Fallout: Equestria Side Story: Gardener

Everyday, dozens of ponies fall in the wasteland. For one pony, each death is the start of a new life. This is the tale of Gardener and his efforts to rebuild the wasteland, one tree at a time.

Art courtesy of Jetwave



3. Chapter 2: To All Things a Place

Ten Pony Tower was always an interesting place to visit. A self proclaimed bastion of civilization, they were more than eager to buy my fresh fruits and Casa’s fine liquors. Despite my generosity to the dead, I felt no remorse in charging these living ponies as much as possible for what I brought. They had snubbed me and my mission for so long that I had nearly given up. When one of the guards inquired about the apple whiskey I drank in frustration, it was then that I was given an in. I was nearly kicked out again when they found my primary profession distasteful, but someone up high had vouched for the idea, and I was permitted to continue my trade. As a thank you, I tracked down my mysterious benefactor, a one DJ-P0N3. I at least found his assistant. I gave the grey mare a bushel of fresh apples, a few bottles of whiskey, and my card.

When I had first started exploring the office buildings of Manehatten, I had found that many desks had small pieces of paper with the details of their former occupants. It was from these that I identified many of their remains, and I had taken the idea for myself. Gaucho designed a press for my cards: a square of steel with my name and trade punched into it. The edges were razor sharp, but covered in rubber for use later. It was a tiny gift to those who were willing to listen to my message.

With my trip to Ten Pony Tower complete, I headed back towards the lot. A few run ins with raiders had slowed progress home, and I found myself forced to stop in a small hamlet for the evening. I knew no ponies there, and found myself having to explain why I was hauling bodies of ponies after some overly curious young colt lifted the tarp on my cart. This conversation happened, as it frequently did, at gunpoint. I preached the virtues of burial, and the joys of the new life that it would bring. The towns ponies seemed to understand, and let me go about my business. My cart, however, would have to wait outside. A mustard coated stallion approached.

“Are your undertaking services for hire?” he inquired.

“I will happily bury your departed,” I replied.

I was led to a was a squat, concrete building half buried in the hillside, exceptional only in the fact that it was still whole despite two hundred years of neglect. I suspected that it had originally been completely buried, given the lack of windows and the mountain of dirt atop it. I was shown inside, and found that ponies had taken up residence among the ruins, making the windowless building their own. Some had set up shops there, others had taken offices as apartments to ply whatever trade they could. My inquires as to the deceased were met with some hostility until my host informed them that I was no ghoul, but an undertaker paying respects to those gone before. Their attitudes mellowed, and I was shown to the basement. I couldn’t have been more angry at the sight if it had been radioactive.

Hundreds of skeletons lie stacked in piles in the basement. Rather than burying the dead with the respect they deserved, they had simply shoved the corpses of the old world from their minds and into the basement of civilization. Or in this case, a literal basement. I named my price for the removal; inflated slightly due to their callous treatment of the dead. The mustard colored pony agreed, and asked me when I could clear them out. If a few ponies were willing to haul carts to Gardener’s lot, I could take them there the next day. The pony agreed, and we shook hooves.

The town lay quiet that evening, safe from raiders or bandits for at least the night. Guards stood watch over the carriage built walls of the city, staring out into the wastes, and looking for trouble. I found myself looking up at the stars through the sporadic clouds. There was no rain to be had, possibly for another month. The upcoming drought did little to concern me, as my greenhouses kept the orchard moist enough to weather near anything.

I dreamed that evening of the friend that I had lost all those years back. On my last visit to his grave, a great apple tree had grown from the wastes. Pushing aside the concrete that surrounded it, the tree bloomed with a beauty that had attracted a hamlet to settle under its boughs. The raider’s tree hadn’t fared as well, but still bore fruit. It proved that no matter what type of pony you were in life, in death, all ponies were equal.

When I awoke the next morning, the mustard colored pony brought with him four of the sickest and scrawniest ponies I had ever laid eyes on. I had my doubts to their hauling capacity, and feared they would become additions to my cart before the journey was out. I began moving the skeletons from the basement, covering the barrows with a shroud as I marched them through the mezzanine. The ponies of this place ignored me, pretending that I was instead a ghost haunting their lives with the sins of the past.

It took the entire morning to fill the carts of my pony assistants. One had simply refused to help as he saw the nature of my task, and bolted from the building. The others were apparently made of sterner stuff, and began to help me load the remains of the old world into the carts. I hitched the abandoned wagon to my own. The skeletons of the long dead weren’t nearly as heavy as the remains of the recently deceased, and I found that hauling a second cart was not nearly as difficult as I had imagined. The subtraction of one pony apparently meant very little. I made ready my exodus, when a drunken unicorn approached me, dragging a cornflower unicorn filly by her mane. She had a cutie mark of a a red and blue sphere with an orbiting yellow sphere. The young girl cried in pain as the unicorn approached me. His breath wreaked of rotgut and turpentine.

“You’se the one who’s buyin’ dead ponies?” he slurred.

“I don’t buy bodies,” I informed him. “I will return any of your deceased to the earth, if you’d like.”

“I gotta body fer yah,” he spit. “Gimme ten caps and its yurs.” He belched horrifically, filling the air with a stench of death.

“I don’t buy bodies,” I repeated. “They too were once ponies like yourself, and to treat them as commodities to be sold is to disrespect their lives.” The girl whimpered. He slapped her.

“Well then you can take thish body,” he said throwing the unicorn filly at me. She tumbled to the ground, near tears. “Bitch isn’t good fer anythin’.”

“My charges are those who have passed form this world,” I protested.

“Only dead?” he slurred. “I can fix that.” His offer to correct the oversight involved floated a revolver from his saddlebag. He pressed the barrel to the back of the unicorn’s head. I swatted the revolver away, and landed a hoof to the temple of the unicorn. He went down in a heap, partly from impact, partly from his own drunken stupor. I tossed the revolver in my cart, and ordered my team forward. The unicorn filly followed me out of town. About a hundred yards out, I stopped and turned around to question her.

“What exactly do you think you’re doing?” I asked her.

“Please just take me with you,” she begged. I sighed wearily, and looked back at the town. The drunken unicorn was standing back up. While I really didn’t have time for the living, leaving this filly here to die would be a sin that I couldn’t forgive myself of. The lot may not have been an ideal place for a teen-aged filly, but it was better than the wastes where her life and virtue would be forfeit. I told her to walk in middle of the train, and to run at the first sign of trouble.

Three hours into the walk and sure enough, two of the scrawny ponies had dropped dead on the concrete. Cursing my ill fortune, their carts became hooked to my own. Now hauling four carts down the concrete highway, I began to seriously worry about raiders. If hit, I’d have to ditch the carts to fight, and there was a real possibility I’d be too tired to do anything about a serious attack. The filly offered to haul one cart, but I found myself refusing her help.

“Do you have any place you can go?” I asked. “Where we’re going is safe, but it is in no way an easy life.”

“I have nowhere,” she said, staring down at the concrete. “Besides, he paid for you to take my body away.”

“You’re not dead,” I suggested. “And he didn’t pay me.”

“You took his gun, didn’t you?” I had to concede the point. I just hoped the filly didn’t feel like I owned her.

As we approached the final stretch of our journey, the wagon wheel fencing of the lot came into view. The paths to the entrance were very clearly marked, and to stray from them risked a barrage of bullets from Gaucho’s automated turrets. When he had installed them, I had questioned the wisdom of having robots capable of raining death without pony interaction. He noted that the paths were clearly marked, and that he had installed signage in Pony, Zebra, and whatever crazy language he spoke, as well as colorful pictures warning of the dangers. Once again, I was forced to agree to Gaucho’s insanity.

The fourth and final pony slumped the the dirt and died of exhaustion just as we came to the bottom of the valley. With no other option, I hooked the filly up the final cart, and tossed the emaciated pony into my own. I walked in silence as she grimaced and struggled under the weight of bones. Strength was obviously not her special talent. The wagon train ground to a halt as we passed through the steel doors and onto the lot. I unhooked my wagon, and stretched like a cat. Too much strain for one day. I could barely wait to get to the table, eat whatever Casa had cooked, then go to bed. I stumbled onto the showroom floor to find Casa cooking happily in our kitchen. He mane was tousled, and the smile on her face meant that she and Gaucho had made good use of my absence. I wanted to be angry at their brazen ways, but found myself cracking a smile instead. Their shameless love for each other always brought me happiness. I sidled up to the table and to a plate of fresh baked apples.

“In all the years we’ve known each other,” said Casa, “have all my lessons in manners and courtesy gone unheeded?” I had no idea what she was talking about. She smiled politely, and revised her question more directly. “Are you going to introduce me to this young lady?” she asked. I turned to find the unicorn filly had followed me inside and was standing next to me at the table. I should have been surprised, but I found myself too tired to care.

“Casa this is...” I found myself drawing a blank. Sure we had just walked eight hours together, but aside from our two brief conversations, we hadn’t spoken.

“My name is Charm,” said the unicorn. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Casa.”

“Missus,” corrected Casa with a smile. “My husband would also like to meet you, I’m sure. Please, let me prepare you a plate. It’s so rare we have visitors.”

“Begging your pardon, I am no visitor, Ma’am,” said Charm. “Sir has been paid to take me away.” Casa’s genteel demeanor shifted into unbridled rage as I attempted to both explain myself and not choke on her gourmet cooking.

“What the fuck, Gardener?” demanded Casa. “You of all people buying a slave? Has all your talk of freedom and generosity been lies?”

“That’s not what happened at all,” I coughed. “Charm is no slave. Technically, I was paid to bring her body here, but as you can tell, she’s not my typical charge.”

“Is this true?” she demanded of Charm. The unicorn filly shrank from Casa’s baleful gaze.

“Yes, ma’am,” she replied, biting her lip.

“And you’re free to leave at any time?” she asked, directing the question not at Charm, but at me.

“She followed me here,” I said. “She is free to stay or leave as she chooses. I am no more her master than I am yours or Gauchos.” Casa’s shoulders relaxed as she breathed a deep sigh of relief. She picked up a plate of baked apples, and placed in front of Charm.

“I am sorry you had to see that,” she said. “Excuse me, I need a moment to compose myself.” She walked away from the dining room and back toward her bedroom. Gaucho wandered in from the garage. He asked what I had said to his wife that made her raise her voice.

“She thought I bought this young lady,” I explained. Gaucho then proceeded to remind me where Casa had come from, and that slavery was an extraordinarily touchy subject for her. “Yes, Gaucho, we’ve had this conversation at least a dozen times,” I reminded him. “Charm, this is Guacho. Gaucho, Charm.” Charm reluctantly nodded to the half mechanical pony, trying desperately not to stare at his wheels. He wandered off toward his bedroom to find his wife.

I pushed my plate aside, and walked off to our living room. It wasn’t much: a few benches in the middle of what used to be a carriage showroom, some bookshelves with whatever books we could find, and some tables. The pièce de résistance, however, were the windows. What were once sleek glass walls had been replaced by stained glass renditions of Celestia calling home her ponies over a field of apple trees. I had offered to trade a harvest of apples for the work, but the unicorn who made these windows would accept nothing but my devotion to Equestria as payment. The Glassmaker, as the unicorn called himself, often found his way here, and was a welcomed guest in our home. Gaucho was always happy to see him, and Casa greeted him as a brother. I strongly suspected they were related in some way, but as with much of Casa’s past, I didn’t bother to pry. I sat exhausted on the bench, glad that I had brought home the bones of so many. It had been a good day’s labor, even if I had acquired some unneeded help along the way.

I turned to Charm as she finished her plate, then what I had left on mine. Apparently her father, or whoever that pony was, hadn’t fed her very well. On the other hand, she was a growing filly, probably just a teenager. She came in to the living room, and sat at my feet. I figured now was a good a time as any to lay down some ground rules.

“We are a family here,” I said. “We work together, we live together, we pray together. Those are the only rules. If you want to stay, you need to find something you can do.”

Charm looked sadly at the floor, as if what I said crushed her spirit. Or maybe she didn’t understand what I was asking. It was also possible that I had misinterpreted what she was thinking due to my own fatigue. I showed her to the spare room, and made for my own. I half hoped that she left in the middle of the night.

My room was sparsely furnished, consisting of a bed, a dressing dummy on which to hang my armor, and a mat on which I offered my evening prayers. I sped through my evening rituals with less than my normal pious devotion, attempting to outpace my creeping fatigue. With my barding shucked, the sweet foam embrace of my bed filled my tired bones with the joy of rest. I had barely fallen asleep when I felt my bed list to one side. I snapped awake to find Charm crawling into my bed, her eyes filled with tears.

“What are you doing young lady?” I asked.

“Sir said I had to find something to do to stay,” she wept. She presented her flank to me. “Please be gentle; I’ll try not to cry.” I rolled out of bed, nearly tripping backwards over myself trying to escape the girl.

“No, no, no,” I protested. “I may not have made myself clear about what I wanted from you, but what you’re offering is not it.” Her head dropped, and tears fell on my pillow.

“Isn’t that why Sir brought me here?” she wept. “Isn’t that why any pony takes in a young filly in this wasteland?”

“You must have me confused with some pony else,” I said. “You’re here because I was paid to take you away. You said that yourself.”

“Then what am I supposed to do here?” asked Charm. “If that’s not how I earn my keep, then what can I do for you?”

“You’re a unicorn, aren't you?” I asked. “Surely you know spells. Those can be handy. And if nothing else, I will teach you my ways. It’s hard work, but...” She looked up at me, tears still in her deep violet eyes. I closed my eyes, and took a deep breath. “You are never to offer yourself to me again, do you understand?” She nodded sadly. “If you wish to stay, then you accept our rules. Here, we are family, and families don’t fuck each other. Not in the bedroom, not in the wasteland.” Enthusiastic creaking and pleasured whinnies echoed down the hall. Casa and Gaucho sought to make me a liar. I pressed a hoof to my face, groaning miserably.

“If you come in my room again,” I sighed, “I will throw you off the lot. We will offer you all we have here, if you’re willing to work. Prostituting yourself to me is not work. Have I made myself abundantly clear?” She nodded again, biting her lip. “Go back to bed,” I ordered. “We rise early, and you have much to learn.” Charm rolled off my bed, and walked towards the door. She looked back at me.

“Good night, sir,” she said.

“My name is Gardener,” I corrected her.

“Goodnight, sir,” she repeated, and closed the door behind her.

Join MovellasFind out what all the buzz is about. Join now to start sharing your creativity and passion
Loading ...