A Study in Stones

by Irrespective

Chapter 1: A Rose Quartz by Any Other Name

By Irrespective & Georg

Spike was not having a perfect day, even though everypony else was.

By all accounts, Spike should have been having a perfect day. This morning was filled to the top with the kind of beauty and joy that only the fair village of Ponyville could provide. The summertime wildflowers were in full bloom across the rolling countryside, the songs of happy birds filled the air as they fluttered and frollicked about, and young ponies shrieked in excitement while they bounded out of their houses and began to play. It was the sort of day that just begged for a game of tag with a group of friends, or a friendly match of tetherball, or even an attempt at the ever elusive swing over the pole on the swing set. There were dozens of options to choose from, and the hardest part of the day would be choosing what to do next. There was nothing in all of Equestria that could ruin this day.

Then again, Twilight Sparkle did not believe in the impossible. Or free time. Or ‘goofing off’ when there was science to do.

Or letting Spike do the same.

“Isn't this a fantastic day to go on a walk through the Whitetail Woods, Spike?” Twilight Sparkle cheerfully called while she trotted around the main floor of Golden Oaks Library with a bundle of small cloth bags and a magnifying glass following in her magic.

“Yeah, I suppose.” The miserable baby dragon adjusted the pinching straps on his oversized backpack again. It did not help at all. “This would be a whole lot funner if I wasn't the pack mule.”

“Oh, Spike.” Twilight giggled while she stuffed the supplies into his already bulging bag. “You’re not a pack mule. Who better to help me collect and categorize the various minerals of the woods than my number one assistant?”

Spike rolled his eyes. “I can make you a list. How about a pony who actually knows something about rocks?”

“That is a great idea, Spike!” Twilight replied with a huge grin. “I bet Applejack knows a lot about the local geological features. Let’s go see if she’s busy.”

Spike’s hopes began to rise. If one of Twilight’s new friends could be coaxed into assisting her on this bizarre urge to start a rock collection, there was a good chance he could slip away, with Twilight none the wiser.

“C’mon, this’ll be fun!” Twilight offered while opening the door to the library and allowing a fresh breeze to dance in and around them. It smelled of oak leaves and a hot summer sun, of cookies being baked somewhere, and of a sincere promise of the kind of playtime a growing dragon really needed.

“Ooh,” gasped Twilight at the sound of the leaves rustling in the library treetop. “Just imagine all the interesting things we could find! Just a small sample of macro-crystalline quartz could open up a whole new field of study in paleogeomorphology!”

“Morph what now?” Spike replied with a confused look.

“C’mon! A whole world of discovery awaits!” Twilight pranced away, heedless to her assistant’s consternation. Spike let out another sigh of annoyance while he finished adjusting his pack, and he then began to shuffle after her, with a desperate unspoken plea for somepony to free him from his upcoming torture.


“Shoot, Twilight, ah’d love to help ya,” said Applejack while she pulled a lengthy log off her wagon. “But ah’m afraid there’s a whole heap of repairs that’ve gotta get done ‘round here. The fencin’ around the pigpen needs replacin’, the barn is overdue for a new coat of paint, and I still gotta grease that squeaky wheel Big Mac keeps complainin’ about.”

“Eeyup,” Big Mac added as he walked by with a wagonload of apples, which had one wheel that was squeaking something fierce.

“Plus, cider season is comin’ up, and we’re behind on our preparations due to that little Nightmare Moon issue.”

“Cider?” Spike asked with a hint of eagerness. “I love cider!”

Applejack smiled and dropped her head down to make direct eye contact with the young assistant. “And ah’ll eat my hat if you’ve ever had anythin’ more delicious than our freshly squeezed cider. Canterlot may have us beat for fancy vittles, but nothin’ ever beats the taste you get from an apple straight off the tree. Folks’ll line up from here to town just to get a drop of our ambrosias.”

Spike drooled slightly and giggled with anticipation. He was going to be the first in line when they offered it.

“Do you need any help with the preparations, Applejack?” Twilight asked. “That seems like an awful lot of work.”

“Nah, don't you fret none. Me and Big Mac will git ‘er done. ‘Sides, it’s too nice of a day to make you and Spike work. Ah even told Apple Bloom to go play with her friends, on account of the day bein’ so perfect.”

“Glad somepony gets to play,” Spike grumbled.

“Why don't y’all check with Rarity?” Applejack offered. “She knows lots about gemstones and such. I bet she’d love to help out.”


“I'm terribly sorry, darling,” Rarity offered while pinning a cut of fabric to a dress in progress. “I would love to help out, ordinarily, but I'm afraid I can't today. I had several rush orders come in just this morning. But if you happen to find some citrines just touch lighter than goldenrod, but just a shade darker than…”

Rarity took a good, long look at the two of them and sighed. “Never mind. I'll see about looking for them next week, and I'll make sure to invite Spikie-Wikie.” She tickled Spike under the chin and slipped him an amethyst unnoticed by Twilight. “You could always ask Pinkie Pie, darling. She’s surprisingly knowledgeable about such things.”


“Here you go! One bag of rocks!”

Twilight Sparkle stared at the cloth bag that Pinkie Pie had just dropped onto the counter until Spike grabbed the bag, emptied out one or two pebbles, sniffed them, then tossed them in his mouth.

“Mm, rock candy. Twilight, try some.” Spike held out the bag to her.

“No, Pinkie, not those kinds of rocks. I’m going to go collect and categorize some minerals from the Whitetail Woods.”

“O-o-oh. And you want me to come help you?”

“Yeah! Rarity said you knew a lot about…”

“Never again, Twilight!” Pinkie shouted, and she leaned over the counter to give her menacing glare as little distance as possible to travel to the shocked unicorn. “Never. Again.”


“Besides,” Pinkie popped back, then zipped over to the oven. “I’ve gotta watch the store for Mister and Missus Cake while they renew their business licence today. The forms alone take at least three hours to fill out.”

“That’s all right, Pinkie.” Twilight ruffled the top of Spike’s head, but he swatted at her hoof with a huff. “My number one assistant can help me out.”

“Aw, Spike! That is so nice of you to do that, especially when it’s such a wonderful day today!” Pinkie proclaimed while setting the tray of hot cupcakes on the counter.

“Yeah. Forced labor is just so generous of me.” Spike rolled his eyes and popped a few more candy rocks in his mouth.

“I mean, I’d be out doing all sorts of super-duper fun stuff today, if I wasn't here!” Pinkie proclaimed. “The pond won’t swim itself, after all!”

“Sure wouldn’t!” Spike proclaimed in a louder-than-needed voice. “That sounds like something we need to take care of right away!”

“You can go swimming tomorrow, Spike. I really need to get these samples,” Twilight admonished, and Spike groaned loudly.

“Well, if you’re re-e-eally sure you’re going to go study rocks, I can give you this,” Pinkie replied, and she rummaged in her mane for a moment before pulling out an impressively large tome. “Here you go! If it is, was, or ever will be a rock, it’s in this book. Just what you need!”

“Thanks, Pinkie!” Twilight’s magic leapt out and seized the volume, and she began to devour the contents with wild delight. “This will be perfect! I’ll bring it back as soon as I’m done.”

“Why do you have a book about rocks?” Spike had to ask.

“I know a pony. Keep that as long as you need to, Twilight. I know where you live.”

Spike wasn’t quite sure if Pinkie was making a joke or not, and he gulped.

“C’mon, Spike! Let’s get going!”

“Oh, Twilight! One last thing!” Pinkie called out as Twilight reached for the door.


“That’ll be two bits for the rocks.”

Twilight groaned and glared at Spike, but he replied by popping the last clawful of candy into his mouth with a grin.


“Spike, take a note. Site seventy eight, random samples of conglomerate with basaltic intrusions taken at surface and from topsoil. Write neatly, now,” Twilight admonished while her magic collected a few small pebbles that she had found just off of the main path.

“Got it. So, we’re done now, right?” Spike asked while he uncorked his third bottle of ink so far.

“I’m not sure I have a large enough cross-section yet. We still need more samples.”

“Wonderful,” Spike offered with equal amounts of deadpan in his voice and on his face.

Twilight, however, failed yet again to notice her companion’s irked expression. She was busily flipping pages in Maudileena Daisy Pie’s Mineral Aggregates in their Natural Habitat, eager to connect the pebbles she had selected to a specific family of fellow stones. It only took her a few seconds to find the match, and after a quick moment of reading, she glanced over to Spike with a grin.

“Please note that the surface yielded andesite stones. Very common in this area.”

Spike rolled his eyes. “Just like every other rock we’ve found. If we are going to do this, can we at least find some rocks that are interesting?”

“We will, Spike. We will. Here, take these please and bag them. Site seventy-nine, three rounded andesite stones with rotational grooves caused by weathering and possible stream tumbling. Oh, this is so exciting! We could do this until past dark!”

Spike silently took the three pebbles and slid them into a small cloth bag. He was slow to follow Twilight to the next sample site, but it didn't matter much since Twilight had only moved a few steps further into the woods.

“Site eighty. Additional surface samples of andesite, slightly discolored on windward side possibly due to sun bleaching. Did you get all that?”

“Yeah, yeah. I got it,” Spike replied with a heavy eye roll. “Yeesh.”

Twilight dug into the ground with her magic for a small clump of dirt with more pebbles sticking to it, and she took a moment to carefully study the loose mound in her magic. “Site eighty topsoil sample holds basaltic intrusions, more andesite, and—”

Her magic carefully pulled out a long earthworm “—a healthy megadrilacea lumbricina specimen. Here, take it and put it back.”

Twilight pulled a disgusted face while Spike took the earthworm with a bit of a grin. “Hey, he’s not so bad. I think I'll call him Jim.”

“Just put it back, Spike,” Twilight admonished while she bagged her latest sample. “Earthworms are very important to the native ecosystem.”

“See ya around, Jim,” said Spike as he put him back in the small hole. “I hope you have more fun today than I will.”

“Here, label this. Once you get done, I need you to dig over here,” Twilight called out. She’d moved over to a nearby tree and was intently studying the topsoil again. “I’ll need a sample from a meter down, please.”

“Dig this, label that,” Spike grumbled under his breath. “Haul this, don’t lose that.”

Spike continued to mutter under his breath while he dropped his pack, labeled the sample, then began digging where she had indicated. They had been taking samples since this morning, and he was just a baby dragon, after all. It was cruel and unusual punishment to keep him from enjoying time with his new friends. Thanks to her studious ways in Canterlot, he had never really had friends before now, and most of the town had grown quite enamored with him during the Summer Sun Celebration, in his own humble opinion.

He wanted to go play. Why couldn't she see that?

“Here's your hole,” Spike announced from the bottom of it. “Can we go now?”

“I’ll tell you what, Spike. Let’s get just a few more samples, and then we can head home.”

Spike tried to catch Twilight’s gaze, but there were too many rocks in the vicinity that seemed to be more important than he was at the moment. “You better not be joking.”

“Well, I would prefer to have a larger range of samples—”

“You’ve got eighty samples already,” Spike pointed out.

“—but I can make do with what we’ve gotten so far. Maybe we’ll come out and take a few more samples some other time.”

“A long time, I hope,” he replied with considerable wariness while he climbed out. “So, how many more samples do you want, exactly?”

“I think seven more should be sufficient for this section of the forest. Now, take a note. Site eighty-one, at one meter, holds samples of …”


“It’s too bad we ran out of bags. Just put those over by my desk, Spike,” said Twilight Sparkle while she began flipping the pages in her geology book.

The pack hit the floor with an unceremonious phwump that rattled the library to the roots. “Do you want me to unpack it for you, too?”

“Yes, just —” Twilight seemed to think better of her herself and shook her head. “I mean, no. Don’t worry about it. I can sort them on my own. Why don't you go see if Bon Bon has a spare kite for you to use?”

“Are you sure?” Spike asked while he jammed the inkwells into the cabinet and tossed the empty bottles into the recycling. “You don't need me to do anything else? Anything at all?”

“I can handle it from here,” Twilight replied while stopping at the appendix on proper cleaning techniques.

“Okay. I'm leaving then.”

“Go right ahead, and thank you for helping me,” she replied as she skimmed the section.

“Are you sure I can go?”

“Yes, Spike. I’m positive.”

“Absolutely positive or just partially positive?”

“Absolutely positive,” she replied before giving a thoughtful hum. “I think I have some vinegar in the kitchen somewhere, but I don’t think I’ll need sandpaper. I’m not polishing them.”

Spike rested his claw on the doorknob, bobbed in place for a moment, and cringed. Twilight was going to call him back; she always did. He only managed a quarter turn of the knob before he groaned and turned back to her.

“So I can go?”

“Yes, yes,” Twilight replied with an abstracted wave of one hoof while she settled in at her desk. “Just—”

The sharp bang of the door closing cut off Twilight’s next words, making her look up with a frown. “Oh, darn. I was going to have him help me unpack. Oh well, more fun for me! Oo, I love geology!”

Collecting samples was always fun, but the real joy in science was in the experimentation. How did these various samples look under the microscope? How would they react with common chemical agents? Was there, dare she hope, a chance that some rare or undiscovered mineral composition was lurking amongst the common dross? It made her mind reel in gleeful anticipation.

Twilight began to hum a happy tune while her magic assembled the equipment she would need to properly begin her research. Once she had a good idea of the physical makeup and chemical properties of her samples, she would be able to move into the proper categorization and deeper analysis. A dozen beakers and flasks ought to do the trick, along with some common reactive agents, the cleansers suggested by the book, and her ever-faithful microscope.

Now to begin. Spike’s careful notations would be absolutely crucial at this point, for the lack of detail on any sample would make it impossible to perform her tests. Exactness was needed, and precision would make all the difference.

Twilight donned a pair of safety glasses, poured out a small amount of vinegar into a shallow bowl, then opened the flap on Spike’s pack. She lifted the first sample out and placed it on the desk with all of the care one would give to a porcelain figurine, and she grinned madly at the thought of having two hundred forty eight research opportunities.

“Sample one.” She spoke aloud while she wrote on a nearby pad, and then she carefully read the dragon’s notation. “Rock.”

Twilight let out a low groan. Spike knew better than to do that, but perhaps he was just being grumpy about helping out. The next sample would be better.

“Sample two, ‘Another rock.’” Twilight’s eye twitched. She was going to have to have a talk with her assistant about his unprofessional behavior. “Sample three, ‘Yet another rock’. Sample four, ‘A stone! Just kidding, it’s a rock,’ … sample five, ‘Guess what? A rock?!”

With one flare of her magic, she dumped all the remaining samples on her desk, covering it completely with small bags tagged with the same words.

“Big rock … little rock … rock, rock, rock! SPIKE!

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