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



4. Chapter 3: To All Things Praise

Today was Sunday.

For every other pony in the wastes, this was another day of struggle for life. Whatever concepts of weekends the old world may have held, they meant nothing in the post war society. Every day was laborious. There was no rest.

Here on the lot, Sundays meant work for me as well. Today there would be no digging, no breaking of the concrete lot. Bones would not be ground, and the earth would welcome home no new ponies. Sunday was a day of worship for our dear goddess Celestia. She had given us this day to rest when she still strode the world in mortal form, and it was up to me and the few devoted to make sure the world did not forget her.

Services were held at noon just as the sun streaked through our stained glass windows. Ponies came from the surrounding villages to hear me speak of our departed goddess, and of return to her embrace. They came, enduring the hardships of the waste to hear me speak, and to receive the gifts I gave them. Surely, some were not interested in my message, but all who attended received the bounty of the land, believers or not.

I had woken Charm early that morning to help me prepare. Her magic proved useful in filling bottle with clean water, and sorting the bad apples from the good. This week’s harvest had proven plentiful, and I was grateful for the opportunity to provide more apple jerky to my congregation. A familiar crowd began to filter into the show room, most bearing a small donation for the church. Their gifts would be given to those most in need, or used to increase our production here. Gaucho took their donations, thanking every pony in his own tongue.

Casa had washed the white linen robes that I used to preach Celestia’s word earlier in the week. Some generous pony had donated a bottle of unopened bleach. We had used most of it to sterilize medical supplies, but Casa had saved a cap full to use with laundry. I chided her for such an irresponsible use of a gift, but thanked her for thinking of me. The sun climbed to its apex, and I took to my pulpit.

The congregation that stood before me today was my normal crowd. There were new faces, as there always were, and faces of those who had been attending my masses for years. I noticed one or two absences, and sought out the families of the missing. Their eyes were heavy with tears, and I knew that I would be called to their homes after the service. I cleared my throat to begin.

“My brothers and sisters,” I began. “We gather here on this day of the sun to give worship and praise to our goddess, Celestia. To those of you who have not been here before, I am Gardener, and I welcome you to the lot. I have but one request of you, and that is to listen to my message. What I have to offer is not much, but you may at least find peace in my message.”

I cleared my throat and began to talk about the miracles of the sun, and of the miracles of life in the wastes. How foals were born everyday, and how their lives could work to end the wasteland that we had grown accustomed to. I reminded my congregation that we were no more than a generation away from salvation. If only every pony would give of themselves to heal our world, we could crawl up from the ruins of civilization and become a new light to the world. I urged them to give, not to me or the church, but to give of themselves, and to bring back Celestia’s message of love and peace.

The mass ended quietly, as it always did. Casa and Gaucho passed out the dried apples and clean water to the parishioners as they exited. The ponies I had seen earlier approached, and informed me they had brought their deceased to be returned to the lot. I nodded, and followed them to their carts.

I had more ponies to return to the earth today then I had in weeks. The raiders from two days before, combined the four who passed on from the journey, and the three so kindly brought to me today left a total of twelve to bury. Such is the life of those called to bring home ponies. I accepted their family, and promised them individual trees. I gave them additional water and food to help them through their troubled times.

High above, the sun marched across the sky, beating down on the lot, and baking the corpses of the less than freshly deceased. I normally avoided this work on Sundays, but it had been a busy week, and I didn’t want to attract disease by leaving my charges in the open. I summoned Charm, and passed her a sledgehammer.

The unicorn was initially disgusted by the corpses, and found it difficult not to heave at their stench. I reminded myself that the filly was new to this, and she had not had the time to become desensitized to the decay as I had. I dug in my bag for some salve, and applied it under her lip. The sweet apple scent would prevent the stench of decay from sickening the unicorn. At least until we were done.

A sledge proved wholly ineffective in her teeth. She couldn’t swing with any strength, and more than once she nearly hit me with a wild back swing. After a half an hour of pounding on concrete, she had made little more than a few chips. Her talent apparently wasn’t breaking rocks either. I slammed through the concrete with my specialized sledgehammer, and broke up the chunks small enough for her to telekineticly lift into the cart. Each time she picked up a chunk of the concrete, the pony made rock shimmered, and spat out a small black ball.

The spheres, each no larger than a marble, rolled around in the cart as she stacked the blocks of concrete. The exertion of magic was clearly getting to her, and she stopped after an hour to rest. I offered her some clean water, and questioned her about the spheres.

“I really don’t know,” said Charm. “Nearly every time I lift something, it always spits out those little black orbs. I’ve never found a use for them, so I just throw them away.” I told her to take them to Gaucho. If any pony could find a use for them, it would be him. When Charm returned, she assisted me in digging into the soft dirt we had exposed below the cement. Her magic was far more useful here, gathering up great scoops of the clean earth, and depositing it next to the hole. No black spheres fell from her loads this time, and she gave me a confused look.

“Every other time I’ve moved dirt and rocks, I got spheres,” she said. “I wonder what happened?”

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” I suggested. “Less to clean up or to trip over.”

At once, I found myself wishing for a horn. I could triple my daily work with just that one spell, and fix everything around the lot. Perhaps Charm coming here had been a blessing from Celestia and not a test of my resolve as I had initially thought. Instead of being a temptation, and believe me, it was a temptation, Charm was a reward for my attempts to make the wasteland a better place. I had eased the burdens of life and death for the ponies of the wastes, and Celestia had rewarded my generosity with this filly who would make it easier for me to give even more. It was enough to fill my eyes with tears of joy.

“Are you all right?” she asked. She had been watching me think, and she had seen the tears in my eyes.

“My young filly,” I said, “You are a blessing far greater than you are aware. I feel as if Celestia herself has smiled upon me, and delivered you at my hooves. The work you can do with your horn so far surpasses what I could accomplish. I can only hope that you stay here forever, and take my place in the lot.”

“That’s very kind of you, sir,” she replied. “I’m happy that I can be of use somewhere.” She looked out on the tens of dozens of apple trees on the lot, and at the greenhouses that glittered like a city of gold. “Did you build these all yourself?” she asked.

“I did,” I replied. “The greenhouses protect the trees from the environment. The sloped roofs collect the rain. Once we know its safe, it waters the plants, and brings new life.”

“But why bury the ponies?” she asked. “Why so much effort for what most ponies would simply dump in the wastes?”

“Because life begets life,” I told her, leaning on my shovel. “Without a small sacrifice, life will not bloom in the wastes. It is the same with your body, should you have foals. You give of yourself to bring new life. In the same way, ponies give their lives to feed others. The bodies of those gone before us nourish the trees in their decay. Our own blood, sweat, and tears go into this soil to raise the trees as if we are their parents. The fruits of our labors go back to the ponies to feed the next generation, and bring us one step closer to peace in this wasteland.” I gestured out to the greenhouses, the lot, and the buildings. “It looks like I have so much here; that I am the richest stallion in Equestria. But none of this belongs to me; it is all Celestia’s. By her grace I am here, and I am successful. She has blessed me with her gifts, so that I may give to others.” I looked into her eyes. She had the most beautiful violet eyes I’d ever seen, and I found myself lost in them for a moment. I snapped back to myself, and remembered what I had wanted to tell her.

“I’ve given you my rules for living here,” I said at last. “There is one more rule that you should know. Here, we give. If a pony approaches you and asks for food, you give it to him. If he is thirsty, you let him drink from our well. You are here now because Celestia wants us to give more of ourselves. With your help, we shall provide.”

Charm nodded quietly at my words, and continued with our work. In the span of a few hours, the ponies were buried, and saplings planted in their graves. Tomorrow, Charm would work with Casa, Gaucho and I would stake down the greenhouses, and Celestia would shower the lot with her sun. We all had our part in this, and I hoped that we would all be able to fulfill our pieces in making Equestria the land it once was.


It had been nearly a week since Charm had arrived on the lot. An extraordinarily long, and frustrating week. Between the three of us, we had found that she had practically zero natural talent for anything. Casa’s attempts to teach her cooking were met with such spectacular failure that she forbade Charm from entering the kitchen again. Gaucho had similarly banned Charm from the garage after her attempts at rebuilding a cart were met with an explosion that took out his fancy new water collector. That left her with the single option of becoming my aide. I found myself glad for the company she provided, even if she talked little.

We walked to the perimeter wall, where piles of concrete slabs waited for Gaucho and I to lift them into place. Charm pointed her horn at the pile, and it began to glow with a soft green light. The pile glowed with the same light, as a cloud of dust lifted from the rocks. The cloud drifted over the pile and formed a perfect marble sized sphere. We had been gathering these marbles for a week now. Every time she picked up something new, another marble. Gaucho simply had no use for them. The balls were heavy, and rolled fine, but were too big to make decent bearings. We kept a basket of them outside the garage, as not to trip over them.

I questioned her as to the weight she could lift with her magic. As with everything else about the filly, it wasn’t much. She managed to levitate a cinder block worth of concrete into place, but could move no more. But something was more than nothing, and now Gaucho no longer had to break out his lift every time we wanted to build a wall. Which was just as well; that scissor lift scared me to death. I gave her some instructions, and left her with a bag of mortar.

I came to the wall to check on her progress after an hour. As it turned out, she was able to rebuild walls better than she had been able to cook. It wasn’t pretty, but, really, what in the wasteland was? The section of wall she had rebuilt was functional, and it would keep out the creatures of the waste, pony and non pony alike. As I admired and praised her work, I kicked the black marble into the lot. Perhaps we could find a use for them today.

Gaucho rolled toward me, his face heavy with concern. He chattered something at me about the marbles that Charm had been producing. Gaucho grabbed the handle of a yellow box, and began sweeping around the marble I had kicked in this direction. The yellow box clicked and hissed like a radroach on fire. Gaucho recoiled from the sphere as if they were radioactive. Which, apparently, they were. He demanded to know how she did that.

“I don’t know, Sir,” she replied. “It just happens. I didn’t know I could produce radioactive things like that.” Gaucho swept his Geiger counter over the area of the wall she had put into place earlier. The box remained silent. He chattered at me, grabbing my shoulders and shaking vigorously.

“What do you mean she can remove radiation?” I asked. “Do you really think that’s even possible?” Of course it was, he assured me. Magic can do nearly anything. We just needed an experiment to confirm. I led the two ponies to our well, and drew up a bucket of water. It was, of course, irradiated, as all groundwater was in the wastes.

“If you would please,” I asked Charm. “Lift the water from this bucket.” She concentrated, holding the water in a sphere above the bucket. Sure enough, a seed sized pellet fell from the water. Gaucho’s yellow box declared the water safe enough to drink as I fished the radioactive seed from the pail. I looked at the tiny, dangerous seed for a moment, then back to Charm. She too stared at the pellet, her violet eyes full of tears.

“I’m sorry,” she cried. “I didn’t mean to poison your water. I can’t control this magic; I never could.”

‘Poison?” I asked. “Charm, my dear young mare, this water is safe to drink now. You don’t produce radiation, you remove it.” My hooves were shaking in elation. “Your gift has the power to transform the waste. With what you can do, the entire wasteland becomes habitable. Sure there are these marbles to deal with but...” I stared out at the walls, and into the sky beyond our compound. “You may be the hope of an entire generation. Together, we can rebuild the wastes, and bring the message of giving to ponies everywhere.”

I wanted to throw my arms around her, and shower her with adoration. I wanted to bow at her feet and worship her as the gift she was. I wanted to raise this unicorn up on a platform and shout to the world that a savior had come to us, to free us from the radiation of the land and the waters. But I could do none of those things. Her gifts weren’t a blessing to her; they were a curse.

Outside these walls, she would be a target for raiders and slavers, or indeed any pony simply looking for respite from the radiation of our world. Otherwise decent ponies would kill to have access to the clean water and soil she could provide. Ponies I long considered friends and devotees of my message would gladly murder our family to keep Charm for themselves. I sat down in the dirt, as the weight of this filly's gifts finally came to me. Charm had gone from an unwanted unicorn to the biggest target in the wasteland in a single experiment. Gaucho seemed to read my thoughts, and asked me what we were going to do next.

“Do?” I asked. “Gaucho, we will do nothing. Charm is a pony, the same as your and I. She will decide her own fate.”

“You’re not going to send me away?” she asked, her eyes again filling with tears. “Oh goddess, no,” she pleaded. “Please let me stay. I’ll do anything.”

“Charm, you aren’t going anywhere you don’t want to,” I said. “I want you to understand what you can do, and I want you to understand just how amazing your power is. If you can teach this spell to others, then you will have single hoofedly transformed the wasteland. Your power is to take away that which kills us all. You can clean the soil, the water, the air. Nothing I could ever do can compare to that power, Charm.” I looked at her, my own eyes filling with worry. “At the same time, you are now a target. Ten Pony Tower alone would pay a million caps to any pony who could bring you there.”

“Please don’t make me go back there,” she begged. “When my mother died, my stepfather couldn’t afford rent. They threw us out, and warned us never to come back. My stepfather took to drinking and blaming me for her death.” She looked down at the ground, trying to make herself disappear into the cracks of the concrete.

“They would kill a thousand ponies to have you there now,” I told her. “Here? You’re safe. You can do more than any of us now, and we can provide for more ponies than ever.” I looked back at Gaucho. He nodded, and made for the garage to make preparations. “This calls for a celebration, Charm. An official welcome to our family.”

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