What roads do we walk to show who we are? What flags do we fly to show what we believe?
Ulysses' eyes darted open, taking in the bright sunlight of a world not his own. He sat himself up on the ground, confused. Trees, bushes and other forms of foliage surrounded the courier. He stared at the plant life in shock. The Divide never had trees; it was never covered in life.
"Where am I?" he asked himself. His only answer was the silence of the strange forest.
Ulysses slowly tried to rise to his feet, only to struggle and fall back onto his haunches. He looked down at where his feet should have been, only to be greeted by hooves and forelegs. He stared in quiet confusion at his new extremities, pondering how his human form turned to that of an animal of the old world. He looked to his body, finding his duster with the old world flag covering a dark brown coat, and faintly seeing the dreadlocks and braids of both his mane and tail.
Ulysses tried rising again, this time on all fours. He found it was strangely comfortable, though very alien. He pondered his predicament fully now. How did he become a pony? Why is he here in this forest? His thoughts were interrupted by a voice in the distance.
"I think it came from over here!" a female voice shouted, making Ulysses become defensive. He waited for an attack-some sort of assault-to come his way. Rustling bushes made it known that whatever had said that sentence was close. What emerged from the foliage, however, was something that he was not expecting.
Standing in front of him was a beast of myth, something the old world would classify as fairy-tale. What stood there, was a unicorn. More specifically, one named Twilight Sparkle. She spotted Ulysses immediately, giving the courier a look of lost confusion. Ulysses returned her gaze with an emotionless stare, the breathing mask on his face showing no feeling whatsoever.
"Uhm, hi." She said.
Ulysses continued to stare at her, still showing no emotion. The unicorn was then flanked by more horses, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie.
"Is he the one who caused the flash?" Rainbow Dash asked Twilight.
"I think so." She replied. "Who are you?" she asked him.
"My name is Ulysses," He replied. his tone was monotonous, emotionless.
"That's a weird name," Pinkie Pie piped up.
Ulysses glared at her.
"Not my given name. A name taken from history." He said to her. "Brought two flags together under one. United a nation torn apart."
All the ponies looked at him strangely, not comprehending his words.
"What are you doing here?" Rarity asked. "The Everfree Forest is much too dangerous for anypony to actually want to step foot in."
"I do not know." He replied. "I am not where I should be."
"Ya got that right. Let's get you back to Ponyville." Applejack said. "Ya'll look a little worn out."
Ulysses stood there. Ponyville was not a place he's heard of in the wastes. And Being a Courier and Frumentariius, he would have known it.
"Ponyville?" he asked. "Not a place I'm familiar with. Where is it?"
"It's only the bestest most beautifullest place in all Equestria!" The bouncing pink pony screeched.
Ulysses looked down somberly.
"So it's true, I'm not in the wastes anymore." He said monotonously. "The invisible fires have changed me, brought me to another world."
The ponies stood dumbfounded at his words
"Fire can't be invisible, silly filly." Pinkie said. "It's all bright and burny, it won't change you that much."
"It no longer matters." He simply stated. "Where is this 'Ponyville'?"
"Follow us, and we'll take ya there, pardner" The cowboy hat wearing pony said with a smile. Ulysses thought about her offer for a moment. Deciding that he knew nothing of the land or it's landmarks, he agreed to follow the ponies. They turned from him and started on their way back to Ponyville, and he followed soon after.
He hoped he wouldn't regret his decision.
Their walk through the forest was relatively silent. Only the sound of their hooves hitting the ground was audible in their surroundings. Outwardly, Ulysses showed absolutely no emotion, something that unnerved the company he was in. Twilight, feeling awkward in his presence, decided to risk a question.
"What does that symbol on your jacket mean?" She asked. "I've never seen it before."
Ulysses looked over his shoulder to the image of the stars and stripes. "The flag of America, The symbol of the Old World," he said. "America sleeps, and until it dies, I carry it."
Twilight was confused. The Old World? America? She knew not what any of it meant. She would've asked another question, but was interrupted by Pinkie Pie.
"Ooh, I've got to throw you a party when we get back! its going to have balloons and cake and all sorts of other things!" She shouted happily.
"Pinkie, is that all you think when you meet new ponies?" Rainbow Dash said, exasperated. "I mean, we just met this guy, and we already had a party a couple of days ago."
Ulysses smiled under his mask. These ponies were strange, yet amusing. Twilight kept looking at him in confusion
"Something else you need an answer to?" He asked.
"What is America? What is The 'Old World'?" She asked. He just looked at her, emotionless.
"A nation, an Idea. Faded away to the flames of atomic fire," he said. "One day it will return, or completely die."
Twilight was still burning with questions. Ulysses could see it.
"We will continue this conversation at a more appropriate time," he told her. Twilight huffed and continued walking, as did the others.
"Is it me, or is this guy hiding something?" Rainbow Dash whispered to Applejack, who just shrugged.
"I mean, This guy's really creepy. For all we know, he could be hiding something really important."
"Care to elaborate, Sugarcube?"
"I mean look at him. He's got a really weird symbol on his back, he talks all serious and stuff, and what's he doing here in the Everfree, anyway?"
"Ah don't rightly know, but we might have to keep an eye on him," Applejack assured her friend. "He tries anything funny, and Ah might have to show him how the Apple family takes care of business"
Unbeknownst to them, Ulysses was listening to every word they said.
"I don't like the look of this guy either," Rainbow said. "Something about him just says trouble."
The group of ponies soon reached a clearing in the forest, with the faint sight of buildings in the distance. They soon found a road leading to the town, which led them to Ponyville.
The residence was bustling with ponies of various colors, milling about like a hive of ants. Conversations between friends and lovers filled the air in sweet melody.
"Welcome to Ponyville!" Pinkie Pie Exclaimed. "You're going to love this place! we have all sorts of fun things to do here! Like-"
"Pinkie Darling, I do believe we should let our guest get accustomed to being here," Rarity interrupted. "Besides, We really need to do something about his look."
"What's wrong with my appearance?" Ulysses asked.
"Everything. I mean, just look at that ragged jacket. And what's with that mask upon your face? And don't even get me started on those horrid braids."
Ulysses glared at her.
"You will not touch a single thing on my body, especially my braids," he said venomously. "You know nothing of their meaning," This voice made Rarity shrink back.
"Whoa, calm down, she was just offering to give you a makeover is all. Don't get so defensive," Rainbow Dash glared at him, which in tern caused Ulysses to glare back at her.
"None of you know the meanings of the symbols I hold, and I will not let you change the way I show them."
"Um, mister Ulysses?" Fluttershy squeaked out. "You don't have to be changed if you don't want to," her words seemed to calm Ulysses down, as he softened his gaze to Rainbow Dash.
"Umm..... awkward," Pinkie Pie said, all the other ponies nodded their heads. Ulysses felt uncomfortable in this situation, as well.
"So, do you like parties?" Pinkie asked. Ulysses thought about it. Parties were old world festivities, something entirely unknown to the wastes.
"I've never had one," he said monotonously. Pinkie gave him a look of shock.
"You never had a- well, I'll throw you one right now!" She said as she bounced off. Ulysses looked at her disappearing figure in confusion, wondering whether or not he made a mistake in judgement. The other ponies shrugged.
"Well, Ah'd love to stay and chat, but Ah got work needs doin' back home. Ah'll catch ya'll later," Applejack said in a nervous chuckle as she turned and left. All the others stood in an awkward silence.
"I'm kinda busy, too. Gotta go clear the skies. You know how it is, right girls?" Rainbow Dash said awkwardly, soon after. She started to fly away, pausing slightly to give Ulysses a warning look. Something only he seemed to notice. All the other ponies slowly started to drift away. All except Twilight, who continued to stand there.
"Can you come back to my library with me? I still want to ask you some questions," she asked sheepishly. Ulysses nodded And followed after her lead
Ulysses stood idly outside, staring at the strange structure that was Twilights' library.
"You live inside a tree?" He asked, somewhat surprised. Twilight gave an awkward smile in return. "Strange."
"It's not that strange. I mean, It's just a hollowed tree," she said. "Why don't we go in?"
Twilight opened the door and stepped in, Ulysses right behind her. The courier looked around the room at all the books and shelves, remembering all of the pre-war books he would find scattered in the wreckage of The Divide.
"SPIIIIIKE! Can You come here please?" Twilight bellowed. There was a rustling noise before a purple dragon descended from upstairs.
"You need something, Twilight?" Spike asked. He turned his attention to Ulysses. "Who's this?"
"This is why I wanted you to come down. This is Ulysses. He's new in town," Twilight stated.
"Nice to meet you. I'm Spike," the dragon said, lifting a claw up for a handshake. Ulysses just stared at him.
"I'm going to ask him some questions. Can you get some paper and write down his responses?" Twilight asked. Spike ignored the courier's rejection, and mock saluted Twilight before running back up the stairs.
"You have a slave?" Ulysses droned. Twilight looked at him in irritation.
"Spike is my assistant. I've raised him since he was hatched," she said, defensively. Ulysses sighed and sat down on his haunches.
Spike came down moments later with some parchment, a quill, and ink. "Alright, I'm ready when you are, Twi," he said as he sat down at a nearby desk. Twilight soon took a seat as well.
"Alright, let's start from the top. What's your full name?" She asked.
"Ulysses," he answered.
"Where do you come from?"
Ulysses had to think for a moment. "The Great Divide," he answered solemnly.
"Where is that? It's not place I've ever heard of," Twilight asked, confused by the Courier's claim.
"The Divide, a place where the Old World sleeps. A place where shadows of the Bear and Bull show their markings," he said. Twilight was beginning to express annoyance with him.
"Ugh, what is the Old World? Why do you keep talking about it?"
"America, a nation. Valued Ideas of democracy and peace. Soon waged war with a country that did not. Canceled the other out, bathed the other in atomic fire."
"What does that mean?" Twilight was thoroughly confused now. Ulysses' words were strange. She didn't know anything he meant. "What is atomic fire'?"
"A weapon, powerful enough to almost destroy a nation. Leaves a mark of invisible fire in it's wake. The fire never burns, just changes."
Now Twilight was completely lost. Ulysses wasn't making any sense to her whatsoever. She let out an audible groan.
"Spike, do you have any idea to what he's saying? I can't understand a thing," Twilight said, exasperated.
Spike shrugged. "Sorry Twi, I'm drawing blanks on what he's saying," he replied, confused.
Twilight sighed. "Ugh, you are the most confusing pony I've ever met," she stated. "And I thought pinkie was weird," Ulysses stared at her flatly. He felt uncomfortable in her presence.
"Can I ask what your cutie mark is?" Twilight pointed a hoof to his flank. "I can't see it because your jacket's in the way."
Ulysses stared down to where she was pointing. He reached a hoof over to it and moved the tattered jacket aside.
A Legion bull stared back at him.
His mind was assaulted instantly with images of the Legion. Images of Dry Wells, New Canaan, and Hoover dam. He could see all the pain spread by Caesar, see the Bear trying to fight back. He seethed at the offending mark. The bull was something he hated more than anything else.
"What does it mean?" Twilight asked. She could see something was troubling Ulysses.
"Take it off," he ordered.
"The mark. Take it off. Now."
Twilight looked at him in shock. "But that's the most illegal thing anypony can do!"
Ulysses glared at her, menacingly. "The symbol of the Bull has no place in me anymore."
"You've never seen the Bull's savagery. Never felt the pain it's flag spreads," Ulysses was glaring at her.
"You can't take off your cutie mark! It's part of who you are!" She tried reasoning. Ulysses sighed and pulled the jacket back over his flank. He continued to glare at Twilight.
"Nothing is ever set in stone," he said. "War. War never changes. But men can, through the roads they walk."
Nothing he said was making any sense, and it was starting to anger Twilight.
"What are you even talking about?!" She shouted angrily. "Nothing you say makes any sense, whatsoever!"
"You know nothing of my life, my history. You berate me for something you have no comprehension of," he said flatly. Twilight almost lost her temper, but a knock at the door stopped her from losing it. She huffed and walked to the door.
"We'll finish this later," she shot at him. She opened the door to a smiling Zecora.
"Hello, Twilight, my young friend," she said. "To what matters do transcend? I heard a yell and shout, what is it all about?" Twilight sighed and pointed her hoof towards Ulysses.
"It's him. He's so confusing. Everything he's said so far make absolutely no sense. It's so frustrating." Twilight Explained. Zecora looked to where she was pointing. She saw him staring at her, no emotion apparent on his face.
"A stranger with a jacket tattered. He looks as though he's been quite battered," Zecora observed. Ulysses walked up to the doorway, continuing to stare at Zecora.
"My name is Ulysses," he said to her. She gave him a friendly smile.
"A name very strange to this land. To what meaning does it stand?"
"Taken from history. A man who united a nation, but lost himself to it."
"While I enjoy a friendly chatter, I have come for a different matter. I found an artifact strange indeed, a pole lying alongside the weeds. A staff adorned with an eagle of gold. I can see by the markings that it is quite old," she reached behind her and pulled out a pole with an eagle on top. Twilight looked at it confused. Ulysses smiled under his mask.
"Old Glory," he stated simply.
"What?" Twilight asked
"Old Glory, my staff. Earned me the title of flag bearer," he replied. Zecora handed the staff to Ulysses. He grabbed it awkwardly with his hoof, finding it strange to grip it without fingers.
"What's it do?" Twilight asked.
"An Old World flagpole. Carried the flag of america proudly. It comes with me wherever I go," he said. Twilight gave a sigh.
"There he goes with the 'Old World' again," she said. Ulysses ignored her statement.
"You've reunited a courier and his flag. Thank you," he said to Zecora. She looked over to see Twilight muttering something under her breath.
Unbeknownst to them, a pair of violet eyes stared at them from the skies.
"I'm watching you, new guy."
Applejack paced back and forth in the family kitchen. Her brother, Big Macintosh, stared at her emotionlessly. Applebloom sat across from him, sitting silently and watching her sister's nervous activity.
"What's got you so worked up?" She asked tentatively. Applejack groaned in exasperation.
"It's this new fella that we met today. Says his name's Ulysses," she said, frowning. "Ain't a name Ah ever heard before."
"What's so bad about that? Ah bet he's real friendly once you get to know him," Applebloom said with surprising wisdom. Applejack gave her sister a stern look.
"Ah'm sure he is, but something about him just says trouble. Now, Ah ain't gonna judge a pony before Ah rightly know'im, it's just that Ah get this ominous feelin' 'round him. Like maybe he's hidin' somethin'," she said.
Apple bloom gave a meek shrug. "Ya'll said that 'bout Zecora when we first met her. Maybe ya'll will have to give this Ulysses guy a chance," she said.
"Eeyup," Big Mac agreed. Applejack gave a sigh.
"Still," she started. "Ah'm gonna keep an eye on him. Make sure he ain't no threat."
Big Mac gave Applebloom a quizzical look.
"Aww Shucks, Rarity told me earlier we're gonna have a picnic. Ah best get goin'," Applejack said, quite flustered. "Gotta go make sure the rest didn't forget either," with that, she galloped out the door.
"AH'LL SEE YA'LL LATER!" She shouted back toward her siblings.
Rainbow Dash peered over the edge of the cloud she was laying on, looking at the actions happening below. More specifically, she was watching Ulysses. Something in her gut told her to watch him, and watch she did. She watched as Zecora handed an eagle topped staff to Ulysses. She couldn't hear what they were saying, but a creeping suspicion made her think it was something about the staff.
"I'm watching you, new guy," Rainbow said to herself. She watched as Twilight and Ulysses turned back into the library, Zecora turning around to leave. Rainbow huffed a little. The library concealed her view of Ulysses, something that would prove inconvenient to Rainbow Dash. She looked toward a different direction for some unknown reason, and saw Applejack galloping down the road.
Rainbow took off from her perch, flying quickly to intercept Applejack. Unfortunately, Rainbow wasn't very good at stopping on a dim, and crashed into the side of Applejack. Both ponies tumbled to the ground in a mess of limbs.
"Rainbow Dash, Just what in the hay are you doin'?" Applejack scolded. Rainbow stood up and dusted herself off. Applejack did the same.
"Oh, you know... just clearing the skies," Rainbow said sheepishly. Applejack gave her a condescending look.
"OK, I was spying on the new guy. He's with Twilight in the library. What are you doing here?"
"Ah'm remindin' all our friends about the picnic Rarity planned," Applejack said. Rainbow looked confused. "Today," Applejack added.
"Oh," Rainbow nodded in realization. "We better tell Twilight"
"That's what Ah'm tryin' to do," Applejack huffed. She turned and approached the door to Twilight's Library. She hesitated before knocking three times. Twilight opened the door, almost immediately.
"What's up, girls?" She asked. She looked exasperated. "I was just talking to our new friend here," she pointed a hoof to Ulysses. He just stared at them.
"Sorry to bother ya, Twi, But We're here to remind ya about the picnic Rarity planned," Twilight was caught off guard.
"It was today?" She asked.
"Yeah. Might be happenin' right now. So get a move on, sugarcube," Applejack stated. Twilight shook her head quickly.
"Ugh, how could I forget the picnic," she turned around and headed back inside. "Let me grab the blanket."
Applejack gave a sigh and turned her attention to Ulysses. He continued to stare at her, which made the orange pony slightly uncomfortable. Twilight returned moments later with a checkered blanket clenched in her magic aura.
"I'm ready when you are," Twilight stated. She turned her head to Ulysses. "Do you want to come, too?" She asked. Ulysses pondered the thought for a short second before nodding. Applejack pulled Twilight to the side of the room.
"Are ya sure ya want to bring him with us?" She whispered. Twilight nodded.
"He's new in town and doesn't have any friends," she replied. Applejack gave a stern look.
"What if he tries something bad with that eagle pole there?"
"I'm sure he won't try anything."
"...OK, but Ah'm keeping an eye on him," she finished.
Twilight turned and walked to the door. "Let's get moving then," she said, nodding to Ulysses.
The soft blanket felt almost alien to Ulysses, who sat on his haunches overlooking Ponyville. The other ponies were chatting about matters he didn't much care about. His thoughts drifted to the mark on his flank. In his past he would have shown the bull proudly. But now he wanted nothing more than to see it burn. He looked over his shoulder, catching eyes with Fluttershy. She gave a meek whimper and turned from his gaze. Ulysses turned his attention back to where the town laid.
"So anyway, that's how I became the best flyer in Equestria!" Rainbow Dash boasted proudly.
Twilight rolled her eyes. "You tell that story all the time. Don't you ever get tired of it?" She asked.
Rainbow huffed in annoyance. "Well I thought the new guy would've liked it," She said, nudging Ulysses. "Right?" He stared at her blankly.
"No," he said flatly. Rainbow Dash glared at him.
"Ugh, way to ruin the mood, new guy," she said. Ulysses ignored her, instead he focused on the form of Spike running up the hill where they sat.
"TWILIGHT! TWILIGHT!" He yelled as he ran. He tripped as he reached the picnic area. "Twilight, You got a message from the princess!" He said, almost entirely out of breath. He handed the letter to Twilight.
"Thank you spike," she cleared her throat, before starting to read the letter. "Dear Twilight Sparkle, I am sure you are as excited as I am about the upcoming wedding in Canterlot."
"Wedding?" They all wondered, out loud.
Twilight continued. "I will be presiding over the ceremony, but would very much like you and your friends to help with the preparations for this wonderful occasion. Fluttershy, I would like you and your songbird choir to provide the music..."
"Oh my goodness, what an honor," Fluttershy Squeaked.
"Pinkie Pie, I can think of no one more qualified than you to host the reception..."
"Yay!" Pinkie Pie screeched.
"Applejack, you will be in charge of the catering for the reception..."
"Yeehaw. Ah'll make the best darn pastries them ponies've ever eaten," Applejack Cheered.
"Rainbow Dash..." Twiligh began.
The pegasus simply yawned.
"I would very much appreciate it if you could perform a sonic rainboom as the bride and groom complete their I do's..."
Rainbow jumped in the air. "Booyah!" she bellowed. "Best. Wedding. EVER!"
"Rarity, you will be responsible for designing the dresses for the bride and her bridesmaids..."
Rarity promptly fainted.
"And as for you, Twilight, you will be playing the most important role of all: making sure that everything goes as planned. See you all very soon. Yours, Princess Celestia," Twilight finished. She looked up to the smiling faces of all the other ponies. All except Ulysses, who had a monotonous gaze fixed on her.
"Another Old World festivity. A conjoining of lives through love," Ulysses said. "I'm coming, too."
All the ponies were startled at his declaration. Applejack glared at him.
"Look here, pardner. Ah don't know what you want to do there, but you can't come. Ya'll weren't invited," she said. "Besides, Why do you want to go?" Ulysses gave her a stern look.
"I have questions. Need answers. Your leader would answer them," he said. "Need to know this world. Know it's history," Applejack continued to glare at him. "I know you don't trust me. Have every reason not to. I will come along, only to know the truth. Need to see it."
Applejack sighed in defeat. Twilight gave everyone a confused look.
"There's one thing I don't understand, though. Who's getting married?" Twilight asked no one in particular. The ponies shrugged.
"Oh, I was probably supposed to give you this first then," Spike handed Twilight a different letter.
"Princess Celestia cordially invites you to the wedding of Princess Mi Amore Cadenza and-" she gasped. "My brother?
"Your brother's getting married? Congratulations, Twilight, that's great news!" Applejack cheered.
Twilight had an annoyed look. "Yeah, great news. That I just got from a wedding invitation! Not from my brother, but from a piece of paper! Thanks a lot, Shining Armor. I mean, really, he couldn't tell me personally?" Twilight said bitterly. She levitated a nearby sandwich. "Hey, Twilight, just thought you should know I'm making a really big decision that changes everything. Oh, nevermind, you'll hear about it when you get the invitation," she said in a mocking voice. "Princess Mi Amore Cadenza? Who in the hoof is that?!"
"Um, Twilight? Are you okay?" Fluttershy asked, concerned.
Twilight huffed. "It's just... me and Shining Armor used to be so close," she said in exasperation. "He's my B.B.B.F.F.," she was met with confused looks. "Big Brother Best Friend Forever?"
"Oh," they all said collectively.
"Before I came here and learned the importance of friendship, Shining Armor was the only pony I really accepted as a friend," Twilight sighed. Ulysses gave her a stern look.
"You've walked a lone road, made you who you are," he started. "The roads we walk show who we are, show who we will become," the ponies gave him questioning looks.
"What are you talking about?" Rainbow Dash asked.
"I don't know either, Rainbow. He's been talking like that all day," Twilight sighed. "Maybe Celestia will know what he's talking about."
Applejack cleared her throat, Gaining the attention of everyone there. "As one of your P.F.F.'s..." she started getting confused looks. "Pony Friends Forever..."
"Oh," Everyone said again.
".... Ah wanna tell ya that Ah think your brother sounds like a real good guy," she finished.
Twilight smiled. "He is pretty special. I mean, they don't let just anypony be Captain of the Royal Guard," she said proudly.
"So let me get this straight. We're helping out with the wedding of not only a princess, but a Captain of the Royal Guard?" Rarity asked in awe.
"I guess we are," Twilight said. Rarity fainted.
Everyone else broke into excited chattering. Ulysses gave a stony expression to Twilight. "There may be more to this wedding than what it seems."
Ulysses stared out of the window of the train. He saw rolling meadows and forests of trees everywhere. Everywhere he looked seemed so... peaceful, so different.
"A sonic rainboom? At a wedding?! Can you say 'best wedding ever!'" Rainbow Dash exclaimed happily.
"Best wedding ever!" Pinkie Pie echoed. Twilight ignored her, instead opting to stare out of the window alongside Ulysses. Applejack approached them.
"Why the long face, sugarcube?" She asked.
Twilight Sighed. "I'm just thinking about Shining Armor. Ever since I moved into Ponyville, we've been seeing each other less and less. And now that he's starting a new family with this 'Princess Mi Amore Cal-whatshername', we'll probably never see each other," she sighed.
Applejack patted her on the back. "Come on, now. You're his sister. He'll always make time for you," she tried comforting Twilight.
"Couldn't seem to make time to tell me he was getting married," she said bitterly.
Ulysses glanced over at the ponies, A thought passing his mind. "Been here shortly, don't know who you are," he started. "What are your names?" He asked.
Twilight facehoofed. "Ugh, I've been so caught up with all this commotion that I totally forgot to introduce you to everypony," she said. "My name's Twilight Sparkle, This is Applejack here," Applejack nodded towards him. "Over there is Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy," she pointed to the other ponies on the train. They were all chatting excitedly about the wedding.
"Strange names," Ulysses mused. "Never heard of names like that before."
"Well your name is strange to us, so I don't think there's much of a problem," she said. A loud yell resounded in the train.
"We're here! We're here!" Pinkie Pie yelled.
"Whoa, what's with all the guards?" Rainbow Dash asked.
"I'm sure they're just taking the necessary precautions. Royal weddings do bring out the strangest ponies," Rarity answered.
Ulysses frowned under his mask. "Tactics of the bear. Try to avoid harm to their leaders. Only encourages the enemy," he said. The ponies shrugged at the statement.
"Now let's get going; we've got work to do!" Rarity exclaimed when the engine finally halted. The ponies rushed off the train in excitement.
"And you've got a brother to congratulate," Applejack said to Twilight.
"Yeah. Congratulate," she said sarcastically. "And then give him a piece of my mind."
"Why are you following me?" Twilight asked Ulysses as he trailed behind her.
"Need to meet him - your brother. Holds a position of power in your society. Might have answers. Might have history," he said monotonously.
Twilight sighed. "I don't think I'll talk you out of it," she said. Twilight looked up, catching eyes with Shining Armor. He gave her a happy look as he met her on the ground.
"Twily!" He exclaimed. " I've missed you, kid. How was the train ride, I-"
"How dare you not tell me in person that you were getting married! I'm your sister for pony's sake!" Twilight interrupted him.
Shining Armor Gave a sheepish look. "It's not my fault! Princess Celestia has requested a major increase in security. Didn't you see all the guards at the train station?" He asked.
"Yeah, there's a big wedding coming up. Maybe you heard about it?" Twilight Seethed.
Shining Armor gave a defeated sigh. "It has nothing to do with the wedding. A threat has been made against Canterlot. We don't know who's responsible for it, but Princess Celestia asked that I help provide additional protection. This you need to see," his horn glowed as it fired a beam towards the sky, making a force field around the city. "The burden of keeping Canterlot safe and secure rests squarely on my shoulders. Staying focused on the task at hand has been my top priority."
"Think your shield can protect you?" Ulysses said.
"Your force will only encourage your enemy to strike quicker."
Shining Armor gave him a quizzical look. "Who's he?" He asked Twilight.
She groaned in response. "Ugh, I know you have a job to do, but how could you not tell me in person that you were getting married?" She asked. "Am I not important to you anymore?"
"Hey. You're my little sister. Of course you're important to me," Shininng Armor said, embracing Twilight. He looked towards Ulysses and frowned. "Now, who's you're friend, Twily?"
"My name is Ulysses," the courier said to him.
Shining Armor let go of Twilight and walked up to Ulysses, looking him right in the eye. "What business do you have here?" He asked.
"Questions," Ulysses deadpanned.
Shining Armor gave him a strange look. "What kind of questions?" He asked.
"One's your leader would do well to hear," Ulysses replied.
Shining Armor stepped away from him and backpedaled to Twilight.
"What's up with him?" He whispered to her.
Twilight groaned. "Look, it doesn't matter. All I want to know is, who is Princess Mi Amore Cadenza?" she asked. Shining Armor smiled coyly.
"Twily, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza is Cadance. Your old foalsitter," he said.
Twilight gasped in surprise. "Cadance? As in the Cadance? As in the greatest foalsitter in all the history of foalsitters?!" She asked, giving an astounded look to her brother.
"You tell me. She was YOUR foalsitter," he chuckled.
Twilight jumped in joy. "Ohmygoshohmygosh! Cadance is only the most amazing pony ever! She's beautiful, she's caring, she's kind," she said as she pranced around excited.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything important," a voice said from behind her.
"Cadance!" Twilight exclaimed when she saw her old foalsitter. She pranced up in front of her. "Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake! Clap your hooves and do a little shake!" She chanted.
The princess looked bored "What are you doing?" She asked, irritated.
"Cadance it's me, Twilight!" Twilight tried to explain.
"Whatever," was her only reply. Ulysses looked at her strangely. Something about her seemed odd, as if she were hiding something.
"I've gotta get back to my station, but Cadance will be checking in with all of you to see how things are going. I think I speak for both of us when I say we couldn't be more excited to have you here. Right, dear?" Shining Armor announced. Cadance put on a forced smile.
"Absolutely," she said. Ulysses glared at her, suspicions rising in his mind.
"Well, we'll let you get to it," Shining Armor finished/ He turned and walked away, passing Ulysses. "I'm watching you. You try anything funny, anything to ruin my wedding, and I'll personally see to it that you spend the rest of your life in the dungeon," he whispered to him before continuing. Ulysses glared in response. Cadance and Twilight looked at Ulysses in confusion. Cadance cleared her throat, gaining his attention.
"Might I ask who you are and what your business here is?" She asked him. Ulysses turned and walked away without saying a word.
Ulysses stood in the kitchen with Twilight and Applejack, watching the orange colored pony bake and cook the food for the wedding. She paused as she thought out loud.
"Cake, check. Ice sculpture, check. Best darn bite-size apple fritter you ever tasted..." Applejack handed a pastry to Twilight, who gulped it down immediately.
"Mmm. Check," she said.
Just then, Princess Cadance walked through the door and into the room.
"Hiya, Princess!" Applejack greeted warmly.
The princess gave her an annoyed look. "Please, call me Princess Mi Amore Cadenza," she said.
Applejack nodded. "Hiya Princess Mi Amore Cadenza. You come to see what's on the menu for your big day?" Applejack asked. The princess smiled sinisterly.
"I have," she said. Ulysses stared at her. Applejack handed her a few pastries. The princess ate a few, forcing a smile to her face. "Delicious, I love them," she said. Applejack smiled brightly.
"Aw, shucks. Why don't you take a few to go? Ah know how you brides can be. So busy, you forget to get a little somethin' in your belly," she said as she handed the princess a few more. Cadance forced a smile and walked out. A thud resounded in both Twilight and Ulysses' ears. The pastries Applejack worked so hard to prepare were thrown carelessly into the garbage.
Twilight fumed. "Did... you see what she just did?" She asked no one in particular.
Ulysses nodded in response, words tinted with suspicion. "This princess isn't who she seems."
Ulysses walked briskly through the halls of the Canterlot Royal Palace, his goal of the throne room beckoning him like a siren. The massive doors of the room halted his walk, as did two guards.
"Halt!" One said. "What is your business here?" Ulysses glared at him.
"Need answers." he said. "Your leader will give them." The guard gave him a defensive look.
"Have you set up an appointment with her majesty?" He asked. Ulysses narrowed his eyes.
"Won't need one," he said. The guard narrowed his eyes as well.
"Then I can't let you pass." He said sternly. Ulysses only glared at him.
"You have no jurisdiction over me. Not of this world, not of your people." He ignored the guard's threatening words, Pushing open the massive doors to the throne room. The pair of guards tried to subdue him. A flash of a golden eagle was the last sight they saw before succumbing to unconciousness. The guards fell in the throne room with an echoing thud.
"What is the meaning of this?" A regal voice bellowed. Princess Celestia stood from her throne, approaching the figure of Ulysses calmly standing between two unconcious guards. She narrowed her eyes at him.
"Need answers," he said simply. His baritone voice echoed in the room. "Are you the leader of this nation?" He asked. Celestia narrowed her eyes further.
"What does it matter to you?" she asked simply. Ulysses gave a stern look.
"Want to know the history of this land." He replied. Celestia gave him a cold look.
"What makes you think I'll answer your questions after you attacked my guards?" She asked coolly. Ulysses only stared in response. "What makes you think you won't be punished?"
"You and I both have answers. I will answer your questions, in return, you will answer mine." Ulysses stated calmly. Celestia glared at him.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"My name is Ulysses." He replied. Celestia gave a confused look.
"That's not a name any normal pony would have. What does it mean?"
"A man, brought two flags together under one, but lost himself in doing so." he stated simply. Celestia continued to stare at him in confusion.
"What does that mean?" she asked, Bewildered at his words.
"History of the Old World. My world." Ulysses replied. "Not of this land, as I've said. From a different world, where the Old World ceased to be, and a new one rose from it's ashes." Celestia stood dumbfounded. Ulysses continued. "How I arrived here, unknown to me. I know this isn't the world I come from."
"What world do you come from?" She asked hesitantly, Her suspicions of an attack replaced with pure confusion. Ulysses sighed.
"One where the flames of war scar the land. A world consumed by hate, anger. The once proud race of humanity, reduced to near extinction by the fires of radiation." He said somberly. Celestia's gaze softened. She wasn't expecting a traveler of another world to barge in her throne room, let alone during one of Canterlots most busy events.
"That... is horrible." She said. She straitened her gaze. "Be that as it may, You still attacked my guards and barged in here unannounced. What say you in your defence?" Ulysses Looked her in the eye.
"Never meant to hurt your people, Only wanted answers." Ulysses said. "They are only unconcious, only minor harm befell them. Please, Excuse my actions." Celestia Sighed.
"You are either extremely brave, or incredibly stupid." She said."I forgive your actions, But You must apologize to the guards you knocked out." Ulysses nodded "I presume you have questions of your own?" Ulysses nodded again.
"What is the name of this world." He asked. Celestia smiled.
"This is the gracious land of Equestria." She said proudly. "Please let me be the first to formally welcome you to my land." Ulysses nodded.
"What is it's history?" he asked. Celestia gave him a questioning look.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"What is the history of this land?" he asked again. Celestia sighed.
"This land has so much history," She started. "I would tell you it, but unfortunately I have a wedding to oversee in my palace. I will gladly tell you more when the wedding is finished." Ulysses nodded. Celestia gave him an apologetic look.
"Fair enough," he said monotonously. "I will observe this wedding. Gain knowledge of your customs." Celestia nodded in response. A groan from nearby alerted the two that the guards have awakened.
"Ugh, What happened?" one said. He looked over to Ulysses, standing up and giving him a glare. "Intruder!" He yelled. Ulysses glared at him. The guard charged, ready to strike. Ulysses readied Old Glory.
"STOP!" Celestia shouted. The guard froze in his tracks. "You are not to harm this stallion, He is my honored guest during the wedding." she said. The guard looked at her confused.
"But Ma'am, he barged in here. I thought he was going to attack you." he said. Celestia gave him a stern look.
"I am sure our guest here intended no harm, and is truly sorry for what he did." She looked towards Ulysses. "Isn't that right?" He nodded. She looked back towards the guard. "You are dismissed." The guard frowned but still saluted. He turned around and walked out of the room, the other close behind him.
"Seems as though your ponies don't trust me. Understandable." Ulysses stated. Celestia smiled at him.
"In time they may trust you," She said assuringly. "In the meantime, do you have any place to rest?" Ulysses frowned and looked out of a nearby window. The rich color of dusk illuminated the sky. Ulysses shook his head.
"No." he replied. Celestia smiled again.
"Then I welcome you to stay in my castle. At least until we find better accomadations for you." she said. Ulysses sighed.
"Thank you," He started. "Don't feel tired. Want to walk, want to think." He said as he turned and left. "Where will I be staying?" Celestia pointed a hoof out the door, which was still wide open.
"Down the hall, on your right. There will be a hallway. At the end of it will be your room for now." She said. Ulysses nodded and left, Closing the massive doors behind him.
The cool air felt strangely pleasant to Ulysses, who walked silently in the courtyard. He turned his head towards the sky, gazing at the twinkling stars above. The sight was soothing to him, and he felt strangely at ease. That was until he bumped into a lone unicorn walking the streets. Twilight Sparkle gasped and fell.
"Ow! Hey! Watch wher-" She started, But stopped when she saw the face of whom she bumped into. "Sorry," She said meekly, Standing up and getting ready to continue walking. Ulysses could see something was troubling the young mare, and stopped her mid-stride.
"Something troubling you?" He asked monotonously. Twilight sighed.
"Shining Armor is in real danger, And nopony believes me." She said. "Princess Mi Amore Cadenza is evil!" Ulysses stared at her.
"This princess, not who she seems. Hiding something. Planning." He said. "Your suspicions of her may be correct." Twilight looked at him in shock.
"You believe me?" Ulysses nodded.
"Watched her when we first encountered. Face full of deceit, lies." he started. "Feels as if she's spying, scouting, for a weakness in the defence." Ulysses deadpanned. Twilight gave him a trusting look.
"We'll have to talk to her about it tomorrow." She said. Ulysses gave her a nod.
"When the truth dawns, I'll be there." He said before walking off.
Ulysses sighed as he layed onto the bed, feeling the soft matress caress his tired body. His thoughts drifted off, wandering to the events of the day, before settling into a restful slumber. Unaware of the actions that would happen in the future.
The throne room of canterlot buzzed with excited chatter as Princess Celestia conducted a rehearsal wedding.
"Perfect, girls. No need to rush! Then of course, Cadance will enter." Princess Celestia paused for a moment. "I'll say a few words, and then we'll begin with the vows. Shining Armor, you'll get the ring from your Best Mare." Shining Armor glanced around the throne room nervously.
"Hey... has anypony seen Twilight?" he asked the others. They shrugged in response. "Well Lets-" He was interuppted by the great doors to the hall slamming open. Everyone turned their attention to the figures standing in the doorway, to the forms that were Ulysses and Twilight.
"I'm here! I'm not gonna stand next to her. And neither should you!" Twilight yelled. Shining Armor smiled apologetically to everyone else.
"I'm sorry, I don't, I don't know why she's acting like this." he explained, smiling awkwardly. Princess Cadance looked unamused.
"Maybe we should just ignore her." She stated flatly. Ulysses glared at her.
"You would be foolish to ignore the truth." He said, The echo of his voice ringing in the princess' ears.
"You have to listen to me!" Twilight yelled again, gaining everyone's attention. "She's evil!" everyone gasped, and soon erupted into a buzzing chatter. "She's been horrible to my friends, she's obviously done something to her bridesmaids, and if that wasn't enough, I saw her put a spell on my brother that made his eyes go all-" her eyes spun around comically, Making Ulysses look at her in confusion. Princess Cadance's eyes started to tear up.
"Why Are you doing this to me?" she choked out, barely holding in her tears.
"Because your evil!" Twilight shouted. Ulysses narrowed his eyes at Cadance.
"You are a shadow of deciet. Lies of the grandest nature spill through your mouth." He said monotonously, Making the princess break down and cry. She galloped out of the room, tears streaming down her face. Shining Armor smacked Twilight on the back of the head, Furious.
"You want to know why my eyes went all-?" He made his eyes spin comically then. "Because ever since I started having to perform my protection spell, I've been getting terrible migraines. Cadance hasn't been casting spells on me, she's been using her magic to heal me!" He yelled, Making Twilight inhale sharply. "And she decided to replace her bridesmaids because she found out the only reason they wanted to be in the wedding was so that they could meet Canterlot royalty! And if she hasn't been on her best behavior with your friends, it's because with me being so busy, she's had to make all the decisions about the wedding!" His anger flourished on his face.
"I was just trying to-" Twilight tried to retort.
"She's been completely stressed out because it's really important to her that her big day be perfect! Something that obviously wasn't important to you!" He yelled. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and comfort my bride. And you can forget about being my best mare. In fact, if I were you, I wouldn't show up to the wedding at all!" He yelled as he walked out of the room.
"C'mon, y'all. Let's go check on the princess." Applejack said as she turned and left. She gave a heated glare to Twilight.
"I was-" Tilight tried to say. Princess Celestia interrupted her.
"You have a lot to think about," She said, then turned her head to Ulysses. "And you, you are no longer welcome here." She turned and walked out of the door, closing it behind her and leaving Twilight alone with Ulysses. Twilight sunk to the ground in shame.
"Maybe I was being overprotective. I could've gained a sister. But instead... I just lost a brother." she said, tears forming in her eyes.
"Maybe we were wrong," Ulysses started. "Can't blame them for not trusting me. Might have doomed a nation, forced history to repeat itself." he said. Just then a loud booming sound echoed in the chamber. Princess Cadance, in all her glory, stood in the center of the room. Twilight looked up pleadingly.
"I'm sorry." She choked out. Cadance grinned sadistically.
"You will be." She seethed as she surrounded Ulysses and Twilight in a glowing green ring of fire, making their vision turn black.
Ulysses felt the cold ground hit his back immediately, making him grunt in slight pain. A soft grunt made it known he wasn't the only one. He could make out the form of Twilight trying to shakily stand herself up.
"Hello? is anypony there?" She asked, voice echoing in the cavern.
"I am," Ulysses replied, his voice echoing off of the cavern walls as well. He stood himself upright, using Old Glory as leverage. "Suspicions were correct, Need to stop her." He said. just then a cackling laugh filled the air. Ulysses paused and looked to the source of the laughter. And looked up to a crystal wall. The face of the bride soon to be filled his vision. He glared at her.
"Where am I?" Twilight asked scared. The cackling stopped.
"The caves beneath Canterlot, once home to greedy unicorns who wanted to claim the gems that could be found inside. And now, your prison." The voice of Princess Mi Amore Cadenza said. Ulysses frowned, Thinking back to the fall of Father Elijah in the Sierra Madre casino. He wondered if he was going to share a similar fate. He continued to glare.
"Help! Help!" Twilight screamed, trying to get the attention of someone, anyone.
"It's no use. No one can hear you. And no one will ever think to look for you, either. Most ponies have forgotten that these caves even exist. Which is why they are the ideal place to keep the ones who try to interfere with my plans." Cadance said haughtily.
"What plans?" Twilight choked out. The princess gave a smug smile to her.
"The plans I have for your brother, of course." Princess Cadenza said.
"Don't you dare do anything to my brother, you... you monster!" Twilight yelled passionately.
"Only way to stop me is to catch me." Cadance taunted. Twilight fired a beam from her horn, smashing the crystal where the princess' face once was. "Over here," she taunted again, making Twilight fire another beam. "Nope, over here." She taunted again. Twilight again fired another beam, but this time it hit a wall with another cavern behind it, revealing it's host. Ulysses darted to the figure instantly, pressing the eagle of Old Glory up to it's throat.
"You," Ulysses said when he saw the identity of his target. A scared, ragged, and worn Princess Mi Amore Cadenza was clutched in his fury. Twilight glared daggers at her too.
"No!Please! Don't hurt me! Twilight, it's me! Please, you have to believe me. I've been imprisoned like you. The Cadance who brought you down here was an imposter." she said. Ulysses only pressed the eagle harder.
"Likely story!" Twilight accused. Cadance managed to somehow slip from Ulysses grasp. He almost struck her down before he saw her do a little dance.
"Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake. Clap your hooves..." She started.
"...And do a little shake." Both of them finished. Twilight smiled brightly and embraced the princess.
"You remember me!" Twilight said. Cadance smiled.
"Of course I do. How could I forget the filly I love to sit for the most?" she said. Twilight broke the embrace when she heard another cackle echo in the cavern.
"We have to stop her."
Princess Mi Amore Cadenza smirked into the mirror on her dresser. All her plans were coming together. She thought back to her actions earlier, smirking at the thought of Twilight Sparkle finnaly breaking in that cavern. Her thoughts soon drifted to the other pony she sent down into the depths of Canterlot. Ulysses was by far the most mysterious of anypony the Princess met. Of course, when it seemed he saw through her ruse, she sent him to the place absolutley nopony would look without ever giving it any thought. She pushed the thoughts out of her head, smiling as she put on her bridal veil.
"This day is going to be perfect."
Ulysses, Cadance, and Twilight ran through the tunnels and caverns under the city. Thier destination seemed so far, yet so close. Cadance gave a wary glance to Ulysses, Who caught her gaze with an emotionless stare.
"Who are you?" Cadance asked him. Ulysses kept running, Almost ignoring her question.
"Ulysses," He said. Cadance wanted to ask another question, But stopped when Ulysses halted. Three ponies, Each with thier eyes glowing a shade of green stood before them. Twilight looked at them in confusion. Ulysses readied his staff.
"Make your first attack count, You won't get a second."
"Mares and gentlecolts, we are gathered here today to witness the union of Princess Mi Amore Cadenza and Shining Armor." Princess Celestia said. "It is with great pleasure that I-" She never got to finish. The door leading to the ceremony Burst open. Ulysses stood at the entrance, glaring at the ponies on the podium. Celestia glared at him heatedly.
"What are you doing here?" She asked with venom in her voice. The entire crowd went deathly silent.
"Saving a nation," He started. "You are so much like the bear, so full of themselves. You are all too blind to realize the destruction you would inflict on yourselves. Too blind to see that one of your own isn't who she says she is." He pointed towards Princess Mi Amore Cadenza. She looked at him with tears in her eyes.
"Why do you have to ruin my special day?" She said.
"Because it's not your special day. It's mine." A voice said from behind him. Princess Cadance walked into the throne room, a determined look in her eye. The whole crowd erupted into gasps and murmurs. Twilight Sparkle soon stepped into the room. Princess Mi Amore Cadenza glared at them.
"What? But how did you escape my bridesmaids?" she asked. She glanced at the flagpole grasped in his hoof. "Hmm, Clever,But you're still too late."
"Ah don't understand. How can there be two of 'em?" Applejack stammered. Princess Cadance gave her a knowing look.
"She's a changeling. She takes the form of somepony you love and gains power by feeding off your love for them." She said. The princess on the podium Surrounded herself in a green aura of flame. The flames bursted upward, slowly peeling off the layers that made Princess Mi Amore Cadenza. What stood in her place could best be described as an insectoid pony. The changleing queen laughed haughtily.
"Right you are, Princess. And as queen of the changelings, it is up to me to find food for my subjects. Equestria has more love than any place I've ever encountered." She looked towards Ulysses and frowned. "Especially yours," she said to him. Ulysses only glared. "Your world was filled with so much hate and anger. It was no place to feed my subjects." The crowd once again broke into murmurs. Ulysses glared at her
"Then you've seen the savagery of the bull, Seen the corruption of the bear." He started. "I will not let you destroy this nation. History will not repeat itself today. You are the very thing of which you hate in my world." The changeling queen frowned. Twilight and her friends looked at him in bewilderment.
"I knew this guy was strange. But a traveler from another world? That's unbelievable!" Rainbow Dash said.
"There is nothing in which to consume in your world. Love is so scarce in that wasteland that my subjects would simply starve, but I digress. Soon My fellow changelings will be able to devour so much love that we will gain more power than we have ever dreamed of!" The changeling queen continued.
"They'll never get the chance! Shining Armor's protection spell will keep them from ever even reaching us." Princess Cadance stated. The queen laughed at her ignorance.
"Oh, I doubt that. Isn't that right, dear?" She shot a beam form her horn to Shining Armor, making him fall to the floor in agony. He shakily stood back up.
"Mmm-Hmm," He murmured. Cadance rushed to her lover, but was stopped by the queen.
"Ah, ah, ah. Don't want to go back to the caves, now do you? Ever since I took your place, I've been feeding off Shining Armor's love for you. Every moment he grows weaker and so does his spell. Even now my minions are chipping away at it." She laughed. Cadance gave Shining Armor a helpless look. "He may not be my husband, but he is under my total control now!" The queen laughed. A gasp escaped Twilight's and Cadance's mouths. "Soon, my changeling army will break through. First, we take Canterlot. And then, all of Equestria!"
"No. You won't. You may have made it impossible for Shining Armor to perform his spell, but now that you have so foolishly revealed your true self, I can protect my subjects from you!" Princess Celestia said in an authorive voice. Then, using her wings and taking to the air, she fired a beam of magic towards the changeling queen. The queen retaliated, Firing her own beam towards the princess of the sun. The beams struck together, neeting each other in a loud crack. It was a battle of magical strength as bright yellow pushed against sickly green. Soon though, The green overpowered the yellow, And Princess Celestia widened her eyes as the green struck her horn.
Silence soon reigned in the room as everybody watched thier beloved princess fall to the ground. A clanging noise sounded, The crown of the princess fell off of her head almost symbolicly. Ulysses looked at the spectacle in a quiet rage. He stood on his hindlegs, using Old Glory as balance. He pointed a hoof towards the queen.
"You," He said, Barely masking the emotion behind his mask. "You are going to feel your nation die, Feel the lesson here today. You will know what the pain of losing a nation is like, as I nail it into your head like a gift from Caesar." A loud buzzing filled the air, as swarms of changelings entered the room.
"The Elements, Twilight." Celestia managed to rasp out. "You must get to them, and use their power to defeat the queen." She said before succumbing to the sweet embrace of unconsiousness. Twilight nodded her head, and beckoned her friends to follow. The sextet of ponies left the room, running in haste to thier destination. Ulysses looked at part of a swarm following them, before another quickly surrounded him.
"Foolish mortal," The changleing queen shouted. "You will die here. CHANGELINGS! DESTROY HIM!" she ordered. Ulysses readied his staff, ready for the first attack.
The first changeling charged him, aiming to tackle Ulysses to the ground. Ulysses sidestepped it easily, bringing Old Glory down hard on it's back. A loud crack later, And the changeling fell to the ground, screaming in pain. Without missing a beat, Ulysses slammed the pole onto it's head, killing it instantly. Three more changelings tried the same manuever, Rushing the courier simaltaneously. He swept the flagpole in a wide arc, hitting each one in the head. Thier fragile heads cracked and broke under the force of the swing, and soon joined each other in death.
They kept using that same tactic, rushing Ulysses in large groups or trying to get behind him. But they underestimated the power of Ulysses, and soon a melody of death surrounded him.
Ulysses stood, emotionless, inside a circle of broken changeling bodies. the queen looked at him in awe and fear. Slowly backing away as Ulysses approached her.
"Wha-how do you-WHAT ARE YOU?" she screamed, Ulysses only glared at her.
"I am Ulysses," He said. "And I have a message for you," He grasped Old glory tightly, rearing it behind him as he readied his attack. He swung the pole in a wide arc, hitting the queen in the chest with enough force to send her flying. A loud explosion of an energy he couldn't explain blasted the air, propelling the changeling queen to an incomprehensible distance. The blast didn't affect him much, but the Changeling queen along with the bodies of her subjects were thrown out of the adjacent windows. Ulysses looked to the source of the blast, and saw Princess Cadance sharing a tender kiss with Shining Armor. Soon, Twilight and her friends returned, smiles of triumph covering thier faces. Ulysses dropped his stance back to all fours, a quiet pride in his heart.
Princess Celestia stood before Princess Cadance and Shining Armor, smiling at the soon to be couple.
"Mares and gentlecolts, we are gathered here today to celebrate the union of the real Princess Mi Amore Cadenza..." Celestia began
"Princess Cadance is fine." The soon to be bride corrected politely. Celestia smiled and nodded.
"The union of Princess Cadance and Shining Armor. The strength of their commitment is clear. The power of their love, undeniable. May we have the rings please? I now pronounce you mare and colt." She finished. cheers erupted from the crowd.
Ulysses stood on the roof of the palace, gazing silently as the reception continued on. The music from below reached his ears, and made him smile under his mask. He saw the bride and groom exchange a kiss, and a loud boom and explosion of color soon followed. The newly married couple climbed into a cart, And soon left the party. For what reason, he did not know. He heard a flapping of wings, and a soft thud hit the roof behind him. He didn't need to turn his head to know who was there.
"Why aren't you down there, enjoying the festivities?" He asked the figure behind him. Princess Celestia sighed and walked up next to him.
"I could ask you the same thing." She said, chuckling slightly. They shared a small silence for a moment, listening to the sounds of the party going on beneath them. Celestia broke the silence.
"Why?" She started. "Why did you fight them?" she asked him. He turned his head, Looking at her in the eye. He didn't answer immediately, he just stared. He turned his head back and let out a sigh.
"Couldn't let history repeat itself." he started. "Didn't want to see this nation die. Already seen more than I intended." He turned to face her. "This nation. It's one I could almost believe in." Celestia looked at him solemnly.
"What do you mean?" She asked.
"Wanted to live in a nation. One taking it's first breath. But then she came. That package clenched in her hand. Never knew the pain she caused." Ulysses said, the anger barely masked by his voice. "She caused the Divide to be what it is now." Celestia nodded silently, quietly sympathizing to him. A soft thud on the roof alerted them to another prescence.
"Am I interrupting anything?" A regal voice bellowed. Celestia turned and faced the speaker, a smile on her face.
"Ah, Luna. I want you to meet somepony." Celestia said. "Ulysses, This is Princess Luna. She is my sister." Ulysses nodded to Luna.
"Charmed." She said smiling. "I was wondering about who Celestia's 'Honored guest' really was" She said. Ulysses turned his attention back to the reception below. Celestia sighed.
"I want to apologize for earlier," She started. "I wasn't thinking right. I just...lost my temper. Something a princess should never do." Ulysses nodded, remembering her heated words before his almost imprisonment.
"I'm not the only one you should apologize to." He said. "One of your subjects, Twilight Sparkle. She deserves more of an apology than me." He stated. "Saw the pain in her eyes at your words, like twisting a knife in an open wound." Celestia nodded silently. Princess Luna Shuffled slightly, gaining the attention oof both Ulysses and Celestia.
"I must return to my nightly duties. It was a pleasure to meet you Ulysses." Luna smiled. She took to the sky soon after.
"I must leave too." Celestia said. she turned and gave Ulysses a smile. "Oh, And before I go, I want to thank you. Thank you for defending this land." she took off, flapping her wings in a rythmic pattern. Soon her wingbeats faded, relaced by the sounds of the reception still raging below. He Smiiled under his mask, For he knew that on this day, a nation didn't succumb to the fate of The Divide.
Ulysses stared at the mares surrounding him on the train. They all looked at him strangely. Looks that Ulysses couldn't decipher.
"So let me get this straight, You're from another universe entirely?" Twilight asked. Ulysses nodded.
"But...How?" They all asked. Ulysses continued to stare at them.
"I don't know. Not my doing. Perhaps someone else's." He said. Rainbow Dash gave a confident smirk.
"I knew it! I knew you were hiding something!" She boasted. Ulysses turned his gaze towards her.
"Never hid anything." He said monotonously. Twilight frowned at him.
"You hid the fact you were from another dimension." she stated.
"You never asked." he said. Twilight facehoofed.
"Look, it doesn't matter what you hid. All that matters is that you're from an entirely new universe." She said. "Now then, I want you to tell us everything about your world." Ulysses sighed.
"The world I come from, a land lost to war. From the fires of radiation that scorch the air, To the men who lost themselves in hatred. The Divide, A place where a nation taking it's first breath was murdered by that courier." He started. "Bull and Bear, East and West. Men blindly following a symbol they don't understand. The factions of the Mojave desert." The ponies stared at him in confusion. "Explaining my world is difficult, The only way to truly know it is to experience it." They all let out a collective groan.
"You know, you're a wierd pony." Rainbow Dash stated.
Soon the train lurched to a stop, letting Ulysses and the others off onto a platform outside of Ponyville. The ponies soon dispersed, leaving Ulysses alone to wander the streets of the town.
As Ulysses walked he couldn't help but let his mind wander. He walked in a lost daze, not focused on the trail ahead of him. He was snapped out of his musings when he heard two little girls voices.
"Get outta here, Blank flank!"
"Yeah, Only ponies with Cutie-Marks are cool." Ulysses turned his gaze to see two ponies confronting three more ponies. The two were currently standing in front of the other three with smug looks plastered on thier faces. The others looked unamused.
"Go away, Diamond Tiara. Nopony wants to hear it." He heard an orange pegasus' cracking voice say. He stepped up to the group of them. None seemed to acknowledge his existance.
"You jealous that we have our Cutie-Marks and you don't?" The one named Diamond tiara said. The other three didn't answer. "Of course, I wonder what kind of Cutie-Marks a bunch of losers like you would get." She finished. The other girls gave her an angry look.
"At least Ah'm not some snooty, stuck-up, pony like you!" one said. "What does your Cutie-Mark even mean?" Diamond Tiara smirked.
"It doesn't matter, I know I'm just better than you." It was at that moment Ulysses decided to intervene.
"You don't even know the symbol on your body means? Then how can you say you're better than them?" He said. His voice must have startled them all, as he saw the little fillies jump in surprise. Diamond Tiara glared at him.
"What's it matter to you?" she asked. Ulysses glared back.
"You don't know what the symbol means, yet you flaunt it like an Old World relic." He deadpanned. "You show a symbol without meaning. You might as well not have a mark at all." He said. The little filly gave him a look of resentment.
"My Cutie-Mark is the best thing ever! I'll tell my daddy on you." She said smugly. Ulysses narrowed his eyes.
"You know nothing of meaning, So childishly naive. You are no older then they are, yet you see yourself as mature,elder." He started. "You don't see the true meaning of anything. Once older, you will feel the pain of meaning. Tell your father the truth, That you cannot see the meaning of your mark." Ulysses stated. Diamond Tiara turned in a huff, and left with her subordinate. The other three fillies looked at Ulysses in awe.
"Gee thanks mister," Applebloom said to him. The other two smiled brightly at him.
"Yeah, She's really prissy and stuck-up!" Scootaloo said. Ulysses looked at them silently.
"No need to thank me, needed to teach a lesson." He said. "The marks on your body determine who you are, and when you know not of it's meaning, you know not of who you are." He said. He almost turned and walked away, But was stopped by the three fillies.
"Wait mister! Who are you?" Sweetie Belle yelled to him. Ulysses gazed at them.
"My name is Ulysses." Applebloom widened her eyes at his words.
"You're that new pony AJ was talkin' 'bout." She said disbelievingly. "She said you was a wierd pony. Ya'll seem alright to me." Applebloom smiled at him. Ulysses gave her a questioning look.
"Who is this AJ?" He asked. Applebloom gave him a trange look.
"AJ's my sister, Applejack." she said. Ulysses nodded.
"the pony with the Old world hat," He started. "Never mentioned a sister." he said. Applebloom shrugged.
"She never talks much about me." she said. Ulysses turned again to walk away, but was stopped by Sweeie Belle.
"Wait! Can you show us your Cutie-Mark?" she said. Ulysses frowned under his mask. He sighed and moved his tattered jacket aside, showinng the children the Legion bull in all it's glory.
"Caesar's Legion," He started. "Born from the conquest of eighty six tribes. They roam the Mojave, enslaving and killing all who stand against it. Only challenged by the Bear, NCR. You wouldn't understand the mark on my body, And I shouldn't have it on me. Bull has no place in me." Ulysses said. The children looked at him in wonder.
"So, that means you're part of This Kaiser's Legion?" Sweetie Belle said. Ulysses narrowed his eyes.
"Not anymore." He said. "Will take off this mark, the pain it's inflicted should not catalyze through me." The fillies looked at him in shock.
"But you can't take off your Cutie-Mark! That's illegal!" Scootaloo exclaimed. Ulysses turned around again, intent on leaving.
"Not of your people, laws don't apply to me." He walked. Leaving the little fillies standing in shock.
"We got to go tell Twilight!" Applebloom said. The fillies turned and ran.
Ulysses walked briskly. He hoped he wouldn't encounter anymore ponies today, He encountered more than then enough. He stopped abruptly when an earth pony with nice clothes stopped his path.
"That's him, Daddy!" He heard Diamond tiara yell. "That's the pony who said my Cutie-mark is stupid!" the earth pony glared at Ulysses.
"Who are you to talk to my daughter like that?" He started. "I've a right mind to report you to the autorities."
"Your daughter is a child who doesn't understand meaning." Ulysses said. The earth pony narrowed his eyes.
"It doesn't matter, you harrassed my little girl about her Cutie-Mark!" He said. "What say you in defense?" Ulysses glared at him.
"I wasn't harrassing, Teaching. She was harrassing young girls about the lack of said marks. Never meant to offend, only teach a lesson." he said. The earth pony huffed.
"Whatever your reason, I expect it to never happen again. Are we clear?" He tried threatening. Ulysses glared, but nodded his head. The Stallion turned and left with Diamond Tiara, Who stuck her toungue out at Ulysses. Ulysses turned, anger rising, and continued to walk.
Ulysses walked throught the town, The bright midday sun beating down on the courier. Ulysses walked to the only location he knew.
He opened the door, greeted by the sight of the three fillies from earlier, speaking to Twilight Sparkle. They all turned thier heads to face him. Twilight frowned deeply.
"So the Cutie-Mark Crusaders tell me that you want to cut off your Cutie-Mark." she said. "You do know I can Report you to Princess Celestia and have you arrested." Ulysses glared at her.
"I'm not of your people." He said. He turned and walked out of the door. "My choices are mine alone. You've no right to tell me otherwise." He said as he slammed the door. Twilight sighed as he left.
"Hope I didn't just make a big mistake."
Ponyville's nights were strangely cold, making Ulysses shiver slightly in a soft breeze. He wasn't quite used to the cool nights, normally acquainted with the hot sun of the Mojave Wastes. He walked with purpose now, as if he'd finally done something worth mention. He walked to Twilight's library, opening the door to be greeted with not only Twilight and her five friends,But Princess Celestia as well. Celestia's face was stern, evaluating Ulysses as he walked in. Ulysses stared at all of them, his gaze expressionless. Celestia cleared her throat, making Ulysses turn his attention to her.
"I've been informed that you plan on removing your Cutie-Mark." she said stonily. "As ruler of this land, I must punish those who break my laws." Ulysses had an expression not evident under his mask. "If you've already done so, Then I must punish you accordingly." Ulysses sighed.
"No need for punishment. Never came through with my plans." He said. "Learned of the mark's meaning. Learned a history of myself today." The ponies looked at him dumbfounded.
"What do you mean?" Ulysses looked up to the ceiling, almost completely lost in thought.
"Met somebody. Taught me a meaning, lesson."
*Earlier that day*
Ulysses reached the outskirts of the everfree forest, treading on a beaten path that lead deep within it. The forest, foreboding as it was, was nothing like the hell of the Divide. Ulysses treaded into the forest, wanting to distance himself from the ponies of Ponyville.
He walked, reaching a hut at the end of the dirt path. Ulysses stared at the hut, quietly contemplating ignoring it a moving on.
"Ah, Ulysses, A nice chance of luck to meet you in this forest." Zecora said as she exited her hut. A warm smile was spread on her face. "I welcome you to my home, a warm birds nest." She said. Ulysses contemplated moving on, but decided to stay. Maybe she would have something Relevant to say. He walked up to her, a strange look on his face.
"A chance meeting. Needed distance from the town. From the people." He said. Zecora nodded and let Ulysses enter.
"I see you are weary from your travels. Please sit down and rest a few spells." She said. Ulysses nodded and sat. "So tell me, What does somebody like you want in this forest much scary? You walked without pause, not even wary." Ulysses sighed.
"Needed time. Thinking. A mark on my body. Not part of me." He showed his Cutie-Mark to Zecora. "Bull. No place in me. Not of me anymore." Zecora thought for a moment.
"You see the mark as wrong of you? You don't see that it is part of you?" Zecora said. Ulysses glared at her.
"Mark isn't part of me. Part of my past maybe. History." he said. Zecora frowned slightly.
"So you don't embrace your history, Only look to the present?" She sighed. "You can't see what your mark is meant." Ulysses narrowed his eyes.
"Not part of me. I don't need it." He said. Zecora nodded.
"No matter what you say or do, It will always be a part of you." She said. "Take it off, cover it up, wouldn't matter. You would't destory it, only tatter." Ulysses looked at her, contemplating her words.
"You say no matter what I do. Mark is there. It's my history. part of me whether I like it or not." He mused. "I've forggotten a lesson I've taught. Who are you, who do not know your history? Lost true Meaning of the mark. Only the meaning te Bear gives it." He looked up, lost in thought. "Can't change it. Can change meaning though. History, instead of destruction. Not savagery, Shaping of myself." He looked at her, Smiling slightly under his mask. "Thank you. Taught me a meaning I tought was lost." Zecora nodded.
"A lost soul wanders to the forest, lost his meaning. Learned of a new one, after a warm greeting." She said. Ulysses nodded.
"Never knew a wise woman in you." he said. Zecora chuckled.
"I've learned of things for quite some time. I know much, yet still in my prime." She said. Ulysses glanced around the hut, taking in the lush decorations. He nodded slightly.
Soon they slipped into a comfortable conversation, talking about topics Ulysses barely knew of. Not a history or lesson, but topics that were strange to him. thier talk lasted until the rays of sunlight finally bled from the sky, bathing the world in cool darkness. Ulysses thanked Zecora for thier conversation, Walking out of the hut with a much better outlook, and a realization.
Back to Present.
Ulysses finished his tale, A short smile under his mask. Celestia sighed.
"So you won't take off your Cutie-Mark?" Ulysses nodded. The ponies sighed in relief.
"So you finally learned it would be illegal?" Twilight said. Ulysses shook his head.
"Burn the flesh, mark will remain, just out of sight. Heart, mind, both carry the past, shaped by the road I've walked. Body, too. Can't deny what I've done, who I've been, who I am. Leave it, as a reminder. Symbol of what I was." He said. Twilight looked at him strangely.
"Well, Whatever your reason, I'm glad you didn't come thought with what you originally planned." Celestia said. Ulysses nodded. "Though I must say, My subjects are taking your fight of the changelings well." The Ponies looked at thier leader in confusion.
"Whaddya mean?" Applejack said. "Ah Thought Shining Armor and Cadance beat the changelings?" Celestia sighed.
"Can you tell them Ulysses?" She said. Ulysses nodded.
"Taught an old world lesson. Killed many of thier number. Almost kille-"
"WAIT! YOU KILLED THEM?!" Pinkie interrupted. Her mane parially deflating. "Why would you do that?" The ponies looked at him shocked.
"You-you killed changelings? But wh-why?" Twilight asked stunned. Ulysses shuffled awkwardly.
"Only way to ensure victory." He started. "Won't teach a lesson through word. Only blood. they won't return. Fear infects thier minds. Attacking would be futile." The ponies looked at him disgusted.
"How revolting. Killing something for what you believe in!" Rarity said. Ulysses glared at her.
"It's war. War never changes." Ulysses said. Celestia Frowned.
"Lets Change the subject, Shall we?" Her tone of voice wasn't a suggestion, rather a command. The ponies nodded sheepishly. Ulysses looked out of the window.
"Getting late. Rest seems to be in order." He said. Celestia looked outside, and indeed the black of night permeated the sky.
"It seems so." She said. "Everypony have a good night. Oh and Twilight?" Twilight looked at Celestia. "I want you to give Ulysses shelter for the night. And I want you to send reports about any activity he does that harms anypony." Celestia said in a clear tone. Twilight nodded, a little scared. Celestia smiled at her. "I shall take my leave then." With a flash of light, Princess Celestia disappeared from sight. Almost instantly Rainbow Dash fluttered to Ulysses' face, angry.
"Listen pal, I don't care if you've got Celestia to like you. I don't care if you've killed changelings. You hurt any one of my friends, and I'll make you regret it." She said lowly. Ulysses glared in response.
"Won't hurt anybody. Not Who I am anymore." He said. Rainbow Dash continued to glare. She turned and flew out of a window, almost crashing into the wall. The ponies drifted out slowly, eyes almost never leaving Ulysses. Fluttershy was the last to leave, giving a look of sorrow and fear to him. She eeped when Ulysses met her eyes. The Library was silent, and Twilight stood nervous at Ulysses gaze.
"Um...I don't have a bed for you to sleep on, But you can sleep on the couch if you'd like." She was scared. He could tell.
"I will." He said. Twilight continued to stare at him. "No need to fear me. Won't hurt you. Won't kill you." Twilight still looked at him scared.
"Um...ok...I'll go get you a pillow." Twilight turned and left up the stairs. Ulysses sat on his haunches, partially confused. Seemed this world was not accustomed to the violence and hatred of war. Ulysses sighed, Turning his attenention to the form of Spike. Spike looked at Ulysses fearfully.
"Uh...Hi?" He said. "I was just going t-to bed." He stammered. He rushed up the stairs after Twilight. Ulysses sighed and layed down. He drifted off to sleep soon after.
Twilight came down the stairs clutching a pillow in her magic. She spotted Ulysses' sleeping form on the couch. Feeling partially sympathetic, She trotted over and with close care rivaling that of a surgeon's, she placed the pillow under his head.
She hoped Celestia knew what she was doing, Twilight didn't want to see her nation burn.