Actions

Work Header

Cheerilee's Class

Chapter Text

The Weirdo

 

 

Morning rolled in, the blues, silvers and indigoes of night regally giving way before the golds and purples of a royal dawn. Downy Wisp was in the kitchen, fixing up three heaping stacks of pancakes. There were two sack lunches on the counter already, packed with a hearty lunch and an extra treat or two; it was a big first day for two special ponies in her life, and she wanted it to go well for them both.

Once the last fluffy golden disc was on the plates, she left the kitchen and shouted up the stairwell. "Breakfast!"

Her husband Ghost Light was the first down the stairs. He slid down the banister, greeting his wife with a kiss on the nose when he reached the ground floor. "Mmm, I can smell pancakes," he said, sniffing the air.

Downy smiled and tickled his side with her wing. "Just the thing for the new royal Master of the Lanterns to get a start on his day," she said cheerfully. Grinning, Ghost Light trotted past her, headed for the kitchen. Downy looked back up the stairs and sighed. Now to get the other one down the stairs and on his way... "Willow? Breakfast is ready."

She waited a moment. There was no response. "Come on, Willow. It's getting cold. And you don't want to be late for your first day at your new school."

A pair of eyes appeared in the shadows at the top of the stairs. "Do I really have to go today?" her son pleaded in a plaintive voice.

Downy was firm. "Yes, you do," she said. "If you don't go today, you'll just have to go tomorrow. So you might as well go ahead and go today."

"You know how it'll go," the eyes at the top of the stairs said, the young voice full of cynicism. "It always goes the same."

"It'll be different this time, I'm sure of it," Downy urged. "Ponyville's not like Cloudsdale or Phillydelphia or Canterlot. The ponies here are nice. I've met a few. Don't you think you ought to give them a chance?"

The eyes said nothing. "Come on then," Downy said. "Let's get going..." The eyes groaned and started down the stairs. They came into the light, revealing they belonged to a young colt. He ambled down the stairs, his ears down and his head low. He had a dark grey coat, and an indigo mane.

And webbed, batlike wings pressed close to his sides.

He sidled past her and went into the kitchen, head still low.  She sighed. So many heartaches... She'd not known what to expect from her foals when she got married to an earth pony, but she'd never expected to give birth to a thestral. But apparently both she and her husband had some batpony back in their family tree. Bat wings, cat eyes, tufted ears, tiny little fangs--- "marked by the Moon," other pegasi called it. And it had caused no end of trouble for their little family. Especially for Willow himself...

When Ghostlight had landed that prestigious job at the new Palace of the Moon, it had seemed heaven sent; a chance to start over anew. Now...

Please let this school, this town, be different, she prayed silently.

Willow sat at the table. The sight of the golden flapjacks cheered him up a little. A little.  He reached for the blueberry syrup and began to pour.

His dad was already chowing down. "Ready for your first day, buckaroo?"

Willow shrugged and took a bite of his pancakes. He wasn't about to commit an answer; after so many different first days, it felt like saying "yes" would just mean the day would be jinxed.

Ghostlight stopped eating and looked at his son. He got serious for a moment. "Now if you have any problems, you tell your mother and me," he said. "But still, try and give things here a chance, okay?" He waited till Willow nodded, then clapped him on the back with one hoof. "Attaboy."

Willow rolled his eyes when he thought his dad wasn't looking. He was getting really tired of everypony telling him to 'give it a chance.'

Ghostlight wolfed down the last of his pancakes. He grabbed his sack lunch off the kitchen counter and gave his wife a syrupy kiss. "Back after sunset, dear," he said. "I have to coordinate the area lighting on the west wing, and I want to stay long enough to see how it looks." His talent was lights and lighting-- specifically, atmospheric lighting; arranging natural and artificial lighting, lamps and windows to give a room or building its mood or tone. It was his suggestion to tile over much of the black stone of the Palace of the Moon with blue-white marble that had landed him his new job; the formerly somber-looking castle now glowed under the moonlight like a second moon.  Ghostlight now had to make sweeping changes to the interior and exterior illumination to complement it to best effect.

Downy giggled and kissed him back. "Have a good day at work," she called as her husband galloped out the door.

Willow finished his last pancake. Downy wiped the syrup off his chin with a washcloth and handed him his lunch. He mumbled a thank you as he slid it into his saddlebag. Downy kissed him on the top of the head. "Have a good day, sweetie," she said. "Be nice to the other kids, and-- try to make friends."

Willow nodded and put his saddlebags on... trying, not so subtly, to hitch them up so they covered his wings. Downy sighed again and put his shades on. "Don't forget your sunglasses," she said. "It's bright out. Don't want you to hurt your eyes." A decent half-truth, at least. His eyes were sensitive... but so was he, about ponies staring at his eyes. The sunglasses hid them well enough.

If only she could do something for his ear tufts. Or his fangs...

"Thanks, Mom." Willow gave up trying to hide his wings. He gave his Mom a peck on the cheek and trotted out the door.

It was early yet. Few ponies were out and about; School didn't start for almost another hour, and a lot of the schoolfoals were still eating their breakfasts or even trying to squeeze in just a few more minutes of sleep. That was just fine with Willow; the fewer colts or fillies he met, the fewer stares or whispers he'd hear, and the fewer bullies he ran the risk of running into. Getting up early to go to school and leaving late afterwards was just one of the tricks he'd learned for that.

There were a few grownup ponies in the street, opening stores or setting up stalls in the marketplace. They seemed nice enough. At least, nopony said anything or pointed at him. A few looked at him in surprise, though. Was that because he was out so early... or, well--

Unconsciously he flexed one of his wings. He flinched as he heard somepony laugh in the distance. They weren't laughing at you, dummy, he told himself.

He had a hard time convincing himself.

He stopped in front of a picture window in the front of a sweets shop--- 'Sugarcube Corner,' it said in bold colorful print-- and regarded his reflection. Well, his sunglasses hid his freaky eyes. And as long as he kept them tucked to his sides it was hard to notice his wings, what with his saddlebags partly in the way.

But someone will notice, sooner or later, he thought gloomily. They always do.  His Mom was a pegasus, with a soft blue-white coat and a snowy mane. She had such pretty blue eyes, too. And soft, normal, feathered wings. His dad was sky blue with a yellow mane. With normal green eyes and normal... well normal earth pony everything, really. Everypony he knew in his extended family-- his grandparents, his aunts and uncles, his cousins-- all of them were perfectly normal earth ponies or pegasi and even unicorns (on his father's side.)

Why did he have to be the only weirdo?

Splodge.

Without warning a hideous, bubblegum-pink face mashed itself to the opposite side of the glass. It goggled at him with huge blue eyes and grinned even as its nose and cheeks squashed against the window like putty. Willow yelled and jumped backwards. It took him a moment to realize that the horrible face wasn't some monster, but instead belonged to a pink, frizzy maned mare inside the store.  "Hieeeee!" she shouted at him through the glass.

Willow sat back on his rump and waited for his heartbeat to slow back down. "Who the heck is that??" he said aloud.

"That's me, Pinkie Pie," said a voice behind him. Willow jumped up and spun around-- the pony from the window was now standing right behind him. "Wha?" He turned around again--- the display window was empty again, save for a few cakes and pies. He turned back to the pony behind him, baffled. "But how...?"

"Not how, but who, silly," she said, beaming at him unnervingly. "And like I said, I'm Pinkie Pie, Ponyville's premiere party pony! Well actually I didn't say that second part, but I guess since I'm saying it now then it counts. Who're you?"

Willow started to slowly back up, pushed back by Pinkie Pie's sheer presence. Was this pony a loony? Why wasn't anypony watching her, or better yet, coming to get her away from him? He smiled-- carefully, his lips together hiding his fangs. "I'm--"

"Ooh, I know who you are," she interrupted, stepping forward a step to match his retreat.

"Y-you do?"

"Yes! You're a new pony in town, and that means you--" she beeped him on the nose--"are invited to my next 'Welcome to Everypony New to Ponyville' party!"

"E-everypony new...?" Willow was having trouble keeping headway against the torrent of words.

Pinkie looked disgruntled for a moment. "Yeah, I used to have a special superrific party for each new pony who came to Ponyville. But now with the Princesses living here there's heaps and heaps of new ponies every single day! Every-- single-- day!" She goggled at him. "It's awful! Twilight was right. There's just too many ponies for me to throw a party for every single one." She sat back and sobbed dramatically, waving her forehooves at the sky. "There's just too many ponies! Too, many, PONIEEEES! WAAAAH!"

"...So now I just throw one big party once a month for all the new ponies in Ponyville!" she beamed, shifting gears once again from anguished to happy. "And since you're a new pony in town that means you're invited!" She produced an envelope out of nowhere in a cloud of confetti. "Here's your invitation!" She held it out to him. Her gleaming grin stretched from ear to ear.

Willow backed away some more, seriously alarmed. Every instinct he had was screaming 'Stranger Danger' at the top of its voice. "I'm... I'm sorry, I can't come," he said nervously.

The party pony seemed to deflate a little. "Why not? I mean, it's not as nice as my personal pony-by-pony parties--" she paused to pout a little-- " but it'll be lots of fun-- and you'll get to meet all the ponies in town!"

Willow had a vision of that: him arriving at this "welcome party".... then everypony there seeing him, with his creepy eyes and wings and fangs... him being surrounded by hundreds of whispering, staring, pointing ponies--  ponies laughing or sneering or calling him names.... "I-- I can't," he said. "You wouldn't want me at your party, really."

Pinkie blinked. "Why not, silly?"

"I'm a thestral," Willow said. He lifted up his sunglasses, showing her his cat-pupiled yellow eyes, and flapped his webbed wings once, for emphasis.

The mare's reaction was startling. The instant she clapped eyes on his wings, she leapt into the air, eyes bulging,went "Aaaaaahhhhhh--!" and then bolted. She disappeared back into the shoppe, the party invitation still in her hoof, the door slamming shut behind her in the tailwind.

Willow stood there, stunned. He felt like he'd been slapped in the face. She was so horrified at inviting a batpony to her party, she'd taken one look at him and run away! He heard some ponies laughing; a couple of ponies on the street had been watching and apparently thought what they'd seen was too funny for words...

He blinked rapidly and pulled his sunglasses on. He felt his eyes burning, water beading up. It's just the sun in my eyes, he thought to himself. Just the sun. I don't really care... He shuffled off down the road, shoulders hunched and ears laid back, trying to go as fast as he could without looking like he was running away--- then broke into a gallop once he was out of sight around a corner. He was two blocks away before he couldn't hear the laughing anymore.

There were more and more ponies about. He caught a glimpse of a few school-age ponies, little groups and pairs , shouting and yelling and cutting up together as they all made their way to the schoolhouse on the hill. Some of them looked pretty rowdy. He ducked down a side alley so he could take a different route.

He stopped and caught his breath, leaning against a doorframe, only to be nearly flattened to the wall when the door unexpectedly opened. He sat on the sidewalk, rubbing his aching muzzle.

"What--?" an annoyed voice on the other side exclaimed. A moment later two fillies appeared around the door. One was pale pink, with a puce and white mane and a tiara perched behind her ears; the other was a bespectacled grey filly with a white mane and a pearl choker. They were both carrying boxes tied with string; something they'd bought at the pricey looking store they'd just left, he assumed. They were coiffed and groomed  and sported touches of makeup better suited for someone twice their age. Willow took one look at them both and his heart sank to his hooves. He didn't have to know them to recognize them--- every school he'd ever attended had fillies like them; rich, spoiled little queen bees that the rest of the class hummed and swarmed around like a beehive to honey.... and anyone who wasn't in their good graces got their waspish tongue.

Especially me, he thought to himself. Queen Bees loved to pick on anyone out on the edges, and weirdos were fair game.

The one in the tiara shot him a cross look. "Oh, what-- watch where you're going!" she snapped. The grey one snickered. Willow refrained from pointing out that it was she who had hit him, not the other way around. Not that he could think of anything to say at the moment anyway. "Who are you?" the tiara filly demanded.

Willow took a deep breath. Be nice; try to make friends. Give them a chance! His parents' voices echoed in his head. He smiled without parting his lips, mindful of his fangs. "I'm Willow...."

"Isn't that a girl's name?" the grey one tittered.

Willow frowned but plowed ahead. "My family and I just moved here from Phillydelphia--"

The one in the tiara rolled her eyes. "Well duh you just moved here," she snorted, her voice dripping with disdain. "Anypony can see that. What are you, stupid?" She looked him up and down thoroughly, once. Obviously taking in his ear tufts, his sunglasses-covered eyes, his tightly tucked wings... her lip curled in a familiar sneer. "Just what Ponyville needs. Another weirdo moving in. Come on, Silver Spoon, let's go, we don't wanna hang around and get his weirdo-cooties on us." She spun around and pranced off down the street, nose in the air. Silver Spoon laughed once, mockingly, then did the same.

Willow's mouth closed so abruptly his teeth clicked. Wordlessly he walked to the corner and turned left-- taking yet another route towards the school, and hopefully far away from the two bratty fillies.

He walked along with his eyes fixed on the sidewalk (taking care to walk further out in the street, away from any doors), his chin all but dragging the ground. He wasn't at school yet, for Celestia's sake, and his day was already halfway sunk. He didn't know why he was surprised, really. It had been the same everywhere they'd lived. Cloudsdale had been the worst, but they were all pretty lousy.

Ponies didn't like thestrals very much. Thestrals were supposed to be jinxed or cursed, 'marked by the Moon.' Ponies, even other pegasi, shunned them. Or picked on them. Some even got run out of town by other ponies, back in the old days. It had gotten a little better after Princess Luna returned and put her hoof down about 'the mistreatment of our most loyal servant's descendants.' Of course she couldn't stop ponies being mean or spiteful when she wasn't there, but she could stop them from being treated unjustly.

Willow supposed it was better than being chased out of town with torches and pitchforks, but it certainly didn't make the bullying right now any easier.  Sometimes his parents took the troublemakers on, got it to stop for a while, but sooner or later the bullies would find their way to him like metal files to a magnet... it was just the way the world worked, so far as Willow could see, and it was never going to change.

At least so far today he hadn't run into any outright bullies. In Phillydelphia, it'd been two thugs in particular: a big brutish earth pony colt named Lugnut and his scrawny stooge Screwdriver , both of them bigger and taller than him. They'd chase him home after school almost every day; if they caught him they beat him up or pinkbellied him or gave him a swirly or threw his saddlebags up into a tree.  He shuddered at the memory. The torture always started the same way; he'd hear a voice coming up behind him say--

"Heya pal, how's it going?"

Willow gulped and spun around. It couldn't be!

Right behind him were two unicorn colts. One was fat and round faced, with a mint green coat and reddish orange mane; the other was bright orange with a grass green mane and freckles. Willow was small for his age; the fat one probably outweighed him by at least half a stone, and the tall one towered over him. They chortled at him in the thuggish, goon-like way with which he was so dismally familiar.

"Ya new here, pal?" the fat one said, his voice raspy as sandpaper.

He couldn't take it. "Oh come on!" he yelled at the heartless sky. He turned and ran as if his life-- and possibly his bookbags, belly and neatly combed mane-- depended on it.

Any doubts in his mind what the two intended vanished when he heard them give chase. "Hey, where are ya goin?" the second one shouted in a hick-like drawl. Willow didn't bother to answer. He was too busy wishing desperately that he could fly, already. Stupid wings, he thought angrily. Still can't do anything more than flutter a few feet. Late bloomer my blank flank.

The chase was a short one. His first avenue of escape turned out to be a dead-end alley. He bounced off the wooden fence blocking the alley off; his sunglasses landed in the dirt. He wheeled around, trapped, and faced his pursuers, his head lowered. They stopped running and ambled all too casually down the alleyway to him. "Sheesh, pal, what was that all about?" the fat one said, taunting him. "We just wanted to say 'hi.' Right, Snails?"

The tall one frowned. "Yeah, Snips. That was kinda rude..."

Willow had nothing left to lose. He did the only thing he could think of. He bared his fangs, flared his webby wings, and hissed at them.

The effect was astonishing, and gratifying. The two unicorn colts shrieked like fillies and backpedaled furiously. "What IS that?" the fat one shrieked, practically climbing up his friend's neck.

"I don't know and I don't like it!" the orange one said. "Aaaah! Get away!"

Willow decided to press his luck. He fake-lunged at them and hissed again. That was more than enough. The two unicorns screamed and bolted. They burst out of the alley and took off down the street, their yells of panic fading in the distance.

Willow sat on his haunches, listening to the two bullies fading in the distance and clutching his chest. Eventually his heartbeat slowed to normal. He started to giggle. That had actually worked! Boy that had been funny! He stopped himself a moment later. They'd be back; colts like them always were. He'd better get out of there and to school. He retrieved his sunglasses and his saddlebags and skulked out of the alley, looking both ways to make sure they really were long gone--

A bell began to ring. "Horseapples!" Willow swore. It was the school bell. He was late! He started galloping. What a day. First day and the teacher would already be mad at him...

By the time he arrived at the schoolhouse, everypony was already inside. The teacher-- at least he thought the cherry-colored mare at the door was the teacher--- was just getting ready to go inside. He came galloping up and stopped in a cloud of dust at the steps. "I-- I'm here," he panted. "I'm here..."

The teacher... didn't Mom say her name was Miss Cheerilee?...  cocked an eyebrow at him. "You're almost five minutes late, dear," she said.

Willow shuffled his hooves together. "I'm sorry," he said meekly.

Miss Cheerilee gave him a half smile. "Well, no harm done," she said. "Willow Wisp, right?" Willow nodded. "Well, this actually works out. Come on in." The two of them went inside.

They stood in a little coatroom right before the classroom. "Now dear, you wait here," she said in a half-whisper. "This gives me a chance to introduce you to the whole class! Just wait right here till I call you in, all right?"

Willow groaned to himself, but nodded. It was the whole 'stand in front and introduce the new colt' thing. This was going to be ugly. Cheerilee gave him a cheery smile and went on inside. Willow listened at the doorway.

"Class? Let me have your attention please!" The clamor of colts and fillies crowded together died down. "We have a new student starting at Ponyville today, all the way from Phillydelphia. Now I want you all to be on your best behavior, and give him your full attention while he introduces himself.

"Willow? Come on in, dear."

Willow took a deep breath and walked in, looking neither to the left nor the right. He walked over to stand next to Cheerilee and turned to face the class, eyes cast down at the floor. The classroom exploded in half-smothered whispers and murmurs the moment he stepped into view. He cleared his throat feebly. "H-hello. My name is Willow Wisp...."

Suddenly he was sick of it. Get it all over with, he decided. Quick, like pulling off a bandaid. He took his sunglasses and his saddlebags off. He looked up and flared his webbed wings, and glared ahead with his yellow cat eyes.

He took a deep breath. "My name is Willow Wisp. and yeah, I'm a THESTRAL. I'm from Philly....del...phia?"

His eyes went wide and his jaw dropped. The classroom was large, large and crowded. With colts and fillies of all kinds...  unicorns and earth ponies and pegasi, of course. But--

Right in the front row sat a changeling. She was tall and lanky, a head taller than any of the other fillies, and dark green. Her eyes were slit pupiled, and bottle glass green. She had insect wings and a crooked horn. Her hole-y legs were folded neatly at her desk, and she had a long, straight pink mane and tail that trailed down her back to the floor. She was sucking on a candy cane, right in class. She gave him a fang-y smile.

Right next to her was a silver and white unicorn colt, who sparkled like a gemstone from head to toe. A crystal pony? What was he doing here?

Right behind him sat-- a zebra?? He was a pudgy little fellow with an enormous pair of glasses perched on his nose. His eyes sparkled with curiosity behind them. He was seated next to what had to be a baby dragon, a purple one with green spines.

There was a faint splash. His eyes were drawn irresistibly to the enormous fishbowl in the back corner of the room. Not fish tank, fish bowl. He'd glimpsed it and thought it might be for a colony of frogs, or class goldfish, or something like that, but it was far too big... now he could see there was an orange filly with a yellow mane swimming in it. An orange filly with a yellow mane and a fish tail where her back legs should be, and a necklace of gold links and gems and seashells that hung down from her throat to her collarbone. She'd surfaced and was resting her forehooves (or was that just 'hooves,' since she had no back ones) on the lip of the bowl so she could wave hello.

And sitting in the front row, center aisle, was a filly with a midnight black coat, turquoise cat-pupiled eyes (really? Another pony with cat eyes?), a royal purple mane and tail, a unicorn horn, and feathered wings...

Holy jumping hydras.

The class began to giggle at his expression. The alicorn girl in the front row rested her chin on her hoof. "Betcha thought you were gonna be the weirdest kid at school, huh?" she said. Dumbly, Willow nodded.

The changeling filly held out her forehooves, sketching an inch of space in the air between them. "Missed it by thaaaat much," she said with a grin. The classroom exploded with laughter.

"All right, class," Cheerilee said as the laughter died down. "I think some introductions all the way around are in order. We'll call this an oral essay. Each of you tell us your name and a little bit about yourselves. And since I'm sure he has the most questions about a certain somepony-- Nyx, why don't you go first?"

The alicorn filly rolled her eyes, with the air of someone who had told this story a thousand times before. She sat up, took a deep breath that threatened to pull the curtains off the window, and said:

"AcoupleofyearsagomymomPrincessTwilight(exceptshewasn'taprincessthen)defeatedNightmareMoonwiththeelementsofHarmony. ButtherewerebitsandpiecesofNightmareMoonleftoverandtheymadeponiesgoevilandstartacultofNightmareMoon. TheykidnappedmymomandusedadropofherbloodtotryandbringNightmareMoonbacktolife,excepttheymadeamistakeandmademeinsteadandTwilightfoundmeandtookmehomeandmademeherdaughter.SotheycamebacklaterandturnedmeintoNightmareMoonandIconqueredallofEquestriaanditreallysucked,soIquitbeingQueen,curedallthebadcultistsandmadethemgoodagain,beatupabunchofmonstersandbroughtbackthePrincesseswhoturnedmebackintoafillyandnowI'mPrincessTwilight'sdaughterandwealllivedhappilyeverafterTheEnd." She finished this off by dramatically flopping down across her desk, hooves dangling off the sides and her tongue hanging out of her mouth.

The class laughed. Even Miss Cheerilee chuckled. "All right, Nyx, very funny. Now seriously..."

Nyx sat up, biting back a grin. "Hi Willow. My name is Nyx, and I'm Princess Twilight's daughter. I live with her and Ink Spot and Spike" (she pointed at the dragon) "In the Palace of Friendship. You've probably seen it? It looks like a jewelry box got stuck in the top of a giant tree?"

Willow nodded mutely. He had seen it.

"And by the way," Cheerilee interrupted," It's also the town library, and we will all be going on a field trip there once the renovations are completed." There was a general cheer at this.

"Flitter, why don't you go next?"

The changeling filly stood up. "Hi, Willow. My name's Flitter, and I'm a changeling, ker-duh. I live in the Everfree forest with my parents, and Ziggy here--" she pointed at the zebra colt-- "is my neighbor..."

The crystal pony was next. "Hi, I'm, um, Bright Eyes, I'm a Crystal pony from the Crystal Empire. I'm here in Ponyville with my family and my cousin Roller Reel. He helps Princess Twilight film a docu-- documentary on Earth Pony magic..."


 

"...My name is Ziggy,

As you have been told,

I come from Zebrica,

If I may be bold

I live with my aunt

Zecora is she

She lives in the forest

Known as 'Everfree'

I have come to learn new forms

of meter and rhyme

in the manner Equestrian

To broaden my... um...."

"Ah, nuts." The zebra colt bent over his notebook, erasing furiously.

"Hi, I'm Doubloon, I'm a SeaPony... obviously..." the filly in the fishbowl flapped her tailfin in the air. Several ponies sitting next to her made griping noises as she sprinkled them with droplets; she ignored them. "My mother and father are diplomats from the Western Sea, and we live in the lake on the edge of town... "

"Yo. Spike's the name."

"Spike. come on now."

"(grump) Hi, my name is Spike, I'm a dragon and number one assistant to Princess Twilight Sparkle when I'm not attending school, which was somepony else's idea and I still don't think is necessary for me to--"

"Spike..."

"Okay okay okay..."

The introductions went around the classroom. As they did, Willow noticed something; the colts and fillies looked curious, puzzled, even surprised to see him... but none of them looked angry, or disgusted, or repulsed by him. Well, except maybe for the two snooty fillies with the tiara and glasses. But he got the feeling they looked at everyone that way...They made their introductions-- largely bragging about how rich their parents were-- then sat down and kept their mouths shut.

Most everypony else looked--

They looked happy to see him.

"Well, as you can see, we have an interesting mix here," Cheerilee said to Willow. "Ponyville is the crossroads of Equestria; we get all sorts of ponies here, and we've learned to get along-- regardless of how different we all are." She smiled at Willow. "Your parents spoke with me, Willow. I know you've had a rough time before coming to Ponyville.  And Maker knows we're not perfect here--"  she rolled her eyes, remembering a certain fiasco with a certain zebra herbalist-- "but if you give us a chance, you'll fit right in.

"Why don't you go find a desk, okay?"

Willow felt himself smiling. For once he didn't care if his fangs showed. He picked up his saddlebags in his mouth and looked around.... a couple of colts had pulled out a chair for him and were waving him over.

Grinning, he went to take his seat.