• Published 9th Aug 2014
  • 19,557 Views, 911 Comments

All Butlers are Gentlemen, But... - Pen Mightier

I'm a Butler. My friends call me Butler. Looking after m'lady can be...challenging, but rewarding. Lately the job's become harder, with m'lady's sister back from the moon. So I decided to hire some help.

  • ...

A Gentleman Afire

While my vision was obscured by the massive boulder-like fist clutching my collar and the stars dancing vividly in my eyes, I had just about enough of my senses to look about the room. It was the economy class side of the carriage, fitted with spacious open seats rather than booths. The ponies in it were all huddled together against the walls in absolute fear, stallions, mares and foals alike. There were a lot of foals in particular. All shared looks of fright and distrust towards both me and my assailant. And I don't blame them.

"I pity the foal who still thinks Iron Will has anything to do with this bullocks!" My assailant snapped.

"H-he could be your accomplice!" One well-dressed stallion in the back accused.

"Just stop the train! Let us go! We ain't nopony special!" A rock farmer stallion demanded.

"Just take both of them down!" A spunky mare cried out. "Celestia will know her own!"

"Know what?!" Sunrise demanded.

"What? What? I want to know my own too!" Dark Side added.

"W-what could you want from us?! We're just simple pony folk!" A mare cried. "We're just taking these poor orphans on a field trip!" She waved a hoof at the masses of foals in the carriage.

So it's a runaway train full of orphan foals. Murphy is having a field day today.

Well, at least the train isn't on fire.

Oh by all that is adorable and pony...

Knowing my luck, that thought alone just set fire to the train somewhere.

Ah, I see what's happening. Whoever this person in front of me was, he wasn't a pony. And the kneejerk reaction in a situation like this was to accuse the one that stood out the most. In this case, it was him. And now me.

"But look, this hairless primate has some sort of stick in his hand." My assailant pointed at the brake lever in my hand. "It is a very suspicious stick." He argued, very persuasively.

"That's the brake lever, isn't it?" Spitfire whispered from behind me. This earned me the angry glares of everyone in the room.

"Not. Helping." I hissed back.

"Oh, sorry. Right, helping." Spitfire said, clearing her throat. "This stallion's in the service of the royal family!" She barked in her crisp drill sergeant voice, stepping out from behind me. "Put him down this instant!"

"I can vouch for that." A familiar voice said. I spotted the familiar form of Octavia turning away from the door to the private booths compartment opposite us, spitting something out of her mouth into a forehoof. It looked like....lockpicks? "I know him personally. He serves Princess Celestia." She said, giving me an impassive nod as she slid the maybe-lockpicks into her saddlebags.

"I can vouch for me too. Firstly, upon my oath, nine out of ten ponies agree I am a nice person...mostly." I said, reaching into my jacket pocket. The ponies in the room reacted with gasps and squeaks of fear. "Don't worry, I'm only pulling out my badge." I brought out my crest of office, a golden badge emblazoned with the sigil of the sun and moon. "Secondly, I carry this." Recognition immediately dawned on everyone in the room. Nobody could mistake the royal crest and the weight it carried (and occasionally threw around). Those who do generally earn themselves a few hours in a choice corner and a bop on the nose for bad behaviour.

Even my assailant immediately backed off at the sight, dropping me back onto my feet. "Wow, why'd you not flash that earlier?" Whoever it was said, "Could've saved Iron Will's fists some flight time." He backed off enough for me to get a good look at him. Familiarity dawned. There was no mistaking that minotaur from earlier. Though he looked a good deal paler than I remembered, maybe a tinge green too. "Look, Iron Will had nothing to do with this! Iron Will doesn't even like trains!" He said, quickly, obvious anxiety in his eyes.

“He punched a Royal Servicepony!" The well-dressed stallion shouted, pointing at the minotaur. "Treason!"

"He's the culprit!" A mare accused angrily.

I am almost certain he had less to do with this than I did. Being a gentleman meant being a stalwart defender of the truth, even if the truth had punched him in the face. "I can vouch for him too." I declared, raising my hands calmingly. "Complex magic was in use in orchestrating this incident. And before you ask, it wasn't minotaur magic. You would feel minotaur magic when it graces your face so. You may take my word for it." I said, clutching my painful right eye. I foresee a big bruise there.

The minotaur gave me a quick, grateful nod before leaning back against the wall, allowing himself to slide down to the floor. His face looked torn between relief and stomach-churning sickness before he buried it in one big beefy palm.

I decided not to interrupt his bout of motion sickness just yet as I continued addressing the ponies. "The culprit is almost definitely a unicorn. And while this is unconfirmed, said culprit has likely left the train." I said, offering what reassurances I can. Nothing pained me more than seeing ponies in fear. Frightened ponies don't make very adorable ponies. "Don't panic. Leave it all to us royal servicemen. We are trying to stop the train as we speak."

"Then you'd better get a move on!" The well-dressed stallion snapped impatiently. "We just passed Saddleturn station. We don't have much time left!"

"What're you waiting for? Save us!" A mare cried.

"Why do all the wrong parties always happen around you, Mr. Butler?" Octavia sauntered up to me with a sigh. "I realize everypony's entitled to some stupidity, but you're just abusing that privilege." She said, nodding at the brake lever in my hand.

"At least you can say he's found the brakes." Spitfire pointed out, helpfully.

"You cannot expect me to leave without a souvenir, Ms. Melody." I shrugged, testing the door into the private booths section of the carriage where I hoped my lady, Luna and Ditzy were still waiting. Sure enough, it was locked tight.

"That's assuming you get to leave at all. Stop hogging all the optimism." Octavia said, unimpressed. "I am quite certain you cannot annoy the train into stopping."

"Watch me." I said with a smile. Ah, poor Octavia, she has been around me long enough to become acquainted with my insufferable demeanor. Unlike most, however, she gives about as well as she receives, a particularly endearing trait in my eyes.

"You know what? I actually might." She said, taking me up on the free entertainment. "It's not like I have anything better to do. If I'm going to die, might as well look busy."

The minotaur looked up at me where he sat slumped against the wall, giving me a slight nod. "Good that you came when you did." He said, seeming as earnest as 200 pounds of muscle can. "Anymore fuss, I would’ve gone rough. Them fools act tough, but they’re all fluff. So you have my thanks."

I suppose that's what passes for eloquence on his part. "And I'll thank you for pulling that punch." I said, still wincing in pain. For once, I wasn't being sarcastic. A proper minotaur punch packing actual minotaur magic would have seen the contents of my head painted across the walls.

"Iron Will does not forget those who stand against, for or with Iron Will." He said, "And you have done all three. Iron Will will have a hard time forgetting you, so Iron Will might as well learn your name. You have earned yourself an introduction. Iron Will's my name, making legends’ my game."

"I gathered that much already, Mr. Iron Will." I nodded. "My friends call me Butler, but you can call me that too." I am quite forgiving. My face isn't.

"Iron Will gathers that you are stopping the train. An enemy of my enemy is my friend." He nodded at me. "If we don't stop it, we rock it." He paused, taking a deep breath. "After a minute," he said, leaning back against the wall, eyes closed.

"Motion sickness?" Spitfire asked. "Life moving too fast for you?"

“First time on a train?” I asked, sympathetically.

"Probably last time too." He said, taking another deep breath. "Iron Will don't like moving objects you can't put a face to. Makes it difficult to punch properly."

"Well, in a little while we'll all stop moving, very, very suddenly." Octavia shrugged. "And we'll have the cure to everything too. Win win."

"Aye." Iron Will sighed, pulling himself up onto his legs. "Let's go. If Iron Will is going to have motion sickness anyway, might as well continue moving. Point the way, matador." He nodded at me.

"Thank you, Iron Will. Could you please open the door for me?" I asked, nodding at the door to the private booths compartment.

"It's locked too. I've tried and it's definitely not the lock. It's something else," Octavia said. "So unless you're able to sweet talk the door into opening up..."

"When I said 'open', I am allowing a very liberal interpretation." I said. "We have a minotaur." I reminded her.

"And Iron Will has the key right here." Iron Will raised a fist.

"Such a stallion thing, resorting to your fists." Spitfire said with a gleeful smile, watching as Iron Will punched the lock in before ripping the flimsy wooden door open. But I must approve of how carefully he laid it to one side of the doorway before carefully brushing away the splinters from the floor lest anyone steps on them.

"Well, it's either that or their mouths." Octavia said.

"We have two modes of action because we males are versatile, adaptable creatures." I said, stepping through the newly opened doorway back into the private booths.

"You okay, Butler? What happened?" Ditzy, who seemed to have been waiting where I left her, quickly trotted up to me, looking a little more anxious than I last saw her.

"My sincerest apologies, Ms. Ditzy. I got sidetracked. But another pony is opening the door ahead of us." I explained. "This is Ms. Spitfire, Ms. Octavia Melody and Mr. Iron Will. And this is Ms. Ditzy and my...uh...daughters." I gestured at Ditzy and Sunrise. Dark Side was nowhere to be seen. But Sunrise wouldn't be idly looking at the train safety diagram if Dark Side was indeed missing.

"You're married?" Spitfire and Octavia gasped in disbelief. Octavia's expression suggested the very idea was an affront to female kind.

"I believe love completes a man. Marriage finishes him off." I said, simply. "That is to say, no, I'm very thankfully incomplete."

My contemplations on the institution of marriage was interrupted by a flying ball of fluff to the face.

"Butl-...Daddy!" The ball of fluff latched onto my face like a big white muffler squeaked, half angry, half relieved, all adorable. "Don't do that ever again!"

"What? Take you all on a runaway-train ride to certain doom?" I asked, "Well, allow me to consider that. Hmm, yes, I think I can settle for not doing this ever again." I gave the ball of fluff an experimental tug. No, filly cannot be removed.

"I was worried sick!" She squeaked. She then looked over my shoulder and noticed my entourage consisting of a minotaur and two mares. "I was right to worry!" She cried, cringing painfully. Then she got a good look at my face and cringed some more. "Who did this?!" She demanded, noticing my bruised eye. "I shall avenge your face!" She declared. Well, this was going to be a while, probably awkward too. I waved the others to go on without me, particularly for Iron Will's sake. Considering my lady's mood, 'vengeance' in this case probably involved a permanent lunar vacation. Iron Will probably didn't need the frequent flier miles. He was sick enough as it is.

"I ran into something. I didn't see what it was." I said, which is half-true. I didn't see that fist coming.

"It hit you in the eye." My lady said, pointedly.

"It was particularly accurate, and I was busy admiring the view." I explained quickly.

Another little ball of fluff dropped down from the ceiling onto my head. "Daddy." I heard Dark Side's familiar voice mutter into my ear. Ah, filly found. "I wanted coffee. Not mares. Not even the one with the abs and the horns." She said. "Though that black-maned one smells like coffee. Her mane's the colour of coffee. I wonder if she tastes like coffee? Maybe I can find out if she tastes like coffee."

"It's raining mares here." Sunrise groaned.

"Oh, don't be silly, sister." Dark Side chided, patting her sister reassuringly.

"Hi, Blanks!" Lyra dropped down from the rooftop above into the newly opened doorway at the front of the carriage. "Took you long enough. Did you go by the Fillypines first?"

"Alright, now it's raining mares." Dark Side said, eliciting an even louder wail from my lady. "Why can't it rain coffee?" Dark Side muttered.

"Celestia buck me with my bass." I heard Octavia mutter under her breath at the sight of Lyra.

"Me do what?" Sunrise balked at the rather flagrant use of her name. I never took Octavia to be the sort to give Lyra a run for her bits, but I guess runaway trains bring the best out of people.

"Oh, hi, Tavy! Ditzy!" Lyra waved at the two mares, seemingly acquainted with them. "Tavy, you alright? You look like you just seen a ghost." She said, looking concerned.

"I wish I was." Octavia muttered, glowering at the mint green unicorn. "Then again, between your humour and this train, in a few minutes, we will all be." She sighed.

Ah, yes, that reminds me, we have an appointment with the reaper. "Time, if you please, Ms. Ditzy?" I asked.

Ditzy looked down at her forehooves, lips moving quickly. "Sixteen minutes, I think." She said, looking up at me. "Give or take a muffin."

"All the time in the world." I nodded. "From what I remember the next carriage should be the dining car. Speaking of muffins, shall we stop for lunch?"

"That means coffee!" Dark Side squeaked excitedly.

"Aren't you hot like that?" Octavia asked me in passing.

"Why, thank you," I said, giving her a playful smile.

"I meant the suit," she said.

"I'm sure the suit appreciates the compliment too," I grinned.

"I meant wearing it in this weather," Octavia sighed in exasperation. "It is summer."

"Hmm, yes, it has been hot enough to force me to wear a ribbon instead of a bow tie." I said, pointing out my generous concession to the hot weather. I don't normally, but it has been a particularly hot summer.

I paused at the door, eyeing the next carriage. "Though I might consider unbuttoning my collar for this one." I said, eyeing the smoke curling out from the gaps in the door and windows. Was it just me or did it smell like hash browns and devastation? Probably today's special.

So now we're on a burning runaway train full of orphans. Mr. Murphy, you've made your point. Now please remove your flagrant flanks from my Monday.

"No! Not my coffee!" Dark Side cried, clutching her cheeks in horror.

"It was not me." Sunrise was quick to declare her innocence.

"Hey, hey, Tavy." Lyra leaned aside to Octavia. "What's the difference between a cello and a bass?"

"Make a fire joke about my instruments and I will set you on fire. For the rest of your life," Octavia groused.

"Oh no...." Ditzy gasped, "The jolting must have ripped a magic line!" She rushed forwards. "Dinky!" Her wandering eye seemed to wander even further in her panic. Lyra and Octavia's expressions turned grave at this.

"Ms. Ditzy, please, stand back!" I shouted, holding her back by her barrel.

"Please let me go!" Ditzy cried, struggling wildly against my hold. "I need to find Dinky!"

“This door blocks our way. I say we make it pay.” Iron Will wheezed his suggestion.

"No, don’t." Lyra said, turning serious. "When you open that door, air will rush in and the fire will flare up."

"Hello, is somedrake out there?!" A desperate-sounding voice called out from within the dining carriage. "There's a fire here and I'm trapped with two ponies! One of them’s a little pony hatchling! We need help!"

"Dinky!" Ditzy gasped. "Please, we need to do something!"

“What are you waiting for?!” Spitfire demanded, impatiently. “Those ponies need our help!”

"We need a plan first," Lyra said, nodding at me. “Presumably you have one. One that contains actual plan stuff?”

I turned to Ditzy for this. "Ms. Ditzy, I need you to work with me. Please, tell me, is there a shut-off valve for the magic line?"

"Um, yes, I think." Ditzy panted, calming down, her wandering eye centering once more, once again demonstrating immense resilience under pressure. "The cutoff valve is always in the same place no matter the model. It'll be in a box on the wall to the right of the door." She looked down at both her forehooves, lips moving silently. "Sorry, meant my left." She corrected herself.

While firefighting is not part of my extensive formal training, I am no stranger to fires, mostly of the kitchen variety. Though the frequency has lessened considerably ever since I tweaked the fire alarms to detect my princesses coming within sniffing range of the kitchens. And due to Equestrian fire solutions consisting of waiting for the nearest pegasi to arrive with rainclouds, I had long since devised many of my own strategies in dealing with fires.

"And the storage space?" I asked.

"It'll be to the right of the door for easy loading." Ditzy said, eyeing the door anxiously.

"You inside!" I shouted, hoping whoever was trapped inside could hear me. "Where are you?"

"We're trapped in the pantry behind the kitchen!" The voice called out. "I can take the heat and smoke for a while, but these ponies are not going to last! Please hurry!"

"We're going to open the door. The fire will erupt when we do, so keep your head down and brace yourself!" I shouted. “I have a plan to cater to all these needs. But I will need your help.” I nodded at the veritable team gathered around me. "Iron Will, you're opening the door." I instructed, carefully. "Ms. Melody, you're finding that valve and shutting it. Ms. Ditzy, Ms. Spitfire, Lyra, you three will be using your magic to put out the fire."

Heeding my instructions, Lyra lit up her horn while Ditzy and Spitfire flapped their wings, gathering and shaping miniature clouds with their pegasi magic. Ditzy's efforts were admittedly clumsier than Spitfire's, but her determination showed.

"Sunrise, Dark Side, you two will be standing back." I nodded at the two fillies. "When the rest of us go in, you two are going to raid the storage cabinet. Find me all the baking soda and salt you can find. You know what I mean." They have been both witness and culprit to the many kitchen fires I have valiantly fought, after all.

"And coffee!" Dark Side asserted. "This cabinet better be full of coffee!"

"Who died and made you captain of this boat?" Octavia shook her head.

"Alright, ready?" I looked around at the party. They all gave me hesitant nods in reply. "Let's go!"

Iron Will, sick as he was, still managed to find the door and rip it off its hinges. As we feared, the fire immediately erupted forth, fuelled by the new source of fresh air. All of us couldn't help but recoil as the flames licked at our faces, threatening to singe our eyebrows. "Magic team, if you please!" I shouted over the roar of the flames.

The two pegasi reared back onto their rear hooves, wings fluttering to steady themselves as they pulled their readied clouds up. Steadying their clouds with one forehoof, they plunged the other into their cores. Spouts of rainwater burst forth from each cloud, hitting the nearest flames true. Lyra quickly joined in, adding her own frost spell to the mix. Their combined efforts made short work of the frontmost fires, giving Octavia and I space to enter the carriage.

I threw my jacket over Octavia who accepted it without question, quickly wrapping it around her head and muzzle protectively as she sought out the box containing the valve. The magic team advanced, slowly but surely extending our frontlines.

I choked on the thick smoke as I spotted our target through watery eyes, the kitchen and the pantry beyond. But it would be a while before the magic team could beat the fire all the way there.

There was a loud crack as Octavia smashed open the utility box with her earth pony strength. "Valve shut!" Octavia said, tugging the red valve lever inside all the way home.

More fire suddenly erupted from the kitchen, accompanied by a high-pitched scream. "Mommy!"

"Mommy's here, Muffin! Hold on!" Ditzy shouted. "The valve shutoff caused a backflow of fire into the magic line!" She shouted at me over the roaring inferno.

"Damn and blast!" I growled. One mistake after another. Please give me some personal space, Murphy!

"Baking soda and salt!" Sunrise shouted, whirling sackfuls of the stuff at me. Looks like their raid of the storage space proved fruitful.

"And water too!" Dark Side airlifted a large bottle of water over to me.

Well, I did boast that I am a versatile, adaptable creature. Time to live up to the claim. Or die to it as the case may be.

I uncapped the bottle and upended its contents on my immaculately styled hair, soaking myself thoroughly. Then, hefting the sacks of baking soda and salt, I took a deep breath and did what was perhaps an act worthy of the Bedlam.

"For pony!" I declared. I dashed into the fire, ignoring the protests of those around me.

Steam erupted forth from my soaked clothes and hair as I ran headlong for the kitchen. Blinded by tears from all the smoke and soot, I could only trust in my own strides and my excellent luck. And Lyra, it seemed, for I just about spied out the narrow beam of her frost spell clear a path for me.

By the intense heat threatening to perm my hair, I decided I must be in the kitchen. Not wasting another moment, I slammed the sacks of baking powder and salt at anything and everything within reach. The flimsy bags quickly ripped as planned, spewing their contents over the fire.

I felt the heat recede under my relentless Butler-slapping, just enough for me to see. There, through the cloud of baking soda and salt choking the life out of the fire, I just about managed to spy out the door to the pantry. Inside was a whitish-pink creature about the size and shape of a pony. That was where its resemblance to a pony ended. Through the haze I just about made out what looked like cherry red spikes along its back. It was curled up, pink wings furled around its body, as if protectively shielding something beneath it.

Then I realized the haze I was peering out of was mostly in my head. The darkness slowly but surely crept in from the edges of my sight. Right at the edge of consciousness I came to a sudden realization; I had not only smothered the fire, between my efforts and the smoke I had smothered myself. With what little I had left I did what I do best; flailing at anything and everything within reach.

"...ler! Butler!" I heard a voice echo on the very edge of my hearing. "The fire's out! You can stop!" I just about heard Spitfire shout, sounding distant and loud at the same time. "Butler?!"

"Fire!" I heaved out one last battlecry as I spotted the hazy blur of something fiery yellow and orange approach me at the edge of my vision. I teetered towards it, empty salt and baking soda sacks akimbo. With what little consciousness I had left I threw myself at it.

I fell upon the fire like a vengeful wet rag. It gave a loud squeak under my unabashed assault. The last thought that went through my mind before I completely blacked out was, 'This fire's pretty hot.’

My princesses declared themselves the princesses of cardboard and made me their ninja. I was given a mission to secretly put Shining Armour in a maid uniform, all while dodging runaway cloud cakes full of orphan foals. And my polishing cloth tried to Butler-slap me with a flaming minotaur. In the midst of all this, Luna was high on caffeine.

Hmm, it would appear like just another average day for the Butler to the royal family of Equestria. I was about to ask Shining Armour out to the local McTrotnalds for some princess-javelin-throwing practice as cover for my operation when something strange happened. Well, strange-er.

"You didn't have to punch him dead," my mint green cravat protested.

"He was going to ravage her," my elegantly gray kilt replied, dryly.

"Exactly," Shining Armour protested, in a fittingly punchy yet feminine voice. "Right there in the middle of the kitchen, with everypony around us watching. And you stopped him." The last statement sounded rather accusatory. "Uncool," it muttered, almost indistinctly.

"She's on fire!" My cravat's pun somehow made the rest of my clothes and Shining Armour wince.

"That is no reason to try and put her out with his face," My kilt said.

"And that is why we need fire distinguishers." My cravat was in a particularly punny mood, much to the anguish of everyone else.

"That's quite the fantasy," my kilt said. "Do share more."

"Everypony, I think I feel a pulse!" My half-moon monocle said, excitedly. "Oh, wait, no, that wasn't a pulse. That's my hoof shaking from the caffeine withdrawal."

"You're doing it wrong. That's not where his pulse is. Allow me." The sun itself said in exasperation. It checked my pulse... by booping me on my nose. How it did this, I am still not entirely sure.

"Alright, you can all stay here and work out whether or not I committed murder." My kilt sighed in exasperation. "Meanwhile, I'm going to take the minotaur and open the doors ahead before we all join him wherever it is he went. Hardly a happy prospect."

That was when I realized I was dreaming, for I do not wear cravats.

The realization dropped me unceremoniously in a sea of hazy darkness. My head swam like a brick. More voices echoed at the very edge of my hearing, now strangely familiar.

"So, is he dead?" I heard the familiar voice of Lyra ask.

"I believe in him." I heard the familiar comforting voice of my lady say. "I believe he's just pretending." Yes, comforting, as comforting as the weight of the little pegasus filly sitting on my chest, whose idea of checking my life signs involved booping my nose with a forehoof repeatedly. By all that is adorable and pony, my lady knew me all too well. "Wakey wakey, daddy~" She said in a singsong growl.

Whatever my lady said, I decided to play dead a little while longer. I might as well get the practice. I slowly opened one hazy eye to peer out blearily at my surroundings. The kitchen was a lot worse for the wear, scorched, singed and layered with blackened salt and baking powder, but was at least devoid of fire.

I recognized the sky-gray figure of Ditzy loom nearby, hugging a trembling little dawn-lilac ball of fur topped with a sunrise-gold mane. "Mommy, Dinky was so scared!" The ball of fur cried.

"Ssshh, it's alright now, Muffin." I heard Ditzy's soothing voice whisper, softly, her forehooves wrapped reassuringly around the quivering ball. "Mommy's here now. Mommy won't leave you alone again." She held the trembling filly tight, as if afraid to ever let go.

Their little moment was quickly interrupted. "Eyaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" A squeak of a battle cry filled the dining car. An elfin little slip of an earth pony, more a filly than a mare, leapt out of the pantry. Both her marshmallow coat and candy-blue mane were covered in soot. Her quivering forehooves were clutching one of the newfangled EverPuff™ cloud-based fire extinguisher canisters at foreleg-length. Her eyes were tightly shut in obvious trepidation as she squeezed the canister's lever. The canister gave nothing more than an impotent click.

Click Click Click.

I saw Spitfire, Lyra and Ditzy share a glance. "You need to pull the safety pin out," Lyra suggested, pointing out the safety pin on the canister's lever helpfully.

"Oh?" The marshmallow-coloured mare opened one eye warily. "Oh, um, right. Sorry, safety pin." She bit the safety pin out of the canister. She actually apologized to the safety pin.

By. All. That. Is. Adorable. And. Pony.

With the safety pin removed, she gave the canister's lever another squeeze. "EYAAAAAAAAAAH!" She squeaked as a burst of thick cloud foam erupted forth violently from the canister, sending her tiny frame rocketing backwards, whizzing circles on the floor while ricocheting off the kitchen cabinets. "HeeeeEEEEEeeeeeEEEeeeelp MeeeEEEEeeeeEEE!" Her squeaky pleas for help dopplered around the kitchen.

"You totally just wanted to see that happen." Spitfire chided Lyra, a knowing smirk on her face.

"Well, I did feel sorry for her, kinda." Lyra shrugged, a mischievous little grin playing on her face as she lit up her horn. Her golden telekinetic glow took hold of the extinguisher, stopping it dead in its tracks. The marshmallow pony, however, went on zooming across the floor, straight for...

Oh dollymops. I quickly wrapped an arm around Sunrise protectively, just before the pony slammed right into my side, sending us all rolling into a row of cabinets. My back broke the impact and thankfully nothing else. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" The mare lying on top of me squeaked over and over. "I didn't mean it. I came to get a toastie for a gryphon lady. I didn't know the toastie would set the entire place on fire, honest!" Her teeny form was shaking all over from the fear and panic.

"At least you can say it was a... friendly fire." Lyra quipped. "What? That was good." She protested at all the blank stares she received in reply.

"It's alright, miss." I said, soothingly. "We have taken care of the sandwich and the fire." It struck me that despite quivering to the core, the young mare had (belatedly) raced out of her shelter, fire extinguisher in hoof, to fight the fire, probably to save the others trapped with her.

"R-really? The fire's gone?" She gasped, looking around, her large bright cerulean eyes glancing about the considerably cooler kitchen. "Oh, thank Celestia." She breathed a sigh of relief, flopping her head down on my chest.

I had to struggle to ignore my lady's rapidly inflating pout. She probably still doesn't approve of her little ponies invoking her name like a deity of sorts.

"Oh, um..." The mare suddenly blushed a bright red as her head shot back up, as if noticing me for the first time. "S-sorry!" She gasped, hooves flailing wildly as she fell backwards onto her rump. Her eyes widened as she noticed all the other ponies in the room around her. "Sorry, um, I hope you're all not queuing for a toastie?" She ventured, sheepishly.

"No chance of that until the toaster repair-pony comes." Lyra said, nodding at the kitchen.

Ditzy, meanwhile, was looking at the other occupant of the pantry, a pony-like creature still curled up within. "Thank you, miss dragon. Thank you for keeping Dinky safe." She nodded at the little filly she was holding as she gushed with gratitude. "She's everything to me. If anything had happened...." She stopped herself, seemingly unwilling to even voice that possibility.

A dragon? Here? Dragons grace pony settlements as frequently as intelligence graces Blueblood. Finding one on a pony train was like finding matching socks in Luna's room.

But taking a closer look, there was no mistaking it; everything from the elegantly curved horns to the smooth spikes along her back, the graceful pink wings and the long, slender spiked tail screamed 'dragon'. Even if she was more on the waiflike side. It also explained how two ponies had managed to survive the fire. It would take more than a flaming train to even singe dragonhide.

The slender dragon eyed Ditzy with twinkling golden eyes, tilting her head to one side quizzically. "Awww, that makes me feel all warm inside, even after that fire." The dragon chuckled. "But as much as I'd love to hoard all the credit, all of it goes to cloth-skin over there." She nodded over at me. I barely registered what she said, occupying myself with eyeing the unusual pink orb hung around her neck like a talisman. It glowed ominously with each word she uttered.

"Still, you see a drake hold your daughter in a kitchen pantry and that's your first thought?" The dragon added with a giggle, as if it were a punchline to some private little joke. “That is so hawahaha.” The orb failed to glow with that last word.

"Anypony can see you're harmless," Lyra said with a shrug of her withers. "You're, like, tiny. You don't hoard. That makes you a lot less of a douche than most dragons." Ah, Lyra, bluntness with a smile, as always. That, and Lyra wasn't one to run her mouth at others for the sake of it, at least most of the time. She was a student to Celestia herself after all, and she knew her dragons. She was testing the waters with this one.

The dragon seemed to eye Lyra for a moment, her brilliant golden eyes gleaming with interest, almost as if she were reading Lyra's intentions. She then, surprisingly, laughed merrily, a smooth tinkling laughter that was almost uplifting to hear. "Tell that to the customers." She said, gesturing with a claw at the empty, now burnt out dining car. "One look at the lovely Dovah behind the counter and they think they're on the menu. Please, ushushu, I have standards. And good taste." Again, the orb failed to glow when she uttered those foreign words.

Lyra's surprise was evident on her face. I couldn't help but share it. No dragon, except for possibly Spike, would take a slight to her strength and prowess like that without at least showing a flicker of irritation. But she not only took it in stride, she laughed it off. Either she had seen through Lyra's prodding, was entirely unhinged for a dragon or was so confident in her strength that she felt no necessity to prove anything. All three were particularly scary thoughts.

"You're the chef?" Spitfire asked in disbelief, voicing our thoughts as one.

"Not anymore, I don't think." The dragon said, looking around her burnt out dining car. "Scalemange, I just got this job too." She gave a resigned sigh as she got up onto her four claws. At full height she was only slightly taller than Ditzy, making her a teeny dragon indeed.

A job no less? If I wasn't already convinced this dragon was an oddity, this sealed the deal. The draconic economic principle is simple in that it is non-existent. They take, and what they cannot take they destroy, kill or eat; not necessarily in that order.

But at the very least they don't do all that and call it 'morality'.

"Don't worry, I'm sure this won't get you fired." Lyra said. She looked around at the group for anything more than a blank stare. "Anypony?" She asked, almost pleadingly.

"The fire alarm's connected to the magic cutoff in the stove to stop fires from growing bigger. What happened?" Ditzy asked, as if pressing Spitfire's point.

"The fire alarm?" The dragon eyed the wall-mounted magical contraption Ditzy was pointing at. "I thought that thing tells me when the food's ready. Hauwau?"

All of us must have shared the same thought there and then. Yes, there aren't enough facehooves in the world for this.

"As for the stove, well, now that was a long and tragic fuwafu." The dragon began. "The dining car began rattling all of a sudden. The stove already had a short temper as it was. That sudden jolt was probably the last straw. And, well, you see, I was so busy contemplating the meaning of life... that I may have tried to blow out the fire," she admitted with a sheepish grin. “Hauwau.”

"You're a dragon. And you tried to blow out the fire." I raised an eyebrow.

"I could not help what I am." The dragon gave a tragic sigh. "Needless to say, I never got my answer to the meaning of life."

"With respect, you can't really hope to take refuge in profundity after that." I couldn't help but say.

"Well, do you know the meaning of life?" The dragon demanded with an expression threatening draconic sulking. "Well, do you?"

"As a matter of fact, I do. Right now all I want is a clean pair of unmentionables." I said, slowly pulling myself up onto my feet.

The dragon looked surprisingly impressed at my answer. "An old Dovahsagafur once said, 'Molt the scales of the past, tomorrow's not yet cast, but wear today's to last.' But yours is shorter and sweeter, Awumai." She beamed with approval, slinking around me while eyeing me up and down, as if appraising a radish at the market. "Well, I suppose I could do with worse for a Master. A little bit shahwawa for my taste, bit of a fixer-upper, but I prefer a challenge to a gift." She said with a nod.

I didn't need a mirror to see my own expression. It was already reflected in Lyra, Sunrise, Spitfire and Ditzy's; looks of absolute disbelief.

"Pardon me?" I asked, allowing my mind some time to catch up. "I didn't quite catch that last part." I had gathered that the orb is some sort of translator, a rather unreliable one judging by the occasional lapse in translation. I was hoping that last bit was somehow lost in translation.

"I am Garnet, of brood Blackwing, clan Drakengard." The dragon said, stopping in front of me to give me a very short curtsy. "And you are my master."

The worrying part is, she seemed strangely serious about this. And the last thing I wanted on that particular Monday was to offend a fire-breathing dragon. "Why, exactly, if I may ask?" I asked carefully with a curious frown.

"You saved my life," the dragon said, her expression unreadable, seemingly content that this was sufficient explanation.

I mulled this over in my mind until I suddenly recalled an old friendship report to my lady from Spike himself on the matter. It was one he learned following an incident where he had to repay Ms. Applejack for a life debt. "Is this about the dragon code?" I asked, realization dawning.

"Yes. I owe you my life, humha shuru, so I gotta repay you by serving you for the rest of your natural-born life." She said, looking worryingly cheerful about the prospect. It was almost word-for-word for the dragon code Spike had quoted. Almost. I recall Spike's words were 'my natural-born life', not 'your'.

A random dragon working as a chef on a railway dining car suddenly declared herself my lifelong servant. Surely this deserved some comment. I exercised my unparalleled command of language and said absolutely nothing. My companions echoed my profound comment.

All except for the young fire extinguisher mare. "Um, you saved my life too." She said, looking up at me. "Thank you for that, by the way. But does that mean I have to call you 'master' too?"

"I am many things. But my friends mostly call me Butler," I said, my mind still rather occupied. Dragons tend to take up a lot of space.

"Coco Pommel." She said in reply. "Um, my name, that is. I'd get you lunch as thanks, but..." She glanced about the ruined kitchen.

"You don't happen to have anymore mares stored away in that pantry, do you?" Sunrise asked, in between pouts.

“I don’t think so. I checked and double checked the inventory before we left, Nanoyo,” Garnet said.

"Better! There's coffee!" Dark Side squeed as she sank her teeth into an intact bag of coffee lying in one corner of the pantry.

"I can get you all something when we get there. At least we're not too far from Fillydelphia now," Coco Pommel said. "What else can go wrong between here and there, right?" She wondered out loud with a nervous smile.

We all turned and gave her a long, slow look. She tilted her head to one side, treating us to an expression of doe-eyed cluelessness. "I-I'm sorry?" She offered another of her prompt apologies.

The train seemed to join in accentuating our situation by giving us a fierce jolt. Ditzy's daughter gave a loud squeak, burying herself against her mother.

"Ms. Ditzy, how much time do we have left?" I asked.

"Eight more minutes," Ditzy said, almost immediately.

"The royal guard are on the case," Spitfire reported. She had one of the newfangled EverLink™ military-grade crystal radio earpieces in one ear, likely courtesy of her position as a Wonderbolt. "The airborne unit following us weren't able to attempt a boarding because of the tunnels in between Fillydelphia and Saddleturn. But the ground unit ahead of us are rerouting us into Fillydelphia shipyards to buy us more time and, worse case scenario, crash the train into the ocean."

"That's an extra 4 minutes," Ditzy quickly calculated. "But we won't be crashing into the ocean. The bend at the shipyard junction will send the train flying off the tracks at this speed."

Spitfire's eyes widened perceptibly at this. "There's a school and a lot of houses there."

"Not for long if we don't do something," Lyra said, biting her lip.

Amidst all this Garnet and Coco Pommel's expressions turned from puzzlement to worry. They obviously didn't know till just then. I couldn't blame them. Being on fire has a profound effect on one's attention span.

"Ms. Ditzy, I know you've just been through a lot, but could I please trouble you to fly ahead to the engine and see what you can do?" I asked the gray pegasus. "I'll be right behind you. We're only one carriage away from the engine."

"Sure I can." Ditzy nodded with a smile. "Dinky, stay with this nice stallion and his foals, alright?" She said to her daughter, softly, nodding at Sunrise and Dark Side. Sunrise was still glaring daggers at me, pout now reaching critical mass. Dark Side was... busy impaling the bag of coffee on Lyra's horn from behind. Worse yet, she succeeded in ripping the bag open. Her triumph lasted until Lyra helpfully pointed out it was decaf.

I couldn't help but wonder what confidence this inspired in Ditzy. Whatever it was seemed lost upon her daughter.

"But, mommy..." The little dawn-lilac unicorn filly protested, fidgeting nervously.

"Sshh, Mommy promises she'll be back as soon as we've helped stop this train at the station. Remember what mommy said about our new home, right?" Ditzy whispered.

"Yes, mommy." The filly whimpered, quietly.

"Good filly." Ditzy gave her a soft kiss on the forehead before pushing her towards Sunrise and Dark Side. "Please keep her company, alright?" She asked, nicely.

"Oh?" Sunrise paused her glaring, pout quickly deflating. "Yes, Ms. Pegasus." She nodded at Ditzy, giving her daughter a poster-filly smile.

"Ms. Garnet, please do me a favour." I turned to the dragon. "Please fly with Ms. Ditzy and keep her safe. It's unlikely, but whoever did this to the train might still be up there at the engine."

"Sure thing, master. Nanoyo," Garnet nodded.

"And somewhere in between climbing out of the wreckage and surviving Monday, we're going to have to talk about... all that." I added, quickly. I had more important priorities at the time, such as ignoring Spitfire's dark scowl. I had sent two other fliers ahead, purposely leaving her out. But I couldn't in good conscience risk a repeat of that last episode.

Spitfire, however, seemed to think otherwise, for she made to follow after Ditzy and Garnet. "Ms. Spitfire, I'm afraid that wouldn't be wise," I said, stepping in her way. I did my best to avoid eyeing her injured right wing.

"Look." She gave me a pointed look. "I owe you. But I'm no dragon. Saving my life doesn't make you the boss of me." She said, coolly.

"Ms. Spitfire, you are quite possibly the best flier in Equus. But take it from someone who makes it his business to care for alicorns; there are times when even alicorns shouldn't fly." I said, reproachfully. "A good flier can fly. A great flier knows when not to."

She gave me a scathing in reply look but thankfully did not follow Ditzy and Garnet any further.

Her look did not compare to my lady's when she fluttered up in front of me, motioning me aside for a moment. I spared the rest of the group a quick glance. They had all made their way to the end of the dining carriage to join Octavia and Iron Will who had planned on opening the door. Except Iron Will was sitting against the wall again, looking seven different shades of sick. Octavia was hoofing him a bottle of water. It looked like they might be a while.

I could trust my lady to be economical with what precious time we had (unlike me). "How can I help you, my lady?" I asked in a low whisper.

My lady only sighed at this as she gave me a long, hard look. "I know what it is you're doing. And I need not impress upon you how ridiculously foalish you've been." She said in a low whisper, such that only I could hear her. "I know how... apprehensive you are inside. It is making you do rash and foalish things." She carefully avoided calling it 'fear'. A gentleman is never afraid, a gentleman is simply 'concerned' at most.

"Perhaps." I conceded. "But there are more worrying things. Like full pantries, made beds and sheer boredom." Equestria is a worrying place to be a human, even of the gentleman variety. But even then, there is nothing more concerning than losing my... no, it did not even bear considering. I would not be swept aside so easily when they need me most.

Not again.

"This is about those previous incidents, isn't it?" She asked with a frown. Something on my face must have given me away as she quickly went on. "We've been over this. The changelings, Luna, Discord, Tirek; none of that was your fault." My lady placed her forehooves on my temples, locking my gaze with her own. "I'm sorry. This whole knight captain appointment, I should have given it more careful consideration... before all this. I should have been more considerate before putting such pressures on you," she whispered, bitterly, wearing a pained look.

I felt a pang inside. Hurt because she regretted her decision. Guilt because she was right. I am no fighter, even by human standards. By Equestrian standards I was more helpless than a foal. And in their direst moments, when my princesses needed help the most, it had not come from me. If anything, they would always be the ones protecting me.

Knight Captain indeed.

Sure it was just a title, something to help me keep my place by my lady's side in six month's time. But could I not live up to the title, even a little bit?

"Regardless, getting you two off a train should be within my considerable skills." I tried to wave her concerns away. "I shall persuade this train to stop. Failing that I shall annoy it into doing so."

My lady sighed, shaking her head in defeat. "Very well. We'll talk about this at length when we get back," she said, looking deep into my eyes. "Remember, the two of us insisted on coming today. We would have come whether you liked it or not. And I know you'll carry on risking your neck for us no matter what I tell you. So at least let us help you, my little human."

I could only smile at my lady's overprotective thoughtfulness. "I know, Sunrise." I gave her a comforting pat on the head. "Push comes to shove, you two may unleash all fifty flavours of alicorn on the train. But until then, stay hidden. As far as everyone's concerned, you two are just two little fillies on the wrong day trip."

We made the rest of our way over towards the front of the carriage in silence. Iron Will had managed to get back onto his hooves and had ripped out the door to the dining car. The group were already starting on the door to the last carriage. Ditzy and Garnet didn't waste a moment taking off. And not a moment too soon. The surrounding landscape had morphed from rolling countryside and farms into urban suburbs. It wouldn't be long until we hit the city proper. Literally.

I reached the next carriage's door just as Iron Will ripped the last door off its hinges. In my hurry I simply strode through the open doorway. I didn't get very far. My progress met a lamentably accurate punch. If this were a pony punch, my succession would have probably been blown to kingdom come. Never have I been more thankful to encounter a gryphon instead, for they punch just a tad higher. My gut, however, failed to share my sentiment. "Ugh," was my intelligent reply as I doubled over, the wind blown out of me. But before I could recover, a claw bearing a suite of pointy talons grabbed hold of me by my collar and pulled me inside, slamming me bodily onto the floor.

Before I could even let out a cry, the same set of talons were already at my throat, pinning me to the floor. "Before I pinch you..." A pair of fiery golden eagle eyes glared down at me. "...any last words?"

"Oh yes, I would like a few hours to recite the entirety of the Extended Equestrian Encyclopedia of Explosive Expletives verbatim, if that's al—" I felt the talons tighten noticeably. "Alright, alright, something brief. How about: 'Behind you?’"

Author's Note:

As usual, I hope you all enjoyed that as much as I enjoyed writing it.

I can't wait for the next chapter. The intro to the next arc has me as giddy as Pinkie on a sugar rush.

As always, many thanks to our awesome editor, Dumbgamer99. If you haven't already, do give him your thanks by visiting his page and giving him a follow.

Credit for the idea for Lyra's subplot goes to Warpd, credit for the 'it's raining mares' line goes to Vlad, and credit for the 'Daddy!Butler' idea goes to Lightingace. Thanks guys! You both just made the story 20% co-... *SHOT* :rainbowdetermined2:

A little shameless self-promotion if you'll allow me, if you aren't already aware I have another story written with pretty much the same flavour of humour titled 1000 Virgin Mares, 1 Frickin' Badass Dark Overdude, Infinite Facehoofing. It is a fun romp of a comedy featuring a completely clueless pizza delivery dude who, through a rather odd case of mistaken identities, ends up assuming the cloak of the evil crystal emperor in order to protect the 1000 'blasphemous' ponies who summoned him to 'deliver' them and all of ponykind from the tyranny of the great and holy Ahuizotl.