• Published 6th Apr 2013
  • 4,727 Views, 186 Comments

The Seventh - Arvaus

An impossible creature finds herself in a world which already knows everything about her. Slowly, she learns about the true nature of her own reality, her world's place in the cosmos, and herself.

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6 - Something Familiar

Aaron sat in the empty computer room, staring at his monitor.

He was vaguely aware of the noises coming from the next room as the engineers replaced the doors. He also had a feeling that he was supposed to be reading the article that was open on his screen.

Trying to get back into the swing of things was tricky. Whenever he attempted to get any work done, he would then remember what had happened two days ago, how he had sat on a cloud with a fictional character and discussed the workings of an entirely different universe. It was hard to see his own work as important after that.

No-one would mind if he just left and went home. They had already put his odd behaviour down to lingering shock from the explosion, and his supervisor had made it very clear that if he needed time to recover, then that was perfectly fine. But he felt that he needed to be doing something.

He glanced at his phone, lying on the desk by his keyboard, for the fifth time that minute. Not surprisingly, Celestia hadn’t rung yet. He could always call her of course, and...

And what? Every time he thought about it, he never got any further than that. What would he even say?

Hi! You’re physically impossible, and I need to know everything about you! Even in his head he couldn’t say it without sounding stupid.

You’re taking this too well. I wish you would react more logically to this whole thing. He had enough trouble talking with friends about emotions, let alone a princess he’d just met. And how were you supposed to complain about someone being too happy?

He didn’t feel like he should be making the next move anyway. Whatever her true feelings were at the moment, she quite obviously didn’t want him going out of his way for her. She wanted to have some space, and some time to herself. He couldn’t say he blamed her.

Feeling restless, Aaron picked up his phone, locked his computer, and left the lab. Trying to go and find Celestia was pointless, and he knew that, but some fresh air would do him good.

He climbed up the stairs, headed along the main corridor to the entrance, and stood there staring out at the light but persistent rain that was falling outside.

Maybe not, he thought as he turned and headed back to the lab. Hopefully Celestia had managed to find some shelter as well.

~ ~ ~

A light rain fell across the fields beyond the woods. Celestia lay under the cover of the trees, watching as the water fell from the sky.

The weather had been so pleasant over the last week that Celestia had almost forgotten that it must rain here occasionally. The clouds had the same untamed air to them as those in the Everfree Forest, so it was likely that the weather patterns here were just as changeable.

Given this, Celestia had decided not to do too much flying today. It was a pity; she had spent the previous day exploring the surrounding world, and in that one day she had discovered just how much there was to see here.

The land was so different; scenery changed from one form to another gradually, grassland transitioning to shallow valleys before rugged hills rose up, in places forming the foundation of mountains. In Equestria, everything seemed much simpler, the different biomes lying right next to each other in places with no need for the vast stretches of middle ground in between.

The humans’ influence was everywhere. Celestia had found she needed to maintain a perception spell at all times just to ensure that she wasn’t noticed. She still kept clear of the various towns and villages just in case, but even between the settlements themselves roads and railways criss-crossed the land with extraordinary density, most having at least one person travelling on them at any time. There were some quiet corners which she could explore in peace, but they were remarkably small and infrequent.

Everything still had the quiet, dead feeling to it, lacking as it was any natural magic. But once she had grown used to the strange sensation, Celestia had come to find that it only added to this world’s charm. Without that fundamental force which Equestria was so dependent on, this world instead had its own distinct ways of functioning, making even the most familiar of objects subtly different and fascinating to study.

But despite all she had found – quiet moors, wooded valleys, secluded waterfalls – she had returned to that same small patch of woodland for the night. It was the only place in this world she had any connection to, so in a small way it felt like home to her.

Now it was acting as her shelter from the rain. Ponies were naturally outdoor animals and never shied away from a light rain when it was scheduled, but Celestia had to admit to herself that once more her royal habits were getting the better of her.

Still, maybe if she was going to be here for a while, she should try to get more used to such things. Standing up and dusting herself off, she walked out into the rain and headed off along the stream.

~ ~ ~

The rain ran cleanly off her coat, kept out of her wings by the natural oils on her feathers. But it gradually began to saturate her mane and tail, and they hung heavily from her, the weight of the water interfering with their natural flow. Not wanting to spoil them on the muddy ground, Celestia reined in some of the magic that maintained them, and the ethereal flows receded back into fine strands of pale pink hair which lay flat against her body in the rain. The trick felt a lot easier than she expected, and she wondered if this was a reaction to the absence of ambient magic, making it easier to pull her own back in.

The rain was cooler than the showers she was used to, but she found the experience very pleasant. It felt different from Equestrian rain, the droplets much more unevenly sized and spaced, yet another subtle but intriguing variation. She would have to start making notes of everything she found here; the amount they could learn about the workings of their own world beneath the magic was unimaginable.

After she had been walking for a while, long after the woods had faded away and been replaced by rough hedgerows, A distant sound caught Celestia’s attention. It was impossible to identify over the continual patter of the rain, but it felt very familiar.

Trotting along the by stream in the sound’s general direction, she listened intently, her eyes scanning her surroundings for any sign of the source. When she heard it again it was coming from over the hedge to the left of the stream, close enough to be right in the neighbouring field.

She slowed to a walk and approached the hedge, climbing up the shallow incline away from the stream. Her heart jumped when she saw the creature in the field.

It was another pony! No, not a pony, she corrected herself. It was a full-sized horse, like those from Saddle Arabia, built much more on her own proportions than other Equestrians. He was cantering in bursts around the otherwise-empty field unperturbed by the rain, snorting occasionally in enjoyment, or at least something which resembled it.

She watched the chestnut stallion for a long while, excited to have finally met one of the race on which she had been modelled. Either they were very rare in this world or she had just been unlucky, but she had yet to see any horses or ponies in her limited explorations.

It was strange to think that this stallion, so familiar in comparison to the humans who lived here, was still just an unthinking beast, lesser even than the smallest creature in Equestria. She was modelled on them so there must be similarities, but how deep would the differences run? Would they ever be able to communicate with each other? Could he even recognise her as one of his species?

As if answering her question, the horse stopped in his tracks, having seen her watching him over the hedge. He stared at her, his hooves shifting continually on the ground, his ears pointed intently towards her. Celestia tried not to meet his eyes, not wanting to scare him away.

He cantered back and forth across the field a few times, watching her uncertainly. Noticing how he always stayed within the field’s boundaries, Celestia realised that he must be domesticated. He wasn’t a wild animal after all, but a pet, looked after by humans. Was this the case for all horses? Perhaps that was why she had not encountered any before.

Eventually, he came to a halt in the centre of the field and stood facing her. After several seconds, he shook his head, throwing some of the water out of his mane, and took a few steps forward.

He came to a stop again, watching her. Celestia wondered if this was meant as an invitation, and started to open her wings in order to cross the hedge. The stallion immediately backed up, whinnying in surprise, his ears folding back against his head, then he turned and bolted for the far end of the field.

Celestia silently cursed her foolishness. Aaron had already told her that winged horses didn’t exist in this world. She stowed her wings again and jumped carefully over the hedge, trying to appear as unthreatening as she could under the circumstances, then stood still at the edge of the field and waited.

He was galloping back and forth again, staying close to the far edge of the field maybe a hundred yards from her. He didn’t seem to be trying to find a way out though, and kept looking over at her, his ears fixed again on her. Celestia wondered if he was testing her, trying to work out whether or not she was friendly. In an attempt to reassure him, she lowered her head slightly and relaxed her ears, letting them turn out to the side. It felt like she was trying to learn an entirely new language, communicating without using words.

She waited patiently over the next few minutes, trying to act casual, until the stallion calmed down and again started to approach her. He must have been curious about her as well, if he was willing to give her a second chance. Cautiously, Celestia took slow steps forward, watching for any sign of discomfort from him.

Perhaps I was quick to judge, she thought to herself as they moved slowly toward each other. He may not have the same level of sapience as her, but he was clearly an intelligent being, showing care and caution, signs of emotion, and even a limited ability to communicate. He wouldn’t be writing a novel any time soon, but Celestia could understand why humans would enjoy the companionship of one of these animals.

She also couldn’t help but think to herself that he was a magnificent specimen, beast or not. He was taller even than her, though not by much, and had the heavy build of a strong worker. His think chestnut coat was expertly groomed, no doubt well looked-after by his owners. While his coat and mane colours matched exactly, he had a distinctive white stripe running right down the middle of his face, matching the feathering around his hooves. Both of these features intrigued Celestia, being practically unheard of in Equestria.

But then she supposed that many things considered commonplace in Equestria would stand out like a sore hoof here. If the fauna she had seen so far was anything to go by they had nowhere near the same variation in coat colours here, and she had already noticed how Chestnut was lacking a cutie mark.

So you’re naming him now? she thought, chuckling at herself. Well, he probably wouldn’t mind, at least.

While she had been thinking, the two of them had managed to draw quite close to each other, each taking turns making gradually longer advances. Celestia now stood only a few yards from him, as he continued to shift around uncertainly. Trying to interpret the various signals she had been getting from him, she made her best attempt at seeming welcoming and non-threatening. She relaxed her face, pointing her ears forward in his direction, and held her wings as close to her sides as she was able to, making sure not to move them just in case.

Apparently satisfied, Chestnut approached her and sniffed inquisitively at her horn for a few moments. The feel of his nose against it tickled, and she had to work hard to avoid giggling. He then lowered his head, holding his muzzle up to hers and blowing through his nose onto her. Celestia was momentarily taken aback by his impertinence, but figuring it was intended to be friendly, she returned the favour.

That seemed to have the desired effect, and he relaxed considerably. She had finally managed to break the ice and gain his trust. His nervous restlessness appeared to be replaced by a more excited energy, and she wondered if this was from meeting somepony new, or just from finding something strange to play with.

Chestnut then ran off, cantering in a wide circle around her. After circling her twice he came back over to her, snorting and digging at the ground.

He seemed to want her to do something, but she had no idea what. When he set off at again, she decided that it was at least worth a try and cantered off after him, chasing him across the field. This wasn’t exactly what she would normally consider a pleasant bonding activity, but in spite of that she found herself enjoying it.

Chestnut was clearly enjoying himself as well. He zig-zagged around the field, playing with her, daring her to catch up with him.

As she ran round the field, Celestia felt deep, suppressed emotions welling up inside her. Buried somewhere beneath the princess, behind the character she had been given, was the spirit of a real horse. That original concept which had given form to her race lingered, still very much a part of her.

She could feel the mud flying out from beneath her shoes as she cantered across the field. It splashed up against her, dirtying her pristine white fur, but she didn’t care. The rain ran in streams across her face, but she barely noticed it, too caught up in the moment. She relished the feeling of the raw physical power flowing through the muscles in her legs, so very different from the magical energy she was more accustomed to.

As new, hidden parts of her started to emerge, she began to understand Chestnut better. The nuances of his body language opened up to her like a book, and she began to spot the subtle tells of his emotions. For a moment it reminded her of the empathic connection Equestria’s magic gave her to its residents, and the thoughts of home filled her with warmth.

Then, during her moment of distraction, Chestnut paused briefly and kicked his legs back at her. She saw the playful intent, but her own instincts took over and she leapt into the air away from him, hovering above the ground.

Seeing this, Chestnut whinnied and bolted for the back of the field again, leaving Celestia hanging in the air, cringing at her faux pas. She turned and glided back out towards the stream, settling down just beyond the hedge and looking back to into the field. The stallion was galloping around, neighing in confusion, seeing her flying having been a bit too much for him to understand.

“And I was doing so well,” she said to herself as she walked away from the field, back in the direction of the woods. The rain had eased up now, so she let her mane down again. It felt strange having the hairs lying so close to her skin, and she was much more comfortable with it in its natural state.

As for Chestnut, she started wondering if perhaps it had been unwise to try and approach him at all. Given how different they were it was a miracle that he had been so receptive. But when she had seen him she had felt so insatiably curious that she couldn’t resist at least trying. It was just a shame that he was so difficult to communicate with.

That sounds familiar, said a voice in the back of her mind.

Perhaps she would try again tomorrow.

Author's Note:

In case anyone’s wondering, Chestnut’s a clydesdale. I've tried to get his behaviour to be reasonably realistic, but my knowledge of horses is all second-hand. I hope it works.

A number of readers have mentioned the possible innuendo and implications of this chapter, and this rightly makes some readers uneasy. Just to be clear, I want to point out that this story does not have a Romance tag. This is accurate, and will remain so.