Pony POV Series
"Adventures in Camping"
Written by LZ0291 and Kendell2
The spot we were heading for was actually pretty far out of the city - nearly halfway to Ponyville, actually. That was the easy part. Organising it all was a little trickier.
Of course, Aunt Celestia, my parents, and Mrs and Mr Sparkle were fine with it, but they all turned it into a test. I was meant to organise everything myself as much as I could (they did give me some tips since I'd never been camping before). The guards being sent with us were preparing for themselves, and probably also carrying backups in case I made mess of my plans, but I was determined to get it as right as I could!
First, the train tickets and the timing. We were leaving in the afternoon to get there, and I wanted to get to our planned main camping spot well before sunset to calibrate the telescopes. Not to mention set up the tents. And of course, have dinner. I had to therefore make sure I got the right kinds of tents, had the right sort of food prepared, had the right sort of camping stoves, even the right kind of telescopes....
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): That's fascinating, Shini.. uh, Princess, but can we maybe move on past the planning stage?)
Ah, ye... What do you mean?
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Shining kinda... goes on about his plans too.)
Ah, sorry, it's speeches in my case. Nopony seems happy when you keep them short when detailing an idea.
Of course, I'd overlooked that Twilight found trains rather interesting as well. And that I'd allowed her to plan for any personal things she wanted to take, leading to checklists. Lots and lots of checklists.
"Twilight, I think when you have a checklist of checklists, you have a few too many checklists..."
"Oh... But this is the checklist of checklist checklists."
"That's... It's nice to know you plan it out, Twilight, but..."
"Oh, did Mrs. Smartypants get a train ticket?"
"Yes, she... the three tickets are actually for you, Shining, and Mrs. Smartypants, I can ride free on trains..." I lied.
"...And you did know it was five books, not fifty?"
"Yes, that's why I have the book checklists! I check the books I'm taking!"
I hope Twilight's condensed things since then, otherwise I feel sorry for poor Spike.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): ...Well, she normally only has one checklist, one very long checklist.)
When the day actually arrived, though, we thankfully had things cut down a little. Twilight and Shining were to meet us at the train station.
"Have we got everything?" I asked.
"I've got all my things, BBBFF has all his things... Do you have all your things?" Twilight asked back.
"Yes... And your checklists. All of them"
"...And do the Guardsponies have all their things?"
"Nopony said anything about things, Sarge"
"Shut up, Quick Kick"
"Yes, Miss, we've got everything," the other Guardspony said.
"And I'm a Guardgriffin."
"By the way, this is Private Quick Kick, Lance-Corporal Sky Duster, and Private Grumbles," Cool Sun said, pointing at an Earth Pony mare, a Pegasus mare, and a male Griffin.
They'd all been warned I wasn't a Princess while on the train, and were all out of uniform. Then again, three white coated ponies and a griffin were hardly all that subtle. They were also not going to set up camp too close to us, again, to try and ensure they didn't draw attention. Cool Sun was meant to be the adult here - these three were there for extra security to stop parliament going nuts if they learned a Princess went camping with only one Guard around. And I think they kinda wanted the chance to have a paid day off, which I could respect.
The train ride was of course, Twilight's chance to shine.
"...This train is pulled by a 4-4-0 locomotive that uses a coal-powered boiler, able to reach up to forty miles per hour when also hauled by eight Earth Ponies! Though they're not allowed to light the boiler inside Canterlot because of the Conserve Canterlot's Beauty Committee rules on smoke," She reported as it neared.
The Earth Ponies were hauling it just now, without the boilers lit. Personally, I didn't see what difference trains made from chimneys - the CCBC had no issues with them during winter! But then again, I was going to learn to dislike the CCBC for banning self-propelled carriages a few years after this. All because two unicorns' magic-engine design overloaded and caught fire... and, er, set fire to the grass they were testing it on... because the CCBC had wanted a heatwave.
Idiots, basically. They also had no problems with all the hoof traffic in Canterlot. Still, that's another story.
"Oh, and the train consists of six Mark One coaches able to seat up to forty ponies, because it's only a local service rather than long-distance!" She explained as we were boarding.
"Is that so?" I chuckled. I admit, I enjoyed the looks on the Guard's faces as they listened to the little blank flanked filly spouted off information most grown ups didn't know.
"Uh...Miss, how do you know all this stuff?" asked Sky Duster, just staring at her.
Twilight dug in her books saddlebag and pulled out a rather sizable book labeled 'An Extended History Of Locomotives'
"I read lots of books!"
"...And you just happened to bring that book with you?"
"Of course! We were going to be on a train! I might need it!"
"...And you want to build a book tent, don't you?" Shining asked with a grin.
"Uh...maybe...how did you know?"
"You had me carry your checklists."
"Oh." Twilight said sheepishly.
The train began moving shortly after.
"Oh! Look! We're going into a tunnel! I have notes on tunnels!" the little filly exclaimed, digging in her bags.
"Wait, we should hold our breath and make a wish," I suggested.
"That's just a myth," Twilight stated, even back then being a bit sceptical of stuff like that (remember the Zebra Ambassador?).
"Oh, well I guess you don't think you can do it," I challenged, giving a smirk.
"Uh huh! I can do it! Just watch me!"
And so the three of us held our breath as we went into the tunnel and headed down the tracks beneath Canterlot. I'll admit it, I almost didn't make it, but me and Twilight exhaled as we finally saw light again.
"See! I made it!" exclaimed Twilight, giving a big smile.
"Yeah, you did, Twilight. Good job."
Shining had had to breathe a couple seconds before we made it...and to my surprise, I found the four adults gasping for breath and two of the guards giving Cool Sun and Grumble cocky looks.
What did I wish for? Hehe, not telling.
The train began to pick up speed as we left Canterlot, the train now allowed to light the boiler. It went to a number of small villages, but the final destination was Ponyville.
Our stop was a small hamlet called Palomino Creek. It really wasn't a very big town at all - in fact the train station was the largest building in the town itself, and the two farms nearby seemed to both be corn and wheat farms (yes, there actually are farms for things other than apples, believe it or not). Flour made from those crops seemed to be the main draw in the town.
There were a small number of cloud structures floating nearby, but that made sense - this was a small town, easy to reach by rail, that had no flight restrictions. Ideal for city pegasi teaching foals to fly without having to stay in the boundaries of crowded parks or head all the way to Cloudsdale or another pegasus city.
It wasn't all that long a walk to reach our destination. The hill had a small copse of trees, and was overlooking a larger area of woodland. The small stream ran by the base of the hill, but the little hoofbridge over seemed like a wasted effort just to keep hooves dry really.
We had overlooked that the hill was a little steep, though. It wasn't much problem for me and Quick Kick thanks to Earth Pony strength and magic, and Grumble and Sky Buster were enjoying the open flight zone to stretch their wings, but little Twilight was having trouble making the climb.
Until her BBBFF picked her up in his telekinesis and helped carry her (and Smartypants) up the hill on his back.
Huh? Carrying my bags? Hehe, as you may have guessed, I can be a bit of a tomcolt from time to time. As flattering as it was to have somepony offer to carry my bags (and Shining was still enough of a gentlecolt to offer), I prefered carrying them myself. Even if it was a steep hill.
At the top, Twilight was swift to want the telescope set up so it could be tuned up properly. Of course this also included another sizable checklist. Apparently Twilight had spent a good deal of her preparation examining her telescope and it's instruction manual backwards, forwards, sideways, and upside down and asking her parents everything they could teach her about the proper upkeep of telescopes.
"Alright, all set!"
"That's great, Twilight, but the sun isn't down yet."
"Oh, and mama says never, ever look right into the sun. What should we do?"
"Well, there's lots of other stuff to look at. You've never been here after all. Probably lots you can learn," I replied.
That was enough to get Twilight grinning from ear to ear and, after calibrating the telescope, started looking around with it.
"Well there's lots of clouds, all white cumulus clouds! But it doesn't look like the Pegasi or Griffins are setting up a storm!" reported our little weather filly. I couldn't help chuckling a little. Most foals her age would just shout out that the clouds looked like dinosaurs instead of what kind of clouds they were and predicting the weather.
Eventually, Twilight had thoroughly observed the clouds completely, she turned it to the nearby area.
"There's a little town over there...oh! And there's a rock farm!"
We took a look at what she'd seen. The former was a certain sleepy little town, though 'little' in comparison to Canterlot, which was Twilight's only real reference point at present. Ponyville is actually considerably bigger than Palomino Creek. Back then the Guard Outpost was still up and running at the time and Cool Sun pointed it out for us. It was simply a little house tree on the outskirts of Ponyville, though it had a watch tower and a flag pole with the Equestrian flag billowing in the breeze. We could make out shapes moving in the windows and on the tower.
As for the rock farm...it was a rock farm. Grey, full of rocks, a silo which I assumed was filled with either rocks or explosives. Rock farming is actually a fairly profitable business. Rock farmers were normally good with Earth Pony magic (or unicorn) and could manipulate rocks fairly well to get gems and other material ponies could use. Of course, given the look of this particular farm, it seemed the ponies were of the old school type, given how dismal the place looked. The only real color was a spot of pink I think was a foal.
While we were taking in that sight, Twilight was busy rattling off rock farm tidbits, like type of rock and techniques used for the job. I can't remember all of them, but I was impressed by just how much the little foal knew about something few unicorns were interested in.
"Aww, the trees are too thick for me to see through!" complained Twilight, aiming her telescope into the forests around us.
"And you want to see into it?"
"Yeah! I even made a checklist of things I want to look for!"
Said checklist was rather short...for a Twilight Sparkle checklist.
"Well, Twiley, we can always go look on hoof before Princess Celestia lowers the sun," Shining replied.
"Oh! I can get my 'things to watch out for in the woods checklist!"
And quite the checklist it was. I think we could've trailed it behind us and used it to keep from getting lost in the woods, not that we had much chance of that considering the guards were keeping a close eye on me and wouldn't have let me in the forest period if there'd been a chance of that. So Twilight started listing it off. Mostly normal stuff up until she got to 'M'
"Well, they probably won't be there but if they are, we've got that covered," Cool Sun noted.
"Um, how?" I asked.
"I could always just use a shield spell," Shining said.
"Oh, yeah, good point, kiddo," Cool Sun nodded.
Quick Kick frowned.
"No offense, Sarge, but, your nephew's not exactly a mage yet..."
"Yeah, but he's got a special talent in shield magic."
"I'd brought a few things as well. First Aid kit, airhorns, stinkbombs, smokebombs, those weird masks Groucho-Marxists wear..."
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Do we want to know why you had those things?)
I was meant to prepare, and those weird masks with the big nose and glasses are pretty effective in freaking animals out. I know the guard dogs at the castle don't like them.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): And the stink and smoke bombs? You're not a guard.)
...My aunt and main teacher was Princess Celestia, being stuck in the castle all the time was boring, and sometimes stuck up nobles need their ego deflated.
"You were well prepared, Princess," Quick Kick nodded.
"Next is to watch for poison ivy, green plants with three leaves! So not like this stuff here, so that should be safe!"
"Uh, Sprite, those are thistles. You might wanna walk around those."
Most other dangers of woodlands were covered, though we were confused as to why her checklist began to mention roosting shinobi. I wasn't aware they roosted.
It was a fairly standard woodland walk, though we'd left Quick Kick near the spot we'd picked to camp. We found some wildflowers that Twilight was interested in (one of her books was of course about woodland flora and fauna to aid her checklist), she found some lichen that was apparently fascinating, badgers, mushrooms, and a snake, though Shining made sure to divert Twilight's attention from it even though it was a harmless grass snake. It seemed she disliked snakes for some reason.
"Awful lot of songbirds around here," I noted.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Um... )
Yes, I know!
"Yes... Which is strange because this woodland is meant to not have all that many," Twilight asked, though she didn't seem too down about it. She started looking up each one as fast as her telekinesis could flip the pages.
"Maybe the book is a little out of date?"
A few moments later, Cool Sun was helping Twilight look in a pond to look for a certain type of toad, when I thought I saw something.
"Huh, a cat, what's it doing here?" I asked, approaching the little black 'cat.' It hissed a little. I assumed it was just scared and hoped I could calm it down.
"It's probably from the village," said Shining, turning around. His eyes widened when it lifted its tail, showing a white striped pattern down it's back.
"That's not a cat!"
Thankfully Shining had faster reflexes than me and a purple barrier came between me and a face full of skunk spray. Yes, I know! This was my first time camping and there aren't skunks in the Royal Canterlot Gardens! And Twilight's warning about skunks came while I was still wondering about 'roosting Shinobi' being on the list!
"Ugh! Peeyew!" I exclaimed, both of us coughing rather heavily and keeping a tight hoof over our noses. Shining hadn't learned the 'filter the air getting through the barrier spell' trick yet. But at least I wouldn't be needing a tomato juice bath.
"...Thanks, Shining. You're... a lifesaver..."
"You're...welcome Cadence," coughed Shining, giving me a grin.
The Hoof Maidens do not hear of this, understood?
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Had no intention of it.)
Soon after that, moving away from where the skunk had sprayed (and receiving a mini lecture from Twilight on the composition of skunk musk, complete with a rather adorable mini soapbox), we found signs of Red Squirrels, namely a few nuts thrown in our direction if we got too close to some trees, and also a gap at the edge of the woods where we saw a number of pegasus foals flying around in a clearing.
"Hey, how come some pegasus foals can't fly when they're young? Wouldn't that cause problems in places like Cloudsdale?" Shining wondered.
I was going to answer, but Twilight was there first.
"Well, all pegasi can cloudwalk, and Cloudsdale's residential areas have sky bridges of thin clouds, since not even pegasi want to fly everywhere all the time, and even foals that can fly have less stamina. Parents usually carry their foals around until they've got the strength to fly consistently," She explained.
As if to prove the point, we saw one of the pegasus foals intercepted by her father and move towards a piggy-back ride in mid-air. Foalsitting (and being raised by unicorns), I've noticed that the three tribes all have their own approach to matters like that. Earth Pony foals get carried on the backs of their mothers and fathers when younger, Unicorn parents use their magic to carry foals. Twilight carries Spike on her back most of the time because dragon parents tend to carry their chicks on their backs until they reach the stage where they grow wings and can fly themselves, so Spike's more comfortable that way.
"Well, I think we'd better get back and get the campsite set up properly. So far all we have is a telescope, that's not much good for sleeping under the stars," I noted.
Leaving only a small patch of smelly woodland and a few soapboxes behind, we returned to camp.
Unsurprisingly, Shining knew a little on how to set up the tents, and with telekinesis, it wasn't too tricky. Apart from the bit where we had to put up poles and a canvas.
"Do you two need a hoof?" Cool Sun asked as he and Twilight fetched firewood.
"No, we're fine!" I lied.
Shining seemed to agree as well from below the canvas. Quick Kick just shook her head and finished setting up the tents for the Guards - the flying pair were still patrolling apparently.
Eventually we were ready, and the fire was lit. This seemed to draw the other guards back down (I wonder if they might have been part-moth).
"Never expected to make S'mores and Zucchini kebabs in the Guard..." Grumbles lived up to his name.
"Hey, would you rather be here or Krakohzia?" Sky Duster pointed out.
"Manehattan? I could get a pizza..."
"Given you're making them for yourself, Grumbles, I think you're protesting a little too much. Unless you wanted portable rat packs..."
"I'm grouchy, Sarge, not suicidal."
"Uncle, are the rations really that bad?" Shining said, looking worried.
"Oh, no, the stories you might have heard about how horrible they taste aren't really that accurate. Field rations are... indescribable," Cool Sun said, careful not to actually deny they were still horrible.
"There's actually a way to make pizzas on the campfire but I think you need to get the temperature just right, like how we need to wait to later to make baked potatoes," Twilight spoke up from her little book tent. Yes, she actually made a book tent. And it was adorable.
"Actually, Sprite, you're forgetting, my talent involves flames, I can regulate how hot it gets," Cool Sun pointed out.
"Oh... So I could have a baked potato now?"
Cool Sun obliged his niece. I, however, was curious about something flying above us.
"Is that airship circling us?" I asked.
"Uh, no, Princess, I think it's circling that," Sky Buster pointed behind me.
"...That's a battleship."
"Actually, it's only a frigate, and it's here doing training for the new airships being built. Not our part of the Guard but what I hear is they're building new ships with hangars aboard for little airships," Cool Sun said.
"Did you think it was here to keep an eye on you?" Shining wondered.
"Well... Yes. But I suppose that's a bit silly..." I blushed.
In hindsight though, Auntie and my parents probably thought an area with a frigate (and a small squad of Air Naval Cavalry aboard) floating about was therefore the ideal camping area to ensure no problems. And you wonder why I snuck out of the castle when I was younger.
I noticed however that Twilight had went over to the telescopes.
"The light airship is a P-10 Patrol Craft, and the big one is the Type-22 Frigate HHS Capricorn!"
"Huh, so we've already seen a constellation before sunset. Groovy," Quick Kick joked.
"...There are ponies with telescopes on the ship looking back at us!" Twilight said cheerfully.
"Do we wave or salute?" Shining wondered.
"The Air Navy? Pfft, we moon them!"
"How do we do that? The moon's not up yet..." asked Twilight, innocently cocking her head.
"Oh...well...Er, I mean, we do neither," Cool Sun said.
Eventually, night came, and we went to the telescopes. It was like last time, but outdoors and with smaller telescopes.
"So, sis is into this stuff, isn't she?" Cool Sun asked, looking at a star chart that Twilight had naturally brought.
"Yeah, she's into astrology. Trying to predict the future with star signs and all that," said Shining.
"Really?...Which ones?" Cool Sun asked...before Twilight took a deep breath.
"The constellations Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces," Twilight reported, pointing to each constellation on the star chart or in the sky if they were visible. The soap boxes at least helped her reach the telescope lense.
"Oh! And there's also Ophiuchus!"
Shining gave a blink. "Ophiu-what?"
"Ophiuchus, the Serpent. Some people use it as the thirteenth sign!"
"Wouldn't it be an unlucky sign then, being the thirteenth and all?"
"Actually, it's said when it's in it's rising phase, it offers protection from snakes and poisons." I noticed the filly seemed a little uneasy talking about snakes. I suppose she must have a fear of them.
"The sign Cetus, the Whale, has also been suggested to be a sign, but most ponies don't use it."
"...Did you say Cletus the Whale?" Grumble frowned.
After that was a couple hours of looking around, logging what we saw, and looking for interesting things.
"That's a funny constellation..."
"That's Canterlot, you're aiming it too low, Sarge."
Though not on a telescope at the moment, it made me look around. The lights of towns and farms around the area really did look like stars somewhat. Canterlot, on the mountainside, looked like a giant star all by itself though. Cloudsdale looked like a nebula thanks to the clouds, though of course, it was more in the sky...
"...Why is there a tiny rainbow zooming around Cloudsdale?" Grumbles wondered.
Since we thought Twilight was asleep, the so-called responsible adults had a mature idea.
"Campfire ghost stories!" Sky Buster suggested.
"As long as we keep it quiet," Cool Sun nodded.
"But no limits on how scary?"
This seemed to be partially directed at myself and Shining.
"Nothing with Trottenham winning the Victor's League at least."
"Alright, I'll go first..." Sky Buster smirked.
Oddly for a pegasus, he told a ground-based story of a ghostly black dog that stalked in Canterlot's mountains. Legend said if you saw it once, it was a warning to mend your ways. If you did well, you would see it once more, walking away from you. But if you did not change it would charge at you. After that, if you didn't take that last warning, it would appear one final time, and chase you off the edge of the mountain.
It seemed to unnerve Shining quite considerably, but he pretended otherwise.
"That was pretty lame," Grumbles grumbled.
"You do better then!"
Grumbles then took a turn. Being a predatory species, griffins had some...more graphic ghost stories. He told a ghost story about this white furred creature. A small family was on their way home from a dance one night when out of nowhere, a vicious white creature burst from the forest and chased them all the way home. When they arrived, the father stayed with their carriage to hold it off so they could reach the house.
"...And the next morning, when they opened the door, there was the father, the flesh stripped from his bones, a look of horror on what was left of his face!"
"Ookay, that was... messy. Can I try?" I said.
They agreed, and so, I told the tale of the Headless Horse, a classic.
"...Just inches away was - The Headless Horse!"
Quick Kick and Sky Buster trembled. Cool Sun didn't seem too impressed.
"Works better when you tailor the opening to the audience and do the whole bedsheet thing."
"What's the bedsheet thing?"
Cool Sun jumped, revealing that Twilight had been sitting behind him.
"Gha! I thought you were asleep!"
"I was listening to the stories."
"Wh-what?!" I worried.
"The first one was interesting, though I'm pretty sure that's actually a Yokeshire legend as well, but it chases you into marshy ground where you drown. The second one is more of an urban legend that's sprung up I think, and the third one, I'm puzzled about the bedsheet thing."
"You're not scared?"
"Nope! They're just stories. They're not real!"
We all breathed a sigh of relief that Twilight wasn't going to be scared all night or scarred for life, until Shining spoke up.
"Yeah, they're not real. Not like... Big Hoof... And the Loch Neighs Monster... And the Knackerman..."
"None of those things are real, or at least they're not like the story says. The Loch Neighs Monster is a sea serpent called Donald," Cool Sun pointed out.
"And I reckon Big Hoof is a moose that shaved his antlers to play a prank," Grumbles said.
I took a few minutes to realise no one had denied the Knackerman. Then I wondered...
"What is the Knackerman?"
"It's a bipedal creature, supposed to carry two metal tubes that remove your soul from your body through holes it makes," Twilight said.
"That just sounds silly," Quick Kick frowned.
"Well, when you put it that way, I guess so," Shining admitted sheepishly.
Ghost stories aside, it was finally bedtime. However, I hadn't realised my tentmate for the night was on a mild sugar rush from the s'mores - explaining why she'd stayed awake.
"Cadence, I can't really sleep," Twilight said, once more in her cute little book tent.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): In the tent?)
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): -)
If you say 'Tentception', I'll have no choice but to face hoof.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus) )
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Why do ponies keep doing that?!)
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Nothin'! Continue!)
"Hm... What about counting sheep?"
"That actually makes me more awake."
"Hm, we don't have any milk... Ah, I could try a lullaby!"
"It could work..."
I tried to keep it fairly quiet - it was a lullaby.
"Little pony, lay down your head
The moon is high in the sky
Even the sun has gone to bed
So listen to my lullaby
Tomorrow you can laugh and learn
But tonight you need your rest
Then with energy to burn
Tomorrow you can be your best.
Little pony, lay down your head
Dreamland's waiting, don't be shy
Journeys waiting to be lead.
So listen to my lullaby.
So listen to my...lullaby..."
Twilight was now deeply asleep. Mission accomplished! I lay down to get to sleep myself.
Ten minutes later, I was still trying...
"Well, did you have fun?" Twilight's mother asked.
They'd come to meet us at the train station - the guards other than Cool Sun heading away.
"Yes! We could see the sky really clearly even with regular telescopes and we had a walk through the woods and..."
As Twilight told her parents all about her trip, I turned to Shining.
"I think we should try something like that again someday."
"Yeah. Twiley really enjoyed herself, and it was pretty fun."
"Just wait until you do Guard camping trips... on exercise! Trying to use sleeping bags instead of tents so you can move faster, no campfires for s'mores, the officer hogging any telescopes... not a problem for you though I guess... And of course, no cute little sisters or princesses around!" Cool Sun teased his nephew.
"Though maybe we should try something where we don't need to be aware of the guards with us," I sighed.
"What, camping in the castle gardens?"
Now there was an idea...