A strange upper lip curl twisted Sweetie Belle's face as she sat down at her school desk. "Anon said he wants what?".
"Hey, I'm just repeating what I heard." Scootaloo shrugged, dropping her saddlebag. "Something about a turkey and mashing potatoes."
"What in the hay do those two things even have to do with each other?" Apple Bloom threw her hooves up.
"I don't know! Stop asking me! He mumbled something about 'thankfulness' and went on a short rant." Scootaloo cleared her throat and stooped to the worst human impression possible. "For all of the sunshine and life lessons around here, it wouldn't hurt them to be thankful once a year."
Apple Bloom stopped. "Thankfulness doesn't sound like a bad thing."
"Well yeah, but what do potatoes have to do with that?" Sweetie Belle countered.
The yellow filly puffed up her chest. "I'm thankful for apples! Maybe he's a proud farmer!"
"Every human celebrates one specific kind of farming? That seems like a pretty narrow celebration." Scootaloo noted.
"Maybe we should go ask him about it?" Sweetie Belle polled for affirmation.
Her two companions looked at each other for social cues. After a few moments, Apple Bloom made the call. "I don't know why he'd say no. After school then?"
"Done!" Scootaloo shouted.
"I'm up for it." Sweetie Belle nodded.
"Alright then! Cutie Mark Crusaders human tradition investigators!"
As per the usual, finding the local human was more difficult than expected. As much as he complained about not getting out and seeing the world, and as much as he complained about not being social, he could rarely be found at home. Instead, he would inevitably be out and about, chatting up whatever poor creature wandered into his field of vision. By and large the Ponyville populous took his incessant questions well (particularly the never ending stream of inquiries related to magic), but a lot of folks felt that he could figure some of this stuff out himself had he just sat down and read a book. The major caveat in that sentence was "read", which was a thing he could not apparently do.
Despite this, the trio found him deep in conversation with Mayor Mare, flipping through a commemorative history book Ponyville left on a side table.
"Have you ever thought that Ponyville might be resting on ancient burial grounds?" Anon mused, motioning to the book he certainly couldn't read.
Mayor Mare looked up from her desk. "That's quite the theory. Why would that be?"
"The minor catastrophe every few weeks gives me strong voodoo curse vibes."
"I'll take that under advisement." The Mayor returned to her things.
"I might not know much, but I know that means 'nope' in lawyer-speak." A smile crossed his face. "You ponies are so much like us it warms the heart."
"Anon!" Sweetie Belle called from the front door.
"Speaking of heartwarming things." Anon filed the book back in it's parent stack, then stopped. "It's the whole gang. What brings you three here?"
"We had some questions about your home." Apple Bloom bounced.
"Especially holidays!" Scootaloo added.
"Cool. I've got nothing on my plate." He started for the door and headed into the hall. "What exactly do you want to know?"
"I heard there was a whole day about thanks, and you weren't happy that we didn't have the same holiday here." Scootaloo explained. "But I'm not sure why you expect our planets to be the same."
They wandered outside and into the fall breeze. "Well you have other holidays which are pretty close to ones we celebrate back home." After finding a patch of sunlight between leafless trees, Anon sprawled out on the grass and motioned for the fillies to join him. "Alright you three, settle down. I'll give you the run down on the third most important holiday to Americans."
Scootaloo raised a wing. "Um, before you get started, what are the other two most important holidays?"
"That would be Christmas, which started as a celebration of a famous person's birth but transformed into cutting down pine trees just to try and keep them alive afterward, and the Fourth of July, which has it's roots in throwing whole boxes of tea into harbors."
"…You have weird holidays." Apple Bloom blinked.
"Also," Sweetie Belle prodded, "Why is your country called A-mare-ica again? Why not A-stallion-ica?"
"Good question. I'll get to that. Now stop interrupting." Anon cleared his throat. "Okay, so once upon a time there was this guy named Christopher Colombo, who was a famous detective. Now Colombo lived in a country that believed the planet was flat, which really bothered him because he knew it was actually round. Being the brilliant problem solver that he was, he figured that if the Earth truly was flat, they would have ran out of water by now because it all would have drained off of the sides of the planet and into space. He could go to the ocean and still see water, so either the planet was in the process of draining still or it was actually all connected. One day he so got tired of everyone else being wrong that he ignored his morning coffee and went straight to the nearest king to ask for some ships to try and sail around the world the long way. Unfortunately, they said no because they thought his distance estimates were too low. They didn't know how far the journey would be, but they thought it would be longer than the big number he gave them. He did this a few times and kept getting rejected, so he ended up going to a different country entirely and asked them for money. The queen said yes and gave him three ships to sail with, the largest and most important of which was called the Santa Mario."
"I feel like I've heard you talk about Santa and Mario before as different people." Scootaloo interjected.
"Names can be shared!" Anon reached out to ruffle Apple Bloom's mane. "How many of her family members have the word 'apple' in their name?"
"Huh. I guess so." The brown filly agreed.
"Anyhoo, Santa Mario set sail with her other two sister ships, the Pinto and Nana. It took them many months to cross the unknown waters, but on one fateful day a lookout spotted the land that would soon be known as America." Anon turned to look at Sweetie Belle. "This is the part you were curious about. You see, when they first approached the shores, all of the humans who came out to greet them were female, so they chose the name America because they mistakenly thought only girls lived there. It wasn't until a few days later when one of the crew members pointed out a dude in the group, but by that time the name was already filed and approved."
"The funny part was that they thought they had sailed all the way around the world and reached the other side, but in fact they had just found a new continent parked between them and their destination. Good ol' Colombo traded for some local goods as proof of his exploits, and returned home a hero. After he got back, he was so satisfied with becoming a hero that he went back for three more trips, becoming a quadruple hero in the process."
A whispered "wow" brought Anon's attention to Apple Bloom, with wide and sparkling eyes. "Christopher Colombo is so coooooool."
"Mhmm. Pretty impressive dude. One of his descendants, Christopher Robin, would go on to discover the secret to flight, which is to throw yourself at the ground and miss."
"That doesn't sound quite right." Sweetie Belle frowned.
"But I digress." Anon kept going, dropping his voice to a lower tone. "The really cool part happened on his final voyage. By the time he set sail for the fourth voyage, it had been almost ten years since he began his explorations. By this point he was pretty good friends with everyone over in America, and everyone was expecting his return. When his ship came into view of the shore, he saw a bunch of other humans huddled together on the beach and assumed it was a welcoming party. However, he noticed that as he got closer, most of his friends were looking back towards the tree line and pointing at something he couldn't see. All at once, a GIANT roar came out of the forest, and a towering beast emerged. It had two arms and two legs, and horrible claws on it's face and tentacles for a mouth."
"Colombo was astonished - he had never seen anything like it before back in his homeland, and no book ever described something so ferocious. He quickly grabbed a life raft and paddled to shore to find Black Friday, the local chieftain, to try and figure out what was going on. Black Friday explained that the guardian was known locally as Thonksg'veng, a being of the woods that helped the natives clear land with is brute strength and extreme size. They had been on good terms for quite some time, but over the years it had grown more distant from their clan, until finally it barged into their town one morning and started stealing everything it could find: tents, food, pets, and so on."
The fillies were enraptured.
"Colombo returned to his ship and ordered his men to fire their cannons at Thonksg'veng,but the cannonballs simply bounced off of his hard exoskeleton. Even worse, it turned the aggression of the behemoth towards them, and they were terrified to see it wade out into the water after them. Thinking quickly, Colombo ordered ordered his men to abandon ship. They could only watch in horror as the brute stole the Santa Mario, towing it back onto the beach."
By sheer luck, a barrel coffee grounds had fallen off of the ship and into the water, and one of Colombo's men sarcastically thanked Thonksg'veng for leaving them at least something. Much to their surprise, that was enough to cause the creature to pause. Someone else thanked him for stopping, and it dropped their boat. The more they thanked it, the less hostile it became. As it turned out later, the natives had grown too accustomed to having Thonksg'veng do all of the manual labor around their camp, and had started to take him for granted. This caused him great pain and he felt unappreciated for his work, which is why he decided to start stealing the village's stuff instead. Seeing the example set by Colombo, the villagers apologized for ignoring him, and declared Thanksgiving new holiday to ensure that they would continue to thank him until the end of time." Anon concluded.
There was a notable silence.
Apple Bloom's face looked conflicted. "Didn't you say there were no such things as monsters where you came from?"
"Oh there isn't - not anymore. After this incident, Christopher Colombo went out and vanquished all remaining monsters, just in case any of them got ideas about stealing his ship."
"But what does that story have to do with potatoes? And turkeys?" Scootaloo prodded.
"Potatoes were one of the staple foods that they had at the first Thanksgiving celebration."
"And the turkeys?"
"Uh." Anon loosened his collar. "Er, well, you see-"
"ANON!" An angry southern accent rang out behind him. "WHAT IN THE HAY ARE YOU TELLING MY SISTER?!"
"Oh boy." Anon stood and dusted himself off, noting two ponies approaching him with concern. "Applejack! Twilight! Good to see you! What brings you to our little summit?"
"You tell me!" Applejack ranted. "I don't know what nonsense you've been selling to the little ones, but I felt a wave of false words that made me tingle from across town! And let me tell you mister, that is quite a feat."
"I'm not even the Element of Honesty and I could feel something." Twilight agreed.
"You imagine someone telling falsehoods across town and you came to me first? I'm hurt."
Applejack lowered her eyes in an unimpressed gaze.
"Curses, foiled again." Anon muttered to himself.
"APPLEJACK!" her sister piped up. "We've been learning about the great adventurer Christopher Colombo, and his ship Santa Mario!"
"And how he crossed their ocean over like, half a year!" Scootaloo added.
"Huh?" Twilight raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah, and how he defeated a monster and created a holiday called 'Thanksgiving'."
"What? No, that's - Anon!" Twilights wings flared in frustration. She turned to face the fillies again. "It's Christopher Columbus, not 'Christopher Colombo'!"
Anon folded his arms. "Huh-uh."
"Yeah-huh!" Twilight yelled, sparing a glance at him. "I've been reading one of the general history books that fell through space with you! Those aren't even the right ship names! And it took him five weeks to cross the ocean, not many months! Also, he didn't even have anything to do with your holiday, that happened a hundred years later!"
"And what about these monster stories?! Those don't appear anywhere!"
"If Columbus wasn't present for Thanksgiving to begin with, how did he defeat a monster on Thanksgiving? That was an entirely different group of people!"
"Oh yeah, the story of Sacajawea; that's my favorite." Anon grinned.
"Can we hear that one next?" Apple Bloom whispered with wide eyes.
"Ugh." Twilight smacked her forehead. "No, he's lying to you. That's not a real story."
"Now hold on just one moment." The human held up a hand. "SOME of it is true."
Applejack nudged him on the side. "That's not much better."
The strange biped snickered. "I suppose some law and order is required. Princess List is right; it's probably time for you to get home."
There was a resounding "aww" of disappointment.
"Oh don't do that, you'll break my heart. Next time I'll tell you all about Paul Revered, the most honored liberator of America."
Twilight could only shake her head as the fillies cheered their way home. "You're a terrible influence."
"That's not how you pronounce 'wonderful'." Anon quipped.
"I will say," Twilight began, "that despite entire story being a fabrication, your description of 'Thonksg'veng' is actually pretty close to a monster we have over here."
The human threw his head back. "Wait really?"
"Yep." The princess watched Applejack leave without her. "Minus the tentacles. Also it's a bit shorter, but still pretty tall. You always say that Equestria is a lot like Earth, but I think it's funny that you came up with something out of thin air that comes from Equestria."
"Well I'll be."
"Real nasty thing, and pretty fast too. There's hardly any of them left from what I understand, since Princess Celestia wasn't too fond of pony-eating-monsters in her domain."
"It eats ponies?"
"Pretty quick too for something it's size. Once I met you I wondered if there used to be humans here in Equestria, but it got all of them because you run slower than us."
Anon looked a little pale. "Huh."
"I think they're all gone now, but with the Everfree Forest in a permanent state of inexplicable-ness, one can't really be too sure."
"I uh…I sure hope so." He droned, looking around carefully.
Muffled laughter erupted from behind the nearest tree, and Anon halted the conversation to investigate. He found Applejack doubled over and wiping a tear from her eye. "Why are you still…" He turned to look at Twilight. "You bum."
Twilight giggled. "Gotcha'."
"Ah'm sorry." Applejack breathed heavily. "Once Twilight started talking I couldn't keep a straight face."
Anon raised his hands in surrender. "Turnabout is fair play. I didn't expect a tall tale from you two of all places; though magic overriding all of the laws of nature I'm pretty sure you could have told me anything and I'd still believe you."
"Is that so?" Applejack hummed gleefully. "Twi', I think we should compare notes later."
Anon wagged a finger. "Don't you get any ideas."
"Nothin' for now; I need to go untangle my sister's head from your shenanigans."
"Good luck with that. Tell her she was a great listener!" He waved the two of them goodbye and sat in the cold for a while, the faintest hint mirth on his face.
Even far away from home, moments like these reminded him to be thankful for what he had - especially friends.