as the danger and fear had passed. “Youze saved me… ma mane, at least.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t have been heeya soona …sorry 'bout youze tail, kid.”

“Oh, it’s okay..." Babs Seed swished her tail back to her flank, happy to see that it still could serve its purpose. “It coulda been worse. But… ma mane…”

“Yeah, youze gonna have ta have a proper haircut, now… no savin’ dat, kiddo. I’m sorry.” The stallion sadly shook his head. “Say,” he began, looking over the scene of empty cider bottles and hoofprints, “do youze happen ta know the names o' dem awful ponies? Looks like dey stolen some o' ma cider, too."

Babs immediately shook her muzzle. “No, sir. No.” Celestia knows what dey’ll do ta me iffa dey know I snitched on dem.

Her angel frowned. “Ah, dat’s too bad. Hey, kid, I can give youze a manecut now, iffa youze like. I know it’s late—an' youze shouldn’t have been out heeya, anyway!—but, iffa youze want, I’m also trained as a barber along wit' a bartender.” Giving her the best smile he could muster in such a situation, the stallion's teeth shined like stars in the darkness.

In spite of everything, Babs Seed could not help but grin. “Sure. Dat would be great, mista.”

Under the guidance of the watchful moon, she followed the stallion into The Watering Hole, thanking every lucky star she had ever wished upon for saving her.

~

The Watering Hole could be best described, in Manehatten terms, as “working-class". The walls were adorned with paintings and photographs of rivers, lakes, sunsets, mountains, and meadows: scenes of country life. Pitchforks, axes, saws, and hammers painted various metallic shades—gold, silver, bronze—filled the space in between the paintings on the wall. The bar was stocked to the brim with all colors of liquors and labels, most of which Babs had never seen before.

A few dim lights buzzed near the rafters. The air smelled sweet, like sugar and smoke tangoing together. Babs recalled that she had seen Greyhoof smoke a pipe a few times in the garden. Perhaps ponies had done the same in this bar earlier that evening, filling the room with tobacco’s sweet, musky scent.

Her savior caught the foal gazing with wonder at his bar. “Youze like it, huh, kid?”

“Yes sir!” she said, smiling.

“Heh, heh. Well, dis’ll be the only time youze be seein' the inside o' a bar before youze is o' age, so enjoy it, okay?”

Babs nodded. One of her most treasured hobbies was discovering new places in Manehatten, seeing new ponies, eying new treasures she had never laid her eyes upon. There was more joy and wonder in this establishment than all the square feet of Babs’ home. Authenticity proudly announced itself in each tool, each picture, each bottle of liquor that decorated The Watering Hole.

Maybe ma’ cutiemark could be in bartendin’. Dis place is amazin'. In spite of the terror of only minutes before, the adventurous foal was glad she had snuck out tonight, if only to have found such a place as this.

The stallion lead his guest to a strange chair she had never seen before. The chair appeared to be made of rough denim, leaned back in an acute angle next to a sink. “Sweetie, dis heeya’s a barber’s chair. The sink is fo' shavin’. But youze is a filly, so youze'll never need ta worry 'bout dat.” He chuckled heartily. “Youze can call me Turner, by the way. Now, come on up on dis chair an' I’ll fix dat mane fo' youze.”

Nodding eagerly, Babs leapt upon the chair, settling herself comfortably in its grasp. She sighed as she relaxed into the fabric, feeling the joints of her back and neck pop. She didn’t realize she had been so tense. No kiddin’ I was, though.

Turner picked up a pair of scissors in his mouth and laid them on the sink, then searched through a box near the barber’s chair. “Youze eva had youze mane cut befo', kid?”

“Only by one o' the servants.”

Turner raised an eyebrow. “Servants?”

“Yea… um… we have a couple o’ servants at home.” In that moment, Babs Seed realized that her living situation was a rarity at best and a foreign concept at worst to ponies who lived below the haughty gates of the hills.

“Hmmm.” The stallion located a long cape and grasped it in his teeth. Trotting over to his guest, Turner threw the cape over her. “Now, dis is ta catch any hairs dat might fall on youze while I cut. Iffa it’s too tight, jus' lemme know,” he added, tying a string behind the filly’s neck.

“Thanks, Turner.” It was a bit tight, but Babs Seed said nothing. Doesn’t really matta, an' I can’t be too picky, right?

Turner took the scissors between his forehooves and chuckled. “Now relax, sweetheart. Dis looks difficult, but I’ve been doin’ it fo' years. It’ll be jus' fine. Now… what kinda cut do youze want?”

“Hmm… Summat cool!”

“… Cool?”

“Yeah! Summat dat makes me look…” Babs searched for the proper word. Like a flank-kicker? Somepony who don’t take no horseapples? A filly from the gates o' Tartarus herself?

“Tough?” Turner guessed.

“Yes!” Babs clapped her forehooves together excitedly. “Yes, yes, please!”

Turner laughed merrily. “Alright, kid, youze got it.”

Babs Seed closed her eyes as Turner went to work, finishing the crude cut Fencer had attempted, shaping her mane with careful clips of the scissors. Feeling herself relax, she let her mind drift to thoughts of the three bullies. Will dey come back fo’ me? Can I go out at night anymo’? Maybe I should get a knife o’ summat. The filly had never contemplated violence before, but if it meant keeping herself out of the hooves of her tormentors, free to roam the streets where her troubles could not find her, then she would do it in a heartbeat. The kitchen back home was full of knives. Allspice would not miss one from the vast collection in the drawers.

Turner stayed silent, working diligently, beads of sweat forming on his brow. He had never seen this filly before, yet he felt déjà vu tugging at his mind. Perhaps she was the daughter of a stallion or mare he knew? Or… could she be…

“Hey kid,” Turner muttered softly, "how old are youze?”

“… Twelve…” Babs replied breathlessly, lost in thoughts of sharp objects.

The stallion internally sighed with relief. Much too old to be her. Good.

“Ah. Jus' wonderin’.”

“Mmhm.”

~

Gently removing the cape from his guest’s neck with his teeth, Turner dropped the scissors in the sink and began to run water over the blades. A pile of red and pink tangled mane lay at his hindhooves, but he didn’t mind. He could clean that later.

“Alright, kid, youze ready ta see it?”

“Yes, sir, please!” Babs said.

“Alright, heeya’s youze go,” Turner said, picking up a small mirror and holding it in his pearly whites for her to see.

Babs gasped with delight. It was far better than she had imagined. Turner had taken her long, bushy, frazzled mane, parts of it hanging and half-cut crudely by that awful foal, and shaped it into something that gave Babs a feeling of power and strength. Her mane now was barely past her neck, but it shaped her face perfectly, reminiscent of “punk” manecuts she had seen at a rock concert once. (Her parents and servants, of course, didn’t know she had briefly caught the last set of the show during one of her midnight romps.)

Well, almost perfectly. One long strand of her mane hung in front of her right eye, but it was small enough that she would be able to blow it away.

Seemingly telepathic, Turner laughed. “Youze know, kid, I was gonna cut dat one strand right there, but I figured it gave youze an air o' mystery, no?”

Hey, it kinda does, doesn’t it?

Gratitude overwhelmed her. “Oh, Turner, it’s amazin’! An' yes… youze is right, it makes me look… mysterious,” she added, hissing the last word like a serpent in the desert sand. The eyes, they said, are the windows to the soul, and gave away more emotion than she desired sometimes. Now, she could hide at least half of that with the proper angle.

“Well, I’m glad youze liked it.” Turner chuckled. “Now… do youze want me ta walk youze home, o' do youze think youze'll be alright?”

The stallion looked tired for the first time that night, and a quick glance at a clock on the wall confirmed that it was the darkest part of the night—the Witching Hour. Two A.M., 0200, the time when all kinds of magic (both black and white, good and evil) is strongest.

Yet, though Babs wished she could gather the courage to say, “Yes, sir, please, sir,” she knew that, when it came down to it, her savior would not be by her side for much longer. Even after tonight’s chaos and scares, Card Slinger, Lucky Toss, and Fencer would be waiting for her at school tomorrow morning, and many mornings after that. The streets would still be crawling with their demons, their gangsters and groupies. Turner could not change that.

And, in spite of his kindness, Turner couldn’t make Babs Seed feel safe, or wanted, or loved.

“Um… I think I’ve got it,” she said weakly, feeling her tail brush against her flank, a nervous tic she was grateful she could still satisfy. “I’ll be much mo’ careful, though,” she added, after seeing a drop of disapproval fall into the stallion’s eyes.

“Youze betta… Youze know, kid, I don’t know how long youze been in Manehatten—maybe youze been heeya longer than I have—but lemme tell youze summat ‘bout it. Dis city does not discriminate. Well… not in the way many think. The city is a vengeful beast upon us all, angry at us fo' simply existin'.” Turner trotted away from her, staring at some point in the moon through the window.

“She does not care who we are, who youze are. She will chew youze up, spit youze out, like youze is nothin’. Wit' a smile on her face, too. See… money is what it’s all 'bout. Money… an' names.”

An' cutiemarks.

“An' sure, the rich got it betta… but how much, do dey, really? Dey pay their bills, dey work, dey make mo’ money. Then dey buy more things, so dey got mo' bills. Dey work mo' an' mo'. Dey don’t get ta know their wives, o' husbands o' whatnot—I don’t judge!—or their foals, neitha.”

Even after being held down, threatened, forcibly barbered, and terrified by three of her biggest enemies, Turner’s last sentence hurt Babs Seed the worst. She felt one solitary tear escape, sparkling like a diamond before it fell to the floor.

“But youze know,” Turner continued, looking at the moon with a mournful expression, “dey don’t know how unhappy dey are. Dey jus' keep goin'. And' we all go wit' 'em. It’s economy. It’s the way o’ the world. Dat’s what Manehatten is… a cycle, a wheel o' wants an' needs fueling each other’s fires, never bein' met. An' when ponies have enough… dey either leave, o' dey become like those pricks who attacked youze.”

Facing her now, age and stress showing clearly on his weathered muzzle, Turner said, “Sweetie, whateva youze do, choose the former over the latter, always.”

“I will, sir," she said quietly.

“Good kid.” He smiled. “Now… be safe.”

Without a word, he turned and trotted past Babs to the back of the bar. Babs Seed took that as her clue to leave.

As she barreled through the doors of The Watering Hole, galloping off into the night, Babs offered a final, silent prayer of thanks to Celestia. Faith was not her strong point, but she knew somepony must have been watching out for her. She also remembered what Turner had asked of her, and vowed to keep it.

Wind tossing through her short mane and tail, Babs Seed whispered to nopony in particular, “I will never be like dem. Eva.”