MLP: FiM; Lower Deck Chronicles
Part 1: Bluenotes' Blues
“This has got to be the worst thing we've ever attempted,” came the irritated voice of a young filly.
The complaining filly was Apple Bloom, a yellow earth pony with a puffy red mane and a bright red ribbon on her cress. She was currently hanging upside down from a tree branch, snagged there with two others. One was Sweetie Belle, a unicorn of a soft white colour with a mane of swirled pink and purple. The other was a bright orange pegasus named Scootaloo with a burgundy mane in a boyish style. All three of them were wearing helmets and appeared slightly singed.
“Okay, okay,” said Scootaloo, working to get loose of the tree branch she was snagged on. “I guess Cutie Mark Crusader Cannonball ponies wasn't the greatest idea after all. You gotta admit though, that was awesome!”
“I still don't know where you managed to find that thing,” remarked Sweetie Belle as she too tried to get down from the tree.
“Maybe we're going about the the wrong way,” pondered Apple Bloom. With a firm tug, she finally managed to jerk the three of them loose from the tree branch. They then proceeded to fall to the ground in a heap. “Everything we try seems to end up blowing up in our face.”
“Especially this time,” commented Sweetie Belle, standing up in a daze.
“Well then what do you suggest?” demanded Scootaloo. “We've tried Cutie Mark Crusader carpenters, comedians, chicken catchers, cannonballs, and just about anything else we could think of.”
“Maybe we need more information,” suggested Sweetie Belle. “We asked my sister and her friends how they got their cutie marks, but they were the only ones. There are lots of other ponies in Ponyville who we didn’t ask. I'm sure at least one of them went through the same kind of difficulties we did. If we can find someone who did, then maybe we can use their method.”
“More stories?” groaned Scootaloo. “The last time we went looking for cutie mark stories, I nearly hurled from how sickeningly sweet they all were. Not to mention the singing. Can't we try something else? Something more exciting?”
“I'm with Sweetie Belle on this one,” remarked Apple Bloom. “If we keep trying things at random, we're gonna keep ending up stuck in trees. Need I remind you of the zip lining?”
“Alright, alright. But no singing this time or I'm out.”
The Cutie mark Crusaders picked themselves up and, after quickly tidying themselves, got underway. Scootaloo mounted her signature wooden scooter, while the other two hopped into the waggon attached to its rear. Scootaloo fluttered her wings rapidly, and they were off.
As the three of them headed towards town, they contemplated who they should ask for a cutie mark story. They had already heard from their Teacher, Cherrilee, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle’s sisters Applejack and Rarity, Scootaloo's idol Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy and Twilight Sparkle. They had also discussed cutie marks with their classmates not long after the formation of the Crusaders.
“So who are we going to talk to?” asked Apple Bloom as the three of them hurried towards the town proper.
“I dunno,” replied Sweetie Belle. “Is there anypony's story in particular you wanted to hear?”
“I don't think any story can top Rainbow Dash's,” remarked Scootaloo. “But I say we try hearing from somepony cool.”
“Like who? We already heard from the coolest ponies in Ponyville.”
“How 'bout the colt who runs the music store? He seems like he'd be pretty cool.”
“That's not a bad idea. It might help Sweetie Belle too, since she's a pretty good singer.”
“Nah, that's only when I'm by myself. I can't sing in front of a crowd, and a real special talent should be something you can share. I don't mind asking him his story though.”
“That's as good a place t'start as any. Let's motor Scootie.”
“You got it.”
Scootaloo revved her wings faster and picked up the speed of her scooter. As they made their way into town, crowds of ponies veered away from the trio, notorious for their over abundance of energy and the mayhem they always seemed to bring with them. The Cutie Mark Crusaders came to a dead stop in front of the Ponyville music store, the sudden stop nearly throwing Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle from the waggon.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders dismounted their vehicle and entered the store. They were greeted, albeit a bit reluctantly, by a soft blue colt with a deep blue mane. His flank was decorated by a pair of blue bar-notes. His name was Bluenotes, the owner and operator of the store. He seemed a bit hesitant around the fillies, who were known to be unpredictable.
“Hello girls,” said the store owner, treading carefully with his words.
“Hello Mr. Bluenotes,” chimed the three together.
“What can I help you girls with? Does your latest endeavour need some kind of musical accompaniment?”
“No,” replied Apple Bloom, “we're taking a bit of a break right now.”
“I see.” A soft sigh gave away Bluenotes' relief that the Cutie Mark Crusaders wouldn't be raiding his store. “That being the case, what can I do for you?”
“Actually we decided that before we try anything else, we should get some more information about cutie marks,” replied Sweetie Belle.
“In other words, we're looking for more cutie mark stories,” stated Scootaloo bluntly. “I suggested yours because I thought it would be a cool story to hear.”
“Oh? I supposed I can share my story; not much business going on today anyways.”
The three fillies seated themselves and listened intently to Bluenotes as he began his story. “I don't often talk about this, but I actually grew up in Manehattan. It wasn't until I grew up that I moved here to Ponyville.”
“Ooooh,” chimed the Crusaders.
“It's that not impressive really. Growing up in the city isn't exactly easy. My parents didn't really make a lot of money, so it was all we could do to make ends meet. This made it somewhat difficult for me to explore the possibilities of what my special talent was.”
“Uh-oh, my sappy sense is tingling,” remarked Scootaloo, before being shushed by the other Crusaders.
“However, there was one thing I always enjoyed, and that was music. Whether it was listening to ponies busking on the streets, browsing the different kinds of instruments in the nearby shops, or sampling music made by other popular pony musicians of the time.”
Young Bluenotes wandered through the streets of Manehattan, scampering around the feet of his parents. They smiled at him, pleased to see he was so energetic. He stopped for a moment when they came across a pony playing music on the street corner. He had constructed a one man band from a tuba, harmonic, cymbals, banjo and flute. When he finished playing, he pushed over a cap looking for donations. Sadly, all Bluenotes could do was shrug and show that he was just as strapped for cash as the busker.
“Although my parents wanted to be supportive, they couldn’t spare any money for me to explore my interest. So, I decided to start earning some money for myself doing odd jobs.”
Young Bluenotes departed from his home into the city in order to find some work. Throughout the course of his odd jobbing, he ran himself ragged doing anything he could for other ponies. However; he knew that a little hard work never hurt anypony and was always pleased to receive the pay for each little job. He kept it up for a while until he felt he had enough saved to finally take his interest off the ground.
Bluenotes made his way to the music store, where he was greeted by the older colt who ran the shop. He showed off his small pouch of money, but the store owner shook his head. “Sorry kiddo, but this isn’t enough for any new instrument.”
“Oh,” replied Bluenotes, hanging his head, feeling dejected. He turned and prepared to depart from the story.
“I can show you some of my used instruments if you’d like.”
Bluenotes turned to face the shop owner again, his interest piqued again. “Alright, that’d be fine I guess.”
The shop owner took Bluenotes over to a section filled with used instruments. They were all well maintained, although their wear and tear were still apparent. Bluenotes tried his hand at a chello, trombone, harp, flute, and even an accordion. None of them seemed to sound right to Bluenotes, but he couldn’t quite put his hoof on why. Although he loved listening to music, making it himself just didn’t seem to be working out. He was beginning to feel like he would never find his special talent.
The last thing Bluenotes came across in the store’s used section was an old mixing turntable. He hadn’t given a thought to mixing music before, so he decided to give it a shot. The owner of the store warned him that the old turntable might not work properly, but went ahead and set it up for him. Bluenotes took up his position at the turntable and began fiddling with it. Despite trying various techniques, adjusting different knobs and dials, he just couldn’t produce something he liked. He sighed and stepped away from the turntable, ready to leave the store.
As Bluenotes was about to leave the store, another customer came in. She was a white unicorn whose mane and tail were streaked with light and dark shades of blue. She wore a pair of pink tinted sunglasses and her flank was decorated with a single black bar note. Vinyl Scratch, an up and coming young mixing musician and DJ had just walked into the same music store as Bluenotes. His jaw nearly hit the floor.
“Yo pops,” said Vinyl, addressing the shop owner. “I was in the market for a new turntable, and was lookin’ to see if anypony’s got somethin’ I dig.”
“Of course Ms. Scratch, I have some new Magnacolts that just came in.”
“Hold up, what about that one what’s already set up?”
“I’m not sure that one would be to your liking Ms. Scratch; it’s an old, used model.”
“Ain’t nothin’ wrong with old hardware. Even I started off with a beat up old P0n-3 single disk.”
“If you insist Ms. Scratch.”
Bluenotes, who had reneged on his decision to leave the store, watched intently as Vinyl Scratch took up her place behind the turntable that he had abandoned. Her horn lit up with a magical glow, causing the lights of the store to dim. A pair of search lights shone out from somewhere behind her. She placed a hoof on each disk of the turntable and began to run the tracks. Using the magic from her horn, she manipulated the dials and switches while scratching the records manually. Bluenotes was awestruck at the kind of sound she was able to produce with that beat up old turntable. He hadn’t been able to make anything close to what he was hearing.
“Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about,” said Vinyl, finishing up her sampling of the turntable and setting the lighting of the store back to normal. “I’ll take it.”
“I was shocked at the spectacle of her performance, especially considering I hadn’t been able to produce anything remotely pleasant to listen to. I wanted more. Instead of buying an instrument for myself, I rushed out of the store and grabbed a ticket to Vinyl’s next show with the money I had saved.”
Although the venue itself wasn’t very large, the presence of Vinyl Scratch pushed the demand off the map. Bluenotes had been lucky to procure a ticket at all. It was set in a small club and there were only a couple hundred ponies there. Despite this, the energy in the atmosphere was almost tangible. When the lights finally went down and the show started, the cheers that everypony let out nearly drowned out the sound coming from the stage.
There she was, in the middle of the stage. Vinyl Scratch stood amidst a couple other ponies playing different instruments, and another providing vocals. The lighting of the show was even more intense than the small demonstration Vinyl had done by herself when sampling the turntable. The turntable itself was almost unrecognizable, having been repaired and repainted since Vinyl had bought it. Between the other performers, the light show and the overall atmosphere, Bluenotes got the ‘more’ that he had wanted and then some.
At the end of the show, the cheering persisted for almost a full half hour before the crowd began to disperse. A few stuck around to try and talk to the musicians, including Bluenotes. A few autographs were handed out, but most of the musicians seemed to simply want to leave. Bluenotes felt like he wouldn’t be able to get in and tell Vinyl how inspired he was by her performance. Then, when the fanponies were dispersing, Vinyl spotted Bluenotes.
“Hey kid,” she said, taking Bluenotes by surprise. “I remember you. You were at the store the day I picked up my turntable.”
“Um, yeah...” managed Bluenotes, still somewhat shocked that he had been recognized. “Hi.”
“I take it you liked the show?”
“Yes! It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen!” Bluenotes blushed a little when he realized he was gushing.
Vinyl seemed amused by Bluenotes more than anything. “Glad you liked it; ain’t nothing better than knowing the people listenin’ like what we do up there. You actually remind me of myself a little; although I guess I’m not that much older than you.”
Vinyl Scratch flicked her horn, which lit up with magical light. From someplace nearby, the turntable from the shop Bluenotes had visited floated towards the two of them. A marker floated up and scrawled Vinyl’s autograph on the face of the turntable. She then flicked her horn again, setting the hovering turntable on Bluenotes back. He bore an expression of pure shock at what she had just done.
“That’s for you kid; When the time comes, I hope you share what you love with those around you.”
“In that moment, it all became clear to me.”
Bluenotes stood silently in shock for a moment, allowing his thoughts to straighten out. He realized what had been missing. He had been passionate, but he had only been thinking of pursuing it for himself. Vinyl had shown him that the true power of ones passions comes when you can share it with others. Bluenotes felt his flank tingle, and looked back to see it flash momentarily. The image of two dark blue bar notes appeared there. Vinyl smirked when she saw this, pleased to see the young colt had gained something from her gesture.
Bluenotes gestured to the notes decorating his flank; “That's when these appeared. I later moved here and opened this music shop so I could share my passion with lots of other ponies. I still have that old turntable somewhere in the back and use it to mix some music of my own.”
“Wow,” remarked Apple Bloom, “that was a great story.”
“Yeah,” chimed in Sweetie Belle. “Being able to share your talent with everyone is what really makes it special.”
“I'm just glad that for a pony who likes music, we didn't have to put up with any singing,” added Scootaloo. “Still, that was pretty cool, for somepony who isn't Rainbow Dash that is.”
The other two snickered at Scootaloo's fanatic devotion to the older pegasus as they made their way out of the store. Bluenotes saw them off, a smile on his face stemming both from sharing his story and the lack of damage caused by the normally rambunctious trio. The three of them donned their helmets once again as they took their places on the waggon and scooter.
“So,” said Scootaloo, revving up her wings, “where to next?”
Author's Notes: While I'm aware that there are a lot of background ponies more popular (and well known) than Bluenotes, he was the first one whose story fleshed itself out in my mind. For those who enjoyed this, fear not, for I intend to do more with more popular background ponies. For those who don't, sorry it wasn’t to your liking. Hopefully my attempt at emulating the cut away style featured in the show works out.
P.S: The title of this story is a reference to the Star Trek: Next Generation Episode 'Lower Decks', where background characters get their day in the limelight.
MLP:FiM; Lower Deck Chronicles
Part 2: Daisy's Dilemma
When posed with the question of where to head next, the Cutie Mark Crusaders found themselves stumped. In their previous quest for cutie mark stories they had been actively pursuing a single story, encountering everyone else almost accidentally. This time they had found the story they were looking for quickly and without interruption. This left them without any clear direction to proceed in.
Although she had hastily mounted her scooter, Scootaloo had not gone anywhere. She was waiting to hear what her fellow crusaders had to say. “Well?” she demanded impatiently. “Who's cutie mark story are we going to hear next?”
“Y'know, I have no idea,” replied Apple Bloom. “What about you Sweetie Belle?”
“There must be somepony we can relate to,” mused Sweetie Belle. “Somepony who had trouble getting their cutie mark like us.”
“It's kinda hard to tell who that could be without actually hearin’ their story first though.”
“I say we look for somepony famous! Celebrities would be sure to have awesome cutie mark stories. Like Photo Finish or the Wonderbolts! Or maybe even that Vinyl Scratch Bluenotes was talking about.”
“You already picked Bluenotes though, Scootaloo. Besides; celebrities don't just come out here to Ponyville every day. We need ponies a little closer to home.”
“What about Zecora?” suggested Apple Bloom. “She's from a completely different part of the world. Surely she'll have some interesting insight on cutie marks.”
“I don't think that's such a good idea,” cut in Sweetie Belle. “Zecora lives in the Everfree Forest and we can't go in there alone. Last time we nearly ended up as the Cutie Mark Crusader lawn ornaments.”
“She only comes into town once a month, so it ain't like we can just bump into her on the street neither.”
“Argh, this is getting us nowhere. We need to either pick someone's story to hear or get back to our regular crusading.”
“I know!” exclaimed Sweetie Belle, the outburst from the normally quiet filly surprising her companions. “We should ask the Mayor!”
“The Mayor? Why her?”
“I think I see what she's gettin' at. The Mayor is the oldest pony in Ponyville, cept for Granny Smith o'course, so she has the most experience. Don'cha think it'll be neat to hear the story of how she became Mayor in the first place?”
“Actually, that does sound pretty cool. I'm in.”
“Then it's settled. Town Hall, here we come!”
With their new goal in mind, the Cutie Mark Crusaders let out a yell of excitement as Scootaloo fluttered her wings and the scooter started to move. Seeing that the trio were on the move again, nearby ponies stepped aside and allowed them to pass. The desire not to end up in the middle of one of their notorious stunts was shared by much of the Ponyville community. Their expectations did not go unfulfilled, as Scootaloo pushed her scooter to speeds that would have made Rainbow Dash proud. The other two fillies were lucky not to be thrown from the waggon.
Despite Scootaloo's need for speed, the Mayor's office was on the far side of Ponyville. It would take them some time to get there. However; before they could get too far their attention was grabbed by a shrill cry. Scootaloo slammed the brake on her scooter and brought the crusaders to a screaming halt, nearly flipping herself over in the process. The Cutie Mark Crusaders looked around for the source of the cry. Their eyes were met with a familiar sight.
Three earth ponies stood nearby, all of whom the fillies were familiar with. Daisy; bearing a pink coat and fluffy green mane and her associates, Rose; white with a peppermint red and pink mane and Lily, a lighter shade of pink than Daisy with a smooth yellow mane. Each of them bore a cutie mark depicting their namesake flower. Like the Cutie Mark Crusaders they were also a notorious trio around Ponyville, although their notoriety came from their tendency to overreact to just about everything.
“The horror! The horror!” wailed Rose, placing a hoof on her cress as though she was about to faint.
“This is simply awful!” cried Lily in turn.
“That little monster's going to ruin everything!” finished Daisy.
The 'little monster' of which she spoke was little more than a small white rabbit. Its name was Angel and it happened to be one of the animals normally under the care of Fluttershy. For whatever reason, Angel had decided to stop in at Daisy's flower shop and was currently eyeing a rather elaborate bouquet hungrily. Lily and Rose ran off in the direction of Fluttershy's home, leaving the Cutie Mark Crusaders rather perplexed.
Daisy paced hectically back and forth, keeping her gaze fixed on Angel. “This isn't good,” she muttered. “I can't deal with this on my own.” It was only after a few moments that Daisy noticed the three fillies looking on with amusement. “Oh, girls!”
“Uh oh,” muttered Scootaloo.
“Girls, can you come over here please? I need some help.”
The three fillies snickered amongst themselves as they approached Daisy. “What can we do for ya?” asked Apple Bloom with a hint of sarcasm.
“Thank you girls. With Lily and Rose gone I wasn't sure I'd be able to hold off that little beast on my own.”
“What's the problem?” asked Sweetie Belle. “Angel's been by your store before and there was no trouble.”
“Yes, but this time it's different. This bouquet,” she gestured to the exotic looking flower arrangement, “is composed of rare desert flowers that I've been cultivating for quite some time now. They were meant to be a gift for the Princess and I won't let that little... thing ruin them!”
The crusaders snickered, but then looked at each other knowingly. “Alright,” said Scootaloo, “we'll help you keep an eye on Angel until Fluttershy gets here.”
“On one condition,” added Apple Bloom.
“We want to hear about how you got your cutie mark,” finished Sweetie Belle.
“Oh? I suppose I could tell you that. It'll help pass the time until Rose, Lily and Fluttershy get back. Just keep your eyes on that furry little beast while I recount my tale.”
“We will,” chimed the three fillies together, turning their collective gaze on Angel. The rabbit stared back at them in an almost mocking manner.
“I grew up as a member of a nomadic group of ponies,” began Daisy. “We wandered through the desert from one body of water to another, never settling in anywhere.”
“Did anypony in this town actually grow up here?” Scootaloo wasn't asking anyone in particular, but again had to be silenced by her fellow crusaders.
“All of the ponies in our troupe were earth ponies, which meant there was no flying or magic. As a result, most of the ponies had talents related to finding food, water or shelter through non-magical means. However, I was different for some reason.”
Young Daisy stood in the middle of a massive stretch of sand, with nothing nearby save a small group of ponies. Next to her was a large, male pony. He was a pale brown colour, but had the same mint green mane as she did. Upon his flank sat the image of a small lake. This pony was her father, one of the troupe's most accomplished dowsers. He was currently attempting to teach her how to locate water in the desert.
Daisy's father pressed his ear to the ground firmly and took a long, deep breath. Daisy attempted to emulate his actions, pressing her ear to the ground and breathing deeply. He stayed motionless and silent, listening for the flow of water beneath the surface. Daisy stayed silent as well, allowing her father to continue his demonstration.
After a few minutes without movement, Daisy's father raised his head and walked twenty feet to the south. Daisy watched, her ear still to the ground, as her father pressed a leg into the ground. A small puddle of water welled up around his hoof. Daisy lifted her head, having heard nothing. Instead she found that her ear had been plugged by a large quantity of sand.
“Despite trying to study the techniques of my father and others, I found myself unable to duplicate any of their feats. I couldn't dowse, forage or perform any of the other essential tasks our troupe needed to survive in the desert.”
Daisy sighed as she watched the sun fall below the desert horizon. Her troupe had settled down near an oasis for the night, the clear skies and low winds eliminating the need for heavier shelter. Her father had been the one to lead them to this oasis, while she had been of no help at all. Daisy's father walked over to her and placed a hoof on her shoulder.
“What's the matter dear?” he asked. “I can always tell when you've got something on your mind.”
Daisy sighed once again; “I'm disappointed, that's all. You, mother and even the other foals can all do so much for the group. But I can't do anything useful; I can't even prepare meals.”
“No pony ever said ours was an easy life. There are plenty of ponies even from our group who have decided to settle down in recent years. However; I have no doubt that you'll find something special just for you.” Daisy's father tousled her mane playfully, bringing a smile to her face. “Now come and get some rest.”
“Okay, I'll be there in a minute.”
As her father wandered back to the rest of the troupe, Daisy turned her gaze back to the horizon. The other ponies had settled a fair distance from the oasis, while Daisy currently stood midway between the two. The oasis was fairly small and surrounded by grasses, with a couple of palm trees around the edges. It was nothing Daisy hadn't seen before, as the group often stopped at oases to obtain both water and meagre food supplies.
Then, something else caught Daisy's eye that she hadn't seen until just that moment. In the midst of the grasses surrounding the water was a splash of colour, almost shimmering in the moonlight. Curious, Daisy approached the oasis, the desire to know what it was she saw pushing her forward. She stopped when she reached the object who's colour had drawn her in. It was a single bright yellow flower.
Daisy gazed upon the flower in awe, having never seen its likeness. She knew of flowers, but their rarity in the harsh desert environment had kept her from ever seeing one before. She admired every aspect of the single flower in minute detail. It was far more pleasing to her eyes than any cactus she had ever come across and equally delicate. She inhaled deeply and drew in its fragrance, savouring the unique scent and the flavour that accompanied it.
Daisy was so delighted about this new discovery that she wanted to share it. She turned back to the group and trotted towards them. Unfortunately, her father and all the rest had already drifted off to sleep. She sighed and turned back for one more look at her little treasure. She smiled and made her way back over to the troupe, settling herself in with her mother and father's still forms. She would just have to show them in the morning.
“Sadly I never got to share that little treasure with them. I went back in the morning to find that the flower was no longer there. Its bud and stem were there, but the blossom was hiding from the harsh sunlight. I later found out it was a nocturnal flower; like many desert animals it was dormant during the day. But that was not the last time I would see one.”
A few days had passed since the night at the oasis when Daisy had seen her first flower. The troupe had moved on since then, keeping to their nomadic tradition. Daisy lamented not being able to share her little treasure with the rest of the ponies, but held out hope that she would find another one sometime in the future. The flower's image and fragrance lingered in her mind, hers to remember that fateful night by until she could experience it again.
It was late in the day when it began, with the sun gently kissing the horizon. One of the troupe's weather watcher ponies felt his ears perk up, sensing that something was coming. Only moments later, a powerful gust of wind blew past the troupe, throwing sand all around them. This gust was shortly followed by another, then another. The wind began to blow harder and more steadily, whipping the sand into a frenzy and howling like a crazed animal.
“What's going on?!” called Daisy's father, addressing the weather pony. “Where did this come from?”
“I don't know,” he replied, having to shout to be heard over the wailing wind. “It came on too suddenly; I didn't hear it until it was right on top of us.”
“Everyone stay close together and shield your eyes. Get the foals in the centre!”
Heeding the instructions of Daisy's father, she and the other ponies huddled tightly together, pushing Daisy and the handful of other foals in the troupe to the middle. At the direction of an older mare, the huddled group began to move, hoping to find shelter from the sand that pelted them like a thousand tiny daggers. Even though her eyes were shut tight, Daisy could feel the other foals shuddering next to her, all of them afraid of this sudden storm unlike any they had weathered before.
Time inched forward slowly as the sun dipped below the horizon. The troupe struggled to move forward under the sheets of sand that whipped around them. Between the failing light and relentless sand, none could use their eyes. The shrieking winds made any attempt by the troupe to listen for some form of sanctuary equally useless. Daisy and the other fillies were partially shielded from the storm's wrath by their elders, but if they did not find shelter soon, they all risked blacking out or being buried under the waves of sand.
Then it came, almost as suddenly as the storm itself. A whiff of something caught Daisy's nose, carried by the fierce winds and bolstered by her lack of vision. It was something she had smelled only once before, on that night at the oasis. She found the scent unmistakable, as she had treasured it from the moment she first inhaled from that single flower.
“Father!” called Daisy, causing the group to halt suddenly. “There's something close by. I don't know what, but it might be our best chance.”
“What is it?” came his reply. He addressed the other ponies in the troupe in turn. “Do you hear or feel anything?”
“It's a smell! It's the same as that flower I saw last week. It shelters itself from the sun, so it wouldn't bloom unless it was also protected from the storm.”
“She's right,” called one of the mares. “There's a stone cavern less than a quarter mile away. I can hear the wind whistling over a skylight. It should be large enough for all of us!”
Under the direction of Daisy's nose and the mare's ears, the group navigated blindly through the storm, until the aforementioned cave loomed before them. They pressed against the stone exterior of the cavern and groped along the wall until they found an opening. The troupe clamoured inside and breathed deeply of the air inside, free from the whirling sand. The wind whistled overhead through the skylight just as the mare had said.
The troupe settled in the deepest part of the cavern, were a small pond of pooled water had formed. It was there that Daisy found her flower. She inhaled deeply of its fragrance once again, this time able to share with the rest of her troupe. Her father congratulated her and tousled her mane. Her mother and the rest of the troupe all took turns thanking and congratulating her for helping to save them from the storm.
“I'm very proud of you,” said Daisy's father, looking upon her with a grand smile.
“Thanks dad,” she replied, smiling back at him. “I had no idea that one chance encounter with a little flower would save my life one day.”
“It seems we've found your special talent. That nose of yours outshone even our best eyes and ears.”
Daisy grinned widely at her father's praise, and felt her hindquarters tingle. She looked back and watched a brief flash that was accompanied by a trail of sparkles. When it faded, the image of a pair of overlapping daisies decorated her flank. Another round of congratulations came her way before the troupe settled down, exhausted by their ordeal.
“Wow!” chimed the three fillies together as Daisy concluded her story.
“I stayed with the troupe for a few more years before deciding to settle down. I saw very few flowers in that time, so my ability to recognize their scent didn't end up coming in handy for desert life. I decided to put it to use in cultivating flowers instead of finding them, and opened up this shop right here in Ponyville. Even if you find something you have a knack for, it's still up to you to decide how best to use it.”
“Yer story was amazin',” remarked Apple Bloom. “How come ya never told anypony yer childhood was so excitin'?”
“Well; no one ever really asked me.”
“That was a lot cooler that I was expecting,” said Scootaloo, “for somepony who's speciality is flowers anyways.”
Sweetie Belle nudged Scootaloo in the ribs to cut off her comment. “What she means is that we appreciate you sharing your story with us.”
“I appreciate you keeping an eye on that little vermin for me.”
Upon being addressed as such, Angel stuck out his tongue at Daisy. Shortly after she finished her story, she and the Cutie Mark Crusaders were rejoined by Rose and Lily. With her was a cream coloured pegasus with a pink mane and a trio of butterflies on her flank. Upon seeing Fluttershy, Angel hopped down from Daisy's cart and sat at her feet.
“You know better than that Angel,” scolded Fluttershy. “I hope he didn't cause you any trouble Daisy.”
“It's fine, the Crusaders here helped keep an eye on him.”
“Thank you girls for keeping Angel out of trouble.”
“Now I just have to wait for Ditzy to get here so she can deliver the flowers for me.”
Fluttershy departed from Daisy's flower shop with Angel accompanying her. Daisy thanked the Cutie Mark Crusaders once again for keeping an eye on him, while they thanked her again for sharing her story. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle mounted their waggon once more while Scootaloo took her place on the scooter. With a rapid fluttering of her wings, Scootaloo launched the scooter forward and resumed the crusaders' journey to town hall.
Author's Notes: I admit to knowing next to nothing about the actual flora or meteorology of desert regions, but I hope I've created a reasonable facsimile in Daisy's story. Hopefully I’ll be able to work more mane cast cameos in as well so they don’t feel left out.
MLP:FiM; Lower Deck Chronicles
Part 3: Trixie's Tribulation
“How come we can never travel straight to where we're going?” asked a somewhat perplexed Apple Bloom as Scootaloo veered the scooter.
“Trust me on this one,” replied Scootaloo. “I just saw someone that we need to have a little chat with.”
While travelling through Ponyville, the Cutie Mark Crusaders often found themselves distracted by everything that crossed their path. This time was no exception, as Scootaloo had managed to demonstrate. While whizzing through the streets, she caught a glimpse of someone through the crowd. A powder blue unicorn with a glossy, pale blue mane. She had turned away from the crusaders with the rest of the crowd, allowing Scootaloo a glimpse of the wand and stardust adorning her flank.
Scootaloo recognized that cutie mark, and knew that the other crusaders would as well if they had seen it. In fact, there wasn't a single pony in Ponyville who wouldn't recognize that mark given a clear glimpse at it. She had immediately steered the scooter and waggon to follow the unicorn in question. She seemed to be heading in the direction of the library where Twilight Sparkle, a much more well liked unicorn, lived.
As the unicorn turned down a side street, Scootaloo sped after her. She pulled ahead of the unicorn and turned the scooter and waggon to the side, blocking the narrow street. The unicorn was rather startled and stepped a few paces back. The three fillies dismounted from their ride and looked upon the unicorn sternly. Upon getting a good look at her, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle recognized the unicorn just as Scootaloo had.
“Well looky here,” remarked Apple Bloom. “If'n it ain't the so called Great and Powerful Trixie.”
“Wait, you know who I am?” came the reply for a rather confused Trixie.
“Um, duh,” replied Scootaloo. “I doubt there's anypony in town who wouldn't remember your lousy showboating.”
“My concealing spell is perfect! No pony who's seen my face or cutie mark should be able to recognize me here in Ponyville.”
“Um, we never actually saw you before,” corrected Sweetie Belle. “I heard about you from my sister. She cried for hours about what you did to her hair.”
“The fashionista unicorn was your sister?”
“You were right nasty to mah sister too. If she weren't busy apple bucking, I'd call her over here to buck you!”
Trixie seemed surprised at the identities of the Cutie Mark Crusaders. She then addressed Scootaloo: “I guess that makes you Rainbow Dash's sister then?”
“Well; no actually. But doesn't mean I won't give you what you've got coming for making a foal out of her.”
“What a bother,” muttered Trixie. “This is exactly the kind of thing I was trying to avoid.”
The Cutie Mark Crusaders looked at each other, all of them puzzled by the same thing. Everypony in town had told them that Trixie was a loud, boisterous and obnoxious showoff. However; Trixie was presently trying rather hard to go unnoticed. This made a certain amount of sense when considering the reputation she had garnered for herself. That being the case though, why would she return to Ponyville at all?
“So Trixie,” demanded Scootaloo. “What's your game?”
“I beg your pardon?” replied the pale blue unicorn, offended by the way she was being addressed.
“Why did you come back to Ponyville?” asked Sweetie Belle.
“Ah reckon she's up to no good,” cut in Apple Bloom. “Why else would she be sneakin' around with that concealin' thingy she mentioned?”
“For your information, I wasn't sneaking. I simply did not wish to attract attention to myself when not properly dressed for the stage. As for my reason for coming back, that's hardly any of your business.”
“Yeah well, we're making it our business. Just like you made humiliating Rainbow Dash and the others yours.”
Trixie let out a frustrated grunt. “You three are almost as bad as those oddball unicorn colts. If it will get you out of my mane, I shall tell you why I am here.”
“Alright, we're listening.”
“As the Great and Powerful Trixie, I have my reputation to consider and uphold. As such, it is sometimes necessary for me to hone my awesome magical talents. The best way to do this is by working with other unicorns of... reasonable talent. Twilight Sparkle demonstrated that she knows her way around a spell or two, so I have been working with her to enhance my repertoire.”
“In other words, you've been learning magic from Twilight.”
“You make it sound as though I have nothing to contribute.”
“The nerve! My experience with magic has proved vital for some of Twilight's research.”
“Alright, you've got a reason for being here. That still don't excuse how y'all humiliated mah sister.”
“Like I said, I have my reputation to consider.”
“What reputation? We'd never heard of you before our sisters told us about you. They'd never heard of you before you came to town for that matter.”
“You're persistent little foals. Very well, I shall tell you of the Great and Powerful reputation, and why I have to uphold it.”
“Part of the story I told when I first came to Ponyville was true. My magic and reputation hold their beginnings in Hoofington. It is a town not unlike Ponyville, albeit a bit less central. It was there that I was born and raised. It was also where I met the previous Great and Powerful unicorn.”
Young Trixie wandered aimlessly through the streets of Hoofington. She had just gotten out of school, and was heading in the general direction of her home. However, she was taking her time in the trip. The other day her teacher had given a lesson regarding cutie marks, and she was mulling the topic over in her mind. While she was not the only filly in her class yet to discover hers, she had spent the past couple days contemplating what she might find.
While lost in thought, Trixie suddenly felt her horn flicker to life. She had learned some rudimentary magic, but this was entirely involuntary. Surprised and curious, Trixie turned all of her attention to her horn, wondering what kind of magic was flaring up. No longer paying any attention to where she was walking, Trixie's fascination with her horn served only to run her into a wall. Her horn sputtered out on impact.
Trixie stumbled away from the wall, momentarily stunned by the impact. She shook her head to bring herself back to her senses, then turned her attention back to the wall in time for something to fall onto her face. It was a large poster of some sort, but she couldn't make out the details with it sitting on her head. She removed the poster and laid it out on the pavement in front of her.
Depicted on the poster was a brown unicorn stallion wearing a top hat and black cape. It was advertising a large magic performance by 'The Great and Powerful Maximilian'. Maximilian was one of the most well known magicians in all of Equestria, his feats on stage on the brink of becoming legendary. Being a unicorn meant that his magic on stage was no trick, it was the real deal.
“Clearly, finding that poster was no accident. It was a sign, meant to show me the first steps of my journey to greatness. I took the poster itself home and showed it my parents. Though they were at first sceptical, I told them of how my horn had magically reacted right before the encounter. Intrigued, they gave me permission to attend the Great and Powerful Maximilian's show.”
Unlike most stage magicians, the Great and Powerful Maximilian didn't use arenas or auditoriums to put on his shows. Instead, he had a waggon that opened out into a travelling stage and doubled as his mobile home. He travelled around Equestria putting on shows like the one in Hoofington. This waggon was currently parked in the town square with a massive crowd of ponies surrounding it.
Trixie nudged and bumped her way through the crowd, trying to get a better view of the waggon. There was a flash and a burst of smoke on the stage, which was met with shock and awe from the audience. When the smoke billowed away, the Great and Powerful Maximilian stood in the direct centre of the stage, spreading his front hooves wide towards the crowd.
“Fillies and gentlecolts,” called Maximilian in a voice that brought a hush over the crowd. It reached all through the town square, amplified magically. “Prepare yourselves, for you are about to witness the Great and Powerful Maximilian! My feats are not for the faint of heart, so those of weak constitution are advised to leave immediately.”
The crowd let out a variety of 'oohs' and 'ahs', while Trixie remained silent in her awe of the unicorn on stage. The crowd fell silent as he began his show, opening with several smaller scale tricks. He conjured flowers and balloons, unleashed a flock of birds from within his hat and levitated off the stage, doing a loop of the town square before setting back down. There was much cheering and stamping of hooves from the crowd, Trixie remaining enraptured.
“Now that I have your attention,” called Maximilian in his magically amplified voice. “Perhaps it is time I gave you a real show!”
The crowd fell deathly silent yet again as Maximilian's horn lit up brighter than it had for any of his previous tricks. There was a bright flash that faded to reveal an empty stage. The crowd looked around frantically for him and had their attention drawn upwards when his voice called down to them. Maximilian had transported himself several hundred feet above the stage, and was now diving straight down towards the cart. A collective gasp was heard as the entire crowd held their breath. Maximilian plummeted with increasing speed, but just as he was about to collide with the stage he stopped dead, hovering mere inches above the platform.
The crowd was silent for a moment before erupting into hooting, hollering and stamping that drowned out even Maximilian's voice. Trixie's heart had nearly stopped when Maximilian had been plummeting, and his sudden stop had caused her jaw to drop to the ground. After nearly a minute of stunned silence, Trixie leapt into the air in excitement, her brays joining the rest of the crowd. Maximilian took a bow and waited for the crowd to quiet down before continuing his show.
“Maximilian's feats were the most amazing things I had ever witnessed. However, I was not satisfied with just witnessing them. I wanted to understand them, to duplicate them. I was a unicorn too after all, so recreating his feats was just a matter of figuring out the magic that he used. Or so I thought. A proper magician never reveals his secrets, so I had to figure a few things out for myself. I studied a variety of magical techniques, as well as Maximilian's biography and other accounts of his tricks. But...”
Trixie looked over the books spread out on the table in front of her. Books on a wide variety of simple magic such as telekinesis, teleportation and conjuring. Among the books was also Maximilian's biography. She grunted in frustration as she flipped through page after page. The fundamentals of the magic itself were simple enough, but there were still things that she found she couldn't make sense of.
While conjuring small objects and levitating were simply acts of teleporting and telekinesis, Maximilian's biggest trick seemed to be missing something. The death defying dive he had performed boggled her mind in more ways than just its spectacle. Although it seemed to be a simple matter of teleportation and levitation, stopping so suddenly after such a drop would have surely caused injury to anypony who wasn't an experienced flier. However; what perplexed Trixe was that she could find no magical solution to his apparent invulnerability.
Trixie had exhausted her limited resources, and came to the conclusion that the only way to figure out the magic she was missing was to watch Maximilian perform the trick again. Luckily for her, Maximilian had remained in Hoofington for the past few days, repeating his performance. However, he was planning on leaving today, so this would be her last chance to see the trick performed and satisfy her curiosity.
With her new found knowledge of magic, Trixie had a better understanding of the way in which Maximilian performed his tricks. However, she had a nagging feeling that something was out of place, but could not put her hoof on it. She looked on as he performed many of the same tricks he had done before, as well as a few variations. When it came time for his death defying dive, Trixie watched every motion Maximilian made with excruciating attentiveness.
He began with teleporting above the stage, as before. Trixie again noticed that something was odd; the magic somehow 'felt' different from what she had experienced when attempting it herself. She watched as he plummeted, but felt no new magic coming from him. She could see nothing going on to suggest he might have magically protected himself, even when he came to a stop.
Trixie's eyes were not the problem though; it was her horn telling her that something was amiss. While the rest of the crowd was stamping and cheering, she was trying to deduce what felt odd about the magic. Her horn beat her to the punch as it lip up with magical energy of its own. What happened then was completely unexpected; Maximilian flickered and wavered, before seeming to wink out of existence.
The crowd fell silent immediately, thinking another trick was being performed. Then, from the side of the stage, an older brown unicorn resembling Maximilian without his stage clothes ran onto the platform. His cutie mark was three wisps of smoke, and he seemed rather confused. It took the crowd a moment to figure out that he was in fact Maximilian, and that everything they had seen was a magical projection of great realism. It had all been an illusion.
The crowd, disgruntled and upset to learn that everything they had witnessed was fake, dispersed quickly, grumbling about being deceived. Only Trixie remained, shocked that not only had Maximilian been creating illusions the whole time, but also that she had disgraced him by revealing his secret. Maximilian trudged off stage, hanging his head in defeat. As he left, the stage compacted itself back into the waggon.
Horrified at what she had done, Trixie made her way around to the side of the waggon. She pounded on the door, but was met with no response. She nudged at the door, which she found to be unlocked, and slipped inside. The interior of the waggon was fairly sparse, with only a few necessities present, as well as some of Maximilian's own paraphernalia. The once Great and Powerful Maximilian himself was slouched over on a seat, sighing to himself.
Trixie approached him cautiously. “Um, Maximilian sir...” she began.
“It's all over now,” he muttered. “By tomorrow everyone in Hoofington will know it was all a deception. By the next day, all of Equestria.”
“Great and Powerful Maximilian,” said Trixie, raising her voice a bit. He looked up at the small, powder blue unicorn as she addressed him. “I was watching your show and...”
“Were you now? Come to laugh at the hack? A unicorn so bad at magic that the only thing he can do is fake it?”
“Hardly,” replied Trixie. “Although they were in fact projections, the amount of magical talent required to lend them such realism speaks for itself. I only came here to tell you that I was the one who messed it up.”
Maximilian shot Trixie a stern look. “That was you?”
“I didn't mean to, it just sort of happened. I really am sorry.”
“Young filly, do you have any idea how intricate my projections are? How complex?”
“No, I only glanced over projection magic when I was looking into your tricks. I was trying to learn how to do them myself.”
“Is that so? Young filly, the intricacy of my projections was designed to prevent anypony from discovering they were illusions. To unravel them, even by mistake, would have required a great amount of magical dexterity.”
“I think you might just be cut out for the stage young filly.”
“Stage magic is a fine art, but one that is dying out. For the longest time I feared that I would not be able to find someone from the next generation to pass the tradition on to. What is your name, young filly?”
“Trixie eh? Now that the truth has been revealed, I doubt very much that my reputation will remain untarnished. However, you may truly become the Great and Powerful Trixie.”
“It was the most exciting thing I could have hoped for,” stated Trixie, gesturing to her flank. “So much so that the instant he added my title, this appeared.”
“Wait,” cut in Scootaloo, “you make it sound like the kind of magic you do is different from regular magic.”
“There is a rather large difference, my little ponies; PRESENTATION!” As she emphasized the last word, a shower of sparks erupted behind Trixie. “Regular magic is used for a myriad of purposes, most of them mundane. Stage magic is meant to astound, to amaze, to outshine the mundane.”
“That still don't make it okay to go around humiliatin' other ponies,” said Apple Bloom.
“The Great and Powerful Trixie makes no excuses. If you want an apology for my previous actions then...”
Before Trixie could finish, there was a loud popping noise and a bright flash. When it subsided, the Crusaders found themselves joined by none other than Twilight Sparkle. “Trixie,” she said, turning to the other unicorn. “I've been waiting for you, what kept you?”
“These little fillies. They held me up and I ended up sharing my origins with them.”
“Oh. So you three are out hunting for cutie mark stories are you?”
“Yes Twilight,” replied Sweetie Belle. “We also wanted to talk to Trixie about how she embarrassed my sister and the others.”
“I thought that might be the case. Well, Trixie did apologize to the others when she came back to study magic with me. I guess they just never told you. Now if you'll excuse us, we're behind on what I had scheduled for today.”
The Cutie Mark Crusaders watched as Twilight and Trixie turned away from them and headed towards the library. The three of them took their places on the scooter and waggon once more, again resuming their trek to town hall. With any luck, there would be no further diversions.
Author’s Note: Since people keep asking, let’s say that Trixie is the 5th Great and Powerful Magician. However, since Maximilian suffered his accidental disgrace before the CMC were born, it stands to reason that they’d have never heard of him.
MLP:FiM; Lower Deck Chronicles
Part 4: Zecora's Zeal
Author's Note: I'm glad I was able to find a word that started with 'Z' that would fit.
“You young fillies must learn to take care, whilst you travel from here to there.”
The one speaking was currently doing so from underneath a heap containing herself, the Cutie Mark Crusaders and their overturned wagon. The crusaders pushed the wagon off of them before stepping off of the pony they had collided with. This pony was a unique sight in Ponyville; her grey and black streaked coat and mane unlike any other. She was adorned with large gold hoop earrings, gold rings around her neck and matching rings on her right front calf. Her cutie mark was a spiral sun, of a different style than most seen in town.
“We're sorry Zecora,” said Apple Bloom.
“I didn't mean to slam into you like that,” claimed Scootaloo. “You just kinda came around the corner when I wasn't looking.”
“You should perhaps look closer next time,” replied the zebra. “The problem could be yours, not mine.”
Zecora was unlike the other residents of Ponyville, which followed because she came from a distant land. The crusaders had never actually asked where she was from originally, although to them it didn't really matter. Twilight Sparkle probably knew, since she was also the one who first informed the ponies in town of Zecora's true nature. Prior to that, they had all thought she was some kind of evil enchantress, frightened by her appearance and reclusive nature.
“What brings you into town today Zecora?” asked Sweetie Belle.
“Yeah, ya usually only come into town once a month. What's th'occasion?”
“While my visits are usually farther apart, you could say I had a change of heart. I found myself wanting a snack, and was going to visit Applejack.”
“Oh, so you were headed to Sweet Apple Acres.”
“I was indeed, my young filly. I also desired some company. My visits to town are far between, which can get lonely, if you know what I mean.”
Zecora, unlike the other residents of Ponyville, did not live within the town proper. She lived in a hut of her own making within the border of the Everfree Forest. She gathered a variety of rare plants and herbs from the woods, which she used for a number of purposes. She concocted herbal remedies, bath additives and even a blend of tea that Twilight was rather fond of. She also seemed to be possessed of wisdom and insight that went beyond her years.
“Sis is busy apple bucking with Big Macintosh right now. I'm not sure if she's done fer the day yet.”
“If she is amidst such a vital task, for her time it would be rude to ask.”
“Nah, she'd probably be happy t'spend some time with ya, since it's rare to see y'around at all.”
“If there is no problem, I'll be on my way. But first, what are you three up to this day?”
“We were actually on our way to town hall.”
“You seem to be in such a hurry. Is there reason for me to worry?”
“Nah, we were just gonna talk to the Mayor. We wanted to find out how she earned her cutie mark.”
“Ah yes, I have heard tell of your crusade. You think hearing from others will be of aid?”
“Yup; we decided t'ask the Mayor since she's one of the oldest and most experienced ponies in town.”
“Not to mention her position. There must be an interesting tale behind how she came to be the Mayor of Ponyville in the first place.”
“An interesting thought, to ask your leader. Give her my greetings when you see her.”
“Hold on a sec.”
“Is there something else you require? Or perhaps a related desire?”
“Since we're on the subject of cutie marks, what about you Zecora?”
“Yeah, that's right! You're from a different part of the world altogether. Do cutie marks work the same where you come from?”
“They do indeed, for better or worse. They serve as a badge of one's purpose.”
“What does yours represent?”
“The sun on my flank is a traditional sign, from the native land of mine. It stands to speak of my skill; bringing health to those who are ill.”
“Whoa. Can you tell us how you got it?”
“I do not mind imparting my tale, but won't it make your plan derail?”
“I doubt it; the Mayor spends most of her time in the town hall unless there's an event going on.”
“Yup, so it ain't likely she'll be goin' anywhere.”
“Very well then, listen close. I shall try to avoid being verbose.”
“The native land that I hold dear is very far away from here. Wide open plains and little rain; hot and dry some might complain. Although Equestria has some arid zones, they make up almost all of my old home. Across the sea it stands apart, but I keep it close within my heart. Despite the distance between these places, we knew some things about the Equestrian races. My story begins as such one day, when a pony from Equestria came our way.”
Young Zecora awoke at the prodding of an older zebra mare. She yawned and stretched, then adjusted the gold ring on her neck and the matching one on her calf. She was looking forward to the near future, when she would be receiving another set of rings. When finished, she smiled at her mother and the two of them departed from the hut in which they lived.
Zecora and her mother approached the middle of several huts like their own, joined by a handful of other zebras. This small herd consisted of only a dozen ponies, only one other of whom was as young as Zecora. After exchanging morning greetings, the zebras were led off by an elderly stallion to a small lake nearby. There, they each took turns having a drink, with Zecora and the other foal going first.
After finishing their morning drink, the Elder led the herd back to their small village, where they would have a communal breakfast. However, as they reached their homes, something caught the attention of the Elder, who directed the others to look up. In the sky, there was what appeared to be a pony flying overhead. The zebras were mystified, having never seen such a thing before.
The pegasus seemed to take notice of the zebras as well, and turned back towards the village after flying over. He touched down just outside the circle of huts, but did not come any further. His coat was a solid white, contrasting with the striped zebras, and his mane was a solid, pale blue. A pair of wings lay folded at his sides, and his flank bore the image of a stethoscope, although none of the zebras knew it as such yet.
Although the zebras were a bit wary of the newcomer, the Elder approached him. “Pony of the sky, welcome to our home. I've never seen your like, where are you from?”
The newcomer placed a hoof on his chin, pondering for a moment before responding. “Greetings fair zebra folk. My name is Doctor Seth O'Scope, and I hope I haven't alarmed any of you. I come all the way from Equestria to visit this land.”
Zecora snickered as the flier spoke. His zebra was fairly good, but his words were rigid, lacking the fluidity they usually spoke with. She was shushed by her mother as the Elder spoke again. “Equestria lies on the farther shore; we have never met somepony from there before. Stories tell of the land of your home, why pray tell do you roam?”
“Let's see...” pondered Seth, again trying to choose his words. “I mentioned that I was a doctor. I mainly came out here to study local flora and fauna, particularly herbs with medicinal properties. I decided that I should take in some of the local culture as well while I'm here.”
“A colt of medicine I can respect, and no hostility I detect. That in mind, I welcome you. We shall see what we can do.”
“Doctor Seth stayed for a couple days, learning about us zebras and our ways. He also told us about himself and this land, other kinds of ponies and many things grand. I was excited to hear his tales, both of Equestria and his treating of ails. Although we got off to a warm start, such things can still fall apart. On the third day since Seth came, something bad happened, for which he was blamed.”
Zecora stood next to Doctor Seth, listening to him exchange medicinal practises with the village healer. She now had a second ring on her neck and calf, having volunteered to get them put on as a demonstration for their visitor. She listened eagerly to both of the older ponies, curious about the differences in the way they treated the sick.
The discussion was interrupted when the herd's other foal came running up to them. “Healer, please come quick! My mother is awfully sick.”
The Healer nodded to the foal and followed her back to the hut of her and her mother. Doctor Seth followed as well, eager to be of assistance. Since she was friends with the other foal, Zecora tagged along behind the others. Inside the hut, the foal's mother was laying on a straw mat, shuddering slightly and panting heavily. A quick check of her forelock told Seth that she had a high fever.
“When did she first show these signs?” asked the pegasus.
“It was earlier this morning; they started up with no warning.”
After a brief pause, the zebras were joined by the Elder. “I have heard that she is quite unwell,” he stated firmly. “Doctor Seth, what can you tell?”
“Actually, I've seen these symptoms not too long ago. This past year saw a rather nasty outbreak of pony flu back in Equestria. Normally that wouldn't be such a big deal, but this years strain of the virus was a little more resilient than is normally expected.”
“If this illness is from your home, how has it this way come?”
“As I said, this strain was highly resilient, and required an enhanced inoculation to be treated. That in mind, anyone who had previous caught the flu was still potentially a carrier of the inert virus. As such, when exposed to anypony who wasn't inoculated the virus could spread and become active again.”
Zecora shook her head in confusion; Seth was using a lot of big words that she was unfamiliar with. Still, she could understand that he seemed to know what was going on. The Elder cut in before she could as for clarification. “Doctor Seth, you did not answer clear. What has brought this illness here?”
“I'm afraid I did. I caught that flu last year, and became an inert carrier after I was inoculated.”
“Can you make her well? Or is your title show and tell?”
“I don't have any of the vaccine with me right now. I might be able to...”
“If her illness you cannot treat, a new trail I suggest you beat.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“We showed you kindness while you stayed, and this is how it is repaid?”
“I never intended for anything like this to happen.”
“A warning at least you could have given, before she became bed ridden. Now I suggest you leave her be. She shall be tended to by the Healer and me.”
“If that is what you wish, I shall go. Thank you for everything.”
With those words, Doctor Seth O'Scope departed from the zebra's hut. He unfurled his wings and took to the sky, departing from the village. Zecora was disappointed to see him leave, but was more immediately concerned for her friend's mother. However, she and the other foal were also chased out of the hut as the Elder and Healer attempted to treat the ailing mare.
“I was sad to see the pegasus depart, and that was only the problem's start. Days went by and things got worse, as though it were some kind of curse. Our Healer, try though he might, could not against this illness fight. He kept them stable with herbs and incense, but the lack of a cure tried his patience. Others became sick not long after; our tribe losing its heart and laughter.”
Two days after Doctor Seth left the small zebra village, Zecora awoke. Not from the prodding of her mother as she usually did, but on her own. Upon waking, she found that her mother still slept. She shuddered and panted as had her friend's mother. Zecora checked her forelock and found it warm; she too had fallen victim to the pony flu.
Zecora sought the Healer to help her mother, but like the others he could only stabilize her condition. He was still no closer to a cure than he had been at the beginning. Zecora realized that if nothing was done, soon they would all be sick and no longer able to look after one another. She also knew that the only one who might be able to make them all better was the Equestrian doctor.
That night, after everpony else had gone to sleep, Zecora remained awake. She slipped on a dark cloak and prepared to head out in search of the one who could help her mother and the others. He had mentioned during his stay that he had originally set up a camp along a nearby river, and hopefully that was where he returned to.
Zecora nuzzled her mother's snout before donning the hood of her cloak and slipping out of their hut. She made her way first to the watering hole for a drink, then began to follow its source. A small rivulet fed the pool, and eventually led to a larger river. It was along this river that doctor Seth's camp lay. Zecora had never wandered so far from her home, but she steeled herself for the sake of her mother and friends.
She travelled upstream for much of the night, keeping a steady pace so as to not exhaust herself. When the sun started to creep over the horizon, Zecora began to feel weary. It seemed as though she might not be able to find the doctor after all. However, when the sun lifted just above the ground, Zecora saw what she was looking for.
A large white tent surrounded by a few tables covered with equipment sat on the bank of the river. A large red cross bedecked with hearts told Zecora that it was what she sought, as Seth had mentioned it as the symbol for Equestrian medicine. Spurred by the discovery, Zecora broke into a trot approaching the tent. Before she could reach it, she suddenly felt dizzy. Her legs started to ache more than they should have for her travels. Her vision blurred, and she passed out just as she reached the tent.
Zecora awoke with a start, and found herself laying in a bed raised off the ground. There was an ice pack on her forelock, tied to a post over the bed by a string. She felt warm and her legs still ached, but she wasn't shuddering like the others who had fallen ill were. She suddenly became aware of a curtain surrounding the bed when it was drawn back, revealing none other than Doctor Seth O'Scope.
“Ah, you're awake,” said Seth. “Good to see. I was awfully surprised when you stumbled into my tent. You're lucky though; got here just in time.”
“I came to seek your medical skill; my mother and others have also fallen ill.”
“I thought that might happen,” said the pegasus, looking dismayed. “It seems you were starting to show signs of it as well. I gave you a bit of medicine though, so the symptoms are a little less severe.”
“Thank you doctor, but I must protest. Surely this is not your best.”
“No, it isn't. The members of your herd need to be inoculated before things get any worse. However, now that you're here I can finish recreating the vaccine.”
“Why me? What help can I be?”
“The only thing I was missing to create the vaccine was a sample of live virus. I couldn't get it from myself because I had already been vaccinated. I wasn't sure I'd be able to get it though, since your Elder cast me out.”
“I'm sure the Elder will change his mind, when you show up with a cure designed. I will help as best I can, if it will make the others well again.”
“With a sample of the virus from me, Seth had what he needed. His inoculation was soon completed. Along with the medicine he had earlier given me, the vaccine brought back my vitality. Later that day we returned to my tribe and to the others the vaccine was supplied. With help from the Healer and Seth's care, those who were sick were none the worse for wear.”
The zebras were gathered in the middle of their village, with the Elder and Doctor Seth standing apart. All of the zebras who had been infected with the Equestrian pony flu were there as well, having recovered after the inoculation and a couple days of rest. After staying to make sure the zebras had recovered, Seth was preparing to depart for good.
“Doctor Seth, you have my thanks,” stated the Elder. “You are welcome any time among our ranks. I must apologize for being brash; my sending you away was awfully rash.”
“It's not a big deal, I'm just glad I was able to help. You should really thank Zecora though; without her I wouldn't have been able to finish the vaccine.”
“Then she shall have our thanks too, come up here Zecora so we may all thank you.”
Zecora walked up the the Elder and Seth, then turned to face the rest of the tribe. “For my actions thanks is not required; your health is the only thing I desired. As well I have made a decision, I shall be leaving with Doctor Seth and expanding my vision. In helping you all I have come to see what I was truly meant to be. I wish to bring help to those in need, and such a task is far reaching indeed.”
As Zecora spoke, the other zebras look on, at first unsure of what to think. However, starting with Zecora's mother, they stamped their hooves in applause. As the others stamped, Zecora's flank tingled, and with a flash her cutie mark appeared. The spiral sun depicted there matched the sign of the village's current Healer, who looked on in admiration.
“I travelled the world with Seth for a spell, gaining knowledge of how to make others well. I took what I learned of other healings, and mixed in some of my tribes own dealings. My choice to settle here was from a desire to learn, as the Everfree Forest holds much to discern.”
“Wow,” remarked Sweetie Belle, “that was amazing.”
“Still not better than Rainbow Dash,” muttered Scootaloo.
“That's quite th'story Zecora,” said Apple Bloom, “but something's bugging me. If you're so keen on helping other people, how come you didn't become a regular doctor?”
“I was for a time, but Equestria has a lot already. None of them however, can keep their nerves steady. They would not approach the forest so creepy, so I went there myself to study more deeply.”
“But when you tried to come into town, we all thought you were some kind of creepy witch who was from the forest itself.”
“Those times I remember well, but that is all in the past. The bonds of friendship will much longer last.”
“Thanks fer sharin' yer story with us Zecora.”
“I was glad to share with you today, but now I shall be on my way.”
“We should get going too Crusaders, we might not be able to see the Mayor if it gets too late.”
Author's Notes: This one ended up being longer than I expected, although that might be in part because of the way the zebras talked. Once again, I must admit to knowing next to nothing about medicine, just like I knew nothing about deserts for Daisy's story. Again, I hope to have created a reasonable facsimile.
Additional Note: I should have mentioned that throughout the course of the sub-story, all of the characters are speaking the native Zebra language as opposed to Equestrian English. Their speech patterns largely owe to Zecora’s translation.
MLP:FiM; Lower Deck Chronicles
Part 5: Ditzy's Doctorate
Author's Note: WARNING! This story contains Doctor Whooves. If you take any issue with the Doctor being involved in the origins of Ditzy Doo/ Derpy Hooves, feel free to overlook this chapter.
After their surprise run in with Zecora, the Cutie Mark Crusaders had resumed their trek towards the Ponyville town hall. It was late in the afternoon when Scootaloo slammed the brake on her scooter, bringing the trio to a stop in front of their destination. Despite the suddenness of the stop, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle had learned to hold on to the wagon to avoid being thrown off. The three of them dismounted their ride and removed their helmets.
“Finally,” muttered Scootaloo. “It's about time we got here.”
“What're you fussin' about?” asked Apple Bloom. “It's not like we were doin' much else.”
“I know, I just hate all these distractions. It's like we can never get from A to B without going through half the rest of the alphabet first.”
“At least we got some good stories out of it,” commented Sweetie Belle. “Everypony in town seems to have a little something special to share.”
“I'll just be glad to get to the Mayor without any more interruptions.”
Their brief squabble aside, the crusaders turned their attention back to the Ponyville town hall. The cylindrical structure was one of the tallest buildings in Ponyville, with tall stained glass windows on the second floor and raised balconies around the outside. Several flags flew from the roof of the building, including Ponyville's town flag and the Equestrian flag. The last time the three fillies had been here was during the Summer Sun Celebration nearly a year prior.
The trio approached the front entrance of the hall, raised off the ground by a ramp. The three of them were halfway up the ramp when the door opened before them, as though to greet them. However, what emerged from the door was not quite what they were expecting. They were greeted not by the Mayor or her associates, but by somepony who the girls might never have expected to see there.
The grey coated, blonde maned pegasus that emerged from town hall was named Ditzy Doo. Her flank bore the image of a trail of bubbles, and she was wearing a pair of saddlebags adorned with an envelope. However, her most prominent feature was her right eye, which rolled around in its socket, giving her the appearance that she was looking in two directions at once.
Ditzy Doo was the local mail mare, but was notorious for being clumsy and scatterbrained. Twilight Sparkle was uneasy around her for a while after half the contents of a delivery truck had been dropped on her head. Rainbow Dash had gotten mad at her during the previous Winter Wrap Up, where she had flown north to retrieve the southern birds. Despite all that, she was also known for never being late with the mail delivery.
Noticing the Cutie Mark Crusaders approaching her on the ramp, Ditzy moved towards them. “Well, if it isn't the little crusader muffins,” she exclaimed in a sing song tone. Her fascination with muffins was another point of her notoriety.
“Hey there Ditzy,” replied Apple Bloom politely. “What're you doin' at the Mayor's office?”
“Weren't you supposed to be making a delivery to the Princess from Daisy?” added Sweetie Belle.
“I just finished taking care of that. It was my last delivery for today and I was checking tomorrow's route. Plenty of important ponies needing packages! Now I gotta get home; my little Dinky muffin is waiting for me.”
“Hold on,” interjected Scootaloo. “There's something that I've always been curious about.”
“Scootaloo, don't be rude,” warned Sweetie Belle. “She's probably really sensitive about it.”
“It's not that,” protested the pegasus; “I just wanted to ask about her cutie mark.”
“Why her?” asked Apple Bloom.
“I'm getting to that; Ditzy, you've been Ponyville's mailmare for quite some time right?”
“Yuppers! Rain or shine, fog or snow; I always get it where it needs to go!”
“But, your cutie mark doesn't seem to have anything to do with the mail. No parcels, letters, mailbags or anything. Just six bubbles.”
“Now that'cha mention it, that is kinda strange. What does a bunch of bubbles have t'do with deliverin' the mail?”
“You think my bubbles odd? But you don't know how I got them. You wouldn't be able to understand my cutie mark without knowing about how I got it in the first place.”
“She has a point; maybe there's some connection we wouldn't normally think of.”
“I get the feelin' we're about to find out.”
“I remember it like it was yesterday...”
“I was at summer flight camp in Cloudsdale like so many other young fillies. On that day, we had been split into separate groups. Half of us were taking flight training, and the rest were touring the weather factory. I was in the second group, learning how to make rainbows and clouds...”
Young Ditzy, presently clad in a protective white coat and hat, wandered through the hallways of the Cloudsdale weather factory. There were a handful of other pegasus foals with her, and their group was being led by one of the factory workers. Ditzy had been focusing her attention on the tour guide, intending to take in everything they were being shown about weather production.
Unfortunately, Ditzy had difficulties paying attention to anything for too long. Her right eye, which rolled around of its own accord, always seemed to be splitting her attention off towards something else. In this case, it drew her attention away from an upcoming corner, around which another pony happened to be trotting. The tour guide stepped through the intersection of the halls, followed by Ditzy, just as the other pony came careening around the corner.
The other pony collided with Ditzy, knocking her into the opposite wall. This act drew snickering from the other foals in the tour group, and a look of contempt from their tour guide. Ditzy was able to catch a glimpse of the pegasus that crashed into her as they untangled themselves. He was a soft brown colour, his mane spiky and wild. His lab coat fluttered to reveal an hourglass decorating his flank.
“Hahaha,” came the laughter of one of the foals. His name was Hoops, and he was a golden brown colour with a dark mane. Three basketballs made up his cutie mark. “Good job Derpy; guess you didn't see that coming.”
“He ran into me,” protested Ditzy, “and my name is Ditzy.”
“I'm terribly sorry about that,” replied the brown pegasus. “I was in such a hurry. See, I've got a bunch of things going on at once. Four things and a lizard to be precise, and I'm afraid I simply wasn't watching where I was trotting.” The pegasus spoke a mile a minute, never seeming to stop for breath between phrases.
Ditzy's tour guide seemed less than impressed with the actions of the newcomer. “I haven't seen you around here before. What in Equestria are you doing that requires such undue haste?”
“Ah, you'll have to forgive me, I'm new here.” The pegasus gestured to his front pocket, where an ID tag was attached.
The tour guide eyed the ID warily. “Very well Mr. Smith, but know that if you are caught taking reckless action again, it may result it termination of your employment.”
“Thanks, and don't worry; I'll be more careful next time.”
Ditzy looked at the alleged Mr. Smith curiously. His ID looked valid, but her right eye, again acting on its own, seemed to disagree. At a glance it seemed as though half his ID card was blank. Smith noticed that Ditzy was looking at him funny, both with her lazy eye and in the normal sense. He seemed to look back at her curiously as well, but shrugged before trotting off again.
Despite the strange encounter, the pegasus foals were still at the weather factory to learn, and the tour guide soon had them back on track. They had moved past the rainbow mixing pools and presently found themselves in the post production cloud chamber. The tour guide explained that after the clouds were formed, they were sorted and stored here before being sent off to where they were needed for weather.
The group was supposed to move quickly through the storage and on to the actual cloud production facility, but were held up when their tour guide was approached by another of the workers. “Miss foreman,” said the pegasus worker. “We have a problem.”
“What is it?” replied the tour guide. “I am in the middle of something.”
“I apologize, but it's somewhat urgent. Some of the clouds seem to be disappearing from this storage chamber.”
“Disappearing? What does that even mean?”
“As you know, we take stock of the clouds when they come in here after production before being sent to where they're needed for the weather. However, the secondary inventory tallies have been coming up light. About two dozen clouds are presently unaccounted for.”
“How can clouds simply disappear? Has anyone been breaking them up accidentally?”
“No ma'am, we always take the greatest care in that regard.”
As the tour guide continued to run through possible causes of the missing clouds, the foals began to get restless. Ditzy's eye again began to wander, seemingly trying to find something to amuse itself. Although Ditzy was normally irritated by the abstract meandering of her eye, this time something caught her attention that pulled her regular gaze as well.
That which caught Ditzy's eye was sudden, barely even registering, but it was there nonetheless. Some kind of shadow was moving around next to nearby stacks of clouds, but as soon as Ditzy tried to look straight at it, the phantom would vanish. She tried to follow it, her right eye drawn like a magnet. She watched as the thing, whatever it was, darted around the storage room before moving out of sight beyond the far wall.
Hoops seemed to notice Ditzy's fidgeting and smirked to himself. “What's the matter featherbrain? Chasing ghosts?”
Ditzy made no attempt to respond to the bully, her attention wholly placed on the mysterious thing moving around the room. “What is that thing?” she pondered as she began moving towards the last place she had seen it.
“Pfft, whatever,” muttered Hoops. “This is boring anyways; I'm heading out to the flight range. Barbel's out there today; maybe he'll have some new rips for Klutzershy and Rainbow Crash.”
Hoops and Ditzy both broke away from the tour group at the same time, each heading in different directions. Ditzy moved towards the back wall where she had last seen the bizarre shadow. What she found there was an open door, leading into a narrow hallway. It was there that Ditzy finally caught a proper glimpse of what she had seen sneaking around the cloud storage chamber.
Ditzy couldn't quite make out what the thing was as she looked at it, largely because she could only see an outline or an afterimage of it at any given time. From what she could tell it was some kind of reptile, but she could also see what looked like a bird's crest. The creature was darting around the hall as though trying to find another way out. After several minutes of being half observed by Ditzy, the creature took notice of her.
The creature seemed to look at Ditzy, although she found it hard to tell when she could only see part of the creature at any given time. Even so, it was painfully obvious that its attention was on her as it snarled and sniffed the air in her direction. The creature let out a horrible shriek as it began to charge down the narrow hall. Ditzy attempted to flee, but tripped over herself as she turned around. She shut both her eyes and braced herself for the inevitable.
The inevitable never came, as Ditzy was jerked back to her senses by a loud slam. She looked up to see that the door she had previously entered had been flung open, and another pony was standing between her and the beast. A quick glance told her it was the same brown pegasus with the hourglass cutie mark that had run into her before. He had ditched his lab coat and had some kind of contraption fastened around his neck, which held up a mirror and a bubble blowing wand.
“I thought I heard you come this way,” shouted the Pegasus towards the beast. “Have at thee!” As he shouted, the pegasus blew into his bubble wand, sending a stream towards the creature. It shrieked painfully as the bubbles struck what Ditzy assumed to be its eyes before turning and running off.
Ditzy wobbled to her hooves as the pegasus turned around. “Thank you,” she said, still a bit shaken.
“What's a little filly like you doing back here? This is a restricted area. C'mon, let's get you back to the tour group.”
“Hold on,” protested Ditzy. “What was that thing?”
“That snarling lizard beast thing, what else would I be talking about?”
“How'd you know it was a lizard?”
“It's kinda hard to miss.”
“Really? Typically when something's invisible it's very easy to miss. Hold on... that thing's invisible.”
“According to you.”
“Now that's curious.” For the first time since he started talking, the pegasus seemed to slow down. “I think I ran into you a little while ago. It was... Derpy wasn't it?”
“That's not really a whole lot better; might wanna think about changing that.”
“At least it's not as boring as 'Pony Smith'.”
“Nonsense, I know a bloke named Pony Joe back in Canterlot. One of the most interesting chaps you'll ever meet. Besides, my name's not Smith. Just an alias; I'm the Doctor.”
“So it's Doctor Smith?”
“No, just the Doctor.”
“Well then 'just the Doctor', care to tell me what that thing was?”
“Remember when I ran into you before and said I hand four things and a lizard going on? That was the aforementioned lizard. It's called a Cirrukaf and although it has the appearance of a predator, it actually feeds on clouds and vapour. The talons are mostly for defending itself. They usually inhabit gas giants, so I'm still trying to figure out how it ended up here in Cloudsdale. Although it's fairly obvious why it chose this place to stay; plenty of clouds to snack on.”
“Now on to the more pressing issue; how were you able to see it? A Cirrukaf has the perfect natural defence of being invisible, with the claws being a last resort if it's discovered. Yet somehow you were able to see it. I can't even do that; have to use a mirror and everything.”
“Well, I could really only half see it. Outlines and blurs, but nothing solid.”
“I take it you saw it out of your right eye; the one that's all wonky?”
“Hey, I can't help it! I was born with that eye... but yeah, it does seem to have a mind of its own.”
“I could hazard a guess at that, but a couple tests will do the trick.” The Doctor produced the ID badge he had been wearing earlier. “Now, close your left eye and tell me what you see.”
Ditzy did as instructed, hoping it would eventually lead to better answers about what was going on. “Blank piece of paper,” she replied.
“Brilliant!” The Doctor set aside the paper and produced another instrument, this one a metal cylinder with a blue light on the end. He moved it in front of Ditzy's eye, which followed it, the device emitting a buzzing noise as the Doctor waved it. “I see.”
“Interested in sharing at all?”
“Rudimentary psychic awareness localized in your left visual cortex resulting in a direct connection to the corresponding optic nerve, which is in turn connected to the right eye.”
“You, Miss Ditzy, have a psychic radar eye, which is a rather remarkable uniqueness. Another thing I find remarkable is how well you're taking all of this. Most ponies look at me like I'm crazy.”
“Not ruling out that possibility myself. However, because of my wall eye, people seem to think I'm some kind of moron. Someone treating me like I have an idea of what's going on is a nice change of pace.”
“Are you following what's going on?”
“Not at all.”
“Right then. Long story short, I'm chasing down a cloud eating alien lizard that's loose in this factory. I have to get it away from Cloudsdale in some form or another within the next hour or so, otherwise things will get very bad very fast.”
“Well, aside from the obvious possibility of a drought if it eats all the clouds, and maybe even parts of the city itself, some kind of huge, unprecedented phenomenon is going to happen within the next little while. A sonic... something, with potential repercussions that affect the very fabric of reality all across Equestria. If the Cirrukaf was exposed to that energy, who knows what it would be capable of.”
“How do you know that this sonic thing is gonna happen?”
“Picked it up on my timey wimey detector. However, with some help from your wonky eye I might just be able to get this wrapped up within the time limit.”
“How do you plan to do that?”
“Like this; Allons-y!”
As he spoke that odd little phrase, the Doctor held up his metal wand which let out a buzzing noise of higher pitch than before. As he lowered it the building became filled with the sound of a shrieking alarm. In the distance Ditzy could hear the sound of hurried hoof steps and slamming doors. She looked to the Doctor in her confusion, who simply smirked at her. He replaced the metal wand in his neck contraption and started heading towards the door back to the cloud storage chamber.
“What was that about?” asked Ditzy, following the Doctor.
“Just set off the monoxide alarms to get everyone out of the building,” came his reply. “But I also cancelled the outgoing signal so we won't have to worry about authorities showing up while we handle this.”
“What exactly is that thing anyways?”
“Sonic screwdriver. Now then, no more time for dilly dallying, we've got a Cirrukaf to catch.”
Ditzy shrugged and followed the Doctor, starting to realize that she would sooner get Hoops to stop being a bully than a straight answer from the strange pegasus. He led her through the Cloud Storage chamber, now deserted, straight through to the opposite side. He pushed through into the adjacent room, which was the cloud production facility. Numerous large, purple vats covered the floor, each equipped with a bellows and a mixing pole. All of them lay presently abandoned and inactive.
The Doctor made his way over to the nearest vat and started looking it over. Ditzy was not far behind. “So Doctor, what’s this plan of yours?”
“Simple really, just gotta set up a little trap.” As he spoke, the Doctor tossed a satchel to Ditzy. “What better way to catch a cloud eating lizard than with a nice fresh batch.”
Ditzy turned the satchel over and dumped its contents in front of her. “So, what am I supposed to do?”
Ditzy sifted through the contents of the satchel, which seemed to take up more space than the bag possibly had room for. Most of it seemed like useless junk: an apple, a few small rocks, an odd device consisting of beads on wires, a bottle of hoof soap, a stalk of celery, a pair of glasses and a muffin. Looking at the muffin reminded Ditzy that she hadn't eaten anything in some time. However, she pushed that thought aside in favour of the more pressing issue.
“What is all this junk anyways?”
“About half of it is lunch. Why, you hungry?”
“Starved actually,” replied Ditzy, again eyeing the muffin.
“Go ahead, help yourself. Can't have you zonkin' out in the middle of this.”
Ditzy shrugged and helped herself to the muffin, before again questioning the Doctor's intent. “So, what is it do you want me to do?”
Right before the Doctor responded, several of the cloud forming vats flared to life, spewing loose streams of vapour into the air. “Sorry about that, had to get all these things working on my own. Now, with all these things running the Cirrukaf will be on its way here for an easy meal, especially since there's no one in the way. Save for us of course.”
“You still haven’t told me what you want me to do.”
“Getting to that; you're almost as much of an attention seeker as that blue unicorn from Hoofington. Anyways, like I said, the Cirrukaf is on its way here, drawn by the clouds. Those vats'll shut down if I don't keep them running, taking the bait out of the trap. I need you to snap the trap shut.”
“Anyone ever mention that you talk too much?”
“All the time. Now, to do this I need your wonky eye. You can see the Cirrukaf without any aid, which is rather brilliant in and of itself. I don't know which vat the beast will go for, so I need you to watch for that. When it settles on one, take the bottle of soap and dump it in.”
“How exactly is a bottle of mild hoof soap gonna help?”
“Simple; it's toxic. Half that bottle straight would be enough to kill it. However, by mixing it in with the clouds, the concentration will be lowered to non-lethal levels. Kinda like how I drove it off earlier with the soap bubbles.”
“Toxic soap bubbles? That's getting ridiculous, even for you.”
“Rubbish, nothing's too ridiculous for me. You'd be surprised what's toxic depending on the biology you're dealing with.”
“And you're sure about this?”
“Bit too late to be second guessing myself now.”
With that last flip remark, Ditzy realized that the two of them were no longer alone in the cloud production chamber. A low pitched snarling noise permeated the room, which caused her right eye to wobble around, trying to find where it was coming from. In that moment, Ditzy realized she had little choice but to trust the Doctor. Even though he was off the wall and almost entirely nonsensical, he knew what was going on. He had given her a task and the tools to complete it, and she was going to do her part.
Ditzy closed her left eye and allowed her right to wander as it pleased. She craned her head up, trying to find the creature faster. After a few moments of nothing, she spotted it. The Cirrukaf was clawing its way up the domed ceiling of the chamber. Not wanting to be seen prematurely, Ditzy slipped in between two of the cloud vats, while keeping her eye trained on the beast. The buzzing sound of the Doctor's sonic screwdriver accompanied the beast's snarls.
However, the Cirrukaf seemed to take no notice of the two ponies or their workings, tantalized by the bounty of vapour filling the room. Ditzy's eye stayed glued to the creature as it dropped down from the ceiling, slowing its descent with a pair of scaly wings. This surprised Ditzy, as she hadn't been able to make out its full appearance before.
The Cirrukaf landed atop the cloud vat directly across from where Ditzy lay crouched. It opened its mouth, revealing no teeth but instead a mesh like fringe lining the inside of its jaws. The sound of a deep breath came from the creature as it began to draw in clouds from the vat. Satisfied that it was occupied with its meal, Ditzy made her move. She bit the top off the bottle of hoof soap and crawled over to the vat upon which the Cirrukaf was feeding.
Staying as silent as she could, Ditzy flapped her wings softly, lifting herself off the ground towards the top of the vat. She lifted the bottle above her head so that she could dump it in without falling into the creature's line of sight. However, as she reached the edge of the vat, she was shaken by a loud shriek from the creature. She looked up to see it staring directly at her, snarling viciously.
What came next happened almost too fast for Ditzy to comprehend. The Cirrukaf leapt at her, knocking her out of the air and pinning her to the floor. She could feel its talons pressing against her body, threatening to rip her asunder. She could barely watch as the beast brought its face dangerously close to hers, the stink of its breath stinging her eye. However, before it could strike, the Doctor made his move.
The Doctor had moved in right when the beast pounced on Ditzy, brandishing his sonic screwdriver. The high pitched sound of it filled the air. Ditzy watched as the bottle of soap she held crumpled violently, spewing all of its contents into the mouth of the Cirrukaf. The beast shrieked in pain, thrashing violently as it rolled off of Ditzy. It snarled weakly as it began to foam at the mouth. It twitched for several minutes after before falling still.
Ditzy's heart was in her throat after watching that scene. There were indentations in her coat from where the Cirrukaf had pressed its claws against her. She warily got to her feet and approached the beast's body. She gingerly prodded it with a hoof, eliciting no response. She looked to the Doctor, who bore a much more solemn expression than she was used to.
“Is it... dead?” asked Ditzy warily.
“Yeah,” he replied wearily, “whole bottle of soap is like giving it a straight dose of poison. Dead within moments. I'm so sorry that you had to see that, I really was hoping to take it alive.”
“You saved my life again.”
“Yeah, I'd rather see a young filly live through this than an old beast.”
“Yeah, ancient really. Probably why it was left here. Cirrukaf are pack animals normally, but they leave the old and the badly injured behind so as not to slow down the group. Still, an old beast is a dangerous beast; doesn't quite wanna give up on life. It's a safe bet that the energy of that sonic phenomenon would have kept it going, maybe even rejuvenated it. Could have done a lot of damage to the weather, caused a lot of problems for a lot of ponies. You could say it was my responsibility to make sure it didn't happen.”
“I kinda feel bad for it. Alone, old and maybe even scared.”
“You're very perceptive. If it's any comfort, it didn't have much time left naturally.”
“So it was really an alien? Something from another world?”
“Yup, doesn't get much more alien than this.”
“Then who or what does that make you?”
“I'll explain later. First things first, I need to properly see this body off. Being dead does a heap of bad for its invisibility”
The Doctor made good on his word, taking the Cirrukaf away from the weather factory and seeing it properly buried. Ditzy accompanied him, wanting to see this escapade through to the end. After the creature had been taken care of, Ditzy followed the Doctor back through Cloudsdale, still wanting answers to her innumerable questions. They eventually came to a stop in front of an oddly shaped blue wooden box.
“So Doctor,” began Ditzy, “are you ever going to give me a proper explanation.”
“If I did, do you really think you'd understand it all?”
“I can try at least.”
“Alright then. I'm an alien myself, and this box is my spaceship. I travel around the cosmos, seeing what there is to see, occasionally dropping in to save the day. I'm sort of like a dashing, intergalactic superhero.”
“That box is your spaceship? Kinda small ain't it?”
“I'd offer to show you around, but you're a bit young.”
“I take it that it's always this dangerous then?”
“You only got a taste of it. I'd feel bad putting a little filly like you right in the middle of that on purpose. Even one as brilliant as you.”
“So now what?”
“I'll be on my way. However... if I were to meet you again when you're older, would you be interested in coming with me?”
“Are you serious?”
“Of course. Travelling through space can get lonely y'know.”
“Well alright then, but how do you know you'll run into me again?”
“I've got a good feeling about it. By the way, you've got something on your backside.”
The Doctor gestured to Ditzy's flank as he spoke, causing her to turn her head back and look. Upon her flank she saw a trail of bubbles, not unlike the ones the Doctor had first fought the Cirrukaf off with. Ditzy was amused by this, as it appeared her cutie mark had come as a result of inadvertently saving Equestria. She looked back to the Doctor, intending to thank him, only to find he had shut himself inside the box. There was a sound like grinding metal as the box seemed to fade out of existence, leaving only a rush of hot air in its wake.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders looked at Ditzy quizzically. She had begun her story interestingly enough. She had told them she got her cutie mark at summer flight camp, only to trail off as she spoke. She had proceeded to remain silent for a good ten minutes, not saying a word. Her eye wobbled around during that time, as though she was lost in thought. She eventually turned her attention back to the girls, smiling merrily.
“Um... miss Doo,” said Sweetie Belle warily, “you kinda trailed off there.”
“Did I?” replied Ditzy airily. “I didn't mean to.”
“I don't suppose ya could tell th'rest of yer story,” asked Apple Bloom.
“I would love to girls, but I really must get home to my little Dinky muffin.”
Without another word, Ditzy flew off away from the crusaders. She turned back once as they looked quizzically amongst themselves, before shrugging it off and proceeding into the town hall building. She set down a short while later about halfway across Ponyville, just in front of her home. Right before she entered her home, she was met with a familiar grinding noise. She turned around to see that odd blue box standing right in front of her.
The door swung open and the Doctor poked his head out. “I think I forgot to mention that it's also a time machine.”
Author's Note: Whew, that was a long one. As you may have noticed, this story is quite different from the other ones so far. This is largely because I chose to do a bit of experimenting, with both my style of writing and certain characterizations (most notably Ditzy herself; never was fond of the 'mental challenged' interpretation of her). As a result, I will be understanding if this chapter isn't as well received. Additionally, the Doctor's appearance in this story was a unique occurrence for the LDC, in case anyone is iffy about his presence.
P.S. For the curiosity of any Whovians reading this, the Cirrukaf is loosely based on the Kafrayus from ‘Vincent and the Doctor’, with a few changes made for the ponyverse.
MLP:FiM; Lower Deck Chronicles
Part 6: Mayoral Methodology
Although the sustained silence of Ditzy Doo had confused the Cutie Mark Crusaders, they eventually shrugged it off as another of her eccentricities. They proceeded the rest of the way up the ramp and entered the Ponyville town hall, the door still wide open from Ditzy's earlier departure. Sweetie Belle, remembering her manners, closed the door behind the trio.
The inside of Ponyville town hall was largely occupied by a single audience chamber. Several small archways could be seen on the far side of the chamber, leading to adjacent rooms. On the upper level of the hall was a large internal balcony, typically used by the Mayor or other ponies of importance to give addresses to the citizens of Ponyville.
“So, which of these offices is the Mayor's?” asked Scootaloo.
“How am ah supposed to know?” replied Apple Bloom. “Ah've only been in here once.”
“Yeah,” added Scootaloo. “The last time we were all here was during the Summer Sun Celebration last year. We only ever gathered here with everypony else, before things got crazy.”
“Then we'll just have to check each and every one of them!”
In a blur the three foals were off, heading towards the nearest of the small arches. Behind the arch was a curved alleyway that seemed to connect to all of the other arches. A small hallway led the trio to the rear end of the hall, where a door stood alone. There was no name tag or other markings on the door to indicate who might be occupying the room.
Having no better plan for finding the Mayor, the crusaders pushed through the door and into the office. Inside they found well kept desk, several filing cabinets and a bulletin board on the side wall. The trio sped around the room, investigating everything they could reach. A name tag sat on the desk, which Scootaloo snatched to find out the room's occupant. The tag simply read 'Epona Mare – MAYOR'.
“I guess we found the Mayor's office,” muttered Scootaloo. “It's kinda boring in here; I was hoping for something a little less... plain.”
“I didn't know the Mayor's name was Epona,” said Sweetie Belle, taking the tag from Scootaloo.
“Mayor... Mare?” said Apple Bloom quizzically. “Ah never woulda expected that.”
“Aw, even her name is boring. I'm starting to think this was a bad idea.”
“Just because she seems ordinary doesn't mean she's boring.”
“Yeah. Ah bet she's got a great cutie mark story.”
“I'm still waiting to be impressed. If we ever do this again, I get to choose who we ask.”
“You chose Rainbow Dash last time though.”
“And it was awesome. I rest my case.”
As the girls argued amongst themselves, the true occupant of that office made her way back from the other end of the town hall. The tan coloured mare wore a green cravat around her neck and a pair of spectacles sat on her muzzle. Although she didn't quite look it, her silvery-grey mane gave away that she was fairly old. Her cutie mark was a scroll wrapped in blue ribbon.
Having deposited some articles in the Ponyville archives, the Mayor had finished her work for the day. She was heading back to her office to lock up when she noticed that the door was ajar and there was noise coming from inside. She sighed and pushed through the door, although she wasn't expecting to see three fillies rummaging around. Upon seeing her, the crusaders immediately stopped what they were doing. Unfortunately Scootaloo knocked the bulletin board off the wall as she hurried to replace a few things on it she had been looking at.
“It's you three,” stated the Mayor. “I thought Ditzy had gotten lost on her way out. She managed to knock over my board while she was in here too.”
Scootaloo grinned nervously and glanced back at the fallen notices. “Sorry Miss Mayor.”
“Never mind that though, what are the three of you doing in my office? I was just about to leave for today. Had I not come back here you might have gotten locked in.”
The crusaders exchanged guilty looked before responding. “We actually came here looking for you, but didn't know where to find you,” answered Sweetie Belle.
“We were gonna look round s'more,” added Apple Bloom, “but since we found yer office first we figured it'd be easier to wait for ya t'get back.”
“While I won't begrudge you your curiosity, I would advise that next time you ask permission before entering my office.”
“We will. Now, we actually came to ask about your cutie mark, and how you became Mayor of Ponyville. Do you think you could tell us?”
“My cutie mark? Nopony's asked me about that in ages. My position is a different story altogether. Although I doubt you'd find that one of any real interest; campaigning and politics and such.”
“See, boring. What did I tell you?”
“Scootaloo, really. Remind me to get big sister to teach you about tact.”
“It's alright; it certainly would be boring by your standards I'm sure.”
“How about your cutie mark then?”
“That one will likely be a more interesting tale. I got it when I was around your age, right here in Ponyville.”
“About time we found somepony local.”
“Never mind her miss Mayor. Please continue.”
“As I was saying, I got my cutie mark when I was around your age. My early life was fairly ordinary; go to school, come home and do some chores, then go play with my friends. However, through all of that I was a very quiet little filly. Not quiet in the sense of volume mind you, but rather that I never seemed to say much.”
Young Epona trotted briskly through the streets of Ponyville. It was wintertime, but the sky was clear and the sun shining above made it feel much warmer than it was. School was out for the winter holidays, and Epona was on her way home after a rousing snowball fight with her friends. She was heading home to speak with her parents about something she had been looking forward to all winter.
Winter for that year would soon be drawing to a close, which meant that it would be time for all of the citizens of Ponyville to band together for Winter Wrap Up. Epona had been looking forward to this year's wrap up because it was just this year that she had turned old enough to help all on her own. Ponies had to be a certain age to be able to manage certain tasks, with the most difficult ones handled by the fully grown ponies.
Epona was on her way home to ask her parents which task she would be assigned. She didn't yet know if she would be grouped with the animal or plant team. She doubted the weather team would be an option considering her age and the fact that most of the weather duties fell to pegasi. She also considered the fact that her parents had always been on the plant or animal teams as far back as she could remember.
All of these thoughts ran rampant around Epona's head as she reached her home. She entered through the front door, removing her boots and scarf before proceeding inside. She went around her house, looking for her father. She found him on the second floor in his study. Epona's father had a steel grey coat and a tan mane, an inversion of her own colour scheme. His cutie mark was a quill and inkwell.
Upon seeing his daughter, the stallion quickly walked over to her and gave her a quick hug. “Hello dear, did you have fun with you friends?”
“Yes,” she replied. Before she could say anything else, her father resumed talking.
“Great, it's always good to see a smile on your face. Now, I know you've only just gotten home but I have some business to go take care of. I have to discuss some of the plans for this year's Winter Wrap Up with the Mayor.”
“I know you're looking forward to it this year since it'll be your first time participating. However, since it's your first time your mother wants you to stick with her. I hope you don't mind being on the animal team.”
“Or if you'd rather, I can convince her to let you come with me on the plant team.”
“That'd be fine too, I guess.”
“Alright then. It's only a couple days away so we've got to get everything in order. I'll be back later. Tell your mom I love her.”
With that, Epona's father departed from the study on his way to meet with the Mayor, leaving her by herself. She sighed, partly from relief, but also from a bit of fatigue. She had wanted to discuss the options she had for participating in Winter Wrap Up. Instead her father had dominated the conversation and more or less told her what she would be doing. She didn't mind being by the side of one of her parents her first time around, she had just wanted to have more to say about it.
“I'm not exactly sure why, but almost any conversation I had tended to go more or less like that one. I had lots of thoughts and ideas, but I could never seem to get them out of my mouth before somepony else started talking. It wasn't so bad, I never had any trouble communicating or making friends. I just had this desire to be able say everything I had going through my mind. I would get my chance sooner than I thought, on the day of my first Winter Wrap Up.”
Epona woke up bright and early on Winter Wrap Up day, earlier even than her own parents. She bounded into their room at the crack of dawn, demanding that they wake and get ready alongside her. They begrudgingly accepted, joining their daughter for an early breakfast. Epona's mother bore a bright red coat and yellow mane, with a small songbird adorning her flank. Both Epona's mother and father donned calf bands representing their Winter Wrap Up teams, and each carried a smaller duplicate for their daughter to choose from.
Epona still hadn't made up her mind about which parent to join for the day. She had a couple ideas, but her father spoke before she had an opportunity to vocalize them. “Must not be easy to just pick a team. You've only watched before, so you don't know what it's like first hand.”
“Experience is always a good idea,” chimed in her mother. “She doesn't have any yet, but she also doesn't have a formal team assignment.”
“That you don't have to stay with one team the whole time.”
“So how about-”
“You can spend the morning with me working on the fields. We can get together for our lunch break, after which you can do some animal work with your mother.”
“Alright then, let's get going so we don't miss the Mayor's address.”
“As thrilled as I was to finally be participating in Winter Wrap Up, there was still something that kept bothering me. I know my parents never meant to keep cutting me off, no pony ever did. I just couldn't seem to get my ideas straightened out fast enough to speak them properly before somepony else chimed in. Even so I went about my first Winter Wrap Up with great glee. I carried seeds for my father in the morning, which he planted in the wake of the plough pulling ponies. In the afternoon I help my mother clean out animal dens while other ponies helped them wake up and stretch out after their hibernation. It wasn't until after everything had been wrapped up that it all came together for me.”
Epona, in the company of both her mother and father once again, gathered along with everypony else in front of Ponyville town hall. All of the snow and ice had been removed, the sound of southern birds filled the air and all the other signs of spring brought about by the Winter Wrap Up were present. Back then the town hall lacked its upper level, and instead had only the raised platform around its base. Upon this platform sat a podium from which the Mayor would address the town.
The Mayor at the time was a white coated, green maned pegasus named Merryweather, who bore a small sun behind a cloud as a cutie mark. She approached the podium from within the crowd, still wearing her armband for her duties as part of the weather team. When she reached the podium, she cleared her throat loudly, quieting the crowd and calling all eyes on to her.
“Fillies and gentlecolts,” began Mayor Merryweather, “thank you all once again for a terrific winter season, capped off with one of our quickest Winter Wrap Ups ever.”
The Mayor paused for a moment to allow a stamping of applause from the crowd to flare up and die down before she continued. “I express my due gratitude to our team leaders, and in turn everypony else for their hard work and dedication.”
Another round of applause came up from the crowd in a wave, eventually coming to Epona. She had heard the Mayor's speeches a couple times before, but this was the first time she heard them after being directly involved. She stamped her applause as loud as any of the adult ponies, having gained a true appreciation for all the time and effort that went into bringing spring to Ponyville.
For a moment, as the applause was dying down, Epona thought Merryweather was looking straight at her. She shrugged it off as the Mayor resumed her speech. “There's one last thing I'd like shared with everypony. My secretary and good friend made a request for today. Today marks the first time that his daughter has participated in a Winter Wrap Up, and he wanted to make it extra special for her. Now I would like to call Epona Mare to the stand, so that she can say a few words.”
Epona was stunned silent for a minute before being prodded by her father. She shot him a huge smile before turning away and running up to the platform. Merryweather stepped away from the podium and nudged a small box next to it for Epona to stand on. Taking her place on the podium, Epona looked out at the crowd. All eyes were on here, and no one said a word.
Epona took a deep breath as she thought about what to say. However, unlike what usually happened, nopony began to speak or cut her off. All the attention was on her and she was free from interruptions. At that moment something amazing happened to Epona. All the thoughts running through her head seemed to suddenly straighten out. Usually when she tried to speak, she couldn't get her thoughts organized fast enough. Now that everypony was quiet and attentive, she finally knew what to say.
Epona cleared her throat once before she spoke. “Thank you everypony, it is a great honour to be able to address you all like this. Watching Winter Wrap Up from without, I never truly understood what it entailed. Shunting snow, preparing plants; these things are what Winter Wrap Up involves, but not what it is. Upon being a part of it for the first time, I truly realized just how special this day is to all of us. Everypony in Ponyville working together for a common goal; laughing, singing, sharing and being there for each other.”
Epona paused for a moment before continuing. “Participating in Winter Wrap Up was something I had been looking forward to ever since my last birthday, but I never expected that I would get so much out of it other than a new experience. The spirit of community and dedication that was shown today is nothing short of spectacular, and I am glad that I finally got to be a part of it. I look forward to seeing this spirit come forth again next year, and for many years to come. Thank you all.”
Epona finished speaking, and everything was quiet for what felt like an eternity. Then, all of a sudden, everypony burst into stamping, applause and cheering the likes of which Epona had never heard. She barely noticed though, as she was much more shocked by herself than by anything else. She had never spoken like that before, feeling almost like the words had not come from her own mouth. She was so surprised that she didn't even notice the tingling sensation in her flank, as her cutie mark flared into existence.
“It wasn't until I got home later that night that my father pointed out my cutie mark,” concluded the Mayor. “I would never have expected my talent lay in public speaking back then, but there it was.”
“I thought it was a little strange,” stated Sweetie Belle. “You always give such wonderful addresses during special events; I never would have suspected you weren't always so gifted with words.”
“That's it?” blurted Scootaloo. “You got a cutie mark for talking?”
“Were you even listenin'?” barked Apple Bloom. “That was one of the most amazin' speeches ah've ever heard.”
“It was a wonderful story, really.”
“I guess, but it could have used more action.”
“Thank you for listening, I used to love sharing stories like this. However, it's time for me to be going, and you three should probably think about heading home soon too.”
The Mayor's tale concluded, the Cutie Mark Crusaders had gotten what they wanted, except perhaps Scootaloo. The three of them followed the Mayor out of town hall, which the Mayor locked up behind them before departing for her own home. The crusaders gathered around the scooter and wagon, donning their helmets and boarding the vehicle.
“Well, that was a nice break,” stated Apple Bloom.
“We got some good stories today, so I'm happy,” added Sweetie Belle.
“Yeah, but I think we've had enough for now,” said a rather disgruntled Scootaloo. “We'd best get back to our regular crusading tomorrow, otherwise we'll spend all our time hearing about other ponies cutie marks and never getting our own.”
“Good point; actions speak louder than words... or something.”
“Oh well; let's go to Sugarcube Corner, I could use a snack before heading home.”
Author's Notes: And there you have it; the Lower Deck Chronicles has now concluded (or has it?). I decided to abridge the majority of the Winter Wrap Up action, since we all know how it goes already thanks to the respective episode. As for the Mayor's name, I didn't feel right just calling her 'little Mayor' before she ever got the position, so I gave her a name that I thought sounded nice. Hope you won't hold that against me.
As for the Chronicles themselves, I have been receiving a few requests for additional stories, but presently I don't have anything planned (for this project anyways). I was thinking that at some point, once I have some more ideas mapped out, that I'd do another set of tales as a separate narrative. Still, I hope you've all enjoyed reading these tales as much as I've enjoyed writing them. Thanks for reading.