• Published 14th Jan 2013
  • 27,518 Views, 1,607 Comments

The Monster Below - Greenback

An earth pony seeks to transform himself into an Alicorn, but how far is he willing to go to get what he wants?

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Black Sheep

My long journey to the operating table began in the town of Saddle Lanka, a small community nestled among the northeast side of the unicorn Range. It isn't much to look at: lots of trees, a few lakes, and towering cliffs that seem to stretch on forever. To the casual gaze, there's little to distinguish it from any other town, and the community likes it that way. Why? Because Saddle Lanka is known for two things. First are its crystal caves, which are among the largest you’ll find in all of Equestria, second only to the Crystal Empire. Many have craved these crystals over the centuries, from neighboring pony tribes, griffons, and even dragons, all eager to claim the crystals for their own. But any invading armies faces Saddle Lanka's other claim to fame: it's home to some of the greatest Unicorns ever born. Over the centuries, every pony born there has been a unicorn, including the famed Starswirl the Bearded, the greatest conjurer of the pre-classical era. For centuries, Saddle Lanka's unicorns have aspired to be as great as he, and to bring glory to the place of their birth. Some have been famous, most have been unknown, but all built Saddle Lanka’s reputation of producing the most talented, pure-blooded unicorns the land has ever seen.

Then I came along.

I’m told that when I first opened my eyes at the hospital, I looked confused. That's probably because my parents were. They were many things that moment: sad, despairing, confused, and stunned. Why? It wasn't because I was deformed; I was an ordinary, teal-colored pony with silver hair. Nor was I too large nor small. Everyone in the room, in the hospital, and the community outside had horns.

I didn't.


Before I even left the hospital, I had caused a stir. News travels fast, and soon, all of Saddle Lanka was faced with the unthinkable: an earth pony had been born. The unbroken streak of unicorns had been shattered. Centuries of a proud tradition, ended in a single day.

There were no jeers or cruel words after I was brought home. There were whispers behind closed doors and curious glances behind drawn curtains, but my parents did their best to ignore it, focusing exclusively on me, their only child, and working to ensure that I had a good childhood.

My first real memories came just before I started school, and realizing, for the first time, that I was different from the other colts and fillies. I still remember being enchanted by the sparkles emerging from the horns on their foreheads and trying to do the same, only to feel nothing. Panicked, I ran to my parents, and begged them to help me make sparkles. My parents, Celestia bless them, had no doubt dreaded the day when they would explain to me why I was different. They did their best, telling me that there were many different kinds of ponies in Equestria.

First among all ponies, they explained, were the unicorns. Blessed with horns, they were able to wield magic, casting spells to change things as they saw fit and to grant them powerful abilities ranging from teleportation and levitation, just to name a few. But they also used that magic to defend Equestria from the many threats that came to us over the centuries.

Next came the pegasi. Being the fastest and swiftest, they possessed the gift of flight; their home was in the sky, where they ferried goods, supplies, and messages from one end of the land to another, as well as controlling the weather, ensuring that Equestria always got the right amount of sunshine, rain, and snow. Without them, the seasons would be a random mess.

Then, there were the alicorns, the rarest of all ponies. They were able to fly and wield magic at once. Such gifts were only to be found among those who had ruled Equestria for centuries. It was here that I first heard of Princess Mi Amore Cadenza (also known as Cadance. Much easier to pronounce), the Princess of Love, and her baby, Flurry Heart. There were princesses who could spread love? That blew my young mind.

Princess Luna was next, and she was the one who raised and lowered the moon, bringing us the starry night. I thought that was amazing, as I always loved looking upon the moon and the stars at night. Even more amazing was learning that one of Luna’s duties was to work through the dreams of ponies while they slept, helping them to conquer their fears. Though I hadn’t seen her in my dreams, the thought of meeting her there was exciting.

And then there was the last alicorn. She was the biggest and most awesome one of them all... Princess Celestia. Not only did she raise and lower the sun each day, but she also ruled over all of Equestria. My parents beamed as they described her to me, about how she was the greatest princess, one who was so wise and caring and loving, who ensured that we all could live in peace and harmony.

Awestruck, I asked if Celestia worked to help me live in peace and harmony too. My parents said that yes, she did. When the sun woke me each morning, that was Celestia raising it into place for me, as she did for all ponies. And if the land ever came under attack, she would help keep me safe.

In retrospect, I believe it’s this moment that set my life in motion and began events none of us could comprehend, much less my parents, who had no idea that their simple answers would lead to so much misery. But how could they have known? Maybe it's better that they didn’t, and I hope they never will.

With the unicorns, pegasi, and alicorns described to me, my parents discussed the final type: the earth ponies, the most seemingly useless of them all. They don’t have magic, they can’t fly, and they certainly don’t have the powers of a goddess. But my parents assured me that earth ponies had their own gifts. Being born from the earth, they were stronger and hardier than the others, able to run longer, hit harder, and last the longest when all of the others would have dropped from exhaustion. They could also interact with the earth to grow the richest, most nutritious food, and have special bonds with animals that other ponies couldn’t. My parents even said that, in a way, earth ponies are the most important of all, and the most special; unicorns and pegasi may have more obvious powers, but without us, food couldn't be grown, and pony society would fall apart.

Even as a colt, I realized that was a joke. I mean, come on, we were the most special? Unicorns can cast spells and perform incredible feats of magic. Pegasi can fly. Fly! And alicorns? They were divinity itself. And what do earth ponies do? Stay on the ground and grow food.


While the discussion had opened my eyes to how many other types of ponies there were, it made me realize how unlucky I was to be born as an earth pony. And when school started, that misfortune wasted no time in raising its head.

When I trotted through the school halls, the others would stare at me. Whispers and shadowed glances were common, and I couldn’t escape them, no matter where I went. Classes were even worse. General Education was fine, for all ponies went through it, being taught the basics of life, but magical classes…Well, there was no real point in me going to them. Without a horn, I couldn’t learn magic. My teachers didn’t know what to do with me, figuring I would be better off spending my time elsewhere. Thus, I spent many hours wandering through Saddle Lanka, exploring the woods and the town, and even managing to get some small jobs. It was never anything too complicated; where my fellow students got to practice their magic, I practiced working in the day-to-day world, either by cleaning floors, taking out the trash, or even giving the corner shop a fresh coat of paint.

Boring? Of course. Tedious? Perhaps. But it was through these odd jobs that I finally found my cutie mark.

Growing up, my parents long wondered what name to give me. I was the one who solved the problem, for I was a talker. I would babble on for hours, saying nonsense, mimicking everyone around me. While they didn't appreciate it all the time --it’s hard to get some sleep when your baby won't stay quiet in the late hours of the night--it soon became clear that I would be a motor-mouth. Within a year, I was able to mimic the words of others. While every other baby in Saddle Lanka was gurgling in their diapers, I was conversing with the family parrot for hours on end, two beings exchanging nonsense and mimicking each other.

Thus, seeing my penchant for talking, my parents decided to call me Silverspeak. Silver for my hair and mane, and speak for... well, it was obvious.

When I went to work, it quickly became clear that all those hours of talking and babbling paid off, as I could get any job I wanted and even convince my employers into giving me a few more bits than they initially offered. I had the gift of the silver tongue: able to charm the birds from the trees and bend others to my will, given enough time. My parents even found it difficult to resist if I set my mind to it. And by building up my social skills, I only got better.

It wasn't long before my cutie mark graced my flank: an old-fashioned microphone. I had gained my talent and cutie mark before anyone else in school. It should have been amazing.

It wasn't.

Being raised with high opinions of themselves, my fellow students were disgusted that I, an ordinary earth pony, had gotten my cutie mark before them. I had been teased before, but now it became a torrent. It was the result of angry ponies wanting to vent their frustration. The adults did what they could and managed to stop most of the bullying, but there was one individual they couldn't stop.

In Saddle Lanka, all fillies are told from birth that they’re part of a special heritage with the greatest unicorn blood in Equestria flowing through their veins. They’re born to do great things, to rise and be the greatest, so it's no surprise that the praise goes to their heads. And there's always one pony every generation who overflows with raw talent, who learns the fastest, who does the things no one else can manage. And out of everyone in school, none had more potential then Mangus Bluehorn.

Among us all, Mangus was big, even for one so young. He stood taller than all of us, his coat was a light blue, and his mane and tail were the color of tarnished gold. Mangus may have been talented, handsome, and possessed the most potential of us all, but he was also a bully. He had been raised being told that he would be the best of us all, even surpassing his parents, and everypony believed it. And as is the case with so many of his kind, it went to his head. He couldn't fail. His parents and teachers did what they could to make it easy for him. Everyone wanted to have a hand in making the next Starswirl. They wanted it so badly that when Mangus started to bully me, they only made a half-hearted attempt to stop him. The desire to create the next superstar was stronger than the desire for discipline and fairness.

Even now, I still remember the first time we met. I was on the edges of the school's field during lunch, relaxing in the shade of the school's tallest tree and looking toward the grassy plains beyond Saddle Lanka, wondering what Princess Celestia was doing in Canterlot. Then I heard him coming. I turned and saw Mangus with a few of his goons. In those last moments of peace I would ever know at school, I was hoping I'd get a new friend.

A minute later I was dangling upside down near the tree's branches, screaming in terror as Mangus and his goons laughed, asking me why I didn't just levitate myself back to the ground. I was rescued by one of the teachers, but that was the beginning of my long nightmare. Day after day, week after week, I was hounded by Mangus. Being the only earth pony for miles around, I was an easy target.

“Hey, Silversqueak!” he would shout. “C’mere! I need someone to be target practice!”

I tried to ignore him, but when you're stuck in school with a bully five days a week, twelve months a year, and for twelve years it’s nearly impossible. And with no way to defend myself, I frequently found myself being raised into the air, fighting against an invisible force I was helpless to stop. Not that I didn't try. I kicked and thrashed, and upon being stranded in a tree or on a roof, I would do everything I could do to get down. But sometimes Mangus would gather his little gang, who would use their own magic to just pin me in place. And as time went on, their magic grew more powerful. It wasn't long before Mangus could keep me pinned for hours with a casual wave of his horn. Another wave and he would make my limbs dance uncontrollably. Yet another wave and I would throw up whatever I had eaten for breakfast or lunch.

Saddle Lanka's most talented unicorn learned more about magic from tormenting me then he did from studying books.

There were a few times where I fought back. I would squeal on him every time he bullied me, and it was always annoying for him when an adult would order him to stop. One time, after his entire gang teamed up on me, I was able to get close enough and buck him in the face with my hind hooves. It was so satisfying to hear the crack of his jawbones fracturing. He couldn't have done the same, for as a unicorn, he didn't have the raw strength I was developing. But in the long run, it didn't work. While most of the adults in our community realized what a terror Mangus was, his parents, and the more influential ponies, didn't want Mangus's potential career to be ruined or sidelined because of disciplinary issues, and certainly not by sending him to a reform camp where troubled ponies were helped. And when I attacked him, I was suspended for a month. Never mind I was defending myself. Never mind that he had been picking on me for years, and the adults didn't do anything to stop him. I was punished, and he was allowed to go free.

School was Tartarus. If I had the chance, I would have tossed Mangus into the real thing without hesitation. But life outside the school, while better, wasn't what I wanted. I could endure the bullying, but there was one thing I couldn't handle.

I was alone.

In all of Saddle Lanka, I was the only one of my kind. Most had come to accept me, if somewhat reluctantly, but my parents… they couldn't. They loved me; I have no doubt of that. I was their son, but not the one they wanted. Despite all the smiles, all the kind words, and all the birthday parties, I could always sense their disappointment. They had so dearly wanted a child they could train in the ways of magic, and that dream had been taken from them.

No matter how hard they tried to hide their feelings, I knew I was their greatest disappointment.


I spent more time away from home as the years passed, going anywhere I could to gain solitude. The Crystal Gardens within the mountains became a favorite spot. Of all Saddle Lanka's sights, the gardens are the most beautiful: giant caverns deep within the mountains, filled with crystals of all sizes and colors, nestled among waterfalls that plunge deep into the earth, to depths no one has ever explored. I would walk onto the grassy platforms and sit among the crystals, hoping that their energy would magically grant me a horn, a spark of magic, anything.

They never did.

At night, I would walk onto the bluffs and look to the sky, watching for Princess Luna, hoping to catch a glimpse of her among the stars. I would pray that she would enter my dreams and give me comfort.

She never did.

Yet, during those troubled years, there was one ray of hope, a light that kept me going. That light was Princess Celestia. In a way, she was my angel, my shining beacon of hope in a world where I felt so alone. I became an early riser, watching as the sun came up in hopes of getting a glimpse of her. I never did, but I kept trying, day after day. Sensing how much I adored her, my mother suggested to me that I could write her a letter.

I asked what I could talk to her about, and was told to tell her how I felt. So I did exactly that, writing the most passionate letter any young pony ever wrote to a princess, telling her who I was, and how I appreciated her raising the sun not only for me, but for all ponies everywhere. And yet… it didn’t feel complete. Something was missing. I had written a passionate letter, not a heartfelt one.

The note was crunched up and tossed in the trash. I took another piece of parchment and wrote about how I was so unhappy living in a place where I felt like an outcast. The ponies in Saddle Lanka accepted me, but they did not respect me, nor love me. I asked her if she could help me. She was the wisest pony alive. Anything she wrote would do, really. A kind word, some encouragement, but I told Celestia about how I felt so useless, about how I wanted to be needed, to be accepted for who I really was, rather than despised for what I should have been. I asked her for her wisdom, to tell me what to do, or to at least guide me down the path.

She, more then anyone, would understand.

My hooves shook as I sealed the letter and took it to the post office. I was so happy trotting back home; the greatest being in Equestria was going to help me! And for weeks afterwards, I went to the mailbox, eager to find an envelope inside bearing the royal seal.

It never came.

Celestia never wrote back.