• Published 13th Jun 2012
  • 3,561 Views, 80 Comments

As It Were - Minotaur



Sex, drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll! No, just kidding. It's actually just a HiE.

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Anti-Umbra Task Force, a.k.a. the Pony Power Rangers

Twilight Sparkle walked into Luna's room, quickly bowing to the princesses present. She looked around and spotted me, breaking out into laughter merely seconds later. Unamused, I crossed my arms.

"Yeah, laugh all you want. I should've seen this coming. Using girly smelling shampoo is never a good idea."

Both of the princesses chuckled, and I had a feeling that they did this whole thing on purpose. While it was annoying, it was a completely harmless prank. Hell, if I hadn't been the recipient, I'd probably have laughed, too.

After Twilight's laughter died out, things got serious. Well, as serious as it could've got, as I was shirtless and had floating hair.

"So? Have you decided to hire me yet? I'm very good at what I do, I promise."

Celestia rolled her eyes at me. Oh, that glorious, inexplicable feeling one gets when they annoy the magical monarch of an alien world. There's none other quite like it.

"I know well enough that violence is a strong point of yours," She paused for a moment, and shuddered. "But I'm afraid I can't let an outsider deal with my problems. No matter how you try to put it, I won't let you."

I sighed, slightly irritated by the fact that Celestia still thought she could stop me.

"Well, that sucks."

Celestia smiled at me. "I'm glad you decided not-"

"Not for me, no. It sucks for you, because now I'll have to find this Umbra queer myself."

Celestia frowned, confused by my big claims.

"But how does that... 'suck' for me?"

Oops.

"Well... I didn't really think that far ahead. I was just kinda hoping you wouldn't ask."

Everyone shared a chuckle at my response, deviating from the serious atmosphere for a few seconds. The atmosphere returned soon, however, as everyone thought about the implications of my words. They all gave me worried looks after they realized that I wanted to go off solo and take Umbra on.

Twilight was the first to speak up.

"But... Umbra is a powerful unicorn with a whole army! How will you defeat that many ponies?"

Flexing my biceps, I raised my arms up.

"With these guns!"

Before I put my arms back down, I gave each bicep a quick kiss.

"Seriously, though, I think you forgot that I'm now immune to magic or whatever. I don't care how powerful he is if he can't touch me. As for the army? I've already survived one of his assassins. With a little training and some study into pony physiology, I can take even more on."

Unconvinced, Twilight was still worrying, as were Luna and Celestia.

"Look, I'm not a little kid. I can handle myself, you don't need to worry about me. It's not like you're my mom..."

I winced at the unintentional mention of my mother. Before they could notice anything, I quickly cleared my face of all emotion.

Luna wasn't buying any of it.

"Stan... once you've seen somepony almost die, you can't just let them go off into danger again."

"Hey, keyword there is almost. As long as I don't actually die, I'm fine. Unless I break both of my legs, or something. That'd get in the way, you know?"

Looks of horror plastered on everyone's face was not what I was going for, but it's what I got.

"It was just a joke, just a joke. I'm not planning on breaking any of my limbs anytime soon."

Celestia looked me straight in the eye, and asked, "I wonder what kind of life you've had to make you say such dark jokes?"

"My life wasn't nearly as horrible as you might think it was."

Twilight added in, "You taught me that in many cases, humans and ponies have different views on what counts as 'horrible'. Is this one of those times?"

"No, it's not. I honestly didn't have that bad of a life. Lots of people had lives much, much worse than mine."

The room went slightly silent, and Luna seemed like she suddenly remembered something.

"It's almost time for me to raise the moon!"

She dashed out of the room, presumably to go and raise the moon. Celestia got up as well, and looked ready to leave.

"We'll continue this talk tomorrow. We've all had a long day, and some rest is in order."

After she gracefully left the room, and Twilight followed her out, I was left alone. Finally, a chance to check out the book presented itself to me. I dug it out of my pocket, and somehow pulled it out, even though it was several times bigger than my pocket.

Opening it to the first page, I saw that it was still blank. I flipped through the whole thing, and there was no writing or marks of any kind in the whole book. How was I supposed to learn from an empty book?

I then remembered that scene in Harry Potter where he gets the diary, and then writes in it. If only I had a pen, I would've done the same thing. Instead, I just put the book back in my pocket. Somehow, it was shrinking to be accommodated in my pocket, yet it still felt the same size when I reached in to touch it. It was like my left pocket suddenly became a portal.

In a panic, I quickly checked my other pocket for my iPod. Thankfully, it still was in there, with my headphones wrapped around it.

I stood up, and walked over to the window. It was night now, and I basked in the soft glow of Luna's moon. I hated sounding so sappy and romantic, but I thought about how nice the stars looked. Each of them was like a small beacon in the sky. Maybe Earth orbited around one of those distant stars? I leaned on the window, and just kept gazing out at the sky. A feeling of homesickness spread through me, but I locked it away. Thinking about my home won't help me actually get there.

Luna appeared outta nowhere and walked up beside me, noticing my gaze upwards.

"Do you... enjoy the night?"

"Yeah."

She went silent for a bit, and we both just stood there, looking out the window. Yeah, perhaps I could've answered her better. I certainly could've answered worse, though.

"There's... not many ponies that enjoy the night. A long time ago, that led me to making some... rash choices."

Casting a smile her way, I stretched out my stiff back.

"Well, a lot of humans enjoy the night, if that makes you feel better. It's not the same night, I guess, but whatever," I paused for a second as I stretched out my arms. "You know, I'm one of those people. The night is much calmer than the day. Everything is silent, dark, almost magical. Actually, let's pretend I didn't say any of that. I swear you ponies are making me go soft."

She smiled tenderly.

"Thanks, really. I appreciate it."

To my surprise, she nuzzled up against me, rubbing her head on my shoulder. I almost flinched and jumped back, but I held myself still through pure willpower. If I backed away from this, not only would Luna be embarrassed, but she'd probably kick me out of her room, too. Women are fickle creatures.

She pulled back, and looked me in the eye.

"Although it shames me to say it... I don't have very many friends. It's funny, isn't it? A princess that doesn't have any friends. But you, you're different. You like the night, and you're fun to be around-"

Ohgodnonononononono-

"- I'm glad I met you, Stan. You're my friend, and that's why I don't want you to fight Umbra. I don't think I could handle you getting hurt again."

Thank the lord almighty! I was thinking that she was going to tell me she loved me. That would've put me in a world of trouble.

With a sigh of relief, I replied, "Sure. That's understandable. I consider you a friend too, I guess. I mean, you did save my life and all. Twice. But here's the thing: I don't belong here. It's obvious now, even to a doofus like me, that I came here for a purpose. After that is over and done with, I'll be going home. And I sorta like my home. By not permitting me to fight, you guys are preventing me from possibly going home. That's just plain cruel. You're clipping my wings, in a sense."

Her head dropped as my words hit her hard. Although I felt bad, I'd feel worse if I was stuck here forever. Like they say, choose the lesser of two evils.

With a heavy heart, she said, "I understand. I'll speak to my sister about it. However, you have to agree to one thing."

"What would that be?"

"You're going to get trained by our elites. If we're to send you out there, I want to make sure that you can survive."

Curious as to what pony guard training actually looked like, I agreed.

"Good. You'll start tomorrow."

She turned around, as if to leave.

"You may use my bed tonight."

"Well, won't you be joining me-"

AH SHIT!

That came out wrong. So, so, so very wrong. I meant to say something like, 'Won't you be going to bed too?' but the words came out wrong.

Accidental innuendo is funny around friends, but dreadful around women. I hope she thought it was just a human thing. If I tried to explain myself, that would ruin all chances of her thinking it was a joke. This could turn out very badly for me.


Luna stared at Stan, trying to understand what he just said. After she had given him permission to sleep in her bed, he had asked her to join him. She was trying to decide whether he understood what he just implied or not.

If he did, that meant he was romantically attracted to her. While Luna didn't particularly mind interspecies courting, it was still shocking to think that Stan might think of her that way. She didn't exactly reciprocate his feelings of love, but she also didn't want to possibly insult one of her very few friends.

On the other hoof, it might just be a human custom. The more she thought about it that way, the more sense it made to her. Humans invited their friends to sleep next to them, and they bonded that way. It wasn't considered sexual, it was just something friends would do; a strictly platonic activity.

Either way, she was sure that the easiest way to go about things would be to just accept.

"Uhm, I-I don't really have anything to do tonight anyways, so... I guess I can."


Oh god no.

She accepted.

What. The. Eff.

What could this mean? Either A) she fell in love with me, or B) it's a pony tradition. I really doubt A, as I'm a freakin' alien, so B makes more sense. I've seen way more of what I think are chicks, so if two girl friends were to sleep in the same bed, that'd be okay. Maybe she just saw me as a friend rather than a guy, and accepted because of that? God, I hope that's what it was.

"Haha, uh, okay. Well, uh, I'll be going to bed now..."

How am I supposed to sleep? Should I take my jeans off? Keep them on?

I turned around, and saw that Luna's sparkly jewelry and shoes were levitating away from her body, before dropping into a neat pile on top of her night stand. She looked naked without them, even though she basically never wore clothes. New levels of awkwardness arose as I decided to take my jeans off. After I removed all of my clothes, (except for my boxers of course, I wouldn't dare go without those) Luna walked over to her side of the bed (the left) and lied down. I did the same on my side (the right), and the lights instantly turned off.

Even though I had been faced with electric appliances before, it just now came to me that perhaps Equestria has electricity. I didn't know what to make of it, as it just added to the mysteries of this land. So many things were extremely similar, yet so many were radically different. If I had been the scholarly type, I might've written said things down, but I wasn't, so I didn't. Thinking about that took my mind off the fact that I was sleeping with a foreign land's princess, and I soon found myself falling asleep. Tomorrow would be a big day.


"Well, well, well. You got lucky this time, coward."

I opened my dream-eyes, and I was at the ever-so-familiar grassy field that denoted Misanthropy's presence. With a sigh, I stood up to face him.

"What the fuck do you want, Miss-'Debbie Downer'-Anthropy?"

He smiled his annoying smile, as if my words didn't affect him at all.

"Ah, but I know you too well for your insults to work."

He suddenly disappeared, and I heard his voice come from behind me. I turned around to face him.

"I know that you resort to insults to hide your own insecurities. I know everything about you."

"Good, then that means you know that I think that you're a giant, flaming idiot with a hard-on for pain. Find some dominatrix instead of screwing with my life."

His smile was replaced by a frown, as his face contorted into anger. "Your rebellious attitude tires me. Do not ignore the fact that you were the one who created me. I simply serve your wishes."

Even if he was right, I didn't want to let him hurt anyone anymore. I created Misanthropy in the back of my mind when I was younger and dumber, but I now had no use for him anymore.

"If I made you, that makes me your master. Your master says 'Go fuck yourself', and also wants you to get out of his mind."

Just to be annoying, he disappeared again, appearing on the top of a nearby hill. I could still somehow hear him as clearly as if he was right next to me, though.

"I follow your true wishes. Even if you do not know them, I do. I'm your subconscious, after all."

"Don't B.S. me. If you followed my true wishes, you'd be gone, asshole."

He appeared in front of me, that arrogant smile plastered on his face.

"You are confused and cowardly, and you also don't know how to properly use the gifts bestowed upon you! A pitiable existence."

By "gifts", he must've meant... Calypso's gifts?

"How do you know about that?"

Suddenly bursting into laughter, he bent over, before falling down to the ground in his hysteria. Eventually, he calmed down enough to answer me.

"I see and experience all which you do! Everything! Like I said, there's nothing about you that I don't know."

"Then tell me about this damned 'gift'!"

"All in good time, Stan. All in good time."

His smirk was wiped off of his face, and he abruptly looked up to the sky.

"What is THIS?"

Right before I looked up as well, I saw him pop out of existence. I could've sworn he screamed right before it happened. Anyways, I looked up, and spotted a giant rip in the sky. Unlike the blue, cloudless sky, it was a dark yellowish orange. An extremely fast tendril shot out from inside of the tear and grabbed me. I started screaming, but the tendril showed no relent. It swung back up, and I was pulled into the rift. The last thing I saw was the rift closing back up. Then, I was enveloped in the orange light of the strange new land.

I blinked, and found that the tendril wasn't wrapped around me anymore when I opened my eyes. Furthermore, I was standing on solid land, albeit completely black and rock-hard, solid land. It was some sort of cliff, and I stood near the top of the whole thing.

The cliff was above the clouds, and I couldn't see to the bottom because of it. Painting everything a nice, golden hue, the sun stood in stark contrast to the black cliff. It was a nice scene, and for some reason I didn't feel sick, even though I hated heights.

A giant, black ball shot out of the clouds, then stopped in front of the sun. It completely blocked the sun from my view, and a shadow fell upon me. The shadow made everything extremely dark and it was hard to see. Still, my eyes slowly got used to it, and things started getting even weirder.

The light warped around the black ball, but was tainted in the process. Rather than the gold light it used to be, it became a disgusting dark orange, mixed with black every now and then. All of the tainted light formed a corona of sorts around the black ball, and it waved about wildly. The whole scene reminded me of a solar eclipse.

Then it came to me. It was supposed to be like a solar eclipse. However, it was far more than that. If my solar eclipse terminology is right, then the shadow I'm standing in....

... is called the Umbra. Everything clicked in my head. The black ball probably represented Umbra, and the beautiful light and sky was Equestria. Umbra tainted Equestria, he was trying to twist it into something horrific. All of the disgustingly colored light represented his taint, and ho he destroyed the beauty of Equestria. The black cliff probably represented me, and how I was a foreign existence to Equestria.

The shadow, his umbra... that represented his influence. It was spreading out all over Equestria, and if something didn't stop him, he'd ruin all of it. Sadly for Umbra, there was one guy that wouldn't let his plans work. That guy happened to be me.

My badass boast was interrupted when the black ball started moving. Something huge was coming out of it, and straight at me. I realized that it was a giant arm, a human arm. It reached out at me, and continued coming out of the black orb. Eventually, the hand was right above my head. The fingers quickly closed themselves around me, and I panicked, leading to my inevitable awakening.


That dream was messed up. First Misanthropy comes along, then there's a metaphor about Umbra. Even Misanthropy was freaking out when he saw that tear in the sky.

Murmuring to myself, I tried to stretch out. My left arm glided past some soft texture, while my right was immobile. Confused, I checked on my other limbs.

Head? Eh, I can move it.
Left leg? Yup, mobile. I can feel that same soft texture on my leg.
Right leg? Nope. It's asleep, like my arm.

Thoroughly confounded, I opened my eyes to see what was going on. I guess that was what I should've done in the first place.

OH SHIT. I forgot Luna was in the bed with me! That soft texture was her coat. I wanted to punch myself, as I forgot that I tend to roll around in my sleep. Somehow, I had wrapped around Luna while we both slept. She was laying on top of my right arm and leg, and I had been like, cuddling her. Note to self: never ever ever ever do this again.

If anybody saw us, things could get very bad...

As soon as I sad that, the door opened up. Really? Why did I have to jinx myself like that?

"Stan, are you in here-"

She paused as soon as she saw us in the bed.

"This isn't what it looks like, I swear!"

She blushed, and looked away.

"Do you two... need a moment?"

WHY DID SHE HAVE TO BLUUUUSH? WHYYYYYYYYYY-

"I DON'T NEED ANY MOMENTS! JUST GET ME OUT OF HERE!"

"Oh my... Even though you say it's not what it looks like, you're still cuddling her."

"Half of my body is asleep, just get her off of me!"

After a yellow glow lifted Luna up slightly, I was able to crawl my way out of bed. I lied on the ground, groaning as blood pumped back into the right side of my body. My whole body felt ablaze in pins and needles. Celestia chuckled at my pain, that jerk. These princesses and their apathy...

Luna slowly woke up, and she looked around.

"Morning, 'Tia."

She got up, and all of her jewelry flew back onto her. Celestia greeted her, and they went out of the room together. I was left in the room, half numb and wondering what the hell just happened.


Breakfast went as well as one would expect. We all sat down, we ate some food, (I had a Caesar salad, with ranch dressing. Yeahhh buddy.) and nobody really said anything. Any pressing matters were put aside until we finished breakfast.

After breakfast, however, came another round of negotiations. It was mostly just Celestia and I arguing over whether or not I could join the Equestrian anti-Umbra task force. She was adamant about keeping me away from any fighting, but I was just as unyielding about doing it. The question was, who would crack under the pressure first?

Celestia was good at what she did. Years of negotiations with foreign diplomats, royalty, and her own nobles left her with a keen edge over my limited skill. I was just used to either having people instantly agree with me, or just not even arguing, i.e. in the case of my grandma. My grandma would preach on and on about the magic of compromises, but that wouldn't help me here. Either Celestia gets her way, or I get mine. There was no middle ground.

Being forced to argue my position against such an experienced, master debater (teehee) slowly wore me down.In the end, I realized the best way to win an argument is through physical prowess.

"What would it take to convince you I can do it?"

Celestia stared at me, unblinking. "Nothing. I'm not willing to let you."

She sure knew how to get on my nerves. However, all was not lost. I remembered Luna's deal: get trained by the royal guards, and then I can go out and fight. Not bad.

"What if I got trained by your guards? If you're sending them out to fight, then if I had their skills, you could send me out to fight, too."

She pondered upon that for a second, and smiled. "Why not?"

Her smile was slightly unsettling, but that didn't matter. She gave me a chance, and I wasn't willing to throw it away. My ticket home rested on kicking the shit out of Umbra, and figuring out Calypso. It was too suspicious how I was in the same.. err, plane... when I first met Calypso and when I came to this world. Even an idiot would realize that they were somehow linked together, and I could even go as far as to place some of the blame for my arrival here on Calypso.

Anyways, I got pumped up to be doing something. Laying about all day didn't really agree with me.


"Commander Rising!"

The dark gray captain whipped around, and saluted Celestia. There was all types of ponies in the large yard behind him doing different exercises.

"Need something, Princess?"

"Yes. I brought someone who'd like to join your team."

He scanned the surroundings, and skipped right past me.

"And where is this prospective recruit?"

"He's right before you, Rising."

Finally, the gray Earth pony's eyes settled on me. He scanned my body, looking for any source of weakness.

"Are you sure about this, Princess?"

Celestia nodded her head. "I am. After all, he's the one that caused that big stir in the castle a few days back."

Rising's eyes filled with both respect and anger, no doubt because he was both impressed by my deed, but angered that I hurt his friends.

"Well then, I guess I can't take him lightly. What's your name?"

"Stan. Stan Baine."

"Alrighty then, Stan. Come with me. Princess, you can leave this to me. I'll whip him into shape."

Celestia smiled, and left us to our business. In the meanwhile, the commander was explaining the goal of his team and the different subdivisions. There was a special team of Unicorns that used offensive magic, and another one that used purely defensive magic. Some even were healers, but there was a scarce amount of those.

The Pegasi served as scouts and also light infantry. They would fight in small skirmishes, sometimes with swords, and sometimes from up high with bows. They were more numerous than the unicorns, and seemed to stand apart from them. Dividing even further between themselves, the bow users practiced their archery on some wooden dummies, the sword users were fencing, and the scouts were improving on their speed and stealth.

Rounding out the team, the Earth ponies were the heavy fighters. They wore much more armor than their Pegasus and Unicorn friends, and served as the "knights". If this was a video game, the Earth ponies would be the Warriors, the Pegasi would be the Archers or Rogues, and the Unicorns would be the Mages and Clerics. All of them working together formed a nice synergy, and I respected that.

"Now, I've got no idea what you are or how you got here. The Princess trusts you, and that's enough for me. What I do need to know, is how you fight. I'm putting you through every type of training here to see where you fit in best, understood?"

"But I can't fly, or use magic-"

"Now, now! Don't start complaining already! You've got a whole lotta work ahead, understood?"

What did I get myself into?

First, he put me with the Earth ponies. While I was a foreign creature, he understood what muscles meant. As I had my shirt off, he got a good look at my body. Sure, it wasn't as good as when I was in the Marines, but it's still pretty smokin', if I may say so myself.

They didn't have any armor made for me yet, so I couldn't wear anything. Just in case though, a unicorn assistant came by and took my measurements, promising to deliver them to the Royal Blacksmith.

Instead, they dropped a sword into my hand, and told me to go crazy on a dummy. This dummy wasn't made of wood like the archery one, as that would dull the blade fairly quickly. No, the dummy was a sack filled to the brim with hay.

Following their directions, I used the limited knowledge I had gained from watching Braveheart and took a stance. With a yell, I brought the sword down with all of my might. It hit the sack, and bounced off. Laughter resounded around the Earth ponies from my massive failure.

Rising came towards me, trying to stifle a laugh.

"Maybe swords aren't your thing. Let's move on."

Next was fist fighting. In case they lost their weapons on the battlefield, all of the Pegasi and Earth ponies needed to know how to fight bare-handed. I suppose it would be called "bare-hoofed" and "hoof fighting" for them, though.

I succeeded at not bursting out in a giant smirk. They had no idea that fist fighting was my specialty.

One of the burlier Earth ponies cracked a grin and came out to fight me. All of the ponies dropped what they were doing and came to watch. Obviously, they just didn't like me because I wasn't a pony. Xenophobia, xenophobia everywhere.

The ponies formed a circle around me, every one of them excited to see me get my butt handed to me on a silver platter. Little did they know, it wouldn't go that well for them.

The Earth pony threw around a few insults about how weak and scrawny I was, even though I was tall. The peanut gallery were loving it, and started cheering for him and chanting for my loss. It only made me want to win that much more. There's a reason you don't poke a hornet's nest, son.

He slowly came at me with that grin still plastered on his face, completely underestimating me.

"It's time for me to show you how things are done around here, little filly!"

He took one more step, and I saw my chance. Just in case he wisened up and was going to take me seriously, I threw in a feint. A quick step to the left confirmed my suspicions, as he started to swing a hoof that way. Unfortunately, I sidestepped to the right and kicked up. My foot connected with the base of his head, and he staggered back.

"What... the hay?"

The crowd went silent. None of them expected me to actually land any hits on him, nor to be able to dodge his hoof. I could easily do both, you dumb ponies!

After a furious puff of air escaped from his nostrils, Big Bertha (that's what I nicknamed him) charged at me. I acted like I was going to take his charge head on, and he grinned. Right before he connected with me, I jumped up and brought both feet crashing down on the top of his head this time. This blow was much harder than the last, and he slammed down into the ground. Without a doubt, that blow gave him a concussion.

Sadly, it sent me stumbling down as well, as I screwed up my landing. I fell back onto my butt, and Big B got back up. He completely ignored the injury I dealt him, and was about to charge me again. This time, I wouldn't be able to get out of the way quickly enough.

"That's enough!"

Rising came in and motioned for us to stop. cries of outrage could be heard from all around, but all the ponies needed to shut up was one angry glare from their commander. He ran to my side, and I stood back up.

"That was... amazing! Standing on two hooves really makes you a good fighter, doesn't it?"

I gave him an arrogant shrug.

"That wasn't my best fighting, either. I didn't want to hurt the big guy, as you'll be needing all the soldiers you can get."

He regarded me with a look of respect.

"Not only skilled, but honorable. I commend you. Shall we move on?"

"Yup, let's go."

We moved on from the Earth pony camp, and onto the Pegasi part of the yard. Rising completely ignored my protests about me not being able to fly.

He pushed me onto the archery range, and thrust a bow into my hands. I actually was decent at archery, and by "decent" I mean that I once got a bullseye from 40 feet away in the eighth grade. Heck yeah, bragging rights!

After I was provided with some arrows, I found them to be extremely different than human arrows. They had some sort of hook in the back of the arrow, presumably for staying on the bowstring. It made sense, seeing as how ponies don't have fingers, nor the grip strength that comes with them.

I put the arrow on the bowstring, and pulled it back. It pulled back surprisingly easily, and I aimed it towards the target. I concentrated on the red circle in the middle of the dummy's chest, and let the arrow fly. It whizzed away, and flew right past the dummy. Yet again, the crowd erupted in laughter.

I called Rising over, and he looked disappointed. I guess he expected me to be good at more than one thing. High standards don't get you far, man.

"Listen, this bow is weak."

He gave me an apprehensive look.

"That's a standard issue bow. It's not weak in any way."

"Sure. Just bring me like, a heavier and stronger bow."

It really had been "weak", in my limited archery knowledge. It pulled back too easily, and so the arrow went all over the place when I shot it. If I got a heavier bow, I might be able to aim better.

Rising got one of the Pegasi to bring me another bow, and they brought out a giant one. All the ponies snickered while it was being brought to me, and Rising groaned at the sight of it. Obviously, it was supposed to be some sort of prank.

They handed me the bow, and I picked it up. It was pretty heavy, and felt good in my hands. For some reason, it was still unstrung. I'd seen enough Robin Hood movies to know how to string a bow, though.

"The Test of the Great Bow, huh?"

I put one end of the bow between my feet, and grabbed the string. It actually strained my muscles to pull the darned thing half of the way up, but I persevered. Slowly and steadily, I brought the string closer and closer to the notch on the other end of the bow. At this point, my brow was beginning to leak sweat like a fountain (not exactly, but whatever), and the muscles screamed at me to stop. I screamed back at them, telling them to shut up. I was too close to give up.

With a final heave of effort, I landed loop on the notch. I had successfully strung the bow!

Even the ponies that were jeering at me before were impressed, and cheered for me. Rising looked like he wanted to kiss me, but I didn't get close enough to him for that to happen. He finally managed to choke out a few words.

"That... that's amazing! Nopony has strung that bow since Eagle Eye owned it. We just keep it around as a reminder. Looks like their joke turned against them."

Any feelings of xenophobia in the Pegasus camp were replaced by respect. I couldn't say the same about the Earth pony camp, but hey, it was enough. Slow and steady wins the race.

Rising said I could keep the bow, as noone else could even string it. It was just a decoration for them, but it could actually be useful to me. That is, if I can learn proper archery. My arms were too tired to try and shoot the bow, so I just carefully unstrung it. One of my new Pegasus friends brought me a decorated quiver to go with the bow, and I was told it had belonged to this "Eagle Eye" as well. Cool.

In reality, it probably isn't that impressive that I could string it. My back muscles were much more massive than the athletic, but relatively scrawny Pegasi. It was almost obvious that I would be stronger than them in that regard. Speaking of which, how do they string bows without fingers? Double yoo, tee, eff.

Thankfully, we skipped past all the knife and sword fighting. My arms just weren't ready for it. Instead, we went to the unicorns, even though I insisted that I was about as magical as a fart. Still, I was brought to the offensive magic group.

One of the older-looking ponies came over. He was obviously everyone's elder in respects of age and power, as the Unicorns gave him respectful nods when he walked by.

"Commander Rising Morale. Who is this, that you have brought to us?"

"This... err, what were you again?"

One facepalm later, I responded with, "A human."

"Yeah, that! Well, this human is Stan Baine. He strung Eagle Eye's bow and beat Lance in a sparring match. I'm here to see if he has any magic talent."

"Which I don't."

The wise pony nodded his head, taking in the situation. He scanned over me, his eyes almost piercing into me.

"I see, I see. Leave this one to me, Commander. You go off and take care of the others, I'm sure there's work for you to do."

Rising nodded, and left the scene. I was now alone with an old wizard pony, who was probably deranged and wanted to teach me magic. The pony beckoned for me to follow, and I did.

"So... What's your name, uh, sir?"

"No need for the "sir", human. You can call me Hex."

"Alright Hex, where are we going?"

Hex smiled at me, and continued walking. A couple of annoying minutes later, he finally spoke up.

"I was one of the ponies assigned to researching how to send the human, Stan Baine, back home. Rising Morale is the son of a very good friend of mine, and I was asked to look over him. Princess Celestia agreed to let me join this team, under the conditions that I guide the unicorns. Of course, while I'd do anything for the Princess, I'm also loyal to my friends."

While I was amazed that Celestia actually assigned ponies to find me a way home and didn't just lie about it, Hex didn't answer my original question. I still wanted to know where we were going, damn it!

"That didn't answer my question."

We suddenly stopped, and he looked up to meet me eye to eye.

"Have you ever seen your crash site?"

That question stumped me.

"Um... No? Did I even have one of those? I woke up in a cell."

Hex nodding, understanding my situation.

"Well, we are headed there now. In the brief time that I was on that research time, I got to see the crash site. I memorized where it was located, just in case I would ever need to return. Anyways, I'm not sure if Commander Rising would like for us to be gone for too long, so we should continue moving."

And continue we did. For some reason, my heart beat with excitement at the prospect of my crash site. I just felt like there would be some kind of answers there, answers about my arrival, and possibly hints about my departure. Either way, going there would be worthwhile. Answers, here I come!

Author's Note:

Welp, FimFiction deleted the whole scene with Commander Rising Morale and the training. I had to write it all again from what I remembered of it, and that's why this chapter is so late. Arrg, I should be studying for midterms, not writing! It's your guys' faults. :heart: