"That don't sound right "
"No, that's even worse."
I'm a bit dusty and dirty right now, so you'll have to forgive me if I drop you in the tub water. Shouldn't be a problem, since I've got you on a desk I use to balance my sums, but I apologize in advance either way.
This is your first sight of the world I reckon, so I'm gonna tell you where you came from. Pinkie Pie gave you to me as a birthday present a few days back, told me it was 'something I needed', just like that. She even showed me hers so I could get a feel for what goes into a book like you, but there is no way on this world I'm gonna spout off like she did. Throwing out your love-life like that is just unseemly and not a little bit obnoxious. (And mine ain't none of your business, so don't ask.) And conciseness is a virtue, Pinkie! I know you like to talk, but come on! Near a hundred pages full of nothing but how hard you're crushing on Twilight! How many of those poor books are you gonna fill with rhapsodizing before you pony up and ask the girl out, for Pete's sake? Sheesh! Still, it's your book, so I can't rightly tell you what to do with it.
Didn't you like stallions, anyway?
Ah well. I've got a tiny crush of my own, so I've got no place to judge you, girl. I just wish you luck with her. She can be a handful (and so can you), but she's worth it. Twilight's the best thing that happened to us, even if she does act peculiar.
Huh. Just like you, Pinkie. Thinking on it, you two would be perfect for each other. You two'd be the talk of town, and do amazing things together. Why, you could even change the world if you put your mind to it!
Wait. What am I thinking? You two'd strangle each other to death by the second date.
Anyhow She was right. I've got quite a bit on my mind, starting with today. Cousin Braeburn came up from Appleloosa since we never did get to spend anything like a proper time together, what with the buffalo war and all. But thankfully, nothing too exciting (at least by Ponyville standards) happened, so we got to enjoy each other's company without distraction. We even had a light day of work, thanks to Big Mac being such an awesome big brother. I haven't seen him since then, though. I remember him saying he had some big engagement coming up, but wouldn't tell me what.
First thing we did was introduce him to all my friends, or those who weren't busy, like Pinkie Pie'd been. I worry for that girl, Book. I know for a fact that something ain't right with her, but I can't rightly place what. I love her to death, though, and she's rarely wrong about things. She just puts my tail on edge sometimes.
Wait, where was I? Oh right, Braeburn. The first person I introduced him to was my good friend Rainbow. She seemed to be feeling down about something, though, so our visit was kind of short, which is a shame. I'll have to remember to see what's bothering her tomorrow morning. We didn't talk much, of course, but I couldn't help but notice my cousin checking out her hindquarters. Kind of odd, since he hardly noticed her while we were in Appleloosa, and Rainbow's not the kind of pony you miss. Oh well. I wonder if there might be something to hooking them up. A beau might be just the thing to pull Rainbow out of that funk.
After her were my neighbors, Carrot and Caramel Top. They're a sweet couple, and we often spend dinner at each others' houses. Sometimes they invite that strange mailmare Derpy and her daughter along. You know, I kind of feel sorry for them. Derpy and Dinky, not the Tops. Derpy's younger than I am but already a mother working hard to provide for her family. She doesn't always manage, since I think the poor thing's a bit slow, and her accent doesn't do her any favors either, so me and the girls have been putting together a small savings fund for her to help her in tough months. She's such a sweetheart, too. First time we offered to help she couldn't stop kissing my face or hugging me or talking in that weird foreign language of hers. Real pretty, whatever it is. Sounds like it's from South Equestria, near the border.
Getting off track again. The dinner's turned into kind of a tradition, now. They eat at our place on Saturdays, and we eat at theirs on Sundays, even Derpy. They insisted on that day, what with them being religious and all. Whitefriars, I think. You know who I'm talking about, Book. Those weird ponies who believe Celestia is the sun and act the fool in public. Like those three Flower girls. They mean well, I guess, but I just can't make the connection in my head. I mean, she ain't the sun, she just raises the sun, right? Anyhow.
Carrot says she picked that day because good deeds performed on Celestia's day brings them closer to her ideal. Sounds like a load to me, but they're good folk, and they don't do anyone no harm.
Shoot, if it weren't for some of the other local Whitefriars making right fools of themselves, well... It's good that Carrot and Caramel ain't pushy about it, and it makes them happy. Might could see what they're on about sometime.
Rarity's the same, come to think of it. Heck, you wouldn't know she was religious unless you saw the sunburst icon she keeps in her bedroom, or watched her do nightly prayers like at Twilight's last sleepover. Maybe I should ask her about it?
Speaking of Rarity. After lunch with Carrot and Caramel we went to meet her. Now, I expected my cousin to fall for her, since Rarity is a beauty, but the poor guy went and made a fool of himself. Nobody in my family is the kind to do things by halves, and Braeburn is no exception. Practically drooled all over her and put his hindhoof in his mouth at least twice before I managed to get him under control. Rarity loved it, of course. She strung the idiot along worse than she does Spike and took full advantage of having a willing stallion around. Spent a good hour using him as a clothes-horse. Sheesh.
Darnit, Book. I know I said I wasn't gonna talk about my love life, but there's times when I'm plum jealous of Rarity. She doesn't even have to lift a hoof and she's got colts falling for her like leaves in an autumn breeze. At any one time, she could have half the male population of Ponyville wrapped around her hoof, ready to do anything she wanted. I've seen her in action, and I'm grateful she doesn't use her powers for evil. She says that only mares of loose morals go around flaunting their charms at any colt what crosses their path.
Hmph. I know what she means by it, but I can't help but feel a little patronized. As if she were saying that I couldn't get any stallion I wanted to, or that I'd be some kind of floozy for trying. I'm not bad looking at all, Book! In fact I'm right pretty when I feel like putting the time in. I could show Rarity a thing or two about a country girl's charms, if I were of a mind to!
I could put on that nice sundress Fluttershy talked me into wearing once, maybe powder my nose a bit. Nothing too fancy or frou-frou-y, of course; just a nice little something to turn some heads in this town and show them that I can be a little girly every now and then, too. Or maybe that little black dress from the catalog I've been hiding in the back closet, with the cut up one side. That'd show everyone this cowpony knows how to party. Yeah.
Goldarnit, lost my place again. Something about writing things down makes my head go all over the place.
After prying my cousin off of Rarity's perfectly trimmed fetlocks, we headed over to the library to meet Twilight and Spike for an early dinner, where my cousin proceeded to make a fool out of himself yet again by falling for Twilight. I felt bad for him this time, since Twilight could barely notice him falling all over himself trying to ask her out. I swear the girl's thick as two planks when it comes to some things. Show her a bug, and she can tell you ten things about it before you can blink. Show her an interested colt or a handsome stallion and she stares at you blankly.
Oh Twilight I don't know if I'd have you any other way. You're just too adorable sometimes.
Dinner was at a nice little corner-stop Spike found. Good food, if a bit greasy, but you get what you pay for. There was lots of it, and it was tasty, but I wouldn't look too deeply into the food preparation procedures. We went as a kind of double-date. I say 'kind of', because Twilight was too busy not noticing poor Braeburn's obvious advances and Spike is a bit young for me. Yeah, he's hard-working, smart, funny, sensible and chivalrous (He even offered me his elbow when we left the library and escorted me out, just like a real gentlecolt.), but he's still a baby dragon.
Oh hush up, Book. I know it's silly, the thought of me and Spike together. You don't need to make fun of me; I think it's silly, too, even if he is a true gentlecolt. Now stop patronizing me or you can forget about me telling you what Spike did after dinner.
So you've decided to hear what I have to say then, huh? Good. I like a Book who knows when to keep its mouth shut.
After dinner, Spike pulls out this heavy trench coat and an old fedora and pops them both on. He then starts talking in a perfect impression of Bumpy Haycart and putting the charm on Twilight.
I think I figured out just the man for our poor, oblivious librarian. He'd come straight out of one of Granny's old black-and-whites, and be a detective and talk rough and coarse but have that undertone of sophistication and honor that belies his hardscrabble ways.
I think it's an old joke between them, the way those two went on. They bantered back and forth like an old married couple, making Braeburn's cheeks red with jealousy, then fell about laughing! It was so sweet, how comfortable they was with each other.
And then the little devil went and turned them on me! I am not too ashamed to admit that he made this mare's heart go all a-flutter with his Bumpy Haycart. And the way he says "Here's lookin' at you, kid," had me turning as red as the apples on my butt and talking fancy and
Breathe a word of that to anypony and I'll use you as kindling. Got it?
Besides, Spike's too young for that, and reminds me too much of my daddy. Even if that cute little face is growing up into a handsome young stud. Did you know he got his first whisker the other day? He paraded it around so proudly! Unfortunately, Twilight made him shave it, but he looked so darling with it. I wonder how he'll look when the rest grow in? Heh. I bet in a few years he'd have fillies throwing themselves at him. Poor guy'd have to chase them off with a stick. Maybe some of the older girls, too.
But enough about that. Braeburn made his displeasure known, and we had to leave when he stole a tablecloth from a restaurant across the street to get Twilight's attention. I think he was gonna make a cape out of it, but I ain't sure. Made a mess of the table setting, though. Twilight thought it was funny, and Spike laughed, but I don't think that was what Braeburn was going for.
I decided against taking him to see Fluttershy, as she would've just hemmed and hawed while my cousin 'oohed' and 'aahed' and spent the rest of the evening spent mumbling or babbling. That or he'd try doing poetry again.
If my cousin ever offers to read you poetry, decline as quickly and firmly as possible. It's absolutely dreadful.
The rest of the evening went alright. We walked, and I showed him around my town. He likes it, but says he prefers Appleloosa's quiet. While Ponyville ain't exactly the most cosmopolitan of towns, it can get rather exciting here, what with the Everfree Forest practically on our doorstep and Canterlot not a day's run. Or that all six of the Elements of Harmony bearers reside here.
The Elements There's a subject that needs some light shed on it.
I asked Twilight about them, way back when. She told me about a couple theories she has, and some stories of old, but hasn't been able to find the definitive tale about what they actually are and where they come from. There was one interesting tale about a place called 'Cromnia', which is supposed to actually exist according to Twilight. She thinks they come from Celestia, but I ain't sure about that. I don't know why I think that. Just a gut feeling, is all. I figure there's more to them than just the Princess. Or either princess, for that matter.
I'll have to see if Twilight can get a better answer from the Princess. There's no real pressure, of course. I'm just curious as to whether or not the one I've got will affect my ability to run this farm
That's another thing that's been eating at me, Book. I love this farm, but me and my brother both can't run this whole thing ourselves much longer. I don't know how we managed this long, to be honest. I asked Granny about it, but she's unusually tight-lipped whenever I bring up the farm. Has been since we saved Princess Luna. The only thing I managed to wrangle from her was it had something to do with mama, about an agreement that
That I don't know. Just, an agreement. Something between Granny Smith and the Princess that happened sometime after my mother disappeared.
Which makes me even more worried, now that I think on it. If Celestia knows something about my mother, then why hasn't she said anything to me? Why won't Granny say anything? Goldarnit, Book! There's so many things people won't tell me, and it's driving me nuts!
Sorry. I gotta calm down and explain myself so you understand what's going on.
About twelve years ago, my daddy, Apple Cider, died. It was a bad year for snowstorms, and one blew up out of the Everfree Forest that blanketed the whole town. Before the storm, he tried to get all the sheep inside the barn where it was safe, but one of them wandered off for who knows what reason. Daddy went to find it, but the damn fool thing got itself lost and he had to chase after. Unfortunately, the storm got worse, and he was caught out in it. Mama wanted to go after him when he didn't come back like he said he would, but the storm was still going and Granny said no, that it was better to wait. She had faith he'd come back like he said, and that he was a tough young fellow.
Unfortunately, he wasn't tough enough to beat hypothermia We found him the next day when the storm had settled down a bit, frozen to death on the edge of Everfree wrapped around the sheep, which was only barely alive. The damn thing caught a fever and died two days later. I ended up inheriting daddy's hat at the funeral.
Things got tense around the farm after that. Mama blamed Granny for not letting her go look for him, but Granny said that she'd just have died, too. I can't say she's right or wrong, and I do understand a little. Things got worse when we found out I was gonna have a little sister, and Mama started She got distant, restless. She fought with Granny a lot. I remember a lot of things were said, hurtful things. Mama said that the house without her husband just wasn't home for her. But she couldn't uproot us, or leave Granny alone, and no one was ready to give up Daddy's farm. So Granny said that once Apple Bloom was born, she should go visit her parents for a week to get her head right. 'Put yourself in a state fit to be around my children', she'd said. Only reason I don't blame her for wanting to leave is because everyone was full up with grief, and nopony thought straight.
She was originally from the Appleloosa area, back when it was just a couple prospecting shacks, a trading post or two, and a couple sod houses and nothing like the boomtown it is now. Her family had a small farmstead out there, where she went and never came back. Granny visited the place when Mama didn't return, but the whole thing had been leveled. Not a single building was standing, according to her.
Things on the farm got worse that year. There wasn't enough money to hire the workers in spring, and they weren't in the business of charity, no matter how much Granny harangued them. She and Macintosh had to work the orchards, and I did everything else I could. It was just enough to keep us from starving. That winter was even worse, and then
Things got better. I don't know why, but that next spring our fortunes started to turn around. It was enough to keep the farm, and even make a little money. Granny told us it was probably some of the workers who'd come in the night because they felt bad but I couldn't believe her. I remember seeing weird tracks around the barn sometimes, too big for ponies. I even think I saw shapes in the orchards at night, and woke up to find chores had been done, and fields had been planted. I almost thought it was fairies.
I never saw them again after that, once the Apple Clan had pitched in to help, but those were weird and magical times, but also full of sorrow. I'm almost glad Apple Bloom was spared the grief, but she should have known She should have met Mama. She should have seen Daddy working the fields, so strong and sure and wise. She should have met Grampa Russet and Gramma Vidalia. Oh Mama why'd you have to leave? Why couldn't you stay? What happened to you out there?
*sniff* "Damnit, Braeburn. Why'd you have to visit now? I'd almost got it out of mah head "
Sorry, Book. Give me a second.
Okay. I'm alright now.
It was back when me and my friends brought Bloomberg to Appleloosa Town as a thank you gift. After the battle with the Buffalo, me and Rainbow chased off after Little Strongheart in a quick race. It was fun, but I stopped to let them chase on and looked around. I was near my Grampa's old homestead, or where it had been. It was far away from town, so there should have been no one else there, but I saw somepony She looked so familiar, and I swear I could hear my Mama's voice. Then Rainbow called me and I looked away for a second. Just a second, I swear. I looked back and they were gone. I don't know if she saw me or not, or even if it was a real pony and not some mirage, or my brains playing tricks on me. All those old feelings came back, and I spent the whole night scouring the place to find some sign that somepony had been there. I found nothing. I tried to forget about it for two weeks, but the thought just won't go away.
I'm gonna go back, Book. I have to know for sure if what I saw was real or illusion.
I'll get Twilight to come along. Maybe Rainbow, too. Twilight would know what to look for, and is the smartest most powerful unicorn I know. Rainbow knows where we were, and can fly faster than anything. But before that I'm gonna make sure the farm is safe, and I'm going to wring every answer out of Granny I can. Celestia, too, while I'm at it.
I need to know, Book. I can't hardly rest without knowi
" Is somepony knockin'?"
I'm sorry, Book. I have to go see who it is.
Applejack stuck her pencil in between the pages of Book and shut the cover, then pulled herself out of the tub with a loud splash. "Who in th'world could be knockin' at this time of night?"
She quickly wrapped a towel around her middle to dry herself and trotted toward the stairs, where a sleepy-eyed Apple Bloom was waiting.
"Sis? What's goin' on? Who's at the door?" she asked muzzily.
"Dunno, Apple Bloom, but stay up here for now while I see who it is and send 'em away."
"Alright, sis," she said with a yawn.
The knocking at the door grew louder, more insistent as Applejack crested the bottom of the stairs. "Probably just Big Mac comin' home from his 'big engagement'. Likely lost his key an' wants in." She snorted and shook her head, then unlatched the deadbolt. "Poor lug always hated th'cold."
The knocking grew louder, and faster. To Applejack, it felt like someone was trying to batter the door down with their hooves.
"Now just hold on an apple-buckin' second! Ah'm workin' the door as fast as Ah can!"
Silence, except for the gentle rattle of the chain being drawn back.
"See? Now that's better. Give me a second more, alri"
"Now Ah know Ah taught ya better language than that, young missy."
Applejack's face went white and the chain fell from her lips.
"You gonna open yer door, now? Or am I gonna hafta kick it down just so's Ah can git a good look at ya?"
Tears welled in Applejack's eyes as she nosed the door open and looked up at the voice beyond it.
Standing in the darkness was a tall mare, powerfully built and nearly as tall as her brother. Her shoulders were broad and well-muscled, and every leg bristled with sinew. Moonlight lovingly caressed the muscles of the older mare, showing off the still noticeable curves that softened her outline and highlighted the figure's obvious femininity. A hat looked over the top of a practical bun of golden-green hair, twinning the one on Applejack's head. "Ah'm sorry " said the figure, bending her head to press her nose against Applejack's cheek. "Ah'm so sorry, darlin'. Ah wish Ah wish there were summat Ah could say to make things right."
Applejack stared numbly out into the darkness. "Muh m-mama?"
Autumn Gold smiled and nuzzled her little girl's cheek. "Ah'm here mah baby girl. Mah beautiful baby girl "