Ponyville General, Ponyville
Jacques watched with some bemusement as the tangle of six mares struggled to pick themselves up from the floor under the mirthful gaze of Celestia, an unnamed stallion guard, and a unicorn mare in armor whom Celestia had called ‘Argent.’ Her name is French for ‘silver,’ yet she speaks with an English accent. How odd.
Oddity had become something of the order of the day, however, as the ponies before him defied his comfortable view of reality. Now that he was no longer half-conscious from blood loss, he was able to take a closer look at the various ponies.
Two were unicorns like Argent. The purple one he vaguely remembered was called ‘Twilight.’ The other, a white mare with deep blue mane coiffed like a noble-woman’s hair, was complaining loudly about a hoof being pressed into her spine.
The next pair were pegasi, one of whom, the rainbow one called ‘Ar’dee,’ leapt into the air as soon as she was free of the tangle to hover above the rest. The other, a pale yellow mare with pink mane, tried to hide meekly behind the others as soon as she regained her footing. Jacques felt a twinge of remorse, hoping that he wasn’t the source of her fear.
Finally were the relatively normal ponies, the ones without wings or horn. They ought to have been most familiar to Jacques, but two rather critical factors impeded that. The first was Applejack’s ever-present hat, which was still jarring to him for reasons that he couldn’t adequately quantify. The second, and far more bizarre, was a bright pink pony who had, for reasons that he could only begin to guess at, been bound and gagged, and now sat in the midst of the others, humming through the gag as she rocked back and forth to the rhythm of her music.
Next to that, the two armored ponies seemed almost bland. Their steel armor, with gold and red trim and red crests, reminded him of a knight’s plate armor, albeit with accents that were more stylistically Roman. Still, armored horses were by no means unknown to him, and if it hadn’t been for their magenta and deep blue coats, they might have been mistaken for war horses from France. Well, Argent’s horn would have muddied that illusion somewhat. As would her saber. And the stallion’s… boar spear.
While he watched, two more ponies entered the room, a ‘normal’ pony mare with white coat and pink mane, and a brown pegasus stallion with silver hair and a metal rear leg. The latter wore a white tunic, and the former a hat with a red cross and four pink hearts on it. For some reason the sight of the hat gave him pause, and it wasn’t just that he couldn’t fathom the reason for a pony to have a red cross for a symbol in this world.
The cross wasn’t just on her hat either, he realized. It was on her flank as well, as a brand or, more probably, a tattoo of some sort. In fact, they all have these marks, he noticed. Even Celestia. I wonder what purpose they serve? Their liege lord’s coat-of-arms? But then why aren’t more of them the same? Knightly regalia perhaps, or the symbols of monastic orders?
It was then that Jacques had what might be called a moment of clarity, as it occurred to him that there seemed to be something rather preposterous about being in a room filled with magical rainbow horses that could talk, perform medicine, and, apparently, wield weapons. This thought chose to remind him that when a rational man was confronted with such an absurd situation, the only logical thing to do was to react to it in an extreme manner befitting the magnitude of the mental upset that had been inflicted upon him.
Jacques acknowledged this thought readily, and even went so far as to agree with its assertion, but ultimately decided that the events of the day had been so exceedingly strange that there was no point in attempting to swim against the current of bizarre happenings. Better just to let the current take him, and accept that God’s providence superseded Man’s wisdom.
Or, as Methuselah once rather pithily put it, accept that God has a sense of humor.
He gave a short bow from the waist, all he could manage in his weakened state. “Greetings,” he said. “Please forgive me for not standing; I’m still not feeling quite myself. I believe I owe you all a debt of gratitude for saving my life. Thank you.”
Applejack removed her hat and cupped it to her chest. “T’weren’t nothing, Mister. Least we could do after ya saved our sisters.” Her voice was a touch husky.
“Yeah,” chimed Ar’dee, who looked suspiciously like she was trying not to cry. “That was pretty awesome, dude.”
“Yes indeed,” added the white unicorn, whose accent reminded him of Andrew’s kin. “To risk your life for complete strangers, to save my beloved sister…” she trailed off with tears in her eyes.
Jacques couldn’t hold back an embarrassed chuckle. “Fair maidens, please. Your gratitude, while appreciated, is unnecessary. What kind of a man would I be if I did not protect children from monsters?”
Most of the ponies stared goggle-eyed when he said that, but Celestia and the soldiers nodded in approval.
“Is that what you are then?” asked Twilight, who had trotted forward eagerly, her face alight with interest. “A ‘man,’ I mean? I’ve never heard of one of your kind before! How long do you live? How advanced is your culture? How did you destroy those timber wolves so easily? What did you mean when you said that you had no common magic and—
The white unicorn stepped forward and rather forcibly yanked Twilight out of Jacques’ face. “Twilight, please! Calm yourself, darling!”
“Yeah, Twi,” laughed Ar’dee. “Give the poor guy some breathing room!”
Jacques chuckled again. “It’s no trouble. I understand her curiosity.” Like a young novice she is; so full of wonderment. Ah, for the enthusiasm of youth. “While I am happy to answer your questions, and have many of my own, perhaps we should introduce ourselves as your Princess suggested before we proceed any further.” He put a hand to his chest. “Yes, I am a man, though more properly I am Friar Jacques de Charette, Chaplain of the Knightly Order of St. John, more commonly called the Knights Hospitaller.”
“Awesome!” gushed Ar’dee, who seemed to forget her chiding of Twilight as she flew a few inches from his face to pepper him with questions. “An order of knights, huh? Do they call you ‘Hospitallers’ because you hospitalize people?”
Jacques blinked. “Well, not exactly—
Ar’dee was abruptly yanked from the air by the tail. “Woah there, Nelly,” remonstrated Applejack through clenched teeth. She spit the tail out on the ground. “Like ya just said, give the man his space. We ain’t even introduced ourselves yet. Questions second, remember?”
The friar scratched his head. “Well, I remember some of your names, I believe. Applejack, of course, and Twilight if I recall correctly.” Both mares nodded. He pointed to the rainbow-maned pegasus. Taking great care to pronounce the odd name correctly, he said, “Ar’dee, correct?”
Applejack and Ar’dee glanced at each other before bursting out laughing, the latter so much so that she fell over backwards. The friar cocked an eyebrow. I didn’t think I pronounced it that wrong. Through her chuckles, Applejack managed, “Her name ain’t Ar’dee, Friar. Ya just heard her nickname is all. Arr Dee is short for ‘Rainbow Dash.’”
“That’s me!” grinned the pegasus in question, who sprung back into the air to perform loops and spins that left Jacques’ eyes spinning in a vain attempt to keep up before she mercifully halted mid-air, striking a heroic pose. “Rainbow Dash! Stunt flier extraordinaire, Bearer of the Element of Loyalty, savior of Equestria, and future Wonderbolt!” She said these things as though he should recognize them, so he dutifully dipped his head in acknowledgment of her apparent greatness.
The white unicorn merely rolled her eyes. “Oh please girls. Friar Jacques here is a foreigner, and, judging by his Prench accent, not a native speaker of Ponish.” Wait, Ponish? Prench? “He can’t be expected to know your colloquial nicknames.” Trotting over, she fluttered her eyes and curtsied. “<I am Lady Rarity,>” she declared in flawless French. “<Bearer of the Element of Generosity, and,>” she tossed a lock of hair over one shoulder, “Couturier extraordinaire.”
Jacques didn’t know what she and Rainbow meant by ‘Bearers,’ but reasoned that they were perhaps indeed members of some sort of martial order. Moreover, Rarity had just identified herself as a ‘Lady,’ and given that Celestia hadn’t corrected her, he assumed her to be some sort of minor nobility. Though the fact that she’s a garmenteer suggests a merchant of some sort. Perhaps the customs and terms of address here include noted burghers as common gentry, as is becoming the case in the larger cities. Deciding to err on the side of decorum, he gave another half bow and replied, “<Charmed to meet you, Milady Rarity. May fortune smile upon your family.>”
Rarity giggled a little and stepped back with a blush, whispering, “such a gentlecolt” to Twilight.
The latter unicorn stepped forward again, her enthusiasm reigned in for the moment. “I’m Twilight Sparkle, student of Princess Celestia and Bearer of the Element of Magic.” Jacques’ eyebrows shot up and he glanced at the princess, who watched with a fond smile on her face. Your protégé, Celestia? And likely a powerful one if she literally bears Magic. Is she your court wonder-worker, then?
Applejack spoke up, dipping her hat respectfully. “Ah’m Applejack, but mah friends call me AJ. Mah family runs Sweet Apple Acres outside o’ town.” Yeoman farmers, perhaps? Or landed gentry? “Ah’m the Bearer o’ Honesty, if we’re talkin’ about ourselves like that.”
Ambling over to the meek pegasus, Applejack hoisted the timid mare into view. The mare responded by hiding her face in her mane. It looked… positively adorable. Jacques felt a rather unexpected urge to nuzzle with the pony as he would a pup.
Now where did that feeling come from? wondered Jacques with a shake of his head. I must still be little light-headed from the blood loss if I’m being this sentimental.
“This here’s Fluttershy,” declared Applejack. “Don’t mind her. She’s a mite on the shy side. Bearer o’ the Element o’ Kindness. She patched ya up until we go you back to the docs.”
“Um… hi,” managed the pegasus.
Jacques put on his gentlest smile. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Hello, little one. Thank you for tending my wounds. Without you I would surely have died.”
She flushed red beneath her mane. “Oh, well, um, it was nothing, really. I’m so used to it from taking care of my animals. I just had to clean the wound for infection and stop the bleeding and bandage you properly… I mean… really anypony could have done that… I’m not that special… eep!”
She trailed off until he couldn’t hear her anymore.
The mare with the white coat and pink mane took that moment to walk over to his bedside and examine the monitor. “I hate to interrupt, but do you mind if I turn this back on? I’d like to check your vitals.”
“Be my guest,” he replied.
“Thanks. Hey, Medevac, wanna give me a hoof here?” The brown stallion limped over as the mare flipped the monitor back on. Once more the machine beeped to Jacques’ heart, and the two ponies took notes on little writing boards that they’d brought with them. Using their mouths to hold the pens. This will take some getting used to. The mare glanced up at him and gave a quick smile. “I’m Nurse Redheart by the way. This is Medevac. Sorry that Doctor Stable can’t be here to see to you himself, but I just got word that a mare went into labor five minutes ago.”
“It’s a unicorn foal, too,” added Medevac, his tone dry. “Which means the mother will be doing well if she’s not trying to strangle her husband by the end of the first hour.” He tapped the top of his head. “It’s the horns, ye see. Quite painful.”
Jacques cocked an eyebrow. “Well, I certainly don’t envy the mother.” Or her poor husband. “And you needn’t apologize for this Doctor Stable being absent. A child’s life is far more important than mine. I wouldn’t dream of distracting your doctor from that. As for me, the work you’ve done for me is nothing short of miraculous. I would be dead without you. Thank you.”
Redheart smirked. “It’s like you said, Friar. No need to thank us. That’s the job.”
The friar smiled. Humble. Eager to serve. So like our healers at the Priory. It would seem that some traits are universal. “Are you two… bearers of elements as well?”
Medevac snorted. “No, sir, we are not. The world-saving bit is their gig,” he flicked a wing in the direction of the group of mares. “We just patch them up when they get back from whatever the catastrophe of the day is.”
It didn’t sound like he was joking. Jacques’ estimation of these ponies went up a notch. He did wonder at the fact that none of the mares who had introduced themselves as Bearers were wearing any sort of armor. Neither was Celestia, for that matter, but he was curious what exactly their rank and function was. He was just about to when he faced an unexpected interruption.
“Hi! I’m Pinkie Pie!” exclaimed the bright pink mare who seemed to appear from under his bed. The beeping of the monitor doubled in intensity. “I’m the Bearer of the Element of Laughter, which ponies say sooooo totally fits me because I love to have parties and play games and have fun and I’m going to throw a very super special party just for you!” She was in his face bouncing off the bed at this point, though somehow wasn’t bouncing him on the bed. “It’s gonna be a Thanks-For-Saving-The-Fillies-So-Glad-You’re-Not-Dead-Welcome-To-Ponyville-And-Equestria-We-Totally-Don’t-Judge-You-For-Not-Having-Magic-Party!” She threw up her hooves and colored paper and streamers sprung from nowhere to fill the air. “Won’t that be fun?! With cupcakes and ice cream and pie and hey! What’s your favorite pie, Jacquesy?” Her head twisted around at an impossible angle as she pondered this. “Is it alright if I call you Jacquesy? I just kinda rolls off the tongue and I think nicknames are super-duper important to—
“PINKIE PIE!” roared Redheart.
Jacques felt his heart skip a beat as the pink pony came to a halt. Mid-air.
“Yeees, Redheart?” came the sweet reply.
“What have I told you about scaring the daylights out of my patients?!” snarled the nurse.
Pinkie drifted slowly to the ground and Jacques’ heart monitor made odd, fluttering beeps. “Aw, but I was just—
“Go sit with the others!”
Pinkie Pie’s mane seemed to deflate visibly, and she plodded over to sit with the other mares. It was then that Jacques remembered that he’d never actually seen any of them untie Pinkie. Nor did he see the ropes that had once bound her. Several moments passed before Jacques was able to blink, and even longer for the beeping to slow down again. During that time he came to what was, he felt, the most reasonable conclusion under the circumstances.
She is a Trickster. Perhaps the Trickster of this land. The Loki or Puck of this realm is a pink pony with springy mane, and these gentle creatures tamed her like St. Martha tamed the Tarasque. They tamed a bloody Trickster! What else are these ponies capable of?!
Redheart gave him a reassuring glance. “Don’t worry, Friar. Pinkie Pie is harmless…”
I somehow doubt that.
“…she just has issues with personal space.” Redheart shot a glare at the pink mare. “But we have an understanding after the last few incidents, don’t we, Pinkie Pie?”
“Yup,” came the defeated reply.
Was this nurse the one to tame the Trickster? Is that why she has the mark of the Cross?
Twilight gave a weak smile. “Sorry about that, Friar. She means well, she’s just… excitable.”
She’s a Trickster. I would expect nothing less. “Think…nothing of it,” he managed, clearing his throat and trying to force his hands to stop shaking. “It was just… unexpected.” He glanced at Celestia and noticed that the princess seemed to be shaking from ill-concealed mirth. His eyes narrowed suspiciously. You knew this would happen, didn’t you?
Argent picked that moment to step forward, an amused smile on her face. “Yes, meeting the Bearer of Laughter does tend to have that effect on newcomers.” She brought her hoof to her forehead in what he assumed was a salute. “I’m Captain Argent Sabre, and this is Corporal Thresher, of Their Highnesses’ Royal Expeditionary Force. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“Likewise,” he said, bringing his fist over his heart.
“Taking on five timber wolves without using magic or wielding enchanted weapons,” Argent shook her head. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed.” She winked. “You’ll have to let me study your techniques sometime.”
Jacques smirked, the conversation with a fellow soldier going a long way to help him regain his composure. “I’ll show you how I fight if you return the favor,” he promised with a smirk. “I admit, I’m curious how equines are so adept at weapons like sabers, and I imagine I’ll be far more impressed with you than you are with me.”
Rainbow snorted. “Says the old guy who tanked five timber wolves.”
Fluttershy hissed at the other pegasus. “Rainbow Dash! That wasn’t nice!”
The blue pegasus seemed genuinely confused. “Why not? I just said he was a rad fighter.”
Before Fluttershy could continue, Jacques cut her off with a chuckle and a wave of his hand. “You needn’t concern yourself with such things, Bearer of Kindness. I have been called far worse than ‘old.’” Like heretic, witch, demon… “In fact, in my line of work, ‘old’ is more complimentary than anything. Besides, no offense was intended, and I certainly took none. Truthfully, it would be difficult for any of you to truly anger me with words. Even leaving aside your saving my life, I have never found such hospitality amongst complete strangers before.”
“Well, you know what they say,” chirped Pinkie Pie, who had recovered her previous good humor. “Friendship is Magic!”
Jacques blinked. So is that literal, or… he decided to just ask the question aloud. “Forgive me, for I am a newcomer in these lands and many of your words and customs are, shall we say, unfamiliar to me.” Like magic that isn’t from a diabolical source. “When you say that ‘Friendship is Magic,’ do you mean that in a literal capacity or a figurative one?”
“Both!” smiled Pinkie Pie.
He stared at her for a moment before turning to the Bearer of Magic, his face a mute inquiry.
“Actually, Pinkie is correct,” explained Twilight. “The expression ‘Friendship is Magic’ is one of the oldest proverbs in Equestria, that’s the realm we’re in by the way, but it can also refer to the Magic of Friendship as a form of Harmonic Magic, chiefly wielded through the Elements of Harmony, of which the six of us are Bearers.”
“Ah. So you are wonder-workers then,” he said. “Thaumaturges, in the sense of performing miracles on a regular basis.”
Applejack rubbed the back of her neck. “Thauma-whatsitnow?”
Rainbow flapped low enough to elbow her friend teasingly. “You tell me, Miss My-Brother’s-a-Linguist.”
The orange pony rolled her eyes. “Why’d Rarity have to go an’ mention that to ya? Believe me, RD, it’s as much a shock to me as to you.”
“Why?” asked Pinkie brightly. “Macky’s always reading the ancient pony philosophers in their original languages.”
“How do you know that?!”
Twilight ignored her friends and stepped closer to the bed, her eyes alight. “Yes! Thaumaturges! That’s the original term for those who perform Harmony Magic regularly. I mean, the term was watered down over the centuries to the point that it’s largely only a scientific denotation at this point, and ‘thaum’ is now used as a unit of measurement for raw magical power of any form due to a linguistic error in the mid-third century Ante Coniunctionis, but the original term was used to refer to those who performed ‘wonders’ which had their origin in Harmony.”
She was now speaking almost as swiftly as Pinkie Pie had been, and practically glowed with excitement as she warmed to the topic. I can see that Celestia’s warning about her enthusiasm was accurate. He smiled. What refreshing exuberance and wonderment.
“Take the Elements of Harmony for example,” she continued. “Technically, the Magic of Friendship can respond to anypony with the right qualities of character, but the Elements bonded to us because of how we exemplify the various attributes. Thus, they come about not as a result of a particular technical proficiency so much as in response to the decision to act in accordance with a particular morality as an extension of the Harmony and the will of Providence. Is that how thaumaturges are in your world? Oh please let that be how they operate! It would be so nice to be able to discuss this with you!”
Her muzzle was now mere inches from his face, and Jacques got the distinct impression that personal space was a foreign concept to ponies. “Um… I believe so, yes,” he said carefully.
Twilight Sparkle, Thaumaturge of Magic and student of Celestia, emitted a girlish squeal of delight and clopped her forehooves together as though she were clapping. Like a child on the Feast of St. Nicholas. How precious.
“Yes!” she exclaimed. “Finally! Somepony around here who will understand the curious moral underpinnings that seem to determine traditional thaumaturgy! Friar, you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to talk to somepony…” she trailed off and her brow furrowed with concentration. “Er…some…creature?” she blinked. “Some-man?”
It took Jacques a moment to realize what her quandary was. “Someone will do, young lady. And I will happily discuss miracles with you, though I suspect that they may appear to be different in practical terms in our respective worlds.” On the other hand, Elijah did call fire from heaven. Somehow I get the impression that these ponies could too if they wanted. “However, I fear that the, how did you say, technical specifics of our two worlds would be quite…disparate.” He held up one hand and examined the palm. “Your princess informed me that I have magic flowing through me now, but this is a new experience for me. My people do not have innate magic like yours do, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat confused by the whole affair.” And deeply concerned.
“If I may, Friar,” interjected Redheart. “I can give some tentative answers on that count.”
She held up her chart and gestured to some of the symbols, but while he could read the words he could only guess as to the significance of the numbers on the graph. Twilight and Celestia also looked on. “Your thaumatic count, that’s the measure of your currently active magical power in laypony’s terms, is low at the moment, similar to how an earth pony’s count when he is at rest and not actively tapping into his magic or the ambient magic around him. Your count was much higher earlier when you were, frankly, closer to death and your body was trying harder to heal you. Now that your blood has been restored, your thaum count has been dropping steadily. Now, without a baseline for how low your count usually is when you’re resting, I can’t say for certain whether or not this is normal, but I would guess that it is.”
Nothing about this is normal. I didn’t used to have magic. “Very well then. Thank you.”
Twilight stroked her chin with a hoof in an oddly human gesture. “Interesting. It would seem that your magic aids in your recovery, which is common amongst many races, including ponies. But it still doesn’t account for your being able to shut off outside magical influence.”
Jacques blinked. “My ability to do what?”
“To shut out outside magic. When you first fell unconscious I could barely lift you with my magic. Then, when the doctors tried to use the blood replicator to heal you, it wouldn’t work until you woke up and saw something about Redheart’s hat that apparently made you think that you could trust her not to hurt you.”
Jacques glanced at Redheart’s cap, and had vague memories of being startled by the thought of a female Templar. “I see.” He looked to Celestia. “And before, when these…monitors stopped working?”
Celestia nodded. “It appears that part of your magic is a survival mechanism that resists any magic that you don’t want to affect you.” She quirked a smile. “A helpful trick, to be sure.”
The Friar nodded. In this world of constant ambient magic… helpful is an understatement. “Indeed, Princess.”
“Wait, wait, wait!” interrupted Rainbow Dash. “So tell me, Friar, if you don’t have magic, what controls your weather? Does one of the other races do it?” She folded her forelegs and gave a cocky smirk. “I bet they don’t do as good a job as pegasi!”
Jacques cocked an eyebrow. He had foggy memories of the vision wherein the different races had been given gifts of power, and at the mention of weather…
Ah. Literal control of the weather. Of course.
“In truth, we don’t control the weather, Rainbow Dash. And in my world, there aren’t any other intelligent races that walk the earth.” He considered the tales of elves and the like and added, “At least, none that are any more than legends.”
“So, what, the weather just… does whatever it wants?” she asked, incredulous.
“Yes, it does.”
Rainbow and Fluttershy recoiled as though they’d been struck.
Rarity tilted her head quizzically. “But… what of the sun and the moon? If you have no unicorns, what controls them?”
Now it was Jacques’ turn to recoil. “Wait, unicorns control the sun and the moon?!”
Celestia chortled. “Well, a powerful cabal of unicorns used to bear those mantles. But, ever since my sister and I were Annointed…” she flicked a wing at the mark of the sun on her flank.
Jacques’ eyes widened as his worldview was changed all out of perspective once again. At this point, it was becoming so routine that his mind simply filed the information away under ‘Insane New Reality’ with a perfunctory, ‘Oh.’
Applejack stepped up. “So, if’n ya’ll don’t control the weather, an’ ya don’t control the day and night, an’ in fact ya ain’t got innate magic at all, then ya don’t control plants growin.’” Jacques nodded and the farmpony scratched her head. “Well then how in the hoof do ya’ll guarantee a good harvest?”
Jacques was beginning to realize that the differences between their worlds went far beyond innate magic and talking horses. Things they take for granted are fantasy to me, and it seems that my normalcy is perhaps unthinkable to them. “Well… we don’t. If the weather is bad and the fertilizing fails then the farmers must fight to produce enough food.”
Applejack’s ears fell flat. “An’ if ya’ll can’t?”
The Friar shrugged. “We starve.”
Ears fell flat around the room. Fluttershy looked like she might cry. “So, what you’re saying,” began Rarity shakily, “is that you’re completely at the mercy of the whims of chance?”
Eleven pairs of large, colorful, utterly too adorable eyes bored into him and he felt suddenly uneasy under the weight of their pity. “Well… I suppose that’s one way of putting it, but it doesn’t take into account the will of Providence and—
He was cut off by a cacophony of horrified exclamations.
“Why that’s simply dreadful darling!”
“Don’t worry, Jacquesy! You won’t ever go hungry here!”
“I wonder if there’s a way to transport food from our world to yours…”
“We’ll get ya fed good an’ proper here, don’t you fret none!”
“Oh, you poor, poor man! That’s so dreadful, I could just scream thinking about it! Aaaa!”
“Dude! That is so hardcore!”
The other mares turned to glare at Rainbow Dash. “What?” she said defensively. “His entire race lives in a harsh and unforgiving world without any magic! I’m just saying they must be super tough.” She hunched her shoulders and folded her forelegs again. “Sheesh. No need to give me the death glare for a frigging compliment.”
“Returning to the matter at hoof,” interjected Argent before the mares could set to bickering, “I think there are some questions that deserve to be addressed. I, for one, am curious as to how you came to have magic if it is, indeed, not something that your race ordinarily possesses.”
Twilight’s eagerness returned, and Jacques could have sworn he saw stars twinkling in her eyes. His heart skipped a beat when a quill and parchment blinked into existence next to her, suspended in a magenta aura. “Yes! Please! Tell me!”
“Very well,” he agreed, scratching his head and trying not to think about the sudden appearance of her writing implements. “I admit, much of it is a mystery to me as well, but from what I can gather…” he related the experience of stepping through the portal, how he’d felt unnaturally strong and youthful upon arriving, the bizarre sensations he’d felt when his magic was used to kill the timber wolves and to shut out the magic of the machines, and, finally, the experience of the Source awakening a flame in him. Twilight was practically salivating as she pressed him for infinitesimal details. Rainbow looked bored by the technical speech and kept trying to wind the conversation back to the fight, but Twilight shut down her every attempt to do so without seeming aware of her obsessive behavior. Periodically Jacques glanced at Celestia and noticed the princess’s fond amusement. Apparently this is not new behavior.
It was some time before Twilight exhausted her immediate questions, though not before exhausting Jacques. By the end he was struggling to keep his mind from wandering. So much for the return of my youthful energy.
Rolling up her scroll, which had taken on the dimensions of a log, she dismissed it in a flash with her magic. “Well, that’s a good start at least,” she said with a contented smile. “I mean, we’ll obviously need to do some more specific stress-testing of your magic when you’ve fully recovered to properly nail down what exactly your abilities are, since that vision was not exactly specific, but I’m confident that we will be able to get some concrete answers in due time. Ooooh!” she squeed. “This is so exciting! I’m going to be able to tap an entirely unknown field of magic! I’ll have enough to write volumes worth of data and speculation!” She sat on her haunches giggling to herself.
Applejack sighed and turned to the other mares. “Alright. Whose turn is it?”
“Mine,” chimed Rarity. “I’ll be sure to coordinate with Spike as usual.”
Jacques tilted his head. “Your turn for what?”
Applejack gestured to the beaming Twilight, who was still muttering something about ‘academic accolades’ to herself. “Whenever she gets like this, we gotta make sure she leaves her house ta see the sun now an’ then. Learned that the hard way after a certain,” she coughed into her hoof, “time-related incident. Anyhoo, we got a roster for whose turn it is to check on ‘er.”
There was a loud snort, and heads turned to see Argent standing with her hoof in her mouth, stifling what would likely have been an unladylike display of mirth. “How very… organized of you,” she managed.
“Um…” came the soft voice of Fluttershy. Eyes turned to her and she hid behind her mane. “I have a question. If… if that’s alright with you.”
Oh my, thought Jacques. I certainly hope that I didn’t do anything to cause her to be fearful of me. Though perhaps this is her natural state. What could have happened to the poor lady for her to be so easily frightened? “Of course, child,” he said with all gentleness. “What is it?”
“I was, well, it’s a silly question I suppose, but, um, I was wondering…” she trailed off, and for a moment Jacques thought that she wouldn’t continue. “If you don’t have magic, and if this isn’t your world, well, why are you here?” Silence greeted her question. Her ears bent back. “I mean… not that we aren’t happy to have you but, well, it all seems very… odd?”
Further silence stretched out, broken only by the beeping of the heart monitor. “You know,” said Twilight, a contemplative look on her face, “now that she says that out loud, I’ve got to say: we really should have lead with that question.”
Murmurs of agreement rippled through the room, including one particularly strident ‘Yuppers!’ from Pinkie Pie.
“That question is answered easily enough,” said Jacques. “I was sent to help you face a danger.”
That got their attention. Even Rainbow Dash perked up at the mention of ‘danger.’ Celestia and her soldiers in particular gave him scrutinizing looks. An unspoken shift seemed to ripple through the room, signaling an end to questions of curiosity and the beginning of a conversation of deeper significance.
The only one who seemed immune was Redheart, who looked to be only half listening as she continued to take notes. That fact gave Jacques pause. Are crises so frequent in this land that the healer is no longer distracted by them?
Medevac, however, seemed alert to the shift in mood, and tapped his comrade on her shoulder. “Say, Red. Why don’t we go see how Doc Stable is doing and discuss what food we want to start the good Friar on, eh?”
Redheart’s face twisted in confusion. “What? Why? We haven’t even finished collating all the data, and we still need to prescribe— hey!”
The other nurse had begun pushing her towards the door. “Trust me, Red. I’m a Marine, remember? And this conversation is triggering my Above-My-Paygrade Sense something fierce.”
Pinkie Pie bounded in front of the departing pair. “Oooooh!” she exclaimed. “You’ve got a super-special sense too? So do I!” she bounced, emitting an odd springy sound. “It lets me know all kinds of little things! Like, when I get a twitchy tail, it means something’s gonna fall, and when I get a crawly face it means the doctor’s about to come out with news that…”
As she droned on, Jacques came to two conclusions:
Firstly, that Medevac was speaking figuratively about his ‘sense,’ and that members his profession had a certain sense for when conversations were to be had by their superiors that he ought not to be privy to; Jacques was familiar with this sense.
Secondly, that Pinkie was being entirely serious, which was unsettling on many levels and added greater credence to his theory that she was some sort of Trickster.
Eventually the two physicians managed to evade the pink mare and leave the room, with Redheart loudly complaining that her work wasn’t finished and crying promises that she’d return in an hour to check on Jacques and bring some food that ought to help his recovery. At a nod from Argent, Corporal Thresher slipped out with them. Apparently, this is not for his ears either, thought Jacques. Is it simply that he is of too low a rank, or is the princess not sure whom she can trust? My visions and Methuselah’s were singularly non-specific as to the nature of the threat. He studied Celestia and Argent closely. They differed from the other ponies in that they seemed to be grimly anticipating that they would hear something they already knew. Perhaps the darkness has already come, and these two have seen it. Whatever the case, I must be cautious.
Thus, it was only once the door was shut, leaving him alone with the princess, her trusted captain, and six thaumaturges that Jacques felt able to speak. “It began as these things often do,” he stated, letting his eyes close as the recollection washed over him. “With a dream…”