After arriving in Equestria, Anon was at the mercy of life. He has a crap job, a boring life and he can't even speak up for himself if his life depended on it, but books have always been there for him. What if they got the attention of royalty?
After arriving in Equestria, Anon was at the mercy of life. He has a crap job, a boring life and he can't even speak up for himself if his life depended on it, but books have always been there for him. What if they got the attention of royalty?
You set down the book and slide it across the counter. The mare picks it up with her hooves and looks at you over her reading glasses. You put your hands behind your back and avert your eyes, a nervous sweat fast approaching. It’s not that she scared you… Ok maybe she does scare you, but is that wrong? Everyone’s scary in their own way. At least that’s how you’ll rationalize it. Your breathing quickens as you rock back and forth with a nervous twitch to your foot. The librarian sighs and flips open the book as she silently inspects the pages thoroughly. ”Returning or extending?”
You’re caught unaware, your mouth a babbling mess of what can barely be considered words. She waits until your finished spilling all of your proverbial spaghetti, all the while judging you. ”Are you quite finished with your nonsense?” You nod meekly, your gaze further stretching to the floor as you mentally slap yourself. The mare can only shake her head before stamping the book. ”You’ve been coming here too long to still act like this sonny.”
“I- I know…” you grumble quietly.
You move back to your seat and sit down, idly stuffing a stray noodle back into your pocket. The librarian looks back to her book and adjusts the candle at her side. It’s been a few months since you first arrived and you never quite fit in around here. Sure they say you’re just another guy, but it’s not that simple. Among the smaller equines that inhabit this land you’re akin to a giant or Bigfoot. Still, at least they don’t treat you like a freak of nature, at least the adults don’t. You reach for one of your selected books and rub the outside cover. ’Eye of the Hurricane: An Analysis of the Deteriorating Relations Between Equestria and the Gryphon Kingdoms.’
You hastily open to the front page and delve nose deep into the pages until only the scent of ink filled your nostrils. Yes, you were quite the bookworm. Both before you came here and during your stay, though you can’t remember much from your own world. It’s a haze that comes and goes, but the books have always been there for you. They help pass the time, so to speak.
Fascinating history this land has. Between the diplomatic struggles of the eastern kingdoms of Gryphonnia and the newly presented Crystal Empire in the Crystal Mountains this place is bustling. You’ve been getting yourself acquainted with as much of Equestria as you can, and the best way to have a clear reference point is by examining both sides. The only problem with these books is the bias, damn if you can’t find one where it simply reports the facts.
You had hoped to find a book written by a member of the Gryphon Kingdoms, but there don’t appear to be any in the Canterlot Library. Then again, from their history they deal less with books and more with arms. And by arms, you mean weapons, military. They’re a very Spartan-esque society if their recent affairs are any indication. You wonder how they’re going to deal with the border dispute in lower Pranceylvania. Wow… You really are boring.
You rub your eyelids and look out the arched windows to spy the sun beginning to set behind the castle walls. Has it really been so long? Well you did just rub your eyes after all. But you’re not quite through with the book yet, you’ve still got a good three chapters left. They had some real in-depth coverage on this stuff. But now… your eyes look back to the librarian who nearly reads your mind and looks your way. Shit shit shit, you look back down. You have to go and talk to her again. Surely she’ll leave first. That’s it, you can just outlast her. She’ll lock up for the night and you’ll be left with all the books at your disposal. It’ll be like Christmas- No it’ll be better than Christmas. It’ll be its own holiday, BOOK DAY.
The tap of her hoof rips your mind away from such thrills and you venture a peek at her. ”I can wait here all night.” Those hardened green orbs don’t try to deceive you. She’s telling the truth.
The room’s utterly empty except for the two of you as you look around. The walls of bookcases are the only others left standing. She looks to the clock ticking away at the end of the hall. ”Look sonny, I’ll check those books out for you, but can you at least pick up the pace?” You pull the books under your arm and sulk over to her desk where she stamps them for you.
She slides the last book over, “You sure have an interesting choice in books.” Interesting, that’s not how most others would describe it. ”Have you read any of Thump West’s work? I hear he’s releasing a new book this month.”
“I uh- Can’t say I have.” She rolls out of her seat and walks with you to the door, the hall leading in two different directions.
”You know, you’ve been coming here for weeks and I still don’t know your name.”
“It’s Anon…” you mutter walking down the hall.
”See you tomorrow then,” she calls after you, your arms tightly clenched around your books.
You set your books down and take a quick shower. There’s no excuse for bad hygiene after all. Afterwards you lie back on your bed and pick up, did you guess it? A book. Sure you’re a one trick p0ny, but at least you enjoy what you do. People and ponies alike go through their entire life without really knowing what they want. Thankfully you’re not one of those people. You’re perfectly content with what you do. Sit back and read books all day, now that’s a job.
If only… No, there’s no such dream job available to you. No matter how hard you sought it out there weren’t any paying jobs that would hire… well you. It was bit difficult to learn the language, that’s true, but even afterwards you still had a hard time getting a job. So you got work where you could, nothing to fantastic mind you. Real bottom of the barrel type of work...
The wet slop of the mop hits the floor soaking the bottom of your shoes. ”That’s right boy, nice and deep like,” a guard chortles at you. You ignore his teases and work the mop across the floor, making sure to get as much as you could. The guard prattles over in his fancy armor, “You missed a spot.” You’re about to ask where as you’re concerned about your work, but then he steps on through your freshly cleaned floor, his hoofprints leaving small murky pools of grey. ”Might want to work on that,” he chuckles and continues on his way.
You sigh and double back to fix the smudges, your mind cursing him. He’s just a dick, they’re a dime a dozen. You take a moment and look out the window to the courtyard below. The tulips in the garden are blossoming in wonderful shades of red and purple, small hints of yellow and white in the mix. They’re actually fairly gorgeous now that you take the time to look at them. Maybe you should read down there sometime. ”Oi!” a guard yells down the hall, “You’re paid to clean not stand around.”
“Sorry sir, I didn’t mean to-“
”Get back to work; I don’t have time for your excuses!” You keep your head down and continue your mopping. Dip, press, plop, stroke, dip, press, plop, stroke… You manage to get at least two hallways done before you’re tasked to… ugh, janitorial duty is a bitch.
You whisk out the plunger and do your best, the sick sloshing of stool and some sort of orange sludge makes you want to keel over. Your head lowers an inch and you immediately regret it when a pair of vicious fumes penetrate your nostrils and begin humping your brain. Pushing yourself up using the toilet seat your hands feel the gentle squish of a foreign substance. Vomit time, you think rushing out of the room. ”Clean up on Aisle 5.”
You wound up having to clean up not only that mess, but your own after you upchucked all over the diplomatic quarters of the Buffalo’s representative. Worst part was, you wasted a good half hour working on the toilet and another hour on the room itself only to find out the problem couldn’t be fixed on that end. No, your supervisor said you had to take the maintenance hatch down to the sewers where you had to separate the mains directly and unclog that bitch. And of course, you went along with this because he’s your boss… and you’re a beta bitch. All those years of people telling you and you just chalked it up to nonsense.
But here you are in the dank dump sewers because you lacked the cajones to tell him no. Fuck it, you’re almost done here anyways, just gotta unscrew this here pipe, turn the valve… The pipe rumbles violently and you can see the timer counting down before total destruction. 3,2,1- *screech* So much brown… Bonus Round.
You shut the hatch, your grimy hands having a hard time holding onto the wheel as you seal it shut. You stopped smelling, things would be best if you kept it that way. Everything’s a tinge of brown, the walls, floor even the sun. Each step you take only reminds you of your weighted clothes soaked in a week’s worth of fermented filth. The wet shlick of your shoes on the floor makes your stomach wrench. You look down recognizing this as one of the hall’s you’d cleaned today. Guess who’ll be cleaning this section again before their shift is done. You walk back to the locker room to get showered before you continue, but of course as luck would have it, your boss shows up.
He’s a hardass if you’ve ever seen one, always has a cup of coffee, speaks to you like you’re a retard, a real tool. Not that you’ll ever say that to his face. ”Had a little mess did we?”
“Yes sir,” you head dejectedly towards the showers.
”I take it the pipes didn’t hold on too well did they?” You shake your head, each second worse than the last. “Did you pull the safety latch?”
“Yes sir,” you say with a hint of fire in your voice. “I took all the necessary precautions like you said.”
”Then you wouldn’t be in such a mess now would you?” There’s no arguing so you turn your back to him and agree. Your fellow employees snicker past you as they go on to their own jobs. ”You know we’re going to have to deduct any damages from your pay correct?”
“I understand sir.”
You’re about to take your shower when he stops you once more. ”You didn’t happen to drag that gunk through those nice clean halls did you?” Your silence is all he needs as an answer. ”Yeah…”
No amount of water or deep cleansing acidic compound will ever make you feel clean again. You can still feel it crusted onto your flesh and all your nails do is dig it deeper into your skin. Ugh it’s so fucking nasty! You have to toss the clothes and by have to, you mean that you’d never wear them again. You’d have to be sent to Satan’s doorstep and threatened with an eternity of riding his thorny cock to even consider the latter. You take the last spare order of clothes you had and finish up your work, remopping an entire day’s work over again. And to think that they don’t even have overtime here.
By the end of the day you’ll have worked twice as long as you should’ve and you’ll still be a hundred bits down the shitter. You don’t even have the energy to laugh at your own joke right now. If you wanted to laugh you’d just think of the poor bastard who has to clean up that sewer. Oh wait… That’d be you… Fuck your life sucks.
You sit down at your usual spot, flipping open your book and getting right into it. You get about half a page in when you’re hit with- you don’t know. Some sort of wall. An invisible obstacle that just makes you put the book down. There’s just too much shit. You can’t even enjoy the simple necessity of reading anymore. The books stare right back at you in a battle of the wills… and you look away. Can’t even beat a pile of fucking books.
You rest your head on the smooth wooden tabletop, finger gliding across the surface. ”Oh Twilight, I wasn’t expecting you so soon. Did you come for the journals?” Twilight… The only other mare you’ve ever seen in here. So busy with her damn affairs. She never had to dig through a mountain of fecal matter to find the ladder to freedom. Born into fucking wealth and… Why do you do this to yourself Anon? This doesn’t help anyone, much less you. More rationale. Wonderful… You spy at the two of them converse, jealousy hitting you right in the gut. Why’s it so easy for her? Why can’t you be more like her? You’d give anything to have what she has.
You open your book back up and continue reading, the rush of anger dissipating that barrier. The hum of classical music lifts the air as you go through line by line, devouring the text like the bounty it is. You don’t even notice that the librarian had slipped to the side of the table and was watching you. When you do notice- Let’s say you’re not exactly subtle. Your cheeks blush, you slam your book closed and sit back like you’re about to be gassed. ”I didn’t mean to scare you,” she reassures, “You didn’t come in yesterday.”
“Work,” you nod settling down a little away from her.
”It can be a real bummer for sure. Where do you work anyways? I don’t see you around the castle much.” She sure talks a lot for a librarian.
”Oh,” she replies almost feeling sorry for you, “Well, someone has to do it right?” Just wish it wasn’t you.
She watches as you continue reading and you’re starting to get crept out honestly. How to tell her without being rude though? What if she yells at you to get out? You like coming here, but she wouldn’t do that right? She’s not rude. Anything could happen though. You ended up in pastel pony land after all. “So, I never-“
”Petal Peach,” she extends a hoof, “We never really met properly.” You look at the hoof and then to her.
“Pleasure,” you shake weakly. The two of you sit there quietly, each unsure of what to do until she whips out a bundle from nowhere.
”I almost forgot, I thought you’d like to read these.”
“Equestria’s Greats: A Book by Thump West. Thanks.”
”Don’t mention it. The old girls could use a dusting off. Most of them haven’t been used in a long while. You’re the only one who ever seems to read them.” It’s actually quite a thoughtful gift. You’ve wanted to begin learning more about famous historical figures after all.
“How can I repay you? I don’t have much, but-“
She cuts you off with a laugh, “What’re you going on about? I don’t need you to repay me.” You look back to the book. “The best gift you could give is to keep coming by and keeping me company.”
“We- I mean, I don’t talk much.”
She smiles and walks back over to her desk, sitting back down and going over her papers. ”Silent company is better than none. Wouldn’t you agree?” You nod, attention moving back to the books. Chapter 1: Fangle Tooth. Might as well start there then. Time slugs by as you work into this monster of a book until that time finally comes when you have to leave. You set your books down, Peach stamping them and sending you on your way. ”See you tomorrow.” Not likely, tomorrow’s sewer day.
You take a breath of fresh air as you open up the hatch, the gaseous stench of the underground racing outwards to freedom, you on its coat tails. You’d gotten the pipe repaired with some soldering equipment you requisitioned, but your clothes were not quite as lucky. A mess that big was sure to cause some problems and you smell like one big fudge popsicle, corn included. You came prepared though, wrapping your feet and legs with a bag as you hit the showers. You come out, still smelling like a shat sock but not quite looking the part, when your supervisor meets you at the door. ”The sewer’s nice and clean now?” You nod, “Good. Look, there’s been a spill in one of the conference rooms in session and they need that cleaned up pronto. You got me?”
“Yes sir, north wing?”
”Yeah, and Anon be sure to work fast you smell worse than my Aunt Flora.” Because you had me working in the sewers and someone didn’t stock the soap. Asshole. You get your assortment of cleaning supplies in your trolley and head on to the conference sections.
These sections have been sure spruced up often, your own work taking place away from here. A unicorn can do your job better and faster without so much as a sweat while you break your balls over it. Must be why they get moved up to be your damn supervisor so they can sip coffee and talk down on you. You find the door your boss told you and knock, the door gently swinging open for you. The room stands ornate, an oval table centered in the room while the sides have been decorated with floral pots and works of art. Very classy, but what attracts you most is not the room, but the actual residents who’ve been staring at you for the last minute.
Gryphons with military grade steel armor, their keepsake and across from them are two ponies. One you recognize as Twilight Sparkle and the other you can’t help but feel suffocated by in her presence. The Princess herself, Celestia.
So many eyes, cowardice rising, bladder filling… You lower your gaze and roll on in, finding the mess around center stage where one of the representatives spilled their wine. The princess smiles and looks back to her guests, “You were saying Sir Rivot?” Even her voice is divine- And this is how you meet her!? Oh god this is awful, just awful. You move next to the spill and prep your bucket.
”Well, before we were rudely interrupted,” you cringe, “The Gryphon Kingdoms have claims to the lands of Pranceylvania going as far back as the fourth age.”
The princess keeps a calm demeanor as you’d expect, “Truly? Would you mind if we saw the documentation you have confirming this?” The leader looks to his partner who slides the parcel across the table, Celestia hovering it over. By your lucky stars, you get to listen to an actual diplomatic meeting firsthand. This is so much better than the books.
”Twilight, what is your opinion on this matter?” Twilight inspects the parcel carefully as she goes over the document.
Sir Rivot nudges his partner, “Wonder who took the dump.”
”I wonder how it’s walking around,” he chuckles as you continue your job. It’s not your fault they ran out of damn shampoo and soap.
Twilight sighs, “It seems that Sir Rivot has evidence proving his claim. There’s- not much I can say about it.”
The gryphon nods with a smug grin, “Of course. If we knew it’d be this easy we’d have brought this forth a while back.”
A while back? You dab at the rug and soak up the spill, the gryphons still high over their victory. ”Now I assume you’ll have your citizens evacuated so we can begin resettling our land.”
The princess nods, “It shall be.”
”But princess-“ Celestia silences her.
”Twilight, sometimes one must give in order to receive. I hope that this will in the end bring our two nations closer, Sir Rivot.”
He takes back the parcel and grins, “Of course. We’re neighbors after all.”
You catch a glimpse at the document, one two… “It’s not valid.”
The gryphon shoots daggers at you, “You have something to say sewer breath?”
“N-nothing sir, I’m sorry.”
His partner nods and gives Rivot a nudge, “Damn right nothing.” You can still feel someone’s gaze on you as you continue your work.
Her gentle voice whisks you away, “What is it that you said?” The princess’s eyes meet you and you keep both head and eyes down.
“It was nothing princess, I just- It’s nothing.” You can’t clean with her watching, not with them all watching.
”What is it you said? Would you have me ask again?” No, you don’t want to be moved to the chopping block this time.
“I- It’s just that when I glimpsed at the paper-“
The gryphon nearly blows a gasket, “Why I oughta-“
”Sir Rivot sit down,” she states powerfully, “Yes?”
“It’s not a valid document.”
”Interesting…” she continues to look at you, “And just why is that?”
What have you gotten yourself into this time? Standing before the princess smelling like you’ve been working in a sewer… well… “It uh- uhm…” the gryphons are staring at you, those claws look sharp, “the seals… There were only- two.”
”If we may,” Celestia coos as she hovers the paper over to you. “And what is wrong with them?”
“N-nothing your majesty. It’s just… A document of this type requires three.”
“I don’t mean to cause trouble ma’am if I could just finish my work I’d be more than happy-“
”I insist. Why three?” You sigh, setting the paper flat, finger tracing the border. “Fangle Tooth. He was a Pegasus born in the gryphon city of Aviaris. He was raised by his kin before moving back to Equestria, his true home. He worked as a negotiator between both sides during the Skirmishes of Brimstone. At the end-“
”We do not have time for history lessons princess,” Sir Rivot states.
Celestia merely ignores him, ”Continue.”
“The gryphon government was changing drastically and to prevent any sort of law or claim such as this to be finalized between the two nations Fangle Tooth required all succeeding document to enclose three seals of approval. One from the current King, one from the Vice General and one from the Senate Overseer. This contains the King’s and the Vice General’s, not the Senate Overseer’s.”
”This is nonsense Princess,” he attempts to sway her; “He is but a janitor, a lowly servant of the castle. What would he know of such matters?”
His comrade whispers, “If we can get back to the capital we can get the Senate-“
“It requires the seals of those elected at the time of the document’s signing. It is still, thus, a void document.” What is this feeling? Power, pride, guts? It feels good. “And as for how I know? Thump West, maybe you should read more instead of sticking your head in the clouds.”
”You dare!” he shouts rising to his paws, “I demand this man be fired for such insolence and for him to be submitted into my custody for immediate reprimanding!” Okay, feeling’s gone.
You finish pulling the last of your stuff from the locker, your supervisor slurping down coffee almost just to piss you off. ”One simple job and you didn’t even do it right. There’s going to be a stain there now you know.”
”Pissed off the representatives of the Gryphon empire. You should really keep your mouth shut kid.”
”Can’t say we’re gonna miss you. Hope you can land another job after this incident.” The locker clicks shuts and you press the cold metal against your forehead. ”Times are tough. Good luck kid.”
“Yes sir.” Douchebag.
You hold the sign just outside your door, ripping it off in a fit of anger and tossing it in the trash. Being evicted is just what you needed right now. Working your ass off, get fired, smell like shit, get evicted, barely enough money to last the week and no one with a working heartbeat will hire you. You just have life made don’t you? At least you have your damn books, they’ll never fire you. Oh wait, they got you into this shit in the first place! You punch your bed in an emotional rage, swinging wildly with no sense of direction. “Fucking damn books cock sucking limp dick ink filled smegma inducing butt pirates! GAH!” You keep your fist pressed against the bed as a breeze of fresh air comes from your back. “Okay who is it I don’t have time for- Oh…”
You kneel down, legs trembling and face flushed with embarrassment at the princess of Equestria catching you acting like a tantrum throwing child. ”Why does everyone always do that?” She shuts the door and walks inside, taking a look around.
”So this is your chamber?” she looks to you, “Oh do stand up, I get quite enough formality during the day.”
“I apologize princess.”
”Apologies are part of formality are they not?”
“Yes ma’am, sorry ma’am.”
”You’re still doing it.”
Her deadpan stare takes the breathe right out of your lungs. She continues to browse until she comes upon your books, “Equestria’s Greats. Is this the book you spoke of?” You nod slowly as she looks it over, “Do you visit the Canterlot Library often?” Another nod, “You understand I only wished for you to stop apologizing, not speaking.”
She giggles, “Do you go to the Library often?”
“Anytime I can.”
”Then why not now?” she spots the note in the trash, “That’ll do it.” You take a seat in your chair while she pokes about. ”It is an oddity how one in your line of work would have such a fascination with literature. Why is that?” She senses your hesitation quickly, “Try not to think of me as a princess, but instead as just another p0ny.”
“That doesn’t make it any easier,” you try and joke though she doesn’t laugh. You clear your throat, “I always liked reading.”
”I know others with the same fascination, yet they are not- What the term? Rustic? Down to earth?”
“Either of those would be correct I assume.”
”But why are you? It makes me curious.” Questioned by royalty, you should be honored.
“Books are simple. They speak to me, but don’t need words back. Simple.”
”And that fiasco today… That was simple?”
You knew this was coming sooner or later. “It was fresh in my mind.”
”You do understand that Twilight, my personal student who I confide in for the most intimate of matters was flummoxed by this document, yet you identified the flaw with nothing but a glance?”
“If you put it that way,” you go along with it.
”I hope you understand as well that it was for the better of the nation that I had to terminate your employment.”
“That I do understand. I am but a pawn on the chessboard so to speak.”
She walks a little closer, your back glued to the seat, “How would you like to be more than a pawn?”
”Formality. I get enough of that during the day.”
”If I have to tell you to stop apologizing I’m going to lock you in the dungeon.”
”So how about it? Would you like to be something more than an ex-janitor? A ‘man’ of your talents would come quite handy in my current affairs. One you already helped solve for me.”
“I- I- There’s so many other jobs I can take-“
”Gardener? Cook? Are those the jobs you’re aching to get into?” There’s nothing to say to that, besides you can’t just talk back to the princess.
“If it were my choice-“
”So you refuse?”
“I never said that.”
She smiles, “Good. You’ll start tomorrow. I’ll arrange a new room for you.”
“Wait, I never-“
Her gaze turns you to stone as she turns in the doorway, “Are you refusing my offer?” Shit Anon what’re you getting yourself into?
”Good,” she stops, “And I never did catch your name.”
Alright Anon, you’ve got this. You’re pumped and ready to go. Throw out a few jabs of wisdom and finish it up with an uppercut of history. The crowd goes wild! He did it! The Sharp-Witted champion of the world, ANON! What do you have to say about your feat tonight Anon? I want to thank my fans, my family, but most of all I’d like to thank Petal for not giving up. They put you on their back and carry you back to the library to sign books. That would be awesome… ”Sir?”
You’re standing in front of the receptionist’s desk, the mare with a clear look of irritation. ”Do you plan on standing there all day or would you like to leave your name?”
“Oh sorry, I was-” her indifference shows brighter than the sun, “Umm, Anon.” She flicks through the pages of her ledger, your hands behind your back. “Sure is hot in here.”
”76 degrees.” You’ll take that as a hint to shut your trap.
Waiting is the worst part of these things. A million things could be rolling around inside her head right now. What is she thinking? What could she be thinking? The combination of the unknown and the infinite possibilities that follow boggle your little mind. ”Here we are,” she checks off your name, “Take a seat please, we’ll be with you shortly.”
“Just over there? Or is there another-” she glares at you, “Ok…” You move across the room and sit down, the soft cushion fitting your rump perfectly. She flicks to the next page of her magazine audibly. Twiddling your thumbs you wait for your audience. Time just loves to slow down for you now doesn’t it? You fiddle with your tie; this old suit hasn’t come in handy since you first arrived. At least you’re never short of formal wear.
You play with your sleeve for what feels like an hour before she finally calls your name. When you saw the conference hall you were stunned, but that doesn’t bring a flame to this beauty. Spiraling marble flooring, a crimson rug that runs the length of this expansive chamber, towering columns that dwarf even you. And there at the back atop her throne is the princess herself, Celestia. A lump forms in your throat as you’re led down to her by a pair of royal guards. ”When you meet the princess you wait to be addressed. Don’t speak unless spoken to. Keep those hands at your side and if you even think about reaching for something I will take you down. Understand?”
”Yes what, maggot?”
He snarls and looks ahead, “Bucking disrespectful kids…” Why is everyone an ass?
Celestia’s smile cuts through you like a knife and you tear your eyes away. Get it together Anon, no time for being a coward here. You take a knee before her, “Ahh Anon, it’s nice to see you. I was afraid you weren’t going to show.” You had your bags packed and everything, but offending the sun princess probably wouldn’t be a good idea.
”She’s talking to you two-legs.”
Celestia moves her eyes to your escort, “I do not believe I require your services at the present time.”
They look surprised, “My princess, I believe to be wise if-“
”Are you disobeying your princess, guardsman? In fact, I’d like to speak with Anon in private so I request for you to wait outside.” They don’t argue this time and clip clop their way out, shutting the door with a hefty thud. Celestia sighs and spreads lazily over the throne, “So how are you?”
Your still a bit stunned by her sudden change. “Fine.”
She admires your attire with her eyes, “What did I say about kneeling Anon?” You apologize profusely, her brow rising, “Are you so intent on seeing the dungeon?” The only dungeon you’re intent on seeing has dragons and dice.
“Princess I-” you can see the word ‘formality’ all over her face, “Celestia… I don’t think that’s necessary. Please.”
Her laugh is disheartening and you keep your eyes to the floor, “You are an odd one Mr. Anon.” And that’s how it starts. First it’s odd, then weird, then creepy, then locked up with Pablo. Pablo’s been in there for a while and a tad lonely. Another line of silence is laid across the room’s atmosphere increasing your tense attitude. ”How long did you spend sprucing up your suit?”
Does she not like it? If she doesn’t like that, then she’d- The princess almost reads your mind with a laugh, “It’s a simple question Anon. I have no ulterior motive.” Well, at least you don’t have to worry about Pablo again. For now…
“About an hour.”
”An hour? I wasn’t expecting that.”
Your heart plummets into the abyss of your ribcage. “Sorry.”
She rolls her eyes, “Come now Anon, don’t act like that. I meant no offense.” You drop your head and cross your legs. ”I didn’t mean it like that.”
She rises from her seat, “It is not.” You’re tempted to step back as she approaches but your legs are turned to lead in fear. ”You do not have to take such insults if you feel them inappropriate.”
“I guess that’s what makes me odd.”
”There are plenty of reasons why that is, but this is not one of them. If you’re going to be working for me, you’ll need to outgrow this personality of yours.”
”You say that, yet I can see it deep within your eyes.”
”The dungeon’s this way.”
Celestia leads you off, hopefully not into the dungeon. Maybe it’s a fun one, not the type with chains and spikes… God you’d prefer the sewers… You step into the room, eyes widening in splendor. “Wow.”
”It’s funny, you’re only the second p0ny who’s had that reaction, and this room has been used fairly often throughout the ages.” A part of you wants to correct her use of the word ‘p0ny,’ then again, it’s also the part that wants to meet Pablo. ”Twilight’s taken the train back to P0nyville so her chambers are currently in need of a different resident. Would you be interested?”
Would you?! You’d piss yourself happy if you didn’t let the sea monster loose already. “Yes!” Shit you just shouted that, crap. “I mean, yes please.”
Her smile eases your mind, “I’ll have the scribes make note of the change. I am curious though, what sealed the deal for you? I know Twilight was quite fond of the view.”
“I think it was the private library that got our attention.”
”I thought it might.” She ushers you forward, “Go on, check out your new home.”
Your hand curls around the railing to the upper floor as you marvel at the tiniest of details. The tender grooves of the wood, the slick glossy coat that surrounds it, even the nigh invisible scratches that roughen them so slightly. You run up and throw the curtains open letting the sun shine through. A grin forms on your face as your rush back down and throw yourself on the bed. Celestia giggles at your behavior but does nothing to stop you as you rub against the sheets.
Your smile only gets bigger when you look up and down on your library. There’s a telescope too! You’ve always wanted to get into Astronomy and- Your mind blanks when you step out onto the balcony. Celestia places a hoof on your shoulder, “She had the same look as you.” This place is a dream, some fantasy or delusion that you’ve locked yourself into. ”I take it you like your new quarters.”
“It’s a palace, an Equestrian Versailles if I ever saw one.”
”And it’s all yours.”
You sip at your tomato soup, stomach purring happily. “I’ve never had the pleasure of eating in the presence of royalty before,” you silently scold your noisy belly.
”You haven’t missed much. It has a certain dullness around it, each having to keep up their image.”
“Oh…” your mood falls slightly.
”That is why I find it soothing to be among those with… well, those like you.” You blush and look down to your bowl, twirling your spoon within the orange whirlpool. ”There’s no deceit in your appearance, just truth.”
”You’re quite welcome Anon.” This is… nice. Maybe it’s a bit premature, but you feel better around her. She wouldn’t cure the bubonic plague with her presence, but it’s as if you’re safe by her side. All it takes is a glance to know that she’ll be there for you.
“I take it you reviewed my file.”
She looks surprised, “Why would you say that?”
You shrug, finishing up your soup. “I don’t know, just figured you would’ve.”
”As a matter of fact I did. A background check is standard routine for my subjects.”
“Wasn’t the first time either I reckon?”
She glares playfully, “You’re too smart for your own good.” She chuckles at your shiver, which is quite real, “I did see it once before. It was upon your arrival if I recall. How long ago was that?”
”Only so? I had thought it to be longer.” She must have a different view on time, seeing how old she is.
“Excuse me Celestia, but can I ask a personal question?” She leans forward expectantly, must mean yes. “How old are you?”
And that’s how you wound up in prison. Nah, but that’s what’s you thought might’ve happened. ”Anon, I thought you would know better than to ask a mare her age.”
“I’m sorry princess, that was uncalled for and I should’ve… I’ll shut up now.” You hang your head again, a common expression of yours, and try and be invisible. No magical powers for you unfortunately.
She shakes her head and lifts her glass to her lips, “Asking a mare her age…” You push your bowl away glumly, “Are you not hungry?”
“Lost my appetite,” you mumble, folding your napkin on the table.
”I was only kidding. I’m not mad at you.”
”If there’s one thing I have to teach you, it’s how to take a joke.”
“Then… how old are you?”
”I can send you to the moon.” You forgot she could do that. Space Pablo… But it’s just as she said, a joke. You admit, it is rather funny even though you wish it was directed at someone else. Leaning back you admire the crown molding laid down upon Canterlot’s initial construction, an elegant finish to the beaming room. ”Quite the marvel isn’t it?” she proudly joins your observation, “Built by the three races so many years ago to unite the young nation.”
Sounds like a tale you’d tell a sleeping child, though you’ve read a different version of it. “Umm actually,” you clear your throat, “Canterlot wasn’t built by the three races, not solely anyways.”
She looks annoyed at your mannerism, “Do you refute my word?”
“I’m merely saying that research and architectural studies have shown that… Never mind, it’s not important anyways.”
She shakes her head and moves to the wall opposite you. ”Do you know why I chose you for this job?”
“Well, no. I don’t even know what job it is you exactly want me to do.”
“When you first arrived in that conference room all eyes turned to you.”
“I remember that well,” you shudder.
”It wasn’t by chance you were summoned, it was fate. When I saw you, I thought there was something strangely peculiar about you.” She’s going to make you blush with this talk. ”You have a gift Anon, one that holds great potential for you here, but this attitude of yours is holding you back.”
You’re taken aback by this comment. “I- I don’t have an attitude problem though.”
”Perhaps attitude was a poor choice of words. Your demeanor, personality, how you hold yourself, this spectrum of your presentability, this is the problem.” She looks back to you, “These are holding you back. While you have great knowledge, you’re fearful of using it.” She’s right. You know she is. This is the kind of stuff you’ve been told from day one. ”Once you let go of your fear, your position by my side will be concrete.”
By her side… That means- She smiles, knowing your thoughts, “Let’s take things one step at a time.” The kid in you wants nothing more than to jump for joy, but you hold him underwater until the bubbles stop. No kid will dictate what you do. ”So tell me, what do you know of the gryphon kingdoms?”
“Not that much. It’s rudimentary at best-“
She raises a hoof, “Allow me to relay something that I do know. Equestria values certain traits such as humbleness, but the Kingdoms to the east? They do not.” Celestia sits back down, eyes on you, “So tell me again, what do you know of the gryphon kingdoms?” You know that they’ve got to respect Celestia’s tenacity.
“Only what I’ve read in books.”
”We’ll need to change that then.”
You step into the bustling tavern, Celestia masked to hide her appearance. The p0nies don’t seem to mind your presence as you’d expect. They care more about the booze in front of them then the man behind them. Celestia ushers you over to a stool, the bar tender drying a mug idly, “What’ll it be?”
“A water please.”
He raises a brow, “Water? Really? You come to a bar just to order that?” Your foot titters against the ground uneasily as he looks you down.
”Order something else,” Celestia whispers in your ear.
“But I don’t drink,” you plead softly, “I’ve seen what alcohol can do to a liver. Cirrhosis is one-“
She turns to be bartender, face still hidden from sight, “He’ll have a Lion’s Tail.”
”A Lion’s Tail eh? You know quality when you see it. I didn’t catch your-“
”I’ll have an Appletini. Stirred, not shaken,” she sets a small bag of bits down, “This should cover it.” He nods, setting the drinks down moments later. She raises her glass, “To good fortune.”
“To liver disease.”
You manage to keep the poison down as you wipe the tears from your eyes. ”To turn down a drink from a gryphon is to insult their honor. I trust you know this.”
“I haven’t gotten to that chapter yet- *cough* God it’s like drinking hydra piss.” You take a sniff, “Smells like it too.”
”The Lion’s Tail is a favorite among gryphon kind. It’s made from a combination of ground talon, hydra scale…” Knew it. ”…purified nightshade and a variety of other ingredients. Can you tell me what type of crop is the main component?”
How should you- Wait, you know this one. Oh god it was in Agriculture’s Adversaries Volume II. “Give me a second.”
”Take your time.”
Gryphons live in the east. The east is mountainous with small regions for cultivating grain. They need a grain that can stand their fierce winters. So in turn they would grow… “Rye,” you sigh, “They use rye.”
”That is correct.” You can drink to that. You seize your throat as you force yourself to consume the mug of death. ”See, you know more than you let on. A little coaching and you’ll be more than just an ex-janitor.”
“It’ll take more than a little. I hate being wrong.”
”Is it hate or is it fear?” You find yourself at a loss. You chuckle a little and raise the mug to your lips.
“A little of both.”
You cough violently after another dose and Celestia pats your back, “Easy now. You still need your lungs.” Your chest feels like a monster’s about to burst out and it’s called your heart. Her ears perk up and she looks over your shoulder, “There she is.”
“There who is?”
She keeps you planted with your hoof, “This is where we part for today Anon so I leave you with your first task. A gryphon has just entered the tavern, talk to her and learn all you can. Seek me out when you’re ready.”
”No buts. I won’t be far,” her voice peters away into the drunken ramblings of the tavern. You spin around hoping to catch her before she’s gone, but she’s already gone, damn. Your eyes gaze through the smoky air before finally settling on the gryphon she spoke of. She knocks down a row of shots like they’re apple juice, shouting out for the barkeep to bring her more.
Her feathers are rough but well kempt and the birth mark around her eyes are a clear sign of her class heritage. Gender equality has never been an issue from what you’ve read; in fact some of their nation’s great heroes have been female. Rosaline the Merciful gained her stature during a tribal raid, slaying near half the garrison to protect her clutch. She spared only one to send back the message of their defeat, granting her title and renown. If that’s merciful you’d be interested to see their ruthless. But those eyes mark her of the lower caste of warriors. Okay, maybe you do know a fair bit about them.
But how best to approach her? Do you go in kind and respectful? What if she thinks you’re hitting on her? That path splits down many-a-road you don’t want to travel. She seems to be drinking a lot, so perhaps buying her a drink would be the best bet. But you don’t have any money and you’d rather not go out giving handies for spare bits.
If she keeps going at it the way she does she’ll wind up a drunken mess. You could take her back to your place and… Yeah, you’d be marked as a pervert and a lecher and thrown into the bowels of the earth to be picked by birds. Why is approaching people such a chore for you? Besides you being a coward and- ”What you looking at ya poof?!” You turn down to the bar, eyes glued on the frothy drink in front of you. ”You gonna answer me lardass?!”
”That’s all you got to say for yourself limpdick? Look at this guy! He ain’t got nothing to say.” The bar erupts in laughter, dozens of eyes glued on you. Just stay quiet, this’ll all be over shortly. ”What’s the matter? Crybaby gonna cry? Go on, do it faggot.” Just don’t come over here, don’t come over here, don’t- ”I’m gonna get a good look at you, dork.” Dammit. She reeks of beer as she stands up next to you, talons thrumming methodically on the counter.
”Geez, you look even worse up close. What manticore ass did you crawl out of?” Avoid eye contact, her vision is based on movement. ”I’m talking to you here numbskull, you deaf or what?”
”So you’re just an ass?”
”Sure looks that way.” You gulp down the last of your poison in hopes to drown out her voice.
”What you got there big boy? A big glass of apple juice for your weak little stomach,” she teases elbowing another patron jokingly.
”Barkeep, what’s this dweeb soaking up anyways?”
He scratches his head before he finally remembers, “A Lion’s Tail.”
”No shit? I thought you were just some softy, but turns out you’re a straight up ball less chump trying out his father’s grownup pants.”
“At least I knew my father…” you mutter. The bar falls silent save for the breathing of what sounds to be one pissed off gryphon.
”What… did you just say to me?” a fierceness hiding behind her words. You find no help in the patrons’ eyes, not even the bartender is willing to offer his aid. A test, from the princess. How to deal with these types of situations perhaps?
“I think we got off on the wrong foot,” you turn to her, “My name’s Anon.” And… thrown out of the bar.
You scramble about on the dampened brick as you try and escape from the huffing gryphon that’s pursuing you. Her wings flare out as she works up to her hind legs almost matching you in height if you were standing. ”You’ve got some nerve on you small fry!” A few heads jut out from around the corner to watch you shrink further down the alleyway.
“I’m sorry if I offended you-“
”It’s too late for that!” she smashes a trash bin out of the way, “Do you not think before you speak or is that too hard for a dimwitted sod like yourself?” She scrapes her talons against the brick wall, carving through it ease. If those things got a hold of you… “Come here!” You try and crawl away but she grips tight on your ankle and pulls you back with an impressive amount of strength. ”The more you fight the more fun it is for me.” There’s worse fates than getting mauled to death in an darkened alley after all… Like anal rape.
You chance a peek if ‘she’ might be a ‘he’ after all, or possibly a ‘hir.’ If you’re going to die anyways it won’t matter. Her talons tighten and she grabs hold of your chin, “Look at me, not my goods you sick pervert.”
“I wasn’t- I’m not-“
”Save it,” she grabs you and throws you up against the wall. She wobbles slightly before forcing her body weight onto you with her arms, each talon holding tight. ”I’m going to take great pleasure in knocking your flank down to size.” She plants a hook into your ribcage causing you to double over and grab your side. ”That was about 20% of what I got, ready for 40?” She prepares another hook while recover yourself.
Your forearm catches the blunt force of your blow, and locking your hands together you cross your elbow just above her beak earning a surprised squawk. You grimace as a dollop of blood runs down your arm where her beak managed to get you. “I may be a coward, but I will defend myself.” You raise your fists, pain shooting through as you flex your arm. “I know your biology like the back of my hand. So let’s go Big Bird.”
You overhear the gasps of the drunkards from their hiding place and so does the gryphon who snarls at them. ”After I’m done with this one y’all are next!” They don’t waste time to skedaddle leaving a poof of smoke in their wake. She stands back on her paws, wiping the smear of blood off on her fur. You keep your fists up like your dad taught you, head in, arms tight.
“Stay back…” your voice shakes as you press against the wall, “I’m warning you.” She cracks her neck, making sure to get every kink out with a snap or crackle before fixing back on you, the crimson coating on her arm only doubling her intimidation factor. Your chest shivers as she steps forward innocently in an effort to open up your guard. But when she moves to strike you’ll perform a parry with your left and then uppercut with your- SHIT SHE’S ATTACKING! Your muscles seize up and you close your eyes, but she isn’t-
The gryphon clears her throat, talon extended with open palm, “You gonna leave me hanging?”
“Is- Is this a trick?”
”If it was did I fool you?”
She takes you back inside though you’re a bit wary about her sudden shift in attitude. She orders a drink and sits you down at a booth in the back, coming back with two pints of frothy death. ”You’ve got a sharp elbow, I’ll give you that.”
“Thanks, I guess.” You remember what Celestia said about drinking and you lift your mug to toast.
*gulp* “Ahh, that hits the spot. Takes me back to when I was just a newbie back home. We’d all get shitfaced after hours and hit the clouds. Literally, we used to hit clouds. Those were the days…” You keep quiet as she reminisces about the past, “Man we’d bloody each other up and rut like there’s no tomorrow. What I wouldn’t give to relive those early days.” She looks around the bar, “Maybe if I could find a bloodied up mongrel to take back home we could have some fun,” her eyes set on you.
The gryphon laughs heartily almost spilling her drink, “Don’t get your hopes up ‘Anon.’ You’re not that pretty.” Thank you god for making me mediocre. ”What’re you doing in a dump like this anyway Mr. Shakes?” She just has to hit you with another insult.
“I don’t appreciate those names…”
”Let me rephrase it then. What’re you doing in a dump like this Dweeb McGee?” There’s no point arguing with her.
“I was just- you know, looking around.”
”Ahuh,” she nods, “Then who was that with you earlier?” So she saw? Okay, think fast, she could be your…
“She’s a friend of mine.” Well you aren’t technically lying, right?
”You’ve got friends in high places then don’t you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” you try and play coy.
She rolls her eyes, “Do you honestly expect me to believe anyp0ny besides a princess could be that tall? I’ve got eagle eyes, remember?” The Gryphon’s Insider Guide: Chapter 4.
“Alright you got me. I was with Princess Celestia, can we drop it?”
She smiles with her beak and sits back, “Why?” She’s having fun with this isn’t she? All it’s doing is pissing you off.
“It doesn’t matter,” you state harshly.
”No need for the tone jeez, I was just making friendly conversation with a fellow drunk.”
“I’m not a drunk.”
”And yet you’re in a bar?”
Remember why you’re here Anon. It’s a test. “I was looking for someone like you.”
”Me? Sorry Anon but I don’t do the whole interspecies thing, regardless of what they say.” Of course it’s another insult, what’d you expect. But you’re going to have to deal with these things as part of your new job, and you want that new job more than anything else. Except for air… food… water, that kind of stuff. You’d do anything for it, even working with people like her.
“I’m trying to work under the princess as an international relations diplomat okay? I guess she thought the best way for me to learn was to be around them. So we came here.”
She picks some gunk out of her tail, “Oh, you were still talking? What’d you say?”
You’re not falling for this. “But I can see she was wrong.”
”Excuse me,” she replies sharply.
“You can’t help me, you’re- You know what? I don’t care. You’re a self-centered, conniving, violent drunk. What use could you be?” You snag your mug and get up. “Thanks for the drink.”
You finish the last of it and set it on the table before walking out the door. ”YO!” she shouts as you turn back to her, “I never told you my name.” You’re half tempted to tell her off but you give her a chance. ”It’s Gilda.”
“Best of luck to you then.” You could slip into a nice relaxing coma about now, maybe read a book while you’re at it. Helluva day, and this is just the beginning.
You cross your legs as a pleasant breeze sweeps over you, the book in your hands as enthralling as you remember. The words wrap you in their grasp and hold you tight. Birds chirp eagerly to steal your attention and you grace them a glance and smile. Isn’t this easier than all the crap you have to deal with? Well of course, but no one’s life is a vacation. You’ll have to go back soon, there’s no avoiding it.
Your eyes wander back to your book with relief. But right now, at this moment, you’re enjoying yourself. Work later, fun now. Must be why you were never a great employee. Anyways, back to Cultures in Conflict.
You open the doors to the library with books in hand. Turns out you read faster when you’re on a deadline so now you need another item to take up your time. The menacing shelves do little to intimidate you and you give them a browse. But what to read now? You could go back to history, but they get dull fast. Essays always bored you and journals increase your snore factor by five. Then again… you are limiting yourself to books about gryphons. There’s literally tens of thousands of books here. You can hear the patter hooves come up next to you. ”How’re we doing today?”
”Good to hear,” she joins your browsing, “Anything I can help you with?”
Petal nods and looks to your arms, “Mind if I take a look?” She relieves you of your books and looks them over. ”Sure are interested in gryphons lately are we?”
“W-work.” Pull back the spaghetti.
She chuckles at your answer, “And what does a janitor need with these?” You don’t respond at first and let what she said sink in. ”Oh, Anon I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“It’s ok. I was fired anyways.”
“I may have insulted an emissary from back east.”
Her eyes widen, “A gryphon?! You’re lucky to be standing here. They’re brutal from what I’ve heard.” That’s an understandable view, though false when examined.
“Only if you believe Runner’s Critical Review of Eastern Society. There were some glaring flaws in his work, faulty research, misquotes, hell, even spelling errors.”
”Wow. I’m surprised it even got published.” You were too. ”But you’ve met one of them before, so… how are they?” Though it’s been a week your interaction with Gilda is still fresh in your hand.
“You don’t want to know,” you rub the recovering cut on your arm.
”Celestia! What happened to you?”
“It’s a long story.”
”And I’ve got the time.” It’s just you and her anyways, not like anyone’s going to spy on you. Besides, a person to confide in is just what you could use right now. Therapists are expensive as balls. She sits you down and you spill the beans. You’ve got to admit that it feels pretty good to have someone just listen, not talk.
“It’s just- I want to do the right thing here, but it’s not what I do. It’s not me.”
She keeps her attentive expression, “Then who are you?”
“I’m…” you chuckle a bit, mood dropping, “I’m nobody.” You sit there in silence in the wake of your statement. Nothing. It’s so peaceful now, just how you like it. And then she slaps you.
You cup your face before she can do it again, “Nobody? Are you kidding me? How can you even say that?”
“But it’s the-“
She raises her hoof threateningly, “If you dare say it’s the truth…” Alright, she’s made her point. ”Do you have any idea the things I’d do to be in your position? You’re not just lucky; you’ve been blessed with a gift. The princess saw this in you and took interest and you’re thinking of turning your back on her because it’s not you? You’re lucky it’s hard to slap you from across the table.”
“You don’t have to be so rude about it,” you grumble, rubbing the growing mark on your cheek.
”I did. You needed a push,” she pauses as you avert your gaze, “Look at me. It’s not that I don’t like you Anon, quite the contrary. I don’t want to see you lose something great over something so small. I may only be some librarian you know, but this librarian knows you’re going places.” She places a hoof on your hand and smiles, “Go get’em tiger.”
You fit the last of your books back on your shelf and flop onto your chaise lounge. Petal’s pep talk is still rolling around in your cranium as you crack open a book. The words seemingly dance around your eyes methodically and the more you try to read the more it takes its toll. What use is a guy like you? You’re not cut out for this type of work, you’re just not. Gilda steamrolled over you and she knew it. And who was she? Just some drunkard with a-
Look at yourself Anon. You’re rambling and trying to blame her for this. She didn’t make you who you are, but she did present a wakeup call. You’re definitely not cut out for this work, not as you are. The princess has lived for thousands of years if she’s to be believed, and you managed to make an impression. She wants to take you out of your shit hole of a life and allow you to prosper, and in return all she asks is that you attempt to peek out of your shell. You gave up at the first sign of danger, a gryphon with a temper. How pathetic.
A knock sounds from the door and you look away from your book. You weren’t expecting visitors, you never expect visitors. Who would want to see you? If you stay quiet they’ll go away so that’s what you do. Time ticks away, another series of knocks ringing out every minute or so. But just as you predicted, they stop. You stand with an air of triumph and make your way over to the door, listening close. The sound of hooves tippers off at long last and you open up earning a face full of armor. Shit. ”Anon, correct?” Why can’t anyone just leave you alone?
“Yes s-sir, what can I do for you?”
”We’ve got a visitor for you up at the gates, but we wanted to double-check the request’s validity.”
“I’m sorry but I wasn’t expecting visitors.”
”I thought so. We’ll escort her off the grounds.”
You stop him as he’s about to leave. “One second sir, did you say ‘she’?”
He nods, “Yes sir I did. A real persistent one I’ll tell you, she’s been trying to get through for almost a week apparently.” Please don’t be her…
“She wouldn’t happen to have a bad attitude would she?” He nods. “Prone to insulting others?” Again. “Stench of dead fish and beer?” One more time. “She’s a gryphon isn’t she?”
”Yeah, you know her then?” Why? Just why?
You follow the guard outside with your head hung. This must be some punishment for a past life. You must’ve slammed your car through a nursery home of puppies or something to have to deal with her. And why’s she coming to see you? There’s no logical reason, but then again, you’re in Equestria. Logic doesn’t seem to count for shit here.
The two of you traverse the garden and get to the gate where a small group of guards are keeping it blocked. You still have time to turn back if you move- “Anon!” Her head peeks just above the others and she bores a hole straight through you. ”About time you showed up.”
”I guess I was wrong Miss. Let her on through.” She flares her wings through presentably as if to glorify her entrance.
”Show off,” the guard mutters as Gilda comes up chuckling smugly. You can tell he’s uncomfortable being around her, “Well if you don’t mind me I’ll be doing my rounds.”
”By all means do something useful,” she stabs as he walks away. “Keeping me away like that for a good week. He’s lucky he’s in uniform.” Or else she’d give him a good whatfor, yes, you know. ”A whole damn week and you didn’t even call. I’m insulted.”
“I’ve been busy.”
She rolls her eyes, “Sure you have. Lazy ass mother…” It’s going to be one of those days. Oh, she’s still going. Ugh, might as well go back inside. If you’re lucky she won’t follow you.
Gilda cannon balls atop your chaise lounge, her claws tearing up the cushions with her carelessness. Make yourself comfortable why don’t you. ”Ooooh,” she groans as she continues to roll around, “This is some soft stuff right here.”
Your eyes almost fall out when a white puff rolls out the furniture. “Can- Can you watch the talons?”
Her movements slow as she sits up and stares at you, “Come again?” Every time she looks at you it’s as if you’re smacked in the gut.
”Damn right nothing, punk ass trying to tell me what to do…” she rambles off looking around. You stand across from her rubbing your palms which swiftly grow moist with sweat.
”I’ll hand it to you,” she sprawls out, “You’ve got it made up here. They hiring?”
“Not that I know of.”
She humphs with a smirk, “Knew it. Still, I could get used to these digs.” She’s certainly helping herself to them now.
”You going to get me something to drink?”
“Why would-“ she meets your gaze. “I uh, think I’ve got something around her.” You scurry off, returning with a glass of water.
She snatches it out of your hand and sniffs, “What’s this supposed to be?”
With a flick of her wrist she tosses it over her back and sighs, “I’ve got to do everything myself.” Gilda leaves a pile of fluff as she sets out in search of what you assume is going to be alcohol, leaving you to clean up her mess. Good thing you know how to do this type of work. ”Where do you keep the good stuff?” Of course, alcohol.
“I don’t drink. Not normally anyways,” you wipe up the water.
”Not a lick? I don’t buy it,” she calls out, “Even in flight school we knew where the instructors kept their stash. It’s all about knowing where to look. Bingo.” She comes back as your tossing the last bits of fluff in the bin and launches herself back onto the furniture, glass of spirits in talon. ”I don’t drink,” she quotes sarcastically taking a sip.
Just take a deep breath and ask her. It’s not so hard. But what if she attacks you again? You aren’t exactly looking forward to another gash. This one’s barely healed as it is and it’s going to be there for the rest of your life. You can do this though, Celestia has faith in you, Petal believes in you. “What are you doing here?”
She raises a brow behind her glass, “Come again?” She really should get her hearing checked.
“I asked- *gulp* What’re you doing here?”
This time she furrows her brows angrily, “What, you want me to leave?! Is that it?! A friend can’t just come to hang out?! Fuck you!”
“Wait- I never- I didn’t mean- It was just a-“
”Just a what? Question? You’re an asshole. Do you have any idea how long I’ve been trying to see you? How much paper work I had to do? Of course not, you just hide behind that door and piss your life away. Douche.”
“I’m sorry,” you lower your head. And then she punches you.
The blow hits your arm and you clench your body for the second one. A stifled laugh peeks your eye open revealing Gilda holding onto her side. ”I’m just fucking with you Anon, jeez. Take a joke. Damn.” She has to calm down before she can get back to your drink.
“I guess it was pretty funny, hehe.”
”Who said you could laugh?” she says sternly.
“I just thought that- Sorry.”
She shakes her fist, “Seriously you need to limber up. Do some grass, lick some salt, something.” Her words ring true, though you think a chime would work better than banging on a gong.
“Yeah, I’m sorry about that. It’s just-“
”Stop apologizing too. That gets old fast.”
”I can hurt you.” Space Pablo and Gilda? Point taken. ”But you were saying…”
”You were saying something,” she twirls her glass, “Go on.” An uneasy sensation fills you, almost like a combination of fear and curiosity. She sighs, “I promise not to hit you again unless you act like a complete dumbass.”
“Can you just promise the first part?” Cold eyes are your only response. “Is that a maybe?”
”You’re pushing it.”
“Ok, ok I’m-” Don’t say sorry. “I lost my train of thought. Give me a second?”
”Are you asking for permission to think?” You think about that for a second. Are you really this fucking beta? Well yes but…
“Give me a second.”
”Much better.” You sit down and try to gather your thoughts, Gilda handing over her glass. ”A swig goes a long way.” To refuse a drink is to insult their honor, her words ring in your head. Fuck it, you think as you pour the last half down the hatch.
“Gah,” you clutch your throat, “There are some things about this job that I’m not looking forward to.”
”You should’ve read the brochure,” she jokes. “Now get me a refill.” You find a book cracked open near the balcony, the inside’s scooped out with a glittering amber vial snug tight within the pages. ‘A Look West’, interesting. This was one of the first books you read when you got here. It was about an earth pony that had succumbed to his vices and was headed down the rabbit hole. He lost everything, but was saved when a vision came to him telling him to go west. It ended with him reaching the top of Candid mountain where Canterlot rests today, and when he saw the open plains before him all of his problems just seemed fade away. Shit this was a good book. It’s a shame someone used it to store some booze.
”How’d you find this?”
”Experience taught me that p0nies tend to hide this kind of stuff someplace innocent.” Makes sense. Who’d think to check a book for alcohol? That’s the last place you’d check. ”In fact,” she calls out behind you, “I almost missed it entirely.”
”It was so freaky when I saw that book. It’d been so long since I’d seen that damn thing I just had to take a look.”
“You’re- you’re kidding?” you ask handing off her glass.
”I’m completely serious. This has to have been one of my favorite books.” Well shit, she definitely doesn’t strike you as the type. Gilda seems to know exactly what you’re thinking, “I’m not some dweeby egghead like you though.”
“I’m not an egghead...”
”Whatever you have to tell yourself,” she sips.
“You’re not telling me the whole truth here. You wouldn’t just tell me this.”
”True,” she nods, “But then again, who’d believe you if you blabbed?” True enough. ”But come on,” she slaps her thigh, “Stop stalling.” You really don’t know what to say to her. Come on Anon, just let go.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t know why you’re here. It troubles me something bad and I just… I just think you should go.”
She nods, “Go on.”
She sighs, “Don’t give me that shit. Keep going.” What is up with this girl? You’re done, can’t she see that?
“What else do you want me to say? There’s nothing else.”
Gilda sits up boldly, “You’re scared, is that it? You don’t know anything about me so you’re nervous. How the hell did you even make it this far?” Not without a good deal of hand-holding. ”Tell me Anon, the last time we met I asked why you were at that bar. Why did you talk to me?”
“It wasn’t my idea.”
”I know, but why do you think Celestia would pick me? A, if I remember correctly, self-centered, conniving, violent drunk.” You’re stumped. ”Who says I don’t know Celestia?”
“What?” That definitely got your attention. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
”Doesn’t it though,” she chuckles. “Think about it. How many gryphons do what you do? How many of them come through Canterlot? Why would she take you to some seedy ass bar if she didn’t know someone on the inside? Think about it.” Holy… Now that you think about it she’s right. There’s no reason…
“This was all an act? Why?”
”Meet the worst, you can appreciate the best.” This entire test was a hoax. Celestia tricked you into thinking… How could you have been so misguided? ”I’m surprised you didn’t see it sooner.”
“So am I, but, where do we go from here? Now that I know about the two of you, what do I ask?”
She shrugs, “Whatever you want I guess.” This entire time Gilda was hiding this. It’s almost like she’s an entirely different person now. She wants to help.
You hold the door open for her, letting Gilda through the doors to the Canterlot Library. ”They must be compensating for something.”
“That’s not very-“
”You too Mr. Manners Boy. Who holds the door open anymore? Chivalry’s dead.”
“The age of chivalry has gone; the age of equines has come. You know who said that?”
”Do I care?”
”Diamond Heart, Pre-Equestrian Councilp0ny.”
”You have a point somewhere?” You do, but you know when you’re wasting your breathe. Turns out her personality wasn’t exactly an act after all. You can recite the 100 Maxims of Stallionhood at a later date.
Looking around you don’t see Petal Peach at her desk. “Huh? Petal!?” you shout out. Aaand elbowed in the stomach. Your short gasps for air are drowned out by the ringing in your ears as Gilda leans down to your hunched body.
”Shh, this is a library,” she whispers.
“Noted,” you wheeze wiping a year from your eye. Right on cue you spot Petal Peach’s head pop out from a book case, her auburn mane held up in a bun.
”Anon,” she rushes over as you stand weakly, “Are you alright?”
“Never better,” you reply with the ounce of air left in your poor lungs. Her eyes meet those of Gilda’s and she perks up in curiosity.
”Pardon my manners. My name is Petal Peach. I’m the librarian here. Who might you be?”
”Gilda,” she replies sharply, eyeing Petals’ outstretched hoof.
Petal retrieves her hoof, “Gilda? You wouldn’t happen to be-“
“The one and only,” you cough, still weak from the blow.
”Well this is certainly a surprise. I wasn’t expecting to meet you so soon,” she grins at you.
”Yeah well, Wheezy here thought to take me someplace nice. Must be a real hit with the ladies,” she jokes.
“I just thought- you’d like to meet Gilda,” you grasp your chest.
”Are you sure you’re alright Anon,” Petal asks, “You look like you’ve gotten the wind knocked out of you.”
”Yeah Anon, I’d have thought you’d been hit in the gut?” Gilda tacks on knowingly.
“I’m just peachy.”
Gilda groans quietly making her boredom quite obvious. ”Why don’t I give you the tour? This place has a rich history after all.”
“I don’t think-“
”Sure, beats standing around with Mr. Sars.” You’d laugh if you had any air to spare, Petal still not entirely convinced of your condition.
“I’ll be good here. I’m just a tad winded.”
”It sure is hard living in a castle after all,” Gilda explains… bitch…
“Go on, I won’t be far.”
”Alright, but take it easy ok?” You give her a thumbs-up and ease down into a seat until they’re out of sight. What you wouldn’t give for a respirator.
”Anonymous.” Your skin turns to ice as the princess’s shadow overtakes you.
“C-celestia?” She hums her acknowledgement, moving opposite of you and taking a seat with that ever-illuminating smile. What’s she doing here? Did she know you were here? Would she even care?
”I thought I’d check up on the library’s records. There’s so much information just lying around, I thought poor Petal could use some help.” Holy shit she’s like a psychic. If she can read your mind- Don’t think about last night, don’t think about last night!
”You seem tense. Is there something wrong?” Oh yeah, you still have lips.
“I’m ok princess. How- how about yourself,” you force a grin.
”Fine I suppose,” her eyes soft and welcoming orbs of magenta. Damn you could get lost in those things. Shit! Snap out of it Anon.
”How is your research coming along?”
“Huh?” What resear- “Oh that? It’s going… slow. I hit a road block, but I think things I’ve gotten past that.”
”That is wonderful news. Tell me then, what is it about them that most fascinates you so far.” Their ability to lie for one, not that you can tell her that. It still unnerves you ever so slightly that Celestia would go behind your back like that. You take a relaxing breath. You can’t blame her though. It was the right call, and you appreciate it.
“Their entire race is a sort of mystery all in itself. They train for years on end in military fashion to become the best they can be…” You look over to Gilda, her boredom clearly having doubled in prominence.
“They’re not so different from the rest of us. I don’t mean she’s like a p0ny, because let’s face it, she isn’t.”
”Then what do you mean?” Gilda looks to you, mouthing for you to help her and you can’t help but chuckle.
“She’s the closest thing to another actual human since I’ve gotten here.” Too bad she just took the negative parts.
Celestia eyes shift downwards before leaning back to Petal, “So a gryphon can be human, but not a p0ny.” That tone in her voice- You insulted her.
“No no no no no, I didn’t mean it like that. It was a- a- slip of the tongue.” Now you’ve done it Anon. Space prison here you come.
”I most certainly understand.”
She nods, “Harmony changes, it is true. Our kind differs greatly down to the roots of what makes us who we are.”
“Thump West once said that the troubles that face Equestria can only be solved if one is willing to understand the other. That’s obviously paraphrasing because the bastard took an entire chapter to say it.” The princess manages to giggle at your little joke and that makes you smile. “I guess it’s a good reason you chose me huh?”
You’re a prime candidate for this type of work after all… Except for the stage fright… and the fragile body language… and the spaghetti. Okay maybe you weren’t the cream of the crop after all, but she chose you. And that’s good enough.
Gilda slams herself on the seat next to and rests her limbs about wherever she pleases, her paw nudging firmly into your mouth. “Gldacldutakpawawa,” you mumble through your tightened lips.
”Sorry I can’t hear you,” she stretches her arms out and cracks her neck, “Man I needed that.” Please lord forgive me for the depravity I am about to commit. You lips quiver as you open them wide, Gilda’s paw finding it’s way into your mouth.
”DUDE!” she yanks her paw back, wiping it off, “Not cool.” You wipe the hair of your tongue, shuddering as a real cobra unwinds from your maw. ”If you wanted me to move it you should’ve just said so.”
“I did…” you whisper to yourself. She rubs her now mucus covered talon over your shirt leaving the shimmering trail of gunk across your shoulder. “T-thank you.”
”Just doing my job.” Please say it’s temporary.
Petal Peach waves to you and continues filing her books away allowing you to talk to the two of them alone. ”So you’re the gryphon Anon’s been telling me about. I didn’t catch your name.”
”Gilda,” she looks over to you, “And he better have only been saying the good stuff.”
“What good stuff?” you mumble under your breathe. So Celestia’s still playing the acting game. No need to break the spell- Wait a second. No.
“You don’t need to play coy princess. I know about the two of you.”
”Excuse me Anon?”
”Yeah, excuse her,” Gilda huffs as she grooms herself.
“You knew Gilda all along. There’s no need to hide it.”
Celestia’s face is plain, “Anon I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Of course she doesn’t. She’s trying to keep up the act.
“Sure, but Gilda and I know it don’t we?” you look over to Gilda. She’s sitting very still, almost paralyzed. “Gilda? Gildaaaaa…”
She chuckles nervously, “What harm’s a little white lie?” Your heart stops beating and your blood chills as you look back over to Celestia. “Oh fu-“
How could you have been so stupid?! Celestia wouldn’t go behind your back like that. EVER!
Oh god you’re sweating like a pig in an oven. You never fuck up like this. You bury your head in your arms in embarrassment, your face hot enough to melt the chrome off a prostitute’s bum. That doesn’t even make sense!
Tap your shoes together. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. “I’m so sorry princess. I never thought…” God you’re pathetic. “I’m sorry.”
”Anon. Look at me.”
“I don’t wanna,” you groan in your sleeve. She gently nudges your chin up with her magic until you’re staring straight at her face.
”Stop saying you’re sorry.” She knows well you can’t. ”Gilda, can you wait outside for a moment?”
She’s up without a second to spare, “Don’t have to tell me twice.” The door slams shut with an echoing silence. You can almost hear the mechanical ticks of the clock.
”You too Ms. Peach.” A soft squeak comes from behind the bookcase, followed by another door being shut. Just pull the lever and get this over with. Celestia looks at you for a long while, her breathing slow and methodical as she inspects you. ”That cut on your arm was from her wasn’t it?” You nod, head sunken like a puppy who’d gotten into the garbage. ”Come Anon, you have lips so speak.”
She shakes her head, “I thought you knew me better than this. At least I had hoped.” You’re just ripe for disappointment aren’t you? ”It appears I was overzealous in my expectations of you. Misplaced perhaps.” You can’t be canned twice, that’s just… depressing.
“Please Celestia, give me another chance. I- I can change.”
”No matter how much you change, you can’t know what’s best for Equestria if you don’t know who it is you’re helping.”
“B-but I do know. All those books- I can read double, triple if you want. I can name every city this side of Smokey Mountains, and the mayor’s of every town going west.”
”You are smart, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, but knowledge is not synonymous with experience.” But- She’s right. She mistook your smarts for wisdom and this is what she got. You knew you should never have gotten these ideas into your head. You’re not destined for fame or fortune. Once a loser always a loser. Anon… Anon never changes.
“I understand… I’ll have my stuff packed first thing tomorrow.”
”Good, you’ll be needing them where you’re going.” Wait. What? ”You didn’t think you were fired did you?” she grins. That- What… Why would she do that to you?!
The seats buckle and shake as the train churns across the snowy landscape. You hold tight onto your seat, fingers digging into the armrest as you do your best to keep calm. Even so there’s that sickening feeling in your belly that’s telling you that the bathroom is a minimum of fifty hoof-lengths away as of Equestrian Safety Standards. Figuring that at your speed you move at about fifteen hoof-lengths a second you have about three seconds to make it to the bathroom with another second to assume the proper purge position.
Another sudden shake hits you right in the gut forcing your head back in your seat. ”Can’t take a little rocky ride?” the mare across from you chortles at your displeasure. No matter how tight you close your eyes it doesn’t remove that intestinal distress that’s rocking your world right now.
”Aww he’s just got some motion sickness is all,” another passenger tries to calm you down, “You best hit that there privy sugar.”
You shake your head and take a few deep breathes. “I’m fine…”
She gets out her seat and hands you a paper bag, “At least take this.” You thank her and take a few hits with the bag. ”Poor thing,” the green maned mare woefully remarks before returning to her seat.
Your companion rolls her eyes as your breathing begins to slow thanks to your gift. She checks her watch and sighs defeatedly, “The travel time itself is not in the Empire’s favor. I can feel my bones locking up as it is.” Ms. Harshwhinny, a real piece of work if you’ve ever seen one. She always has that look as though she’s looking down on everybody else. You were a bit excited when you got to visit the Crystal Empire, but… with the Equestria Games Inspector.
She’s the ponified version of Gilda, just without the violence and drinking. Then again, she could be packing more than a few gallons in that floral suitcase of hers. ”I get how you feel sister,” the mare responds massaging her foreleg, “I need to stretch these old bones.” She smiles at you and stretches a hoof across the aisle, “I’m Ms. Peachbottom.”
You quickly shake her hoof until you’re sure the food in your stomach is going to stay there. “Anon ma’am. Pleasure.”
She does a double take on the two of you, “So what brings you two to the Crystal Empire.”
”Business,” Ms. Harshwhinny replies coldly.
Be likeable Anon, that’s a politician’s key tool. “A-and you ma’am?”
”Oh I’ve been all around Equestria, and when this Crystal Empire popped back up I just had to come and see.” Her smile spreads to you and you can’t help but share in her joy. ”I’ve been looking forward to this trip for months, thankfully I had enough saved up for one last trip.”
She nods, “Last. I can’t keep doing this forever. I need to settle down back in Mustangia with my folks. They can’t have me running off on a whim whenever a new frontier opens back up.” You don’t know why but you feel comfortable around her.
“Where else have you gone, if you don’t mind me asking that is?”
”Not at all hun. It’s nice to see somepony who’s up for a chat.”
“Well, I’m more of a listener than a talker really,” you laugh nervously and look down.
”Really? I’d never have guessed,” she chuckles sarcastically and you find yourself joining her. Your internal distress melts away as you listen to Ms. Peachbottom’s ventures to the corners of the land. You’ve read all about these locations, the sands of Saddle Arabia, the rich architecture of Damarescus, the works. And when she spoke of her time in Aviaris your eyes near shot out of your head. ”You’ve never been?” You shake your head, “Well it’s not for the faint of heart, but if you do go be sure to keep a firm back and sharp eye. You’ll need it hun.” You have the second part at least.
In fact you’re so enthralled with her that you hardly notice the transition from the frost to vibrant green lands. ”Would you look at that,” she gazes out the window, “That’s darn right pretty I reckon.” You make out the towering crystalline structure just above the hills; your eyes might actually fall out this time.
A dull humph comes from your partner, “Spruced up no doubt.” Because it’d look like shit if she wasn’t coming. The cunt…
”Ooooh I can’t wait to get a closer look, how about you honey?” God just look at that shine to it, it’s almost blinding to look at and that’s from miles off. If the entire city’s like that… you regret not bringing eye protection. ”You still alright in the noggin there?”
Ms. Peachbottom giggles, “You aren’t used to be talked to like that are ya? You ain’t got a thing to worry about, I don’t bite much.”
“Ponies aren’t exactly lining up to talk to me, and those who do… well I already said how I- Wait what was that last part?”
”I wondered how long it’d take ya to notice that.”
The train screeches to a halt and you hold onto your seat before helping Ms. Peachbottom with her things. ”Aww, you don’t need to do all that for me deary.”
“M-my pleasure ma’am.” You hoist her luggage out of its compartment, your heart skipping a beat when you spot a rip in the flower motif. “I- I’m so sorry, I didn’t know-“
She waves a hoof, “That’s quite alright. It’ll give me something to remember you by.” She’s such a sweetheart, though you hoped she’d remember something better. ”Help me to the door?”
“Yes, of-of course,” you hoist the luggage back up, “You’re alright here, right Ms. Harshwhinny?”
”Oh just splendid,” she struggles to grab hold of her bag. She looks like she’s having more than a lot of trouble.
“Maybe I could-“
”Did I ask for your help?” she snaps with a glare, “Go help your new friend.”
“Ok…” you sulk away, “I’m- Sorry…” You wait in line to exit the car.
Peachbottom’s about to get off the train and you place her bag down. You look back to your companion and can almost feel the seething rage she’s channeling. “I should- probably help her with her bags.”
”I think that’d be best hun.” A crash comes from Harshwhinny’s section and you freeze in place. ”Want to give her a few moments?” You chance a glance, her eyes more than a little set on you, fire burning bright. ”She’s giving you the eye ain’t she?” Just don’t move. Her vision is based on movement.
“Yeah… I really should help her.”
Ms. Peachbottom extends a hoof, “It was nice knowing you Anon.” You give her a hearty shake take a step back.
“I wish you a good visit.”
”ANON…” Harshwhinny growls. Oh shit you moved!
“Until next time.”
”ANON!” Shit shit shit!
You grab hold of her bag and ease it out, “If I see a single tear, I’ll make sure you’re scrubbing toilets for the rest of your life.” At least you’ll be experienced at it. Dang- This thing- is heavy. Finally managing to get the thing out turns out to be more effort than you thought. Before you can even set it down she snatches it out of your grasp and inspects it, the most minute of details clear for her. This is her job after all. She rolls her eyes and shoves it back into your arms, “You got lucky.” Ms. Harshwhinny looks out the train, most of the passengers having departed by now, “Let’s go then. Try not to be too excited.”
For what? She’s just here to inspect the city for the games right? Can’t think there’d be ponies jumping to greet her, that… witch. You step off the train car which swiftly makes its departure down the line, leaving you both in the dust. She taps her hoof and checks her watch as you admire the small crystalline details on the station. That book wasn’t lying when they said how engrained it was with their culture; even the track rails have a sparkling glow to them.
“Wow, this place is-“
“Wha- What do you mean?”
”Take a look. You see a welcoming party? You see anypony here to greet us? No. THAT is disappointing.” She’s just a games inspector, not the ponified pope after all. Or is she? ”How could they think I’d even consider letting the Equestria Games be hosted here if there isn’t even a proper welcoming committee? Ugh…”
Just tune her out and she’ll stop rambling. She pushes your leg angrily, “Are you even listening to me? What’s your problem?” Your problem? You don’t have a problem.
“I just… It doesn’t matter.”
She shakes her head and looks to the outskirts of the city, “How you ever got where you are is beyond me.” Luck. A few metric tons of it to be exact. ”Even if they are late I’m not sticking around to find out. Come on.” She leaves her bag behind for you to carry. You sigh and follow her lead, luggage in tow. ”And be careful with that, it’s worth more than you are.”
Crossing Sombra’s Arch, the historical name for the two obelisks that signify your official entrance to the Crystal Empire, was a bit eerie, but when you laid your eyes on the city itself in all its glory… Not even Canterlot compares, and you hide to make a quick adjustment when you saw the castle then. Thankfully you’ve been conditioned for such things by now, but it certainly does get the blood flowing. ”You’re not going to cry are you?”
“What? N-no. I would never…”
”Whatever you say,” she trots on, the significance of this place seemingly absent to her. King Sombra himself had strode through this arch during his rule. Hell, he’d even been the one who designed it. You grab hold of the heated obelisk, the crystal throbbing underneath your grip. They said that he even stored a part of his soul inside them as a symbol for his immortality. You quickly pull your hand away at the thought. Better not chance it. The last thing you’d like is to be possessed by a pissed off King… It does sound kind of cool though. ”Anon!”
Tagging behind her gives you time to admire the faint twirls engraved into the homes as you make your way to the tower in the center of the city. The homes are truly unlike anything you’ve seen so far in your time here. While the eastern cities resemble some of the more modern buildings you grew up with and the westerlies resemble some older rustic structures you’ve seen, these don’t seem to follow any style you’ve seen.
At first glance it seems sharp and chaotic, but when you take into account just where you are it makes sense, the frame resembling the flow of a natural growing crystal. From a bird’s-eye-view this must look like a shining field of rocks, a painful step for any mythical giants that may be lurking in the sky. You shudder at the thought; it must be what it feels like to step on a Lego in the dark. You cup your eyes, the road polished to the point where the sun might as well be having a staring contest with your face.
This can’t be good for your skin, but god forbid if you want to put on sunscreen. Gilda almost flipped shit when you tried to pack some, and Ms. Harshwhinny would be a tad more vocal you’d expect. The last thing you need is to drive that stick up her butt that much further. So you just need to stick it out. ”Map.”
“Map? I don’t have-“
”One, of course you don’t. Why would I expect competence out of you?”
She doesn’t need to be so rude about it. “I thought… you know, we were going to the tower.”
”Try this next time. When you start to think, slap yourself in the face. That’ll get the point across.” She raises her hoof threateningly after a few seconds, “Now go fetch me a map.”
You have to take a stand sometime Anon. You can’t just let people roll right over you. “Go ge- get your o-o-own map.”
The air stands still as she turns, “What did you say?” Oh god what have you done?
She stares coldly and you immediately feel any amount of confidence you had melt away. ”Set down my bag. Good. Now go and- Eye’s up and head straight!” You’re forced to look her in the eye as she scolds you. ”I saw a vendor down that alley. He’s likely to have a city map on him. You think you can handle that?” You nod quickly, “Good. Try not to get lost on the way.”
Shuffling off you hide behind a corner and take a row of hits of your paper bag. “Never… again…” You suddenly realize that a handful of crystal ponies are giving you some strange looks. They too sparkle like the rest of the city much as a crystal would, their curiosity proven with their sustained looks. You take a few more hits and finally compose yourself, brushing off your shirt and taking a deep breath.
The pony behind the stall sports a warming smile as you move up to him, “Welcome. How can I help you?”
“Umm, do you have any maps by chance? If you don’t that’s ok…”
”I’ll see if I have any in the wagon. One second.” He seems a nice sort of fellow. You feel a tug at your pant leg, a small filly down there looking up at you.
You smile nervously, “What are you supposed to be?”
”Barren!” his mother comes over, “That’s not an appropriate question to ask strangers. I’m sorry about him, he’s never seen anyone like you before.”
“It’s alright. No offense taken.”
The mare shoos him along as you wait for the merchant, “So what brings somepony like you here?”
“Oh you know… This and that,” you turn back to the stall. You don’t want to be rude, but you just want to get your map and get back before she gets pissy.
”Pardon my questioning. I tend not to be this intrusive, but…” she steps closer, “You wouldn’t happen to be here about the Equestrian Games by chance, would you?” Okay, what is so important about these games?
You nod tentatively as the stallion comes back with your map, “Sorry about that. That’ll be five bits sir.” He looks over your shoulder for a few seconds, “Oh…. Buuut for somepony like you there’s no charge.” A salespony doesn’t just go from five bits to nil. You look back, the mare whistling suspiciously and looking off into the sky. She told him didn’t she? You don’t know how, but she did.
You thank him for the map before turning back to the growing crowd of ponies around you. “Ummm…”
”Welcome!” they shout in unison, stallions, colts and mares alike. Dumbfounded is certainly a word to describe how you feel right now, that and overwhelmed. Just stay down breakfast, I beg of you. You almost think your peptalk worked before they got closer and you felt the pressure spike in your gut. You’re backed against the wall by a swarm of the equines, frantically searching for an exit if your life depended on it.
The lead mare steps forward, “We never thought to meet the judge himself, could we-“
“Sorry, have to go!” you run down the wall on your left.
”Wait!” they scream after you, “We just wanted to talk!”
“Have… to keep… breakfast…” You come to a T in the alley and look both ways. Shit you’re already tired. You should hit the track more often. You can’t outrun them for long and you’re not thrilled with being subject to a horde of smurfs. Where could you…
~~~ Anon, you’ve done it again. Peeking out from the lid of the trash bin you make out the oncoming swarm you’ve tried to avoid. ”Why’d you have to do all that,” one the ponies speaks up, “He just wanted to look around. Now you made him run off.”
”I’m sorry, okay? I just- This is important to my little colt so…”
”Hey it’s alright, we all understand. Next time though, try not to scare him off.” The group splits up and you sigh in relief, only now realizing the not-so-pleasant stench of week-old lasagna. Still, this beats unclogging the toilets back in Canterlot. You’ll never forget when the old guard captain had put laxatives in his men’s food. Weeks it took you to clean up that mess, and months to work off the smell. You’d rather end up in this dump, literally.
By the looks of this map you can make it back to Ms. Harshwhinny without a hitch as long… “Ugh…” you groan grabbing your stomach amidst the trash. Between the train ride and your ‘tour’ here this place your primed to go off at any moment. The garbage doesn’t help.
”Darn whippersnappers! Stay out of my trash bins!” Oh no. The peeved pony knocks your bin right onto its side… before it begins to roll. Please, please no. Alas, it continues to roll down the slope, only managing to pick up speed the further it goes along. It’s your first week all over again. The bin comes to a gut-wrenching halt, the lid rolling off into the middle of the street allowing your exit.
“Please, no more…” You crawl out the garbage pool, hands sticky with what you hope is cream of soup. Working in a locker room is enough for you to know the cold musky truth. Leaning over the curb you’re all too tired to fight it now and proceed to purge all over the shiny crystal roadway.
Over the sound of your spewing innards you can hear the gasps of several crystal ponies who happen to be watching the train wreck. Gave them a good show you did, now all you need is your old boss and this’d be nigh nostalgic. That smug grin and coffee mug… And to think this is the supposed greener pastures. At least it’s just used tissues you’re rolling in this time. You fish the soaked map out of your pocket. Squash soup… Who’d have thunk?
”Where…. In … EQUESTRIA HAVE YOU BEEN!?” You pull yourself back over to your slavemaster who immediately berates you for your tardiness. She’s not looking too hot either with being soaked in water and all.
“What happened to you?” you ask softly.
”Oh I’ll tell you. I was splashed not once, but TWICE while you were gone. Where were you? Chatting it up with the locals?” She must’ve seen the mob looking for you. ”I tried to ask for directions, but noooooo. They were too busy looking for the Tall, Handsome, Kind Equestria Games Inspector,” she emphasizes dramatically.
“The- They said I was handsome?”
”Quiet! I’m just… Dear Celestia what is that stench?”
You sniff your sleeve and immediately regret it. “Week old tuna fish, crusty socks and a bad batch of spring rolls.”
”Your sarcasm’s showing,” she scoffs.
“But it wasn- Ok…”
”Do you at least have that map? I swear…” You hold up the map, Ms. Harshwhinny’s eyes shrinking into nonexistence. No earplug can protect you.
She pushes you through the door where a pleasant aroma of mint greets you. Well, she doesn’t exactly push you. It’s more of a forceful glare than anything, but it gets the job done. ”Finally!” she sighs in exasperation, “I could use a good time to balance things out.” As could you, but… a spa? Really? It could help de-grimify you, but the rest really isn’t necessary. Oh how good a hot shower would feel right now without the nozzle snapping off and turning into a fire hose. One of the spa clerks comes to greet you with a smile, “How can I help you two today?”
”How can’t you?” she sighs.
”That bad of a day? I’m sorry, but I know a good hooficure and massage will bring a smile back on that face.”
”That sounds just splendid,” Ms. Harshwhinny finally seems to relax. The spa clerk looks to you and you can tell she’s trying her best not to curl her nose at the stench of elderly horse leftovers, “And you sir?”
“I’ll just take a shower if you don’t mind,” you reply looking longingly towards the curtained holy land.
”Actually, we’re doing a two for one special for the deluxe treatment so if you two would like…”
Please say no. Please say no. Please say- ”Absolutely.”
You tried to debate, but that’s hard to do when you only get three words out before you start stuttering like Radio. They at least do you the favor of letting you take a shower first. The second the water hits your face you know you’ve died and gone to heaven. This is definitely what you needed. It feels like its peeling back layers of gunk and makes your skin feel all that more sensitive. You’re reluctant to get out, but you can almost hear your companion’s annoyed shouts wrecking the pipes that provide this blissful paradise.
Wait a bumbling minute… You don’t have a fresh pair of… *gulp* You uneasily wrap your towel around as much of you as you can and exit the washroom. ”How was your shower?” the spa attendant asks with noticeably less fear of your stench.
“Delightful, thank you ma’am,” you blush, not entirely comfortable standing in front of her as unclothed as you are.
”Whoop, looks like you missed a spot,” she points. Oh god damn- Wait a second. She has to hold her chest she’s laughing so hard, “I’m sorry I couldn’t help myself.” You tame the fire quick enough before you do something rash and just smile innocently.
“Good one ma’am. Never heard that one.” Except for the thirty-five other occurances.
”Now, how about hooficure?”
Your fingers dig into the doorframe as a brigade of spa ponies pull back on your towel. ”It’s part of the package sir. I- uhn… insist.” All of your Nope is insufficient to display just how Nope you feel right now.
“I’ll pay full price, please just no.” Your muscles strain at the combined strength of their tugs. You didn’t know they were this strong. God, if you’re up there, send an angel to save me from this evil. *rriing* Another pony enters the spa and… “Peachbottom?”
”Anon?” Her entrance manages to loosen your grip enough for them to yank you back, your towel at least. You stumble forward in your naked glory and headfirst into what you pray to be the mud bath. Thank god. You breach the mud and your eyes are met by Peachbottom and a whole bunch of angry ponies. ”Having fun?” Peachbottom giggles.
“You wouldn’t be interested in the Deluxe Special would you?”
You emerge from your second shower all the more refreshed knowing that you’re not going to get swarmed anymore. ”Thanks again hun,” you hear her call from behind the curtain.
You find your old clothes in the laundry room and slip them on, the faint sparkle to them quite noticeable though you’re unsure if it’s their choice of detergent or just crystal magic. You’re thankful for their courtesy either way. They still have that fresh clothes smell to them, also known as Lowes. You even feel lighter, though that might be the overcharge you paid for severance of your contract. It just goes to show you to always read the fine print… You’re still going to click over the Terms and Conditions though.
”I can fix this. I can fix this,” you hear the bumbling of a pony as you walk back out. Don’t complain, you’ll get a severance fee. By this time Ms. Harshwhinny and Peachbottom have reached the closing portion of their experience. That looks pretty good actua- whoo… A hoof presses into your back at just the right place and boy does it feel good. ”Sorry darling, I can fix it, I can fix it…”
“And the prince, where to start with him. That stallion had me blushing something fierce.” The two of them look to be having quite a swell time, and by the sound of it Peachbottom’s had a heck of one in the city. ”Of course it was too good to be true, turns out they were looking for some other pony all along, but that was the most darn tootin reception I’ve ever received, bar-none.”
Ms. Harshwhinny groans at the sound of your remark, “Oh he’s back…” Laying on the bitch pretty fierce isn’t she? Deep breathes Anon, keep it cool.
“How are, you know, you two doing? Enjoying yourselves?”
”What does it look like?”
”Oh yes we are, I can’t thank ya enough for this.”
“My p-pleasure ma’am.”
”Are you still here? Go fetch our bags or do something useful.”
“But they’re right-“
”Are you back-talking?” she leans up.
“N-no ma’am. Right away ma’am.” You scurry off like a frightened dog with its tail between its legs. This day couldn’t get any worse. *ring*
”Wonderful news! Look, Princess Cadence better than new.”
Right on cue Ms. Harshwhinny shoots up, the cucumbers on her eyes popping off, “Princess Cadence?!” You think you just peed a little.
You keep hidden while Ms. Harshwhinny begins to rail on her, but your curiosity gets the best of you. T-Twilight? Oh boy, she was in charge of the reception? This, this is rich. The princess’s star pupil and she fucked up big time. Don’t you try and take the blame for this Pegasus, just stay back and let nature run it’s course. No, don’t pull the sympathy car- Wait, is that a cinnamon bun? They have cinnamon buns here? What sort of trickery is this? You wander around the city in fear and there were cinnamon buns wrapped in sugary goodness? You could just crawl over and bury your face in that beautiful steaming brown pile of…
Wait, no no no. Don’t you dare grow a heart now. You’re Ms. Harshwhinny, not the Grinch. Let Twilight fail for once. Please, oh please. ”…which in my expert opinion, amounts to the first ever unvarnished, unrehearsed and unbiased appraisal of a potential host for the Equestria Games. Which can only mean one thing…” Cue momentous speech.
“The next host for the Equestria Games is… the Crystal Empire! Congratulations crystal ponies.” The roar of cheers is almost enough to drown out your own thoughts.
“Crystal Empire speeches only take place every other Saturday following the-“
”Shh…” Ms. Peachbottom hushs at you, “Just look at that sky.”
“But the records clearly… Colorful…” Okay that’s pretty impressive.
She manages to calm you down by the time you reach the train station. “You’re not coming?”
”Naww I’m thinking about sticking around here a while longer. This place is something else.” You’re bummed out that she won’t be there for the trip back to Canterlot, but if she’s going to be happy here then that’s alright by you. You stop just before you get on the train, “Something wrong?”
“It’s just… I’ve read all about the Equestria Games back since its founding. I know the current records and previous champions for the last decade.”
”So what’s the matter?” You sigh and lean against the train car.
“I don’t know why it’s so important to them. Why did that Pegasus care so much? Why was this all such a big deal?” You shake your head. Why did Celestia send you here in the first place?
”Why ain’t it important to you?”
“But that’s- I never-“
”Now now don’t try and argue with me honey. Just tell me, why ain’t it so special to you?”
“Well, I’m not from around here so I don’t…” That was it. That was her point.
”And now you go it hun.”
“T-thank you Ms. Peachbottom. For your words and kindness.”
She goes in for a surprise hug leaving you speechless, “You take care in the city now. A fragile thing like you needs some caretaking.” Your fingertips finally make their way around her, hugging her right on back.
”All aboard!” She breaks off with a smile as you fix your shirt.
“Well… that’s my ride.”
”Be safe now,” she waves as you back into the train car. You spy Twilight and her friends through the window on the adjacent car. A smile almost creeps up on your face as well. She’s not a bad pony and you wish her harm because she did the one thing you never could. You could read a hundred books on her, but that doesn’t mean you’d ever really understand her. Books can’t teach you everything. They don’t hold all the answers. Maybe… Perhaps you could talk to her. Get to know her for who she is. Maybe then you’ll understand… Twilight looks your way and grins.
It feels great to be back home. Oh you can’t wait to slip back underneath your covers and finish up that last chapter of Remin Therchis. A man such as you can enjoy some fiction every once in a while. You open your door, take a deep breath and- ”Sup.” God fucking…
“I thought you were, you know, somewhere else.”
”Life’s full of surprises ain’t it?” the gryphon chortles as she stretches out over your couch. It’s almost entirely in tatters, just look at the- Your blanky. She destroyed it. Wholly and completely. You had that thing since you came here and she just… ”What’s wrong with you? Is it about the bottles? I told the others to clean it up, but you know how parties can get.”
“Get out…” you mutter under your breath.
”Whoa watch out we got a badass over he-“
“I said GET OUT!” All sense of pride disappears from her face as she sees just how serious you are. You lower your fist and fish out your paper bag. “Please, just go.” She nods and makes her way out, the door clicking through the vast silence. Fucking Gilda.
You round up the bottles and fill up two trash bags with them, leaving them by the door. How the hell did she get so many people inside the castle for a party? She probably invited everyone who worked in the castle. You wouldn’t be surprised if you found one of Celestia’s hoofguards here. You fish the garbage out from under your bed and pick up the powder blue piece of armor. Nope, but you got one of Luna’s. To be honest you’re not even phased anymore. There’s nothing that can remotely…
How did chocolate milk get in your copy of Deg’s Mementos: Volume II? You’re fist clenches tightly. You’d planned to read this the day after next. Petal Peach gave you this book out of her personal collection and they… “FUCK!” you strike a vase right off its mantle, the piece shattering into a hundred shards, water splashing outwards in all directions. “Dammit!” You rub your forehead painfully and sit just across from your bookshelf. This room was a gift from Celestia herself and look at what’s become of it. If she were to see it now… Magic Kindergarten would look like a slap on the wrist.
A pair of talons rests on your slouched shoulders, “I’m sorry dude.” You could go off on her right now. Just chew her out for this. But that’s not you, so you place your hand on her talon.
”Want some help?”
“Sure,” you smile up at her.
She picks the tufts of horse hair out from your bed sheets while you begin lining your books out to air dry. She really is sorry isn’t she? ”What’re you looking at? You smile and shake your head as you continue cleaning. It was the feathers at the nape of her neck, you never noticed it until now. When she’s flustered they rise high, but when she’s sad or ashamed they droop low. She didn’t like it that you were angry with her so they fell. How did you miss these things before?
”Maybe if your nose wasn’t so deep in those books you might have seen it?” That voice… Oh dear god please say it isn’t him.
”Dang, and I thought I looked bad in the morning,” you hear Gilda say. That voice and her comment, there’s no way it couldn’t be.
”I’ll have you know I won the chaos beauty pageant a millennium running.” You turn to find the draconequus leaned against your doorway, a cup in one paw and a rod of cotton candy in his other talon.
”Wait a minute, you were here last night weren’t you?”
”Your memories as quick as a fox caught in a pool of quicksand.
“T-that wasn’t a compliment.”
She cocks her head to the side before that lightbulb goes off, “HEY!”
”At least someone’s awake at this hour,” he says facing you. His steps send nervous spikes up your back before he extends his talon, the cotton candy floating away. ”We never were introduced.”
“The c-cotton candy.”
”Excuse me?” he looks back, “Oh that. Don’t worry about that it’ll come back.”
“That doesn’t make any-“ you shake your head. Remember who you’re talking to.
“Discord. I know.”
He accentuates his extended hand, but you keep your eyes on him instead. ”Spoil sport aren’t we? You’re too much like that Twilight girl.”
Gilda joins you and moves to shake his talon, “Jeez Anon what’s the big-“ *zap* She goes up in a puff of smoke, her feathers blackened as the jolt of electricity fries her to a crisp. Gilda’s eyes are the only thing left that isn’t black and a soft exhale leaves a comical circle of smoke floating away.
“That’s the big deal.”
”HA HAHAHA! Oh I am simply beside myself here,” he holds onto his side, “To think I get to enjoy your company all day.”
He can hardly breathe without erupting into laughter, but he manages to snap a scroll before you. ’Dear Anon… I hope your trip helped you in your endeavors yadda yadda…’
Discord calms down at long last and takes a sip from his cup, “Hmm that’s good stuff.”
“This can’t be right.”
Gilda shakes the ash off and snatches it out of your hands, “Let me see.”
”It’s all there in the fine print,” Discord explains cheerfully before chugging the rest of his cup.
She can’t honestly expect you to do this. You just got back. Gilda reaches the end and hands you back the note, “Well then… See you tomorrow when you aren’t quite so busy.” She shoots daggers at Discord as she passes, “I swear if you do anything wrong…”
He shivers, “Ooooh I’m so scared.” You can’t believe this, and you only realize Gilda’s leaving when she reaches the door.
“HEY! Where’re you going?”
”Look Anon, helping you get to know gryphons is one thing, but I’m no foalsitter.” She looks to Discord, “And this is outta my league. Best of luck dude. Peace.”
”Ta ta,” he slams the door behind her. “Oh… you’re still here aren’t you?”
“This is my room.” Celestia said she cast a spell on that scroll, so long as you have it he won’t be able to do harm you. That’s going right in your pocket and not going to be removed… ever.
”You say it’s yours, but why do I have the feeling it only became so recently?” Mind games, it’s what he excels at. ”Ohhh, this was Twilight’s wasn’t it?” He grins and lies down on your couch, “Hit the nail on the head didn’t I?”
He can’t do anything to you. You have nothing to worry about. That means you can do anything.
“Get off my couch.”
No? That wasn’t supposed to happen. He was supposed to… “Get off my couch.”
”No.” Why isn’t this working? You always do what someone asks. That’s it; you just have to ask instead of demand.
“Can you please get off my couch?”
”Well since you asked so nicely…” He’s actually going to- “No.” Why do you even bother? You’ve still got work to do around here. He slurps noisily as you sweep up the vase shards, “So…” Just keep sweeping Anon. Swish swish *crash* You find a shattered cup right next to where you just cleaned up. ”Whoops, my bad.”
What an ass- Why is his drink brown and milky? “You…” You inspect the mess closer and dab your finger in the mixture. “That was your chocolate milk!”
”And the prize goes to… ANON!”
That… asshole! No! Calm down Anon, just calm down. It was a party, you don’t know what happened. Let it slide on by. Discord slithers around your walls like a snake, poking at everything in sight, “Come on, let’s do something fun.” You do your best to ignore him and pick up the last pieces off the floor. ”I know you can hear me.” He’s going to do this all day isn’t he? ”Only if you don’t answer me.” S-stay out of my head. ”Oh but what fun is that? I want to see the goodies in that noggin of yours.”
“There’s no goodies, just boring old scripture.”
”If that’s what you really think…” You pause as you finish tying the trash bag.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
”What I said? Nothing for you to worry about. Now how about some fun?” Mind games Anon. Keep your head straight and you’ll be fine. You heave up the last of your bags and head to the door, a glimmer catching your eye on the counter. Setting your bags down you inspect the silver box lying there so innocently. You pop open the lid before slamming it shut.
“What is this?”
”What is what?”
If Celestia saw this in your room… Pablo… “This,” you grab the box angrily.
”I have no idea where that came from,” he puts on his best innocent face. Bullshit. He knows damn well and you know it. You’re thorough when it comes to cleaning and you wouldn’t have missed this.
“Are you trying to get me arrested by the guard?”
”I don’t see what the big deal is. If you don’t want it just say so.” You give him a knowing look and he rolls his eyes, “Fine, but don’t come crawling back to me.” With a snap of his fingers the box disappears in a flash of green, “You could’ve used some focus.”
“I don’t need a syringe to help me focus. I’m perfectly-“ you hold your chest and breathe deep, “I’m sorry.”
Discord looks genuinely amused at this, “Sorry? For what?”
“I don’t like to raise my voice,” you murmur quietly.
He chuckles and slaps you on the back, “Don’t tell me you need someone to talk to? I’ve got a certificate of Psychology at the Chaos University of Discord I’ll have you know.” No doubt signed off by the draconequus himself. You grab the load of bags and hold the door open for him.
“I could use some fun right about now.”
His grin sends shivers to your core, “That’s what I like to hear.” You walk down the hallway with Discord weaving around you like a carnival ride. The guards always seem to tense up when he gets near and all it takes is a quick jut to make them trip over their own hooves. You do your best to keep a straight face, but you know what? After having these assholes make fun of you for months on end it feels good to laugh when the tables are turned. ”Jeez, you’re more stone-faced than that Twilight. You have no idea how good it feels to get away from that aged mare.”
“I used to.”
”Really now? You’ve met the big girl herself? Was she the one who turned you to stone? That’s what she did to me at least.”
“Nah, and I wouldn’t say met. More like passing recognition.”
”I see, so you stalked her.”
“Wha- No. How do you even… You were joking weren’t you?”
”Correct!” he snaps and rains confetti on the two of you like you just won the grand prize. He toots on his party horn and every pony in the vicinity takes a look forcing you to scurry along even faster. You hit the corner and whip out your paper bag to calm down. ”Not a fan of attention huh?” Control your breathing, good Anon.
Discord winds around the corner, “Everypony! Look at this guy!” Son of a... You should’ve known his idea of fun was no better than Gilda’s. You turn back and accidently run into Discord and- Oh boy he looks pissed. ”No better than Gilda? Perhaps you don’t understand exactly who you’re dealing with here.” You can see where this is going and you don’t like it.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it, you know?”
”How about we have some fun then huh?” he says grabbing your bags and stomping off.
“H-hey! Where’re you going?” You chase down after him across the castle. He moves a lot faster than you thought he would. Turning the corner your run straight into his paw who grips your arm to stop your fall.
“Where?” He nods to the row of rooms along the hallway and you peak your head out. You look for something that stands out, but for the life of you, you don’t see-
”Hmmm, yeah…” You’d recognize that smug voice anywhere. The bastard soon makes his way out of his room, locking the door behind him. He hovers his mug of coffee beside him and goes down the hall.
”Ready to have fun?”
“You don’t mean…” Before you know it Discord’ slinking over to his door and peeping through the keyhole. “D-Discord,” you try and keep your voice down, “No, we can’t do this.”
He sticks his talon into the key hole and with a few wiggles cracks the door open. ”Don’t be a spoil sport,” he slips inside. You rush over to the door and rub your palms nervously before heading inside and shutting the door. You look through the keyhole, your heart picking back up.
“No no we shouldn’t be here. This is wrong.”
”This is your old bosses place right?” He needs to stop going through your head like it’s his personal playground.
”Then let’s make some chaos.” You grab his hoof just before he kicks over one of your bosses old trophies. ”You can let go.”
”Excuse me?” No more running. Face your fears.
“I s-said no.” Discord lowers his leg but never turns his head away from yours. Be strong Anon. “Celestia wants me to look over you to make sure you don’t cause trouble and I won’t let you ruin this stallion’s home.”
”Is that really what you think?” You nod firmly. Discord sighs, handing over the bags, “Fine then. You do it.”
”I’m willing to sit on the sidelines for this one, but one way or another this room’s getting a chaotic makeover.”
“But Celestia wanted me to-“
”She never said anything about you did she?”
“I- I guess she didn’t.”
”I can name a few jobs where these fine points might be handy to know, perhaps yours.” She wants you to keep Discord out of trouble. She never said you couldn’t be doing the trouble. And if it keeps Discord off your back… Your reach into one of your bags and pull out a handful of junk. ”Now WHAT do you think you’re doing?”
“I’m going to make a mess.”
”Oh yeah because throwing some garbage around will really stick it to him right?”
“Do you want to do this?”
“Well, you can’t.”
Discord slumps over his bed, “Do something sneaky, devious perhaps. ANYTHING that isn’t a bore.”
“But I can’t do this to him. What’s he ever…”
He sits up smiling, “Done to you?” Before you know it he’s twirling around you again, coiling about like a serpent confusing its prey. ”He worked you hour after hour in that forsaken job of yours didn’t he? How many times did you curse his name when he worked you overtime?” Get- Get out of my head. ”Someone needs to give you a wakeup call, might as well be a friend.”
“You’re not my friend,” you twist trying to face him.
”When everything’s said and done I’ll be the one you call on for help, not your precious Celestia or that foolish gryphon.” Games, games games games… ”This pony deserves retribution, and who better to give it to him then one he’s hurt so.” You’re not god. It’s not your place to punish them.
”All those times he demeaned you before your peers, all those tasks he knew you couldn’t do alone but sent you to do regardless. Why did you put up with it?” Your heads getting dizzy from trying to keep up with him. ”Go on, do it. Be a man.” You stop turning and look down on your feet. ”When’s a little chaos hurt someone?”
You’re not a bad guy, but a prank doesn’t make you one. ”Not at all.” You nod and open the door.
“We do it my way.”
After your preparations you wait for your boss to get home. ”He’s going to be in for a surprise.”
“Shhh…” you hush him when he comes into view. The asshole walks on in and your plan commences.
”You never did tell me what you did,” he pouts, “Making me close my eyes…”
“I didn’t want to spoil the fun.” The unicorn comes out in a jiffy and head back down the hall.
”Look at that he’s pitch perfect.”
“Something must be wrong with the water.”
He takes a few seconds to think about it before he starts to get it, “Devious. I like it.” Before long he’s back empty-handed with no crew to show for it and is audibly cursing to himself. ”What happened? Tell me tell me.”
“I exercised Article XII of the Canterlot Maintenance Contract,” you whisper. “In other words, I sent the working ponies home for the day.” Your boss raises the grate leading to the sewers beneath the castle and now it’s only a matter of time. “Like you said, the fine points are handy to know in a job like mine.”
Discord shakes his head, “Where has this Anon been all along?”
“Same old Anon,” you assure him, “Just letting off a little steam.”
”So… what now?”
“Now? We wait.”
With a snap of his fingers he procures a fresh glass of chocolate milk and takes a sip, “Care for some?”
“I’m not really a- Sure, I’ll take glass if you don’t mind.” You thank him and swig it around, complimenting his ratio of chocolate to milk.
”Millenia over I’ve been in Equestria, yet why do I not recall meeting one of your kind?”
“Not from around here.”
”And where might you be from?”
“You’re the psychic, you tell me.”
He nods and takes another sip, “Fair enough.” You pull out that note from Celestia and read it over, “Still holding onto that?”
“Yeah, I thought I should hold onto it.”
”You know it’s not enchanted right?”
“I know. I still like it though.” You sigh and look back over to the grate, “She’s always helped me, Celestia. She’s one of the few that I can call my friend.”
“The magic of friendship, blegh. Just the phrase makes me want to gag.”
“You’ve never had a friend have you?”
”How absurd, of course I have a friend.” A friend. A. The fine details are what matter. But maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to be like him. Free spirited, happy, completely unbound by- *rumble* Discord shoots up as the earth rocks beneath him.
“Game, set, match.” You position yourself down the hall opposite of the grate and walk on down. A freshly brownified hoof shoots out the opening, the repugnant stench overwhelming the area around him. “Act natural,” you whisper as your boss fishes himself out from the stinking abyss from which he came.
His mouth hangs agape at the layers of shit ground into his coat and mane, his mug filled with the toxic material. You even spot some of the hair you used to plug the pipes caught around his nose. He spots you walking his way and tries to hide himself. “M-Mr. Mosley?”
There’s no hiding it now so he straightens up and adjusts his filth infested tie, “Mr. Anon.”
”Well, it appears there was a clog in one of the pipes so I went down there and… It didn’t turn out well.”
“Didn’t you pull the safety latch?” you ask with a hint of sarcasm, Discord not even trying to hide his laughter.
”Perhaps it was not as safe as I thought it was.”
“Do you need any help sir?”
”Ummmm, yeah that would be-“
“Ooop,” you snap your fingers like you just had a thought. “I almost forgot. You fired me, such a shame. Oh yeah, you might not want to drink that,” you point to the mug. “It’s not coffee anymore.” With that you strut past him with Discord floating behind in laughter.
”Did you see the look on his face? PRICELESS!” It certainly was hilarious, though you won’t let him see how much you enjoyed it. It’s getting late, and the time with Discord is getting increasingly short. Celestia is surely waiting for Discord in the throne room, best not make her wait. You take your time and get there at your own pace, Discord constantly in your ear about the things we could do together. You push open the doors and bow your head to the Princess sitting on her throne. Discord floats around the open area above while you walk down the ruby red rug to her. ”Ah Anon, it is good to see you again. How was your trip to the Crystal Empire?”
“It was good. Thank you,” your head still bowed.
”No need for that Anon. It was good for you,” her attention turns to the blissful Discord, “And how was your charge?”
You look as he spins about like a flailing child and smile. “Could’ve been worse.”
”That is good to hear. Not many can handle a personality like his, but I was confident in your ability.”
“I thank you for your trust. OH, here,” you hand over the scroll, “I don’t think I needed this.”
She giggles and floats it away, “You’re too keen for your own good.” You blush at her compliment, “Discord. I hope you didn’t cause too much trouble.”
”Me?” he chortles returning to the ground, “I would never.”
”You know Anon, I have reports of some commotion down in the west wing. Something about a pipe malfunction.” Shit she knows. Wait Anon, perhaps not. You don’t know that. ”I take it that Discord was with you all day, correct?”
“Unless his clone is as energetic as he is, then yes he was.”
She nods, “Then Discord had no involvement in the accident. Correct?” He looks to you with those mismatched red pupils of his and you keep calm.
“Discord was not involved, I can attest to that.”
”That is what I wanted to hear,” she smiles, “You’ve grown much since I took you under my wing.”
”Formality Anon…” she reminds you jokingly, “But I speak the truth. It feels as though you’re almost a different person.”
“Same Anon ma’am, just a little confidence.”
”In any case, I am proud of how far you’ve come in such a short time. Soon, you will be ready for your first task.”
“I look forward to it ma’am.”
”Celestia, please,” she clarifies, but… Maybe you can talk as you wish, just for once.
”I’ll see you tomorrow. Perhaps we can have breakfast and discuss matters?”
“I would like that.” You bow and make your way back to your room in peace. When you close your door you’re filled with an almost powerful feeling. What is this? It’s so fantastical, and yet so real. Celestia herself had sensed it inside of you. Could it be that you’re becoming… normal? It feels good. You snap your fingers and head on over to your bookshelf. This calls for celebration after all. A Look West, there we are. You flip open the pages and pull out the concealed bottle of spirits within.
Popping the cap you look out over the balcony and into the night’s sky. It’s so beautiful at this time thanks to Luna. “If you’re out there and listening,” you raise your bottle, “You left your slipper.” You take a few swigs and wipe your lips. This stuff isn’t so bad after all, just took your liver a while to harden up.
”Enjoying yourself?” His cheerfully strong voice puts you on edge for a second before you ease up and hand him the bottle.
”Oh please I don’t drink.” You screw the cap back on and lean against the railing. Why are you here Discord? Since I already know you’re reading my thoughts. ”Clever one aren’t you. I just wanted to thank you for not ratting me out.”
“For what? You didn’t do anything.”
”Maybe not, but you could’ve easily blamed it on me.”
“I didn’t lie did I? Still a good guy in the end.”
He leans next to you, eyes locked onto you, “We’re not all that different you and I.” You chuckle and shake your head. The two of you couldn’t be more different. ”You may not see it, but not many ponies would do what you did to that stallion.”
“I’m a good man,” you say to yourself in reassurance.
”Perhaps, but I see something in you Anon. Something very familiar.”
“If that’s all, you can leave now.”
He huffs happily and places his talon and paw on your shoulders, “The seeds of chaos have long lied dormant in that heart of yours. I can only hope to wonder how they grow.” You whip around, but he’s already gone, vanished amidst the blackness leaving you alone, bottle of alcohol in hand. You pour the rest out over the balcony in disgust and bring the rest of your books in, filing them back in order. Taking your copy of Remin Therchis you slip under the covers of your bed and flip to the last chapter.
”This location has been the largest producer of Equestrian cheese for the past eight national censuses.” Okay that’s a new one. Largest cheese producer in Equestria. Hmm… ”Would you like a hint?” Petal Peach asks from across the table.
“No no, I got this one. Let’s see I can eliminate some of the newer settlements and those that don’t participate in the consensus.”
“Cheese is obviously a milk-based product so the more urban sectors such as Canterlot and Las Pegasus can be taken off.”
“You’re only distracting me you know.”
”You have to be used to this. Things are going to be stressful and tense where you’re going, and I want you to be prepared.”
Focus Anon, alright. “Cows need plenty of room to roam about in order to produce the highest grade of quality milk so the size…” She begins humming the theme song of Jeopardy, or at least their spin on it. She knows that gets on your nerves, but you’d never tell her to stop. That’s it! “Whoofsconsin.”
She flips over the card, “Incorrect.”
“Fine,” you groan, “What is Whoofsconsin?”
Of course you’re right. You made sure to get your mandatory reading of the Equestrian Provinces by Thump West. “I really should thank you for referring me to Thump’s work. I haven’t found quite an unbiased author as him for a long time.”
”I just thought you’d need a little assistance.”
“I mean it,” you put your hand on her hoof, “You didn’t need to help me but you did. Thank you.”
Her cheeks flush as red as her mane, “Y-you’re welcome.” Why’s she so- Oh… You quickly retract your hand and apologize. ”It’s quite alright. In fact it was rather flattering. I don’t particularly have a line of stallions giving me compliments.”
“I uh, can’t see why,” you smile.
”You’re too sweet Anon. Another?” You give her a thumbs up and prepare yourself for the next question. ”This decree made by Hawksbird the-“
The door to the library bursts open by your feathery companion, “Sup dweebs.” Of course it’s Gilda. Who else still uses the word dweeb to insult people.
“Oh, hey Gilda. You were saying Ms. Peach?”
She clears her throat, “…made by Hawksbird the Fifth would hereby eliminate-“
”Boooooring!” Gilda booms through the library earning a few annoyed glances, “What is this, a retirement home?”
”Excuse me, but we’re studying,” Petal Peach sneers as politely as possible. With that skill she should be a diplomat.
”Then perhaps you have a better way to improve his skill before he leaves?”
Gilda laughs, “You kidding? You ever seen what happens to a kid who studies all the time?”
”They become Princess Celestia’s protégé.”
”Pfft, they become a closed-off shut-in with no social skills. Take a look at Anon here. Before he got out he could hardly speak.”
“I wouldn’t go that far.”
”Once I went a few rounds with him he loosened up. You don’t need to be reciting facts with him, you need to be taking him out and socializing like any other griffin.”
“Whoa now,” you don’t like the look of this, “I’m good reciting boring old facts as long-“
”Boring?” Peach looks back to you with… Oh crap. You see Anon, this is what happens when you open your mouth.
“You know I didn’t mean it like that.”
”Then how did you mean it exactly?” the irritation can only be cured with a special cream.
”Yeah Anon,” Gilda chimes in, “How DID you mean it?”
“Not you too.” Their faces are more serious than a Minotaur after a shave, “I didn’t- You both know that… Nevermind.”
”Hey Gilda, you wouldn’t happen to know a place where Anon here could get away from these Boring Old facts, would you?”
“Boring and old,” you laugh nervously, “Who ever said that? They’re the most darn interesting and uh, new things around. We don’t need to go there, do we?” Gilda nods to Petal Peach, and that gleam in her eye would make the hardiest soldier’s nuts cringe. “Do we?”
You gotta be careful with the words you say, or else Gilda will be dragging you away, much like she is now. “Okay, twenty bits!” you try and negotiate with her.
”If I wanted your lunch money I wouldn’t need to ask.” Twenty bits is a hefty sum, is she kidding? It might not buy you a chariot ride around Canterlot, but it could feed a family for week, two if they don’t like their kids too much. ”This is for your own good,” Petal calls after you, “It’ll make you learn to think before you speak.” But it was just a joke! You grab hold of a floor tile in desperation, the ceramic piece of crap chipping off like cheap plaster.
This definitely does not meet the minimum requirements of the Canterlot Foundation Act. Gilda smacks your hands when you try and grab the door and you’re soon sliding across the smooth flooring. There has to be something she wants. Something that can get you out of this. What do gryphon’s like to… Anon, you’re a son of a gun. “Gilda, listen to me…”
”You’re only wasting your breath, but go ahead.”
“I have access to the royal brewery.”
She stops dead in her tracks and glares at you, “You’re bribing me with alcohol?”
Without a second to spare you’re let back on your feet and shuffled forward, “Let’s get a move on then.” Like a drunk.
The guards let you pass through and before you know it Gilda’s grabbing as many bottles as she can. ”Anon, are you an angel? Because you just brought me to heaven.” Thankfully you’re just in storage. If you let her into the actual facility she’d be latched onto the nozzle like her mother’s tit. ”They don’t happen to have Heavy Pat’s here do the- AWW! THEY DO!” She clears shelves worth of loot into a sack before you finally take a step in.
“Okay now hold your horses what do you think you’re doing?”
”I’m getting some swag if you couldn’t tell, or are you backing out of the deal?” You shake your head and grab the bag out of her talons, “HEY!”
“You’re going to break the bottles if you toss them willy nilly like that.” She squawks all manners of insults in your ear as you look over the room. There! You grab a factory cart from the corner and stack the packs of alcohol evenly. “This is why we can’t have nice things. Some people don’t respect others property.”
”Says the one stealing piles of booze.”
“Ah ah ah,” you come back, “Borrowing, not stealing.”
”Tell that to the guards. Exactly how do you expect to get this exposed monstrosity past them?”
“By going through the front door.” By the look on her face she thinks you’re off your rocker.
”I’m not taking blame for this.”
“You won’t need to, now can you lend me a hand- err, talon?” Pushing open the door you pull out the cart, Gilda pushing. Your arms strain to keep it in motion and you finally let out an exasperated gasp, wiping the growing sweat from your face.
”Excuse me sir,” one of the guards starts out.
“Ah! Just the pony I wanted to see, do you have a tarp we could borrow?”
“A tarp. A protective covering waterproofed with some sort of tar or wax.”
”Yes sir I know what a tarp is, but where do you think you’re going with those?” You act clueless and raise a brow before looking back to the cart.
“Oh! You mean this?” The guard nods and you look to Gilda. “Go on, tell him.”
She shoots daggers at you before putting on a fake smile, “Oh here and there.” She should’ve taken some notes on that improv book you caught her reading.
”Ahuh… Not convinced.”
“The minotaur ambassador is taking his leave tonight and it was agreed that we leave him with a… substantial portion of spirits to quench his belly. You know how minotaurs are…”
”I wasn’t made aware of any such order.”
“Perhaps it’s a cut above your pay grade, guard.” This guy is not getting in the way of your peaceful evening. “Even should you deny me, you know who I work for. Therefore I would like to point out the Royal Requisition Articles, which in one short sentence, means that any entity of the state can requisition alcohol as well as other supplies for personal or political affairs.” You take a step closer to him until you can almost feel the warmth from his body. “The last time I checked I still work for Celestia, which makes me one such entity, does it not?”
He nods quickly and looks to his fellow guardsman, “Recruit, fetch these two a tarp on the double. I apologize sir. I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions.”
You place a hand on his neck and give a friendly pat. “Don’t worry about it. You were doing your job and a fine one at that. Perhaps I could recommend the Articles themselves to you.”
”That’d be nice sir.”
“They’re located in the Canterlot Library, eastern wing. If you’re having trouble finding it just ask for Petal Peach. She’s a real sweet heart… and single.” You think you’ve sealed the deal right there with that twinkle. Before long the recruit’s back and fastening the tarp around for you. Gilda’s still in a state of shock, but you keep calm and collected much like Celestia would. Everything you’ve learned and seen has not only opened your eyes, but also your mind. You may not be there now, but as long as you’re not on the receiving end you can BS your way through a situation. These boring old facts do have their uses after all. May not have to know that Whoofsconsin produces cheese though.
The guard salutes you as you leave and the second you’re out of sight Gilda punches you hard in the arm. “Ahh! What was that for?” you rub your soon to be bruised arm.
”Are you crazy? Do you have any idea how much trouble you almost got me in?” If things fell through that was one of the things you could count on. ”Go on, tell him.” She mimics before smacking you again, “You pull a stunt like that again and you’ll get more than a little peck.” That, you weren’t counting on.
“Okay I’m sorry-“
”I’m not finished. Next time you want to do that, at least give me the game plan. I can’t have my bro leaving me high and dry.” Alright… Wait what was that?
“Did you just call me a bro?” you pull a shit-eating grin.
”Of course not. Why would I ever call you a bro? You need to get your ears checked.” You give her a knowing look and she avoids eye contact.
”You call me Gilli again and you’ll be choking on it.”
“My little Gilli…”
”Do you like getting hit?” You’re her bro. That’s kind of cute.
You manage to reach the gate without getting hurt further and hand over control of the cart to her. “Well I held up my end of the deal. Now if you’ll excuse me…”
Gilda grabs you roughly by the collar of your shirt, “Deal? I don’t remember any deal.”
“B-but you said before-“ She asked if you were backing out of the deal. She never said anything about setting it up. That clever little minx tricked you with those little details. You’ll have to take note of that.
”If you think I’m letting you go so easy you’ve got another thing comes small-fry.” Says the gryphon who’s shorter than you. To hell with it, they’re right in the end anyways. All work and no play makes Anon a dull boy. You allow her to drag you across the city like her personal bagboy, even giving you the honor of guiding the cart by yourself. After a few minutes of hard work she guides you off into the alley of some nightclub you’ve never heard of. She excuses herself to talk to the owner who’s apparently an old friend of hers while you unload the cart. All this heavy lifting is going to get you some serious muscles by the end of it. A nerd with arms of steel, that’s something you’d like to see.
Heaving the last pack of booze off you let yourself into the darkened club. It looks about as what you’d expect, lots of tables with some booths scattered about, a dance floor in the center, a DJ set on stage, a bar for the drunks who like conversation. The underlying aroma of rave sweat is still noticeable despite the best air fresheners bits can buy. You can almost feel that primal heat as they let themselves go to the music. It’s not an entirely pleasant feeling.
And then… there’s a different feeling. You don’t know what it is, but you don’t like it. It feels wrong. You shudder and flip on the lights, a disgruntled groan almost giving you a heart attack. ”HEY!” a minotaur comes stomping through the other entrance, “What’d Iron Will say about you free loaders? You stay overnight, you pay the price!” He picks up the two squatters by the neck and shakes his head, “Iron Will’s starting to think you like washing dishes.” So that’s Iron Will. You’d heard he was ripped but not shredded; he could smash a cinderblock between those pecs of his.
”Anon!” Gilda calls from behind the bar, “You ready to get this party started?” Not really…
You hole up at one of the booths in the corner when things really start picking up. It got a tad bigger than you expected, a couple dozen bigger by the looks of it. You’re not sure if they planned this, but when it started going it really started going. The only time you’ve seen so many ponies in one place was when you first appeared out the city gates and they thought you were some kind of animal. Technically true, but you’re no cockatrice or timber wolf either. You rub your ear at the spitting toons that the DJ’s throwing out, the metallic rifts and that awful screechy sound really take it out on you.
What you wouldn’t give for some earplugs right about now. Perhaps you could submit an appeal to Celestia to require earplugs to be accessible at all nightclubs that use audio equipment upwards of… what measurement do you use for sound? Crap, you’ll need to look that up later. Still, upwards of a reasonable volume. You’re not going to be able to hear much of anything if they keep this up. You scan the room, finding Gilda breaking out on the dance floor, bottle in hand.
She keeps the momentum for a good minute before she leaps back up and chugs the rest of the bottle without spilling a drop. She’s got game, you’ll give her that. You sigh and lay your head in your arms as a makeshift pillow. This is the best peace you’re going to get it looks like.
You hear the pair of drunks before you see them. There’s no mistaking that mismatched and lazy clop of hooves. ”Ohoho lookie hir boy. Wai- wai- SHHHH…” They can’t even fucking speak normally. You nestle further in your arms hoping the drunks’ll scamper off.
”Hey,” a hoof pushes you. “Hey,” again… and again. “I- *hic* ‘s talking to ya.”
“You’ve reached the voicemail of ‘Don’t give a shit’ please leave your name and number after the tone. *beep*”
You manage to make one of them laugh, “I dun’t get it?”
“Because you’re a bumbling drunken ass.”
”What’d ya call me?” If you ignore it, it’ll g away. That worked for Gilda right? Oh… Maybe second time’s a charm, but there was that guard… How about third?
”I’m a bit interested myself. What’d you call my friend?” Why won’t anyone just piss off? Haven’t you made it abundantly clear you want to be left alone?
“Fine! For fucks sake,” you throw up your hands, “I called him a bumbling- Oh…” You didn’t know they had an Iron Will Jr. at the party.
And you just called his friend a bumbling drunken ass. Perfect. ”Let’s take a walk.”
“Care to negotiate on those terms?”
The minotaur holds you against the wall and swings his fist back, “Watcha dooin?”
”Teaching this punk a lesson in manners.”
The pony stumbles over to you and tries pushing him out of the way, “Lit me at him. I’s got a score.”
”You’re a drunken ass you know that?”
But that’s what you said! “That’s all I-“
”Shut up punk.” He lets go of your collar and takes a step back for his friend.
”Not soo tuf now ar ya?” he dances from side to side, almost falling over at that. This is too easy. Equines aren’t equipped for fighting. First they’ll charge you, giving you plenty of time to decide which way to step. Just as planned. Now he’ll swivel around and try to buck you with his hooves using his momentum… which you can sidestep and- ”SON OF A-“ his hoof chips against the brick wall leaving it nice and extra sensitive. Usually you’d feel for someone in his position, but… not now. This guy had it coming the moment he strolled up to your booth.
“Bumbling a- *oof*” Insides, trembling. Ribs, breaking. Chest, heaving. Fist in stomach, retracting. You hit the ground by your knees, one hand filling the void left by the minotaur’s fist. Minotaurs- they are equipped for fighting.
You can’t fight a fucking minotaur. They’ve got too much brute strength. ”Not so fun when the shoe’s on the other hoof huh?” He helps you up by way of gripping your face and lifting up. You try your best to kick him, but another haymaker puts an end to that. ”I despise things like you. You think you’re some hot shit aren’t you? Well guess what, in this alley you’re nothing. Not a damn thing.” He grinds his knuckles right below the ribs as he crushes your back against the wall. ”I’m your god now, and you just pissed off yo- GAH!”
He reels back, clutching his hand like a child, a small trickle of blood seeping through his fingers. You spit out the hunk of fur and chuckle painfully. “I may not be much,” you gasp, “But I know something you don’t.” It puts a smile on your face to speak these boring old words. “Whoofsconsin produces a ton of cheese.” You get to your feet, leaning against a dumpster for support. You stop him before he comes back in for another blow. “I wouldn’t do that if you want to keep smelling fresh air.”
He openly laughs at this, at least until you tell him exactly who you work for. ”You- You’re fucking with me.”
“Afraid not Mr. God.” You take another painful breath and stand up straight. “I got to think there aren’t too many minotaurs in the city, especially those with that particular streak in your fur.” He tries to cover up the dark lining of his hand, which only proves his feeble nature. For all his strength he’s powerless when it comes to fact. “Between the photo line-up and your registration papers, yeah I had to do that shit too, it won’t be hard to ID you and send you someplace nice. I heard Pablo needs a roommate.”
The minotaur clenches his fist, increasing the blood dripping off his wound. You know exactly what he’s thinking. Get rid of the source. If only he knew… “Not a good idea. Killing a political servant? You want that type of heat on you? Plus, it’s not like many other creatures have hands in this city.” Those wheels in his head turn ever so slowly, but you know he’s beginning to get it. “Best case scenario: I don’t rat you out and we go our separate ways.”
”And the worst case?” he asks with a hint of defiance.
“The salt mines near Appleloosa have a- How to put it? An infamous reputation to put it that way. You may have heard of them. A few minotuars were found there if I’m not mistaken. And they were a lot bigger than you.”
”You won’t rat me out?”
“That depends on my mood, and it ain’t getting much better right now.”
”I want your word.” This bastard beats you in an alley and wants your word? Despicable. You turn your nose up to him spitefully.
”You mother-“ he prepares to give you another hit.
“Salt mines,” you spout swiftly. His hand pauses and it’s finally setting in how limited his options for.
He kneels down and picks up his friend, slinging him over his shoulder. ”You’re going to slip up one day, and you won’t have your fancy position to fall back on.” The minotaur pats his friend with his hand and walks off, likely to a hospital if he has the brains you think he does. The second he turns the corner you fall straight on your ass and heave in agony.
Shit that was intense! You almost had your ass in the obituaries for all to see. You curl up into yourself, hoping, praying, wishing this would all just end. ”I think someone needs a drink.” You look up to a furry hand stretched down towards you and gladly take it. ”We’ve got ice inside.”
”I take it those weren’t friends of yours,” Iron Will slides a beer over to you.
“Whatever gave you that impression?” you wince as you place the ice bag underneath your shirt. You thank him for the courtesy and gladly take a drink. He’s definitely not what you expected from his reputation. Assertiveness has a tendency to be confused with being an asshole.
”Don’t mention it, or else I’ll have to give everyone the same treatment.”
“I won’t, it’s the least I can do.”
”And I take it we have you to thank for all this quality stock we’re passing around.” They certainly seem to be enjoying themselves with it. You wouldn’t be surprised if the whole thing was gone already. ”I had my doubts that the new big shot be so generous.”
You laugh at the ‘big shot’ part. You’re not there yet. Not even close. “Don’t thank me, thank Gilda.”
”Ahh, Gilda. It’s been too long since I’ve seen her around.”
“You know her?”
”I met her years ago when I toured out East. She was a lot younger then… and timid.” Timid? Gilda? Say it ain’t so.
“I figured she came into this world and immediately punched the doctor.”
He chortles at the assertion, “Not the Gilda I knew. She was… certainly something.” Upon further questioning he reveals some of his history with her and how he was brought in to help her overcome her shyness. ”…She didn’t take kindly to the lessons, but her parents paid Iron Will a nice sum to put some sense into her.” He looks over to Gilda who’s talking the ear off of some colts before punching him across the face. “I didn’t know it would make her like this.” His ears drooped at that part and you begin to understand who she is to him.
“You’re a bit old for her don’t you think?”
”Old? Don’t let this worn fur fool you; I wasn’t that much older than her when I met her.” He glances her way again, the ends of his mouth curling into a smile. It’s hard to imagine gryphons like Gilda had admirers. Shows what you know.
“Well… I’ve taken up enough of your time. I’m sure Gilda would like a dance.”
He shakes you off, “Nah I’d never go for it. She’s just… It’s funny. I make my fortune training ponies to assert themselves, yet I can’t seem to take my own lessons to heart. I don’t get it.” You know exactly what he’s going through. You’ve done it your whole life.
“When there’s something you care about, you don’t mess it up. You fear what might happen if things go wrong, but like my dad used to say: You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Iron Will raises his glass, “I can toast to that.”
You clunk glasses, Iron Will saying his goodbyes before he begins closing things up. You drink the last of your brew in the solitude of that lonely booth, thinking back to those words.
Your feet hit the finely laid stone road before you, your butt a little sore from the long trip over. ”Greetings sir,” the gryphon bows extending a talon, “May I take your bags?”
“Uhh sure I guess.”
”That won’t be necessary,” your new pal comments, imposing himself on the scene. “Last time I was here I made the same mistake. I still miss that toothbrush,” he whispers. It was nice of Iron Will to accompany you on this venture, though the pay might’ve made the offer all the more pleasing.
”God it’s been a long time,” Gilda groans as she departs the carriage, “I’m starting to remember why I left.” It’s not all that bad you think. It certainly doesn’t smell like home, the air here is far thinner than Canterlot’s.
You shiver as a chill sweeps across the convoy while the rest of your bags are transferred off, “Feel that icy breeze. Brbrbrb… Reminds Iron Will of his own home. You couldn’t take a piss without it freezing halfway down,” he booms outwards echoing against the towering walls.
”Take off that fancy coat of yours and we’ll see how fun it is. We gryphons grew up in the cold,” Gilda challenges, “You’d be more like Ms. Sissy Pants over here.”
“I’m actually quite fond of the cold,” you shrug, “Beats sweating my ass off in the tropics.” Your guide takes a step back as you get a tad closer to the gates. “We certainly aren’t in Equestria anymore.”
Gilda puts a talon on your shoulder, “Nope. Well Anon, let me be the first to welcome you to my home. Aviaris.” It could use some color.
”If you’d follow me sir, I have been instructed to give you the tour.” Ring ring ring! Bells going off up here. Why does that sound familiar?
“I don’t think that’s necessary sir. We can get around just fine.”
”My instructions were very clear sir.”
“Was one of them to show me a good time?” He nods, “Then let us get there in our own time. I’ll put in a good word for you. No worries.”
The Equestrian guards finish up unloading your bags, the captain saluting, “We’ll be setting up camp just outside the city limits sir. We’ll have a sentry stationed at the gates in case of emergency. Should anything go wrong…”
”Nonsense! These men are tired and could use a warm meal,” Iron Will persuades.
“No no, the good captain here is right. If memory serves no foreign garrison may enter the city, save for those of the personal guard. Correct Gilda?”
She nods, Iron Will visibly irate, “Then employ them all as your guard.”
“This isn’t 300. The men were made aware of this before their venture. I requisitioned enough supplies to keep them comfortable for a few days at least.” It was the most you could do giving the circumstances. You yourself had little time to pack when word came from Celestia. While this has been marked merely a social visit to ease tensions, you know something’s going to go down. She wouldn’t send you otherwise.
The soldiers dismiss themselves and you gather up your effects with the others. You look up at the menacing doorway, the thickened barricade engraved with the markings of their ancestors. It was said to have been pieced from planks of the Elder Roost, the mythological birthplace of their kind itself. That just goes to show what type of culture would desecrate their own holy grounds for a gate. ”It’d take a hundred minotaurs a hundred years to put a dent in that beauty.”
“They tried,” you comment, “They got splinters and went home.” That was a very violent saga in their history, but when it came to gryphons they might describe it as their most glorious.
”Can we just get a move on? I need to stretch my wings here.” You’d imagined your entrance to be full of buzz or at least dismay, but instead you’re greeted by a silence that makes the weather seem toasty. It’s as if you’d visited a cemetery by mistake. The gryphons are ghosts in your presence, silent and not entirely there, so to speak. From upon their homes they look down at you with their expressions of stone. Regiments of soldiers cease their chants to look upon your trio.
“Is it hot out here or is it just me?” you joke.
”It’s intimidation,” Gilda explains to you, “Stare right back at them and don’t show weakness. The second you do, you’re as good as dead.”
You laugh it off as her trying to rile you up, but Iron Will soon joins in, “They’ll back off in time, but for now you’re public enemy number one.” Thank Celestia you brought Iron Will with you. You’re still sore from your alley-incident. The buildings appear to be carved into the mountain to preserve resources and heat, the brownish stone well kempt, but the obvious signs of wear stand out like a sore thumb. You haven’t been here long, but it’s clear this place has seen better days.
Where are the flowing banners of Gustau had so admired? Where is the music that made even the princes of Saddle Arabia feel envy? Where is the Aviaris you had so longed to see with your own eyes? And what… What is this hollowed being left in its passing? “This is no grand city of the gryphons. This is the resting place of a civilization long dead.” You can tell Gilda feels the same way by that look on her face. “You left when you were still a teen right? This can’t have been the same place.”
”What happened here?” she mumbles to herself as you work your way up the steps.
”You’d see more cheer in a graveyard.” No smiles, no laughs, nothing. You’d heard of their military discipline, but that is no excuse for this sort of behavior. The gryphons resume their normal pattern of behavior, albeit there’s no trace of humanity in it.
When they barter their words don’t carry the emotion a pony’s would. Everything about this place… it’s just wrong. ”Up there,” Gilda points to the peak of the steps, “That’s where we’re headed. The upper class has always sat their happy feathers up there and peered down at the rest of us.” There’s no mistaking the fire in her voice, that same fire which is absent amongst the rest of her people.
”Thirteen thousand four hundred and seven steps.” Both you and Gilda look at Iron Will cockeyed. ”What? Iron Will ran these steps everyday for a year. Helps to stay in shape.”
You’d bet. “I’ve never been up this far,” Gilda admits, “We were always kept further down in the lower districts.”
“How does it feel to finally be up here?”
She stops and looks back down, scanning the city, “Sad… Whatever, let’s just keep going. This place is starting to give me the creeps.”
”Starting? My fur’s been sticking up since we got here, and it isn’t because of the cold.”
”All the more reason to hurry this up. This isn’t the Aviaris I grew up in.”
You finally reach the top of the stairs and grab at your chest, Iron Will stopping you from leaning over. ”Keep your chest up. The best impression’s a first impression.”
You do as he says and push down the pain as the welcoming committee comes your way. “Howdy.”
The gryphon guards are equipped in their ceremonial armor, twice as thick as the Equestrian standard but also heavier. It’s impractical for wartime use because it weighs down the wearer, but for guard duty it’ll make troublemakers think twice. Between the two of them is a third gryphon, definitely older by the silverish hue of his feathers, who bows gracefully, “Ahh welcome. My name is Rinn and I serve as the Senate Overseer of Gryphonnia, it is with great privilege that I greet you here today.” You bow in turn, just as Gilda had told you, and introduce your two friends.
“The pleasure is mine. This is Gilda, my personal guide and hopefully, friend.”
She nods to the official, “It’s an honor.”
“And this is Iron Will, my personal guard for the time being.”
He salutes sharply, “Good to meet you sir.”
Rinn greets the both of them with his warm yet fragile tone, “The honor is mine Ms. Gilda, and your reputation precedes you Iron Will. It is this great regret that I come to a loss at your name sir.”
“M-me? Oh uh well…” Dammit Anon stop being a baby and talk! You’re not the coward you used to be. Don’t come this far and face plant where it counts.
You smile and recompose yourself, “Is there a problem?”
“No sir. My name is Anon. Anon of Equestria.” Let’s not fuck this up.
”And where is the esteemed princess? I was told to expect her arrival with your own.”
“Ah yes, the princess had some matters to attend to before her departure, to which she apologizes.”
The official is unfazed by this development however, “Her affairs must certainly keep her busy. Alas, good things come to those who wait, wouldn’t you agree?” You couldn’t agree more in fact. This gryphon is certainly a seasoned player in the political realm of this land. Well of course he is, he’s the Senate Overseer. He’s one of the three most powerful individuals in the Eastern Kingdoms. ”But enough chatter,” he remarks waving off his guards, “You must’ve had a long journey. Would you care for some refreshments inside?”
He doesn’t have to ask you twice as he leads you within the heart of their city. The torches burning bright grant a strict contrast to the chilling winds outside and you soon begin to feel the tips of your ears once more. The lavish interior is one to behold, all the riches of their kingdom gathered together to overwhelm the eye. This is exactly the type of wealth that could be used to rejuvenate that ghostly population of theirs. Snap out of it Anon, this isn’t about them. Focus. ”If you wish I can have one of the guards here escort you to your quarters.”
A pair of them stand at every doorway, each standing on their hind legs to overlook their visitors. Unfortunately you’re not pony, so you and Iron Will stand comfortably over them. You do admit that these bags are getting quite tiresome. Iron Will takes him up on his offer, grabbing the rest of your effects with Gilda and moving off. Tension finds you alone with only Rinn and a dozen guards as company, it doesn’t help. ”Come, my study isn’t far.”
You follow him skeptically, this entire visit reeking something foul. You just hope Celestia will get her soon. She always helps calm your nerves. Rinn shuts the door to his study, moving behind his desk, a towering bookcase behind him. He grabs a crystalline bottle of amber liquid and wafts some towards his nostrils with a sigh. ”It’s been a long while since I could enjoy a drink with another in peace,” he pours you a glass. Don’t deny a drink from a gryphon, you repeat in your head sipping at his offering. This stuff isn’t too strong when compared to the battery acid Gilda’s stuffed down your throat, in fact it has a nice smoky hint to it.
“King’s Bane?” you ask trying to discern the nature of this drink.
”You have a skilled palette young Anon. It’s been the bane of many a king who’ve succumb to its temptation.”
“This tastes rather aged. This couldn’t go for less than several hundred bits.”
”True enough, though sale is forbidden as per the Copperfield Initiative.”
“You know of the Copperfield Initiative?”
”Of course, I have access to a fair selection of books myself if you couldn’t tell.” Well you’ll be. He’s not so different after all. ”What are your thoughts on the recent attempts to repeal it in Cloacia?”
Cloacia, that’s the southern city that runs along the coast of the Neighing Sea. That place has never been the nicest place in the gryphon kingdoms, but it was one of their top producers in exotic alcohol until the Initiative cut them down to size.
“Quite honestly, their efforts were quite short-sighted and frail. Did they really think they could eliminate the entirety of the bill that easily?”
”You didn’t think the mass riots were enough to convince the committee?”
“It’s hard to convince anyone when half the ‘rioters’ could hardly stand they were so drunk. A pitiful performance.”
”True enough, but the message it sent must’ve got them thinking.”
“Thinking about why they let this go on for so long maybe. Copperfield only tightened the noose on the sale of hard liquor after.”
”Hmm… I seem to have pegged you incorrectly.” You ask him how so, sipping the last of your beverage. ”I’d thought you another lackey sent to amuse us. I apologize for misjudging you.”
“And I as well sir.”
“I haven’t liked this place the second I stepped through those gates, but you’ve shown me how similar we two can be.”
”I’m glad to hear it.”
His smile is as genuine as they come and has an almost comforting warmth to it. He’s the gryphon version of Celestia if such a thing existed, “So I take it you’re partial to that drink.” You never commented on the- He stalls your mind with a laugh, “After so many years of this I’ve come to understand what others are thinking without even meaning to. Call it a snag, comes with the job.” So he has to know why you feel the way you do, the disappointment that weighs you down. ”I can’t fix the woes of this city by myself, there is little more I wish to do than return these lands to their former glory. Here,” he hands you the bottle, “A gift. I have little need for it.”
“T-thank you. Is there… Is there anything I can do to help sir?”
”Help?” he chuckles to himself taking a seat, “And why would you wish to help me?”
You sit opposite of him and reveal your vision of Aviaris and beyond. He’s enthralled at your depth of knowledge in Gryphon history even surprised at some points. “I just… If I can, I want to see what those authors and historians so fondly wrote of. My duty to Celestia comes first, but- If there’s anything I can do to help, just tell me.”
”That- That’s most gracious of you. The Gryphon Kingdoms need all the aid the can receive after…” Rinn pauses before smiling, “It is of no consequence. As much as I would love to continue our chat there is the matter of dinner to sort.” Your stomach audibly agrees with his notion. “Shall we?”
Gilda and Iron Will are chatting it up when you arrive at the entrance hall, but the two immediately quiet down when they see you. ”Took your sweet time didn’t you- *pow* Hey!” she gripes at Iron Will who returns his to his side.
”Remember where we are Gilda.”
“I take it the two of you have toured the place a bit.”
”We tried, but the guards were being a bunch of…” Iron Will gives her a stern look, “They weren’t cooperating.”
Rinn glares at one of the patrols, “I don’t know why I expected anything different. Some of the newer policies have… Well it is not my place to say.”
“Do you have no say as the Senate Overseer?”
”My hand is required in those of foreign affairs, but my word matters little in domestic ones,” he explains as he leads you to the Great Hall. ”Those matters are lead by the Vice General and the King, for now.”
”I have said too much already young Anon, and this is not time to despair,” he cheers up, “Welcome to the Great Hall, the home to the finest feasts in all Gryphonnia.” Your mouth hangs wide at the golden glow of the cutlery that adorns the table, goblets of encrusted diamond and the great chandelier that hangs overhead. ”I hope this is more what you’d expect Anon.”
”Anon!” Gilda hisses with irritation. Most likely because she got snapped at for her use of language.
”It’s quite alright,” Rinn explains, “I don’t hear such words often in my company and I welcome it.” Okay, he really is the gryphon version of Celestia.
”Oh,” Gilda sighs, “Well shit this place is nice.”
”Why do I even try to keep her under control?”
“Because you’re such a nice guy,” you answer, a line of officials entering from the other si- Oh my would you look at that. You didn’t expect to see him here.
”It appears the others have arrived as well. I will say, do watch your manners around them, they can be… old fashioned.”
“I’m more worried about them to be honest,” you sneer happily moving towards them. The majority of the gryphons are posh and clean-cut, obvious political elites by every stretch of the imagination, even their feathers are polished. You can tell just by looking that they give bureaucrats a bad rep. Then there’s the other two, definite soldiers through and through. ”Anon, I’d like you to meet Vice General Reuben. He’s the acting ruler while-“
”That’s quite enough Rinn. So you’re the new player on the field. Hmm....” Gilda’s talons pull into fists but she keeps calm, “In any case, I welcome you to Aviaris.” You concentrate less on his insults and more on the soldier beside him, or should you say knight.
“It’s been a while Sir Rivot.”
”Sewer breath.” So he does remember you.
”What did you just say to him?!” Reuben snaps to his underling. The knight keeps his mouth shut, “Answer me boy!”
”Excuse me for a second Anon,” he pulls the knight away angrily.
Rinn leans in, “What was that about?”
“You know how Pranceylvania was contested land until Sir Rivot provided invalid documents?” he nods, “I was the one who invalidated them.”
”But, why did he call you sewer breath?”
“Oh,” you look down, kneading the floor with your shoe, “I was a janitor when it happened.”
”And look how far you’ve come,” he nods.
”…put too much at stake to get you here you ungrateful child. Don’t make me regret it.” The two come back over, that grin still stuck on your face, “I believe Sir Rivot has something to say to you. Don’t you,” he snarls.
You can see the venomous words caught in his throat, “I- I’m sorry.” Wonder how much will it took to get those two puppies out of his voicebox.
“Apology accepted sir.”
”Mongrel…” he mutters to himself, Reuben smacking him outright with little regard for his company.
The Vice General cracks his neck, “Now then, where is the princess?”
”She’ll be here soon,” Rinn reassures him.
”Then what are we waiting for,” Reuben bellows, “Let’s eat.”
Roast beef, stuffed turkey, braised lamb, a heap of steak? And it’s medium-raaaare… You know how Gilda felt when she saw all that beer. The gryphons begin digging in and you too engage in what will be known as the Battle of Red Meat. You manage to get a little bit of everything before realizing you’re missing something. “Umm, do you have any silverware?”
”Silverware?” Reuben chuckles, “This is the Great Hall of Aviaris, not an Equestrian hospital. We all eat as warriors here.” Their culture their rules. You go ahead and sink your teeth in the first steak you’ve had since you came here over a year ago. You might need a new napkin after this, and a change of pants. ”So Anon,” he calls out, “How did you get mixed up in these affairs? I don’t see many of your kind around.”
You clean your mouth off, hastily swallowing your food. “That may be because I am the only one of my kind.” You garner some attention at this, “At least, in this world.”
”Oh I do enjoy a good story,” one of the nobles yawns.
“I don’t know how I came to be here, but I have put that behind me. I look to the future, not dwell on the past.”
”Says the egghead,” Gilda chortles.
”The texts of old have always guided those who wish to learn,” Rinn replies quickly, “I believe Anon understands that well.” As you do.
“As far as how I got here today? Well, that’s a simple matter of chance. The princess saw potential in me after I had interrupted an important meeting with the Gryphonnian representatives. Afterwards-“
”Wait,” Reuben stops you, “You were the one who had embarrassed my son so?”
“I had no idea that Sir Rivot was-“
He erupts into a fit of laughter, slamming the table and rubbing the patch covering his left eye. Did- did you miss something funny? ”Kudos to you Anon. If only I’d known that earlier I would’ve shook your hand.”
“Did I do good?”
”Good? You cut this little runt down to size. What was it that he told you Rivot? To read instead of what?”
“S-sticking his head in the clouds.”
”HA! Why haven’t I met this one sooner Rinn?” you can’t help but smile at his praise.
”I was only made aware of his presence upon his arrival. Perhaps if you’d taken the measures I had suggested-“
”No business at the table, you know that.” This dinner’s going a lot better than you expected honestly. Rinn is a combination of you and Celestia in a humble gryphon. Reuben’s a rough and hardy soldier, but he’s grown fond of you for embarrassing his piss ant son, of all reasons. Rivot got smacked, hard too. Their names all start with R don’t they? That’s kinda weird. Actually, you’ve met the Senate Overseer and the Vice General.
“Quick question, when do I meet the king?” The table grows silent in seconds, the entire table ceasing mid-bite. “It’s just that I haven’t met him yet and-“
”That’s impossible,” Reuben comments suddenly.
“I’m serious I haven’t met him yet. I was looking forward-“
”I mean it is impossible for you to meet the king.”
“I- I’m not sure I understand.”
Rinn steps in, “The king is currently preoccupied in affairs of a sensitive nature.”
”Pfft,” Gilda appeases, “If he just wanted to spend some time with the misses, you should’ve said so.”
”This is not a laughing matter!” Rinn snaps, catching himself swiftly thereafter, “The king merely requires time alone as of now.” Gilda paws at her food after being scolded, though Iron Will lays a comforting hand on her shoulder. Welp, you managed to fuck it up.
Rinn senses this as well and stands, “The hour grows late indeed. It would be best if we all get some much needed rest.”
”And what of Celestia?” Reuben announces, “Do we simply excuse her tardiness?”
”Yes, yes we do.” Damn he’s a nice guy. If only you’d met him before.
You pack up for the night, laying down in your silk sheets, another bonus to being in this line of work, but even still you find yourself unable to sleep. Slipping back into your clothes you walk out into the courtyard, running your hand along the bark of one of the twin trees that grace the tops of the mountain. You lean against the railing as you’d done many a time back home in Canterlot and watch the stars. You never had this problem before, the inability to sleep. Even when you first arrived you hadn’t felt like this. It can’t be being homesick, can it? How does that make sense? You’re homesick here in Aviaris, but not in Canterlot when you’re true home is a dimension away. Canterlot is your home isn’t it? That’s a funny thought.
Before you came here you never would’ve thought you’d miss living with a bunch of little ponies who’d take advantage of you. Then again, not all of them were like that were they? You had Celestia. You had Petal Peach. You had… ”Crap…” a gryphon yelps, stubbing her paw on a loose stone as she tries to slip past you.
She pulls her hood down and grabs the paw, “Look what you did, you ass.”
“What’re you doing out here?”
”Can’t a girl take a walk? Besides, I could ask you the same thing.”
“I can’t sleep, what’s your excuse?”
”I already said.”
“No you didn’t, not really.”
”Just… shut up Anon. I’m taking a walk.” Usually you’d comply, but she was flustered which doesn’t happen easily. She hastily works her way down the steps and appears to be cradling something in her arm. Is she- Shit she isn’t stealing from them is she? This can’t be good. You move after as swiftly and quietly as you can, most of the gryphons having retreated into their homes. Hiding behind a corner she looks both ways before heading further down the steps.
You track her down to the lower eastern side, the slums of the city. What is she doing here? If she’s trying to pawn that stuff she needs to do that outside the city. They’d turn her in in a heartbeat, less considering her affiliation with you. You have to stop her before she gets herself in trouble. You peek your head over the roof, Gilda glancing about one last time. She heads into the fire lit interior of a rundown structure, a home if it was fixed up a bit. Crossing over the rooftops you nestle yourself right by the door and peak in through the window.
So it is a home after all, though smaller than even your apartment in Canterlot. On the table is the parcel you saw Gilda carrying, wrapped in black cloth. Gilda removes her hood, resting it on the table next to her. What is she… Wait…
An older female comes out from the back, the bags sagging heavy beneath her eyes. The muscles around her wings are weak and frail. It’s likely she can’t even fly. Her limbs shake as she walks and you can almost feel the pain shooting through her with every step. But when she sees Gilda, despite all the agony she must be in, she smiles. Gilda wraps the gryphon in a hug and you catch a glimmer run down her cheek. The gryphon openly weeps in her arms, that long lost piece finally home. They soon part, Gilda grabbing the parcel in her talons and holding it out for her. Inside, is not a goblet of gold, nor a silver chalice, but a loaf of bread, still hot from the oven. She can hardly speak or say a word, only embracing her once more.
You feel almost ashamed to be spying on her like this, in such an intimate moment. She has to know… You step out of the shadows and into the doorway, “Honey, who is that?”
Gilda turns around, eyes red with moisture, “A-Anon? Wha- what are you doing here?”
“I didn’t mean to intrude, but when I saw the two of you…” You bow your head in shame, this wasn’t a good idea. You hear her paws against the dirt floor and welcome her punishment, but instead you only feel her talons around you.
”I wasn’t going for a walk,” she admits, a dripping sensation falling down your neck. “I wasn…” She sniffs and wipes her beak off on your shirt.
“It’s ok. It’s ok Gilda.”
She turns around and wipes the tears off her eyes, “Anon, this is my- *sniff* …my ma.”
”She’s never liked talking about it for as long as I could remember,” Iron Will explains at the table with a handful of eggs. You’d think it weird that gryphons would even eat eggs given their nature, but to each their own. ”She used to be a real beauty once if I’m not mistaken. She could make a noble’s head turn without even trying.”
It’s hard to imagine that given how she is now. “What happened?”
”You wouldn’t happen to have read up on any gryphon illnesses have you?”
“Can’t say that I have.”
”Well, I’m no fancy doctor, but there was an outbreak of something fierce after Gilda was born. Gilda was alright, bless her, but her mother wasn’t so lucky.”
“Why didn’t she get help? There have to be some medical facilities around.”
Iron Will shakes his head, “I’d suffered a nasty fall last I was here, and the only place I could be treated was up here.” And they wouldn’t let him in. ”She never had much after her mate left, but she couldn’t be throwing bits to the wind like she saw so many others do. So she took it, and others stopped turning their heads.” The beauty turned beast… It makes you lose your appetite.
“That’s unseemly. If there was such an outbreak than the authorities should’ve stepped in.”
”It’s not their way. Survival of the fittest rules supreme here. It works that way back home for me as well.” Then fuck their way! How could they let something like this run rampant and not even attempt to aid their own people?
“Celestia would never stand for this.”
”But she doesn’t rule Aviaris now does she?”
No, you guess not… “But Rinn would. He’s exactly the type of person they need right now. He wants to help them, I can feel that. If only they’d let him…”
”I’m not so sure that’s such a good idea.” How can he say that? Didn’t he see how he was, how he is? ”Something about him just rubs me the wrong way. I can’t tell what it is.”
“Rinn is a good gryphon, a true supporter of the people. His goals are noble, how can you say no to that?”
”I just don’t like him.” Minotaurs… They wouldn’t trust the own fur on their chest, let alone a gryphon. Ethnocentric assholes.
”I take it you two are enjoying your stay,” asks that heavenly voice from your rear.
“Celestia!” you get out from your seat and bow.
”Excited to see me then?”
“Just a lot. Oh, this is Iron Will. He’s a new acquaintance of mine.”
”I remember reading about you from one of my subjects. She had quite the experience with you in Ponyville.”
”Oh, I remember that one alright. ‘No means no.’ It doesn’t have a ring to it, but I’ve been trying to put it out there.”
”I’m sure she appreciates it very much.” Is there something you’re missing here or…? ”I do apologize for my delay. There were some pressing matters that I need to attend to.”
“Was it Discord again?”
”Strangely no, though I had thought the same myself. It appears a large quantity of alcohol was missing from the reserves.” Your stomach turns to lead, “But it appears the investigation has reached a dead-end. Perhaps in time we’ll discover the culprit.”
“Only time will tell,” you hide behind a false grin.
”So how was your first day in Aviaris? It’s different than Canterlot to be sure.”
“Where to start?”
She nibbles on a piece of toast as you finish up your tale, leaving out some of your more personal thoughts on it. ”You appear to be doing well in your relations. Reuben doesn’t hand his friendship easily, one of the consequences of his career, but he seems to have earned a liking for you.” If there’s anyone who rubs you the wrong way it’s him. He’s too… happy. The woes of Aviaris fall deaf upon his ears and he feasts with little conscience.
“What about Rinn?”
Iron Will rolls his eyes. “Ahh yes, Rinn,” Celestia begins, “He is interesting.” Which means? ”I’ve long known the many players of the gryphon kingdoms, but Rinn has always felt the most unique.”
”Yes, unique.” She turns her gaze to the northern wall, “Excuse me, but there is someone I would like to see.”
”Thank you Anon,” she stands, “I’m very proud of you.” You blush and nervously rub your hands together as she leaves.
”Just ask her out and get it over with,” Iron Will laughs.
“I would never- How could you even say something like that?”
”Look at Iron Will with a straight face and say you don’t have a crush on your little princess.”
“I- I don’t.”
”Don’t try your hand at poker kid.”
You hang around the courtyard with Iron Will for most of the day, allowing Gilda off your leash so to speak. She needs some time alone, and you’ll not be the one to take that away from her. The city’s as dead as your previous experience and even from the height of its being you feel its pain. “We need to do something about this, Iron Will. We can’t let something like this go on.”
”That’s on your shoulders, not mine. I’m no politician.” What could you do? You hold no power here. Hell you didn’t power back home, merely privilege. There has to be something you can do…
Celestia comes out behind you, “Iron Will, I hoped you might allow me to steal Anon from you for a while.”
’As you wish Princess. See you at lunch?”
“Only if you’re buying.”
”Buying?” the princess asks in confusion.
”A joke, princess.”
”I see, shall we?” she leads you back inside.
”Are you ready?” Celestia asks frankly.
“Ready? For what?”
”To put your knowledge to the test.” She turns to you, “Did you think this was just a social visit?” Of course you knew something was up. “The gryphons have been massing forces along the borders around Pranceylvania. I take it you’ve been reading the paper?”
“I chalked it up to crude journalism, was their actual truth to it?”
She nods, “I’m afraid so. It appears that your little incident all those months ago has not rested easy on their heads. If they cannot acquire the lands peacefully… I’m afraid they may try to take it by force.”
“Why didn’t you tell me? If I knew this was so important…”
”Because you may not always be offered the leisure of time. When Discord burst free from his prison there was no time to plan. When the changelings had taken control of the castle I was not given the comfort of time. You must be quick on your feet and not falter when events turn for the worse.” You… think you understand. Gathered knowledge is one thing, but to retrieve that knowledge timely is of equal importance.
“What would you have me do?”
”Be by my side for this. I will take the reins, but you must be there to assist me.” This is really it… Everything she’s trained you for. This is your chance to prove yourself. No. This is her show. It’s too important for Equestria, and for her. ”Reuben. Give me his credentials.”
”What do you know of him, quickly?”
“Umm, ok. I know he serves as the Vice General and-“
”How many tours did he serve in Cervidas?” How are you- “In which battle did he lose his eye?” She’s firing these questions faster than you can react and she knows it. ”These are the types of things that you need to know. Who the players are, what their background is, who they spend their time with, everything.”
“And I need to know it well enough to not have to think about it.”
”Exactly right Anon.” She pauses before the doorway and looks to you, “Reuben and Rinn will be meeting us inside. They’re known well for their teamwork, and our model is based off of that.”
”Reuben is the voice. He makes the game plan and takes the initiative. He’s well known for getting his opponent’s riled up, and that only feeds his strength.” You can guess what Rinn is.
“Rinn is the brain. He uses his knowledge of political doctrines and historical policies to assist Reuben. He’s me.”
”I know this is asking you to dismiss what you’ve learned, but you need to keep silent. Reuben is trained to tear apart his opponents in both the field and in negotiations. Do you understand?”
“I’ll do my best ma’am.”
She rests a hoof on your shoulder, “I’m glad you’re here…”
The doors open revealing the chamber’s interior, Reuben and Rinn both already seated at the opposite end of the table. Rinn nods to you as you enter while Reuben’s seemingly cheerful demeanor has been but an illusion for the cold stare he now presents. You pull at your collar, the door closing behind you effectively sealing you in. It feels just like yesterday you had first entered that conference, and that same bubbling in your intestines seems to rise in your gut. A crystal decanter sits on either side of the table and you can almost taste the liquor within. ”Sit,” Rinn smiles innocently. He sees you eyeing the glass, “Go ahead and help yourself Anon. It helps take the edge off.”
He has you read like a book, but you don’t care right now, pouring yourself a glass and delicately gulping it down. Celestia guides you into your seat, one of your hands still grasped tight around your cup, eagerly filling it once more. ”Calm your heart,” Celestia whispers to you, “They can hear it beating in your chest.” You try and take deep relaxing breaths, but they do little to comfort you. Not even Celestia herself can relieve the clotted air in which you breathe.
”Perhaps you would prefer to call another student for this meeting,” Reuben states with callous, “Would Twilight be a more suitable choice?”
That mother- “That will not be necessary. Shall we begin?”
”Gryphons and ponies have long held animosity towards the other. Our kingdoms have clashed many times over my lifetime, many more for you own. How much blood has been shed under your rule princess?”
”Equestria has only ever wished to exist in harmony with its neighbors. You should know that more than most Reuben.”
”I should know? Then how do you explain the complete disregard for our customs, and even worse the aggressions you would impose upon us?” Aggresions? What is he talking about?
Rinn stands up, effectively double-teaming the Princess, “Several months ago we discovered a contingent of guards scouring the mountainside only a few miles from Ornithol. This was in direct violation to the Neutrality Clause passed as of the last arms treaty.”
”Those soldiers were aiding in the search of changeling stragglers that had retreated from Canterlot. Our representatives had communicated as much before we began the search. Would you have not reacted the same way yourself General, if the changelings has attacked Aviaris?”
Reuben eagerly fires back, “But they did not attack Aviaris did they? Your disregard for our treaty was long held with contempt, and it’s about time your kind pay their dues.” Pay their dues? Is he off his rocker? ”The land you know as Pranceylvania has been a key point in our agricultural production, or until we had lent it to your kind in a feat of weakness.” Reuben spits venomously.
”Your gift was an act of friendship, and one that we have taken to heart. You do not take back a gift.”
Reuben’s cheeks flush with anger, “And when the famine comes in, wiping out what little crops we had, what gift came from Equestria?”
”We- We were just as equally affected by the famine as you. I had to think of my loyal subjects.”
”Oh! Her loyal subjects, here we go,” the general plays fun.
”My subjects succumbed to the same woes as yours. If we could have aided you…”
Rinn quickly flips through his notes before him and clears his throat, “According to the sample researched, it was concluded that you had enough grain to make it through the famine. More than enough,” he fixates on her.
Celestia looks to you. Why is she- She wants help. Ok you can do this. Agriculture sample during the Famine of- ”Do you rely on this, boy, to help you?” Reuben jokes, nudging Rinn with his elbow.
”I have faith in him,” she replies in turn.
Crop Yields: A History of Agricultural Influences in the World. Chapter Five. “Grain produced during this time was ill-fit to travel,” you whisper back, “We did not treat the grain for such lengths until after the epidemic.”
She closes her eyes with a smile, “I knew I could count on you.” She fires back with calm determination, Reuben’s attempts at irritation falling flat against her shield of impenetrability. You find yourself almost intimidated by the dispute, slinking further into your chair and drinking some more. Before you know it half of its gone and you feel a little light-headed.
”We are well within our rights… Gone is the time of… Our soldiers are ready…”
”I cannot allow this… Without the proper documentation… I am willing to defend…”
”Ackleborn once said… To cite the Thensburg Papers… Are you still arguing facts…?” Back and forth they keep at it, for hours it feels like. She calls on your aid when she’s in a pinch, you doing your best to cite a source that can help her fight back an accusation, but it’s beginning to wear on her and they can tell. Rinn is just as strong mentally as you and with Reuben’s stamina they continually wear her down. You’ve never seen Celestia sweat, but those droplets on her neck most certainly aren’t tears. She’s going to pass out from the relentless beating they’re dishing out at this rate. There has to be something you can do. A break, perfect. You place your hand on Celestia before she can speak and stand.
“I would like to call a recess.”
You pull Celestia out of the room, the mare maintaining an even pace despite the stress you know she’s feeling. ”What did I tell you about speaking up?”
“You were getting killed out there Princess. I had to get you out.”
She scolds you as you use the sleeve if your shirt to dry her off, “They’re gathering strength as we speak.”
“And you were losing it every second.” She keeps her head turned defiantly away from you, almost like a child. “Why are you acting like this? Where’s the fiercely determined mare I’ve looked up to?”
”They want me to break, but I will not have it.”
“Look at yourself princess. They see you getting weaker every second, you have to fight back.”
”I am not like them!” she snaps violently, her hoof covering her mouth immediately after. So that’s how it is. “I’m- I’m sorry Anon. I didn’t mean to speak to you like that.”
“No apology necessary,” you move away, eyes cast down the hall.
”I can’t let them bring me down to their level. I must defend my country, not attack theirs.”
“Maybe that’s why they were the stronger.”
”What?” she asks, unable to understand your muttering.
“Nothing princess. It’s just the alcohol.”
”You might want to slow it down. Don’t let it go to your head, I need it.” You join her laughter before looking back to the door. ”Are you ready to go again?”
She sighs, eyelids heavy, “We’ll see.”
”…Despite the hiccup regarding our negotiations in Canterlot, we are fully prepared to take back our homestead by force if need be.”
”There is no need for that, we can come to an understanding,” Celestia pleads, but Reuben is not having any of it.”
”There are two outcomes here Princess and only two. One: You return the land that was once ours and there will be no more bloodshed.” Or two… He’ll raze the city to the ground, slaughtering any who would resist him. He’ll follow the heroes of old and will not stop until his goal is complete. ”Those are your choices princess. My army stands ready for war, yours… these Equestrian soldiers have never faced the hardened steel of the gryphons. Are you willing to take that chance?”
Of course we are. Celestia knows full well what we’re capable of and would never think to- “No.”
Celestia stands exhausted but determined, “We will not risk bloodshed with our neighbors to the east. We will… evacuate the realm of Pranceylvania.”
“Celestia what are you doing?” you whisper.
”What is best for my subjects,” she replies weakly.
Reuben heckles at her answer, “Truly? Well this is a day to celebrate then. It just goes to show Rinn, don’t send a boy to do a man’s job.”
”I’m sorry Anon. We can’t always win.” Like hell you can’t!
“We will do no such thing!”
”Anon what are you doing?” you slam your fist on the table, Celestia silenced by your anger. You won’t let your land, your home, be taken by some feathery bully.
”Well you see kid, the princess just sealed the deal,” Reuben teases you, “Why don’t you run home and play with your toys.”
“All international affairs dealing in an exchange of land or property that transcends the cost in the tens of thousands must be sealed by a contract. I don’t see a contract anywhere, or is your vision hazy?”
His eye patch quivers at his anger, “How dare you, you insolent brat! Do you have any idea who I am?”
Rinn tries to calm him down only to be smacked back down, “I’ll have you know I graduated top of my class in the Flight Academy, and I’ve been involved in numerous-“
“Blah blah blah, let me guess you also have over 300 confirmed kills. Tell me something I haven’t heard every piss-ant boast about. We will not back off because you think you have a big dick. Trust me, I read the Anatomical Study of Species on my way over here, I know better.” Did you just insult the size of his… Oh Anon you just did didn’t you? You might need Iron Will just in case.
”You think because you’re sitting next to a princess means you’re hot stuff? Let me clue you in, you’re not!”
“I don’t need to be hot stuff. I know what’s happened when we appease people like you. I won’t let another Hitler on the loose because I no one would stand up to him.”
”Reuben sit down,” Rinn states calmly.
”I’ve got this. Listen here you-“
”REUBEN!” he barks with a fire you didn’t know he had, “I said, sit down.” To your honest surprise the Vice General listens, though he keeps his eye on you.
“Good boy, does he roll over too?”
Rinn keeps his colleague down with a glare, “Anon. You’re a talented young man, more so than your predecessors, but believe me when I ask for you to step back. We wish no more violence than you.” He sighs and looks down, “You once said that you’d wish to help me restore life to this place. Now is the time that I ask for your help. Will you help me?” He should know better than to ask you this.
“My duty is to my homeland first,” you look to Celestia, “And Equestria is mine.”
”I was hoping you’d see reason, but it appears you will not. Reuben, second to last page, the silver lined one please.” He slides the note over to you, “This is a declaration of war, should we not receive what it is we wish.” This can’t be. It’s a bluff, it has to be. ”If I recall you once proved this invalid by the lack of the king’s seal. Well, there’s Reuben’s the Vice General’s. Stormguard’s, our beloved king. And mine… The Senate Overseer’s. I’m sorry Anon.”
”Say again Anon?” he asks in confusion.
“Yershall. I don’t believe you.”
”What game are you playing at? I have the proper documents and sigils. There’s nothing more I am required to present.”
Except for Yershall. “Yershall was a guardsman at the Battle of Canterlot, the very battle that forced our hand into sending troops over your borders. He was in charge of the train route that runs into the city. What no one knew is that he was a changeling.” Celestia seems to know where you’re going with this and tries to stop you. “He managed to slip in a transport of his kin before Shining Armor placed his barrier. He used his position, his signature, to sabotage our city. As a result, any official can call Yershall to revoke the authenticity of a claim.”
”Anon please stop…”
“I have not met your king. I have not seen your king. I have not heard your king. So… Bring me the king.”
”That’s enough Anon,” Celestia finally puts her hoof down, “You’re going too far.”
”The child doesn’t know what he’s getting into.”
”Anon we made it clear he could not see you…”
“Then your declaration is forfeit, and your government as legitimate as the hair on a changeling’s head.”
”Not quite,” a weakened voice calls from behind you.
”Stormguard!” Rinn pronounces, bowing before him, “You should be resting.”
”I- I should be here!” he calls, “Where my nation needs me.” You turn to see the ruler himself drabbed in robes, masking most of his body. His eyes are sunken and cloudy while his skins sags from his cheeks. The brace on his arm trembles beneath his weight, and you can’t help but feel you’ve seen this before. It’s not until you recall your previous encounter with Gilda that you make the connection. He’s sick, beyond sick perhaps. A gryphon unfit for leadership, as their culture would say. ”And you,” he points to you, “Do you not bow before the Gryphon King?”
“A gryphon in your condition would consider formalities an insult.”
”Good,” he nods, “At least there is one who sees me for who I am.” The withered gryphon looks to his disciples, “So… did you retrieve your lands?”
“No sir,” you reply before they can speak, “I will not let them. Should you want one…”
”We will want more,” the smile on his face grows, “Let it be then… There is no need for violence.”
Reuben nearly falls out of his chair, “Your highness you can’t possibly be serious!”
”I worked weeks on this plan sire,” Rinn explains, “you can’t just walk away.”
”Walking away… is just what I will do. Celestia… Thank you for your company. It’s been too long.” The King limps out from the doorway with the assistance of his guard.
You’re left dumbfounded next to Celestia, “What just happened?”
”YEEEAAAAH!!!” the soldier’s cheer and scream when your return to their encampment. The party’s already in full swing by the time you’d gotten there, but you weren’t complaining.
”There he is!” you hear Gilda ramble over to you, “The man of the hour! How’s my little dweeb doing?”
“About as good as your ruffled ass,” you reply still tipsy from your binging during the conference.
”Oh you… Say, I have something for you, but you have to keep it on the down low,” she whispers passing you a parcel. You open the container, Gilda holding herself up by your shoulder.
“You know this stuff is illegal right?”
”But- but… Only in Equestria, and guess what?” she asks you before tipping away, “We’re in GRYPHONNIA BITCHES! WOOHOO!”
Iron Will rolls his eyes and excuses himself, “I should probably make sure she doesn’t do something stupid.”
”Who’s into a little flank play?!” she calls out giggling all the while.
“Iron Will is!” you call back, Gilda locking eyes with him.
”You! I knew you were into some messed up stuff, and that’s the way I like ‘em.”
”You’ve had a bit much to drink, don’t you think?”
”And you’ve had a bit much- *hiccup* not to drink. Open wide!” You laugh as the two roll off into the crowd disappearing amongst the bonfire the party circles.
”You were reckless,” Celestia scolds you after your third ale, “Do you realize how that could’ve gone?” To say that you didn’t would be a lie, but to say that you did would be reckless. ”I only needed you to keep quiet, but instead you did something I never suspected. You took charge.”
She sits on the log next to you, the drunken soldiers caring more about their spirits than their duty at this point. ”I was weak in there. With age comes wisdom, I remember being told once, but they never said it came with complacency.”
“Celestia, it’s not your fault. Anyone would’ve caved in.”
“That’s different. I’m… I’m young and inexperienced. I don’t grasp the bigger picture.”
”There comes a point, Anon, where age works against you. I’ve seen enough that the events are starting to blend together, old patterns repeating over and over. There comes a time when someone new must take my place.” Her smile could turn you to jelly, “I’m hoping that could be you one day.”
“M-me? I don’t think I could… I could never…” she silences you with a hoof.
”Don’t trouble yourself with your future. For now, enjoy the time you have here. I’ll be there when the time comes.”
And with that she left, another body amongst the crowd. You, the Prince of Equestria, King… That’s quite the advancement. From a Janitor to a King: A True Account by Anon Y. Mous. It’d be a best seller, but besides the book sales you’d be important, for once in your life. Ponies would swan over you in affectation, each hoping you felt the same way about them. The same ponies who had ridiculed you since you’d first arrived. The ones who kicked dust in your eyes and…
You would be a benevolent King, one who wished the best for his subjects, one who brushed aside the humiliation they forced him through. You sip at your ale. That future is far ahead of you though. Today was only a test of your skill, and it only gets tougher from here. Except hopefully you won’t be dealing in warlike consequences, so you guess it’ll only be easier here on out.
Though a lingering doubt resides in your gut and weighs your mind. What if you mess up? What if something happens? Then you remember that parcel in your pocket, that silver case that’s so tantalizing in the fire’s glow. Discord said it could help you focus… You retrieve the syringe from within and find yourself a nice private area away from the party. From here on out? You need every gram of help you could get.
“Record highs in the latency of blah blah, give me something I could use.” You shake your head in frustration before tossing the book to the side with the others.
Gilda pulls her paw up just before it smacks her, “You going for a record or what?” She’s likely talking about the small pile you’ve formed at the edge of your coach which she’s promptly splayed across.
“The buffalo ambassador’s meeting is coming up, and I’ve yet to find a single book that could give me an edge.” Their customs have never been kind to the concept of books. You’d be more likely to find it on a cave wall than here in the civilized world.
”You don’t need some book to tell you how to act. Just wing it, I believe in you.”
“I appreciate the support, but laziness leads to more laziness. Ah here we go, thank you… Trumpet Lickingstan? He must’ve been bullied in middle school.”
”You’ve got to be kidding me with that one,” she pulls herself away from her bottle.
“I ain’t shitting you it’s right here on the cover, Trumpet Lickingstan.”
She squints down, “I’ll be damned. His name’s Trumpet Lickingstan.”
“I know!” Who in Tartarus name’s their kid Lickingstan? “I’m not sure I can even take the book seriously now. Lickingstan…”
”You’re making it a bit of a big deal when it really isn’t, don’t you think?” You shrug and pull it open, scanning the pages as swift as your eyes will move. Since you’ve gotten back from Aviaris you’ve been moving Mach 2 without much rest. The sleep part really isn’t your fault though, just an unwanted side effect of certain substances that you can’t talk about. You can’t complain about the pros though. When you’re on it the world just seems to open up and you have all the time to scour its secrets. You’ve already gone through half your collection of books, but they’re getting dull. It’s always the same, 70% fluff, 20% bullshit and 10% content. If you wanted to waste your time you’d rather spend it elsewhere, on more entertaining means. Fucking books.
”Oh, you going to the club with me and Iron tonight?”
“Club, The Trusty Barrel, 8:00, four door, cement foundation, undamaged in the Canterlot riots back in-“
”Is that a yes or a no? You don’t need to give me a history of the damned thing,” she interrupts you with a chuckle. Hmmm, you’re not sure if you’ll be able to attend it, but if memory serves you have a slot open.
“Let me check my schedule real quick,” you whip out your pocketbook. Yep, you were right. How could you be wrong? “I’ll see you two then and…” you glance at the clock, heart plummeting, “Shit I’m going to be late!” You grab your junk and sprint out the door.
”Bye then…” she mutters out of earshot.
Crap crap crap! 100 feet per hallway, 4 hallways, 60 foot corridor, plug in average speed… You can get there in time if you add a few decimals to your speed and… Got it. The guards outside the door don’t pay you any mind as you come barreling down the hallway. “Did the ambassador arrive?” you try to gather yourself after your little workout.
”Yes sir, he’s waiting inside.”
“Good, very good. Take ten guys.”
”We’re instructed to stand guard in case of emergency sir.”
“And I’m instructing you otherwise Private, or should I cite my authority?” By now you’re almost certain every guard in the castle knows about your tendency to prove them wrong time and time again.
”That will not be necessary sir. We’ll be back in ten minutes time.” You adjust your tie as they turn the corner, your hand searching your pocket. Now that they’re gone you can get a little peace. You wince at the sharp peck of the needle, but it’s immediately replaced by an ungodly warmth that keeps your mind on edge. Thank god you’ve started wearing formal clothes all the time, all your casual stuff had short sleeves. It’s a tad difficult to hide those marks with short sleeves.
You roll your sleeve back, take a deep breath, and open the door with a smile. “Mr. Ambassador, pleasure to meet with you today.”
Why is it always land with these guys? My land this… Our father’s grazed that… A broken record has more diversity than these toilet-clogging furballs. What shall Anon do? Shall he give in to their requests or shall he reason with them in showing that their request is obscene? That’s a real thinker, but if you had to pick it’d probably be option C.
“And what can you offer in return?”
”Offer? These are our ancestral grounds sir. Certainly Equestria understands how important they are to our people.” Perhaps if this were a hypothetical universe where you could give away vast swatches of land like it were candy, but this is the real world. Hehe, real world. It’s odd how your perceptions of what’s real can change, but back to the point…
“And if it were so important then there must be something you’re willing to trade. These lands you’re discussing… The Breezelands? They too are home to thousands of ponies, many of which were settled by their forefathers. This home is as much yours as it is theirs. Would you force your own people from their homes?”
Deactivate moral dilemma and… The buffalo’s eyes lower, “I guess not.”
“I thank thee for seeing things from our perspective. Is there anything else I can discuss with you today?”
”No, no that’s quite alright. My people thank you for your time Ambassador Anon.”
“Please… Anon’s quite fine.” You hold the door open for him when he’s mentally recovered from his defeat. It was child’s play to be honest. The gryphons had it right in their almost Vulcan behavior towards emotions. At least the higher-ups did, another gryphon you know has more emotion than she’s willing to admit. But she has a reason and you don’t blame her for it.
Those nobles and generals… They put on a pretty face, but their brutality lies deep within them all, save for Rinn. He did what he needed to do, much like you, and he only wants what’s best for his people. That’s the only other gryphon you can trust. He’ll do the right thing. You really need to get going, Petal Peach next or is it lunch with the princess? Lunch, of course, how could you forget? Might need a little more juice… No! You’re meeting the princess for god’s sake. You can’t take the chance of her noticing that you’re… shooting up. Maybe just a teeny tiny- NO! She’s too important for you to fuck up. You won’t let it happen. Well you’re facing north right now so you should head back…
You lean elbow first over the receptionist’s desk, the mare filing papers in disregard to your presence. You remember just how rude she was the last time you dealt with her directly, and you’re glad to see she hasn’t changed a bit. ”You going to leave your name or stand there?”
“Twenty seconds from arrival. That’s seven above your guidelines isn’t it?”
This manages to get her attention as she finally looks up to you, smile stuck on your face. ”Well then sir,” spite heavy in her tone, “What can I do for you?”
“For me? You can put it down that I’ve arrived for lunch with Celestia.” She grumbles and checks off your name. “But for you? You could always ask me what I’m doing tonight?”
”Are you hitting on me?” You shrug before sitting down across from her.
“Just a question, you sultry little minx.” Her cheeks erupt in scarlet which only makes your smile widen. You’re liking this ‘new you.’ It’s got a desperately needed pair that your old self didn’t. She’s still looking at you isn’t she? Can’t have that now can we? You blow her a kiss and if you thought she couldn’t blush anymore you were mistaken as she looks away. Life is good. Life… is good.
UGHH… What is taking so long? You’ve been sitting her forever. Waltz up to the desk and… activate charm. “Hey there again sweet cheeks, how much longer do you think we gotta wait here?”
”J-just a few more minutes… Anon.”
You’ve got her hooked better than a fisherman ever could. “Say, do you think you could tell me who she’s seeing as of now? I know it’s not protocol…”
”Oh!” she shoots up, almost waiting for the opportunity, “Right here she’s seeing-“
“Nah it doesn’t matter I can walk in right? A beautiful girl like yourself wouldn’t try to stop me.”
”Go on, it’s fine,” she stutters, “But uh… What- What are you doing tonight?” Shit she actually called your bluff. Ok Anon think- Fuck it, let’s roll with it. “Me and a few friends are heading to The Trusty Barrel at around 8:00. You interested?”
If you didn’t know better you’d say she was positively giddy. Like you’re dad always said, ‘You don’t know nothing ‘bout nothing.’ ”I’ve never been to The Trusty Barrel before. Alright it’s a deal.”
“Right on, just tell them Anon sent you and they’ll sort it out.”
”S-see you then Anon.” You don’t even know her name. Pfft…
You push open the doors and breath in that royal air. There ain’t a substitute in the world. “HELLO Celestia!” you boom, perhaps a little too much focus juice still in your system. What does that stuff really even- Wait a minute… “Reuben?”
The Vice General turns from Celestia, “Well if isn’t Anon.” The guards know better than to stop you as you walk up to the princess and her ‘guest.’
”Anon,” Celestia starts, “Were we not meeting later?”
“Past-due for about half an hour, but Reuben, how’re you doing buddy? I hope you’re not still sore from that pounding I gave you.”
He responds with a scowl and looks to Celestia, “Thank you for the update ma’am. We appreciate it.”
”Whatever I can do to help.” With that he departs, but not before bumping rather forcefully into your shoulder. Unfortunately it does nothing to wipe that self-satisfied grin off your face. The air immediately clears with that stinker out and you humph triumphantly.
“So what’s on the menu for today?” you ask unfazed by his intimidating ways.
”I thought we could try some more sample dishes today. It’s not long until the Gala after all.” Oh the wondrous Gala. You’d only glanced it once before and that firework show had your heart in a knot. Of course it was somewhat obscured by the heap of trash you’d been digging through. You’re not sure how you kept up your old job for so long.
You sit down with her in the privacy of her personal dining quarters, Celestia always the focal point of any room she’s in room. Her presence is magical all in itself. Oh shut up Anon, she’s not a god… Well… ”Long day today I assume.”
“Nothing more than the usual. You’ve always got to keep me busy, the world doesn’t stop for anyone.”
”Indeed. So what was the on the schedule for today?”
“Well I was woken up early because there was a discrepancy with the immigration records which turned out to be a nightmare. That thing hasn’t been organized in a years. Total mess, even I don’t know how I fixed it.”
An attendant brings over some small triangle sandwiches and you help yourself. ”It sounds rough.”
“I had hoped to have used my time for some preliminary research regarding my meeting with the buffalo ambassador,” you take a few bites, “Spinach? Good choice.”
”How did the meeting go?” she asks, nibbling on a slice.
“As good as it could’ve gone. He should be boarding the train in about twelve minutes if memory serves.”
”And what was the exact nature of his visit?”
“Land stuff, you know the type.”
”And…?” she asks hoping for more information.
“We still have it.”
”Which area was it?” You answer in turn quite honestly. “The Breezelands was home to their kind for as long as I can remember. Why did you turn them away?”
You scoff lightly at the absurdity. Who are you, Oprah? “It was a piece of land that I deemed nonnegotiable. If you think I made a mistake I can make it there in six- seven minutes.”
”That isn’t necessary, but I am still curious as to how you came to that decision.”
“War. Plain and simple ma’am.”
She sets down her sandwich, “Quite the jump you made there. Where might be the correlation lie?” It’s not impossible to imagine that she’s unfamiliar with every square foot, or hoof in their case, of land in her domain. She’s got too many things going on for that.
“Natural resources. The Breezelands have been a gold mine since it was first settled.”
”We have gold reserves in many other locations Anon.”
“I didn’t mean… There is a vast quantity and array of resources available there. Not just gold. You’ve got lumber, precious metals, coal and not to mention the fertility of that soil is an agricultural phenomenon.”
”And you plan to go to war with these?”
“No ma’am. I’m simply prepared for the worst.” And speaking of the worst possible scenarios… “Excuse my curiosity Celestia, but what was the Vice General of Gryphonnia doing here?” The two of you didn’t exactly leave on a good note and his presence, while you may not show it, unnerves you. His ferocity is too potent to simply ignore. “He’s the main reason I held onto Breezeland.”
”You have nothing to fear from Reuben. He can be coarse, but he only wants what’s best for his citizens.”
“His citizens were starving! How could-” your fingers begin to tremble before you continue in a mutter, “How could he want what’s best for them?”
She keeps her voice calm despite your small outburst, “Because I believe his actions, not his words.”
“His actions almost started a war,” you try and convince her, but she stays stern.
”Desperation has long since been the downfall of many societies, almost our own, and when his back was forced in the wall he reacted the way he’d been trained.”
“But the ones he’d harm weren’t soldiers. They were civilians, innocents. I hope a soldier would know better.”
”If ours were on the verge of starvation the line between the two begins to blur.” … She knows what’s best. She always has.
“Celestia, I apologize for my temper… It’s just-“
Her smile steals the words from your mouth, “You did not agree, and that is no fault of your own. There is nothing to apologize for.” Always the forgiving one.
She treats you to an array of snack-sized treats in relative silence, both just enjoying the other’s company. For the first time in… well a long time, you find yourself able to relax. A portion of your head wants to keep churning along at high speed, but you don’t need that right now. It’s like you had been running along when the ground simply vanishes beneath you. You want to keep running, but there’s no need. You chew along, admiring how her mane sways without even a… How’s her mane doing that? It just kinda flows against all forms of science that you can think of. ”Anon…” she murmurs bringing an end to the silence, “I have a request for you.”
“Anything,” you clean off your mouth, the stain of vinegar finding its way onto your napkin.
”I take it you remember our time in Aviaris.”
”Then you have remember how poor of a condition the king was in.” That too you remember. “That is where I need your help.”
“I don’t know how much of a help I can be. I’m a diplomat, not a doctor.”
”I’m not asking you to cure him,” she responds softly, “I’m asking you to look into his condition.” You ask what exactly that entails and she responds with something you’d rather not do much anymore, “Read.” Why do you have the feeling this entire meeting was to enlist your help? But she is the Princess, and it is your duty to aid her.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
You end up cutting your evening short so you can get started. She even cleared your schedule so you can focus on your task. You push the library door open and move immediately to the bookshelves. They feel somewhat foreign to you now that you haven’t seen them in almost a month. Generally you just request a slew of books for your personal library, but this requires a more intimate touch. It’s just too bad that you don’t have a clue where to start.
You work around to the more private section and shoot up, your back falling against the brick wall in leisure. A mix of reds and greens fill your vision before you feel that intense jolt, almost like a jumpstart for your brain. Row twelve, column seven. You stow your little friend away and head off. “Thanks little guy.”
”Who?” You near crap your pants at the sudden appearance of your old friend.
“Dear god Petal Peach,” you have to hold your heart, “You almost gave me a heart attack.”
”Sorry about that. I just saw you come in and you didn’t even say hello. This job’s wearing on you.”
“Crap, really? Damn, you know I didn’t mean anything by it.”
”I know, I know. Now what’re you looking for?”
“Medical journals. Heading there now.”
”Well you’re going the wrong way, we recategorized that entire section. Come on, I’ll show you.” You follow her through the small labyrinth, your hand gracing the many books spines that layer the corridors.
“I was wondering why I felt lost. It’s almost like this place was turned upside.”
”Well it wasn’t an easy job let me tell you,” she explains, “Not only did we recategorize them, but we also had to restock and refurbish a good portion of them.” That sounds like more work than any one pony should have to do.
“You could’ve asked me to help. I’d clear up some room to give you a hand.”
”It just so happens that someone never visits anymore. After you left it’s like you don’t have time for us little ponies anymore.” She should know you better than that. You’d gladly visit if you only had… the time.
“I can’t just stop working. You’d be surprised how much actually goes on up here.”
”I know, it’s just- *sigh* I’ve just been really stressed out lately will all this work. It didn’t use to be this way with you around.” She turns around and looks into your eyes, “You don’t look so good yourself.”
“Me?” you laugh it off, “I’m as pretty as the sun is bright.”
”Those bags under your eyes say a different story, you best get more sleep. You don’t want it catching up with you.” She turns back and you immediately feel the area under your eyes, the soft patches sending your hand reeling back. It’s true you haven’t been getting much sleep, but no one’s said anything to you as of yet. Maybe she’s right.
”Here we go,” she opens a filing cabinet and flicks through the different tabs, “We haven’t gotten to stocking them, but we’ve got enough here to sink a ship. Anything in particular you’re looking for?”
“Anything dealing with degenerative diseases, mainly of the bone and flesh.”
"That’s pretty specific stuff. Do I need to call you a doctor?” You reassure her that you’re as fit as a fiddle. “Hmmm, well I can’t say that I know much about that, but it’s all cataloged and ready here. I might say start with Hamphsire. She might have something.”
“Thanks Petal. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
She just grins and helps you search for the journals, even sitting down with you once you’d gotten a nice handful. ”It’s just like old times. I remember the first day you came in here.” She giggles at the thought, “And I thought I’d never see a fish out of water.”
“Oh don’t even remind me of those days. I could hardly look at someone without sweating like a pig.”
”Do you remember when I first asked if you wanted help?”
“I wish I didn’t. My head still hurts thinking about it.”
”I still don’t understand how you ‘tripped’ and had to excuse yourself.”
“Well, I’ll tell you a secret,” you beckon her closer, “I didn’t trip.”
”No! Really?” she replies sarcastically, the two of you enjoying a good ol’ laugh.
You toss the book to the side and put your head in your hands, “No good?”
“No. Not this one, not the last four. Dammit.”
She looks closer to her own book, “How about this: The coastal workers off of Baltimare exhibited signs of muscle loss that-“
“Baltimare isn’t anywhere close to what I’m looking for.”
”If you gave me more information, then perhaps I could help.”
“I can’t. Celestia gave me this assignment in confidence and I can’t… Zebrica.”
”Zebrica? Did you remember something?”
“Maybe umm… Earlier you said something about a merchant band out of Zebrica. What were the symptoms again?”
She searches her pile before finally retrieving it from the mess, “Let’s see here. Some form of psychosis, acute muscle fatigue and…” Bone degeneration.
“What stops did they take? Eastern kingdoms only.”
”They stopped through Cervidas, Oxford, Wingstead and… Aviaris.” You snatch the book away from her and devour every word and phrase.
“Yes yes yes! This is exactly what I needed.” They had traveled to Aviaris during your timeframe but had thought to be unaffected by the plague. Turns out they were wrong. “They had been examined by Canterlot physicians in quarantine, but no treatment seemed to work. No it can’t end there…”
”Sorry Anon. It’s just a dead end.” No no no no, it says here that they had been cleared for release once they were discovered not to transmit the disease. They had taken a route through the Everfree Forest off the outskirts of the newly founded Ponyville. When they returned home there was no sign of the disease whatsoever. “This can’t be right. The physicians were later deemed to have given a false prognosis and stripped of their license.”
”Like I said, it’s a dead end.”
“No, no something happened on their way back. Something that they didn’t document.” You find a map and sprawl it across the table, tracing their supposed route back home. Aviaris, Canterlot, Ponyville, Everfree Forest, Fillypines, Zebrica. Somewhere in that timeline they did or found something. Your eyes center on the vast green stretch of land and you place your finger on it. “This is it. I don’t know how, but I can feel it in my bones.”
”The Everfree Forest? You’ve heard of that place right? It’s not natural. There’s a reason ponies steer clear of it.”
“But if my answer’s in there then I have to find it.” You stand up and check the clock. 7:00. “Good thing I checked. I have to get going Petal Peach. It was nice seeing you again.”
’You too Anon. When you come back, if you come back, be sure to visit okay?” If you come back, pfft… It’s not like you’ll be going alone.
“Hey, Gilda, Iron Will and I are going to The Trusty Barrel in an hour. Three’s a crowd, but four’s a party. What do you say?”
”Tonight? Aww well…” you don’t like where this is going, “Maybe not tonight.” R-rejected? But she’s your friend. Friends always hang out, right?
“Oh come on,” you try and ignore her decline, “It’ll be fun, and I promise I won’t go tripping like a klutz again.”
”Well, it’s just that I’ve got other plans.”
“Don’t tell me your staying late again. I’ll drag you out myself if I have to,” you joke.
”Not tonight Anon. I have a- Well,” she blushes, “I have a date.”
“D-date? W-w-with whom?”
She sways her hooves anxiously just thinking about it, “One of the royal guards. He came by before you left asking for some papers. He was just so sweet, and when he asked if I wanted to go to dinner… How could I say no?” By saying no. She just- How could she abandon you like that, and for a guard no less?
“That’s- That’s okay. I’m happy for you,” you put on that false smile. “Have a good time.” You don’t wait for her reply and walk out the library without another word.
Finishing off the last of your Lion’s Tail you slam the mug back into the bar. “And then she said, ‘How could I say no?’ I’ll tell you, you think you know a girl, guess again. Another round please.” The bartender swaps your mug and you finish off half before he can take your bits.
”That’s hard,” Iron Will consoles you, “Maybe it’s for the best.”
“I’m not mad at her, but- *hic* I’d like a little warning next time you shoot me down. You know what I mean?”
”Can’t say that I do.”
You lean against his shoulder and continue to droll on. “Oooh I’m sure the big bad Iron Will never has girl troubles. You’ve got Gilda in the bag don’t you?”
He tries hushing you down, “Not so loud man.” Loud? You can be loud. “Iron Will’s got the hots for-!” he muffles you with his huge hand.
”That’s enough of that. You’ve had one too many to drink tonight.”
“Your mom’s had one too many to drink tonight,” you sneer nursing your mug.
He pats you on the shoulder and looks around, “I’m going to do a few rounds, make sure the clientele’s happy and all that buzz. Can I trust you not to make trouble?”
“Trust your mom…” you sink lower in your stool, cheek rubbing against the smooth wooden top.
”You’ll be alright, I’ll be back in a jiffy.” You crawl back up and finish off your drink.
“You walk away…”
Paying for one last mug you stumble out to the back, fingers fumbling with your tiny box. “Come on you little fucker,” you curse it before finally pulling it open, “Ahh there we are gorgeous.” Your eyes roll back as you take a sweet sweet dose of glory, the vial slipping out of your hands and shattering on the floor. You don’t care though, all that matters is that smooth feeling and that crave it sates so well. Pushing the door open back inside you feel completely rejuvenated like the alcohol was lifted from your veins. Of course that’d be ludicrous as it breaks the foundation of logical thinking all on it’s own.
Petal Peach found herself a stallion, that’s cool. Good for her, but you won’t be the only one alone. Scanning room for potential targets. Nope nope, not her, ewww definitely not her, maybe, naww- *beep beep beep* Target locked. Sexy secretary + Booze + Potential Role-play = One hell of a time. You wipe your hand through your hair and untuck your lame looking shirt. It’s charm time. She sees you on approach and alerts her marefriend too, “Hey Anon. Thanks for the invite.”
“What can I say? I’m a sucker for beauty,” your smarmy smile just the trick for them. “So how’s the party treating you two?”
”Good enough,” her friend says coldly, “Could be better.” Someone’s not having a very good time now are they?
“Now what’s with Oscar the Grouch over here? Liven up a little.”
”Shouldn’t you be setting a better example?” She’s gotta be kidding you. At a nightclub? Really?
“I could, but what’s the fun in that? Hey, how about a dance, my treat.” Her friend keeps quiet, a grin sporting its way on her face while the secretary, whatever her name is, looks almost scared. “Oh, let me guess. I’m not the first one to hit on you tonight.”
”That’d be a little more than right Mr. Suit,” a stallion remarks behind you. You sigh and look him over. Typical Pegasus, trimmed hair, flared wings, awful case of B.O.
“We’re just having a little talk here. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.”
”Sounded like a bit more than that from where I’m standing. How about you talk a hike and let me get back to my girls.”
“Girls?” You look back before raising a brow, “I’m sorry I didn’t realize you had ownership over these two fine mares behind me. Do you have the proper paperwork?”
”You know what I mean. Take a walk while you still have the legs to do it with.”
“Ooooh,” you shiver, “Threatening an arm of the law. Did you replace your brain with an Etch A Sketch or are you just that dumb?” He stammers back some witless comeback or another, but you just wave your hand. “Listen here small fry. You’re a little fish in a big pond, and I don’t mean just the height difference. I can destroy every vestige of your existence until the very definition of dipshit is wiped from history. Now, would you like to clean up that mess between your legs or should you swim home like a good little fish?” You give him a second to gather his things before he skedaddles. “So, where were we ladies?”
So cold… why is it so cold? You wrap yourself tighter in your sheets, your own personal shield from the outside world. They can’t get you under these covers. It’s going to be alright. But the whispers come back once more, a never-ending hailstorm of laughter and mimicry. “Go away,” you whimper back huddled into yourself.
”Go away,” they mock, “Go away. Go away. Hehehehe.”
You feel a hoof touch your arm and immediately shake it off, “Anon.” Don’t listen to the voice. It’s a trick, always a deceit. The hoof attempts to rouse you from your cloak, but you will have none of it. You won’t let them take you away. ”Anon, sir. Anon…” Your eyes open revealing the interior of the train car, the railway officer smiling next to you, a hoof on your shoulder, “We’ve arrived sir.” Just a dream. Always a dream.
You dab the cold sweat off your face and toss your blanket aside, a simple comfort available to all customers. ”We have your bags waiting for you outside if you’ll follow me sir.” You nod, allowing your heart to slow to its normal pace as you follow the gentlecolt off the tracks. Stepping off the cart you scan your surroundings for your welcoming party, a certain purple unicorn stepping up to you with a smile, “Anon I assume?”
She holds her chest politely, “My name is Twilight Sparkle. Welcome to Ponyville.” Her tiny friend quickly works to carry your luggage, a simple suitcase to you, but a colossal task for him. ”This is Spike, my faithful assistant. Say hello Spike.”
”Hey,” he strains under the weight. You roll your eyes at the pointless introduction as you’ve glossed over their dossiers on your way over here.
“Shall we get things underway?”
”Of course we have a schedule to keep after all,” she poofs a scroll from thin air, marking off the top task, “Shall I take you to where you’ll be staying?”
“That would be- Hey!” you snap at the little lizard, “Be careful with that. Don’t- I’ll take it.” You snatch it out of his claws before he breaks any of your ‘valuables’ inside.
”I’m sorry…” he groans, Twilight telling him it’s alright.
She finds you tapping your foot irritantly awaiting her move, “Right this way. The ponies have been throwing something of a welcome party since we heard your arrival. It’s not everyday-”
”Excuse me?” she asks almost confused.
“I do not have time to enjoy myself. This is a business trip and I must stay focused.”
”I- I’ll have them know straight away…” she continues on her way. You sigh, avoiding the dirtier spots along the road.
“Not exactly the cleanest place in Equestria.”
Opening the door she leads you inside of what you assumed to be a giant tree, finding it far more homelike than you’d expect. ”This is where you’ll be staying for your trip,” she closes the door behind you as you set down your things, “And exactly how long will that be?”
“Two days at the most. Is there a spare bed or shall I be sleeping on the floor?”
”I have a couch laid out upstairs if that’ll…” she quiets down upon your fixed gaze, every second more uncomfortable than the last, “Would you like to use the bed?”
“Very much so,” you continue on as expected, “Now do you have anything to drink?”
”Of course, what’ll it be?” She moves around to her version of a kitchen, “We have orange juice, apple juice, fresh milk…”
“Something heavy to wake me up, a Pinch 42 Therrigold would be heavenly if you have it.”
Spike checks the clock, “Its 8:30 in the morning.”
“Did I ask for the time or for a drink? I believe it be the latter.” That shut the little punk up. Seriously, who keeps a dragon around as a pet anymore? This is how the Regency Fire out on twelfth started out.
”Well uh-” she fidgets, “Maybe not something like that, but uh- Ah, I have some fresh apple cider from Sweet Apple Acres. It’s the best-“
“It’ll do,” you interrupt, sitting on the stump that sports the middle of her room. Apple cider… That watered down trash is more fit to be served to… places like Ponyville to be honest. Still, you’ll take a pint where you can get it.
You gulp down the putrid excuse they call liquor, finishing off the mug in no time at all. ”Wow, you’d give even Applejack a run for her money,” she pulls up a stool. Get in, find the antidote, and get out. No muss no… What’s she looking at? Twilight just kinda looks at you, not really focused on anything but just looking. “A picture’ll last longer.”
”What? Oh oh, sorry I didn’t mean to stare.” How she ever got to be the princess’s protégé is beyond you. “It’s just a little strange meeting you.”
”Strange is one way of saying it,” the little fucktard opens his mouth again, but shuts up when you look his way.
“Well I can’t say that I understand how you mean, so I’ll chalk it up to admiration and call it a day. How’s that?”
”The princess never told me much about you. After that incident in Canterlot all that time ago I wanted to talk to you, but she told me to continue my studies.” Sounds like good advice. “Then I saw you on our way home from the Crystal Empire. I didn’t know what to do I was so embarrassed. I just smiled there like an idiot, and by the time I’d gathered my senses you were gone. I guess- I’ve always wanted to meet you I guess.”
You’re flattered, but there’s a waiting list for those to meet you and it ain’t clearing up anytime soon. “Charmed…” This isn’t getting you anywhere and you have a busy schedule, “When can I meet my guide?”
”Oh, Fluttershy? She should be on her way.”
“Too long, let’s go.”
”What about your luggage?”
“Go on outside. I’ll meet you there.”
The door shuts and you fling open your case, digging through a layer of clothes followed by books and scroll, two vials of ink, more books… “Here we are…” you find that beautiful tantalizing ambient silver case. You sniff the sides, gathering that intoxicating aroma; you can almost feel that arousing sting. What better way to start your day than a quick jump… to your… Empty. How the hell is it empty? No no no that can’t be right. There has to be a spare. Yes you hide an emergency stash in your Field Guide to the Wilderness. Just flip it open, pry into that box and… NO!
You throw the two boxes back into your suitcase and grab your beating chest. How could it be gone? You need your medicine. It’s all that kept you going. It was your key to success. Your hands grind together in nervous panic as you try and think of something to do. You’re fucked. Oh by Celestia you’re screwed to Tartarus and back there’s no way- *slap* Get a hold of yourself! It’s not the end of the world here. You just used the last of it at that party. Calm. Calm. And… calm. You take a deep breath and clear your head. You’re taking things easy now so you don’t need your little friend anymore. In a day, maybe two you’ll be back to the city and everything’ll be back to normal. Your hand continues to jitter even as you repack your things, “Anon are you alright in there?”
“Y-yeah!” you call back, “I’m fine. I’ll be just f-fine.” Tomorrow couldn’t come sooner.
You straighten your tie as you walk back outside, “Are you sure you’re alright? You look a little pale.”
“Pale? Who’s pale? I’m pale? Nonsense, you must be seeing things,” the words come flying from your mouth like projectile word-vomit.
She can tell you’re hiding something but she keeps it to herself. “Spike, why don’t you watch Owlowiscious while I’m gone.”
”But Twilight what about, you know…” he tries slyly nudging to you.
“I’ll think twice before leaving her in an alleyway, scouts honor.”
”We’ll be fine Spike, I promise.” The dragon doesn’t seem happy about it, but Twilight keeps him in check. ”I’m sorry about him. He can be so protective at times.”
“He should be glad I’m in a good mood.” You groan walking behind Twilight.
”I really am sorry, but I can’t help but have the feeling that you- How do I put it delicately?”
“If you can’t say something nice don’t say it at all,” you all but snarl at her.
Her eyes move to the ground and she quiets down for a time, “Have you been to the Everfree Forest before?” She should know better and you tell her as much, “I don’t understand what would drive anypony to go through that place.”
“I’m looking for something. I don’t know what, but I know it’s there.”
”Are you sure?”
You gaze at the tree line off in the horizon. “I know.”
You stand at the bridge exiting the town when Twilight turns to you and asks you to stay here for a second. When you ask why she says that my guide can be a little timid when it comes to new people. “Sounds a little too much like a person I used to know.”
”What happened to them?”
“He left for greener pastures,” you scratch your arm, “Go and get her. I want to get this underway.” She trots off to a row of bushes where a pair of yellow wings is sticking out, likely from one Fluttershy. You lean over the side as you watch them. Dang you can feel her nervousness all the way from over here. How the hell could you have been like that? Afraid 24 hours of the day of human- err, pony interaction. Can’t really have human interaction anymore.
You notice your arm furiously working against your arm, like a thousand spiders were crawling just under your shirt and it is pissing you off. Of all the things you packed a single bottle of bug repellant didn’t cross your mind. The fucking country… This is the last time you come out here. What is taking her so long? “Just pull her out by her spaghetti, damn.” Get a cattle prod if you have to. That’ll get her out in a jiffy. That you’re sure of. Sure enough Twilight coaxes the Pegasus across in due time. Patience is only a virtue when it’s suiting, and you’d rather not wait to have bugs lay eggs in your arm.
”Anon, this is my dear friend Fluttershy, the kindest Pegasus you’ll find.” Fluttershy’s eye darts between you and the bridge below as she tries to cover herself with the locks of her mane. There’s most certainly an innocent quality about her, but you’re here on business and don’t have time to admire the decoration.
”H-hiii….” She squeaks.
“Pleasure,” you stand over her akin to a giant, the thought obviously having crossed her mind as well.
”Just take this road straight on out to the Everfree Forest. Fluttershy will try to keep you safe, but… I really don’t think you should do this.”
“The next time I ask for your opinion I’ll take it. Dismissed Twilight.” A nod is all she gives before she’s off back to town.
”T-twilight…” Fluttershy calls ever so quietly, and it’s not surprise that she isn’t heard.
“Let’s go,” you moan walking across the bridge with your eyes on the green border. A tinge of doubt still lingers in your mind. How do you even know what to look for? Research has always been your forte, but the forest isn’t a small place nor has it even been documented in a fourth of its entirety. You’ll be searching for a needle in a haystack. And this time you can’t just light it on fire… Where’s Fluttershy? “Hey! You coming or what?”
She comes to a stop just outside the forest and rests on her haunches. ”This… this is it. I guess you don’t need me anymore so I’ll just- Eep!” You grab hold of her tail as she tries to slink away, “Umm… Could you let go of my tail? Pretty please?”
“I need a guide through the forest, not to it,” you release her. Taking a step inside you’d expect to feel some form of supernatural terror, but what you get is just more fucking bugs on your arm!
”Is something wrong with your arm?” she asks in concern only for you to snap in response.
“I’m fine! Get your flank in here.”
The tree bark is that of any other you’ve seen though noticeably darker with strange trails of sap running down the trunk. Soil, much the same as the trees. You kneel down and run your hand through the soil, sniffing the dense clot. This is some fertile stuff here. Soil like this could come handy for agricultural use. It’s a shame you’d have to burn the forest down for it. Who’re you kidding? Of course it wouldn’t. ”I- I wouldn’t taste that if I were you.”
“Is it going to kill me to smell it?”
“Then shut up and keep walking. You talk too much.” You jot down some notes in your journal and continue on your way. You’re starting to get a creepy vibe from this place.
Keeping your journal handy you try and note every fern and animal that doesn’t scurry away, which would be none. You relieve your arm again with a quick rub and kneel next to some sort of blue flower. It releases an almost giggling tune when the air hits it. It’s definitely a beauty, perhaps you could take it for further investigation. You attempt to grab the flower, “That’s P-poison Joke. Their spores umm… They’re not very nice.”
By not very nice she means they’ll chop your balls off and feed them to the sarlacc. “Jeez say something earlier will ya?”
”But you said-“
“Did I ask what I said?” Damn, fucking ponies these days. Poison joke, you write in your journal, it chops off your balls. Not entirely accurate, but who’ll fact check your claim? As you stand back up you hold onto your head again, each time the lack of blood leading to a flash of pain. Your tongue scrapes against the sides of your mouth in search of moisture and you grab a small canteen from your belt. It hurts as the liquid passes through your arid throat, worse yet as you remember that it wasn’t exactly water you’d stored in there. At least you got your daily portion of alcohol.
”You really shouldn’t be drinking that,” having smelt your concoction, “Here…” She flutters up to a vine near the treetops and snaps it off, an opaque liquid dribbling out of the end. ”Here we go…” she coos to the vine almost as if it was an animal, “It’s alright.” Floating back down she holds the severed limb to you, “It’s not the most appetizing, but it’ll help.” Reluctantly you grab it, the hefty branch warm in your hands, and venture a glance at the dripping opening, the inside lined with needlelike prongs while the surrounding plant ripples slowly.
“Ugh…” you reel away from it, “It smells like a Diamond Dog’s ass.”
”Ok…” she takes it back and sips from the vine willingly. You’d rather stick your head up a horse’s ass than drink whatever that shit is.
“That makes me…” you hush down as a rustling comes to your attention, Fluttershy too noticing the noise. She eeps and hides behind your legs like a frightened child, clinging to your dress pants like they were her old blanky. And she’s supposed to be your guide, crap… You raise your trembling fists and prepare for the worst, silently praying that it’s just a lost rabbit. What you wouldn’t give for Gilda right now… The heart wrenching snarl from the bushes only bolsters the petrifying stare from those glowing green eyes. But you’re not going down without- without a… Where’s it going?
The beast moves off through the forest and away from the two of you. “Where’s it going?” you ask Fluttershy, “Seriously, where the hell is it going?”
She steps out just as confused as you, “I- I don’t know.”
“How can you not know?! This is the entire reason you’re here isn’t it?” You can see the tears start to build up in her eyes, but you’re too angry to care. You’d be better off with Mercer’s Guide to Same Camping than this… coward. “What use are you to me? This whole situation is fucked, my guide, my task, my- these fucking bugs! Dammit!” You go primal on your arm, digging your fingernails into the sleeves of your shirt for relief.
”I- I can help…” she peeps. What a useless creature. She’s unable to speak up let alone be of any help.
“Just go,” you wave her off, “Leave me alone. I can handle this by myself.” She doesn’t budge, “Are you deaf? Git!”
Between her departing sobs you find merely temporary relief as you rub your temples. Find the cure, get out, and fuck bitches. Maybe not the last part, but you can dream. You look around the darkening forest and rub your eyes, the trees seemingly closing together by some illusion. You’ve been in some spots Anon; this isn’t close to the worst, not by a long shot. Each sound is a threat, every shadow a predator, every smell… Sweet…
Looking back to the bush the creature had retreated from you pick up the most sickly sweet aroma you’ve come across. It wraps your body in a warm bundle that makes your problems seem to vanish. Could this be what you’re looking for?
Taking a step into the sea of leaves you attempt to follow your nose, the scent always at the tip of your nose as you climb through. There’s something familiar about it that you can’t put your finger on, a relaxing element but also one that clears your mind. It’s glorious. You need to have it.
Your nose craves the very air it graces and you find your feet picking up in pace. The leaves crash into your skin as you continue forcing your way through the thickened brush. Where is the source? You have to find that wonderful fountain it stems from and bathe in its beauty. Out from the greenery you emerge, wiping off the few leaves that had clung to your body and narrow on the source. It can’t be… but it is, that tempting vial wrapped in petals of green, the relief that the needle brings…
In all of creation you would never find such luck to fall upon you. Tears almost form at the sheer joy of finding such a treat just begging to be stolen. Whoever’s it was is of no consequence to you, all that matters it what’s inside that syringe. You cross the open stretch before you and take a last look at the surrounding. Could it be a trick? Some sort of devious ploy to catch you off guard? No, impossible. But what if… No, it’s too close. Too close for you to let to pass up. The burgundy walls flush as you reach your hand within the lobes, a subtle strand of hair caressing your skin. “What the…”
That’s not a vial, it’s… you’re unsure what it is, but the glossy shimmer you mistook is certainly not glass. It’s organic. What the hell? You move your head back, the smell desperately trying to pull you back in. This isn’t a wall… It’s a mouth! You pull your hand back hitting another strand- *whoosh*
You look at your arm, half caught by the obscene jaws of the plant, its prong-like teeth fleshed outwards, several firmly lodged in your arm. Your stomach turns as you spot your blood begin to dribble off the edges. It takes a few seconds before your brain registers what just happened but when i- “GAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!”
Fuck! Fuck fuck fuck! GOD THE- THE SHITTING PAIN! You try to pull your arm out but another eruption of pain halts that. “This can’t be happening… Oh god please no…” Clenching your teeth you try again to no avail, your body trembling in fear. Please, you don’t want to die. You just want to get the fuck out of here. You feel a warmth travel up your arm and your anger flares. “LET ME GO! HELP! SOMEBODY!!”
You pound on the outer wall of the plant in utter desperation, even going so far as to begin breaking off the exposed teeth around you. *growl* Did the plant just growl at you? NOPE! The warmth spreads to your chest as you continue flailing away, arm tightly locked in its mouth. “HELP! H- he… he- help. Please…” You struggle to keep your eyes open, your heart slowing, muscles going slack. The last thing you feel in your arm is a stinging splash before you fall to your knees. “Help.” Your head falls forward, eyes rolling back in your head as the plant opens its maw for the rest of you. “Please…”
Death was always such a funny thing. It’s not something that most people try to document. What happens after we die? Is there a heaven? Tartarus… That is always a possibility. At least it would’ve been if you were of this world, but alas, you got dealt a different hand. Would things have turned out differently? Not just in the end, but throughout. Could you have chosen a different path? You always wanted to be an author, at least you did… Now the sight of a book is enough to make you vomit. Everything’s a poison in the right dose. Who said that? Your old man… The foolish man with a genius mind, irony is the word. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone, another slice of wisdom from him. That’s the truth…
Maybe if you weren’t so harsh on the mare, maybe. There’s no sense dwelling on the past, not while you have all the time to contemplate the future. Perhaps that’s where you’re wrong. Maybe instead of looking to the future, you should look at the present. Live in the moment, as it were. Fluttershy didn’t have to come with you, but she did. When you see her… Heh, a bit late for that. But if you could see her again? Well, you’d have to find out. Gah, your arm still stings a bi- Wait it stings. Oh thank you Ms. Fluttershy, you came back for me! Ol’ Anon ain’t out of the game yet. You crack open your eyes to the somber glow of a fire… Yeah… Where are you?
The walls remind you of Twilight’s house, wooden but not planks like you’d expect. No this is carved out of a tree. You turn your weakened head and look just outside the window, just making out the moon high in the sky through the canopy. As you try to speak you find your throat dry to the point it hurts effectively turning it into a winding cough. You muster the strength to massage your tender throat with your hand before looking to the right.
The lower half of your sleeve’s been cut off, your arm resting on the leopard skin blanket bound in a cast. Just the thought of those jaws are enough to send a shiver up your spine. There’s no way you’re falling for that trick again. How bad’s the damage? You bite your lip as you slowly begin to peel it back, “That would not be wise,” You flinch back at the sudden remark and look to the doorway, “Keep it on a week or two I would advise.”
What in the world? Who is she? Where’s Fluttershy? She stops you before you can speak, “To tame a throat of yours I think, my simple mixture you should drink.” The strange mare brings a small bowl to your lips, your savior hidden save for her silhouette. It tastes of salted peppers but she keeps pouring it down your throat until the last drop hits your gullet. ”Do you find your throat still aches, or perhaps another bowl to take?”
“I’m f- *cough* fine…” Your voice sounds like a damn frog, but her medicine did seem to work.
She tenderly takes your hand and inspects the wrapping, “The Evertrap is a tricky creature, be counted lucky that you still be here.” An Evertrap? It seemed familiar, but that can’t be right. “I see confusion on your face; could this be your first time in this place?”
“Something like that… Ow,” you wince as she handles your bandage.
”The scent it spreads may spin your head, but you must be wary of its web. It makes you see what you most desire, perhaps much like a moth to fire.” She has a very strange accent, and way of speaking now that you think about it. You don’t see many ponies rhyme. ”I was here at home in this place of mine, when I had heard a scream most unkind. Not many would dare travel out this way. No pony would know how to keep the creatures at bay.” So… she was the one who saved you. Then where’s Fluttershy? ”Had I arrived a few moments later, the Evertrap’s damage would be far greater.”
“But- Where’s Fluttershy?”
She recognizes the name by her pause, “Is this the Pegasus off which you speak? I do not recall seeing her for at least a week.”
“I need to find her,” you try and sit up, “I have work. Ugh.”
She catches you as you fall back, “The venomous sap that coats its teeth still runs deep. Let it rest unless it’s pain you reap.” A paralysis then is it? That makes sense as to why you lost your strength, and why you can’t feel your legs. Her ears perk up, “That must be the brew I hear. Would you care for dinner though it may be dull for you I fear?”
“Who- I didn’t catch your name.”
”Ah I see it just slipped my mind. Call me Zecora if you could be so kind.” That’s- That’s a zebraic name. She stands in the doorway revealing her stripes, literally. Before you can question her she’s gone and you don’t have the strength to follow.
She brings you a bowl of soup and lights a candle next to your bed and you can finally get a good look at her. Her Mohawk runs the length of her head, but she keeps a firm feminine look nonetheless. She has those golden springs on her neck and left leg as well, one of the more common accessories where she’s from. The odds are definitely in your favor on this trip… You can’t believe you just thought that. What are the odds that you’d meet a zebra here, in the Everfree fucking forest? You’d expected to find some clues as to how their presence here helped them, but this is beyond luck. ”Your eyes speak what your lips will not. What is it that you have sought?”
She’s a smart one to see that you were hiding something. “How long have you lived here, if you don’t mind me asking?”
”The question you ask is one indeed, but it is clearly not the one you need.” Zecora takes your bowl away and sets it to the side.
“Do you know why I’m here?” She shakes her head and waits for you to continue. “My name is Anon, and I’m here on Canterlot business. Do you understand?”
”You come from a place of high esteem. It’s clear to me how important your task must mean.” Her rhyming is starting to get on your nerves.
“Many years ago… Ugh…” you clamp your eyes shut in pain, “A group of zebras, is it bright in here or…?”
”Cleansing the body is not a pleasant ordeal. Rest, and when you wake all your answers shall be revealed.” Did she seriously just…
You cling to your sheets, cowering within them like a frightened child. It’s too cold. Why must it always be cold? They whisper for you to come out, they just want to talk to you. You know better. You saw what they did to him. They’ll take you away, far, far away just like him. You won’t let them. You’re better than he was and you won’t leave the comfort of your bed. The whispers cease, but a new voice aches at the back of your mind telling you to look. It’s a lie, always a lie, but it asks again, just take a glance.
You do, the brown walls attempting to suffocate you though they are not what grabs your attention. What does is the syringe hovering just out of reach above you. ”Grab it Anon. It’s yours if you want it.” You can almost taste it now, that warmth it brings to your icy veins. If only you could reach. ”Grab it,” they repeat over and over again, “It’s yours.” Weaseling out from your blanket you reach up with your arm, your vision still quite hazy. It’s only when you feel that soft strand against your skin does your mind clear and heart plummet. You immediately cower back into your bed, the jaws engulfing the entirety of your bed trapping you inside, alone. ”You’re here forever Anon. Forever…”
“NO!” You shoot up from your bed clad in cold sweat. A dream. It’s always a dream.
Your throat seems to be a lot better now. Whatever it was she gave you must’ve done the trick. It’s morning by now and though it may not be a shining one like in Canterlot it’s brighter than it was before. Swiveling your hips you stand up from the bed, your legs still a bit shaky but you can still manage to walk. “Zecora?” you call out as you move out from her bedroom, holding onto the walls for support. She isn’t here, that’s obvious enough; she’s likely out scouring for breakfast.
A large rusty cauldron sits in the middle of the room amidst a bed of coals and you venture a peek inside, immediately regretting it with the stench of its previous mixture. Rows of tribal masks stare down at you from the walls each with a different color scheme of reds, blues and greens. It’s about what you’d expect from a Zebraic home, as improvised as it may be it still retains their cultural essence. That’s not to say it’s a good essence, but to each their own. You stumble over to the wall of bottles on your right and pick one up. Its label is like nothing you’ve seen before, neither Equestrian nor Village Common. ”Unless you wish your hair to sprout, I’d advise leaving that potion out.”Zecora comes in from the door with a basket on her side.
“You weren’t here so I decided to have a look around.” She places the potion back before removing the basket, slipping a few of them into the cauldron. “I suppose I have to thank you for your help, but maybe not considering that you drugged my stew.”
”A deception true it may have been, would you rather the pain to come again?” Her and her rhyming… ”Your motor skills seem to be working fine, though another day’s rest will make them shine. Tell me Anon before you woke, what was your question when we had spoke?” Oh yeah. That question that was interrupted by her drugging you. That’s not something you’re going to get over. You give her the rundown of your visit, leaving out the confidential stuff regarding the King. She prepares her breakfast all the while, humming and nodding with a smile. God dammit… ”So you seek a potion true, to cure this vicious cycle through?”
“If you want to say it like that then yes,” you scratch your arm, the bugs returning a plague to your body.
Zecora pauses at this and looks back to her brew, “Anon of Canterlot tell me this, when was the last time you had… taken a hit.” A hit of- How does she know that? How could she know?
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” you lie masterfully thanks to your months of practice.
”Please Anon, do not take me for a fool. Living here has honed my mind as sharp as any tool. I’ll ask again one more time, when was the last you committed this crime?” Crime? You are not a criminal. You are a representative of Equestrian royalty, not a common thief!
“How dare you speak to me like some rabble! I could have this place burned to the ground on a whim!”
”And lose your chance at reaching your goal? I assume you not to have the mind of a foal.”
“I am not a foal!” you quiver as beads of sweat form on your head, “You know what I want don’t you? You’re not the only one who can read others, and I know you’re dancing around the issue. Tell me what I want to know or so help me…”
You step aggressively toward her with too much force and lose your balance, Zecora stepping in to catch your fall. ”Perhaps it would be best, if you let this go until you rest.” You roll off her back in defiance, your cast slamming down making you flinch.
“I need it. I’ll be… I’d be better, not some nobody like the rest, but someone worth their weight. I won’t be taken away…”
Zecora stands over you, her eyes locked onto yours, “You demand others like one would a child, but in this time you’ve let your mind run wild.” She rubs your arm with her hoof and you almost coo in satisfaction, “Does it feel like insects crawl upon your skin? Has it been two or three days since last you had sinned?”
“Please, I just want the cure…” but she keeps her gaze stern, forcing a reluctant nod from you.
”Cold sweats and nightmares come along with haste; I take it you are one such case.” Once again you nod, Zecora almost looking at you with sympathy, “This path you walk reaches only one end, and I fear you will find yourself alone when you descend.” Shame hits you just as hard as you remember it, almost more so now than before. You can’t just stop, it doesn’t work like that. She has to know that. She helps you to your feet and wanders off to her chest, “My mother once had such a sickness much like you described. No pony in Canterlot knew what to prescribe, but it so happened she knew a place, one that could aid them in such a case.”
She comes back with a small vial filled with an amber liquid and longingly gazes at it. ”The plant has since been long extinct, but what is left is most distinct.” She hands it over to you with her hoof and you take it into your hand. ”A gift from one to be given to another, those were the words passed from my mother.” She dips a bowl in the cauldron, “Morning stew?”
You hand over your luggage to the pony who stores it onto the train in your stead. Usually you’d do it yourself, but this cast makes it difficult for you. ”Are you sure you have to leave so soon,” Twilights asks with a frown, “We’re having a small get-together at Sugar Cube Corner if you’d like to come.”
You shake your head and cast down your eyes. You’ve done enough to last a lifetime. “I have a schedule to keep. I’m sorry.”
She nods, “I understand. Did you at least find what you were looking for?” You look to the forest’s edge, barely making out the hooded Zebra who’d escorted you back out.
“I got more than that…” you answer ominously.
Twilight doesn’t pry as to what you mean but tries to force a smile, “Do you think you’ll come and visit? I’d love to talk with another of Celestia’s students.” Student huh? You smile at the thought and straighten your tie.
“Enjoy the party Twilight.” You’re about to board the train when you stop yourself and turn back. “Oh and Twilight…”
“Tell Fluttershy… Tell her I’m sorry. I know it’s not much-“
”It’s enough,” she grins, “Have a safe trip home.” You nod one last time and board the train, sitting in your designated seat.
The train attendant comes over as you scratch your arm, “We’ll be departing soon. I can acquire a hard beverage of your choosing if you would like sir.” You begin mentally listing off all the ones that come to mind only to stop and smile.
Rubbing your eyelids the train comes to a screeching halt back home in Canterlot Station. You do quick schedule check since you have the time; the only real appointment you care about is your meeting with the princess. Oh good, you’ll be meeting her tomorrow. That’ll give you a day to clean yourself up before you give her the good news. Meeting Zecora was much more pleasant than you expected, Evertrap and all. With the open doors you step outside with a grin on your face and dust off your clothes. ”Sir,” a stallion comes over with your luggage, “I believe this is yours.”
“Ah it is, much obliged sir,” you dig two bits out of your pocket and give it to the gentecolt.
”My pleasure sir.”
”Passengers to Ponyville may now begin boarding.” You take that as your cue to skedaddle and head on up the street. The tap of your shoes against that familiar Canterlot stone takes a weight off your heart. It’s been quite a while since you last felt at home. For the past few months it’s felt less as such and more as a business dormitory if anything. Waving at some of the locals you catch yourself feeling a nostalgic rush of joy. Not even the incessant scratching of your arm can diminish this feeling, although it does provide a slight annoyance. It feels good to be home after all…
Perhaps you should celebrate? It’s been a good week since you’ve seen either Gilda or Iron Will. You can only imagine what they’ve been doing since- Nope, that’s an image you’re going to burn out of your head. An interspecies plowing is not exactly the most pleasant image in your head. You already did well to repress your plight last time you drank a bit too deep from the bottle. Maybe all this drinking is starting to get to you? In fact… Thinking back you’ve noticed a trend. It starts small, an innocent sip to introduce you to their culture or provide an edge. Then it’s a custom you abide by, slowly increasing the dose. Before you know it you’re drinking daily and growing reliant on a temporary thrill. You never saw it until it all came crashing back like a pendulum. Starting today things are going to be different. No more alcohol. No more smack. No more of this… thing you’ve become.
If Celestia doesn’t like it then… You guess she’ll have to get someone else for the job. You’ll fight through the nightmares and constant itching because it’s not worth the alternative. You won’t be a slave to a needle or bottle. You’re better than he was. You can persevere. You- Well look who it is.
You saunter behind the apricot mare and signal her date to be quiet before you clasp your hand over her eyes. “Guess who?”
”A boring old pony…” you catch her grin before swiping your hands away, “Nice to see you back.”
“That’s all the welcome I get? No hug or anythi- There we go,” you spin her around just for fun before setting her back down.
”How’ve you been?” Petal asks as you pull up a chair.
“Good. Real good in fact. How about you?”
”I’ve been good.” She spots the cast on your arm and almost freaks the fuck out, “You didn’t go where I think you went, did you?”
You chuckle at her reaction, somewhat glad that she still cares about you. “Just a run-in with the infamous Evertrap. Nothing permanent.” Petal Peach begins riding your ass with her worry, but you’ll happily take them if it means talking to her. *acheem* Her date clears his throat realizing that he’s being promptly ignored.
He’s clad in the royal armor and you can’t help shrug the feeling you met him before. ”Oh I almost forgot to introduce you to my- special somepony. Anon, this is Chain Mail. Chain Mail…”
”Thanks but we’ve already met before,” he deepens his tone trying to appear more masculine for her. If only you could remember… That’s where you remember him.
“Indeed we have. Did you find the Royal Requisition Articles easy enough?”
”With the help of a rather special mare, yes. Though I haven’t spent a lot of time reading them, if you know what I mean…”
”Chain Mail!” she flushes, “How could you say that?”
“It’s quite alright,” you assure her, “Just playful banter between boys. Nothing more, right Mail?”
”Of course.” To tell the truth both of you know better, but it convinces Petal Peach easily enough. For some reason you thought he’d transcend the typical asshole boyfriend, but hope makes fools of us all. Maybe you won’t stop drinking after all…
“Well, as much as I’d love to stay and chat I’ve got to get back to work.”
”Do you have to? You only just got back…” Mail chips in as well, though it’s beyond clear just how sarcastic he is.
“Sorry, but who knows what damage’s been done since I’ve been gone. I can’t leave them alone for a day without messing something up.”
That gets the chuckle out of Petal and a stone face from Mail, “I’m sure the guards will fix it.”
“I’m sure they’re the ones who broke it,” you fire right back at him with a smile, “but I’ve overstayed my welcome as it is. Chain Mail, Petal Peach…”
”You’ll come visit the library every now and then won’t you? Don’t be a stranger. I don’t bite.”
”Much…” Mail tacks on as a final middle finger between the two of you. This time it’s your turn to go cold, so you simply nod and go on your way. That could’ve gone better, you think to yourself as you walk through the gates.
“Morning Sunder. Morning Veil. Working hard?”
”Hardly working more like it,” the guard nudges his partner cheekily.
“Don’t let Shining Armor catch you slacking. I heard he’s got a new disciplinary program in the works.”
”Really?” they ask fearfully.
“Totally,” you lie out of your ass, “You have to sit through a whole hour of him talking.”
They laugh and shake their head, “You’re a kidder Anon.”
“I try.” You smile and nod to another one of the guards who’ve you gotten to know in the past months. They’re not so bad once you get to know them actually. If anything they’re just another pony in armor away from public view. Around the Princess, or any royalty for that matter, they turn to faceless slabs of metal and flesh.
Turning the corner you come face to face with a certain unicorn, coffee cup at his lips and pretentious douche practically oozing off him, “Yeah…”
“Mr. Mosley,” you take a step back to give the two of you some space, “Wonderful morning ain’t it?”
”Yes quite,” he looks you up and down, “Things certainly have gone well for you after all this time.” You make a joke about the cast but, just as you’d expect, he doesn’t laugh. ”It’s a shame we had to let you go. You were always one of our best employees.”
“I think we both know better than that, sir.”
”You might’ve taken longer to get it done, but you worked harder than any of my other underlings.” Underlings. This is how he talks about his employees?
“To be honest, this is the type of stuff I needed to hear a year ago when, and pardon my language, you treated me like shit.” Speaking of, he must like that new brown shade you added all those months ago considering he hasn’t been able to wash it out.
”You know… We just got a new position open up and-“ You make sure to stop him before he embarrasses himself further.
“Don’t call me. I’ll call you,” you respond with the most formal decline known to man. Not a chance in hell you’ll go back there. Giving a nod you head back to your room.
“Ahhh,” you sigh, “Home sweet home.” Unpacking goes by without a hitch, and it’s only changing your shirt that gives you trouble. Your cast isn’t being very cooperative, but you manage to slip through it with enough effort. How about something to eat? You head into the kitchen and open the door, your blood igniting in your veins.
Trying to control your breathing you pull out the small silver box, that aroma pulling you in. It’s so good… Just that sting… You can feel it already, that thrill. Oh maybe just a small hit to- No. You regain control of your mind, the needle already in your hand. Slamming it back in its home you grip the box. This must be Discord’s work. He’s always there to mess you up. If someone were to come in and check on you… You slip it into your pocket for safe keeping and future disposal. You have to get your mind off of that bundle and onto work. Work, just the thing.
What’s on the schedule? You have a small notebook of upcoming appointments in the case you want some extra work. Thankfully it can also be used if you miss a day or if you get back a day early, which is very much the case. Hmm… There appears to be a slot open for a local debate. Something about deer and crediting writers. It could be interesting but let’s look at what else is up. Ew, dragons. As much as you’d love the scaly fiends to steal the skin off your back, you’ve grown quite attached to it. So you’re going to take a pass on that. *plop* As you’re flipping through the pages a note falls out onto the floor.
’Anon, I’d very much like to meet upon your arrival home. Meet me before speaking with Celestia. It’s a matter of grave importance to me. I’ll be waiting.’ The note has an address near the bottom where you can find the author. You check both sides carefully, but there’s no sign of the author’s signature. Whoever sent it must have had some nice connections to get this note to you. A rather obvious thought kicks in only a few moments after you tear your eyes away.
An ominous message falls out your notebook that tells you to meet someone you don’t know at a random place you’ve never heard of. What could go wrong? But no, you dismiss that idea rather quickly. Whoever put this here had the means to do it and the knowhow of your personal schedule. This may be a pony who’s looking for some help on an urgent affair of theirs and needs someone to guide them through it.
There’s no safe side you can walk on, and you have the feeling this pony really might need your help. Despite that nagging voice in the back of your mind you plan on visiting once you’ve gotten squared away. The intrigue is simply too much for you to ignore.
A knock sounds from the door and you stow your note in your pocket. “Who is it?” No response. First the note and then a mysterious visitor? Today’s going to be a diplomat found murdered in his bedroom kind of day. What’re you thinking Anon? You’re at least twice the size of any pony.
You open the door wide and immediately get clocked across the face, “Long time no see.” If she was hitting you seriously you wouldn’t be smiling right now.
“Nice to see you too Gilda.”
She lets herself in as you rub your jaw. “How long you been back?” she asks, “You look like shit.”
“Why’s it always hit first and ask questions later with you?”
”Why’s it always get hit first and act like a dweeb with you?”
“You know you love it.”
”Whatever…” she opens a cabinet and helps herself to your stash, drinking straight from the bottle. “So answer my question cast-boy.”
“Not long, just got back maybe an hour ago.”
”I was wondering how I was able to smell you from down the hall.” Oh how you’ve missed her constant insults. You wouldn’t have her any other way… Okay maybe if she hit you less.
“So where’s Iron Will? I rarely see you without the big guy. Is he at the club?”
”Last time I checked he was groaning about the pounding I gave him.”
“Ewww. Too much information!”
”Not like that you pervert. Although he does like the way my talons-“
“Why do I even let your over?”
”Because you’d be a shut-in without me.” You’d also have an untainted mind. ”So how went the trip, not like I care anyways?” You tell her it was good, eye opening even, and she raises her bottle in the air, “I can drink to that.” She pours you a glass and you look down at the swirling liquid in your hand. ”You denying a drink from a gryphon now? Does it get you off when I hit you?”
You shake your head but say nothing as you recall your earlier meeting. ”Okay what’s wrong dude? You’re starting to weird me out.”
“I saw Petal Peach earlier…”
”Ok I don’t see what the big deal is.”
“…with her special somepony.”
>Gilda pauses, “Oh.” For a few seconds she seems to sympathize before she stands up taller than before, “And you’re going to let some lousy douche turn you into some crybaby?”
“It’s just- I was thinking earlier about my decisions and… What if this was all a mistake?” You pour your heart out to her, something you’d never think about doing. “Ever since Aviaris… I’ve been different, almost like I was someone else. Someone I used to know back home. I lost Petal Peach because this job, and I’m afraid- I’m afraid of what else I might lose because of it and what it makes me do.” You sit down on your coach with glass in hand, Gilda taking time to gather her thoughts. “I’m more like my old man than I’d thought…” you raise the glass, “Well then, bottoms up I guess.”
You feel Gilda’s talon hold your hand back, the gryphon peeling the glass out of your grasp. ”You don’t have to be anyone you don’t want to,” she mutters quietly with her head low. She sits across from you and takes a swig from the bottle, “Have I ever told you how I met Iron Will? I wasn’t always like this you know, a stuck-up bitch.”
“You’re not a-“
”Let me finish my story you ass. Anyways,” she continues, “back when I a kid I was- well more or less like you. Shy, timid, whatever you want to call it. I was an embarrassment, not just to my mother but to my race.” Gryphons were renowned for their indeterminable spirit and conviction. To be shy was to be a disgrace. Iron Will had spoken to you of this once before, but you had played it off as an exaggeration. It seems you were wrong.
”We gryphons are left in the care of our mothers until we’re old enough to be sent off to the academy. This happens at the earliest of four years. I wasn’t ready at eight.” With each sentence another portion of the bottle empties as she drinks to drown her memories. ”My mother had… you saw how she was, and between raising me and tending to herself we barely had the money for the morning bread. It was my fault… If I hadn’t been so- so weak, I could’ve been left and she’d only have to worry for herself.”
“Let me finish!” she snaps at you sealing your lips, her own eyes red, “Iron Will… He was so young then… He’d heard we could use the help. The bastard didn’t even want the money when it was over… He shamed us, but I know we wouldn’t have made it if it wasn’t for him. So I left. I left and didn’t look back. My mother was so proud…” You move across the gap and sit beside her, “I never went to the academy. I left for Equestria, joined the Junior Flight School and drank my days away. Little Gil was gone, replaced by this…” she motions to herself, “A cold hearted bitch. I never did any of those things I said… I just wanted to sound like the hardened gryphon my mother always wanted. I- *sniff* I miss her…”
It was too much for Gilda to take and, for the second time, you saw her cry. She buries her head in her talons, letting the bottle roll away and sobs like a child. You don’t know what to do, so you rub the back of her head to console her. “It’s ok. It’s ok.”
She clings to your chest and holds to you, “I miss her so much Anon…”
“I know. Trust me, I know…”
You allow her to release all this pent up emotion onto your shoulder while you do your best to comfort the gryphon. Out of all the things that’ve happened to you thus far, this is by far the most surprising. To think that the gryphon whose job it was to make your life a living hell, would wind up crying your arms… You can’t help but know her pain. “My mother… she left me when I was a kid. My dad took this harder than most. He never hit me, he never swore at me, but the way he looked at me… It may as well have. I despised living with him, but he was the only one who was there for me.”
You stroke the feathers along her neck as her breathing slows. “He tried, he did, but the more he tried the more I resisted. He drank, and it was my fault. He shot up, and it was my fault. I caused his pain and he still loved me. There was a knock on the door one day and he told me to go to my room… I listened in bed as my father tried to stop those men from taking me away. They said they were taking me to a better place, and the last time I saw my father was that day, held back as he cried for them to give him a second chance. They shut the door and that was the last time I saw him ever again.”
You swallow hard and close your eyes, wiping the memory from your conscious mind. ”That’s what you wanted, right?”
“He was the only person in my life who wanted me and I didn’t. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone… He told me that once.”
She sniffs into your arm, “I’m sorry Anon. I didn’t-“
“Know? No one does. It’s not something I like to talk about.” It tore your heart up once, and you never had the heart to stand up for yourself since
”D-do you miss him?”
You force a smile and tighten your hold on her, “Every day.” And everyday you look in the mirror and see a little more of him in you. Every day you remember what he had lost because of the actions he took to keep it. Now you’re starting to worry how much you might lose the same way. “I love my old man and I would give anything to have him back, but I’m not him and you’re not your mom.”
”I know…” You won’t make the same mistakes he did. You just can’t. ”I guess we’re more alike than we thought, huh?”
“Yeah,” you chuckle and lay your head upon her neck, “I guess we are.”
Together there you just sort of rest, neither of you wanting to go anywhere. Gilda’s a good friend you think to yourself. She’ll be right there with you through thick or thin. Maybe in a different life you’d try and take your friendship a step further, but she has Iron Will and you would never do anything to tear those two apart. You note the sluggish descent of the sun and the note that still sits in your pocket. Looking down you find Gilda snoozing quite soundly on your lap and you’re forced to slip out from under her.
A quick inspection shows that you might need to change your shirt, again. This’ll be the second time since you got here. Tossing the mucus and tear drenched button down you replace it with a clean and proper button down. T-shirts, who has time for those anymore? Still it’d be in bad taste to leave her here without a note or something. You jot down a quick note saying you’ll be back in a few hours and that you had an errand to run. Before you go you do a little cleaning up, tossing out used bottles and that sort of thing.
Lifting up Gilda’s head you slide a pillow just underneath, draping a blanket overtop like you would a child who’d fallen asleep on the couch. “Don’t break anything while I’m gone,” you whisper jokingly and wipe the feather out from her eye. You grab your cloak and set off to the address on the card.
21 jump street? Hmm… You’ve never been to this part of the city before and it’s abundantly clear why. Besides the pungent scent of piss and vomit, this section has obviously seen months if not years of neglect. The buildings here are on the verge of collapse with entire sections chipping off. Alleyways in other areas were adequately lit as per the Nightly Terms oversaw by Luna who had kept her eyes peeled for signs of vagrancy. Unfortunately it seems that the residents here didn’t quite read up on that and now you don’t want to know what dwells in there. Likely viscous dogs or prostitutes. Dare you say prostitutes for viscous dogs?
Thankfully when the ponies spot a hulking creature in the middle of the night they know better than to try something funny. Unfortunately that doesn’t work for everyone as a pony clears his throat and nudges you as you get your bearing. ”Hey uh… you look like someone who needs some… stuff.”
“No thanks,” you respond as deep as you can in hopes of deterring the delinquent.
”I know somepony with the shakes when I see one. What’s the catch? Red Salt? Evergreens? Daisy Chops?”
“Star Spice.” This looks to be the place. It looks better than the others at least.
”Whoa I don’t deal in that stuff man, are you crazy?”
“Then stop wasting my time, before I use up some of yours.”
He scampers off down an alleyway and disappears in blackness, “Looking for a good time? Ruff!” How’d you know?
You knock on the door, the slot jutting open almost immediately, a pair of yellow eyes staring back through at you, “Name.” This isn’t suspicious at all.
“Anon. I was told to meet someone here.”
The pony behind the door doesn’t look convinced. “Meet who?” he snarls.
“It didn’t say. All I got was an address.”
He grows suspicious at the claim, “So you came to this section of the city at night without knowing who asked for you?” It’s a bit more complicated than that, but it’s the overall gist you guess.
“If he was able to get in my room then he’s going to meet me one way or the other. Now are you going to open the door or am I wasting my time?”
”He said you’d be a smart ass,” the door opens revealing the shady interior which, to its credit, is done injustice by the exterior. Stepping through you find it plain enough, no decoration or windows, just an empty void filled by, gryphons? The door shuts behind you, the doorman bolting it shut and crossing his arms menacingly. You’re less worried about him and more so about the dozen others who’re standing by, each hooded and cloaked in black. ”He also said you’d be here hours earlier.”
“Time makes fools of us all,” you fire back and eye the thug, “Wonder what it had against you?”
This does well to fluster the poor gryphon, “Oh you’re so-“
”Hilarious,” one of the gryphon sounds from the back before coming your way, “Just as I thought you’d be Anon,” he removes his hood.
“Rinn? What are you doing here?”
”That’s all the welcome I get?” he shrugs it off, “Well I guess we didn’t leave on the best of terms.” Don’t be a dick Anon. It’s Rinn after all. You promptly shake his talon, your mind pumping a mile a minute.
“It’s nice to see you again, but… What’re you doing here? Shouldn’t you be in Aviaris?”
”As Senate Overseer I was overdue for some time off,” he explains and leads you away from the rest of his cohort, “I do apologize for the scenery. If there were any other way…”
“I completely understand. If our nations weren’t at each other’s throats we could be having a nice chat up at the castle.”
”Maybe one day, but for now we must face the present and all it entails.” He takes you to another room where the two of you can talk in private. There are a million questions you want to ask him and he can almost sense your anxiety. ”Once again you have my apology for the secrecy of this meeting. Any other way would’ve attracted too much attention.”
“You said in your note that this was a matter of grave importance. I think it’d be best if we get down to brass tacks. What’s the situation?”
”All in time Anon. Let us take a moment to catch our breathes, a drink perhaps?” He’s already getting out the bottle when you politely decline, earning his intrigue. ”No? You understand what rejecting a drink entails, correct?”
“You wouldn’t be the first I said no to today.”
”Ah that Gilda girl you’ve become acquainted with. I still find it odd why a proud gryphon such as herself would wind up in the midst of your company, no offense of course.”
Rinn pulls a chair away from one of the walls, the only furniture in the room for that matter, and takes a seat. ”I’ve come to understand you recently took a trip to Ponyville. Quite a rural community if I recall.”
“They certainly can be seen that way.”
”I also take it that’s where you got that patchwork done,” he motions to your cast. You downplay the ordeal and say that you just had a stumble in the forest. ”The Everfree Forest. The one who’s reputation reaches beyond the borders of your own country? I find it hard to believe you’d venture into that place.”
“I never claimed to be born with a box of wits.”
He adjusts himself and crosses his legs, claw scratching the underside of his beak. ”Just visiting I suppose. I didn’t feel you to be the small town type, or was I correct?”
“Whoa now,” you chuckle to lighten the mood, “This is sounding more like an interrogation here.”
But when he smiles you don’t see the innocence you’d expect, only contained malice. ”So that was a yes. Tell me,” he raises his tone like a prying parent, “what business did you have in Ponyville?”
“In Ponyville? None at all,” you answer honestly, “Is everything alright?”
He ignores your question, “Perhaps I should clarify. What was your business in the Everfree Forest?”
Okay he’s definitely starting to creep you out in ways no man or beast should. “I don’t think I like the way you’re asking me these questions?”
”How many journals did you scour through before you found that insufferable little band of miscreants?” Your body searches for an exit while your mind focuses on the trickster before you.
“Why did you bring me here? Where’s the real Rinn? I won’t fall for your tricks!”
He openly laughs at your accusation, even wiping a tear from his eye, “You fear me a Changeling while you should be fearing me a true gryphon. Was it Clear’s journal? That pony always did have a way of getting the real scoop.” Have to get out of here. This is wrong, too wrong. You’ve never seen Rinn like this and you never want to again.
“I’d very much like to go now,” you nigh plead to the relaxed gryphon.
”You once told me you’d do anything to help my people. I had trusted that once and you shot us down. Can I trust you this time?”
“What do you want from me?” fear permeating your voice.
”By now you understand the state of my people. They die in the streets because their needs are being casts aside while their ruler sits in his own filth like an aging pet. You know this don’t you?”
“I know this isn’t like you Rinn. Just tell your guards to stand down and-“
”Do not play me for a fool Anon! I have informants placed throughout Equestria and beyond. I know why it was you took an unexpected visit to Ponyville, and I know you didn’t go into that god forsaken forest for a sight-seeing tour.” He pauses and composes himself after his small rant, “I only ask for your help Anon. Nothing more.”
This is crazy. Celestia was right. Iron Will was right. They all were. “What do you want?”
His smile could cause a dragon to recoil in fear. ”My ‘King’ if he could still be called that, has reached his end. Were he any other ruler he would’ve been cast aside long ago when his bones began to creak, but no, they loved him and the entire condition was kept hushed. I want a better Aviaris. I want a better Gryphonnia.”
“You want power.”
”You told me in great detail back in my office of the grand banners that had swayed in the breeze. The music that caused rulers from foreign powers to turn an ear. The conviction and might of the great gryphons. This I can provide, but one stands in my way.”
“No. Reuben would never stand for this. He’s next in line for the throne. You will get nothing.”
”Oh but I think not. *acheem*” he stomps his paw twice against the wooden flooring, the door opening behind you.
The gryphon’s scorn is only matched by his traitorous smile, “Sir Rivot is more than happy to take his father’s place. Vice General Rivot. Doesn’t that sound grand?”
”I believe it does sir.”
“You two will never get away with this. I won’t allow it.”
Rinn nods, “You have me there. Of all the obstacles in my way you were one I had not expected to cross, but where there’s a will there’s a way.” He finally stands up from his chair, “You can join us if you wish, and when you do I promise, that throne in Canterlot is yours. Just give me the vial.”
Join him… A vial for a throne. The recognition you’ve always wanted in your grasp. All you have to do is hand it over… Your hand moves to your pocket, fingers tickling the opening before you stare back at him. “No.”
Sir Rivot licks his chops like an animal, “I was hoping you’d say that. Boys!” Two more gryphons charge through and take hold your arms before pinning you against the wall.
Rinn shakes his head in disappointment, “I was hoping you’d be wiser than this. The odds were never in your favor. They tipped the second you appeared in this infernal land. Empty his pockets.” Rivot’s talons dive into your pants nearly tearing them apart.
“Try not to get excited,” you sneer at him, the gryphon’s eyes burning with rage.
”Well?” Rinn asks impatiently as you’re continued to be searched. Before long his talons ding against the glass and you know it’s been found. So much for protection.
He pulls the vial out from your emptied pockets and holds it to the light, “I think we got it sir.”
Rinn anxiously steals it out of his grasp, “Yes. Yes this will do just fine.” Everything you’d hoped to achieve, now in the grasp of one who’d see you fail. To think you had admired him once.
“You have what you wanted. Let me go!”
But Rinn isn’t listening as he clasps the vial, “It is a strange fate that I should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing.” *crack* The liquid seeps through his talons, the amber mixing with the red of his blood, juts of glass slicing his hand. ”Gone. Gone at last…” he mutters unfazed by his injury.
”Sir,” Rivot asks his master, “You promised I’d get my shot at him.”
”What? Oh yes, go ahead. You’ve earned it.”
Sir Rivot cracks his talons and fixates his gaze upon you, “We got off to a bad start Anon. Let me introduce my two friends, Pain and Agony.”
“That’s just a synonym,” you retort before he hooks you with his left.
”Now now, Pain, don’t be rude. Agony wanted to go first.” Your head proceeds to get pounded by his right, the dominant one. You clench your teeth as he delivers a series of blows to your gut, unable to fight back with your arms bound. He dances around and cracks his neck, “Oh this is just the beginning. You’re all mine now.” When he comes back in you whip your foot up and nail him straight in the snout, even managing to draw blood, “Son of a whore!”
He holds you by your throat and knees you in the groin, “You’re going to pay for that.” Gripping your cast he keeps his eyes locked on yours, “Let’s see what’s inside shall we?” With a single tear he rips the brace off your arm revealing the bubbled skin underneath. Were it not for his grip on your throat as well you’d be screaming for the pain to stop. It’s like every nerve in your arm was ignited and doused in salt, Rivot enjoying every second of your torture. ”That’s gotta hurt. I wonder what would happen if I cut just enough-“
You feel nothing but the sting of his talon against your damaged flesh and he laughs in your very face. ”Feel that pain. Now take that and live with it every day since we met. You ruined me!” His fists find your body again, and again, and again. Your lips grow bloody and your vision hazy, but your mind is very much awake. ”I want you to suffer! Do you hear me?!” His fist finds your stomach, the force driving today’s breakfast from your guts and onto the floor.
Rinn, who had been silently watching the event finally chimes in with a question, “What is this box?”
You don’t have the strength to move your head up so Rivot does it for you, “He asked you a question!” The silver container beckons you even now, your body itching uncontrollably at the thought, your already screaming nerves picking up in tune.
“N-noth…” your lips fail you even now, but Rinn doesn’t seem to mind and opens the box regardless.
”Well well well. Lookie here. It seems our friend here picked up quite the habit now didn’t he?”
Despite the lack of feeling in your legs you can very much feel Rivot’s gaze, “Answer him you puny-“
”Let him go.” You’ve never been so relieved to hear Rinn’s voice than right there as you reach the end of your torture.
”But I’m not done with him-“
”Leave us. Now!”
You collapse to your stomach after they release you, Rinn kneeling beside you. ”Anon… It didn’t have to be this way.”
He grins at your spirit, “Defiant until the end. You should be lucky that I’ve grown fond of you. Anyone else and they’d be hoisting their body out of the lake.” Even his mercy causes your skin to crawl. ”This dose should give you the strength to get back home, but let me make something clear to you. You will discuss this with no one. This meeting never happened. You merely found yourself out at dark and some thugs got the better of you.”
“N-nnnever *cough* get, aw-ay.”
He jams the needle in your arm and pushes down filling your body with nostalgic thrill. ”Should you speak to anyone of our encounter, and I will know, it won’t just be you I’ll go after. Gilda, Iron Will, Celestia, even that nice little librarian you’ve grown fond of, each will not be beyond my reach. Understood?” He brings you to your feet, the shot putting some strength back into you, “Understand?” You nod in defeat, Rinn raises your chin with a claw, “Clean yourself up. You’re bleeding.”
You limp out of the house and into the cold of the night, their heckling echoing behind you. ”Always a pleasure doing business with you!” Rinn mocks as your limp becomes a feeble sprint to safety. You nearly collapse at the gates to the castle, guards trying to help you up but you manage yourself. They fervently ask what happened, you mumbling something about some thugs as you continue back home.
Gilda’s gone by the time you get home, a final goodbye left on the door. Your body finally gives in when you reach your bed, the soft sheets wrapping themselves about your abused body like a shield. Shivering and alone you tighten the blanket around you. ’Anon, I’m glad we talked. Sorry about the mess. I’ll see you tomorrow okay? We can go bowling or something if you aren’t busy. Your friend, Gilda.’
“Please Mr. Ambassador, I can assure you that we are only thinking about what’s best for both our countries.”
”Whenever we meet it’s always the same. You say you look out for our interests, but it has become abundantly clear that you only care for yourself.” The talks with the buffalo ambassador aren’t exactly going as planned and you’re on the edge trying to keep him calm. ”I ask for rights to the Breezelands and you decline. I request you limit your construction near our borders and you decline. Each time you claim it not to be in our best interest. What is our interest then , Anon?”
You wipe the sweat from your forehead, a brief sting as a consequence for using the wrong hand. “We live in troubled times sir. Were it not for our relations with the gryphons-“
”The gryphons have been more than hospitable as of late. We spoke of our need, and they relished the opportunity to aid us. My people begin to doubt the charity and harmony your country so relishes to advertise.”
Rinn… Ever since that day things have been going down the shitter. In every conference you step into it seems Rinn has already been there, spinning lies and turning them against you. You know that the only way to appease the ambassador is to give him what he wants, but with Rinn in charge you need those resources now more than ever. There’s no knowing what that traitor is up to. In fact you do know, but it’s nothing you wish to dwell upon.
”If all you’re going to do is lead me and my people around like a dog then we shall have none of it. We’re done here.”
“I’m sorry we couldn’t come to an understanding.”
”Me as well sir.”
“Well that worked out as well as a fucking train wreck.”
Gilda and Iron Will turn as you enter the room, “What happened?”
“I’ll tell you what happened! I fell on my face and flopped around like a dead fish.” You’ve never been this bad before. Things were go so fucking well until that asshole stabbed you in the back.
Iron Will gets up and places a reassuring hand on your shoulder, “Do you want to talk about it?”
“No… No I’m just a little tense right now. Sorry for yelling.”
”If there’s anything we can do…” You’re taken back months ago when you previously said those words in Aviaris, the very same that torment you now. How could you have been so foolish? Everyone else saw the truth while you bought into the lie. You had to go to that meeting… He knew you too well…
”Anon?” Gilda peeps up with obvious concern, “You sure you’re alright?”
”No he isn’t. It’s those muggers isn’t it? I can see it in your eyes.” He grabs your arm and inspects your hand, “Iron Will’ll make’em pay.”
”At least you’ve got the Gala tonight, right?” Gilda asks, “That’ll wring out some tension for sure.” To be honest you’re not entirely looking forward to it. You’ve never been a party guy yourself, and with recent events being around others isn’t your idea of a good time right now.
Iron Will excuses himself and you head up to the balcony outside. From here you can see the Gala’s already being set up, tables are being drawn out and there’s a stage nearing completion just outside next to the hedges. Hopefully it’ll be as remarkable as it sounded when you first arrived. There’ll be fireworks and dancing, the finest cuisine as tasted by you yourself and the Wonderbolts. It’ll bring in nobles of all sorts together in a single splendorous event. And you won’t have a person as your number two. You hear Gilda join you in your silent gazing.
“So I take it you two already have plans.”
”Get shitfaced and sleep it off the next week.”
“So the usual?”
”Yeah,” she laughs, “I guess you’ve got us all figured out huh?”
“There’s only so many activities that involve being drunk and sleeping.”
She playfully hits you causing you to hold onto your arm painfully, “Shit I’m sorry. I forgot, honest.”
“It’s ok…” It’s not even that she hit you hard, but the memory that it brings back up. Pain and Agony, the two friends that you never want to meet again. She grips the railing and looks down, obviously still guilty about hitting you. “It’s just a reflex, I don’t blame you.”
”I should’ve known better.”
“I shouldn’t have gone out at night, but what’s done is done.”
“It’s all good broette.”
”The Gala looks like it’ll be a bore- I mean blast.”
“You were right the first time.”
She waves at Iron Will down below when he comes bumbling out of the castle, “What a klutz.” Rubbing your hands on the railing you gaze off into the distance, not anywhere in particular just, off. How long is this going to last? How much longer can you keep up with this ride? Everyday feels longer than the last as you trouble to play catch-up. Going cold turkey… It’s not easy and you’re beginning to wonder if you’ll ever get over it.
A line of smoke and lightning comes flying off in the distance, the VIPs already starting to arrive. “Looks like the Wonderbolts are here.”
”Wonderbolts, more like Blunderdolts.”
“How long’ve you been saving that one?”
”A good year.”
She lets that one slide by as the fliers make their touchdown, “Aren’t you going to head down there?”
“Not yet. I’ll wait until I can sneak in, if I go at all…”
”If you go? What talk is that? You’ll have a good time, you need it.” You just don’t see the point anymore. It’ll be all those uptight suits and fancy talk. Every once in a while you just want to talk without having to bring up the recent economic recession in the east. Guess this is how Celestia feels too… ”Iron Will worries you, you know. We both do.”
“Ha,” you laugh, “You don’t have anything to worry about.”
Gilda looks at you straight-faced, “How many times have you left this place for anything besides business?” Twelve times. Someone needs to buy groceries after all. ”How many times did you go out to hang out with us?”
“…Far less than I should’ve.”
”Exactly, too little. I know that you’ve been down since that night, but you have to move on.” It’s not that simple, but it’s not like you can tell her that. You failed Gilda, Celestia, your country and yourself. You don’t just move on. ”Promise me you’ll go to the party tonight.”
“Surrounded by booze and all the things I-“
”Promise me… Please.” Oh shit she dropped the P word. If she stoops this low, how can you say no?
“Alright, I’ll drop by, promise.”
She smiles and gives you a brief hug, “If you don’t I’ll have to kill you.” That crazy bitch’ll do it too. Ahh, Gild certainly has a way with words. ”Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to make sure Iron Will doesn’t start the party without me.” With a flare of her wings and spring of her paws she soars out after her boyfriend. Those two really are something.
Maybe she’ll go with you, if you ask? You’ll never know unless you ask right? What if she says no? Judging by the trend of things that’s becoming more and more of a certainty. Tearing yourself away from the view you suit yourself up, the typical look it seems to be. The cloth brushes against your still-recovering arm and sends small shivers up your arm. It’s mostly healed up, but a few splotches are still open and that red tint might never fade from your skin.
Gilda always says chicks dig scars. Maybe you’ll have to move to Gryphonnia then, tyrant and all. Petal wouldn’t care about it though. She never did care much for looks. That’s probably why she put up with you for so long the dumb- No, she put up with you because she liked you. You were just too much of a coward to say anything back, and when Chain Mail came along he gave her the attention she needed. Deep down you hope they’ll be happy in the end, even though you still wish Chain Mail would fall off a rollercoaster and break every bone in his body. Unfortunately you don’t know of any theme parks to send him to.
You finish with your tie and look at yourself in the mirror. The perfect gentleman, bags under the eyes, skin dry with signs of wear, still puffy around the jaw. You really are the spitting image of the old man, right down to the core. At least he won’t leave you…
”I tell you Anon, were it not for those meddlesome earth ponies looking for handouts our fine country would never see such times.” The sea of suits and dresses fills the dining hall to the brim nearly suffocating you. ”Put a few good stallions with the knowhow behind that division and they’d be right on track I tell you.” You pretend to listen to their idle gossip, nodding and smiling like a dummy as you search for your opportunity to escape. ”Tell us Anon,” one the noble unicorns sounds in his gold-lined tongue, “What is Celestia’s solution to this issue?”
“She plans to fix the issue with the same conviction she’s held for countless years she’s ruled. You have to hit it at the source to fix the problem, Celestia knows that better than anyone.” All this fancy talk has gotten you quite skilled in saying absolutely nothing to answer a question.
One the mares chimes in as well, “And what about yourself? What would be your solution?” Question after question they’ve bombarded you and no matter what you do they never seem to stop.
“I’d just lob off the head and be done with it.”
A few ponies hush when they overhear this violent proposal, “You can’t honestly think that would be best way.”
“You asked, I answered,” you wipe your brow and grab some water from a traveling server.
”The council that regulates this activity has been employed since before many of us could speak. To ‘lob off’ the head would bring the whole system down.” Ugh… It’s like arguing with a fucking four year old.
“The entire reason they’re in this crisis is because of that ‘council.’ Half of them have been taking bribes on the side since they stepped into power.”
”Baseless criticism,” one noble tries to state, “You have no evidence-“
“Their financials have been monitored for the last ten years. The only reason their mayor hasn’t taken action is because he’s too much of a coward to make his move.” You mange to rile up some the nobles with this, likely because their hail from that region. Even so, they don’t look it. Those prim and proper douchebags never pulled a plough or planted the grain they claim to produce. Not a speck of dust settles on their spa-temped coats.
”Do you have any clue what this rumor could do to their reputations?”
You look at the noble with barely contained disgust. “Why should I care? They made their bid with the devil. Let it come back to bite in the flank. Excuse me.”
You don’t let him get in a second word before you wedge through the crowd in search of some air untainted by their penny-pocketing cologne. When you finally get out of there and hit the outside you feel your head clear. The chit chat of the nobles still hangs on the breeze, but with every step, you take it further away.
The Winter Blues are starting to bloom, the sky blue petals a welcome sight to your eyes. Canterlot was always home to some of the most beautiful fauna you’ve ever seen and it keeps its reputation handily. ”Out for a stroll as well?” you hear someone ask.
Time stands still as you freeze up becoming little more than a statue of flesh and bone. Your eyes search the garden frantically passing over the statues and hedges until you come to the shimmering fountain, a purple unicorn smiling at you.
“Oh Twilight, you scared me,” you break out of your trance and hold your chest.
”You gave me quite the scare as well you know. Not many ponies come out this way during the Gala.” You don’t doubt it. They wouldn’t want to get their mane’s dirty. You walk over to Twilight who’s looking quite nice with the dress.
“You look great.”
”Thanks,” she blushes before complimenting you as well, “I’d love to keep you, but you probably want to get back to the party.”
“You’re right about a lot of things, but that isn’t one,” you sit down next to her.
”I thought you’d find it comfortable being amongst the nobles and intellectuals.” If the Gala were a month ago she’d be right, but a lot has changed since then.
“I could say the same for you, but in the end where are we?”
Twilight nods in agreement, “I like coming out this way whenever I’m alone. There’s something about just that soft trickle of the water that seems to calm my nerves.” Back when you were a janitor you’d venture out here when you had the free time, of course that was about an hour a week. ”How about you?”
“I can’t stand the Gala’s company. There’s something about discussing market projections and regulations that kills the mood.”
”I know how that feels,” she laughs, bringing a smile to your face. ”Can I ask you something Anon?”
Twilight looks into the pool of water, “Do you ever feel… inadequate?” That’s in one direction you certainly weren’t hoping she’d go.
“Well, for men that’s quite a persistent thought. We need to feel-“
”Not like that,” she clarifies with a light snicker. Oh… You blush at the rather obvious misunderstanding. “I mean, do you ever feel like you’re not good enough?” There’s something bothering her and eating her up inside.
“What’s wrong, Twilight?”
”It’s just-“ this time it’s her turn to blush, “I sometimes feel- Do you remember when we first met?”
“That’s not a time I want to remember. I was a massive dick to everyone that trip.”
”Not that time. When we very first met, back here in Canterlot.”
“You mean the time when you asked me where the Ancient History section was and I nearly passed out?”
She laughs at the memory, “I’d almost forgotten about that, but no. During my meeting with the gryphon ambassadors.” The blood drains from your face at the mention of them.
“I definitely don’t want to remember that.”
”Well I do,” she admits, “Every day since that meeting.” Why would she even care about that?
“I’m not sure I understand.”
”For as long as I can remember I’ve been by Celestia’s side. We went through so much together, she’s almost related it feels like, and I’ve always been her favorite student.” Still not putting the pieces together here… ”When we had that meeting I thought I was prepared for everything, but I was so very wrong. We would’ve lost if you hadn’t showed up, and the way Celestia looked at you…”
“You- You were jealous of me?”
”And why shouldn’t I have?” she continues to redden in frustration, “Celestia was everything to me and it was as if you stole her away.” All this time you were jealous of her… and it seems she felt the same way towards you. ”She didn’t need my help anymore. She had you now. Do you know how it feels for the person who’s been there for you to be stripped away?”
“More than you know.”
She stares at her reflection in much the same way you do in the mirror, “I’ve been beating myself over it since we meet. All these doubts came flooding in that I haven’t felt since before I moved to Ponyville.” She was smart, talented, renowned, happy, confident and all the other things you ever wanted. To think she’d felt like this all along. ”Am I not good enough for her anymore Anon? Is there something wrong with me?”
“No, there’s nothing wrong with you.”
”Why then? Why does she covet you so much while she leaves me in Ponyville?” There are dozens if not hundreds of books to explain this, but for the life of you none come to mind.
“Twilight, what if I told you that everything you just said, everything you’ve felt, is what I’ve felt towards you?”
This garners her attention as she looks to you, “I’d say you were lying.” An easy assumption to make. You’d grown accustomed to piling on lies to sate another’s palette, but not this time.
“You may not remember this but I remember the first time I saw you walking with Celestia well over a year ago. The two of you were laughing, I couldn’t tell what, but I remember the tinge of loathing I’d felt.”
”You hated me?”
“And why shouldn’t I have?” you quote her with a smile, “You had everything I ever wanted, everything that was stolen from me.”
”I still couldn’t believe you,” she replies looking away.
“In all my life I never imagined I’d get where I am today, to have what you did, but that anger I kept bottled up inside me… It’s not good for you, trust me.” Twilight bows her head ashamedly at her feelings, and it’s clear that even know she’s beating herself up. “Hey, look at me,” you raise her head, “There’s no one, no pony, no gryphon, no being to my knowledge that’s more talented or smart than you will ever be. No one’s more deserving of Celestia’s grace than you, not even me.”
You wipe the tear from her eye and stroke her mane, “No. You deserve this. You worked for it.” How you wish that was the case…
“I’m not the man you should be jealous of. I’m no better than anyone else.”
She pulls your hand away, “Don’t say that about yourself. You’re a good man.” If only she knew… If only anyone knew… Perhaps she should be the first. You grab the cuff of your sleeve and begin rolling it up your arm, “Anon?”
“Would a good man do this to himself?” Reaching your elbow you pull it up that last inch, the reddened puncture marks showcased in full view.
She covers her mouth at the sight, “Anon… I- Why would you do this?”
“I binge drank Twilight. I shot up Star Spice to focus my mind. Are these the things a good man would do?”
Her horn shimmers as she forcibly rolls your sleeve back down, hiding the sight, “You have to stop this. Do you know the consequences if anyone found out?”
“They’d strip me of job and title. Mandatory week sentence in the dungeon if the judge used to be a Teletubby. I might as well be dead otherwise.”
”I- I can get you help. I know some of my friends-“
“I don’t need help,” you state plainly, “My last shot was a week and a half ago, and the only reason I did-“
‘Should you speak to anyone of our encounter, and I will know, it won’t just be you I’ll go after.’ His words twirl around your mine like a boa, suffocating any thought of defiance from your mind.
“You don’t want to know…”
”What’re you going to do? If you’re off of it- you are off of it right?” You nod and look up at the stars, “This isn’t good Anon.”
“Do you wonder if there are other worlds out there?” you ask unexpectedly, “How many others could be just like this one?”
”What does… I never really thought about it.” A passable response you’d say. Millions of stars all twinkling light-years away.
“I wonder if mine is out there somewhere. I wonder what they’re up to.” Probably nothing, the boring sods.
”How long do you think this is going to last before-”
She’s interrupted by the sound of hooves pattering along, a messenger pony catching his breath before he spots you, “Ah Anon!”
“Oh… Hey Clip Clop. What’s the rush?”
”I’ve got a message for you,” he rummages through his pack before picking the note out with his teeth. You take it out, as gross as it might be and thank him, “Just doing my job.” He’s off again like lightning. You’ll never get where he keeps all that energy. The note’s a light beige, finely produced by the quality paper and freshly scented save for Clip Clop’s lingering breath. You turn it over and find yourself confused by the two words written on it.
”What does it say?”
The two of you sit there in silence a fierce cheer from the party breaking it up. ”That’s rather ominous isn’t it?”
It’s one to describe it alright. The last time you got a note like this… “I think I should go.”
”Go, because of this letter?” She hovers it closer to her, “That seems a bit silly to me. It’s obviously a prank.” The last time you thought you had it figured out you ended up with two fractured ribs. ”Anon you’re shaking.” In fact you were, the very fiber of your being knew something was coming no matter how much denied the thought.
“I-I have to go. I’m going to catch a cold.”
You try and stand, legs giving out on you as you stand forcing you to the grass, “You have to calm down, it’s just a note.”
“Have to… go…” you cringe as you use your bad arm to push your chest up, Twilight trying to help. Plate mail, heavy, hooves plated as well, the soft crunch of winter grass beneath the armor, you can hear them yards away. Come on body don’t fail me. Please just hurry up. They get closer with every second you waste trying to stand while your limbs lay petrified.
”Get up Anon. Come on, let’s- Uh oh…” Don’t look up Anon. Humph… It doesn’t matter does it? You already know what lies before you.
“Evening Veil, Sunder. Working hard?”
”Quite sir.” No jokes this time. At least you tried.
Twilight swallows hard, “Anon and I were just having a walk when he took a tumble. I think he might need medical attention. We’ll just-“
”That is quite enough Twilight,” you hear Celestia’s overbearing tone ring out from behind the guards.
“Celestia,” you crack a nervous grin, “ I thought you’d be greeting the guests.”
”An urgent matter had come to my attention and I was forced to abandon that position.” And by urgent matter, she meant you. ”I have been informed that one of my subjects has… taken certain substances.”
“Advil’s over the counter these days isn’t it.”
Celestia is in no mood for your jokes and her patience is clearly tested, “I told them that they must be mistaken. This subject would never do such at thing.”
“I’m sure whoever she is, is sorry.”
”He, Anon. He, should be sorry.” You push yourself up to standing, your legs still shaking violently, “I thought I would go talk to him first because I need to see it in his eyes, not another’s.”
”This is not the time Twilight… Anon, look at me.”
You raise your eyes to hers, the regiment of guards at her side as ready as ever. She’s never looked this angry at anyone, not that you’ve ever seen. ”Please Anon, please tell me that they were wrong. Tell me that this is just cruel gossip spun to demean your character.” Move… move lips, please don’t do this now. A lump forms in your throat that halts your speech and no magic could free you from this hell. You watch as her eyes alter from anger to sadness, the soft glow of her irises pitying you, “Please…”
You step back, calves hitting the stone fountain’s base the guards beginning to spread out. ”Just tell me what I want to hear Anon and we can put this behind us.” By now this little scene has caught the attention of the Gala’s residents, hundreds of ponies gathering about as spectators. It’s the most interesting thing at the event you’d wager. “Anon, I trust you. Just say that you’re innocent and I’ll believe you.” Hundreds of eyes settle on you, the man from another world, the fugitive who’s about to take that last leap.
Twilight looks up to you with that same look, “Please.” You scan the crowd with a growing scowl, the guards each wanting to be the one to take you down. There’s no way out of this that will allow you to keep your honor. Either way you’re out, but one way ends in prison. No way in Tartarus are you going to prison… Twilight still looks up to you, the entire crowd hinging on your next move. When you look to her you see a bit of yourself, or do you see a bit of her in you? Either way, she still has her shot. There’s hope for her. Maybe if she could be… If she could become what you wanted perhaps… It would be a victory, a small one maybe, but a victory nonetheless.
You grin and rest a hand on her head. “Twilight, don’t be like me.”
”Anon just tell me!” Celestia yells in desperation.
“And quit drinking,” you joke referring to her hidden stash back home. You step back onto the fountain’s edge and look around, the garden completely surrounded by the royal guard.
”Please…” Celestia dribbles out, Twilight rushing over to her.
You spot Shining Armor make his way through the crowd. ”Don’t run Anon. We have the grounds covered. Don’t be foolish now.” You weren’t born with a box of wits now were you? This one’s for you old man. You twist around and sprint for the gap in the hedges, two guards quickly blocking the exit. ”It doesn’t have to be this way!” Yes it did.
Gathering speed you lead with your should and plow through the two guards sending them on their asses. ”Fliers! Sweep down!” A row of Pegasi lifts off into the air and train in on you like a set of missiles. With the average wing speed and flight training you won’t have a large window to escape now. Quickly dodging one of the guards who tries to tackle you, the others galloping on their way. Wait, the pegasi are too close. If you can knock one astray… Swiftly prying a helmet from one of the dazed guards you prepare it for flight. Your dad always wanted a football player… *clunk*
It clips on the pegasi’s wings and causes him to crash into his peers setting off a domino effect of battered guards. Jumping through the hedges the last thing you hear is a massive crash followed by a series of groans. ”What did I say? Ten Hooves apart at all times, after him!”
You’re doing it, oh god you’re actually running away from the royal guard. This is so wrong, but you won’t end the same way he did. You won’t let them take you away again… Sprinting away you hit the castle wall, the towering stone obstacle something you hadn’t planned on. It goes up dozens of feet and that’s just the interior wall, the exterior goes up for hundreds. There’s no way you can climb… There’s a gate dammit!
Wasting this time has allowed the others to catch up with you, the mass pouring out from the hedges like an army of iron-clad rabbits. So close, once you reach the city you can easily find your way out. You raise your arm and smash through a third guard, a piece of his armor piercing your already wounded arm. The chip breaks off in your arm but you don’t have time to rest, they’re right on you. ”Anon, stop!” So close it’s just right there. You can almost taste freedom it’s so close. *snap*
A green flash blinds your view followed by a brief snicker and when you clear your eyes you’re met by a wall of stone, your exit blocked. No! Dear god… It can’t be… You turn around, a hoof catching you on the jaw and sending you to the floor. ”Don’t hurt him,” you hear Twilight cry out, another hoof hitting you in the ribs.
Shining Armor ignores his little sister, “Get him up. It didn’t have to be this way.” He wouldn’t be the first one to say that to you. You find strength left in your arms and frantically try to pull the guards off of you. ”Easy Anon, don’t make us hurt you.”
“Get off of me! Let me go!”
The swarm of guards, though they are smaller than you, manage to clasp your arms behind your back, Shining Armor casting a binding spell on your wrists. ”Whatever got into you?” he asks himself as you still struggle to break free.
“No! I- GAH! I swear to all you hold dear if you don’t-“ Celestia looks on from afar, Twilight standing next to her, the teacher and the student. She’ll get there for you. She can make it… “AH!” you screech as one of the guards puts too much pressure on your arm.
”Easy now boys. He’s not going anywhere.”
“Celestia!” you shout out unable to break away, “I’m sorry! I never wanted this to happen!”
”Save it kid,” one of the guards sneers and pushes you along.
“I can change! Don’t let them do this!”
‘Please don’t take him away! I’ll do anything, please just give me another chance!’
”Can we shut this guy up?”
“It was my fault! Just give me a second chance!”
”Buck this,” a guard suffers enough of your yelling and clobbers the back of your head with his hoof.
Your eyes fall closed at the hit as you begin to lose consciousness. ‘It’ll be alright Anon. We’re going to take you to a better place now.’
You stand at the window, bars shutting you in from all sides. A bright flash of light erupts in the sky followed by another, soon dozens exploding into a vibrant unison of fireworks. The cold walls force a shiver down your spine as you pull out the chip in your arm, stowing it in your pocket, you never know when you might need a little protection in here. It was inevitable you’d wind up in here. You always knew that. You had nowhere to go perhaps if you’d gotten that note sooner…
The note… That paper, the scent, how did you not recognize it? The paper of Equestrian royalty. She tried to save you… But there’s no protection from Rinn. He knew just when to strike. ”So what are you in here for?” the stallion asks in his cot just behind you.
Maybe you’d have escaped were it not for a certain someone’s interference. After all, you’d recognize that chuckle anywhere. ‘The seeds of chaos have long lied dormant in that heart of yours. I can only hope to wonder how they grow.’ He had you read the moment he met you. That bastard just sped it up a few chapters. Well, he was right. You’re just like him, a selfish manipulating deceitful callous bastard, and this place’ll eat you alive if you’re anything but. Might as well live up to the reputation. ”So what’s your name?”
Hmmm… Booze… Beer farther than the eye can see, so thick you can almost float in that fizzy ocean. You wrap your lips around one of the many beer nipples and suckle the tit until a nice cold stream fills your mouth. You could live this way forever.
The blinds are thrust open before you eliminating your dreamy state and forcing you to shield your eyes. “Ugh! Turn off the lights.”
”Are you going to sit in here all day or do I need to get the bucket again?” Not the bucket! Anything but the bucket!
“I’m getting up damn, no need to be such a bitch.” Gilda doesn’t say anything and opens up another set of blinds. “GAH! I said I was getting up!”
”If you’re going to stay here then you’re going to have to- What the fuck.”
“W- *hic* What?”
She pushes her talon through the sea of beer bottles you’ve left lying around like clothes to a teenager. ”How the hell do you walk around with all this shit?” “ I kind of slide along the floor like a slug,” you yawn, “What’s for breakfast?”
”Depends on what you’re paying for.”
“Pfft… You know I don’t have any money.”
”That’s my point.”
It’s been… Uhh, you have to double check using your fingers. Two weeks? That’s two right? After your little ‘misunderstanding’ with the guard you wound up in prison for about a month. Pablo turned out really cool except for the whole soap thing. He found it fascinating to listen to soap hitting the shower floor. You never thought it was that nice, but to each their own. Needless to say you got the fuck out of there as soon as you could and when you got out you immediately wanted back in.
Your shit had all been impounded or sold off; the only money given back was what you had in your pockets when they detained you. Heh, you showed them how far you could stretch five bits. A whole half an hour. That’s a world record right? Of course it is, you’re Anon. Anyways, after that little fiasco you kind of didn’t have food for the end of the day so you had to mooch off your friends. Thank god Iron Will had a spare room or else you’d have to sleep on the street like some sort of hobo. The very thought is detestable.
Anyways, you’ve been living here for, what’d you say two weeks? You’ve got to admit, all this booze and nothing to do has to be the best gig you got set up with. Sure this is the only set of clothes you’ve got and you haven’t made a bit since you got out, but no obligations is just awesome.
You find your way to the kitchen table and try to sneak a sip from your canteen. ”Hey! What’s that?”
“Nothing… Just some orange juice…”
”Bullshit give me that,” she snatches it out of your hands and takes a sip, “Awfully strong stuff for some orange juice.”
“Well uh, you see the Orangopolis place out uh, north, is famous for its OJ so if you wouldn’t mind…”
She keeps the canteen out of reach as you paw after it, “And you expect me to believe that?”
Gilda reaches over the table and slaps you across the face, “Fucking hell Anon get a hold of yourself.” You give her the puppy dog eyes and hold your arms like you were hugging yourself, “No Anon. That shit doesn’t work on me.” Activate Puppy Eyes Level 2. “Anon…” she shakes her head, “Just get out. I don’t have time for this right now.”
“Can I have some spending money then?”
”So you can spend it on booze and whatever else you do in that dungeon of yours? No. Just get out.”
”OUT!” Jeez, she didn’t need to be such a bitch. No wonder her father left her.
Gilda pushes you out the door and slams it shut behind you, the clamp coming down for extra measure. “You’re not my mom!” you shout through the door before walking down the steps. The cunt didn’t even give you breakfast and- That bitch! You slam on the door screaming for your canteen, eventually resorting to kicking and slamming your head against it.
”You want your fucking canteen?” she shouts from the upper floor, dangling it like a cat toy.
“Gimme gimme!” you leap up trying to reach it.
The anger behind her is almost cute, “Want it? Then go fucking get it!” She sends it flying out into the street and you chase after the rolling fun container. Almost- almost… You do a dive, finger touching the edge while it keeps rolling straight into a storm drain…
“BITCH!” you scream and pick up a sizeable stone pelting it at the gryphon, “Do you think that’s fucking funny!”
”Get a job you bum!” she shouts back before slamming the window.
“FUCK!” you turn to some of the onlookers who’re quite shocked at the scene, “You want to lick my balls? What’re you looking at then?! Piss off!” No respect for others damn.
You lift the sewer grate and hold your nose to block the repugnant stench of whatever died down there. This brings you back to when you were just a little bitch, oh how shitty life was back then. You actually worked and stuff, HA. You were such a sucker. You slide down the ladder and squint into the tunnel of darkness, the scent of mildew one that you recognize.
All that cunt had to do was drop it down, but noo… Now you have to search the fucking sewers. Streams of light come shining down through some of the storm drains, each one almost blinding you if you get too close. Fucking sun and its fucking bullshit. OH wait! You reach down into the side of your shoe and pull out a small vial. You picked this off some fancy pants the last time Gilda kicked you out.
You pop the cap and pour it down the hatch, almost coughing on the stuff. This could burn the skin off your bones if you’d let it, but you’d rather just kill your liver instead. Your eyes slowly begin adjusting to the darkness and at the end of the tunnel you spot your canteen sitting there damp with leftover rainwater. You kneel down to the floor, eye on the prize and beckon it over. “Come on little one. I won’t hurt you, you beautiful circle of liquid glory.” If you were crazy you’d say it almost reacted to your praise, but that’d be- Whoa shit!
The canteen jiggles about before rolling out of the small puddle and to the middle of the tunnel. ”It’s dangerous to go alone take this.” What type of Zelda bullshit is this?
Before you can even respond it twirls around in place before rolling around the corner. What in the blueberry fuck just happened? Gathering your wits you stand back up and have to hold the wall to not fall down in sheer shock. Are- are you still dreaming? You decide to slap yourself to test it out. *slap* “Yep!” you grumble holding your cheek, “Very much awake.” Okay just take a few steps towards it; there we go, not too fast now.
You ease forward making sure not to accidently fall and break your- “You coming or what?”
“Shit,” your legs give way causing you to crash onto your stomach. This has to be a dream. A very vivid painful dream.
The canteen rolls over to you, plumping through the small puddles of water that rest on the floor until it reaches you, “Ehh, what’s up doc?” Maybe if you just rest here it’ll lose sentience and shut up, “I will drink your milkshake!” This thing isn’t going to shut up is it? Raising your head you eye the suspicious nature of your fugitive canteen.
”But the prize…” Mother-
You lunge at the quoting canteen and wrap your arms around it until it’s snug right up to your chest. “Gotcha you piece of- Whoa now…” An invisible force seems to be pulling at the container in your grasp and it only strengthens while you hold it.
”Never give up! Never surrender!” Oh you will have its… cap. Might not be a head but- Fuuuu- A swift tug sends you being dragged forwards, your knees bashing against every stone along the way.
“Whoa nelly! Hold…” you try and calm it down like a horse, but it only pulls harder.
”I ain’t no horse you stupid human!” Stupid ass inanimate objects trying to be real people. You manage to pull yourself up to a standing position with your heels digging into the ground.
“You have the right to remain silent. Everything you say and do may be used against you in a court of law.” The possessed demon flings around the corner crashing you into a wall while you hold on for dear life. The lights from above flash by as you’re led through the maze that is the city’s sewers. All you wanted was your damned canteen… Just as you’re about to give up when it appears to start losing speed. “Yeah that’s right, give up you little son of a-” *thunk*
You hit the ground hard, the back of your head slamming against the ground while the front recovers from whatever smacked you in the face. “Mommy I don’t like Equestria anymore…” you groan rubbing the indent on your forehead. Why can’t there be a day where you aren’t chasing after sentient objects in the bowels of the sewers? …There used to be a lot of those days weren’t there?
Struggling to sit up you wait for blood to return to your head, silently cursing the overhang that knocked you on your ass. When you find that damned… The canteen is just lying there illuminated in a small circle of light. Oh you are mine!
Ignoring the lack of blood up there in your cranium you stumble off and leap at it, rolling around the damp ground in victory. Finally! It’s yours! No bullshit magic could stop you. Now let’s get this cap off, here we go. You start to suckle, face slowly contorting to disgust. You spit out the sickly sweet abomination and try not to vomit as you purge the chocolate mix from your system. There’s a lot of stuff you put in your body, but chocolate milk isn’t one of them. How did you- ”Hehehe, not a fan I see.”
That draconequus son of a… He’s not going to fuck with you again. Throwing away the canteen you stand up and back up to the entrance, “Now now there’s no need to be like that. I was just having a little fun.” Your back hits the wall and- How the hell did the wall get there? Your fingers search for a corner as you silently pray you just missed the exit. Nothing… You’re trapped here, alone, with Discord. ”You shouldn’t bother wasting your time,” his voice seemingly coming from all sides, “but do go ahead. Oh how I enjoy watching you squirm.”
His words cut deep as you search the around the darkness for the mad god. Perhaps there’s a route left untouched… ”Why would I just leave a grate open in the middle of the room for someone to escape through? Whoops…” Before you can think you sprint to the center, indeed finding a grate that you didn’t initially see and struggle to pull it open. You set the lid aside and look do- “BOO!” Discord’s head juts out from the opening with a devilish grin.
He laughs as you fall back and crawl to the wall, “Oho that never gets old. An oldie but a goodie.” Wiping a tear from his eye he swoops his paw down and snatches your canteen, “Yum! Just the way I like it. 90% chocolate, 10% milk, and 100% delicious.” Dear god, if you’re up there, get me the fuck out of here. ”How many times has that gotten you out of trouble before now Anon?”
“I can try…” If you pretend he isn’t there- No that doesn’t work either. Why you?
”Because you’re just so fun to watch. Not so much when you act like this though, too predictable.” You stand up facing the wall and press your head against the wall, “I like them with some fight in them.” You swing around throwing your fist through the darkness, finding nothing but air. “Good! That’s what I like to see. Come on, just a little more.”
“You piece of shit… Why? Tell me why!”
”Didn’t I already tell you? You’re just so fun.” He laughs as you try to strike his voice and wind up looking like a flailing tard. ”I’m on your left. Nope, on the right this time. Oooh so close, keep it up. You’ll get me one of these days.” After another failure you lower your trembling fists, “Don’t give up so easily. Maybe you’ll actually beat the embodiment of chaos one of these days.” You step up to the open grate and stand in the light, the ceaseless blackness within likely the only escape you’ll take. Closing your eyes and jump down.
You come in too fast and nearly break your leg upon impact with the floor, but at least his voice is gone. Now you can get out of… When you open your eyes you find yourself in the same circular room, the same beam of light surrounding you. What the- “Fuck? You humans have such an interesting choice of words.”
“Why won’t you leave me alone? Haven’t I been through enough already?”
You look up, the draconequus standing there above you, his signature grin absent on his face, “No. No you haven’t.” With a snap he disappears in a flash of green as you struggle back to your feet.
“Face me you coward! Don’t hide behind your trickery!”
”Why should I? It’s just so fun this way,” he giggles like a school girl. The rage that’s been building up in you only swelters further as you listen to his poking and prodding laughter.
“You’ve fucked up my life since I met you, so at least have the balls to own up to it!”
This manages to shut him up for a time before he continues, “Go on…”
“Go on from what!? Every step of the way it’s been you! You played with my life like it was a pile of Play-Doh and I’m sick of it.”
”That’s… not entirely false.”
Not entirely… Not entirely! “I had everything until you stepped in and fucked it up!”
The walls tremble at his voice, “Were it not for me you’d still be mopping halls for the rest of your life you ungrateful foal!”
You whirl around, Discord standing just off by the wall, shoulders slouched but with a lingering anger in his eyes. ”You mortals are so blind that you cannot see the obvious unless pointed out for you.”
“What did you mean by that?”
He snaps his fingers again and the exit pops back into view, “Go on, leave. The exit’s right there.” You stand your ground only seemingly to infuriate him further, “Are you blind as well as deaf? Go.”
“No. Not until you tell me what you meant by that.”
”My powers may be limitless, but my patience is not. Do not attempt to test them.” Oh you’ll do more than test them, you’ll give them a run for his money.
“After all your bullshit I’m entitled to a little information and guess what? I ain’t leaving until I get it, you got that?”
He glances to the exit and snaps his fingers, “As you wish.”
Green mist fills your vision and lungs forcing a painful fit of coughs and wheezes. If he keeps this up he’s going to… He wouldn’t. “Okay- *cough* I get it. *cough cough* I’ll leave!”
”This was your choice, not mine. You’ll learn that soon enough.” You grab your chest as the mist continues to seep down your throat and burn your eyes. He can’t just… kill you… Everything goes black, “Welcome home.”
When you open your eyes you find yourself back in Canterlot, just outside the throne room where you wait to be called on. ”Ugh… My desk’s all dusty,” Discord complains behind the desk, a pair of secretary glasses hanging above his nose, “Oh hello Anon. Do you have an appointment?” The torches on the wall are extinguished and the room seems to have lost its glow, not the literal one mind you. It doesn’t seem right. “Anon I do believe I’m calling your name.”
You stand up, your clothes still the same wrinkled mess you’ve had for the past weeks. “Where- Where am I?”
”Well you should know where we are, but the question is when we are. Ahh!” he inspects his talon, “I think it just chipped…” You wipe your hand across desk and blow off the thin layer of dust coating it. Where did the receptionist go?
“Where’s um-“ you snap your fingers trying to remember her name.
”That only works for me you know.” You don’t even remember her name even after you had… consorted with her… You try to pick up her clipboard but Discord slaps your hand away, “Didn’t anyone tell you not to touch a lady’s things?” He pops a mirror into existence and adjusts his hair. Oh yeah, he’s trying to be in character after all.
Your eyes turn to the door, a tinge of fear running through you. “What’s in there?”
”Only what take with you.”
“Thanks Yoda,” you sneer sarcastically and push open the doors.
You find the inside much the same as the room you just left. No torches are lit nor do any guards take position near you, in fact there isn’t sign of anypony. The walk to the throne sends shivers down your spine as you look around for any monsters that might want to pop out. When you get there you find the small fountains of the throne to be still, the esteemed seat at the top long absent of its ruler. “Where is Celestia?”
Discord puts his head just over your shoulder, “Why don’t you ask her?’ He turns your chin to the side, Twilight sitting out by the stained glass windows, looking down at her hooves.
“Twilight?” you ask but she doesn’t respond.
”It’s no use. She can’t hear you.”
“She can’t- Then why’d you say ask her?” Discord shrugs and you stand beside her trying to figure out why she’s here. “What happened here Discord? Why is Twilight-” Discord puts a paw to your lips.
”All in due time.”
Twilight sniffs and wipes her eye, “Where did I go wrong? Why did it turn out like this?” She shakes her head, “I tried my best just like I was taught, but it didn’t work. He was always a step ahead of us.”
You know exactly who she’s talking about, the same one who’d led you around by the nose. “Rinn…”
”If only we knew what he’d been planning… No, we already knew. It wasn’t him. It wasn’t Celestia. It was me…”
“Don’t do this to yourself. It never winds up good in the end,” you try to plead her.
”Didn’t I say she couldn’t hear you?” you hear Discord chuckle at your ignorance.
“I don’t care. Twilight, it’s not your fault. Rinn’s been planning this for who knows how long. It’s not right to take the blame for his actions.”
”I haven’t been the same since the Gala, none of us were, but it’s what Anon said that got me.”
“Twilight you’re nothing like me. You’ve always been better.”
Discord lets out another laugh, “Is she Anon? Is she really?”
“Yes!” you fire back, “She’s better than me. Stronger. Smarter.”
”I choked up,” Twilight continues, “By the time I’d stopped it was too late…”
“Twilight, please don’t tell me…”
”Check for yourself,” Discord motions you forward.
”Check!” he demands this time.
”He gave me one piece of advice, ‘Don’t be like me.’” You sit in front of her, small puncture marks on her legs, “I guess I couldn’t even do that.” You block your eyes, but the sight’s already burned into your mind, “I’m so sorry Anon, but I couldn’t do as you asked…”
“Why are you showing me this?” you weakly ask to Discord who’s watching over the scene.
”Because, it’s what you need to see.”
“How long… How long until this happens?”
”Do you think you can make a difference? Well you can’t.” Yes you can. You could’ve- Where were you?
“Where am I right now? Show me.”
He clenches his teeth and inhales sharply, “That’s not a good idea. Let’s-“
He sighs, “As you wish…”
With another snap of his fingers you’re taken to the slums of Equestria which, well they look as shit as ever. You’d taken a stroll or two while you were drunk off your ass but you don’t see your ass anywhere in sight. All you see is an abandoned alleyway and the rest of this desolate city, not even a chirping bird to break the silence. “I said show me where I am. Not take me to some alley.”
Discord’s slumped over on the ground in some rags, a rusted old cup in his grip. So now he’s a hobo, delightful. ”I fulfilled your request, though you may not like what you find.” Your eyes look to the end of the alley, heart dropping.
“I’m a hobo. No home, no job, nothing… I lost complete contact with her and when she needed me…”
Discord pops in a glass of milk and chugs it down, “You’re being a tad optimistic.” What could be worse than that?
“I don’t see what else it could be? What did I drink myself into a stupor and wind up dead in an, abandoned… alley…”
”I told you it wasn’t a good idea.”
It turns out like this? As much as you hate to admit, you’re not that surprised. “Why couldn’t you just take me to my grave?”
”You think you were buried? Now I know you’re an optimist.” You know that the ponies around here had food issues but… That’s just wrong.
“I’ve seen enough. I’m ready to go home.”
Discord stands up with yet another laugh, “Not even close.” *snap*
It’s bright, not like the city you just left. This is Iron Will’s house, you can tell because of the small figurines he has scattered around like vases. You move the curtain aside and look out the window, the roads bustling with activity. Where were these ponies before? Why’s it busy all of a sudden? “Discord, where’d all these ponies come from? Discord?”
You hear some commotion from on the tables and look closer to one of the minotaur figurines. With a snap Discord’s face pops through, albeit a smaller version, but it’s still his face on a minotaur body. ”I probably should’ve thought this one through first,” he says dusting off his ceramic body before flexing in different poses, “But I can’t say I don’t like the look. Whoa mama!”
“Discord,” you interrupt his invisible photo shoot, “Where are we?” He looks at you knowingly forcing you to roll your eyes. “When are we?”
”Now,” he answers before snapping in an oversized glass of milk and takes a quick swim.
“Now? You mean like, the present?”
He comes up for air, “Yes, like the present. You have something you want to say?”
“It’s just- Why’d you start with taking me to the future and then go to the present? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”
It’s his turn to roll his eyes, “Anon, who am I?”
”That’s right, now shut up before I turn you into a popsicle.” At least he’s not directly plagiarizing Charles Dickens. You’re about to explore the rest of the house when you hear Discord clearing his throat, “Aren’t you forgetting someone?” He isn’t serious. He can’t be. “Oh but I am.” You pick him up by his ear and set him on your shoulder, “What’re you waiting for? Hurry up.”
“But I was just-“
”Don’t talk back. Go.” Man, Discord’s an ass even when he’s smaller than your head.
You head to the front door, turning your head at the soft sobs coming from upstairs. There’s only one person you know who cries like that. Turns out this’ll be the third time you hear it. ”Sounds like you made her pretty upset.”
“We didn’t leave on the best of terms this morning…”
You take your time walking upstairs, stopping just before Iron Will’s bedroom door, resting your head against the wall. ”Go on, she’s in there.”
It’s their bedroom. Even when you were drunk you knew better than to go in there. “It’s a matter of principle, and besides, she wouldn’t want me listening to this.”
”You understand that she can’t hear or see you right?”
“I know what you want me to see, but I can’t okay?”
”There’s two ways we can do this. The easy way,” he rubs his tiny fists together, “Or the hard way.” He almost looks cute if it wasn’t for the… you know… ugly. ”Your choice.”
He has the power to see his threat through so you decide to play along and open the door. On the bed sits Iron Will, Gilda crying in his arms while he pets to calm her down. You thought you’d pissed her off, not gotten her like this. It’s a bit disheartening. ”It’s alright Gil, he gets like that sometimes. When he gets back I’ll talk to him, promise.”
She looks back up to him as she clutches his chest, “How much longer are we going to let this go on? I know it hurt him, but it’s been weeks since he got out.”
”Anon’s our friend and we should be by his side while he’s at his lowest.”
”Every night Iron Will? How many more times is he going to come home drunk and high on whatever he gets his hands on?”
”He’ll come around. I believe in him, and I know he can make it through this.”
You can’t help but look down, “Sorry to disappoint…”
Gilda sits up beside him and holds his hand, “If this was his lowest then I would be there with him, but… I know it isn’t.”
”We have to give him time.”
Gilda’s expression turns to stone, “No. I can’t do this anymore. We can’t do this anymore.”
Iron Will sighs and places his other hand on hers, “Okay. What do you want to do?”
You’ve heard enough and walk back out, the closest friends you had left turning their backs on you. ”A little harsh if you ask me,” Discord comments.
“A part of me wants to hate them for this, but the other part knows they were right. I would’ve just taken them down with me.”
”Do you honestly believe that?”
“I wouldn’t have ended up in a dozen other pony’s bellies if I didn’t.”
”Fair enough,” he nods and snaps his fingers.
Aviaris, the last place you wanted to visit again. Discords stands next to you in his normal form nibbling on a stick of cotton candy.
“No funny form this time?”
”Impersonating the dead king would be in bad taste. Cotton candy?”
“I’m good thanks.” You walk outside to the courtyard and clench your fist when you spot Rinn out by the balcony. “You son of a bitch!” you charge the gryphon fully intent on splitting his skull open. True to your luck you pass right through him and end up falling to your death, Discord lifting you up at the last second.
”If they can’t hear or see you, what makes you think you can interact with them?”
“It was worth the chance.” Hoisting you back onto the balcony he leans nearby to make sure you don’t pull another stunt like that. But honestly, all you care about is this prick right here. “Long time no see asshole. Enjoying your new city you dickhole smelly pants? And yes Discord, I know he can’t hear me.”
Discord shuts his mouth and continues nibbling on his candy. How that bastard doesn’t have fifty seven different types of diabetes is beyond you. “Are you happy with this? Do you get off on knowing that you have everyone outmaneuvered? Huh? How about it?”
Rinn turns his head, “Update please.” Another gryphon comes and kneels before him, “Yes sir. Our agent has successfully riled up the buffalos. Disguising him as the ambassador was a mark of genius my lord.”
”Ah good. Send a messenger to the hive and let Chrysalis know that we appreciate her aid. Oh… send her one of the lonelier messengers. A gift.”
“You sick bastard…” That makes so much more sense as to how you’ve been failing to negotiate with the others. He’s literally been feeding them what to say to crumble your efforts.
”However, my main concern was regarding our friend in Canterlot. Is he… Ha, is he doing well?”
The gryphon searches through his bag, “Oh yes that human. Here we are, nothing unusual to report. Our last report says he had been thrown out of the castle for breaking into his previous quarters.”
”And what does it say of his behavior?”
”Hmm… Drunk and disorderly, sire.”
Hearing this brings a grin to his face, “Good. I think you can pull reconnaissance off our old friend. He’s no longer a threat.”
”As you wish my lord.”
Rinn stands triumphantly over his city as his lackey departs, “Ahh Anon. It was a good game you played, but I’m afraid you underestimated your opponent. If only you’d joined me… We could’ve ruled this world as partners… A shame.”
This bastard took everything from you, not Discord. “I’m sorry Discord. I blamed you for this, but I see who’s fault it really is.”
”Do you Anon? Did he hand you the bottle and force you to swallow it down or push the needle into your arm?”
“No… It was mine, and Rinn took advantage of that. I think I’m done.”
Discord nods and with a snap of fingers takes you away.
This isn’t the sewer. You said you were done. It’s your old room, back when it was yours, but where is Discord? “We’re not all that different you and I.”
You wander out back to the balcony and see you and Discord standing there together. “I’m a good man,” you hear yourself say, bottle of spirits in hand and half empty.
”Perhaps, but I see something in you Anon. Something very familiar.”
“If that’s all, you can leave now.”
You watch him walk behind you and place his paw and talon on your shoulders, “The seeds of chaos have long lied dormant in that heart of yours.” Discord then turns his head and looks directly at you, his voice happy but expression very much that of concern, “I can only hope to wonder how they grow.”
Your double whips around, unable to see the Discord that stands before you now. “You weren’t talking to me when you said that. Well you were but-“
Discord nods, “I was talking to both of you. Believe it or not, you had grown to concern me Anon. This may have been your first time meeting me, but for too long I had watched you.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
”You and Twilight are very similar, but you saw what you had become and asked her not to follow in your footsteps. Well I was turned to stone twice…”
“And you didn’t want me to fall twice.”
”Perhaps Celestia’s teachings have rubbed off on me, but you were the closest thing I had to a friend at this time.” It wasn’t a damning prophecy after all…
“I think I’m ready this time.”
”One more.” *snap*
You stand in a conference room, Twilight and Celestia on one side, Sir Rivot and his aide on the other. Where are you? “Discord?”
Nothing, just the four of them. “Equestrian wine, Sir Rivot?”
Celestia hovers the decanter over to the two ambassadors, “Don’t mind if I do.” They get the meeting underway and you find yourself hypnotized by the ordeal. It was this very meeting that spurred your career with Celestia after all and you get to see the opening act. You even see the glass that’ll inevitably spill and get your attention. This whole event is coated in nostalgia. They banter back and forth and you just watch from the sidelines.
You mentally pick apart their arguments like you used to back in the day but always keep one eye on the clock. Sooner or later they’re going to spill it and you’re going to jumpstart your new life.
…Minutes turn into hours and there doesn’t seem any sign of activity. Something should’ve happened by now… You’re so fixed on the clock that you almost miss the draconequus slip in without notice. “Discord?” He doesn’t notice you and moves by Celestia, waving his paw back and forth in front of her. Nobody sees him, but what’s he doing?
He sneaks next to Sir Rivot as he’s about to take a sip and nudges it out of his hand, the red wine spilling all over the floor. ”Gah! Blasted glass!”
”It’s alright. Twilight, can you send for a janitor?” Twilight nods and walks out to talk to the guard. You’re still stunned as Discord looks around and slips out the door.
It- It was- *snap*
You gasp for air as you wake, finding yourself just outside the city walls where you first appeared in Equestria. “D-Discord? Discord!” you shout out trying to find him, the guards at the gate looking at you like you’re crazy. He’s gone. All he did… You try to wrap your head around it and find yourself walking back home.
The streets are so dead at this time of night, much like the future you saw should things continue the way they are. What’re you going to say to them when you get home? Sorry for being a dick. No, that won’t work. How about: Look, I know I’ve acted like a douche- Nah not that either. You walk up the steps to the house. Okay fine you’ll just wing it then. You raise your hand to the door- But a parcel on the floor catches your eye and you pick it up, taking out the note inside.
’Anon, I’m sorry but this has gone on too long. Here are some bits and some odds and ends. Me and Iron Will care for you Anon, but we can’t do it anymore. I put a little something extra in there for you, something only us eggheads will get. Take care Anon, we’ll miss you. Signed, Gilda.’
You let the bits fall to the floor and take out the last item inside. You smile as you look at Gilda’s personal copy of ‘A Look West.’
You leave the parcel there, book and all with a simple note attached to it. ‘Thanks.’
Candid Mountain. First discovered after the fierce winter caused by the Windigos. It would appear some of that hatred and malice transitioned over to the far slopes of the mountain, making them a treacherous venture to climb. Well, if it’s worth your time it’s worth your effort. ”You’ll probably be wanting some gear,” the vendor explains, about to retrieve some equipment for you.
“That won’t be necessary sir.”
He pauses with concern, “Uhh… Look I’m sure you’ve got something to prove to some picky mare, but- Do you know what you’re getting into?” Oh you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t.
“Not some mare sir, just myself.”
”This mountain’s no picnic kid. I’ve lost a good pony or two on my way up, each of them more prepped and geared than you.” There’s no denying the risk, you’ll give him that. ”I mean look at you. You look like you just came from some big conference, and you haven’t seen a good meal in at least a day.” Well you are quite hungry.
“Sir, I thank you for your kindness and words, but I bet you can also see that there’s nothing you can say that’d turn me away.”
The old stallion grumbles and hands you a small sack, “Here, if you’re going up there at least get a little food in ya.” You nod to him and open the door out to the fierce cold when he calls you back, “Hey! If you do make it up there by some outlandish luck, what name can I put on your tombstone for the craziest pony I’ve met?”
You chuckle at the thought and put the sack in your pocket. “Anon sir, and don’t go buying any tombstone without my say-so.”
You pop up your collar to fight off the cold and don’t waste time setting up the mountain. Whispers mingle amongst a group preparing to head up, each donned with enough gear to breakdown a cart. But what fun is there in doing things the conventional way? As you’re about to leave the camp a group of four ponies comes into view down the mountain.
“Weather’s as good as it looks?” you ask with sarcasm as the winds rage from whence they came.
”Feels like a summer morning,” the mare snoots back, “You heading up the mountain?”
“Yeah I thought I’d spread my legs… I said that wrong didn’t I?”
”A little bit!” she shouts over the wind, “Look I wouldn’t head that way if I were you. We had to turn back about half way up and, don’t get me wrong, but you look like a gryphon’s rear end.”
“How bad is it exactly?”
”Your piss’d freeze before it hit the ground,” she says, clearly a tomboy or whatever the Equestrian version is.
“Thanks for the warning! Get inside while it’s warm and tell that old geezer I was serious. No tombstones.”
”You aren’t seriously going up there.”
You turn back and continue walking up the mountain. “It’s a beautiful day to start again!” you shout, arms raised. Yeah, you think to yourself and pick up the pace, beautiful day to die more like it…
The thickened storm fogs your vision though you can still make out a fair bit ahead of you. You can do this Anon. No regrets here. When you set your mind to something you do it, no ‘ifs’ ‘ands’ or ‘buts’ about it. Okay maybe this wasn’t your brightest idea but you can do it. ’A Look West’ proved that, and if a pony could do it so can you.
So you march, each step digging deeper into the snow swept incline as you ascend. Your fingers find the sack in your pocket, trembling to unwrap it and bite into the veggie sandwich inside. The frost probably wasn’t one of the ingredients, but alas it makes its way in there anyways. A preference is to sit down and eat, but it’s not like you have all the time in the world now is there. With the little fuel you consume it still stokes the fire inside and you feel just that much warmer. It was a very small sandwich, half eaten, a bite out of the second half.
Meh, it was a sincere thought from an old man to an aspiring youth in comparison. You rub your eyes to warm them over and cover your ears, because if that isn’t frostbite than you don’t want to know what it is. The cold’s everywhere, every nook and cranny of existence and there it is. This time it isn’t just a nightmare, it’s real. So cold… So very cold… And you have to get your mind off of it.
Just think Anon, think of anything… ‘Petal Peach. We never really met properly.’ Oh Peach. How could you ever forget about her? How those green eyes could tear your mind away… ‘What’re you going on about? I don’t need you to repay me. The best gift you could give is to keep coming by and keeping me company.’
The things you would’ve told her… She will always hold a special place in your heart, even if she’s given it to another stallion. You wonder if she’ll be happy? Will they have kids? Will they be as big of nerds as you and her were? Just the thought of her surrounded by a mob of children is enough to bring a smile on your face.
Chain Mail is good for her. He’s got all the perks without any of the baggage on the side. Maybe if you’d gotten some courage a little sooner, things would’ve turned out differently. You shake your head, the present state of things rapidly coming into view. There’s no sense in looking to what could’ve been. All you can do is look to the future. They have a future together. You have… well you might still be friends, but that’ll be it. Like she need, the best gift is coming by and keeping her company. So that’s what you’ll do, for both of you.
Another wave of frost nearly sends you tumbling over to the side. This weather really is working against you, but you won’t yield to it. Human beings are resilient by nature, hell we change nature. “I won’t give up, you hear me!” Dammit, now your mouth probably has frostbite too. Your teeth chatter along until you hit a wall of solid ice, the wind forcing you up against it. Despite the odds you keep sliding up, every step taking you closer to the top.
‘ What you looking at ya poof?!’ Ahh, Gilda. Your first source of loathing that you can remember in Equestria. She tossed you out of that bar in record time. That’s why you shouldn’t drink kids. Beneath the harsh exterior she placed up lied someone more pony than most. She hid behind a lie to protect herself from others while ultimately closing herself off from those she cared about. You wrote her off as a bitch to avoid at all costs, but she turned out to be one of your most trusted friends.
The two of you were more alike than you initially thought, which amounted to some metaphor about the ends of the universe but you digress… When she told you about her mother it reminded you almost solely about your own father. They loved us with all their heart and the first chance we got, we tore ourselves away. The difference was she made up with hers, while yours is dimensions of existence away. You’ll probably never see him again, and that might haunt you for the rest of your life.
However, no matter no how much you deny it, you will miss that old geezer and all he’s worth. ‘Sorry Anon but I don’t do the whole interspecies thing, regardless of what they say.’
Damn you miss her insults already…
The chill begins to spread up your legs and into your thighs at an alarming rate. Come on, someone else. The less you think the better you feel. ’You are smart, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, but knowledge is not synonymous with experience.’
Celestia, the teacher and mother you never had. With her guidance and methods you went from a fearful turtle to a courageous rabbit with a Viking attitude. She saw that potential for you and took you under her wing much like she did with her previous students. Of course you weren’t a normal student, but that’s nitpicking. Celestia always struck you as a flawless gem until you got to know her, where she was soon shown to be just any other gem.
She’d joke with you and threaten to banish you to the moon merely because she knew it would get a reaction. You always felt calm around her. She had that motherly aura that wanted you to nestle close and take a nap. Of course if you ever did she’d likely cause you to drop enough spaghetti to feed all of Italy. Do they even like spaghetti in Italy? Anyways, you never shied away from her company.
Despite her casual speak and tendency to make humorous threats you would never betray her...
A chill causes you to recoil back to reality.
…Except for when you did.
‘I’ve been looking forward to this trip for months, thankfully I had enough saved up for one last trip.’ Ms. Peachbottom, a real, well, peach. She’s the candle in the dark really. She’s been all over Equestria and seen things you’ve yet to hear about. When you met her on the train to the Crystal Empire she had almost pulled you out with a grin. The two of you connected so easily it was almost supernatural.
You can still remember when she found you in that spa being drug by the towel. There was no way in Tartarus you were getting a hooficure. She was more than happy to that that deal off your hands for you. That entire trip had you flustered something terrible, but when she shows up it all seems to disappear. She had an earthy way to speaking that made you just want to nod and listen.
In fact if it wasn’t for her you wouldn’t have learned a valuable lesson about all your books. They can’t teach you everything and sometimes you just need to learn yourself. It’s sort of like people, you can look at their covers and read their synopsis, but unless you spend the time with them and look between the lines you’ll never really know. She said that was her last trip around Equestria, but what if it wasn’t? What if you had enough money to give her one last whirl around the world?
No sign saying it was you, but just an act of anonymous kindness. You’d live up to your name in that case…
’Oh but what fun is that? I want to see the goodies in that noggin of yours.’ Then there was Discord, the constant influence who really only did anything once. Were it not for him you would’ve never met Celestia or Gilda or Peachbottom or anyone else for that matter. The god of chaos or whatever he is, was the one who gave you what you wanted. He looked into your future and saw the outcome of your actions. He also saw his role and played his part as any good actor on a stage.
The whole time he could’ve stepped in to change the scene, but he knew it was for the best. After he’d aided in your capture with that little snap wall, he really saw it coming true. Maybe there was a tinge of doubt in his chaotic brain that it would happen, but the closer it came to reality the more guilt he felt. That’s why when you sought out that canteen which was your sin he took this as his chance to make things right.
He showed you the future if things didn’t change, the present and how it effects your life now, and the past to where you had placed the blame. ’The magic of friendship, blegh. Just the phrase makes me want to gag.’
You chuckle painfully at this phrase. Despite everything he represents you can’t help but feel that you were his little attempt at gaining a friend. In some sort of twisted fucked up measure he acted to help save you from yourself.
He left you on that piece of dirt outside Canterlot just as you did the years before when you first arrived. Rebirth, to start anew… If only the cold were as neighborly.
The blood in your veins nearly freeze as you keep up the mountain, this little exercise numbing your body to the elements that strike you. ’I think someone needs a drink. We’ve got ice inside.’
You could always use Iron Will’s helping hand. Whether it be in an alley or out of prison he was there. When you needed a guard to Aviaris he stepped up for you. You’re not sure anyone you’d met thus far had given so much for someone they knew nothing about. His advice had gotten you through plenty a pinch and he always kept the backdoor open for you… Why does everything you say sound nasty and warped? This isn’t a good sign for the future.
Back when you saw Gilda and him talking, you heard his faith in you. He knew that you weren’t going to make it, it wasn’t up for chance at that point. You’d stumbled home drunk on his doorstep for weeks and every time he picked you up and put you in bed. Despite knowing the truth he always thought you could be better than you were, and he’s right. Your story isn’t over until you take that last breath and you’re still going on kind of strong right now.
The cold is sort of making it nearly impossible, but if you were to fall right now and lose strength? Iron Will would be there with that furry hand outstretched towards you. ‘I can toast to that.’
One more time maybe…
‘Ahh welcome. My name is Rinn and I serve as the Senate Overseer of Gryphonnia, it is with great privilege that I greet you here today.’
This time your blood actually does freeze at the very thought of that gryphon. Gilda putting up a false exterior you get that, but that was protect herself from those who would ridicule her. Rinn was a backstabbing sociopath from the get go who only played at being the ‘For the good of the nation’ kind of politician. The worst part was you bought into it, despite everyone’s instincts telling them the truth. He took advantage of your weakness and ever since he’s been playing you for the fool with his game of shadows.
You were so close to fulfilling your mission for Celestia when his note stole you away, and his goons stole your spirit. He threatened to ruin everything you held dear and what did he do in the end? The exact thing you only delayed by keeping your mouth shut. To him, you were just a pawn on the playing field. One to be manipulated and tossed aside when it has outlived its usefulness.
He was you effectively, but on the opposite side of the spectrum and that’s where he’ll fail. He’ll slip up somewhere and doubt himself one time. Once he does it’s all over. Rinn will look to extreme measures to assert his dominance and by giving in he’ll have lost his strength. All it takes is the one pawn that he overlooked and his world will come crumbling down.
’He’s no longer a threat.’ His overconfidence is his weakness.
‘That must be the brew I hear. Would you care for dinner though it may be dull for you I fear?’
Zecora, the fearless inhabitant of the most dangerous place in Equestria. She hasn’t a fear in the world, not even of you when you became heated towards her. Among the few that knew what was to come of you, she was the most direct.
She told you the path you were following would only lead to your demise. Well, not exactly like that she’d rhyme a lot more than that, and even if she did technically drug your food to make you pass out it was for the better. She allowed you to skip the pain your actions had wrought and in turn let you focus on the task you had set out to achieve.
There were plenty of reasons not to help you but she did. She trusted you with the cure given to her by her mother with a smile. Nothing was asked for in return. All she wanted was for you to listen to what she said, and that you would do again in a heart beat. She was even kind enough to offer you some of her stew. It was certainly the most exotic meal you’d had in your time here.
Maybe the next time you’re in town you’ll take a trip through the Everfree Forest and give her a visit. She might actually enjoy the company, and you might enjoy some more of her free stew. ‘Perhaps it would be best, if you let this go until you rest.’
You might want to take her advice and let this planning go until after you’ve climbed this damn mountain…
You can’t feel your skin anymore, not just your legs or arms but your entire body seems to be numb. In facts its getting a little warm and… sleepy- No! Stay awake! You put your hands beneath your armpits, the entirety of your body shaking like a leaf in a hurricane. You don’t want to die. Then don’t. Just let your mind go… ‘You gave me quite the scare as well you know. Not many ponies come out this way during the Gala.’
Twilight, that purple nerd will help your mind. She’s Celestia’s star pupil after all. Who’d have thought that she was jealous of you? Certainly not you of course. Her entire future hangs in the balance and that of Equestria as well. She looked up to you as a model of behavior as much as you looked up to her for being able to achieve what you couldn’t. She’s- Brr… One of a kind, a real princess in the making.
If you fall, she falls. If you make a stand, she’ll be that one pawn that Rinn can’t stop. Twilight will once again be able to achieve what you could not. She could be by Celestia’s side and keep her home safe from those who’d wish it ill. No matter the… No matter- Warm… Why’s it so warm?
You struggle to keep your eyes open as you fall to your hands and knees, a sliver of light cutting through the storm. Closer… It’s so close now. You can feel it… That warm glow on your cheeks, it’s not the end that’s getting to you. It’s the beginning.
You force yourself to stand one last time and spy the peak just up ahead, the sun shimmering through. Petal Peach, Gilda, Celestia, Peachbottom, Discord, Iron Will, Zecora, Twilight… They all placed their faith in you, now it’s time to prove them right. The ice on your knees shatter as you press forward through the snow and sprint to the finish. Nothing is going to stop you anymore. No political bullshit, no Rinn and his games, no goons in some alleyway. You won’t fail your friends. “I… will… NOT!”
You breach the storm’s limit finding only warmth at the top along with one hell of a view. The sun hits the horizon just right so that it splays all shades of red to purple across the evening sky. You walk to the mountain’s edge, Canterlot sitting below you. This land… you’ve never quite seen it this way before, so open and new. You may never see it the same way again.
A glimmer catches your eye to the side, two items hidden amongst the snow. One, a bottle of brandy, the alcohol still quite potent at a sniff. Two, a small silver box, the object within quite familiar to you.
‘Anon, you know that I’ll always be proud of you. You know that right?’
Looking down at these two items in your hand you look out West over Equestria, your home. “Yeah Dad, I know…”
“When I finally made my way back down I breathed anew. Life’s problems, however numerous, were inconsequential when you saw them from that view. I had forged a new path for my life, and in this path, I was rich.” The audience laughs at your joke and roars into applause as you bow. “Thank you all so much for coming to my book signing this evening. I know that some of you have could’ve gone to a theatre and had a nice show, but hey, this one’s free right?”
Ever since you got back from the mountains you made up with Gilda and Iron Will. They welcomed you back with open arms and when you announced your plans to write a book they were behind you 100%. You drank on occasion sure, but for the most part you saved it until you went out with them two.
’In Retrospect’ turned out better than expected, what’re you saying, it turned out to be a hit. There was a week of silence before the murmurs started coming around about this new book that dove into the underbelly of political life. You put ‘true story’ and ‘the history behind’ anywhere, and it’s guaranteed to sell a bundle or two. You never expected it to get this big, but you certainly aren’t complaining.
“I’ll be taking questions now.” A dozen hooves come shooting up and you honestly don’t know which one to pick first. “You, there in the back left.”
”Hi my name’s Heart Bloom. I just wanted to ask what got you through this? There were plenty of times in there where I would’ve just given up. How didn’t you?”
“A good question. I’d say it was something you just have to experience firsthand. When you’re put in this type of position you just have to roll with the punches and dodge them on occasion,” you grin, “Next question.”
”Glue Cotton from the Canterlot News. Since the book’s release have you dipped back into old habits at all?”
“Well I do get blasted drunk with my friends on occasion, but when it comes to drugs no, never again. A quick thrill or boost is not worth the turmoil it made in my life. Next question.” This back and forth goes on for about half an hour, each question easier than the last. The hooves start gradually staying down until only one is left in the air. “Yes, you there in the very far back.”
The mare stands up, “Yes, Princess Celestia…” The entire crowd hushes down and kneels before her, only the two of you left standing. She wasn’t one of the ones you were expecting to show up.
“How can I help you princess?”
Her grin is as bright as ever and even from her you feel her warmth, “You keep yourself informed in the news correct?”
“I like to keep tabs, yes.”
”What are your thoughts on Rinn’s oust from power in the Gryphon Kingdoms?”
“Deserving, his tyranny couldn’t last forever Celestia, next question.”
”One more if I may.” You nod and allow her to proceed, “Do you ever think you’ll go back into politics?”
Hmm… The hardest question you’ve had since you got here. So many variables… You smile at the princess as you form the words in your mind. “Some doors are meant to be closed, but who knows, maybe I’ll take a peak again someday. Now, next question…”
The guards heft you by the arm through the courtyard and inside the keep. This isn’t exactly what you had in mind when you walked into Aviaris, but the guards were certainly anxious to give you the grand tour. “I think we got off on the wrong foot here. You see I’m a tourist and-“
”Shut up before we find a use for that mouth that isn’t talking.”
“You have a way with words my friend.”
The city looked about as shit as you remember if not worse, though Rinn was true to his word to a degree. The banners of war hang from the city walls like he promised. The war horns sound off in rhythm while the troops march in morning formation, this is true. Gryphonnia is on the verge of war and Rinn is all too happy to give it that last little push. “So how’re your love lives going?”
”I haven’t seen a female in months. Shut up before I make due.” Point taken.
You reach a familiar wing of the keep, the guards pushing you into Rinn’s old office. Rinn looms over some documents without raising his head, “What did I say about being interrupted?”
”Sorry sire, but we-“
”Cut half his rations for the next month,” he orders to his partner, “A gryphon should know better than to be disrespectful to his superiors.”
“Pretty sure that’s a universal lesson.”
The guard rails you in the stomach, “I said shut up!”
Rinn raises his head up to you reeling over in pain, “Anon. What a pleasant surprise.”
“The feeling’s mutual,” you wheeze out, your stomach going to have a permanent talon imprint now.
Rinn grins at your obvious predicament with the guards, “I think we can be alone. Dismissed guards.”
”Sire…” the guards hesitate lingering behind you.
Rinn is without remorse and glares at the two of them, “If you are not out of my sight in the next ten seconds you’re spending the next two months satisfying the carnal pleasures of your kin. Five, four…” That does the trick and sends them nearly running into the wall in fear.
“A little harsh but it does the trick.”
”They know I’m good on my threats after the last incident. These low lives have to learn who’s wields the whip and who is to yield to it.” Nothing’s changed with him, only his openness to his true self. “So… What brought you here? Skulking about looking to get a little revenge? Choose carefully where to place your dagger, because I’ve already chosen mine.”
Ah Rinn always the kidder. You make yourself comfortable and sit yourself in front of his desk, resting your feet up on his desk. ”By all means, make yourself at home.”
“Appreciated sir. Do you mind?” you ask reaching for his decanter.
”Not at all, if you don’t mind the taste of poison.”
“Don’t mind it? Rinn my dear friend, it adds half the flavor.”
He chuckles and sits back down, allowing you to give a quick glance over his documents. ”So what do I have the pleasure-“
“Your siege is going to fail that way, just saying…”
Does he not know what you’re talking about? “The siege. You know, that thing you do to at fortified settlements and-“
”I know what a siege is. What is your interest in it?”
“Oh it’s no concern of mine. I’m just saying that you’re wasting a good deal of resources on a plan that isn’t going to work.” You take a sip from your glass and sigh happily. This really is the stuff of kings.
“Explain what?” you ask about to take another sip.
”Explain why the siege will fail.”
“Forget about it, I’m sure you have your ways.”
Rinn looks at you much the same way he did the guards, “It wasn’t a request.”
No need to get antsy mister. “Well first of all the western wall isn’t a good point geographically since it rests well above ground level. Your weapons would have the low ground reducing their range and effectiveness while they have the opposite.”
”Our fliers will have neutralized their own weapons by the time we start the bombardment.”
“I know you pride yourself on being good fliers, but the Equestrian Royal Guard is the one of the highest renowned militaries in the world. Plus, have you fought a foe that can use magic? You probably don’t get out much…”
”We already have agents ready to raise the main gate if our plan goes south.”
“Ah your changeling agents. Shining Armor’s been doing his fair bit of research into spells to detect their kind. I wouldn’t think your agent’s in a good spot right now.” Rinn grows irritable as you pick apart his battle plan which only brings a smile to your face. “Didn’t your Vice General go over these plans? Oh wait, you got rid of the most experienced war veteran in existence and replaced him with his blue balls son. Not a good move if you plan on waging war.”
Rinn finally breaks into laughter, a sarcastic laughter used to mask his insecurity maybe, but laughter nonetheless. ”Why are you here Anon?”
“I was just in the neighborhood and was wondering if you had that slot still open.”
His anger is replaced with curiosity, “You- You want to join me?”
“Why not? Even if this fails you’re going to win the long term campaign. I might as well side myself with the victor, am I right?”
”I honestly had lost hope you’d see the light,” he extends his talon, “Welcome to the winning team.” You stand and shake his talon, accidently stumbling and swiping the letter opener from his desk, “Easy there, we don’t want my new Senate Overseer breaking his leg.”
“Thanks. Now, let’s get down to business. How’re the reserves doing? Before you hit Canterlot we need to have a good grain reserve, otherwise we’ll be caught with our dicks in our hands.”
Rinn works his way around, “I might need to make you Vice General instead.”
“Wherever I can help,” you smile, your hand clutching the letter opener in anticipation.
”Come on, I’ve been having some problems with the local…” his voice fades off as he walks away from you, back turned, your heart pounding in your head. You walk silently behind him and cup his beak, using your superior height and position to your advantage. He struggles but a politician doesn’t have the same strength as a soldier, and you learned a few things thanks to your time in prison.
You push the letter opener against the flesh of his neck, his skin giving way as you slit his throat. His gargles catch the attention of the guards outside, but it’s too late as his body already lies twitching on the floor. You stand there in blissful peace even as the guards draw their weapons. All for your friends…
The wet slop of the mop hits the floor soaking the bottom of your shoes. ”That’s right boy, nice and deep like,” the guard chortles at you. Ah just like old times…
“Yeah your wife tells me how you like it,” you don’t even think first before shooting back. He chuckles and returns to guard duty letting you mop in peace. Maybe not exactly like old times. You’ve got a tongue of your own to put them back in place. Of course you do have to put up with a little shit so you could get your old job back. It’s good honest work after all, nothing to be ashamed of.
Thankfully Mr. Mosely recognized your skill set and put you on as the senior member. It didn’t mean much in terms of pay or vacation time, but it was a sign of respect and you’ll take that. “Hey Sun Tapper, you think you can get that little smudge right there?”
”S-sure Anon,” he stutters back cleaning up one of your stray errors. Together you and him clean the south wing of the castle until you could eat right off the floor.
You wrap your arm around the stallion and give him a bro hug. “Damn good job we did huh?”
”Sure…” He reminds you of someone you knew once. Oh wait…
He’s a timid one, about as much as you were, but you know that sooner or later you’ll ease him out of his shell. “How many hours you go this week kid?”
”Umm, fifty three…” Shit this kid works hard. He deserves a break.
“Go ahead and take the rest of the day off kid. I can finish these last few solo.” Tapper looks a bit confused and you give him a reassuring tustle of his mane. “You’re too young to spend all your time working, now get going before I give you sewer detail.”
Aha, that got him going.
You set your equipment up in the closet and lock up for the day, this being one of the few times you’ve managed to get off early. Back in the day you’d give anything to get some free time, but now it seems all you like doing is work. Maybe it’s because you had a goal in mind and once you reached it you found your pockets a bit light so to speak.
Last you checked Petal was drinking martinis at Horseshoe Bay and soaking up the sun. Of course she never knew who had set her up with that last delightful vacation, but you did. A smile creeps on your face as you imagine her galloping along the shoreline and burying some grumpy noble to the neck in sand. You almost don’t notice the looming odor of fresh brewed coffee and cheap cologne as your boss comes your way.
“Hey Mosely, getting your daily fill?” you motion to his cup.
”Always. So how did it look out there?”
“Spick and span sir, just like you requested.”
”Yeah… How’s the new one doing? He uh, doesn’t seem to be around right now.”
“Oh, I sent him home early. He’s working too much as it is, the kid needs some free time.”
Your boss smacks his lips, “You do know that isn’t your call to make.”
“Mr. Mosely,” you use your old civil tone, “Surely you’ve read up on the latest news regarding employment among the youth and how the manager is responsible should they experience-“
“Alright alright,” he interrupts to keep you from tearing him a new asshole, “Just talk to me about this kind of thing beforehand.” Of course you will, you aren’t an asshole after all. Taking a quick shower you head off to the library.
Sitting down with the newest copy of Thump West’s ‘Caught in Time’ you delve right into it. You’ve had a lot of catching up to do in regards to his stuff and you’re more than happy to soak yourself in that spongy ink once more. ”Excuse me, you’re Anon aren’t you?”
You look up to the new librarian who’s taken Petal Peach’s place. “Yes ma’am, that’s me,” you smile back, small drops of sweat building up on her forehead.
”Oh I can’t believe you’re actually him. It’s an honor to meet you sir.” You can’t help but laugh at the formality and tell her just to call you Anon. “Oh I’m sorry sir- I mean Anon.” She sits across from you as you try to enjoy your book, though your focus is slowly torn away by the thought of Peach.
When you finally got back and were allowed to return to the castle the one thing you really wanted to do was catch up with Petal Peach, but when you walked in another mare had taken her spot behind that desk. Chain Mail had gotten a private security job out in the Seaddle and when he went, so did she. You’re still sad you never got to say goodbye…
”Umm, I don’t mean to bother you, but I found this in my desk after I moved in. It was addressed to you, but I never had the courage to approach a celebrity like you before.” Celebrity huh? You’ve certainly had your highs and lows, that much is true. She slides the letter across to you the desk and you rip open the paper envelope, reading it in earnest. ”What does it say?”
“It says not to make too much of a mess when she’s gone… and goodbye. Thank you for this. I really appreciate it.”
”Oh, anything at all that I can do-“ You nod and sink back into your seat, a piece of your mind finding peace.
Night soon falls upon Equestria, and when the moon rises so do some of the bustling nightclubs that are scattered throughout the city. You tap your foot and bob your head with the beat of the music as you watch Iron Will make a fool of himself on the dance floor. Gilda’s ducking her head in embarrassment and trying to unsee the travesty that is his dance skills. “It’s okay Gilda, it’s almost over.”
”It hurts to watch,” she groans and slams back another shot. If you can’t unsee it, you might as well unremember bit. You take a shot as well, though water is not the most potent beverage this place has to offer. Iron Will starts ‘making the pizza’ and you’re tempted to steal one of Gilda’s glasses. ”What’s he doing now?”
“You don’t want to know.”
You console the poor gryphon as Iron Will comes over and tries to pull her onto the dance floor. ”Big Iron, don’t make me hit your nuts again. You know I hate dancing.”
”Tough luck girl. When Iron Will wants to party…”
“You best not be tardy?”
He points to you with a proud smile, “That’s the spirit kid. Come on Gil, we’ve got a party to crash.”
”I hate you Anon,” she remarks as she’s dragged out on the dance floor but not before latching onto your wrist, “and if I’m going down you are too.” You manage to get one last sip of water before disappearing amongst the crowd with your friends.
Dip, press, plop, stroke, dip, press, plop, stroke… With that sort of flawless execution you’ll be number one for the Equestria Games, at least if they had a mopping division. Still, a man can dream…
You hear Mr. Mosely come up behind you as you work and inspect your handiwork, “Color me impressed. What’s the secret?”
“I’ll never tell,” you continue on your way while he follows you.
”Look, we’ve got a spill in one of the conference rooms up in the North Wing. You think you can clean it up for me?”
“Did you just ask?”
”Yeah, now double time it, and please don’t make a scene this time.” You head back and gather your things before heading up there to take a look.
You’re about knock on the door when it’s swung open, a gryphon all but storming out. The ambassador must really be- Wait a minute? “Rinn?”
The gryphon turns around red in the face, “Anon…” That’s all he says before he stomps away, his two guards quick on his heels. In three, two, one…
“I’d watch out if I-” you’re right on time as he ignores the wet floor sign and gets to taste some of your handiwork, “were you…” You try your best not to crack up as Rinn swats away the help from his guards but a small giggle makes its way out your throat. Justice has been served.
By the time you get in there you find Celestia tidying up her scrolls, a large stain running across the wall where someone had thrown a glass. “I take it Rinn wasn’t happy.”
She’s only momentarily surprised at your presence before she nods, “Not at all, I am afraid. I would not be surprised if this becomes a habit of his.” You don’t take up anymore of her time and whip out your Cleaning Sponge of Stain Slaying. It has a +9 against stains. ”It is nice to see you well. The last time we talked-“
“It’s okay Celestia. It’s in the past now,” you silence her and sponge up the wall. There’s nothing for her to apologize for. Your actions were your own and she-
Celestia’s hoof graces your back and she lays her head against yours, “I had hoped things would turn out differently.”
You sort of sit there for a minute before you turn around and hug her by surprise, Celestia thrown back by your forwardness. “So did I…”
She clears her throat and pats herself off allowing you to get back to work, “Well then. We should return to our duties should we not?”
“Indeed Princess. Good day to you.”
She stops at the door before turning back, “Twilight’s done well in your stead. In fact you’ve been quite the influence on her. Have you spoken to her yet?” Your pause is answer enough for her, “The garden certainly blossoms this time of year. Food for thought.” The door closes and you connect the pieces quick enough and hurry to finish your task. Maybe you should bring roses?
After work you set down to the Canterlot gardens and sit down at the fountain, dipping a finger into the cool pool that shines against the sun’s rays. Too late it would seem. Oh well… It was worth a shot. ”Eep! Anon, you scared me half to death.” You smile as Twilight comes walking over, “What’re you doing here?”
“A little birdie told me you were out here.”
“Really?” she asks sitting beside you, “This birdie doesn’t have wings and a horn, does she?”
“And a very very colorful mane,” you joke and look over her, “You look good.”
”Thank you Anon. You’re not so bad yourself.” The two of you turn a bright red and look away from the other, Twilight twiddling around with her hooves, “So…”
“Beautiful day right?”
”Absolutely.” You can do better than that Anon. That was just pathetic. ”Anon I was thinking-“
“Do you want to grab something to eat?”
Oh god dammit Anon. Why did you say that? There wasn’t any suave or- “I’d love to.” She- she said yes? You have to pinch yourself to make sure you aren’t dreaming. You hesitantly put your hand over her hoof and she meets you half way. ”No games?”
“No games,” you smile back, Twilight moving a bit closer.
From a distance a certain draconequus sits trying not to gag at the start of this new relationship he’s forced to watch. ”That boy better know what he’s getting himself into…” Discord snaps a cup of tea and lounges back in his chair, adjusting his monocle for a better look.
From his side a trembling stallion approaches nervously, “M-m-m-Mr. Discord?”
”Gah, why must you insist on troubling me when I’m in the middle of my spying on Anon?”
”I just- Letter sir…” he drops it and runs for the hills.
”Useless messenger ponies. Surely they could use pigeons or something. A messenger turtle, genius!” He tosses the letter and spits it out fully open, because he’s Discord. ”Let’s see here…”
‘Discord, ever since we met I was convinced you were the stereotypical basket case that many of my acquaintances had marked you to be. I want to say that I’m sorry for judging you. You’ve given me more than anyone else and asked for nothing in return. What would you give chaos itself? Well, the exact thing chaos wouldn’t want, a friend. Go easy on the chocolate milk okay? Your partner in chaos, Anon.’
‘P.S. you can stop spying on me.’
”What in the…” He zooms in on his spy monocle, to see you grinning right back at him. Discord leans back and snickers one last time, “Well played Anon. Well played.”