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RGRE Anonpone+Applejack

By Cliffordwriter
Created: 18th February 2021 03:55:19 AM
Modified: 19th April 2021 06:00:37 AM

  1. >The strength that pours into my new form with every step and every breath is intoxicating, but my lack of coordination makes the power feel dangerous.
  2. >Every step is taken with the deliberate care of someone for whom nothing is automatic.
  3. >”Are you feelin' alright, sugarcube?”
  4. “I feel great, hun.”
  5. >”Yer walking like yer hurt or weak, yah sure y'feel alright?”
  6. “I feel very strong, but I don't think I actually know how to walk in this body yet, babe”
  7. >”Walkin' in ya'll's style of body came natural right quick, Ah don't think it'll take yah too long to figger it out, and don' worry 'bout fallin' none, we'll be here t' lend a hoof.”
  8. >As Applejack takes a more supportive position alongside me, I do my best to walk with more confidence, and sure enough, it's soon feeling natural, magic, I guess.
  9. >Striding flank to flank with her shows me that my new body is still larger than hers, though in pony form, her musculature is even more impressive.
  10. >I haven't had the chance to examine my own yet, and her massive brother relieved me of the burden of my canoe, but the frame pack full of other durable gear has gone from being a significant burden to my human frame to being an light load on this one.
  11. >It also changed into a form more suited to my own form, something similar to a pack saddle...
  12. >I wonder what changes have occurred to the contents of my pack...
  13. “Where we headed, Jackie?”
  14. > “First we're headed t' th' Acres t' drop off our things, an' then t' th' Horsepital fer them scans we talked 'bout, an' a checkup, then Ah figure we can grab a quick bite and head out t' th' Acres an' get settled in some.”
  15. >Pinkie drops down in front of us, “And I'm gonna throw you a welcome to Ponyville party after that!”
  16. >As the portal location recedes behind us, my stride grows more confident with every step.
  17. >This world is so bright and fresh, I wonder how much of it is just my soul rebounding from where my old life had smashed it down.
  18. >The hospital tests were fairly nominal and largely corresponded to what I'd known about my own health at home, at least for fields with parallels, magic levels low, but showing signs of recovery, a few old injuries and scars noted, muscle density, bone density, both nominal for an earth pony stallion a decade younger than my apparent age, height and weight in the 80th percentile, good lung capacity, good heart pump efficiency, blood pressure low-nominal, resting heart rate low nominal, body temp high nominal, teeth somewhat more omnivorous looking than normal (that caught me a couple of uneasy glances).
  19. >Lunch was delightful and unthreatening, sprouts and cream cheese on dark rye and a cob salad on the side, but I wondered how well my palate will adjust to the foods my human biology wouldn't have digested and how well my new body might react to foods I was even now daydreaming about that didn't seem to be the norm in horseland.
  20. >Back at the Acres, Applejack introduced me to her formerly irrousable granddam, Ms Smith, a mare of the age where one tends to lose their filter.
  21. >”Couldn't find a Stallion as big as yer brother, could yah?  I see yah tried. Hmmm, good teeth fer a colt of his vintage.  How's he rut?  What?  Of course that's important!  Missy, if yer picking fer th' usual term, y' can plan on that matterin' till yer at least 50 years, an' if he's good enough y' don't break him by then, y' can count on enjoying it after that as well.  Even if y' stay mono like yer folks, it takes a powerful stallion t' quench th' thirst of an Apple Mare when her heat comes t' visit, an iffin yer thinking of startin' a herd a yer own t' keep up with them friends o' yers that're sniffin round yer  Brother, y' need a Stallion that can put in a full day's work unlessn y' plan on payin' fer prosthetic aids!”
  22. >Applejack retorts, but it's less language and more just outraged or mortified sputtering as she hustles her adolescent sister out of the room.
  23. >”An what even is his talent?” the matriarch, “Is it somethin' useful 'round th' farm?”
  24. “Seems to me, Ms Smith, that you could ask me some of these questions myself.”
  25. >”It ain' yer answers that Ah want, Sweetcheeks, Ah need t' know the whys and the wherefores of mah grandaughter's thinkin.  Ya'll go find Mac an' pull a plow or something, this is mare talk.”
  26. “Be that as it may, I would appreciate it if you'd avoid speaking of me as if I'm not in the room, when I am in the room Ms Smith.  If I'm not welcome, I'll take my leave, but I'd sure like you to speak such plainly, my culture is not your culture, and I'm sure it will take me a fair while to find the context cues to be self-evident.”
  27. >”Yah've got spine.  That's good, yer goin' t' need spine t' deal with my granddaughter, but if yer gonna bristle like a sphinx 'cause Ah'm puttin' a little heat on yer mare, yer gonna have t' learn a new trick, hun, Ah want mah granddaughter t' be happy an' t' make good choices, an' that means sweatin' her so Ah know she's thinkin' instead of jest powerin' through like one o' you males, makin' sure she chose ya fer yer qualities an' not cause yah were jest a fat set of nuts an a hard flank she tripped int'.  Now go on an' get out of th' house, Ah already said this was mare talk time!”
  28.  
  29. >As I head for the front door, Apple Bloom catches me and follows.
  30. >”Don't worry 'bout Granny none, 'Non.  She was worried sick when that magic ray carried Applejack off, an' while she loves us an' wants us t' be happy, she also don' adjust t' change very fast, so she'll come around, eventually. Ah could tell that AJ was head over heels for yah when she was writin' 'bout you in that magic book o' Twilight's, Ah think Granny had resigned herself t' AJ never findin' a stallion once them friends of hers started t' chase after Mac.  Ah love mah sister, but she weren't never gonna settle fer a Stallion that couldn't measure up t' the daddy Ah don't remember or th' brother that basically raised us both, an' so far as anypony can tell, there ain't never been a stallion stronger than Mac.  The Princess can beat him in a hoof wrestle, but nopony else.”
  31. >A basso voice like artillery in the distance interupted her stream of conciousness,
  32. >”Ah hope y'ain't trying t' scare him off, little missy.”
  33. “Slim chance of that.  If I leave, it's because I can't hack not having fingers, or going around on 4 legs everywhere, eatin' the food that food's supposed to eat.  Granny said I needed to 'go find Mac and pull a plow or something' while she grilled your sister...”
  34. >A grumbling laugh interrupts me for a moment.
  35.  “I don't know that I feel coordinated enough after half a day in this body to do real work, but if there's some kinda task I can do to help that might let me work on my motor skills, I sure wouldn't mind it.”
  36. >Big Mac ponders for a bit, before reaching into a tool chest and hoofing me a half round file.  
  37. >I take it from his hoof with my hoof, as natural as can be, until I realize I'm grasping a tool with a hoof and the world doesn't make any sense.  
  38. >The file wobbles in my fading grip, and as it begins to fall, I go for it with my other hoof, kicking it across the shed and then crash down on my face, both front hooves reaching out in the direction the file flew.
  39. >An amused snort emanates from the red stallion.
  40. >”Yah had it, 'fore yah thought bout it.  Try 'gain, yer gonna sharpen th' sawmill blade.  Figure th' way yah look at mah sister an' th' way she looks at you, we're gonna be addin' on t' th' farmhouse or buildin' y'all a satellite shack soon 'nough.”
  41. “And so we're gonna need lumber.”
  42. >”Ee-yup.”
  43.  
  44. >It took more than one more attempt, but once I could trust this weird grip, and Big Mac pulled the hilarious oversized bandsaw blade out of the storage chest, filing the teeth seemed to go much the same as filing a cutting edge had gone in my previous life.  
  45. >He watched me file the first three teeth, grunted affirmation, and left me to the next 569.
  46.  
  47. When I finished, Mac was off doing something else (and judging from rhythmic schwack noise of steel on wood, it had something to do with a mallet or an ax), and feeling pretty good about how the job had gone so far, I twist the bandsaw blade into an easy loop, like it had been stored when he took it out, and then go to secure the loop with a twine string.
  48. >After two abortive attempts to use both hooves to tie a simple cinch free release knot in the string, I end up using my right hoove and my mouth.
  49. >Which was fine, until my concentration was broken by the dinner bell.  
  50. >I lost control of the knot, and of the twine, and then of the looped up bandsaw blade.
  51. >The racket it made as it unlooped itself was cacophonous in my ears, but nopony seemed to notice, so after a quick mental inventory of all my bits and pieces, I relooped the sharp blade, and managed to get the release knot tied properly on the first attempt.  Not knowing if the chest was just for unsharpened blades or for sawmill parts in general, and not knowing enough about the sawmill in question to decide that after briefly glancing at the other contents, I left the blade on the work bench, stowed the file, and made for the farm house with a spring in my step derived from the satisfaction of useful work (something my old life had been lacking in the pandemic), the apparent successful conquering of at least one dexterous task in this new body, and the irresistible positive energy that suffused the very air of this new and wonderful world, Equestria.
  52. >Applejack's talking to her sister on the porch, and I bound up to steal a kiss.
  53. >Instead I get a scream and a “What in tarnation did you get up too?”
  54. >My look of incomprehension leads to Applebloom rearing up to touch my face with her hoof.
  55. >When she backs up, it's red with my blood.
  56. “Whoops, I lost control of the sawblade I'd just sharpened for a bit, guess it grabbed me.  Ah, I didn't feel it happen, where am I bleeding from?”
  57. >”Right close to your forelock, ya lummox, Bloom, go show him the pump house so he can wash the gore off his face, and get both of ya'lls hooves washed clean too.
  58.  
  59. >Supper with Granny was more genial than I expected, given her skepticism earlier that day.  
  60. >”At least he eats like a farm stallion.” was about the limit of her speculation as to my character at the table, and she asked a polite number of polite questions when I was the topic of the table, but more time was spent discussing the progress, outlook, and to-do list for the orchard.
  61. >I did my best to mind my manners and follow the example of the others, but that received no comment at all, which I suppose was better than it getting remarked upon in either direction, but vaguely frustrated me despite my better judgment.
  62. >The food was all very good, and all very hearty.  
  63. >Not the sort of food that a sedentary pony/person could eat every day and maintain healthy weight.
  64. >Meals to build the musculature that the older Apple Siblings relied upon to work like they do.
  65. >I'd done orchard maintenance before, with power tools, and maintenance isn't the same as harvest, which took an army of human laborers.
  66. >It's a lot of work to trim 200 trees when you've got power equipment, and they have thousands.
  67.  
  68. >After dinner was cleaned up the family retired to the sitting room, to talk about their day, to hear Mac go over the ledger so they all knew where the farm was at, and to listen to Granny tell a couple old stories about the family and the founding of Ponyville.  
  69. >The graceful expressions of humor lead me to believe that they are oft repeated stories, but the siblings seemed to enjoy the act of honoring their granddam by listening.
  70. >Granny dozes off in middle or perhaps at the end of a rambling story without climax or conflict, and Applebloom sees her off to bed.
  71. >Applejack and Big Mac discuss sales goals and what product is ready or will be ready in the upcoming days, for a while, before Big Mac moves to retire for the night.
  72. >Surprisingly he motions for me to follow, and looking to Applejack I see her gesturing me to follow.
  73. >”Ah know ya'd rather share a bed with Applejack than borrow mah campin' cot in mah room, but Grannie ain't gonna stand fer that, not till yah make it official, an' even then, th' walls between her room an' Apple Bloom's are a might thin.”
  74.  
  75. >Up before the dawn, light early chores, breakfast by dawn, work till 2, big lunch, work till 6, hearty dinner, work on learning their script in the evenings, repeat.
  76. >Inside of a week and I've used my camping gear to set up an apartment in one of the barns, I just want the privacy enough to
  77.  
  78. >The first week behind me, and I'm confident in my motor control and able to read simple things like signage with ease, so the schedule changes from “chores with AJ, meal, tree trimming and felling with Big Mac, meal, maintenance work, meal” to alternate with “Chores with AJ, meal, go to market with AJ, meal, maintenance work, meal”.
  79. >The market is interesting, at least a little bit like the farmer's market I'm used to, combined with a flea market, like I'm used to, but foreign in the pattern of the customers.  
  80. >Almost like a souk.
  81. >I draw more attention than I'd like, but not more than I expected.
  82. >After all, new face in a small town, welded to the hip of one of the most prominent citizens.
  83. >Bound to attract attention for that, right?
  84. >Less that and more persistent and pervasive oogling.
  85. >Less questions about the lack of cutie mark than I expected.
  86. >I remark on that to Applejack.
  87. >”Twi might have somethin' t' do with that, Ah think she'd said she was gonna let everypony know about yer visit an' who yah were an' such.”
  88.  
  89. >With confidence in the use of my new body comes the power that the magic flowing through this world promised, the power to shatter rock with firm blows, to reach out to the lifeforce of a tree at a touch and know if it has any damage that we should focus our trimming efforts on, or if it's had it's last productive season.
  90. >I'm confident that I'm not as big as I was as a biped, but a horsecollar and a chain lets me rip stumps that would have me looking for machinery to deal with at home.
  91. >Writing is difficult to manage with a quill in my mouth instead of a pen in hand, but by the end of the second week, I'm writing my folks myself instead of dictating to Applejack and helping her with the latin script she hadn't completely learned when we were together on earth.
  92. >Likewise I was learning the ponish script used for writing here.
  93. >Through Twilight, I've even sent some minimal correspondence to the executive authorities of this land, to ensure that I'll have legal status if I decide to stay.
  94.  
  95. >It's a farm, so days off really just mean days with only 4 hours of chores before lunch.
  96. >The first few weeks, that really just meant more time to spend learning the basic things that are needed to function without a minder.  
  97. >And a couple of trips to the basement of the library tree for basic magical density scans.
  98. >Once I was past the cram-for-test stage of this immersion learning program, I spent my first truly free weekend monopolizing Applejack's time with small romantic gestures, but a week on from that, and the girls needed to go off to do the magic hero thing.
  99. >I don't think this worried me too much, until I saw how all the other close loved ones of Applejack and her friends came together like some kind of support group.
  100. >Shit, am I a prospective Army spouse?
  101.  
  102. >Patterns emerge, and I think I see what Applejack was talking about in my world.  Big Mac doesn't just operate in the same orbit of Applejack's loved ones as Apple Bloom and Granny seem to.
  103. >Yes, they have friends in other circles of concern and all of the ponies seem to come together as a group, but Mac overlaps these circles of concern more than anyone else seems to, and they way in which these circles of concern overlap reveal to me which of Applejack's friends are courting him.
  104. >It's just weird that this was more clear in a day of the girls being off chasing after an emergency than in a month of living on the same farm as the big lug.
  105. >Concetrated sympathetic horsey emotions wear on me, and at a glance I can tell they weigh on Mac too, but he draws strength from supporting them in a way I cannot, so I slowly ease my way to the periphery of the group, and dip out to try and reclaim something from my life before.
  106.  
  107. >Ice fishing.
  108.  
  109. >The transformative magic of the portal magic had minimal effect on my fishing gear, but some of the materials had changed some, and the handles of the rods and the reels have fattened up too.
  110. >Fat grubs gathered from under the bark of logs cut for firewood, a tin of artifical jigs and flies from home, a hand made quickstrike rod holder, and a manual auger hitched to my pack saddle and I plod quietly out to the lake.
  111.  
  112. >No lake map or flasher, and just a plumb bob on a cord means it takes a few tries to find the depth I'm looking for, and once I do, I set a fat grub a a foot off the bottom with the quickstrike rig, and start to jig with bead head fly on a jiggle stick.
  113. >A few dinks pop the fly, and I consider keeping one or two for bait, but I'm not yet sure what's a bait fish and what's a game fish, so I hold off on it.
  114. >I hear the approach of a pony, but before I can look to see who it is or greet them, the quickstrike rig fires, and my focus is drawn to the action.  
  115.  
  116. >A short fight later, and I've got a delicious looking grayling on the ice.
  117. >”That's a good'un there son” I hear.
  118. >Rarity's father, Hondo, sidles up, and I can see he's got at least one jigging stick tucked into his vest.
  119. “Sure is.  Is this a normal size for a grayling in this area?”
  120. >”It's bigger than average, but mostly it's just a good size.”
  121. “I think I'm gonna keep it.  If you're squeamish about omnivory, I'd say look the other way.”
  122. >”It's no big deal to me, but I appreciate the consideration,”
  123. >I rebait the rod on the quick strike rig and get it back in the water.
  124. “You want me to cut you another hole”
  125. >”If it's no trouble.  Mostly I just wanted to look at your tipup!  I like the design!”
  126. >I start cutting another hole.
  127. “It's called a quick strike rig, it uses the spring in your rod to set the hook when the fish takes the bait.  You could buy them like this, back home, but I made this one myself.”
  128. >”You made that?  It's pretty nice.  Did you fish a lot back where you came from?”
  129. “Yup, fishing is one of my favorite past times.”
  130.  
  131. >A companionable quiet ensues.  A few short questions, simple answers thereto,
  132. >Hondo jigs a heavier fly, catching some higher quality bream type fish.
  133. >Back home, I'd call them Green sunfish, but who knows here.
  134. >He offers, with a gesture, to add them to my creel, but I wave them off.
  135. >They all return to the water, unless they're hooked deep.
  136. >Those Hondo piles on the ice after dispatch, and soon enough another being joins us.
  137.  
  138. >I'd been warned about Fluttershy's roommate Harry, but my monkey brain still catalogs what's available for weapons obsessively,  
  139. >I'd brought some stuff from my world, but it's stashed with my other chattel in the barn with my canoe.
  140. >The big axe with the bit designed for flesh instead of wood.
  141. >The Small Ring Mauser in 7mm.
  142. >The Ed Brown 10mm.
  143. >Any of them would serve as a welcome safety blanket for my monkey mind as a Brown Bear as big as 10 of me saunters up to Hondo and trades the older stallion a paw full of carrots for his small pile of guthooked green sunfish.
  144.  
  145. >I'm distracted from the bear slowly munching his first sunfish by my quickstrike firing again.
  146. >It's another good fish, a vigorous fighter who feels heavy when it shakes it's head.
  147. >Fuck yeah, it's a burbot!
  148. >8 lbs of deliciousness acquired.
  149. “Score!”
  150. >Out comes the knife, and the squirming eelpout is swiftly dispatched, and I filet him straight away.
  151. >Concerned whining catches my ear, and a quick glance shows Harry watching me, but flinching at my knifework.
  152. “I'm afraid I'm going to eat most of this.  Did you want the rest?”
  153. >Harry huffs what feels like an affirmation, and I slide him the plank I was using for a cutting board, and concernedly looks about, whining as he glances at Hondo, as if he's looking for something to exchange for the head and spine of the burbot.
  154. “Don't worry bud, the first dose is always free.”
  155. >Harry delicately picks the pieces of burbot off of the cutting board with a single claw, before savoring them with visible relish.  
  156. >He saves the head for last, slowly crunching it with a delighted expression on his face.
  157. >As he finishes, , his ears perk up, and a sheepish look crosses his face as he gestures frantically to Hondo, but only below where my body would block the line of sight back the way he came onto the lake.
  158. >With aclarity, Hondo pulls in his line and ties a hitch around the carrots he hasn't finished eating, and drops them down his ice fishing hole.
  159. >Moments later, an angry rapid patter of light footsteps presages the arrival of an angry looking white rabbit that lays right into Harry's head and shoulders, chittering angrily.
  160. >Harry endures ear pulling, rabbit feet boxing at his eyes,  and even biting from the little blighter, and right away I understand why Applejack always seemed so forced when she called Fluttershy's pet rabbit sweet.
  161. >I also know where the carrots that Harry traded to Hondo came from, heh.
  162.  >After the bear and the rabbit leave, Hondo retreives his prizes, and tosses one over to me.
  163. >They are pretty prime carrots.
  164. >Hondo and I pass my flask of brandy back and forth, and I add two more grayling and a char to my creel before I feel it's time to return to the Acres.
  165. >Working with Mac to fell trees before the sap run starts, I find myself really enjoying forestry.
  166. >The cutting serves two purposes, the first is to slowly push back the Everfree, the cleared land sees several years of use as haymow, and then changes to rowcropping as the next cut is put in hay, and then finally the rowcropped land will be planted as orchard as the border shifts a third time.
  167. >The second is to feed the insatiable demand for wood,  not just lumber and firewood, but furniture, tool handles, buckets, barrels, rolling pins, cutting boards, even planks for boats, and blanks for carving.
  168. >I don't have all my tools, or even the same manipulator limbs I used to, but some of the wood just calls to me to be made into things.
  169. >Chisels, and rasps, and wire and lead shot and I'm making crankbaits from tulipwood.
  170. >A draw knife, carpenter's hatchet, and a spokeshave and I'm rehafting tools with hickory and ironwood.
  171. >Oak, Maple, and chestnut planks get their endgrain sealed and then are stacked up for curing under open sided lean-tos.
  172.  
  173. >As the winter progresses, we tap maples and birches for sap to refine into cider.
  174. >I did this before, on earth, with my family, where we had for 6 generations,
  175. >My first real wave of homesickness.
  176. >Despite our, and especially Mac's best efforts, the Crusaders, and especially Sweetie Belle end up covered in the sugary boiled down sap while candy-making.
  177. >The three fillies have been spending more and more time unsubtly asking me about my talents and passions, their cutiemark monomania starting to overwean Applejack's request that they not bother me about it.
  178.  
  179. >The arrival of spring in Equestria is very different from the arrival of spring at home, instead of months of mud and meltwater, the ground is cleared by pony power and then even the wild or fallow fields are refreshed manually and encouraged to grow with earth pony magic.
  180. >Spring makes Applejack more eager to fool around than ever, but brings an undercurrent of consequence to my mind.
  181. >Prophylactics are startlingly hard to acquire by my modern earth sensibilities.
  182. >Country pones make due.
  183.  
  184. >”It jes' don't seem right t' build a new house, Ah'm th' oldest daughter...”
  185. “So long as your grandmother and your little sister and your brother live in the farmhouse, it's basically still your parent's home, and unless you go out recruiting, your brother's going to have a bigger family than us anyways, so why should we burden ourselves with a master suite it'll never feel quite right to use or all the maintenance troubles of an old house many times expanded?  It's still the family home if your family is living in it.”
  186. >”Ah know, it's jes'... it's jes' not what Ah always imagined.”
  187. “If we hate it, we can always try and sweet talk Grannie and Bloom into moving into the new build and then expand the farmhouse again.  But if we like it, then convincing Granny and Bloom to give his herd space is Mac's problem.”
  188. >”Heh, that's one task Ah'm happy t' dodge.”
  189. “Speaking of tasks, we need to talk about construction methods.  When I look at what you've all made here, I know how we'd have done it back home, and I think I know about how we could approximate that here, but I figure you guys probably have some ideas that fit equestrian talents better.  We're gonna build a home and make it special enough to reflect what we've got.”
  190. >”Shucks, Sugarcube...Ah think that's somethin' we're gonna have t' talk t' Granny an' some experts 'bout.n  Mac's been on a crew or two, but he's hardly an expert.”
  191.  
  192. >I broached the question after supper.
  193. “Granny, Mac, I'm intending to build a home for Applejack and I this summer, and I need to talk to some experts about our options, because I only know the way we did it back home and I don't know if our way is going to be as good as your way.  Do y'all have any suggestions?”
  194. >Grannie harrumphs prodigiously with an inscrutable look at Applejack, but Mac grumbles thoughtfully before speaking.
  195. >”Ah'd say y' should speak t' Burnt Oak an' maybe also t' th' Turniptrucks, maybe spend some time on a crew an' getting some 'perience.  Oak'll know more 'bout th' Old Ways, but th' Turniptrucks'll know more 'bout th' ways folks'll pay for now.  Ah know a few things, an' will help, but y' should do some learnin' yerself too.  Prob'ly worth talkin' t th' Pies too, fer foundation work.”
  196. >At that, Granny's face softens, and she interjects, “Burnt's pappy an' grandpappy were th' some of th' ponies that made th' library.”
  197.  
  198. >The few days I spent reaching out to the mentioned ponies, or at least drinking whisky with Burnt as he alternately told tales and subtly interrogated me.  
  199. >I did send letters off to Igneous and Hayseed, but Burnt monopolized my free time.
  200. >What he was doing was pretty clear, he was looking to get a feel for my character.
  201. >It's obvious he's got close connections to the Apples, and what Mac described as the 'Old Ways' are obviously secret or at least family knowledge, not lightly given.
  202. >”Boy, I figgure it's time You and Ah did some work.  Now, there's a reason why th' mares don't lissen to us fellers when it comes to big decisions, an' yer gonna learn it t'day.  We're gonna go cut wood in the Everfree, and not just trimming back the edges like yorn Apples do.  What my pappy an' his pappy an' his pappy an' so on lernt to do ain't somethin' that yew kin jes learn from a pony, it's somethin' you've gotta learn from, an' steal from, a par-tic-yew-lar kind of unfriendly tree.”
  203.  
  204. >And that's how I ended up in the Everfree, with a borrowed axe, following a slightly mad old stallion, and pulling a big old log drag using traces I'd tested for their escapability.
  205. >Like Burnt had said, we weren't just cutting wood from the edge of the forest and taking down everything, but we were hunting and picking our way through, selectively trimming around trees Burnt judged desirable, in order to encourage their growth, lopping branches to encourage straightness, and taking a path that felt meandering on a short timescale, but felt very deliberate when pondered in totality.  
  206. >Eventually, we came to a glade where the leaves of the underbrush mirrored the leaves of the canopy, in an unsettling degree of uniformity, and Burnt bade me to stop and un-harness.
  207.  
  208. >”Here we are, in th' presence of a Throttler Fig.  These trees are parasites, and they don't just choke out and kill the tree they colonize, but they spread along the ground and throttle all the plants around them too.  We've exterminated these trees everywhere except for the wildest and most remote places in Equestria, because normally the way that earth pony farmers fight plant pests is to give their power to their crops to help them out compete the weeds, but these Throttler Figs don't just steal nutrients, water, and sunlight from the plants they infest, but they also steal earth pony magic from the plants that they infest, so they have to be removed manually, and not one fragment can remain, because these figs are so efficient at using earth pony magic to grow, that if even a fragment remains, it will return and take over the planting again at the slightest hint of earth pony magic.”
  209. “Insidious.”
  210. >”Yep, and they're dangerous to the unwary because of their fast growing and spiny vines, but it's that affinity that makes them such a bad pest that makes them special, and we're here today for you to learn how that affinity works.  Step 1 is for us to cut back the fig, so that in the learning, you don't end up spreading it further than it has so far managed by natural increase, and step one of cutting back a Throttler fig is to start a bonfire to dispose of the cuttings.”
  211. >So we cleared a big circular swath near the fig, and also cleared a swath around the fig to keep viable chunks from getting lost in the underbrush, and we collected deadfall and dry branches from the lower portions of the evergreens and all the while I was getting a first class lesson in the herbology of the everfree, Burnt's causal statements containing reams of knowledge and being backed by a willingness to expand on any topic that I caught that I needed more background on.  Once the deadwood heart of the bonefire was piled, I lit it with the firepiston and tinder kit that was as familiar on my hip as a wallet would have been back home, and the cleverness of device spurred an interested examination of the tool by Burnt.
  212. >With the fire lit, we piled on the green wood, and once the thickest smoke had dissipated and the heat returned to the flame, we shouldered our axes and approached the strangler.  
  213. >I worked, and Burnt supervised, but I didn't resent it, because the Strangler wasn't just insiduous, but dangerous to the unwary.  It didn't move fast enough to be a threat to anypony that was watching it, or who had a spotter, but slow moving vines armed with hoof long spines inexorably reached towards anything that struck it.
  214. >It cut easy, being soft and not very tough, but the cut chunks had to be treated with care enroute to the disposal fire, because even the severed vines tried to curl around whatever touched them, which, combined with the spines, would make them the least comfortable bracelet imaginable.
  215.  
  216. >Once we had cut the vines back to Burnt's satisfaction, he signaled me to stop cutting and retreat to the fire.
  217. >”Now Ah'm gonna pump jes a dollop of magic int' the fig, an Ah want ya t' feel out how much Ah put out and t' keep an eye on how th' fig responds, an then we'll have yew give it a go.  On th' coun' of three.”
  218.  
  219. >”One”
  220.  
  221. >”Two”
  222.  
  223. >”Three”
  224.  
  225. >The pulse of magic from Burnt was almost unnoticeable, especially in the face of the explosion of growth from the fig.  
  226. >New shoots come out of the stumps I cut, twisting through the air at the speed of a soft ball toss, reaching for and seeking the source of the magic.
  227. >New growth erupts from the crown of the fig, like a slow motion mushroom cloud.
  228. >But fairly quickly, the fig has consumed all of the earth pony magic that Burnt offered up, and the growth peters to a stop.
  229. “These figs are a weapon, not a pest.”
  230. >”What's that boy?”
  231. “I think somepony made these Figs as a weapon.  If an unsuspecting farmer went out to work their fields and someone had put fig sprouts in his crops, the figs could grab them and suck them dry of magic.  And if someone were to put fig sprouts in the path of an army, and then ambush the army when they're over the sprouts, the figs would wreak havoc in the ambushed troops.”
  232. >'Ah ain't sayin' that nothin like that ever happened, but Ah never heard nothing like that before.  Makes a feller's skin crawl to think about.”
  233. >”Anyways, that don't matter none right now, but we gotta cut it back again an' then yer gunna give it a go.”
  234. >Half an hour of hacking at the fig later, it's trimmed back even smaller than it was before, and we even topped the main trunk, to reign in the canopy of the tree.
  235.  
  236. >After the fire has consumed the chunks of fig we cut, we step to a respectful distance from the evil plant and I reach out to the power that's suffused my being during my stay here, and draw off the smallest tendril I can sense.  
  237. >Eyes peeled, and senses tuned, I reach out to the ground of the forest, and let slip the sliver of power.
  238. >When it finds the fig, the fig draws on it like a suckling goat being lead by the nipple.
  239. >The way the throttler draws on the power is nearly mesmerizing, and I crimp down on my power to stop the flow, only to notice that the throttler has grown to within 6 feet of me, and Burnt is readying his axe.
  240. >”One more trim, boyo, and then we'll break for lunch, and then we'll see what you've learned from the throttler on another plant, and decide from there if we give it another go with the throttler.”
  241. >After lunch, a few rods away, we found a young crab-apple being outcompeted by its neighbors.  
  242. >Being the Everfree, the tree trunk appears to be armored, but Burnt assured me it was a harmless plant.
  243. >”Now focus, and feed this tree just a smidgeon of yer power, but don't just give it t' the tree the way the Apples have taught yah, force the tree t' take the power th' way that the the Throttler took the power you offered it.”
  244. >Focusing intently, I ready a dollop of magic, and inject it into the natural flows of magic within the tree, and with a wrenching noise, I see the Crab Apple shoot up taller, thicker, and full of new growth.
  245. >”Good work boy, now watch as I give it a dose, and see if you can figure out how I can select what happens to the tree.”  
  246. >I concentrate on feeling the flow of earth pony magic as it wells up in Burnt, as he directs it into the tree, and somehow holds onto his power, directing it while it flows through the tree, not just as it flows into the tree, and first, he causes the tree to surge for the heavens without growing thicker or putting on extra foliage, and then he changes the flow of this magic and the tree swells in diameter, to the exclusion of all else.
  247. >Then it's my turn, and though it takes me several tries, I eventually start to show the kind of control that Burnt had demonstrated, and can selectively enhance the tree, albeit with less control over the direction the tree grows than the master.
  248. >By the time Burnt decides my lesson is completed, I'm foaming with sweat and famished, and the weedy Crab Apple has become a thick and tall canopy tree.
  249. “So what're the drawbacks to this sort of tree growth, if this technique isn't prized agricultural knowledge?”
  250. >”A wise question, boy.  First, while the tree is still reasonably strong, it'll need lots of less directed earth pony magic over a span of years to be as strong as a tree grown so large the conventional way, and it'll be decades of waiting before the fruit taste as rich or as healthy as they would if the tree was un-meddled with, never mind cared for in the manner of th' Apples.  Ah recon yer a might peckish after all that, lets eat and be on our way”
  251. >Burnt brings out a meal, and while I break to eat, and look up at the sky, I'm shocked at how late the hour has become.
  252. >We're not making it back to Ponyville before dark.
  253.  
  254. >Burnt Oak knows safe paths, and our journey back is uneventful, but his log skid is heavy laden and it'd be a burden to pull even if I wasn't as tired from magical exertion as I was, and full dark is hours past when the underbrush parts to show the lights of Ponyville across the fields.
  255. >After we drop off the log skid at Burnt's firewood processing station, he insists on paying me a wage for the work,  and says he'll be by next week for further lessons.
  256. >Under Luna's moon, I trudge back to the Acres, knowing I'm in the doghouse, gone all day without a word or an itinerary, and traipsing about on hazardous territory,
  257.  
  258. >Thankfully I'm out of the doghouse before the end of the week, word reaching Twilight that I've learned the technique used to make her library home drawing Applejack's friends to the Acres to help Twilight observe and record a demonstration.
  259. >A dogwood patch down by the river is chosen, for the lack of timber value and harmlessness of the tree, and I feed power into small stem selected from the patch, sculpting the red stems into the framework of a simple 4 room tree house before causing them to swell in diameter and meld into a single stem with hollows and openings, perfect for tree swallows to nest in, if not level or square enough for my own intentions.
  260. >Fluttershy is entranced by the instant birdhouse, and only comes down from a manic excitement when I explain how the wood of this quickly grown home is of weaker than the natural strength of the already soft and flimsy dogwood, and requires much magical investment to bring up to par with natural growth.
  261. >Indeed, it dents and cracks when she inspects it first hoof.
  262. “Let's try another from something a little tougher and then Applejack and I will give it a little help and we'll see what kind of results we get.”
  263. >Just a touch down the bank, we find a boxalder sappling, and half an hour of magical exertion later, I've made the boxalder into triple deck wood duck house.
  264. >Applejack and I work together to give the the ravaged boxalder an infusion of power in the normal way, and we can feel its density improve.
  265. >It took twice as long for two ponies to reinforce what I was able to grow, but once we were finished, the tree was the usual combination of perfectly healthy and stronger than normal that a short bit of earth pony investment can imbue in a tree.
  266. >As the girls prepare to part ways, I ask Twilight for a favor,
  267. “Miss Sparkle, could you ask the Princess, for me, in your next letter, if the Throttler fig was developed for internecine conflict or intranecine conflict?”
  268.  
  269. >Over the next few weeks of working on the farm, I split my free time between clearing and leveling the homesite that Applejack and I had chosen, and refining my skill at Burnt Oak's technique using dogwood, making small animal homes for Fluttershy.
  270. >I received responses to my letters too.
  271.  
  272. >Igneous offered to host me for a week of work and learning, if “you can persuade my daughter to pay visit when you come, and bring your intended and her siblings as well”, and I posted a response to him inquiring as to his preferred time.
  273.  
  274. >The second response was from Celestia herself, “When I received your missive, I was alarmed to learn that such things had survived.  Their origins are lost to history, they weren't a new thing the first time I encountered them, but one of the first big projects we undertook after unification was the eradication of these plants from the known world.  I would ask that you would consent to being interviewed about how you came to learn of them.”  
  275. >From there, the letter digressed into a genuine and personal feeling inquiry as to how I was finding living in her demesne, which I found quite nice.
  276. >I immediately penned a reply inviting her to speak with me on the matter of the throttler fig, and wishing her well, unsure what forms might be expected when corresponding to the crown.
  277.  
  278. >The third letter was by far the least literate of the responses I received, and was more like two letters in one, neither written to any particular high standard.
  279. >The main body of the letter was written in an angry scrawl, in a domineering female voice, and was mostly composed of accusations that I was trying to steal proprietary IP, that I was trying to deny honest ponies their due wages, that I was setting myself up to become a scab, and that I was undermining Ruthy Vega's “authroatai” in her herd.
  280. >The second half of the letter was in an even rougher hand,  but was from Hayseed himself.
  281. >”Ah mist pologize on behave of my princapal waif, bot sense the methuds and techkneeks we use whan werking aint clan knowings, but family knowings, tain't my choose who I can learn them to, but Ruthy makes that choice, and Ruthy doesn't trust fast or easy.  Ifin you wont help building yer home place, please right me back, Big Mac and Jacky have allways done write by me, and I will come help if any of you ask.  
  282. >”May Selestya's Lite shine on you all,
  283. >”Hayseed”
  284.  
  285. >I wrote Hayseed back to express my appreciation for his good will, and had Applejack put a little bit in there sympathizing with his Ruthy in order to help mollify her.
  286.  
  287. >A couple of days later, Hondo reached out to me.
  288. >To organize a river trip.
  289. >A paddle down the ponyville river to the confluence, and then down the slower river toward the foothills below Canterlot, and a train ride home after, 3 days if no one pushes the pace.
  290. >I spent a couple days leisure time tuning up my open water rods and making a few new crankbaits.
  291. >Mac and I in my canoe, Hondo and Harry in a larger skiff, the same sort of beer drinking lazy river trip I knew from home.
  292. >I dunno if Fluttershy would approve of me keeping a bottle in Harry's paw, but she ain't here.
  293. >I cast lures, Hondo and Harry float bait, Mac drifts flies from a comically long cane pole.
  294. >The bite's good, the company is fine, the brews are delicious.
  295. >After lunch, Harry and Hondo pass time with the dulcimer and banjo, leaving Mac and I to sing shanties and folk tunes.  
  296. >I'm not quite nails on a chalkboard, but the big lug has surprising chops, and can really make my mediocre voice sound better when he covers my errors with his harmonizing.
  297. >And that's when it happens, working a glide bait I made from a tree I had helped to grow in order to get the soft and light wood I needed, using a pole I made, in a canoe from my world, singing the Andy Griffith Fishing Hole theme with my future brother in law, I get a strike that spins the canoe around.
  298. >My reel's drag sings as our canoe accelerates down stream, backwards.  
  299. >I reel in whenever the drag pauses, and Big Mac turns about in his seat so he can steer us, as we speed down the river.
  300. >With a surge of power, the fish starts to pull drag again, and a massive pike leaves the water and tailwalks before splashing back down.
  301. >A few minutes later, I've landed the pike, unhooked it, and am softly releasing it, when Mac exclaims
  302. >”That got ya yer cutie mark!  Congrats!”
  303. “Really?  What is it?” I ask, concentrating on reviving the fish properly.
  304. >”It's a tree, bent like a fishing rod, Ah think.”
  305. >Shortly thereafter, Harry and Hondo catch up.
  306. >”Congratulations on earning your cutie mark son!  I've gotta ask, though, why is it a question mark?”
  307.  
  308. >First night's camp was on a wooded island at the head of a small section of rapids, and supper was a vegetable stir fry, apple hobo pies, and a few small trout.
  309. >The next day, before we set off, but after pancakes, I spent a little time experimenting with my magic on the plants of the island, and while there was little change in how using the power felt, the results were noticeably different, with a wider range of control over the density of the growth, and greater flexibility and tensile strength, both features that immediately brought to mind applications for fishing use, but also of use for many other purposes.
  310.  
  311.  >The vibrancy of the wild river, as we wended through the more civilized wilderness between Ponyville and the confluence was comparable to the very best, fairy-tail like days on the wild rivers of my youth on earth, but it seemed unremarkable here, judging from the reactions of my fellows.  
  312. >Every riffle held a worthy fish, every tree held a flock of beautiful songbirds, every bend revealed a breathtaking vista.
  313. >With Mac along to cook, and Harry to help me forage for wild fruits and vegetables, every meal is a feast.
  314. >The river port of Terret am Canterhorn broke into view as the Ponyville river entered the larger stream that flows from the foot of the Canterhorn, and though our time estimate was dead on, it came far too soon.
  315.  
  316. >I wrote my parents via Twilight's magic tome, on the train ride back home, wondering the whole time if the relief from the weights of failure that had weighed down my last year among my own kind might be coloring my perceptions, or if the magic of the land here made it simple better, in a qualitative manner.
  317.  
  318. >Back at the Orchard, a scroll, sealed in wax, awaited me, a Royal invite for my interview on the clan knowledge shared, knowledge I regretted referencing in my curiosity.
  319. >After a day with my betrothed, a day spent barely scratching the surface of the task list that had piled up over the course of my short river vacation, I returned to the train station, to head to the capital.
  320. >I boarded the train, escorted by Applebloom, in service of what had felt like racist notions of unicorn society, at least until they were met with mere nods from Applejack's unicorn friends.
  321. >Suitably chaperoned, and with detailed written instructions, we depart Ponyville.
  322. >Travel by train was always one of those things that I thought might be neat, back home, but in the end, I never did, because when I worked for the man, I had limited enough time off that I preferred to fly in order to spend more time at the destination, and when I worked for myself, I had no time off at all, at least until everything shut down.
  323.  
  324. >It is as dope as I imagined.
  325. >All the good chances to take in interesting views of a road trip, but none of the stress associated with having to deal with other drivers.
  326. >We've got a cabin to ourselves, plenty of room to stretch out and relax
  327. > Meals included with the tickets, and decent meals at that.
  328.  
  329. >Dinner service, Supper Service, and Breakfast Service later, the express train pulls into Canterlot station, and, as promised, there's a guard with a plackard waiting.
  330. >”Anon-ni-mouse?” the guardsmare enquires.
  331. >”That's us” replies Applebloom.
  332. >”This way, please,” replies the guard, before leading us to a carriage.
  333.  
  334. >The carriage ride was the last thing that I had any experience to compare it to.  
  335. >In the palace, ponies, mostly unicorns, moved about like nothing so much as a kicked over anthill.
  336. >Our escorting guardsmare handed us off to a court page and the court page to us to a sitting room.
  337. >We stayed in that room less than 10 minutes, before another page came and took us to an office, where an overworked appearing secretary confirmed our appointment and took our preference for tea time.
  338. >And then we were bundled off to a second sitting room by yet another page, and the page then pulled a silken cord, to the tinkling of distant silver bells, and as the page left, a butler appeared with a pitcher of water and a few silver goblets.
  339. >I filled a goblet for each of us, and we waited for about 20 more minutes, before yet another page came and lead us to a third sitting room, this one more opulent yet, furnished in red and gold with faceted amber lamps.
  340. >And while I allow my focus to drift to inspect the fittings of the room, with my flank to the door, so enters Celestia.
RGRE Applejack Anonstallion anonpone ptfg

The tale of Starswirl (1)

by Cliffordwriter

Ancient Rite

by Cliffordwriter

RGRE Anonpone+Applejack

by Cliffordwriter

RGRE Anonpone+Applejack prologue

by Cliffordwriter