It's only been a few moons since Spike moved to Ponyville, and the settled zone hasn't quite gotten used to having a dragon around, any more than his sister has become accustomed to managing all the duties of a small town library. So while she sorts out late fee notices, he's expected to work the front desk and speak to patrons. Ponies who don't know how to talk to him. Ponies who seem to be having a hard time even looking at him. So when Twilight finally sends him to collect a book from a truly unresponsive patron, it's almost a relief.
Except that the pony isn't there. Will never be there again.
And just about nopony seems to care if she was ever there at all.
Read it here.
Tropes found in this story include:
- Adult Fear:
- Your kids learning about the shadier sides of life, like death and the sheer callousness with which people can treat people who've died.
- Your kids going missing.
- Arc Words: strike the set appears as a semi-persistent mental echo. Spike ultimately realizes that part of his problem with the estate sale is that Aoratoss' life is essentially being thrown away, with no respect given to anything she'd done or created. This stands in stark contrast to how the Gifted School students treated the results of their stagecraft, carefully storing everything in case a future class wanted to work on the same production.
- Character Development: The events of this story teach Spike that he needs to reach out to ponies, even when they're nervous around him or worse — and perhaps even especially for the ones who are afraid. One of the alternatives is a life spent in increasing retreat until he reaches the point of full isolation — and he's now gotten a look at where that road ultimately leads.
- Partially inverted for Twilight. As this story is set fairly soon after moving to Ponyville, she's nowhere near as open as she'll become in future tales: she's still having visible trouble with some of her interactions, and her treatment of Spike is transitioning from 'underpaid lab equipment' to 'sibling.' She's also not sure just how stable her relationships with the other Bearers are, verging towards an emotional freakout when she decides she should have thanked them for their attempts to help on the previous night, and having overlooked that means she got something ''wrong'.
- Fantastic Racism: Spike suffers this in spades. It's even mentioned that, at one point when he and Twilight were at school, one of the other fillies tried to buy him off of Twilight Sparkle. Right in front of him, too.
- Fatal Family Photo: Played with: Spike finds an old picture of Aoratoss and what may have been her spouse, with both standing in front of their Mazein residence — but by the time he sees it, at least one of the ponies pictured was already dead.
- Grail in the Garbage: Invoked: many of the ponies in attendance at the estate sale are there hoping to find something which was drastically underpriced, with at least one constantly trying to argue anything with even a little value down into the tenth-bit range.
- Huge Rider, Tiny Mount: Inverted when Spike accepts Dulcinea's offer of a flight back to the tree, with her noting that she's never *had* a rider.
- I Have Many Names: Played with. Turns out it's not Derpy or Ditzy: it's Dulcinea — and everything else is a cruel nickname which other ponies have applied to her.
- Performance Artist: Averted on one level: Spike's sexuality is largely undefined. However, this story establishes him as having a passion for theatrical productions — every aspect of them, from stage blocking on up. He dearly wants to be in a play someday, although he recognizes his ultimate casting range is probably going to be limited.
- Stranger in a Familiar Land: Played with. Technically, Spike is an Equestrian native (and holds full citizenship), but his species means he's always going to be something of an outsider. And on another level, Aoratoss turns out to be a Mazein citizen who moved to Equestria, placing her within a culture which was never truly her own: one of Dulcinea's recounted conversations reveals the senior as having possessed minotaur beliefs concerning the afterlife.
- Verbed Title