The Pain of Plants, Part 1
by Hugo V
We were the mades’ maids, living the low life under the high. Technically I was a servant, but I think my wordplay was too clever to pass up. Laying lower than the luscious lap of luxury looked to some, lamentable, but to me was just how I had envisioned happiness to be when I had first signed up (or rather, chosen) to serve. It was twenty years ago, the events that I am about to recall, though it feels as if it were but a mere ten. I hope that you shall find it in your tiny pony-hearts to excuse me of any trespasses in memory, but two decades can stretch on for so long when you lack things to fill it with.
Just ask Princess Luna!
So early on and I’ve already cracked an offensive joke, a pretty decent start if you ask me so let’s up the stakes and actually begin for real this time. For those of you who have never had the immense pleasure of visiting the sleepless spires and noisy nooks of Canterlot, I have a single piece of advice: plan in advance. If somepony had told me that before I took the tiring trip, then perhaps I wouldn’t have been stuck with two heavy suitcases and nowhere to rest them. Although if that were the case (if you’ll pardon that particular pun), I would never have met Pastel and ingratiated myself into the position of her assistant at the tiny, quaint business of ForEvergreen. Ah! Those were the early but late days, spending night after night tending to business calls from disgruntled customers with too tight of belts (not literally of course, ponies don’t often wear belts).
I suppose that I should describe myself before venturing any further, shouldn’t I? I’m a rather tall, slightly built stallion earth-pony with a short-cropped black mane and white fur. I also have lovely emerald-hued eyes which my mother says are beautiful, though nopony but her as ever really mentioned them. That’s all you really need to know for now. Oh! Almost forgot! My name is Field, that’s actually very important.
As I was previously saying, many times I had to deal with customers during the night. Why did you have to do that Field? I hear you ask. ForEvergreen sounds like a flower shop! It was! Astute observation sir or madam reader/ess. To answer that I need not use more then two words: Whining Will’o’wisps. You’ve probably never heard of them before, and for good reason too. Most wilted from dehydration after their owners were either unwilling or unable to get within a mile of the screaming photosynthesize-ers. They would of gone extinct if I hadn’t kept one for myself. The trick to quieting them is softly rubbing right at the base of the petal. Talking to them helps as well, and I found myself doing that more and more regularly the less and less Pastel paid attention to me. She had good reason to though, for Princess Celestia had made ForEvergreen her personal place of purchasing botanical goods and I often thought it peculiar that she didn’t just order a guardsmen or confidant to pick up whatever she might need.
Not knowing when another visit from the princess would be, Pastel was always diligently sweeping and sweating away every waking second in prideful preparation of any surprise guest appearances from Equestria’s ruler, and it bothered me. It really did. One humid spring day Celestia trotted into the store and greeted my superior, who immediately bowed. I just sort of stood there nonchalantly, though I must’ve done something right because she gave a hearty laugh and asked my name.
“Field.” I said with the big toothy smile of a pony whose had a few too many (I hadn’t though - too early in the day).
“It is a pleasure to meet you Field.” It was around this point that Pastel really started getting nervous. She knew just how horrible my pony-to-pony skills were and tried with all her might to keep me in the back whenever there were customers, prized or otherwise.
“It’s a beautifully bright day outside, wouldn’t you say Miss?” By then I was just trying to see how pale I could get Pastel’s face to turn, regardless of future consequences. Princess Celestia moved from one side of the isles to the other but still kept respectful eye contact with me as our conversation progressed.
“It is! The weather ponies are certainly doing there job.”
“Are they really though?” Pastel was sheet-white as the princess looked up at me quizzically. “The forecasts for this month have really been neigh-ther here nor there,” I continued, unabated, “and a tad inaccurate if you’ll allow me to say.” Pastel was cloud-white. “Not knowing what days will be warm or cold definitely has an effect not only on us and our more dependable plants, but other ponies stands as well.” Pastel was purgatory-white. Mission accomplished.
“I-I-I am SO sorry your highness,” she stuttered, rushing me out of the room.
“Please, allow Field to stay for just a few more minutes if you will? I very much appreciate true honesty and often find at times that it’s,” she gave a gorgeous smile, “neigh-ther here nor there.”
“Oh! Of course your highness. Of course!”
“And Pastel, address me more personally. We know each other well enough I’d think.” I felt a twinge of guilt for putting her in that position so I quickly intervened.
“Anything you’re looking for in particular Miss?”
“Indeed I am, a Whining Will’o’wisp if you have one.” My heart sunk like a rock as Pastel responded with a cheery ‘yes’ and ran upstairs to get mine, the very last. She returned with a brown-clay pot in her hooves that matched the cutie-mark on her flank. Celestia craned her head down to see the astounding plant. It’s petals were so broad and clean it seemed as if, by magic, you could reach your hoof in between the edges and into another dimension. Then the funniest thing happened and I’ll remember it for as long as I live. It screamed. The most powerful scream I’ve ever heard it scream. The noise echoed up and down the cobblestone streets and most everypony outside stopped and stood where they were, holding their blistering ears. Celestia was quite startled and reared up, almost crashing through the ceiling. I instantaneously set about rubbing the top of its stem until its tiny lungs only emitted the shrill of a tea-kettle, then nothing at all. If I could capture the look on anypony’s face and keep it forever, it would have to be Pastel’s right then and there. Also Celestia’s.
“I very much apologize, she doesn’t do well with ponies she isn’t familiar with.” I explained, “The poor thing won’t even let Pastel near her.” You know how there are those moments that you can’t really tell are important while they’re happening, but gain real significance with the benefit of hindsight? Those events that were absolutely necessary for getting you where you are today? This was one of those moments.
“Well,” the princess murmured, still recovering, “I must own that flower if its the last thing I do,” I sighed and understood the inevitable, “though I see that it already has a caretaker.” She tapped her hoof on her chin in thought, then exclaimed cheerily, “I’ll take them!”
“I’m sorry Princess Celestia? Them?” Pastel asked.
“If it’s alright with you, I shall have no choice but to take both. Unless you’d like to keep Field, I wish to employ him at the royal castle.” I was as surprised as her, but didn’t show it. My gleeful grin was just too willingly wide to let anything past.
I’ll acceptably admit that I was utterly underwhelmed when I first arrived at Canterlot Castle’s drawbridge, suitcases once again in tow. The wood seemed dated, the perimeter gardens were nothing to gawk at (though there was a rather friendly, young mule working to the best of his ability), and the outlying marble walls seemed unclean. Much like food, it looked fined from a good distance away, but heaven forbid you actually take the time to look closely and perhaps find a hair. Just keep in mind that this was long before the new millennium's Grand Galloping Gala and even before the new millennium itself. Wow, I’m old; what’s even worse is that I’ve been starting to feel it lately.
Princess Celestia personally greeted me at the gates and magically levitated my bags as we walked along side each other. I was grateful for the help. She began to speak, though not as bouncily as she had back at ForEvergreen.
“You talked about the weather-ponies the other day. What of them?”
“I’m glad you remembered.” I actually was, “A lot of amenities rely on the weather in one way or another, and if it is unreliable, and cannot be relied on,” I was no longer a passenger on my own train of thought, “I just think that there should be a stricter, more enforced schedule is all,” Then I realized who exactly I was speaking to and added a sudden, “Princess.”
“Please, call me Celestia. Celly if your feeling dangerous.” She chuckled and I did as well. A real chuckle, not one of those pity ones that you give to someone out of spite for a bad joke or awkward situation.
“Alright, Celly.” I winked, “See what I’m trying, and failing, to say though?”
“I do, and I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. I just try to be fair with all of my subjects and sometimes find myself giving too much leeway.” The white alicorn frowned.
“Hey there, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re doing a great job!” I playfully punched her on the side.
Out of seemingly nowhere, a dozen or so royal-guard ponies rushed towards and beat me mercilessly to the floor. Celestia gasped in horror as they pried my hoofs behind my back and pushed my cheek against the cold stone. The stallions were holding me down so tightly I couldn’t even think of moving, not that their stiffly placed pikes allowed me to.
“Guards! OFF OF HIM THIS INSTANT!” The gold-armoured pegusi complied without a single expression of guilt, then flew off to resume their positions. “I am very sorry dear Field, they can really overreact sometimes.” I stumbled to my hooves and shook myself, laughing nervously.
“Yeah, It’s fine. No need to apologize, I was over the line.” With that I gave her another play-punch and received such a stern eyeing from my aggressors you’d think I was a pupil. Despite this, we both giggled. After another few minutes of conversation, we reached where I was to stay, and what a place, I’ll tell ya’. Opposite the door there were three large, rectangular panes of glass that led all the way to a circle on the ceiling, allowing the viewer a clear show of the sun as it slid merrily along its usual path. At the beginning of these natural tapestries was my bed, and all around that were desks, books, and quills of very varying sizes. One specific wooden bench rose higher then the others. Perched upon it was my Whining Will’o’wisp which squealed with excitement at my presence. It’s rather tough to describe a room such as the one I stayed in, but know this: it was the physical interpretation of the word, wow.
“This is certainly...” I was completely awe-struck. “Something.” Princess Celestia could tell that I approved, and thus left to attend her princess-ly duties. I approached my friend, the Will’o’wisp I had named Loreign (after a song I had heard), and nudged her gently under the frame. So much was happening so fast! First the meeting with Celestia (who had seemed to take a liking to me), then the move, and now this room. This gloriously inspiring room. In this repeated revelry I wondered wearily what to spend my time with now that I was here. My mind began to race with thoughts never before pondered: why did she bring me here in the first place? Do I have a job? Is this my job? I smiled at the prospect. I then remembered the castle’s worrisome form. Didn’t the princess have people to provide maintenance to such areas? I got tangled in this jungle of predicaments and only escaped when my wall clock read seven-thirty p.m.
The sky was a dusky blue and stars had already begun to peak out from whatever cosmic darkness that held them prisoner during the daytime. Since my new abode had a balcony, I used it, leaning my head upon the warm rosewood bar. Suddenly a jolly little tune began to rise from far away, a distance that became gradually smaller. I heard the muffled singing, but eventually it was muffed no more. The lyrics were sad but the rhythm itself was upbeat.
♫ I can’t live without you, I can’t love without you,
I can’t sleep,
and I can’t dream,
I can’t really seem, to do anything,
ya’ know I,
I can’t see without you, I can’t be without you,
I can’t hide,
and I can’t bolt,
I know that you’re not just, some regular colt ♫
The same lines were reiterated, then followed by a catchy chorus. I identified it as a slight alteration of a classic by Berry Mane-ilow. Whistling along, I searched for the source which expertly eluded my field of vision. I gave up after a little while as the song began to fade, but my heart abruptly jumped at the sight of another pony. She was almost at the end of the road, maybe fifty or so yards away when I spotted her. A dark green coat and light green mane were all that I could distinguish in the dim lighting.
“HEY!” I yelled at the top of my lungs, and more! She turned around and looked confusedly back and forth until I repeated myself. I couldn’t make out her face very well but I thought I saw a gentle look of amusement. “You have an enchanting voice!” She beamed up and thanked me, then trotted on her jolly way. Even though she was a complete stranger, I wish we had been given a better opportunity to talk.
All in all, I felt more at home then I ever had.
“The Ruler of Equestria, Princess Celestia, is requesting your company in the grand dining hall.” Came a steady voice of nobility from the doorway; I, of course, was already up and organizing my belongings on the numerous shelves and tabletops provided. He was a charming stallion, tall and blue with a grey mane. Before he left I asked him his name, it was Hazul Pennywhistle. I learned that he grew up in a place called Salt-Ridge and enjoyed living on a farm more than doing menial tasks for high-ranking officials. I also found out that he had an interest in botany, so I allowed him to see Loreign. He was very impressed with how well I took care of her.
After that I rushed off towards the ‘Grand Dining Hall’ where the princess was waiting patiently to see me. I’ll admit, I did take a little too much time talking to my new friend Hazul. The charming smile that greeted me must’ve raised the temperature of my heart by at least a single degree.
“Miss Celestia!” I exclaimed, enjoying the sound ‘s’ and ‘c’ made as they melded together to make it seem like a single word, ‘misselestia’. “Hello, I’m late aren’t I? I was just talking to one of the nicest gentlecolts you’ll ever meet, his name is Hazul Pennywhistle. Do you know him?”
“I was the one who sent him over.” She giggled.
“That’s right! Pardon my absent-mindedness. How are you on this majestically magical morning?” Just a fun factoid: two things that don’t mix are alliteration and stuttering, both of which I had problems with when I was a young foal. Luckily I managed to outgrow the problem, at least in the verbal sense.
“I’m feeling well Field.”
“No you aren’t.” The look on Celestia’s face was priceless. I think I was the first one in a very long time to actually talk back, and judging by her scowl I don’t think she liked it in the least. Several butler-ponies were shocked.
“While you are in my company I expect to be treated as a superior.”
“No you don’t, that’s the exact opposite reason why you brought me here.” I was on a roll. “See I’ve been thinking about it a little, just a little bit, and I now understand why you ‘hired’ me.” The other servants left the room with a start.
“Watch your words.” Her stare grew stern, but I returned it with a mischievous grin.
“You’re lonely. Simple as that. Such a small word, lonely, only six letters, yet it carries such a deep impact on the ponies it affects. You miss Luna, she was probably the only one you could carry on a comfortable conversation with, somepony to challenge you. No you’re better or I’m better, just equals.” I gave a disconcerting look, hoping to heaven and hell that I wasn’t sent to a planet the younger sister wasn’t currently occupying. “Am I right?” When she dismissed me harshly from the room I figured that I had sort of rushed into things. But hey, life’s only for the living, right? I guess the rest of the time she spent eating her breakfast in that large and empty rock cadaver served as a reminder, for she came by my quarters later to talk.
As a side note: if it seems as though I’m rushing through the more specific details of the day, it is because I am. Because the next part is currently very vivid in my mind, I’d like to jot it down before my recollection slips (as they often have the unfortunate tendency to do at my age).
In response to a few gentle knocks, I opened the door to my accommodation.
“Good evening Princess Celestia.” I knew that we were on informal terms but still didn’t want to overstep any boundaries that had remained intact after the earlier altercations.
“Good evening to you as well Field. May I come in?” I laughed at the notion and offered an inviting hoof. “Thank you very much.” She sat down on a scarlet pillow, wings resting listlessly on her pale back. The way the setting sun reflected off of her golden, gemstone-incrusted jewelry was truly a sight to admire. “I-.” She didn’t get a word out before I cut in.
“I was out of place, completely and totally out of place.” I wasn’t lying either, I truly felt remorseful in acting the way I did, I just often times mix up what’s right to say with what’s wrong without even noticing. I told her those exact words and she gave an expression of understanding. I was relieved that we were on better terms again and as the night progressed we settled down into looser, more personal conversation.
“You’re right though Field, I am...” the mighty alicorn paused, “lonely. I miss my sister, I miss my old friends, and I feel like I never allow myself to make new ones because-” She bit her lip.
“When I was younger I had a pet parakeet named Sauce, a Sabred Green-Tail. That particular breed of parakeet never lived long and I knew that, but was still very upset when he died. So I got another, Sauce two I cleverly named him. And he died as well, natural causes of course, nothing suspicious. I got another, then another one after that. I stopped, not because I wasn’t allowed to get anymore birds or because my family was running out of burial plots in the backyard, but because I just didn’t care for birds all that much in the first place.” I snickered, which led to a guffaw, and by the end I was full-on cracking up. Both Celestia and I were gripped with hysterics after a second or two. I didn’t even think my story was that funny. When we both settled down, only occasionally hiccuping with giggles, I continued. “I guess that’s why I kept Loreign, my Whining Will’o’wisp. Her species are very enduring, sometimes even outliving their owners.” I talked more about my life, my family, my hopes and admirable aspirations deep into the early hours, and then some.
Suggesting that we should end our discussion (mostly because I was getting incredibly exhausted), I closed my eyes. When I opened them again I looked upon something I thought I’d never see: Celestia was quietly weeping. Tears streamed down her delicate cheeks in rivulets that gathered upon her chin. She lowered her brow and apologized.
“It’s been so long. I can’t help but wonder if this must be how my sister feels.”
“Hey,” I said uneasily, still trying to keep a positive attitude, “you can stay if you really want.”
I was confused at first, then welcomed her into my hooves. We hugged in a friendly sort of way. Afterwards she excused herself and left me to sleep, to dream, to ponder. Thinking back, I felt thankful, so, so thankful. I haven’t to this day been able to completely figure out why.