Chapter Nine: Asking
walked in silence. Her saddlebags, bearing the chop of Provender
Farms, were heavy on her back, filled with provisions for the
journey. She and Petal were much better outfitted than when they had
left the farming community of South Withers months ago.
Confetti walked beside her, struggling somewhat under her own load,
but determined that she not appear weak in front of her earth pony
companion. Her new, city-bought saddlebags bore the custom design of
her own cutie mark, a pink ribbon falling amidst a cloud of
multicolored confetti. Inside her bags was more than food, water and
candy, for she hauled books, two thick tomes and three thin volumes,
all of which were about the study of magic.
finally left Hoofington, the city that had brought them such
happiness for so long. But a chance discovery of a
bookstore had led to disturbing knowledge that Equestria may not have
been quite as perfect a realm as they had imagined: even here the
necessities of authoritarian rule appeared to require severe
solutions for the preservation of the security of the state, and
severity is seldom a gentle or a kindly thing.
Princess Celestia, goddess-ruler of Equestra, really turn
ponies to stone? The suggestion was there that those who had - in
Celestia's judgement - abused the awesome power of magic may have
been given a uniquely magical form of capital punishment; perpetual
petrification. They had become statues in her gardens, reminders to
all that her authority was not to be questioned.
no proof, nothing definite, nothing... concrete. But books
both ancient and respected had raised the possibility, with some
authors certain in the matter, and the thought that this was so had
greatly troubled Petal, but even more greatly troubled Teacup.
was driven by the consuming need to erase her human history, to erase
her memories of once having been from a world of pain and despair.
The experience of human life had scarred her, and she felt she could
never truly be happy so long as any taint of that terrible place
remained in her heart.
had begun to doubt the worth of their shared mission. Petal had noted
the usefulness of their newfoal status, of the very thing that set
them apart from all natural-born Equestrians. There was strength in
those painful memories, and fierceness enough to survive even the
horrors of the uncontrolled and chaotic Everfree forest. She was now
alive only because Teacup had been empowered by her earthly past, and
Petal herself had begun to catalog the ways in which her human
history made her experience of Equestria a grateful joy that no
native pony could hope to experience.
two had left Hoofington, they had gone for one last afternoon in
their favorite park.
feeling playful, had decided to try something that she had witnessed
a tiny filly do when they had entered the park. Petal let herself
drop to the soft, manicured grass, and began to roll in it,
luxuriating in the cool softness. She squirmed on her back, giggling
at the simple pleasure of innocent fun.
last she rolled onto her belly, legs splayed, mane mussed, she
noticed a number of adult ponies looking at her. Instantly the part
of her that had been human began to scream in her mind of judgements
and condemnations. She had acted out in public, she would be seen as
insane, she would be found immature, she would be judged foolish and
childish and ridiculous. Images of human faces showing contempt
filled her thought, and a dim memory of having been kicked by a cruel
child on a playground for a similar act in her youth assailed her.
ponies smiled. Two of them dropped to the grass and began rolling on
it themselves. "Wheee! Oh, this IS fun!" one exclaimed.
mouth dropped slowly open.
began to warm. The discordant human faces receded in her memory. An
overwhelming feeling of happiness and gratefulness filled her, for
this was an inconceivable outcome. No scorn. No judgement. Just happy
ponies rolling on the grass, adult ponies, devoid of anything but joy
in the moment.
around her at the park. Healthy green trees stood against a perfect
cerulean sky. Wisps of perfectly clean, white cloud drifted in the
distance, chased by colorful pegasai. Beyond the park a big,
beautiful city, devoid of crime, or smog, or danger bounded her
vision. And beneath her, a perfect lawn of sweet smelling grass.
flooded, her mind shorn of her previous darkness, she lay on her
belly in a perfect bliss. In that moment, her mind could not help but
compare this scene with her earthly life before Equestria, and
instantly her joy compounded. She began to weep, tears rolling out of
her large, shining eyes, in gratitude for existing in a moment such
the native Equestrians saw as normal, she saw as extraordinary, for
her, the ordinary was a precious, exotic gift. Even the most trivial
of things could bring her the delight of unearthly wonder.
was a marvelous and magical fairyland, but she alone, as a newfoal,
could experience each day as the exquisite wonder it truly was;
native Equestrians saw only another day, no different than the last.
They had nothing to compare their world with, save itself.
lose that precious gift, if she lost the comparison between Equestria
and the extinguished Earth. It is true she might feel less apart, but
she would also lose the specialness of her unique point of view.
awareness had begun to trouble her, as she and Teacup walked.
Ponyville, a small town famed for its apples, and its library, which
had been constructed inside the hollows of a gigantic tree. Here, it
was said, Celestia herself sponsored the librarian, with books that
occasionally rivaled even the collection inside of Canterlot castle itself.
met the librarian once, briefly, during her Conversion. Two of the
original six ambassadors from Equestria had made a tour of the
Bureaus, and one of the stops of that tour had been the very location
that Petal had gone to to become an Equestrian.
was long ago, and it was not like she personally knew those elevated
Equestrians, rather she had simply happened to exist in one of the
places they had visited. She doubted that she would be remembered,
and did not expect to be.
Petal stopped just outside the town. Beyond lay thatched cottages,
stone bridges and a decorative city hall, tiny in the distance like
models in a window display.
what do we do?" Teacup wanted a definite answer to the question
that had hung over them since they had left Hoofington.
three paths worth consideration to them now. One path would be to
approach the Princesses directly, and ask them to erase their
memories of earth, finally making them completely normal Equestrians,
untainted by memories of pain and sorrow. But this path was
uncertain, for the Princesses might deny their request, and that
denial, lest they wanted to be imprisoned in stone, was doubtless
absolute. Still, it seemed the better option to Petal.
path was to go to the library in Ponyville, and ask the librarian
there, a former ambassador to earth, for her help. There was some
hope that she might grant their request, but if she did not, at least
they would not have faced the absolute denial of the Princesses.
Petal had misgivings about this second choice.
option was to hide out somewhere, and for Petal to apply what she
believed she had learned from the books she was carrying. Petal had
acquired, finally, the basic principles needed to construct a
functioning memory spell. The use of such magic was not difficult, in
some ways it was even trivial; but the ease with which it could be
performed did not reflect on the severity of what it represented, nor
the power that it commanded. Petal felt reasonably confident that her
custom spell would accomplish its task, but the consequences of using
it filled her with concern.
still did not know the full details, it was clear that magic which
affected the mind was considered dangerous, possibly even subversive,
and she did not want to incur the wrath of two enraged goddesses.
Petal thought of the statues in the garden at Canterlot.
I have concerns. I have doubts..."
THAT again!" Teacup had grown weary of what she perceived as
cowardice, or at best, indecisiveness on the part of Petal.
"We've come all this way, months to get here! No more
nonsense, Petal! Come on, let's DO this!" Teacup stormed off, no
longer willing to stand before the entrance to the town. It appeared
that she had chosen the second option, and that was that.
shrugged with her ears, and ambled on after. There was nothing more
she could say that Teacup would listen to.
was a pretty place, about the size of South Withers, but very
different in layout. Above the town, high in the nearby mountains,
Canterlot itself could be seen, built into the side of a vast cliff.
The castle overlooked the valley in which Ponyville was set, and
Petal felt as if the eyes of the Princesses were upon her neck as
they made their way through the small town.
hungry." Petal said the words before she knew she had, and they
weren't entirely true. She felt a hollowness in her stomach, but it
was not from hunger but from some kind of dread. The moment she said
the words, she understood that some part of her was simply trying to
delay reaching the library, but perhaps that was not a bad thing.
"Let's grab a bite first, then head to the library, Ok?"
still grumpy, but she saw no harm in having a snack, they were there,
close to a library that might very well hold the answer she sought.
Perhaps a little food might help Petal feel more confident. Teacup
needed Petal to be at her best, the unicorn understood magical things
that she herself did not.
hay-bale seats, outdoors, at a small eatery, Teacup thought about how
close she now was to her goal. She remembered her decade at Provinder
Farm and worried for Missus Provender and her husband Durum. She
reflected on how much she had enjoyed her time in Hoofington, with
Petal. But Petal had become difficult in the last week, constantly
fussing over whether or not what they had set out to do was too
risky. Her fears had come to annoy Teacup, and she could not
understand why Petal couldn't understand that the necessity of
completing their task outweighed any risk.
felt Petal had more experience of this world than she had, and it was
better to get an important thing done right, than it was to try to
rush and meet failure. More than this, Petal's attitude had started
to get to her; she was pushing forward from fear that she would begin
to lose her nerve.
never be happy, not like other ponies, as long as the trauma of
earthly life haunted them! Surely Petal could still see this? A few
months of fun in a welcoming city changed nothing. If she lost her
drive, Teacup knew she would never gain it back. This was her one
chance to cure her inner pain, and Petal's as well. Why couldn't
Petal understand this?
reasoned that it surely must be because Petal had an easier life on
Earth than she did. Petal had been safe and mostly alone in abandoned
Michigan. She simply had no idea of what life had really been like
for most humans back then. That said, earth was earth, and she had
clearly been traumatized by her life there. This was absolutely for
Petal's own good as well as for her own.
Their food arrived.
also lost in thought, began nibbling hay fries. Suddenly, she saw a
pony with curly hair hopped joyfully down the street. It was
Pinkamena Pie, one of the ambassadors to earth chosen by the
Princesses. Petal had briefly met her during her Conversion, and Pie
had encouraged her. She thought briefly about going to her and
thanking her for her kindness, but then stopped. There was no reason
that such a famous pony would even remember her, and bothering her
would just be selfish. Petal lowered her head, instead, so that her
own pink mane drifted in front of her eyes. That was enough.
had not taken much time, and Teacup was eager to get to the library.
There was nothing to be done. Whatever awaited them, Petal could not
delay it further. Reluctantly, she stood up and together they paid
Ponyville library had indeed been made from a hollowed tree, gigantic
beyond earthly possibility, but this was not earth. Petal noted that
the tree was still alive, somehow, and its healthy leaves spread
above like a vast umbrella of green. A sign outside displayed the
pictogram for 'library', unsurprisingly an open book, however this
pictogram was fully illustrated and not the simple, abstract shape
normally used in writing.
triangular door was set into the tree, and like all Equestrian doors,
it could easily be swung open with a nod of the head.
circular room greeted them, carved entirely out of the living core of
the tree. Rounded shelves lined the walls, carved into the seamless
wood, and stairs curved up to a balcony level. The library was small,
quaint even, compared to any Hoofington equivalent, but in its
uniqueness, it was beautiful, and quite wondrous to see.
Teacup didn't know if this was a library where one was expected to
whisper, or a library where no such rule applied, but she was here on
a quest, and she wanted immediate assistance.
creature, the likes of which neither pony had ever seen before,
descended the stairs. Teacup stepped back, quickly, preparing to
fight if necessary; her experience in the Everfree had left her
uneasy around strange creatures. It rapidly dawned on her, however,
that the scaly entity was quite small, and it seemed very young. The
creature had innocent eyes, devoid of malice. It was a little, purple
dragon, almost certainly a baby.
Oh! I haven't seen you before. New to Ponyville? Welcome to the
library!" The little dragon stood proudly, his short arms
gesturing at the sweep of the room "Name's Spike. What can I do
stepped forward "I'm Teacup, and this is my friend Petal."
Teacup nodded at Petal "We are looking for someone who knows
something about magic, and we've heard that the librarian here might
have what we need."
shifted uncomfortably. She hadn't told Teacup all the details of her
Conversion experience, and she suddenly had a feeling that in this
case, she just might be remembered by the librarian here, after all.
you need Twilight! She knows more about magic than anypony in
Equestria. Except the Princesses, of course. But other than them,
she's the best!"
Teacup was pleased. "That's what I expected from one of the ambassadors!"
The little dragon blinked "You... must be newfoals then?"
Teacup nodded. "Wow, I haven't heard that used in, like, ten
years. Hardly any newfoals around now, they all went to settle in the
called 'Spike' put a claw to his face "Hmmm... Twilight really
should've been back by now. You're certainly welcome to wait for her.
We have books to pass the time -" He waved at the room "but
I suppose that's kind of obvious, isn't it? Um, is there anything I
can find for you?"
really." Teacup shook her head. Petal had suggested keeping a
low profile until they could judge the situation.
Petal looked around "If you have any books on memory and magic,
it wouldn't hurt to take a look." Teacup gave Petal a glance at
such an open admission of their purpose.
we do!" The little dragon ran to a ladder off to their right and
carried it to a section off to the left. He climbed quickly, clearly
he was experienced at finding books on these shelves. "OK, we
have 'Better Memory In Just Three Spells' - that's one of Twilight's
favorites - and "Memory Techniques Of The Unicorn Sages",
Twi says that one isn't as good as they claim." Spike began
pulling the books from the shelf, holding the increasing stack with
one claw while balancing on the ladder. He was surprisingly good at it.
no, thank you... Spike, was it?" Petal had clopped over
to the base of the ladder and was looking up "I'm more
interested in forgetting things than in remembering. Do you have any
books on that?"
surprised "Forgetting? Why would you want to forget anything?
It's hard enough to remember stuff that needs remembering as it is!"
friend here wants to forget her life before becoming a pony. It makes
her sad to have to remember. It hurts her."
stunned. Petal had just spilled all the beans, just like that, to
this little dragon creature. Petal was the one who was so afraid of
being discovered! She was the one that had been making such a fuss
over anyone finding out. What was Petal up to? Or had she had some
kind of change of heart? Teacup didn't know what to make of it.
that's understandable, I guess. I saw that world, back then, and it
was not a nice place at all. I could never figure out why some of
your kind wanted to keep it." Spike put the books in his claw
back, climbed back down and moved the ladder a few feet. "I
think we have something that might help, but I'll have to check.
Forgetting things isn't a big demand subject."
crept close to Petal "What's going on? I thought you were so
worried about anyone finding out?" she said in a low whisper.
doesn't matter, now, Teacup." Petal looked resigned "If
Twilight can't, or won't help us, we either do it on our own, or we
go to the Princesses, so at this point it really doesn't matter who
knows. Twilight reports directly to Celestia, so she'll find out in
any case." Petal paused for a moment "Once we entered
Ponyville, our options were set in stone." Was that a
smirk on Petal's face?
pondered this. "So that's why you were dragging your hooves. I
guess it hadn't really sunk in to me that the librarian here had such
a close connection to the Princesses. I mean I kind of knew, but.."
is her personal teacher, Teacup. I thought we talked about
this." Petal was slightly annoyed.
maybe we did, it was quite a few weeks ago." Teacup looked down
"We were pretty busy in the city, you know."
returned down the ladder with a single book "Like I said, not
much need for books on forgetting things. This is what we have:
'Forbidden Secrets Of Mental Magic.' Oh, that doesn't sound good. To
tell you the truth, I think we should wait for Twi-"
The door opened, and through it had entered a purple unicorn with
swept bangs and a light streak through her mane. She was floating a
bakery box beside her, which she set down on the floor. "What's
turned to face the new pony. She assumed that this must be Twilight
Sparkle, one of the original ambassadors, as well as the student of
Celestia. Because she had never seen any of the newsfeeds about the
rise of Equestria, she did not recognize the unicorn on sight.
It's you." Teacup was surprised to find the purple
unicorn staring at Petal "You're the one that wanted to be
'anything but a unicorn'." Petal seemed a little chagrined.
"I'd never heard anything like that from any human before.
Except for you."
quickly changed the subject "We need your help, Ambassador Sparkle."
No, no, no-no-no. Just 'Twilight'. I've tried to put those days
behind me. That was a rough time, no offense." Twilight walked
over to Spike and gave him a nuzzle. In doing that she noticed the
book "'Forbidden Secrets Of Mental Magic'? What kind of
help are we talking about here?" Twilight seemed a little wary now.
Petal explained their story, the reason they had set out, and
something of their adventures. It turned out that the box that
Twilight had brought contained little dessert cakes from a local
bakery; these were shared along with Teacup and Petal's adventures.
Teacup pleaded with the purple unicorn to help her and her friend,
begging Twilight to free them from the burden of remembering their
did not look happy. "I understand what you want, and I certainly
know how to do it." Teacup was overjoyed! "But...."
what? You can help us!"
like that is classed as mind magic. Magic that affects the mind or
the will is not exactly considered appropriate. I once made a
mistake with that sort of magic, and I almost got in serious trouble
with the Princess. Really serious trouble."
looked like she might cry "But we're asking you to do this.
We'll take full responsibility for it. I'll sign a waiver, or write
down that it was all my idea! I'll do whatever you want! We've come
not sure I feel that would be enough. I won't do anything that might
make the Princess upset with me. I don't even want to think
about making the Princess angry. I'm sorry."
started to form in Teacup's eyes. This was the whole point of her
journey, the entire reason she had left Missus Provender and the
farm. They'd been through so much. She just wanted to be happy. Why
did it have to be such a big deal?
tell you what..." Twilight felt sorry for the white mare "I
could ask Princess Celestia about your situation. I could ask her if
it would be permissible for me to help you. And if she says yes, I
will!" The purple unicorn gave a little decisive nod of her
head, and a little smile. "I should know by tomorrow, say about noon?"
Teacup was upset, but she knew when to shut up. "Thank you.
That would be very kind." Teacup turned to Petal. "Petal,
we should go and get a room for the night, let's leave and stop
bothering these nice ponies." Teacup blinked "Ur... dragon.
Pony and dragon. Sorry." she smiled weakly at Spike.
Petal purchased a room at a local inn, just down the road. When they
had gotten to their room, and set down their saddlebags, Teacup was
frantic "You said you know how to do this stuff now, right? Right?"
Petal was taken aback by her outburst.
will never allow it. You said as much yourself, how it should
have been done from the very start but it wasn't and how that
was a sign that it would never be allowed and..."
Teacup! Settle down, hey... come on. Teacup!" Petal nuzzled her
friend, and laid her head over Petal's back.
allow it and you can't fight a freaking goddess, there's those statues
and we'll be stuck and..."
shhhh..." Petal had never seen the sturdy earth pony act this way.
pulled away. "Petal. Erase my memory. Now. Do it now. You
said you know how. So do it."
stared at her friend "No. I won't. I won't do that. I'm sorry, Teacup."
stood, silent. Her gentle expression was answer enough.
Teacup laid down on one of the two beds, facing away.
not sleep well at all. Her mind raced with the strange panic that had
overcome Teacup. She knew that her friend had suffered a more
difficult life on earth than she had. Perhaps she simply couldn't
imagine just how terrible that life had been.
part, Petal had already decided that she did not want her memory
erased after all. She had made her decision before they had left
Hoofington, when she realized how much she treasured feeling such
overwhelming wonder at this new world. Only comparison made
that possible; if she lost her experience of her suffering, Equestria
would become the only world she knew of, and thus ordinary to her,
and that was a loss she felt was too great. Still, she was willing to
help Teacup, for it was clear that the earth pony did not share her outlook.
Teacup, her experience at the library had only seemed to confirm her
worst fears. It was plainly obvious to her now that the heavenly
realm she had believed Equestria was, had a dark and terrifying side
to it. The gentle and loving goddess she had assumed Celestia to be
had become in her mind a tyrant, capable of anything. She now fully
believed that those statues Petal had spoken of were former subjects
that had merely displeased the Princess; it seemed clear that
Celestia was capable of capital punishment on a whim. This wonderland
had become just another earth, ruled by sociopaths. She desperately
wished she had never left the farm.
truly hopeless now, and Teacup had not felt hopelessness in over a
decade. She had never felt hopeless even once within Equestria, until
now. Gritting her teeth in her bed, she also felt she understood
Petal now. Every pony for themselves. Petal would never risk
the anger of Celestia to help her. Petal could have used magic
to fix her already by now, but she had not. Teacup understood that.
Petal would be a fool to risk anything. Equestria was just
like Wilmington. It was just like Jersey. It was just like Earth.
what hurt the most, Teacup decided. Equestria itself had betrayed
her. It was no perfect, beautiful world. It was just another Earth,
only earlier in time, before the rise of Big Industry. Give it time.
Skyscrapers and smog and organ thieves were just a few centuries
away. Maybe another universe would rise and eat Equestria, one day,
in turn. That would be fitting, she thought, before exhaustion stole
her waking mind away from her.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
To TCB Story Index