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A Chisler's Tale

by OneLonelyPickle

Click, clang, clack!

Roughclaw wiped sweat from his brow with his forearm. In that claw was a chisel. In his other a hammer. His muse was before him. Well, two muses.

One: a hunk of prized Crystal Empire granite. The hippogriff stallion saved up every bit he made as a stone mason and every month would buy a piece of the elusive material to chistel a work of art. That was his true love; the stone masonry just paid the bills.

His main muse, however, was a hippogriff mare named Beauty Credence. The hippogriff stallion snuck peeks at her behind his imposing block of art-to-be, from his perch above the center of the city. She seemed to shine in the mid-day sun. How to describe such a picture of beauty?

A proper description would have to start with her eyes. Those gems, a piercing magenta, sparkled and dazzled more than any diamond or ruby Roughclaw had ever before seen. They captured his soul and melted his heart. No hippogriff would ever guess, but the very sight of those eyes made him want to write a sonnet, though he could never place the words together.

Next were the contours of her head, her neck, her body and her lithe limbs. At the top of her befeathered head flowed streaks of ruby-red hair, a mane like a river. Following that river led down towards a pristine white coat, every feather in its perfect place. Her wings, fragile yet so powerful in their elegance. Each leg and each hoof was, in Roughclaw's eyes, like a finely crafted piece of marble. Her tail hung down like a great swath of red silk, shimmering in the sunlight like the back fin of a mesmerizing deep-sea fish.

Roughclaw loved, most of all, her little, demure beak, which was nothing like his.

Roughclaw had a big, gnarly, orange beak, with a crook in the middle of it, like a broken carrot. His eyes were a smoky grey, surrounded by an ebony face that could only belong to a stone mason and chiseler. The rest of his body matched his professional, and that was perhaps why ponies gave him a wide berth on the streets of Hippogriffia. It wasn't so much that the denizens of the great mountain city disliked Roughclaw; they were simply keeping their distance out of respect for his ability to turn a huge slab of quartz into pebbles with one smash of his hulking arm. He stood at least a head above any other hippogriff male, and was two heads above Beauty.

The artisan shook his head. He resumed his work with a sigh. There wasn't much use in thinking about anything now. He and Beauty were good friends, having spent a lot of time talking about masonry and artistry in general, as he had done some work on her family's business before. They would say hello most days. But it wouldn't be long before one of the suitors that continually bombarded Beauty with gifts would be accepted and earn her eternal affections. Roughclaw had never paid much mind to the hippogriff tradition of courting, not until he had reached the age where mares like Beauty started to catch his eye. But now it consumed his thoughts whenever he strayed from whatever chisel-related task he was working on.

If I want to win her as my life partner, I need to give her a gift that no other can, Roughclaw thought as he took careful aim on a curve of his granite, then lightly tapped it with his hammer. He took a look at the other side of the statue-in-progress, nodded to himself, and resumed his work on the front side. But... that's not going to happen. His granite was shaping up to be... something. Roughclaw never really thought about what he was making and just let his creative side take over. It was the only time he could do such a thing.

As the day progressed and Roughclaw worked away on his granite, he noticed that Beauty had left. It bothered him when he couldn't see her, because he never knew if some hippogriff was going to sweep her off her feet. Roughclaw put his mind back into his chiseling to keep his mind away from the scary thoughts.

His granite was shaping into a hippogriff. Roughclaw had never made a statue of a hippogriff before.

Interesting... he thought, taking a sip of some water. He cleared his throat, shook his arms from side to side to keep them limber, and lined up another hit of his chisel. This was going to be an eye. A very, very stunning eye. And it'd have a partner, too. Roughclaw worked furiously for a few minutes, impassioned with an artist's fervor. He beheld his finished work with stunted breath.

"It's--" Roughclaw took a step back. He could see magenta in those granite eyes, even if no other hippogriff could. They were perfect. He smiled.

The day came to a close and Roughclaw threw a sheet over his statue and tools. He flew down to the city proper and went to his favorite tavern to end the day with some hot soup. He admired the stonework of the structure as he entered its doors.

Some of my best work.

The hippogriffs that stood between him and the bar cleared the path as Roughclaw lumbered to a stool and took a seat, the furniture underneath groaning in despair and stress.

"The usual?" The bartender said to him without looking, and Roughclaw grumbled in the affirmative. Soon enough a big bowl of grub and beetle soup slid along the bar top before coming to a stop in front of the biggest hippogriff in the tavern. Roughclaw ate slowly. He didn't have anywhere in particular to be afterward.

A newspaper caught Roughclaw's eye as he finished the last drops of his evening meal. It looked like someone had left it behind.

"Barkeep?" Roughclaw asked, motioning to the stack of papers. "That anyone's?" The bartender shrugged.

"The guy who was there left a few minutes ago. What, you wanna read it? It's just a newspaper, I'm sure he won't mind you borrowing it, IF he comes back at all."

Roughclaw smiled very lightly. His routine usually involved him leaving the tavern and just heading home, but this time Roughclaw thought he might spice things up a bit and see if anything interesting was in the paper. He grabbed it and stared at the front page:

Courting Season Well Under Way! See our List of the Lucky Lovers!"

Roughclaw dropped the paper and sighed as he rested his head on a claw.

"Can't get away from it, no matter what I do."

He glared at the wall, then briefly flicked his eyes across the paper once more. Finally he exhaled, fed up with himself. He grabbed the paper once more and scanned the front page, carefully ignoring its biggest headline. Something else did catch his eye, however.

1,000 Years Since Legendary Jewelberry Last Seen

Roughclaw raised a brow. He looked behind each of his shoulders as if someone might be watching, then turned his attention back to the newspaper. He flipped to the appropriate page and skipped through the article.

... the Jewelberry has not been seen for a thousand years as of today. Careful records found in the archives of Hippogriffia tell of the last appearance of this elusive fruit, which is said to shine a perfect magenta--

Roughclaw read the words in his head several times before his eyes grew wide in realization.

Impossible! he thought. The same color as...

A stray thought, a rogue thought that he shouldn't have had, made Roughclaw read on. He skimmed most of the article but learned the jewelberry was last seen on the east side of Mount Aris, in a great cavern.

"A thousand years..." Roughclaw mouthed. He looked back up to the wall and focused on a random point.

Something like that... would be perfect!

Roughclaw allowed a genuine smile to grace his face.

Could I really... find that? And give it to--

His mind became images of Beauty. He saw a scene play out in his mind of him presenting a real jewelberry to the love of his life, and her leaping into his claws after accepting his courtship. He leapt to his feet, scaring the others around him. Realizing how rambunctious he had been, Roughclaw cleared his throat and sheepishly smiled around him. He ran towards the entrance, but realizing he hadn't paid, did a quick double-take and threw some bits towards the bar. "Hey!" the barkeep shouted as Roughclaw took to the air outside.

Once he reached his perch, Roughclaw began to gather his things. He threw several different sized chisels and hammers into a burlap sack and tied it tight. He looked up into the sky. The moon was a mere crescent, and the mountain at night was dark. He thought about trying to find a cavern in the side of the mountain at night.

"Tomorrow, first light," He said to himself. He curled up in the middle of his perch. He closed his eyes.

An eternity passed.

Roughclaw opened his eyes excitedly. It was still night.

"This is going to be a long night..." he lamented.

One sleepless night later and Roughclaw was soaring downward along the side of Mount Aris. His heavy eyelids were almost too much even for his strength. He shook his head wildly, the burlap sack tied around his chest swinging and threatening to fall away. His powerful wings and form had no trouble in the heavy wings of the mountainside. He couldn't picture other hippogriffs being able to do what he could do.

I might not be as handsome as the others, but I am definitely stronger!

Eventually Roughclaw decided it was time to investigate the many different crevices and openings in the mountain. He decided he would start at the base of the mountain on the east side and work his way up. For hours he poked his head into the different holes, if he could fit it inside, and looked for the bright glow of the berry that he knew would give its position away.

By the end of the day, twilight in full swing, sending an orange blanket of light down on the huge mountain, Roughclaw was grimy, sweaty, smelly, and tired. But he was not one jewelberry richer. With a heavy heart, he flew back home. He reached the tavern as the sun escaped under the horizon, and assumed his normal routine. Soup, thinking of Beauty, then going to his perch.

"Tomorrow for sure..." he said, not quite believing himself. On that night, sleep came easy, given how exhausted the hippogriff was.

The next day, Roughclaw bought a newspaper first and read it as he flew to the next stop in his jewelberry search. He made sure to scan every name on the list of courted hippogriffs and exhaled with relief as he did not see his love's name on it.

Day two was much the same as day one, with Roughclaw exploring as many crevasses and fissures as he could. If the openings were wide enough, he would chisel and hammer them away until he could squeeze in. Sometimes there was no point, and he never wanted to risk an avalanche or cave wall collapsing. But despite the speed of his progress in exploring, Roughclaw was still not much farther above the base of the mountain. It could take months to find the jewelberry... if it existed at all.

By the time the sunset appeared, Roughclaw had investigated 143 different possible locations of the jewelberry, never so much as seeing a single glimmer or twinkle. He flew back home. He went about his normal routine: Soup, Beauty, bed.

At some point I need to do some more work to earn more bits... and Beauty won't wait forever...

Roughclaw was exhausted, but wanted to stare at the moon, which had waxed a bit more than the night before.

"Oh Beauty..."

Sleep eventually won him over and Roughclaw awoke anew on day three. His new routine was established. He purchased a paper. He read it. No Beauty Credence anywhere to be seen. He would exhale peacefully, then fly to where he left off on the side of the mountain and look for the jewelberry. Sometimes he chiseled, sometimes he hammered, and sometimes he did nothing.

After searching 156 possible locations, he flew back home. Soup, Beauty, bed.

The day after was the same as the day before. But the locations searched was only 124. Roughclaw searched on as the week progressed, and then one week became two.

Finally, on the night of the full moon, Roughclaw found tears well in his eyes.

He never really wanted much out of life. He was content to work with his claws to build stone and for himself, he would create art. That was enough for a simple hippogriff like him. But the one thing he lacked was something beautiful, and real, like him, to share his life with. No other hippogriff would do. Roughclaw was an artist and perfectionist. He had to have her. But it all seemed impossible...

The light of the moon caught on something and caused a long shadow to touch Roughclaw's face. It was his statue.

"Right, I haven't worked on that in awhile."

Something made Roughclaw stand up. He walked over to his unfinished work of art, threw off the sheet covering it, and picked up the small chisel and hammer near its base. Without thinking, he started to chisel away. He had to finish the face. He worked as if possessed, making sure every detail was immaculate.

Click, clang, clack

The sounds of his chisel echoed from cliff to cliff. Before he knew it, the sun crept over the mountainside, and he was done. His greatest piece of art was revealed in the light of the sky's greatest star.

"Wow..." he breathed, surprising himself with what he had created.

It was Beauty Credence. It was really her, down to the last feather and tuft of fur. Roughclaw beamed as he felt his legs give out. He collapsed and fell into a deep sleep.

Swirling, wavy images danced in his dreams. White, ruby-red, ebony and smoky grey. The colors formed into elementary pictures of him and Beauty. They danced together atop a peak, and soared together under the light of a full moon. The images eventually coalesced into a blue sky, dotted with clouds. Roughclaw realized he was awake again.

He threw himself to his feet and looked around frantically for his sack of tools. He swung it around his chest, started to tie it, then looked at his statue.

And he kept looking at the statue.

And he stared some more.

Then Roughclaw had a crazy idea, even crazier than the one he had had in the tavern all those weeks ago. He contorted his face into an expression of determination and shot forward. He threw off the sack around his chest and picked up the statue instead, which even with his strength was painfully heavy, and
he descended to the ground below.

He stood in the center of the city, onlookers unsure of what he was doing. Some kept at bay out of fear, and others got closer to look at the beautiful statue he held. Hippogriff stallions recognized the appearance of the statue and one of those cried out.

"That's Beauty Credence! Look, it's stunning!"

The townsfolk crowded around. Off to one side of the city center was the real muse of Roughclaw, in the flesh. His face was still determined. His heart pounded. He knew what he had to do. He lifted himself off the ground with his wings and flew right up to his Beauty.

She was with a group of friends, and a few paces away Roughclaw spotted yet another suitor, nicely dressed and carrying a wrapped present. Roughclaw gave him a look and the suitor flew off. Beauty Credence was staring with glowing eyes as she saw what Roughclaw was carrying.

"Wow..." she said with bated breath. "Is that... me?"

Roughclaw gingerly placed the statue in front of Beauty. He nodded.

"I'm sorry I haven't seen you in such a long time. I was searching for a jewelberry to give you, for the courtship."

The crowd was murmuring now. Beauty's face turned a shade close to her eyes.

"O-Oh?" she asked.

"But," Roughclaw chuckled at himself, "I couldn't find it. I searched 4000 different holes, caves, burrows... I couldn't find it. But I did find something."

"Which was?" Beauty was smiling now.

"I found the courage to tell you how I feel. I love you, Beauty. I love everything about you." Roughclaw pointed to the statue. "I put everything I love about you into this statue. It's not a gem or a jewelberry, but I put my all into it. For you."

Beauty Credence's eyes filled with tears. Roughclaw's chest nearly exploded.

"You fool..." she said, leaping into the arms of her suitor. "I was waiting for you. You could have given me anything."