Apple Bloom tapped her hooves on the wooden floor of the clubhouse, and it was quiet enough she could hear the wind rustling the trees outside and every sniff of Sweetie Belle’s nose. Scootaloo wobbled as she tried to walk backwards on her hind legs and kept falling over after every two steps. Sweetie Belle just watched her.
“Ain’t there a pie eatin’ contest this week?” Apple Bloom asked.
Scootaloo landed on her back and groaned. “We tried that already.”
“Urg,” Sweetie Belle said, clutching her hooves against her stomach. “Don’t remind me. I was so sick after that.”
“Hey! How about roller derby!” Scootaloo said, lifting her head from the floor.
Apple Bloom shook her head. “Nah. We tried that too.” She stretched out her right hind leg. “Besides, my leg still hurts sometimes after that fall.”
“Maybe we could…” Sweetie Belle blushed and pressed her nose into her folded hooves. “…ask a grown-up for advice?”
Scootaloo’s eyes widened and Apple Bloom smacked her hoof on the floor as she glared at Sweetie Belle. “We ain’t that desperate!”
“Wait, girls, shut up!” Scootaloo said, rolling over and leaping up to her feet. “I’ve got it! I figured out what we’re good at!”
Pinkie’s favourite unofficial holiday was two weeks away. Every year, she would have dozens, if not hundreds of pranks ready to spring on the population of Ponyville. Each one ranging from small and simple like a joy buzzer to a hoof, to elaborate and over the top like a booby trap tied to a Rube Goldberg machine designed to throw a cream pie to the face. Out of all of the pranks she had prepared, she would have one designed to play a joke on every citizen in Ponyville with the exception of whoever had decided to collaborate with her.
This year however, nothing was planned. Nothing that Pinkie could think of felt satisfying enough to live up to the spirit of the holiday. She sat in her room in front of a blueprint. Like her mind, it was completely blank.
“What am I going to do?” she asked. “I have to do something. Anything. Come on brain, you’ve never failed me before.” Pinkie picked up a pencil. She hesitated to press it against the paper. The pencil stayed just above the paper for what felt like an eternity. Pinkie sighed and placed it down. “I guess there’s a first time for everything.” Something landed with a dull thud behind her. She turned around and found a cyan pegasus mare with a rainbow mane and tail. The mare had a wide smile on her face as she looked at Pinkie.
“Hey Pinkie,” she greeted. “Sorry I’m late, I had a bit of work to do. What do you need help with?”
“Dashie, I can’t think of anything to do,” Pinkie said. “No matter how hard I try, I can’t think of anything! Nothing comes to mind! Help me!”
Rainbow tilted her head. “What are you talking about?”
Luna had to take a step back as a huge slab of stone suddenly turned the corner and almost knocked her crown off. Her royal rump touched down on the floor without any ceremony or a herald announcing it. Lucky for the slab no guards were present to arrest it for this affront, Luna preferred to sneak her three AM midnight snacks without anypony knowing. If Celestia got wind of those … unofficial meals Luna would never be able to tease her sister about her swelling flanks again.
And that was just too much fun. Now she only had to talk down whoever was floating masonry around the palace in the middle of the night. As it turned out it was a very guilty looking Princess Twilight Sparkle.
“Good evening, Twilight. I hadn’t expected to meet you up and about at this time of the night.” She looked at the stone tablet more closely. “Oh, I remember this! How nostalgic … and embarrassing!” she chuckled. “Why don’t you tell me why you are at the servant’s entrance to the palace’s pantry? And with my first tries at celestial calculations to boot?”
Twilight Sparkle swallowed and stammered for a moment, but finally she found her voice. “Just looking for a past midnight, before breakfast snack. Please don’t tell Celestia!”
Luna gave her friend her most winning smile. “What should I tell Celestia? I have no idea what you are talking about. I’m not here after all and under no circumstances would I share my ill-gotten booty with you.” A veritable mountain of sandwiches and two tubs of ice cream appeared behind Luna.
Understanding dawned in Twilight’s eyes, and she nodded eagerly. “I have no idea either, maybe this is all just a dream?”
“It’s three in the morning,” Twilight grumbled as she walked through the library main room. “Whoever that is, they have some nerve to disturb me at this hour.” Her magic lighted a candle and she opened the door. “Do you have any idea …” Outside stood a really wet and tired looking baby dragon. ”Spike, I was wondering when you’d come back. It’s three AM, I have just started my second pot of tea. Come in, let’s get you dry before you catch a cold. You should have been in bed hours ago.” Twilight took a step back and let the dragon walk in.
The dragon whelp suppressed a yawn as he walked in. “I know, but Rainbow Dash wanted to complete the latest chapter of her story. You know that novel she has been obsessing over for the last weeks?”
A towel floated over from the bathroom in Twilight’s magic. Spike grabbed it from the air, and started to rub his skin until he was dry again. Then he opened a closet and got a mop to clean up the small puddle he had left on the floor.
Twilight sat down at her desk and shooed away Owlowiscious before he could swipe a cube from her sugar bowl. She gave the bird a hard stare. “Oh, I know what you’re up to, mister!”
Oh, wow, that story is not going to survive Twilight Sparkle’s editorial wrath, now is it? I’m surprised that Spike is willing to spend so much time writing down Rainbow Dash’s story, let alone give her the advice he’s gleaned from spending so much time in libraries. I was amused by how Twilight seemed to finally accept that Dash’s story might be worth her time only to have it shoved in her arms moments later.
Hey squirt, what are you doing?
You’re kidding, right?
No. No no no no. You can’t just flop on a cloud and shut your eyes, and call it a nap. That’s not a nap. It’s an insult to the whole idea of napping!
Move over, squirt, lemme show ya.
First thing is, you gotta pick the right cloud. You got most of that right, I’ll give you that. It’s got just the right amount of fluff—not so soft that you sink through it, but not so firm that it leaves you sore when you wake up.
Problem is, it’s in the wrong spot. Look at where you’re at, Scoots. Anypony in Ponyville can find you here! And if they can find you, they can wake you up and bug you.
Yeah, I know. Till you can fly on your own, your choices are limited to the clouds that drift low enough to climb to. Hang on tight, squirt, I’m gonna move this thing.
There. Much better. You got shade, and privacy, and trees for you to climb back down.
Wait, what are you doing? Just ‘cause you found the right spot doesn’t mean you’re ready to start napping. You haven’t stretched yet.
Fluttershy smiled softly as she sipped her tea, sitting across from Princess Luna, who was also grinning happily. After a long day both in and out of her cottage, it was always nice to have a sip of tea, and having guests always made it sweeter.
“It’s so nice of you to come by, Princess,” Fluttershy chirped happily.
Nodding, Luna flashed a smile as well, dong nearly as good a job holding her teacup in her hooves. “It’s my pleasure to be here.”
The two of them looked at one another for a moment, and Fluttershy couldn’t help but think back to that Nightmare Night when they’d first met. If only she’d known how sweet the Princess was back then, perhaps they could have…
Fluttershy shook her head suddenly, trying to purge those thoughts from her mind. Fate had already conspired against a relationship between her and the Princess. Pondering it only soured her mood.
Luna raised an eyebrow, as if sensing distress in the yellow pegasus. “Is something the matter, Fluttershy?”
“N-no, not at all!” Fluttershy replied quickly, her voice carrying a higher pitch. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she sipped the last of her tea and laid the teacup on the table. “Though, I’m rather worried about you, Princess. I heard you had a problem with an Ursa Major in Manehattan last week.”
Luna’s lips tightened, though Fluttershy could still tell the Princess was gritting her teeth by the way her jaw moved. “Naught but my… Pride is wounded, dear Fluttershy,” Luna forced out, trying to sound calmer than she was.
It was practically a guilty pleasure for him, these days. A way to unwind from the stresses of duty and diligence, to get his head screwed back on straight. Being the stallion that he was, he didn’t get chances to do things like it often, but it was a way to escape his responsibilities for a while. And now that he was married, and a co-ruler of the Crystal Empire, he had even fewer chances for it. And so, Shining Armor made a decision, and snuck out of the Crystal Palace in the middle of the night, left a pre-written note where his beloved wife would see it, and ran with all his might towards the train station. Once there, he bought a ticket for the next train to Manehatten.
Once on the train, the soft rocking of the car, and the gentle click-clack of the train as it passed over the tracks soothed Shining’s mind, and he was soon fast asleep once more. The conductor was kind enough to wake the captain of the guard when the train was due to pull into Manehatten as the sun rose over the eastern sea. Upon disembarking, Shining headed straight for the ticket office, and the list of trains leaving that day. There was one about midday, which would take him all the way over to Los Pegasus. Booking the ticket, he then wandered out into Manehatten, to find himself some breakfast, and to waste time before the next train.
This was her time. Derpy sighed as she looked out at the water. The bright midsummer sun reflected on the water, shimmering, almost dazzlingly. Almost. But not quite. She breathed out slowly, enjoying the warmth of the sun on her fur. Her eyes closed as a small smile spread across her lips.
This was her time. Carrot Top had taken Dinky to the park so she could play with her friends. She had finished her mail run for the day. There was nothing left to do. Normally, her world centered around her daughter. Normally, she was making sure the house was in order, that dinner was planned, that Dinky was doing well. Normally. But not always
This was her time. She opened her eyes, breathing a controlled breath out as she released the last of the tension in her back. She walked to the water. A lake was nothing like the ocean she grew up next to, but it was still nice. The water was chilly to her sun-warmed skin, but she welcomed the cool. The water quickly rose up her side as she walked, until it reached the base of her wings. She fluttered them out, slowly dipping them in the water and moving them back and forth. She grinned.
Snakes. They were all snakes, Rarity Decided. They may have looked like ponies, acted like ponies, and talked like ponies, but they were absolutely, positively snakes. That was her singular impression upon leaving Canterlot after the fiasco that was Twilight’s birthday party at the castle. The ponies of the so called ‘High Society’ were nothing more than a bunch of writhing, slithering snakes, biting each other in a desperate attempt to be on top as their forked tongues hissed lies behind other ponies backs. Nothing else, no other creature in the wide, wide world of Equestria could be so positively vile. The one refreshing pony had been Fancypants, whose pure and simple honesty had touched the Ponyville designer like a cool breeze after the storm.
“…And this is Rarity. She’s a good friend of mine,” muttered Rarity, as she stared out of the train window at the mountainside city. Logically, the fashionista knew that in order to have a viable career as a high level designer, she would need the approval and reputation that only the Canterlot social scene could provide for her. However, her brief reign there as ‘the kind of pony that everypony should know’ had been a fantastic and terrible eye-opener. The white unicorn gave a weak chuckle at the lyrics of the song she had sung on a whim. Perhaps she was just too used to the packed earth streets of Ponyville, where everypony said what they meant, and never hid behind veiled insults or upturned snouts. Maybe, with enough time, she’d get better at the vicious social game that the Canterlot high society played. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t ever imagine acting like those snakes. She would be like Fancypants, she decided, and always tell the truth. If she thought it was good, she would say so, and damn her reputation. The unicorn sighed. Such things only worked if you had a secure position socially already. Perhaps she could simply avoid insulting anypony on purpose? Yes, that would work out better. She could still work her way up the social ladder, while avoiding becoming one of the snakes.
As the train pulled into Ponyville station, and Rarity gathered up her bags with her magic, she smiled as she inhaled the fresh scent of rain and earth. She was home, she realised. Her business and passion may take her to Canterlot, but it would never truly be home to her. Not the way that Ponyville, with its honest and earnest ponies would be. And if the unicorn was truthful with herself, she would rather conduct her business from here than Canterlot. Because then, only the customers that actually desired a dress would ever make it out here, and that suited the designer just fine.
Commentary by Donny’s Boy
I really enjoyed the beginning’s extended metaphor of the Canterlot high society as snakes, as well as Rarity’s vehemence in describing them as such. It also makes a lot of sense that she’d take Fancypants as a role model for the kind of elite pony she’d like to become, given the events of “Sweet and Elite.”
“Waaugh!” Lyra tumbled off of the couch and took her blanket with her, ending up in a snug, fuzzy tube on the floor of the apartment. She took a second to observe her predicament and giggled, “Hey, I’m a caterpillar!”
“Cute,” Bon Bon deadpanned above Lyra, “but the Las Pegasus Greats don’t need a bug, they need their lyrist. And unless you’re planning to inch your all across the city…”
“See? This is why you need to let me buy a skateboard,” Lyra said, taking her fore-hooves out of the blanket and scooting herself across the carpet. “I could be racing there right now.”
Bon Bon face-hoofed. “Are you always this scatter-brained when you wake up?”
“Only when I’ve slept for over 12 hours,” Lyra said matter-of-factually. Her face suddenly lit up. “Oh, Bon Bon, you need to hear about this crazy dream I had! I was Pee Wee Hermane, you were Revolver Ocelot, and we were fighting over the rights to the Elements of Harmony when—”
“Lyra!” Bon Bon shouted. She fixed her roommate with a stern look. “One, out of the blanket. Two, out of dreamland. Three, out the door!” she jabbed a hoof towards the front door.
“Fine, fine. I can see you aren’t in a mood to discuss this rationally,” Lyra sighed, pulling herself out her cozy prison. “But you know, the longer you have to stand around and tell me to get band practice, the less time you have to get yourself to work, right?”
“Well, that’s, well,” Bon Bon stammered as she looked at a hanging clock, “I have to go!”
Bon Bon threw the front door open and dashed outside, letting the door swing back with a ‘clack’ as it rebounded and hit the door-frame.
“Heh, knew that would work,” Lyra yawned, gathering up her blanket and depositing herself back on the couch. “Now, no need to rush myself; nopony shows up to practice anyways. Just gonna sit here, relax, aaand talk to myself. Actually, I should probably stop that last thing. Starting to scare myself out a bit now.”
Lyra covered her mouth with a hoof as her body melted into the couch with another yawn. “If I had it my way, I’d never have to move again…”
Sweetie’s hooves landed on hard packed earth under a thin coat of dust that billowed up around her legs with each step. She felt it play against her coat, clinging and pressing just a touch more than the naked wind. It smelled of sand and talc, and made her sneeze when it built up in her nose.
The sounds of other ponies surrounded her. They spoke lighter, easier than they had yesterday. She’d heard the first laugh again only a week ago, now she heard a few already. The sounds of hammers were fewer and farther between.
The scent of fresh bread caught Sweetie’s nose through the dust and thinning linger of creosote and char. She smelled rich oats, and Pinkie was using a honey glaze again.
Angel saluted as Fluttershy walked out the door. She had a basket full of baked goods on her back. Angel couldn’t help but smile as his owner disappeared behind a bend. She had come quite a way from the recluse two years ago. Back then a picnic would have required him to practically carry her there.
“Hello Rarity,” Fluttershy greeted her friend. “Oh, I hope you haven’t waited long for me.” She hid behind her mane and pawed at the ground bashfully.
“Hello, Fluttershy darling. No, of course not. I’m just too early. Listen.” In the distance Ponyville clocktower rang once low and twice high. “Half past one, just like we agreed. Let’s go, you know how Twilight gets when we are not on time.”
I remember when adventure was just another word to describe a frantic tempo. Something to be played in distant lands, where ponies clashed against dragons or searched for new lands. As a resident in a small, out of the way town called Ponyville, adventure was a word used only by little fillies trying to find their cutie mark.
Adventure, to me, was a day running across town trying to repair a broken string on my lyre. And then spending the rest of the afternoon tuning my strings so I could perform for ponies and play a mellow tune. And, to make my patrons smile, I occasionally played a quick tune. One I didn’t like much, but one they loved because of its “adventurous” quality.
I never liked adventurous songs. On the Summer Sun Festival, years ago, an outsider came— and stayed. With her came a life of chaos and adventure. It was then I was forced to dance along to a song of adventure.
Rarity, Applejack and Rainbow Dash were running some errands in town while the Cutie Mark Crusaders were off crusading, but were surprised to see the three fillies moping in the town square. Concerned, they walked up to the trio to see what was bothering them.
“It’s no use,” Sweetie Belle said as they apporached, “we’ll never get our cutie marks.”
“We’ve tried everything, and we still haven’t found what we’re good at,” said Applebloom.
“We should at least have gotten a cutie mark in looking for a cutie mark by now,” Scootaloo said, kicking at the ground.
The three mares looked at each other, and set out to give the young ones some encouragement. To tell them that it didn’t matter if they had found their special talent yet or not, that there was something more valuable than knowing what it is you were meant to do. And what better way to do that then through song.
Vinyl Scratch sat nervously in the restaurant, twirling her mane around a hoof restlessly. At her roommate Octavia’s insistence, her normally wild mane had been tamed into something resembling more like Octavia’s own style. The date had been Octavia’s idea too, and Vinyl swore to Celestia that if she was stood up, she’d cut off Octavia’s tail. Vinyl glanced up at the clock. It was nearly eight, and her supposed date should be here any minute now. Every time somepony walked through the door, her uncovered ruby eyes flicked over to watch where they were going. Fancypants, much to her surprise, was the next to enter, but just as she thought the classy pony was her date, he veered off and sat down next to a grey pegasus mare.
“What is this, weird couples night?” muttered the DJ, glancing back up at the clock, sweating almost imperceptibly. Exactly as the clock struck eight, another pony entered the restaurant.
“BEHOLD, LOYAL SUBJECTS! YOUR PRINCESS HATH ARRIVED!” Boomed Princess Luna.
‘Please let it not be the princess. Please let it not be the princess,’ thought Vinyl, watching where the princess of the night was headed, ‘Dammit, it’s the princess. Octavia, your tail is going to get dyed if I get out of this alive,’ continued the DJ’s thoughts as Princess Luna sat down opposite her.
“Thou art my companion for the evening?” said the princess, at a much more normal speaking volume, drawing a blink of surprise from Vinyl.