It was a beautiful morning. Or at least, it was trying to be. The sun was just beginning to peak over the horizon, painting the rock farm with breathtaking shades of red and yellow, yet somehow managing not to change the soul-crushing gray coloring that pervaded the fields. Birds could be heard gleefully chirping to each other in the distance, greeting the new day with boundless joy and enthusiasm. Likewise, the rocks in the miles of fields were starting the day with as much happiness as inanimate objects can muster. Which is none. Because rocks are not physically capable of emoting, starting a day, or anything else, really.
Presiding over these fields was a solitary, two-story house, resting in the exact center of the enormous gravel pit. Peering out a window on the second floor of this house was Maud Pie. She regarded the expanse of gray monotony with just as much emotion on her face as the rocks themselves. However, inside she was perfectly content. Her reunion with Pinkie last week had gone wonderfully, if you ignored the part where her younger sister almost died, and her friends reacted much better to her disposition than other ponies had in the past.
She turned back to look at her nightstand and, more specifically, the small pebble resting on it. "Morning, Boulder," she monotoned. With practiced ease, she kicked open her closet door and selected her trademark dark gray dress, one of a matching set of twelve identical dresses. She picked up Boulder from his spot on her nightstand and pressed him against her cheek in a tiny nuzzle, before slipping the rock into her pocket.
Now ready to face the day, the mare made her way downstairs in search of breakfast. She was in the process of pouring herself a bowl of oats when she noticed a letter addressed to her lying on the table. Her parents must have left it for her when they left to rotate the south field.
Reading the envelope, Maud realized that she recognized the name on the return address. It's one of Pinkie's friends, she thought. Twilight was that purple alicorn, wasn't she? Taking another slow, methodical bite of her oats, the earth pony ripped open the envelope and examined the letter that tumbled out. It appeared to be some sort of invitation. She could tell because it had "You are invited" written in bold letters at the top.
You are officially invited to the inaugural meeting of The Brooding and Unnecessarily Silent Characters Club (working title). Should you choose to attend, you will have the exciting opportunity to meet and converse with several like-minded individuals of varying species and dimension of origin.
Maud raised her eyebrow slightly at that.
Depending on the success of this endeavor, the BUSCC may continue to meet on a basis that will be decided at the first meeting. While the members of the club will be made up of largely silent characters, this and possibly future meetings will be presided over by Princess Twilight Sparkle in order to facilitate the budding friendships that are likely to form. We hope to see you there!
The gray mare moved on to the date neatly printed at the bottom of the page, and blinked slowly. In Maud's own little language, this is akin to a sharp gasp of terror or surprise. Due to her house's secluded nature, the post office sometimes fails to deliver the Pie's mail in a timely manner. This is most likely an innocent problem, but Mr. Pie prefers to blame "those dirty Luna-sympathizers" instead.
What this meant in the context of our story, however, is that the meeting in question was taking place in a scant five hours.
As frantically as a sloth with literally nowhere to be, Maud finished her oats and scribbled a terse note to her parents, informing them that she would be out for the day. She idly toyed with the idea of blowing it off, but quickly dismissed it. It would be rude to ignore such an invitation from her new friend, and she imagined it could be fun to meet others who shared her appreciation for silence. She exited her house and, after double-checking her pocket for Boulder, headed off in the direction of the train station, hoping to catch one for Ponyville in time.
Maud stood at the front door of the crystal tree palace that resided in the place of the tree library she remembered from her visit. If she was at all phased by Twilight's home's transformation, she did not show it for a moment. After contemplating for a minute, the mare raised a gray hoof and delivered three slow, resounding knocks to the crystal door, sending thin cracks spiderwebbing out from where she struck.
A faint voice could be heard from behind the door. "I'm coming! I'm coming!" Seconds later, it swung open and Twilight Sparkle's form appeared in the doorway. "I'm sorry, but the library is closed until further notice, due to the destruction of every-oh, Maud! Hi! Have you come for the meeting?"
The purple alicorn grinned awkwardly in the silence, before realizing something and narrowing her eyes. "You didn't RSVP."
Maud blinked slowly.
"Heh, heh. Well we do have a spot left. After all, I'd hate to turn you away after you came all this way." She stepped aside and motioned for Maud to enter. "Please come in."
The earth pony stepped over the threshold and followed Twilight as she led her through ludicrously opulent rooms made of pure crystal. "You've renovated."
Twilight gave a start, as if shocked that her guest had opted to speak. "Oh, yes. Though not by choice." She muttered the last part darkly, forgetting that the acoustics in her new home were fantastic, and that Maud could hear her complaint easily.
"I love it," the gray mare droned without a trace of emotion. "After all, crystals are just gay rocks."
"Waaugh!" Twilight went down in a tumble of flailing legs and wings. As she shakily made her way to her hooves once again, the alicorn stared at Maud in disbelief. "I... suppose that's one way of looking at it... yes."
They could have stayed in that position for days, with Twilight staring slack-jawed at her guest and Maud gazing impassively back, but Twilight decided to let it go. Ridiculousness probably runs in the family, she mused, before bringing Maud face to face with another door.
"Everyone's just through here, so why don't you go introduce yourself while I get snacks?" With that, she stalked off to another part of her home, yelling Spike's name and demanding nourishment in a manner that was loving and sisterly and in no way the tone of a ruthless slave driver.
Maud shrugged as the other mare left and regarded the door in front of her. Seeing no reason to delay, she nudged it open and strode into the room beyond. The room itself was altogether unremarkable. It looked almost exactly like a common living room, provided your living room was made of pure, priceless crystal. Several chairs had been arranged in a circle in the center of the room. Its occupants, however, made the mare initiate her third slow blink of the day: a new record.
Only one of the characters was actually a pony. He was a large, red stallion wearing a yoke. Maud vaguely recalled seeing him around Ponyville when she last visited. He turned his head when she entered and offered the newcomer a warm smile, which she answered with a small nod. The stallion was the only one to do so. All the other creatures barely acknowledged Maud's entrance. If they even looked at her at all, they observed her impassively before returning to what they were doing.
Maud observed each one curiously. There were some differences, but all seemed to be of the same species. They looked like some sort of highly-evolved monkey with no hair. The word "human" jumped unbidden to the forefront of her mind, probably from one of Pinkie's scary stories she told every now and then.
The first human seemed relatively normal, for a bipedal creature that she had never seen before. he was tall and gangly, and he lacked the tuft of hair on his head that the others had. Maud assumed he was male due to his lack of curves and his gruff-looking appearance. He sat next to the stallion and was offering him a glass of what looked like hard apple cider when she walked in. After the red stallion accepted it, he reached under his chair and retrieved another one for himself, cracking it open and taking a large swig.
The next creature that caught Maud's eye appeared to be another male, but he seemed much younger. He sat across from the stallion and other human. he was almost as tall as the first, but much more thin, almost unhealthily so. Unlike the first one, however, he had enormous wings folded into his back, with feathers as black as pitch, matching his eyes and unruly hair. While his posture was relaxed, he eyed everyone in the room warily, as if waiting for an unseen enemy to strike.
A small murmur drew the newcomer's attention to a third being in the corner. This one-female, judging by the cadence of her voice-had gray skin only a few shades lighter than Maud's own fur, rather than the pinkish tone the others had. She wore a black, form-fitting uniform and deep blue cloak with a hood that covered much of her body. Underneath the hod, Maud could see that she had short, violet hair, and her eyes were shut tight. Her crossed-legged pose suggested that she may be meditating. With a start, Maud noticed that the girl was actually floating almost a foot above the floor. Some sort of meditative spell, perhaps?
Could these two be analogous of a human pegasus and unicorn? she asked herself.
A derisive snort tore Maud's gaze away from the meditating girl to another, sitting as far away from everyone else as possible, and doing a pretty good job of it, considering the chairs were arranged in a circle. Compared to the others, she looked downright normal. She had medium length, brown hair and a sneer that said "I hate the world in general and you in particular," which Maud matched with her usual, impassive expression. "More ponies?" she asked in a monotone that rivaled the mare's own. She turned away, but not before muttering something about a "Li'l Sebastian."
The room's final occupant had evaded Maud's notice until now because, like the floating girl, she was also in a corner. She had her knees curled up in front of herself and was reading a book. This one had several things that distinguished herself from the others. Firstly, her skin was much paler than her fellow humans, and her unruly, black hair was much longer, cascading down her back in a dark mass until it reached her waist. Her most notable features, however, were the small cat ears perched on her head and the sheathed sword she carried on her back. As if feeling Maud's gaze upon her, the girl's eyes flicked up from her book, her amber gaze seeming to pierce the mare's soul. After a moment, their eye contact was broken by both parties. Maud noticed that she and the winged boy would periodically exchanged glances.
Her survey of the room complete, Maud made her way over to the red stallion and took a seat next to him. The man on his other side offered her another of his strange drinks, which she accepted politely. Taking a sip, her eyes widened as the beverage hit her tongue and ran down her throat. It burned pleasantly and was definitely alcoholic. While she wasn't usually one for drinking, Maud found herself enjoying it and resolved herself to at least finish the drink. She gave a grateful nod to the man, who returned it.
At that moment, the door was enveloped in a purple aura, and swung open to reveal Twilight pushing a cart laden with various foods and tea. "Hi, everypo-everybody! I brought snacks and herbal tea for those who don't want Mac's beer. Feel free to have some."
At the mention of tea, both girls sitting in the corner looked up at Twilight and her cart. As one, the rose and took a cup for themselves. When the one with the cat ears noticed the cloaked girl's hand, she flashed a fleeting, but sincere smile, which the other girl returned. They took seats next to each other and took small sips of their drinks, watching Twilight expectantly. The brown-haired girl got up as well, but only to swipe a beer from underneath Mac's chair, and quickly returned to her seat. Taking a sip, her sour face melted into one of childlike wonder and bliss for a split second, but her cynical gaze returned almost instantly. She did, however, continue to cradle her bottle.
Grinning around the room, and apparently not catching the normal woman's sneer and the winged boy's suspicious glare, the alicorn asked "So I trust that you've all made your introductions to Maud here?"
Several shaking heads, an unamused scoff, and one "Nnnnnope," were enough to get through to her.
"That's fine. Why don't we go around the room and say your name and why you decided to attend?" She pointed to the girl with the brown hair. "April, why don't you start?"
When she realized that Twilight was completely unaffected by the dirty look she was giving, April spoke. "I'm April Ludgate, and Leslie thought this would be good for me, but it's not. Because it's stupid. "
Twilight waited patiently through the awkward silence, expecting more, but got nothing more from the rude girl. Finally, she indicated that the gray-skinned human should speak. Without removing her hood, the magic-user droned, "I'm Raven, and I'm here because Robin and Beast Boy asked me to attend."
Clearly, the alicorn was not satisfied with these short answers, judging by her small frown.
Next to talk was the one with cat ears and sword. "Blake Belladonna. Yang thought this would be funny," she said without raising her eyes from her book.
"Okaaaay lots of you didn't seem to come of your own volition. I have to say, I'm a little hurt by that." Twilight let out a pitiful laugh at her little "joke." Maud couldn't help but wince internally. "What about you, Big Mac?"
The red stallion smiled gently. "Ah'm Big Mac, and Ah thought it might be interesting to meet others who like peace and quiet."
"Mac. No plans," the gruff man, Mac, apparently, put a stop to the smile that had been creeping onto the alicorn's muzzle.
She moved on. "It seems that I accidentally skipped you, Maud. Why don't you tell us why you're here?"
The gray mare almost swore out loud. Her hopes about this meeting had steadily declined since she arrived, and her desire to participate had been dwindling in a similar fashion for about the same amount of time. "I'm Maud Pie. I thought it might be fun." She didn't know why Twilight seemed to be expecting longer answers. Hadn't she been the one who decided to form this "club" in the first place?
The tall boy with the black wings was the last to speak. "Fang. Find out what and how you know about us. Maybe kill you." Even Maud, as versed as she was with the art of deadpan delivery, was wholly unable to tell whether or not he was joking.
And who is us? she questioned internally.
The alicorn laughed nervously and avoided any sort of eye contact with the hostile mutant. "Well then, now that we all know each other, let's all have a friendly discussion, preferably one that doesn't involve pre-meditated ponycide." She clopped her hoof on the ground as if an idea had just occurred to her. "I know! How about we go around the room one more time, and each of you can tell the group why you like to stay silent so much."
The room was bereft of any affirmation or declination, except for Blake. "Ren was right to burn his invitation before Nora saw it," she murmured darkly.
Once again, Twilight gave no indication of having heard the cat-eared girl, and instead motioned to Raven again. "Alright, Raven, why don't you start us off this time? Why do you feel the need to internalize your feelings so much, and risk alienating potential friends?"
The sorceress regarded Twilight passively for a moment, before saying, "I have to maintain total control over my emotions. Sharing my feelings just gets in the way of that. If I lapse in my concentration for as little as a minute, I run the risk of my powers becoming too strong to restrain and the possibility of accidentally summoning my father."
The alicorn cocked her head curiously, like an inquisitive puppy. "What's so bad about talking to your dad?"
"My father is Trigon, a demon lord from another universe who is bent on the extermination of all life."
"...oh," came the eventual response. "You know, Raven, that sounds awfully like an outlandish excuse."
Raven's eyes flashed, becoming filled with a vicious, crimson light. Her figure grew to several times her original height, towering over Twilight, who now felt very small. "IT IS NOT AN EXCUSE!" she roared, shaking the foundations of the crystal/tree/house/castle. Just as quickly as she grew, the enraged girl shrank back down to her original size and calmly took her seat again. She idly sipped from her teacup as Twilight pointed a shaking hoof at Blake.
This time, the girl with the strange ears looked up from her book, locking eyes with Twilight in a manner that was just as, if not more intimidating as Raven's outburst. "For as long as I can remember, I and those I love have been pushed around and discriminated against simply because of the circumstances of our birth. Then, the moment I decided to stand up against all the needless hatred, I realized that those whom I trusted most had betrayed everything in which I believed. Needless to say, I have severe trust issues. It is immeasurably difficult to find someone who both refuses to judge me for my faunus heritage, and refuses to take violent action against said bigotry. I am perfectly capable of voicing my emotions and thoughts to my friends." She emphasized the last three words, shooting a meaningful glare at everyone in the immediate vicinity. "When I am among strangers, I much prefer the company of books, rather than risk judgement from others. In fact, I sincerely wish that you had allowed me to retrieve my bow before you teleported me here." She gave her cat ears a significant wiggle.
When the girl was done with her shocking speech, Maud noticed Blake and Fang exchanging looks. The winged boy offered her a sympathetic glance, and Maud widened her eyes slightly in surprise when the faunus responded with a small, grateful smile.
Twilight gaped, clearly not expecting such an eloquent and pitiable story from the reserved girl. It seemed that while the alicorn knew of these characters that she had invited, she knew nothing of their true feelings and motivations. Her eyes darted back and forth for just a bit too long, desperately searching for a change of subject, feeling the need to relieve the tension. Finally, they rested on Blake's book, which had retaken its rightful place directly in front of her face.
"Oh. You're a bookworm too?" she probed, a shaky grin beginning to form on her muzzle. "I've been an avid reader ever since I was a little filly. So, what's Ninjas of Love about?"
For some reason, the parts of the faunus's face that were visible flushed a bright scarlet. The book quickly disappeared into that mystical plane where all cartoon characters store their belongings. "It's not important," she said under her breath, all her previous confidence and well-spoken speech patterns now gone.
The purple mare signed at yet another failed attempt at connecting to her guests.
Maud decided to take pity on her. "I usually like to remain silent because my sister doesn't. When we were fillies, she had so much energy and joy that it seemed almost as if the family needed a contrast. I started becoming more and more reserved, and it eventually became who I am."
Twilight regarded the quiet mare strangely. "That doesn't sound like a healthy outlook on life... No offense," she amended.
Maud simply shrugged and looked to Big Mac, who took this as his cue to share. "Ah just don't see the need ta tell ponies mah thoughts. Their business is theirs and mine is mine, no need ta complicate it," he stated matter-of-factly.
"But Big Mac," Twilight began, almost pleadingly, "Your friends want to hear what you have to say. Friendship involves talking and discussing things."
Like Maud, the large stallion shrugged indifferently. "It's just who ah am."
All eyes turned to the man with the beer now. He calmly took a swig of his own bottle before saying anything. "Seen some shit," came the unsatisfying answer to Twilight's question.
The alicorn flinched slightly at the unexpected profanity, though she was the only one to do so. "Would... would you care to elaborate?" she questioned, fishing for answers that everyone but her knew weren't coming.
Mac didn't respond. Instead, he chugged what was left of his beer. Only when he had finished and was reaching for a bottle did he reply with a curt, "No."
As she helplessly turned to Fang, Twilight looked as if she was begging for cooperation. Maud couldn't help but wonder what exactly she expected when she decided to gather up all these usually silent people and sit them in the same room.
"None of your business," the boy spat. "But I want to know how you know about us." He didn't change his posture or tone at all, but the atmosphere suddenly became tense, as if Twilight was one misspoken word away from a snapped neck, which was exactly the case.
The alicorn could do nothing but sputter, faltering under the intensity of Fang's gaze. "Well... hehe... it's a little... uh... complicated..."
His only response was a raised eyebrow and an unamused glare. He slowly began to rise from his chair.
"She doesn't mean you any harm!"
Every head in the room swiveled to see Blake standing as well, having almost shouted at he winged boy. She and Fang locked eyes. "I can see in your eyes that you have been pushed around just as much, if not more so, than I have, and for much the same reasons," she continued in a much softer tone, gesturing to his extra appendages. "I know what you've been through, but Twilight doesn't. Believe it or not, this pony is trying to understand people like us, idiotic and ineffective as her methods may be."
Everyone in the room studiously ignored Twilight's indignant "Hey!" in favor of watching the scene unfolding before them.
Fang was quiet for a few moments, which, admittedly, was absolutely nothing new. The silence was just straying into the uncomfortable range when he spoke, his eyes still maintaining their contact with the faunus's amber ones, "I don't really have a lot to say unless its snarky."
A collective sigh of relief was released by every last member of the BUSCC. Fang smiled sincerely at the cat-eared girl, then flashed her the universal signal for "call me," winking conspiratorially. Blake, for her part, simply rolled her eyes and took her seat once again. She was also wearing a pleased grin. The entire display perhaps contained the most emotion anyone had shown (Twilight excluded) since the meeting had begun.
As quickly as it had arrived, the touching moment fled when April cut in. "Ugh. You people are just looking for excuses to create drama, aren't you." Maud was very impressed that the girl kept a straight face when Blake reached for her sword and Fang balled his hands into white-knuckled fists.
Twilight found herself scrambling to relieve the mounting tension in the room once again, and said, "Well why don't you tell us why you prefer to keep silent most of the time, April?"
She turned her head to regard the alicorn impassively. "I'm actually a very happy and bubbly person, on account of my Puerto Rican heritage," she droned without a trace of emotion. "I just don't like talking to people because I hate almost all of them."
"Short, sweet, and to the point. I like it," Raven interjected with the ghost of a smile gracing her lips. "It reminds me of you, except without the sweet part, or the me liking it part."
April's only response was a small, conciliatory nod. The small room once again lapsed into silence, but this time, it was more relaxed. This time, it was the silence of people who were getting to know each other just a little better and maybe... just maybe, were ready to form friendships, despite the earlier death threats.
Of course, it was not to last. The quiet atmosphere was broken by a small, urgent beeping noise. Raven sighed heavily and reached into one of the pouches on her uniform. She withdrew a yellow, circular device and pressed a button. After a moment, a scratchy, male voice emanated from the device. "Raven! Overload and Control Freak are loose! They are quite possibly the worst combination I could dream up, second only to Slade and Trigon! We need you!"
The sorceress rolled her eyes and stood from her chair. "It's been... fun, I guess," she said haltingly. "But I need to get back and save the world." She thought for a second. "You know what? Maybe we should do this again." Raven seemed almost surprised by her own words as she created an obsidian portal behind her and walked through. It disappeared after a moment, leaving only an empty chair in her wake.
Several jaws around the circle were dropped and for about the fifty thousandth time, everyone was silent. Twilight valiantly picked up the pieces. "Well then," she began. "I think that about does it for our first meeting. If you think we might be doing this again, I'll send out another round of letters by next week. I'm thinking about next meeting being two or three weeks from now at around the same time." She didn't get an affirmative, but no one shot her down either, so she took that as a success.
"Alright, that said, I'll teleport the non-equines back to your dimension of origin. You should be within thirty miles of where you left." She ignored their protests as her horn flared with a magenta light. Maud heard a loud "pop" and was blinded by a bright flash. When the spots faded from her vision, only Big Mac, Twilight, and Maud were left.
"I'll be going now," Maud said, before leaving. She doesn't really do extended goodbyes, or displays of emotion of any kind, really.
Big Mac soon followed, and the alicorn was the only one left in the room. "You did a good thing today, Twilight." She talked to herself with an incredibly self-satisfied tone, like a schizophrenic who had just saved a baby. "I'm sure they're all going to want to come back and we'll have lots of fun and be best friends and then you'll actually have something to show for this stupid princesshood other than a crystal tree and a halfway decent rock band."
With that, she stalked out of the room, screaming for Spike to clean up the living room.
A few minutes passed, and someone else entered the former meeting room. A small, knitted donkey with a loosely attached tail somberly strode into it. He glanced around for a moment, before heaving a depressed sigh. "Well," said to himself, "It looks like they already finished. That's okay. It's not like I was looking forward to this small break in the unceasing, monotonous drone of my life. I guess I'll just walk back home."