The Poetry Of The LayersThe Poetry Of The LayersThe Poetry Of The Layers by earwig888
Maud Pie sorted the samples on her display table. She’d been doing it for quite a while, and she wasn’t getting any closer to being satisfied.
It was the annual Ponyville Trade Fair, and Maud was tending the Pie Family Rock Farm booth. She had offered to take over the booth so her younger sisters could tour the fair’s other exhibits, and get a bit of lunch. Limestone and Marble Pie had readily agreed, mainly because they knew the best way to make Maud happy was to leave her alone with the rocks.
A perfect display table would be a nice nice gift for her little sisters, but Maud just wasn’t going to get everything right before the girls returned. It was hard. So very hard.
The best samples needed to be at the front of the table where they could catch a passing pony’s eye. Unfortunately, this required Maud to pick her favorites. Every time she thought she had picked the best rocks for th
Pen And Paper HeartsPen And Paper HeartsPen And Paper Hearts by earwig888
“I scream my war cry and charge,” declared Trogor the ogor. “‘I will eat your livers!’”
“I raise my axe and charge at my battle brother’s side,” stated Hard Head the minotaur.
“I, the mighty Stupendor, summon the arcane forces of nature, preparing to blast it right between the eyes…!”
“Um…” began Hermione Shyblossom, the pixie-fairy. “Is it too late to reconsider?”
“That, like, totally depends, Quiz,” answered Silver Spoon, from behind her GM screen. “Guys? Hermione is trying to call you back, do your characters listen to her?”
“Oh, what is it now, Quiz?” snapped Snips. “Don’t tell me you want to talk to them.”
“Yeah, Quiz. Your character always wants to talk to the monsters,” said Snails. “Don’t you ever just want to hit something?”
A Little Fixer-UpperA Little Fixer-UpperA Little Fixer-Upper by earwig888
“I had one job,” moaned Quizzical Greystone.
“It’s Ok, Quiz,” said Apple Bloom. “Miss Cheerilee just wants to talk to you about it.”
“Nopony’s mad at you, Quiz,” added Sweetie Belle. “Nopony has any reason to be mad at you.”
“Even if she is a little mad, she won’t yell at you or anything, Quiz,” said Scootaloo. “You know Cheerilee. She doesn’t even yell at us!”
“I had one job,” Quiz repeated. “Just deliver a simple message. I was to let the class know that Miss Cheerilee had been called away, and have everypony read from the history text until she returned. One simple job.”
When Quiz arrived in Ponyville she had no friends and none of the skills necessary for making friends. She suffered from such horrible social anxiety that it seemed unlikely that this would ever change. But this was Po
The Puppy that Could FlyThe Puppy that Could Fly
One day I was walking in the street when a puppy ran up to me. The puppy barked and then rubbed against my legs. I smiled. "Hello puppy," I said, reaching down to pet its fluffy brown fur.
"You're cute." The puppy wagged its tail happily. "Arf!" he said. Then I asked the puppy if he had a home. He looked up at me sadly, and then I saw that he had no collar. So I scooped the
little creature up and carried him home.
Inside my house, I let the puppy down. He went, "Arf!" and then began to explore. He sniffed the floor and jumped up onto the couch and pawed the rug and inspected the lamp.
Then he leaped into the air and stayed.
My puppy could fly!
He flew all around the room and then he flew all around the room again, but the other way this time. Then he flew down into my arms and went, "Arf!" happily. I hugged him.
"You can fly!" He only smiled a doggy smile. And then I said, "How about I'll call you 'Fly'? How do you like that? It
A Little Game Of War
Arandell threw himself onto a couch and lay sprawled there. “I need a drink. What a dreary party!”
“It wasn’t a party, Arandell.”
He levitated a decanted and a glass, then apparently thought better of it, and discarded the glass and began to drink directly from the decanter. “Funeral, party, what’s the difference? I was celebrating!”
In all our turbulent, on again/off again relationship I had never been so disgusted by him. “She was your sister.”
“Half-sister,” corrected Arandell. He never let an opportunity to point this out pass. “Do get the stick out of your butt, Lianna, and party with me! I never liked the little brat so why pretend to care now? Goldenrod was an anchor, and I’m celebrating being rid of her. Father won’t be wasting all the money he should be putting in my trust fund on prolonging her miserable little life!”
“She was getting better.” It was a stupid thing to say, but it was all I could think of.
“Well, something must have triggered a relapse. Lucky me.”
I didn’t respond. If I tried to defend Goldenrod it would just make Arandell rant about her more, and I didn’t have the heart to hear it. Turning my back to him, I wiped tears from my eyes. In front of me, on the mantlepiece, was one of Goldenrod’s toys, a little pony in a gold guard’s uniform.
It shouldn’t have been there. Goldenrod was always diligent about her toys being put back where they belonged. I took the little toy soldier down and held it gently.
“Hey, you want to do it on her bed?” asked Arandell. “Dad and his gold-digger will be playing mourning parents all evening; we’ll have the house to ourselves. Goldenrod’s bed is really comfy.”
I didn’t want to know why Arandell knew that. I couldn’t remember why I left the funeral with him. I was about to tell him to go to Hell and go back to the funeral home when Arandell jumped up.
“I know, let’s play with her toys! I want to take advantage of all those wonderful military play sets of Goldenrod’s. Dad stopped buying them for me when I was a kid; he said I didn’t take care of them. But he got that sickly little brat everything that came on the market. Seriously, what’s the fun in having toys if you can’t break them? Let’s see how many of her things we can break tonight!”
Arandell snatched the toy from my hoof. He bounded up the stairs to Goldenrod’s bedroom, the decanter still bobbing along next to his head.
“No!” I sprinted after him. “Those toy soldiers were precious to her!”
“Come on, Lianna, you loved to play with her. Play with me!”
I’d come to work here after being expelled from the Equestrian Military Academy for cheating (I was caught letting a friend copy my test answers). A trust fund baby like Arandell could (and did) get kicked out of every school he attended and bounced back as if nothing had happened, but I couldn’t. The best work I could find was as nanny to a very sick little filly.
Before my disgrace I’d been an honor’s student. The Department of Tactics and Strategy had actually made me a tutor; if I had managed to graduate I was sure I would have gone on to become an instructor. Having students was what I missed the most about school.
I had found an apt pupil again in little Goldenrod.
We played mock combat every day, usually all day. I taught Goldenrod everything I knew, and when she learned all that we got books from the library and taught ourselves more. On her bad days I had to move all her units for her, but that hampered her not at all. She could command from her bed better than most real generals could in the field. Goldenrod also learned a great deal about diplomacy. I liked to fight to a draw then sue for peace. I always found her terms firm but fair.
Now I remembered why I came home with Arandell. It was to keep him from doing something awful, like this. “I mean it, Arandell! Don’t you touch her toys!”
“You’re no fun, Lianna.” Arandell was running up the stairs. “Last one to the snot’s bedroom has to defend the castle. I call dibs on the ballistas!”
I chased him up the stairs, and almost collided with him when Arandell stopped dead at the top. “Is this some kind of a joke?” he demanded.
I looked around his shoulder to where he pointed. There, at the top of the staircase, was a formation of tiny earth pony destriers.
“I don’t understand. The toys are never left out, and even if they were they aren’t allowed near the stairs. Somepony might trip on them…”
“Well, they didn’t walk there on their own....what the Hell?!”
I followed his gaze to the base of the stairway. Another troop of toy ponies had taken up position blocking that exit.
“Somepony is trying to make a fool of me, and I won’t stand for it!”
“The house is empty except for us, Arandell.” A chill ran along my spine.
“Well, this is just ridiculous!” Arandell began to step off the stairs.
No sooner had his hoof touched the floor than the little pony soldiers braced their lances against their saddles. They advanced on Arandell in a neatly dressed line.
He retreated down the stairs to stand next to me. “I didn’t know they could do that!”
“They can’t,” I said.
“Well, however it’s done, I’m not playing this game.” Arandell took a deep swig from the decanter. “They can’t climb stairs and I am content to wait. I’m sure the prankster responsible will grow bored before I run out of wine.”
“Actually, they could use the ropes and ladders from the siege engine set. Or they could send one of the pegasi units…” I had a much longer list of ways we could be attacked on the stairs, but that was as far as I got.
Arandell shrieked with pain. The toy guard pony he held had drawn its sword and stabbed him through the soft part of his hoof.
“This damn thing hurt me!” Arandell shook the toy loose and I heard a clatter when it fell out of sight. “It… hurt me. How did it hurt me?”
I could think of no sane answer to that question.
There was ‘twang’ that was so soft I wasn’t certain I had really heard anything; then Arandell screamed again. “My face!”
A dozen little shafts peppered his checks. Each arrow was half the size of a toothpick.
“Oh, hush. I’ll find some tweezers and remove them. They won’t even leave a mark.” I
decided not to mention that Goldenrod’s little army had over three hundred archers.
“Lianna, we have to get away from here! Do something!”
That made two things Arandell was right about. We did have to get away, and it was up to me to handle it. “Fine! Follow me, and stay close. And give me that!” I snatched the wine decanter out of the air.
I took a deep breath and ran up the stairs. I swear the little soldiers appeared to brace themselves to meet my charge. When I hit the top step I rolled the heavy crystal glass right at them. This scattered their ranks enough for me run through them.
Arandell was just behind me. I heard him whimper; probably as the archers took aim at his departing flanks.
My planned escape route took me to the right. Arandell did not follow; he continued down the hallway.
“Don’t be stupid!” he called. “The back stairs are this way.”
He was going to run right between two open doors, doors that were normally kept closed. Everything about this looked familiar. I’d taught Goldenrod this trick.
“It’s an ambush! Arandell, you’re running into a trap!”
He stopped and glared at me over his shoulder. “A what? They’re toys, Lianna; they don’t know how to set traps!”
Arandell had stopped right between the open rooms. I bit down on his tail and yanked hard. He squealed with pain and outrage, but I didn’t care. I was just in time.
Two volleys of rocks sailed into the hall. If Arandell had still been there, right at the center of the crossfire, he would have been crippled.
“Catapults?” gasped Arandell. “Goldenrod had catapults? That is so not fair! I begged Dad to buy me catapults!”
“Just shut up, and follow me, Arandell.”
I led him to through a concealed door to the servant’s stairs. All the while Arandell continued to rant about how Goldenrod had nicer toys than he did. Instead of telling him to shut up I just shut him out. I’d had plenty of practice at that.
When I first came to work at the household I was depressed and vulnerable (qualities Arandell found irresistible in a mare). That the handsome socialite, stallion about town was paying attention to little old me was intoxicating. It made me weak in the knees. This was enough for me to delude myself into think I was in love with him, though that didn’t last long. I did keep coming back to him, though this was mostly inspired ny fear. I was terrified that if I spurned him Arandell would have me fired. I couldn’t bear the thought of being separated from Goldenrod.
The stairs led down to a service way that connected the kitchen and the ballroom. I was not about to face an enemy in our kitchen - I didn’t want to think about them getting into the butcher knives or what they could do with the burners on the stove. That left the ballroom.
I opened the door to peek out. The cavalry was waiting for us.
I have to say, I was impressed with their tactics. They were arrayed in several lines, spaced irregularly so that we couldn’t simply gallope or leap over them without losing rhythm. They could take advantage of all the space the ballroom gave them to maneuver, but they were close enough to reinforce each other. To me, it looked like one of Goldenrod’s plans.
“Do we just make a run for it?” whispered Arandell. “If just one lancer gets lucky that might be enough to bring one of us down, then it’s all over.”
He was probably right. Arandell was already favoring one hoof from his sword wound. Besides their lances some of the units had chariots with wheel blades, these could chop up a hoof. Luckily, the cleaning staff had left me a weapon I thought might confound my little enemies.
“We run for the door, but you stay with me. I will make a hole for us. On three I will throw open the door and we hit them as fast as we can.” He nodded, I counted, and then we charged.
I had a push broom. I held it in my teeth, using it like a snow plow. I literally swept them out of the way. It occurred to me that, when Goldenrod and I played, this tactic would have been considered cheating. But the rules had changed.
We had almost made it to the door when a cloud of pegasi rose from their hiding place behind the piano. They were behind us, but gaining swiftly.
“Keep running and don’t quit until you reach the front door,” I told Arandell. He didn’t argue at all about leaving me. I went to the cloakroom, where I thought I’d find what I needed to cover him. Sure enough, there was an umbrella. Somepony always leaves an umbrella behind.
I popped it open just as the first pegasi reached me. They bounced off the fabric and fell. Quickly opening and closing the umbrella produced enough wind to scatter the rest. I ran to catch up with Arandell, slamming the doors behind me.
He hadn’t made it to the door. He was cowering behind a cabinet. Guarding the exit, floating just above the doorframe, were three toy airships.
“Airships! That is so unfair! I never had airships!” Four ballistas were mounted on each of them, and Arandell sported a bloody shoulder wound that told me at least one had been fired already. I took cover behind a bookcase. There was a ‘twang,’ and a bolt struck the shelf hard enough to send splinters into my mane. A well aimed shot would kill.
“Goldenrod, why are you doing this to me?” cried Arandell. “Why can’t you move on to your reward or your punishment or whatever, and leave me alone?!”
A round of ballista bolts answered him, shattering several nicknacks on the cabinet.
“Goldenrod is dead!” I shouted.
“Who else could be doing this?” Arandell was raving. “The wicked little monster has come back to haunt me! Why is she doing this?”
That was a very good question.
“Can you hear that?” It was strange, whirring noise that I didn’t recognize. I figured it out almost too late. “Arandell, duck!”
“What… arrgh!” The little pink toy dove at him, and cut a deep slice into his ear before he swatted it out of the air. It crashed to the floor and broke. “A helicopter? I didn’t know they even made helicopters!”
“They came out last week. Um… Goldenrod wasn’t supposed to get it until her birthday next month.”
“Well, the little sneak got it out of it’s box anyway! Damn it, Lianna, she’s mutilating me, she’s cutting me to pieces! Help me! You have to save me!”
“Well, first we have to find another way out. I think… Oh, bloody Hell.”
I’d turned to see which way the safest retreat was. All I could see were toy soldiers everywhere. Whatever way we ran we would have to fight our way through. And it was about get worse. A team of engineers appeared to be working on getting the ballroom doors back open. Some little soldier ponies had gotten into a china cabinet and were breaking the glass. No doubt pegasi would be sent to drop the shards on us. Far down the hall I saw groups of four or eight toy soldiers dragging the cutlery out of the kitchen. They were mounting the knives on little wagons.
The only spot unguarded was the stairway.
“Don’t panic, Arandell. We can make a plan. We need something to pop the airships with…”
He screamed as the archers began to take potshots at him. I doubt any of them hit him, but it was all Arandell could take. He bolted like a flushed rabbit, and ran up the stairs to the second floor.
It was a trap, there was no way down from there. We were obviously being herded. But Arandell had no where else to run.
The nanny in me took over, and I followed him. In many ways Arandell needed a keeper more than Goldenrod had. I couldn’t just leave him.
When I caught Arandell at the top of the stairs I began to rethink that choice.
All the catapults had been moved into the hall. It looked like Goldenrod’s complete set of thirty-two. They were aimed right at us, loaded with rocks and ready to fire. Little tin ponies were pouring something oily over the rocks. Others stood by with tiny torches.
We dove for cover though the nearest open door, but if there was any sense of relief at being out of the line of fire it evaporated as soon as we realized where we were.
It was Goldenrod’s bedroom.
We were surrounded by toys, and each of them turned to stare at us. The door slammed shut and locked itself. Arandell wet himself.
I dragged him into the wardrobe and shut us in. With a ribbon I tore off one of Goldenrod’s dresses I tied the doors closed. This would not hold them out for long, but it seemed to reassure Arandell.
“We only need to hold on until Dad gets home,” he said. “We’ll be safe here, won’t we, Lianna?”
He was hoping for soothing words of encouragement. I was not in the mood.
“No, Arandell, we are not safe!” I snapped. “Goldenrod has a squad of minotaurs with axes that could hack the door apart. Or she could use the battering ram from the siege engine set. Or she could bring some of the catapults in here and smash us with flaming rocks. Or she could keep it simple and set the wardrobe on fire…”
“Shut up! Just shut up!” Arandell curled up on the floor and began to cry. “Why is she doing this to me?”
“I don’t know.”
Something slid a sheet of Goldenrod’s stationery (pink, with bunnies, kittens, and puppies all around the border) under the door. On it was scrawled one word - ‘Surrender.’
I found a purple marker, wrote ‘Terms?’ and slid the paper back.
It came back with ‘Unconditional’ added to “Surrender.’
I wrote ‘Mercy?’ and slipped it back.
I got the paper back with ‘Unconditional’ circled five times, underscored three times, and ringed with little stars.
“Oh, just tell her ‘Nuts!’ and quit playing along with her, Lianna!”shouted Arandell. “I’m hurt, I’m bleeding, I’m tired, I can’t breath in here, and I need a drink! You need to get me out of here!”
“None of this makes any sense,” I murmured.
“Oh, good, you’ve been paying attention!”
“That’s not what I meant.” I really didn’t make sense. I could recognize Goldenrod’s brilliance, but nothing else about any of this reminded me of her. She wasn’t cruel, and she wouldn’t toy with anypony the way we had been played with. Chasing us around the house, slowly escalating her forces, picking away at Arandell; none of this was like Goldenrod. She like to deploy overwhelming force to end things swiftly, she thought that was as close to merciful as going to war would allow. And she had no motive for any of this.
I knew that Arandell had broken her heart. She once confided in me that she had always wanted a big brother. What she got instead was Arandell, who treated Goldenrod like he was allergic to her. I could not imagine how that must have hurt. But that didn’t justify this murderous rage.
“Why is she haunting me?” sobbed Arandell.
“Why don’t you tell me? Why is Goldenrod haunting you?”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“Goldenrod was getting better. She was stronger every day.”
“Yes, well, like I said, she must have had a relapse.”
“Did you trigger that relapse? Perhaps with a pillow over her face?!”
It wasn’t a guess, I was just lashing out blindly. The guilty look on his face told me I’d accidentally stumbled upon the truth. The shock almost stopped my heart.
“She was just a filly, Arandell. She was your sister.”
“Half sister! And I didn’t do anything! She just died, alright?”
“You are an incompetent liar, Arandell. It’s why you owe so much from playing poker.”
“Stop it, Lianna! You can’t turn on me now, you have to save me!”
“Fine.” I started to tie a lace handkerchief to a coat hanger.
“What are you doing?”
“Making a flag of truce. I’m going to go out and negotiate with Goldenrod.”
Arandell blanched. “You can’t! It won’t work, she just wants me dead!”
“It will buy us some time. Goldenrod always loved this part. I can make it fun for her and draw it out until we’re rescued.”
Arandell was now more terrified than I had seen him all night. “She won’t listen! She wants revenge! She’ll kill you and I’ll be all alone!”
“She will listen, and she won’t kill me. Goldenrod knows I care about her.”
“Are you sure?”
No, I wasn’t. Not at all. “Of course I’m sure. You have to trust me, Arandell. There’s nopony else here to help you.”
Without waiting for his response I bit through the ribbon securing the doors and opened them enough to stick my improvised white flag through. “Goldenrod? I’m coming out.”
I stepped half way out. “Goldenrod, where are you? Arandell, come look! All of the toys are gone! We’ve made it!”
He was so excited he shoved me out of the way to see. “What..? Lianna, we are still surrounded… No!”
I pushed him as hard as I could and closed the doors. I bent my coat hanger around the lock and catch to keep them closed.
“Lianna, let me in! You can’t do this to me!” He pounded his hooves against the wardrobe so hard I was afraid he’d break in, but that didn’t go on for very long. He called my name a few times, but after that all I heard was screams. I couldn’t press my hooves against my ears firmly enough to keep out the screams.
I heard hoof beats as Arandell must have made a run for it, and I heard the bedroom door open. After that it became very quiet.
I don’t know how long I waited there, listening to myself sobbing. Not as long as I wanted, and probably not as long as I needed; I had earned the right to have a good cry, but I didn’t have the luxury of sitting there all night. Eventually, I pulled myself together enough to leave the wardrobe.
“Goldenrod? You’ve won the game. Will you please accept my unconditional surrender?”
After a moment all the toys surrounding me lowered their weapons.
“Thank you, Sweetheart.” I was so relieved I almost started bawling again. I was going to live. I still had a lot to deal with, but I could deal with it. I would be alive to deal with it.
The authorities would demand an explanation about what had happened to Arandell, and the only explanation I had was quite insane. I had no idea how I would prove I wasn’t mad, let alone how long it would take, but that was alright. I would get a long rest and some compassionate counseling and I looked forward to that.
I had read that a ghost moves on if the business they left unfinished in life is completed. If that was really how these things worked then Goldenrod would be leaving soon.
A plush dragon rose into the air and floated over to me. I took the toy I was offered and set it down in front of the gates of Goldenrod’s little castle. “One last game before you go? I’d love to.” I began gathering up toys to represent my forces. I deployed them while Goldenrod moved her little soldiers into place.
I'm a middle aged man, with an advanced degree, a wife of many years, and my own business. I am also a Brony, and I write stories about Crayola colored ponies. If you don't think that's cool we probably won't get along.
We aren't so very different, you and I. We both probably like Star Trek. I just saw it first on a black and white TV with an antenna and a numbered dial.
We both may like Star Wars. I just saw it in a theater during its first run.
Maybe we both like D & D. I started with Edition One back in 1982.
I may be older than you, but I'm not going to yell at you to get off my lawn. Honest.
I hope you'll check out my fiction. I really hope you'll like it.
Oh, and my 3 pug dogs think I'm pretty cool, and they're pretty good judges of character.