Chapter Five: Road
Provender Farm was the most difficult thing Teacup had ever had to
deal with since becoming an Equestrian. The farm was more than just
her work, it was her home, her family. Mister and Missus Provender
were like loving parents in her mind, and Teacup cried and cried as
she ambled away with Petal.
Provender had both hoped for, and dreaded, this day. She had expected
it to come, from the first time she had seen the quivering,
half-aware mare unloaded from the Bureau cart, and carried into her
kitchen. They always leave, she sighed, because that's how it must
be. Still, this was another daughter leaving the farm.
Provender shuffled her hooves, and flicked her tail nervously back
and forth as she watched Teacup and Petal slowly disappear down the
road to South Withers. Teacup had said she was coming back, that this
was just a trip to find a cure for her sadness. That she wanted to
return, and would as soon as she could. With luck, it would not even
be that long a time.
Cornflower had already raised three fillies in her life, and once
they leave the farm, really leave the farm, they don't come
back, save for the occasional, rare, visit.
Provender nuzzled his wife. "Ya did a mighty fine job with that
one, Cornflower. Mighty fine." Missus Provender turned and
buried her muzzle in his graying mane. She wasn't about to let the
old stallion see her weep.
Teacup stopped briefly in South Withers, once they had reached the
town, to stock up on supplies for their journey. They had reasoned
that the erasure of memories would almost certainly be a fairly
exotic magic, and one not likely to be found in a rural setting. In
all the their ten years in Equestria, neither had ever heard of such
a thing, and they had seen and heard of many different forms of
magic. Magic was commonplace in Equestria -every unicorn naturally
expressed it- more than this there were magical plants, magical
creatures and magical artifacts either within its borders, or outside
them. If in a decade they had never heard of memory magic, then
surely it was unusual at least, if not actually hidden away
course, such magic even existed. But, Teacup's argument that
engulfing an entire planet was magnitudes greater than merely erasing
a few memories carried weight. It was unlikely that if power such as
that existed, that erasing memories would somehow be too hard to do.
ponies had decided to head first to Hoofington, which was known to
have both large bookstores, and a significant library. If they could
find nothing there, they could continue on to Manehattan, by way of
Ponyville if need be. There was also the possibility of going the
other direction, and traveling directly from Ponyville to nearby
Canterlot. That destination both intrigued and frightened them.
hoof, if any magic such as they desired existed, Canterlot would
almost certainly have it. Canterlot was the capital of Equestria, and
the home of the twin princess-goddesses that ruled over the realm.
Anything even vaguely important would surely be found there.
the other hoof, the fact that memory erasure had not been made a part
of Conversion, nor ever offered to any newfoal, sat heavily with both
Petal and Teacup. It was such an obvious boon, yet it was never
mentioned even as a possibility. This suggested strongly to them that
such magic might even be forbidden in some way.
Petal, nor Teacup wanted to do anything against the wishes of their
sovereigns, nor the laws of Equestria, but their pain was great, and
in the end, the only ponies that could possibly be hurt if something
went wrong were they, themselves. It seemed cruel to them, if memory
magic was somehow forbidden, to deny it when it could do such obvious
good. They had both known what it was to live in a world where it was
common to be denied basic necessities for arbitrary, even downright
mean reasons. Thus they both knew what it was to find ways around
rules, merely to survive. This was no different in their minds.
trotting into the very heart of rule in the land and poking about for
what very well might be a forbidden magic did not appeal to them as a
wise thing to do. Perhaps, along the way, they could find out whether
or not such magic was allowed without raising suspicion. Then they
could decide which direction to ultimately take, Manehattan, or the
other way, to Canterlot.
briefly considered daring to ask the princesses directly for help.
But that, that was just crazy. Asking a living goddess to help them
with their personal problems seemed frighteningly selfish and
ridiculous. Worse if they were denied, or told that such magic was
disallowed, then that would be the end of all their hope, forever.
Withers was a moderately sized community, much larger than the town
of Clydesdale that Petal knew. The old fairgrounds were unused now,
but the many shops and stores that had grown up around the fair,
before it had been moved, still thrived. South Withers had become a
hub of commerce for all the farming villages nearby, and a
distribution point for the things they grew.
Petal through the town. She knew it well, having come here many times
with Mister Provender over the years. She took Petal to the Toffee
Tower, her favorite candy store. It wasn't really much of a tower,
though it had been constructed to vaguely look like one. It would be
nice to have some sweet treats on the trip.
twins were there, as usual, Almond and Cashew. Almond was up front,
at the counter, Cashew pushing a cart filled with sweets out from the
back. "Teacup! How nice! Are you here with Mister Provender
doing shopping today?"
noticed the pony with Teacup "Oh, Hello, I remember you from the
party! You're the unicorn Missus Provender sent for aren't you? The
one that made the funny face!"
that's me, I'm Petal. Howdy do!" Petal did her funny face again
at Almond, which made both twins laugh.
here to pick up some sweets to take with us. We're going on a
journey together." Teacup sniffed at a display filled with
Where are you going?" Cashew wanted to know.
we are kind of heading to Manehattan, I think." Teacup went and
collected a small basket with a handle, and began choosing sweets to
put into it "We figure they might have some good bookstores
there. And a big library."
after books? We do have a bookstore in Withers, you know that,
right?" Almond was proud of his town.
after some special books." Petal had found some gummy apple
drops and signaled to Teacup that she wanted some added to the
basket. "Books about the mysteries of magic, thaumaturgical
studies, that sort of thing."
you know..." said Cashew thoughtfully "You might try the
library in Ponyville. It's a small town, but it's right next to
Canterlot, and Celestia herself sponsors the librarian there, or so
they say. You have to go through there to get to Manehattan. Bet you
could find some rare books there!"
Petal exchanged glances. If Celestia herself was involved with the
town, maybe they should avoid it. They still didn't know if what they
were trying to learn was even allowed. "We'll certainly give
that a try, thanks a lot!" Petal said, as cheerfully as possible.
still might check out Coriander's Books" Almond grumbled.
"You just might be surprised."
then," Petal gave a wink to Teacup "We'll definitely have
to give them a try before we leave town!" This caused Almond to
the candy shop, Teacup's saddlebags bulged with the addition of not a
few treats. Teacup was proud to carry the saddlebags on her back.
They were a traveling gift from Missus Provender, and bore the mark
of Provender Farms: a cornucopia filled with hay. As they ambled down
the street, Teacup caught Petal watching her admiring the bags.
are just the best, aren't they?" Petal smiled "I adore
mine. I can carry so much in them, and they feel like old friends, now,"
Provender gave these to me, before I left. They used to be
hers." Teacup was silent for a long while "I miss her. I
miss the farm."
could turn back, Teacup. We don't have to do this."
then what? Nothing would change. We'd still feel different and alone.
I, at least, would probably grow bitter as the years went on. I don't
want that. No. We go on." Teacup was resolute.
ok! Just checking. Hey, should we check the local bookstore, just in case?"
maybe." Teacup looked thoughtful for a moment "I have an
idea. Coriander is a unicorn as I recall. There aren't many in these
parts, you've probably noticed, being a farming community. But... we
might try asking about the magic we're looking for. We might at least
get some idea about how magic like that is viewed. I don't think
we'll find any useful books, but we might at least learn something."
I guess it wouldn't do any harm." Petal agreed "Let's go
see this Super Impressive Coriander the Amazing Bookstore Unicorn
then!" Petal giggled at her overly grandiose pronouncement, and
Teacup just had to laugh too.
was indeed a unicorn, and he sat at the back of his astonishingly
packed bookstore. It really was filled with books. On shelves. In
piles behind the door. In piles on top of other piles. It was a bit
of a struggle just to navigate all the way to the back without
knocking over something. Teacup stepped carefully, bending this way
and that so her saddlebags wouldn't topple one of the tall, barely
unicorn was old, very old, and his mane had turned the color of snow,
along with much of his once blue coat. He was busy reading a large,
heavy book, the glow from his horn intermittently turning pages.
Coriander's gruff voice was loud in the small store "Ah,
customers? I haven't had customers in a long while. You are
customers, right? You're not here for directions, or to sell me
something are you?"
Yes! I mean, we are most definitely customers. Potential customers,
to be precise. We would like to be customers, provided that you have
what we are looking for, which by no means are we absolutely sure
of." Petal seemed oddly flustered. Perhaps Coriander had
startled her, somehow.
well! This is quite the positive development then!" Coriander
turned from his book to face them, still sitting on a small, padded
hoofstool. "Usually I get salesponies, or the occasional colt
using my shop for hide-and-seek. I am indeed honored to have real
customers! How can I help you grand mares today?" The ancient
stallion grinned widely at them, his teeth yellowed but intact.
friend here, she's called Petal, by the way, - and I'm Teacup, howdy
do - is interested in learning magic. I mean, she already is magic,
she's a unicorn, she does magic of course, but..." Teacup had
been surprised by Coriander, and was still unsure of how to put
things "... what I mean is that she wants to learn more magic,
being a unicorn and all, and well... um.. you wouldn't happen to have
any books on that would you? Um, magic, I mean."
looked at Teacup for a while, as though he was sorting her out in his
mind "Not really much call for magic in these parts, to tell you
the truth. Now farming, I have books on that. When to plant, what to
plant, what not to plant and where you shouldn't plant what you
shouldn't be planting when you shouldn't be planting at all. I've got
stacks of books up to here - " Coriander nodded at a
particularly tall pile of books "all about farming. Mostly
because what we have in this region is, unsurprisingly, farmers."
just stared, Petal however giggled happily at this strange outburst.
retrospect, filling my shop with books about farming may have been a
mistake. Being that everyone for miles around is a farmer, and the
descendant of farmers that have been farming for as far back as
anyone can remember..." Coriander nodded at a huge, multiple,
entwined, triple stack of books that ran all the way to the ceiling
"... it should have been obvious that the last thing any of them
would actually need to read would be a book about what they were
already expert in." The aged unicorn sighed loudly "A bit
foolish on my part, really."
do you stay in business, then?" Teacup felt very sorry for the
poor old unicorn.
I farm." Petal laughed out loud at that. Coriander gave her a
wink "I run an orchard just outside of Withers. I'm too old for
labor anymore, so I sit here, and have hired hooves buck my peaches
for me. I wouldn't have known how to do any of that except..."
for all the books here!" Petal finished the bookseller's
words for him.
With that, Coriander smiled the biggest smile yet.
actually did have a small selection of books about magic, and in
retrieving them for the mares to see, Teacup saw how it was that the
massive stacks had been made. Watching the ancient stallion use his
glowing horn to lift entire piles of books, hold them steady in
mid-air, separate them, pluck individual tomes from out of the
resultant cloud, then reshuffle and restack the books neatly was
thrilling for her. Teacup began to wish her new friend enjoyed magic
more, because it was wonderful to see. In all of her ten years on the
farm, she had seen pegasai, of course -weather being quite important
to the business of farming- but not many unicorns at all. She'd
certainly never seen magic used on this scale.
show of shifting books was over, Teacup was a little disappointed.
Books flying around like birds was really quite entertaining.
Petal was checking out Coriander's small selection of books on the
topic of magic "'My First Book Of Basic Spells', 'How To Care
For Your Horn', 'Horn Health And You', Ah!..." Her own horn
glowed as she hovered a very old, small red book in front of her "'Appropriate
Thaumaturgy: A Practical Guide To The Proper Use Of Magic',
second edition... hmmm... University Of Canterlot. How much
for this one, Mr. Coriander?"
see..." Coriander floated the book away from Petal's glowing
grasp, and turned it, hovering in the air, so that he could see the
inside back cover "I always write a little note inside so that I
can..." The bookseller squinted for a while "Um, Teacup,
was it? Can you see how much this is?" The book now floated in
front of Teacup's eyes.
suddenly looked shocked. Her eyes went wide, and her pupils narrowed.
"Um.... I... no... I can't..." She turned her head
away, and looked down at her own flank, her ears drooping. "I
stared at Teacup for a moment, then jumped in "How about I make
you an offer, Mr. Coriander? You see, we're going on a long trip, so
I can't give you a lot, but.." she brushed in front of Teacup,
filling Mr. Coriander's attention entirely "...maybe you'd
consider, oh, say..." Teacup realized that she was no longer on
the spot, and looked up. She quietly backed up through the piles of
books until she was at the front door again. Then she softly opened
the door, and went outside.
down on the wooden sidewalk in front of the bookstore. She hung her
head, and waited.
time, Petal stepped outside and closed the door behind her. In her
mouth was the little red book. She looked at Teacup, then carefully
put the book into her own saddlebags. She sat down next to Teacup.
there for a little while, in silence. "The Equestrian written
language is kind of difficult." Petal gave Teacup a
little nudge "And there sure isn't a lot of call for it on a
know a few words, from experience." Teacup was studying the
sidewalk intently "Flour, Apples, and I can spell 'Provender
Farm' too. I memorized that from the sign at the front. There was
just so much to do, and... needing to read things never really came
up, it just... didn't."
OK, Teacup. This isn't Earth, remember? You were taught what you
needed to know for the life you were leading." Petal pondered
for a moment "You know, maybe Missus Provender doesn't know how
to read either. I'm sure she would have taught you, if she could
have. She really cares for you, you know."
know she does. It's just that, before...here... only the worst...
most hopeless... reading was the only way to hope to get the degrees
necessary to even have a job and..." Teacup faltered.
I said, this isn't Earth. Here, farming is valued. It's vital.
Knowing how to grow things is important here... and whatever
it was you knew as a human really doesn't matter anymore. Well, probably
doesn't. What did you do?"
science. I was a Nanofabricator for Eastcorp. Programming and...
hopper maintenance." Teacup played with her front hooves, making
little clopping sounds on the sidewalk "I studied for four
years, all while living on the street to get that job. I pulled
myself out of the favela. Just for a little respect, just for... I
studied so hard..."
you are a fine mare, and you are not a human. You are
a pony, a farm pony, and I am proud to be friends with such a
highly respected farmer from such an amazing place as
looked up, finally, and found Petal's eyes utterly serious, and
utterly without guile. She meant every word, and it shone from her
giggled loudly, and the whole world brightened. She nuzzled Teacup
"Of course, you silly goose. I liked you from the moment I met
you. Now, let's get going!"
a pony, not a goose." Teacup had raised her head,
and her ears had lifted up high again.
if you were a goose, I just know you'd be good at that, too."
moment, Teacup suddenly decided that she very much liked having Petal
Confetti for a traveling companion.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
To TCB Story Index