Chapter Eight: Working
made another batch of biscuits. Mr. Nibbles -everyone in the
restaurant just called him 'Tasty'- trotted over and watched the
violet-maned mare as she stirred with a spoon in her teeth. "Just
wanted to say that our business has gone up ever since you arrived.
Good job Teacup!"
grinned around the long, wooden spoon. She enjoyed working at
'Nibbles', and the bits she was earning were just what she and Petal needed.
across town, Petal was out doing courier work for Speed Pony
Delivery. Although she was not a fast, flying pegasus like the image
on their logo, she had background enough, and skills enough, to be
hired. Together they brought in sixty bits a week. They had a
three-day work week, like most Hoofingtonians, overlapping their jobs
with others who shared their positions. The bits were piling up, even
with rent and the occasional feast. This was more money than either
had ever made in their lives out in the country.
quickly realized, after their first day in Hoofington, that travel
was going to be much more expensive than they had imagined, and if
they were going to see their quest through, they would need the bits
to do it. Working for a while in the city was an excellent way to
make the bits they needed quickly, and so they had gone out and found employment.
it was fairly easy; her background in delivery fit well with the need
for couriers at Speed Pony. But Teacup had only ever worked on a
farm, and for the first week, she was at a loss. Petal assured her
that she needn't worry so much, that her Speed Pony job was
sufficient to support them, and it was just that it might take a
little longer to save up for travel.
didn't like feeling useless, though, so as she wandered the streets
each day, she struggled to find something she could do in the big
a corner and smelled something that filled her with happy memories;
the same sort of oat smoothie that Missus Provender had made for her
long ago. Following that smell had led her to 'Nibble's Country
Kitchen'. The help wanted sign encouraged her, and a quick
demonstration of Missus Provender's Prize Winning Biscuits sealed the
deal with the owner, Tastee Nibbles.
been working at the restaurant for six weeks now, and had proven
herself to be an excellent employee. It was already clear that Mr.
Nibbles wanted her to stay indefinitely, further, she was enjoying
her new life in Hoofington so much that it was all too easy to forget
entirely about her original plan.
held many fascinations for Teacup and her friend Petal. There were
shows to see, plays and musicals and strange avant-garde performance
pieces the like of which neither had ever imagined. There was
certainly no shortage of interesting and delicious foods from all
over Equestria, and the temptation to 'eat fancy' every night was
great. It became harder and harder to save up to continue their
journey when the excitement of the city called out to them.
at a cafe they had come to frequent, Petal broached this issue.
has been pretty darn good to us. What do you think, Teacup?"
into a crunchy roll and then sipped her water thoughtfully "It
really has been good. I can't remember having this much fun. I hate
to say it, but I find myself forgetting about the farm. I mean, the
musical last night - that was just great!"
giggled "It was pretty funny, too. Remember the part where the
magical chicken sang?" it hadn't been a real chicken, of course,
but the costume worn by the performing pony had been particularly whimsical.
yes! That was awesome!" Teacup giggled with Petal at the
memory. "These past weeks have just been great!"
been thinking... in all of that time, have you once had any troubling
memories?" Petal had a strange look on her face.
I don't know what you mean."
Earth. About before." Petal said the words quietly, as if
afraid another table might hear.
Teacup was slightly startled "That. Funny... I really
haven't. Not once. It's like all of that just went away for me. I
haven't thought about any of that since I started working at
'Nibbles'. It's kind of strange. I guess there's just so much else to
think about here."
know, we don't strictly have to continue the plan. We're
making decent money, if we wanted to, we could even move to a bigger
place. We could stay in Hoofington... for a while." The
way Petal had said 'a while' somehow suggested a very indefinite
period of time indeed.
fell quiet for a moment. "Is... is that what you think we should
do? What if we start feeling sad again? It isn't like our pasts have
gone away." She looked uncomfortable now "Besides... I
worry about Cornflower and Durum, back on the farm. I feel a little
guilty having all this fun, while they're stuck without any help.
Harvest will be coming up in a month or two..." Teacup's voice
trailed off and her ears drooped a little.
was just a thought, Teacup. Just a thought." Their main course
had been brought by a unicorn waiter, who floated their plates down
to the table. "This looks tasty! One thing is for sure - we eat
pretty well here." The unicorn smiled at Petal's comment and
turned to another table.
did think of one thing, though." Teacup sounded strange and
mumbled Petal through a mouthful of pasta.
when... when we were in the forest. When you were turned... when you
were in trouble." Teacup hadn't touched her pasta yet
"I was really afraid, and I couldn't turn back from the road."
you did! You were brilliant, Teacup! You kicked that
creatures' ass! You totally rocked that thing! You saved us both!"
never could have done that, I really would have just run away,
except..." Teacup's face contorted with strong, mixed emotions.
for what, Teacup?" Petal had stopped eating to pay more
attention to her friend.
remembered my life on Earth. I remembered my days in the favela, in
the slums. I remembered what it meant to be human. I felt
like...." Teacup's head sank "...Like the biggest monster
in that forest. Like I was the real monster, and when I felt that, I
felt like I could kill that thing."
broke the silence that followed Teacup's words "Then I am
grateful to your days in those slums. You saved my life, Teacup. If
that part of your past gave you the courage to fight, then I am
grateful for it, as I am grateful to you." Petal paused for a
moment "'Eat me too! I can't live without her!' - that
was just the cleverest trick ever!"
wasn't entirely just a trick." Teacup stared at her pasta "I
wasn't... I couldn't just leave you like that. I couldn't have lived
with myself if I had."
looked at Teacup for a bit "Then I guess that makes you my
Bestest Friend Ever, Teacup!"
Teacup looked up, she was greeted by a soft smile that somehow shone
brighter in her heart than the biggest grin. "Best
friends?" she asked.
best." Petal was definite.
weeks passed after that, with work and the delights of the city
consuming the pair. They discovered the park, and enjoyed strolling
its beautifully cultivated gardens. They found that Hoofington had a
concert hall, and found the charms of the symphony. They spent a very
silly afternoon in a toy store, imagining an Equestrian childhood
they had never known.
day, they chanced across the bookstore.
Books was an entire store dedicated to books about magic. Thaumaturgy
was their specialty, and their stock. Row after row of tomes, thick
and thin, inexpensive pamphlets as well as incredibly costly tomes
filled the tidy shelves. New books, rare books, even a section in the
back devoted to ancient scrolls, carefully preserved inside a glass
case, greeted their astonished eyes.
newfoals wandered in silence. They had never seen a bookstore like
this. It seemed somehow sacrilegious to speak above a whisper. This
feeling did not extend to the sharply dressed, monocled unicorn that
approached them "May I be of assistance today?" he boomed,
in a voice that made Teacup jump a little.
am interested in..." Petal apparently felt the same way as
Teacup did "Ahem. Let me start again." Teacup could tell
that Petal was putting on a false persona. "I and my assistant
here are intrigued by the relationship between thaumatic practice and mnemotechnics."
always impressed when Petal pulled out the part of her that had, as
she had once explained, 'been sort of a unicorn' even back when she
had been human. Petal clearly had a head full of all sorts of
knowledge and thoughts that she tended to keep hidden behind her
light-hearted personality, and Teacup found it fascinating when that
side of her friend showed itself.
have a theory - more of a hypothesis, really - that thaumatic
forces underlie the functions of the mind, specifically the domain of
memory itself. Are we magical beings merely inhabiting flesh,
as one would clothing, and can it be proven? I think it
can, and the answer must lie in the way that memories are
retained, for memory is existence itself -without memory there would
be no knowledge of idenity, do you see?" Petal, in that
moment, seemed like the most distinguished of researchers. It also
helped that she had left her aging saddlebags at home.
Star, the proprietor, was intrigued by Petal's concept "I see, I
see... a most interesting premise. I think we may be able to be of
some assistance. This way. I assume you are with the college of
magic? Of course you are, this way, this way."
not feel inclined to disabuse the well-appointed unicorn of his
assumptions, thus she and Teacup followed after him silently.
row had been given to spells that affected consciousness and the
mind, and it was clear that this was a section not appropriate for
general use, but instead reserved for those involved in higher
research, likely with some kind of clearance. Mr. Star left them
there; thankfully another pony had entered the store, eliminating the
need for further interaction, which might have accidentally revealed
their true backgrounds.
kept watch on the bookstore proprietor, while Petal scanned tomes as
fast as she could. When Teacup looked down briefly, she saw Petal
using her horn to levitate multiple volumes, while simultaneously
flipping through their pages at a rapid pace. Raising her head again,
she saw Mr. Star busy with a new pair of unicorns that had just
entered. They were dressed as if they had just come from a very fancy
party in the wealthiest part of town.
heard a book slam shut behind her, an almost palpable 'thwap'. As she
turned her head, she saw books slamming back into the shelf. "Ok,
let's go." Petal motioned with her nose in the direction of the
door. Teacup knew to follow Petal's lead, and they made their way to
the exit. Mr. Star was occupied, so Petal used her horn to stifle the
bell above the door until they were outside, and the door closed
some blocks away before Teacup spoke "So? What did you learn?
ears flicked as if she had been awakened from some deep reverie.
"Magic that affects the mind and the memory is surprisingly easy
to learn. You can even figure out how to do it on your own,
apparently, if you just know some simple basics. But..."
stopped at the corner and turned to Teacup "There's a catch.
All of that sort of thing is considered dangerous magic,
because it can potentially violate the free will of others, and that
is a big no-no in Equestria. There are some surprisingly serious
punishments for playing with any of it, and the suggestion exists
that..." Petal looked left and right as if worried about being
overheard "There is apparently a garden near the palace in
Canterlot, a garden with a hedge maze. Outside that garden are
statues. Some are creatures, but most are ponies, just like us. They
date back centuries."
wasn't sure what Petal meant. "Statues, Ok, so...?"
is some speculation that those statues used to be living ponies.
Ponies that may have used magic... incorrectly."
a minute. Capital punishment? In Equestria? I don't believe
that!" Teacup felt like her world had just turned upside down.
about it. What would you do, if you were Celestia, or Luna, and
somepony started, say, raising an army of mind-controlled citizens,
or started using mind magic for some terrible scheme?"
nopony would do that! These aren't humans here, Petal! They have no
guile, no evil in them! They don't even know what war is, they don't
even have police, because they don't have crime!" Teacup was not
happy at any of this.
has royal guards. Why would the Goddess of the Sun have guards? Armored
feeling upset with Petal. "Griffins! Monsters from the Everfree
like we fought! Dragons! There are all kinds of creatures that
could suddenly show up! It doesn't mean she needs guards to protect
her from evil ponies!"
Petal stared at her "Just misguided. They probably
thought they were trying to help some cause or some purpose that
might benefit everypony. Doesn't make them any less dangerous,
though, if they were to refuse to stop."
even worse! I won't accept that!" This was the first
unpleasant conversation Teacup had ever had with Petal. It was
bordering on an argument. "Celestia would never do such a
thing! Ponies would never do... well... even misguided they
wouldn't refuse... and if they did, Celestia definitely wouldn't do
what you suggest. She wouldn't!"
mares crossed the street, and walked towards their room at the
Coronet in silence.
had finished their preparations for bed, Petal brought the topic up again.
saved me because you remembered your hard life on Earth. You crippled
or outright killed that monster, even though you are a pony,
just like anypony else. Equestrians may be innately kinder than
humans, I won't argue that point, in fact I agree. I am certain that
the Equestrian brain is wired for compassion, cooperation, and simple
kindness in ways the old human brain never was." Teacup really
didn't want to deal with this, but Petal needed to talk.
or not, you still had the capacity to take extreme action when you
needed to. When you felt it was justified." Petal gave
Teacup a little half-smile, trying to defuse the tension "All
I'm saying is that even a gentle creature can become potentially
dangerous, if a convincing justification is there. And magic is
vastly more dangerous than any gun. Teacup, I saw relatively simple
spells in those books that, if misused, could turn an entire city
against itself. Trivial spells."
mind could not help but race ahead where the implication led; if
trivial spells could do that, then a serious spell could... do almost
anything? How could a pony with that kind of power be controlled, if
they were certain they were in the right?
It was a
very long, and very troubling night, and neither pony got as much
sleep as they wished.
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