Name Rater

Have you ever wondered how pony names somehow always accurately relate to the identity of the pony in question? Well, that's all thanks to the efforts of one stallion. And he hates his job.
Name Rater has always had a very unique skill: the ability to gauge the talents of others at a glance. And once this became known, everypony began to depend on his guidance, much to his chagrin. This is his story, a tale of great self-sacrifice and even greater grumpiness.

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2. The Next Step

Name Rater pulled his cart forward at a steady pace. The decently fertile scrubland where he had lived for generations was already long behind him. Now, he plodded hoof after hoof over dry, cracked earth, the sun beating mercilessly upon his frame. The white linen shawl draped over his back helped lessen the heat some, but not enough. It's main purpose was to hide his wings and flanks, for he was on his way back to civilization.

The cart, yoked to his neck, was laden with numerous objects, such as pots filled with nuts, water, and seeds. Not to mention the two items for his job, one of which was making the cart heavier with each passing minute as it filled.

Though, the heaviest and most cumbersome pieces of cargo were the three fillies who accompanied him.

Name Rater was conflicted.

On one hoof, he had just learned that, after what was apparently over a thousand years of tedium and regret, his actions were now truly beneficial to Equestria at large. On the other, Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo were really, really annoying.

"Are we there yet?" asked Scootaloo.

Name Rater swiveled his head around to face her without breaking stride. "No. No we are not there yet. And even if we were, I wouldn't know it, because I have no idea where we're going."

"We already told you," noted Sweetie. "Appaloosa."

He sighed. Outside of still images, he wasn't really a foal stallion. "I am aware, yes. But, my talent is knowing what to call things I see, not picturing things from their names."

"Oh. Right."

The short journey proceeded in relative silence from that point on. For about twenty seconds.

"So, will you tell us what our special talents are now? Pleeeease?" pleaded Applebloom, who wore her patented pouty face.

Name Rater took a deep breath in a vain attempt to maintain his composure. "The answer is the same as it was the last seven times you asked. No."

She slumped to the floor of the cart, dejected. Name Rater simply groaned and continued onwards.

The four ponies proceeded much in this manner for the next few hours. When they weren't talking with eachother, one of the Crusaders would ask Name Rater a question, and he would reply with the appropriate level of enthusiasm. IE: minimal.

So, when the first wooden buildings crested the horizon, Name Rater's mood immediately improved. Relief washed over him, anticipating the presence of mature ponies.

As he approached the settlement with newfound vigor, Name Rater noticed that the architecture was vastly different then what he was used to. Rather than being formed from whole logs, the homes were built of flat planks, and thatched with clay tiles instead of straw. Each was painted in a variety of colors.

"Is this it?" he asked the fillies.

Applebloom nodded. "Yep. This is Appaloosa, home to the hardiest ponies in Equestria! Nothin' but country folk livin' off the land." She smiled. "Kinda like you, Name Rater."

Sweetie Belle rolled her eyes. "We were expecting a monastery full of  monk ponies enlightened to universal secrets, though. These old stories do tend to blow themselves out of proportion through the ages."

"So, what, now you're an enkiko... inpsycho..." Scootaloo added, trailing off.

"Encyclopedia." informed Sweetie.

"An encyclopedia and a dictionary? In a few years, you'll be giving Twilight a run for her money in eggheadedness!" she finished.

While Sweetie fumed, Name Rater, having received confirmation, was already making his way into town, blatantly ignoring them as they started bickering. His gaze turned towards some of the colorful townsponies milling about. Almost all of them wore strange hats of some sort.

However, of more interest to the stallion was the fact that the adults all seemed to have icons on their flanks, true to the words of his traveling companions. No two were alike, and all seemed to match in some way with the destinies of their owners. Mixed emotions welled up inside him. The mood of the place was perfectly jovial, the passerby greeting eachother were all adorned with smiles. His contempt towards these 'cutie marks', harmless they may be, was once more suppressed with a series of deep breaths. Well, that, and the redirection of his negativity onto the crusaders.

"Will you shut up and tell me what in Tartarus we're doing next?" he shouted at them.

Arguments trickling to a stop, the three turned to him and blinked in succession. Sweetie Belle was the first to recover. "Well, we should probably find--"

"Applejack!" Applebloom exclaimed, cutting her off. The yellow pony pointed a shaky hoof dramatically into the distance.

Turning to look at her cause for alarm, Name Rater, squinting his aging eyes, could make out a blur of orange from within a fast-approaching cloud of dust, accompanied by the escalating sound of rapid hoofsteps. Just as it looked like the galloping pony was about to plow right into them, they skidded to a stop.

When the dust cleared, an earth pony mare was standing next to the cart, scowl on her face and apples on her flank. As the fillies' eyes widened in fear, Name Rater stared. She, Applejack, in his professional opinion, was pretty hot. Had she been in a better mood, and he less old and ugly, he probably would have tried flirting with her. Instead, he pushed that thought to the back of his mind and waited in silence for the inevitable angry rant.

"Where in the hay have you three been?! Ah've been searchin' all over for y'all, worried sick!" Applejack fumed.

Applebloom shifted around nervously. "Well, ya see, we were just... uhh..."

Her eyes narrowed. She raised a hoof at Name Rater. "You snuck out of Appaloosa, stumbling through parts unknown, to find a pony who would somehow help y'all get yer cutie marks. Again."

The fillies exchanged glances, then began rubbing the backs of their heads sheepishly.

"Yeah..."

"That's basically it."

"Eeyup."

Applejack sighed. "Just what am Ah gonna do with y'all..." she mumbled.

"You can take them with you," Name Rater answered, deadpan.

The mare's head snapped back up, and she turned to face him. "Oh, howdy there, stranger! Almost didn't see ya there! Name's Applejack!" she proclaimed, offering a hoofshake. "Thanks for bringin' these here scamps back safe. Must not have been easy for a stallion of your years."

He groaned, completing the gesture. "No problem. It's not like I had a choice in the matter, or anything. I'm Name Rater."

"Well, it's a mighty fine pleasure, sir," she said.

"Glad to see somepony's happy about this whole thing."

She paused, mouth now in a line. "Oh? What's the matter, sugarcube?"

"Nothing much. It's just that your... sister and her friends literally put me out of house and home."

She gasped. "What?!" She whipped around to the cart again, face quickly contorting into an expression of righteous fury.

Applebloom and Sweetie Belle lunged at Scootaloo for comfort, gripping her tightly as they all started shaking uncontrollably.

Before things got too out of hoof, Name Rater intervened. "Don't worry, Applejack. That's actually a good thing. Mostly."

The Crusaders breathed a collective sigh of relief as she returned to normal. "Well, why didn't ya say so?"

"My social skills are a tad rusty. Figured the fact I towed them all the way here made it obvious."

Applejack shrugged. "Ok then. But I still think they should make it up to ya somehow."

"That's not necessary. They've done quite enough already." he stated, shaking his head.

The Crusaders nodded vigorously.

"Ah'm sure they have, but Ah won't take no for an answer," she confirmed, rolling her eyes. "Ah need to be sure they've learned their lesson."

"They could help me build a new house," he suggested.

"No way, Name Rater; too impersonal. Plus, we've got plenty o' fine ones in town already." Suddenly, as she finished her statement, the spark of an idea flashed behind her eyes. "Say, why don't y'all come back home to Ponyville with us? It's as good a place to put down roots as any." Applejack smiled, gesturing to the cart. "These three can show ya 'round, make it up to ya by makin' y'all feel welcome."

His eyes widened. "What?"

"Great idea, sis!" exclaimed Applebloom.

Scootaloo buzzed her wings in excitement. "Totally! We know our way around Ponyville, and we know how to have a good time!"

Name Rater raised an eyebrow at that, further wrinkling his face. "That depends on your definition of 'good'. Mine is very antiquated." Then, he turned to Applejack. "I'd rather have you do it."

She donned a thoughtful expression. "Ah'd love to, but summertime's startin' up, which means I'm busy and they ain't."

"Why won't they be busy?"

"Umm... because foals don't have school in the summer?"

His brow immediately creased further. "Ponies these days really are crazy," he mumbled under his breath.

"What was that, sugarcube?"

"Nothing."

"'K then. Well, guess it's settled." Adressing the fillies, she added  "Y'all are gonna take Name Rater on a tour of Ponyville, an' Ah expect your best behavior, ya hear?"

"I never agreed to that!" he blurted.

"Really?" asked Sweetie, oblivious to his disdain. She turned to her friends, and all three were smiling in short order.

As one, they proclaimed "CUTIE MARK CRUSADER TOUR GUIDES, YAAAY!"

Once the ringing in his ears had ceased, Name Rater shot a menacing glare at Applejack, who grinned sheepishly and patted him on the back. "Don't be such as stick-in-the-mud," she said. "They mean well, really."

He groaned, caring not for how sore his throat was getting from its sudden and repeated use. A less wizened stallion probably would have snapped and bucked something. "I got that much. It's what they actually end up doing that worries me."

That brought forth a round of raucous laughter from the mare. Once her episode was over, she wiped her eyes with a fetlock. "Well, nopony's gotten seriously injured from their antics. Not yet, at least."

He put on his best fake smile. "That's very comforting."

During the following awkward silence, somepony coughed.

All eyes turned to Scootaloo. She tapped her hoof impatiently. "Well? Let's go already!"

Realizing there was no turning back now, Name Rater closed his eyes and massaged his temple with a hoof. "Fine..."

 
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