Chapter 1- Boding of Things to Come
"C'mon, Spike, books won't sort themselves."
The infant dragon grumbled as he rifled through the swamp of novels scattered about the ground. "I'm going as fast as I can, Twilight! Cheeze, why do you even let these ponies in if they make all this ruckus?"
Twilight Sparkle's horn glowed, and on command the novels and manuals around her shot upwards and drifted toward the shelves. "Three reasons, Spike: We're the only library in town, National Book Day is on Friday, and everyone has the right to a good book." She paused as a few levitating books caught her eye, and brought them closer. "...Even if they do leave things in a state. Ugh, look at this. Someone left this big scratch on the cover of Encyclopedia Draconia, there's a tear in page 114 of Brainwash For Dummies..."
"Remind we why we have that?" asked Spike, piling the next ten books up in his arms.
"...Heaven's Darkness is missing a wraparound, Into The Whirlpool is bent along the spine..."
"I think I sympathise," said Spike beneath the twenty five book mound, his one free hand getting ready to toss Journal Of A Stabler to the top. At that moment, there came a gasp, followed by a short, earsplitting screech. Spike dropped the pile and jumped on top, looking around wide eyed going "What?! What happened?! Where's the fire?!"
"Someone drew a monocle and moustache on Charred Atlas! And they drew a stick figure comic strip on the inside cover! Th...This is vandalism! Violation! Violence! Get me the records, Spike! These criminals must PAY!"
"Twilight! Twilight, calm down! It's okay, they used pencil! I'll go get an eraser!" Spike hurried to the draw and yanked it open. He knew what she was like around this kind of thing. He could already tell she was hyperventilating. He gave a triumphant laugh as he held an eraser in the air, and chucked it across the room.
Twilight caught the eraser with a spurt of magic from the tip of her horn, and began frantically rubbing at the page, her pupils like pinpricks. "It'll leave a mark, it'll leave a mark!"
"Don't scrub so hard, you'll tear the paper!" called Spike. The last thing he needed was more screaming.
Twilight paid him no never mind, scrubbing hard at the book, as if trying to wash away some unholy blight. Sweat poured down her face like a waterfall. The violet hue circling the eraser seemed to squeeze it like an orange. The scrubbing grew faster, and faster, and faster, then suddenly halted, as if Twilight had frozen in time and space for the next three seconds. Then with a long sigh, the violet unicorn melted onto the ground.
"Crisis averted, huh?" said Spike, picking up the almanac. Twilight could only muster a chuckle in response. "Would it kill ya to relax a little around books? They're not exactly priceless artefacts." Spike said, slotting the book onto the shelf.
"Books...are very serious business." Twilight tried to must the strength to lift her head. "Knowledge is the reason...we get up in the...morning." Her head flopped back down. "Knowing is half the battle, you know."
"That has to be the silliest thing I've ever heard." Spike dusted himself down. "You okay to lie there, or do you need a pick-me-up?"
"Could you go down to Pinkie Pie's...get me one of her delicious cupcakes?" said Twilight.
"Whatever you say, Twi. Be back in a minute."
The day was absolutely beautiful over Sweet Apple Acres Farm. The pegasi had done their job well; not a cloud in the sky. The apple trees, scattered about the farm, were already bearing delectable fruits that gleamed the sunlight. The birds scattered about here and there, and filled the air with chipper tunes. It really was a beautiful day. For some people, that might have been spoiled by the slurping, guzzling, squealing sound of pigs guzzling down heaps of slops, that was coming from the red barn. Not so for the butter yellow pegasus, or the orange pony in the ten gallon hat inside.
"Thank y' kindly fer helpin' me out with the pigs, Fluttershy," said Applejack, leaning over the side of the trough. "Them boys c'n get awful restless with the sun beating down an' heatin' the pen up."
"Yes...I kind of noticed..." came the reply in a usual timid whisper, but not from beside Applejack. Confused, Applejack looked around, then finally noticed Fluttershy perched on the rafters.
She laughed. "Don't go tellin' me they startled ya? Thought you could handle critters like them."
"I can, I can...just...not when they're all running at me very fast."
"Aw, shucks, come down fr'm there. Y' can't let a lil' stampede from a buncha piggy wigs get ya frettin'." Fluttershy timidly drifted down from the ceiling. "Sometimes ah wonder about'cha, Fluttershy. One minute yer givin' a full-grown dragon the lecture 've a lifetime, the next yer' hiding from other ponies like they had the Strangles. Yer made o' sterner stuff in all the wrong places, no 'ffence meant."
"Well, you can be a little like that too...that is, I mean, you might forget that other ponies aren't quite as strong or um, not jumpy as you...sometimes..."
"Well, ye' might have a point there, sugarcube. Still though, y' might wanna work on stiffenin' up yer 'pproach. Little somethin' t' think about on the side, there."
"Okay...I was meaning to ask, where's Apple Bloom? I didn't see her when we were talking with Granny Smith or Big Macintosh."
"Aw, she's with the rest o' the Cutie Mark Crusaders down at Rarity's. Rarity's helpin' them get their costumes together fer the book day thing at school. Poor girls prob'ly think they'll git Cutie Marks fer how well they c'n imitate the char'cters."
"Well, I don't think they've tried imitations yet, you never know...Oh, I think the pigs are almost done."
Spike went at a steady pace down the street, admiring the bright sunny day. There weren't too many Ponies about that he could see, but there were quite a few tending to the gardens, carrying shopping, chatting in the street, that sort of stuff. Spike was just heading out passing the last house on the lane when he noticed something streak across the sky, as pale blue as it's backdrop, but trailing a multicolour stream behind it. Spike cupped a hand to his mouth and called "HEY, RAINBOW DASH, GOOD MORNING!"
The lighting fast pegasus screeched to a halt in mid air. "MORNING, SPIKE!"
"GOING FOR A JOG, I SEE!"
"YOU KNOW IT! GOTTA KEEP THESE BABIES EXCERCISED!" She displayed her wings proudly. "SEE YOU AROUND!"
And then she was off again. It never failed to stun Spike how fast she went. But in any case, he had stuff to buy. He headed on toward the Hansel-and-Gretel-esque building that was Sugarcube Corner. He pushed the door open to the jangle of a bell. But even as he went up to the counter, things seemed a little odd. There didn't seem to be anyone about, or at least, there wasn't the sound of anyone approaching.
"Hello?" He called, lifting himself up on the side of the counter. "Pinkie Pie? Mr Cake? Mrs Cake?...Anyone?"
What could have happened to them?
"SORRYIMLATE!" screamed the pink mass shooting down from the ceiling.
"GAAUH!" Spike recoiled, then slumped down with a laugh. "Careful there, Pinkie, you almost gave me a heart attack!"
"Sorry, Spike! Didn't mean to scare ya! Do dragons get heart attacks? I never really thought about it. I don't think you would cause you're a baby dragon and don't have all that icky stuff in your heart. What can I get ya?"
"Uuh, a cupcake for Twilight, and a blueberry muffin for me...By the way why are you hanging upside down?"
"Well, I gotta be SOME place to hang the streamers!"
Spike looked up. He'd only just noticed, but there were a lot of streamers and balloons around on the ceiling.
Pinkie Pie dropped down and started hopping around "I heard that there was gonna be a BOOK day in three days, and that it was gonna be going on AAALL around Equestria, so obviously it was really big and when something that big is really big and happy then it means you need a PARTY! You've always gotta have a party on a Day you know, and I don't just mean on a 'day' day even though you gotta have a party in the day or the night, and you gotta have one everyday you can 'cause that's real fun, but I mean on a 'Day' day like Birthday or Father's Day or Valentine's Day or New Years Day or Halloween Day (Well it's not called that but it's still a Day). So it's only natural that I get all the stuff together to throw the biggest bookiest party anypony's ever seen and I got out all the balloons and streamers and even Gummy's helping out! Right, Gummy?"
They both looked toward the window, where the tiny toothless alligator sat there with a balloon string in his mouth staring blankly into space. Spike took this as an opportunity to interject. "Well, er, good luck with that. You always throw the best parties, so this won't be any exception."
"Yoouu betcha! And I've still got the food and drinks and music and games and banner to go! I'm kinda worried about the theme, 'cause I can't find any book shaped balloons, but I will not rest until I make sure everypony's got a smile on their face for the big day!...What were we talking about?"
"Cupcake. Blueberry muffin."
"Okey dokey lokey!" The poofy pink pony dived behind the counter, as Spike realised he'd been holding his breath and exhaled. Fact of the matter was, he couldn't remember the last time there'd been a party that wasn't Pinkie Pie's. But, if there's one thing she knew best, it was having a good time, and everyone certainly had that at her parties. Except maybe Gilda. All the same, sometimes he wondered if Pinkie was physically capable of calming down.
His wondering was interrupted by two confectionaries being held inches from his face. He opened his wallet.
The workroom of Carousel Boutique was a hurricane of fabrics. The unicorn pulled waves of velvet, lace and cloth in whirlwinds through the air, snipping, tearing, sewing and fastening them together in the most intricate designs imaginable, pausing only to push her reading glasses up the bridge of her white snout. On the sidelines sat two little fillys; her sister Sweetie Belle, and her friend Apple Bloom adjusting her red bow.
"Are you sure you don't need any help, Rarity?" asked Sweetie Belle. "I know it won't help me get my Cutie Mark, but-"
"It's quite alright, Sweetie Belle! I shan't be long now! You'll be looking absolutely wonderful, I promise you!" cried Rarity without turning around.
"Okay, if you say so..."
There was the slam and loud creak of a door swinging open, and a call of "I'm ready! Waddya think?"
The fillys turned back to their pegasus friend Scootaloo. She was dressed in the colour of leaves, her tights and tunic running the gamut from orangey-brown to light green. She was topped with a green cap holding a red feather, and wore pointed boots on her hind legs. All of the clothing was ragged, but meticulously so; snipped and torn in strangely particular fashions with symmetry in mind.
"Pretty cool, huh? Watch this, I can even do the crow, here I go: COCK-A-DOOD-" Scootaloo got no further before collapsing in a fit of coughing and hacking.
"Ah still don't quite git why you picked Peter Pan 'f all ponies," said Apple Bloom flatly "Ya do know he's a boy, right?" This was met with a glare from Scootaloo.
"Now now Apple Bloom," interjected Rarity, "Traditional casting for the original play was that Peter Pan be played by a filly, and we wouldn't want to break tradition, now would we dear?"
"Yeah!" said Scootaloo triumphantly.
"Almost...there!" Rarity turned around, carrying in the air a powder blue ball-gown, a silver tiara, and glittering slippers. The fillys couldn't help but stare at the beautiful sight. "What did I tell you Sweetie Belle, what did I tell you? You'll make a perfectly splendid Cinderella!"
Sweetie Belle stooped as the garments were lowered onto her back. "I'll go and try it on now! Thank you so much big sister, we couldn't have done it without you!"
She trotted off toward the door to go and change, as Rarity began to reassemble the fabrics. "Now then, my dear Apple Bloom, I believe you wanted the Dorothy costume?"
"Yes'm. Thank you again, Rarity, ya really didn't hafta go ta all this effert jus' fer us, when we ain't even payin' ya."
"Oh, it's quite all right, darling. This manner of activity is just what I live for! All that I want is for you three to have the most marvellous time yet on National Book Day, and that you look simply divine doing so!"
It was well into late afternoon at the library. The books had finally been sorted, with no further mishaps, and all that was left was the odd bit of dusting and adjusting here and there. Spike brushed the surface of the table with his hand, and moved the lamp to its' proper 'feng shui', as Twilight called it.
If Spike repeated that name to anyone, he'd wait two seconds and follow it up with 'I dunno, some kind of stir fry.'
He'd just touched down on the ground and was just about to head for the other side of the room when he heard Twilight calling his name. Puzzled, he went over to her side of the room, where she had gone to put the eraser back. She was standing at the desk, looking into the draw with a lopsided expression.
"What is it, Twilight?"
"You haven't been doodling in your spare time, have you?"
"Or taken up carving?"
"No, why do you ask?"
"Only someone's left something in here...come and have a look at this."
Confused, Spike clambered up the side of the cabinet and sat on top looking down to have a better look. The draw was mostly fine. All layered wood and full of stuff, like a usual draw, but all the things inside had been pushed away, clearing room to look at a small space at the bottom of the draw. Unoccupied, except for a small carving of a circle with a large X over it.
"Well, I'm stumped," said Spike, standing up on the cabinet. "Maybe it was one of those people who left the books everywhere."
"Could be, could be..." said Twilight, looking away. "But why in the world would someone make a mark like that? It doesn't seem like the usual sort of graffiti you might expect...Seems almost more like a symbol..." She looked back, saying "What do you think Sp-"
But she suddenly stopped speaking, when she saw the look on Spike's face. He was stood there, claws by his side, rooted to the spot. He was shaking terribly, his eyes bulging, and his mouth partly open, the jaw moving up and down as he struggled to make tiny sounds.
Spike's head snapped back to Twilight, and instantly his demeanour changed. His nervous tremor stopped immediately, and his panicked face melted away as though it wasn't ever there. "...huh?"
"Spike, are you okay?!"
"Oh! Sorry Twilight, must've drifted off for a sec. Were you saying something?"
"What was that just now?"
"What was what?"
"You were staring into thin air; you looked terrified!"
"I was? I did?"
"Yes!" Twilight followed where his gaze had been. It simply went out the window, where there was nothing but clear skies and treetops.
"Look, it was probably me daydreaming. I got a bit worn out with all the chores going on today."
"...yeah..." said Twilight, less worried as she was concerned and suspicious. She looked back to him. "You're probably right; we're both a little exhausted, especially after the earlier," she swallowed, "...travesty. I'll go and get Owlowiscious to take over. You try and get some rest, little guy."
"Now that's the best instruction I've had all day!" Spike saluted, and hopped off the desk as he made his way off. Twilight Sparkle merely looked at the ground, shook her head with confusion, and wandered away. This day was starting to get strange. She just had to hope it wouldn't get any worse.
And beyond the window, the branches waved in the cool breeze.