The sun rose, and for the first time in centuries Willow woke up instead of Legion. He still habitually spread his wing and flapped it a bit. He still felt a little weak, and decided he would put on his armor later. He looked over to Murphy who was still silently sleeping. Willow left and walked down the stairs. HE descended into the dark kitchen. Nopony was awake yet. Willow pulled a match of the counter struck it and lit a candle. The kitchen was fairly well illuminated, it was a modest kitchen with wood cabinets all around and a large ice box. Willow opened the ice chest and saw fair amounts of dough and yeast, a stick of butter, and a jug of milk. He felt there were inadequate supplies, he checked and found he had plenty of money. He extinguished the candle and went out to the market.
The sun peeked out over Rockville, it was a quaint little town. Only one store was open, a large wooden building labeled “General Store” with a small sign reading “Open.” Willow opened the door, ringing the bell. A brown earth pony sat in a rocking chair behind the counter with a large straw hat covering his eyes and a light snore escaping his lips. Willow picked up a basket and began walking around the store gathering a myriad of items. Baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, brown sugar, walnuts, ginger, and Sweet Apple Acres Applesauce, and a pumpkin weighed the basket down as Willow approached the counter. He set the basket down, and cleared his throat. The Earth Pony woke up and looked around confused for a moment. He then looked at Willow and took out a pencil. He then looked at Willow again. He looked at his wing and his cutie mark. He then looked down beneath the counter.
“Is something wrong?”
“No. No. I just want to check something.” The Earth Pony took a picture out “You have to be a ghost. Look at this. You look just like my Grandfather’s commanding officer guarding Cardinal North. He always spoke well of him. Colonel Willow always was a compassionate guy, grandpa said. Says he got promoted to the Royal Guard.” The Pony began taking items out of the basket and tallying the cost.
“So your name is?”
“Wild Thunder the III, named after my Grandpa and my pa.”
“Ah so your Grandpa was Corporal Thunder?”
“Sure was…. Hey how’d you know his rank?”
“Oh… Lucky guess I’m sure.” Willow laid out the bits and took the basket left the shopkeeper with a confused smile on his face. A sleek orange Pegasus with a cap and a satchel was flying over the town tossing newspapers to the various doorsteps. Willow made his way back to the Pie household. He picked up the newspaper in his mouth and set it down on the kitchen counter. He laid out the various items he had bought on the counter. He took a shovel and put coal into the oven and set about his task.
“Wake up sleepy head your friend made Muffins.” Inky was shaking Murphy awake, albeit a little exuberantly. He shook his head and groggily looked around. Inky was wearing her mane differently she had moved her bangs out of her eyes with a hair beret.
“Not weirded out by him looking completely differ this morning?”
“ Oh at first, but he explained everything to us. Now come on.” Murphy was not quite ready to get out of bed, but found himself practically dragged down the stairs. Inky sat him down, and then took the spot next to him. She put a piping hot pumpkin muffin in front of him.
“Coffee? Tea? Juice? Milk?” Inky asked pointing to the various containers aroud the table.
“Gee Inky why don’t you ask him to marry you?” Blinky said taking a swig of juice. Inky began blushing and Mrs. Pie shot her older daughter a nasty look for the remark. Clyde remained unphased and continued reading his paper. Murphy looked over at Mr. Pie and then back to his muffin. He almost spat out the muffin as he turned to look at the newspaper again.
“Can I see the front page?” Murphy asked with urgency. Clyde casually handed it to him and commented on the section he was reading
“Looks like the Fillies are gonna have a tough game this week.”
Murphy ignored the talk about sports and reread the headline. Murphy couldn’t believe the headline “New Staliongrad Mayor Robs Town” there it was in black and white. Murphy read on “Former Police Captain Mulberry Cameo was appointed mayor after the former mayor was revealed to have lead a dragon cult. The Captain had not been Mayor for a week, when it was discovered the town treasury was emptied and the mayor had left town. Police currently have no leads” Murphy began grinding his teeth. How could he have not noticed all the corruption in his hometown all these years, maybe he wasn’t as good at reading ponies as he thought, maybe the Princess should have left him in Staliongrad, he had not added anything to this mission. Legion and Bluebell took down the almost freed dragon, he had just been subdued by his own pride. Sure he had given Legion blood and carried his unconscious body, but anypony could have done that. He continued munching on his muffin, occasionally flashing a smile at Inky.
Bluebell thought Murphy seemed distracted, she’d have to ask him about it later, right now she had to plan their next route. Celestia and Luna were pleased with their last performance, and had sent train tickets to their next location. She was having Spike inventory all their things, and having them sent to the train station. She returned to the dining room to see Murphy chomping away on a muffin, and Willow putting on his armor. A bright flash of light and the pony who had lovingly made breakfast was replaced by the ever solemn Legion. Murphy got up to lead and was almost talked receiving a hug from Inky
“You’ll write me won’t you?” Murphy looked at those pleading eyes and gave a nod and a smile. He hadn’t expected his flirting to lead to this. “I’ll just be a pen pal” He thought to himself “I don’t want any kind of commitment” Inky finally let go “Oh boy. This isn’t good.” Murphy quickly made his way out of the home, Bluebell said farewell, and the group made its way to the train. The platform was crowded, the temporary labor was leaving now that the Pie family wasn’t going to excavate more, many young disgruntled stallions pushed their way towards the ticket booth. Legion however with a stomp of his hooves, managed to get the crowd to part. Bluebell purchased two rooms on the train causing protests amongst the disgruntled ponies, and went onboard.
The train finally pulled out of the station it began heading West under a full head of steam. It traveled South towards the port of Hoofington, from there they would have to travel on hoof to their next location. It was a loud train, the conductor had to break up several fights between the disruptive and overcrowded colts. Bluebell suggested the remain in their rooms until the train emptied a bit. Several games of cards later Spike and Murphy were becoming bored, and unlike Legion cannot simply stare into space for hours on end.
“Spike you want to get something to eat?” The dragon set down his cards
“You bet I am I’m so hungry I could eat a horse!” Murphy gave him a confused stare “Metaphorically speaking of course” Spike hopped on Murphy’s back and the two set out to look for lunch. The dining car was a crowded mess of Stalions. The staff was being overworked. Murphy went up and he and Spike occupied two bar stools. They munched a peanuts while the staff rushed about filling orders. Finally some came to take their order
“Daisy sandwich, apple fries, and a Celesti-Ale, and I want it in the bottle. Spike?”
“Cheese Danish and a Pony-Cola” Scribbling down the order the pony placed it on a near over-flowing orders wheel, and moved onto the next customers. Spike began talking about Twilight Sparkle and her friends. Murphy listened as Spike recounted all the various adventures and misadventures. He kept describing this Rarity girl Murphy picked up that he must like her quite a bit. As the food arrived Murphy tried to steer the conversation
“So…” He sampled a few apple fries “This Rarity is your filyfriend then?” He popped open the Celesti-ale and took a swig. Spike sighed and nibbled at his Danish.
“I wish. It’s like she doesn’t even notice me.” He dejectedly looked at his Danish before his face lit up “But hey you’ve got the smooth skills with the Fillies. I saw you flirting with Inky, maybe you could teach me to be like you!” Murphy thought for a second, before shrugging his shoulders and beginning to explain.
“Or you could become rich and powerful. I hear that’s good for getting fillies, but that’s too easy. You want to do it in a romantic fashion. Mares like to be complemented, but not with generic complements if you want them to notice you, they need to be original and heartfelt. She’s in fashion right? So she gets complements on her appearance all the time, granted she’ll still want to hear those, but no one complements what’s on the inside. Why go through all the trouble of putting so much into her physical appearance if she wasn’t insecure. They say flattery will get you nowhere. That’s a load of bull.” Murphy took another swig of his beer, before taking a break to eat some more of his sandwich.
“You seem pretty smart about this Murph. So how bout you? You have a filyfriend?” Spike nibbled at his Danish and then began tugging at the cap on his bottle of cola. He banged it against the counter. Murphy put a hoof out as Spike prepared to breath fire on the bottle. Spike with a frustrated expression handed it Murphy one brief pop later and Murphy handed him back an open soda bottle. “I must have loosened it for you. So anyway my question.”
“Well I think I may have one accidently now. I was just flirting with Inky and she got so clingy. It’s like she’s never been complemented before.” Murphy pondered his problem munching away on his food.
“Heh It’s better than not having a Filyfriend.” Murphy stopped for a second. Spike was absolutely right. He was so worried about something he had not planned happening, that he did not stop and realize it might not entirely a bad thing. He was pondering what Spike had said when a rather large and grungy looking Stallion knocked Spike out of his stool and moved into his spot.
“My friend was sitting there.”
“So?” The stallion began taking a swig of Spike’s Pony-Cola. Murphy took it from him and set it back down. The Stallion turned and tried intimidating Murphy
“Do you really want to do this? Take on a police pony and a dragon?” Murphy cracked his upper hooves to try and tell this Stallion to back off. The Stallion puffed himself up but then looked at Murphy and then at the angry looking dragon staring him down, he rushed off seeking to avoid a fight he would lose. Spike got back in his seat wiped his cola and the two resumed talking, eventually the two were asked to leave so they could accommodate the other guests. They walked back to their quarters, and entered Legion stared remotely into space as if nothing had happened.
“Hey Legion we brought you a sandwich!” Spike carried a bag over in front of Legion and waved it around.
“Thank you, but we do not require sustenance.” Murphy rolled his eyes. Spike put the sandwich bag down on the nightstand next to Legion.
“Would Willow like a sandwich? Can he come out and play?” Legion raised an eyebrow at Spike and Murphy snickered.
“We fail to see your interest in our present host. He is merely the latest addition to our collective mind. He was added to our mind to give us his gifts for both poetry and compassion. His talents are rarely required.” Legion’s voice broke from its dull monotone, a hint of resentment could be heard around the word compassion. It was as if the pony wished to be devoid of feeling and mercy.
“Well Legion, the reason we like Willow better, no offense, is that he’s a pretty fun guy. Not to mention we’re confidant he’s got an interesting back story. He gave us a bit of your history, now why don’t you give us some of his? And don’t give us that “Unnecessary Information” bit” Murphy had gone right up to Legion’s face. His yellow eyes blinked and he cleared his throat.
“Very well then. Colonel Autumn Willow was born on the first of November in Cloudsdale two hundred and thirty six years ago.” Murphy and Spike took seats as Legion began his tale “As a child his parents died at a young age, he was left an orphan, and he dropped out of flight school. He wandered Equestria consumed by grief. Eventually he made his way to Canterlot where sleeping in an alley by a café one night, he overheard a poetry session. He was drawn in by the poem of a yellow unicorn with brown hair, he was instantly smitten with her. She was three years his senior, but he sought to impress her. Right then and there he entered the café and attempted a poem on the spot. It was a tale of loss and sadness, nary a pony was dry eyed at the end of his poem. He was applauded and was awarded the prize of fifty bits. He was too excited about being able to eat and sleep with a roof over his head he did notice his cutie mark had appeared until he rented an apartment that evening. He was overjoyed. He made extensive use of the public libraries and submitted to any venue he could find. His poetry began to spread throughout Equestria and he had made enough of a name for himself. His goal always remained the heart of that unicorn.” Spike took out a notebook and a quill, tips on wooing a unicorn were definitely something he would be interested in.
“Eventually he garnered the attention of the unicorn Miss Tabitha Scratch. She thought of him as a kindred spirit, but just a dear friend.” Spike sighed and began crumpling his notes. “This was all going to change, Willow planned to confess his feelings for her at the Gran Galloping Gala, but before the chance arose, the Griffon War began. Long had the Griffons lived in peace on Equestria’s Northern border, so this attack caught the Equestrian military off guard. The majority of Equestria’s stallions enlisted, seeing it as an opportunity to earn glory and have the adventure of a life time. Among those who enlisted were Tabitha’s brother. Tabitha’s brother had long disapproved of her interest in poetry, and as such disapproved of Willow, encouraging it. She begged him to reconsider, but he refused. Hearing Tabitha’s anguish Willow enlisted and vowed to protect Tabitha’s brother. Willow took special care to be sure he ended up in the same division, the 4th Canterlot. The two of them wrote frequent letters back to Tabitha. Her brother’s telling her of current events, and Willow’s sending flowing poetry in hopes of winning her heart. They both survived the disastrous Battle of 2nd Pines. There was a change after that, her Brother stopped writing, seeking instead to enjoy those immediately around him, visiting several mares of ill-repute and succumbing to alcohol night after night. Willow steadfastly guarded that Pony, almost like a guardian angel. Willow’s poetry changed to, what had once been romantic poetry had shifted, he extolled the virtues of his brothers-in-arms, he still wrote romantic poetry, but there was more sadness behind it.” Murphy swore he could see Legion’s eyes becoming watery. The Pegasus continued.
“He was saddened by the deaths of his friends and comrades and did his best to protect all of them. The war began to turn, the Griffons could not compete with the magic the ponies had begun using more combatively. They were stronger than earth ponies and pegasi, but they had no magic of their own. They couldn’t cope with the magic brought against them. The battle of 3rd Pines was one of the last battles of the war. The griffons were attempting to counterattack and their wily leader had split his forces diverting the bulk of the army away from the Pines Ridge. The majority of the Griffons smashed into the unexpectant flank of the Pony reserves among them was the 4th Canterlot Division. They were driven back Tabitha’s brother offered a heroic defense rallying the unicorns to hold out against the superior numbers of Griffons. It looked as though the sneak attack would be repelled when one Griffon broke through the pony lines and made a dash straight for Tabitha’s brother. The Griffon would have ended him had not Willow blocked the claw with his own body. His wing was torn clean off, giving Tabitha’s brother time to cast a spell blasting the griffon to shreds. Rather than lay wounded, Willow lead a charge against the Griffons, seeing someone so injured fight on inspired the remaining ponies leading them to rout the Griffon offensive.” Spike’s notes consisted now of “Romantic Poetry” and “Become National Hero”
“He was no longer suited for active military duty, so he was transferred to the Cardinal North’s personal guard. Tabitha’s brother wrote back of Willow’s heroism, and he wrote back from the field hospital confessing his love for her. They finally were together, they dated for several years, before Willow finally proposed. They were married and close to a year later Tabitha had become pregnant. They were overjoyed at the thought of a foal. Regrettably the Cardinal North was called on urgent business to Hoofington, and as such Willow was away when it happened. She passed away in delivery. Willow’s poetry became sad once again, moving many to tears, and his loyal service was noted, and Celestia eventually chose him to replace the previous Legion who had perished fighting the Griffons. I trust that should satisfy your curiosity” Spike had smoothed out his notes and stored them in his suitcase. Murphy scratched his head.
“If Willow was so sad about his wife’s death, why is he so happy now? He hasn’t been dealing with his grief, he has been trapped inside you.”
“We cannot answer that question, how Willow deals with his grief is not our concern. Now I suggest you prepare for our travels. We have a long day tomorrow."