• Published 12th Jan 2012
  • 2,767 Views, 35 Comments

Silent Knight - Brony 2-Ma-Ro



Interdimensional Travelers, Equicidal Robots, Whistling. Your typical Wednsday in Ponyville

  • ...
5
 35
 2,767

Chapter 3: The Journal

Chapter 3: The Journal

by: Brony 2-Ma-Ro

Twilight had braced herself for any of the possible outcomes: Chirp becoming angered at her discovery, and attacking. Or perhaps trying to escape, maybe even taking one of her friends hostage.

At the very least, she thought he might look surprised.

Instead, upon declaring her theory… no, her conclusion that he had been the one to fall out of the sky, he’d simply shrugged, becoming enamored with yet another book.

Okay, either I really need to reign in my imagination, or this guy simply doesn’t give two-bits about what anypony here thinks about him.

She nearly lost her balance as Applejack pulled her none to gently aside. Her voice was quiet, but firm. “Have you lost your nut? Ah can see how all that evidence points him, but in case you haven’t noticed, he’s not flattened into a flapjack after falling for… Oh, for Granny Smith knows how far.”

Twilight didn’t back down. “But he was there last night, not even a hundred strides from the site. That can’t be a coincidence!”

“Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but if he was that thing we saw, then how come he ain’t deader 'n last year’s harvest?”

Rainbow Dash joined them “Yeah! Believe me, I know a thing or two about heights. Falling that far is not gonna look pretty.”

“I should think not!” Rarity spoke up from Twilight’s right. “Aside from the obvious consequences, it would be positively impossible to fix one’s mane after an ordeal like that. I mean really…

Applejack rolled her eyes. “Here we go. Why does it always end up with pretty-fyin and mane-styles with you, Rarity? There’s a buckin’ human in the room, and we’re trying to figure out where he came from.”

“Oh, is that what we’re doing?” Pinkie bounced over between the unicorn and earth pony. “I thought we were having a best arguerer contest."

Twilight glared at her. “No we… Well, yes, we are. I mean... argh! I’m just trying to find out if it was him that fell from the sky last night, or not!”

Pinkie stopped bouncing. “Oh that’s easy. Hey Chirp!”

Chirp looked up from the book he was flipping through, one eyebrow raised.

“Did you fall from the sky last night in a big fireball that went *whoosh* and *boom* and made a big mess when it hit the ground? Huh? Huh? Didja? Huh?”

Giving the pink party pony an inquisitive look, gave a positive whistle, coupled with a nod for good measure, once again burying his nose in the book. Pinkie turned to the rest of the group. “See? I guess he did.”

Rainbow Dash slapped a hoof to her face, muttering to herself. “I really hate it when she does that.”

By now, all six ponies had configured themselves into a huddle, their voices just above a whisper. Twilight glanced back at Chirp. “Okay, so now that’s out of the way, we still need to figure out what we should do.”

“Um, well, maybe you should, I guess, write a letter to the princess? She seems to know more about this than we do.”

“No way, Fluttershy! The princess told us not to get involved; which I still think is kinda stupid. Maybe we should tell him to leave.”

“Oh, but he’s so nice, Rainbow. He’s very gentle, and he doesn’t look like he could hurt anyone.”

“Fluttershy, dearest, I understand your trepidation on the matter, but the fact is we know so little about humans. For all we know, he may as well be a manticore.”

“Manticores aren’t that bad, Rarity.”

The ivory unicorn rolled her eyes. “Ugh. Very well, he might as well be a dragon.”

“Eep!” Fluttershy stiffened.

Pinkie continued to bounce. “Oooooh! This is so exciting. I wonder what kind he is?”

Ignoring the pink pony, Rarity put a hoof to her forehead. “I mean, heaven knows what he eats. He might even eat ponies. What if he’s saving us up, getting ready to fatten us! Oh, it’s unbearable.”

“Maybe he’s a main supporting character…?”

Now it was Applejack’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “Rarity, wouldja calm down for just a cotton-pickin’ minute. Ah don’t think Chirp intends to eat us.”

“…Oooohhh, or perhaps a villain!

The expression on Rarity's face was one of absolute horror. “But Applejack, think of the new measurements I’d have to take, not to mention my form! How will my dress fit me?”

The orange cowpony was completely flabbergasted. “Wha-? He’s not tryin’ to fatten us either!”

“Oh wait! Duh, he’s comic relief!”

“Oh yeah? How would you know?” Came a snide remark from Rainbow.

Still bouncing, Pinkie placed a hoof to her mouth, sticking her toungue out in Spike’s trademark “gag.”
Bleah! Just so long as he isn’t some sort of Mary Sue.”

This earned her several confused looks from the huddle. But, then again, she was Pinkie Pie after all.

Applejack turned to Rainbow Dash. “Ah may not be Fluttershy, Rainbow, but Ah know enough about animals to tell which ones eat meat.”

Twilight growled with frustration. “Girls! We are getting nowhere! What we need to do is figure out what…”

*Knock knock*

Everypony froze. Even Chirp glanced nervously at the door. Twilight looked at the clock. “Oh jeez! I forgot! The library opened five minutes ago! Stupid, stupid, stupid!”

Pinkie Pie, a professional party planner, immediately stopped bouncing, her expression serious. “Quick! Places everypony! Rarity, fashion’s over on the left! Applejack and Rainbow Dash to sports on the right. Fluttershy, Zecora, take the reference books near the middle. I’ll take the books on the table.”

Twilight started slightly. She’d completely forgotten the herbalist had even been in the room. Looking over, she saw Zecora moving over to join Fluttershy. She seems to know more about this than any of us. Why didn’t she say anything?

By now, everypony was already in position. Twilight called in a loud whisper to Pinkie. “What about me?”

The pink pony rolled her eyes. “Silly Billy! Answer the door!”

“Oh, right.”

She was halfway there when she remembered: Chirp was still out in the open. Thinking fast, she looked at him, and did the only logical thing she could think of. “Chirp. Duck.”

He gave her an odd look. Hearing a noise behind him he turned, just in time to see an entire bookcase worth of literature soaked in lavender light; and heading his way. The plaintiff look on his face clearly transcribed his thoughts.

Oh no, not again!

He hit the deck.

Thwump!

Zecora looked like she was about to say something, but Twilight was already opening the door. Putting a bright smile on her face, she addressed the pony on the front step. “Sorry about that. I’m afraid I forgot to unlock… Oh! Hello Lyra!”

Standing before her was a cyan colored unicorn. She was a little younger than Twilight, with a lyre cutie mark on her flank. In one of her saddlebags, Twilight could see the instrument itself, freshly polished, and with what appeared to be a new set of strings. She also saw several sheets of music stuffed in beside it, some appearing to only be half finished. In the other saddlebag was a thick tome, though Twilight couldn’t make out the title.

Her actual name was Heartstrings, but ever since she’d come to Ponyville from Canterlot, she’d preferred the nickname of Lyra. Twilight smiled to herself. Before she’d come to Ponyville herself, she hadn’t really had any friends; at least not until the whole Nightmare Moon incident. She had, however, known both Lyra and her roommate, Bon Bon, from her days in Canterlot, and when they had moved to Ponyville as well, she had felt obliged to reacquaint herself with them.

Bon Bon had just taken up a job working for Mr. and Mrs. Cake at Sugarcube Corner, and had become fast friends with Pinkie as well. Lyra, on the other hand, made her bread off of composing songs, often playing her lyre in the park. Granted, she was something of an oddball within the community, but the label was given affectionately. After all, she paled in comparison to Pinkie. Twilight remembered that Lyra had acted as an honorary bridesmaid during the her brother's and Princess Cadence's wedding. Mind control notwithstanding, she winced inwardly.

Lyra returned Twilight’s smile. “Hi Twilight. Don’t worry about it, I just wanted to drop this off.” She nodded to the book in her saddlebag. “May I come in?”

Twilight smiled. “Of course. Oh, ah, it’s a bit of a mess. Sorry.”

Entering the room, Lyra smiled at the mountain of books by the table, shaking her head. “Nowhere near as messy as my room, trust me.” Closing her eyes, a pale green aura surrounded the book, and she levitated it onto the table. All around the room, Twilight’s friends were doing their best to look busy. Twilight winced inwardly. Rainbow Dash would probably be more convincing if she were holding the book right side up!

Her thoughts were pulled back to the present, as Lyra suddenly noticed Pinkie Pie positioned behind a large stack of party books. “Oh, hi Pinkie!”

The pink mare looked up, a big grin on her face. “Hi Lyra. Nice day, huh? Ooh! Watcha readin?”

Lyra immediately blushed. “It’s, uh, just some research I’m doing.”

She tried to pull the book subtly out of the party pony's reach, but Pinkie had already pounced on it. “Starswirl’s Pre-Classical Catalogue of Mischief and Mayhem? Cool! I love this book! It has so many ideas for fun pranks!”

“Really? Lemme see!”

Rainbow dash dropped the book she’d been “reading.” Twilight finally caught a glimpse of the title. It was the most recent book in the bestselling Daring-Do series; The Quest for the Topaz Tambourine. Looking over Pinkie’s shoulder, Rainbow’s eyes widened. “Aw, cool! You can really do that with taffy?”

Pinkie nodded. “Yup, but it works best with strawberry. And that’s only one of the awesome things I’ve learned from this.” She turned to Lyra. “Are you planning to prank someone?” She held up a hoof to her mouth, speaking in a loud whisper. “Maybe someone in this room?”

Twilight couldn’t help but speak up. “Actually, I’m pretty certain that Starswirl wrote this book with the intention of…” But she got no farther. Lyra was already stammering her excuses, edging her way to the door.

“Er, yes, that’s it. Pranks. Right. Thanks a lot Twilight see ya later bye!” And with that, she was out the door.

Rainbow smiled at Twilight. “Huh. What an oddball. And I thought we looked suspicious.”

Twilight sighed in relief. “Well, at least she’s gone.” She looked over at the pile of books concealing Chirp, wincing. As Ponyville’s librarian for the past two years, and having dealt with many organizational mishaps, she’d been trapped under more than a few avalanches of parchment herself, and in her experience, it was anything but comfortable. “Sorry, Chirp. Guess I panicked a bit. You can come out now.”

Silence. Then, a brief whistle. Spike frowned. “Uh, he said ‘no.’”

More whistling. This time, it was Fluttershy who spoke up. “Um, he says, ‘It’s comfy here, and I’m only on chapter three of Spike’s diary.”

The dragon nodded in agreement. “Yup, that’s what he… HEY!”

He dove head-first into the pile. “Give that back!” Cheek pressed against a thick encyclopedia, Spike had shoved his arm deep into the pile, trying to grab the offending piece of literature. His expression shifted from panic to realization, then on to downright peeved. He extricated himself from the pile, scowling.

Applejack grinned. “Aww, did he get to that romantical dinner scene with you and Rar… OW!

She rubbed at her tender muzzle, the the offending muffin falling to the floor with a soft *squelch*. Granted, it was only a pastry, but it still stung. Picking up another muffin from the snack tray, Spike glared her, as well as the others, all of whom were suffering from barely controlled bouts of snickering. “Ah, shaddap. How was I supposed to know I didn’t even have a diary?”

Twilight smiled. For all intents and purposes, Chirp seemed to be perfectly harmless. She wasn’t going to let her guard down anytime soon, but he didn’t look like he could harm a fly. He couldn’t even scare Fluttershy, an art her own shadow had mastered long ago.

Closing her eyes, she lifted the books off of Chirp, placing them back on the shelf. She wasn’t certain, but they seemed heavier than usual. She resolved to sort them later, and to brush up on her levitation.

Chirp was staggering to his feet, massaging his back, an evil grin on his face. Spike held up his arm, turning his head away. “Talk to the claw, bub, cuz the face aint listenin.”

Twilight’s eyes lit up. Ideeeeaaaaa! Realizing what she’d just mentally proclaimed, she shook her head, trying to shake Rarity’s catchphrase from her mind. Seeing that Spike was not in a good mood, Twilight conjured her own set of quill, ink and parchment. “Well, Chirp. I’d say we all have a lot of questions, but that would be an understatement. It’d be nice to have you stay there while I write them all down…” A collective groan, and several eye rolls around the room. Twilight hastily continued“…but this could take a while.”

She looked around at everypony. “Stop me if this is too much, but would you girls be so kind as to show Chirp around town?”

There was a stunned silence. Even Chirp was quieter than usual.

Rainbow spoke up, her cracked voice saturated with sarcasm. “Gee, I’d love to Twi, but um… there’s that little thing. You know, about him being a HUMAN!”

Applejack nodded, still rubbing her muzzle. “Seems to me the right fastest way to start a panic is having him gallivantin’ out there in the open.”

Twilight nodded. "Yes, but he can’t stay in here forever. Besides, this is technically his first day in Ponyville. You don’t have to introduce him to anyone, I mean, well... just show him where stuff is. Oh! And he can use that Wall… uh…”

“Wallflower,” offered Spike in a loud whisper.

“...'Wallflower technique,' right.” She looked around at the blank stares. “That thing he did where he becomes invisible. He’ll be fine, nopony will know he’s there.” She gave him a stern look. “Right?”

He nodded vigorously.

Pinkie Pie had already opened her mouth, but Twilight was ready. “And no! A welcome party, though nice, is out of the question. We need to keep a low profile.”

Both human and party-pony hung their heads in disappointment. Twilight rolled her eyes. “Fine. We can put on a small one. Later!” She glared at Pinkie, freezing her in mid boing. She pouted, settling back to earth slightly slower than she’d left it.

Rainbow Dash looked at Twilight, eyebrow raised. “Let me get this straight: A human literally lands in our laps, Celestia is looking for him, it’s possible that he’s dangerous…” At this, she strode right up to Twilight, staring her square in the eye. “…and you’re suggesting he parade around town to look at stuff. Since when were you so… so… random? The Twilight I know would’ve made a list of reasons he’s dangerous, a checklist of ways to stop him, a list of checklists you need to make…”

Twilight held up a hoof. “I know, I know! Look, I’m going to be honest with you. I just need some time to clear my head.”

There was a beat as Dash crossed her forehooves. “So you’re just gonna drop him into one of our laps, then?”

Twilight started. She hadn’t felt that was her motive, but in retrospect, it was kind of obvious. She looked around, regret clear in her eyes. “I’m… I’m really sorry if this is too much. I’d understand if you refuse…”

“But my dear, he simply must come to my shop!”

Rarity stood up, giving Chirp an apologetic glance. “No offense, Chirp, but invisible or no, I won’t have you strutting around town without proper attire.” She looked at Twilight. “I would gladly take responsibility of him for the day, or at least until I can fashion him some proper accoutrement.”

Twilight smiled in relief. Leave it to the Element of Generosity to offer up her time for her friend’s sake. Before she could even open her mouth to thank her, Applejack stepped forward. “You know we’re all here, sugarcube. If ever ya need help wranglin’ any sorta varmint,” she glanced pointedly at Chirp, “even him, Ah’d be more than happy to oblige.” She smiled sweetly at Chirp.

He gulped.

Rainbow laughed raucously. “You? Ha! I could run circles around the both of you. Twilight, I’m your mare if ever he gets outta line.”

By now, Chirp was looking distinctly uncomfortable. Fluttershy spoke up. “Well, I think he’s very nice, but I’d be glad to help. Uh, if that’s okay with you, I mean.”

Zecora spoke as well, her deep lilting voice carrying from behind Twilight’s copy of Super Naturals. “If there is any help you need, call and I will gladly heed.”

Twilight was perhaps ten seconds from hugging them all. Focus, egghead. She sufficed with a smile, looking around at all of her friends. “Oh, thank you so much. All of you.” She gave Chirp a worried look. “But… well, I’m sorry Chirp, but even if you promised, I’m just not sure I…”

“Promises? Did somepony say 'promises?'”

Pinkie bounced up and down, a big grin neatly connecting her ears. Without missing a beat, she bounced her way onto the table, setting herself at eye level with a baffled Chirp. “Do you, Chirp, Pinkie-Promise to do everything Rarity says, and not hurt her or Spikey or Twilight or Rainbow or… Well, anypony I know in any way, so long as you live? And I know everypony in Ponyville, so that includes them too.”

Though confused at the odd wording, Chirp nodded. Pinkie raised her right forehoof. “Repeat after me: ‘Cross my heart…” She made the appropriate gesture with her hoof. With an incredulous expression, Chirp did the same with his hand. Pinkie gave him a look. “You have to say it, goofy!” Rolling his eyes, he repeated the motion, this time whistling at a pitch mirroring Pinkie’s own. Satisfied, she continued the rhyme, stopping after every verse to let Chirp catch up.

“Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”

Twilight winced as Chirp messed up the final line. She suppressed a smile, remembering the first time she’d made a Pinkie-Promise. That attempt hadn’t gone much better.

Pinkie leaned in close to Chirp, forcing him to lean back uncomfortably. “And you never, ever, ever, ever, ever… Break a Pinkie-Promise.” Defying gravity, she leaned even closer, bending Chirp backwards almost double. Her voice was little more than a very loud whisper. “Ever!”

His hand still covering his sore eyeball, Chirp mutely nodded, visibly disturbed by Pinkie’s antics. At that point, gravity caught up, pulling Chirp backwards into the bookshelf, and Pinkie straight to the floor. Chirp winced, rubbing his head, while Pinkie, bouncy as ever, hopped up as if nothing had happened. “Okey-Dokey-Loki. He’s all yours, Rare.”

As Pinkie Pie bounced merrily away, Fluttershy came up to Chirp, looking him square in the eyes. “I really hope you like it here as much as I do, Chirp. Just don’t get into any trouble now, okay?”

Chirp, now visibly shaken, slowly nodded. Twilight didn’t have a clear view, but she had the chilling suspicion that Fluttershy had just used the nicest form of her Stare as possible.

So it was settled. Today, at least, Chirp would visit the Carousel Boutique, and familiarize himself with the basic layout of the town on the way. Rarity might have been a little vain, but Twilight was fully confident in her abilities to defend herself.

One by one, everypony gathered their things, and made their farewells. Twilight offered anypony who wished for the chance to help come up with questions for Chirp, but Applejack had to get back to the farm, and Fluttershy didn’t want to leave her animals alone for too long. Pinkie was due back at the Cakes’ to finish up a large order of muffins for Derpy.

And Rainbow Dash? Well…

“Sorry Twi, gotta catch up on some z’s. Lotta training to do… Later.” As she flew out the door, she strafed sideways, waving farewell to the human. “So long, Chirp!”

Spike, given the choice between staying to help Twilight, or going with Chirp to translate, took the obvious one: go with Rarity.

As Rarity was gathering her things, Twilight glanced up to see Chirp looking at her. His eyes were wide, and he subtly motioned in the general direction of her friends in a manner that could be best translated as “WTF?”

Twilight smiled. “Don’t worry, they’re nice, really. Just, don’t get on their bad side.” Chirp rolled his eyes in a “duh” motion, then looked expectantly at Twilight. She returned his look, confused. “Uh, yes? Is there something you need?”

Chirp thought a moment, then snapped his heels together, and his arms to his sides, eyes staring straight ahead, his mouth clamped exaggeratedly shut. Standing stiff as a board, Twilight couldn't help but compare him to the monster from
Mare Shelly's Frankenstallion.

However, it only took a moment for her to figure out he was referring to the previous evening. “Huh? What is… Oh! Right. *Ahem* Chirp, you have my permission to leave the library.” She gave him a stern look. “But do as Rarity says, and don’t wander off. I’m trusting you. Please don’t make me regret that.”

Chirp nodded, his face a picture of sincerity, though his mouth twitched in a small smile. He donned his hood, Twilight felt her vision shift, and then he was gone.

But... not. Instead of Chirp, there was a human-shaped patch of air that seemed slightly out of sync with it's surroundings, like a misaligned photo. That's wierd, thought Twilight. Maybe it only works a few times?

Rarity, however, didn't seem to notice the "wrong" in the air walk up to her, and settle next to her shoulder. She started, her pink summer hat almost slipping from her head. “Oh! Chirp, is that you?” An affirmative whistle floated from the air. Rarity smiled. “Very good. Just stay close, and please don't wander off. The last thing i need right now is a game of hide and seek with an invisible human."

Smiling at her own joke, she made her way to the door, followed by Spike. As they left, Twilight heard a soft thud as Chirp's head met the door frame, and the slight ripple in the air as he recoiled from the offending threshold. She winced, picturing the unfortunate human massaging his forehead.

Twilight felt a hoof on her own shoulder. She turned, finding Zecora giving her a kind look. Guilt promptly hammered itself down Twilight’s throat. “Oh Zecora! I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to waste any of your time.”

Zecora smiled “For not much longer can I stay, but I think you should learn what we found today.”

After two or three rhyming couplets, Twilight had the general gist of what Zecora and Rainbow had found: A strange ash pile in the Everfree forest, which the two of them had identified as a deceased timberwolf. While Twilight thought it might have been nice if Zecora had brought it up earlier, she recalled that Fluttershy's sensitivity about wildlife, no matter how vicious, meant Zecora's judgement in waiting was probably spot on.

Twilight was about to interject when Zecora held up a hoof. She reached into her saddlebag, pulling out a strange metal object carefully held between her teeth. Twilight recognized it as the thing they’d found amongst the ashes.

She accepted the strange spike, giving Zecora a look. “So, Rainbow says it looks a bit like a weapon?” Surrounded by Twilight’s magenta aura, the metal dart flipped around in the air, letting her see every possible detail. The drain in her stamina was greater than she expected, as if it were much heavier than it appeared. Adjusting her flow, she looked it over. “I guess it could be a weapon, but without magic, it’d be sort of awkward to throw.”

Zecora nodded. “To know these things may take a while. Could another weapon employ this projectile?”

Blinking her eyes, Twilight cast a simple magnification spell. Zecora’s hunch appeared to be spot on, as she saw several scratches running along its length. Not dissimilar to a quarrel employed by a crossbow, or similar device.“Good guess, Zecora,” she said, setting the dart on the table. “Still, it’s just so small. I doubt it would do much.”

Then, out of no where, two thoughts clicked in her mind: the new "ripple" phenomenon she had seen, and Zecora's reaction when she had first arrived. She turned to the herbalist. “You know, there’s something I don’t understand. When you first walked in, how did you see Chirp?”

Zecora smiled. “When, like me, you are old and wise, you learn to look not just with your eyes.” She glanced up at the clock, sighing. “I don’t wish to leave you in this mess, but my errands are not complete, I confess. If you find anything, please let me know. Till then, to quote Photo Finish: ‘I go.’”

Twilight suppressed a snicker, but got a hold of herself as Zecora was leaving. She dashed after her. “Wait! Zecora, what do you know about...?”

The square was filled with ponies of every shape, size, and color. But none of them had black and white stripes. Twilight rolled her eyes. Zecora may be odd, but she certainly seemed sensible. It was more than likely she knew something of humans. Still, Twilight wondered why she was so evasive of the topic. She shrugged. She trusted the zebra. She’d talk about it when she was ready.

Reentering the library, she surveyed the mess of books. After a brief moment of contemplation, she collapsed, an enormous sigh wracking her frame.

So much has happened in so many hours, she thought. Am I doing the right thing? What if I really should tell the Princess? Is it bad that I’m hiding him? Well, lying’s one thing, but he couldn’t… hurt anypony… could he?

She remained there for perhaps another fifteen minutes, simply enjoying the cool wooden floor. After a time, she slowly forced herself upright. I don’t know everything, but I can at least tackle it head on. She quickly formulated a mental checklist.

-First, investigate the dart. Easy enough.

-Second, continue research on humans.

-Third, make a list of questions to give Chirp after he comes back.

She thought a moment. Then…

-Fourth, ask Zecora for help when I see her next. If not before.

Satisfied, she once again took hold of the dart, ready this time for the larger than normal drain in stamina. Now, how should I go about this?

The dart was innocuous enough. A metal cylinder pointed at one end, flanged at the other, and about a hoof-and-a-half long. Still, there was no way of knowing how it would behave. It didn’t appear to have any magical properties, but that didn’t exclude some hidden mechanism. Maybe it would explode when it hit something? Looking around, she spotted precisely what she needed: A simple paperweight, little more than an old block of wood.

Retrieving it telepathically from the center table, she then set up a simple bubble-like shield around both it and the dart, enough to disperse any sudden kinetic force from shrapnel or the like. Then, carefully lining them up, and bracing for the unexpected, she brought them together with enough force to embed the tip of the dart well into the wood.

Twilight blinked in surprise. There hadn't been any explosion, but she hadn’t expected the dart to go in quite so deep. She tried to tug them apart, but the dart refused to budge.

Planting her hooves, she gave the dart a good mental yank. There was a substantial drain in her stamina, and beads of sweat formed on her brow. Finally, with a sickening crack, the dart came out. The block, on the other hand, shattered into several pieces, collecting at the bottom of the energy bubble.

Guess I’ll have to make another trip to Paperweights and Ottomans this week. Confused, Twilight cocked her head to one side. But just how did that happen? She released the shield, the wood clattering to the floor. Taking a closer look at the device, her heart leaped to her throat.

Six, vicious looking serrated blades had sprung out of the dart, just below the tip. Some splinters of wood still clung to minute teeth adorning the tines. Despite the small size of the dart, each blade had sprung out nearly a full inch. Though it seemed physically impossible, Twilight realized that they must’ve been stored in the dart’s body itself.

She gave a nervous laugh. Okay, forget what I said earlier. This thing can do quite a number. She carefully set the dart back on the table. Then, rethinking, she placed it in an empty mug on Spike’s snack tray. It was prominent enough not to be missed, and there was little chance of anypony stepping on it, or something.

Purely out of habit, she scribbled down her findings.

Item: Strange dart.

Origin: Unknown (related to Chirp?)

Conclusion: Dangerous! Small size allows it to easily enter target, but spring-loaded blades ensure that removal is much riskier...

She glanced nervously at the shattered chunks of wood.

…Potentially catastrophic.

Notes: Dart appears to resist magical influence. Though it weighs perhaps a quarter of a pound, lifting or manipulating it with magic requires the congruent energy needed to lift an object of about seven pounds or more. Possibly an alloy with one of the thirteen known "anti-magic" minerals. Further investigation required.

Although this only brought up more questions, she smiled. It felt good to get something done. Setting the paper and quill on the table, she made her way to the bookshelf. She was already half-way through checking the titles when she realized that they were all out of order. This was the same section of literature she’d dropped on Chirp.

She groaned. "Right, let’s get this out of the way first."

Once again, the books glowed, removing themselves from the shelf. "Let’s see… The Illustrated Guide to Equestrian Cryptozoology, of course. Lost Races of Equestria; I’m pretty certain that had a subsection on humans. Wasn’t there one more… wait… what's this?"

Twilight blinked several times. Her eyes weren’t lying. There, on the shelf, between Equestrian Mythology and Flying for Beginners, was a book she had never seen before. Without realizing, it, she’d already grabbed it. The book, bound with a dark, grained material, was about the size of a journal. And much heavier than it looked. Perhaps it had some sort of metal backing. Or...

No… Could it?

Setting the book on the table, she immediately began examining it. Definitely a journal. Her library didn’t have journals. She knew, because she’d read every single book in it; or at least, any copies that happened to be in the Canterlot library as well. But she had definitely not read this one.

Where did this come from? Without meaning to, she gripped it with her hoof, testing the weight. A small smile played on her lips, though she didn’t really know why this could be good. Holding it with magic takes more energy than physically lifting it! That means…

When she had lifted the pile of books off of Chirp not twenty minutes ago, it had seemed slightly heavier. One book couldn’t have made that difference. But what if anything made by humans resists magic? That dart? This journal? No, Chirp’s journal! It must have fallen off his person when she’d put the books away. This is his!

She could spend all the time she wanted looking through Equestrian documentation on creatures that supposedly didn’t exist.

Or, she could read a first-hand account!

She felt a moment of guilt about reading someone’s personal thoughts. But only a moment. Of course I’ll return it. If he’s nothing to hide, then he won’t mind if I peek.

A smug, self-satisfied smile on her face, she unwound the twine holding the cover closed, and opened to the first page.

Her head met the table with a dull *thud*. Yeah, right. Like It’s going to be that easy. Of course it was in another language! Like that weird drawing in Cryptzoology…

Something in Twilight’s brain clicked.

“…For more information on Human Theory, please consult ‘Starswirl’s Pre-Classical Catalogue of Mischief and Mayhem...”

Now she remembered! Lyra had checked out The Illustrated Guide to Equestrian Cryptozoology about two months back. And she had just returned Starswirl’s Pre-Classical Catalogue of Mischief and Mayhem! Two books, both dealing with humans! And she had looked distinctly uncomfortable under the scrutiny Pinkie and Rainbow had given her!

Does she know something about humans too?

So, she now had four books to work with, one of which by her idol, Starswirl no less, and a journal. She took one more look at the non-sensical page before her. She couldn’t take the time to translate it all now, but it couldn’t hurt to flip through it.

Gently caressing the pages in her magic, even the paper felt heavier than it should. Not enormously so, but more like moving a pamphlet for one of Pinkie's parties than a sheet of parchment. Flipping through, she found only more and more pages of text, until she suddenly, she came across something that needed no translation…

She stared at the sketch for perhaps a minute. It was, without a doubt, herself. It was rough, to say the least. A few quick strokes with a quill, little more. But still...

Okay, this just got weird.

Maybe it was just a hobby? Unless there was a group of humans who were secretly obsessed with ponies… ugh. She quickly turned the page...

She puzzled over the strange illustrations. Mostly, they appeared to be little more than random, nonsensical scribbles. Some had small pieces of the same, indecipherable script at the bottom, or set in notes. She recognized some of the sketches, and saw that one appeared to have some sort of complex algorithm that had been thoroughly scratched out, but others were completely alien to her. What could this be? A ship? A piece of armor? A potato…?

She also noticed a large portion of the pages had been torn out. What could he be hiding…? She shook her head. She was intruding on Chirp’s private thoughts. Even if she didn’t understand any of it, it felt… Wrong, somehow.

… Well, I guess one more page couldn’t hurt.

Is… is this what a human female looks like? It was obvious that Chirp had put a huge amount of effort into this piece. Rather than with pen, like the others, this had been done with pencil. Traces of eraser rubbings were evident all over the page. It looked as if it were unfinished. She deduced the strange script at the bottom was her name.

Taviax? Tavia?

She couldn’t translate it directly, of course, but the runes were similar enough to their Equestrian counterparts for her to get a rough guess. She looked back at the first page she had opened to, and realized the strange name popped up several times throughout.

Why is this girl so special to him. Sister? Crush? …Lover?

She sighed, closing the book. Just another question for Chirp when he gets back. She picked up the parchment.

-Revision. Ask Chirp for information, then research.

-Also, make a formal apology to Chirp. And return his property.

Unfortunately, her curiosity was far from sated. She once again considered the dart. It had “sprung” when she’d tested it, but not when it’d struck the timberwolf. Why? And it was apparent the dart wasn’t incendiary, so what had burnt the wolf? And so thoroughly? Zecora had only recognized it due to the size and the smell, but there had been no trace of skeletal structure. Then again, maybe they didn’t have bones.

Twilight shook her head, and stared at the books set before her.

I can do a little reading, but I think it’s better if I catch up with Chirp and Rarity to figure this out as soon as possible.

In all this, however, one question remained unanswered.

Who was Chirp?

---

Perhaps half an hour later, the librarian gathered her things. “Let’s see. Checklist, parchment, ink, quills, books. Oh, Chirp’s journal. And...”

A small glass jar held the metal spike. She hadn’t figured out how to retract the tines, so she’d decided to take extra precautions when carrying it. Interestingly enough, while carrying the dart with magic required some extra effort, lifting the jar containing it didn’t.

Satisfied with her cargo, she set her saddlebags on her back. “Right, that’s everything. Now, off to Rarity’s.” Her stomach growled, and she blushed. “Okay, lunch, then Rarity’s. Hmm, I wonder if that cafe still has those daffodil sandwiches?”

As she opened the door, a large smile surrounded by pink, pink, and more pink was there to greet her.

“Hiya Twilight I know I said I was busy earlier but now I’m not and there’s something I wanted to mff frmrff mfnd mrffrm frm...”

Twilight’s hoof was already covering Pinkie’s mouth. She chuckled. “Hello to you too, Pinkie. Actually, I was just about to head out to lunch before going to Rarity's. Care to join? Oh, how’d that muffin order for Derpy go?”

Pinkie bounced in place as Twilight stepped outside, closing the door behind her. “Oh Ditzy’s fine. She loved the muffins, and I was trying out a new recipe (cinnamon blueberry, who knew?), and she said it was good, and...”

Twilight interrupted, a confused look on her face. “Wait, 'Ditzy?' I thought her name was Derpy.”

“Well, sorta,” Pinkie shrugged. “It’s more of a nickname. What, you thought her parents really named her Derpy?”

Twilight blushed again. “Okay, I guess it was a bit of a stretch there. But everypony always calls her Derpy, and I guess was just too self-conscious to ask. I didn’t want to embarrass her.”

By now, they were already in the main square. The fountain had several pigeons serenading the statue, and the town hall stood proud as ever. Pinkie giggled. “Oh you silly filly. Some meanie bullies called her Derpy when she was at flight camp, but she got em back by calling herself that. She’s really nice. I mean, sure, she runs into stuff sometimes, but she’s real good with the mail. You should see her daughter, Dinky. Awwww, so cuuuuuute.” At this, she floated about three hoof-lengths into the air, legs vibrating excitingly.

As much as Twilight enjoyed listening to Pinkie ramble, she decided to shorten their conversation by an hour or two. “I don’t doubt she is, and I’d love to meet her. But I don’t think you came her just to talk about muffins.”

Much to Twilight’s surprise, Pinkie became completely serious. Her heir remained frizzy, but her voice became much more subdued, and she stopped bouncing. She spoke out the side of her mouth in an exaggerated whisper. “You’re right, Twilight. There’s been something niggling at me all day, and I couldn’t figure it out until just before I came to see you.” She glanced first left, then right, then left again at Twilight.

“You said Chirp fell out of the sky, right?”

Twilight almost froze, looking around frantically to see if anypony had heard. But everyone was busy with their own conversations, and Pinkie’s feat of ventriloquism seemed to be doing the trick. Eyebrow raised, she looked at the pink earth pony. “...Yes.”

“And we definitely posolutely absitively didn’t expect him, right?”

“Okay, Pinkie, but what’s your...”

“Twilight, has my Pinkie-Sense ever been wrong?”

Twilight thought for a moment. “Well, we’ve miscalculated a few times, but I guess not.”

“Then why didn’t it work?”

A beat. “What?” Said Twilight.

“I didn’t get any twitches! I mean, I got a ear-flop, eye-flutter, and knee-twitch, which usually means rainbow, but I think it meant the stars and the awry-boring were very beautiful.”

Twilight gave Pinkie a quizzical look. “You mean the ‘aurora borealis?’”

Pinkie nodded. “Right, that. But I didn’t get a twitchy-tail for when something falls, or the shudders when there was going to be a doozy. And both happened!”

At this, she turned to Twilight. The lavender mare was surprised to see real concern, maybe even fear, in her friend’s sky-blue eyes. “Twilight, my Pinkie sense is never wrong. It’s never let me down and... well...” She appeared to think for a moment.

"Twilight... Is my Pinkie sense broken?"

Any other day, Twilight might have laughed at the absurdity of the statement. But the genuine concern in her friend's voice stopped her dead. Her Pinkie was asking her a genuine question, and wanted a serious answer from her friend.

They continued walking in silence, both deep in thought. All around them, the hustle and bustle of multi colored ponies going about their business as usual almost made everything seem... well, usual. Rose was watering the flowers outside her shop, while Daisy swept the front steps. Merchants were calling out for one and all to buy their wares, and every so often, there’d be a small squabble over the stall locations, or the pricing. Twilight didn't see the Apple Family stall anywhere, but then, it was usually set up at the other end of the square. Twilight wondered who would be running it if Applejack was back at the farm?

Over all, a bright, sunny day in Ponyville.

But there was a dark cloud above Twilight, as she tried to stifle the growing sense of unease. She looked up in time to see a light brown pegasus apologize sheepishly, shepherding the stray raincloud away.

As they neared the cafe, Twilight turned to her pink friend. “I don’t know why your Pinkie-sense didn’t tell you anything. Maybe he was too far away for your tail to notice, or maybe your sense is smart enough to know he isn’t dangerous.” She remembered the book and dart tucked away in her bags, and how they’d resisted her magical control. “Maybe he’s simply immune to your instincts.. But... look at me, Pinkie.”

Pinkie turned, purple eyes meeting blue. Twilight’s voice was firm. “You, Pinkie Pie, are not broken. There’s nothing wrong with you. When I first learned about your Pinkie-sense, you taught me that there are some things we just can’t explain. Maybe this is one of them.”

Pinkie smiled, opening the door for Twilight. “Maybe you’re right, Twilight. Thanks.”

“My pleasure.” Twilight smirked. “Well, being right, at least.”

They both laughed; Twilight with her refined chuckle, Pinkie with her raucous, snorting guffaw. Finding an empty table on the patio, they sat down, leafing through their menus. Twilight already had her heart set on a daffodil sandwich, and couldn’t help smiling at seeing Pinkie was concerned solely with the dessert section. Suddenly, the party pony stiffened, her ear twitching. Twilight was immediately concerned. “You okay? It’s not too cold, is it?”

Pinkie shook her head. “No, not cold but... well, I don’t get this twitch very often.”

Twilight thought a moment. "Wait... Doesn't that twitch mean that somepony needs a bath?"

Pinkie rapidly shook her head. "Oh, nononononono. That's an ear Flop. This is an ear Twitch." She looked at Twilights incredulous expression. "Trust me, there's a difference."

She indicated her ear, which was twitching rapidly back and forth, as if it were searching for something. She leaned forward, whispering. “It means that someone is watching us. And only one ear means we don’t know them. And no itchy chin means...” she looked around.

“... we should be careful.”

Concealing her alarm, Twilight closed her eyes. Her horn glowed, lifting the menu to her face. In reality, she was using yet another clairvoyance spell. It was tricky, but this one would allow her to detect how many ponies were watching her, without having to look at them.

In total, she counted about six pairs of eyes, but this became five, then seven, then three, two, eight... all just glances from a crowd. There was Pinkie, of course, but their familiarity allowed her to tell her apart from the rest. There were too many shifting views to focus on one in particular.

Still, it didn’t exclude the possibility. Opening her eyes, she took another look around. Nopony suspicious. The patrons on the patio, of course, and beyond the fence, a few merchants with their carts, a salespony with a briefcase, a city guard...

Her throat caught. A city guard? What if Celestia was having them followed?

Her first instinct was alarm. Then, confusion. Then, surprisingly, relief.

If Celestia was concerned enough to send a guard, then it was most likely so she could have some way to protect Twilight and her friends. Twilight suspected it was more for her mentor’s sake than theirs. Her friends and herself could easily handle themselves. This was simply a way to reassure Celestia they were safe. At any rate, she didn't detect any immediate danger. Even if Celestia were trying to hide something from them, Twilight still trusted her mentor's judgement.

She shared her conclusion with Pinkie. The party pony glanced at the guard. He had a white coat, of course, (A glamour all guards were given, allowing their identities to remain ambiguous), silver armor, and an simple helm. There were very few of them in Ponyville, perhaps twenty at the most. Crime was minimal, so their primary duty was to give directions, or control traffic flow. Though it was unnecessary, Twilight did feel a little better. Of course it meant they’d all have to be careful from here on out, but that was a given.

Pinkie nodded, smiling. “Yeah, that’s probly it. Guess I’m just a teensy bit tense about...” She looked around, then put a hoof to her mouth. “You know who,” she said in a loud whisper.

Twilight smiled. “Don’t worry, Pinkie. I’m sure he’s fine. Oooooh, did you see the new fruit salad?

As their lunch progressed, their conversation led to less grim topics. Pinkie even started a chat with a family of three at the next table, and was ecstatic to learn that their young colt would be turning three this week. She immediately offered to coordinate the party, which the parents graciously accepted. Every so often, her ear would twitch, but she had long since decided that it just meant the city guard was looking out for them.

Even though he was no longer there.

---

A trio of crimson orbs watched the two. In the light of day, they were dimmed, utilizing the simple wide spectrum light of the sun to view their surroundings. The air around them was distorted ever so slightly, appearing as little more than a heat haze in the noontime sun. Stationed upon a nearby roof, with all flight systems cooled down, they were completely silent. Waiting. The mind controlling these eyes was meticulous. Few things evaded its notice. However, in the fifteen minutes it had been waiting, there had been no sign of the target.

Still, it took the time to examine every life form it found, cataloging its findings with the others, searching for some evidence of interaction. A thin, flat beam, invisible in the light of day, looked over a purple mare seated in the café.

The other Units had nothing to report. With a thirty-mile sweep, no sign of the target had been found. The conclusion was that instead of flight, the target had gone into hiding. The units would continue their search patterns. Only a few patrolled Ponyville, the closest settlement to the established “Ground-Zero.” Protocol dictated unless it pertained gaining firm evidence to the target's whereabouts, no unprovoked interaction with local populace or fauna would be warranted.

The others would continue searching outside the settlement, checking paths well taken and roads less traveled. And when one of them found the target, the rest would not be far behind.

The mission was priority.

The eyes continued to watch. Waiting.

Waiting...

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!