The potion dripped into the little plastic cup. Three ounces of the concoction that would change his life. Thomas looked around the chamber a last time. The metal top of the table was uncomfortably cold against his naked backside, the hospital gown only covered the front.
“You can still go back, if you want,” the pure white stallion reminded him. “It is a free choice, nobody will judge you if you decide to quit, even now.”
The smile on the ponies muzzle seemed genuine to Thomas. His human assistant, however, was stealing a look at the clock, he noticed. Then a stomach rumbled. “Sorry doc Whitecoat, sorry Thomas. I missed breakfast today. I can’t wait till lunch.”
Two weeks ago Thomas would have simply ignored him or he might even have gotten a bit angry that his “conversion experience” was dimmed by this unprofessional assistant nurse. But now, with his life as a human coming to an end, he felt oddly serene. He smiled at the nurse. “I’ll try to make it quick Jules. I’ll share my first apple with you” he joked. He wiggled his toes, flexed his fingers one last time. “I still think I’m gonna miss those.”
I’ll be honest, I was never a fan of The Conversion Bureau. Too much self-indulgent wish fulfillment for my tastes. Having said that, this was an amusing little look at the transformation process. I like how they touch on things like missing fingers and how much ponies can actually do with their hooves. The deal involving the apples is also a nice touch.
Equestria was in an uproar. Even in the night rumors spread quickly. An uprising against Princess Celestia? By her own sister? Some ponies knew that the night lasted longer than usual, and the Assembly wasn’t blind. From here to the Mild West, we panicked.
I thought it a little rude, but I opened the door anyway. The other assemblymares— the whole of Equestria didn’t want to wait for Her Majesty to finish her lighthearted conversation with her sister.
We just needed Princess Luna’s appearance— proof that our world hadn’t shattered.
The door shifted open, heavy and cold. From the other end of Princess Celestia’s chambers, I heard the rumbles of laughter erupt into a symphony of merriment.
I felt a chill. How could Her Majesty be laughing at such a time? The assemblymares behind me argued loudly, their words pushing me into the room.
She stopped laughing. The door slammed shut, trapping me inside.
Darkness swept over my eyes. A sliver of light shined through the open balcony. There I saw Celestia.
The trick was learning how to set your jaw. It was something Stout Wing learned his first week in the guard. With a properly set jaw, everything else would fall into place. If a pony was happy, he looked confident. If he was sad, he looked resigned, but firm.
Right then, Stout imagined that he looked dismissive.
Out of the corner of his eye, his partner, Zephyr, seemed to be intently scanning any and all passersby for threats. He was probably trying to remember the lyrics to the song that pink filly had been singing when they arrived.
They had been in Ponyville an hour already. Inside, beyond the door they guarded, the princess was having another luncheon with her student and her friends. It was not the first time, nor was it likely to be the last. Odds were good that he’d be here again one day, unable to move unless somepony actually tried to get past them.
The princess didn’t let them draw straws anymore, either.
For Great Justice
“Will the accused please take the stand?” As the aforementioned pony trotted up to the seat beside the judges’ bench, Thunder Tempest wrung his hooves nervously, and even the normally calm and collected Tight Ship was sweating from the nerves. The two had shown up to support their friend who was on trial, but now it was time for the most nerve-wracking part of the trial process. They had to wait for the judge to deliver the verdict. Their friend sat down and fixed her eyes on them. They could only hope now that their final gambit would pay off.
“Does the defence have any further evidence to present before the judgement is rendered?” called the judge.
“Yes, Your Honour,” stated the lawyer that Tight Ship had hired to defend their friend. “We would like to move that our client be magically tested by Her Royal Highness, Princess Twilight Sparkle, to fully ascertain that the client has not been magically tampering with anypony.”
The judge frowned and then began the next step. “Does the prosecution have any objections to this?”
“None, your honour.”
“Call in the Princess, then.” A few moments later, the purple alicorn walked into the courtroom.
Sight was a sense I had forgotten I had, for in a world with absolutely no light, even my ability to see in the night as a member of the night guard would not work. Not could I communicate with my companion from the Day Guard using sound, for there was no air on this planet to carry sound. This planet was just like our’s before Princesses Celestia and Luna had made it hospitable. It was the same planet, too.
When Smooze had arrived in Equestria, not even the elements of harmony could banish it. Princess Twilight, however, had found an enchantment that had been laid on Smooze when it was young, before it developed an immunity to magic. When the young princess activated the enchantment, it turned Smooze into stone. The only problem with the enchantment was that it had never been mentioned before in history, and had a magical signature matching a pony alive today. Princess Sparkle had taken that to mean time travel, specifically, traveling me and another pony back in time to lay the enchantment.
The task was made difficult that despite being named Luminous Paladin, my diurnal counterpart had an aversion to light magic. Supposedly, she took after the title of Paladin a lot more. Navigating this inhospitable world quickly meant a Pegasus was necessary, so they had chosen me, Midnight Charter, to go with her. They had hoped that a member of the night guard may be able to see in pitch black. I couldn’t.
I felt Paladin’s hoof poke me, and I realized that I had been getting a bit distracted. There was something about that hoof though, almost as if it was made of ooze. I suddenly had a very scary thought, so I reached out and poked in front of me.Uh oh. I think I just found Smooze.
All I could do was pray that Paladin was already near me. The rest was up to her and Princess Sparkle.
Without an atmosphere, I don’t think she would hear my screams. I was glad for that, because I was screaming like a little girl.
Commentary from Donny’s Boy
Ah, the Smooze! I liked the inclusion of an old school baddie in this story. It would have been nice to have more of the focus on the ponies on the planet, rather than have the story be primarily back story, I think, but I liked the idea that Equestria’s planet didn’t always have a sun. That’s interesting to think about.
Every pony on the planet has a certain environment in where they thrive. There’s a certain something that these environments have that many cannot describe. It brings out the best out of them and no pony knows why. As so many in my culture have said, there’s a je ne sais quoi feeling about these settings. As much as I despise that ostie de tabarnak cliché, there’s truth in it. For some, it would be in a schoolhouse molding the minds of the young, others would excel on a battlefield fighting on behalf of their ruler. Me, I flourish around simmering oil, boiling water, and the sweet smell of creation.
As with any day, there are at least a dozen voices around me as I work at my station. All of them are barking orders or are confused as to where their tools are. Mixed in with their voices are pots, pans, and plates being moved all around. Ceramic clinks on steel surfaces while oil simmers alongside boiling water. Various sweet and savoury smells waft around the room as all of us continue to work. I move a small pungent piece of garlic along a rough surface. My knife rapidly taps as the garlic is chopped smaller.
“Horte!” a husky voice screams. “I need an order of pea soup and almond cranberry couscous.”
“As you wish. Who was working on the pea soup?”
“I was, chef,” a light female voice says beside me. “The sauce pan is at seven o’clock.” I pick up my cutting board and knife and turn to a muted simmering. My hoof presses on an empty cold surface and I place the cutting board on it. I reach to my left a lift a glass lid. The simmering increases in volume and an earthy smell floats from the top of the pan. I push the garlic into the pot causing the simmering to become violent. “There’s a spoon at three o’clock, a little farther than where you put your cutting board.” I tap the table, searching for the spoon. After three taps, I grab onto a smooth object. I take it and stir the contents of the sauce pan. A few stirs later, I turn back to my station with my cutting board.
“Chef,” a squeaky voice says as I reach for a knife. “I need you to taste this.”
“This being what exactly?” I ask.
“Are you ready?”
I saw Cirrus swallow, the knob in his throat bouncing faintly beneath his skin. He licked his lips and checked his footing for the fifteenth time; the cloud beneath him hadn’t moved. The wind was barely a breath against our coats. To my left, the newborn sun was just peeking above the high mountains, painting the sky orange and pink and yellow as it burned away the nocturnal mists that collected around us like an ocean.
I smiled at his brave show. “Remember. Just like I showed you.”
“Right. But what if—”
“Just like I showed you.”
“Go talk to her,” the tall grass whispered.
“What? No. You go talk to her,” I said back, keeping my voice low. The dogwood shrub concealing me shook in the wind and the air with the faintly floral scent of its early spring blossoms.
That was true. I wasn’t older by much – just a few minutes – but I barely went a day without using the fact to claim some primacy over my younger brother. Whether it was a better toy or a new saddle or the top bunk on the bed, age had its privileges.
And, occasionally, drawbacks. I glanced through the waving stalks of grass at our target.
“Come on, just go! Go go go!” Vermillion whispered.
Fine. Fine. I took a breath and struck out from the foliage hiding us.
If the tall pegasus at the edge of our family’s fields saw me approach, she didn’t show it. She kept staring at the ground beneath her hooves, digging at the loose soil with the clumsy motions of a pony not used to farm labor. I snorted in disdain as I drew closer.
“Excuse me, miss?”
She didn’t look up. Whatever was in the ground must’ve been fascinating. Her mane, a dark speckled indigo, concealed her face, and the rest of her body was just a shade or two darker. She was unusually tall for a pegasus, and I realized as my shadow touched her hooves just how high she would tower over me, if she stood upright. The thought held me back for a moment.
But this was our land. I frowned again and plowed forward.
“Miss? I know you don’t mean any harm, but this farm here is private property, and I need you to—”
My words died in my throat as she looked up. She looked up, and her eyes met mine, and her mane drifted like a cloud in an unfelt breeze, and her horn rose like a wicked thorn from her brow, and my words died in my throat as she looked up.
We stared at each other for a while. Or, rather, she stared at me, while I stood still in shock. My heart climbed higher and higher in my chest, setting my whole body vibrating as it thump thump thumped like I had just run the longest race of my life.
Monster, my mind whispered.
“Princess.” My lips made the shape of the word, but no sound emerged.
Prompt #302: “No Princesses Here” by Esle Ynopemos
-Prompt: Princess? What Princess?-
Rarity’s eyes flickered between the two stallions. Her eyes were sharper than anypony’s that she knew of; she could tell the difference between eggshell and tinted porcelain from two hundred paces away. Yet she could not spot a single thing that marked one of the ponies before her as anything other than an exact mirror image of the pony next to him. She had heard the rumor that the Guard used enchantments on their armor to make each of them look identical, but she never realized just how effective it was until just now. Why, if she hadn’t seen the left one’s lips moving, she would not have known which was speaking to her.
“So, any help you could provide would be… uh, helpful.” The guard somehow managed to retain a stoic posture even as he stumbled on his words.
Rarity brought a hoof to her chin. “I’m sorry boys, I’m afraid I haven’t seen her since Tuesday. Missing from Canterlot, you say?”
The rightmost guard, which Rarity mentally decided to name Tweedle Dum to keep them straight, nodded. “The staff found her room empty this morning. The window was left open.”
“Oh my,” Rarity said, “I hope she’s alright!”
“So far, there’s been no sign of any kind of struggle. But we are of course concerned for the Princess’s safety,” said his twin, Tweedle Dee.
Something fell off of a counter in the back of her shop. Rarity’s ears flickered momentarily before she met the guardsponies with her most disarming smile. “Well, I am afraid your princess must be in another castle, so to speak. I’m fresh out of princesses here.”
When Mariposa May slipped in through True Blue Spark’s bedroom window, she found him curled up on his bed, one leg covering his face. The remains of his latest project were scattered around the messy room. Oh, boy, she thought with a sigh.
“So… how’s it going?” she asked.
“Enh,” was the only response.
“…Got all your homework done?”
Spark nodded without looking up.
Mariposa sighed again, then went for the elephant in the room. “And… how did your latest blueprint turn out?”
“I’m giving up,” Spark announced suddenly.
“Wha—giving up on what?”
“Everything. The inventing thing. I quit. I’m done.” The unicorn, blue in the figurative as well as literal sense, rolled over and kicked a stray crescent wrench off the edge of his bed.
“Don’t do it, Sherriff,“ Doctor Elecampane insisted. “Just ask him to go away politely, and—”
“And what, ma’am?” Sherriff Silver Star asked. “Let this critter head ta some other town and do the same things he’s been doin’ all over the West? Heck, no. We gotta stop him here.”
“But how?” Elecampane asked. “You know his reputation!”
“Ah didn’t say it’d be easy,” Silver Star sighed. “Ah guess Ah’ll hafta think a’ somethin’. But ah do know he ain’t gonna go polite, fer sure.”
“You’re just trying to make a name for yourself!” Elecampane’s bottle-glass green eyes blazed. “You’re risking your life!”
“Ah didn’t know ya cared.”
“It’s my job to care, you—”
The sound of a stallion clearing his throat made them both turn.
Braeburn stood in the doorway.
“Ah think Ah c’n help,” he said. “If’n ya’ll recall, Ah got a certain package yesterday…”
“Braeburn!” Elecampane gasped. “Your grandmother sent that especially for you.”
“Mah granny’d tan mah hide proper if Ah let this varmint run around hurtin’ other ponies when Ah could help stop him.” He looked to Silver Star. “Please. Let me help.”
Silver Star nodded.
“Stallions!” Elecampane tossed her auburn mane. “You’re all crazy! And I suppose you’ll expect me to patch you up!”
“Be right kind a’ ya.”
((Didn’t really get to finish, but this is as far as I got.))
Celestia trotted down the hallways of the palace. Every stone, every archway, all of it was familiar. Nothing had changed in the past decade. Banners hung from the wall, disguising the grey stone with colorful depictions of history. Celestia paused to gaze at one where the three old tribes were huddled together against the cold and smiled. It was hung exactly as it had been when this place was built. Overseen by herself, and by Luna.
With a firm shake of her head, Celestia moved on. It had been nearly ten years to the day since she’d had to betray her sister.
Not betray. Liberate.
Even as she thought them, Celestia didn’t believe the words. Instead she focused on the clopping of her feet as she made her way towards the throne room. It was afternoon and she’d just finished up with a nice tea break, ending exactly at one-zero-four and now she was off to join Luna in the afternoon court.
No, that was wrong. She was off to the afternoon court, just like always. Just like she had for every singly day except Sundays for the countless years before this. With or without Luna. It mattered not.
“So, what would you like to talk about today?”
I heard my new patient shift his weight on the couch beside my chair, as though he weren’t quite comfortable in it yet. It wasn’t, to be fair, an entirely comfortable couch – too comfortable, and my patients would find themselves drifting off rather than listening to me and having emotional breakthroughs that subsequently led to emotionally driven cash payouts in a show of their unending gratitude.
No, I couldn’t have patients falling asleep on me.
My patient – he hadn’t given me a name yet – took his time with the question. Again, not unusual. If my patients knew what was wrong, they wouldn’t have come to me in the first place. This was a voyage of discovery, and that voyage often started with a bit of introspection on their parts.
“I suppose… well, this will sound silly, but I’m afraid of changing,” he finally said.
“That’s not uncommon. Many ponies are afraid of life changes.”
“Yes, but… come on, look at me.”
“I actually can’t from this position.”
“Oh, right, sorry.” There was a pause, followed by a loud ripping sound as he tore away some of the green gunk that fastened me into the chair. “How’s that?”
“Much better. Thank you.” I twisted my neck back and forth to work out the kinks. The rest of my body was still entombed in the goo he’d liberally slathered on me (to my great surprise) on entering my office, but I felt we were making some progress toward a trusting relationship.
“All done, Mr. Long Saddle!” Derpy called out from behind the counter. Her boss, a grey stallion with a receding maneline, trotted over to look over his employee’s handiwork.
“Huh. I don’t remember Mr. Sepia Tone getting this much mail before.” Long Saddle said, examining the mail slots that Derpy stood proudly in front of. Every single outgoing slot was empty, save for one which was filled to its limit with envelopes.
“Mr. Tone is such a sweet old man.” Derpy said. “He always talks to me when I drop off his mail, but he hardly ever gets any. So I thought that today he deserved to get a lot of letters!”
“How… kind of you, Derpy.” Long Saddle said with a forced smile. “Well, your shifts over for the day, right? Please?”
“Yup! I’ll be out of your mane in no time.” Derpy said, reaching over the counter and rubbing the top of Long Saddle’s nearly hairless head. She vaulted over the tabletop and onto the other side. “Bye bye!”
“See you later, Ms. Derpy.” Long Saddle replied, watching as Derpy flew through and out the doors to the post office. He sighed, looking at all the misfiled mail, and then called out to the janitor. “Mop Top? I’ve got another mess for you to clean up… double pay, as usual.”
Sunset in Canterlot
Sunset. That’s what they called her. Beautiful as anything. Exotic, even. Her coat and mane were just like her namesake - a beautiful gradient of warmest yellow to orange, to just a hint of red. For just that alone, she had half the stallions in Canterlot’s attention, never mind her charmingly exotic neighponese accent and quick wit. Easy to smile and almost unfazable, it was a wonder she was even still single. I’m sure the mares kept an eye on her, too, either out of lust, envy or wariness.
And then there was little old me. Scratch, her neighbor from across the street. She lived in a second-floor apartment, just like I did. Every morning, she was up bright and early, and over coffee, we often saw each other through windows and over balconies, and gave each other a little wave. I’d like to think we were closer than “acquaintances”.