THE COLT AND THE QUEEN
Once upon a time, perhaps a Tuesday, there lived a young, unicorn colt, who shall remain nameless for the duration of this tale, for his name has been lost in the flowing river of time.
He was no God incarnate, nor did he have royal blood, and he was most definitely not the hero of a chosen destiny. He was only a small colt of a light blue coat and the only son of a baker and tailor. He was at a point in his life when he was still in school. The village that he resided in was small, but he was not without companions.
Far from it, he had many friends. He loved them, and they loved him back.
Anypony who knew the young unicorn knew him well. He was playful, polite, and kind to his companions. He was taught well by his parents, and he never spoke out of place. Though one would most likely recognize him for his knightly ways. Truth be told, he was one comfortable in helping others. Yet he sought no reward or prize.
I'm happy the way I am. I'm happy to be me. I would rather earn something with my own strength, not for debt.
That was the motto he lived by, for he was raised well. The only reward he accepted was the love he received from his family and friends.
One day, the unicorn's mother tasked him to pick the freshest berries from the edge of the forest. Normally the forest was the sanctum for a pantheon of wild beasts. This pantheon included the cockatrice, with eyes that could turn the strongest muscle to stone, and the manticore, the beast with a poisonous sting.
Fortunately, these berries could be found just near the entrance of the forest, and it was only in the deepest parts of the forest that the beasts thrived. So the young unicorn went to the forest's edge and began to pluck the berries for his mother.
"Help! Help!" a scared voice cried out from within the forest.
The unicorn stopped plucking the berries and turned towards the source of the screams. He could hear the scream echo from the forest's darkness. Had he really heard somepony scream? Surely no pony was foolish enough to enter the forest all on their own.
"Help!" the voice cried out again.
There was no mistake in what he heard. Somepony was in pain. The unicorn immediately dropped the plucked berries from his mouth and broke into a full gallop straight to source of the voice. Sure he was young, and he knew better than to enter the woods all by himself. But he could never forgive himself if he were to just ignore somepony in trouble.
After a short gallop, the young unicorn came to the source of the scream. He came across a small clearing a medium distance from the entrance. Here he stopped with sweat dripping off his face. He had never run so hard and fast in his life before. And it is here he found the source of the scream.
In the center of the sun-drowned clearing laid a single, light pink earth filly with a short mane. Judging from her size, she was most likely the same age as the unicorn. It was no illusion that she had been injured; for the young unicorn saw that she was covered in bruises. He quickly walked towards the injured pony and gently nudged her to see if she was still in breath.
"Hey! Hey, are you alright?" the young unicorn said with a tingle of fear in his voice.
He could see and hear that she was still breathing. Thank goodness. She was still alive.
This moment of relief was cut short when the filly's attackers appeared. Out of the darkness of the clearing's edge appeared three wolf-like creatures with yellow, menacing eyes. Their forms were not constructed from flesh and fur, but rather from limb and bark one would find on a common tree.
The three timber wolves were closing in for their next meal.
A chill ran down the unicorn's spine. His mother had warned about the timber wolves and how they would gobble up foals who did not listen to their parents. But he was strong, for he had good reason to disobey his mother.
The unicorn stayed close to the injured filly, as the wooden predators circled their target. They had their prey's entire, frightened attention.
"Leave her alone! I'm not afraid of you!" said the unicorn, deciding not to let fear from his mother's words gain the upper hoof.
One of the predators answered with a snarl at the unicorn's courageous words, clearly in no mood for a speech.
The unicorn was prepared to fight back. It was now or never. He closed his eyes and began to concentrate as hard as he possibly could. He was focused on one thing and thing only; saving the injured filly's life. His horn was consumed by a light blue aura whilst emitting tiny sparks. Truth be told, he had never actually used magic before so now was the best time for a crash course. As he was mustering all the magic he could, the pink filly weakly opened her eyes to witness her protector.
The timber wolves began to close in. One pounced at the two fillies only to be met with . . .
From the unicorn's horn exploded a flash of light brighter than the sun, launching back the attacking timber wolf back while the others flinched from the bright shock. The fallen beast quickly got back on its as his fellow predators joined him.
The flash of light then dimmed to reveal the unicorn, clearly straining to keep up the light. Yet he still had a look of determination on his face as he breathed heavily.
Clearly the timber wolves have never seen prey like this put up a fight. They would rather have an easy kill. They had no choice but to back away into the darkness reluctantly. They would have to find a meal in another place.
With the sight of their menacing eyes gone, the young unicorn finally exhaled a sigh of relief and belly-flopped on the soft grass, still breathing heavily from his first use of magic. The aura of his horn finally vanished.
"Are you alight?" the unicorn said, turning his head towards the filly no longer in distress.
The filly's eyes slowly opened her eyes and drowsily lifter her head to see a light-blue colt in her view.
"W-Who . . . "
The filly's eyes snapped opened as she gasped and sprang to her feet like a fresh daisy, looking around her to see if the timber wolves were still nearby.
"It's alright," said the unicorn. "I scared them off. I've never actually used magic before, but I don't think they'll be coming back anytime soon."
The filly turned her eyes to face the unicorn.
"Y-you saved me?" she faced him with wide eyes.
"Of course. I was actually picking berries for my mother when I heard you scream. I've never been this far into the woods before, so . . ."
The filly screamed so loud you could almost hear it from the mountaintops.
"Thank you!" the pink filly cut him off as she began to bounce up and down.
"THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
"THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
"THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
She was saying this as she hopping in a circle around her hero, who could not think of the proper response to such a reaction. He was both dumbfounded at her enthusiastic response and surprise that she had recovered amazingly well.
"Uhh . . . are you alright?"
The filly stopped bouncing and landed just inches away from the unicorn's face with a big smile stretched on her face.
"Of course I'm alright!" she continued to hop around the clearing. "Why wouldn't I be alright? I mean, you did save my life and I didn't think anypony would actually save my life because I don't usually come to this part of the woods very often, so I got so frightened when the timber wolves tried to eat me. Of course they didn't actually eat me since you showed up, otherwise I wouldn't even be here right now "
She gasped for a big breath of air. The unicorn flinched.
" AAAAAnyway . . . I really need to thank you somehow, because saying "thank you" over and over and over and over and over and over again isn't enough to show you just how happy I am right now. All the "thank yous" in the world probably can't show you how happy I am "
She gasped for another breath of air. The unicorn flinched again.
" Sooooooooooooooooooo, what will it be then?"
The unicorn shook his head in confusion. He lost track of the filly's rapid procession of gratitude. He just gave a confused look.
"Wh-What will what be?"
"What do you mean "What will what-" the filly stopped. She took a second to collect herself and cleared her throat. She then began to speak in a slow somewhat refined manner.
"Why, your wish of course."
"My wish?" said the unicorn as he tilted his head to the side.
"Yes. As an expression of my gratitude, I will grant you one wish. Any wish you desire."
"Of course. With my magic, it'll be as easy as blueberry pie. Because I love pie and I love blueberries, especially with honey."
The unicorn shook his head.
"You can do magic?"
"You do not believe the words I speak?"
"I suppose. How is it you can perform magic? You lack a horn like mine, and only unicorns can perform magic spells."
The filly giggled.
"Faeries like me don't require horns to perform magic. Our magic comes form the land itself."
Now the colt was very confused.
"Youyou're a fairy?"
"Still do you not believe my words?"
"But, I thought they were just a myth. I've only read about them in my father's books."
"Just a myth?" the faeries gasped as if she had heard a naughty word, and she quickly lapsed into her original cheerful voice. "Just a myth?? Why, in all of my here, I'll show you!"
Motioning the colt to step back, the filly then closed her eyes was immediately surrounded by an aura of light. The unicorn held his hoof to prevent the light from blinding him. To his disbelief, the filly then sprouted a pair of butterfly-esque wings and a pair of antenna.
The aura of light faded away and the filly opened her eyes with a triumphant grin on her face. With a push off the ground, she actually achieved levitation. She then began to fly around the unicorn as if she were swimming laps in a lake.
"See Mr. Fairies-Are-Just-A-Myth, I told you I was a faerie! Do you like my wings? I just love to fly all day and all night. In fact, that's how I got lost and how the timber wolves found me. I wanted to fly away, but I was so scared I kept hitting all the trees and ended up falling to the ground because I was so startled by the timber wolves, because being startled can be really startling, but I'm not startled anymore so its okay because you saved my life and I can grant you a wish now! Yay!"
The colt couldn't believe his eyes. Right in front of him, flying around him, was a fairy. An actual, living, breathing faerie, just as his teacher had told him about in one of his lessons. Clearly he could not think of a counterargument against the filly, er, faerie's presentation.
"If you're a fairy, couldn't you have just used your, um, magic, to fly away?"
"Well, fairies don't usually use magic for themselves."
"So, what will your wish be, O brave defeater of wolves?" said the cheerful fairy.
"Waitwaitwait! Don't tell me. Would you wish to marry a beautiful princess?"
The colt took a simple breath of air and shook his head
"I could not wish for that, for I was taught that love cannot be forced."
"Oh," the fairy was silent for a moment. She wasn't expecting that sort of response. "Oh! I know! You want to wish for great wealth for your parents? They would be so proud!"
The colt shook his head again.
"I could not wish for that, for the treats my father bakes are recognized in the entire village, and my mother makes the finest clothes."
"Oh," the faerie wasn't expecting that kind of response either. "Well, do you at least want to wish for three wishes? I can do that, you know."
The colt simply sighed and looked at the fairy as if he were about to kiss her.
"Forgive my humble honesty," said the colt, "but I really don't want a wish."
The faerie blinked with her eyes widening to the size of supper plates.
"I said I really don't want to wish for anything."
The fairy was dumbstruck at the colt's response. Never had she heard such a response before. For her, it was customary to grant the wish of a pony who either saw her or assisted her in some manner, but not for both instances. Just one wish and one wish only. Two wishes was normally selfish, and three was right out.
"Whaaa? Uhhh? Why?" the faerie spoke up, "Isn't there anything you want more than anything else in the whole world?"
The colt gave an innocent smile, and looked back at the wide-eyed faerie.
"To be truthful, faerie, what I want is what I already have. I have my mother and father who love me so and taught me well. I have many friends and I have no actual trouble on my shoulders. I'm happy the way I am. And I don't want to feel like you're in debt to me. I did what I did because it's the right thing to do. I help others because I enjoy it. I saved your life, and that's why I'm happy. Even though you claim you can give me anything I want, I really don't know what else I want. I am already fine with the life I have and that I made your acquaintance. Isn't that a reward all on its own?"
The faerie's eye twitched.
"I'm just happy that you're alright. I would really rather earn something with my own strength rather than through debt. I have to get going now, for I still need to finish picking the berries for my mother," the colt added as he began to walk off, leaving the stunned fairy behind him hanging in the air . . .
. . . only to be suddenly engulfed by a pink aura and pulled right back in front of the fairy, who presented a look of tranquil fury on her face.
"Hey! What are you "
"STOP," the fairy flatly demanded. Now she had gone from a state of bewilderment to a state of tranquil fury. She began to speak in a much stranger dialect as she levitated over the colt and a great wind howled over them, as if it were following the change in emotion.
"How . . dare you," her anger began to grow more and more visible. "Dost thou know the chance I give to thee? Dost thou understand what I can truly accomplish? I, who makes the flowers bloom and the water sing, hath presented onto thee a chance for glory or fame. A chance to bring your deepest desire to fruition!
Thou pulled me from a fate most cruel at the claws of the howlers of twig and bark, and I only seek to honor the custom blessed in my very nature!"
Her voice began to bubble with anger while her body sparked like a mad thundercloud.
"Yet you dare to walk away from a desire so many have only dreamed of obtaining in their own hooves just because you don't want it? You, o mortal child, not only refuse to honor my custom, but you spit upon my power like a dried up trout who can't jump back into the river because he didn't listen to his mother and will most likely miss suppertime!?
"But I just " the colt tried to speak up.
"STILL!" she exploded like a crack of thunder.
"Not only do you spit upon a fairy, but you spit upon the very Queen of her kind! I refuse to have my kind think low of me just because one colt would not let me grant his wish! I will not be dictated to! I will not let myself be deemed weak by a mortal child!!!!
Now the colt was visibly scared. Never in his wildest dreams had he expected a faerie burn with this sort of anger.
YOU ARE GOING TO GET YOUR WISH GRANTED RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW, AND YOU ARE GOING TO LIKE IT!!!"
"So!" the faerie suddenly went from mad and monstrous to her original cheerful personality. The aura disappeared around the colt and he fell to the ground.
"You just sit right there in that spot while I think of something to give you. I promise this won't take long."
"SIT!!" the faerie exclaimed with a distortion in her voice.
The colt immediately responded to her command, his eyes fixated on the fairy.
The faerie then folded her hooves and closed her eyes, as she entered a state of deep thought as she stay levitated over the colt's head. She had to give the colt something in return. She just had to. It was ancient tradition. What could she give him to thank him for his bravery?
Her eyes snapped open.
"Flaring Fireflies! I got it! Now hold still"
The faerie then flew to the colt's backside, carefully examining it.
"Um, Wh-what are you doing?" the colt nervously asked as he followed toe faeries' movements.
"It's alright, this won't take long."
Then the faerie flew above the colt and positioned herself above the colt's backside. She framed the visual with her hooves, working through several angles to get it just right.
"Alright! Here goes!" The faerie was then consumed by a magic aura as she began to produce a spiral of magic within her hooves.
Flower buds and comet dust,
send thy spark to this colt Just!
On this flank present thy art
to reflect this simple heart!
She threw the spiral of magic energy down at the colt's backside, which exploded into a shower of sparkling dust upon contact. The colt winced at the impact, but to his surprise, he felt no pain whatsoever. He turned to look behind and saw the back half of his body completely covered in magic dust, which slowly started to fizzle away.
As the dust fizzled away, the young unicorn looked upon his haunch with widened eyes. Upon his haunch, a spot of light flashed briefly and disappeared, followed by a colorful mark that quickly faded into his view. The image was that of a knight's shield with red, blue and gold coloring. In the center of the shied was a red heart. Hiding behind this shield was a diagonal sword.
"The deed is done."
The unicorn wasn't sure what to make of this. Was it some kind of tattoo? Was it some kind of ancient symbol? Perhaps it was for one of those spells where you could pull weapons out of your own body. There were spells like that!
"Pardon me, faerie, but what is this exactly?" the unicorn finally spoke up.
"It's your mark of bravery, silly."
"Yes. No other pony of your age and stature would probably ever dare to challenge those timber wolves. That mark represents your bravery in the face of danger. It represents your desire to help and defend the ones you care for the most, even the ones you don't know. It symbolizes your very soul! Plus, it looks really, really cute on you."
The faerie giggled as the unicorn blushed.
"Thank you, I think."
"Aw, don't mention it," the faerie queen giggled once more, as she flew more around the unicorn, who simply smiled.
Once the ritual was all said and done, the unicorn said his goodbyes to the faerie queen and the queen vice versa. He then retreated back to the bushes where he was picking the berries for his mother. It was about to get dark soon, so he picked up the basket containing his pickings in his mouths galloped towards home, eager to tell his parents about the encounter he just had.
I will not delve into how the unicorn broke the news to his parents regarding his encounter, for I find the reading of such conversations to be rather rude.
The next day, the unicorn attended school as he would any other day, only this time the gift of the fairy was present on his flank. He noticed the whispers and murmurs of the other villagers as he walked past. Were they whispers of curiosity? Or were they whispers of disgust and ridicule? The unicorn banished his head of the thought. Granted, the mark was present in a rather silly place, near a post where most ponies would see as a spot of humor and jokes. Why in that location? Why not near the chest or on the leg? The fairy's ways were rather baffling.
The unicorn greeted his friends as he arrived to the schoolyard, where he was instantly met with staring eyes expressing curiosity and awe. Immediately he was arrowed with many question from his peers. The unicorn did not wish to keep any secrets, so he kindly explained the phenomenon on his haunch. Far from the unicorn's initial fears of rejection, his friends were impressed by their comrade's bout with the timber wolves and his encounter of a mythical being.
Despite the relief the unicorn expressed out of his fears, he could not help but think that, for one moment in his life, he felt a sense of selfishness and pride. True, he was a humble character and he was not boasting about his accomplishment, but it dawned upon that he had been through something others could only dream of; a meeting with the unseen. He tried to shake the thought from his mind, for he knew he had done the right thing in saving the fairy's life. Still he could not help but think he had committed some form of greed by accepting the faerie's gift, even though he made very clear that he did not desire a wish.
That night, after the unicorn had finished his chores and his supper, he trotted to off to his simple room for a wonderful sleep.
Or he would have had a wonderful sleep were it not for visitors in his room.
The unicorn was bombarded with confetti and flower petals like a thousand arrows striking a dragon's chest.
"HI AGAIN!" the faerie queen shouted with jubilee. The unicorn literally fell on his rump after seeing the same faerie he had rescued in his bedroom. Only this time, she had been accompanied by about fifty more of her kind, thought now they were smaller in size. Faeries can do that sort of thing. Around him he could see the room covered in decorations.
"Faerie Queen! Wha-how-whadid-wha-," the unicorn could hardly find the words to react.
"Awww, look at him. He's so happy, he can barely speak," the fairy giggled, joined by the laughter of a dozen others. "Are you surprised?"
"Yes! Very surprised!" the colt responded with shock and utter confusion. "Why are you here? How did you find me?"
"Well, after I thanked you for saving my life and gave you that mark of bravery, I really wanted to do something really special for you, because I really wanted to show you my super special gratitude, because I don't think I've said "thank you" enough times already. And that's when I thought, "I know! I'll throw him a super special party in his honor, because if there's one thing I'm really good at, it's thanking those who've saved my life! Soooooooooo, thank you!"
The unicorn wasn't sure if he was dreaming or if he was simply too tired to think straight. Right now there were fifty or more faeries chatting and dancing around his room. What was more amazing was that apparently; neither his Mother nor Father had come up yet to inspect the swarm of loud noises. Granted, they were heavy sleepers. Still, the unicorn wasn't sure what to make of this situation.
Then a firefly lit up in his mind.
He walked towards the Queen, who was speaking with a few of her subjects.
"Thank You!" she zipped around to face the unicorn. "I mean, yes?" She began to take a sip of juice.
"This may sound a little sudden, but I have finally decided on my wish."
He was answered with a stream of juice directed at his face. Then the Queen began laugh as if this was the funniest thing she heard in a long time.
"Oh, wow! That's the funniest thing I've heard in a long time!"
"But I really do know what I want to wish for."
The Queen finally took a moment to calm down.
"Silly! I already granted your wish, and the rule is anypony who sees or assists a faerie is granted one wish and one wish only. After all, I gave you that mark, didn't I?" she responded pointing at her gift to the unicorn.
"I don't wish to sound rude, but I never actually wished for this mark. You gave it to me on your own."
The Queen raised her hoof and opened her mouth for a comeback. This pose lasted for a second. Everything in her head suddenly clicked into place.
Her lower jaw hit the wooden floor like a bear doing a belly flop onto the nearest pond. She then looked around to see that all the others faeries were looking at her with shock.
"Oh. My. Gosh." The Queen was without a counter to that statement. What was worse was that it was true. She DID give him the mark all by herself. He never made any wish to begin with. She could not believe she actually miss that. So many different ideas were prancing through her head right now: horror, humiliation, embarrassment, sadness, hysteria, disgrace, fear, shame, honor, honey, disbelief, confusion, honey again, regret, pain, sorrow, despair, defeat, failure, frustra"
"ALRIGHT, I GET IT!" shouted the Queen, who was just near a complete breakdown of tears. She slowly fell to the ground with her head facing the floor, as the others just looked at her, not sure of how to comfort her. She looked like she was about to explode crying, with tears forming in her eyes like a geyser about to burst.
The unicorn felt a little saddened at her reaction. He certainly had no intention of hurting his feelings. He gently walked over to the disheartened faerie, who had her face at the floor with a look of defeat.
"Um, Queen?" he finally spoke. "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. Would it make you feel better if I allowed you to grant my wish? I really do know what I want to wish for this time."
The Queen rubbed the tears from her eyes. From the side, another faerie gave her a pastry to lift her spirits.
"Are you sure?" she took a bite of the pastry.
"Of course," the colt looked back at his flank. The mark was still present. He looked back at the faerie and he finally spoke.
"I know what I committed was a good deed. I am glad to have this mark, but I truth is I don't want to be singled out. There are many ponies like myself who are capable of great things and can achieve greatness doing the things they love the most."
The Queen swallowed her food.
"Sooooooooooo, what did you have in mind?"
The unicorn finally spoke his wish:
"I wish that everypony young and old would be marked with a symbol of how they achieved their greatness, so that all who look upon them will know what makes them great."
The Queen's eyes widened to the size of supper plates. She had never heard a wish like that in her whole life. Most ponies would probably want something trivial like money or the perfect lover. But this . . . this was different. This young colt clearly had something different in mind. He was essentially asking for her to do the same thing what she did to him and he held no pride in his voice as he uttered it. What he was asking for was bizarre, but it could be done.
"That . . . is a crazy wish," the Queen smiled. "I like it." She rose back into the air with no trace that she had been in a state of depression. Here the other faeries present in the room joined close to her as the colt stepped back, preparing himself for what was about to occur.
"Alright girls, listen up! I want you give me all the effort you can muster up. This is going to be a heck of a wish to cast!"
All the faeries in the room aligned themselves into the form of a circle, each one then consumed by a different colored magic aura. In the middle of the faerie ring, a ball of light began to charge and grow with each passing word of the Queen's spell.
Come ye faeries young and old,
come and make this spell unfold
See the mark on this one flank?
One for each for each one blank!
Ponies that are and will be;
each to have a mark like thee.
Only one mark there shall sprout,
two be wrong, and three right out.
Source of greatness to be judged;
to be proud of that road trudged.
With this simple, heartful chant,
here for you this wish I grant!
Now ye faeries! Heed my call!
For this colt one wish for all!
With that final line, the orb of light shot straight up into the air, phasing through the roof. The colt quickly ran outside to see the orb of light rise into the sky. Then it stopped.
With a flash of light, the orb exploded with a wave of multicolored energy, spreading out like a great ripple of water with a shower of magic dust following in its wake. This shower rained down on the village as the wave of energy continued to spread.
"That wave will go all the way around the world if it has to," the Queen suddenly appeared by the colt's side.
"That wave will affect everypony won't it?"
"Of course it will. That was your wish after all."
"Queen. I just thought of something."
"What is it?"
"What are we suppose to call these marks?"
A dumbstruck look infected the Queen's face.
"My. That IS a good question," the Queen pondered, and she wasn't wrong. They practically invented something and they completely forgot to give it a name. "Well, I don't think that matters. What matters is that it's really cute."
A firefly went off in the Queen's head. Cute . . . cute . . . cuteness . . . . cu-TIE
"Hmmmm . . . .how about a "mark of cuteness?"" the Queen said triumphantly.
"What about just "cutie mark?""
There was a pause.
"Huh. That works too," she produced a big smile towards her friend.
And that is the origin of the phenomenon of cutie marks. Ever since that day, cuties marks have been appearing on everypony whenever they discover their special talents. As long as they are proud of what they do, they will come.
We owe it all to the kindness and bravery of one unicorn. Remember, while it may be all fun and games, you shouldn't try to simply force out your cutie mark. Just do the thing you love to do the most and it will come to you. It makes no difference who you are.
Tune in next week to Mare-sterpiece Theatre when we look at the tale of why paraspites barf when they breed.
Until next time, I'm Alistair Coltke. Good night.