Upheaval: Breaking Point
Chapter 22: Order and Place
The following morning found Rainbow Dash making good time towards the plaza. She had explored all of the places she had been instructed to yesterday. She even got in an hour of target practice, getting a good feel of shooting with her crossbow. She thought she did pretty good, she was no crack shot, but not bad for her first day. "Don't pat yourself on the back yet, recruit," the reconnaissance officer had told her. "Your real targets won't be standing still and they won't be as brightly colored."
For today, Rainbow was hoping to improve her aim. She had her leather barding on with her crossbow strapped to her harness, just like Scarlet had told her, as well case full of bolts strapped to her side. To her surprise, her fellow recruits were not lined up by the firing range. Instead, they were clustered over the side of one building and looking at its wall. She flew over to check on what was the commotion about and realized that they were looking at several papers that had been posted on the wall. "What's going on?" she asked a nearby recruit.
"They've finished assigning recruits to the different flights," the recruit answered.
"What does that mean?"
"Yesterday was an assessment period. Didn't you see the flight captains watching us while we were practicing flying and shooting?"
Rainbow shook her head. "I was out scouting places," she said. "Wait a minute…does that mean that everypony has been scouted out by flight captains and I didn't get to show my stuff?"
The recruit shrugged his shoulders. "Looks that way," he said. "You may as well check the posts for your name."
Rainbow Dash squeezed through the throng of gathered pegasi until she was close enough to the wall to read the names of the lists. Each posted paper had the name of a flight with a list of names of those who were assigned to that flight. Rainbow Dash felt a sense of excitement as she scanned the papers. Each flight had what she thought was a cool name: Flight Bladefeather, Flight Frostshear, Flight Stormdawn…her gaze flitted from name to name, eager to find hers. Finally, after being jostled about a bit she found it.
Flight Dreadwing: Rainbow Dash
There were other names in the list, but Rainbow didn't notice. Dreadwing…that sounded cool. She hoped that they had cool outfits as well. She squeezed her way out of the gathered crowd with barely contained excitement. As soon as she was free, however, she found herself face-to-face with Scarlet Rabbit.
"Did you find out which flight you were assigned to?" Scarlet asked with a grin.
"Yeah," Rainbow answered. Her excitement was mixed with a little annoyance. She still hadn't forgotten yesterday's race and Scarlet's uncalled for self-hobbling. "Flight Dreadwing," she said with a hint of pride.
The grin disappeared from Scarlet's face, replaced by a look of concern with a touch of nostalgia. "Dreadwing, huh?" he replied. "That's Tailwind's flight."
Rainbow Dash's eyes widened. "Tailwind?" she asked. "As in Vanguard's mom Tailwind?"
Before Scarlet could answer, a familiar voice came from behind him. "That's Flight Captain Tailwind to you, recruit." Rainbow looked past Scarlet and, sure enough, found Flight Captain Tailwind walking towards them. The bluish white pegasus had a smile on her face as she approached her flight's newest member, a smile that conveyed more anticipation than any actual joy. "Come along, Rainbow Dash, the rest of your fellow recruits are already waiting," Tailwind said. Scarlet gave a salute, then flew off, leaving Rainbow to follow behind her new flight captain.
"I traded that foal of a nag, Wingslice, three recruits to get you, Rainbow Dash," Tailwind said as they flew towards the northern end of the city. "You better prove me smart!"
"Why would you do that?" Rainbow Dash asked. "I didn't even get to show my stuff during the assessment day!"
Tailwind glanced back at her with a knowing look. "Oh, but you did," she said. "I watched your little race with Scarlet. Impressive, I must say."
"I lost that race," Rainbow muttered. It didn't matter, Tailwind heard her anyway.
"It's assessment," Tailwind said. "It's not a matter of winning or losing. You should know that you're faster than Scarlet was when he was a recruit."
"Really?" Rainbow asked.
"I would know," Tailwind grinned as she looked back at her again. "He was Flight Dreadwing before he was transferred to Special Operations."
Rainbow Dash felt more of her confidence returning. "Then it's only a matter of time!" she said with a smirk.
"It's going to take more than time, you foal," Tailwind said sternly. She stopped mid-flight so abruptly that Rainbow Dash flew past her before stopping and double backing. "You're fast, Rainbow Dash, but you're arrogant and you lack discipline."
Tailwind hovered over to Rainbow and looked the younger pegasus in the eye. "You swallowed my stupid son's bait like it was Grade A Winter Moss, then proceeded to challenge the fastest pegasus in the Northern Legion before you could even get used to your new barding and equipment's weight and without even observing him to gauge his abilities. There's brave and there's reckless. Here in the Legion, we honor the brave and turn the reckless into warning stories for the next bunch of recruits."
Tailwind's eyes narrowed while her lips curved into a slight smile, causing Rainbow to swallow a lump in her throat and back away slightly. "But that works for me," she continued." I can't make natural talent grow where there's none, but I'm confident in my ability to beat discipline into a promising recruit. Literally if I have to."
With that, Tailwind flew ahead, leaving Rainbow Dash to hover there wondering what she had just gotten herself into. "Let's go, Rainbow Dash, you're going to love it in my flight!" Tailwind called out after her.
For Sharpfangs, feeding the Legion had always been among the most under-appreciated jobs for a legionnaire. Even in the best circumstances, it was still a hectic job. Legionnaires were not picky with their food. They may complain and joke about it, but they ate what was provided. They needed a lot, however, and they needed it quickly. Empty bellies were a disaster in a battle and it fell to Logistics' kitchen division to prevent that. Supplies had to be regulated and the commissary stocked.
And that was during the best circumstances, which they certainly weren't experiencing at the moment. It was only during the attack when they were evacuating the fort did they notice that a large amount of their supplies had been ruined. Not only that, the kitchen staff itself didn't escape without casualties. Sharpfangs himself should have been killed in action if his wife hadn't showed up and dragged him out of the fortress. As a result, they were short hoofed and working with limited resources.
Today's breakfast was a small taste of what Sharpfangs expected as the battle continued. The Legion's ranks had recovered a bit with the latest draft and the addition of the city's defenders, but Logistics was the last to benefit from new troops. Infantry got most of the earth ponies, Reconnaissance all but monopolized pegasi recruits and Magical took all the unicorns. Logistics had to work with leftovers, recruits deemed unfit for front-line combat and were better off with what most legionnaires believed were menial tasks. By the end of recruitment day, Logistics was supporting almost the same number of legionnaires it was when the fort was functioning, but was doing so with barely half its casualties replaced.
Sharpfangs didn't mind the situation however. He understood the lack of recruits going to Logistics. Rare was the pony who looked forward to a time when this wolven attack was repulsed so that he could boast of how he cooked for the triumphant soldiers who fought gloriously or repaired their tools and transported their luggage, especially not if that same pony could join those who did the fighting. Besides, it wasn't like Logistics came out completely empty hoofed. This was something his fellow cook, Grassmane, was quick to remind him.
"So what do you think of our new chosen recruit, Sharpfangs?" Grassmane asked as he and Sharpfangs managed today's breakfast. He dipped a ladle into a cauldron of bubbling vegetable soup and gave it a sip. Frowning, he turned around and opened a nearby cupboard and grabbed some pepper.
"She looks like a hard worker," Sharpfangs replied while slicing up some fruits. The fresh fruits were the first to go. Winter would soon force them to rely on preserved goods. He eyed the recruit that Grassmane mentioned, a pink-coated pony who had just been assigned to their kitchen this morning. The balloons that marked her flank was a curious sight, curious enough to make him almost forget that it was rude to stare at a mare's flank and that Tailwind would kick his if she saw him.
Recruit Pinkie Pie, as she had enthusiastically introduced herself, handled a mound of dough with practiced ease and enthusiasm. She presented a stark contrast to the other cooks around her who moved almost mechanically in their duties.
Having been informed that she used to live with bakers back in the Heartland, Head Chef Fullblanch had assigned her with baking duty. While Sharpfangs agreed with the decision, especially now that he saw how well she did, there was something else that concerned him.
Pinkie Pie worked with an unusual amount of cheer for a recruit that had just been transferred to Logistics' kitchen division. Most of the time, recruits assigned here worked glumly, as if their transfer was a punishment instead of an assessment of how they could best serve the Legion. Not so Recruit Pinkie Pie. She didn't walk to her station, she bounced towards it. Sharpfangs found the gusto by which she went about her new duties a little cute and refreshing, a small reminder that what he and his fellows here in the kitchen did was just as important as routing a wolven attack. As she worked, Pinkie also hummed some sort of lively tune that Sharpfangs found himself tapping a hoof to. In there lay a brewing problem.
Pinkie's fellow worker at the bread station was a burly earth pony stallion almost twice her size called Graveleaf. He was a transfer from the Western Legion who served in Infantry until he was caught in a blizzard and lost one of his hind legs to frostbite. Graveleaf had no intention of retiring and worked with Logistics' kitchen division, relying on a wooden leg to help him hobble about. He was a hard worker although his bread tended to be on the tough side due to the force by which he prepared his dough. Unfortunately, he was a bit antisocial. Sharpfangs and the senior members of the kitchen got along well with him, but his silent, intimidating demeanor and his battle-hardened, scar-covered visage intimidated most recruits. Three recruits that had been transferred to the kitchen division had asked for a transfer to other Logistics divisions after a few days of having to work next to him. Pinkie didn't seem the least bit intimidated by sharing a station with him and she bounced around their workplace and all around him while humming.
Sharpfangs kept an eye on the two while he prepared the meals assigned to him. The chosen were friends with his son and he thought that he should at least try to step in should Graveleaf turn on Pinkie Pie and pound her out like one of his dough mounds for being so lively.
Sure enough, some time passed and the normally stoic Graveleaf was looking a little distracted. He glanced at Pinkie briefly as he worked on some more dough. Sharpfangs edged a little closer to their station. Next to him, Grassmane seemed to have noticed as well. A few more tense moments passed, then Graveleaf approached Pinkie while she was watching a batch of bread loaves begin to rise.
"Recruit…" Graveleaf's gravelly voice quickly caught Pinkie's attention. She turned around curiously and found herself looking up at him.
"Yes?" Pinkie asked.
"What is that ridiculously catchy tune you keep humming?" Graveleaf asked. "Is that some kind of ritual humming you chosen do?"
"Ritual?" Pinkie asked with a smile. "Oh, no! It's my Legion Bread Baking song! It's a work in progress though."
"Does it have words to go along with it?"
Sharpfangs noticed Fullblanch raise his head from the main station. It seemed that the Head Chef had been keeping an eye on them as well. "Well, don't short us with the watered down version, recruit!" Fullblanch called out. "Let's hear the entire thing!"
The other cooks voiced out their agreement. Encouraged, Pinkie Pie saluted, then burst into song as she pulled out the latest batch of bread from the oven. Sharpfangs listened intently to her lyrics. True enough, it was a song about…baking bread. His eyes widened in surprise as he observed the singing recruit. Barely a day spent in her new environment and she already had this. He quickly found himself tapping a hoof to the song. Embarrassed, he stopped and looked guiltily at Grassmane, only to find his fellow cook bobbing his head in tune.
Sharpfangs looked around him to find the kitchen much more alive. Work still progressed, but Pinkie Pie's cheer seemed to add an extra spring to even the most menial chore, even Graveleaf flung down some dough with a bit more enthusiasm.
From his station, Head Chef Fullblanch gave a hearty laugh. "Welcome to the kitchen division, Pinkie Pie!" he called out with a smile.
Over at the southern section of Bastion City, Hammer Chain had just started up his forge for another day of work. His new workplace was a bit smaller than his old one back at FangBreaker Fortress, but he was glad to at least have something to work with. The misbegotten wolven had overrun the fort and, while he was inclined to take a place at the front lines to bash a few of the filthy dogs himself, he had a much more important job.
Logistics' armory division had its work cut out for it. Weapons and barding had to be repaired, new recruits had to be armed and armored and ammunition had to be made for crossbows. Hammer Chain himself had spent all day yesterday re-forging barding for the rest of FangBreaker's survivors. Wolven teeth were sharp and serrated and their jaws clamped down with the force of a smith's vice. Even the best barding suffered damage while protecting their owners, owners who turned to Hammer Chain to repair them swiftly.
It was late morning and Hammer Chain had just finished a piece when a knock on his door told him that his next order of business had just arrived. He opened the door and found himself looking at a tall, gray earth pony with strange, red eyes and several burned patches along one side of his body. He was carrying a sack which, Hammer Chain guessed, was full of barding.
"Captain Vanguard Clash," Hammer Chain said with a smile. "I didn't expect to see you any time soon. Don't tell me that my masterpiece has finally been damaged!"
Vanguard gave a wry smile and handed the sack over to Hammer Chain. The smith's bushy eyebrows furrowed as he opened the flap and pulled out a piece. The black plates had been damaged by heat. That they were was a puzzle. He had crafted Vanguard Clash's barding out of nightsteel, a more expensive variant of regular steel that was stronger and insulated better, on commission by Commander Dreadstep and out of gratitude for the time Vanguard rescued him from a wolven ambush. For the metal to be affected like this required quite a flame. He searched the sack further and found that the caparison that went with the set was a tattered, burned wreck.
"This is quite a mess," Hammer Chain said. "What did you do, Vanguard? Jump into a furnace?"
"Close enough," Vanguard said. "Can it be repaired?"
"It can," Hammer Chain answered. "It should be ready before the day ends."
"Thanks, Hammer Chain, how much will it cost?"
"Don't even think about payment. I'd have hunted you down if you went to another smith to get it fixed."
"Thanks again," With a smile and a nod, Vanguard went on his way. Hammer Chain laid out the barding and inspected each piece. The damage wasn't serious. He'd probably be done in a matter of hours. The caparison, however, was going to take some work. It may even be better off being replaced entirely. Not only was it badly burned, it looked like a wolven had clawed off pieces of it. He looked around the smithy to see if he had the materials to make one. Finding none, he cursed under his breath and prepared to leave, making sure that the forge was well supplied while he was gone. It was times like these that made him wish that his last apprentice hadn't been eaten by wolven.
While most of her friends had enthusiastically headed off to their new, respective posts, Rarity had gone to hers with much slower step. She reported to Logistics Officer Frostmane whom Vanguard Clash had helpfully directed her towards. She had been assigned to Logistics's Maintenance Division, then tasked with repairing miscellaneous damaged items such as tents, blankets and fur coats. A small pile of such things lay to her left while another pile of the same things that had been repaired lay to her right.
Some good had come out of the transfer however. It had given Rarity access to a needle and thread. She was even given a pair of scissors. She had sighed inwardly when she levitated the familiar tools with ease. Even with the magical drift hobbling her magic, she could still manage this. One of the first things she turned her sewing skills on was none other than the mage-coat that had been provided to her yesterday. She had been allowed to keep it as protection although actually wearing it was a pretty painful experience to her fashion sense.
The coat was a thick cloth padded with leather. Its shape was basically a blanket draped over her as protection. It felt like she was wearing a blanket as well, a thick, heavy blanket that slowed her down far more than necessary.
There was nothing to be done about the color, but how the fabric fell and weight distribution can be adjusted. Every scrap of free time she got in between repairing materials went to modifying her coat to suit her taste. She snipped off parts she didn't think were necessary and reinforced the padding where she believed needed more protection. Adjusting how the coat fell on her was a bit of a challenge, but manageable. By late morning, she was holding up the finished product and inspecting it lovingly when she heard somepony speak from behind her.
"That's an interesting mage-coat you have there, chosen, where did you acquire it?"
Rarity whirled to find a unicorn stallion watching her curiously. He had a red-orange coat and a cropped mane of ashen blue. His face was covered with a thick blue beard, long enough to form a few inches of goatee. Guiltily, she floated the mage-coat behind her. "Um…nowhere really," she said in a panic. "Just a mage-coat from the pile."
The unicorn extended a hoof. "Let me see that," he said. Rarity was quickly becoming familiar with that tone. It was no request. Left with no choice, she floated the coat over to him unicorn for inspection.
"These are quite the changes you've made," the unicorn said as he turned the mage-coat over with his telekinesis. He eyed each modification critically without showing any sign of approval or disapproval. "I see you've taken off some of the padding by the rear. Any explanation why?"
"Well, um…sir," Rarity replied. She wasn't sure how to address this unicorn. He looked like a senior legionnaire so she decided to stay humble and respectful. "When I saw the wolven attack in FangBreaker, I noticed that they prefer to lunge at the throat or jump on the back instead of going for a pony's heels. So I took away most of the padding in that area to reinforce those areas. It also gives the wearer more mobility and leaves the hind legs free to buck in case of an emergency."
"True," the unicorn said. He returned the mage-coat to Rarity and began to eye her instead of the coat. "What do you do here, recruit?"
"I've been tasked with mending these things," Rarity answered and gestured to the piles to her sides. "Am…am I in trouble, sir?" she asked nervously.
"Well, I was thinking of having you whipped for tampering with barding design," the unicorn said. "But I've changed my mind. Come with me, recruit." He walked off, leaving Rarity to follow behind.
Rarity quickly noticed that they were heading for the maintenance officer's office. Once they got there, the unicorn flung the door open and, without any preamble, grabbed Rarity by a foreleg and dragged her to his side. "Halfstitch, this recruit tells me that she patches up tents and coats for your division, is this true?" he asked.
Halfstitch, a lean, grizzled earth pony with a purple coat with a deeper purple mane frowned at the sight of Rarity. She shrank a little as he put her under his disapproving scrutiny. "It's true," he said gruffly. "What's the matter? Was she lying about somewhere? These spoiled chosen…it's the whipping post if that's-!"
"You mule-headed foal, this mare's too valuable to be patching up random holes in a corner. I want her transferred to the armory division under me."
Though he looked offended, Halfstitch leaned forward from his desk and looked shrewdly at the unicorn. "I don't know, Hammer Chain, this recruit's pretty valuable. It's not like we got a bunch of recruits from yesterday's draft."
Hammer Chain shook his head irritably. "How about I give you that harness you've been eyeing in my shop yesterday?"
Halfstitch grinned and stood up. "I'll get the paperwork ready," he said.
Hammer Chain grinned as well and looked at Rarity. "Good. Come with me, recruit."
A few minutes passed and Rarity found herself inside a small smithy. Several tools were scattered about while piles of metal were stacked by one corner. A forge burned brightly, dominating the entire place and making it slightly, uncomfortably hot.
Hammer Chain put down the rolls of fabric that he had just acquired and stared at Rarity. "What's your name, recruit?" he asked.
"My name is Rarity, Sir Hammer Chain, is it?"
"Actually it's just Hammer Chain. I don't know where you got that sir part. What did you use to do over…wherever it is you came from?"
"I was a dressmaker."
"Ever work with barding? Pounded metal plates into shape? How about weapons?"
"Certainly not! I made formal-wear for balls! I've certainly never had to work with…metal."
"Bah! What's barding but a different dress you wear for a livelier sort of party? And what's metal but a tougher, harder to shape fabric?"
Rarity wasn't quite sure how to respond to that sort of logic.
"Tell you what, Rarity, you've just been transferred to the armory division as my apprentice. I'll let you deal with mage-coats and leather barding while we work, then we'll scrape every bit of time we get out of this war and use them to teach you how to work with metal. Does that sound good to you?"
"Um…yes. Yes, it certainly does!" Rarity said. She found herself enthusiastic despite the rather uncomfortable state of her new workplace. She was no longer placed in a station out of convenience. Instead, she was now working where her talents can shine.
"Good," Hammer Chain said. "You can start with Vanguard Clash's caparison while I start on his barding. Let's get to work!"
By the end of the day, Bastion City's ponies returned to their homes with a hint of fearful anticipation. Reports of the wolven army being spotted by pegasus scouts were now widespread. It was only a matter of time until they had to deal with an attack. The last few wagons of supplies made their way through the city's southern gates. There would be no more trade from the southern cities until the wolven are repulsed to make sure that wagons are not ambushed. Any supplies now would have to come by air.
It was then that the collective fears of an entire city manifested in the form of a horn sounding off. Everypony knew what the sound meant even though most of the citizens had just heard it for the first time. The first wolven had just appeared over the horizon. Panicked citizens rushed to their homes, dragging their children inside with them. Cries of fear filled the air while legionnaires rushed about to occupy their posts.
Commander Dreadstep's office was quickly flooded with reports. The same issues resurfaced: some preparations were still underway, some units were under-equipped, the recruits were far from battle-ready.
"The wolven won't attack immediately after a long march," Dreadstep said to his officers. "Squeeze every second for all of its worth. Expect them to begin siege preparations as soon as they come close enough."
Every officer saluted and headed off to take care of his group. Dreadstep leaned on his desk and folded his forelegs in front of him. 'This is the second time,' he thought. 'The wolven won't catch me slacking off this time.'