The Bunfight at Sugarcube Corner starring Braeburn Apple aka The Mysterious Stranger
Celestia's sun was high in a boiling summer sky the day the Braeburn galloped into Ponyville, his hooves and vest brown with the dust of his long journey. He parted the sweaty strands of his amber fringe and tipped back his Stetson as he looked over the little town. The streets were deserted, and every house had its doors and windows tightly shut.
Ponyville was a ghost town. Now just where was everypony?
He stepped out into the town square as the clock on the Town Hall rang eleven in sonorous chimes like the beating of a solitary heart. A lone tumbleweed rolled through the square and Braeburn suddenly wondered:
Why is that you only ever see a tumbleweed when there's nopony else about?
He was walking past an abandoned flower-cart, its contents of gorgeous roses still on display, when a forehoof suddenly darted out from behind the cart and beckoned to him.
"Quick!" whispered the pretty young mare whose forehoof it was, popping her head out. She was obviously the owner of the cart her cutie mark was a rose and her mane was the same beautiful burgundy as her flowers were but her green eyes were wide with fear. "They'll see you!"
Braeburn didn't reply but just looked out across the square in the direction Rose was pointing. There was the little Ponyville bakery Sugarlump Somethin'? It was where Pinkie Pie, one of cousin Applejack's friends, worked. Strangely, the door was wide open but stranger still was what was standing just beside the building.
There was a hot-air balloon! You didn't often see those contraptions in Appleloosa!
"That's one heckova contraption, alright!" Braeburn whistled.
"Not that!" said the Rose, moving his gaze with a forehoof to the right. "HIM!"
And while they watched, a tall scaly green alligator eased himself out of the front door of the bakery, half a dozen cakes clutched in his hefty forelegs. He was walking on his hind legs and within a few clumsy steps of his huge feet he was at the hot air balloon where he placed the cakes in a large net lying on the ground beside the basket.
Suddenly there was a loud, irate voice from inside the bakery. "C'mon Lennie you big lump! There's still dozens of cakes to go! I ain't leaving until we've got at least forty cakes."
"Forty Cakes?" repeated the alligator, stepping away from the balloon. "But wait, Al that's as much as
." He began counting on his claws. "One, two, three
four tens! And that's-"
"Aw, to pony hell with yer fancy mathematics. Get back in here!" cried the voice in exasperation. "We've got to get this heist done before those meddlesome ponies get back from their latest adventure." Through the window Braeburn spotted the voice's owner a short little pony with a grey-blue mane and mocking blue eyes wearing a chequered Gatsby hat.
"Do you know these varmints?" Braeburn asked Rose. She shook her head.
"They just blew into town in their hot-air balloon and stormed into Sugarcube Corner!" She grabbed Braeburn's vest and shook it. "Oh, you have to do something, mysterious stranger! It's usually Twilight Sparkle and her friends that deal with this sort of thing, but they're out of town and
Braeburn shoulder slumped. "Now don' tell me I came all the way out here to visit Applejack an' her friends and they've all up and gone somewhere?"
Rose nodded. "I'm sorry," she said. "I heard they're on their way to Appleloosa to visit a friend of theirs."
"Oh, consarn it all
" Braeburn sighed, but then he brightened. Applejack and her friends were travellin' all that distance just to say howdy to him? That was mighty nice of them! He must have made a powerful impression on them last time they'd met.
"What was their friend's name?" Braeburn put his hat back and tossed his mane. "I think I can gue
"It started with B," said Rose.
"Well, now of course it did," he chuckled. "And that name was?"
Rose thought for a second. "It was
Bloomberg I think!"
Braeburn's eyes boggled. "Th' apple-tree?"
"Bloomberg's an apple tree?" said Rose, her eyes going wide.
They were interrupted by a feminine cry of "Help! Help!" from inside the bakery and then the little stallion's angry voice crying "Lennie, put a muffin in that mare's mouth. Maybe that'll shut her up!"
"But she keeps eating them, Al!" It was a deep, resonant voice that could only have belonged to the huge alligator they'd seen earlier.
"Aw Lennie, you scaly green lummox!" shouted Al. "Just do as I say! I'm the little guy, so that means I'm the one with the brains."
"But Al, you can't even do long division!" protested Lennie.
"I'll long divide you if you don't start stuffin' muffins in her mouth!"
Suddenly the cries stopped, replaced by the unmistakeable sound of nomnomnomnomnom.
Braeburn turned to Rose. "Wait, there are hostages in there?"
The mare nodded. "They've got Mr and Mrs Cake in there they're the owners of the bakery. And poor Ditzy Doo the mail-mare! She was there buying her weekly supply of muffins when the two of them stormed into the place."
"Well, I can't stand by while there're ladies in distress," said Braeburn. "I've got to go in there."
"You can't!" said Rose. "That alligator'll swallow you whole!"
"If'n he does, he'll find me a tough apple to chew," said Braeburn. "Pardon me, ma'am I'll just be a short while." He pulled his hat down over his forehead and stepped out from behind the flower cart.
With the ladies out of town I guess it falls t' me to set things straight, thought Braeburn to himself as he walked towards the bakery. Well, sometimes a stallion just has to step up to the plate and do a mare's job!
Inside the bakery the two villains were busy piling cakes up next to the front door, ready for Lennie to take them across to the hot-air balloon.
"These cakes'll earn a pretty penny on the black market in Manehatten on account of the confectioner's sugar shortage," chuckled the diminutive stallion the alligator had called Al. He rubbed his forehooves together and grinned, but when he saw Braeburn approaching he grabbed his hat off his head and threw it to the floor angrily. "Why is there always some pony who thinks he's a hero!" he muttered. "Lennie, go deal with him!"
"Aw, Al," whined the alligator. "Why do I always have to do all the physical stuff?"
"On account of the fact that you're six foot tall, swamp breath!" shouted the pony.
"Swamp breath?" repeated Lennie angrily, but then he sniffed the air and grimaced. "Oh yeah." He sighed. "OK, I'll go have a talk with him. He looks like a nice fellow."
"Oh, I'm sure you two'll be the best o' friends!" sneered the pony. "Now git out there!"
Braeburn was nearly at the bakery when Lennie ducked under the lintel of the front door and came towards him. The stallion looked up and whistled. The alligator was easily more than eighteen hands tall if he was an inch! Every part of his body rippled with scaly muscle, and the earth shivered as he walked. But there was something about his bulging blue eyes eyes they had a somewhat sorrowful cast to them, and as he walked he was rubbing his two huge claws together as if he was a little colt coming to apologise for kicking a soccer ball through a window.
Rose looked across at the two opponents. Her heart leaped up in her chest and she felt like she might swoon. "Oh, why don't we have stallions like this in Ponyville?" she whispered, leaning against the cart to steady herself.
The two were now standing next to each other, the alligator towering over the stallion. Braeburn lifted the brim of his hat and looked up at Lennie.
"Howdy," he said. 'The name's Braeburn Apple."
"Nice to meet you," said Lennie, waving a claw and grinning somewhat sheepishly. "My name's Leonard, but you can call me Lennie if you like. Everypony else does."
Braeburn tilted his head in the direction of Rose, who was just barely visible hiding behind her flower cart. "That little lady over there tells me that you two have hostages in that there bakery. Is that right?"
Lennie looked nervously back at Sugarcube Corner and rubbed his claws together even harder. "Hostages? Oh, it sounds terrible when you put it like that! I told Al that ponies would get the wrong idea
Braeburn arched an eyebrow. "So Al's the name of your accomplice?"
The alligator grimaced at the word 'accomplice' but he nodded. "Al Caponey, of the Caponeys of Manehatten."
"That must get confusin' at times," said Braeburn.
"What do you mean?" asked Lennie, blinking his big blue eyes.
"On account of you being an alligator an' all," replied Braeburn. "I guess ponies might get confused an' call you Al."
Lennie scratched his head with a claw. "Really? I don't know if that's the case I've never heard of an alligator being called Al before."
Braeburn looked past him at the bakery, where Al could be seen poking his head through the window as he watched the proceedings. "Now look, Lennie. I'm sure you're a nice feller and all, but you and your pony friend Al've got five minutes to get back in that inflatable jalopy of yours and hightail it outa town before things start getting serious."
"Look, Braeburn," said the alligator, shifting his weight from one leg to the other and avoiding the stallion's gaze. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to not get involved. My buddy Al is very sensitive about being disturbed in the middle of a scheme and he's been planning this cake heist for weeks."
"Ain't no way I can stand by and let your buddy steal these poor ponies' livelihoods, Lennie," replied Braeburn with a frown.
Lennie leaned down and spoke conspiratorially. "Between you and me, I think Al doesn't really understand the concept of other ponies' property. I've been trying to educate him, but it just doesn't seem to take." The alligator sighed. "What's a big brother to do?"
"Brother?" Braeburn's eyes boggled.
"Well, half-brother technically," said Lennie. "Now are you going to step away, or do we have to get into a physical altercation?"
"Ah guess physical altercation it is," drawled Braeburn. He stepped back, shifting his hat back on his head so that he had a clearer view of his opponent.
Lennie sighed again then brought his claws together and cracked them. "I'm sorry you can't be persuaded. I'll try and not hurt you too much!"
As quick as a flash, the alligator's mighty right claw, balled into a fist, came flying down at Braeburn, who leaped aside at the last moment. It whistled past his ear and struck the ground instead, which shuddered with the impact.
"Holy apple seeds!" whispered Braeburn, staring at the huge crater that was left behind. But Lennie was already pulling back for another swing, and Braeburn slipped under it this time, galloping in between the giant's legs.
"Aw, no fair!" cried Lennie, twisting around to find Braeburn behind him, his forelegs pulled up close to his chin in a boxer's stance. "You're turning my greatest strength into a disadvantage!"
"All's fair in love an' war, my scaly friend!" laughed Braeburn. "And now it's my turn!"
He leaped forward and peppered the alligator's scaly stomach with a rapid series of punches, but Lennie just looked down at him, an apologetic look on his face as he leaned back for an even mightier blow.
"Oh pony feathers," gulped Braeburn as the blow came flying at him.
This time he ducked and Lennie's fist knocked his hat clear off his head, but the force of the punch made the alligator overbalance, and he crashed to the ground, raising up a miniature mushroom-cloud of dust. The alligator was on his feet again in seconds, swiping the dust out of the air in front of his eyes and looking left and right for Braeburn.
But the stallion was nowhere to be seen.
"Now where have you gone?" muttered the alligator.
"Did you get him?" shouted Al from the bakery window.
"I think so!" said Lennie, turning to look around. But as he did, Al shouted out in alarm.
"Ya great dim-witted sack of scales!" He pointed wildly at a spot behind the alligator. "He's on ya back!"
"My back?" said Lennie, twisting his neck around to look behind him. And there was Braeburn, clinging to his back and smiling nervously at him.
The stallion held on for dear life as Lennie swivelled his body this way and that, trying to dislodge him but Braeburn, holding onto his hat with one foreleg, rode out the storm of twisting and bucking until the alligator was exhausted and slumped onto the ground.
"Ah guess all those years in the rodeo finally paid off!" said Braeburn, hopping off his now harmless opponent. "And now ta-"
"Sweet dreams, cowpoke!" came a voice from behind him.
Everything suddenly went dark for Braeburn, and he slid to the ground, unconscious. Al chuckled and put his blackjack away, then dragged the comatose stallion off the alligator.
"Aw, thanks Al!" said Lennie, slowly clambering onto his feet. "You
you saved me!"
"Yeah, I saved you because I love you," Al sneered as he swiped the alligator's muzzle with a forehoof. "Now drag this sorry sack of apples into the bakery and tie him up. I guess even you can manage that!"
When Braeburn came to he found himself in the storeroom of Sugarcube Corner hog-tied with rope and leaning against a counter covered in bags of flour and bottles of treacle and other baking supplies. Across the room from him were the three hostages the older mare and stallion were obviously the Cakes, while the pretty blonde-maned Pegasus who was blinking at him with those gorgeous (but strangely pupiled) eyes must be Ditzy Doo the mail-mare. The fore and hind legs of each of them was tied up with rope as well, and even poor Ditzy's wings had been hastily bound together!
"How are you feeling dearie?" asked Mrs Cake, deep concern marking the older mare's face.
"Feels like a whole bushel a' apples fell on my head," muttered Braeburn, shaking it.
"That was a mighty effort out there, young man," said Mr Cake. "And you would have won if it hadn't been for that cheap move!"
Ditzy nodded rapidly in agreement. "You were amazing! You really showed that giant muffin I mean alligator who's boss!"
Braeburn blushed at the pretty mare's compliment. "Aw shucks, t'weren't nothin'!" But then his face grew serious. "I shoulda been on the lookout for a blindside. Now we're all stuck in this predicament together!"
Al threw open the door to the storeroom and stepped inside. "Would you look at this!" he sneered. "What a pretty picture! All of you tied up like a bunch a' Yule presents!"
"Now I don't think it's nice to gloat, Al," said Lennie, bending his head under the doorway. Braeburn looked at him, but he avoided the stallion's gaze. "Let's just finish loading the cakes and get out of here."
"All in good time, clawbrain!" snapped Al. He stepped over to Braeburn and leered down at him. "How does it feel to have failed, hero?"
"Mighty humbling," said Braeburn simply. "But like my grandpappy used to say: there's always round two."
Al blinked at him. "And jus' what's that supposta mean?"
"Just take the cakes and leave," said Mr. Cake. "You'll get no more trouble out of us."
Al looked at Braeburn, unsmiling. "You should listen ta yer older, wiser friend there, hero." Stepping past the stallion he reached over and took an icing bag from the assorted baking equipment that cluttered the top of the counter and then approached Ditzy, who shrunk back in horror. "Because if there's any more failed heroics from you, somepony might get CHOCOLATE FROSTING IN THEIR MANE!" He pointed it at Ditzy Doo and squeezed it so that a tiny trickle of the dark icing squirted out the end and landed perilously close to the Pegasus mare.
"Oh no, not my beautiful muffin, I mean mane!" cried Ditzy, shuddering and struggling to escape her bonds. "Chocolate frosting is the hardest thing to get out of it ever!"
"You monster!" shouted Mrs. Cake. "How dare you threaten a lady!"
"I'm no monster," replied Al. "Jus' a simple pony trying to get ahead in this world. Now if you'll all excuse me, I've got an alligator to shout at." He left, closing the door to the storeroom behind him, and soon he could be heard shouting from inside the bakery "GET BACK TA WORK YOU GREAT GREEN GARGOYLE!"
"Oh, if only both my wings were free I could fly away and go and get help," said Ditzy, staring out the half-open window. "But I just can't get my other one free. Oh muffins!"
"Wait!" cried Braeburn. "One of your wings is free?"
Ditzy nodded rapidly. "But I can't fly with just one wing! See?" She slipped her left wing from the jumble of rope and flapping it she began to scoot around in circles on the floor.
"One is more'n enough!" said Braeburn. "Now see if you kin just reach over to the shelf up here above me and knock that bottle of oil over my bonds so I can slip outa them."
"Okie!" said Ditzy.
"Quickly, ma'am!" said Braeburn. "While they're still busy loading those cakes!"
Ditzy made a series of tiny little hops on her bound hooves until she reached the counter Braeburn was lying against. Then, on tippy-hooves, she leaned up with her free wing and knocked a bottle off the shelf above it, which fell onto the counter, rolled a little and at last reached the edge and started spilling its contents down onto Braeburn's hooves. The only problem was, it wasn't oil
"That's molasses!" Braeburn cried as he felt the sticky stuff flow onto his hooves. "Oh ma'am, you musta knocked off the wrong bottle! Quick, the tall one with the picture of an olive on it!"
"Oopsie! Here we go!" Ditzy nudged off another bottle.
"That's maple syrup this time!" cried Braeburn as the sticky black stuff dripped all over his legs.
"Double oopsie!" said Ditzy, shaking her head. "That's a maple leaf, isn't it? Oh, I can be such a Derpy Hooves at times!"
There was only one bottle left, and when the Pegasus knocked this one off with her dainty wing-tip the oil at last spilled out onto Braeburn's bound legs.
"Finally!" With the aid of the oil, Braeburn flexed his muscles and squirming this way and that worked himself free. He quickly untied the others with the help of a liberal application of the olive oil and then looked around the storeroom.
"Now, d'ya have any apple pies around here?" he asked.
"I'm afraid we sold out of apple pies," said Mr Cake as Mrs Cake removed the last of the rope around his legs. "We have apple strudel and apple danishes though!"
"Nah, that ain't gonna work," muttered Braeburn. " If it's apples, it's gotta be pies! But maybe
" He scratched his head with a hoof. "You got any rockcakes?"
"All out of them too, I'm afraid," said the lanky stallion, rubbing his legs to get the feeling back into them. He sighed. "I guess we're done for. Well, all those cakes are done for, anyway. Hundreds of bits worth of baked goodness, gone like that!"
Mrs Cake was furrowing her brow. "Baked goodness? What does that remind me o
oh wait!" she cried. "We've got all those baked bads!"
Braeburn went cross-eyed. "Ya don't mean those awful muffins my cousin makes, do you?"
"The very same!" said Mrs Cake.
"Who in Equestria would want to eat one of those things?" asked Braeburn. He'd only ever heard about them, never having seen one but what he'd heard made his mane stand on end!
"We've a little scaly purple fellow who puts an order in every week," explained Mrs Cake as with Mr Cake's help she pulled a large sack out from a corner of the room. "He's such an adorable little thing! But he's with Pinkie and the girls on their way to Appleloosa so he hasn't come to pick up his order yet." With a final heave the sack flopped over and disgorged several of the baked bads in question onto the floor.
Braeburn picked up one of the grotesque lumps gingerly, then tossing it into the air he bucked it at full force through the open window, where it flew like a gunshot into the blue sky.
Braeburn grinned. "These'll do nicely!
And just in time! Outside, Lennie the alligator was putting the last of the cakes into the net while Al Capony, already in the basket of the balloon, was urging him on with shouts and curses. When he spotted Braeburn and the others galloping out of Sugarcube Corner towards them he did a double take, but straight away a huge grin split his face and he shouted: "Too late, ponies! Too late!"
And with that he signalled to Lennie who tore out the pegs holding the balloon down with a sweep of his tail. The balloon started to rise rapidly into the air and the alligator grabbed onto the side of the basket as it scraped along the ground and swung himself on board.
"We'll never get them now!" cried Mr. Cake. "We're ruined!"
"I'll get that rascally muffin!" said Ditzy fiercely, crouching down and spreading out her wings ready to leap into the air but Braeburn put a forehoof on her shoulder and shook his head.
"I applaud your bravery, Miss Doo, but he's still totin' that icing bag and I'd never forgive myself if any harm came to that gorgeous mane o' yours." He chuckled. "Besides, there's more than one way to let some air out of that overpuffed varmint!"
And with that he knocked over the sack of baked bads that Mr Cake had helped him drag out of the bakery and tossed one up into the air.
Bang! With a colossal kick of his muscular hind-legs Braeburn sent the rock-hard pastry flying through the air at the balloon like a rifle-shot, but it missed the gondola and flew straight underneath it.
Al Capony had ducked into the basket, expecting the baked bad to come flying in his direction, but when he found himself unharmed he whooped with triumph. "Is that all yer got? Ya can't even hit the side of a barn with bucking like that!"
Braeburn made no reply, and with a toss and a buck another muffin-missile was streaking through the air at the balloon but once again it flew straight under the basket.
"Hah!" shouted Al. "Are your even trying now, cowpoke?"
"Er Al," said Lennie, looking down under the basket and pointing with a claw.
"Not know you great solid lump of swamp gas!" muttered the little stallion. "I've got some more gloating to do!"
But Lennie wasn't going to back down this time. He brought a huge claw up over Al's head and pushed it so that his gaze was forced downwards, and what he saw made his face turn livid in fury. For Braeburn hadn't missed at all - his target had never been the basket, but the rope tying the net underneath it, and the net, cakes and all, was now safely in the mouth of Ditzy Doo, who was flying back towards the bakery to the cheers of Braeburn and the Cakes.
But Braeburn wasn't done. With a final baked bad between his teeth, he threw it into the air and with a last mighty buck he sent it spearing through the air towards the balloon itself and seconds later it struck, tearing a huge hole in the taut canvas and letting out the hot air in an explosive gust that sent the balloon suddenly jerking this way and that.
Al and Lennie clung to the basket for dear life as it zig-zagged through the sky, dragged behind the rapidly deflating balloon. And soon it was a tiny speck receding into the sky, and all that could be heard was Al Capony's rage-filled shouting.
"I'll have my revenge, ponies! If it's the last thing I'll ever do! You ain't seen the last of Al Capony!"
"Or Leonard the Alligator!" came Lennie's voice, slowly fading away into the distance.
"I don't think we'll see those two again," said Mr Cake.
"Uh uh," said Ditzy as she landed nearby with the net full of cakes safe and sound. "Those two were definitely one-episode wonders!"
"Episode?" muttered Braeburn, but he had little time to stand there wondering what she meant as moments later the Pegasus was throwing her forelegs around his neck.
"Oh, my muffin I mean, hero!" Ditzy cried, smothering Braeburn's face with choc-chip flavoured kisses.
"Aw, shucks ma'am," said Braeburn, blushing redder than a red delicious "I was just doing what had t' be done!"
"You handled yourself admirably out there, young fellow," said Mr. Cake, patting him on the back. "Feel free to help yourself to any of our cakes or pastries whenever you like on the house!"
Mrs Cake sidled up to Braeburn and putting a soft foreleg on his shoulder she whispered "Be sure to try the sugar buns whenever you like they're the best thing in the bakery."
Braeburn, now even redder still, tipped his hat to the Cakes. "I'm much obliged, sir
maam," he said. "And I accept your kind offers. But I'm afraid I have to get moving my friends are probably on their way back to Ponyville right his minute and if I hurry I can head them off at the pass near Colt Springs."
"Oh, I'll give you a lift!" said Ditzy suddenly. "Flying is sooo much faster than galloping - you'll be able to catch them for sure!"
"That's mighty kind of you, ma'am," said Braeburn. "But are you sure that you're strong enough to
whoa!" He let out an excited yell, for Ditzy had already lifted him up from behind and was even now carrying him up into the air with flaps of her powerful wings.
"Well shoot," said Braeburn as he looked down at the rapidly shrinking bakery with the Cakes and Rose out front waving goodbye. "I guess you are!"
"Hehe," said Ditzy, her face flushing with pleasure. "I guess all that mail I carry has made me as strong as a muffin!"
As they flew, Braeburn looked down at the changing landscape beneath them soon Ponyville disappeared and they were flying over the green orchards of Sweet Apple Acres with the sun right ahead of them, just hovering over the summit of snow-capped Dragon Mountain.
Wait. The sun? "But Appleloosa's to the East!" protested Braeburn, pointing behind them. "That way!"
"But a hero always flies off into the sunset," protested Ditzy. "I read about it all the time in Dinky's story books!"
"A hero always 'gallops' into the sunset, I think you'll find," said Braeburn with a smile. "But more's besides, the sun ain't even settin' yet!"
"But you are my hero," said Ditzy, turning to kiss Braeburn on the cheek and making him blush from his muzzle to his hat. "I mean muffin. No wait, I mean hero!" She tapped herself on the head. "Oh Ditzy Doo, you can be such a Derpy Hooves sometimes!"
"Well, whatever you like to call yourself, ma'am," said Braeburn, chuckling. "I've got a feelin' this is the beginnin' of a long and beautiful friendship."
And then he held on for dear life as the amber-eyed Pegasus flew rather than galloped in the direction of the sun which wasn't even setting yet.