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Herd 03

By Hawkeye
Created: 18th December 2020 04:16:17 PM

  1. >"Remember, relaaaaaaxing." Pinkie tells the girls. "I Pinkie Promised Anon that I wouldn't throw any giant wild parties to try and introduce him to lots of totally cute and awesome mares I know. But he never said anything about giant relaxing parties!"
  2. >"Totally got him!" Rainbow laughs. "He'll never expect this."
  3. >"No dear, he most certainly will." Rarity calls from across the room. "But as long as he gets to relax, I think he'll play along."
  4. >"I'm still disappointed that I wasn't able to get that cellist he likes so much." Twilight pouts. "She would have made it all perfect."
  5. >"Don't worry Twi, Pinkie's got it covered!" Pinkie exclaims, popping out of the purple princesses mane.
  6. >As Twilight gets her heartbeat normalized, Pinkie starts a record on the player.
  7. >A gentle string quartet fills the air with a simple, quiet melody.
  8. >"It's a good thing this is a relaxing party, because I don't know how to dance to something sooooo sloooow." Pinkie ponders aloud.
  9. >"Think of it like a family reunion, Pinkie." Applejack suggests. "Everyone is there to catch up with old friends that they haven't seen in a while. Maybe throw in a couple of games, but remember not to go overboard."
  10. >"Or bring any sewing machines! Got it!" with that the mare bounces off to some location unknown.
  11. >"Ah don't think I'll ever understand that mare." Applejack sighs as she returns to work.
  12. >"So who did you invite to the party, AJ?" Rainbow asks, swooping down to help her friend move some tables.
  13. >"No one." she replies matter-of-factly. "First off, y'all know Pinkie invited darn near the whole town. And second, I figure to just keep an eye on 'im and see who /he/ talks to. I'll let the feller tell me who he wants."
  14. >"I've already tried that. It was hard, but he gave me a good hint. I made sure Cloudchaser is gonna be here, even though she said she was going to bring her sister."
  15. >"Now Rainbow Dash" Fluttershy admonishes "There's nothing wrong with being a little shy."
  16. >"Flutters is right, Dash. Now help me take this one over here-"
  17.  
  18.  
  19.  
  20.  
  21. >Spotting a familiar face across the sea of ponies, you wade through the other party goers.
  22. "Princess Rose." you say, bowing slightly, "How are you tonight?"
  23. >With a roll of her eyes, Rose gestures to a teal unicorn bouncing to the music beside her.
  24. >"This is my friend Lyra, Anon."
  25. >"It's so nice to meet you!" she bursts. "I've been following your work for aaaaages!"
  26. "Oh? It's nice to hear I have a few fans."
  27. >"There are a couple of us that really like your work! Human ideas are so awesome!"
  28. "Anything in particular you liked?"
  29. >"I'll leave you two to talk." Rose says, starting to bow out.
  30. "Nonsense." you laugh, setting a hand on the surprised mares shoulders. "Let's find a table."
  31.  
  32. >Seated in a corner, you walk Lyra through the renovation of the Fillydelphia Orchestra Hall, and discussed some ideas for a new venue on the waterfront in Baltimare.
  33. >Lyra really brought Rose in when she queried you about any projects in Canterlot, and you mentioned that you had discussed a botanical garden for the university with Celestia.
  34. >"If you need any expert advice..."
  35. "Oh? And here I thought you were bored." you tease.
  36. >"Well most of it /is/ boring. But if you appreciate flowers, I suppose we might be able to save you."
  37. "We? Got a support group going, do we?"
  38. >"My sisters and I, of course. I can't just abandon my work, Anon." Rose quickly clarifies. "No matter how alluring you find my wit."
  39. >Lyra leans over and whispers something in Rose's ear.
  40. >Both of them share a giggle.
  41. >Mares.
  42. >"I need to use the little filly's room." Rose announces, getting up. "I'll be back in a bit."
  43. >The two of you watch her disappear into the crowd.
  44. >Pinkie stops by to drop a plate of cupcakes on the table, but doesn't stay for long before she has to go adjudicate a drinking contest between the eternal rivals, AJ and Rainbow.
  45. >Lyra slides into the space Rose previously occupied next to you.
  46. >Or she tries to, before her tail snags on the table and she ends up laid out on her back, head in your lap.
  47. "Well, that settles it, young lady." you chide her jokingly. "You're cut off. No more drinks for you."
  48. >Lyra laughs as you run fingers through her mane.
  49. >Rose returns, pausing to see Lyra taking up all the space left on that side of the booth.
  50. >Instead she slides in across the table from you.
  51. "So Rose, would you and your sisters really be interested in helping me set up those gardens?"
  52. >"Of course Anon. But don't you think you'll be a bit busy with your herd?"
  53. "Psh." you dismiss. "I'm just rolling with it. This is supposed to be my vacation, remember?"
  54. >"So you aren't working on the dam?" Lyra pipes up from your lap.
  55. "Nah, I'm working on a house, but that's a personal project."
  56. >"So you finally signed on the Haymaker place?" Rose asks.
  57. "Well-"
  58. >"You're moving to Ponyville!?"
  59. "Yes Lyra, I'll be here for a while. Maybe even permanently."
  60. >"Then you have to come to our concert next week! Princess Twilight even got a soloist from Fillydelphia to come play with us!"
  61. "Has she now..." you smirk.
  62. >"Octavia, I heard. The cellist." Rose says. "Something wrong with that?"
  63. "No, not at all. I'm just trying to figure out Twilight's angle."
  64. >Rose reaches a hoof across the table and rests it on your hand.
  65. >"Let me." she smiles. "But if I'm going to help, you have to tell me why it is so interesting."
  66. >Looking down, you can see Lyra is focused intently on you.
  67. >Glancing around you, no one else is.
  68. "I am a huge fan of Octavia." you explain. "Twilight knows this. She even arranged for me to come visit for that concert before I decided to take my little break."
  69. >"Maybe the princesses set it up as a thank you?" Lyra offers.
  70. "It's possible." you shrug.
  71. >Rose seems unconvinced.
  72. "It's no big deal. I'm actually really excited. The last time I was in Fillydelphia Octavia's concert was the highlight of the trip."
  73. >"I can introduce you, Anon. Octavia and I went to school together, we were pretty close friends before she moved away."
  74. "That'd be great! We should totally do that. Thanks Lyra!"
  75. >"I was going to hang out with her anyways, so this way I get to see both of you!"
  76. >You tousle the mint mares mane.
  77. >"So you think the princess is working an angle?" Rose asks.
  78. "Well, to be honest, yes." you sigh. "I hope it isn't something to do with the herd, I just want to enjoy the concert."
  79. >"Well then don't give her the chance!" Lyra pipes up, finally pulling herself upright.
  80. >"He can't just ignore Princess Twilight" Rose frowns.
  81. >"But if he's already scheduled to meet Octavia after the concert-"
  82. "Royal decorum would make it hard for her to interrupt, yeah." you finish.
  83. >"Interrupt what?" a voice asks in your ear, causing you to jump.
  84. > A pair of pink hooves wrap around your neck keeping you from turning around.
  85. >Lotus slides in next to Rose, so it's no great mystery who those hooves belong to.
  86. >Leaning your head back, you look up to meet the smirking spa pony's gaze.
  87. "Hello Aloe."
  88. >"Hello yourself, Mister Anonymous."
  89. "You can just call me Anon."
  90. >She just smiles back.
  91. "This is the kind of thing I expected from Lotus, but you?"
  92. >"Lotus wanted to crawl under the table." Aloe explains. "But you had too much company."
  93. >"A real pity." the blue pony sighs dramatically.
  94. >"You two know Anon?" Rose asks.
  95. >returning your head to its normal position, you nod.
  96. "Yeah, Rarity introduced us the other day, we were at the spa with Shy. They've got some master plan worked out." you tell her with a dismissive wave. "I'm not sure I even want to know the details."
  97. >"Well, she's watching you from over there, silly! Just ask her!" Pinkie says.
  98. >The party mare drops from the rafters and lands in Lotus's lap, before sliding off to sit next to her.
  99. "Nah." you shrug with a smile. "I like this, being intentionally oblivious is a lot of fun."
  100. >"Okie dokie lokie! Are you having a good time? You've been at this table half the night!"
  101. "I've got good company, and you brought us that tray of cupcakes earlier, so I'm just great. Thanks for doing this, by the way, Pinkie."
  102. >The mare gigglesnorts and jumps over the table, wrapping you in a hug.
  103. >"How could I /not/ throw a super-duper-relaxed-and-calm-party for my favoritest human friend! Buuuut I have to go, my appendix is buzzing, which means the ice cream cake is finally ready!"
  104. "That sounds great, Pinkie. You need any help?"
  105. >"Nope nope nope! You're the guest of honor, you can't be working!"
  106. >"If you need help, I can go." Lyra offers.
  107. >Pinkie stares at her for a brief second, before her smile widens tenfold.
  108. >"Okay! Let's go!"
  109. >Grabbing Lyra, Pinkie flies over the booths, the disoriented harpist helplessly dragged along.
  110. >Aloe seizes the opportunity and hops over the back of the booth to slide up against you.
  111. >"So what are we interrupting?" Lotus asks.
  112. "Oh, nothing. Lyra is going to introduce me to her friend Octavia after the concert next week."
  113. >"They were saying that Princess Twilight won't be able to pester Anon if he's got someplace to be." Rose elaborates.
  114. >"Mmm, the Princess is after you?" Lotus inquires.
  115. "It's possible." you admit.
  116. >"It's likely" Rose chimes in.
  117. >"That would explain why she seems so uncomfortable." Aloe remarks.
  118. "What?"
  119. >"We understood that they would be watching you tonight, but she has been..."
  120. >"focused." Aloe completes her sisters thought.
  121. >A hoof gently rubs your shin.
  122. >"Don't worry, Anonymous, we'll protect you." Lotus says with a wink.
  123. >Rose rolls her eyes.
  124.  
  125. The next hour passes uneventfully, just a stream of ponies stopping by to say hello, before Lyra finally returns.
  126. >"You brought ice cream cake!" Aloe says excitedly, helping to pass the plates.
  127. >"And just because Lotus asked so nicely... Party shots!" Pinkie exclaims, carrying a tray on her back.
  128. >You look on in mix awe/horror as Pinkie Pie slides a tray with two dozen prepared shots onto the table.
  129. >"I'll be back later to make sure you're still having a good time!" she half-sings before bounding away.
  130. "When did you-"
  131. >"On our way over." Lotus smiles.
  132. >Picking up a shot, you ponder it in one hand while digging into your cake.
  133. >A tentative sniff tells you that its mostly alcohol, and predictably sweet.
  134. >"The sprinkles are a nice touch." Rose giggles.
  135. >Swallowing your cake, you lift the glass to your lips and down it.
  136. >...
  137. >It's like a liquid cupcake. Sweet, rich, with vanilla and a hint of strawberry.
  138. >Very nice.
  139. >Time for another.
  140.  
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  143.  
  144. >By the end of the night, your group is nicely buzzed.
  145. >You probably would have continued, but Rose interrupted.
  146. >"Anon, how many have you had?"
  147. "Dunno. Why?"
  148. >"Can you walk me home?"
  149. "Aw, already?"
  150. >"It's just us and the Elemna-elemenen... it's just us and that table left." Lyra observes. "I guess we could go, let Pinkie clean up and stuff."
  151. >You pause, and then nod in agreement.
  152. "Alright. I guess we can wrap it up." you concede.
  153. >Lyra slides out of the booth, allowing Aloe and you to follow.
  154. >Lotus and Rose mirror the movement, and your little group moves towards the door.
  155. >The twins excuse themselves first, as they live on the opposite side of town.
  156. >Lyra and Rose opt to walk with you.
  157. >Just before you leave, Spike scurries over.
  158. "Anon! Princess Luna sent you this!" he says, handing you a scroll.
  159. >Pocketing the message, you wave to the group.
  160. "Thanks Spike." turning to wave, Pinkie has bounded over.
  161. >With surprising strength, she pulls you aside.
  162. >"Did you have a good time, Nony?" She asks, wiggling her eyebrows.
  163. "I always enjoy Pinkie Parties." you assure her. "And yeah, the girls I was hanging out with are pretty cool."
  164. >Wrapping her in a hug, you thank her again, then open the door.
  165. >Holding it open, you follow Rose and Lyra into the night.
  166.  
  167. >Lyra lives just up the street.
  168. >She gives you a quick hug, before mounting the steps to her door.
  169. >Once she's inside, you and Rose turn and walk the silent streets towards her home.
  170. >"Anon?"
  171. "Hmmm?"
  172. >"I really enjoyed tonight."
  173. >Casting a glance down at her, you catch a faint smile.
  174. "I did too."
  175. >"Are you really going to stay here?"
  176. "I'm probably going to buy a home here, so I think I'll stay. I'll have to go back to work though, just because the house isn't going to be cheap."
  177. >"I thought Ponyville would be cheap compared to Canterlot."
  178. "It absolutely is, don't get me wrong, I couldn't afford this at all in Canterlot."
  179. >"Fluttershy told me that the princesses are forcing you to take on a herd."
  180. "She's not wrong."
  181. >"So shouldn't they help you with the costs?"
  182. "What?"
  183. >"Well, it's not your decision to do this, so shouldn't they help you out?"
  184. "Rose, that is a brilliant idea."
  185. >"Thank you." she grins. "Speaking of princesses, what did the letter from Luna say?"
  186. "Oh! I forgot." You say, fumbling through your pockets.
  187. >Unraveling it, you read the short message.
  188. "It seems the princesses are sorry about... an indiscretion. Also, Princess Celestia is coming by tomorrow afternoon and would like to meet with me."
  189. >"An indiscretion?"
  190. "They weren't exactly quiet talking about this whole herd thing. I'd rather not be the talk of Canterlot, even if I'm in Ponyville."
  191. >"Hmm. Well, maybe you can ask about some help with the house tomorrow?"
  192. "How do you propose I do that? I don't want to seem like I'm whining."
  193. >"Oh you know, they care about you." she elaborates. "So just act like you're /suffering/ under this heavy burden that /they/ placed on you."
  194. "That's awfully tricky of you, Princess."
  195. >She bumps your leg.
  196. >"Well, this is me." she says, stopping in front of her shop. "I'm going on a collection trip this Saturday. Are you free?"
  197. "I have a hoofball game at six, so as long as I'm back intact by five I can go."
  198. >"Is you dad taking you for ice cream afterwards?" she teases.
  199. "Nah, drinking is after. Either to celebrate or mourn. You're always welcome to come watch and join us after."
  200. >"Are you building a herd, or a cheer squad?"
  201. "I'd like to think that my herd would be supportive of me." you say. "But since I don't have a herd yet, no one is under any obligation."
  202. >"Alright, I'll think about it. Meet me here at seven, okay? This is still a work trip."
  203. "You got it. See you then."
  204. >You watch as Rose lets herself in, and waves from the door.
  205. >Turning down the street, you head to the castle.
  206. >Not a bad night.
  207. >Not bad at all.
  208.  
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  210.  
  211.  
  212. >Strolling through the doors, you cross the floor and quickly mount the stairs.
  213. >Reaching your room, you straighten your suit and push open the door.
  214. >Waiting patiently on a cushion sits Princess Celestia, sipping a cup of tea.
  215. "You didn't need to come visit in person, Princess." you say with a slight bow.
  216. >"We aren't in public, no need for that Anon."
  217. "You got it, Celly." you say, taking a seat nearby. "So I take it you got my letter?"
  218. >"Yes, I did." she nods. "And I wanted to come apologize in person. Luna and I should have been more discreet when talking about your personal life."
  219. "In the grand scheme of things, a minor oversight compared to the considerable inconvenience of this entire Herd situation."
  220. >"It will be good for you to have a family to support you Anon." the princess replies. "We're merely looking out for you."
  221. >You toss her your finest look of skepticism.
  222. >"Come now, Anon. Don't give me that." she giggles. "Someone to come home to, to spend time with, some company to help you sort through your problems."
  223. "You know, I already had a pair of mares like that, back in Canterlot." you say, tapping your chin.
  224. >"Why did you never say anything? Who are these mares?"
  225. "They're great" you say, crossing to a dresser behind Celestia.
  226. >Picking up a framed photo, you carry it back to your seat and stare at it as you proceed.
  227. "Oh yeah, the one is great to talk to, always there to listen. The other has a bit of playfulness to her." you continue. "Plus they already had a home big enough for everyone."
  228. >Celestia watches you intently.
  229. "I think maybe I'll write, ask them to join the herd." you say passing the photo to Celestia.
  230. >She nearly chokes on her tea when she notices that its of you, her and her sister.
  231. "Beautiful, aren't they?"
  232. >"Anonymous, please. Be serious."
  233. "Well, I'm only half joking. All your concerns were things I addressed with friends."
  234. >"While I certainly appreciate the sentiments Anonymous, don't you want something deeper?"
  235. "This just seems excessive."
  236. >"You're an exceptional individual. You need more than the average stallion."
  237. "Touché, Celly. Flattery will only get you so far though." you laugh. "But seriously, I don't think my Canterlot apartment is going to hold eight of us."
  238. >"Twilight wrote saying that you were looking at homes here in Ponyville..."
  239. "It's true. I'll probably have to put the search for mares on hold for a while to take on a project or two." you admit. "It seems my life in Canterlot has left me with expensive tastes."
  240.  >The princess pauses, considering your words.
  241. >"I had not really considered the logistics of it, to be honest, Anon. I suppose access to the treasury has made me forgetful at times. But you say you have been looking? Have you found anything?"
  242. "I have. I have found a few options, but only one is particularly appealing. It has the craftsman charm I was hoping to find, and space for my herd. Plus land for expansion if I need it."
  243. >The implication isn't lost on Celestia.
  244. "It does have a room that will be perfect for my office. I'll probably be able to start work on a project as soon as the renovations are complete." you ponder. "You'll have to come see the place sometime."
  245. >"First the photo, now an invitation to visit you at home, what kind of princess do you take me for Anonymous?" Celly asks, fanning herself mockingly with a wing.
  246.  
  247. "Oh, is that not on the table?" you say, feigning disappointment. "It seems my dream of a royal harem is dashed."
  248. >The both of you share a laugh, before you rise and stretch.
  249. "Hey Cel, can I ask a favor of you?"
  250. >"Of course." Celestia says, rising to her hooves. "Within reason, that is."
  251. "Naturally." you agree. "Cloudsdale rearranged the weather team schedules, and now Rainbow Dash isn't able to make any of our hoofball games. If you could-"
  252. >"Consider it done, Anonymous. And I'll think about what you said and discuss it with Luna. We didn't intend to stress you even more when we sent you here."
  253. "Are you talking about the cost of the house, or you two joining the herd?" you say crossing the room.
  254. >She rolls her eyes as she follows you to the door.
  255. >"I know you're busy, and I think my faithful student is having a nervous breakdown over my unexpected visit. I should go calm her."
  256. >Pausing, you share a hug with Celestia.
  257. "You're always free to come visit me."
  258. >"The same to you, Anon."
  259. >You smile and open the door, then follow the monarch out.
  260.  
  261. >"Seriously dude!?"
  262. "Yup. You should be good to go in time for the game."
  263. >"That's so awesome! You're the best Anon!" Rainbow yells.
  264. "Cheers to that." you laugh, raising your glass.
  265. >The cyan pegasus mirrors your action.
  266. >"So was that all she came down for?"
  267. "I suspect she wanted to check up on me, and to visit Twilight."
  268. >"Man, the Princess is good people."
  269. "Aye. She certainly is." you agree. "Plus she might help out with my housing problem, which would be awesome."
  270. >"Really? Man, you're the luckiest guy in Equestria."
  271. "As the guy who got sucked into another universe by errant science, I'd say extreme odds are not unknown to me."
  272. >"So the treasury is gonna buy you a place?"
  273. "Nah, I doubt it. I just let on that it's going to be really expensive to fix up the Haymaker place. If anything they might pay half. I don't have high expectations, but it'd be nice."
  274. >"You know Anon, you can be one sneaky bastard when you want to be."
  275. "It's a human thing." you smirk, waving down the bartender.
  276.  
  277. >Ordering a fresh round, you make sure to have a third glass sent.
  278. >"Doubling up, Anon? I knew you liked a good drink, but maybe slow it down a bit?"
  279. "You, tell me to slow down?" you feign shock "What have you done with the real Rainbow Dash!?"
  280. >"Hay! I'm the real deal!" she shoots back, then softens. "But seriously, Twi told us-"
  281. "It isn't for me." you interrupt her. "Twilight isn't wrong, but this is for AJ. She should be here anytime now."
  282. >"Okay, cool." she sighs.
  283. "I figured we could hash out some new plays to start running this week. That way we have 'em down before the game, you know?"
  284. >"Oh! That reminds me, Cloudchaser's team doesn't play that weekend, so she's throwing a big party instead! You gotta come, man!"
  285. "Isn't Cloudchaser a pegasus?"
  286. >"Yeah, so?"
  287. "Doesn't she live in a cloud house?"
  288. >"Ohhh right. Yeah, she does. But that's fine, we'll just get Twilight to magic up some nerd solution!"
  289. >You can't help but burst out laughing.
  290. >While you recompose yourself, AJ arrives.
  291. >She takes a seat at the bar and you slide her a drink.
  292. >"Thank ya kindly, Anon. Howdy Rainbow." the country pony tips her hat. "Now I heard your schedule is 'bout to change again Dash, you gonna start showin' up again?"
  293. >"Totally! And it's all thanks to Anon here!"
  294. >You wave it off.
  295. "No big deal. Now, I had some plays in mind..." you start, laying out a handful of bits.
  296. >The next few hours are spent moving coins around the counter and imbibing more and more alcohol.
  297.  
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  299.  
  300.  
  301.  
  302. >Eventually the three of you head out into the night.
  303. >The others have work the next day, after all.
  304. >You, on the other hand, have nowhere to be.
  305. >The chill autumn night is breezy, with clear, dark skies.
  306. >Finding your way to the park, you drop down on a hill near the gazebo and just look up at the stars.
  307. >You miss the stars of your homeworld and their stories, but you've gotten over it.
  308. >Luna's work is just as impressive.
  309. >The breeze carries a faint hint of music to your ears, and you close your eyes.
  310. >You loved quiet moments like these.
  311. >In fact, this was just the kind of thing you had in mind when you said you were taking a break.
  312. >Somewhere quiet and peaceful.
  313. >Ponyville really has grown on you.
  314. >"Anon?" someone calls, but you can't be bothered to get up.
  315. "That's me."
  316. >You can hear the muffled patter of hooves on grass as the pony draws close.
  317. >"What are you doing out so late?"
  318. >Opening an eye, you see that it's Lyra.
  319. "I was talking hoofball with Rainbow and AJ over at the bar, decided to come enjoy the night." you reply. "I don't have work or anything, so I can take these opportunities when they come."
  320. >You pat the lawn beside you, and Lyra accepts your invitation, curling up against you.
  321. "So was that your music that was serenading me earlier?"
  322. >"Oh, you heard me? Usually no one is out here at this time of night."
  323. >Opening an eye, you can tell that she's a little embarrassed.
  324. "It was beautiful, it really added to the night." you assure the mare, wrapping an arm around her.
  325.  >"I'm glad you think so." she sighs, settling in.
  326. >This mare is pretty cuddly.
  327. >Maybe it's the booze talking, but you're pretty fond of her already.
  328. >Pinkie Pie probably planned this.
  329. >She doesn't plan anything.
  330. >Well, except parties.
  331. >She may be trickier than we thought.
  332. >"Anon?"
  333. "Hmm?"
  334. >"Are you really moving here? I mean for good?"
  335. >You contemplate the question for a moment.
  336. "Yeah." you say slowly. "I'll keep my Canterlot place if I can, it'll be nice to be able to go spend a long weekend there once in a while, but I think Ponyville is where I'm going to put down roots."
  337. >"The princesses won't mind?"
  338. "Well, like I said, I'll try to keep my Canterlot apartment, so if I have to spend time there for work I won't have to get a hotel." you say, gesticulating to no one. "But Ponyville is nice, and it's quiet. None of those fussy nobles around."
  339. >"That doesn't really answer anything."
  340. "They started this, they'll have to deal with it." you snort. "But there's no reason I can't work from home. Heck, most of the projects on my radar aren't even in Canterlot."
  341. >"Radar? What?"
  342. "It's a human thing." you sigh. "Most of the projects that I'm considering."
  343. >"Oh." she pauses. "So what's a Radar?"
  344. >You chuckle quietly.
  345. >This mare.
  346. "Alright, so you've heard your own echo before, right?" you begin, starting a conversation that takes you nigh unto midnight to wrap up.
  347. >Realizing how late it's gotten, you rise and brush a few errant blades of grass off of yourself.
  348. >Walking Lyra home soon turns into Carrying Lyra home.
  349. >At which point you realize you don't have a key to her house.
  350. >Trying to wake her gently is of no avail, and you'd feel bad being a dick about it.
  351. >Sighing to yourself, you pick the harp case back up and trudge back down the dark streets.
  352. >Making it to the castle, you quietly make your way up to the small suite you call home, Lyra snoozing peacefully on your back.
  353. >Setting her harp at the foot of the bed, you turn back the covers and slide her off of you and into the bed before tucking her in.
  354. >Normally you'd strip down to underwear at this point... yeah, not sure how she'd take that.
  355. >Lotus, on the other hand, you know how she'd take that.
  356. >She'd take it as an invitation.
  357. >But this isn't Lotus, so instead you rummage through a dresser for something you doubted you would ever wear: a nice set of flannel pajamas, courtesy of Rarity.
  358. >And to think you told her you'd never need pajamas.
  359. >Better not let her find out then.
  360. >Quickly changing, you pour yourself a glass of bourbon and lie down on the couch.
  361. >Sipping appreciatively, you mull over the day's events before a second glass lulls you to sleep.
  362.  
  363. >Sipping your coffee, you peruse the morning paper.
  364. >Nothing terribly noteworthy, but it's not like you lived in Manehattan.
  365. >Lyra emerges from the bathroom and jumps up onto the bed, rolling onto her back and before tilting her head back to look at you.
  366. >"Did Twilight seem a little off at breakfast?"
  367. "Hmm?" you say, looking up. "Oh, yeah, I guess."
  368. >"Anon."
  369. "Yessss?"
  370. >"I need this bed."
  371. >Looking up again you see the mare rolling around on your already wrecked bed.
  372. >In retrospect, it looks a lot worse than it is.
  373. "You certainly explored every inch of it last night."
  374. >"Ehehehe, yeah-" she laughs awkwardly. "I do roll around a lot in my sleep."
  375. >Folding your paper, you cross over to your wardrobe and pull some clothes for the day.
  376. "So what are your plans for today?"
  377. >"I don't have rehearsal until two, then I'm meeting up with the girls tonight!"
  378. "Who are 'the girls'?" you say, pulling on a polo.
  379. >"Oh! Well, you already know Rose, and you've probably met her sisters too. And Bonbon is my best friend since we were fillies! And Cheerilee said she'd try to make it, I haven't seen her in ages!"
  380.  "Cool, sounds like you have a full afternoon. How often does the orchestra practice?"
  381. >"Four days a week, all afternoon."
  382. "Leaves you a lot of free time." you note. "Is that a good or bad thing?"
  383. >"Wellll... it doesn't come with strings attached, but you're encouraged to practice outside of rehearsal of course. And the pay isn't great, so a lot of us have side jobs."
  384. "That's unfortunate. Do you have another job?"
  385. >"Oh, yeah. I'm part of a group that composes and writes background music. For stores and stuff, you know?"
  386. "Huh, I guess I never thought about it."
  387. >"It actually pays better than the orchestra." Lyra begrudgingly admits.
  388. "Well maybe someday the bills won't be a concern." you offer, dropping your wallet and keys into your pockets. "But I have to go, you're welcome to tag along or stay here or go back to whatever Lyras do. Either way, I'm off."
  389. >Lyra quickly hops off the bed, trotting behind you as you head out the door.
  390. >"I really like spending time with you, but I should probably get home. Thursdays are laundry day."
  391. >You shrug as you head down the stairs.
  392. "See you around, Lyra." you say, giving her a hug.
  393. >She heads out the door while you grab some mail from the kitchen before following suit.
  394.  
  395.  
  396.  
  397.  
  398. >Standing in the entry hall of the Haymaker Home, you scan the two reports that arrived this morning.
  399. >Wandering the massive home, you go room to room, reading the notes from first one, then the other.
  400. >The wallpaper won't be that expensive to remove, and painting won't be that bad either.
  401. >They both recommend totally replacing the deck, eliciting a resigned groan from you.
  402. >In the face of such universal agreement, you decide that you'll have to concede.
  403. >But they better replicate the style perfectly.
  404. >That item is going to cost a bit.
  405. >Jim has a quote from a bunch of contractors to update the utilities and make the many needed general repairs, and the electrician's bid is lower than expected.
  406. >Refinishing the floors is about on target.
  407. >You nearly choke when you see the last note from Wally, then see it mirrored on Jim's report.
  408. >"Strongly suggest reinforcement of all floors with new/additional crossmembers."
  409. >In addition, Beam continues, recommending a foundation expert be brought in to add support to the aging stone of the basement.
  410. >Quotes are included....
  411. >...and they are every bit as expensive as you feared.  
  412. >Slumping against the wall, you groan in frustration.
  413. >"Anonymous? I thought I might find you here, what's wrong darling?"
  414. "Hey Rarity." you say, rubbing your forehead. "Just looking over the reports from Jim and Wally."
  415. >"Bad news, then?"
  416. "Yeah. Some real structural work, which is time consuming and expensive."
  417. >"Oh, well, perhaps the old Carrot home then-"
  418. "No. This is the place." you cut her off. "It's here or I go back to Canterlot, sans herd."
  419. >"I wasn't aware that it was an option, Anon."
  420. >Rising to your feet, you gesture around you.
  421. "There isn't a single other home on the market in Ponyville with this kind of potential. We both know that. Not for what I need." you vent, the frustration flowing freely. "If I am going to be the great herd stallion everyone thinks I will be, then I cannot afford to sacrifice quality at such an early stage! I won't!"
  422. >"Anon, even without the home-"
  423. "Rarity, please. I may not need the space, but my mares will deserve it. A place for each of them to have space of their own, places to congregate as a family, room for children... It's what I want to provide for them as head of this household. If I can't give them the life I feel they deserve, then I don't want to drag them into this mess."
  424. >"Anon, you are simply being ridiculous." Rarity chides. "Typical human hyperbole, while effective in persuading the council and the princesses when discussing public works, simply will not work on me." she says, purposefully crossing the room to stare straight up at you.
  425. "But-"
  426. >"Ah! No buts, Anonymous. You are going to be an excellent herd stallion, whether you dwell in Canterlot's finest manse or a mud hut in the depths of Zebrica. That being said, your unwavering dedication to your vision is both a help and a hindrance. Your drive here is admirable, but I am afraid you have developed tunnel-vision. Don't lose sight of the larger picture, after all, a stallion is more than the sum of his wealth!"
  427. >Taking a seat on the stairs, you stare at the floor. Opening your mouth to offer a rebuttal, you find yourself cut off.
  428. >"Blueblood, Anonymous. That is the kind of pony that values such tangible things above all. Do /not/ make me relive that evening for your benefit."
  429. >With a sigh, you nod in defeat.
  430. "Alright, you win. I guess I'm getting too hung up on the whole house thing."
  431. >"There we are, let's leave before you start dwelling upon it again."
  432. "Oh I haven't given up, I'm just putting it aside for now." you smirk, throwing her a sideways glace.
  433. >"I am in no way surprised." she sighs. "But come darling, let's go get lunch."
  434.  
  435. >Lunch turns out to be delightful.
  436. >A nice cobb salad accompanied by the company of Ponyville's premier socialite makes for a refreshing and relaxing experience.
  437. >The gin and tonic may have assisted as well.
  438. "So Rarity, everypony has been obsessing over my love life, how about you and the girls? Any new developments there?"
  439. >"Now Anonymous, you know that I am not one to kiss and tell." she counters playfully. "But I hear that several suitors have approached Canterlot about Twilight, and while she hasn't said anything, I suspect that Pinkie has been using the barn more often for a reason."
  440. "Oh?"
  441. >"Sometimes, cleaning up can be as much fun as the party itself, Anon." she replies with a wink.
  442. "Oh my." you smile back. "How interesting. I hope you all are letting things progress naturally?"
  443. >"Applejack is the only other one who has noticed." she shrugs. "And she is content to see how it works out."
  444. "That is simply amazing. I wish her the best." you say, reclining. "You know, I think I'll go to the real estate office after this."
  445. "Anon..." Rarity starts.
  446. >Proceed with caution, captain.
  447. "No seriously." you say, gesturing to the reports sitting off the side. "The owners haven't had a real offer in years. They clearly haven't maintained the place, and this is all the work that'll have to be done. I'm just going to tell them to drop the price or I'm out. It's the only option I can see from here."
  448. >"That... is not a bad idea." Rarity cautiously agrees. "I'm going with you to keep you on the level though."
  449. "Alright mom."
  450. >"Hush." she rebukes. "Besides, I'd like to see you get the home, so it's in my own interests to make sure you don't go overboard."
  451. "Fine, fine." you chuckle. "I guess I can go a bit overboard from time to time."
  452. >"We all get stressed, darling, it's simply how we handle it that makes the difference!"
  453. "Yes, I suppose this isn't yet the /worst/ /possible/ /thing/!" you tease.
  454. >Rarity merely throws you a look of warning over her glass of chardonnay.
  455. >You can't help but chuckle to yourself.
  456. "Well, I'm ready when you are."
  457. >She nods, and starts to rise.
  458. >You leave a fistful of bits on the table and head for Gabe's.
  459.  
  460. >"Mister Anonymous, I did not expect to see you until tomorrow!"
  461. "Well, I got opinions from my experts. I don't know if you've met Walnut or Jim Beam, but they've done good work for me before." you start, producing the papers. "The verdict isn't good."
  462. >Handing Gabe the reports, you pull a second chair in front of his desk so that both you and Rarity may sit.
  463. >Taking a seat, you give the realtor a minute to start into Jim's report before you resume talking.
  464. "As you can see, a lot of work, much of which we already talked about. The second to last page is the real kicker though." you direct, and Gabe takes the cue to skip ahead.
  465. >You can see his eyes bug out as he gets to the section about reinforcing the floors and foundations.
  466. >Well, you assume that's what it was.
  467. "Walnut, my expert woodworker, agrees with the appraisal of the framework." you add.
  468. >"You see Gabe, this suddenly became very expensive. Well, more so than it already was." Rarity chimes in for the first time. "And I simply couldn't let my good friend be taken in like that."
  469. >"No, please don't think I would-"
  470. "Relax Gabe, I don't blame you." you reassure him. "But this is why I had those contractors come look it over. I'll need the heirs to reduce the price considerably to make this work."
  471. >"But of course! May I copy these? I'll need to send them to the owners immediately. Will you be offended if they hire their own appraiser?"
  472. "Not at all. I kind of expect it, honestly."
  473. >"I am not going to allow him to live in that house without replacing the deck and repairing the foundation, Gabe." Rarity objects.
  474. "Easy Rares, we aren't that far in yet. Let's just see what their offer is."
  475. >"It would be easier if you sent a revised offer along with this new information." Gabe suggests.
  476. "Alright." you nod. "If you have a notepad, I'll run some numbers while you make those copies."
  477. >The stallion pushes a pad of paper across the desk and carries the reports into a back room.
  478. >Taking the notepad and a pen from his desk, you write the original offer across the top.
  479. >Moving halfway down the page, you scribble the costs of the most dire repairs down, then total them up.
  480. >Padding that number by a healthy ten percent, you jot it down beneath the original offer and subtract.
  481. >Flipping to a fresh page, you scrawl the new number down.
  482. >Tearing the first page out, you fold it up and put it in your pocket, then place the notepad with your adjusted offer back on the desk with the pen.
  483. >Gabe eventually returns, and brings paperwork to submit an offer with him.
  484. >He hands you back the reports, and walks you through the minutiae of the offer paperwork.
  485. >You write in your adjusted offer, and fill out the form as directed.
  486. "You think they'll take it?"
  487. >"Only one way to find out." Gabe smiles. "I'll send this right now, unless you need something else?"
  488. "Nope. When do you think we'll hear back?"
  489. >"Within a week. I can't offer anything more exact, but it shouldn't be longer than that."
  490. "Cool, thanks Gabe." you say, rising.
  491. >Rarity follows you out of the office, and you  head down to the river.
  492.  
  493. >Kicking back on the shore, you watch some ponies toss a frisbee around while Rarity tells you about some designer she's collaborating with.
  494. >A friend from Manehattan or some such.
  495. >Sounds like a nice mare, you're kind of surprised you haven't been introduced to this 'Coco' yet.
  496. >Of course, you do have two rambunctious twins after you, and in retrospect that seems awfully convenient.
  497. >Bumping into Rose on that fetch-quest for Fluttershy was pretty fantastic. She's probably the most level-headed mare you know, except for Rarity maybe.
  498. >And of course there's the cuddly harpist who just spent the night.
  499. >To think you've only been here a week so far.
  500. >A good start.
  501. >A very good start.
Herd Herding Hawkeye

Auction Pony Scenes

by Hawkeye

Herd 18

by Hawkeye

Herd 17

by Hawkeye

Herd 16

by Hawkeye

Herd 15

by Hawkeye