Chapter One: Knock
At The Door
pounded insistently at the front door. Mister Provender didn't seem
to want to deal with it. Let'm come back in the mornin'
he grumbled before drifting off again. The pounding grew louder.
Somebody would have to deal with it. Missus Provender was very awake
now, so she rolled out of bed, stood up, flicked her tail at her lazy
stallion husband, and ambled downstairs. What was so confounded
important at this time of night?
her door was a large cart, and an impatient official. He was from the
Newfoal Assistance And Relocation Administration. He was on a tight
schedule, and he wasn't at all happy to have to wait in the snow.
Provender hadn't reckoned she would have any troubles, when she had
signed up for a newfoal. The extra income from the Royal Treasury for
'Newfoal Assistance' was certainly welcome. She didn't know what
dealing with a newfoal would be like, but she felt she could handle
pretty much anything. Besides, it was well understood that the
Conversion Bureaus in the Human World trained and prepared newfoals
before they ever set hoof in Equestria proper. She reckoned that the
whole thing was basically like the Crown paying her to enjoy free
help on the farm. It sounded almost too good to be true.
newfoal was delivered in the middle of the night, in the middle of
winter, without so much as a letter beforehand.
therefore, as a bit of a shock, when she found that the newest
critter on her farm not only didn't know how to speak the language,
but could barely walk. The poor creature had been part of the last
rush, the final effort to convert as many of the last remaining
humans as possible before Purification occurred.
was some mighty fancy magic the Princesses had worked up to clean
and purge the Human world once and for all. Any remaining human
creatures would be dissolved, along with all the dangerous, poisonous
things that they seem to have covered their world in. The way it had
been described, it had seemed to Missus Provender that it was all a
bit like chewin' before swallowin'. In the end, the last traces of
the human's strange world would be engulfed by Equestria, vanishing
forever from the cosmos in which it lay. In some way she certainly
couldn't understand, this all would somehow preserve Equestria from
some kind of harm, so that it would live on forever.
Provender never could quite see how the two worlds were supposedly
linked, but she was told they were, or had been, or somethin', and
the only part that mattered to her was that now she had a new income
source, and a new working mare on the farm. But, now, things didn't
look as good as she had pictured them when she had first signed up.
newfoal filly didn't even have a name. At least not one that Missus
Provender could discover.
unsteady, milk-white Earth Pony was dropped off, the newfoal
administrator had explained that these last minute converts needed
extra care and attention, because they had to be rushed to Equestria
before the Purification, and there had been no time to train them.
Missus Provender pointed out that such extra care and attention
naturally demanded extra compensation, an argument that gained her a
disgruntled snort, and a sharp glare.
So now she
didn't have a working mare so much as a baby to raise. Typical.
Nevertheless, this was something she knew she could handle, having
already raised three foals back in her younger days with Mister
Provender. Besides, if she trained this newfoal right, then she could
relax knowing with certainty that her new farm mare would do things
the right way.
newfoal mare lay on a thin, institutional blanket in Missus
Provender's kitchen. Although the former human was not by any means a
child, she quivered like one, and she could not manage to stand. She
seemed confused and kept slipping in and out of consciousness. The
newfoal administrator had mentioned that the mare had been sedated
with some Human World potion or some such nonsense, and it would take
her time to recover.
Provender ambled to her shelves, and used her teeth to take down a
nice warm comforter. She took it to the shivering mare on the floor
and covered her with it. It was a little cold, being the winter
months and all, and it seemed the kindly thing to do.
ya go, little one The newfoal mare was not little, but Missus
Provender didn't know what else to say, and in any case she figured
that the tone of her words might be calming. The soft words seemed to
work, and the wobbily newfoal looked up at her with unfocused
sapphire blue eyes, which gradually closed. The mare's head drooped
to the floor, violet curls of mane draping over the blanket. Almost
instantly she fell asleep.
Provender pulled the comforter up closer to the newfoal's head. She
took one last look at her new guest, and then trotted up the wide
stairs to bed.
the Provender's prize rooster, woke, as usual, the two elder farmers,
and they set about their morning rituals. As she clopped down the
stairway, Missus Provender, suddenly remembered the newest member of
her farm. There on the kitchen floor still slept the mare she had
been made to take in the previous night. She thought immediately of
waking her - morning is always early on the farm - but then recalled
that this was a newfoal, a converted human creature.
Provender knew very little about the humans and their world, but she
reckoned that changing form from one type of creature to another type
of creature probably wasn't an easy thing to go through. She felt
pity for the tousle-maned lump on her floor, and decided to let her
sleep. The poor thing probably needed time to recover. Besides,
letting the newfoal sleep would allow her time to make breakfast and
give some thought to how to deal with the situation in general.
Provender clomped wearily down the stairs as Missus Provender set
about baking biscuits. Biscuits were a staple at Provender Farm, and
Cornflower Provender, the matriarch of the best darn little farm in
all of South Withers prided herself on making the best darn biscuits
in the county. She had a blue ribbon to prove it, which she had won
years ago, back when she and mister Provender were still raising
their three daughters, and they still ran the county fair out of
Greater Fetlock, back before it was moved to Hoofington.
Provender, at his usual hay-bale by the window, looked out over the
round, wooden table, at the sleeping mare on the kitchen floor. "Cornflower!"
I'm makin' yer breakfast!"
said I'm makin' breakfast, it'll be done in a moment!" Missus
Provender was laying out disks of dough on her favorite pan, tapping
them flat with a practiced hoof.
somepony sleeping in our kitchen!"
Missus Provender a moment to recall that Mister Provender hadn't been
awake enough to know anything about the night before "That's our
newfoal. From the Bureaus? I signed up for one a couple months ago?"
no foal!" roared Mister Provender.
You'll wake her!" The biscuits were in the oven now, and so
Missus Provender ambled over to the table "I didn't say she was
a new foal, I said she was a 'newfoal', one of them converticated
human creatures turned into one'a us. That's just what they call 'em,
Cornflower, ya ain't got to get all snippy with me. Shucks. I know
what a dern 'Newfoal' is, I just weren't expecting one on our floor
delivered her last night. Remember? All the racket at the door?"
Durum Provender had finally given a single-word response, and after
long years with the old stallion, Cornflower knew he wouldn't be any
more bother. For now.
Mister Provender sat sucking his teeth at the newfoal on the floor,
Missus Provender set out feed bowls and cups. She briefly thought
about putting out a third bowl for the new mare, but since the mare
seemed to be sleeping so soundly, she figured she could deal with
such things later, if the poor thing did awaken. The smell of
biscuits had a way of waking up ponyfolk, or so it had always been
around Provender Farm. If the newfoal was likely to wake up, the
biscuits would do it.
Provender sipped apple juice from his cup. Durum had to have his
apple juice in the morning, or he would be a caution the rest of the
day. He was like that, set in his ways, and for Missus Provender time
was measured in biscuits and rooster calls and the first cup of apple
juice in the morning.
of biscuits baking filled the roomy kitchen. A subtle morning magic,
Cornflower Provender's prize-winning biscuits set Mister Provender's
stomach rumbling, and his nostril's twitching. Missus Provender
studied the sleeping newfoal as she waited for the timer to chime.
Surely enough, the white mare's nostrils were twitching just like
Durums did, and Cornflower felt a rush of pride that her biscuit
magic worked even on bodily trans-converticated creatures from
newfoal mare opened her eyes. She looked around, first at Missus
Provender's feet, and then at her face. The newfoal began wildly
looking around after that, and Missus Provender reckoned that the
mare was probably frightened a little, at being in a new place.
folded her legs and lay down in front of the newfoal mare. She looked
as kindly as she could, staring into the deep, blue eyes of the
creature. It looked like any ordinary mare, about middle age, but
with no Mark on her flank. Guess they don't have Marks in that other
world, Missus Provender thought. Or maybe she'll get her's later, now
she's here. "Shhh..... Shhh... it's all right honeycake, I'm
makin' biscuits, if'n yer hungry. I'm right here, and everythin's
gonna be alright."
clear the newfoal didn't understand a word of Equestrian, just as the
Bureau pony had said, but Cornflower knew how to deal with children,
and she reckoned that this here was something like a child, being new
and all, so her kindly tone and gentle eyes spoke the universal
language of comfort. Cornflower gave the newfoal a kindly nuzzle,
once she saw the mare relax, and then scrabbled up to check on the
biscuits. A glance back assured her that the newfoal mare was indeed
interested in biscuits, so she got another bowl out.
newfoal stayed put, following Missus Provender with her eyes whatever
she did. Like a puppy, thought Cornflower. Guess I do have a child to
raise after all. Oh well. The biscuits were done, and soon the aroma
flooded the kitchen like sunshine for the nose.
nameless newfoal gobbled biscuits eagerly. It was clear she was very
hungry. Missus Provender put down a bowl filled with apple juice and
another with water. The newfoal was powerful thirsty, too, it seemed.
For now, the mare crawled on her belly, as best she could, there was
no doubt that she would need help learning how to stand, and walk.
Missus Provender gave him a determined look "I need you to take
care'a things today. It looks like I got me a grown-up child to tend to!"
Said Mister Provender.
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