Adventures in Cake Making
Derpy Hooves popped her grey mare’s face into the baking drawer and pushed a few things around with her nose. Her vibrant deep gold eyes nearly glowed, rich in fascinations, in the half light - only marred by the fact that they pointed in two different directions. Using her good eye she could see an egg beater, a few measuring spoons, a cake tester and… ah yes, there it was, the pastry piper. She took the cloth bag up in her mouth and, carrying it gingerly by a corner, trotted across the kitchen towards Carrot.
She stopped for only just a teeny tiny moment by the fridge.
Derpy smiled sheepishly around the white cone of the frosting piper and laid it carefully down near Carrot Top, who was devoting her utmost concentration on spreading a thick white glob of sugary frosting between two cake rounds which stood tall and proud on their wire rack.
Carrot took a step back, assessing her cake, and pivoting the spatula held in her teeth around, traced a pensive circle in the air. Derpy watched nearby in fascination. Nopony she knew took baking as seriously as Carrot Top, not even Mr. and Mrs. Cake who had once treated her to such delicious pastries and tortes at Sugarcube Corner. The Cakes made baking look easy, and for many earth ponies it seemed to be. Not for Carrot Top. Carrot went at it with the obstinacy of a military operation, and Derpy watched Carrot’s green eyes narrow as she spotted a single bit of frosting that could be improved and then Carrot lept forward, correcting the offending uneven clump. The yellow earth pony then started frantically spooning frosting into the pastry piper and Derpy’s attention, inevitably, wandered. She flapped her wings a few times and with her wonky eye she spied the fridge once again, trotting over to it and opening the door by its shiney shiney handle.
At once the inviting warm light within clicked on and as the door swung to, Derpy’s wonky eyes snapped together to attention as the bounty of baked and frosted treats inside was revealed. Such beautiful cupcakes and pastries! Apple crisps and cherry pies! Tarts and cakes covered in kiwi fruit and banana slices! All made as pretty as an old mare’s cookbook, and glistening with sugary intensity in the bright light.
But Derpy’s eyes fixated on the back left corner and there, tucked discreetly away, was her favorite thing of all… four neatly made blueberry muffins. Her mouth watered just thinking about them!
“Derpy Hooooooooves!” Carrot stretched that vowel out like the crack of doom, and Derpy blushed and moved her wonky eye to look at Carrot.
“But Carrot, tonight your treats look extra officious!” Her high, girlish voice ended in an embarrassed squeak.
“Delicious…” the yellow and orange earth pony quietly corrected her friend. “Derpy, those are for the Great Fillydephia Bakeoff tomorrow, and hooves off! I can’t let that old showoff Applejack win for the sixth year in a row!” Carrot said, annoyed, her voice muffled by the pastry piper held in her mouth.
“But just a few of your beautiful… muffiiiiiins..”
“Not now! Please!”
Carrot squinted again, blowing her curled hair out of her face, as she delicately piped gorgeous decorative swirls around the perimeter of her cake. Applejack. All she did was bake with… apples! Everypony likes apples, but her Apple Fritter Lasagna last year was just overkill and everypony knew it!
This year, Carrot was ready. She had saved the best of her season’s carrots all summer and packed them up nice and cool in her root cellar. They were the big beautiful ones that fetched as much as ten bits each at the market, but she saved them just to make her signature Once A Year Carrot Cake. It stood tall and proud and was studded with delicious carrots and cool creamy frosting throughout. Carrot delicately assembled the cake and slid it onto the old Carrot family Lazy Stallion, spreading the delicious frosting across the sides. Whatever that one trick mare Applejack had up her saddle this year it couldn’t possibly compare to this infamous Carrot family delicacy.
It was nearly perfect now, and Carrot gently spun the cake on its rotating stand and scored the sides of the cake with her grandmare’s heirloom Cake Tool, creating fascinating, waving, rippling patterns on the edge. Earth pony baking was, by nature, quick and simple, without magic to aid them. But Carrot Top of Ponyville had the most gentle, subtle touch of any pony when it came to frosting, and this time she just knew that the judges would love her cake.
It was a masterpiece.
And so the cake was slid onto a plate as Carrot trotted triumphantly to the fridge, past her salivating pegasus friend, and slid her masterpiece inside. Derpy was still fixating on those muffins.
Carrot squinted at Derpy sternly.
“Just one muffin please??”
Carrot smiled at her friend and gestured outside through the window. “Aren’t you tired of being in the kitchen? Come with me, let’s play a game!”
Derpy was torn between her friend and her friend’s delicious bakery products. Her eyes swung back and forth, considering each option carefully. On one hoof, these were the freshest blueberry muffins ever! On the other, Carrot seemed to be extra tense this evening. Carrot could probably use a rest. With finality Derpy nosed the refrigerator shut and clopped her forehooves together happily. “You’re so smart, Carrot! Boring old kitchen. Play checkers tonight?”
Carrot escorted her silly mailmare friend into the parlor and exhaled in relief. It seemed as though everything was going to come together for her this year, and she hummed a cheerful little tune as Derpy nudged her playfully and the two mares giggled and chatted their way out onto the veranda and the cool dusk air.
They had been relaxing outside for some time, watching the sunset and the silhouetted pegasus fillies dashing about through the bright orange clouds. As the purple blue shade of night crept down towards the horizon, Carrot lit a lamp resting between them alongside their draughts board, for the game was quiet and slow, with each filly often turning her head to watch the late summer sunset appreciatively. In the past few months Carrot and Derpy had become quite close, even if Carrot somewhat resented Derpy’s tendency to arrive at all hours with the objective of cleaning out her fridge.
At such times Carrot wondered about Derpy’s ability to procure food for herself, but a pony with a vegetable crop such as she should not be stingy. Whatever the grey filly’s lack of food harvesting ability, she was sharp as a tack and knew her way around the draught board like nopony else. All of these things and more made her good company. Carrot moved one of her pieces into position and watched as Derpy made one two three four jumps, wiping out half of Carrot’s pieces at once.
“Queen me!” Derpy announced and clapped her hooves together merrily.
“Derpy, you can’t do that!”
“Nopony say that!”
“Derpy, it says right here in the instructions…”
Derpy beat her wings and swept the instructions aside, rising to her hooves and crossing her back legs proudly. “Derpy checker queen again tonight! Crown Princess Derpy!”
Carrot giggled. “Are you sure that lazy eye of yours can’t see my next move too?”
Derpy rolled her eyes around, and they both turned in opposite directions, an ability which still shocked Carrot even after multiple airings. “My eyes not lazy! Derpy has special magic crazyeyes!”
Carrot smirked and placed one of her game pieces atop Derpy’s Queen. “Your movie, my liege.”
Derpy yawned and stretched her legs. “You go, Princess Derpy is tired from her big viceroy. Hey Carrot – it’s later now, Derpy eat some of your yummy muffins?”
Carrot narrowed her eyes but gave in. And just who do you think was going to eat those when you made them anyway, Carrot? Stop kidding yourself.
“Okay, Derpy, you win, just leave one for breakfast tomorrow.”
Derpy shot to her hooves, wings spread in excitement. “Ooh Carrot your muffins make Derpy so happy all the time! Princess Derpy bring one out for you too!” And with that the grey mare with the crossed eyes trotted inside, leaving Carrot to ponder her next move.
Instead Carrot found herself looking in the mirror. She licked her yellow nose and tossed her mane and looked out at the sunset, now just a thin line of firey light outlining a dark horizon, almost as deep and orange as her tail. Carrot fussed over her curls and wondered if she should have her hooves done before the big competition tomorrow. She’d be sure to wear her best saddle and maybe even those cute green shoes she’d bought, the ones just a few shades darker than her eyes, so perfect! She’d be sure to show up that uncouth ruffian Applejack, who often arrived in little but her dusty old hat!
Carrot smiled at herself. Future Fillydelphia Baking Queen!
She smiled wider, showing her best winner’s grin, but suddenly felt a strange rumbling. She glanced at her glass of celery juice, and watched the ice rattling around inside it. Was this an… earthquake?
Suddenly she jumped as a terrific crash, almost like an explosion, erupted from inside the house. Before she could recover from that, just a moment later she heard her friend shouting from inside!
“CARROT!” Derpy hollered, and so the little yellow earth pony rushed inside in a panic.
Derpy shot to her hooves. “Ooh Carrot your muffins make Derpy so happy all the time! Princess Derpy bring one out for you too!” The mailmare nodded happily and trotted inside, humming her special muffin fanfare.
Carrot Top made Derpy feel so happy and smart! She was just a simple pony, but her friendship with Carrot made her feel much more comfortable around Ponyville, she didn’t even go back to Cloudsdale much anymore. They all made fun of Ditzy Doo there and gave her the sillyfilly name Derpy Hooves.
Derpy smiled. She didn’t mind the name, at least she wasn’t called the S word or something extra mean like that. She thought it was sort of cute, actually. It had a nice ring to it. Three syllables! DER-PY HOOVES!
Little Derpy skipped along through Carrot’s living room, singing her silly nickname to herself. “Derpy Hooves! Checkers Queen! Derpy Hooves! Checkers Queen!” And then she was standing at the door of Carrot’s beautiful purple fridge, so glossy and bright!
Derpy was about to reach for the door when the rumbling began. She looked up and around, confused. The pictures on the walls of Carrot’s house jingled musically and the silverware in her drawer rattled, and Derpy looked at herself in the polished surface of the fridge door handle right when it happened. The entire refrigerator shot into the air like a spring, and it didn’t come down! It shot straight up and crashed through the roof of Carrot’s house, and again through the attic, and vanished up into the night sky through a perfectly square hole!
Derpy didn’t know what to do for a moment.
Carrot was going to blame her, she was sure of it!
Why would the fridge go flying off like that?
And why didn’t it wait for Derpy to retrieve her muffins??
Derpy took stock of the situation of a moment longer, her wonky eye gauging the hole in the roof. She could see the moon from here.
Then she panicked.
“CARROT!! CARRRROOOTT TOOOOOOPP!” the grey pegasus cried in horror, pounding her hooves on the wooden kitchen floor. “CARROT TOP!”
Carrot came bounding in, green eyes wide with surprise. “DITZY DOO! What happen-“
It took Carrot just a few seconds. The perfectly square bed of lint right where her fridge once stood. Huge purple streak running up the wall. A slate shingle dropped in through the hole in her ceiling, landing right at Carrot’s hooves. It could mean only one thing.
Ponies chatting and galloping in the town square nearby did not see the purple fridge’s ascent into the starry night sky. Aquafresh was chatting with Cloudkicker. Lyra and Bon Bon were sharing a sundae outside Sugarcube Corner. Davenport was just bringing his newest luxury model seatee inside for the night, but everpony’s attention suddenly turned towards the sky as a voice came thundering down from above, echoing off the tall hills surrounding Ponyville, distant yet seemingly very close.
The situation in Carrot Top’s kitchen had escalated; in the wake of her refrigerator abduction after twenty minutes of clopping around the house chewing on her mane she had leapt into action and launched a retaliatory assault that was so pitched and fevered that Lyra and Bon Bon, next door, decided to go sleep at Daisy’s until the whole thing blew over.
Through the windows, Carrot’s piercing voice could be heard barking orders as Derpy, wearing a chef’s hat (the one Carrot had discarded halfway through the first cake as “inefficient”), rushed about the kitchen collecting items. There was a bucket of milk, fresh eggs flown in from Fluttershy’s cottage, and a mound of carrots, soil still clinging to them.
Derpy flapped about the kitchen merrily, sometimes knocking her head on the hanging lamp, as Carrot Top loomed grimly over a dogeared old tome overflowing with index cards stuck in haphazardly from all angles.
“FIVE HUNDRED-NINETY MILLILITERS FLOUR!”
“Check!” Derpy chimed cheerfully.
“CINNAMON! NUTMEG! CLOVE!”
Carrot shot an annoyed glance a Derpy, who blushed and covered her mouth shly. “Is a pegasus thing!”
“THREE HUNDRED FIFTY MILLILITERS SUGAR!”
“Check!” Derpy lingered over the sugar, enjoying its shiney snow-like texture.
Carrot slumped her shoulders and sighed happily for the first time in some time now, her eyes almost crossing as much as Derpy’s in satisfaction. “Perfect! Only a few more hours despite our little… setback… I’ll have another Carrot family trademark cake!”
Derpy nodded her head happily and Carrot closed the old cookbook and smiled at her friend slyly. “You know, my great great great great great great grandmare baked the very first carrot cake in Equestria!”
Derpy gasped and covered her mouth with her hooves. “Really, Carrot?”
Carrot nodded proudly. “But of course, the frosting came later! The first recipe called for carmelized carrot shreds with a teeny tiny dusting of powdered sugar, but the delicious cream cheese frosting was invented by my great great gre…”
Carrot’s eyes widened as she stared at the rectangular square of lint that still lingered on the floor beneath a hole in the roof and moonlight beaming in.
The cream cheese frosting.
She grabbed Derpy right out of the air and shook the gray pegasus madly.
“THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING!!”
“What about it, Carrot?” Derpy’s eyes rolled around as if they were still settling in place after the shaking Carrot had given her.
“The cream cheese! It… launched! Into orbit! With my BEAUTIFUL PURPLE FRIDGE!”
Derpy nodded happily. “Carrot’s big fridge go boom thru the roof! Cream cheese is orbiting Mars now!”
Carrot dropped Derpy into a pile on the floor, grabbed at her face with her yellow hooves, and screamed incoherently for a moment. “I can’t serve a carrot cake without cream cheese frosting! I’ll be a disgrace by my ancestors! Beta Carrot will disown me! Baby Carrot will never know my name! They’ll cut my picture out of all the family photos!”
Derpy looked up at her friend, unconcerned, her eyes rolling about. “Don’t you worry, Carrot Top! We make our own cream cheese!”
“I don’t know how to make cream cheese! All we have is milk! It’ll take months! I’m doomed! Doomed, Derpy, doomed!”
Derpy scratched her head and looked outside. “We can go buy cream cheese sometime? Getting kind of late!”
Carrot glanced at the clock. Sugarcube Corner was closed.
Aquafresh would be out at the Watering Hole with Berry, that lush.
Daisy and Lilly were usually too afraid to open their doors after sundown –
WAIT! There was that nerdy purple pony who worked at the library!
What was her name?
Something like that! She was always up late!
Carrot Top jumped on Derpy’s back and the gray mare snorted in annoyance.
Carrot looked down at her friend. “Oh no! am I too heavy? I knew I should’ve started my diet two weeks ago!”
“Carrot not heavier than Ponyville mail! Carrot Top just need to ask persimmon first!”
Carrot stifled a giggle. “Princess Derpy, will you carry me along?”
Derpy strode out onto Carrot’s front porch, her friend riding along. “Derpy carry heavy Carrot! Where we go first, cap’n?”
Carrot gestured grandly at the horizon. “To the Ponyville public library!”
And with that, the two friends were off, careening through the night on a mad quest to meet with destiny. Destiny and baked goods.
Carrot had been pounding her hoof rapidly on the door to the Ponyville Public library for nearly a minute now. She had begun with three polite knocks, then six hard raps when those had gone unheeded. After nopony came to the door she had switched tactics once again and knocked softly so as not to be a bother, until her growing frustration found her banging both hooves on the heavy oak door and shouting.
“TWILIGHT TWINKLE! MISS LIBRARIAN PONY! I NEED YOUR HEEEEELP!”
The door opened and Carrot breathed a sigh of relief. “Twilight Twinkle, I’m sorry but I simply must ask…”
“Library hours are nine to five!” She was cut short as a tiny purple dragon with a head covered with bent-over spines appeared, a dog-eared comic book tucked under his arm.
Carrot gasped. It was that silly little sidekick character!
“Oh I’m sorry, I was looking for Twilight Twinkle…”
“Sparkle.” Spike corrected flatly.
“Oh! Twilight… Sparkle… um… is she…?”
“She’s in Canterlot for the weekend. Is there anything I can do you for?”
Carrot glanced back at Derpy, who looked blankly straight ahead, her pink tounge caught between her lips, huge eyes both glinting in the moonlight. She decided straight away that the situation demanded a finesse with as little dignity as possible.
Carrot threw herself at Spike’s feet and stared up into his eyes, pounding her hooves on the slate step. “PLEEEEEASE HELP ME MR. SUB-LIBRARIAN DRAGON! PLEEEEEEEEASE!!”
Spike rolled up his comic and stared swatting at Carrot’s hooves. “Ew! Get off me! What do you want? Listen, lady, the library is closed!”
Carrot breathed in deeply in preparation, knowing she was about to make a fool of herself. “Cream cheese!”
“CREAM CHEESE!” Her emerald eyes widened to adorable green saucers.
Spike paused, as if having a stray thought.
“Yeah. Semisoft cheese. Silver foil. Six centimeters by twelve centimeters.”
Carrot nodded frantically.
“Don’t have it. Now if you don’t mind, I need to get some sleep.”
Spike shrugged apologetically and closed the door. Carrot sat there for some time listening to his little footfalls going upstairs and then she slowly paced over to Derpy, who was watching the stars in the sky and a glittering comet streak by overhead. All the lights in the library went out.
Carrot sighed and rested her head on Derpy’s withers between her wings and looked up at the stars too.
“Carrot, you tired yet?”
“No Derpy,” Carrot’s voice full of resolve, “I need to win this competition this year. I need to show everypony who the best baker in Ponyville is.”
“We go to Canterlot? They can have big stores there, open late!”
“I don’t know, Derpy.” Carrot sighed and buried her face in her friends’ mane, almost ready to tell herself to admit defeat. Just then they both heard a window open and something came sailing out, something squareish and dark and heavy which landed on the stoop of the library with a THUD. Derpy trotted over, always the optimist, and read the title aloud.
It said across the front in big gold letters: “CENTRAL EQUESTRIA DIRECTORY OF BUSINESSES.”
Derpy broke up through the grey wall of low hanging clouds and burst into the celestial brightness of Luna’s night, rich and velvety blue and speckled with an infinite number of stars, and up here in the clear cold air of the upper atmosphere for the first time in her life, Carrot Top thought she could see the pink cloud nebula and streaking stars which Derpy had so often commented on. The sky was rich and royal blue with a thin line of yellow clinging to the easterly horizon, sunset in another place very far away.
The mailmare found a strong tail wind and glided through it effortlessly, her forehooves stretched in front of her for maximum lift, her skilled wings tilting only slightly to accommodate her passenger. Derpy didn’t mind though, and she beat her wings again to keep her primaries correctly angled in the breeze. Carrot was more fun and more warm than the boxes and parcels she’d carried around all week.
Derpy checked the north star and angled her primary flight feathers to descend slightly, and she giggled a little when she felt Carrot grip her haunches in terror at the sudden drop. Derpy’s whole sky was like the ground-ponies’ rollercoasters! She found a westerly breeze and eased into it gracefully, flapping to find the best part of the current at the top.
Carrot gripped Derpy harder now, and she gasped as they came around the side of what Carrot had taken to be tall cloud formations; thunderheads, perhaps. But circular holes opened in the sides of them like golden sunlight were bursting out of the clouds and Carrot realized she was seeing windows… in pegasus houses!
The two ponies were on the outskirts of Cloudsdale.
The gray pegasus smiled and thought about her parcels. The ponies in Ponyville thought they had Derpy Hooves all figured out, but actually she was the one who had them figured out. She’d enjoy hiding in mailboxes and surprising the unsuspecting fillies or holding their mail for a whole week and dumping it on their silly heads once they walked outside; it was fun and broke up the monotony of her job. She thought she’d have no fun anymore when she was assigned to the Ponyville route, but her crazy magic eyes were good for something after all! And so the legend of Derpy Hooves was born. But nopony but she and Carrot Top knew that the joke was really on them!
Derpy zipped between the houses, easily finding the fast currents the cloud homes were built between. She flapped down Cumulus Lane, her old neighborhood, and turned left at the new homes at the end of it. There, at the very end, extra tall, was Rainbow Dash’s house.
Derpy observed a strange little candy-striped something resting on the cloud outside Rainbow’s home, and as she zipped by, faster that Carrot could look for herself, Derpy’s wonky eye almost saw a flash of something in one of the windows; something pink and something else blue. She knew what was happening, but this was there for just a moment and then it was gone.
“Where is Kant, Derpy?” Carrot shouted through the wind.
“Should be over here, Carrot.”
“Are we far from Ponyville?”
Carrot tried to remember the geography of this Westerly region.
“..But I thought Cloudsdale was near Trottingham?”
Derpy giggled at her friend. “It moves with the wind!”
Derpy saw something far below and angled her wings up to start to descend. “Hang on tight, Carrot Head!”
The grey pegasus dropped out of the sky nearly vertically as Carrot screamed at the top of her lungs. They both momentarily seemed blinded in a world of cool grey fog as the pegasus dropped through a cloud, and then she caught another updraft and hovered for a moment in space high above Kant. Carrot Top gasped.
Kant was not a big town; it was smaller than Ponyville, in fact. But Kant had something Ponyville did not.
Alongside a small cluster of older buildings and a multitude of barns and silos, both ponies saw a narrow ribbon of amber points of light winding out of the mountains to the west and across the great plain to the east. They were lanterns and torches and this was the famous Stirrup Road, the trade route running east and west across Equestria through Canterlot. Carrot thought of the millions of hooves that had traveled along that ancient path, the same one used for thousands of years!
Derpy started her descent in earnest, and tried to make it as wide and slow as possible in deference to her jumpy friend, who just then was especially squirmy as the ground seemed to rush up closer and closer. Finally Derpy spied a pegasus landing pad and zoomed in before her friend could protest, flapping her wings and landing so softly that it took a few seconds for Carrot to realize that she was no farther off the ground now than in her bed back home in Ponyville.
“Five point landing! Princess Derpy wins again!” the blonde mare chimed. Carrot opened one eye and decided it was safe to dismount. But she didn’t really believe it until she got all four hooves on the ground and she laughed and bounced in glee at the absurdity of it all, but especially because now she knew just how much to treasure the feeling of grass underhoof.
After a few minutes of Carrot bouncing neurotically about on the newly treasured ground (on an intensity scale that made Derpy consider getting her a few drinks before the flight back), the two girls took off down Kant’s High Street, past barns and old trade shops and earthen fruit storehouses towards the trade path to the north.
For it was there, lit up like a beacon-house at the end of the street, that they saw their destination: the legendary Kant Specialty Emporium.
It began its life six hundred years ago as a particularly infamous thieves’ market along the trade route; in the last two centuries it gentrified and became one of the legendary commerce centers of Equestria. Barns rambled into silos rambled into old converted houses, all of them patched together with makeshift construction and independent stalls clustered around the perimeter like buttresses. The Emporium stretched for over a half mile, open day and night, and it was said that all manner of equestrian treasures could be found inside.
Carrot Top, in fact, felt patently ridiculous coming here for cream cheese. It seemed so... uncouth, like going down a mineshaft to get a cup of salt. The ponies looked to the left and to the right, and the Emporium seemed to stretch as far as their eyes could see in either direction. Not knowing where to start, the two fillies chose a door at random and moved out of the cool blue night into the heart of the rambling old marketplace.
They were immediately surrounded by rugs of all variety, woven by hoof, slung over rails and low old timbers that may have, a hundred years ago, been used for drying herbs. In the middle of the day this old brass bazaar may have been full of bustling ponies, but now only a few stragglers were left behind, plodding amongst the reams of silk in the cloudy incense-scented air.
“Ooh, Carrot, this carpet is so nice!” Derpy cooed, brushing her hoof over a fine Persian example.
“Derpy – look, don’t touch!” Carrot hissed back, but suddenly a white Persian pony emerged from the darkness, her head and body wrapped in a cloak, a fine, crushed silk hijab covering all but her glittering rose eyes. “You are wanting to buy a carpet from the desert land?” Her voice was deep and lush and romantically thickly tinged.
“Waugh!” Carrot took a few steps backwards in shock and began to shake in agitation. She didn’t know what to do!
Derpy, uninhibited as always, spoke up chipperly.
“We want CREAM CHEESE for CAKE!” She nodded vigorously and waved at the Persian Pony.
Carrot searched her memory to remember something about Persian customs – something – anything to smooth over her discomfort, so she started tilting her body up and down in a sort of strange hen-dance something like what she had once read about in a book. Both Derpy and the Persian watched her do this for a few moments in silence.
“So… cream cheese you seek? To the left, my friends, near the bakery!”
“Thank you Miss Pretty Pony!” Derpy trotted away happily while Carrot, still tilting her body and head up and down obsequiously, started to back away. The shopkeeper rolled her eyes, but Carrot didn’t stop.
The Persian filly watched this for a few more seconds until she could take no more.
“You’re doing it WRONG!” the Persian finally shouted, and Carrot snorted in embarrassment and turned tail and fled. “Ugh! Tourists.”
“What a rude pony!” Carrot caught up to her friend in a huff of indignation. Derpy giggled. “Carrot acting derpy as Derpy tonight!”
The orange filly looked about and began to understand the mystique of this place. They were in the thick of a fabric bazaar, and every which way Carrot looked she saw precious silks, gorgeous satin pleats, lace tied by hoof the old fashioned way. There were dressforms and ponies standing by with tape and thread – not the beautiful fashion ponies she’d seen in Canterlot, but grubby tradesponies who worked hard and said little.
As soon as that room had sunk in they were in another room, now brazen red walls covered in the finest wallpapers one could buy. After that a blue room overflowing with banged up but still beautiful old furniture, then a yellow one filled with gorgeous polished shoes!
The rooms flew by quicker and quicker and Derpy seemed to be picking up speed, her nose carrying her on, and the Specialty Emporium became a whirl of rainbow colors for Carrot as she struggled to keep up with her swift pegasus friend. “Derpy! Slow down!”
“Don’t you worry, Carrot! Derpy know just where the muffins are!”
Derpy extended her wings and brought her legs together to make an impossibly tight turn at a T intersection, her strong pegasus hooves screeching loudly as she made the turn and vanished down the hall.
Carrot simply slammed straight on into the wall, tumbling over a bored pony sitting reading under a huge “INFORMATION” sign. The sign came tumbling down atop the two soon after.
“Sorry...” Carrot blushed and picked herself up out of a heap of strewn papers, helping up the pink information pony. She looked around and saw Derpy’s blonde tail vanishing behind a stack of books, and took off after the hyperactive mailmare as fast as her limp could carry her.
“Derpy, I don’t think... OH!” Carrot slammed direct into Derpy’s rear end, but the pegasus pony didn’t seem to mind.
“Carrot Top… loooooook!”
Derpy raised a reverent hoof and as Carrot shook the stars out of her eyes, she looked skyward and knew the reverence not to be misplaced.
She was in the biggest food market she had ever seen; a massive converted barn so big the entire back wall contained an old grain silo with room to spare. Each old bunk along the walls housed some delicious manner of foodstuff, but it continued vertically too – three full floors with an open central atrium– and loft above the top level where cows mooed down at them, twelve meters below. Huge banners hung from the beams of the old peaked roof, and the farm pony in Carrot Top thought she’d seen the Golden Fields of the afterlife in that moment.
They passed piles of apples nestled in fresh fallen snow – a magical miniature snow cloud hovered above each stall. There were carrots that the earth pony sneered at for their skimpy thickness while secretly envying their beautiful rose red and purple hues. Along the back wall, delicious grains were pulled direct from the silo by attendant ponies and formed into patties with vegetables and ground sesame and grilled up as luscious burgers. Here were the most ponies they’d yet seen in the emporium, seated at the burger bar ringing the silo and sipping on fruit fizzies or stronger spirits poured out of stacked old barrels.
Floor two was an astonishing collection of grains and flours, sugars Carrot had never heard of, and big open crates of blossoms, teas and leaves. As they passed to floor three, Carrot could not be sure if it was the vertigo or her pounding heart that was making her dizzy.
The cows in the loft above this topmost floor provided milk to an enormous vat where ponies rushed to and fro, pouring vegetable rennet or citrus juices into bubbling tanks of milk. An astonishing line of dairies nestled in snowbanks or arrayed on blocks of ice were the result of this labor; ice creams, sorbets, heaps of cheeses, big tubs of curds, butters, and –
There it was.
Carrot nearly sensed it before she saw it, and her hooves almost did not touch the floor as she floated towards her goal: a twelve by six block of semisoft cheese wrapped tight in silver foil.
She snatched it up and everywhere the bells were chiming and the pegasus choir sang and the clouds opened up as the yellow little earth pony reared up on her hind legs and screamed into the high beamed ceiling:
“VICTORY, APPLEJACK! GLORY AND VICTORY!!!!!”
Meanwhile Derpy had become bored of looking at the buttery rectangles and tubs of sweet cream – silly Carrot Top, she could have made her own – and fluttered her way across the open center of the barn, brushing happily right through one of the big hanging banners and perching on the adjacent balcony, where hundreds of baked sweets seemed to be lined up.
She assessed the massive cakes and pies, and they all looked delicious – even if Carrot’s had seemed more… transcendent. She considered that maybe Carrot could just buy one of these cakes, but then Derpy tilted her head and heard Carrot off somewhere screaming something about power and magnificence and decided against suggesting it. Derpy hopped down off the balcony rail and trotted happily over to a case full of lovely sugar cookies, dotted with those wonderful multicolored candies, and some rich fudgey brownies too, so shiney and glossy-topped and delectable!
Just then there was a clattering commotion downstairs at the bar, and Derpy peeked over the rail to see what was up. She saw a group of three big unicorn colts staggering around near the bar; they had knocked several tables over and were causing a fuss. Derpy considered dropping a banner on them, but hoped they’d go away soon enough and turned her attention back to the baked goods.
Carrot came trotting over, a small paper bag in her mouth, her prize possession packed tight in ice. “Ditzy, what’s up?”
“Silly colts downstairs being mean, Carrot.”
Carrot peered over the railing disdainfully at the scene below. “They’re drunk. Let’s let it blow over…”
But the team of three colts were already on the second floor now, and they sent a case of chai tea crashing down to the floor below, ponies scattering as the gang of thugs whooped and hollered and neighed their way across the barn. Derpy gulped.
“Carrot, I’m scared.”
“They’re acting like hooligans. What-ever. Just let them, the police will be here soon.”
“But Carrot, they’re scary!”
Another bushel of tea levitated across the barn and slammed through a window with a great explosion of leaves and shattering of glass.
“Ugh. I’ve got my cheese, they can do whatever they want for all I care.”
“Hey, Scrim! Lookit this here!”
There was a thud as a bag of flour shot towards the raftered ceiling and exploded into a cloud, sending clumps of flour streaming down in white trails like firecrackers. The cows began to moo in agitation as the voices of the unicorns got closer.
Carrot gulped. “Maybe we should get out of here—“
It was too late. The burly unicorns emerged on the top level of the barn, teetering about precariously on drunken hooves but frighteningly accurate with their aim. There were two murky blue ones and a huge olive-green muscled colt with a messy brown mane. He spotted Carrot Top immediately.
“Hey there, redhead, whatcha got there?”
Carrot cowered. “Cream... ?”
Without waiting for her to respond, the unicorn knocked the bag out of her mouth and Carrot went scrambling trying to retrieve it, catching it in midair just as it was about to fall into the yawning gulf on the other side of the rail.
Derpy turned on the big unicorn, her face seething pink in fear and anger. “YOU LEAVE HER ALONE!” she barked in her strange and high pitched voice.
The hooligans took one look at the frail mailmare with the wonky eyes and began laughing uproariously. “Hey, Scrim! Check out the stupid looking pegasus!”
That word cut right through Derpy, but suddenly one of the blue unicorns was knocked off his hooves by a magically hurled barrel. The three hooligans turned and there, near the raspberry torte, was a policemare!
She tiled her head and her blue and gold hat towards the roughians and barked: “Kant Police Department! You are under arrest for unlawful public disturba..”
She couldn’t finish her sentence. The raspberry torte slammed into her face, and then another cake, then an apple pie, and just for good measure the big olive unicorn, Scrim, magically picked her up and hurled her into a wall, knocking the pony out cold.
Derpy rushed over to Carrot in the melee and hid her under a burlap sack. Cupcakes and turnovers and croissants were flying everywhere, bouncing off the walls, as the toughs ravaged the bakery. “Carrot, you stay low, okay?”
Carrot shivered and nodded at her gray friend. “Please, Derpy, can’t you fly me out of here?”
Derpy shook her head with a postal carrier’s sense of duty.
“Policemare maybe hurt! Derpy help her too, okay?”
Carrot cradled the block of cream cheese in her arms like a foal. “Derpy, wait, come back!” But her cry was too late, for her friend turned tail and galloped back towards the prone police officer.
Derpy stood over the dizzy pony and nosed her gently.
“You okay Miss Policemare?”
The officer nodded weakly and tried to say something, but she was buried under too much fluffy frosting.
“Derpy help you then!”
Derpy looked left and right but couldn’t spot anything that could help, so she bent down and started licking the frosting off the policemare’s face, who giggled at the sudden warm Derpy tounge.
“Hehe, hey, stop, that tickles!” she squealed, and Derpy’s wonky eye wearily looked all the way over to the right.
The second blue unicorn was back on his drunken hooves again and the gang was going about smashing up the bakery. Derpy tried to ignore them and avoid detection, but then her special eye saw something else.
They overturned a case and were trampling something.
Could it be..?
She gasped and both of her eyes fixed straight ahead.
And this time, they stayed that way.
“Muffins.” She whispered.
The policemare groaned and started to raise herself up with her forehooves. “What..?
“Muffins!” Ditzy Doo shouted, indignantly, and suddenly she was airborne, zipping across the barn ceiling like a counterstrike missile.
Carrot stood up from under her burlap tent. “NO, DERPY! DON’T BE A HERO!” she shrieked, but Ditzy’s blood was boiling with rage and her face flushed red. She came in for a hard four-point landing, and the wooden floor shook violently as all four of her hooves impacted.
“MUFFINS!” The gray mare shouted, and the pack of thugs slowly turned, startled to see her.
“Scrim, it’s that stupid mare again.”
“You mean ponies need to get out!” Ditzy cried in her shrill voice and banged a forehoof on the floor, but the pack of colts just laughed.
“Yoo an’ what army?” Scrim bellowed, his voice as low as an earth tremor.
“You scare my friend Carrot, hurt the nice police pony, and then you hurt all of the muffins?” Ditzy seethed. Her ears felt hot at the tips like they were lit candles.
“Maybe we should listen to her, Scrim…” one of the flunkies stammered.
“Yoo shut up, you little gelding!” Scrim bellowed as his horn alit. “I’ll take care of this twerp...”
But Ditzy Doo stood her ground.
“You come in here and think you so mean! So mean to everypony!” Ditzy barked back at the thugs, and as she did her golden eyes seemed to them to be getting bigger, deeper.
“You think Ditzy Doo a twerp! You use mean S word!! You going to apologize to Ditzy and Ditzy’s friends or ELSE!” The little grey mare screamed louder than she ever had in her life. Her shrill voice was like flying daggers. Now the hooligans seemed to be genuinely concerned, and they stared at her growing eyes, so huge, so yellow!
Carrot and the policemare were holding onto each other in terror, mouths agape, staring at the confrontation.
“You don’t scare us! You’re just a stupid little breeze flapper!” Scrim blustered.
“You think you so tough, but you not going to like this!” Ditzy spat under her breath, for she knew they were trapped now.
They were staring into her magic eyes.
Her right eye slowly began to pivot, the white seeming to grow, as if it were suddenly lazy, and Scrim’s gang began to feel strange, like the whole world was going wonky.
“You make fun of Derpy’s magic eyes!” the grey mare proclaimed, proudly.
Then her lazy eye began to pivot up, rolling back into her head, and the gang began to shake because their right eyes were doing the same.
“Everypony laugh at Derpy’s eyes! Well now they laugh at you too!”
Her other eye began to twist now, and Scrim and his gang began to snort and wine and whimper as their eyes followed hers, each eye pointing in a different direction now and still rolling back uncontrollably until their eyes were googly, twisting, turning!
“Boss, this is bad!” one of the flunkies yelped, almost losing his footing because his world was spinning in circles.
Derpy’s right eye was turning in circles now as her left drifted back and up lazily, and Scrim began to shake his head convulsively, but his eyes rolled on!
“Derpy make all the ponies laugh at you too!”
“Cut… cut it out… you little..” But Scrim’s voice was quivering in terror now. Something strange and impossible to control was happening to him and he felt like he’d never see straight again!
“Now everypony laugh at you because you have Derpy eyes FOREVER!”
Then Derpy’s eyes began spinning wildly in different directions, unceasing, and the mean ponies’ eyes were rolling around too, and they started screaming in terror, hooves held over their faces but the awful swirling sensations didn’t stop!
One of Scrim’s flunkies fell over with a crash and the railing separating him from the ground far below splintered, but with his whirling swirling eyes he could only flail helplessly over the void!
Scrim fell down, rubbing his face with his hooves frantically, rolling and crushing a neat pyramid of blueberry pies, crying out for mercy.
Carrot and the policemare continued to gape in astonishment. Finally Scrim’s voice broke over the din, and he was sobbing, pleading as Derpy stood triumphant in the ruins of the bakery department.
“I GIVE UP! ARREST ME! ARREST ME! JUST MAKE HER STOOOOOOOP!!!”
“You apologize to my friends, derpy eyes!” the grey mare shrieked back.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Just make it stop! Please make it stop!”
Suddenly Derpy’s eyes snapped into position straight ahead, and she blinked a few times as her wonky eye inevitably drifted off to the side, the spell broken. Scrim and his flunkies were lying in a heap, their eyes still spinning, but slower now, and they all felt sick and awful.
The policemare was there immediately and she snapped hoofcuffs and blinders on the gang while all they could do is moan miserably. “I place you under arrest on behalf of the Kant Royal Police for the crime of public endangerment, hooliganism, and willful property damage.”
Scrim could only groan, and as the policemare jerked the sickly colt to his hooves, his cloak slipped, revealing a sliver of a bright white coat beneath.
Carrot Top perked up and trotted over. “Maam..” She pointed to Scrim’s neck with her hoof.
The officer examined him carefully and saw a thick flap of what was supposed green skin protruding from his cloak, loose and flabby. She grabbed it with her mouth.
The Policemare tugged and Scrim’s whole face suddenly seemed to come off! “Let’s see who you really are!”
Carrot Top fainted. But Derpy clapped her hooves as the rubber mask fell on a heap on the floor. “You so smart Miss Policemare!”
The officer looked at Scrim for a moment and suddenly gasped. “It can’t be!”
Later that day, a crowd of thousands of ponies had gathered in the center of town.
The doors to the Kant Great Assembly Hall swung open. Pegasus flew overhead and scattered red roses. A chorus of twenty trumpets rose all at once in a regal fanfare as the assembled crowd broke in rapturous cheering.
Policemare Siren Song entered first and her friends and family assembled in the crowd cheered heartily, her parents and her rose-colored partner in the VIP box near the front wiping joyful tears away. She bowed and there was the terrific clopping of thousands of jubilant hooves to celebrate the star daughter of the community.
Then Carrot Top entered, blushing, and the ponies applauded her vigorously! Carrot’s heart soared, and she, just a little farmfilly, had never expected this honor! Carrot turned towards the great oak doors and then all eyes were on a little grey mare who shyly stepped out of the shadows.
But her welcome was even more astonishing, and the sky filled with fireworks and a shower of white rose petals was unleashed, raining down through the sky and catching in Derpy’s hair. Derpy looked out at the crowd, tucked her face under her wing and let out a little joyful sob. She’d never felt so… wanted in her whole life!
The cheers carried her onward as the ponies broke into spontaneous chanting. Three syllables!
“DER-PY HOOVES! DER-PY HOOVES! DER-PY HOOVES!”
Derpy looked out at the crowd through tearful eyes with her smile so huge so was afraid her jaw would ache. With Carrot and Siren walking beside her, she trod on rose petals all the way past the delighted crowd and towards the stage and Derpy felt just like it could be her wedding day, she was so happy.
The crowd hushed as Mayor Saddlesore stepped up to his podium, a big, bulky stallion who was rather bloated in the middle. But his voice rang big and true.
“We, the citizens of Kant, gather here today to honor the three ponies who, last night, risked almost certain death at the Kant Specialty Emporium to apprehend the famous Hole in the Ace gang – Captain Siren Song, Miss Carrot Top of Ponyville, and of course -- Miss Derpy Hooves!”
Then the band struck up again and ponies as far as the eye could see were applauding and cheering and waving their arms exultantly as the air filled with confetti. Carrot looked at Derpy as the grey mailmare bowed her head and Mayor Saddlesore placed a hero medal around her neck. There was a brief moment where Derpy simply stared at the medal, not even sure if it was real, but then she shot into the air and hovered there, shaking her hooves above her head and giggling and laughing in exaltation.
“DERPY’S MAGIC EYES SAVED THE DAY!” she belted out, and as Carrot looked on at her friend, she knew that this was the bestest day of Derpy’s entire life.
She was so glad knowing that for the first time forever, Ditzy Doo or Derpy Hooves or whoever she wanted to be, she felt well and truly loved!
Then a stray thought crossed her mind.
Carrot Top’s emerald eyes went wide.
“FILLYDELPHIA BAKE OFF – FIRST PLACE”
Applejack knickered happily and looked at the gold medal hanging ‘round her neck.
“Yeehaw! Ah won again!”
And so she had. The competition had been fierce this year – Aquafresh’s grasshopper pie had impressed many a pony and there was the little brown and orange filly nopony had ever seen before who had whipped up a remarkable strawberry-rhubarb turnover and won third place. Pinkie Pie’s Creamy Cayenne Cupcakes had been voted “Most Avant Garde” by the panel of judges but most ponies simply stood around the pile of firecracker-red confections daring each other to eat them.
But it was Applejack’s Apple Cinnamon Crème Brulee Fondue Crunch that had won them over, and rightfully so. She has spent all day and night working on it, but it was worth it to the Fillydelphia Baking Queen!
“Hi, Applejack!” Twilight Sparkle chimed cheerfully as she strode up. A silver medal was hanging around her neck.
“Hi Twi, nice to see you back! Oh, darlin’, is that a second place prize?”
Twilight straightened up and beamed.
“Sure is! Which is rather good considering I’ve never baked a pie before!”
Applejack crinkled her muzzle and tapped her chin with her hoof.
“Well, Twi’, that’s mighty excitin’ for ya, but I’d be extra careful next year, y’see...”
AJ leaned in close to Twilight and confided:
“…Mah arch-nemesis Carrot Top didn’t show tail this year!”
Twilight’s eyes widened. “Wait… who?”
Applejack nodded thoughtfully. And Carrot Top always took home second place.
“Ah wonder where she is….”
High on a cloud over Equestria, Princess Luna poured over a book.
She hummed happily to herself while she searched the pages and paused to blow a stray strand of blue hair out of her eyes. Finally she found just the illustration she wanted and, smiling her beautiful moonbeam smile, peeled the sticker off the page.
Floating it above her head, she hummed to herself as she trotted across the cloud and pasted her new sticker right on the side of her shiney new purple fridge.
It was a sticker of two fillies galloping joyfully under a rainbow.
Luna looked her gift over. There was another sticker of a lizard floating using a balloon, and still another over there of a puppy dog cuddling a teddy bear. They all made her so happy!
And the fridge made her so happy too – it was huge and purple and shiney and glossy and beautiful! Luna felt so happy with her stickers and her fridge that she did her silly little Luna dance, bouncing back and forth on her long blue legs.
“Oh, sis! This is just what I wanted! It’s the best birthday ever!”
Celestia blushed and glanced earthward.
“Thanks sis… it was sort of… last minute…”
“Oh but you must tell me where you found it! My old favorite!”
Celestia glanced down at the huge hole in Carrot Top’s house. “Oh, you know me… just full of surprises..” Celestia gulped and hoped the Royal Carpenters would arrive soon to patch the poor pony’s roof! H… hopefully she hadn’t even noticed it missing.
Luna hopped over to the sun goddess and kissed her on the nose. “Thanks, ‘Tia – it was a best Welcome Back birthday I could possibly ask for. And my fridge - so purple!”
Celestia nodded sagely. “You always did go for the purple ones, dear.”
Luna sat down next to Celestia and the two sisters watched the puffy clouds blow across the great Equestrian plain for a moment. Then Celestia reached a wing behind Luna and tapped her on the shoulder. When Luna turned Celestia zipped a sticker over and stuck it right on the end of her nose.
“Gotcha!” Celestia winked.
The two girls laughed together for a moment, and then Luna laid down alongside her sister and tucked her blue head under Celestia’s white wing.
“Happy Birthday, Luna.”
“I love you, ‘Tia.”
“I love you too, sis.”
Then the royal ponies giggled and wrestled for a bit and then they bounced over to Luna’s new fridge and raided it and sat together on their cloud and ate the best carrot cake either of them had ever had in a long, long time.