We are the Cutie Mark Crusaders
On a quest to find out who we are
And we will never stop the journey
Even having found our cutie marks!
That chorus had been engraved in my very heart. For years I sung along as the original crusaders performed it for their new charges. Having complete our 'oath' as it had become, we dawned our sashes and set out to earn our badges for the day.
I heard stories of the terror the Cutie Mark Crusaders wrought on the town, and of how far they had come since then. I found it difficult to believe that Apple Bloom or Sweetie Belle would ever be so rambunctious. On the other side of things, seeing Scootaloo put the whole picture into perspective. Her rebellious and zealous attitude may have been enough to misdirect the crusaders of old.
Still, I knew today was the day that I would get my cutie mark. I was ready, I had more badges than anyone else before. I looked around the clubhouse peeking at everypony's collection of badges, the most impressive collections belonged to those who already had their cutie marks. I always felt that a badge for earning one's own mark was kinda cheap, but even with that extra badge I still had more badges than some of those ponies. I had badges for nest weaving, wilderness knowledge, home repair, baking, and all sorts of other skills I learned.
The clubhouse we gathered in was skillfully assembled by Apple Bloom out of large apple trunks and oak planks. On one wall hung a collection of planks that were said to have been cut out of their old club house before the entire tree was cut down. I looked up to one of the large beams that ran the length of the pointed roof, remembering somepony telling me that was cut from the original tree.
"It's not gonna fall, if that's what you're worried about, have a little 'Faith'"
I grumbled, and turned to berate whoever was joking around with my name.
"Sc-Scootaloo?" I stammered.
Such puns were far from being above her. Occasionally one of us would catch her somewhere, pouring over a tattered, old dictionary she owned. I would've thought she'd have it memorized from cover to cover, but rumors are that she was never all that book-smart.
"Hey, relax! I'm just messin' with you. You ready do go out there and help ponies?"
"More than that, today's the day! I can feel it!"
She smiled, and I could see days long past reflected in her eyes. I would've asked the question on my mind, but I didn't want to disturb her. Instead, she came back on her own, more quickly than I had expected.
"Don't get to carried away... Remember we're supposed to be helping ponies as much as lookin' for our special talents."
"Who's idea was it?" I asked. "To remake the Crusaders as this?"
"The first of us to find her special talent!" she pointed at Sweetie Belle.
"Really? I thought that would've been you."
She shrugged, saying, "I thought we were all gonna figure it out all at once, but Sweetie was first. I think she got the idea trying to help us earn our cutie marks."
"Is it okay if I ask her about it?"
"Of course it is," Scootaloo laughed, "Why wouldn't it be?"
I was about to give her the list of reasons why I was uncomfortable around them, when she spun me around and unceremoniously shoved me towards her friend. I was barely able to stop short of running headlong into the white unicorn. I stood there, paralyzed, waiting for something to happen.
"Hey Sweetie! Sam, here wants to ask you something!"
Sweetie Belle turned her head, looking up over her shoulder. Having seen Scootaloo flying above, she then lowered her gaze to me. She turned and approached me, speaking with her ever elegant voice.
"Little Miss Faith? You have a question?"
"Oh! Um... I was hoping... I mean... if you could tell me how the Cutie Mark Crusaders became what they are today."
She just looked at me, unblinking, as if I had proposed that she pour marmalade all over her sister, put her on a sled, and send her on a Rainbow-powered tour of Ghastly Gorge. It only took her a moment to recover and give an answer.
"Oh! It started with the three of us. Then, I got my cutie mark singing in a school pageant. I was so worried that we couldn't be friends anymore. How could I be a Cutie Mark Crusader when I had my cutie mark? But, Apple Bloom said differently. She said-"
"Yer still ah crusader, even with yer cutie mark!" Apple Bloom said, joining the conversation.
"Exactly!" added Scootaloo.
Sweetie smiled at her two friends before continuing her story. I started feeling a little overwhelmed by these three. I didn't really expect to break up the group, but it would've been nice to talk to them on a more individual basis.
"I was so happy! I wanted to do whatever I could to share the joy. I re-wrote our theme song right then and there."
"Yah also tried to help us find our own cutie marks," added Bloom, "I was second. Ah got mine helpin' Fluttershy build ah new chicken coop. "
"So I thought that, maybe, just haphazardly trying out our skills on everything wasn't exactly the best way to go about finding our cutie marks."
"B- But," I said, "Didn't that mean that Scootaloo was the only one who didn't have her cutie mark?"
Bloom shook her head, "By that time Pipsqueak an' Dinky had joined in, too."
"Don't forget the other three!" Sweetie added.
"Ah, yeah... Ah fergot! We were startin' t' attract ah crowd."
"Anyhow, we thought that good deeds might be the answer," said Sweetie, "So we started helping out as much as we could!"
"I came up with the badges!" offered Scootaloo.
"Ya'll just wanted ah way t' show off!"
"Well, yeah! But it turned out to be a good idea, didn't it?"
Apple Bloom smiled at her friend, "It does keep everypony motivated."
"Wait!" I exclaimed, this just didn't sit right with me, "So... the badges don't help us earn our cutie marks?"
"Ah good friend once told me:
With each mistake you learn something new
growing up into a better you.
Earning badges helps you become a better pony, and that helps you find your special talent. So, seein' as we already had ponies joinin' us as crusaders, we decided to make it official."
"Too bad the old clubhouse couldn't take it..." quipped Scootaloo.
"Aw, it's alright, it's not like you were seriously hurt, it only took a couple of days for your wing to get better," said Sweetie.
"Yeah! And, you got to share a book with Rainbow Dash, too!" added Bloom.
"Shuuut iiiiit..." hissed Scootaloo, out the side of her mouth.
I left the three friends, teasing each other as if nothing else in the world mattered. For a brief moment I saw the three little blank-flanks that had formed the Cutie Mark Crusaders in the first place. Just three good friends who found each other through adversity, and enjoyed each other's company.
Pushing aside the door to the clubhouse, I walked outside. I was greeted by a warm summer's day in which Celestia's sun shone from high in the sky. The whether ponies had taken special care to arrange various cloud formations in the sky to provide scattered shade all over the town, yet still provide a wonderful view of the beautiful sky. Whoever on the team that fancied themselves an artist, I would've liked to meet her. I climbed up a nearby hill and sat on my favorite tree stump to stare off into the blue and white.
On my mind was my emptiness, my blank flank. They never meant to deceive anypony, they never told us that the badges would help us earn our cutie marks. Hearing what Apple Bloom said made sense, but I had always assumed differently. Now, I had things to think about.
After a while I turned to my saddlebags. On my will, a quill and paper floated out and held themselves in front of me. I was no artist, putting anything but words on a piece of paper always left me disappointed. Even words would sometimes look like garbage, but playing with arrangement, sound, and syntax was eternally enjoyable.
Sphere of light
In the sky
Why must you hide from the moon?
Sphere of night
Then you fly
Why must you chase the sun?
"For order, for order"
They cry as one
"Lest chaos has already won!"
"That's pretty good."
I didn't look to see who was talking, I didn't care. I was pretty sure whomever was looking over my shoulder didn't know what she was talking about. I couldn't have been more wrong.
"Yeah," I sighed, "If you say so."
"I've read a lot of things during my time in Ponyville. Sure, it's not perfect, but what poem is? It tells the story of Celestia, Luna, and Discord. Albeit, not exactly in order, but it's all there... I especially like Luna's "booming sigh". It reminds me of the first time we met."
I turned, ready to question this pony who claimed to have met one of the princesses.
"Y-y-you're ... T-Twilight Sparkle!"
Standing there, before me was the violet unicorn that had saved Equestria time and time again. Any time anything would go wrong it would soon be corrected. Then, her and her friends would be found walking away from it.
She offered a friendly smile, "You know my name, what's yours?"
"There's no need to be nervous."
"But, you're Twilight Sparkle, wielder of the element of-"
"I'm a librarian, at the Ponyville Library. You should come visit once and a while, you might even find your special talent there."
She was right, they all were right. It took me some time to get used to helping Twilight around the library, but the lessons I learned from being a Crusader helped. For being Celestia's self-proclaimed prized pupil, she made a wonderful teacher. I learned so much more about writing from the time I spent with her.
Even though I didn't earn my cutie mark that day, I was set on the right track. Eventually I did discover my special talent. Twilight must have known, somehow, from the first time she met me. Not only did I love to write, I was good at it. One day I woke up and there it was, sitting on my flank: A parchment and quill, my cutie mark.
To this day I'm still a Cutie Mark Crusader, even with my cutie mark. I now help the younger ponies find their cutie marks and earn their Crusader badges. I never forgot the stories that Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle told me. I even got more comfortable talking with them, even all three at once. I wrote down all their stories in a book that now rests in the Ponyville Library: "Memoirs of the Cutie Mark Crusaders".