This is the third story in The Journey of Graves.
The series begins with the first story: When the Man Comes Around.
IMPORTANT: If you haven't read the series, please head back to the beginning and check it out. While each story stands on its own, the character and relationship developments will build on each other as the series progresses.
And so, the saga continues...
Trouble Meets Disaster
The loud crashing might have had the casual bystander wondering if bison were stampeding through Ponyville. Fortunately, it was just Applejack making a ruckus as she dropped off a stack of boxes in the marshal’s new home.
“Careful with that, Applejack,” Twilight called out as she followed her in with another load of boxes. “You don’t want to accidentally break anything, do you?”
“Don’t worry about it Twilight,” Spike commented, his spiky green hair the only thing visible behind yet another pile of parcels which he dropped with another loud ‘thunk’. “After all, what’s the fun of moving things around if you don’t make some noise?”
“I hear ya, little buddy,” the blonde cowgirl grinned back. “Besides, I doubt that the marshal’s got any fancy china 'n stuff that needs particular care. Ain’t that right, Graves?” she hollered out.
“Doubtful,” the stoic soldier replied in his typically low, gravelly rumble as he entered and dropped off one more stack of items, albeit quite a bit more quietly than the previous bunch. “But a lot’s new, so I don’t really know.”
“New?” The little reptilian boy scratched his head. “How can it be new? Isn’t this all your stuff?”
“You see, Spike,” Twilight began, setting down her things and going into lecture mode. “Marshals are always on the move, so they don’t have a traditional home like you and I do. What they do have are barracks located all across Equestria where they store their personal belongings and come back to for breaks. Since Graves is going to be here long term, the Princess decided that along with his own things, she’d send some extra stuff as a housewarming gift. Hence, new.”
“Oooohhhh, I get it,” Spike nodded. “So, these are like birthday presents, except not actually on his birthday, right?”
“Something like that,” the sweater vested scholar giggled as she fondly ruffled his hair. “Now come on, let’s get to unpacking.”
“Aw, I’d love to, sugar cube,” Applejack said apologetically, “but I gotta run: got a wagon full of apples that need deliverin’, an' a whole lotta ground tah cover before nightfall.”
“You’ve been a big help already,” Graves said with a tip of his broad-brimmed hat. “Sorry to trouble you like this.”
“Shucks, Marshal, twarn’t no bother at all,” the freckled farm girl replied with a broad smile and a hearty slap to the back. “Why, now that we’re neighbors, you can be all the bother yeh want.”
“I’ll… keep that in mind,” the marshal said, barely suppressing a wince.
A few sharp knocks came from the door, followed by the soft creak of hinges and the call of a musical voice.
“Yoohoo, is anybody there?”
“Hey there, Rarity!” Spike said with a blissfully happy grin as the prettiest girl in all of Ponyville sashayed in.
“Ah, there you all are,” she sang, walking over to join her friends. “I trust I’m not too late to help the marshal move in?”
“Well technically, we already did the movin',” Applejack said, looking at the large pile of boxes, “but I reckon yer not here for the heavy liftin’, are ya?”
“Goodness no,” the violet-haired seamstress shuddered. “Just the thought of all that sweating strikes me as most distasteful.”
“Well in that case, what’re you here for?”
“Why, I’m here to spruce up the place, as it were,” Rarity smiled. “No abode is complete without a little interior decorating, after all.”
“You really don’t have to, Miss Rarity,” Graves said, horrific images of lace doilies and embroidered throw pillows dancing before his gunmetal grey eyes. Given Rarity’s laugh, which sounded very much like the tinkling of small silver bells, she didn’t agree.
“Oh, don’t worry darling,” she smiled, giving him a quick pat on the cheek before beginning to slowly pace around the room. “I won’t do anything too outrageous. But I did have some ideas about that I’ve been dying to try out…”
“Well, looks like you’ve got everythin’ covered here,” Applejack said, a smile tugging on the corner of her lip. “In that case, I’ll just be on my way.”
“Right now?” Graves asked as a touch of alarm crept into his words. “Sure you can’t help out a little more?”
“I really can’t,” the freckled farm girl replied, though her apology was somewhat ruined by the ear-to-ear grin spreading across her face. “Time is money, don’t ya know.”
“Don’t worry about a thing, Graves,” Twilight said with a bright smile that remained oblivious to the undertones of the conversation. “Rarity’s really good at this kind of stuff. Why, after she’s done with it, you’ll hardly recognize the place.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” he muttered. When Applejack heard this, she actually snorted.
“I gotta run along now,” the blonde cowgirl choked out, the strain of refraining from laughing twisting her face into all kinds of funny shapes. “You just listen to what Rarity tells you and I’m sure everythin’ll turn out fine.” With one last smile, Applejack dashed out the door and disappeared. The sound of her side-splitting laughing, however, could be clearly heard for a good while after.
“Well, you certainly do have a very nice place here,” Rarity commented, only vaguely aware of her friend’s somewhat boisterous departure. “Lots of open space – obviously, since it was meant to house five men and not just one – plenty of windows, and ooh! You even have space for a parlor! Oh yes, I can certainly work with this...”
“Um, Rarity?” Twilight spoke up, interrupting the designer’s train of thought. “I know you’re all excited to decorate and stuff, but don’t we need to unpack the stuff you’re going to be working with first?”
“Oh, you’re absolutely right!" Rarity gasped before breaking out into an abashed giggle. "Silly me, I was so wrapped up my ideas, I got a little ahead of myself.”
The pretty seamstress pulled a small wand from the band at her wrist, and with a quick flick, an aquamarine glow appeared around a multitude of boxes. All at once, they sprang open and their contents floated out and began flying to various parts of the room: a chair assembled itself and flew to the left, a table springing into form shot towards the right, various curtains arranged themselves at windows - the marshal wondered whose idea it had been to send curtains - and so on in a precise hurricane of activity.
In the meantime, Graves, Twilight, and Spike busied themselves by clearing out the rubbish. Graves broke down the crates, Spike swept up, and Twilight meticulously collapsed all the cardboard boxes and whisked away shredded wrapping paper with a flick of her wand. The packing peanuts, she left in a pile in the corner of the room since the Salamander boy had been eyeing them with much childish anticipation.
The peaceful work, however, was not to last as a horrified gasp broke the silence.
“Good heavens,” Rarity cried as she looked in on the contents of one case, “What on earth is this?” Straightening up, the frightened fashionista turned on Graves and held up the box to him, looking as if she held the end of the Equestria in her hands.
“Those are… my clothes?” he answered hesitantly, not sure what the question was. She was clearly looking at an assortment of men’s garments; I mean, as a clothing designer, wasn’t it obvious?
“Yes, I can see that, but where’s the rest of it?” she asked.
“Rest of what?”
“Your wardrobe, of course!”
Apparently, that was the wrong answer, as Rarity’s eyes slowly widened in mute horror.
“Darling you can’t be serious!” she gasped. “You mean to tell me that your entire ensemble consists of…” she paused to give them a quick count, “four shirts, three pairs of pants, one spare coat, and a variety of unmentionables plus socks, all in various states of disrepair?”
Graves blinked in the fury of the tirade.
“Well, it’s a good thing I’m here, isn’t it, Master Graves?” Rarity said with just a touch of exasperation. “Come along then; we haven’t got time to lose.” Taking him by the arm, she didn’t quite drag him, but certainly made it clear that they were heading out and his opinion was no longer needed on the subject.
“Where are we going?” he asked even as he was being manhandled out the door.
“Why, to my shop of course,” Rarity explained as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “How am I supposed to get you fitted for new attire otherwise?”
“Is this really nece–” Graves began to protest. However, one stern look from her sapphire eyes was enough to answer the question quite clearly.
“... Right then. Let’s go.”
Spike looked at Twilight, who looked back as Spike, who just scratched his head.
“So, what do we do now?”
“I dunno,” the older girl shrugged. “Might as well keep unpacking.”
As Twilight magicked open a few more packages, Spike grabbed the nearest parcel and tore off the paper with a quick swipe of his claw-like nails. He was a bit surprised to find, however, that instead of a normal wooden crate or cardboard container, he was looking at a flat stone chest, maybe a foot and a half long, half again as wide, and half again as tall. Flipping open the top, the young reptilian boy’s eyes began to sparkle as he eyed its glittering contents.
“Oh wow. You all look so… delicious!”
“What you got there, Spike?” Twilight asked. Curious upon hearing his comment she set down a flattened box and walked over.
“I’m not sure, but whatever it is, the marshal’s got some really good taste in jewelry.”
“What? The marshal has jewelry?” she called out incredulously. “No way.”
“No, seriously. Look!” Turning around, the green-haired boy held up something that glittered in the sunlight.
“What is that?” Twilight asked in wonder as she came in for a closer look.
“Jewelry. Told you!” the young boy crowed in delight. His big sister, however, knew better.
“That’s not jewelry, Spike,” the bookish girl said, taking it from his hand and pointing to the back. “It’s a medal.”
“A medal? Like they give out at the Sisterhood Social?”
“Exactly. See? Here’s the little nub where the ribbon would go so he could pin it on.”
“Well, if it’s a medal,” the young Salamander began, “then what’s it for?”
“Huh. That’s actually a good question.” Turning the medal back over in her hands, Twilight saw that it was an eight pointed star, the four larger cardinal points shining gold, the four minor points shimmering in silver, and with a large diamond set in the middle.
“Whatever it is, it must have been something really impressive,” she said, bouncing the medal in her hand. “I think this might be real gold.”
“Wow, no wonder it smelled so good!” Spike grinned as his mouth watered. Twilight just rolled her eyes. “So does that mean these are all medals as well?”
Peering into the box, Twilight was surprised to see a vast assortment of other awards as well, all pinned to an interior lining of soft, black velvet. There were many more of gold and silver, others in bronze and iron, and still more studded with precious stones. Some, she didn’t even know what they were, such as one strange medal resembling a stylized dragon’s head carved from what appeared to be translucent black crystal.
“I don’t know what all these are for,” Twilight said as she placed the star back into the chest, “but I don’t think we should be messing with them. They must be very special.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Spike agreed, eyes roving longingly over the shining emblems one last time before closing the chest.
“... Hey, Twilight?” he asked as he carefully set the box on the nearby table.
“Do you think he’d give me one if I asked?”
His "innocent" grin was met with a swift knock on the head.