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Tales from a Double Date - Part ThreeMornings at a military academy began much like mornings on a working farm, often before the rising of the sun. Trumpets blared throughout the dorms, and every recruit was roused to clean themselves up before setting off for their tasks for the day. After freshening up and making use of the dorm’s restroom, the new recruits marched off to their first day of basic training out on the school’s athletics field. Flash groggily donned his uniform and made his way out of the dorm behind his roomie, then filed in with the rest as though by instinct, glad that the weather was at least looking promising. New recruits at Wing Point could not, of course, all go through basic training as one big group. They would be divided up into groups of twenty, with each group placed in the charge of a drill instructor. The only guarantee about who was in what group was due to practicality more than anything else, as they were divided along the lines of those who had wings and those who hadn’t. Some adjustments, however, had been made over time as Equestria’s population had grown more diverse. Regardless of who was in what group, however, there was no guarantee that they would pass as on average, fifteen percent of recruits would flunk out for one reason or another. Nonetheless, they hadn’t gone this far simply to give up. Much to his surprise, Flash found himself in familiar company. While he wasn’t surprised at being in the company of his roommate, he caught sight of two familiar mares, as well as a few other odd ponies that he didn’t remember speaking to the previous day. He hardly had a chance to consider the odds of this before the heard what had to be the voice of their drill instructor. “Ten-hut!” Instantly, the twenty recruits snapped to attention and lined up. They kept their faces forward as their drill instructor approached, but did their best to conceal their surprise at what they saw. Their drill instructor was not a pony, but in fact a minotaur, the chevrons on his shoulder identifying him as a master sergeant. He marched in front of the group of recruits, silent as he surveyed his charges until he reached the end of the line. “So this is what I have to work with.” He turned about to face them again. “The latest and greatest recruits in the Equestrian Royal Guard. The few. The proud.” He snorted. “Not yet you’re not! The lot of you have years of schooling ahead of you, and before that, you have to deal with me! So don’t get any ideas that this will be a cakewalk!” “Sir! No sir!” “Now then recruits, for those of you who don’t know, I am Master Sergeant Blood Stripe! For the next six weeks, your plots belong to me! You will obey my orders and heed my commands! I tell you to jump, you jump! Is that clear?!” “Sir! Yes sir!” The drill instructor snorted in approval. “Well let’s see you do it! Right face!” As one, the row of recruits turned ninety degrees right. “About face!” The recruits then did a full one-eighty. “About face!” They turned once more, and seemingly satisfied, the instructor called, “Double time, march!” With Blood Stripe at their head, the group set off at a quick march, focused only on following his instruction. So focused was he on the march, Flash had no thought for what was coming next. This was his task, and it needed to be done. - “Your drill instructor was a minotaur? Why have a minotaur looking after a group of pegasi, thestrals and griffons?” Flash shrugged. “Never had the stones to ask. Never thought it was appropriate, either, but I guessed it was a lack of resources. Not enough pegasi drill instructors to go around, or something to that effect.” Quiver nodded. “Might explain a few things about what Rainbow Dash has told me about her time training with the Wonderbolts.” He put that aside. “Anyway, I’m glad that drill instructors in real life aren’t nearly as intimidating as the movies make them out to be.” Sunrunner smirked. “Movies exaggerate, Quivs. Real drill instructors aren’t snarling psychopaths. They won’t baby you either, of course. That isn’t their job.” Flash shook his head. “Nope. The job of the drill instructor is to break you down, and then build you back up into a soldier. They’re supposed to make sure you’re up for the physical demands of the job, and help develop a sense of loyalty between you and your fellow recruits.” “By way of giving you a mutual enemy.” Twilight shook her head at the flame-haired mare’s summation. “Shining Armor’s told me about that, but I’ve never been able to wrap my head around it. It just sounds counterproductive to hold animosity towards somepony you’re supposed to take orders from.” “Better animosity towards the drill instructor than towards your fellow recruits. Besides, a soldier’s job isn’t supposed to be easy. If we can’t handle basic training, we sure can’t handle action in the field.” Flash scowled. “Makes me wish more drill instructors were like the Sarge, to be honest. And that more officers took their roles seriously.” “Maybe they will after recent events.” Quiver looked up from his meal. “Sorry if that was out of line, but…” Both soldiers were unanimous in their reply. “It wasn’t.” The pair shook their heads in unison before Flash continued, “Anyway, basic was harder on some of us than others, though exactly how varied from one pony to another.” He flexed a wing. “Still, that happens.” - Much to Flash’s displeasure, he was soon reminded that as harsh as the drill instructor could be, the exercises were that much worse. Granted, he’d been warned of this issue far ahead of time, and made sure to exercise regularly to prepare himself for what was ahead, but that could only carry him so far. And a stallion in his physical condition could only get so many wing-ups done so quickly, no matter how much work he put in. Flash let out a heave of relief at his last wing-up, glad to return to his hooves. He got fully back upright as the drill instructor reached him, a grim expression on the minotaur’s face. Flash kept his eyes focused on the horizon, however, as he had no desire to be singled out. “Well, it seems I found myself with some recruits who aren’t completely useless!” Blood Stripe stood at attention himself as he called out, “And now that you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time you got some real food into you! Get to the mess hall for breakfast, all of you, and report back to me here at zero-six-thirty hours sharp! Dismissed!” The recruits let out some relief as they made their way to the mess hall. Flash trailed a bit from the rest of the group, but regained ground as he recovered his breath. The thought of a decent breakfast certainly didn’t discourage him. The food wasn’t anything spectacular, mostly oatmeal and jerky and juices with some extras to help add some flavor, but it was welcome after the morning exercises, and Flash soon found himself at an empty table, albeit one that soon found itself filled with familiar faces. “I have never been so glad to get some grub into me.” Sunrunner was the first to join him, alongside a thestral mare he didn’t recognize. “Hey Flash. This is Pixie Dust, my roomie.” “Hey.” “We only have a half-hour for meals.” A familiar bespectacled mare joined them and continued, “We should focus on eating before making conversation.” That prompted Pixie Dust to smirk. “You must be Sugarcoat. Not even a ‘hello’, huh?” The mare glared at her before continuing with her meal, and the thestral remarked, “Life of the party, you.” “Don’t take it too personally.” Sunny Flare then joined them, and Lemon Zest claimed another chair in her wake alongside another mare, this one another unicorn with her rose and pale green mane tied back in a ponytail. “We all handle things in our own ways. Still, very observant.” Pixie Dust shrugged. “It’s a good idea to pay attention, and my roomie’s good with details.” She gestured with her spork. “Sunny Flare and Lemon Zest.” Her utensil landed on the newcomer as she remarked, “Decided to stick with me for meals, Two-Face?” The unicorn rolled her eyes. “Dumb luck, trust me.” She turned to the two pegasi and introduced herself. “Sour Sweet.” The flame-haired pegasus gestured to herself and the stallion in turn. “Sunrunner and Flash Sentry. What’s with the nickname?” Before she could get an answer, the last chair at their table was filled as a familiar blue-maned pegasus slammed her tray down. “Ha! They call that exhausting? I bet I set a record this morning!” She smirked in the direction of her fellow fliers and added, “Definitely outdid the three of you.” “Measuring yourself against others is hardly a wise thing to do.” Indigo brushed off Sugarcoat’s remark, then dug into her own meal. “Still, you gotta keep up the pace in a place like this, or you’ll get left behind.” “I think we’re keeping pace just fine.” Indigo laughed at Sunrunner’s remark, but kept her eyes on Flash as she noted, “Some of you are.” “Okay, let’s cool things down, huh?” Sour’s expression was focused on Indigo as she made her point clear with a strained smile. “The day’s still young, and there’s plenty left to deal with, so let’s worry about that, okay?” Her expression turned foul as she added, “Before someone loses something they shouldn’t.” Sunrunner nodded. “My sentiments exactly.” Indigo took the hint and kept silent, but her smirk remained as she dug into her meal. Flash, meanwhile, felt what good mood he had deteriorating faster than he’d like. - “Yeesh. I’m glad Sour tried to keep the peace, but still, that Zap mare’s sounding more and more like a jerk the longer this story goes on.” “She definitely didn’t leave a good first impression.” Sunrunner shrugged and admitted, “I probably didn’t help much on my end. Some of what I said probably came across as egging her on, but all I was doing was trying to stand my ground. You have to do that, show that you aren’t afraid to stand up for yourself.” “Otherwise they’ll walk all over you.” Quiver frowned. “Easier said than done for some of us.” “It helps to know that you have someone watching your back, though.” Flash smiled. “That’s one thing being in the guard is supposed to teach its recruits, officers and NCOs alike. That we’re supposed to look after one another.” “Exactly. We aren’t just trained to fight or move in formation. Basic training includes everything from first aid to firearm training to surviving in hostile environments. We even have training to protect against mind control spells.” Sunrunner turned sheepish as she admitted, “Mind you, they’re only good against weak stuff.” The earth pony shrugged. “Better than nothing, and I imagine protection like that can only go so far anyway.” “Unfortunately, yes.” Twilight didn’t elaborate any further, but she took some small comfort in the fact that her friend didn’t blame her brother for what Chrysalis had done to him. Though looking into better protections seemed long overdue. “Anyway, the day wasn’t all marching and exercise, was it?” Sunrunner shook her head. “No, just that morning before breakfast. The rest of the day was dedicated to first aid training. Believe it or not, we didn’t even touch anything that could be used for a weapon for a week.” “Good thing, too.” Flash didn’t elaborate beyond that. “In any case, getting past that first week was the tricky part, for all of us. There was a lot that needed to be learned, and some ponies had worse lessons than others.” - It was the end of the last day of their first week at the academy, and Flash was reaching the end of his rope. The drill instructor wasn’t the problem, as Flash knew it was the sergeant’s job to act the way he was acting. His problem certainly wasn’t with the work that was expected of him, as that same work was expected of every other recruit. No, the problem wasn’t with the work or their taskmaster. “Man, I can’t believe all of you are still here!” The problem was Indigo Zap. It felt like every time she sat down at the table for a meal, she’d launch into a boast or talk herself up. And maybe it was just in his head, but it felt like she was doing her best to knock him down at the same time. “Seriously though, fifteen percent of recruits aren’t supposed to make it, right? You’d think at least one of us…” And he was fed up with it. Flash had barely touched his meal. It looked pretty good, too, some sort of fried fish with wild rice and steamed veggies. Certainly better than the reputation military food had would’ve suggested. But unfortunately, the other tables were filled, and you couldn’t take your food out of the mess hall. And he couldn’t stand dealing with Indigo Zap for one more second, so his choices were limited. He picked up his tray and left the table, much to the surprise of his fellow recruits, and went off to dispose of his meal. He’d eat his food at another table starting tomorrow, but for tonight, it looked as though he was going hungry. “Whoa, Flash? You got a problem with the food?” Zap had apparently decided to follow him. “If it’s too much for you…” He spun about and shoved his tray into her path, much to her surprise. “You want it? There. All yours.” The mare gave him a flabbergasted look before she turned angry. “Hey! What’s crawled up your plot?!” “You have.” Flash had just enough restraint left to keep from raising his voice, but his frustration was clear. “You come in here, day after day, acting like you’re the best thing born with wings. Showing off, acting up, acting like the rest of us are beneath you. You think this place is some big competition? That you’re here to win some kind of contest? We aren’t here to get some fancy prize, we’re here to learn to be soldiers! To help ponies, defend the populace, do for them what they can’t! That’s what I’m here to do, at least! That’s what I want to do! And every time you go off like that, I get a reminder that there’s every chance I could fail, despite all the hard work I’m putting in! And that’s the last thing I want to do!” He exhaled. “Not every pony gets a fair shake of it. And frankly, I’m sick of being reminded of that.” Flash turned about, quietly ignored that the mess hall had taken notice of their little confrontation and put his tray full of food off to be cleaned by the kitchen staff. He tried to keep a stoic expression on his face, but deep down, he found himself thinking that he’d be lucky if he wasn’t packing his bags the next day. - Hours later, Flash fumed to himself as he sat on the steps of the stallions’ dorms, glad for at least a little solitude. He wasn’t worried about getting in any serious trouble, as curfew was still a long way off, but he hoped that he could stew in his frustration without being interrupted. The last thing he needed was to get taunted or snarked at by somepony, and he could already hear Zap taunting him, or Sugarcoat making some snarky, tactless remark the instant she laid eyes on him. She hadn’t done it yet, but it seemed inevitable. Then something caught his ears, and his gaze went skyward. Was somepony singing? Granted, this was Equestria, such a thing wasn’t uncommon, but still. Regardless, the sound was coming from a nearby rooftop. Specifically, that of the mares’ dorm next door. He briefly weighed his options, whether satisfying his curiosity was worth the strain he’d be putting on his wings, or worse, breaking a fraternization rule. But he soon realized that the question would nag at him forever, and thus, his mind was made up. Flash couldn’t fly very high, or very fast, but as he’d demonstrated, he could handle short hops. The fact that the two buildings were so close together certainly helped, and he soon bounded his way up like a greased ball bearing through a pinball machine. He soon reached one roof to find a pony that he didn’t expect, and certainly not one he’d hoped that he’d see after his outburst today. Seated on the rooftop, her gaze fixed upon the moon and her singing halted, was Sunrunner. He wasn’t quite sure why she’d gone silent, but the only conclusion that came to him was that she’d noticed him. He was about to approach before she continued to sing. “And when the night wind starts to sing…” Flash opted to remain silent, and sat down upon the roof, only for a loose bit of debris to rustle underneath him. The two groaned in unison, and their eyes met, his showing frustration and hers a weary annoyance. “What are you doing up here?” The stallion stood up and joined her. “I could ask you the same thing. Pretty sure you singing on a roof and singing isn’t allowed.” “I didn’t see anything in the rules against it.” Sunrunner turned away from him and turned her gaze back up to the moon. “Guess I won’t have another shot at it after tonight. Once word gets around, I won’t be able to get away with it anymore.” She sighed. “You’d think it’d go away as you got older.” “What do you…?” Flash didn’t bother to finish that question, as he recognized the tone behind that voice. Instead, he shook his head. “What happened earlier wasn’t your fault. Zap pushed my buttons too many times is all.” “Yeah, but I did a lousy job of stepping in and defusing the situation. And don’t try to tell me that wasn’t any of my business either.” She bowed her head as she admitted, “Part of being a soldier is looking after your comrades, and I haven’t been the best about that.” She looked at him sadly. “Life’s beaten you down a little, huh?” Flash shrugged. “More than I’d like.” “Lot more of that going around than there should be.” That surprised Flash as she continued, “I had a good friend when I was younger, and life beat him down pretty hard too. That song was for him.” She frowned and added, “With him.” Flash knew that tone, and despite himself, he ventured, “How bad?” “Bad enough that you’d have to have a heart of stone to not empathize for him. Constant bullying, a parent who treated him like garbage, apathetic authority figures…” She idly ran a wing through her mane and added, “I got a taste of that myself. Tried to help him even before that.” “You miss him.” “Yeah.” Flash suddenly got worried. “He’s not…?” “No, thank the Maker. At least, I hope not.” She sank as she admitted, “We lost touch, though. A while ago. It’ll be a miracle if I see him again.” She opted to turn discussion elsewhere and asked, “So how’d you get up here?” He shrugged. “Kinda bounced between the buildings. Nothing special.” “I’d say it’s pretty special. Not a lot of ponies would’ve thought to do something like that.” “Well, not a lot of ponies have to think outside the box like I do. You’ve seen me out on the course.” “Yeah, I have. And I think you’re doing a damn good job out there.” Before he could protest, she pressed, “I’m serious! You’re giving your all, and that’s important! Anyone with common sense can see that, especially the DI.” She gently ribbed him with a wing and offered, “So don’t let anypony get you down, huh? You made it this far, and you’re gonna go all the way. I know it.” Flash stared at her, and finally smiled. “Thanks.” The smile turned into a grin. “Warbler.” Sunrunner laughed. “Damn right I am, Hopper.” The two laughed, the tension between them finally having faded. “So, I guess you’re not just here to try and impress the mares. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing. That armor’s gonna look a lot less impressive to a filly from the inside, trust me.” “No, and I kinda figured on that. I’m here because… well, it’s because I want to prove something to myself. That I’m not…” He flexed his wings. “That I’m not the sort of stallion who’d hurt somepony just because he could. That I can help others.” He turned nervous as he asked, “You up for a sob story?” She smiled reassuringly. “Everypony has ‘em. Some are just better about sharing them.”- “That little exchange led to me and Flash becoming friends.” Sunrunner shrugged and admitted, “Word eventually got out about my singing during the night, though, and that’s what got me stuck with my nickname.” Quiver grinned. “Worse nicknames than ‘Warbler’, though.” “Dang right. Plus, I wasn’t the odd pony out anymore.” She then sighed. “I guess the two of you know?” “About what happened to Flash and his mother, and who hurt them.” Twilight nodded. “He’s told us. I still can’t believe somepony would do that.” “Unfortunately, some ponies are obsessed with power and control. And some take whatever excuse they can get to exercise those things, and don’t care what the consequences are because they know they’ll get away with it.” Flash scowled. “They don’t know everything.” “And it’s a good thing that they don’t.” Sunrunner smiled. “It’s also good that some ponies can learn from their mistakes.” At Quiver and Twilight’s surprised expressions, she explained, “We ended up with an audience.” - Sunrunner shook her head and let out a mournful sigh. “Geez, Flash. Nopony should have to go through something like that. I mean, I’m glad things are better for you and your mom now and you’ve got a real dad, but still…” “Yeah, it’s not something I like advertising.” “No wonder. Even ignoring that it’s nopony’s business what your foalhood was like…” She paused as both of them heard something from nearby. She groaned and turned towards the door leading to the stairs and called, “You can come out now. No use hiding.” The door opened, and Pixie Dust emerged. “Hey, sorry about the eaves-dropping. I was just wondering where you’d gone, heard the singing and...” She stepped aside to reveal a quartet of familiar mares. “They invited themselves along.” Lemon Zest meekly waved. “Hey guys! Nice night, huh?” Flash scowled. “And how much did all of you hear?” “Enough.” Indigo stepped forward, her face marked by shock and shame. “You’re really a preemie?” At his nod, her gaze moved to his wings. “No wonder you took so long to finish in morning fitness compared to the rest of us, and what happened in the mess hall…” “Your attitude could clearly be interpreted as arrogance and bullying from his perspective, even taking into account your likely ignorance of his condition.” The blue-maned mare glared at Sugarcoat, who merely raised an eyebrow in response. Indigo’s expression softened. “Yeah.” She turned back to Flash and explained herself. “Honestly, I didn’t know. And I probably did go too far.” At his raised eyebrow, she corrected herself. “Okay, I did go too far. Still, I’m as scared as you are. You ever heard of Wind Rider?” Sunrunner sat up in surprise. “The Wonderbolt ace?” “He’s my grandfather, and he’s left me some pretty big shoes to fill.” Indigo sat down and admitted, “I’m here because I want to be a Wonderbolt, and carry on his legacy.” The flame-haired mare gave her an incredulous look. “You know there is a civilian track for joining the Wonderbolts.” “Yeah, but…” Indigo sighed. “But my sister’s already a shoo-in for that. She’s already got Grandpa’s recommendation and everything. And the less time I spend around Dusty, the better. Guess there’s more of her in me than I’d like, though.” Flash’s scowl faded. “At least you’re recognizing it.” “And if it helps, you aren’t the only one here because of a family legacy.” Heads turned to Sunny Flare as she approached. “I’m going to assume that none of you have heard of Duchess Majesty? Well, except for you Sugarcoat, obviously.” “Yeah, actually.” She turned to Sunrunner in surprise as the mare explained, “The Duchess Majesty was a noblemare. She was one of the first unicorn commanders of the Royal Guard. There’s probably a statue or bust of her somewhere on campus.” “She’s also Sunny Flare’s ancestor.” Sugarcoat’s admission surprised everypony, and the mare shrugged. “It was going to come out eventually.” Sunny rolled her eyes. “Yes, obviously.” She sat down herself and explained, “Our peerage began in the courts of the first unicorn king, and continues on today. I’m currently second in the line of succession, after my father.” “Which means it’s held by your paternal grandparent,” Flash surmised. “My grandmother, Penumbra. And since my ancestor’s time in defense of the realm, members of my family have served in the Royal Guard. From border skirmishes against caribou tribes to the last war with the Griffon Empire, members of my family have fought for Equestria and her citizens. It is a legacy that I am expected to uphold.” She sighed. “I have mixed feelings about it.” “I’m here because of the food.” Sunny rolled her eyes. “Sugarcoat, two other ponies have born their souls and I’ve just tossed aside what anonymity I have. The least you can do is be completely honest, dearie.” “I am being completely honest.” The bespectacled mare seemed to acknowledge her fellow recruit’s unspoken point, and took a seat as she explained, “My parents are two of the most prominent critics in Canterlot. They have very, very high opinions of themselves, and very specific tastes in regards to their professions. Mother especially, to the point that she was very specific about what could be eaten in our household.” “So your mom’s a food critic?” “With very specific tastes. She’d take one look at what’s served in the mess and toss it aside in a heartbeat.” Sugarcoat narrowed her eyes and added, “The food they serve in the military is better than anything she or I have ever been served at any restaurant that’s met her approval, and certainly better than what our staff at home has made.” “And you’re here to break away from that.” At the bespectacled mare’s nod, Sunrunner nodded. “I get that.” Indigo grinned. “Definitely explains how you eat, Tubby.” Sugarcoat responded with a smirk as the mare prodded, “But becoming a soldier just for better food?” The smirk faded. “There might have been a little bit of spite involved also.” She turned to Sunrunner and Flash and admitted, “The two of you probably have the best reasons for being here out of all of us. At least, so far.” Pixie Dust shrugged. “Something tells me I’m not changing that. I’m here because I thought it was a good idea, and I wanted to travel.” She stretched her wings a little and added, “Plus I kinda like the idea of reminding folks that ponies like me exist.” Lemon Zest laughed. “I guess I’m here for the same reasons as Pixie and Sunny. But I’m really looking forward to getting my hooves on some of the really cool toys the Royal Guard has.” She waved a hoof. “Not weapons though, I’m talking stuff like radio equipment. They say the Guard has stuff the civilian market’s not gonna see for years.” Flash laughed. “I hope you’re right.” He sobered up and admitted, “Anyway, why we’re here isn’t as important as the fact that we are here. And I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m not going to leave easily. Not if I have a choice in the matter.” “Me either.” The other mares echoed Sunrunner’s sentiment as she continued, “Won’t be easy, but in the end, nothing ever is.” “And it’ll help if I don’t come across as a jerk. Definitely don’t want to.” Indigo offered a hopeful expression to Flash. “Can you forgive? Maybe?” He shrugged. “Maybe. Give me time.”- “Wow. I’m not surprised that Indigo could own up to her acting insensitive, but I’m a little surprised she did it that quickly.” Quiver smiled. “I’m not complaining, though. I just wish I’d known more ponies with that level of maturity.” “And I wish there were more ponies with that much maturity.” Twilight frowned. “Ask Rainbow Dash to tell you about her time at Wonderbolt Academy sometime.” “Oooh, don’t get me started about what I’ve heard about that.” Sunrunner scowled. “I’m just glad the superintendent we had was nothing like Spitfire. That mare’s got a long way to go.” Quiver quirked an eyebrow and turned to Flash. “Then I guess that exchange you had with Indigo didn’t go without incident.” The other stallion shook his head. “No, not without incident.” - “Recruit Flash Sentry! Recruit Indigo Zap!” The pair stiffened as the drill instructor singled them out, neither having any delusions about what they were being singled out for. “Seems that you two dunderheaded featherbrains have attracted the attention of the commandant! Whatever the rut you did, it must have been epic! Get your plots to his office now, on hoof, double time!” “Sir! Yes sir!” The pair did as instructed, and made their way to one of the central office buildings on campus. Finding the office of the commandant wasn’t difficult, as such things are clearly marked, and the pair barely had a second before they were prompted inside. Seated before them was a stallion that both had seen around campus during their brief time at Wing Point, but had thus far not seen professionally. Brigadier General Flintlock was something of an old soldier, and cut an imposing figure even behind a desk. “Recruits. Close the door behind you. Doesn’t matter which one.” Flash followed his instruction, and the commandant continued, “I’m told there was an altercation between the two of you in the mess yesterday evening. Care to explain yourselves?” “It was my fault, sir.” Indigo’s prompt reply surprised Flash, and she continued on. “Circumstances have led to Flash and myself being in one another’s proximity since we began basic, and I’ve been far more abrasive with him than I should be to the point of implying that I expected him to wash out of the academy. Things came to a head yesterday in the mess, and Flash attempted to remove himself from the situation before things went too far. I failed to recognize it as such, and that led to the altercation yesterday.” The old stallion regarded her for a moment, then turned to face the other recruit. “And?” “And I’ll be the last to deny what happened, or Indigo’s account. I also won’t deny that I might have been more sensitive to her remarks than I should have been, but what’s done is done, and I can’t change it. Whatever disciplinary action you deem adequate, I accept.” The commandant regarded the pair, then smiled. “You two are damn lucky you kept your heads. If this had turned into a fight, you’d be looking at a hearing right now.” He leaned back in his seat. “Recruits, we aren’t in the business of throwing out cadets over failing to take others’ feelings into account, or being sensitive to others’ remarks. Not until it becomes clear that they can’t work out their own issues for themselves. The two of you sound like you can, so don’t give me reason to think otherwise.” The smile turned into a grin. “And the next time the two of you decide to have a heart-to-heart with a group of other recruits, do it during daylight hours.” They responded in unison. “Yes sir.” “Good. Dismissed.” The pair exited the office, and both felt like they’d dodged a crossbow bolt. Neither wished to try their luck again. - The rest of the day went more smoothly, though both had to endure some ribbing from their fellow recruits over getting sent to the commandant’s office. Both suspected that neither would hear the end of the incident for some time, but took comfort in the fact that they’d both already been stuck with their embarrassing nicknames. The pair, as well as the rest of the recruits on their table, had managed to bond, however. Even Two-Face, though not to the same extent as the rest. Flash had some hope that would change with time, but there was no guarantee. Still, that seemed more likely than him forming any sort of bond with his roommate. That ship, alas, appeared to have sunk in the harbor. “Garrett.” The stallion turned in surprise as his griffon roommate elaborated. “My name is Garrett.” His shocked expression prompted an explanation. “Didn’t know if I’d last the first week. Didn’t want to get attached. How many griffons do you see in the Royal Guard anyway?” The surprise wore off, and Flash laughed. “Not enough. What made you change your mind?” That prompted a small smile. “Deciding that getting attached might be worth it.” - “And that ended the first week of basic training.” Flash smiled at the memory. “The rest of basic went pretty much the same way, but the pressure eased on us with each day. We still had years of proper schooling to get through, but we at least survived basic training. Amazingly, none of us ended up washing out. Other recruits did, but not as many as we feared.” “Something tells me I’d have been among them.” Quiver shrugged. “Not every pony is cut out for military service, and I know that I’m not one of them.” Sunrunner flashed him a smile. “And there’s nothing wrong with that in the slightest.” Quiver nodded at that as Twilight asked, “So, you got through basic. Anything exciting happen during classes at the academy?” Flash waved a hoof. “Sorta. I mean, nothing especially exciting happened, though Warbler tended to be something of a teacher’s pet with her essays.” The flame-mared pegasus took on a proud posture. “I can’t help it if I did good research.” She grinned at her coltfriend and added, “Or that I knew where to look for a lot of it.” “Still, one day kinda blurred into the next, and before we all knew it, we’d graduated.” Flash smiled. “That’s where things got really exciting.” ...to be continued......
Tales from a Double Date - Part Two “And what better place to start than at the beginning?” The land of Equestria was built upon a foundation of friendship and common ground, but it was not a land without a history of conflict and strife. As much as many would wish otherwise, there would always be forces that sought to cause disorder and chaos, ones that would tear down even the strongest of structures for their own petty ends, and Equestria had long acted accordingly to deter them. Each tribe had their own fighters and heroes among them, and while it had been slow to happen, a unified military force eventually came together in the form of the EUP Guard, or more simply the Equestrian Royal Guard. Guard forces, however, needed points to marshal and train. There were guard stations throughout Equestria which served that purpose for enlisted ponies, but for the officers, there were significantly fewer. The finest and the best known, however, was Wing Point. Located near Manehattan, the facility had begun its life as a barracks before being converted and expanded into a fully fledged military academy after Equestria’s conflict with the Griffon Kingdom. Not everypony who entered these halls left them a graduate, and many didn’t even pass basic training, but those who graduated became part of an honored tradition. As he stepped onto the academy grounds and made his way towards the administration building, Flash Sentry was determined to become a part of that tradition. The road would be hard, he had no delusions about that, but it was a road well worth traveling. As he stepped into the administration building, however, he found himself having to duck to one side as a pegasus mare shot past him into the doors with an excited laugh, her mane and tail streaked with varying shades of blue. He snorted, both at her lack of restraint and with a little contempt on his part despite his better nature. He then made his way into a crowded hall to find many ponies milling about. So far, so good. “Attention recruits!” Flash’s attention immediately went to a stallion in uniform who called out, “Please convene in Iron Hewer Hall for orientation!” The gathered ponies did as they were told and soon filed in line and made their way into an auditorium where they quickly took seats. Once everypony found seats, a different uniformed pony approached the lectern and turned to addressed them. “Good morning recruits. I am Lieutenant General Able Hawk, superintendent here at Wing Point. Odds are that most of you will only be seeing me at official functions or when going about your duties on campus, but nonetheless, I expect great things from all of you. Each recruit who steps onto this campus is following in traditions stretching back to before the founding of our nation, from each of the tribes. This isn’t something that should be taken lightly. “Don’t pretend for one second that the road ahead of you will be an easy one. Many within this room right now won’t make it through basic training, much less the whole of their time here, but those who do will become part of something greater. A symbol to look up to, both within and outside of this institution. It will take hard work, but all of it will be worth it. Good luck to all of you.” Flash heard a brief exhale from beside him, then turned to see a flame-haired pegasus mare by his side. “Guess it’s time to get down to business.” She turned to him and offered a smile. “Good luck.” “Luck doesn’t have anything to do with it.” The two turned to see a bespectacled blue-grey earth pony mare give them a deadpan expression. “You either make the cut or you don’t.”- “That sounds a lot like how Shining Armor described his orientation.” “Well, they aren’t there to waste anypony’s time. That first day isn’t about socializing, it’s about getting us used to life on campus, and what was expected of us.” Flash laughed. “It was nothing compared to basic training, mind you, but it was still a taste of what was coming.” “Lots of getting yelled at by second-class cadets included.” Sunrunner turned to Quiver and explained, “Each class of cadet gets a class designation. Recruits are fourth class, so…” “Senior students got to boss you guys around. Sounds like some of the frats in college.” Flash laughed. “Trust me, what they had to go through was nothing compared to what we did.”- “Close that gap, recruit! Move! Move! Move!” Flash did his best to keep pace with the recruit in front of him but doing so was difficult thanks to the gear he carried. He’d been given a kit of light armor and gear, meant to emulate what he’d carry when on duty, and while assured that he’d be able to handle the weight, it was still a bit more than he and many of the other recruits were used to. Still, he’d get through it. He wasn’t going to get booted out on his first day, and he doubted that anyone with him was eager to do the same. If nothing else, it was helping him to keep his attention off said recruit. She wasn’t exactly hard on the eyes. He briefly shook his head while keeping pace. He wasn’t here to stare, after all. He was here to march.- “Most ponies can comfortably carry about twenty percent of their body weight, up to thirty in a pinch. The kits we had on that first day when we were being instructed on marching in formation were about ten percent of the average pony’s weight, with full armor and equipment sometimes reaching twenty-five.” Flash exhaled. “I’m not sure what’s worse, having to stand in it or having to march in it.” “Or fly in it,” Sunrunner grumbled. “At least it’s flexible enough that we can comfortably move. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad for the protection when we’re in combat, but if they can ever get the weight down, I’ll welcome it.” “Well someone’s probably working on exactly that.” Quiver frowned. “Of course, the way Sour talks, they’ll probably make up for lighter armor with heavier equipment.” “Sounds about right.” Flash managed a grin. “Still, as rough as that day was, it was all worth it in the end.”- “And now, we present our newest class of recruits into the Equestrian Royal Guard Academy!” As one, Flash and the rest of the recruits marched in formation onto the field. Each one could feel the eyes of the crowd watching them, mostly made up of close relatives and school staff. They paid it no heed, focusing instead on maintaining formation. After everything they’d experienced today, it was practically second nature. Their first day had been long and tiring, but it was over. They’d gotten through it. Now he was left to hope for a decent night’s sleep.- “Did you?” “Yeah, but we still had things to do. Dinner in the mess, and then finding our bunks.” Flash shrugged. “The former went okay, but what they say about army food isn’t too far off the mark.” “Still beats a kick in the teeth, though.” Sunrunner smiled. “And thankfully, sitting down in the mess finally gave us all a chance to sit down and socialize. One tiny little bit of respite before the start of six weeks of basic training.” “Shining Armor told me about that, too. Didn’t sound easy.” “It’s not. And it isn’t supposed to be.” The flame-haired mare rolled her eyes. “Not that some ponies understood that.”- The mess hall at Wing Point was a vast structure that nonetheless managed to look comfortable, and looked to Flash like some old-fashioned dining hall. He idly entertained the idea of ponies like Flash Magnus or Rockhoof eating in a place like this as he made his way to an empty table with his meal, unsure of where else to dine but hoping that he wasn’t eating somewhere a fresh recruit wasn’t. By some luck, he found one, and settled in to enjoy his meal. “Hey, mind if I join you?” He turned to find the same flame-haired pegasus from earlier, a tray filled with food and drink carried in her wings. “Kinda hoping I can eat with a sorta-familiar face.” He shrugged. “No problem here.” “Thanks.” She seated herself beside him and offered a hoof in greeting. “Name’s Sunrunner.” “Flash Sentry.” He returned the gesture, and the two set about their meal. “You worried about what’s coming next?” “A little, yeah, but…” “Ha! Sissies!” The two were rudely interrupted as the same pegasus who’d charged past Flash earlier in the day parked herself down at their table across from them with a grin. “If the two of you are afraid of what’s coming, then why be here in the first place?” “They hardly said anything about being afraid.” The bespectacled mare from earlier took the empty seat beside the blue-haired pegasus with an unimpressed expression. “And anxiety over the start of basic training is normal.” “Who asked you?” The blue-maned pegasus narrowed her eyes at the mare. “And what are you doing sitting at this table?” The response she got was as dry as a desert. “I could ask you the same question.” “Whoa now, let’s ease up.” The pair turned back to Sunrunner as she amended, “Besides, she’s right. No shame in being a little anxious about what’s coming. Regardless, we all made it here, and we’re all going to work like Tartarus to stay here. Getting through basic’s just the next step.” The blue-haired mare smirked. “Fine, but the two of you are going to have a lot of trouble keeping up with me, so don’t be disappointed if you get left in the dust.” Sunrunner quirked an eyebrow at the boastful mare. “And I wouldn’t get ahead of myself if I was you either.” She allowed herself a small smirk. “We might just surprise you.” The mare smirked back. “Sunrunner, right? Well, you’d better be ready to prove it, ‘cuz you’ve got me to deal with. Indigo Zap.” Flash rolled his eyes. “Could do without the wing-measuring contest, thanks.” “Likewise. I was looking forward to enjoying this meal.” She briefly glanced up from her food to introduce herself. “Sugarcoat. Not that anypony asked.” “Yes, don’t expect her to be the life of the party.” This time a unicorn mare joined them, her multi-hued purple mane cut short and professional and her tray hovering before her in her magic. She cast Sugarcoat a glance and suggested, “Let’s not burn our bridges with our fellow recruits before they’re even built, shall we?” The bespectacled mare hardly responded to that as Sunrunner ventured, “I take it the two of you know one another?” “Our parents run in similar circles in Canterlot, dearie.” The newcomer gave a polite nod. “Sunny Flare.” The flame-haired mare did her best to keep her tone even. “Sunrunner.” She glanced at the empty space on their table and idly wondered, “So, any bets on how fast that spot gets filled?” “Aw sweet!” Sunrunner’s question was answered as a pink earth pony mare with a mane full of varying shades of green popped herself down amongst them with her tray. “Hey dudes! Name’s Lemon Zest! Sweet food, huh?” She eyed her meal and grinned. “So much for what they say about military food, huh?” Some eye-rolls greeted her, though Sugarcoat managed a small smirk of approval as she tucked into her own meal.- Quiver shook his head. “I knew the guard took all sorts, but it sounds like you got quite the combo platter.” “Yeah, Two-Face included, even if we didn’t get introduced to her until the next day” Flash smirked. “Though she tended to vent most of her fury at the other four. At least with me she restrained herself. After meeting you, I think I can understand why.” “And a lot of that attitude went away once they got a load of our drill instructor, trust me.” Sunrunner smiled as she admitted, “Still, that was a problem for the morning. That night, we settled into our rooms in the academy dorms. Not that I’m adverse to sleeping in a barrack with a dozen other ponies, mind, but a mare does like a little privacy here and there.” “We both still ended up with bunkmates, though.” “This is true.” The mare smiled. “And sometimes you find yourself with a good one.”- The mares’ dormitory was a nondescript building, unimpressive but reasonably tidy. Sunrunner suspected that the stallions’ dorm was little different, but wasn’t in much of a rush to confirm. Right now, she just wanted to find her dorm room, unpack her belongings and hopefully get a decent amount of sleep. She’d need it, if all the stories she’d heard about basic training were true. Finding the room wasn’t difficult, and her key worked without any serious issues. Stepping into the room revealed that it was functional, if a bit spartan, with accommodations for two ponies. She recognized her bags on one bed, with a larger pile on the second one. Whomever her new roommate was, they’d clearly gotten here before she had, but apparently hadn’t unpacked. Sunrunner shrugged and set down the gear and training uniform she’d been issued on her bed. Odds were that her roomie had gone off to shower or something. Nothing wrong with that, and hopefully she’d get her unpacking done. She picked up a few things and turned around towards the closet … “Boo!” Sunrunner stopped, then raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?” The mare before her blinked her bright blue cat-like eyes. “Huh. Didn’t expect that reaction.” A smirk crossed her face. “I’ve met thestrals before. Sudden shock and fangs aren’t going to scare me much.” She offered a hoof. “Sunrunner.” “Pixie Dust. Nice to meet ya.” The hoof-bump was returned, and the mares set about unpacking. “Sunrunner, huh? You look like a ‘Sunrunner’, colors like that.” “Whereas you’ve got a very non-indicative name based on looks alone.” The other mare let out a low whistle. “Look at you with the fancy words.” Sunrunner chuckled. “I had a… close friend growing up, he wanted to be a writer. Some of it rubbed off on me.” She packed away a dress uniform, marked with a tag depicting her cutie mark, and continued, “Still, how’d you end up with a name like that?” “Honestly? I think my folks picked my name before I was born. They’re unicorns, and they probably expected another little baby unicorn.” Pixie Dust shrugged herself and laughed. “Then again, my family’s lived near Hollow Shades for ages, so a couple batponies probably got tangled up in the family tree somewhere. What about you? Where you from?” “Indianapoloosa originally. Moved to Canterlot a little bit ago.” “Ooh, big city mare. Ain’t we special.” A sardonic laugh escaped her lips. “Not that special.” She set a couple framed photographs on her desk, one depicting her parents and the other herself as a filly with a second filly, practically her twin. “I left ponies behind, or hurt them, or all of the above. Not something I like to think about.” She felt a gentle nudge on her shoulder, and turned to find Pixie Dust giving her a gentle smile. “Bad happens whether we want it to or not. You can’t dwell on it. Shouldn’t. The more you do, the more you get dragged down. I’m not saying you should forget about them, but you gotta put them aside. At least for now. You gotta smile at something, after all.” The smile grew and she added, “And hey, maybe you’ll find them again someday.” Sunrunner smiled. “I can always hope.” Her smile turned anxious. “So I guess you’re not a night owl.” “Nah. Just because my body’s built for the night doesn’t mean I have to operate in it, y’know? The day’s a lot more fun.” She shrugged. “Besides, Wing Point doesn’t have night classes. It’s easier to train a thestral during the day with the rest of the recruits, just like it’s easier to train all the other tribes together in one big group. But something tells me I’ll end up on the night shift anyway once I graduate. The higher-ups will think that’s the best place for me because of biology, y’know?” “Yeah.” The flame-haired mare grinned. “But you never know.”- “Sounds like you and Pixie Dust got on okay.” Sunrunner grinned and gently nudged her coltfriend. “It didn’t help that a certain someone had made sure I knew about thestrals before I met her. Otherwise, she’d have gotten a jump out of me that first day.” At the curious expressions on their tablemate’s faces, Quiver elaborated, “I have a great uncle on my mom’s side who’s a thestral. Came to the mainland from the Emerald Island a long time ago. He always encouraged my creativity.” Twilight smiled. “Good for him.” She turned to her coltfriend. “So what about you, Flash? How did things go with your roommate?” The pegasus gagged. “Not nearly as well as things went for Warbler and Boo.” He sighed. “Usually things go well enough with roomies, but the trouble is that sometimes you find yourself with someone you can’t get on with no matter what you try.”- Flash thought that he had a good idea of what to expect when he entered his dorm. Unpack his stuff, meet his new roomie, settle in for the night and hopefully wake up the next morning ready for his first day of basic training. The griffon glaring at him from the other bunk threw him. Said griffon was larger and bulkier than he was, colored in various shades of muted grey and with a beak like a condor. His eyes were golden and narrowed upon Flash in such a way that it made the young stallion uneasy. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. “Hey there.” He offered a hoof nervously. “I’m Flash Sentry. Guess we’re roomies…?” Flash had, of course, registered that there would likely be griffons in attendance at the academy. Griffons were part of Equestria’s population, albeit a minority, and the school did take in students from the Griffon Kingdom under specific circumstances. Still, he figured they would be a little bit more social than this. All of a sudden, Flash felt a tension that he hadn’t felt in a very long time. He pulled back his hoof and set about storing away his things. His new roommate was, apparently, not interested in conversation, polite or otherwise. Not the best way to end what already felt like a rough day.- “Yikes.” Their meals were brought out to them, and once each pony claimed their food and the servers departed to go about their work elsewhere, Quiver continued, “If it helps, I can sympathize. Not with having a griffon glare at me and give me the silent treatment, mind, but being intimidated by new people…” “I think everypony can sympathize with that at some point.” Flash shrugged as he started on his meal. “Anyway, that was our first day. We didn’t know it at the time, but it would probably be the easiest day of our careers.” “Dang right.” Sunrunner grinned. “The next morning was when things got really interesting.”...to be continued...
The Last Bastion Chapter 2Office of the Emperor, Second Imperial Palace, Petropolis, Second Empire of Brazil, one year ago“Presenting her Imperial Majesty Princess Isabel” Pedro, seated at his desk waved her forwards, her long, straight black hair and deep blue eyes shined in the light of the sun coming from the windows, glinting off her emerald earrings. She'd come from the funeral, they all hadShe dropped to one knee“Your Imperial Majesty”Oh great, she wanted something, she only ever did this when she wanted somethingWhen she was six it was to meet some Ponies (the children of his Unicorn advisors were swiftly invited for a playdate), at eight a carriage, at twelve it was a yacht, at sixteen she wanted to take on royal duties. Now she was eighteen, what was it going to be this time?He motioned for her to stand“I ask your leave to be allowed to emigrate to Equestria”He glared at the Archer Guards, the protectors of the imperial family“Leave us” they got the hint and swiftly made themselves scarce, now alone he spoke quietly and calmly“Please explain to me why you want to go to a Conversion Bureau”“You're the Emperor, I didn't feel right doing it behind your back” Pedro sighed“I'm also your uncle, I promised my brother I would take care of you Isabel”“Then let me go”“Why do you want to go?”“You know why”The barrier had sped up, already almost all of the Amazon was gone, Manaus long since abandoned, the gulf coast to the north had been consumed and refugees were trickling south from Pará, some of whom had only been there due to fleeing from Amapá, Suriname and the last remnants of Guyana. By now it was obvious to all that the Empire of Brazil was finally feeling the bite of Equestria's devouring magic front“There's a chance it can be stopped”“Grandfather said that before you and great-grandfather said it before him”“There's a chance”“I don't want to risk a chance, other countries royals, other governments have gone through the Conversion Bureau, Celestia lets them retain some leadership over their people, our own subjects can go through if they want”“Isabel...” he hesitated“Why can't I go and lead them? Let some part of Brazil survive?”That was it? She wanted to go? To abandon everything? To abandon her family, her empire, her species? To rule a mockery of the Empire?His hand clenched into a fist“No, you do not have my leave, as your Emperor, as your uncle, as your family I can't let you go to that place, I can't bear to lose you”“I...” she started, he spoke firmly“This discussion is over niece, now go, you have your duties to see to, duties you asked me to let you undertake, duties you can't just abandon”She didn't get upset, didn't yell and she didn't glare at him, Isabel calmly said “...alright uncle” and quietly left the officeThat was new, he didn't like itIn the middle of the night Pedro found himself in his pyjamas and dressing gown striding down the marble staircase of the palace, his silken slippers slapping on the stone floor, out a side entrance and across the still grounds to a guardhouse near the wrought iron fence that separated the palace from the rest of the cityThe Archer Guard, one of many who served the revived imperial family met him outside and told him what had happened. How they'd caught her trying to scale the fence before she slipped and got her leg gashed by one of the ornate iron points, then he opened the doorInside Princess Isabel was sitting on a chair dressed in dark clothes, her right thigh wrapped in gauze, a pile of bloodied dressing lying on the floor next to a small backpack, he looked at the guardsman“Leave us”“Your majesty I-”“Wait outside the door” the guardsman saluted and left, Pedro pulled up a chair to sit across from her, the silence that passed seemed like an age, Isabel doing her best to avoid looking her uncle in the eye, him keeping his fixed on her, finally he spoke“Why?” she looked him right in the eye, her blue eyes boring into his calm grey pools“You know why”“No, I don't” he stood “I don't understand why my niece, who I've raised as my own daughter, who was given everything she ever asked for, who has done so much good and brought so much joy to our family would turn her back on all that because for once, she was told no”He expected her to yell, he expected her to cry, he didn't expect her to laugh“You think that's it? You think I'm that selfish?”“Why do you want to go to the Conversion bureau?”“Why don't you?”“I'm not abandoning the Empire, our people, our family, whatever happens I'll be here to see it through and not cut and run for a semblance of power”“And you think I want to?”“I don't know what you want to do, I thought you wanted to stay with your family”“I know you want to stay, I know cousin Luis does, I know aunt Clara does, can you respect that I don't?” her vocative started to break “that I don't want to sit here and see everything I've ever known consumed by the barrier? Let everything end? Let myself end?”That was it, that was why, it wasn't teenage rebellion, a lust for power or some grand vision, she didn't want to die, it was that simple“You don't remember your father do you?”“He died when I was five, so no, not really”“He was a tough man, brave, my closest friend growing up, when he died I swore that I'd take care of you, see your prosper so that's what I'll do” he rose to his feet and made for the door“Guardsman?”“Yes your majesty?”“Stand aside”He looked back at his niece“Go, it's better something survive of us, maybe over there you can lead what remains of our people so something of Brazil survives, like the others” she rose to her feet, limping to the door before she stopped and dug into the bag“Here” she held out a single emerald earring, one of the pair she'd worn earlier that day “so you'll always have a piece of me and I'll never forget where I came from whenever I wear this one”Unable to think of anything to say Pedro hugged his niece goodbye and watched her limp down the hallway and out the door, after it fell back closed he slipped the earring in his pocket and turned to the guardsman“This never happened, princess Isabel ran away from home, by the time I was alerted and came here she'd already left the grounds and vanished inside the Conversion Bureau, do you understand me?” the guard knew better than to say otherwise“Yes your majesty”“Good, what is your name?”“Joao Rocha, sir”“I need good men with me Joao, can I trust you? Do you understand what would happen if word got out that I let my niece go to conversion willingly? We need to be united, so I'm asking you, in the name of whatever god or gods you may or may not have, can I trust you to never breathe a word of what happened here?”For a second he said nothing and Pedro's heart hung in the air, then he dropped to one knee“On my honour as an Archer Guard you have my word that I will speak of this to no-one my Emperor” Pedro placed a hand on his shoulder and bade him stand“I believe you Joao, and I'm proud of you”
The Last Bastion: LaughterSugarcube Square, Altensteig, Grand Duchy of Baden, Confederation of German States, European Union, some years agoThe winters were getting colderSince she'd come to the town in the Black Forest the winters had definitely gotten colder, her creaky knee didn't lie. The snow falling outside didn't either, Pinkie Pie took it in as she whiled away her lunch break, sipping a mug of apple cinnamon infused hot chocolate. She spied her reflection in the glass bar a couple of wrinkles and grey streaks in her mane and tail (that made her look like a candy cane, so that was a plus) she still looked good for her age. You had to focus on the good things, she'd learned that pretty fast once she'd come to EarthAfter a few years as a 'consultant' to the UNHCR (refugees were always in need of parties and fun after all) she became fast friends with the Grand Duke (one of the agency's biggest supporters) after planning his sons birthday party. On his invitation she'd gone to visit the EU and ended up 'advising' its new government for awhile, keeping busy planning parties in her spare time. Soon she'd gotten enough cash together to get back to what she was best at on her own terms and Sugarcube Square was born. The bakery/confectionery was her pride and joyShe'd found Altensteig after her friend recommended it, falling in love with the place, it reminded her so much of Ponyville. It didn't hurt that the Grand Duke's son had a holiday villa in the town and that his grandson loved seeing his Auntie Pie whenever she could drop by for a visit. The boy reminded her of two little foals she'd known a long time ago and he loved seeing Sugarcube SquareThey did baked delights and every kind of candy you could imagine, they also did parties, everyone from the kid down the street to the Emperor of the Germans knew who to call when they needed an epic shindigAs she enjoyed her hot chocolate she felt her back muscle pinch, it must be her lucky day. Feeling inspiration strike her she went and grabbed her hat, scarf and warm boots“Greta!” she called out“Yes Pinkie?” her manager called back from the front“I'm gonna go check on the stall, be back later”“Sure thing boss, we'll hold down the fort here!”She downed the last of her hot chocolate and stepped outside into the snow, when it was your lucky day there was no sense hiding inside, every pony knew that, Besides, she knew her vendor wouldn't mind some extra helpChristmas Market, AltensteigBefore Pinkie knew it she was at the stall, it was more of a little wooden hut like the others at the market but she'd added her own touches. The walls looked like giant pieces of sponge cake, the roof shingles like slabs of gingerbread and the awning like runny frosting. All fake of course. Sadly.She thought Rarity would approve, looking at her shops sign, six purple, yellow, blue, red, green and pink gems arrayed around a six-pointed magenta star on a dark background , same as the one in Sugarcube Square. She tapped some snow from the awning, put on a mane and tail net and ducked in the backInside her vendor was adjusting the display when she heard a “Hi Klara!” and jumped, sending a trap of cupcakes flying, Pinkie deftly caught them, balancing the tray on her poofy tailKlara Douai had long stopped questioning how her boss could appear out of nowhere the second she turned her back, so had everyone from the cashier to the Grand Duke himself, it was just Pinkie Pie. She could not be stopped“Oh hey boss, how's it going?”“Great! The Square's okay so I thought I'd check up on my favourite vendor, how're you doing?”“Pretty good so far, moved most of the stock, we should be sold up by the time the market closes today”“That's great but I asked how you were doing, not the stall silly, it's your first time working for us”“Long day, never worked a stall before this job, not used to the rush yet but I think I'm managing” Pinkie put a hoof on her shoulder“If you're not let me know” Klara knew she meant it, she'd done a few seasonal jobs and Pinkie was by far the best boss she'd ever hadJust then a little boy and his mother came up to the stall, Klara was about to ask what they wanted but Pinkie jumped in“And what can I get you little man?”“One of the gingerbread ponies please”“Excellent choice, that'll be two euros please”“Here you go” the little boy said, handing the coins to the pink pony who smiled warmly as she handed him the gingerbread pony“And here you go little man, enjoy, you got here just in time, only one more left” he smiled“Thank you Frau Pie” he replied before turning to go with his mother, Pinkie sat there and smiled, watching the boy enjoy his treat. No prompting from mom, he'd been raised well, she hoped the Cake Twins were as polite as himHe was enjoying it so much that he that he didn't notice the pile of melted snow. He slipped and down he went into the dirty slush, the gingerbread flew from his hand. He pulled himself up looking more stunned than anything, then he noticed the gingerbread pony on the ground and began to cry. Pinkie immediately went to get the last one, just in time to see her vendor hand it to a young woman“Honey are you okay? You're not hurt are you?” his mother asked, frantically checking him, then saw the gingerbread pony, broken into pieces and already soggy from the slush“I'm sorry honey, we'll get you another one” Pinkie heard her and her heart sank, she wasn't looking forward to telling her they were out. So much for it being her lucky dayThen her vendor stepped in“Here” she suddenly appeared next to the boy (Pinkie could've sworn she was right next to her) holding out a gingerbread pony. He sniffled and looked at his mother, she nodded, it was okay“Thank you miss” he took it from Klara and held it carefully in his hands“No problem kiddo, you enjoy the extra horsepower” she said, he giggled and took a big bite, his tears forgotten“Thank you so much, he's been so sad since his big sister went to the bureau, this is his first Christmas without her” his mother said before they headed off to explore the rest of the market“I thought we were sold out” Pinkie asked“We were, I bought that one to have on my break but I wasn't gonna let that little boy be sad, we all need a reason to laugh these days”“You know what? I couldn't agree more”The next hour passed, in between serving the customers she and Pinkie made small talk“...and that's how I ended up saving the Emperors birthday cake!”“You've had quite a life Pinkie”“What about you? We haven't talked much since you started, what's my favourite vendor get up to when she's not here?”“Not much really, I spend most of my time at my ausbildung apprenticeship and I do seasonal jobs to get some extra cash whenever I can, especially around this time of the year. Also do a bit of freelance baking on the side if I've got the time”“Wow” even for a pony who was a baker, party planner and element of harmony Pinkie was amazed, Klara shrugged“You've gotta do what you gotta do when it's your family”“You help support them?”“I help my big brother look after my nieces, their mom remarried and went through the bureau after the divorce” she sighed “it's why I could relate to that little boy form earlier, it's gonna be their first Christmas without her too, I do what I can to make them happy” she felt a warm hoof rest on her hand“They're lucky to have you”“Thanks” Pinkie looked away“I...I'm sorry”“For what?” she moved to sit on the chair at the back of the booth, the normally energetic pony moving more slowly, wincing as she moved her legs“We tried to stop it, to stop her, we really did, we tried so hard but we couldn't do it”“The barrier?”“We should have tried harder, used the Elements better, used the mirror and joined Sunset”“Pinkie I...” tears began to well up“It's going to keep coming on and the bureaus will keep taking people in and spitting them out as Our Town ponies and your nieces lost their mom and that little boy lost his sister and won't ever see them again and it's all because we...”“Pinkie!” her boss looked at her, the party pony was gone, the mare in front of her stared out from tired eyes, her coat was faded, her hair even seemed flatter as she lowered her head in shame. Klara placed a hand on her hoof“I don't know what happened back then, I wasn't born, hell my grandparents weren't, but I do know what it's like now” she motioned out the window to the rest of the Market“Look at them, what do you see?” Pinkie looked“People”“What're they doing?”“Shopping”“No, not just shopping, look closer”“Talking”“And?”“Laughing”“They're living” Klara squeezed her hoof“They're enjoying their lives, they're happy, you help with that, I've lost count of how many people and ponies come in to Sugarcube Square glum and sad and leave laughing and smiling. Everyone, the Grand Duke, my nieces, that little boy, they go in or they come here, they meet you and they come out happy. Even if it's just for a little while you make them feel better, help them forget about the barrier and everything else, help them escape from their burdens, give them hope. You do so much, look at that, look at what you do and did, not what you couldn't”Pinkie was quiet for a moment, then her head jerked back up, her hair reflated and she had a big smile on her face, neither noticed the rainbow glow that flashed in the others eyes“You're right, I do do a lot” she looked around at everyone, a few people passing by the stall even waved at her, she waved back. Looking at Klara she sighed “guess I forgot that”“I think most creatures do, we just need a friend to remind us from time to time” Klara replied when a grumble cut through the air“I think it's time for lunch” Pinkie said, Klara went to where she'd stashed the gingerbread pony before she remembered she'd given it away“Oh, well I can get a pretzel or something” Pinkie reached into her hair and pulled out a lunchbox“Wha...”“I keep sweets stashed in case of lunch emergencies, this is a new recipe I've been working on” she handed the box to her“Wow, thanks Pinkie” Klara replied, Pinkie smiled“What are friends for?”Pinkie watched as the girl ducked out the side door and headed off to explore the market with a smile on her face, she didn't mind giving up her lunch, she wasn't hungry, all she needed was a smile from a happy friend.
Gallery Folders and locationsGallery Folders
Welcome to our awesome group!
Welcome to the #theMyLittlePonyherd group. We are dedicated to the very popular show and fanbase, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
We do not accept the following
-Pony creator images
-G-mod and second life, other 3-D programs are allowed.
-Poorly made art
-Mature content such as (Nudity, sex, gore, or anything +18) (Stuff that's 'sausy' is allowed)
-Journal Advertisements of any kind
1. Respect the admins and each other.
2. No stealing art, you will be banned.
3. Keep art at most PG-13
4. Place art in the correct folders, it makes it easier on us and you.
5. Any relationship pairings are allowed, just follow rule 3
6. Follow DA's T.O.S.
7. Be nice and have fun, this group was made for that.
8. No art will be accepted involving new characters of an episode not released yet, in order of avoiding an incorrect folder placement
All rules are subject to change to fit the community needs and wants. (of course some rules will always remain)
If you have any questions about where to submit art or anything else, feel free to ask us by sending a note. We love to help you and if you have suggestions to make this group better, please do tell us.
If you don't know where to submit something, please look above for the submission rules, or at this Journal before asking. If you still don't know, then send us a note.