Fluttershy hummed softly to herself as she trotted through the Ponyville market. Today was her grocery shopping day, and she was aptly prepared. Resting on her back were a set of old brown saddlebags, full of small scrapes and a patched up hole here and there, but otherwise intact. Sitting on top of her head, snuggling into her soft pink mane was Angel, who idly looked around at the various vendors. Every once in awhile he would perk up and gaze hungrily at a nearby vegetable stall, but he knew better than to run off and take something. His mistress would get to it eventually.
The pegasus moved at a relaxing pace through the street, taking in the sights and sounds of a busy Ponyville day. There was much more chatter and commotion than usual, but she had gotten used to it from her uncountable past trips. By this point, it was nice to see everypony, whether or not she really knew them.
That was when she spotted a pony that she did know. Twilight Sparkle stood near the fountain, levitating a quill and long roll of parchment in front of her. Fluttershy knew well enough that it was one of the unicorn’s many checklists, and Twilight seemed to be checking off things on the list in accordance to what was in her bags.
“Good afternoon, Twilight,” Fluttershy said, approaching with a smile. Twilight glanced up from her list and looked surprised, as she lost levitation on both her list and quill. The parchment was snatched up easily enough, but the quill fluttered to the ground, just in front of the pegasus.
“Oh, hey Fluttershy,” Twilight replied, giving a smile of her own. “You aren’t usually the one to sneak up on other ponies like that.”
Fluttershy’s eyes widened, and for a moment she felt incredibly rude. “Oh, goodness, did I scare you? I’m sorry.” She glanced down and pawed at the ground with her hoof.
Twilight merely laughed. “Not at all! I just wasn’t expecting you.”
The pegasus sighed and looked back up. “Oh, good. So, are you in town for groceries as well?”
Twilight nudged her bag open to give Fluttershy a peek inside, revealing it was full of the things the unicorn normally had around her: books, scrolls, ink pots and more quills. “I’m just here to restock on supplies, as usual. You know how fast I run out.”
Fluttershy then noticed the absence of a certain dragon. “Where’s Spike today?” she asked, looking around as if he might be hiding within one of the crowds.
“Unfortunately, he’s sick today,” Twilight said, pulling out a glass bottle that contained a variety of herbs. “That’s another reason I came in town today. He’s come down with a pretty bad case of the dragon pox, so I needed to gather up the ingredients for a cure.”
“Aw, the poor thing,” Fluttershy said, with a sympathetic frown. “If you need any help with things, Twilight, don’t be afraid to ask-k-k-k—”
Fluttershy stuttered as Angel’s paw batted against the top of her head. When he was done with his furry assault, he leaned down and gave Fluttershy a look, as if to say Get on with it!
“Right, Angel makes a good point.”
Satisfied with the acknowledgement, Angel tucked himself back within the folds of her mane.
“I have to finish up my shopping before little Angel gets too restless, so I’ll see you some other time, Twilight,” Fluttershy said, using a wing to tighten the straps on her saddlebags. “Tell Spike I hope he gets better soon.”
Twilight nodded. “Don’t worry, I will. See you around, Fluttershy.” After the two exchanged goodbyes, Fluttershy turned around and walked back towards the vendors, quickly disappearing into the crowd. Twilight waited a bit before looking back at her list.
“Now, let me get my qui—”
To her surprise, the quill was nowhere to be found. She looked around the surrounding area and even trotted around the fountain to double check, but it had disappeared. “Hmm... that’s strange... I could have sworn it fell right in front of me,” Twilight thought out loud, looking down to the area Fluttershy had been standing in. After a moment, she shrugged and pulled a different quill out of her bags. “Good thing I bought extras.”
- - -
By the time Fluttershy finished her shopping, the sun’s position told her it was about three o’clock. Her trip had taken her an average amount of time, meaning she could have a few hours of rest before preparing dinner for herself and feeding the rest of the animals.
As she walked along the dirt path that lead to her cottage, a strange sensation came over her. She slowed her pace and glanced around curiously, not quite able to put her hoof on what the feeling was. It was almost as if she was heavier, but that made sense because of her saddlebags. No, it wasn’t a heavy feeling. It felt more like... a dragging sensation. But how? Fluttershy pondered the odd difference as she walked.
Eventually she was in front of her cottage, but the feeling hadn’t shaken. Opening the front door, she walked in and pulled her saddlebags off, then set them to the side. She took a few steps forward and noted that the feeling was definitely still there. Fluttershy went so far as to trot around her living room several times to make sure the sensation wasn’t in her head, and sure enough, it remained. “Goodness, Angel, what could this be?”
The snowy rabbit popped out of her mane and lifted his nose into the air. After a few twitches, his ears perked up and he seemed surprised. With a quick hop, he was out of her mane and onto the floor, where he then scurried over to her tail. Fluttershy’s vision followed him the whole way until he dove into her pink hair and disappeared. She felt him digging around through her tail for several moments before he stopped. Everything was still for a few seconds before he erupted out of the hair like somepony swimming in the ocean, gasping for breath and all. He didn’t come out alone, though.
In one of his paws were three golden bits, gleaming as if they had just been minted, and in the other was Twilight’s quill. He threw them on the ground next to her before taking a large breath and jumping back into Fluttershy’s tail and retrieving a single, white sock.
“Oh... oh goodness,” Fluttershy sputtered, looking at the items that had been caught within her tail. “All of that was in my tail?!”
Angel look to the tail, then back to her, and nodded matter-of-factly.
“W-what else is in there?” she squeaked, almost afraid of the answer. Angel shrugged and shook his head, inspiring a small bit of confidence within the pegasus. “I never thought my tail dragging along the ground would be such a problem! Oh dear, I hope whoever dropped these things aren’t looking for them.” She approached the small pile of objects and reached a hoof out, only to have Angel dive in front of her and grab the bits. Once he had them, he scurried off under the nearby table.
“Well... alright then. Three bits isn’t that much, right?” She did her best to justify the unintentional theft, but Fluttershy wasn’t the best at fooling herself. “At least I can give Twilight her quill back.” She then glanced at the sock. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to find out who that belongs to, though.”
Almost on cue, Angel ran out and snatched the sock as well, dragging it back to his hiding spot.
“I wonder why this hasn’t happened before...” Fluttershy thought, looking to her tail. Tentatively, she grabbed it and raised it up, shaking it out. She half expected more things to fall out of it, but this time it seemed empty and item free, as tails ought to be. With a sigh, she laid on the couch and glanced to the clock, figuring she could get a nap in before dinner.
- - -
The following day came soon enough, with Fluttershy waking up as the sun poured through her window and hit her face. With a yawn, she crawled out of bed and began her morning routine.
Once her hair was brushed and her wings preened, she went downstairs and took out food for all of her animals. After they were satisfied, she finally sat down and poured herself a bowl of cereal. It was her favorite mixture of honey and oats, which she quietly ate.
Finishing her cereal, she put the bowl into the sink. “Hmm, while it’s still early in the morning, It might be a good time to go out and get some herbs. What do you think, Angel?”
The bunny, who laid on the table and still wasn’t quite awake, opened one eye and nodded slightly. He had managed to use the sock as a makeshift, rodent-sized sleeping bag. It seemed to be working well, though, for he was back to snoring just as quickly as he answered her. Fluttershy smiled and patted him on the head, then gathered her things and was out the door.
Luckily for her, the plants she was looking for were never too far within the forest. As she stepped past the treeline, she already spotted the first plant on her list: aloe. The spiny leaves grew large and wild in the forest, making them even more valuable. Bigger leaves meant more sap, and more sap meant more use.
Fluttershy approached ones of the plants and looked it over, smiling at how big this plant had grown. Bending down, she bit near the base of one of the leaves and gave a swift tug, plucking it off. She decided to take one more, then stowed the two away within her bag. “These will make plenty of healing salves,” she said to herself. Once satisfied, she ventured a bit further into the forest, minding the numerous gnarled roots crawling along the ground.
Pushing aside a particularly large fern, she came across a small clearing. In its center was a small pond, shimmering in the morning sunlight that came through the gap in the treeline. One small tree was growing on the edge of the water, no bigger than the pegasus. Looking more closely, she found it held what she needed.
Twisting around the stump of the tree and making its way upwards was snakevine, and dotting the coiling branches were bright yellow flowers that were in full bloom. Fluttershy opted to walk around the pond and take in her surroundings before approaching the tree. With a few quick bites, she had taken several flowers off the vine and stored them safely away. “Just one more herb to go.”
The final plant was something she had been all too familiar with, even though she had only had one encounter with it before. After a bit of prolonged travel through the twisted trees, a bright blue in the otherwise dark forest told her she was close. Very carefully watching her step, she walked forward until the large patch of poison joke was in front of her.
Gulping, she opened her saddlebag and pulled out a glass jar and a set of tongs. She started by uncorking the bottle and setting it near the plants, then taking the tongs into her mouth. Delicately, she gripped one of the poison joke flowers and uprooted it, then dropped it into the bottle. With almost frightening speed, she corked the bottle and had it in her bag. Fluttershy let out a sigh of relief and turned around, setting off on the path back to her cottage.
Stepping out of the forest was when the feeling came back.
Fluttershy tried to ignore it, but the nervous tension was beginning to get to her by the time she reached the door. Mere steps away from the cottage, she froze in place, breathing heavily. Wide eyed, she looked back to her tail. “What is in there this time?!” she shrieked, grabbing the pink hair and shoving her hoof within.
After a few moments of fishing around, she felt something cold and hard, as if it were made of metal. Pulling her hoof back, she brought out an object that looked like three golden triangles put together to make a large triangle. “Wha... wha- How did...!?” she sputtered, eyes darting over the object. She dropped it to the ground before digging back into her tail and pulling out another item, which she recognized as the Alicorn Amulet.
“Why are these things in my tail?!” she screamed, picking them up and hurrying them over to the river, where she promptly threw them into the water. “Stay away from me!” she yelled, as they sank into the murky depths and out of sight. Hopefully, they would float away and end up somewhere that wasn’t her tail. With another scream, Fluttershy ran into her cottage and slammed the door shut in a huff.
- - -
“Okay Fluttershy, just watch your tail. If you’re always watching it, nothing can get caught in it, right?” Fluttershy stared at herself in the mirror, putting on the most encouraging smile she could. Being Fluttershy, though, it wasn’t all too convincing.
“It’ll be fine. As long as I keep looking,” she turned her head and looked down at the offending mass of hair, “I won’t have to worry about anything.” Not moving her head, she did her best to glance back at her reflection and give another smile, but she could only see a bit out of the corner of her eye.
Continuing to watch her tail, she turned in place and started towards the door. At least, she thought she was moving to the door. It only took a few steps before her head smacked against the door frame with a thud. “Ow!” she yelped, rubbing her head with a hoof. Taking a moment to glance at the door, she took a step to the side, then looked right back to her tail.
After a bout of trial and error, Fluttershy managed to make it downstairs, only suffering a couple bruises on the way. Her cottage had a lot more corners than she remembered. Once she sat at the table, she let out a tired sigh and rested her head on the wood. Angel, who had been leisurely laying on the couch, hopped over to the table, bounced onto a chair, then performed one more jump to get next to Fluttershy. The pegasus glanced over to him, then mumbled “This might be tougher than I thought, Angel.”
The rabbit walked near her and patted her on the head, giving a rare display of affection. Fluttershy smiled, then stood up, prompting him to quickly jump into her mane. “But maybe it won’t be so bad. There’s plenty of open space outside, so there’s not that much I can bump into, right?”
- - -
Fluttershy had a pounding headache by the time she reached Ponyville, and had fallen over and hit assorted signs more times than she could count. Several times, Angel had attempted to warn her, but that only caused her to look forward and hit whatever it was with her face.
She knew it was Ponyville from the buildings she could barely see in her peripheral vision and from the soft hum of chatter in the air. She probably guessed that ponies were staring at her, but she couldn’t know for sure. She was too busy focusing on making sure nothing unexpected was getting caught up in her pink hairs.
So focused, in fact, that she ran right into Rarity.
The unicorn held her ground, but the same couldn’t be said for Fluttershy, who tumbled backwards. “Fluttershy, dear, are you okay?” Rarity asked, picking the pegasus up via magic. She brought a hoof over and wiped the dust off Fluttershy, then took a step back. “Whatever were you staring at so fiercely?”
Fluttershy frowned and gave Rarity a pleading look. “It’s just awful, Rarity. Things keep getting caught in my tail and I just don’t understand how.”
Rarity raised an eyebrow, then leaned over to look at the tail in question. It seemed innocent enough. “I’m not certain I follow you, Fluttershy. What... sort of things?”
“Well just two days ago I found Twilight’s quill, some bits, and a lone sock. Then, the day after that I found some... uh...” She didn’t exactly want to reveal that she had thrown away an artifact of great power. “I found some jewelry.”
“I see...” Rarity replied, nodding slightly. “Well, clearly it’s just because your tail is dragging along the ground so much. Hmm...” She tapped a hoof to her chin in thought for several moments, then had an look of realization. “Aha! I know just the thing. We’ll just give your tail a good wash! Once it’s smooth as Saddle Arabian silk, it’ll be impossible for anything to get caught. What do you say?”
Fluttershy rubbed her head, then sighed. “I guess it can’t hurt.”
“Wonderful. I was just about to be on my way, so you bumped into me at a good time.” The unicorn then turned around, waiting for Fluttershy to be at her side, then began trotting off towards the boutique.
“So tell me, has this just started happening?” Rarity asked, looking over to her friend. “I’d have to imagine so, because this has never been a problem in the past.”
The pegasus nodded. “Yes, just recently, and I have no idea why. I mean, I haven’t done anything different, I don’t think.” She looked upwards in thought. “Maybe I changed my shampoo by accident?”
Rarity chuckled. “I don’t think that would matter, unless your shampoo is magnetic. Even then, that wouldn’t explain the sock... Did it at least look presentable?”
“No, it was just a normal sock.”
“Hmph. A shame.”
The rest of the trip was uneventful, with the two discussing the ongoings of their lives. Rarity was in the middle of talking about her most recent spa trip when they arrived at Carousel Boutique. Rarity opened the door and stepped aside, motioning Fluttershy in. Once the pegasus passed, she followed behind.
“Follow me to the bathroom, dear,” Rarity instructed, leading Fluttershy up the stairs and into the upper floor hallway. They turned into the nearest door to reveal a large bathroom, with tiled floor, paintings on the wall, a wide mirror above a marble counter and sink, and a very spacious tub in the back. Upon approaching it, Fluttershy found it even had a seat and several water jets. This was one room that Rarity hadn’t spared any expense with.
Rarity walked to the tub and her horn lit up, pulling down a showerhead that Fluttershy didn’t immediately notice. “If you’ll just sit on the edge and face me, Fluttershy, we can get to work.” Fluttershy did as she was told and sat down, cringing slightly at the sudden coldness on her bottom. “Oh, apologies,” Rarity said, noticing Fluttershy’s expression. “I should have warned you it might be a tad nippy.”
“It’s okay, Rarity. It’s already starting to warm up.”
“Now, before we start, let me just do a quick brush.” Floating over a brush, she started stroking it through Fluttershy’s tail, but quickly found it was getting caught on something. “Hm?” Rarity stuck her hoof within the pink mass and dug around for a moment. She bit her lip in exertion as she took hold of something and started pulling it out. Shifting her eyes, she noticed Fluttershy was fairly oblivious to it. Finally, her hoof emerged, and with it was a cylindrical, cream colored object.
Rarity mouthed out ‘what the...’ as she looked at the item she held. Turning it around, there was a circular entry point, and on the side she saw the words ‘Bon Bon’ engraved. It only took her a moment to process what she was touching.
“Oh sweet Celestia,” she silently hissed, tossing the object aside and into the garbage can.
“What was that?” Fluttershy asked, looking over.
Rarity hid her blushing by continuing to work on Fluttershy’s tail. “It was, uh... somepony’s... er... horn warmer. Yes, horn warmer.” She hoped the conversation would end at that, and luckily, it did. Fluttershy merely sighed and looked back down, lightly kicking at the air.
After Rarity had finished brushing, she turning the spigot and hot water began flowing out of the showerhead. She sprayed it over Fluttershy’s tail, making sure to get it very thoroughly wet. Fluttershy enjoyed the occasional warm droplets hitting the base of her tail and backside, and she started to lightly hum.
Rarity then scrubbed shampoo into the hair, lathering it until it had been covered entirely in frothy bubbles. After letting it set for a few moments, she brought the shower head back over and washed all of it away, leaving behind a practically sparkling coral tail. The unicorn smiled at her work, but she wasn’t done yet.
From under the counter, she took out a device with a round opening and handle on it. Putting it on her hoof, she hit a small button on it and an internal mechanism within whirled to life and began pushing hot air out. Manipulating the tail with her magic, she washed it with heat until it had fully dried. Fluttershy’s tail now shimmered in the light, and to the touch it was silky smooth.
“That should do the trick,” Rarity said, putting the hairdryer away and turning to face Fluttershy. The pegasus stood up and looked back, admiring the cleaning job with wide eyes.
“Goodness, Rarity... it looks beautiful.” Even Angel gave a nod of approval from the top of Fluttershy’s head.
“Only the best for my friends, darling. That should clear up your little tail issue.” She ran a hoof through the pink strands once more. “While you’re here, is there anything else you needed?”
Fluttershy shook her head. “Oh, no, I’m fine, thank you.”
The unicorn nodded in understanding, then led Fluttershy out of the bathroom and back downstairs. “Are you sure you didn’t want tea or a light snack, dear?” Rarity asked, motioning to the kitchen. “I have plenty to share.”
Fluttershy smiled, but still declined. “I still need to get home and check on my animal friends, but thank you for the offer. And of course, thank you for the tail washing. It looks wonderful.”
“You flatter me, dear. I suppose you’re right about having work to do, though. I myself have a dress order to start planning, so I should get to work ASAP!” Rarity chirped, trotting over to one of her mannequins and putting on her glasses.
“I’ll see you later, Rarity,” Fluttershy said, waving to her friend and then approaching the door. She lifted her hoof towards the handle, then had the sudden urge to check her tail again. Taking a breath, she turned her head and grabbed her tail, then stuck a hoof inside.
She felt something hard. Something pointy. There were a few of them. With a nervous gulp, she retracted her hoof to find several gems of various colors and sizes. “Not again!” she groaned, tossing the gems to the side.
“Good heavens, Fluttershy, did you just find those beautiful jewels in your tail?” Rarity asked, practically running over and scooping the gems up. She brought them close to her face, inspecting them with a smile. “Simply gorgeous!”
“But... how did they...” Fluttershy weakly said, defeated. She slumped over and sat against the door, wracking her head over how this could have happened. Things seemed hopeless. Would she always have this problem? “What am I going to do?”
Rarity looked over Fluttershy, rubbing her chin with a hoof. Her eyes then widened as she gave Fluttershy a broad smile. “Idea!”
- - -
The next day, Fluttershy was again in the market, but not in her usual manner. This time, it was her behind a stall, and in front of her was a group of ponies looking over her stand. Next to her sitting on a stool was Angel, wearing a tiny poker visor and lording over a jar of bits. A stallion looked over the stand and reached out a hoof to touch a certain necklace, but Angel quickly pounced over to him.
“Hey!” the stallion said, moving back a step. Angel pointed to the price tag, then at a nearby sign that read ‘Do not touch the merchandise.’ Despite being written in pink and having hearts dot the i’s, the message was clear. The stallion gave a snort and continued browsing the items, hooves free.
“That’s a good boy, Angel,” Fluttershy whispered, patting the bunny on the head.
Above the two of them was another sign that read ‘Shy Curios’, with a subtitle reading ‘New items daily!’
“Hey, can I get this?” one pony asked, pointing to a fairly old looking hourglass. The sands within were golden and almost glowed in the light, highly contrasting the dull brown wood and dark support beams.
Fluttershy nodded, taking the price tag off of it. “That’ll be 30 bits. Give them to the bunny, please.” The customer brought out three large, golden coins and tossed them onto the table, which Angel scooped up as if they would disappear in an instant. Fluttershy then handed the bagged hourglass over to the customer, who nodded, said her thanks, then trotted off.
“I’m so glad Rarity had the idea to start a shop,” Fluttershy said to Angel, while handling another purchase. “But I can’t help but wonder where all this stuff comes from. I mean... nopony has come here saying I stole anything, have they?”
Angel shrugged, taking another customers bits and stowing them in the jar.
Fluttershy smiled, watching a pony try on a new watch he had just purchased. “I guess this new gift isn’t so bad after all, right, Angel?”
The rabbit patted the jar of bits, which was quickly filling, then gave her a thumbs up.
The pegasus giggled. “Right.”