Consolation Prize

by Geo-Sif

First published

A tale of the human who could, but simply can’t. Lacking purpose and destiny, he falls into the hooves of others to decide his fate for him.

On a dark and stormy evening, one young man is ripped from home to a place both familiar and yet different. Torn from everything he’s known, he’s faced with an encounter of the hoofed kind, that changes him arguably for the better. But destiny is a fickle thing. Having traded one existence for another, comparatively boring one, he’s left with little freedom but much guidance. It’s a gilded cage, one from which he can merely catch glimpses of the outside land, of magic and ponies. Fighting both cabin fever and a growing self-doubt, he must have faith, if not in himself, then in finding a way home. For if not for his sanity, then for his sake, he better have the fortitude to withstand the curve balls sent his way.


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I remember the light, bright and blinding light, as it split into many colors, swirling like a wild storm around me. I felt… warm, both inside and out, and there was a tug, as if it were gently guiding me along, herding me. And I, not knowing any better, went with it.

Soon, the light faded, leaving me to the nature of gravity, causing me to plummet. It wasn’t a far fall, but I landed in a still puddle with an audible splash, soaking parts of my jeans and my hoodie, much to my displeasure. My eyes cleared, the brightness leaving me with little to properly focus on, until the room came into view, spawned from the darkness.

I should say, though, that the room I had been expecting was not the one that I got. To this day, I can’t quite remember how I managed to end up in that throne room, but yet, here I was, disoriented and confused.

Said throne room was dilapidated, crumbling from age, and all but faded with time. The torn banners and carpet, the collapsed thrones, the holes in the roof lending to the puddles around; it all pointed to me that I simply didn’t belong. It was like looking through a window at a museum exhibit, only I had broken in at the dead of night.

A chill passed through my body, but I shook it off, chalking it up to my now wet clothes. Despite the puddles around, there was no storm, at least not overhead. I could still hear lightning, see flashes, but was ultimately thankful for the patch of clear sky. The moon was in full glow, letting me see, with some difficulty, my surroundings.

At least, until I put my glasses back on; seeing became much easier after that.

Pulling myself to my feet, I splashed a few puddles while I moved to the windows. Cracked and nearly shattered though they were, I could still see through them for the most part. I frowned at the forest outside the throne room. Some sort of jungle surrounded the perimeter as far as I could see, given the storm that loomed over the trees. Visibility was poor, thanks to the constant rain that poured over the trees. It made for a somewhat eerie sight, to see the clouds stop so suddenly, as if held back by some force.

It was with some difficulty that I quit my gawking through the window, determined to find more suitable shelter for the night should that storm turn more towards the castle.


I don’t know for how long I wandered through that dumb castle. The movement of the moon made it hard to remember which hallway I had gone down first, long shadows casting down previous options while light pointed towards others. I swallowed deeply, pushing down the rising fear and despair, my exhaustion slowly edging in the later the hour became.

With a sigh, I finally made it back to the parlor just outside the throne room, though it too lacked a good, solid roof. Puddles dotted the floor, reflecting the moonlight. I almost gave into my childlike instinct to jump in them.

But I was older and more mature than that.

As I crept along, shoes making small waves through the water, I couldn’t help feel like I was being watched. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, sending a shiver down my spine. I looked around me, trying to find the source of the feeling. For all I knew, I had been alone in that castle since the moment I arrived.

It was when I caught a pair of golden eyes peering through the darkness did I freeze. A chill fell over me. From here I could barely make out the long slits they had for pupils, wide though they were to see through the night. I dared myself not to move a muscle, as if me standing in broad moonlight would hide me if I simply didn’t move. My breath hitched in my throat, and I struggled not to cough.

It didn’t help, as I soon found out. The eyes narrowed at me, lowering and coming closer. I didn’t have the chance to even so much as think about what was coming. I ran.

Legs quickly beating a path, I fled through the halls, trying my best to remember where I had gone, where it might be safe. Unfortunately, my sense of direction has never been great, and as such, I wound up in a round, empty room, a slight dais across from me flanked by windows. As I fought to calm my breath, I barely registered that it used to be some form of bedroom, if the ruined bed was any indication. Still, I had to find a hiding spot. This was a dead end.

Scurrying as fast as I could, I hid behind a nearly collapsed pillar, in the shadows away from the doorway, struggling to make myself as small as possible. Balling up, I swallowed my breath, keeping quiet and still.

It wasn’t long before I heard the telltale signs of movement, a clopping along the stairs, before they stopped at the threshold. Holding my breath I slowly, carefully, tilted my head around the pillar to look. I caught sight of the creature the eyes belonged to, and my fear fell to confusion. From the corner of my eye, outside the tunnel of vision my glasses provided, I thought I saw it to be almost… equine, clad in nearly full-plate purple armor, with some sort of eye symbol hanging around his front. I wasn’t exactly rational at this point, so I didn’t know what to believe.

I didn’t risk poking my head out further, deciding it best to stay hidden for the time being. Eventually though I grew impatient, leaning to take a second look, only to find said equine to be missing. I carefully leaned more around the pillar, but couldn’t catch so much of a glimpse of it.

I was thankful for the soft breeze in the room as I let out the breath I had been holding. It looked as though I had made it. However, as I was looking around the room, I happened to notice that there were no puddles in here, the roof having not caved in within this particular area. As I made a mental note that I should stay here for shelter, I glanced over the ceiling, around the room, until my eyes fell on just what was causing the breeze to begin with.

The equine had been flying behind me, quietly, on leathery bat wings, while I had my guard down.

Now, I’m not saying there wasn’t a shriek, but I maintain it was the most manly of shrieks. It was deep and baritone; the kind that could sing an opera.

Regardless, I fled, scrambling along the floor for purchase, hands clenching pools of decayed rug before I fell down the stairs. So twisted in my panic, I failed to let go of the carpet, causing it to wrap tightly around my body, making me bounce along every step, against the stone wall even.

Dizzy, knocked senseless, I fell to the base of the spiral staircase, world blurry and throat dry. And yet I was still scared. Fight or flight was in full effect, and I’m not a fighter.

Worming my way along, I managed maybe two feet before collapsing again. Hyperventilating at this point, whole being shaking, vision blurring more than usual, I dragged myself along until I hit something nearly solid, smashing into it. It didn’t quite feel like a wall though.

My breath caught in my throat, my gaze slowly tracing up along the four legs that stood before me, my bottom lip trembling as I met deep cyan eyes, staring back at me from underneath a hood. I jerked back, yet again stumbling, unable to hold balance under such utter terror as I fell. Landing roughly again, I barely caught the fact that the face under the hood tilted to the side.

A silver shod hoof was raised for some reason, before a glow fell over a horn I had missed from my initial observation. The hood fell back revealing a midnight blue unicorn of all things, my eyes lost in the flowing mane. It was a field of stars, glistening as though each follicle were apart of a greater, solid mass.

“And what manner of creature art thou?” her voice hit my ears, snapping me out of my stupor. I blankly stared while I processed what I’d heard.

“A-a horse, that can talk?” I wondered aloud; probably not the best decision in hindsight.

“A horse?!” her eyes narrowed, or at least I felt like they did. I was quite blind without glasses. “We will not be insulted thusly, creature!” Her voice boomed, and I began stammering out an apology. I couldn’t read her expression as she stomped a hoof. “Explain thyself, nave!”

I bit my lip, cowering. What was I supposed to say? Swallowing, I only managed a brief “Uh” before my voice gave out, cracking towards the end. Fear had me again, my heart pumping in my chest.

It must have been the way I was looking at her, mouth open, yet eyes squinting to make her visible, but when she lit up her horn again, I flinched. With a sigh from her, soon my glasses floated over to me, a soft blue glow around them in the night light. I stared at them dumbfounded for what must’ve been too long, because she cleared her throat at me, again making me jump.

I didn’t wait longer before I took the glasses back, my vision becoming clear. I could finally make her out, and yes, her mane really did flow like a sea of stars. Above all else, on top of her head, just behind her horn, sat an onyx crown or tiara.

I must’ve had my jaw hanging open as I stared at this unicorn, because I soon felt something close my mouth. I thought I saw a smirk on her lips, but reading expressions was difficult at this stage.

“What a strange creature...” I heard her mutter under her breath, likely not for my ears. Her horn took on that same soft light as before, and I felt a little on the warm side. A light passed over me, though stopping at my chest, where my necklace had been tucked away. Again, her eyes narrowed, bite coming back into her voice as she demanded, “Where did thee get this?” I felt my hoodie pulled down and my necklace tugged away, nearly breaking the chain that held my ring.

I swallowed, but before I could say anything about the heirloom, it began to glow. Soon the light became harsh, blinding, and I could barely make out that that her horn’s light increased as well. She was likely trying to overpower whatever was happening. But it didn’t work.

Next thing I knew I was overcome with a feeling of warmth, simultaneously mixing with a chill; the kind of thing that happens when you sit the wrong way and a limb falls asleep. I squeezed my eyes shut as I felt a change, body twisting in ways it really shouldn’t.

Briefly, I wondered if this was death, if I had done something to have her kill me, albeit softly.

Yet, before I could register what was happening, I again hit the floor, head aching and body nearly numb. I had become quite acquainted with that castle’s floor throughout the night, but I can safely say, I never want to see it again.

As I opened my eyes to a strangely clear world, I squinted in habit to take in the unicorn’s expression. It looked like one of shock. Over what, though, I gave myself two guesses, without peeking, and both were wrong.

Unfamiliar with this form though I was, I still had a sense that something had changed far more than my imagination could conceive. I shifted in my spot, hearing fabric tearing. That’s when I got a look at myself, my eyes scanning over to let me take in as many details as I wanted.

I was now a horse, just like her, though smaller and… almost aquamarine in color with a pleasant purple mane and tail? I wasn’t aware horses could be such a color, but here I was, clothes torn to account for my new shape and mass.

A lump formed in my throat, that I fought to swallow down. With a growl that surprised even me, I shouted at her, “What did you do to me?! Why did you make me a horse?!”

Being yelled at seemed to snap her out of her gawking. Her eyes narrowed. “We have done nothing to thee of the sort!” Her growl moved to match my own, slowly surpassing it. “Thou will not speakest to us in such a foul way!” she practically yelled, though sounded much louder, booming through my skull as I quivered. Her eyes glowed a stark white, her iris and pupils vanishing while I curled in, cowering, “Be still and show respect!” I became of aware of a rushing wind, pumping down the hall past her, blasting me in the face. As the wind kicked up her cloak, her wings spread wide. Deep down, I could feel myself in awe at this winged unicorn, my existence feeling quite insignificant.

I bit back a retort, my fear squashing my anger quite thoroughly as she took a step closer to me. One hoof in front of the other, until she practically towered above me. I shook, absolutely terrified that she might do something else to me. That I wouldn’t just be a horse. I’d be a dead one this time for sure.

She seemed to notice my terror towards her, taking a moment, closing her eyes, and calming down. Her wings fluttered at her sides, again sliding back under her cloak with little effort. I had been slowly devolving into shock. Yet when her eyes returned to normal, I saw what I thought was sadness in them, but it quickly went away, changing to a placid expression. It did little to calm my nerves, however.

We stared at each other in silence for an eternity. Time seemed to move slowly, specks of dust in the air drifting languidly down. After my chest no longer felt like it was going to explode, I closed my eyes, swallowing my fear.

“What is thy name?”

Her words almost passed me by, quiet though they were. “F-Forrest… ma’am,” I added at the end trying to show some form of respect, to perhaps quell her anger, “But I prefer Benjamin, or Ben.”

“Very well, Benjamin,” her words were soft, cooing almost. I felt like a child again, being reassured by my grandmother that everything would be okay, that the storm wouldn’t hurt me. “We are not sure what has happened, but We can at least assure thee: thine form ist not one of a horse.” She spat the word out.


“Thou art a pony,” she emphasized, motioning with her head. Again she passed my glasses to me, though this time I couldn’t help but notice the crack in the lens, a sizable chunk missing. “And unless thine power is that of shapeshifitng, it would appear as though this form is not temporary,” she continued on, though I almost missed her words, nearly dropping my glasses from my unfamiliar hooves. “The magic We felt, t’was not that of a dark spell, but that of Harmony at work.” What was that supposed to mean?

I only managed a puzzled expression before I focused back on my glasses. With a little help, they sat at the edge of my new muzzle, far too small to be of any true help, yet unnecessary thanks to my new equine form. I also finally noticed that any trauma I had from falling down the stairs had vanished from my new form.

She took my silence well enough, “We know that this may be difficult, but--”

My tiny voice cut her off, “Is that the Royal ‘We’?”

She was taken aback, another glare forming before her face returned to a careful neutral. “Yes,” was her simple response.

And “oh,” was mine.

Again, silence fell. I heard a slight clinking of armor behind me, and though I tore my clothes further, my longer neck let me peer behind me. I’m ashamed to admit, I froze. Behind me was that cat-eyed equine that I had been running from. He gave no indication or acknowledgment, other than his eyes peering at me, staring through me with an expression of carefully sculpted stone.

“Night Wing will not harm thee, young Benjamin,” she said, making me look back to her, blinking almost owlishly. “Mine guard simply wishes to ensure thine cooperation.”

That told me so many things, my brain had to race to keep up. “You knew I was here?”

“Thine arrival was not one of subtlety,” she explained, “Surely you did not miss the lack of clouds in the Everfree sky?”

I mulled over that. Of course I didn’t miss that fact, but I didn’t know any better either. Still, I moved onto my next round of questions, “But what’s an ‘Everfree’? How did I get here? Where even am I? What is--”

I went quiet when she raised her hoof, and I didn’t miss the hurt look when I flinched back from it. “Calm thyself. Such matters little at this point. Thou art here. Now,” her eyes narrowed, “what will you do?”

I didn’t know. My breathing slowed, however. As I thought, I had begun to hyperventilate again. Vision returning, I looked away. My voice was that of a squeak, “Come quietly?”

I felt her hoof on my chin, turning my head so I would look her in the eyes, “Thou art not under arrest. However, young Benjamin, if it is thy desire, thou shall be our charge. We very well cannot just leave thee in our old castle.”

I briefly wondered if I had been hiding in her bedroom of all things, but thought better than to ever voice such a thought. “Well, um, your Majesty?” it came out as a question, as I had no idea how to refer to her at this point. I had never spoken to royalty before. “Where would you take me?”

“We would escort you to Canterlot, where we assure thee, you would be most safe,” she nodded slightly as though it were already decided.

“Canterlot,”I repeated, and she nodded to me, though didn’t ask when I tilted my head, “Is it far?”

“But one chariot ride away,” she put on her most reassuring smile.


“You know,” I started, holding on tightly to the side of the chariot, staring at the flooring, and struggling not to be sick, “I imagined something more… grounded.”

She smirked at me, but said nothing, idly adjusting her wings as if to shrug. It was hard to miss the motion despite not necessarily looking at her.

I grimaced, but bravely looked about, to the two guards pulling the chariot, and the five others escorting us, all winged bat ponies. Sure, it had been a surprise when she summoned the chariot from out of nowhere, but it had wheels, so imagine my shock when we took to the sky.

“For thine knowledge,” she says, breaking the silence, “Thine face is the most interesting of greens.”

My lips purse as I feel my ears fold atop my head. Even given my air sickness, I still glared at her. I was seconds from exploding, from saying something I’d regret. Instead, I settled on something simpler: a change of subject. “So,” I eloquently started, “what’s your name?”

“Apologies,” she didn’t say for what, “Mine name is Luna, mine title is Princess.”

I blinked, and without looking, recalled the moon tattoo on her flank. Her name seemed obvious… “Princess Luna?” she nodded, “Why didn’t you lead with that?”

“Thou did not ask.”

I groaned, rolling my eyes, but soon moved my eyes back to the floor, away from her slight grin. We were silent for several moments after that, when I began to wonder something. “Um, so,” I swallowed, wetting my suddenly dry throat, “since none of your guards spoke, which one of us talks funny?”

“What does thee mean?” Luna asked.

“Well, I’ve never heard a… pony talk before,” I said as she gave me a little sidelong glance, “So I’m not sure which one of us is speaking correctly.” She raised an eyebrow, while I made a small motion with my hoof, wishing it were a hand again. “The, um, ye old speak? ‘Thee’ and ‘thine’ and the like.”

She nods, mulling over the answer carefully, expression one completely on guard.

“You only do it when you’re uncomfortable, huh?” My words seemed to have no effect on Luna, though I thought I saw a guard’s ear twitch. I was too focused on her wings shifting to know for sure.

“We believe you are taking this transition quite well,” she changed the subject quickly, words carefully chosen now, “Certainly, to be pulled from where you hail, and changed thusly, must be quite a shock for you.”

“Oh don’t get me wrong...” I paused to swallow down the hint of fear rising from the mere mention of the change, “Inside? I’m freaking out. But I have more important things to worry about: like falling out of this chariot!” I emphasized this by gripping tighter over the edge.

Luna let a soft chuckle pass through her lips, “Your safety is assured.”

I chewed on my cheek, wanting to focus on other things. “Why isn’t the wind howling in our ears? How come we can just talk normally without the rain pelting our faces?”

“T’is but a simple spell,” she said tilting her head, “We are certain that thee could learn such a spell, given time.”

While she probably meant to be reassuring, I flinched at the thought. It had taken me a while to notice my own horn from my skull. It’s not something you can really focus on, like your nose or snout, just something out of your periphery. “Magic, huh?” my voice cracked, unsure if I should breech the subject, or if acknowledging it would cause the chariot to plummet. I certainly didn’t believe in it.

She merely tilted her head.

“Um, never mind,” I muttered, deciding to instead give a thread count to the checkered patterned in the seat cushions.

As we flew, my ripped clothing flapped lazily in a light breeze, despite our incredible speed. Magic was a gift, I’d decided. Though, having the wind in my hair made the whole thing feel like a dream. What if it was one? What if I woke up tomorrow, back to normal? Would I even bother going to class?


I’d been studying, going to college to make something out of myself, to make my grandparents proud, even though I hadn’t truly chosen a major. I wanted nothing more than to be truly self-sufficient, to be an adult and no longer be as sheltered as I was.

But that was all gone now. Here I was, a pastel pony riding next to a pretty princess, my clothes might as well not even exist. There would be nothing to show for my old life. Luna had taken my wallet and my pocket’s contents, my glasses included, though my heirloom was left around my neck. The chain was a little tight though, but not yet choking me. It was hard to move without feeling the chain strain.

Thoughts flooded my mind as I opened the can of worms though. I really wasn’t getting home, was I? What would be my new normal now? How can I--

The thought halted as I felt Luna touch me, making me flinch back with a yelp. I was panting, nearly having a panic attack, wetness forming under my eyes… I looked over to her face just as she covered up the startled reaction, leg retreating back to her side.

“Forgive us. Thy face looked as though you were ‘freaking out’, as it were.”

“Is fine,” I noncommittally murmured out.

She studied me for a quiet second, eyes squinting as if to read my mind. Slowly, she settled back in the chariot, gaze forward.

I was thankful that she had stopped scrutinizing me. I was fighting the urge to fidget under her gaze. I sighed softly, hoof rubbing over the cushion, oddly tactile through the keratin. I lifted my hoof up, giving it a look, turning it over to stare, examining it. I don’t know how long I was lost in thought.

The next thing I knew, the chariot began its decent, bringing me out of my stupor. Again I latched onto the side, closing my eyes through the landing. I felt like such a child. I’d flown on a plane a number of times, sure, but that giant metal missile is heavily pressurized and up high. You can barely feel the take off and landing. As it was, the chariot was quite low, without so much of a seat-belt for fake safety, and traveling at speeds far too fast for a proper landing.

Fortunately though, the chariot made a landing without so much of a bump. It had landed much like a helicopter would, or a VTOL aircraft, anyway, under the hands of a highly skilled individual. To say it was gentle would be an understatement and be a vast disservice to the guards that flew it.

In fact it had been over with so quickly, that it took a guard to peel me from the side, waking me up to the sight of the marbled landing zone.


Adrenaline began to wane in my system as I walked down the hall, still escorted, but with a slight increase in number. Luna was talking, though about what, I couldn’t be sure. It felt muted, so far away. It wasn’t until I was pulled back towards a door did I catch the tail end of the talk.

“And this shall be your quarters for the moment. We wish thee a pleasant night’s rest. Should your dreams turn frightful, we shall be quick to aid you.” And then she was off, taking about half of the guards with her. I wasn’t sure what to make of the last part, but I could tell she wasn’t nearly as comfortable with it as she let on.

With a small shrug, I moved to turn the knob on the door, thankful it wasn’t a simple round one. I had no idea how that would work out with hooves.

The door shut behind me as I leaned against it, letting out a long breath. My eyes were heavy, and I was emotionally drained by this point. I’m not sure how, but I ended up on the bed, no covers either. I laid on top of them all, and didn’t care. I was beyond exhausted.

Briefly I considered shedding my shredded clothes, but I couldn’t work up the energy to care.

I just laid there for the moment, though, staring out the crack between the curtains, the moonlight that hit my eyes proving to be mildly calming and not as irritating as sunlight would be at this point in my exhaustion. I thanked the stars and God above that I still had time to rest. Then my eyes closed in a slow series of blinks, each one lasting longer than the former, until finally, I fell into a dreamless slumber.

Chapter 1

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The next morning came far too quickly for my liking. I never was a morning person, and I doubt I ever will be, even if I actually try for once.

I was awakened to a tapping at my door, faint at first, almost delicate. At least, that’s what I heard through my sleepy haze. The next set of rapping were quite louder, knocking at my chamber’s door. I dragged myself out of bed, still garbed in my torn clothes, and with an audible thump promptly fell to the floor.

If I wasn’t awake before, I certainly was now. Pain was an unpleasant motivator, but effective, nonetheless. I continued on with limping gait.

And the knocking continued at my closed gate.

Quite loudly I cursed the hour, forgetting where I was, as I stumbled and squirmed my way across the rug. I had also forgotten that I was now a quadruped, because I kept attempting two legged steps, only to meet the not so soft floor.

And the accursed hammering would not leave from my door.

“I’m coming!” I shouted, grinding my teeth, taking it one step at a time, inch by inch towards the annoyance that waited on the other side of my large, wooden barricade. This seemed to placate the guest, as the assault on my door ceased.

I thanked the stars that they weren’t a crude, rude beast.

As I reached the door, I took a deep breath to calm myself. I didn’t want my morning grump to come out, but I did at the same time want to give the person on the other end a piece of my mind. So I settled somewhere in between. “Do you have any idea what ti--”

And my complaint died in my throat when I realized I was facing a gold clad guard with stony expression. It came back to me fairly quickly, that I should at least be respectful lest I be punished. Although, that apology died in my throat as he stepped aside.

I finally noticed the being behind him. I was barely meeting the chest of what was an exceptionally large pony. I had to crane my neck upwards, and even then, retreat a few steps to get the full picture. I was treated to a subtly glowing, white winged unicorn, graceful as she was tall, with kind magenta eyes. Her mane and tail flowed in a gentle nonexistent breeze, shifting hues to match a vivid aurora, mixed in with natural morning hues. She radiated a power, but also a calmness to her aura that I couldn’t possibly describe. And yet, to sum it up, I was intimidated from day: one; second: one.

“I believe it’s approximately 7:14 am,” she spoke in a cheerful voice that I subtly hated, like waking up to wind-chimes from a terribly deep slumber: pleasant, but still disruptive. “May I come in?”

My brain had long since fried, body having stumbled in my retreat to a seating position. So I responded with the first thing to come to my mind, “Y-you’re pretty…” It took all but a second for me to realize my error, as a blush now coated my face. My drool slicked, messy coat, bed-maned...

I was incredibly self-conscious in that moment, since I had yet to even attempt clean up.

“Why thank you,” she took the rather dumb comment in stride, lips curving in a soft smile.

Her original request finally hit me, and I continued my retreat, far enough away from the door to allow her entry. I graced her with a numb nod, and she entered, with my eyes never leaving hers. I was determined to read her, despite it being a fruitless effort at this stage. Her golden shoes clipped softly over the floor, while her equally golden and decorative yoke and crown gleamed brightly of light unseen.

To put it softly, I was mesmerized by her, embarrassing though that may be.

With a glow from her horn, the door shut, leaving us in a small, but pleasant silence. I stewed in my embarrassment, while she let me recover. “Uh, hi...” was my greeting, before I inserted a foot into my newly opened mouth, “So, um, if Luna is a Princess, does that mean you’re the Queen?”

She took the assumption far better than I’d ever hoped. “No. Luna is my sister, and we are both Princesses here in Equestria.” It felt like she was one word away from calling me silly. I got the feeling that there was a small, playful spark about her, while at the same time, all of my senses were telling me to bow now or flee. Being a pony changed certain aspects of my mindset and instincts, but I still had my personality to temper said instincts. Anyway, I settled on an awkward bow, that took me deep and low, while my legs shook the whole way through. “I am Princess Celestia, bringer of the sun, and co-ruler of Equestria.” A diarchy? That was a new one to me. “And you must be one Forrest Benjamin.”

“Yes,” I nodded to the name, but added my full name, “Um, Forrest Benjamin Moore… but I prefer Benjamin or Ben.”

“Very well, Benjamin. It is nice to meet you.”

I stared dumbly at her for a moment before my brain fully rebooted, having ever so slowly gotten over her stature. Again, the silence came, and there was a moment I thought she was waiting patiently for me. “Yeah. Nice to meet you as well…” I glanced around the room, as if to find a topic, but settled on the first thing on my mind, “So, can I go home now?”

I really needed to think more before speaking because that playfulness was gone in an instant, replaced with a carefully guarded expression, what I took as a mask honed and constructed after years of use. “I am afraid it is not quite that simple. You see, you are of a special case,” she said, “When you arrived in the Everfree last night, you caused quite a stir. Such a surge of Harmony is hard to go unnoticed, even by the common laypony. So powerful was your arrival that it would be difficult to replicate without sufficient time or planning.”

“...oh,” was my response, not that I understood much about what she referred to about Harmony and Magic—with a capital ‘M’. “But can I change back to a human?”

“Is this the ring you had on last night?” she changed the subject, levitating my heirloom for me to see. The chain must’ve snapped sometime in my sleep. To my nod, she continued, “This is no mere stone inside this ring, but a piece of the Tree of Harmony itself. A Tree, that for all intents and purposes, is one of a kind.”

“But that’s impossible! That ring has been in my family for at least ten generations, and we’re from nowhere near here!”

“Be that as it may, this ring still holds a piece of the Tree of Harmony, no matter how ancient it may be,” she began to pass the ring over to me, but paused midway through, “Would you mind if I kept it? It will be placed in a safe place, and you can withdraw it at any time.”

I froze. This was an heirloom, given to me by my grandmother herself. I was entrusted with it, and was supposed to pass it down to the following generation, should I ever get the dating thing figured out. I chewed over my lower lip, and my ears lay flat against my head.

Reading my answer in the negative, she continued to pass it to me. Yet, when I went to receive it, I gently pushed it back her way. “N-no, no,” I started, hesitant, “You can take it. Part of it belongs in this world anyway, right?”

She nodded and moved it to examine further. As she looked over it, she nodded a second time, as if to confirm her suspicions of some sort. “Yes, the Tree of Harmony is of a special breed: while being made of the most beautiful crystal, it is also grown magically. A single sliver could prove very powerful in the right hooves, or perhaps prove disastrous if used incorrectly. In days past, bark from the Tree of Harmony was gifted to very special ponies, a symbol and reminder of home, but also a means of finding said home, should they become lost.”

“Oh,” was all I said, brain working to process her information.

“As well,” she cleared her throat, “We believe that this might explain your sudden appearance and transformation.”

“Wait, wait,” I held out a hoof, again wishing it were a hand, “Are you saying that the ring is the reason I’m now… a pony?”

“Perhaps,” she answered cryptically, but there was a hint of agreement from her, and pride, like a teacher to student. “But it could also have been any number of things to cause the change. The ring itself is but a catalyst.”

I blanched. I had been carrying that thing around with no idea what it truly was.

“I assure you, it’s most benign,” she responded quickly to my expression.

“You mean, mostly benign,” I corrected her, but she didn’t correct me in return.

“Regardless, you are now a pony. I will repeat the question Princess Luna gave to you: What will you do?”

“Well,” I answered with a shrug and without so much of a thought, “hopefully this pony-business isn’t permanent. I’d like to get back to my home, to my life. I really would rather not end up on a missing person’s list.”

Celestia paused, just long enough for me to catch. Her body language changed, head lifting, wings shifting, until she was a ruler, not a playful mother trying to teach a child. “I am so very sorry, Benjamin,” was all she said though.

I took it as well as could be expected. I shut down completely. Her words pierced my very resolve. The shock was all over my face, ears laying against my skull. “N-no,” I stammered. She looked saddened, sympathizing with me, but I thought I understood well enough. I began jumping to conclusions though, anything I could grasp at that I thought could help, “But there has to be something! It’s magic, for crying out loud! Maybe it’s in some book, somewhere? I-I don’t exactly have much to be doing. I could look for it! Maybe I can find the answer?”

Her lips fell to a thin line, “That is a possibility, but one should not bring their hopes up too quickly, lest they be dashed just as fast.”

My heart hammered in my chest; the shock not going away. I was to be stuck like this? An awkward equine, that has to start out life again, from square one: learning to walk without breaking any teeth?

Her eyes drifted up and over to the side, as if searching for a clock, but settled on the window behind the curtain, “I am afraid my time is up for this morning. I will have to be going.” To my silent protest, she said, “Now, I won’t be far. You are in my palace, after all.” That did little to calm me, though.

“Wait...” she paused, looking at me expectantly, “Could you please… send me some books to read, so I can start leaning about this magic stuff?”

“Absolutely,” she nods, pleased with my insistence in learning magic. “I will send somepony with a few books from the Canterlot Library. They will also be by to pick up your clothing.”

“M-my clothes?”

“Yes. I feel as though it would be best if you’re perceived as just a pony in need. Your clothing would likely give away your origins. Not to mention, they could use alterations and repair.” She wanted to keep me a secret for the time being.

“O-okay.” I was thoroughly embarrassed by this point at the mere thought of being nude for the rest of my days here in Equestria, my face a deep shade of crimson.

But she paid it no heed, “Have a pleasant day, Benjamin.”

“Y-you as well, Princess Celestia.”


Thankfully, someone did indeed come by later that day to deliver those books to me, so it didn’t feel like the day was a total loss. I did, however, give up my clothes to the pony as instructed, albeit reluctantly. I pushed aside any embarrassment towards being naked, deciding to worry about it later. In the end, though, it felt like a clean trade. I had my reading material, so I was content.

Or so I thought.

My first clue was my lack of comprehension for any of the titles: I could not find any. My second being that I couldn’t find the table of contents, in any of them. And finally, that the pretty little runes and pictures scrawled over each page turned out to be completely illegible to me. I was at a loss. How could we have nearly identical speaking languages, yet they lack an English alphabet?

Whatever. I should take these things in stride. There was some hope, though. I had taken foreign languages before, and while sentence structure changed between the languages, it was a rather decent game of plug-and-play for direct translations. At least, that’s how I found it to be. As long as my mind could alternate between the rules from the two languages, I could understand and translate what I was studying.

When it came to the Equestrian lettering system, though, I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I studied it, slowly turning the pages, even flipping or rotating the book, but couldn’t see a specific pattern. They were too advanced for me, which only served to discourage me. And even still, I was left to my devices for a day and a half, so I didn’t quite have it all together by the end.

To top it all off, I lacked any note taking materials or even any ability to write. It was all going to be from memory if I had any hope of learning this.

It was late in the afternoon of that third day that I was greeted by a knock at my door. I had been studying the book lazily, laying on the bed as I stared over the pages, hoping beyond hope something would jump out at me. The only thing that jumped was me, however.

“C-come in!” I cursed my nervous stutter from being startled.

The doorknob clicked through use of magic, and in walked a beautifully pink pony princess. Or I assumed her status of princess on the fact that she wore regalia and had both wings and horn. So princess by virtue of race…

I stared at her for a few moments, but my tired brain had little will to process this newcomer. I’ll admit, I was rude to her, and probably made a poor first impression, but I could already feel the onset of cabin fever. Without looking, I greeted her with a nod of the head and a soft grunt.

I could see her tilt her head from my peripheral, though I was still getting used to the ability to see without the need for glasses. That was a blessing, not to be forced through a small vision cone and be able to move just my eyes to see.

I looked up then when she didn’t move from the entrance, just having closed the door, when I realized what I’d done. My eyes widened, and I practically dove off the bed in a low bow, smashing my face to the ground in the process. When I looked up again, she wore a look mixed with amusement and embarrassment.

“Please, get up. There’s no need for such a bow,” her voice held kindness, but also flowed like a melody. I bet she had a wonderful singing voice.

Squashing that thought before I could consider where it came from, I stood on shaky legs, a sheepish smile of my own formed on my lips. “S-sorry...”

“No need to apologize either!” she practically scoffed, shaking her head. Lighting up her horn, she drew out a clipboard from under her wing, looking over it for a few moments. “You must be Forest ‘Benjamin’ Moor,” there was something off about how she said my name, but I couldn’t put a finger on it, “I’m Princess Mi Amore Cadenza. Pleased to meet you, Benjamin.” She held out a hoof, and I blanked on what to do. Torn between a shake and a kiss, I simply mirrored her, and she seemed more than happy to gently clip hooves together.

I blinked as I lowered my hoof. Looking back up to her bemused expression, she again shook her head. Another look at her clipboard brought a nod, though, and I cleared my throat. “Um, you can call me Ben.”

“And you can call me Cadance,” she gave me a warm smile, which I tried to return. “Much better than stuffy old ‘Mi Amore Cadenza’, eh?”

I felt like I should chuckle at that, so I did.

“So what had you so absorbed?” she moved around the bed to look at my reading material strewn about the place.

I had lacked a means of really picking up after myself, having no magic of my own and barely able to walk on my hooves, much less used them dexterously. I still tried, but I had made a mess. Needless to say, though, I was looking far worse than when Celestia had visited me days prior. I had attempted a brushing, but it didn’t work out. There were too many knots in my mane. My coat was matted by this point, and I had minor bags under my eyes. My breath probably stunk as well.

All of which she didn’t seem to care about as she scanned over the books I had open. “You realize this book was upside down, right?” She righted it for me.

I swallowed down my embarrassment, “Nope...”

It took her a minute to process my single syllable, before she was back at the clipboard, flipping a few sheets this time. She muttered something to herself, but was far too adept at it for me to hear, which struck me as odd at the time. “So, you can’t read?”

She tore that bandage off, hair and all. I admit that I flinched, fighting off my rising embarrassment.

Cadance immediately worked to calm my nerves, “Hey, it’s okay. You’ve been through a lot already. Just have to take it one step at a time.” She placed a hoof on my shoulder and smiled her warm smile.

“Heh, literally,” it was my turn to mutter, but she caught it with a soft snicker of her own.

There was an awkward pause that followed, allowing me to get over myself with a sigh. “So, you think I can get a, uh, foal’s book on reading?” I asked.

“Sure, I don’t see why not,” her smile widened, “I mean, you won’t be able to see a tutor for likely a week from now. But that’s no reason to give up.”

I smiled a tiny bit, “Thank you. But what do you mean by tutor?”

“Oh! I meant more that the Crown is working to hire you one, but since you’re not ‘normal’, they’ll need a briefing on your ‘condition’.” And I was far from normal, given from what I’d seen so far. “If you were a prince, this would be a lot smoother,” she smirked at me for a moment.

“Ah, that’s fine.” I nod with a little more conviction, “That’s actually fairly perfect. If I can get a copy of the alphabet to go with it, I could potentially teach myself, therefore saving the tutor some time?”

“That might work,” she blinked, “but are you sure about that? What if you end up learning the wrong thing and wind up back at the beginning? You don’t seem to take mistakes very well.”

“Oh, it’s probably fine. More than fine, actually. I’ve taken a few language classes like French and German for years, though this is probably nothing like either of those!” I gesture, hobbling over to the book, “See, it all matters about the structure. I speak Equestrian fairly well, I like to think, so unless you have some really weird method of writing it all down, it should come fairly swiftly through memorization and repetition. It’d work something like a cipher. I’d just have to translate the alphabet that I know into this equine script, and since the sounds are similar, it shouldn’t be too difficult, even accounting for a greater number than twenty-six letters.”

She stared at me for a long moment, mouth hanging somewhat open, likely to correct me on something. When I went to shyly apologize, she stopped me, “Ben, that’s amazing. If you can accomplish that, I mean. That’s literally the best case scenario.”

I grimaced, “Best case scenarios rarely happen.”

“Regardless,” she was quick to console me, “it means you have a solid plan for the written language right away! What about magic?” She pulled a quill from somewhere behind her ear, licked the tip, and began writing in her notes.

“Well, um, that I’m less sure about,” I said, grinding a tip of a hoof into the floor, “I don’t have magic where I come from, unless you count stage magic, sleight-of-hand type stuff. Then, that’s a ‘maybe’ at best...”

She stopped her writing, “What’s a ‘hand’? … never mind, probably like ‘French’ and ‘German’.” It obvious she’s talking to herself, but I found myself apologizing anyway. “Hey now, there’s nothing to be sorry about. To be honest, I’m just trying to get a baseline with you, help ease you into life here.”

“But I don’t want to ease into life here. I want to go home as quick as possible!”

“And Auntie Celestia said that would be a while at best before a way is found. So you better just get used to the situation and make the best of it.” I felt like sulking right there, like pouting, but thought against it. I wasn’t nearly that childish, or I liked to think anyway.

So I changed the subject, “Auntie Celestia?”

“I slip up sometimes...” Cadance starts, “Auntie Celestia and Auntie Luna. You’ve met them both already. I usually refer to them with title, but I guess I got a little too comfortable with you.”

“Is fine.” I swallowed, asking the next question, “But how come you don’t look like either of them?”

She doesn’t even look up from her clipboard, not missing a beat, “Oh, I’m adopted.”

That threw me off right away. I didn’t expect such a nonchalant way of expressing adoption. She couldn’t nearly be that old to be so accepting of it, though…

I wanted to ask about her age; I was really curious, but I bit my tongue. It’s rather rude from my cultural standpoint. She glanced over at me, eager to keep the conversation going, “Do you have any hobbies?”

“Yeah,” I could answer this without thinking, “Specifically: reading, some writing, people watching, and just studying in general. I can’t stand to not know a topic.” My chest puffed up some as I said that. There was pride in my voice, as there was in my studies.

“That reminds me of somepony,” she sighed wistfully, before continuing, “Are you easily excitable when it comes to learning a new topic?”

“I like to think I’m calm and mature!”

“Mhmm.” I frowned at that, certain she slipped that in there to make fun of me, but she lacked a certain twinkle in her eye that I’ve seen from the two pony sisters. “Anyway,” she slid her clipboard back under a wing, quill behind her ear, “that should be enough information for the time being. I’m going to have to leave you for now, though, but I’ll see if I can get you those books, and maybe get someone to help with clean up.”

I make a face, muttering, “I don’t need special attention...”

“But you do,” she’s quick to pick up on my line of thought, “Simply put, you likely have your thaumic pathways blocked from lack of use. And that’s not your fault since you come from a zero-magic realm, but it’s the facts.” She shrugged, “You’re likely going to have trouble with your lessons from the start.”

“I’m too old for this… to be treated like a kid.”

“Oh? How old are you?” she tilted her head, showing genuine curiosity.

“Likely older than you!” I could feel myself getting angry, frustration with myself boiling.

“Doubt that,” her mouth split into a grin, “Would you like to make a bet?”

I didn’t give her the satisfaction of a bet, “I’m nineteen.”

“Hmm, nope. Still older than you. I pegged you for at least sixteen though.” It took a moment for me to get over that she’s older than me. I had guessed younger, because… well, I’m not sure why. I couldn’t tell age on the best of days. By the time I look up, she’s at the door. “Well, until next time. You have a good evening, Ben!”

“Uh, yeah, you too, Cadance.”


Thankfully, mercifully, Cadance got me the kids’ intro to spelling and kindergarten level alphabet books. I was glad to have them in hand… hoof, whatever, since that allowed me to finally attempt a translation. Unfortunately, that led to a new problem that I didn’t foresee: I lacked horn use, so I couldn’t write things down. I mean, I could potentially just use my hooves, or my mouth, but I didn’t see that coming across as quite legible enough to be noteworthy just yet.

And yet, the foal books were turning out to be a great help, regardless of my writing situation. Sure, the alphabet was a little backwards compared to English, but at the same time, it’s a reasonable amount of symbols. It’s a fascinating twenty-three base symbols, with several rules for add-ons and accent marks from what I could gather from a cursory glance and comparing the basics with the more advanced books. It’s also a largely phonetic written language, to which I was pleasantly surprised at. Languages that I had been accustomed to had rules to their letters, such as some being silent, but Equestria one had none from what I could tell. I had no idea it would be this simple; although, it wasn’t quite “start from Apple and work to Zebra.” It would take some getting used to, that’s for sure.

Still, I feared for a library’s organization given the way these letters are laid out.

At any rate, I didn’t know how long after receiving the books that I stayed buried in them, only coming out for a bite to eat that had been helpfully supplied to me. So consumed was I, that I failed to notice the hour. Now, my internal clock, while largely broken, still functioned some. I just had no real wake/sleep schedule outside of school and work, which ended up as a double edged sword. It allowed me to work until exhaustion, then sleep it off for a good eight hours and be back at it. This largely left me outside of the normal twenty-four hour day cycle.

But I was comfortable with it for a life style. So long as I arrived at appointments and the like, I didn’t see a problem, and neither did most people.

So imagine my surprise when, in the dead of night, I received a little knock at my door. I gave a soft yawn, before trudging on over to open it. Every movement was slow and deliberate, and despite that taking time, there weren’t any further knocks. When I finally opened it up, it’s none other than Luna standing there.

I blinked at her, noticed her guards, like those I had ran from in the Everfree, had taken the place of the solar guards, looked back at the clock, then stared directly at her. She seemed to find this very amusing, if that twinkle in her eye was of any indication. “We may have had an inkling that… your sleep had not come yet. May We enter?”

It took a full minute to realize what she wanted, being slow from concentrating so hard on other ideas, combined with the late hour. “Oh! Yes, sure. Come right in, Princess.” Stepping out of her way, I left the door wide open, before I rubbed along the back of my neck. I was momentarily surprised that the hoof could reach that far back, but the amusement quickly wore off. “Um, sorry about the mess. I kind of… can’t clean it up.”

Closing the door behind her, she tilted her head at the mess that is the bed, the books spread about, open to some page or another. There was even a half eaten daisy sandwich on the counter, there from the moment I decided I didn’t like daisies. There were enough towels spilling out from the bathroom to be quite noticeable, from the momentous attempt at a shower that didn’t end well for anything involved. “Mm, yes. We are aware of your predicament.”

I stood there as she surveyed the room again and again despite my growing embarrassment, staring, hoping to glean which way her cogwheels turned. I was unable to guess what came next, “We surmise that you have made yourself quite at home, indeed. Very well. We shall instruct our sister to assign you an aid post-haste! We simply cannot abide by these living conditions.”

I felt my stomach drop. “W-what?”

“Fear not, young Benjamin. Surely mine sister will have the perfect idea of which pony is best suited for the job.”

That didn’t make me feel any better. “But Princess… I don’t need someone to take care of me. I’m learn--”

“Ah, ah,” she tsked me, turning to face me directly. I could see it in her eyes: there would be no changing her mind. “These conditions are simply barbaric! We cannot in good faith allow you to live as such.” With a click of her tongue, she smiled, “Surely, thine life will improve with a little aid.”

“… yes, Princess.” I didn’t fight her on this at all after that.

With a tilt of her head, she approached me, lifting my chin with a hoof. “Perhaps, in time, thou couldst learn to take care of thine self. However, for the moment, thou needst help.” I noticed that she had been flip-flopping on her speech a few moments before, and I wondered if old habits died hard.

I couldn’t help but give a low, hollow chuckle at the situation.

“Now then!” she turns back towards the bed, “Niece Cadance has stated that you enjoy reading. What books have captured your fancy?”

“Oh… I can’t actually read yet.”

This halted her in her tracks, looking at me in disbelief. I waved my hooves in a defensive fashion, “I mean, I can, but that was a different language, apparently. On a different plane of existence, or planet, altogether.”

Luna nodded, accepting this, “Very well. Do not give up in your studies, young Benjamin. Even We had to learn modern Ponish upon our return!” So that’s what it was called. Why hadn’t Cadance corrected me?

I couldn’t help myself. I just had to mutter under my breath with a small smile, “And that turned out so well for you.”

She did not take it well, stiffening, a frown forming on her lips.

“Ah! I mean, I’m sorry!” I panicked, deciding to quickly change the subject, “So, your return, eh? Did you go on vacation or something?”

Her frown deepened, her jaw locking. “Yes, or something.

And another landmine blew up in my face!

“We shall leave thee to thine own devices.” She made for the door, swift with long strides.

“Luna, wait!” I was determined to make it up to her, but before I could say more, I went crashing onto the floor. When I looked up, she’s looking at me expectantly, any trace of humor gone from her face. It hit me that perhaps I pressed in on a sore spot perhaps too hard, “I mean, Princess Luna… sorry.” My gaze shifted down, and I heard the door click open. “I mean, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I just didn’t know that I was pushing your buttons. I was only trying to lighten the situation.”

“Be that as it may, ‘pushing our buttons’ or not, thou has overstepped a line,” she turned to leave, but I called out to her.

“Please, just tell me why you stopped by. Maybe I can help in some way?”

Luna stared at the open hallway, unblinking, deep in thought. Finally, she answered, “We simply wished to aid thee. Perhaps even take thee ‘under our wing’, as it were.” She sighed, and when she faced me again, her gaze had softened considerably, “We understand that at this time it may be difficult for thee, and at this, We can only hope to help what little way We can. Know this, young Benjamin, you need not be alone in thy journey.” With that, she left.

I didn’t sleep that night. And it wasn’t because of any nightmare that kept me up, either. It was my own foolishness, my own thoughts believing that I was at fault for why she had left like that. Perhaps, if I had been calmer, or more respectful, I wouldn’t have hurt her. But I had, and I couldn’t take that back. I couldn’t even move on from it. I just laid in bed, staring at the moon.

Chapter 2

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That first week was probably the most memorable of all my time in Canterlot combined, and not for the usual reasons of drama or stress. It was the most peaceful of my time there. Sure, I had a few nightmares that would pop up, but I couldn’t remember them upon waking. I know why now, but at that point, I simply figured that they just weren’t worth remembering.

For nearly the entire week, I spent my time with my nose in the books, so to speak. I made little progress, sure, but I at least worked the cipher out quickly, for the most part. I was having difficulties memorizing the information without the use of flash cards, and found myself frequently flipping back to the foals’ books for reference. Of all the books I had at my disposal, I found myself gravitating towards the ones with simpler text, with illustrations drawn in to aid the words. One of the few memories I have of my mother was of her telling me about how I taught myself to read using images in a magazine.

I just hoped I could still learn to read, given that I was no longer three… mental age notwithstanding.

At any rate, I had grown accustomed to the four walls that surrounded me in that time. They did little to comfort me, however. I had been told at some point that I was unable to move about the castle because of my sudden appearance, and because of my magical disability, I had been promptly assigned what was I assume a butler. I don’t want to refer to him as a servant, but that’s what he was. “Butler” just sounded much better to me.

I woke up one morning to him cleaning the mess I had left previously. “Good morning, sir,” his voice deep, accent similar to northern British, mouth hidden behind his mustache. It, like his mane and tail, had minor graying to it.

I blinked blearily at him, almost unable to register who he was and what he was doing. With a start, I leaped from bed, and promptly hit the floor.

He approached me with an annoying calm. “Are you okay, sir?” he asked, helping me up with his magic, dusting me off.

“Peachy,” was my grumpy response.

He went on to explain that he was the butler that had been hired by one Princess Luna to help aid me in day-to-day life. To my grimace, he mentioned that from what he’s been told, it was bound to happen at some point. I was too weak with magic to be able to perform my daily routine, too new with hooves to have any form of dexterity, and being that as the case, I was unfit to take care of myself. And because of my rather harried, run down appearance from lack of maintenance, I was also unfit to be seen by others. Considering my low list of visitors, that might have been a lie. Regardless, he was here now, and I was to make full use of his services, under royal order, in order to improve my mood and hygiene.

“Terrific...” was my sarcastic response. He simply raised an eyebrow at me, not commenting further. “So, what do I call you? I mean, you’re certainly no Alfred Pennyworth.”

“Indeed. I am not a Pennyworth, but a Wordsworth.”

At this, I blinked. It had to be some coincidence, or something fate deemed hilarious that a Pennyworth should even exist here. “So, you work for Her Majesty?”

He nodded, going back to picking up around the room, “Oh yes, my family is indebted to Her Highness, and has been for generations.”

I pursed my lips, “Does that mean you also served in the military?”

“Of course, sir. As is tradition!” he stood proud, even as he scraped a few plates into a bucket. I had forgotten to send them back to the kitchen… a few times.

I couldn’t help myself as the line of questioning continued. “Did you happen to be a super secret spy pony?”

“Oh, that’s not something I’m at liberty to reveal,” he turned his back to me to clean up a shelf.

“And what about Princess Luna’s secret identity?” I whispered conspiratorially to him.

And he didn’t even break form, “I believe that’s public knowledge as of two years ago.”

“Wait, what?”

He didn’t smile, though, not that I could tell behind his mustache. As I stood there, he took that as his opportunity to make my bed, humming softly to himself a rather catchy tune. I watched him, as I couldn’t yet process what I’d learned. I was still tired, and secretly wanted to crawl back into bed, made or not, butler or no.

I shrugged though, and made my way over to a chair nearby, turning it away from the desk. It was awkward to sit in at best, but I made do. I needed some semblance of normalcy in my life, considering I now had a butler. Me, a college student well on his way towards massive loan debt.

Before I got too comfortable, though, Wordsworth spoke up again, “Now that the bulk has been straightened up, I believe it’s time for your bath, sir.”

I bolted upright, “Bath? But I took one last night.”

“Did you? You certainly don’t look it,” he then sniffed, face scrunching up, “And you certainly don’t smell like it.”

I blinked, “Yes, I did!”

“Come along, sir,” he moved to guide me off the chair, and I followed at first, before stopping.

“… You want to bathe me?”

He nodded, poking out his chest as though proud of the fact. “It’s a part of my duties, sir.”

“No, absolutely not,” I made a cross with my hooves. “I prefer having my privacy for a bath, regardless if it’s efficient or not.”

“And you will have it, just as soon as you learn to clean yourself properly. Think of it as a lesson in etiquette and hygiene.”

I blanched, shutting my mouth. I felt as though I wasn’t getting out of this one. I, nearly out of my teens, was going to get a sponge bath by a butler… I worked to hold in this embarrassment. I was so close to being self-sufficient that this hurt me, set me back a few years in my pride.

And so, he bathed me. It wasn’t nearly as embarrassing as I thought it might be, mostly because we didn’t talk. He just did his job, and I went along with it. I now knew what the family dog felt like as I was hosed off.

He was drying me with towels, denying me any attempt to do so on my own, when I grumbled something out. “What was that, sir?”

“I said, ‘thank you,’” the words passed through grit teeth.

“I seriously doubt you did, sir.”

I don’t even want to think about how we went about shaving my scruffy face. That was an adventure in and of itself.


This sort of activity became routine, with me fighting it even less than I did before. The rest of the week was spent cleaning nearly as much as I studied. I knew he was just doing his job, but at the same time, I didn’t want Wordsworth there longer than necessary each day. Not to mention, this was my little slice of ‘paradise’, and I didn’t need another pony to invade it with actual legitimate reasons.

At any rate, Cadance had stopped by a few times to see how I was doing, and I grew to relish her visits. She never could stay long though, but I still appreciated her stopping by when she was able. I briefly wondered just what royal duties she had, or even what the other princesses did. As interesting a subject as government would be in book form though, I was still on the pony equivalent of “An apple is red”.

All in all, things were pretty normal, except for the extremely minor fact that I hadn’t left the room at all in a week. The walls felt as though they were closing in around me, locking me down, stifling me. It was hard to breath easy at times. My progress slowed, my will to learn waning, as I fought with myself to get out of bed at times, even though I slept little. Most times, I would just crawl back into bed as soon as Wordsworth would leave. It was one of these particular days that Cadance caught me.

“Come on, now. It was time to wake up some six hours ago!” Her voice was the usual levels of chipper and happy, which just seemed to grate harder on my nerves. She snapped on the lights as she entered, having long forgone any form of knocking or announcing her arrival.

I merely grunted, keeping my eyes squeezed shut and rolling over.

I could practically feel her smile fall, her hoof steps approaching my bedside. “Ben, come on. Don’t do this.” One hoof was placed on my shoulder, and I resisted the urge to just pull the blanket over my head.

“Do what?” I muttered, eyes still shut.

“You know what I mean.”

“No, Cadance. I don’t,” my temper was rising, building from being cooped up for so long, ready to take it out on anyone. “And what’s the point? There’s always tomorrow, and at this rate, that’ll never come either.” I practically growled the words out, surprising myself with the tone, but quickly got over it.

“You shouldn’t talk like that,” I could hear the frown in her voice as she tried to convince me of something she herself didn’t truly believe, “You—” But I cut her off.

“And why is that?” My eyes snapped open, and I bolted upright in bed. The mattress gave me a little height advantage over her as I looked down at her, eyes narrowed and voice fierce. “Because I should be happy? Happy that I’m in what is essentially a gilded cage?” My voice fell as I caught myself yelling at her, not liking the look in her wide eyes, “I can’t leave, Cadance. I can’t do anything, and I feel like I’m just wasting away in here.” I couldn’t look at her any more, slumping over. “Sure I’ve made some reading process, zero on the magic front, but I don’t have much room to move around. I haven’t even felt the sun in a few days now.” There was a cloud cover during that time, threatening to rain, or at least, that was what was scheduled. I still don’t quite understand how they made weather predictions so accurate.

When she didn’t respond with so much of a sound, I built up my strength to look at her. She looked lost in thought, lips pursed and eyes drifting to the side, her knit brow marring her forehead.

“I can’t even open the window.” I waved a hoof that way, and she didn’t even flinch. “Do you have any idea what it’s like to go without fresh air for over a week?”

“Yes, I do.” She countered, voice low as her eyes narrowed, despite still not looking my way, “And for longer than that even.”

I ignored her. “Give me a break. You’re a freaking princess. Royalty! I bet you have free reign over the entire palace, while I’m stuck here.” I huffed, giving in to the childish desire to act out, to complain about anything and everything.

“I told you, you can’t have free roam over the palace without guards,” she cast a sideways glance my way.

“And I told you, the guards won’t listen to me!”

“That’s because you lack a cutie mark. You would draw undue attention to yourself.”

“And that’s my fault how!?” I roared at her, hooves in the air, mouth twisted in a snarl, “Last I checked, it was your aunt that made me this way! The least she could do is let me see the outdoors, and I’m not talking through a freaking window!”

She flinched back, her eyes drifting to the floor and posture wilting. It took the wind right out of my sails, and I deflated from my perch above her.

“Cadance… I’m sorry,” I started, moving closer to the edge of the bed. “I’ve been in here too long. At times, it feels like I can barely breathe.” I took a deep breath, my chest feeling heavy, lungs aching.

Without a word, she got up, heading towards the door. It was my turn to flinch, to feel ever so tiny.

“Cadance? Please don’t leave.” I pleaded with her, just short of begging.

“Relax,” she turned to face me, stopping just before the leaving and putting on one of her warm smiles that I had grown so fond of. “I’m going to take care of something. I’ll be back soon, hopefully, with a surprise.” With a small wink, she stepped outside the door, “Try to stay out of trouble.”

The door clicked shut.

“I don’t like surprises… “


True to her word, she didn’t take long at all. Although she found me still in bed, staring at the door, she didn’t comment on it. Instead, she moved to the edge of the bed, coming to sit on it while facing me. She had this smile on her lips, and just stared at me, teasingly, as if egging me on to ask what she had done.

And I caved, being the first to speak, “So… what was that about? Where did you go?”

“Hmm? What ever do you mean?” her smile widened.

“You know very well what I mean, young lady,” I chided, trying to be playful, testing the ground.

“Oh, young colt,” she patted me on the head, which I didn’t like, my ears betraying me by folding back. She continued on unperturbed, though, “You really should learn to trust your elders.”

“Cadance, I swear—”

“Shouldn’t swear,” she tutted me.

I grumbled, hunching down in on myself, growing completely unsure about this playful side of her. I mean, sure, I liked it, but I had enough reminders that I was essentially a kid again, with no will or authority. And I didn’t like that part most of all.

I wasn’t going to take it out on her though.

With a click of her tongue, she remarked, “Now, say please.”

Maybe I would take it out on her a little bit…

My eyes narrowed, nostrils flaring a little. “No.”

She stared at me a long time, watching as my will crumbled. Who was I kidding? I couldn’t just say ‘no’ like that. Eventually though, she pouted, scoffing, “Spoilsport… “

I almost apologized, stopping just short and snapping my jaw shut at a look from her.

With a shrug, she continued, “I set you up an appointment.”

And then my playful side decided to speak up. “Oh? Is this for my hair? Cadance! You really shouldn’t have.” I gestured over at her, “I mean, whoever does your mane should get a raise, but I bet they couldn’t do me justice.”

She actually chuckled at that. “Oh no, you’re not quite ready for a trip to a spa,” she ran a hoof through her mane, flicking her wrist at the edges to let it flutter back into place, triple colors still staying neatly organized in a row. “Thank you, by the way. I do it myself.”

I bit my lip, eyes widening some.

And she only laughed more, “Surprised?” She winked, “Anyway, this appointment is more your style, I’d think. I set you up with a date and time to spend in the Royal Sculpture Garden!”

My mouth hung open, face marked with disbelief.

“I know, right?” she patted me on the shoulder, smile wide. “It would’ve been sooner, but we need to get you ready. As it stands, you’ll be able to leave the room in two days. You think you can hold on that long?”

I wanted to hug her right there and then. And that’s saying a lot: I never want to hug anyone.

She took my silence in stride, even going so far as to close my mouth for me. “I’ll take that as a ‘maybe’.”

“No— I mean, yes! Take it as a ‘yes’!”

The twinkle in her eye returned. She was teasing before, but I didn’t catch it in time. She stood up from the bed, moving towards a pack that she had brought in with her. Out of it she pulled a tape measure and a notebook. “Would you mind if I got a few measurements? It’s for another surprise. Remember, you can’t go out as you are.”

“So I’m getting a costume? Oh! Can I be Bat-mare?” I smiled, hopping down from the bed and approaching her, all while inwardly cringing at the dumb pony pun. I only stumbled a bit, as I was getting used to this four-legged way of thinking. Couldn’t run yet, probably.

“Not quite.” With her magic, she brought the measure around my neck, and then hung it loosely over my chest. She marked down each of the circumferences, and moved the tape around my barrel, again marking it down. She continued to measure me, while I stayed as still as possible. Her magic had a strange, light touch to it, and I fought down a blush as it tickled me.

Finally, she was done, nodding to herself. “Got every part you need?”

“I believe so, though stallion fashion tends to be a little more loose than a mare’s.” I wasn’t sure what she meant by that. “I should have enough information for now, though”

As she packed up her bag, I couldn’t help but smile, excited already for the day to arrive, when I could be outside again. I was practically bouncing.

“Well look at you,” she had her smirk back on her face. I immediately went rigid, crimson creeping into my features. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this happy!”

I decided not to comment, that this was only because a few hours outside looked so much better than being cooped up in this tiny series of rooms. However, I had another suspicion I needed solved. “So, uh,” my voice cracked, “why the security? I mean, I know I’m not supposed to be seen, so does that mean what, exactly?”

“Oh, it’s nothing, really. I just needed to double check the weather schedule, and that the garden would be empty that day, so you could be alone to yourself.” I sunk a little at this. “Hey, don’t give me that, now. You were so happy a moment ago. Don’t let anything ruin that.”

She was right. “You’re right… “

“I know I am,” she smiled at me. “Now, I have a few errands to run in the meantime. I likely won’t see you until it’s time for your little trip.” I almost pouted at that, “None of that! Keep studying, and maybe you’ll be able to read the statue plaques!”

I knew she was teasing, but I couldn’t help but feel a little indignant. “Hey!”

“Hay is pretty good. You should try some.” To my befuddled look, she giggled. “You have a nice evening, and a good day tomorrow. If you have any sort of emergency, you can talk to the guards outside, after all. I know they seem like statues at times, but you’ll be able to tell the difference after your trip.”

“Okay, Cadance. You have a good day as well.” I waved to her as she opened the door, “And thank you, again, for everything.”

“You’re welcome.”

“No, I mean it. I don’t know where I’d be without you.” I put on a warm smile, one she easily matched and surpassed. She didn’t say anything further though, closing the door and leaving me to my thoughts and my studies.


Now, I know what you’re thinking. That I was impatient, that I couldn’t sit still under the excitement of something so mundane as a trip through what is an outdoor museum.

… you’d be right.

I spent the two days buried in my research. That’s what I had taken to calling it, anyway. It made me feel a little better about my situation, like I was back in college, and there was a term paper due. Only, I was always a good boy, and got those things done ahead of time. You have to pace yourself to not be late and still do a good job.

Reading was coming along nicely, not quite second nature yet, but still close to it. Memorization without writing something down, or typing it up, was always hard for me. But regardless, I forged ahead. The words came easily enough, so did the spelling, eventually, but it all came together when I could read a single sentence without stopping.

“This red pony is strong.”

It was simple, but as I mentally checked my work, I felt my heart soar from the sheer success of it. Sure, it was no pangram sentence, and I don’t think there was an equivalent in Ponish, but still.

I was ecstatic. Unfortunately, the thing to bring my mood down ended up being simple: I lacked someone to share the success with. Sure, there was Wordsworth, but I doubted he was paid enough to care. And there was Cadance, but she was busy for my two day wait. So I just had my little success for myself, bottled up for later. I decided to build on that, though, and try my hand at more complex sentences.

The universe seemed pleased with me, at any rate. It deemed that I should have a smooth couple of days, and I soon found myself being escorted by a couple golden clad guards, and Cadance. We were a little slow in walking, despite my excitement, but it was deliberate, as I still had yet to learn how to walk properly. That’s part of what this trip was for, I guessed. Sooner or later, some one would have to teach me proper posture, though. Pacing in my room certainly hadn’t helped in that regard.

Her little surprise ended up being a simple cloak, one that hung just past my flanks, hiding them. I wasn’t completely stupid. I could figure out that those little butt tattoos I had seen on the princesses and Cadance, and even Wordsworth, were the ‘cutie marks’ she mentioned I lacked. Again, it hadn’t been my fault, but this simple cloak would allow me to be relatively unhindered as I roamed around under escort.

And though I felt a little naked, as the cloak only covered so much, I found myself not caring. Being washed by another pony seemed to cure me right quick. Besides, when in Rome… or would that be Roan?

I couldn’t stop smiling the whole trip to the garden. Sure, the decor of the castle was exquisite, immaculately clean and shining, but it wasn’t what I wanted. I needed to be outside for once. To feel the fresh air on my coat, a breeze in my mane… That would be something I’d fight for, and yet, I wouldn’t have to.

I would need a way to thank Cadance later.

We kept relatively silent the whole trip, and at times, I would catch glimpses out of the palace windows of the city that was Canterlot. Again, while gorgeous, it was not where my attention lay. No, I wanted that sculpture garden. Sure it was silly, but it reminded me of a simpler time, where I could be in class and there would be a field trip to a museum. I still think I was the only kid to ever enjoy such a trip.

And even though I knew I wouldn’t understand the context of any of the art I saw, I was still excited. There was nothing that could bring that feeling down.

Finally, we had reached the entrance to the gardens, my escort pausing on the threshold. I looked back at them, a little shocked that they were letting me just head out alone, staring at them for confirmation. While the two guards simply flanked the entrance, Cadance gave a nod. “Don’t worry, Ben, they will be right here. You’ll have the gardens to yourself.”

“But,” I hesitated, “what about you?”

“Paperwork,” she groaned.


“Sometimes, I wish I was still in Canterlot Academy. Things were so much simpler back then,” she sighed softly, but perked up. “Don’t let me stop you, though. Just make sure you stay in sight of the guards. And no running into the maze.”

I smiled wide, nodding.

“Good.” She gives a single nod in return, quite restrained compared to my excitement, “I’ll see you later on, Ben. Do try to relax.” And she turned and left. I watched her until she vanished around a corner, and was truly gone. A part of me was disappointed, but then, she never said she’d be going with me.

So with a shrug, I turned about, and gave the guards a wave, that neither returned. With a small frown, I headed into the gardens to have a look around.

The sights did not disappoint. It felt like I was still in college, having gone on a trip to a proper sculpture garden, not that this wasn’t one. Granted, there were no Modern or Contemporary styled art in the Canterlot Sculpture Garden, from what I could see. Most of them were Figurative in nature, being carved out of sparkling marble with little in the way of stylization. It struck me as odd that they would use such a stone for outdoor sculptures, but I couldn’t remember why. I briefly considered the stone to be porous, but I couldn’t recall the details.

Regardless, I followed the footpath laid out along the statues, each one leading to the next, with them facing or pointing back to the castle in some manner or form. I stopped to examine one in particular. It looked like a mare holding a bound scroll, with a similar, unrolled one circling her. Her eyes were closed in pensive thought, and she stood on hind hooves, something I had been attempting and failing do to my unfamiliar body.

It was amazing to me just how lifelike she was, standing there on a pedestal, looking like she could walk off at any moment. This was no Michelangelo, though, so it lacked certain qualities that, if I was one of those art history majors, I could comment further on. As it was, I just about understood that it meant intelligence, if I could read the plaque correctly.

As I wandered around, my mind began to wonder. My imagination drifted some, back to what I had read in a class pertaining to art through the ages. There had to be more than just a Classical or Neo-classical. My favorite was Baroque, I believed it was called, where they used gold to represent the sunlight as it flowed and glimmered along the gilded marble statue depicting something in the height of emotion. Sure the statues in Canterlot were impressive, but they didn’t have that soul to them.

Especially the one I approached after the mare with the scroll. It was a creature unlike I had ever seen, even in the imaginations of fantasy land. Head of a pony, with what looked like an eagle claw and a lion’s paw for arms, a bat wing and a pegasus wing, a goat’s hoof and a dragon’s leg, and finally the tail of what I think was a cockatrice?

I stared in utter confusion at that statue for the longest time. Now, I don’t have much of an imagination, but I don’t think many could’ve dreamed up such a sight even without psychedelics. And the way its face was twisted into one of pain and horror, arms and legs extended, as if trying to dodge something or push it away, it all unnerved me.

I don’t know what came over me. I must’ve stood around there for hours, because when I finally came to, when I finally looked away, the sun was dipping behind the castle in what must’ve been in the late evening hours. I bit my lip as I looked over to the guards, and saw a third figure there in purple and gold armor. They were all looking at me.

I couldn’t figure out why, or what time I was due back inside, so I headed their way... taking the long way of course. After all, they let me out of that cage, the least they could do is let me walk back slowly.

As I approached, the third figure removed his helmet, revealing himself to be… Some pony or another? I wasn’t sure who he was, since all day guards were white anyway, so a white unicorn is only enough for me to raise an eyebrow at, no matter how blue his hair may be.

We stared at each other for a moment or two, with myself wondering if he was waiting for me to speak first. Luckily, one of the guards cleared their throat, seeming to snap the white stallion out from the staring contest. “Ah, you must be, Benjamin.”

“Ah,” I countered, a smile on my lips, “seems you have me at a disadvantage, sir.”

“Indeed. I’m Shining Armor, Captain of the Royal Guard,” he holds out a hoof, much like Cadance did once, and I go to tap his with mine. He doesn’t let me get away with that though, using the crook of his hoof to hook under mine and actually giving me a proper hoof-shake. It was strong and firm, not something I expected. And the look on his face told me he knew exactly that.

“Okay,” I muttered, “Disadvantage in more ways than one, it seems...” I shook my hoof out. It felt like he gave me a rough squeeze, causing my hoof to ache afterward.

He had small smile on his lips. A look, I’ll admit, I didn’t like.

“So, what brings you here, captain?” I smirked, “Come to watch me as I look around? Make sure I don’t run off?”

His smile vanished in an instant. “Speaking of, isn’t it about time for you to head back to your room?”

I felt my elation from the day outside sink, his words like a cannon through my ship. “I, uh, don’t know. Cadance didn’t really give me a time frame.”

“Well, where is she?” he tilted his head.

I gave my best shrug while on all fours, “It beats me. She mentioned paperwork, and then—Oh! There she is!” He followed my pointing hoof, a smile coming back to his features as he sees her.

“Are you boys playing nicely, now?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I droned out before Armor could say anything. He shot me a puzzled look, and Cadance responded before he could.

“Shiny? Are you not being fair?” she raised an eyebrow at him.

It took him a moment, but he scooted back as though she were going to scold him further, wincing. “But Cadance! Not in front of the soldiers!” he whines out in an impressive way.

She gave him the stink eye for all but two seconds, before she burst into giggles, Armor and I chuckling soon after. The guards are stoic, though I thought I saw one crack a knowing smile.

Our laughter soon died down, to which Armor cleared his throat. “Alright, I hate to do this, but we have to get you back to your room.”

I wilted. Desperate, I turned to pleading, “Oh come on. Please, just thirty more minutes? I haven’t had the sun on my coat in weeks!”

Armor looked about as happy as I felt about the news, but before he could so much as bargain with me, Cadance spoke up. “Look, Ben. I’m sorry, but your time is up. Now, I didn’t say you couldn’t come back out here. Just not right now.”

It sure softened the blow of having to go back to that blasted room, but then Armor went in for the kill.

“We’ll take the long way back.”

I blinked, surprised.

And he smiled at me, “I’m not all business. I do have a heart.”

“Oh hush,” I got brave, though I was prepared in case this one backfired, “You just want to impress Cadance!”

Armor’s face went pink immediately and he actually sputtered! I couldn’t believe I just struck the right nerve, first try.

I wasn’t going to let him off easy, either. “Oh, my, gosh… Armor! Not in front of the soldiers! Remember?” He squirmed, as if he’d been caught. For what, I didn’t care. I just laughed.

“Okay, okay.” Cadance swooped in to save his sorry butt, “You had your fun, Ben. You can stop picking on those who are much bigger than you, now.” We both laughed, to Armor’s chagrin.

“Okay,” I echoed her, “I’ll stop.” I was smiling ear to ear, and let out a content sigh, “I think I’m ready to head back now.”

“Very well,” she nodded, turning and beginning to lead the way. I followed her, with Armor and his guards catching up.

“Thank you, Cadance, for everything,” I chirped, “Can I maybe get some books on the history of the sculptures in the garden? For when I can read them?”

“Sure thing.”


That night, I felt a renewed vigor, and I pushed forth in my studies. At some point previously I had asked Wordsworth for some advice on how to do just a quick levitate spell on a quill, but he was of no help. He simply told me to do what felt right when it came to magic, and left. My magic books were of no help either. Of course, they required more than just core understanding of the language, and that wasn’t their fault. I just needed to hit the books harder! Notes or not!

And so, late into the night, I found myself studying a page in a book I swear was titled “Living History and You.” Bizarrely, it was largely about Princess Celestia, if my first glance was of any indication. She never struck me as quite that old. The book also seemed to be fairly new too, recent edition, which left me wondering why it was so important to need publication in the first place. Shouldn’t that all still be within recent memory under her reign? And what about her sister?

But before I could dwell on it further, I heard someone clear their throat. I didn’t look up. If they needed me, they’d call me by name, which they actually did, “Mister Moore!”

My head shot up, and I realized I was in a classroom. Everyone in the room except the teacher had turned in their desk and were staring at me with various expressions, from amusement to disgust. The teacher on the other hand had her arms crossed over her chest, staring at me with a look of contempt. I immediately recognized her. It was Miss Paisley, my second year English Teacher.

“So glad you could join us, Mister Moore!” She always was a terrible teacher, demanding instead of teaching, ridiculing instead of nurturing, “Now, if you could, please identify the appositional phrase in the sentence on the board, that would be most helpful.”

I swallowed a lump forming on my throat, “Y-yeah, sure.” But as I looked at the board through my glasses, I noticed something disturbing. I couldn’t make out which sentence she meant. The letters all looked foreign to me. I cleared my throat, my hand pointing towards the board, “Um, what sentence, Miss Paisley?”

Before she could answer, I was saved by the bell. The class shot up out of their seats, leaving the room in a loud commotion, me included. I had briefly caught Miss Paisley trying to flag me down, but I largely ignored her. I just had to get out of that class, before I embarrassed myself further.

As I roamed the halls, my embarrassment largely faded, and I immediately noticed a strangeness to my surroundings. Everything was on the huge side, or maybe I was the small one? My head couldn’t look over the lowest level of lockers. I had always been of average height, so being tiny stuck out to me quite easily. Then snippets of conversation broke me out of my trance.

“Did you see that fat nerd in class stumble over the sentence on the board?” It was a group of teens, their faces unrecognizable, if not outright blank. That couldn’t be right…

“Totally! Can you believe it? And to think, that dumb-ass makes all the A’s. Throws the curve way off.” the second male scoffed.

“I know! Oh hey, there he is!” The final voice belonged to a female, and I could barely make her out, as she pointed towards me. “Aw, where did your clothes go, little man?”

“W-what?” I sputtered, looking down. I was indeed naked. The group began laughter anew.

“Oh my God! The balls on this kid!” The first one guffawed.

“Look at him! I can’t stand it.” The second one chortled.

“So, shorty,” the third tittered, “Lose your tongue as well as your mind?” It was then I recognized her voice.

“M-Marie?” Her face came into focus for me, and it was just the way I remembered her. Her checks poked in from dimples, eyes showing no wrinkles even though her smile took up her entire face. “I t-thought we were friends!”

“Friends?” she attempted to quiet her laughter behind her hand, before bending down to laugh directly in my face, “As if I could be friends with someone so path--”


With the sheer forcefulness of the voice alone, the entire image dissipated to smoke, clearing and fading away quickly. I was left dumbfounded, at a loss as to what had been happening. My mind seemed to clear though, as did the left over haze from the hallway.

It was then I felt someone behind me, just before they spoke, “Young Benjamin?”

I turned to face Luna. Was she always this tall? “Y-yes, your Majesty?”

She frowned and gave a short wave with her hoof, sweeping around the blank landscape. “There is nothing left to fear. What ails thee?”

My voice died in my throat, and my face felt wet with tears. I angrily began wiping my cheeks into my fetlock, only to realize I had hooves again. “N-nothing,” I noncommittally sputtered out, lying to her and myself.

She approached me, a look on her face I couldn’t quite place. When she reached me, her wing draped over my back. I was a pony again. Why was I a diminutive equine? “Young Benjamin,” she began, “T’was but a dream. A nightmare. There is little to worry about now.”

“But,” my voice was low, just above a whisper, “it felt real to me.”

“Be that as it may,” her wing gave me a squeeze, “It is not well to dwell in the past. Take this as a wise warning, young Benjamin.”

“Princess?” I finally looked up at her, her face a look of calm, none of her discomfort that I’d seen from her in the waking world. This was her element.

Luna sighed and ignited her horn. It glowed with a soft pulse, before someone appeared before us. A tall, black mare, with billowing mane of stars and dragon’s eyes, clad in midnight blue armor… Her face seemed almost familiar to me.

Then it dawned on me, “Is she your other sister?”

But she shook her head, “Nay. This is… was Us. We went by Nightmare Moon by this point.” She let that sink in for a moment, “At one point in our life did We befall a great darkness. It twisted us, made us only aware of anger and jealousy. We did terrible things...” I looked on in awe, in her face, the mare’s face too, both twisted into a snarl, both mirroring one another. “And all because We did not place enough faith in the positive. We saw only the negative, and soon, that was all we had...”

“B-but,” my voice cracked, “Why tell me all of this?”

She withdrew her wing, the mare faded, and Luna turned to face me. “Thou are but a part of a hoof-full of Our subjects that do not know the truth.”

“I’m not your subject though.” I voiced with little conviction behind it.

“Oh? We were not made aware.” I grimaced as she practically looked down at me. Her deep cyan eyes bore such pain, so much sorrow. I couldn’t help myself.

“...I’m sorry.”

“For what, young Benjamin? Thou has nothing to apologize for.”

I was silent. I knew that, but I felt like I should say it anyway.

She took my silence hard, “Does thee wish to be left alone?”

“I don’t know.” Again my voice cracked, and I felt a warm wetness drip from my eyes. I fought off the feeling, struggling to bottle it, force it down. I refused to let anyone see me cry.

Her eyes narrowed as she warned me, “Think long and hard on this, young Benjamin, for it may indeed lead down a dark path. Isolation breeds loneliness, which can lead to contempt. Do not let it consume you.” Her voice faded to an echo, her body giving way to white light.

And then I woke up.

I was back in the room they set me up in, a nice patch of drool in the book I had been trying to learn through osmosis, apparently. I looked around and considered what Luna had said, but didn’t put much faith in it. It was just a dream, after all. And those usually ended up being less prophetic and more chaotic the older I got. That is, if I remember them at all.

I looked over at the clock, and I barely had an hour left to sleep before Wordsworth would just barge in. So despite my groggy state, I moved away from the desk and into the bathroom, all to try freshening up on my own again.