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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1. The Whole Story

Name Rater awoke from his slumber as he always did: quite reluctantly. The day brought with it responsibilities, which included the ever-present pull of his occupation.

Rubbing his eyes, glaring at dawn's light outside his window, he rolled out of bed and trudged over to the bathroom. After going about his business, he washed his hooves and brushed his teeth. As he splashed lukewarm water around his eyes, he took a moment to examine his reflection. Two eyes, which once gleamed silver, were now more of a dull grey. Wrinkles splayed out from their edges in both directions, along with those that had formed near his mouth, on his snout, and betwixt his brow. As he narrowed said brow, filled with overwhelming apathy, the muddy brown fur on his face contorted along with it. His mane had lightened to white over the years, and sagged limply from his head.

Sighing, Name Rater grabbed his chamber pot with weakened muscles and carried it outside on his back, dumping the contents into a deep pit dug  a short walk from his house. He took a brief moment to admire his little homestead as he returned. The log cabin in which he lived had seen better days, the wood beginning to peel with its great age, even though he had rebuilt the whole thing previously. It was decorated exactly the way he liked it, ie: not at all. The whole place was completely unadorned, and utterly unremarkable. Only the essentials were needed for his continued existence.

Some would call his lifestyle lonely and hollow, as no other homes, let alone much else, could be seen for miles around. But over the years, he had simply stopped caring about that. All he needed, he had. The vegetable garden provided food, the pump well provided water, and the cabin provided shelter.

All that mattered anymore was his job, and what a job it was.

Once the rest of his morning chores were taken care of, and a breakfast of but one tomato was consumed, he got to work. Entering his office, Name Rater sat on his sturdy oak chair at his plain oak desk, quill in hoof. He then turned his gaze over to the enchanted inbox mounted on the wall in front of him. Its golden form was filled almost all the way to the ceiling with photographs, thousands of them in one huge stack.

Reaching forward with his free hoof, he pulled out the bottom-most image from the slot at the container's base with a practiced motion. Name Rater took a few seconds to gaze at the sleeping earth pony colt in the picture, his coat a bright yellow. Almost as quickly, he knew the exact details of this foal's destiny, as well as a name befitting of him.

Dipping the quill in ink, he wrote 'Top Banana' on the back of the photograph, and deftly placed it in his outbox, whereupon it vanished in a flash of light.

Next was a pegasus foal, who gazed with an uncharacteristic calm at her surroundings. After writing 'Winter Cloud' on her photo, he moved it to the outbox. This was followed by a unicorn filly with a splotchy mane, whom he dubbed 'Brushstroke'. And so the process continued.

This had been Name Rater's existence for quite some time. He would sit down for six straight, tedious hours of mind-numbing repetition every day of the week, naming all the baby ponies from throughout the country. Since a new foal was born somewhere in Equestria around three times a minute these days, he had to cut down his time spent naming to a mere five seconds per pony.

These things used to be so much simpler, he thought to himself as the chime of his clock echoed through the cabin, signaling high noon. Done for the day, he trotted into his living room, leaving the magic box behind even as new pictures steadily appeared inside it.

He was about to start making himself lunch when he heard a strange sound coming from the front of his house. Standing dumbfounded for a while, he failed to identify the sound until it happened again.

Someone was actually knocking at the door. Name Rater never had visitors. He never even wanted any.

The stallion mumbled angrily to himself as he made his way over to the door, hinging open the tiny window to peek outwards.

At first, he thought that he must have been going crazy, as nopony was there. Then, slowly, his eyes angled downwards, and he beheld three fillies, colored yellow, white, and orange.

"You must be very lost. But I can't help you. Go away," he groaned with a gravely voice.

Unperturbed, the white one spoke. "Excuse me, sir, is this where the Name Raters live? We need their help," she asked.

"Yeah, please tell us we didn't come all the way out here for nothing," chimed the orange one.

"Ah recon this might not be the right place, Scootaloo," said the third.

"Oh course it's the right place!" she exclaimed. "This is the only sign of life for miles! They have to be here!"

Ok, so they actually found him somehow, Name Rater thought. But, they were still very confused. Speaking through the door, he reiterated his previous statement. "I have no idea what you're talking about. Leave me alone."

He could almost see their tempers rising.  "You have to know something, being all the way out here," stated the first filly. "We need answers. Also, some water would be nice. It's pretty hot out here. Can you let us in?"

"No, I will not let you in, Sweetie Belle," he replied angrily.

Immediately, all three sets of eyes widened. "He knew your name, Sweetie!" pointed out the yellow one. "That means he's one o' them Name Raters!"

Oh Tartarus, he thought.

Scootaloo's wings began to buzz rapidly. "I can't believe it!"

"We're finally here!" Sweetie Belle added.

As the three broke out into cheers of joy at their accomplishment, Name Rater hung his head. "So, you got me. I'm Name Rater. What do ya want from me?"

Their smiling faces morphed into looks of befuddlement. "Wait a minute, that's not right," said Sweetie.

"Yeah," replied Applebloom. "Miz Cheerilee said that there were a whole bunch of Name Raters, and that y'all worked together to name everypony from pictures the hospitals sent."

"Well," he said, "Cheerilee was wrong. It's just me out here. And it's no wonder you were misinformed, I've been keeping my life out here a secret for ages. Apparently, the secret is out." Groaning, he added "Why are you here?"

Applebloom smiled. "We're the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and we wuz wonderin' if you could help us get ours! You know, since you can see destiny or somethin'."

Now it was his turn to be confused. "What the heck's a Cutie Mark?"

They all gasped. "How do you not know what a Cutie Mark is?" asked Scootaloo. "Everypony gets one eventually!"

"Yeah, we just want ours now," added Sweetie Belle. "Oh! Are you a blank flank too?"

Name Rater sighed. "I still have no idea what you're talking about."

"A Cutie Mark pops up on a pony's flank when they discover their special talent!" Applebloom explained. "They're little pictures for representin' skills! Even the Princesses have 'em!"

In response to this new information, Name Rater's mood soured to an extent he had not experienced in years. "Oh, well this is just unbelievable!" His hooves stamped against the floor in indignation. "Not only are ponies these days so lazy and stupid as to require  names expressly fitting to their nature, but now they have magic plot stamps for their talents too? This is absolutely ridiculous! Clearly, something needs to be done!"

Rant ended, Name Rater took a single deep breath, a potentially life-changing decision made in but a short moment. So, nothing new for him. "Sit down, you three, and let this old stallion tell you a story. Listen closely now, and don't forget anything I say. Because it's all true, and I need you to spread the word."

The Cutie Mark Crusaders looked to eachother in turn, puzzled. They each plopped down on their haunches, eager gleams in their eyes.

"Many, many moons ago I was but a young foal like yourselves, frolicking about with my friends, not a care in the world," he began. "My parents took good care of me, and as far as I can remember, I was a good little colt. In those days, ponies discovered their passions for themselves, and many never did. But soon, I realized that I could see something within other ponies that nopony else could: their true name. Ones befitting their destinies."

"Wow!" blurted Scootaloo. "That's amazingly cool!"

"No interrupting! Save all questions for the end!" he declared, taking another deep breath. "Anyway, I kept this to myself for a while. Eventually, though, I started to address the ponies I knew by the names I found for them, and they were all gladly accepted as superb nicknames. When everypony caught wind, soon the whole town had started coming on by for me to rename them. No longer were ponies named using nonsense words like 'Bob' or 'Abigail'. Heck, I even changed my own name from George to Name Rater.

"One day, the joy my names brought caught the attention of Princess Susan and Princess Monica, and they tasked me with officially renaming the rest of Equestria. I started with them, and the newly dubbed Celestia and Luna shepherded me across the lands for quite a while, such that I could--."

It was at this point that the fillies could no longer contain themselves. They bombarded him with a chorus of questions. "Wait, how old are you?" "How does that help us get our Cutie Marks?" "You know the princesses?" "Were names really that weird?" "Why is this so important to share?" "How come I've never heard any of this?" "Are you crazy?"

Rather than trying to answer all of the still-forthcoming inquiries, he simply pulled open the door.

Immediately, the flow of words coming from their mouths abruptly ceased.

They just stared at his horn. And his wings.

"YOU'RE A PRINCE?!" they screamed in unison.

This elicited another pained groan. "No, I'm an alicorn. And it wasn't my idea. Everypony became so used to my names, that the princesses feared what would happen once I was gone. So, they just made me immortal. It's terrible, for me and for Equestria.

"As my new names became the norm," he continued, frown deepening, "I noticed that something in the attitudes of the ponies had shifted. No longer would they take the time to get to know eachother, make friends properly. Instead, they would simply exchange names. And if the two ponies were dissimilar, they simply trotted their separate ways. Friendship was dying, young ones. And it was all my fault.

"I wanted to stop, but Celestia refused. And so, I continued, my labels artificially separating everypony. Friendship was supposed to bridge boundaries, not form sealed, self-serving groups. Even if those groups were happier than before. I thought that my death would fix everything, and that all who I had 'helped' would return to normal in time. But the princesses wouldn't let that happen, and here I stand today, resigned to my cruel fate of neverending names, all alone so that I may perform my torturous duties in peace."

His visage took on a sympathetic expression. "Now I see why you three sought me out as you did, braving the long journey here. I'm not sure when this whole 'Cutie Mark' thing happened, but the results must be terrifying to behold, especially for those as young as you."

The Crusaders pondered this new information. Applebloom finished this first. "But that's not true!" she said. "Friendship isn't like that now!"

"Yeah!" added Scootaloo. "Nopony is in the same league as Rainbow Dash, and she has lots of friends!"

Sweetie Belle nodded. "Maybe things were that bad ages ago, but even with Cutie Marks, the ponies back home still get along just fine. Not to mention we have a Princess of Friendship in town now."

"And if what y'all told was true," Applebloom said, "then explain us!"

"We aren't alike at all, and we're best friends! I'm just some pegasus, Applebloom's from a family of farmers, and Sweetie's a fashion designer's sister," finished Scootaloo.

Sweetie smiled. "And we wouldn't have it any other way."

Name Rater's eyes widened as he watched the fillies start to giggle uncontrollably. "Hmm. Perhaps things really have changed between ponies. Let me ask you something now. What year is it? I lost track a while ago."

"1002 A.L.B." Sweetie chimed.

"A.L.B.?"

"After Luna's Banishment. You know, the whole Nightmare Moon thing."

"What?" he replied, dumbfounded. "Huh. It's been that long? This 'Nightmare Moon' is news to me."

Applebloom gasped. "You've been livin' way out here all by your lonesome for over a thousand years?"

"Apparently."

"Oo, oo, oo!" barked Scootaloo. "I know! You should come back to Ponyville with us! Now that you know you aren't dooming everypony's lives, you have no reason to be ashamed anymore!"

Applebloom jumped in place. "Uh huh! Everypony would love to meet you!"

Name Rater shook his head. "Can't. I'm not sure I could ever go back to that kind of life after all this time out here."

"Why not?" Sweetie asked. "You might not be super grouchy anymore, but I don't think anypony can be happy all by themselves."

He relaxed his brow slightly. "I suppose that makes some sense, but I'm still against the idea. These old bones might break under the stress if I took up residence in a town filled with ponies as 'exuberant' as yourselves. And who knows how they'll react to the sudden arrival of an unknown alicorn in their midst?"

Scootaloo shuffled about nervously. "Well, actually..."

"You might not have a choice," concluded Sweetie.

"What did you do?" he reluctantly asked.

"We sorta crashed our cart into the well on the way here. It's broken now," stated Applebloom.

Name Rater contorted his face once more as he slowly trotted past the fillies to observe what they had done. Where his well-built well once stood, there was now a smoking pile of stones and misshapen wood. A moan of overwhelming disdain escaped his lips.  

"I'll pack my things."

"YAY!"

 
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