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Time Turner and the Ghost Horses, Part 2

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Time Turner and the Ghost Horses



Part 2



Chapter 3: Ponyville




Tony took a few steps forward.

This time Time Turner was better prepared, but he still didn't see what had actually happened. He concluded that West must be that much better with his own abilities to have noticed anything before.

They were on the old Royal Road looking towards a distant Canterlot. Tony turned south.

"I can see what you meant by 'old fashioned', TT. So what does this library of your look like?"

"It's a tree."

"By a tree? Which one?"

"No, it's a tree. Hollow tree. Biggest one in town."

"That one?" Tony was pointing.

"That would be it."

"Crazy."

Time Turner got off and so did Jackalope, leaving an ordinary sized white bull between them.

"You know, TT, it's gonna be hours and hours before West and the Appleloosans are ready. How about I do some sightseeing for a change?"

Before he knew what to say Jackalope had pounced on him and stuck some sort of hat on his noggin. Tony snickered a little before commenting that it looked nice.

"So I'm the official tour guide with an official tour guide hat?" Time Turner mumbled to himself as he led the way into Ponyville.

Just across the bridge into town a pair of tourists with out-west accents joined them.

Starting with the clock tower, then on around towards the bowling alley — buffalo and pony tourists sure are easy to please it turned out — Time Turner steered his small group towards Sugarcube Corner where he hoped the town's real tour guide might be. If not there then city hall.

"So that's the Quills and Sofas store we've heard so much about!" the stallion exclaimed as they passed by on their way to the confectionary.

There was no way, Time Turner told himself, that anypony from Seasaddle knew of or even cared about the store that, usually, sells only two things! This was clearly Jackalope's doing. Somehow. Were these even real ponies or were they like the critter band?

Then some-pink-pony bounded past and came to a halt in front of Tony.

"I didn't know bunnies had antlers. Is this white buffalo yours, Mr. Bunny?"

"Bunny?" the stallion tourist seemed confused.

"Hello, Pinkie Pie." Time Turner waved.

"Oh! Hi, Time Turner! Nice hat. I told Derpy you were in A-a-applelooosa! So is this your white buffalo or does it belong to the jackalope?"

Jackalope was peering intently at Pinkie Pie from where he had retreated under Tony's chin. Tony looked irritated. Possibly for being spoken about like he was someone's pet.

"Isn't that Braeburn's catch phrase?" Time Turner asked.

"But it's so much fun to say! 'A-a-applelooosa!' Especially they way he says it all-" she reared up and whinnied.

"So you know my little Bro's name?" Tony asked even as his expression changed dramatically away from irritation.

"Of course, it's Frank."

Jackalope's jaw sagged.

"No! Wait! Billy? Cole? Butch? I know: Jessie!"

Jackalope hopped up and down and kissed her, causing her already pinkish nose to blush.

"It's Jackalope." Tony informed.

She leaned forward and said conspiratorially: "You know, Jessie, you really should find the original this goes to. I bet he's missing it."

He saluted and seemed to say that he'd make it a priority.

Then she said bye and merrily skipped away in a more hurried Pinkie Pie style.

"There's more to that filly than meets the eye." Tony chuckled.

Jackalope, now wearing a red shirt with silver braid, turned and chittered in annoyance.

"What do you mean wrong fandom?"

He started hopping away without replying.

"So it's 'Jessie' now?" Time Turner asked as he followed.

"mmmmm-hmmmm!" the critter replied.

"Who is this 'Jessie'?" the mare tourist asked as she caught up.

Within moments of entering Sugarcube Corner a rather infringed upon looking Eiffel had managed to separate the Seasaddlers from his "assistant" and Time Turner from his new hat, which he thanked him for bringing to him. Watching them go away with Eiffel, Time Turner was sure they had not been real ponies after all: Pinky Pie hadn't even acknowledged them. Kinda sad because they seemed like a really sweet couple.

As they ate their parfaits, he listened to Tony and "Jessie" as they had a conversation about the town, well, half of the conversation at any rate. Wondered what the jackalope was up to and if it had anything to do with being a spirit of discord that the Princess had seemed so concerned about.

"Turner's giving us the silent treatment." Tony finally observed.

"Just thinking about what we should look for at the library. Any old history books, of course, but myths too. Books on flora and fauna of Equestria might be beneficial. Maybe campfire stories because they say a surprising number of those are based in real happenings."

"You think the stallion's name is Fauna?"

Time Turner's jaw sagged a bit.

"Gotcha!" Tony said smugly.





Before long they found themselves squeezing Tony through the front door to the library, which had never struck as being smaller than other doors in Ponyville.

"Ease off, Time Turner!" Spike admonished, "If you push too hard the big guy'll just be even more stuck."

"Yeah, I shouldn't have had that second parfait."

"Like that would make any difference?" Time Tuner silently joked as he stopped pushing on Tony's flank and sat on his own haunches in a huff.

"Any ideas?" he said out loud.

"I could go get Twilight?" the dragon offered.

A moment of silence, then: "There may be something I can do to help out, lil'dude." Tony seemed reluctant.

"What?"

"Say, TT, would you, you know, back up? Say a good four or five stride trot? Maybe ten just to be safe?”

He stood up and did as asked.

"Are you backed off, Turner?"

"Yes."

"Good!"

Tony let loose an impressive blast.

"Seriously?!" Spike sounded like he was holding his nose.

"Yeah, not quite there though."

"I'm really sure Twilight isn't far—"

And then after the next one Tony was through the door.

Whatever Tony was the gas was apparently a lot like real gas. Not normally something any pony thinks much of but when somepony or bull's got talent it deserves real respect; and, maybe a minute for the air to thin. Inside, Time Turner found a demure buffalo looking on as Spike waved a rag in front of his face, seemingly oblivious to a melodramatically heaving jackalope standing next to him.

"I normally don't, The Blonde Surfer me that is, so I guess it's been building for a while."

"I seem to recall the last time I was out Los Pegasus way that there are some beach games you must be unfamiliar with."

"Dude, I'm a bovine! What's cool for a pint sized pony trying to impress is off limits for me where the mares are concerned."

That gave some pause. Time Turner had never even considered that ponies might have a different attitude where non-pony kind were concerned about something so universal. It didn't seem to much stop the local herd of dairy cows and their bulls if that were the case.

"Everyone gets bloat gas." he reassured instead.

"I'm sure." Spike obviously wasn't as he was returning from throwing open more windows, "So, what brings you all to the library today?" he smiled as he resumed his normal cheerful demeanor.

"We are looking for information about a herd of cursed horses from down south," Time Turner started to explain, "and thought we'd see what could be learned here first."

"So you are looking for?"

"Well, ancient history, references to Equestrian fauna, myths, legends, ghost stories."

"Zombies?"

Tony eyed Spike: "Nah, nothing like that."

"Oh? That's good. Twilights says that there is no such things as zombies," he began as he walked away towards the library's book stacks, "but I'm not so sure. Granted, it was just a bunch of ponies afraid of Zecora last time…"

While Spike continued his rather detailed description of all the debates that he and Twilight had had about the trotting dead, he continued to bring book after book and stack them in groups. By the time he'd finished bringing up four large stacks of books he had managed to lay out his theory about how zombies were not only real but had successfully hidden among pony folk by assuming the forms of the ponies that they had eaten.

"Sounds more like changelings, bro."

"Changelings?"

"Well, not 'Changelings', 'more like changelings'."

Spike wasn't getting it. Time Turner definitely didn't. Jessie face pawed himself.

"But that's for some other day, right, bro?"

"Riiiight. Okay, I've split up the books we had into a stack on ancient history, a stack on nature, a stack on mythology, and a stack on traditional horror stories. Does that sound about right to you?"

And rather impressive stacks they were too.

Without waiting for a reply, Spike dove into the stack for ancient history that, being the smallest, he probably hoped would yield results the fastest. It was obvious that he wasn't doing much more than scanning the tables of contents for mere mention of cursed horses or the like. With a sigh Tony ambled over to the larger stack of mythology and began scanning the pages very fast, magically flipping them as adeptly as any unicorn might.

"Somehow," Time Turner silently confessed to himself, "I must have been willfully confused about what library research would actually entail when it came time to it."

As he was considering which stack to attack he noticed Jessie pull two books out of the presently unattended stacks and set them by themselves. Then the little guy took a book that Spike had just set aside and placed it back on top of the pile.

"THIS doesn't look promising." the dragon sighed as he set aside one book and grabbed the one that obviously held what they were looking for.

He opened it and started to read: "What a minute!"

Then tossed it aside.

Time Turner was considering saying something but Jessie picked up the book and slid it under the one on top of Spike's stack. Then he decided to place the other two books under it for good measure. So the pony decided to wait for it. Tony seemed to have noticed what was happening too as he'd stopped flipping pages.

Spike's face contorted into a scowl that, were he not a baby dragon, might have been genuinely, horribly, terrifying.

"Who knew we had three copies of the history of the Everfree Era? I must be slipping to have brought them all."

He set the book aside.

Then he scolded himself for misplacing the next two books.

An exasperated looking jackalope picked up the discarded books and began waving them at the junior librarian.

Nothing.

Then he lifted one high over his head and almost seemed like he would—

"Don't hit my baby dragon!" Twilight Sparkle thundered as the door to the library flew open, barely staying on its hinges.

"Bad Jessie!" Pinkie echoed.

"Don't hit- Arrrrrrhg! Where did YOU come from?!?" Spike was clutching at his chest as he was gawking at the jackalope.

Jessie shrank into himself and got all soulful eyes.

Twilight sighed as she trotted into the room: "I get it, you were just trying to get his attention a bit more forcefully than before."

He nodded enthusiastically.

"Okay, Pinkie, I see the bunny with antlers; but, this," she poked at Tony, "is not some wandering spirit. He's a buffalo. Remember?"

The book that Jessie had been waving at Spike floated from his paws.

"I read this recently." she gave Jessie a sidelong glance, "Got a thing for ancient history?"

"Chitta-chit-chit-chit!" the critter explained.

Spike gently prodded the jackalope with a claw as if checking to see that he was real.

"So what other books were you interested in?"

"And why did you want me to be the one who found them?" Spike wondered.

Jessie rolled his eyes and pointed.

She picked up the first, turned to Time Turner: "Planning on giving Carefree and Sandstorm nightmares after that camping trip you were planning?"

"No…. Wait? What? They didn't go?"

"No, they didn't." the third floated over to her, "Parsley's Magical Flora and Fauna? I remember this one ... it's a primer."

Magical creatures and campfire stories? The Everfree Era?

"Twilight, you said you'd read the one about the Everfree Era recently. Can you tell me if it said anything about wolves called the 'Hunters of All Flesh' or a cursed herd of horses?"

"Okay, two things: ewwwww; and, 'cursed' ... seriously?" she smirked.

He nodded.

"Well," pages started furiously flipping, "there's a chapter on infamous criminals. Can you tell me more about these ponies?"

"Not 'ponies,'" Tony corrected, "horses: bigger without decorative flanks."

"Right, that eliminates criminals. I would guess foreign affairs." she considered Tony for a moment, "Ah! There was a war with a powerful tribe from the south during the reign of Evergreen the Great. Does that sound right?" she held the book at a page for him to see.

"S'pose."

Time Turner grinned like a foal who had just found a stash of sugar cubes in his hay.

"Twilight, please correct me if I'm wrong, but, Queen Evergreen had a somewhat dodgy reputation on account of controlling the Timber Wolves?"

"Not really deserved. Before she brought them to heel and reduced their numbers they were becoming a real menace."

"I mean about how she used them? She wasn't exactly known for being merciful."

The unicorn reluctantly nodded. Time Turner could understand, so little survived about Equestrian history from before Princess Celestia that ponies could get a little defensive about anypony who was remembered by name. Nevermind someponies like Evergreen and Fortunate.

"Tony, I think we need to make some adjustments to the wolf masks: add some greenery…. Twilight, would you be interested in helping us?"

"Do what?"

"Hold a rodeo. Assuming, of course, we can get Ponyville's star athlete to agree to participate."

The three books found their way to her bag.

"Come on, Spike. Lets see what Time Turner has got himself into."





"... and that, pony friends, is what happened in Appleloosa after you left." Tony finished his tale in classic fashion.

Silence reigned in the Apple family home for about a minute.

"Spooky!" Rainbow Dash — Twilight Sparkel’s whole herd of friends had assembled and was present — chimed.

"You see, Sugarcube, I told you curses was real!"

Twilight forced a smile: "Jessie the jackalope here is really an immortal trickster and your buffalo stampede has been running from a herd of cursed, fire breathing horse spirits for thousands of years and didn't even know about it?"

"Correctamundo!"

"If it will help any, we're fairly certain that the horses are flesh and blood." Time Turner offered.

"Of course they are!" she rolled her eyes.

"Skeptics." Tony mused.

"So, Applejack, will you help us?"

"Round up these critters of yours and cut out the stallion, the biggest and meanest o'the bunch, just like that?"

Time Turner nodded.

"Big Mac, does it say glutton fer punishment anywhere on my hide?"

"N-nope."

"You wouldn't be doing this alone." Time Turner reassured.

"Oh, that's a given. But let me ask you something, just what does this Secret Service pony intend to do with the stallion once he's corralled? Throw him in a cage over a war fought who knows how long ago?"

"We were going to try to talk to him first." he hoped.

"Might neighborly of you! And what about his kin? Is your plan really to force them back on the trail to run forever without him?"

Even Jessie hung his head when it was put that way, causing Fluttershy to try to comfort him.

"Look, I understand it's a worry the stallion will find a way to free his kinfolk and that they might be unfriendly when he does. Can't say I'd blame them at this point. But if the only way this ends is more heartache for them poor critters you can count me out!" she stamped a hoof, "Get Braeburn to cut him out of the herd for you since he's so badge struck."

Time Turner was thinking about that "can do" look in West's eye even as all enthusiasm for the plan was waning.

"You know," Spike was waving around a quill and paper, "there may still be a way to address all of Applejack's concerns?"

Twilight laughed, took the implements, and started writing a long letter. Time Turner tried to look over her shoulder but she turned herself to block his view. After all of fifteen minutes of very unhurried musing and some writing she pronounced completion with an enthusiastic: "There! Spike will you do the honors?"

He rolled the letter, sealed it up with pressed red wax, and burned it with his breath.

"Dragon mail: niiiiice!" Tony chimed.

"It's called 'Dragon Mail?' Dragons communicate this way?" Spike's eyes were pleading for more.

"Of course. The seals-"

"Spike, I explained how this worked to you ages ago."

"But, Twilight, you didn't call it 'Dragon Mail.'"

"Bro," Tony spoke conspiratorially, "did she ever tell you the seals will work with 'mischievous missiles' too. Even-"

"Which!" Twilight physically interposed herself between the dragon and buffalo, "Is something I'm sure the Princess has already taken into account, right?" she glared.

"Oh yeah, easy-peasey." Tony managed an almost honest smile, "It's all in how you make the seals."

"Correct!" Twilight said with an air of or-else finality.

Some minutes later the baby dragon belched and a second note appeared out of the flames.

Twilight quietly read it and then showed it to Applejack: "Will this do?"

"To Special Agent West," Applejack began reading out loud, "uh-huh…. erm… We have received information concerning war prisoners that our illustrious ancestor, Evergreen the Great, condemned. The circumstances and conduct of this war are presently not well understood; yet, after so long a time we cannot help but imagine that it is more than enough. Therefore we direct you to ascertain the intentions of this Stallion and his people and if they are content to cease hostilities, and if the Buffalo Nation is amicable … yeah, Twilight, ah reckon this will do just nicely! Where do ah sign up?"



Chapter 4: Roundup



"That was … different." Twilight muttered before Tony even had a chance to complain about his now badly overloaded back.

On his massive white form even seven ponies, a baby dragon, and one jackalope had all seemed to sink into his shaggy coat with room to spare but now they were literally falling off, at least in Time Turner's case. The blue dress dressed jackalope was back and looked rather harried as it tried to give every passenger a proper seeing off even as they didn't cooperate by being orderly about it.

Rainbow Dash was simply up and off.

"Wheeeee!" Pinky Pie dove off like she was diving into a swimming hole.

"Did anypony think about a ladder or maybe some more dignified means of departure?" Rarity complained before she reluctantly hopped over onto Sheriff Silverstar's desk.

Applejack hopped down to the floor with the purposeful grace of the athlete she was.

Then Twilight and Spike reappeared at floor level from a puff of smoke.

"Thank you very much, Mister Tony." Fluttershy demurely said before she lifted herself into the air.

"You are very welcome." he said back.

Time Turner, who had actually unceremoniously tumbled off first, got a few moments to contemplate how there was Jessie and that other jackalope that looked almost exactly alike save how their respective costumes made their shapes seem different. With Fluttershy's warmly acknowledged departure the second jackalope disappeared leaving only Jessie.

"The pink one is not going to try to sing to the horses, is she?" Chief Thunderhooves asked the Sheriff as they peered in from the outside.

"No," Tony seemed to consider something Rainbow Dash must have said, "I'm not going into business." and she shrugged.

Of all the mares only Applejack seemed to take time to consider the armory but she said nothing about it.

West arrived in moments and if he was surprised to see so many he gave no indication. He addressed Twilight Sparkle first by name, as Miss Sparkle, she didn't seem to know him, before introducing himself and giving polite hellos to everypony else. Twilight removed the Princess' letter from her pack and gave it to him.

"To Special Agent West of Her Majesty's Secret Service from the desk of-" West looked askance at Twilight before he went back to reading. His face was an expressionless mask until he reached the end of the note when he got an "All-righty then!" look to neatly contrast his earlier dubious one.

"War prisoners condemned by Evergreen the Great," he sighed as he rolled up the scroll and put it away in his own pack, "didn't see that coming. Miss Sparkle, it says you are to assist the Appleloosans with the rest of the herd once Miss Apple has-"

"That's just 'Applejack.'" the farm pony corrected.

"Apologies. -once Applejack has managed to separate the stallion from the others and then you will leave him to me."

"I do not believe that was specified." Twilight protested.

"This is not open for debate, Miss Sparkle. You and your friends can lose yourself in our herd and enjoy safety in numbers. Let us be the ones who stands out from the crowd and takes any lumps. Applejack, the moment you and Braeburn have got him separated out of his herd I want you to pull back too. And Braeburn?"

"Yeah?"

"If at that point you have to drag your cousin out of harms way to make sure she is, then please do so."

"May be easier said than done."

"You got that right!" Applejack enthusiastically agreed.

"What about us?" Rainbow Dash announced, hugging on Fluttershy, "We can make sure none of them make for the sky!"

"I'd really rather—" a soft voice began.

"Actually, I would like you two to stay with the herd too." West smiled warmly, "These aren't winged horses after all."

"Thankyou." Fluttershy offered even as Dash seemed disappointed.

West grimaced a little as if his hopes for things easily going his way were rapidly unraveling. Muttered "Matched set." as he drew close to Time Turner.

"What about me?" Time Turner asked, "You said 'us' in that taking lumps bit? Or is there some other 'us' that you have in mind?"

"I don't know yet. Time Turner, Twilight Sparkle may not have made a big show of it earlier in Ponyville but there was a second small note inside the first she just passed to me. It's addressed to you."

"Really?"

"Yes."

A small scrap of folded paper drifted over held by the unicorn's magic and popped its seal. As Time Turner squinted it moved slightly to be in better light. He'd seen enough reproductions of Princess Celestia's writing to realize whose lips, or rather horn, was behind it.

"My dear Time Turner, it would seem that the ponies that you came to see me about and these horses are not one and the same. I count this as no small blessing for all my little ponies considering the nature of the mares that you described. I believe it is premature to speculate about any connection between them besides that the timbers wolves who harried the tribe we are now concerned with are also called hunters; still, there must yet be some special role for you to play in this affair and I have no doubt that when the moment arises that you will step forward as the stallion I believe you to be and make yourself known."

It was signed "Very Cordially Your Princess Celestia" … which was super-duper neat and not even something he’d imagined to put on his bucket list in the first place!

"I'm in." he said with unforced smile as the note refolded and made its way to his pack, but then: "Boy, am I ever in…." he muttered, realization sinking in.

The whole town, the Ponyville ponies, plus three buffalo and one little dragon, were soon busy on modifying the wolf costumes or carving wood posts for the fake Stone Grove. Everypony was a buzz with excitement. Not odd for herd folk normally used to being occupied with their own solitary affairs. Curiously no impromptu sing alongs broke out. Not even when Rarity got musically flustered over "keep it simple" or when Applejack and Braeburn started getting a bit singsongy describing how timber wolves acted and sounded. Pity, that.

As with the fortification of Appleloosa things rapidly came together, and by nighttime everypony had settled in around campfires just outside of town, their work done, to enjoy a communal meal. Somepony yelled “Let’s get’a’goin’!” and a couple of fiddlers began playing an upbeat hoedown tune with Cherry Strudel calling the dance.

“It’s an old barn swing, hey pretty lil’things, come on an’join right in! Shake your tail, just let it flail, it’s time for us to sing!”

“It’s an old barn swing,” most everypony jumped up to their hooves in pairs and joined in, “not some wooden thing, it moves when we begin. Let’s shake our tails and let ’em flail:” and then dancing stallions and colts all announced of their mare or filly, “I’ve got this pretty lil’thing!”

“Oh my!” Rarity, who had been sitting nearby, looked about at all those around her. West quickly was there raising and stamping his right forehoof a few times, asking: “Lady?”

“I’m NOT dancing with Turner.” Tony firmly announced as his mother pushed a distressed looking Chief Thunderhooves away from their fire and into the fray, leaving the two of them and Jessie the Red Shirted Jackalope seemingly all alone off their hooves.

“Form a ring for this old barn swing!” Strudel announced, “It’s time to stomp and time to swing! Mare then Colt, line up slowpokes, before the tune come round again!”

“Countryponies!” Rainbow Dash huffed from where she, Twilight and Fluttershy had been left sitting.

“Strike that.” Tony hopped up and bounded over to the pegasus, shook his hoary head before bowing towards the smirking blue pony.

“Why not?” she shrugged.

Time Turner felt sorry for Twilight and Fluttershy, left by themselves. Twilight seemed to be biting her lip while Fluttershy was trying to hide behind her wings.

Barely audible in the musical din was an impatient thumping sound near his legs. He looked down to see an exasperated Jessie motioning towards at the unicorn mare with a fluid rolling of his forelegs.

“You think I should ask the filly to dance?” he wondered.

Jessie clawed at his own face and rolled his eyes. Crossed his forelegs and shook his head ‘yes’.

“But what about Fluttershy?”

The smiling critter produced a hat from no where, hopped over to the pegasus, and soon had pulled her towards the circle to join in.

Time Turner followed.

“Wow, a real hoedown!” Twilight said as he approached, “I’d read about these before coming to Ponyville and even saw one at Sweet Apple Acres. I should get notes this time!” she beamed, a notebook drifting from her pack.

Time Turner really wanted to face hoof, but instead he repeated the request to dance as West curiously done moments before.

“Wait, you want me to dance?”

“Lady Sparkle.” he smiled.

“I—”

“Please.”

She seemed uncertain.

“We can claim a place near Chief Thunderhooves, that way no one will notice that I’m not much good at dancing.” Time Turner chimed.

Twilight smiled and hopped up.

“I still don’t know who was responsible for that pie over my door.” she practically accused.

They were barely in the circle before the music came around again.

“This circle’s full, this swing’s been swung, join in and let us have some fun!”

“Prance to the left then prance to the right,” everyone who knew the lyrics began singing, “we’re having us a hoedown tonight. The barn is missing, the swing’s not there, the fiddle is playin’so we don’t care! Got me a handsome fella” the fillies sang, “an’me a pretty gal,” the colt’s refrain, “the caller is ready to show us how. Let’s canter about in this ring: all us ponies on a string.”

“A flight!” Dash loudly proclaimed.

“Now let us see if you can take a hint:” Cherry Strudel continued, ignoring Dash, “jump to the left with all your might! Now turn on your hooves like a foal taking flight! Kick the air with might. Circle your filly once to the right, nose to nose she’ll circle you back. … Hey ponies, here comes that music again!”

“Canter two steps forward, prance five steps back — if you’re dancing with a bull you might want to halve that.” he offered without rhyme then waited a bit till: “Hop up off all fours and punch the air, spin’round and come on home! Yee-haw! … Hey these fiddlers are hot let’s hear some of that!”

The ring reformed while the fiddlers played.

“Let’s try again, though let me sing: prance to the left then prance to the right, we’re having us a hoedown tonight. The barn is missing, the swing’s not there, the fiddle’s a playin’so we don’t care! Those Fillies got some fellas an’us fellas some gals, go on and canter like you all know how. Canter all about this ring: all us ponies in a flight.”

“Flight!” Dash shouted, then: “Oh, horsefeathers!”

Laughter.

“Prance to the left then prance to the right,” everyone was singing, “we’re having us a hoedown tonight. The barn is missing, the swing’s not there, the fiddle is playin’so we don’t care! Got me a handsome fella” the fillies sang, “an’me a pretty gal,” the colt’s refrain, “the caller is ready to show us how. Let’s canter about in this ring: all us ponies on a string.”

“Not bad but now let’s pick up the pace! We’re gonna have us a race. Run round in a circle with no where to go … hey, who out there still wants to go into politics? Yeah, that’s why I got stuck being mayor.”

The music stopped. Somepony gave out a loud rhasberry.

Cherry Strudel began stomping a forehoof and the fiddlers started again.

“Okay mares, let’s change partners to your right.”

Twilight shrugged and moved to dance with Meadow Song. She was replaced by a big mare that Time Turner somehow hadn’t met before, a paint … a new resident?

“Lady.” he bowed respectfully and the mare responded in kind.

“Foreleg in foreleg….” Cherry Strudel commanded, “Swing your gal as we prance about, make circles on our ring with that prettily lil’thing! Once more to the left then once to the right. Bow to your other, step up an’to the right…. Side by side, not slowing down now, circle about like y’all know how! Keep a’going while the music rolls … any day now … common fellas, cut us some slack.”

In response the fiddlers started playing the song from the beginning and everyone sang the chorus.  Defeated, the mayor just laughed it off and continued.

“Okay mares, it’s your time so prance on into the ring… Up on two legs like a chorus line. Don’t complain you’re doing fine! Twirl about to the right and left, clap your hooves and shake your manes! … Mane, Apple Fritter, mane.… Now hoof to hoof and circle about, do a jig and give a shout! Skip to the right, canter along, finish up with the words to a song!”

“Oh …  when … the … ponies go marching in!” the fillies began as they trotted.

Time Turner marveled at their choice of song. Nothing he would have ever predicted. But they sang the whole thing with full choral flourish just the same. Soon they had returned to their starting places in the ring and the fiddlers somehow managed to believably transition back to the expected fare.

“Okay fellas. You’ve seen what you’re up against. Don’t embarrass yourselves too much. Canter into the—“

A shaft of light cut through the darkness and lit the center of the ring. There, where the ground seemed to light up in a rainbow of light to keep beat with some strange music was Jessie in some all white suit, standing in a very odd pose where one paw was held high. A confused looking Fluttershy stood nearby in some flowing red dress.

As the critter danced quite a few ponies, including Time Turner, face hoofed. The mare that had temporarily replaced Twilight just grunted displeasure, saying: “Jackalopes!”

With all the gawking ponies it didn’t take long for Jessie’s dance to come grinding to a halt. With a look of utter defeat he slinked off and Fluttershy, ever alert to the travails of critters, ran off to look after the “poor little thing!”

Then the oddest thing: a jackalope wearing a fancy countrypony dress and a big bow by one ear hopped over to Cherry Strudel and the fiddlers and seemed to be begging them. They started playing and the mood began to pick up. But Captain Jackalope from earlier burst on the scene — somehow in that get up he just wasn’t “Jessie” — and confronted Girly with some small book he had, with something in it.

Girly read. Shook her head ‘no’. Pointed to the fiddlers.

He pointed at the gold braid on his shirt.

She spread out her paws, pads up, and seemed to be pleading with heaven itself.

Captain Jackalope, sporting a smug grin, smugly tucked the little book away and in a puff of red smoke reappeared as Jessie.

It would be hard for anypony to describe the look on Girly’s face, though it seemed as if a dense cloud of doom and gloom must be rising from her. She raised her right paw towards Jessie, one toe extended, and then something smashed into him, hard, sending him flying. Before anypony could think to react she spun around and threw two tiny things that grew ever larger as they sped through the air right towards Time Turner.

A pie. Lemon meringue to be precise. Very, very good lemon meringue to be precisely precise.

Angry critter sounds between his legs made Time Turner glance down once he’d wiped his eyes clear of pie. There was Jackalope. Not Jessie. Jackalope. Covered in what seemed to be cherry pie goop. Time Turner loved cherry pie. If her cherry pie was as good as her lemon meringue … but no, he refrained from tasting. So very cherry….

Later on he would deny he’d drooled.

Jackalope flung the goop from his fur and shook it from his antlers and seemed to announce in a tinny voice: “FEMALES!”

Time Turner blinked hard. If Jackalope was over here then why did Futtershy look so distraught over there?

He followed after a hard running Twilight Sparkle, ran right past Girly who was even then doing what she peaceably could to get the hoedown going again. In Fluttershy’s forelegs she cradled a small broken form in a red shirt with silver braid.

“He didn’t deserve this!” she announced.

“Jackalope is okay.” Time Turner said without conviction as that certainly was Jessie in her arms, “He’s over there … see?”

“He’s a meanie!” the mare confessed as friends rapidly gathered round her, “All Lady Jackalope wanted was let them dance together, with us, just this once and he wouldn’t let her. All Jessie was to him was a way to get a pie in Time Turner’s fa- a- ace….” her battle to hold back her tears was lost.

Somehow the music had begun, Time Turner looked around to see ponies, two buffalo, and two dozen horses looking very different than the way Tony had described them from his vision: all dancing. Once again showing how you could knock ponies down but not keep’em down.

He began to reassess just how harmless a spirit of discord might really be.

“We can’t leave him out here.” he heard himself saying, “Fluttershy, you and the rest go back to where ponies are happy and I’ll take care of Jessie. After that you can come and grieve.”

“As horrible as it seems: he is right.” Rarity offered, “Didn’t you imply that these horses needed some happiness? Darling, we are it. It’s what Jessie would have wanted.”

“I’ll help Turner.” West said.

“Me too.” Tony added.

“I….” without another word Fluttershy passed Jessie to Time Turner and, surrounded by her friends, went back to the others.

“Remember when my dad said there were rules to Jackalope’s games?”

“Later, Tony.” West admonished.

Holding Jessie, Time Turner three legged it to the presently empty town cemetery. Using magic West effortlessly dug out a proper grave and Tony managed a box from some of the still abundant scrap wood all over the place.

He knew this wasn’t the first friend he’d lost. It wouldn’t be the last. Bouncing back wasn’t forgetting. Not now nor ever. They placed his little hat, the one he’d donned in order to dance with Fluttershy, on the humble marker that Time Turner had set up.

Strangely, this Lady Jackalope all dressed in widow’s weeds was the only other one there. It was impossible to forget that she’d been the one to do whatever she did to Jessie but the critter was clearly grief stricken and for some reason that mattered more than understanding why. Somehow, dawn was on them all before they knew it. Not long after Lady Jackalope had disappeared. The music stopped. Those fiddlers must have been exhausted.

“What do we do about Jackalope?” West finally asked.

“I didn’t see this coming.” Tony softly said.

“We do nothing.” Time Turner announced.

“What?!” they questioned in unison.

“It’s like Tony said. Jackalope plays by rules. Maybe he doesn’t even get to choose the rules. None of the rest of us really do. If we’re on the right side of the rules we’ve got nothing to fear.”

“And if we’re on the wrong side?” West demanded.

“We may have just comforted the one being that will make sure we’ll be okay. It makes a little sense. Just a little. She clearly has a big heart in that tiny frame. Big enough to play by what rules applied even if it meant having to stand all night by this lonely grave.”

“I wouldn’t want to be Jackalope when he gets home today.” West confessed.

“I wonder if she’s painted somewhere on that wall?”

“Tony, I might be able to help you with that. If it would be okay with Chief Thunderhooves?”

“Not his call. I’ll ask Grandpa.”

“But you said—” West began.

“Yeah, I did!” the bull grinned.

The mares trotted up bearing some breakfast for the boys. Their mood was somber yet not really sad.

“The horses are gone!” Spike informed, “That other Jackalope went around hugging them all before dawn and then … poof! Twilight said they must have been on the trail too long but I still think they were ghosts all along. And there was this weird unplanned meteor shower too. Twenty four of them, just like those horses.”

Time Turner found the will to eat the blintzes he’d been given: “True believers!” he laughed to himself.



Epilog



A lonely figure stood watch by a solitary grave. Ran a paw under its nose and sniffed sadly.

“I am glad,” a lovely voice announced the arrival of someone new, “that this Jessie actually meant something to you.”

Jackalope glanced Celestia’s way as she settled in beside him. His critter noises seemed to say: “Yeah, ain’t I the lucky one!”

After a long moment she sighed: “You cannot let this overwhelm you. Not like I once did. I hear from good sources that someone may need you. It’s good to be needed…. Do you want to talk about it?”

Taking place after "Over a Barrel", Time Turner and the Ghost Horses follows my earlier story, Time Turner and the Talented Pony.

rurudyne.deviantart.com/art/Ti…

The first part of Time Turner and the Ghost Horses is here: rurudyne.deviantart.com/art/Ti…

Watching the episode is probably a must.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic belongs to Laruen Faust and Hasbro

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© 2015 - 2021 Rurudyne
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