"Of the Fair and All After"
Written by The Descendant
The ball thudded resolutely against the milk bottles.
The rough, worn, leathery surface left a single greasy smudge against the white surface as it instantly thudded to the floor of the booth. As the ball bounced once across the trampled grass and rolled the carnival barker smirked to himself and called out to the latest customer of his stand. That customer looked on in disbelief, his jaw hanging open.
"Oh!" called the carney, "Tough luck kid!"
"But, but I hit them dead on like, three times " answered Spike, his voice revealing the deep disappointment that only the waste of a week's worth of allowance could elicit.
"Hey," called back the carney, the earth pony running his hoof through his beard, closing his eyes and hiding his smirk, "That's just the way it falls, kid. C'mon, another two bits give it another go "
The smirk of the carney disappeared quickly as he turned back to the dragon whelp. His eyes went wide as he looked down into the fuming, burning countenance of the dragon, the fury behind it shining forth as green light that competed with the lights and sounds of the midway beyond.
"Errr how about one more throw, on the house a, uh, loyal customer bonus," stammered the carney, placing one more worn leather ball on the counter before the dragon.
The sounds of the fair, the voices and music of the rides, rose up around Spike as he teetered on the milk crate. As his fury subsided he lifted the ball, the carney giving a sigh of relief as he did, and focused once more on the pyramid of milk bottles.
Spike took a deep breath, opened his eyes. Sticking out his tongue he pulled backwards, wound up his pitch, focused on the bottles beyond.
With a huff of exertion he let it fly.
This, of course, proved the right moment for the carney to subtlety lift his hoof off of the pedal. Finally he had released the catch of the hidden dowels, making it so that physics now would be in Spike's favor.
At once there was a rattling crash, and Spike looked up to see the pyramid of bottles falling apart, one spinning in place before finally collapsing to the ground.
"I did it!" called Spike, lifting his arms wide in jubilation. At once the crates teetered, and he grasped for them, calling "Whoa!" as he recovered.
"You sure did kid! Pick a prize, pick a prize!" said the carney, placing his hoof over the hole where the dowel extended, hiding it from view. "Go ahead, kid, pick a prize anything above the line," he said, motioning to the greatest swath of his prizes, yet not the largest of the stuffed animals, sheltering as they were below the wide white line.
Spike lifted his head once more over the counter. As ponies slid by their conversations went unheeded, and his eyes beheld the possibilities. In them were reflected the same light as any dragon who eyed up some small treasure soon to be part of his hoard, and the carney gulped a little as he saw it, as he lifted the bottles once more into place.
Spike ignored the stuffed animals, the vaguely familiar figures changed just enough to avoid copyright violations, and instead focused on those things that were more permanent, real.
Instead his eyes focused on what had first drawn him to this one game among the others, had made him ignore Twilight's recommendation to avoid the games and the questionable business model that they represented.
"That one, please," he answered, motioning over the counter, leaning across it to where a small item sat twinkling in the afternoon light. As he did the big silver balloon, the one he had already won for answering the quiz at the Gemstone Appreciation Society booth, bobbled about, bumping the other prizes that looked down upon him.
The carney slowly walked to the opposite side of the stall, flattening the grass further as he came up to where the momento hung on the wall.
"Excellent choice, sir!" answered the carney, lifting it, laying it on the counter before Spike. "That's a historic piece, ya' know ancient treasure outta' Cervia ."
"Wow," Spike replied, looking the necklace over, lifting it carefully from the counter.
"Ya' got somepony, errr dragon, thing special tah' give that too, Sport?" asked the carney, adjusting a box beneath the stall.
"Yeah, yes yes I do," spoke the little dragon, turning, jumping from the crate. "Thanks," he said, moving into the stream of ponies making their way up and down the line of games.
The carney waited, watching as Spike merged into the crowd. After a moment he pulled the box out further. Taking out another necklace he chuckled to himself as he read the label
Necklaces (Gold Coloring): 12 Dozen (Gross)
Made in Cervia
Spike made his way up through the ponies, ignoring the further call of carnival barkers who entreated upon him to try their impossible tasks.
Instead he ducked into the space between two booths, beneath the shelter of a tree. There he looked the necklace over once more. At once he slid it into his haversack, the one given to him for listening to the droning old unicorn from the Celestian Literature Circle. Checking to see if his big silver balloon was still fastened tightly to his wrist he looked now to his new prize, and beheld it with wonder.
Yes, there was somepony special he wanted to give this to. Yes indeed.
As he slipped the necklace within the haversack he watched as Snips and Snails tossed rings towards bottles, the two calling advice of varying usefulness to each other as they worked their way through their buckets.
Spike poked his head over the edge of the stand, looked down at the prizes found here. Goldfish swam inside plastic bags, some looking up to him with bubbly expressions. Spike, initially questioning just how long the fish could truly survive, found himself wondering what it would be like if he
No, he thought, taking off through the crowd again. No time for that now, now he had something else to accomplish. As he went he pondered the day how cool it felt, yet being so warm.
Three months ago, when summer had began, it would have felt so warm across his scales. Yet, that was then. Now, as the summer was dying, the exact same day suddenly felt so much cooler. As he went down the line of booths he looked upon the faces of ponies who seemed to sense the same thing in the air, and as his balloon hovered overhead it marked his slow progress among the throngs.
Suddenly the space opened up, and the scene around him changed, and amazing smells reached him.
Around him the sounds of sizzling foods rose up, and exotic scents washed over him. He looked up at the concession booths and saw the exciting variety of delectable foods found there.
At the window of one of the booths a familiar form hurried along, reacting to a long line of ponies that stood before her. At once he wiggled through the crowd that stood before the booth and made his way within the door at the back, turning sideways as to avoid sending the boxes of treats sprawling to the floor.
"Hey Pinkie, I was wondering if " he began.
"Hi Spike," spoke the earth pony without looking at him, "Can you get this ready? Thanks."
Spike looked down as a plate spun before him, up to Pinkie, then back down at what was lying there. Two cookies sat welded together with frosting, and he looked upon them with uncertainty.
"Umm " he said, laying it before the pony at counter, the unicorn looking back at him quizzically, arching an eyebrow.
"Yeah have to fry it first!" Pinkie called, already preparing other orders.
"Really?" replied Spike with surprise, looking up to the unicorn. The stallion smiled back at him, "Fair food, lad! Healthy for the spirit, not so much the body "
Spike tugged at the haversack nervously, feeling the tiny weight of what waited within. He let the big silver balloon float to what seemed like a safe place, then turned back to the indecent looking mass of frosting and cookies. Taking up the plate he spun to the fryer.
As the desert became golden-brown Spike flipped it over and over, letting it become a crispy treat. He soon found Pinkie bringing him more and more items deep-fried cupcakes, deep-fried candy bars, even the occasional vegetable
Soon the line had diminished, and Spike found himself leaning across the counter, his feet dangling beneath him, as Pinkie wiped it down.
"Good job, Spike!" spoke the pink pony, giving him a noogy, the dragon smiling as her hoof brushed against his head. She smiled to him, and lifting up the little wooden box full of bits she passed him a long string of tickets.
"Here ya' go!" she added, laying the string before him. The tickets curved out and around, unwinding themselves, their preformatted edges standing out in contrast to their slick surface.
"Really, Pinkie? Thank you so much!" called the dragon, gathering them up, placing them into the haversack.
"Awww! No problemo, you earned them," she replied, giving him a quick hug, "I wish I had a good assistant!"
Spike blushed, laughed knowingly. With a wave he was out of the booth, carefully gathering up his big silver balloon. Pinkie waved back as he disappeared into the crowd. Yet, soon enough, another customer was at her window, this one vaguely familiar.
"Excuse me, miss," asked the older pegasus stallion with the sunken eyes, "Would you have any deep-fried pie? I mean, is that even possible?"
"Well," smiled Pinkie with a giggle, "we're gonna find out!
Spike had already begun moving out through the crowds again, the large silver balloon showing his progress as he went. His hand stayed on his haversack, the canvas pressed against his scales as he kept checking to make sure that the necklace was safe.
He turned out of the crowd as soon as he could. He now found himself amid the older buildings on the fairgrounds, and the smells of agriculture reached him.
It smelled like autumn. The smells revealed the energy of the sun laying in wait, the long summer that was now dying sealed behind the slick surfaces of the fruits and skins of the vegetables.
Harvest, the whole reason this fair had been founded centuries ago, was upon them.
Before him now were display stands of vegetables, fruits, and every type of product of the field and garden. Tall stands of corn were bundled together, and pumpkins, surprisingly early yet massive, stood proudly. Many were already marked with big blue, red, or green ribbons marking the competence, or luck, of the pony that had grown them.
He looked a few over out of politeness, nodding approvingly, convincing himself that he knew the qualities that made a squash worthy of adoration. He even made a point to study the neat piles of rocks left for the public's consideration by various geoculturalists from the farms near Ponyville.
Quickly though he moved on to where a big banner proclaimed "Apple Grower's Co-op". As chilled apple cider flowed around and around in clear casks in an endless loop he caught sight of Applejack and Applebloom sitting at the booth, the two ponies wearing a half-dozen ribbons between them, the barely contained pride at the efforts of Sweet Apple Acres just beneath the surface.
He jogged up to them, the silver balloon bouncing on its cord as he did.
"Hey guys! Congratulations!" he called, trying to read the fine print on the ribbons. They revealed titles such as "Biggest Apple", and "Highest Quality Bushel" and "Best Appearance by a Golden Delicious".
"Thank ya' kindly, Spike," answered Applejack, smiling, "Sweet Apple Acres always does well takes pride and hard work is all."
"Hey, Applebloom, I was wondering if you knew where Sweetie Belle might be?" he asked, pulling the balloon down closer to himself, seeing the baskets of harvested produce reflecting in its surface.
"Whattcha need Sweetie Belle for?" asked the filly.
Spike gulped and ran his clawed hand over the haversack, once more checking to feel what was within.
"Oh, I'm just trying to find her sister. Thought she might know I have something for nevermind "
Spike shrunk back. He could feel Applejack smiling down at him, and he blushed. Instead he looked to Applebloom. Around her was wrapped the same vest her sister was wearing, the ribbons affixed proudly.
"I'm officially a representative o' the Apple Grower's Co-op Association," she answered, noting his interest, raising her head and motioning to herself, "I'm now a responsible member o' the Association. I'm sittin' booth today with mah' Sis "
"Oh," answered Spike, his head falling slightly, "I was wondering if you and Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo wanted to go on a ride, I got these free tickets from Pinkie but if you need to sit "
Spike looked up to see Applebloom already squeezing out of the vest, her sister laughing at the filly's sudden departure from her self-assumed responsibilities.
They soon gathered up Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, the two having been arguing over who would win more ribbons if they were certain species of livestock, and then bounded out towards the midway.
Before the four young creatures spread the rides and amusements. Down the wide paved path sat constructs of amazing proportion and purpose.
"Which one we gonna ride first?" asked Applebloom, darting a bit.
"The Whirl-o-Puke!" called Scootaloo, the excitement evident as she gestured towards an unfriendly looking ride where wobbly ponies were disembarking.
"Nah," answered Sweetie Belle, recoiling, "It looks too uncomfortable. Let's try the Greater Chairs."
The eyes of the four youth turned towards a large circular ride with chairs dangling from it. As it began ponies went around and around and around
"Wow," replied Scootaloo, flatly, "That looks like a very special kind of boring."
Spike watched as Sweetie Belle rolled her eyes and pointed her pegasus friend back towards the ride. "It's not boring," she said, "Watch."
Almost instantly the ride sped up, and the tower began to rise. As it did it tilted back and forth. Spike imagined his stomach doing the same.
"Okay, yeah let's do that," agreed Scootaloo with a wide, eager smile. Spike though only felt his eyes getting wider as ponies called out high above and he felt Applebloom take a step closer to him and gulp.
As the four stood in line they measured themselves against a slightly horrifying post painted like a clown. "You Must Be This Tall to Ride", it stated, and to their simultaneous relief and consternation all four passed through.
"Hey, mister," asked Spike as he approached one of the dangling chairs, "Ummm will my, I mean " he began, motioning to his balloon, squeezing the haversack tighter.
"Yeah, sure kid," replied the carney with a disconcerted tone, one that made Spike wonder if he was a relation of the one he had fought to win the necklace off of, "I'll watch 'em while yer' up there."
As the carney buckled him into the chair, the chains and metal bars making re-assuredly solid sounds, Spike felt the haversack and balloon lift from him. He watched as the carney tucked them into the operator's booth, then felt the ride begin to move.
It was slow at first, and as the ride went around he heard Applebloom and Sweetie Belle behind him calling to each other, heard Scootaloo giggling ahead of him. His eyes though looked to the little operator's booth, the carney standing there unconcerned, all of the ponies awaiting their turn standing so close to his prize
At once his thoughts were lifted away as the ride began to lift. Spike grabbed at the chains that bound his seat to the assembly, felt himself being lifted away as the chairs gained speed.
Within moments he was flying. Well, a reasonable facsimile. As Spike gripped the chains his chair moved faster, and as the tower lifted higher and tipped he was suddenly forced higher into the sky, seemingly up into the blue beyond.
Slowly, certainly, the tower began to tip again, and as the fillies cried out before and behind him Spike clutched tighter. Now he seemed to be flung towards the ground, ponies below looking up into his wide eyes.
As the ride leveled out Spike beheld something amazing. Before him Scootaloo was holding her forelegs wide, not holding onto the chains at all. Her little wings were beating at the sky, a blur of motion, moving the chair forward at its lashing.
Her laughs of joy fell back over him, and he saw her enjoying this moment, pretending that she was now a grown pegasus. She was in her element.
Spike unclenched his fists, literally using the left to unwrap the right. Slowly, cautiously, he lifted his arms as the horizon spun around and around. Cold air now wrapped around him, along his sides, beneath his outstretched arms.
Soon though, something changed. The ride began to slow, and as it did he opened his eyes to see the horizon beyond the fairgrounds, beyond Ponyville itself.
There was a red and yellow tint to the trees, and an orange sun was descending into the west. Autumn was coming, and that had to be dealt with first. As the ride began to descend he gave one last look to the cool sky, the changing trees, and then looked below as the ground once more rose up to claim him.
Within moments the four were once again among the throngs on the ground, Spike gingerly tying the balloon around his wrist. He slid the haversack over his left side, opening it to check on the necklace. Assured that it was still there he looked up into the anticipatory faces of the Crusaders.
He ran his clawed hand through the haversack once more, careful to avoid the little treasure, and pulled out the remains of his tickets.
Only two were left
"Oh, ummm I'm, I'm sorry, I only have the two left, and I was going to save one for something important."
The faces dropped. Spike ran his foot back and forth in front of him, making a sweeping mark in the dust at the side of the path.
"Speaking of which Sweetie Belle, have you seen your sister? Or, know where she is?"
"Spike and Rarity sitting in a tree! K. I .," began Scootaloo, yet she was soon silenced by stares from Sweetie Belle and Applebloom.
"She was heading to the Craft Hall, last time I saw her," said Sweetie Belle, smiling at him, "She's got one of her quilts in the contest."
"Oh okay " he added, watching them begin to leave.
At once they stopped. Applebloom whispered something to the other two and giggling resulted. The fillies trotted back over to Spike, standing before him and next to him.
"Spike?" cooed Applebloom.
"Yeah?" answered the whelp.
"Thanks for the ride!" said the three in unison. In an instant three soft little kisses had been laid upon him, and in a flash the fillies disappeared into the crowd, giggling as they went.
Spike was left standing there, the balloon bobbing softly in his grasp. After a moment something brushed his scales, and he looked down to see a single leaf falling across him, then fall to the ground.
As he looked down to it he smiled slightly, blushing.
As he made his way to the Hall of Crafts he passed the animal barn and looked within to see Fluttershy standing proudly before a group of her animal friends, ribbons of their own across their cages.
He smirked to himself upon seeing the loathed figure of Angel. The sight of the rabbit done up in a great wide bow and looking very put upon made Spike happy in ways he was not proud of, yet that he didn't try to hide.
Heading quickly towards the Craft Hall he pulled the balloon down close to himself so that it would clear the door. Upon entering he beheld all sorts of wonderful things, each the product of the creative minds of the Ponyville ponies.
He strolled past all sorts of knitted crafts and woolens, past woodcrafts clever in their design and function. Here there were silks and cabinetry, and all of these too were strewn with a multitude of ribbons, each one proudly pronouncing their creator's ability.
He wandered through an exhibit of local artists and photographers. Tapping his chin and making contemplative sounds he looked them all over before simply choosing a random number and throwing it in the "Viewer's Choice" ballot box.
At once he passed around a corner and beheld the judging of the quilts. Dozens were hanging there, each one with its own story, yet only one caught his immediate attention.
Rarity and two older ponies stood before the judges, their fantastic quilts hanging behind them. He looked upon the beautiful form of Rarity, saw her graceful hooves dance a bit, knew her to be nervous.
At once the judge turned, lifted the ribbons from table and gave Rarity the third place one.
Spike's heart sank as he watched her thank the judge, forcing a smile, and Spike too joined in the applause for all three as they moved back into the crowd.
Slowly, cautiously, he sought her out. When the crowd around her had thinned he approached
"Ummm, hey, Rarity congratulations, I think," spoke the dragon, looking up to her with an uncertain smile.
"Oh, hello Spike! Thank you so very much," she spoke, returning the smile.
"I I think your quilt is beautiful," he added, "It it could have won, should have "
He was surprised as Rarity laughed a little, began to fold the quilt back over the display rack. "No, dear," she said, factually, "Snippet and Darning Needle have been making quilts for decades longer than I have, and they are masters of the craft I'm very pleased that at my young age I should have progressed as far as I have in the art "
She smiled back to Spike, looked quickly from side to side, then winked at him.
"It would have been so very nice to have won, though," she added with a laugh.
He watched as her magic wafted over the quilt, its design once more seemingly coming alive, the geometric shapes seeming to dance over its surface. She hummed to herself softly, and he watched her his expression growing softer.
Meticulous, concerned, perfect beautiful.
"Rarity?" he felt himself ask as she finished up.
"Yes Spike?" she answered, turning back to him as she tossed her head, freeing her mane, stretching.
"Would could I interest you in going on a ride with me?" spoke the whelp, opening his clawed hand to reveal his last two tickets.
She smiled at him, and twelve minutes later he was opening the door of the Ferris Wheel carriage for her, showing the lady to her seat as his heart pounded and his face went blush.
Once, twice, the great wheel went around, and soon they were stopped at the top. As they looked over the fairgrounds from on high Spike turned to her, mustering all of the gallantry he could. He felt for his haversack, his balloon, and spoke
"I I have something, for you I won it today I'd like you to have it "
She could only smile as the little dragon wrapped it around her.
Ever the gentleman Spike opened the door for her once more, and at once Sweetie Belle was there, imploring her sister to take her on more rides. Rarity, sighing, lead her off. Spike floated out into the grounds, seemingly lifted on a cloud of amore'.
"Spike?" called a voice, the most familiar to him in the world. He turned as Twilight came through the crowd, the unicorn calling "Pardon me." And "Excuse me!" as she moved among the mass of ponies.
"Hey Twi!" he called back, running up to her, "How did judging the talent show work out?"
Twilight rolled her eyes and gave him a small smile. "Talent is a matter of opinion c'mon let's get something to eat."
With a variety of fair food of their own spread before them Twilight and Spike enjoyed perhaps their most deep-fried dinner since they had arrived in Ponyville that summer the summer that was now rapidly failing.
As they sat at the picnic table amid the abandoned dairy ring they slowly drank their milkshakes and stared out over the midway. As they watched the sun began to set, the days now pushing towards the tipping point of being evenly divided between day and night.
At once a breeze flew through the fair, and Spike felt himself lean closer to Twilight, huddle against her warm mammalian coat.
"Oh, Spike, look!" called Twilight, and he lifted himself to see what had excited her so. He too took a deep breath and looked on in wonder.
The midway was coming alive, the small lights on the rides flashing to life as the sun set beyond. Within a few precious moments the fairgrounds were awash in the light and music, and there was a special magic in it.
Together the two sat close by, watching the fair flow around them until the night was full and Twilight felt Spike's head begin to droop.
"C'mon," she sighed as she stood, stretching, waiting for him to jump on, "Let's head home "
Together they walked to the gate, and both knew that crossing out beneath it would mean more than just an end to their day at the fair, but also to that summer that first wonderful summer in Ponyville
They hesitated, buying some cotton candy from a nearby stall, then once more turned towards the gates.
So, as they crossed beneath the Gates of Autumn, they raised their foreleg and arm to get a reentry stamp from the guardpony not that they were going to return, but just holding onto the hope that someday they could recapture those moments
Soon Twilight trotted out of the fairground. Turning the corner onto the High Street the fair was instantly lost behind them to both sight and time.
In the distance she could see the sleeping figure of Sweetie Belle perched upon Rarity's back as they made for Carousel Boutique.
Twilight at once noticed something about Rarity, saw something unexpected a big silver balloon. At once she guessed where it had come from.
"Spike? Did you give Rarity your " began the unicorn, but at that moment she felt him rummaging around, fighting to bring the haversack up from underneath himself.
"Hey Twi," Spike interrupted, not aware that she had begun to speak, "I won something...I'd like you to have it "
At once she felt Spike running his hands past her mane, bringing something up along the side of her neck, felt it fasten around her.
She lifted her hoof, bringing the necklace up into her view. The pendant was something she couldn't make out. It was obviously made of a cheap metal, probably mass-made, and she was sure she could already feel it staining her coat that odd greenish color fake gold leaves behind.
"Oh Spike!" she softly replied, "It's wonderful, thank you so much "
"You're welcome, Twi," came his happy reply as he slid down, resting his head on his clawed hands among her mane, "You're welcome "
"Did you have fun at the fair, Spike?"
"Uh huh," spoke a dragon who was becoming drowsier by the moment.
There was a pause, and Twilight became aware of the cotton candy smearing across her as it lay beneath the tired dragon. She chuckled to herself, not letting it bother her.
"Twi?" spoke Spike, somehow holding onto lucid thought, "I'm glad we came to Ponyville."
"Me too," came her answer..
"Do do you think that the autumn is just as fun, and the winters?" the whelp asked, surprisingly earnest for one so sleepy.
"I'm sure of it," answered the unicorn, smiling back at him, watching as his eyes began to close.
"That's good that's good "
Soon there was the heavy breathing of the sleeper, and Twilight made her way back to the library on light hooves.
As she did she could feel the crispness beginning in the air, knew that autumn was indeed now here, that the summer had now certainly fled away.
She did not know everything that there was to know about autumn here in Ponyville, but she was willing to learn. Somehow, she knew that with Spike and the ponies she loved around her she would do her best, and the memories of the fair and all after would stay with her deep into the winter to follow and trough the long years of her life.
As Spike fell down into his dream the rocking of Twilight's body caught him up in a vision of a land of red, orange, and gold leaves. As he, a powerful and massive dragon, carried her upon his back across the tracts he smiled and knew that the memories of the fair and all after would be his treasure thought the centuries of his long life.
That, they knew, was the type of thing that was possible when friendship is magic, and Procer Celestia Invictus and Procer Luna Revenio continued to guide their charges across the Equestrian sky.